Consumers Energy and its CEO Patti Poppe were the subject of a recent “This is Not Cool” video (above).
I’ve told people that what we see happening is technology and economics pushing major power generators in an ever more urgent push toward renewables and sustainability.

This bar is going to continue to be raised.

Michigan Radio:

One of the nation’s largest electric utilities says it will reach net zero carbon emissions by the year 2040. 

It’s the most ambitious goal yet for a U.S. electricity company. Five electric utilities, including DTE Energy, have committed to reaching net zero by 2050.

Net zero carbon emissions means a combination of eliminating and offsetting carbon dioxide emissions to achieve zero carbon emissions attributable to the company.

Consumers Energy plans to close its last coal plant by 2040, and its latest long-term Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) says it will make large investments in solar energy and especially, energy efficiency.

The IRP gets the utility to an 80% reduction in emissions, but the last 20% will likely be much harder to achieve.

CEO Patti Poppe acknowledged the committment is a stretch but she’s confident it’s possible.

I like to show the video below to audiences skeptical that a major industrial state like Michigan can run itself on renewable energy. Poppe describes her secret weapon – one of the world’s largest pump storage facilities.

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Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Cap and trade is on its way to the Senate floor in Oregon again — and Republicans are heading for the exits.

In a tense hearing Monday morning, the Oregon Legislature’s budget committee passed out Senate Bill 1530 largely along party lines.

SB 1530 would cap the greenhouse gas emissions allowed by the transportation, manufacturing and utility sectors, and lower the cap over time. Large emitters would be required to obtain credits for each metric ton of emissions and could trade those credits among themselves.

The vote marked a cutoff point Republicans have long signaled was likely to prompt them to stop showing up to the Capitol. After Monday’s hearing, they immediately showed those threats weren’t idle.

In a Senate floor session Monday morning, Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend was the only Republican present. Without at least one more GOP senator, the Senate cannot reach the 20-member quorum required to do business.

Republicans staged a walkout last June, when a similar bill was on the precipice of a Senate vote, prompting Senate President Peter Courtney to ask that state police be sent after them. 

The involvement of police added to tensions, sending Republicans across state lines and prompting controversy when one lawmaker, Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas, appeared to threaten violence against officers. 

On Monday, Courtney immediately ruled out calling on state police again, saying it would be a waste of public safety resources. 

“I don’t want state troopers running around trying to hunt down a bunch of elected officials saying, ‘Would you please come to the chamber and do your job?’” Courtney said. “That’s more of a big show thing, and I’m not interested in big shows.” 

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Fascinating science stuff.

Newbies may want a primer on Thwaites and West Antarctica, below.

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Donald Trump’s War on Nukes

February 24, 2020

Wind Turbines, he tells us, cause cancer.
He loves “beautiful coal”.
And while historically climate denying Republicans polish their pro-nuke credentials as part of edging toward reality, Trump suddenly grows concern about nuclear waste….

New York Times:

Before the 2018 midterm elections, Senator Dean Heller stood with President Trump in the glittering Trump International Hotel near the Las Vegas Strip, looking out from the top floor, and pointed.

“I said, ‘See those railroad tracks?’” Mr. Heller, a Nevada Republican who lost his seat later that year, recalled in an interview. Nuclear waste to be carted to Yucca Mountain for permanent storage would have to travel along the tracks, within a half-mile of the hotel, Mr. Heller said.

“I think he calculated pretty quickly what that meant,” Mr. Heller said. “I think it all made sense. There was a moment of reflection, of, ‘Oh, OK.’”

Whether the waste would have traveled along those particular tracks is a subject of debate. But the conversation appears to have helped focus Mr. Trump, who in recent weeks seemed to end his administration’s support for moving nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain, a proposal that had been embraced by his appointees for three years despite his own lack of interest.

“Why should you have nuclear waste in your backyard?” Mr. Trump asked the crowd at a rally in Las Vegas on Friday, to applause, noting that his recently released budget proposal did not include funding to license the site, as previous ones had.

The story of the muddled and shifting position on Yucca Mountain is partly one of an administration focused on Mr. Trump’s re-election chances in a battleground state that he lost to Hillary Clinton by two percentage points in 2016. But it is also emblematic of a White House where the president has strong impulses on only a narrow set of issues, and policy is sometimes made in his name regardless of whether he approves of it.

In Mr. Trump’s decentralized administration, top aides and agency leaders have sometimes pursued their own agendas, at times creating politically perilous situations for him. The confusion around policy over the last three years has ranged from issues like the repeal of the program for undocumented immigrants known as DACA, largely steered by the attorney general at the time, to a more recent internal debate about a ban on some e-cigarette flavors, driven by the health and human services secretary.

The president made his latest move after a monthslong policy debate inside the White House over finally breaking with support for Yucca, officials said.

“While Congress has played political games over Yucca Mountain for years and failed to find a solution, the president is showing real leadership by respecting the people of Nevada and their wishes,” said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman. “President Trump is committed to finding the best options for the safe and efficient disposal of our nuclear waste.”

