I’m going to be juggling webcasts tomorrow to take in this one – importantly, on the role of government subsidies to fossil fuel consumption.

House Committee on Oversight and Reform:

Washington D.C. (Apr. 16, 2021)— On Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. E.T., Rep. Ro Khanna, Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Environment, will hold the Subcommittee’s first hearing of the Congress on Earth Day entitled, “The Role of Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Preventing Action on the Climate Crisis.”

Currently, the United States is the largest producer of oil and gas in the world.  Under President Donald Trump, the fossil fuel industry received between $10.4 billion and $15.2 billion in direct pandemic relief from the federal government.

This hearing will discuss the dire health and economic impacts of fossil fuel subsidies and why the current Administration and the rest of the international community should fulfill their commitments to repeal fossil fuel subsidies.

The hearing will also examine how federal subsidies for the fossil fuel industry disproportionately affects already vulnerable communities.

WHAT:   Subcommittee on Environment Hearing on “The Role of Fossil Fuel Subsidies in Preventing Action on the Climate Crisis” 
WHEN: Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. E.T.
 
WHO:     Greta Thunberg
Founder
Fridays For Future 
Tara Houska 
Founder
Giniw Collective 
Joseph Aldy
Professor
Harvard University 
Peter Erickson
Climate Policy Program Director
Stockholm Environmental Institute 
Jill Antares Hunkler
Seventh Generation Ohio Valley Resident
WATCH: A livestream will be available on YouTube and the Committee on Oversightand Reform website.
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Lately, I’m finding some of the most vital and current news related to climate is in the business press, reflective of the seriousness that corporate leaders are now giving to climate concerns.

More than 400 major corporations, responding to demands by customers and employees,
as well as their own assessment of climate impacts on business – are
demanding aggressive climate action by the Biden Administration.
Biden plans to announce aggressive goals tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the administration calls for businesses to assess their exposure to climate risks and provide that to investors. There is a good deal of incentive for businesses to assess that risk internally, and many are doing so already.

Below, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen outlines new incentives for carbon free generation.

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CNN:

For decades, crude oil has been at the center of global commodities markets. Demand has served as a crucial metric of economic health, and price spikes have had major ramifications for gas-guzzling consumers.But as countries around the world try to combat the climate crisis, oil could take a backseat, while metals like copper and lithium gain prominence.”The critical role copper will play in achieving the Paris climate goals cannot be overstated,” Goldman Sachs analysts said in a recent research note titled “Copper is the new oil.”

Setting the scene: Copper is an essential component of systems that allow wind, solar and geothermal energy to be tapped and transmitted for applications like heating homes, the analysts noted.

And the market already looks tight. Copper prices have rallied 80% over the past 12 months, and supply is constrained as demand skyrockets. It takes two to three years to extend an existing mine, and as many as eight years to establish a new project, according to Goldman Sachs.

That could set up the price of copper to jump from current prices of more than $9,000 per tonne to $15,000 per tonne by 2025, per the bank’s estimates.There’s also a growing focus on lithium, a key component for batteries in electric cars. In a recent note, analysts at Macquarie Research predicted that demand for electric vehicles could trigger “material shortages” of the metal from 2025.These constraints are putting lithium miners in the spotlight.

On Monday, Australia’s Orocobre and Galaxy announced a $3.1 billion merger that would create one of the biggest lithium companies in the world.Why it matters: Global carbon dioxide emissions are set to surge dangerously this year as the global economy undergoes a huge recovery, according to a report published Tuesday by the International Energy Agency.

The Paris-based group estimates that carbon emissions from energy use are on track to spike by 1.5 billion tonnes in 2021, as heavy coal consumption in Asia, and in China in particular, outweighs rapid growth in renewable sources. That would be the second largest annual increase in energy-related emissions in history. “This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

Watch this space: The IEA is sounding the alarm before 40 world leaders come together later this week for a two-day virtual summit on the climate crisis convened by President Joe Biden. Birol called it a “critical moment to commit to clear and immediate action.”

Below, a comparison of Lithium production to coal production.

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AP:

President Joe Biden will pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at least in half by 2030 as he convenes a virtual climate summit with 40 world leaders, according to three people with knowledge of the White House plans.

The 50% target would nearly double the nation’s previous commitment and help the Biden administration prod other countries for ambitious emissions cuts as well. The proposal would require dramatic changes in the power and transportation sectors, including significant increases in renewable energy such as wind and solar power and steep cuts in emissions from fossil fuels such as coal and oil. 

