So, I was so freaked out and appalled by the post-election machinations of Republicans, lost in doom scrolling like so many others, as well as screaming through the phone at my election-sabotaging congressperson’s hapless staff, that I got behind on my videos for Yale Climate Connections.
That, plus December is always dicey, with American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting (even virtually as this year) and the holidays so close together.

No worries, I told my editor Bud Ward, I’ll just get you two videos in January.
So the first one of those, on arctic sea ice, will be out in coming days. The second one will be envisioning where we might go in the post-climate denial era, with a Science-friendly administration.
There’s so much here that there will have to be a series of short vids in addition to the main one to cover it all.
Start with the above, part of my drinking-from-a-firehose interview with Saul Griffith, MacArthur Genius, energy visionary, and CEO of Otherlab.

Utility Dive:

  • Based on developing technology already in the pipeline, a new report by Wood Mackenzieprojects that solar costs will fall another 15-25% over the next decade, potentially making solar the lowest-cost power resource in all U.S. states by 2030.
  • Rapid adoption of solar energy allowed the industry to scale and cut costs much faster than analysts in the early 2010s expected would be possible, according to Ravi Manghani, head of solar research for Wood MacKenzie.
  • Demand for solar continues to exceed installation capacity, and could continue to do so for some time, according to Manghani. But without affordable storage options, he said, solar installations could end up essentially giving power away.

How cheap could solar power get? So cheap, Wood MacKenzie’s Manghani said, that someday power generators may let solar energy “go to waste” by installing more solar capacity than needed and simply turning off the excess generation when it’s not.

“It’s not a bad thing, because at the end of the day, if the cost is still below the other resources, you might still go with solar,” Manghani said.

In the early 2010s, Manghani said, analysts who watch the solar industry anticipated slow but steady cost reductions as the industry grew. What they didn’t see coming, he said, was the exponential rate at which the industry would reduce costs as it scaled rapidly.

“That’s the most fascinating part,” he said. “The industry, or even industry observers such as [Wood Mackenzie] underestimated the potential of scaling.”

These cost declines might make one think that the age of falling solar prices is behind us, Manghani said, but he doesn’t believe that is the case.

“The cost decline trend is not slowing down any time soon,” he said. “Yes, there are some externalities that may change, on a short-term basis, but the level of innovation we’ve seen in the industry makes us feel good about the cost reduction possibilities that exist.”

But the industry must also manage a balancing act, Manghani said. Until the industry has an affordable, viable solution to storing and shifting the availability of variable solar energy, there is a chance that solar could essentially grow itself out of a job. In this scenario, Manghani said, demand for solar could plummet and drag prices along with it.

At present, Manghani said, this scenario seems unlikely, with storage on track to fill the coming need. But in the meantime, he said, the industry will experience another growing pain: there is currently greater demand for solar than there is capacity to deploy it, and bottlenecks have begun to build up around permitting and interconnection. Consequently, although the actual equipment and technology continues to grow more affordable, Manghani said overall PPA prices have actually begun to rise.

It’s 2021.
I’ll be exploring the possibilities in the Post-Trump world in coming posts and videos, but just to give a flavor, there’s this.

Florida Politics:

Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Rep. Chip LaMarca are spearheading legislation aimed at preparing the state for rising sea levels due to climate change.

The bills (SB 514 and HB 315) will create an Office of Resiliency under the executive branch and set up a nine-person Sea Level Rise Task Force.

“I’m grateful to have a partner in Rep. LaMarca who, like me, has been a tireless champion on the environment,” said Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, in a statement Thursday promoting the plan.

“Together, we can address the emerging threat of flooding in our great state and become a leader for resiliency. Flooding not only impacts our beautiful natural resources but also our property values and our tourism economy.”

The nine-person task force would include the state’s Chief Resilience Officer and Chief Science Officer. The Senate President and House Speaker would each name one member. Various other agency members would make up the remainder of the commission. 

“The task force shall develop official scientific information, from appropriate sources as determined by the task force, necessary to make recommendations on consensus baseline projections, or a range of projections, of the expected rise in sea level along the state’s coastline for planning horizons designated by the task force,” the legislation reads. “The projections may address various geographic areas of the state, as determined by the task force.” 

The task force would then submit those projections by Jan. 1, 2022. Those projections “must be used for the purpose of developing future state projects, plans, and programs.” 

“Climate change isn’t a tomorrow issue, it’s a right now issue. Banning offshore drilling, investing in shore protection and beach renourishment projects, and supporting clean energy solutions are important, but we need smarter investment so that we can develop science-based solutions to this growing problem. Resiliency is a climate issue, it’s an environmental issue, and it’s a financial issue. It’s time that Florida becomes a leader on climate change.”

Below, more from Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell.

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Music Break: Trump is Gone

January 23, 2021

Trump is gone.
Trump is gone.
I don’t need no other words for this song, but..,
Trump is gone…

Climate Denial and the Coup

January 23, 2021

If you have not yet read the New York Times piece about the attempted coup within the US Justice Department, follow the link below.

Turns out, the Attorney who hatched an election fraud plot within the Justice Department (that was thwarted only when a number of senior officials threatened to resign en masse) – was also an attorney representing BP in the Gulf Oil Spill case, and a consistent, prominent voice for climate denial.

Climate denial a reliable proxy for treason.

New York Times:

The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. Trump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.

The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed?

As December wore on, Mr. Clark mentioned to Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue that he spent a lot of time reading on the internet — a comment that alarmed them because they inferred that he believed the unfounded conspiracy theory that Mr. Trump had won the election. Mr. Clark also told them that he wanted the department to hold a news conference announcing that it was investigating serious accusations of election fraud. Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue rejected the proposal.

