2021, Let’s Do This

December 31, 2020

2020’s Will Be Great

December 31, 2020

Optimism is often seen as naive, but I choose to believe that, properly exercised, it is a force multiplier.

Above, Reuters has a clear eyed view of the unprecedented moment we are at in the energy transition.
Below, Keith Schneider, the Sage of Benzonia, Michigan, looks forward.

Keith Schneider in ModeShift:

There really is not a way to hit on a word, or even an assembly of words, to adequately encompass the tough, dangerous, and ultimately exceptional year that 2020 has been.

Next year will be better. And the 2020s promise to be a decade of real progess. During this decade technology and ecology will marry more firmly than ever to produce pathbreaking achievements in sectors that really matter— energy, transportation, agriculture, climate, resources, and manufacturing.

With Trump gone, a new era has opened. The United States is again seriously considering how to construct a true green new deal — the melding of ecological values to investment and industrial practices to build a fairer and more just economy.

The foundation is in place. Black fuels, for instance, are in retreat as investors move capital to less expensive and cleaner alternative energy sources. In 2018, according to an assessment by Tim Buckley, an Australian analyst, 31 significant financial institutions abandoned coal. In 2019 the list was longer, with 46 major investment banks and institutions announcing coal exits. In 2020 so far there have been 68 such actions around the world.

Oil companies evaporated as sound investment options. Oil and natural gas prices are near historic lows. Drilling activity has diminished. A proposal to build a monumental gas storage hub in West Virginia is slipping closer to irrelevancy.

On the other side of the energy sector, carbon-free power is seizing command of the electrical sector. Electric vehicles are poised to lead the market by the end of the decade, if not sooner. Responding to climate disruption is a top tier political issue, and not just in the United States. Energy, water, soil, and community-conserving food production practices are being adopted as central tenets of mainstream agriculture.

American companies’ commitment to ingenuity, science, and manufacturing prowess just delivered two COVID-19 vaccines in under a year. Amazon is remaking how the world operates with the same era-changing influence that steam engines had on sailing schooners. The same is true for Tesla and Google. Look at Linkedin’s news page. It’s a scrolling compendium of trends that convey hope for the world.

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Although I had to cancel a trip to the Arctic due to the Corona virus shutdown, I nevertheless had a front-row seat to dramatic climate change effects, as heavy rains contributed to the cascading failure of two dams in Midland County, Michigan, where I live.
Our house was fortunately, far enough from the flood plain to be safe, but 10,000 had to evacuate, many who had not considered themselves in any kind of jeopardy prior to this event.

Yale Climate Connections:

There are more than 90,000 dams in the United States. Many of those dams are at risk of failure.

“Most of them were built more than 50 years ago. Usually, the design life of a dam is between 50 and 60 years, so a lot of our dams are already past their design age,” says Paulina Concha Larrauri, a researcher at Columbia University. 

She says many of these dams are not only old, but poorly maintained.

“There’s a lot of variation on the safety and oversight of these dams across the country,” she says.

In many areas, climate change is making the situation even more dangerous by causing more frequent and heavier rains. 

In a recent report, Concha Larrauri and her team analyzed the risks and potential impacts of dam failures. She says that if one dam fails, it can cause other breaches downstream. 

The risks can be extensive, and not just to people and homes. Flood waters can disrupt power generation and block roads and railways.

But funds to address the problem are limited, so she says it’s important to assess the risks and potential losses, and prioritize repairs accordingly.

I interviewed fire expert Loretta Mickley following massive fires in the US west.

Interviewed a year ago in San Francisco.

Republican pollster Frank Luntz told a special panel convened by Senator Brian Schatz (D- Hawaii) that a majority of Americans, including Republicans, now want climate action.

Dr Mann, who has, along with other climate scientists, received death threats, also discusses the “deadliness of science denial”.

It’s a climate story because it’s about what happens when powerful people declare war on science.

Now that war on science has become a driving force among an increasingly paranoid and violent wing of a major political party.

KUSA Denver:

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — The leader of the Parker Republicans was posting the names and home addresses of public health employees online with veiled threats of retribution for COVID-19 restrictions.

