Offshore Wind Power in the US

30 March, 2021

More good news about wind power! Earlier this month I mentioned progress on Vineyard Wind, a planned offshore wind farm that should generate 800 megawatts when it’s finally running. Now the Biden adminstration has begun a broader initiative. They want to get sixteen construction plans for offshore wind worked out by 2025, for 19 gigawatts of wind power. And their bigger goal is 30 gigawatts of wind power by 2030.

• Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Biden administration launches major push to expand offshore wind power, Washington Post, 29 March 2021.

The White House on Monday detailed an ambitious plan to expand wind farms along the East Coast and jump-start the country’s nascent offshore wind industry, saying it hoped to trigger a massive clean-energy effort in the fight against climate change.

The plan would generate 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by the end of the decade — enough to power more than 10 million American homes and cut 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. To accomplish that, the Biden administration said, it would speed permitting for projects off the East Coast, invest in research and development, provide low-interest loans to industry and fund changes to U.S. ports.

“We are ready to rock-and-roll,” national climate adviser Gina McCarthy told reporters in a phone call Monday. She framed the effort as being as much about jobs as about clean energy. Offshore wind power will generate “thousands of good-paying union jobs. This is all about creating great jobs in the ocean and in our port cities and in our heartland,” she said.

The initiative represents a major stretch for the United States. The country has only one offshore wind project online at this time, generating 30 megawatts, off Rhode Island.

Administration officials said they would speed up offshore wind development by setting concrete deadlines for reviewing and approving permit applications; establish a new wind energy area in the waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast; invest $230 million to upgrade U.S. ports; and provide $3 billion in potential loans for the offshore wind industry through the Energy Department.

The program also instructs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to share data with Orsted, a Danish offshore wind development firm, about the U.S. waters where it holds leases. NOAA will grant $1 million to help study the impact of offshore wind operations on fishing operators as well as coastal communities.

The National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, a joint project of the Energy Department and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, will give $8 million in research grants to 15 offshore wind research and development projects.

[….]

Although offshore wind represents the fastest-growing sector in renewable power, the country remains far behind Europe.

Europe already has 24 gigawatts of operational capacity, and Britain alone aims to have 40 gigawatts online by 2030, said Vegard Wiik Vollset, vice president of renewable energy at Rystad Energy, which analyzes the energy sector.

“Compared to Europe, the U.S. is very much in its infancy,” he said.

But wind power is poised to take off along the East Coast, with recent commitments from several states — Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia — to buy at least 25,000 megawatts of offshore electricity by 2035, according to the American Clean Power Association.

As part of Monday’s announcement, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it will start preparing an environmental-impact statement for Ocean Wind, a New Jersey project that has 1,100 megawatts of capacity.


Vineyard Wind

13 March, 2021

Massachusetts law requires that the state get 3,200 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035. This would be about 20% of the electricity they consume. But so far they get only about 120 megawatts from wind, offshore and onshore. Most of the potential wind energy areas shown above have not yet been developed.

This week there’s some promising news about Vineyard Wind, a planned offshore wind farm that should generate 800 megawatts when it’s finally running. This project had been stalled for years by the federal government. But no more! It just passed an environmental review. The final decision about whether it can go ahead should be made in April.

• Kelsey Tambirino, Biden administration gives major push to giant offshore wind farm, Politico, 8 March 2021.

The Interior Department said on Monday it had completed its environmental review for a massive wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, a key step toward final approval of the long-stalled project that will play a prominent role in President Joe Biden’s effort to expand renewable energy in the U.S.

The completion of the review is a breakthrough for the U.S. offshore wind industry, which has lagged behind its European counterparts and the U.S. onshore industry that has grown rapidly, even during the pandemic. It also marks a key acceleration for the Biden administration that has advocated renewables growth on public lands and waters.

“This is a really significant step forward in the process for moving toward more offshore wind development in the United States,” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Amanda Lefton told reporters.

"This is the day the U.S. offshore wind industry has been anxiously awaiting for years. Today’s announcement provides the regulatory greenlight the industry needs to attract investments and move projects forward," said Liz Burdock, head of the non-profit group Business Network for Offshore Wind.

The proposed 800-megawatt project, called Vineyard Wind, would be located approximately 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and would be the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the country. Two other small offshore projects have been built off the coasts of Rhode Island and Virginia, but at 30 MW and 12 MW, respectively, are a fraction of the size of the Vineyard Wind project, which needs a final record of decision before construction can begin. That decision could come this spring.

The BOEM analysis’ preferred alternative would allow up to 84 turbines to be installed in 100 of the 106 proposed blocks for the facility. It would prohibit the installation of wind turbine generators in six locations in the northernmost section of the development area and the wind turbine generators would also be required to be arranged in in a north-south and east-west orientation, with at least 1 nautical mile between each turbine.


US Environmental Policy (Part 4)

28 January, 2021

Biden’s executive orders are now going beyond revoking those of the previous president. He may really take climate change seriously. It’s starting to scare some people.

• Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, As Biden vows monumental action on climate change, a fight with the fossil fuel industry has only begun, Washington Post, 27 January 2021.

Joe Biden had long promised to become the climate president, and on Wednesday he detailed far-ranging plans to shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels, create millions of jobs in renewable energy, and conserve vast swaths of public lands and water.

“This is not a time for small measures,” Biden said at the White House, adding that the nation had already wasted precious years as it delayed in dealing with the climate crisis.

But as he detailed his plans, the gas, oil and coal industries were already mobilizing on all fronts. From an oil patch in Alaska to state capitals to the halls of Congress, the industries and their allies are aiming to slow Biden’s unprecedented push for climate action and keep profits from fossil fuels flowing. Republican attorneys general from six states wrote to the new president, warning him not to overstep his authority. GOP lawmakers attacked his executive orders as “job killers.” And the petroleum industry revived television ads promoting drilling on federal lands.

Industry executives expressed dismay at the scope, speed and direction in which Biden is heading, saying he is going much further than President Barack Obama ever did, while environmentalists said the danger that Earth faces is far more dire now than it appeared during Obama’s tenure and requires an extraordinary response. Last year essentially tied with 2016 as the hottest year ever recorded, and scientists say the planet is speeding toward irreversible damage.

In barely a week in office, Biden has moved to rejoin the Paris climate accord, halt the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, impose new limits on oil and gas production, and mandate climate change as a priority across every federal agency.

This article spells out the forthcoming battle in a bit more detail:

• Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman, The battle lines are forming in Biden’s climate push, New York Times, 26 January, 2020.

As President Biden prepares on Wednesday to open an ambitious effort to confront climate change, powerful and surprising forces are arrayed at his back.

Automakers are coming to accept that much higher fuel economy standards are their future; large oil and gas companies have said some curbs on greenhouse pollution lifted by former President Donald J. Trump should be reimposed; shareholders are demanding corporations acknowledge and prepare for a warmer, more volatile future, and a youth movement is driving the Democratic Party to go big to confront the issue.

But what may well stand in the president’s way is political intransigence from senators from fossil-fuel states in both parties. An evenly divided Senate has given enormous power to any single senator, and one in particular, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who will lead the Senate Energy Committee and who came to the Senate as a defender of his state’s coal industry.

Today’s executive order raises the stakes:

Executive order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

The United States and the world face a profound climate crisis.  We have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.  Domestic action must go hand in hand with United States international leadership, aimed at significantly enhancing global action.  Together, we must listen to science and meet the moment.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

PART I — PUTTING THE CLIMATE CRISIS AT THE CENTER OF UNITED STATES FOREIGN POLICY AND NATIONAL SECURITY

Section 101.  Policy.  United States international engagement to address climate change — which has become a climate crisis — is more necessary and urgent than ever.  The scientific community has made clear that the scale and speed of necessary action is greater than previously believed.  There is little time left to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory.  Responding to the climate crisis will require both significant short-term global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and net-zero global emissions by mid-century or before.

It is the policy of my Administration that climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.  The United States will work with other countries and partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to put the world on a sustainable climate pathway.  The United States will also move quickly to build resilience, both at home and abroad, against the impacts of climate change that are already manifest and will continue to intensify according to current trajectories.

Sec. 102.  Purpose.  This order builds on and reaffirms actions my Administration has already taken to place the climate crisis at the forefront of this Nation’s foreign policy and national security planning, including submitting the United States instrument of acceptance to rejoin the Paris Agreement.  In implementing — and building upon — the Paris Agreement’s three overarching objectives (a safe global temperature, increased climate resilience, and financial flows aligned with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions and climate‑resilient development), the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global climate ambition to meet the climate challenge.  In this regard:

(a)  I will host an early Leaders’ Climate Summit aimed at raising climate ambition and making a positive contribution to the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) and beyond. 

(b)  The United States will reconvene the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, beginning with the Leaders’ Climate Summit.  In cooperation with the members of that Forum, as well as with other partners as appropriate, the United States will pursue green recovery efforts, initiatives to advance the clean energy transition, sectoral decarbonization, and alignment of financial flows with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, including with respect to coal financing, nature-based solutions, and solutions to other climate-related challenges.

(c)  I have created a new Presidentially appointed position, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, to elevate the issue of climate change and underscore the commitment my Administration will make toward addressing it.  