The nonbinding but symbolically important pledge is a key element of the two-day summit, which begins Thursday as world leaders gather online to share strategies to combat climate change.

The emissions target has been eagerly awaited by all sides of the climate debate. It will signal how aggressively Biden wants to move on global warming, a divisive and expensive issue that has riled Republicans to complain about job-killing government overreach even as some on the left worry Biden has not gone far enough to address a profound threat to the planet.

The three people who know about the White House plans spoke on condition of anonymity on Tuesday because they were not authorized to discuss the pledge ahead of Biden’s announcement.

Biden has sought to ensure that the 2030 goal, known as a Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC, is aggressive enough to have a tangible impact on climate change efforts — not only in the U.S. but throughout the world — while also being achievable under a closely divided Congress.

New York Times:

The country’s largest mine workers union signaled on Monday that it would accept a transition away from fossil fuels in exchange for new jobs in renewable energy, spending on technology to make coal cleaner and financial aid for miners who lose their jobs.

“There needs to be a tremendous investment here,” Cecil E. Roberts, the president of the United Mine Workers of America, said in an interview. “We always end up dealing with climate change, closing down coal mines. We never get to the second piece of it.”

The mine workers’ plan, which Mr. Roberts is presenting at an event with Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, calls for the creation of new jobs in Appalachia through tax credits that would subsidize the making of solar panel and wind turbine components, and by funding the reclamation of abandoned mines that pose a risk to public health.

The mine workers are also calling for spending on research on carbon capture and storage technology, which would allow coal-fired plants to store carbon dioxide underground rather than release it into the atmosphere, and for policies that allow coal plants to remain open if they commit to installing the technology.

The union wants the federal government to support miners who lose their jobs through retraining and by replacing their wages, health insurance and pensions.

Many of these proposals appear in President Biden’s $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan, including funding for research into carbon capture, which critics deride as prohibitively expensive, and money for reclaiming mines.

“Change is coming, whether we seek it or not,” stated a document that the mine workers union released on Monday, titled “Preserving Coal Country.” It notes that employment in the coal industry had dropped to about 44,000 as of last December, down from 92,000 at the end of 2011.

Mr. Roberts said the union would resist any climate legislation that did not help ensure a livelihood for its members.

Long, worthwhile, but daunting analysis in Politico:

Fairness is where workers, especially those involved in organized labor, find fault with Democrats’ green economic makeover.

Some clean-energy companies lack the most basic of labor protections. Many categorize their workforce as contractors, denying them full benefits. Very few wind and solar companies have unions, and many opposed unionization efforts. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has taken a particularly strong stance against unions, with the National Labor Relations Board demanding he remove a tweet that allegedly threatened organizers. (Tesla appealed the ruling in March.) And making electric vehicles requires fewer parts than internal combustion engine-powered cars, translating to fewer workers.

Still, labor leaders insist that much of the administration’s and Democrats’ plans amount to tinkering around the edges of the real problem. They pointed to efforts to impose prevailing wage requirements to ensure fair pay on federal clean-energy projects, to boost training programs, to diversify local economies. But truly transforming the landscape and making clean energy work for labor, union leaders said, would require changing federal labor laws to make it easier to organize — an effort that would be highly unlikely to prevail in the 50-50 Senate without Republican support. Organizers contend that without passing legislation like the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act, the U.S. clean energy manufacturing renaissance Biden envisions would be free to engage in a race to the bottom for wages and benefits.

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Emily Atkin in Heated:

If you know an environmental reporter, send them some love this week. Earth Day is coming, and our inboxes are filling up with hot, useless garbage.

There’s no way around it. Every April, environmental beat reporters are inundated with e-mails from public relations representatives seeking to capitalize on Earth Day, a holiday originally intended to highlight righteous civil disobedience and social justice activism but which somehow became an annual celebration of reusable diapers and tree-plantings. 

The e-mails are not just numerous, but terrible. Every request to highlight a climate activist, scientist, or speaking event seems to be met with seven more to write about a group’s “new carbon footprint calculator” or a brand’s “eco-friendly gift guide for masculine manly men.”

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Acronym to remember: NSR.

CNN:

The climate emergency has removed many of Russia’s natural defenses to its north, such as walls of sheet ice, at an unanticipated rate. “The melt is moving faster than scientists predicted or thought possible several years ago,” said the senior State Department official. “It’s going to be a dramatic transformation in the decades ahead in terms of physical access.”