Mark Hall, lead co-chair of the Parker Republicans, began publishing the names and home addresses of public health workers Monday, adding, “Take this information and make your own decisions.”

“We will publish the names/addresses of these people with no law enforcement abilities,” Hall posted to the Facebook group. “If they want a war, we can give them that but it is time for a revolution.”

Hall outlined his intended targets while announcing the new effort on his own Facebook page.

“If you work for the state, CDPHE, Tri-County or other agencies, you are on the radar, at your homes and elsewhere,” Hall wrote. “You want to be Anti-Americans, Patriots are going to show you the errors of your ways. We didn’t ask for this but you brought it on.”

The group dedicated to doxing public health workers does not appear to violate any laws, according to Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Cocha Heyden.

Heyden said Sheriff Tony Spurlock, seen posing with Hall in photos online, was aware of the page. Heyden said the sheriff’s office would monitor the page and respond if anyone called to report a crime.

The Facebook group, which began posting the home addresses of public health workers on Monday, Dec. 28, quickly attracted two high-profile members: Republican Douglas County Commissioner Lora Thomas and Parker Mayor Jeff Toborg.

A spokeswoman for Thomas said she joined the group to monitor its activities. Toborg said he accepted an invitation to join the group without looking at its purpose or content.

Thomas later released a statement saying she was not condoning the doxing of public health employees when she joined the Facebook group dedicated to doxing public health employees.

NPR:

Ten years ago, Dr. Kristina Darnauer and her husband, Jeff, moved to tiny Sterling, Kan., to raise their kids steeped in small-town values.

“The values of hard work, the value of community, taking care of your neighbor, that’s what small towns shout from the rooftops, this is what we’re good at. We are salt of the earth people who care about each other,” Darnauer says. “And here I am saying, then wear a mask because that protects your precious neighbor.”

But Darnauer’s medical advice and moral admonition were met with contempt from some of her friends, neighbors and patients. People who had routinely buttonholed her for quick medical advice at church and kids’ ballgames were suddenly treating her as the enemy and regarding her professional opinion as suspect and offensive.

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Associated Press:

CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio’s largest electric utility, its reputation battered by scandal, has been besieged by more than a dozen lawsuits filed by angry shareholders who include some of the country’s biggest institutional investors.

And, if history is a guide, FirstEnergy Corp. and its insurers could find themselves paying millions to settle those complaints, as the company did more than 15 years ago when confronted by lawsuits for lying about a dangerous hole in a reactor head at a nuclear power plant and for contributing to the largest blackout in U.S. history.

FirstEnergy and insurers for its corporate officers and board of directors paid out more than $100 million to settle lawsuits in 2004. It is far too early to estimate what settlements of the new lawsuits might total, but the potential payouts could far exceed those from 2004, given the losses shareholders claim to have suffered

The latest lawsuits were filed as FirstEnergy became a central figure in what has been called the biggest corruption scandal in state history. The company is accused of secretly funding a $60 million bribery scheme aimed at winning a $1 billion legislative bailout in 2019 for two Ohio nuclear plants operated at the time by a wholly owned FirstEnergy subsidiary.

FirstEnergy’s stock price quickly plummeted around 40% after U.S. Attorney David DeVillers announced July 21 that then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others had been arrested on suspicion of having roles in the bribery scheme. 

The first lawsuits were filed within a week and now total more than a dozen. The bulk have been filed in federal court in Columbus, with several filed in state court in Akron, where FirstEnergy is based. 

The company is one of the largest electric utilities in the U.S., providing power to customers in parts of six states.

Darren Robbins, an attorney for the firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, said stockholder losses have been estimated at $10 billion.

“It’s a very ugly situation where a lot of people have been hurt very very badly in Ohio and around the world,” Robbins said. “From what we know, there’s a deeply troubling pattern and practice of misconduct at and around FirstEnergy and those affiliated with it. It’s not very often you have facts compelling enough for the speaker of a statehouse to be taken into custody.”

Robbins’ firm has been named by U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley as lead counsel for five shareholder class-action lawsuits naming current and former FirstEnergy executives as defendants. The lawsuits seek damages to be paid by the company itself for having misled investors about its involvement in the bribery scheme.