(d)  Recognizing that climate change affects a wide range of subjects, it will be a United States priority to press for enhanced climate ambition and integration of climate considerations across a wide range of international fora, including the Group of Seven (G7), the Group of Twenty (G20), and fora that address clean energy, aviation, shipping, the Arctic, the ocean, sustainable development, migration, and other relevant topics.  The Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and others, as appropriate, are encouraged to promote innovative approaches, including international multi-stakeholder initiatives.  In addition, my Administration will work in partnership with States, localities, Tribes, territories, and other United States stakeholders to advance United States climate diplomacy.

(e)  The United States will immediately begin the process of developing its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement.  The process will include analysis and input from relevant executive departments and agencies (agencies), as well as appropriate outreach to domestic stakeholders.  The United States will aim to submit its nationally determined contribution in advance of the Leaders’ Climate Summit.

(f)  The United States will also immediately begin to develop a climate finance plan, making strategic use of multilateral and bilateral channels and institutions, to assist developing countries in implementing ambitious emissions reduction measures, protecting critical ecosystems, building resilience against the impacts of climate change, and promoting the flow of capital toward climate-aligned investments and away from high-carbon investments.  The Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury, in coordination with the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, shall lead a process to develop this plan, with the participation of the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Chief Executive Officer of the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Director of the United States Trade and Development Agency, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the head of any other agency providing foreign assistance and development financing, as appropriate.  The Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury shall submit the plan to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, within 90 days of the date of this order.

(g)  The Secretary of the Treasury shall:

(i)    ensure that the United States is present and engaged in relevant international fora and institutions that are working on the management of climate-related financial risks;

(ii)   develop a strategy for how the voice and vote of the United States can be used in international financial institutions, including the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, to promote financing programs, economic stimulus packages, and debt relief initiatives that are aligned with and support the goals of the Paris Agreement; and

(iii)  develop, in collaboration with the Secretary of State, the Administrator of USAID, and the Chief Executive Officer of the DFC, a plan for promoting the protection of the Amazon rainforest and other critical ecosystems that serve as global carbon sinks, including through market-based mechanisms.

(h)  The Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of Energy shall work together and with the Export–Import Bank of the United States, the Chief Executive Officer of the DFC, and the heads of other agencies and partners, as appropriate, to identify steps through which the United States can promote ending international financing of carbon-intensive fossil fuel-based energy while simultaneously advancing sustainable development and a green recovery, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

(i)  The Secretary of Energy, in cooperation with the Secretary of State and the heads of other agencies, as appropriate, shall identify steps through which the United States can intensify international collaborations to drive innovation and deployment of clean energy technologies, which are critical for climate protection.

(j)  The Secretary of State shall prepare, within 60 days of the date of this order, a transmittal package seeking the Senate’s advice and consent to ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, regarding the phasedown of the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons.

Sec. 103.  Prioritizing Climate in Foreign Policy and National Security.  To ensure that climate change considerations are central to United States foreign policy and national security:

(a)  Agencies that engage in extensive international work shall develop, in coordination with the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and submit to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, within 90 days of the date of this order, strategies and implementation plans for integrating climate considerations into their international work, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.  These strategies and plans should include an assessment of:

(i)    climate impacts relevant to broad agency strategies in particular countries or regions;

(ii)   climate impacts on their agency-managed infrastructure abroad (e.g., embassies, military installations), without prejudice to existing requirements regarding assessment of such infrastructure;

(iii)  how the agency intends to manage such impacts or incorporate risk mitigation into its installation master plans; and

(iv)   how the agency’s international work, including partner engagement, can contribute to addressing the climate crisis.

(b)  The Director of National Intelligence shall prepare, within 120 days of the date of this order, a National Intelligence Estimate on the national and economic security impacts of climate change.

(c)  The Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the  Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the heads of other agencies as appropriate, shall develop and submit to the President, within 120 days of the date of this order, an analysis of the security implications of climate change (Climate Risk Analysis) that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, war-gaming, and other analyses.

(d)  The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall consider the security implications of climate change, including any relevant information from the Climate Risk Analysis described in subsection (c) of this section, in developing the National Defense Strategy, Defense Planning Guidance, Chairman’s Risk Assessment, and other relevant strategy, planning, and programming documents and processes.  Starting in January 2022, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall provide an annual update, through the National Security Council, on the progress made in incorporating the security implications of climate change into these documents and processes.

(e)  The Secretary of Homeland Security shall consider the implications of climate change in the Arctic, along our Nation’s borders, and to National Critical Functions, including any relevant information from the Climate Risk Analysis described in subsection (c) of this section, in developing relevant strategy, planning, and programming documents and processes.  Starting in January 2022, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide an annual update, through the National Security Council, on the progress made in incorporating the homeland security implications of climate change into these documents and processes.

Sec. 104.  Reinstatement.  The Presidential Memorandum of September 21, 2016 (Climate Change and National Security), is hereby reinstated. 

PART II — TAKING A GOVERNMENT-WIDE APPROACH TO THE CLIMATE CRISIS

Sec. 201.  Policy.  Even as our Nation emerges from profound public health and economic crises borne of a pandemic, we face a climate crisis that threatens our people and communities, public health and economy, and, starkly, our ability to live on planet Earth.  Despite the peril that is already evident, there is promise in the solutions — opportunities to create well-paying union jobs to build a modern and sustainable infrastructure, deliver an equitable, clean energy future, and put the United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050.

We must listen to science — and act.  We must strengthen our clean air and water protections.  We must hold polluters accountable for their actions.  We must deliver environmental justice in communities all across America.  The Federal Government must drive assessment, disclosure, and mitigation of climate pollution and climate-related risks in every sector of our economy, marshaling the creativity, courage, and capital necessary to make our Nation resilient in the face of this threat.  Together, we must combat the climate crisis with bold, progressive action that combines the full capacity of the Federal Government with efforts from every corner of our Nation, every level of government, and every sector of our economy. 

It is the policy of my Administration to organize and deploy the full capacity of its agencies to combat the climate crisis to implement a Government-wide approach that reduces climate pollution in every sector of the economy; increases resilience to the impacts of climate change; protects public health; conserves our lands, waters, and biodiversity; delivers environmental justice; and spurs well-paying union jobs and economic growth, especially through innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.  Successfully meeting these challenges will require the Federal Government to pursue such a coordinated approach from planning to implementation, coupled with substantive engagement by stakeholders, including State, local, and Tribal governments.

Sec. 202.  White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy.  There is hereby established the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy (Climate Policy Office) within the Executive Office of the President, which shall coordinate the policy-making process with respect to domestic climate-policy issues; coordinate domestic climate-policy advice to the President; ensure that domestic climate-policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President’s stated goals and that those goals are being effectively pursued; and monitor implementation of the President’s domestic climate-policy agenda.  The Climate Policy Office shall have a staff headed by the Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor (National Climate Advisor) and shall include the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Climate Advisor.  The Climate Policy Office shall have such staff and other assistance as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this order, subject to the availability of appropriations, and may work with established or ad hoc committees or interagency groups.  All agencies shall cooperate with the Climate Policy Office and provide such information, support, and assistance to the Climate Policy Office as it may request, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

Sec.203.  National Climate Task Force.  There is hereby established a National Climate Task Force (Task Force).  The Task Force shall be chaired by the National Climate Advisor.

(a)  Membership.  The Task Force shall consist of the following additional members:

(i)      the Secretary of the Treasury;

(ii)     the Secretary of Defense;

(iii)    the Attorney General;

(iv)     the Secretary of the Interior;

(v)      the Secretary of Agriculture;

(vi)     the Secretary of Commerce;

(vii)    the Secretary of Labor;

(viii)   the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

(ix)     the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development;

(x)      the Secretary of Transportation;

(xi)     the Secretary of Energy;

(xii)    the Secretary of Homeland Security;

(xiii)   the Administrator of General Services;

(xiv)    the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality;

(xv)     the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;

(xvi)    the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;

(xvii)   the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy;

(xviii)  the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy;

(xix)    the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs;

(xx)     the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and

(xxi)    the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.

(b)  Mission and Work.  The Task Force shall facilitate the organization and deployment of a Government-wide approach to combat the climate crisis.  This Task Force shall facilitate planning and implementation of key Federal actions to reduce climate pollution; increase resilience to the impacts of climate change; protect public health; conserve our lands, waters, oceans, and biodiversity; deliver environmental justice; and spur well-paying union jobs and economic growth.  As necessary and appropriate, members of the Task Force will engage on these matters with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments; workers and communities; and leaders across the various sectors of our economy. 

(c)  Prioritizing Actions.  To the extent permitted by law, Task Force members shall prioritize action on climate change in their policy-making and budget processes, in their contracting and procurement, and in their engagement with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments; workers and communities; and leaders across all the sectors of our economy.

USE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S BUYING POWER AND REAL PROPERTY AND ASSET MANAGEMENT

Sec. 204.  Policy.  It is the policy of my Administration to lead the Nation’s effort to combat the climate crisis by example — specifically, by aligning the management of Federal procurement and real property, public lands and waters, and financial programs to support robust climate action.  By providing an immediate, clear, and stable source of product demand, increased transparency and data, and robust standards for the market, my Administration will help to catalyze private sector investment into, and accelerate the advancement of America’s industrial capacity to supply, domestic clean energy, buildings, vehicles, and other necessary products and materials.