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$300 billion. That’s the money needed to stop the rise in greenhouse gases and buy up to 20 years of time to fix global warming, according to United Nations climate scientists. It’s the gross domestic product of Chile, or the world’s military spending every 60 days.

The sum is not to fund green technologies or finance a moonshot solution to emissions, but to use simple, age-old practices to lock millions of tons of carbon back into an overlooked and over-exploited resource: the soil.

“We have lost the biological function of soils. We have got to reverse that,” said Barron J. Orr, lead scientist for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. “If we do it, we are turning the land into the big part of the solution for climate change.”

Rene Castro Salazar, an assistant director general at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said that of the 2 billion hectares (almost 5 billion acres) of land around the world that has been degraded by misuse, overgrazing, deforestation and other largely human factors, 900 million hectares could be restored.

Returning that land to pasture, food crops or trees would convert enough carbon into biomass to stabilize emissions of CO2, the biggest greenhouse gas, for 15-20 years, giving the world time to adopt carbon-neutral technologies.

“With political will and investment of about $300 billion, it is doable,” Castro Salazar said. We would be “using the least-cost options we have, while waiting for the technologies in energy and transportation to mature and be fully available in the market. It will stabilize the atmospheric changes, the fight against climate change, for 15-20 years. We very much need that.”

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Electrifying Amazon’s Fleet

February 21, 2020

Amazon will be fielding 100,000 Electric delivery trucks in the next few years.

Methane Explained

February 21, 2020

I suspect most readers here will have seen reports on new research showing that atmospheric methane concentrations are increasing, and that oil and gas extraction, not burps from the arctic, are a much larger driver than previously thought.

New York Times:

Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency to efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.

“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”

Atmospheric concentrations of methane have more than doubled from preindustrial times. A New York Times investigation into “super emitter” sites last year revealed vast quantities of methane being released from oil wells and other energy facilities instead of being captured.

Zeke Hausfather Twitter Thread:

When we emit a ton of methane (CH4), about 80% is removed from the atmosphere via chemical reactions with hydroxyl (OH) radicals within 20 years. (above) CO2, on the other hand, is not removed by chemical reactions; it has to be absorbed by land and ocean sinks.

Forty years after its been emitted nearly all methane is gone, while nearly 50% of the CO2 remains in the atmosphere (assuming current carbon sink behavior; a warming world will likely reduce the efficacy of the carbon sink resulting in more CO2 remaining in the atmosphere). 

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Good news.
It’s mostly us that is killing ourselves.

And we can stop that.
Can’t we?

(also backs up my recent videos on the “methane bomb” scare)

Scripps Institute – UC San Diego:

A long-feared scenario in which global warming causes Arctic permafrost to melt and release enough greenhouse gas to accelerate warming and cause catastrophe probably won’t happen.

That is the conclusion of a study, appearing Feb. 21 in the journal Science, that began more than 20 years ago as a query posed by Jeff Severinghaus, a geoscientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. A research team led by the University of Rochester that includes Severinghaus analyzed samples of gases trapped in ice during a period of deglaciation between 18,000 and 8,000 years ago. That period is considered an analogue for the current era of global warming. 

The researchers conclude that even if methane is released from permafrost and other stores known as methane hydrates, very little actually reaches the atmosphere.

“It is a rare piece of good news about climate change,” said Severinghaus, who began pursuing the question in the 1990s, “so I’m happy to come to the public and say this burp is something we don’t have to worry about.”

Severinghaus said the study is bolstered by its reliance on a definitive source of data. Measurements of the carbon-14 isotope are considered a reliable and unambiguous indicator of permafrost and hydrate methane. Because carbon-14 breaks down in 5,000 years on average, the much older carbon from permafrost and hydrate deposits contains virtually no carbon-14. 

University of Rochester graduate student Michael Dyonisius led the study with his advisor Vasilii Petrenko, a professor of earth and environmental sciences and former student of Severinghaus at Scripps Oceanography. Scripps Oceanography researchers Sarah Shackleton, Daniel Baggenstos, Ross Beaudette, Christina Harth, and Ray Weiss are among co-authors of the National Science Foundation and David and Lucille Packard Foundation-supported paper. 

When plants die, they decompose into carbon-based organic matter in the soil. In extremely cold conditions, the carbon in the organic matter freezes and becomes trapped instead of being emitted into the atmosphere. This forms permafrost, soil that has been continuously frozen—even during the summer—for more than one year. Permafrost is mostly found on land, mainly in Siberia, Alaska, and Northern Canada.

Along with organic carbon, there is also an abundance of ice in permafrost. When the permafrost thaws with rising temperatures, the ice melts and the underlying soil becomes waterlogged, helping to create low-oxygen conditions. That creates an ideal environment for microbes in the soil to consume the carbon and produce methane.

Severinghaus had first considered using carbon-14 to determine how much methane from ancient carbon deposits might be released to the atmosphere in warming conditions in the 1990s. He and his student Petrenko began pursuing the idea in 2001 and began collecting air samples in Greenland, but the task was not easy. Only about one part of methane exists in 1 million parts of air and only one out of every trillion parts of carbon is in the form of carbon-14.

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