The Good News About a Green New Deal

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Sunrise Movement protesters urging Democrats to back a Green New Deal in late 2018. Sunrise Movement

Last month’s rollout of the Green New Deal, a fourteen-page legislative resolution, sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, that called for “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions” through a ten-year “national mobilization,” has sparked a good deal of controversy. The resolution was larded with goals not directly tied to the environment, such as guaranteeing everyone a job, affordable housing, and high-quality health care, and even some energy researchers who are enthusiastic proponents of transitioning rapidly to a zero-emissions economy questioned the timetable of a single decade for converting power production entirely to renewable sources.

“I don’t think anybody who is deep inside the substance is talking about that,” Jonathan Koomey, a special adviser to the chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, told me. Robert Pollin, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has helped design a number of Green New Deals for individual states, including New York and Washington, said, “I think it is wonderful that the issue is being addressed, but I don’t think this movement has yet accepted that you have to do these things carefully and rigorously.”

Despite these reservations, Koomey and Pollin, as well as a number of other researchers I spoke with, said the drafters of the Green New Deal were perfectly right to urge large-scale action across many parts of the economy, and they emphasized the technological opportunities that now exist to meet many of the environmental goals that underpin the proposed legislation, if not the exact timetable it lays down. In a report released in October, which the Democratic resolution cites and endorses, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that if the world is to contain the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, carbon emissions must be reduced by about fifty per cent before 2030, and completely phased out before 2050. For a U.S. economy that currently relies on fossil fuels for about four-fifths of its energy, achieving zero emissions, or something close to it, by the middle of the century would be a historic transformation. And, according to all the researchers I spoke with, rapidly advancing technology and the falling costs of clean energy make this more achievable than ever.

“Right now, we have about ninety per cent or ninety-five per cent of the technology we need,” Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, told me.  MORE

America can afford a Green New Deal — here’s how

Green New Deal path
Shutterstock Rachael Warriner

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) are calling for a “Green New Deal” (PDF) that would involve massive government spending to shift the U.S. economy away from its reliance on carbon.

As the author of the United Nations Environment Program’s Global Green New Deal — a plan to lift the world economy out of the 2008-2009 Great Recession — I disagree. I believe there are two straightforward ways to cover the cost and help accelerate the green revolution, while lowering the overall price tag.

As for paying for it, the first thing to bear in mind is that in my view a Green New Deal should be covered by current rather than future revenue.

So the United States would have to find new revenue sources to finance additional government support for clean energy research and development, greening infrastructure, smart transmission grids, public transport and other programs under any Green New Deal. Two of the main ways to do that would be by raising new revenues or finding savings elsewhere in the budget. MORE

What would the Green New Deal look like for states? Illinois has a bill.

Illinois is considering a clean energy bill that leans into some of the more controversial aspects of the Green New Deal.

Wind turbines tower over crops near Dwight, Illinois. The state is weighing a bill to get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Scott Olson/Getty Images

…a new clean energy bill in Illinois may serve as a remarkable test case of one of the Green New Deal’s core principles, at a time when more and more states are adopting ambitious decarbonization targets.

Illinois’s general assembly is weighing a bill that sets an aggressive target of decarbonizing the state’s energy by 2030 and running the state completely on renewable energy by 2050. That includes deploying more than 40 million solar panels and 2,500 wind turbines alongside $20 billion in new infrastructure over the next decade. The bill also calls for cutting emissions from transportation and for vastly expanding the clean energy workforce.

But it also leans into many of the social justice ideas outlined in the Green New Deal resolution.

“In the wake of federal reversals on climate action, the State of Illinois should pursue immediate action on policies that will ensure a just and responsible phase out of fossil fuels from the power sector to reduce harmful emissions from Illinois power plants, support power plant communities and workers, and allow the clean energy economy to continue growing in every corner of Illinois,” according to the text of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 2132/ HB 3624).

Broadly, the bill aligns with the Green New Deal. But the Green New Deal resolution is just that — a resolution — whereas in Illinois, the rubber might actually meet the road. MORE

Robyn Allan: An open letter to Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney

Left, file photo of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley by Alex Tétreault. Centre, photo of Alberta oilsands by Andrew S. Wright. Right, photo of United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney by Alex Tétreault

Dear Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney,

Whichever one of you is entrusted with the opportunity to lead Alberta into the future after the provincial election, here is what you need to know to navigate the most challenging issue in your province’s history — the era of stranded assets in the oilsands.

The Alberta oilsands sector is a mature sector, not a growth sector. It has entered the phase in its lifecycle where corporate boardroom discussions have transitioned from the inevitability of rapid oilsands expansion to how best to sustain current production. In this phase of the oilsands lifecycle, Trans Mountain’s expansion is obsolete.

No amount of market intervention or increased oil industry subsidization can alter the course these captains of industry are on. However, that will not stop them from angling for taxpayer handouts by pretending another wave of oilsands investment is just beyond the horizon. The more taxpayer money they can convince all levels of government to transfer to their corporate treasuries, the easier their transition off fossil fuels becomes.

The idle promise of further oilsands investment is the likely motivation behind the Trudeau government quietly negotiating such a sweet toll rate deal for Trans Mountain’s shippers last fall. Despite Finance Minister Morneau’s promise to Canadians that it would not happen, Trans Mountain has agreed to provide oil producers who use the existing line with a $2 billion toll subsidy over three years mounting to a $3.4 billion toll subsidy over five years. . MORE

SNC-Lavalin lawyer Iacobucci urged to resign as Trudeau’s Trans Mountain envoy

Retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci speaks at an event hosted by the Institute on Governance in Ottawa on Nov. 11, 2017. File photo by Alex Tétreault

Wilson-Raybould heard his name again during a chat with the government’s top public servant, Michael Wernick, who is clerk of the Privy Council Office in Canada.