Sec. 205.  Federal Clean Electricity and Vehicle Procurement Strategy.  (a)  The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Administrator of General Services, and the Director of the Office and Management and Budget, in coordination with the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Energy, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall assist the National Climate Advisor, through the Task Force established in section 203 of this order, in developing a comprehensive plan to create good jobs and stimulate clean energy industries by revitalizing the Federal Government’s sustainability efforts.

(b)  The plan shall aim to use, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, all available procurement authorities to achieve or facilitate:

(i)   a carbon pollution-free electricity sector no later than 2035; and

(ii)  clean and zero-emission vehicles for Federal, State, local, and Tribal government fleets, including vehicles of the United States Postal Service.

(c)  If necessary, the plan shall recommend any additional legislation needed to accomplish these objectives.

(d)  The plan shall also aim to ensure that the United States retains the union jobs integral to and involved in running and maintaining clean and zero-emission fleets, while spurring the creation of union jobs in the manufacture of those new vehicles.  The plan shall be submitted to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order.

Sec. 206.  Procurement Standards.  Consistent with the Executive Order of January 25, 2021, entitled, “Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers,” agencies shall adhere to the requirements of the Made in America Laws in making clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean energy procurement decisions.  Agencies shall, consistent with applicable law, apply and enforce the Davis-Bacon Act and prevailing wage and benefit requirements.  The Secretary of Labor shall take steps to update prevailing wage requirements.  The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality shall consider additional administrative steps and guidance to assist the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council in developing regulatory amendments to promote increased contractor attention on reduced carbon emission and Federal sustainability.  

Sec. 207.  Renewable Energy on Public Lands and in Offshore Waters.  The Secretary of the Interior shall review siting and permitting processes on public lands and in offshore waters to identify to the Task Force steps that can be taken, consistent with applicable law, to increase renewable energy production on those lands and in those waters, with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030 while ensuring robust protection for our lands, waters, and biodiversity and creating good jobs.  In conducting this review, the Secretary of the Interior shall consult, as appropriate, with the heads of relevant agencies, including the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Secretary of Energy, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, State and Tribal authorities, project developers, and other interested parties.  The Secretary of the Interior shall engage with Tribal authorities regarding the development and management of renewable and conventional energy resources on Tribal lands.

Sec. 208.  Oil and Natural Gas Development on Public Lands and in Offshore Waters.  To the extent consistent with applicable law,the Secretary of the Interior shall pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices in light of the Secretary of the Interior’s broad stewardship responsibilities over the public lands and in offshore waters, including potential climate and other impacts associated with oil and gas activities on public lands or in offshore waters.  The Secretary of the Interior shall complete that review in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Secretary of Energy.  In conducting this analysis, and to the extent consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of the Interior shall consider whether to adjust royalties associated with coal, oil, and gas resources extracted from public lands and offshore waters, or take other appropriate action, to account for corresponding climate costs.

Sec. 209.  Fossil Fuel Subsidies.  The heads of agencies shall identify for the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the National Climate Advisor any fossil fuel subsidies provided by their respective agencies, and then take steps to ensure that, to the extent consistent with applicable law, Federal funding is not directly subsidizing fossil fuels.  The Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall seek, in coordination with the heads of agencies and the National Climate Advisor, to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies from the budget request for Fiscal Year 2022 and thereafter.

Sec. 210.  Clean Energy in Financial Management.  The heads of agencies shall identify opportunities for Federal funding to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure for the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the National Climate Advisor, and then take steps to ensure that, to the extent consistent with applicable law, Federal funding is used to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.  The Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with agency heads and the National Climate Advisor, shall seek to prioritize such investments in the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2022 and thereafter.

     Sec. 211.  Climate Action Plans and Data and Information Products to Improve Adaptation and Increase Resilience.  (a)  The head of each agency shall submit a draft action plan to the Task Force and the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer within 120 days of the date of this order that describes steps the agency can take with regard to its facilities and operations to bolster adaptation and increase resilience to the impacts of climate change.  Action plans should, among other things, describe the agency’s climate vulnerabilities and describe the agency’s plan to use the power of procurement to increase the energy and water efficiency of United States Government installations, buildings, and facilities and ensure they are climate-ready.  Agencies shall consider the feasibility of using the purchasing power of the Federal Government to drive innovation, and shall seek to increase the Federal Government’s resilience against supply chain disruptions.  Such disruptions put the Nation’s manufacturing sector at risk, as well as consumer access to critical goods and services.  Agencies shall make their action plans public, and post them on the agency website, to the extent consistent with applicable law.

(b)  Within 30 days of an agency’s submission of an action plan, the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, shall review the plan to assess its consistency with the policy set forth in section 204 of this order and the priorities issued by the Office of Management and Budget.

(c)  After submitting an initial action plan, the head of each agency shall submit to the Task Force and Federal Chief Sustainability Officer progress reports annually on the status of implementation efforts.  Agencies shall make progress reports public and post them on the agency website, to the extent consistent with applicable law.  The heads of agencies shall assign their respective agency Chief Sustainability Officer the authority to perform duties relating to implementation of this order within the agency, to the extent consistent with applicable law.

(d)  To assist agencies and State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, communities, and businesses in preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change, the Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in coordination with the heads of other agencies, as appropriate, shall provide to the Task Force a report on ways to expand and improve climate forecast capabilities and information products for the public.  In addition, the Secretary of the Interior and the Deputy Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget, in their capacities as the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Federal Geographic Data Committee, shall assess and provide to the Task Force a report on the potential development of a consolidated Federal geographic mapping service that can facilitate public access to climate-related information that will assist Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments in climate planning and resilience activities.

EMPOWERING WORKERS THROUGH REBUILDING OUR INFRASTRUCTURE FOR A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY

     Sec. 212.  Policy.  This Nation needs millions of construction, manufacturing, engineering, and skilled-trades workers to build a new American infrastructure and clean energy economy.  These jobs will create opportunities for young people and for older workers shifting to new professions, and for people from all backgrounds and communities.  Such jobs will bring opportunity to communities too often left behind — places that have suffered as a result of economic shifts and places that have suffered the most from persistent pollution, including low-income rural and urban communities, communities of color, and Native communities. 

     Sec. 213.  Sustainable Infrastructure.  (a)  The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall take steps, consistent with applicable law, to ensure that Federal infrastructure investment reduces climate pollution, and to require that Federal permitting decisions consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.  In addition, they shall review, and report to the National Climate Advisor on, siting and permitting processes, including those in progress under the auspices of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council, and identify steps that can be taken, consistent with applicable law, to accelerate the deployment of clean energy and transmission projects in an environmentally stable manner.

     (b)  Agency heads conducting infrastructure reviews shall, as appropriate, consult from an early stage with State, local, and Tribal officials involved in permitting or authorizing proposed infrastructure projects to develop efficient timelines for decision-making that are appropriate given the complexities of proposed projects.

EMPOWERING WORKERS BY ADVANCING CONSERVATION, AGRICULTURE, AND REFORESTATION

     Sec. 214.  Policy.  It is the policy of my Administration to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving our public lands and waters.  The Federal Government must protect America’s natural treasures, increase reforestation, improve access to recreation, and increase resilience to wildfires and storms, while creating well-paying union jobs for more Americans, including more opportunities for women and people of color in occupations where they are underrepresented.  America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by sequestering carbon in soils, grasses, trees, and other vegetation and sourcing sustainable bioproducts and fuels.  Coastal communities have an essential role to play in mitigating climate change and strengthening resilience by protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems, such as wetlands, seagrasses, coral and oyster reefs, and mangrove and kelp forests, to protect vulnerable coastlines, sequester carbon, and support biodiversity and fisheries.

     Sec. 215.  Civilian Climate Corps.  In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 214 of this order, the Secretary of the Interior, in collaboration with the Secretary of Agriculture and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a strategy to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order for creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative, within existing appropriations, to mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers and maximize the creation of accessible training opportunities and good jobs.  The initiative shall aim to conserve and restore public lands and waters, bolster community resilience, increase reforestation, increase carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protect biodiversity, improve access to recreation, and address the changing climate.

     Sec. 216.  Conserving Our Nation’s Lands and Waters.  (a)  The Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall submit a report to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order recommending steps that the United States should take, working with State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments, agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders, to achieve the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.

(i)   The Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality shall, as appropriate, solicit input from State, local, Tribal, and territorial officials, agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, and other key stakeholders in identifying strategies that will encourage broad participation in the goal of conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.

(ii)  The report shall propose guidelines for determining whether lands and waters qualify for conservation, and it also shall establish mechanisms to measure progress toward the 30-percent goal.  The Secretary of the Interior shall subsequently submit annual reports to the Task Force to monitor progress.

(b)  The Secretary of Agriculture shall:

(i)   initiate efforts in the first 60 days from the date of this order to collect input from Tribes, farmers, ranchers, forest owners, conservation groups, firefighters, and other stakeholders on how to best use Department of Agriculture programs, funding and financing capacities, and other authorities, and how to encourage the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices that decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change and result in additional, measurable, and verifiable carbon reductions and sequestration and that source sustainable bioproducts and fuels; and

(ii)  submit to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order a report making recommendations for an agricultural and forestry climate strategy.

     (c)  The Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shall initiate efforts in the first 60 days from the date of this order to collect input from fishermen, regional ocean councils, fishery management councils, scientists, and other stakeholders on how to make fisheries and protected resources more resilient to climate change, including changes in management and conservation measures, and improvements in science, monitoring, and cooperative research.

