“..they’ve removed our fundamental right to a livable planet.”

New ruling will severely impact the regulatory power of potentially every agency. Bill McKibben explains below.

Bill McKibben in The New Yorker:

Credit where due: the Supreme Court’s 6–3 ruling in West Virginia v. E.P.A. is the culmination of a five-decade effort to make sure that the federal government won’t threaten the business status quo. Lewis Powell’s famous memo, written in 1971, before he joined the Supreme Court—between the enactment of a strong Clean Air Act and a strong Clean Water Act, each with huge popular support—called on “businessmen” to stand up to the tide of voices “from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians” calling for progressive change. He outlined a plan for slowly rebuilding the power of industrial élites, almost all the elements of which were taken up by conservative movements over subsequent years: monitoring textbooks and TV stations, attacking left-wing faculty at universities, even building a publishing industry. (“The news stands—at airports, drugstores, and elsewhere—are filled with paperback and pamphlets advocating everything from revolution to erotic free love. One finds almost no attractive, well-written paperbacks or pamphlets on ‘our side,’ ” Powell wrote, but he was able to imagine a day when the likes of Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity would reliably top the best-seller lists.)

Fatefully, he also wrote: “American business and the enterprise system have been affected as much by the courts as by the executive and legislative branches of government. Under our constitutional system, especially with an activist-minded Supreme Court, the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change.” At the time he was writing, the “activist” court was standing up for things that most Americans wanted, such as clean air and water—and the right of women to control their own bodies. But the Supreme Court, and hence the judiciary, has come under the control of the kind of men that Powell envisioned—he may not have envisioned women on the bench, but Amy Coney Barrett is otherwise his type of judge. And, with this ruling, they have taken more or less total control of Washington’s ability to generate policy that might disrupt the status quo.

In essence, the ruling begins to strip away the power of agencies such as the E.P.A. to enforce policy: instead of allowing federal agencies to enforce, say, the Clean Air Act to clean the air, in this new dispensation, Congress would have to pass regulations that are much more explicit, as each new pollutant came to the fore. As West Virginia’s attorney general explained, “What we’re looking to do is to make sure that the right people under our constitutional system make the correct decisions . . .  these agencies, these federal agencies, don’t have the ability to act solely on their own without getting a clear statement from Congress. Delegation matters.”

But, of course, the Court has also insured that “getting a clear statement from Congress” to address our deepest problems is essentially impossible. The decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C., in 2010, empowered corporations to game our political system at will. That explains, in part, why Congress has not passed a real climate bill in decades. The efforts that Democratic Administrations have made to try and control greenhouse gasses have mostly used provisions of the Clean Air Act because it is the last serious law of its kind that ever came to a President’s desk (Nixon’s, in this case).

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And possibly opening the way to destroy the government’s ability to regulate anything at all.

And that’s really what this whole 40 year effort has been about. The billionaires who funded this effort from the start feel that no one should be able to tell the rich and powerful what to do, about anything, ever.

New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, dealing a blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to address climate change.

The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s three liberal justices in dissent, saying that the majority had stripped the E.P.A. of “the power to respond to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.”

The ruling appeared to curtail the agency’s ability to regulate the energy sector, limiting it to measures like emission controls at individual power plants and, unless Congress acts, ruling out more ambitious approaches like a cap-and-trade system at a time when experts are issuing increasingly dire warnings about the quickening pace of global warming.

The implications of the ruling could extend well beyond environmental policy and further signal that the court’s newly expanded conservative majority is deeply skeptical of the power of administrative agencies to address major issues facing the nation and the planet.

That skepticism has been evident in recent decisions arising from the coronavirus pandemic. The court ruled, for instance, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was not authorized to impose a moratorium on evictions and that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was powerless to tell large employers to have their workers be vaccinated or undergo frequent testing.

The question before the justices in the new case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 20-1530, was whether the Clean Air Act allowed the E.P.A. to issue sweeping regulations across the power sector. More broadly, the court was asked to address whether Congress must “speak with particular clarity when it authorizes executive agencies to address major political and economic questions.

The court has called this inquiry the “major questions doctrine.”

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Recent rain in Northern Italy has done little for the region’s worst drought in 70 years. At least 30% of this year’s rice crop has already been lost, and now the region’s irrigation sources are being threatened by the salty Adriatic sea, which has entered a record 30.6 kilometers (19 miles) into the Po river. 

The Po river flows for 652 kilometers from west to east in northern Italy, a region that accounts for about 30% of the country’s agricultural production. Large swaths of the river bed are currently visible as the river’s levels are 80% lower than normal. The drought, which is unusual for June, follows four months of little rain and snowmelt feeding the river. It’s also happening during an unprecedented heat wave in Europe.

The Po River Authority warned Wednesday that the body of water is still experiencing severe drought despite recent rains of 60 millimeters (2.36 inches), with the Po 7.16 meters (23.5 feet) lower than normal conditions at the Pontelagoscuro monitoring station.

“We have guaranteed water for agricultural use until July 9,” said Attilio Fontana, the governor of Lombardy in North Italy, on Italian news channel SkyTG24 Thursday. “After that, if it doesn’t rain, it will be an issue.”

Europe is experiencing extreme temperatures both on land and sea. Italy’s Health Ministry issued a red alert for 19 cities out of 27 on Thursday —meaning heat has reached emergency conditions that could not only impact the health of the most vulnerable, but also healthy people as well. The drought in the country puts at risk as much as 3 billion euros ($3.1 billion) in agriculture, the country’s farmers association said last week. The lobby estimates the loss of at least 30% of the seasonal harvest, including forage, barley and grain.

