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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Amanda Gorman, the brilliant, luminous young poet in yesterday’s
inaugural, made this amazing statement on climate change in 2018.

If you missed her at the inauguration, see below.

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Message sinking in .

Euractiv:

Europe needs to acknowledge that its future is no longer with fossil fuels, said the President of the European Investment Bank as he presented the bank’s 2020 results on Wednesday (20 January).

“To put it mildly, gas is over,” Dr Werner Hoyer said at a press conference on the EIB’s annual results.

“This is a serious departure from the past, but without the end to the use of unabated fossil fuels, we will not be able to reach the climate targets,” he added.

The EU aims to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and is expected to adopt a new carbon reduction target of -55% for 2030. However, gas has remained a grey area, with the  European Commission saying it will still be needed to help coal-reliant EU member states transition away from fossil fuels.

Under their climate bank roadmap published in 2020, the EIB plans to use 50% of its activity to support climate and environmental sustainability, unlocking €1 trillion for green funding by 2030. It will also ensure that all activity is aligned with the Paris Agreement.

2 videos coming out in next few weeks.
The post-Trump path forward will be one of them. Stay tuned.

Working on a piece about the new energy landscape. A well-known expert told me that by 2022, the only climate debate would be whether Republicans can handle it better with a market-based approach.
For now, big signals from Biden and industry seeking to catch up.

Washington Examiner:

The American Petroleum Institute said Thursday that it supports the direct federal regulation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from current and existing oil and gas operations.

The position is a shift and concession by the largest oil and gas trade group, which is trying to position itself as willing to cooperate with certain aspects of President Biden’s aggressive agenda to combat climate change while opposing other efforts to limit fossil fuel production.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas more potent but shorter-lived in the atmosphere than carbon.

“This is a new position for API, but we think given where the industry is at this time and the continued importance of reducing methane, it was critical we update this position as the administration changes,”

API CEO Mike Sommers told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “We look forward to working with the Biden administration in the right way to regulate methane, and we welcome the opportunity to be in the room as they make this new regulatory regime a priority.”

API previously backed the Trump administration’s elimination of direct regulation of methane, arguing that existing regulations that indirectly capture methane, along with state rules and voluntary actions by companies, are sufficient. That position drew the ire of big oil majors, some of API’s own members, who argued a lack of methane rules undermines the U.S. natural gas industry’s future as it seeks to play a role in the transition to cleaner energy.

Several big oil companies, including BP, Shell, and ExxonMobil, and large independents like Pioneer Natural Resources, called on the Trump era Environmental Protection Agency to abandon its plans to eliminate methane curbs. Many of those companies asked the EPA not just to maintain the Obama-era methane limits for oil and gas wells built or modified after 2016 but to extend those regulations to all existing operations.

API had especially opposed regulating existing sources because it would trigger controls for a much larger number of oil and gas operations and be more expensive for smaller producers.

AP:

BERLIN (AP) — World leaders breathed an audible sigh of relief that the United States under President Joe Biden is rejoining the global effort to curb climate change, a cause that his predecessor had shunned.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron were among those welcoming Biden’s decision to rejoin the the Paris climate accord, reversing a key Trump policy in the first hours of his presidency Wednesday. 

“Rejoining the Paris Agreement is hugely positive news,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. Britain, which is hosting this year’s U.N. climate summit, looked forward to working with the Biden administration on the issue, he said.

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Today’s Message

January 20, 2021

“There is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
– Amanda Gorman

For a guy that was supposed to be a pushover, President Biden is coming out of the starting gate with some pretty big punches. On day one, the US will rejoin the Paris Agreement, and cancel the Keystone Pipeline.

Got a bump on this from my friend Dr. Jeff Masters, who added, “Not the Onion.”

Above, my friend Keith Schneider, the Sage of Benzonia Michigan, had the lay of the land right in 2017, when he weighed in on pipelines in the Age of Trump. (which is now, obviously, at an end – knocking on wood)

Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—The Keystone oil pipeline’s developer plans to announce a series of overhauls—including a pledge to use only renewable energy—in a bid to win President-elect Joe Biden’s support for the controversial project.

Aides to Mr. Biden have previously said he plans to revoke the permit, and Canada’s CBC News reported late Sunday that Mr. Biden plans to do so in one of his first actions after taking office this week.

Mr. Biden’s team declined to discuss that report, but has said his position on the pipeline hasn’t changed.

In a bid to save the project, Canada’s TC Energy Corp. TRP 0.29% is committing to spend $1.7 billion on solar, wind and battery power to operate the partially completed 2,000-mile pipeline system between Alberta, in western Canada, and Texas, company officials say. They also are pledging to hire a union workforce and eliminate all greenhouse-gas emissions from operations by 2030.

The company’s plans reflect new realities at a time when Democrats are taking commanding positions in Washington, and in an era of growing environmental and social concerns.

“In our view, this is the most sustainable and environmentally friendly pipeline project that is ever been built,” Richard Prior, president of TC Energy’s Keystone XL expansion project, said in an interview. “This is groundbreaking stuff for an energy infrastructure project of the size and scale of Keystone XL.”

In other news, Klu Klux Klan announced they will wear only organic cotton bedsheets.

Economist – 2/29/2020:

Alberta has lured many an oil man in recent years.
Tapping new wells of thick Canadian bitumen and processing it into crude is expensive, but the break-even oil price for operating an existing one can be as low as $25. Large reserves and low depletion rates mean that companies can offer measured growth and attractive dividends. Instead of lubricating profits, however, Canada’s tar sands are bunged-up with protests against new pipelines. Most international oil firms have fled. The latest firm to retreat is Teck Resources. On February 23rd the Canadian company scrapped plans for a C$20bn ($15bn) oil-sands mine. Canada has not yet aligned “climate policy considerations” with “responsible energy sector development”, wrote Teck’s boss, Don Lindsay. Without regulatory approvals, an investment partner, new pipelines and a high oil price, Teck might as well have sought the Moon.

Above, Jake Tapper’s trenchant breakdown of the disinformation chain leading to the Capitol Riots.
Climate scientists feel his pain.

New York Times:

Last week, a mob incited by President Trump stormed the United States Capitol building. Rioters broke windows, beat law enforcement officers, vandalized offices and tried to track down members of Congress with mayhem in mind. At least five people died.

For those of us who cover climate change for a living, the blatant lies about election fraud that fed the mob felt very familiar. A big part of our job is dealing with the disinformation that people and institutions spread to muddy the waters about climate change.

There’s a long and sad history of efforts by industries and interest groups to reshape the discussion of climate science and undercut the overwhelming evidence that greenhouse gases produced by humans are leading us to global catastrophe.

The tools of deception are decades old, said the historian Naomi Oreskes, in the book she wrote with Erik Conway, “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Climate Change.” In an interview, she told me that the tobacco industry’s strategy “was applied to environmental and health issues more broadly.”

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