EMPOWERING WORKERS THROUGH REVITALIZING ENERGY COMMUNITIES

     Sec. 217.  Policy.  It is the policy of my Administration to improve air and water quality and to create well-paying union jobs and more opportunities for women and people of color in hard-hit communities, including rural communities, while reducing methane emissions, oil and brine leaks, and other environmental harms from tens of thousands of former mining and well sites.  Mining and power plant workers drove the industrial revolution and the economic growth that followed, and have been essential to the growth of the United States.  As the Nation shifts to a clean energy economy, Federal leadership is essential to foster economic revitalization of and investment in these communities, ensure the creation of good jobs that provide a choice to join a union, and secure the benefits that have been earned by workers.

     Such work should include projects that reduce emissions of toxic substances and greenhouse gases from existing and abandoned infrastructure and that prevent environmental damage that harms communities and poses a risk to public health and safety.  Plugging leaks in oil and gas wells and reclaiming abandoned mine land can create well-paying union jobs in coal, oil, and gas communities while restoring natural assets, revitalizing recreation economies, and curbing methane emissions.  In addition, such work should include efforts to turn properties idled in these communities, such as brownfields, into new hubs for the growth of our economy.  Federal agencies should therefore coordinate investments and other efforts to assist coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities, and achieve substantial reductions of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector as quickly as possible.

     Sec. 218.  Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic RevitalizationThere is hereby established an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization (Interagency Working Group).  The National Climate Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy shall serve as Co-Chairs of the Interagency Working Group.

(a)   Membership.  The Interagency Working Group shall consist of the following additional members:

(i)     the Secretary of the Treasury;

(ii)    the Secretary of the Interior;

(iii)   the Secretary of Agriculture;

(iv)    the Secretary of Commerce;

(v)     the Secretary of Labor;

(vi)    the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

(vii)   the Secretary of Transportation;

(viii)  the Secretary of Energy;

(ix)    the Secretary of Education;

(x)     the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;

(xi)    the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;

(xii)   the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Director of the Domestic Policy Council; and

(xiii)  the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

(b)  Mission and Work. 

(i)   The Interagency Working Group shall coordinate the identification and delivery of Federal resources to revitalize the economies of coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities; develop strategies to implement the policy set forth in section 217 of this order and for economic and social recovery; assess opportunities to ensure benefits and protections for coal and power plant workers; and submit reports to the National Climate Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy on a regular basis on the progress of the revitalization effort.

(ii)  As part of this effort, within 60 days of the date of this order, the Interagency Working Group shall submit a report to the President describing all mechanisms, consistent with applicable law, to prioritize grantmaking, Federal loan programs, technical assistance, financing, procurement, or other existing programs to support and revitalize the economies of coal and power plant communities, and providing recommendations for action consistent with the goals of the Interagency Working Group.

(c)  Consultation.  Consistent with the objectives set out in this order and in accordance with applicable law, the Interagency Working Group shall seek the views of State, local, and Tribal officials; unions; environmental justice organizations; community groups; and other persons it identifies who may have perspectives on the mission of the Interagency Working Group.

(d)  Administration.  The Interagency Working Group shall be housed within the Department of Energy.  The Chairs shall convene regular meetings of the Interagency Working Group, determine its agenda, and direct its work.  The Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the Chairs, shall designate an Executive Director of the Interagency Working Group, who shall coordinate the work of the Interagency Working Group and head any staff assigned to the Interagency Working Group.

(e)  Officers.  To facilitate the work of the Interagency Working Group, the head of each agency listed in subsection (a) of this section shall assign a designated official within the agency the authority to represent the agency on the Interagency Working Group and perform such other duties relating to the implementation of this order within the agency as the head of the agency deems appropriate.

SECURING ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND SPURRING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

     Sec. 219.  Policy.  To secure an equitable economic future, the United States must ensure that environmental and economic justice are key considerations in how we govern.  That means investing and building a clean energy economy that creates well‑paying union jobs, turning disadvantaged communities — historically marginalized and overburdened — into healthy, thriving communities, and undertaking robust actions to mitigate climate change while preparing for the impacts of climate change across rural, urban, and Tribal areas.  Agencies shall make achieving environmental justice part of their missions by developing programs, policies, and activities to address the disproportionately high and adverse human health, environmental, climate-related and other cumulative impacts on disadvantaged communities, as well as the accompanying economic challenges of such impacts.  It is therefore the policy of my Administration to secure environmental justice and spur economic opportunity for disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized and overburdened by pollution and underinvestment in housing, transportation, water and wastewater infrastructure, and health care. 

     Sec. 220.  White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council.  (a)  Section 1-102 of Executive Order 12898 of February 11, 1994 (Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations), is hereby amended to read as follows:

“(a)  There is hereby created within the Executive Office of the President a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council (Interagency Council).  The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality shall serve as Chair of the Interagency Council.

“(b)  Membership.  The Interagency Council shall consist of the following additional members:

(i)      the Secretary of Defense;

(ii)     the Attorney General;

(iii)    the Secretary of the Interior;

(iv)     the Secretary of Agriculture;

(v)      the Secretary of Commerce;

(vi)     the Secretary of Labor;

(vii)    the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

(viii)   the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development;

(ix)     the Secretary of Transportation;

(x)      the Secretary of Energy;

(xi)     the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers;

(xii)    the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;

(xiii)   the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;

(xiv)    the Executive Director of the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council;

(xv)     the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy;

(xvi)    the National Climate Advisor;

(xvii)   the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy; and

(xviii)  the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.

“(c)  At the direction of the Chair, the Interagency Council may establish subgroups consisting exclusively of Interagency Council members or their designees under this section, as appropriate.

“(d)  Mission and Work.  The Interagency Council shall develop a strategy to address current and historic environmental injustice by consulting with the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and with local environmental justice leaders.  The Interagency Council shall also develop clear performance metrics to ensure accountability, and publish an annual public performance scorecard on its implementation.

“(e)  Administration.  The Office of Administration within the Executive Office of the President shall provide funding and administrative support for the Interagency Council, to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.  To the extent permitted by law, including the Economy Act (31 U.S.C. 1535), and subject to the availability of appropriations, the Department of Labor, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency shall provide administrative support as necessary.

“(f)  Meetings and Staff.  The Chair shall convene regular meetings of the Council, determine its agenda, and direct its work.  The Chair shall designate an Executive Director of the Council, who shall coordinate the work of the Interagency Council and head any staff assigned to the Council.

“(g)  Officers.  To facilitate the work of the Interagency Council, the head of each agency listed in subsection (b) shall assign a designated official within the agency to be an Environmental Justice Officer, with the authority to represent the agency on the Interagency Council and perform such other duties relating to the implementation of this order within the agency as the head of the agency deems appropriate.”

(b)  The Interagency Council shall, within 120 days of the date of this order, submit to the President, through the National Climate Advisor, a set of recommendations for further updating Executive Order 12898.

     Sec. 221.  White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.  There is hereby established, within the Environmental Protection Agency, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (Advisory Council), which shall advise the Interagency Council and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.

     (a)  Membership.  Members shall be appointed by the President, shall be drawn from across the political spectrum, and may include those with knowledge about or experience in environmental justice, climate change, disaster preparedness, racial inequity, or any other area determined by the President to be of value to the Advisory Council.

     (b)  Mission and Work.  The Advisory Council shall be solely advisory.  It shall provide recommendations to the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council established in section 220 of this order on how to increase the Federal Government’s efforts to address current and historic environmental injustice, including recommendations for updating Executive Order 12898.

     (c)  Administration.  The Environmental Protection Agency shall provide funding and administrative support for the Advisory Council to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.  Members of the Advisory Council shall serve without either compensation or reimbursement of expenses.

     (d)  Federal Advisory Committee Act.  Insofar as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.), may apply to the Advisory Council, any functions of the President under the Act, except for those in section 6 of the Act, shall be performed by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with the guidelines that have been issued by the Administrator of General Services.

     Sec. 222.  Agency Responsibilities.  In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 219:

     (a)  The Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality shall, within 6 months of the date of this order, create a geospatial Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool and shall annually publish interactive maps highlighting disadvantaged communities.

     (b)  The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall, within existing appropriations and consistent with applicable law:

(i)   strengthen enforcement of environmental violations with disproportionate impact on underserved communities through the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance; and

(ii)  create a community notification program to monitor and provide real-time data to the public on current environmental pollution, including emissions, criteria pollutants, and toxins, in frontline and fenceline communities — places with the most significant exposure to such pollution.

     (c)  The Attorney General shall, within existing appropriations and consistent with applicable law:

(i)    consider renaming the Environment and Natural Resources Division the Environmental Justice and Natural Resources Division;

(ii)   direct that division to coordinate with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, through the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, as well as with other client agencies as appropriate, to develop a comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy, which shall seek to provide timely remedies for systemic environmental violations and contaminations, and injury to natural resources; and

(iii)  ensure comprehensive attention to environmental justice throughout the Department of Justice, including by considering creating an Office of Environmental Justice within the Department to coordinate environmental justice activities among Department of Justice components and United States Attorneys’ Offices nationwide.