Not just selling vehicles, selling “services”.

Hot competition for engineers, but maybe 40 percent fewer hours of labor needed for production.

Plans afoot for surfing lagoons in the Great American Desert. Magic Water that doesn’t exist. The jokes write themselves, and so do the nightmares.

It’s still June.


BUDAPEST, June 28 (Reuters) – Hungary’s 2022 grains crop prospects have been “substantially damaged” by extreme hot weather and a lack of rainfall, state news agency MTI reported Agriculture Minister Istvan Nagy as saying on Tuesday.

The heatwave has also prompted an earlier than usual start to the nation’s grains harvest, he said.

Hungary, one of East Europe’s top grain producers, ordered a ban on all grains exports in March because of price increases caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The Hungarian grain crop totalled 13.7 million tonnes last year, down 12% from the previous year, partly because of dry weather conditions.

MTI cited Nagy as saying that farmers have so far reported heat damage on nearly 230,000 hectares, about a tenth of last year’s total grains acreage.

We’ve known this for a long time. Above, University of California researchers on the pathway to 90 percent clean energy.
Above, comparing the clean energy transition to JFK’s “Moonshot”, I interviewed Stanford lecturer and energy visionary Tony Seba.

Elsewhere on this page, I’ve interviewed many researchers in recent years on the clean, and cheap, path forward.

Mark Z Jacobson in The Hill:

The world is experiencing unprecedented fuel price increases, energy blackmail between countries, up to 7 million air pollution deaths per year worldwide and one climate-related disaster after another. Critics contend that a switch to renewable energy to solve these problems will create unstable electricity grids and drive prices up further. However, a new study from my research group at Stanford University concludes that these problems can be solved in each of the 145 countries we examined — without blackouts and at low cost using almost all existing technologies.

The study concludes that we do not need miracle technologies to solve these problems. By electrifying all energy sectors; producing electricity from clean, renewable sources; creating heat, cold, and hydrogen from such electricity; storing electricity, heat, cold and the hydrogen; expanding transmission; and shifting the time of some electricity use, we can create safe, cheap and reliable energy everywhere.

The biggest reason for the cost reduction is that a clean, renewable energy system uses much less energy than does a combustion-based energy system. In fact, worldwide the energy that people actually use goes down by over 56 percent with an all-electric system powered by clean, renewable sources. The reduction is for five reasons: the efficiency of electric vehicles over combustion vehicles, the efficiency of electric heat pumps for air and water heating over combustion heaters, the efficiency of electrified industry, eliminating energy needed to obtain fossil fuels, as well as some efficiency improvements beyond what is expected.

On top of that, a new system also reduces the cost per unit energy by another 12 percent on average, resulting in a 63 percent lower annual energy cost worldwide. Adding onto that health and climate cost savings gives a 92 percent reduction in social costs, which are energy plus health plus climate costs, relative to the current system.

The energy-producing technologies considered include only onshore and offshore wind electricity, solar photovoltaics for electricity on rooftops and in power plants, concentrated solar power, solar heat, geothermal electricity and heat, hydroelectricity, as well as small amounts of tidal and wave electricity. The most important electricity storage technology considered was batteries, although pumped hydroelectric storage, existing hydroelectric dam storage and concentrated solar power electricity storage were also treated. We found that no batteries with more than four hours of storage were needed. Instead, long-duration storage was obtained by concatenating batteries with four-hour storage together. In a sensitivity test, we found that even if battery prices were 50 percent higher, overall costs would be only 3.2 percent higher than their base estimate.

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Working on a piece about methane, in the arctic and globally.
Not sure I can finish it before I go to Greenland this weekend, but here’s a piece I got from Scott Dallimore at the Geological Survey of Canada, Russian video narrated by Marina Leibman of the Earth Cryosphere Institute in Tyumen, Russia.

I’ll be looking at what we know about the so-called “Siberian Sinkholes” that have sparked so much speculation over the last decade, and what they may be telling us about changes in permafrost, and releases of methane to the atmosphere.
A number of people contacted me after a recent PBS special on the structures suggested that they may represent an as yet poorly understood pathway for geologic methane deposits trapped under permafrost to reach the atmosphere as the planet warms.

I reached out to Katey Walter Anthony and Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, and Dr. Romanovsky put me in touch with Dr. Dallimore as well.
For now, this video has some critical clues – the identification of a crack or crevice at the base of one fresh sinkhole, possibly a pathway for deeper methane deposits that may have seeped upward and become trapped beneath shallow layers until bursting forth.
Questions to be answered: Is that indeed the mechanism? Is this a new phenomenon? Does this represent an important new source of greenhouse gas?
In Greenland, I’ll be joining a team from Charles University (Prague) who are measuring methane releases from melting ice, potentially another novel pathway, so that could play into the evolving story.
Stay tuned.

Above, interview with Jim Coulter, the co-founder of private equity firm TPG Capital, originally known as the Texas Pacific Group. “Solar is the cheapest way to bring electricity online.”

Below, John Doerr, Venture capitalist John Doerr, chairman at Kleiner Perkins, “we are in an epic transition, from a fossil fuel economy to a clean energy economy, it’s the largest economic development of our lifetimes, it ranks up their with the internet in terms of it’s impacts…it’s the best investment opportunity of our lifetime.”