Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Trump plan to allow oil drilling off New England unites foes in opposition

For decades, they have done battle — through street protests, in courtrooms, on Beacon Hill. It takes a lot, something broadly and viscerally opposed, to unite the traditional foes.

But the Trump administration’s new plan to allow drilling for oil and gas off the shores of New England has done just that, forging a bipartisan coalition of fishermen, environmental advocates, industry groups, and scientists against the plan.

At a recent press conference held to denounce the plan, Peter Shelley of the Conservation Law Foundation noted that the last time he stood on the same side as so many fishermen was some four decades ago, when the federal government last pressed such a proposal.

“It’s ridiculous, and very discouraging, that we’re back here 40 years later,” he said, noting that the previous coalition succeeded in blocking offshore drilling while opponents in other regions failed. “It didn’t make sense then, and it makes less sense now.”

When Angela Sanfilippo, president of the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, spoke at the press conference last Monday at the New England Aquarium, she smiled at Shelley, a longtime proponent of fishing regulations.

“Here we are again,” she said, calling the drilling proposal “a disgrace.” “We’re not going to allow it to happen . . . Georges Bank is the richest fishing ground in the world. We have to protect it with our lives.”

In January, the Trump administration announced it was lifting a drilling ban and would allow prospecting for offshore oil and gas deposits in nearly all the coastal waters of the United States.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which will oversee the permitting process, estimates that opening the proposed areas could tap some 90 billion barrels of oil and 327 trillion tons of natural gas, potentially a major boost to the nation’s energy reserves.

In the North Atlantic, the bureau estimates that there are about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and 11.8 trillion cubic feet of gas that could potentially be recovered, although those estimates are highly uncertain.

As a result, the bureau may authorize surveys of the region’s waters, which environmentalists fear would disturb the Gulf of Maine’s delicate ecosystem and harm its marine life, especially mammals such as North Atlantic right whales, among the most endangered species on the planet.

At a public meeting in Boston Tuesday, bureau officials met with concerned residents and laid out their plan.

They explained how offshore drilling has been part of the nation’s energy policy since the 1970s, when Congress sought to reduce US reliance on oil imports after the Arab oil embargo. Since then, Congress has repeatedly reauthorized drilling in certain areas, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific, they noted.

“The goal is for the nation to be more independent,” said Bill Brown, the bureau’s chief environmental officer, in an interview at the meeting. His team has been hosting similar meetings across the country to collect public opinion.

He said they would use the public comments to draft an environmental impact statement, which Brown expects to be completed by the end of the year.

“We’re looking at what areas should be excluded,” he said.

After that, the bureau intends to issue a plan that would be subject to additional public comments and permits from the National Marine Fisheries Service, which will review whether drilling could affect endangered species.

“It’s premature to judge what will happen,” Brown said.


Is fight against global warming mission impossible?

WASHINGTON — Anyone who tells you that dealing with climate change is simply a matter of sweeping away the obstructionism of oil companies is living in a dream world. The real obstacle is us — our vast dependence on fossil fuels and the difficulty of extricating ourselves without crippling the world economy.

It's true that the Trump administration has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement, making any transition harder. But the problems transcend President Trump's disengagement, as a new study from the oil giant BP makes clear

Reading it, you might think it came from an environmental group. The study's central conclusion, writes BP chief executive Bob Dudley, is that many anti-global warming policies fall "well short of" what's "necessary to achieve the Paris climate goals. We need a far more decisive break from the past."

The study projects global energy supply and demand to 2040 to see if environmentally friendly policies make significant progress against global warming. It assumes a larger role for "renewables" — mostly wind and solar power — and other policies that would dampen fossil fuel consumption. Consider:

* Electric cars make large advances compared with a negligible role today. By 2040, the number of electric vehicles worldwide hits 300 million out of 2 billion total vehicles (roughly a doubling of today's total). More important, these electric vehicles account for a disproportionate share of driving, about 30 percent. As a result, there's no increase in oil and liquid fuel demand for cars and light vehicles, despite an assumed doubling in worldwide travel.

* There's a continued boom in solar and wind power. From now until 2040, these renewables are the fastest-growing source of energy, increasing five-fold. As a share of global primary fuel consumption, the gain is from 4 percent to 14 percent. Their impact on electricity generation is even greater, rising from 7 percent in 2016 to 25 percent in 2040.