(d)  The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, consistent with applicable law and within existing appropriations: 

(i)   establish an Office of Climate Change and Health Equity to address the impact of climate change on the health of the American people; and

(ii)  establish an Interagency Working Group to Decrease Risk of Climate Change to Children, the Elderly, People with Disabilities, and the Vulnerable as well as a biennial Health Care System Readiness Advisory Council, both of which shall report their progress and findings regularly to the Task Force.

(e)  The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy shall, in consultation with the National Climate Advisor, within existing appropriations, and within 100 days of the date of this order, publish a report identifying the climate strategies and technologies that will result in the most air and water quality improvements, which shall be made public to the maximum extent possible and published on the Office’s website.

     Sec. 223.  Justice40 Initiative.  (a)  Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Climate Advisor, in consultation with the Advisory Council, shall jointly publish recommendations on how certain Federal investments might be made toward a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits flow to disadvantaged communities.  The recommendations shall focus on investments in the areas of clean energy and energy efficiency; clean transit; affordable and sustainable housing; training and workforce development; the remediation and reduction of legacy pollution; and the development of critical clean water infrastructure.  The recommendations shall reflect existing authorities the agencies may possess for achieving the 40-percent goal as well as recommendations on any legislation needed to achieve the 40‑percent goal. 

     (b)  In developing the recommendations, the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Climate Advisor shall consult with affected disadvantaged communities.

     (c)  Within 60 days of the recommendations described in subsection (a) of this section, agency heads shall identify applicable program investment funds based on the recommendations and consider interim investment guidance to relevant program staff, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

     (d)  By February 2022, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Administrator of the United States Digital Service, and other relevant agency heads, shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, publish on a public website an annual Environmental Justice Scorecard detailing agency environmental justice performance measures.

PART III — GENERAL PROVISIONS

     Sec. 301.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

     (b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

     (c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

THE WHITE HOUSE,

January 27, 2021.


US Fusion Reactor Plan

10 December, 2020

A while back I mentioned the SPARC fusion reactor, a relatively new design. What about more traditional approaches to fusion? Here’s a good article about the state of funding for these in the US:

• Adrian Cho, U.S. physicists rally around ambitious plan to build fusion power plant, Science, 8 December 2020.

Here’s the start:

U.S. fusion scientists, notorious for squabbling over which projects to fund with their field’s limited budget, have coalesced around an audacious goal. A 10-year plan presented last week to the federal Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee is the first since the community tried to formulate such a road map in 2014 and failed spectacularly. It calls for the Department of Energy (DOE), the main sponsor of U.S. fusion research, to prepare to build a prototype power plant in the 2040s that would produce carbon-free electricity by harnessing the nuclear process that powers the Sun.

The plan formalizes a goal set out 2 years ago by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and embraced in a March report from a 15-month-long fusion community planning process. It also represents a subtle but crucial shift from the basic research that officials in DOE’s Office of Science have favored. “The community urgently wants to move forward with fusion on a time scale that can impact climate change,” says Troy Carter, a fusion physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who chaired the planning committee. “We have to get started.”

Impact climate change… with a prototype in the 2040s? Don’t hurry yourselves too much, folks! But you might want to read this:

• Coral Davenport, Major climate report describes a strong risk of crisis as early as 2040, New York Times, 2018 October 7.

INCHEON, South Korea — A landmark report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change paints a far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought and says that avoiding the damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.”

The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040—a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

Thanks to Keith Harbaugh for pointing out the article in Science.


US Environmental Policy (Part 2)

12 November, 2020

On his first day in office, President-elect Biden plans to have the US rejoin the Paris climate accord. He has also pledged to sign ten executive orders on his first day in office:

• Requiring aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations.

• Using the Federal government procurement system—which spends $500 billion every year—to drive towards 100% clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles.

• Ensuring that all U.S. government installations, buildings, and facilities are more efficient and climate-ready, harnessing the purchasing power and supply chains to drive innovation.

• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation—the fastest growing source of U.S. climate pollution—by preserving and implementing the existing Clean Air Act, and developing rigorous new fuel economy standards aimed at ensuring 100% of new sales for light- and medium-duty vehicles will be electrified and annual improvements for heavy duty vehicles.

• Doubling down on the liquid fuels of the future, which make agriculture a key part of the solution to climate change. Advanced biofuels are now closer than ever as we begin to build the first plants for biofuels, creating jobs and new solutions to reduce emissions in planes, ocean-going vessels, and more.

• Saving consumers money and reduce emissions through new, aggressive appliance- and building-efficiency standards.

• Committing that every federal infrastructure investment should reduce climate pollution, and require any federal permitting decision to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

• Requiring public companies to disclose climate risks and the greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains.

• Protecting biodiversity, slowing extinction rates and helping leverage natural climate solutions by conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030.

• Protecting America’s natural treasures by permanently protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas impacted by President Trump’s attack on federal lands and waters, establishing national parks and monuments that reflect America’s natural heritage, banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters, modifying royalties to account for climate costs, and establishing targeted programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and waters with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030.

According to article in today’s Washington Post:

In a sign of how Biden has already elevated the issue, he discussed the topic with every European head of state with whom he spoke on Tuesday, including the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Ireland. Biden has started frequently referring to the climate “crisis,” suggesting a heightened level of urgency.

A team of former Obama administration officials and experts have created a 300-page blueprint laying out a holistic approach to the climate while avoiding some of the pitfalls that hampered President Barack Obama, who shared some of the same goals but was unable to enact all of them. Dubbed the Climate 21 Project, it took a year and a half to develop and was delivered recently to Biden’s transition team. The document outlines how the incoming administration could restructure aspects of the government to move faster on global warming.

For more, see:

Climate 21 Project.


US Environmental Policy (Part 1)

8 November, 2020

This blog does not allow discussion of partisan politics. But I can still list some ways in which US environmental policy will change if Biden becomes president.

First and foremost, the US will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

Besides leaving the Paris Climate Agreement, the Trump administration did many other things that didn’t require approval from Congress:

• Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Kendra Pierre-Louis, The Trump administration is reversing nearly 100 environmental rules. Here’s the full list, New York Times, 15 October 2020.

Here’s the list. Biden can reverse or halt all these actions without approval from Congress:

Air pollution – completed:

  1. Weakened Obama-era fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for passenger cars and light trucks.
    E.P.A. and Transportation Department
  2. Revoked California’s ability to set stricter tailpipe emissions standards than the federal government.
    E.P.A.
  3. Withdrew the legal justification for an Obama-era rule that limited mercury emissions from coal power plants.
    E.P.A.
  4. Replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have set strict limits on carbon emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants, with a new version that would let states set their own rules.
    Executive Order; E.P.A.
  5. Canceled a requirement for oil and gas companies to report methane emissions.
    E.P.A.
  6. Revised and partially repealed an Obama-era rule limiting methane emissions on public lands, including intentional venting and flaring from drilling operations. A federal court struck down the revision in July 2020, calling the Trump administration’s reasoning “wholly inadequate” and mandating enforcement of the original rule. However, the Obama-era rule was later partially struck down in a separate court case, during which the Trump administration declined to defend it.
    Interior Department
  7. Withdrew a Clinton-era rule designed to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters, and later proposed codifying the looser standards.
    E.P.A.
  8. Revised a program designed to safeguard communities from increases in pollution from new power plants to make it easier for facilities to avoid emissions regulations.
    E.P.A.
  9. Amended rules that govern how refineries monitor pollution in surrounding communities.
    E.P.A.
  10. Weakened an Obama-era rule meant to reduce air pollution in national parks and wilderness areas.
    E.P.A.
  11. Weakened oversight of some state plans for reducing air pollution in national parks.
    E.P.A.
  12. Relaxed air pollution regulations for a handful of plants that burn waste coal for electricity.
    E.P.A.
  13. Repealed rules meant to reduce leaking and venting of powerful greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons from large refrigeration and air conditioning systems.
    E.P.A.
  14. Directed agencies to stop using an Obama-era calculation of the social cost of carbon, which rulemakers used to estimate the long-term economic benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
    Executive Order
  15. Withdrew guidance directing federal agencies to include greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews. But several district courts have ruled that emissions must be included in such reviews.
    Executive Order; Council on Environmental Quality
  16. Revoked an Obama executive order that set a goal of cutting the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent over 10 years.
    Executive Order
  17. Repealed a requirement that state and regional authorities track tailpipe emissions from vehicles on federal highways.
    Transportation Department
  18. Lifted a summertime ban on the use of E15, a gasoline blend made of 15 percent ethanol. (Burning gasoline with a higher concentration of ethanol in hot conditions increases smog.)
    E.P.A.
  19. Changed rules to allow states and the E.P.A. to take longer to develop and approve plans aimed at cutting methane emissions from existing landfills.
    E.P.A.
  20. Withdrew a proposed rule aimed at reducing pollutants, including air pollution, at sewage treatment plants.
    E.P.A.
  21. Relaxed some Obama-era requirements for companies to monitor and repair leaks at oil and gas facilities, including exempting certain low-production wells – a significant source of methane emissions – from the requirements altogether. (Other leak regulations were eliminated.)
    E.P.A.