The answer was unanimous. They would resign.

Inside Climate News – 2017:

Jeffrey Bossert Clark, a lawyer who has repeatedly challenged the scientific foundations of U.S. climate policy and was part of a legal team that represented BP in lawsuits stemming from the nation’s worst oil spill, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, was nominatedby President Donald Trump on Tuesday to serve as the Justice Department’s top environmental lawyer.

Clark, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis, has represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in lawsuits challenging the federal government’s authority to regulate carbon emissions. In court he has repeatedly argued that it is inappropriate to base government policymaking on the scientific consensus presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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Dr. Tony Fauci, on science in the Trump Administration.

Trailer: Guitar Man

January 22, 2021

Above, Rock doc on Guitarist Joe Bonamassa.
Below, Joe Bonamassa, Just Got Paid:

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Dana Nuccitelli in Yale Climate Connections:

With its day-one start to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, the incoming administration will also need to undo scores of Trump environmental regulatory rule-makings and rollbacks. Some of those steps could involve painstaking years-long processes of developing and proposing new rules and then submitting them for public comment prior to adopting final rules. Court challenges also would likely delay those actions in a number of cases.

But a major workaround involves the Congressional Review Act (CRA), reviewed in depth in this recent Yale Climate Connections post by Jan Ellen Spiegel.

One key CRA target for incoming Democrats will be the so-called ‘transparency rule’ – AKA “secret science” rule – finalized January 5, 15 days before the Biden/Harris inauguration. The concept, first proposed by the tobacco industry in the 1990s, requires that EPA give more weight to studies for which data are fully public than to those including confidential data. Many key studies underpinning some of the most important clean air and water regulations have relied on individual subjects’ confidential medical data not disclosed in the rulemaking. Critics fear the rule as adopted under the Trump EPA would weaken EPA’s ability to create new protections from harmful air pollutants.

Another potential CRA target is a new rule requiring that EPA cost-benefit analyses exclude what are called the “co-benefits” of incidentally reducing other pollutants. For example, an EPA regulation designed to curb mercury emissions would accelerate the phase-out of coal power plants, which in turn would reduce the emissions of many other harmful pollutants released by burning coal. The new rule, finalized in December 2020, would not allow EPA to include the potentially considerable health and economic co-benefits resulting from the reduction of other pollutants in a cost-benefit analysis of a proposed regulation; that restriction would make it much more difficult for the EPA to justify new pollutant regulations despite their potential net benefits to public health and the economy.

With the Executive branch having to undo or revise Trump administration rules, Congress will face a full and tight schedule for legislating on major climate change matters. Assuming the filibuster remains intact, significant legislation generally will require 60 votes (including at least nine Republicans) to pass the evenly split Senate.

But there lies an important exception – budget reconciliation.

The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 established the budget reconciliation process, allowing for expedited consideration of certain tax and spending legislation without an option for a Senate filibuster. In 2017, congressional Republicans used the reconciliation process to pass a large tax cut bill, and Democrats used it in 2010 to pass the Affordable Care Act. There’s one catch: Congress can use the reconciliation process for only one spending and/or revenue bill per year, with a target date of April 15th to have the reconciliation bill ready for Senate floor consideration.

To qualify for inclusion in the budget reconciliation process, a bill must meet two main criteria. First, it must have 51 Senate votes (potentially including Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker) and a simple majority in the House, where Democrats hold a razor-thin majority. Second, under what’s known as “the Byrd Rule,” the Senate Parliamentarian must conclude that the bill primarily involves budget issues. Lacking that affirmative conclusion, the Congressional majority must vote to overrule the judgment in order to include it.

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This week’s cancellation of the Keystone pipeline is yet another strong signal that a paradigm shift in energy is well underway.
Some oil companies are seeking an off ramp from business models totally wedded to fossil fuels, coal and oil. Some seek to continue a policy of greenwashing as they hope to continue exploiting their huge base of still-in-the-ground resources.
Stress cracks appearing.

Financial Times (paywall):

French energy company Total has become the first oil major to end its membership of the American Petroleum Institute, Big Oil’s powerful Washington lobby group, citing its stance on climate change and support for politicians who opposed the Paris agreement.

The move exposes a growing rift between US and European oil supermajors on climate policy, and comes just days before Joe Biden enters the White House with a pledge to rejoin the Paris climate pact, clamp down on oil industry pollution, and launch a clean-energy supply revolution.

Total also cited the API’s opposition to electric vehicle subsidies and its support last year for the Trump administration’s rollbacks of regulations to limit emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Total is “committed to ensuring, in a transparent manner, that the industry associations of which we are a member adopt positions and messages that are aligned with those of the group in the fight against climate change”, chief executive Patrick Pouyanné said.

Reuters:

Investors are judging how well energy companies have reoriented their businesses to cut emissions as they weigh activists’ calls for divestment, climate finance specialists said on Thursday.

Growing differences between oil majors have clarified when companies are positioned to achieve “net-zero” emissions, becoming more focused on renewable power and offsetting remaining greenhouse gas emissions with measures like carbon sequestration or conservation efforts, specialists said at a Reuters Next panel held online.

“We differentiate between companies that are genuinely trying to manage the transition, and those that are not,” said Adam Matthews, a Church of England Pensions Board officer who oversees its engagement with companies in its portfolio. The church manages funds in excess of 2.8 billion pounds ($3.8 billion).

He cited Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Occidental Petroleum Corp as companies taking positive steps, and said Exxon Mobil Corp is “at odds” with the others’ approach.

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