* Electric utilities continue to switch to natural gas as their primary fuel from coal, which has much higher carbon emissions. About half the growth in natural gas consumption reflects this switching.

Against this backdrop, you'd expect significant progress in curbing greenhouse gases. Not so.

Just the opposite: Total use of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas and coal) is projected to increase almost 20 percent between 2016 and 2040. The electric cars, renewables and fuel switching merely offset some — but not all — of the added energy demand from population and economic growth. The BP study assumes a world population of 9.2 billion in 2040, up from 7.4 billion in 2016. Over the same period, the global economy doubles its output.

What this means is that greenhouse gases are still pouring into the atmosphere, albeit at a slower rate. There's a slight shift away from fossil fuels. In 2016, these fuels provided 85 percent of world energy. The projection for 2040 is 74 percent, even with favorable assumptions about renewables and electric vehicles.

Virtually all the energy increase is projected to come from developing countries for factories, offices, homes, air conditioners and heaters. India and China alone account for half the increase in energy use by 2040.

Governments, says Spencer Dale, BP's chief economist, should discourage the use of fossil fuels through either a carbon tax or a "tax and trade" system. That could unleash hordes of companies and entrepreneurs to find ways to limit emissions. "If we don't like something [greenhouse gases], the easiest way to get less of it is to put a price on it," Dale says.

Indeed, this could herald a "decisive break" from the past. But it might also break public opinion, at least in the United States. How high would prices have to go to prove Dale's point? To succeed, the price increase might have to be fairly stiff — say, $2 or $3 a gallon for gasoline — and that might be far more than Congress would adopt or many Americans would accept.

Suppressing greenhouse gases is, at best, a thorny policy issue encompassing technology, atmospheric science, international relations and practical politics. Put them all together and, at worst, it could be mission impossible.


Some Christians Giving Up Carbon for Lent to Combat Global Warming

Belief in the resurrection offers eternal life.  Belief in global warming not so much

Lent — the 40 days ahead of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, representing the time Christ fasted in the wilderness — is a time for Christians to prepare for the holy Easter season.

“Lent is a time of repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others,” the United Methodist Church website states.

But, according to Yale University’s Yale Climate Connection website, this year, some Christians have decided that global warming is such an important issue they are giving up carbon for Lent.

Yale Climate Connections reports:

The weeks just before Easter are known as Lent. It’s a time when many Christians fast or give up luxuries. Now, some churches and faith groups are encouraging Christians to reduce activities that contribute to global warming.

Leah Wiste is director of outreach and advocacy at an organization called Michigan Interfaith Power and Light.

Wiste: “Lent is a state of preparing for rebirth … And so we focus on transformation.”

In that spirit, her group helps Christians use this time to develop more environmentally friendly habits.

“We propose a Lenten Carbon Fast,” Wiste said. “We’ve created a calendar that suggests one activity each day that folks can do in order to reduce their ecological footprint.”

That “to do” list includes using LED light bulbs, eating local food rather than food shipped long distances, forgoing very hot water, and driving slower.

“The hope is that this several week exercise won’t just end at Easter but that these actions actually seed a more fundamental transformation that people can then continue,” Wiste said.

The organization Wiste spoke on behalf of describes itself as a “faith response to global warming.”

Its mission statement says, in part: “Foster and create an educated faith constituency that’s committed to proactive solutions to decreasing harmful coal plant emissions through energy efficiency [and] renewable technologies.”


Is Germany’s Energiewende Coming To An End?

Germany’s new coalition deal was a “bitter disappointment” for those looking for a modern climate and energy policy, said outgoing energy secretary Rainer Baake

Germany’s energy state secretary Rainer Baake has quit after four years in charge of the country’s flagship Energiewende policy.

Baake made his stand as Germany’s democratic limbo was finally resolved, 162 days after the 2017 federal election. A grand coalition of conservative and Social Democrats (SPD) will return, along with chancellor Angela Merkel.

Baake, a Green Party politician whose appointment by then economy minister Sigmar Gabriel was a surprise at the time, criticised the new government’s energy and climate plans in a resignation letter seen by Clean Energy Wire.

The plans for the energy transition (Energiewende) in the new coalition agreement were a “bitter disappointment”, Baake wrote to incoming energy and economy minister Peter Altmaier.

The new government was “missing out on the opportunity to thoroughly modernise Germany’s economy”, Baake said, adding that forces who wanted to preserve old and “climate-damaging” structures had apparently been stronger.