Air pollution – in progress:

  1. Eliminated Obama-era methane emissions standards for oil and gas facilities and narrowed standards limiting the release of other polluting chemicals known as “volatile organic compounds” to only certain facilities. A federal court temporarily halted the rollback from going into effect after environmental groups and several states filed suit.
    E.P.A.
  2. Proposed revisions to standards for carbon dioxide emissions from new, modified and reconstructed coal power plants, eliminating Obama-era restrictions that, in effect, required them to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions.
    E.P.A.
  3. Began a review of emissions rules for power plant start-ups, shutdowns and malfunctions. One outcome of that review: In February 2020, E.P.A. reversed a requirement that Texas follow emissions rules during certain malfunction events.
    E.P.A.
  4. Proposed a rule limiting the ability of individuals and communities to challenge E.P.A.-issued pollution permits before a panel of agency judges.
    E.P.A.

Drilling and extraction – completed:

  1. Made significant cuts to the borders of two national monuments in Utah and recommended border and resource-management changes to several more.
    Presidential Proclamation; Interior Department
  2. Lifted an Obama-era freeze on new coal leases on public lands. In April 2019, a judge ruled that the Interior Department could not begin selling new leases without completing an environmental review. In February 2020, the agency published an assessment that concluded restarting federal coal leasing would have little environmental impact.
    Executive Order; Interior Department
  3. Finalized a plan to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States.
    Congress; Interior Department
  4. Approved construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. (The Obama administration had halted the project, with the Army Corps of Engineers saying it would explore alternative routes.) The pipeline is embroiled in a lengthy legal battle, but has been allowed to continue operating by the Army Corps of Engineers even though a federal court reversed the Corps’ decision to allow the pipeline to run along its current path.
    Executive Order; Army
  5. Rescinded water pollution regulations for fracking on federal and Indian lands.
    Interior Department
  6. Scrapped a proposed rule that required mines to prove they could pay to clean up future pollution.
    E.P.A.
  7. Withdrew a requirement that Gulf oil rig owners prove they can cover the costs of removing rigs once they stop producing.
    Interior Department
  8. Moved the permitting process for certain projects that cross international borders, such as oil pipelines, to the office of the president from the State Department, exempting them from environmental review.
    Executive Order
  9. Changed how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission considers the indirect effects of greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews of pipelines.
    Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  10. Revoked an Obama-era executive order designed to preserve ocean, coastal and Great Lakes waters in favor of a policy focused on energy production and economic growth.
    Executive Order
  11. Loosened offshore drilling safety regulations implemented by the Obama after following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, including reduced testing requirements for blowout prevention systems.
    Interior Department

Drilling and extraction – in progress

  1. Proposed opening most of America’s coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling, but delayed the plan after a federal judge in 2019 ruled that reversing a ban on drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans was unlawful. Ahead of the 2020 election, Mr. Trump announced he would exempt from drilling coastal areas around Florida, a crucial battleground state, Georgia and South Carolina.
    Interior Department
  2. Repealed an Obama-era rule governing royalties for oil, gas and coal leases on federal lands, which replaced a 1980s rule that critics said allowed companies to underpay the federal government. A federal judge struck down the Trump administration’s repeal, but another court froze the original rule pending litigation.
    Interior Department
  3. Proposed easing the approval process for oil and gas drilling in national forests by curbing the power of the Forest Service to review and approve leases, among other changes.
    Agriculture Department; Interior Department
  4. Withdrew proposed restrictions on mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska, despite concerns over environmental impacts on salmon habitat, including a prominent fishery. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has so far denied a permit for a proposed project, known as the Pebble Mine, noting it “could have substantial environmental impacts,” but left the door open for a revised plan.
    E.P.A.; Army
  5. Proposed revising regulations on offshore oil and gas exploration by floating vessels in the Arctic that were developed after a 2013 accident. The Interior Department previously said it was “considering full rescission or revision of this rule.”
    Executive Order; Interior Department
  6. Proposed opening more land for drilling in the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, a vast swath of public land on the Arctic Ocean. The Obama administration had designated about half of the reserve as a conservation area.
    Interior Department
  7. Finalized a plan to allow logging and road construction in Tongass National Forest, Alaska, by exempting the area from a Clinton-era policy known as the roadless rule, which applied to much of the national forest system.
    Interior Department
  8. Approved the Keystone XL pipeline rejected by President Barack Obama, but a federal judge blocked the project from going forward without an adequate environmental review process. The Supreme Court in July 2020 upheld that ruling, further delaying construction of the pipeline.
    Executive Order; State Department
  9. Approved the use of seismic air guns for gas and oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. The Obama administration had denied permits for such surveys, which can kill marine life and disrupt fisheries. However, the Trump administration’s permits to allow seismic surveys expired following a protracted lawsuit, ending the possibility of seismic air gun surveys in the Atlantic in the near term. Companies would need to restart the months-long permitting process.
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Infrastructure – completed:

  1. Weakened the National Environmental Policy Act, one of the country’s most significant environmental laws, in order to expedite the approval of public infrastructure projects, such as roads, pipelines and telecommunications networks. The new rules shorten the time frame for completing environmental studies, limit the types of projects subject to review, and no longer require federal agencies to account for a project’s cumulative effects on the environment, such as climate change.
    Council on Environmental Quality
  2. Revoked Obama-era flood standards for federal infrastructure projects that required the government to account for sea level rise and other climate change effects.
    Executive Order
  3. Relaxed the environmental review process for federal infrastructure projects.
    Executive Order
  4. Overturned an Obama-era guidance that ended U.S. government financing for new coal plants overseas except in rare circumstances.
    Executive Order; Treasury Department
  5. Revoked a directive for federal agencies to minimize impacts on water, wildlife, land and other natural resources when approving development projects.
    Executive Order
  6. Revoked an Obama executive order promoting climate resilience in the northern Bering Sea region of Alaska, which withdrew local waters from oil and gas leasing and established a tribal advisory council to consult on local environmental issues.
    Executive Order
  7. Reversed an update to the Bureau of Land Management’s public land-use planning process.
    Congress
  8. Withdrew an Obama-era order to consider climate change in the management of natural resources in national parks.
    National Park Service
  9. Restricted most Interior Department environmental studies to one year in length and a maximum of 150 pages, citing a need to reduce paperwork.
    Interior Department
  10. Withdrew a number of Obama-era Interior Department climate change and conservation policies that the agency said could “burden the development or utilization of domestically produced energy resources.”
    Interior Department
  11. Eliminated the use of an Obama-era planning system designed to minimize harm from oil and gas activity on sensitive landscapes, such as national parks.
    Interior Department
  12. Withdrew Obama-era policies designed to maintain or, ideally, improve natural resources affected by federal projects.
    Interior Department

Infrastructure – in progress:

  1. Proposed plans to speed up the environmental review process for Forest Service projects.
    Agriculture Department

Animals – completed:

  1. Changed the way the Endangered Species Act is applied, making it more difficult to protect wildlife from long-term threats posed by climate change.
    Interior Department; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  2. Ended the automatic application of full protections for ‘threatened’ plants and animals, the classification one step below ‘endangered’ in the Endangered Species Act.
    Interior Department
  3. Relaxed environmental protections for salmon and smelt in California’s Central Valley in order to free up water for farmers.
    Executive Order; Interior Department
  4. Overturned a ban on the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands.
    Interior Department
  5. Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges.
    Congress
  6. Reversed an Obama-era rule that barred using bait, such as grease-soaked doughnuts, to lure and kill grizzly bears, among other sport hunting practices that many people consider extreme, on some public lands in Alaska.
    National Park Service; Interior Department
  7. Amended fishing regulations to loosen restrictions on the harvest of a number of species.
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  8. Removed restrictions on commercial fishing in a protected marine preserve southeast of Cape Cod that is home to rare corals and a number of endangered sea animals. The Trump administration has suggested changing the management or size of two other marine protected areas in the Pacific Ocean.
    Executive Order; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  9. Proposed revising limits on the number of endangered marine mammals and sea turtles that can be unintentionally killed or injured with sword-fishing nets on the West Coast. (The Obama-era rules were initially withdrawn by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but were later finalized following a court order. The agency has said it plans to revise the limits.)
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  10. Loosened fishing restrictions intended to reduce bycatch of Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. Nonprofits have filed a lawsuit challenging the rollback.
    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  11. Overturned a ban on using parts of migratory birds in handicrafts made by Alaskan Natives.
    Interior Department

Animals – in progress:

  1. Proposed weakening critical habitat protections under the Endangered Species Act by making it easier to exclude certain areas, including for public-works projects, such as schools and hospitals, and for public lands leased to non-government businesses.
    Interior Department
  2. Opened nine million acres of Western land to oil and gas drilling by weakening habitat protections for the sage grouse, an imperiled bird. The Idaho District Court temporarily blocked the measure. The Montana District Court also invalidated the directive, nullifying 440 oil and gas leases, but the ruling is on hold pending appeal.
    Interior Department

Water pollution – completed:

  1. Scaled back pollution protections for certain tributaries and wetlands that were regulated under the Clean Water Act by the Obama administration. (A federal judge in Colorado halted implementation of the rule within the state, but it is in effect elsewhere.)
    E.P.A.; Army
  2. Revoked a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining debris into local streams.
    Congress
  3. Weakened a rule that aimed to limit toxic discharge from power plants into public waterways.
    E.P.A.
  4. Weakened a portion of the Clean Water Act to make it easier for federal agencies to issue permits for federal projects over state objections if the projects don’t meet local water quality standards, including for pipelines and other fossil fuel facilities.
    Executive Order; E.P.A. holding areas, which can spill their contents because they lack a protective underlay.
    E.P.A.
  5. Withdrew a proposed rule requiring groundwater protections for certain uranium mines. Recently, the administration’s Nuclear Fuel Working Group proposed opening up 1,500 acres outside the Grand Canyon to nuclear production.
    E.P.A.