US officials also expressed concern at Moscow’s apparent bid to influence the “Northern Sea Route” — a shipping lane that runs from between Norway and Alaska, along Russia’s northern coast, across to the North Atlantic. The ‘NSR’ potentially halves the time it currently takes shipping containers to reach Europe from Asia via the Suez Canal.

Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear company released elaborately produced drone video this February of the ‘Christophe de Margerie’ tanker completing an eastern route across the Arctic in winter for the first time, accompanied by the ’50 Let Pobedy’ nuclear icebreaker for its journey in three of the six Arctic seas.Campbell said Russia sought to exploit the NSR as a “major international shipping lane,” yet voiced concern at the rules Moscow was seeking to impose on vessels using the route.

“Russian laws governing NSR transits exceed Russia’s authority under international law,” the Pentagon spokesman said. “They require any vessel transiting the NSR through international waters to have a Russian pilot onboard to guide the vessel. Russia is also attempting to require foreign vessels to obtain permission before entering the NSR.”

ANADOLU AGENCY (Turkey):

Russia, which paid a heavy price not being able to use the Northern Sea route in the Russo-Japanese war of 1905, solved this problem, at least militarily, by having by far the largest icebreaker fleet in the world. While, however, the commercially expensive icebreaker ships do not offer a competitive solution, global warming came to Russia’s aid on this issue.

The noticeable thinning of the ice sheet covering the Arctic Ocean in recent years has reduced the need for icebreakers. In addition, merchant ships were equipped with ice-breaking capabilities, enabling them to make their voyages over the Northern Sea Route by themselves.

A Russian ship transporting LNG from Yamal, one of Russia’s largest natural gas fields, on the North Sea coast to China, made its return journey on Jan. 27-Feb. 19, 2020, in the middle of winter and without the need for icebreaker assistance.

The Northern Sea Route is no longer a dangerous and impassable sea as it was in previous centuries, and countries and global companies involved in maritime transport started using this course at increasing rates every year.

In 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the annual average cargo volume over the Northern Sea Route to be increased from 30 million tons to 80 million tons by 2024.

China, one of the first countries to try this route for commercial purposes, has been sending an increasing number of ships to Europe via the Northern Sea Route since 2013. While this number was 12 in 2017, it reached the same number in January-August 2018.

It can be seen as interconnected moves for China that it became an observer member of the Arctic Council in 2013 and started implementing its One Belt-One Road Initiative in the same year.

CNBC’s Diana Olick is doing an incredible job spotlighting the economic impacts of climate change.

Below, my video on the impacts of increased flooding in my own upper midwest neighborhood.

Compare the two graphs above. They tell the story of technological and economic shifts in the last decade, as the very market-dominated Texas (ERCOT) grid evolved in its choice of power sources.

I’ll be watching Texas closely as they come to grips with the clear need for adjustments in strategy following the recent blackouts, but I’m thinking that storage may be a big winner here, and I doubt renewables are going away.

Bloomberg:

Natural gas is falling out of favor with emissions-wary investors and utilities at a quicker pace than coal did, catching some power generators unaware and potentially leaving them stuck with billions of dollars of assets they can’t sell.

Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are among the banks that strengthened their financing restrictions on thermal coal under pressure from shareholders wanting to avoid the fuel, and the expectation is that gas is next. Executives at some western European companies say they’re already struggling to sell gas-fired facilities.

“If you find out somebody who is ready to offer a good price for our gas plants in Spain, then we are ready to sell,” said Jose Ignacio Sanchez Galan, chief executive officer at Iberdrola SA in Spain. “We are not finding people.”

The cost of renewables has dropped dramatically during the past decade, making gas-fired stations less competitive.

Phasing out gas in power generation is just a first step. Cutting back use of the fuel in heating, transport and industry would wreak more potential damage. Europe wants to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, which is at odds with plans to build numerous infrastructure projects, like pipelines and terminals.

If these are built but no longer needed, there’s a potential 87 billion-euro ($104 billion) stranded-asset risk, according to calculations by Global Energy Monitor.

In Italy there are plans to build 14 gigawatts of new gas capacity mostly to replace coal, according to Carbon Tracker Initiative Ltd.

Europe’s biggest utility, Enel SpA, is a global renewables supermajor. Still, about 40% of the company’s 88 gigawatts of installed capacity is made up of coal, oil and gas, but the Italian company is planning to reduce coal generation by 74% in 2022. Although a gas phase-out is also coming down the track, it has plans to build more capacity.

The important thing is that the direction is clear, it will not change,’’ Salvatore Bernabei, head of global power generation at Enel said in an interview.  “Everyone should understand that we cannot change the world in one day.’’

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