During his time in office, Baake oversaw the reform of the core Energiewende legislation, the renewable energy act EEG, which included the shift from feed-in tariffs to a tender system, a move heavily criticised by the renewable energy industry.

Baake, who has been dubbed “Mr Energiewende” by German media for his expertise and his key role in the country’s energy policy, also repeatedly locked horns with utilities and the coal miners’ union. He proposed a “coal levy” in order to cut emissions from coal power plants. Instead, some lignite plants were transferred to a paid “security standby” reserve, before being closed down permanently.

Ever since Merkel decided to hand the energy ministry in the coalition government with the Social Democrats to her close ally Altmaier, Baake’s future at the ministry had been uncertain. Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer called for Baake’s resignation last week, saying that he was responsible for “ideologically charging up energy policy”.


Kangaroo meat industry slams documentary for 'crazy' claims that the native animals' numbers are plummeting in Australia

The Kangaroo meat industry is up in arms over a documentary that claims the native animals are a 'disappearing resource' in Australia, even comparing them to 'rhinos, tigers, cheetahs and whales'.

The documentary, currently making its way across Europe and the US, shows activists mourning the lives of kangaroos shot in the outback and asks 'how did we get so hoodwinked into believing it was OK to kill our national icon?'.

The documentary called Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story, has enraged the peak body for kangaroo harvesters, with top researchers slamming it as 'dangerous' and a 'major disservice to Australia and the welfare of kangaroos'.

The documentary, which will premiere in Sydney next week, uses 'shock tactics' to ask if harvesting kangaroos is unethical.

The documentary gives voice to a range of people including animal rights activists who claim the industry is 'cloaked in secrecy' and 'local extinction and regional extinction has happened'.

In 2016 there were almost 45 million kangaroos in Australia, almost double the human population
In 2010 there were about 27 million
In 2007 there were 23 million

Government data shows the population neared 50 million in 2017
These claims have been rubbished by ANU College of Science Dr George Wilson, who has worked on kangaroo management for 45 years.

'The film's full of beautiful looking red kangaroos and it pulls at the heartstrings. That affects me just as much as anyone else, but how it relates to population ecology I don't know,' he told Daily Mail Australia on Tuesday.

'A lot of these animals are killed every year, but it's not at all connected to whether they're threatened. There are 600 million chickens killed per year, are they seriously going to suggest chickens are in danger?'

If the film gained traction, and brought the production of kangaroo meat to a halt, Dr Wilson (right) said it would have a devastating impact on the welfare of Australia's kangaroo population

If the film gained traction, and brought the production of kangaroo meat to a halt, Dr Wilson said it would have a devastating impact on the welfare of Australia's kangaroo population.

'If this animal rights mob shut it down, populations will get higher and higher to the point they starve to death, and die out during the drought,' he said.

'They're doing themselves, Australia and the kangaroos a major disservice. 'These people are really concerned about animals, so am I, but they're completely off the wall.'

Dr Wilson said the filmmakers were jeopardising the welfare of kangaroos, and hoped viewers could look past the 'shock factor' and 'emotion' of the documentary.

'It's hard to imagine a more animal friendly meat,' he said.

National Farmers Federation President Fiona Simson backed Dr Wilson and said the industry was one of the most humane.

'It is inconceivable to think that anybody would see the humanity in allowing hundreds, possibly thousands of kangaroos die a prolonged and painful death caused by starvation and dehydration, while rallying against a pain-free and instant option available via the controlled, regulated culling,' she told The Australian.

Not only could the film jeopardise the welfare of kangaroos, locals claim it could devastate outback towns and enterprises.

Brad Bales and Chantalle Allwood, who work at a Queensland processing factory, said 'it'd be a shock to the community if it shut down'.

'I've seen the industry through droughts, floods… it's the non-professional shooters, the city people who think they can make money out of it, who ruin it for a lot of people,' Mr Bales told The Australian.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon travelled to Belgium on Monday to help promote the film in Europe, where Australia exports 1780 tonnes of kangaroo meat funnelling more than $10 million into Australia's economy.

'We will use the evidence to show that kangaroos are in trouble,' Senator Rhiannon said in a statement on Monday. 'There's a big question mark over the data the government uses… I've called for kangaroo protection; what we want is accurate research. '(Near extinction) is a risk, and that's why we need to be responsible.'

The documentary will premiere in Australia in Sydney next Tuesday.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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