Water pollution – in progress:

  1. Proposed doubling the time allowed for utilities to remove lead pipes from water systems with high levels of lead.
    E.P.A.
  2. Attempted to weaken federal rules regulating the disposal and storage of coal ash waste from power plants, but a court determined the original rules were already insufficient to protect the environment. The E.P.A. then proposed a new rule that would allow unlined coal ash ponds, previously deemed unsafe, to continue operating.
    E.P.A.
  3. Proposed a regulation limiting the scope of an Obama-era rule under which companies had to prove that large deposits of recycled coal ash would not harm the environment.
    E.P.A.

Toxic substances and safety – completed:

  1. Rejected a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to developmental disabilities in children. In 2020, the E.P.A. also rejected its own earlier finding that the pesticide can cause serious health problems. (Several states have banned use of the pesticide and its main manufacturer said it would stop producing the product because of shrinking demand.)
    E.P.A.
  2. Narrowed the scope of a 2016 law mandating safety assessments for potentially toxic chemicals like dry-cleaning solvents. The updated rules allowed the E.P.A. to exclude some chemical uses and types of exposure in the review process. In November 2019, a court of appeals ruled the agency must widen its scope to consider full exposure risks, but watchdog groups say the agency has not done so in some assessments.
    E.P.A.
  3. Reversed an Obama-era rule that required braking system upgrades for “high hazard” trains hauling flammable liquids like oil and ethanol.
    Transportation Department
  4. Changed safety rules to allow for rail transport of highly flammable liquefied natural gas.
    Transportation Department

Toxic substances and safety – in progress:

  1. Proposed limiting pesticide application buffer zones that are intended to protect farmworkers and bystanders from accidental exposure.
    E.P.A.
  2. Announced a review of an Obama-era rule lowering coal dust limits in mines. The head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration said there were no immediate plans to change the dust limit but has extended a public comment period until 2022.
    Labor Department

Other – completed:

  1. Repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have nearly doubled the number of light bulbs subject to energy-efficiency standards starting in January 2020. The Energy Department also blocked the next phase of efficiency standards for general-purpose bulbs already subject to regulation.
    Energy Department
  2. Changed a 25-year-old policy to allow coastal replenishment projects to use sand from protected ecosystems.
    Interior Department
  3. Limited funding of environmental and community development projects through corporate settlements of federal lawsuits.
    Justice Department
  4. Stopped payments to the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations program to help poorer countries reduce carbon emissions.
    Executive Order
  5. Reversed restrictions on the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks desgined to cut down on litter, despite a Park Service report that the effort worked.
    Interior Department

Other – in progress:

  1. Proposed limiting the studies used by the E.P.A. for rulemaking to only those that make data publicly available. (Scientists widely criticized the proposal, saying it would effectively block the agency from considering landmark research that relies on confidential health data.)
    E.P.A.
  2. Proposed changes to the way cost-benefit analyses are conducted under the Clean Air Act. Similar rules for the Clean Water Act and other environmental statutes are in development.
    E.P.A.
  3. Proposed freezing efficiency standards for residential furnaces and commercial water heaters designed to reduce energy use.
    Energy Department
  4. Created a product category that would allow some dishwashers to be exempt from energy efficiency standards.
    Energy Department
  5. Initially withdrew, and then delayed, a proposed rule that would inform car owners about fuel-efficient replacement tires.
    Transportation Department

The SPARC Fusion Reactor

21 October, 2020

There’s a lot of excitement about a new approach to fusion power:

• Henry Fountain, Compact nuclear fusion reactor is ‘very likely to work,’ studies suggest, The New York Times, 29 September 2020.

Scientists developing a compact version of a nuclear fusion reactor have shown in a series of research papers that it should work, renewing hopes that the long-elusive goal of mimicking the way the sun produces energy might be achieved and eventually contribute to the fight against climate change.

Construction of a reactor, called SPARC, which is being developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a spinoff company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, is expected to begin next spring and take three or four years, the researchers and company officials said.

Although many significant challenges remain, the company said construction would be followed by testing and, if successful, building of a power plant that could use fusion energy to generate electricity, beginning in the next decade.

This ambitious timetable is far faster than that of the world’s largest fusion-power project, a multinational effort in Southern France called ITER, for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. That reactor has been under construction since 2013 and, although it is not designed to generate electricity, is expected to produce a fusion reaction by 2035.

But fusion has been twenty years off since the 1950s. What’s the evidence that Sparc will work? I guess most of the evidence is here—a series of seven papers, which luckily are available open-access:

Status of the SPARC physics basics, Journal of Plasma Physics 86 (2020).

I have not read these! And even if I did, since I’m not an expert on fusion reactors—obviously a tricky subject—I’m not sure how much my impression would help.

Do you know any commentary on SPARC from other experts on fusion reactors? The more detailed, the better. All I’ve seen so far are very sketchy remarks from people who don’t seem to know what they’re talking about.


Vaclav Smil on Growth

22 September, 2019

Yet another interesting book I haven’t read yet:

• Vaclav Smil, Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2019.

As I hope you know, Vaclav Smil is an expert on energy, food, population, and economics, who assembles and analyzes data in fact-filled books like Energy and Civilization: a History.  Bill Gates has said “I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next ‘Star Wars’ movie.”

He was interviewed here:

• Jonathan Watts, Vaclav Smil: ‘Growth must end. Our economist friends don’t seem to realise that’, 21 September 2019.

The interview begins:

You are the nerd’s nerd. There is perhaps no other academic who paints pictures with numbers like you. You dug up the astonishing statistic that China has poured more cement every three years since 2003 than the US managed in the entire 20th century. You calculated that in 2000, the dry mass of all the humans in the world was 125m metric tonnes compared with just 10m tonnes for all wild vertebrates. And now you explore patterns of growth, from the healthy development of forests and brains to the unhealthy increase in obesity and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Before we get into those deeper issues, can I ask if you see yourself as a nerd?

The facts here are fascinating but the question is absurd. Are we really sinking into such anti-intellectualism that a journalist feels the need to start a conversation with a scientist by asking if he sees himself as a “nerd”?

I’d have been tempted to reply “First, can I ask if you see yourself as a twit?” Smil more wisely replied:

Not at all. I’m just an old-fashioned scientist describing the world and the lay of the land as it is. That’s all there is to it.

Here’s why he wrote the book:

I have deliberately set out to write the megabook on growth. In a way, it’s unwieldy and unreasonable. People can take any number of books out of it–economists can read about the growth of GDP and population; biologists can read about the growth of organisms and human bodies. But I wanted to put it all together under one roof so people could see how these things are inevitably connected and how it all shares one crystal clarity: that growth must come to an end. Our economist friends don’t seem to realise that.

He advocates degrowth in some places… but growth in others:

[…] it’s important not to talk in global terms. There will be many approaches which have to be tailored and targeted to each different audience. There is this pernicious idea by this [Thomas] Friedman guy that the world is flat and everything is now the same, so what works in one place can work for everyone. But that’s totally wrong. For example, Denmark has nothing in common with Nigeria. What you do in each place will be different. What we need in Nigeria is more food, more growth. In Philippines we need a little more of it. And in Canada and Sweden, we need less of it. We have to look at it from different points of view. In some places we have to foster what economists call de-growth. In other places, we have to foster growth.

I’m sure his book will be more interesting than these quotes, because it’ll be full of well-organized and important facts—and the questions surrounding growth are some of the most pressing of our age.


Terawatt-Scale Photovoltaics

26 June, 2019

Here’s a cool paper which seems to be freely available:

• Nancy M. Haegel et al., Terawatt-scale photovoltaics: transform global energy, Science 364 (2019), 836–838.

Important topic! Here’s the abstract:

Solar energy has the potential to play a central role in the future global energy system because of the scale of the solar resource, its predictability, and its ubiquitous nature. Global installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity exceeded 500 GW at the end of 2018, and an estimated additional 500 GW of PV capacity is projected to be installed by 2022–2023, bringing us into the era of TW-scale PV. Given the speed of change in the PV industry, both in terms of continued dramatic cost decreases and manufacturing-scale increases, the growth toward TW-scale PV has caught many observers, including many of us (1), by surprise. Two years ago, we focused on the challenges of achieving 3 to 10 TW of PV by 2030. Here, we envision a future with ∼10 TW of PV by 2030 and 30 to 70 TW by 2050, providing a majority of global energy. PV would be not just a key contributor to electricity generation but also a central contributor to all segments of the global energy system. We discuss ramifications and challenges for complementary technologies (e.g., energy storage, power to gas/liquid fuels/chemicals, grid integration, and multiple sector electrification) and summarize what is needed in research in PV performance, reliability, manufacturing, and recycling.

