Nel's New Day

May 13, 2016

Hopeful Environmental News

 

GOP presumptive heir has campaigned on the position that he will let his advisors tell him what to do, and his newest advisor in helping him draft energy policy is climate change skeptic and drilling advocate Rep. Kevin Cramer from North Dakota, a major oil drilling state. Cramer stated that his white paper will show the dangers of burdensome taxes and over-regulation. Trump will present these ideas at an energy summit in Bismarck (ND) later this month. According to Cramer, the earth is cooling, not warming.

While Trump’s train chugs on, environmentalists have recently received good news.

Methane gas: The EPA announced new rules to significantly reduce methane emissions from new oil and gas facilities as well as those undergoing modifications. It’s a first step in this area because the direction, finalized later this year, is only for these wells on federal lands and not for existing ones. The regulations will cover only 25 percent of the oil and gas equipment. Methane gas worsens smog, asthma iin children, and cardiovascular disease while increasing premature death.

Fracking: The industry has suffered a $4.2 million jury award over alleged groundwater contamination from fracking. Cabot Oil and Gas Co. is supposed to give the money to families in Dimock (PA). Popular support for fracking is also shrinking to 36 percent of people in the nation last March from 40 percent the prior March. Federal regulators are also working on new environmental rules for the industry that has experienced a long price slump. The oil and gas industry is under much greater scrutiny that at the beginning of its boom ten years ago.

Renewable energy: Last Sunday morning Germany got 90 percent of its electricity demand from renewable power. Obviously, this doesn’t happen all the time: the country averages 30 percent of the country’s power from solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass. Yet that average is over 230 percent higher than in the United States that gets only 13 percent of its electricity from these energy sources. At the fourth-largest economy in the world, Germany’s $3.7 trillion GDP is higher than any European country or US state. As clean energy grew in Germany so did its economy. The country, with about as much sunshine as Alaska, outpaces the U.S. in solar although the U.S. has four times the population of Germany. German individuals drive the “energy transition” because the government opened the market to utilities, businesses, and homeowners. In contrast, the U.S. restricts clean energy through high taxes and fees on its installation and use, much of these restrictions from control on solar energy by fossil-fuel owning Koch brothers. Florida is just one example.

Coal terminals: A five-year struggle between coal and Native Americans has resulted in denial of federal permits for the biggest proposed coal terminal in North America at Cherry Point (WA). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that the project would violate the nation’s treaty obligations to protect Lummi fisheries and ancestral lands. The project would have overloaded the capacity of BNSF railways by adding 16 trains per day and increase the possibility of rail collisions by 22 percent through Cowlitz County and Washington. The increase in train activity would cause road delays at between four to six crossings. The company behind the project, Millennium Bulk Terminals, is still hoping to have a terminal at Longview (WA), but it had to pull its proposal when it was discovered that the company planned to ship 60 million tons of coal annual instead of the 5.7 million tons on the applications. Since Millennium applied for permits in 2012, Arch Coal, a minority shareholder, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

New clean electric generation in the United States: Last year, wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation’s grid in 2015. The other third was natural gas fueled by natural gas. It was the second year that U.S. investment in renewable energy outpaced that of fossil fuels. The cost of emissions-free wind energy, the cheapest energy source, has dropped by two-thirds in the last six years. Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas—home states to GOP lawmakers fighting the curtailment of climate-warming carbon emissions—benefited the most from clean energy. In the past ten years, coal has dropped from providing half the nation’s electricity to one-third, and large banks will no longer finance new coal mines or coal-fired power plants. U.S. coal mines not employ only 56,700 people down from a peak of times that many employees; solar employs more than 210,000 workers, and wind energy has another 77,000 employees.

This week, the EPA issued a report that Monsanto’s Roundup, made with glyphosate, doesn’t cause cancer, but it pulled the report, marked FINAL, with the excuse that they weren’t finished. The question is whether they were being pressured by business because evidence is growing that the product is carcinogenic, as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the product.  Four Nebraska farmers agree with WHO and are suing Monsanto, claiming that its project gave them non-Hodkin’s lymphoma. Monsanto made $4.8 billion from Roundup sales last year, and more than 85 million pounds of glyphosate was applied to U.S. crops in 2007, more than double the 85 million pounds in 2001. Glyphosate is applied to “Roundup-ready” crops that are genetically modified to resist it and used on more than 100 varieties of crops in commercial agriculture. The complaint states:

 “Glyphosate is found in rivers, streams, and groundwater in agricultural areas where Roundup is used. It has been found in food, the urine of exposed persons, and in the urine of urban dwellers without direct contact with glyphosate.”

Last year California was the first state to label Roundup as a carcinogen, and Monsanto sued the state to fight this designation. Cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other blood cancers, including lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia, B-cell lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. The farmers’ lawsuit isn’t the first: Monsanto faces at least 700 lawsuits against Monsanto or Monsanto-related entities regarding cancer caused by PCBs that the company manufactured until the late 1970s. California federal judge Vince Chhabria has also refused to dismiss a lawsuit about Monsanto’s causing cancer with Roundup.

More and more media sources no longer have journalists but instead rely on press releases from companies who benefit from lying about science. Even most existing journalists aren’t well enough trained in science to spot misinformation.  In an attempt to disseminate accurate scientific information, a group of scientists are now fact-checking scientific information in the media through a new project called Climate Feedback. They started on a small scale over a year ago and are now crowdfunding $30,000 to build the project’s capacity with new weekly feedbacks. Associate Editor Daniel Nethery said:

“Several aspects of the online media environment make it particularly conducive to the spread of misinformation. In the race to attract the most clicks, editorial standards may suffer, qualified journalists who carry out rigorous research may become cost-ineffective, and eye-catching headlines — ‘click bait’ — can trump more sober reporting of the facts.”

Nethery and co-founder Emmanuel Vincent plan to hire a dedicated editor and encourage accurate science writing through a Scientific Trust Tracker to guide readers sources with “journalists with integrity.” An example of their work can be found in their analysis of James Taylor’s article in Forbes, “2015 Was Not Even Close To Hottest Year On Record.”

Climate Feedback will need a lot more money in this election cycle!

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