“The clerk brought up job losses and that this is not about the Quebec election or the PM being a Montreal MP,” Wilson-Raybould said, recounting a Sept. 19 meeting with Wernick. “He said that he understands that SNC is going back and forth with the (director of public prosecutions), that they want more information. He said that ‘Iacobucci is not a shrinking violet.'”

Two weeks after that meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announced a new job for Iacobucci on Oct. 3, 2018. The retired judge, still representing SNC-Lavalin, was now being appointed as Trudeau’s special envoy for discussions with First Nations in British Columbia about the Trans Mountain expansion project.

At the time, the government said Iacobucci’s role would be to help ensure that Canada was engaging in a meaningful dialogue with First Nations to correct the mistakes which led the Federal Court of Appeal to conclude it had failed in its duty to consult the affected Indigenous communities and quash the government’s original approval of the pipeline.

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Jodi Wilson: ‘We’re unclear if the Liberal government even realizes the conflict’

Now, a prominent First Nations leader in British Columbia says it’s time for the retired Supreme Court justice to quit one of those two jobs.

“I do not feel that Justice Iacobucci can negotiate with those whose consent must be freely granted before the Trans Mountain project can proceed, since it’s unclear whose interests he is really representing,” Chief Judy Wilson, the secretary-treasury of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), told National Observer in a telephone interview on Monday. MORE

Finland wants EU to agree plan for net-zero carbon footprint

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FILE PHOTO: Activists protest against the carbon dioxide emissions trading in front of the World Congress Centre Bonn, the site of the COP23 U.N. Climate Change Conference, in Bonn, Germany, November 17, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Finland wants the European Union to agree to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050, Environment Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen said on Monday as the bloc’s ministers met to discuss a climate protection plan.

Finland, which will take over the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2019, has called for leadership in combating climate change after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to pull out of the global Paris deal.

The EU executive proposed last year that the bloc aims for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“The European Union must align our climate and energy policy according to the 1.5 degree target. That means that the EU must achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” Tiilikainen told reporters. MORE

UK Government throws its weight behind offshore wind power expansion

Deal with wind sector aims to produce one third of UK’s electricity needs by 2030

The government also hopes the deal will cement Britain’s leading position in the technology. Photograph: Bob Strong/Reuters

The government will throw its weight behind an expansion in the use of offshore wind power in the hope the renewable energy source will provide a third of the UK’s electricity by 2030.

In a deal between the government and the offshore wind sector, industry players have agreed to invest £250m over the next 11 years in exchange for participation in £557m of state subsidies for renewable energy.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the deal could result in the number of jobs in offshore wind tripling to 27,000 by 2030, boosting the economies of coastal communities near major projects.

Reaching a target of more than 30% of electricity coming from offshore wind [by 2030] would also mean that 70% of Britain’s energy would be from renewable sources by the end of the period. MORE


Prince Edward County could be carbon emissions free by 2030

EU sued to stop burning trees for energy; it’s not carbon neutral: plaintiffs

Image result for EU sued to stop burning trees for energy; it’s not carbon neutral: plaintiffsThe Drax power stations in the United Kingdom, one of the largest users of woody biomass for energy production. The Drax biomass dome, seen here, once burned coal but now burns wood pellets and chips. Photo credit: DECCgovuk on VisualHunt / CC BY-ND.

Plaintiffs in five European nations and the United States filed an unprecedented suit Monday, 4 March, in the European General Court in Luxembourg against the European Union.

They charge that the EU’s 2018 Renewable Energy Directive, known as RED II – which obligates member nations to generate at least 32 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030 – will produce a surge in demand for wood pellets and wood chips because a current United Nations policy considers the burning of biomass for energy carbon neutral.

As a result, emissions from burning wood are not counted against a country’s total carbon emissions. The Kyoto Protocol originally defined the carbon neutrality of so-called bioenergy more than 20 years ago, but many scientific studies since have shown this finding to be wrong. This new conclusion identified as the “bioenergy carbon accounting loophole” is at the heart of the lawsuit. MORE

Swedish technology could make geothermal as mainstream as wind and solar

Climeon units in action.

Geothermal power is the best of both worlds. It is flexible, like natural-gas power, providing energy whenever needed. And it’s green, like wind and solar power, producing almost no emissions.

Current technology, however, limits its applications. Large geothermal power plants depend on accessing very hot water, which can only be recovered in small regions around the planet. That’s why places with volcanoes, like Iceland and Indonesia, are able to use large amounts of geothermal energy, but others like France or the UK aren’t.

The Swedish company Climeon claims it can make geothermal power as accessible as wind and solar. Its technology can make use of low-temperature heat, which opens up economically viable geothermal power to much more of the world. And Climeon now seems poised to scale up beyond the five countries it operates in today, after the Bill Gates-backed fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) said on March 6 that it will provide $12.5 million in funding.

The price of electricity produced using Climeon’s technology varies based on factors like the size of the project and access to the heat source. In some cases, Climeon’s electricity-generating units have provided electricity for €40 ($45) per MWh, according to Joachim Karthäuser, the company’s chief technology officer. For context, that’s about the low end of costs for wind or solar power in Europe.  MORE