Of course, increased energy storage is needed to take advantage of solar power. Let’s see what they say about that:

Energy storage

At high penetration, increased PV installation is synergistic with increased storage. Tesla recently installed a 100-MW battery in South Australia and in the first 6 months recovered 14% of the capital cost. California is also setting aggressive targets for storage. The price of lithium-ion batteries has decreased by more than 80% in the past 8 years, and improvements are expected to continue through a combination of technological advances and increased manufacturing capacity. To achieve the U.S. Department of Energy target price of U.S. $150/kWh for automotive batteries capable of charging within 15 minutes, research should explore materials with higher energy density to further reduce costs, focusing on nickel-rich, critical-materials–free cathodes and advanced anodes for lithium-ion systems. With further research and cost reduction, flow batteries and sodium-ion and multivalent-ion or conversion systems could also hold the promise of long-term competitors to lithium ion.

An additional approach to battery-based storage is pumped-storage hydropower (pumped hydro). Recent research indicates that there is a substantial technical potential for untapped off-river (closed-loop) pumped hydro and other forms of gravity storage in many parts of the world (9, 10). Pumped hydro has the advantage of being able to provide short-term responsiveness and diurnal-scale storage potentially at low cost.

The biggest challenge may be to meet energy requirements during the winter at high latitudes. However, wind power tends to be more abundant in many of these locations, whereas most of the world’s population lives closer to the equator. Economic development as well as population growth may be dominated by countries within 35° of the equator in the coming decades.


California’s “State of the State”

29 January, 2018

On January 25th, Jerry Brown, governor of California, gave his last annual State of the State speech. It’s about looking forward to the future: tackling hard problems now. I wish more politicians were focused on this.

You can see the whole speech annotated here. Here is the first part. The last line states the vision:

The bolder path is still our way forward.

State of the State (first part)

Good morning. As our Constitution requires, I’m here to report on the condition of our state.

Simply put, California is prospering. While it faces its share of difficulties, we should never forget the bounty and the endless opportunities bestowed on this special place—or the distance we’ve all traveled together these last few years.

It is now hard to visualize—or even remember—the hardships, the bankruptcies and the home foreclosures so many experienced during the Great Recession. Unemployment was above 12 percent and 1.3 million Californians lost their jobs.

The deficit was $27 billion in 2011. The New York Times, they called us: “The Coast of Dystopia.” The Wall Street Journal saw: “The Great California Exodus.” The Economist of London pronounced us: “The Ungovernable State.” And the Business Insider simply said: “California is Doomed.”

Even today, you will find critics who claim that the California dream is dead. But I’m used to that. Back in my first term, a prestigious report told us that California had the worst business climate in America. In point of fact, personal income in 1975, my first year as governor, was $154 billion. Today it has grown to $2.4 trillion. In just the last eight years alone, California’s personal income has grown $845 billion and 2.8 million new jobs have been created. Very few places in the world can match that record.

That is one of the reasons why confidence in the work that you are doing has risen so high. That contrasts sharply with the abysmal approval ratings given to the United States Congress. Certainly our on-time budgets are well received, thanks in large part to the lowering of the two-thirds vote to a simple majority to pass the budget.

But public confidence has also been inspired by your passing—with both Republicans and Democratic votes:

• Pension reform—and don’t minimize that, that was a big pension reform. May not be the final one, but it was there and you did it, Republicans and Democrats;

• Workers’ Compensation reform, another vote with Republicans and Democrats there;

• The Water Bond;

• The Rainy Day Fund; and

• The Cap-and-Trade Program.

And by the way, you Republicans, as I look over here and I look over there, don’t worry, I’ve got your back!

All these programs are big and very important to our future. And their passage demonstrates that some American governments can actually get things done—even in the face of deepening partisan division.

The recent fires and mudslides show us how much we are affected by natural disasters and how we can rise to the occasion—at the local level, at the state level and with major help from the federal government. I want to especially thank all of the firefighters, first responders and volunteers. They answered the call to help their fellow neighbors, in some cases even when their own homes were burning. Here we see an example of people working together irrespective of party.

The president himself has given California substantial assistance and the congressional leadership is now sponsoring legislation to help California, as well as the other states that have suffered major disasters—Texas, Florida and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

In this regard, we should never forget our dependency on the natural environment and the fundamental challenges it presents to the way we live. We can’t fight nature. We have to learn how to get along with her. And I want to say that again: We can’t fight nature. We have to learn how to get along with her.

And that’s not so easy. For thousands of years this land now called California supported no more than 300,000 people. That’s 300,000 people and they did that for thousands and thousands—some people say, as long as 20,000 years. Today, 40 million people live in the same place and their sheer impact on the soils, the forests and the entire ecosystem has no long-term precedent. That’s why we have to innovate constantly and create all manner of shelter, machines and creative technologies. That will continue, but only with ever greater public and private investment.

The devastating forest fires and the mudslides are a profound and growing challenge. Eight of the state’s most destructive fires have occurred in the last five years. Last year’s Thomas fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties was the largest in recorded history. The mudslides that followed were among the most lethal the state has ever encountered. In 2017, we had the highest average summer temperatures in recorded history. Over the last 40 years, California’s fire season has increased 78 days—and in some places it is nearly year-round.

So we have to be ready with the necessary firefighting capability and communication systems to warn residents of impending danger. We also have to manage our forests—and soils—much more intelligently.

Toward that end, I will convene a task force composed of scientists and knowledgeable forest practitioners to review thoroughly the way our forests are managed and suggest ways to reduce the threat of devastating fires. They will also consider how California can increase resiliency and carbon storage capacity. Trees in California should absorb CO2, not generate huge amounts of black carbon and greenhouse gas as they do today when forest fires rage across the land.

Despite what is widely believed by some of the most powerful people in Washington, the science of climate change is not in doubt. The national academies of science of every major country in the world—including Russia and China—have all endorsed the mainstream view that human caused greenhouse gases are trapping heat in the oceans and in the atmosphere and that action must be taken to avert catastrophic changes in our weather systems. All nations agree except one and that is solely because of one man: our current president.

Here in California, we follow a different path. Enlightened by top scientists at the University of California, Stanford and Caltech, among others, our state has led the way. I’ll enumerate just how:

• Building and appliance efficiency standards;

• Renewable electricity—reaching 50 percent in just a few years;

• A powerful low-carbon fuel standard; incentives for zero-emission vehicles;

• Ambitious policies to reduce short-lived climate pollutants like methane and black carbon;

• A UN sponsored climate summit this September in San Francisco; and

• The nation’s only functioning cap-and-trade system.

I will shortly provide an expenditure plan for the revenues that the cap-and-trade auctions have generated. Your renewing this program on a bipartisan basis was a major achievement and will ensure that we will have substantial sums to invest in communities all across the state—both urban and agricultural.

The goal is to make our neighborhoods and farms healthier, our vehicles cleaner—zero emission the sooner the better—and all our technologies increasingly lowering their carbon output. To meet these ambitious goals, we will need five million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030. And we’re going to get there. Believe me. We only have 350,000 today, so we’ve all got a lot of work. And think of all the jobs and how much cleaner our air will be then.

When you passed cap-and-trade legislation, you also passed a far-reaching air pollution measure that for the first time focuses on pollutants that disproportionately affect specific neighborhoods. Instead of just measuring pollutants over vast swaths of land, regulators will zero in on those communities which are particularly disadvantaged by trains, trucks or factories.

Along with clean air, clean water is a fundamental good that must be protected and made available on a sustainable basis. When droughts occur, conservation measures become imperative. In recent years, you have passed historic legislation to manage California’s groundwater, which local governments are now implementing.

In addition, you passed—and more than two-thirds of voters approved—a water bond that invests in safe drinking water, conservation and storage. As a result, we will soon begin expending funds on some of the storage we’ve needed for decades.

As the climate changes and more water arrives as rain instead of snow, it is crucial that we are able to capture the overflow in a timely and responsible way. That, together with recycling and rainwater recapture will put us in the best position to use water wisely and in the most efficient way possible. We are also restoring the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds to protect water supplies and improve California’s iconic salmon runs.

Finally, we have the California Waterfix, a long studied and carefully designed project to modernize our broken water system. I am convinced that it will conserve water, protect the fish and the habitat in the Delta and ensure the delivery of badly needed water to the millions of people who depend on California’s aqueducts. Local water districts—in both the North and South—are providing the leadership and the financing because they know it is vital for their communities, and for the whole state. That is true, and that is the reason why I have persisted.

Our economy, the sixth largest in the world, depends on mobility, which only a modern and efficient transportation system provides. The vote on the gas tax was not easy but it was essential, given the vast network of roads and bridges on which California depends and the estimated $67 billion in deferred maintenance on our infrastructure. Tens of millions of cars and trucks travel over 330 billion miles a year. The sun’s only 93 million miles away.

The funds that SB 1 makes available are absolutely necessary if we are going to maintain our roads and transit systems in good repair. Twenty-five other states have raised gas taxes. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called for a federal gas tax because the highway trust fund is nearly broke.

Government does what individuals can’t do, like build roads and bridges and support local bus and light rail systems. This is our common endeavor by which we pool our resources through the public sector and improve all of our lives. Fighting a gas tax may appear to be good politics, but it isn’t. I will do everything in my power to defeat any repeal effort that gets on the ballot. You can count on that.

I’m looking for that one Republican. A brave, brave man.

Since I have talked about tunnels and transportation, I will bring up one more item of infrastructure: high-speed rail. I make no bones about it. I like trains and I like high-speed trains even better. So did the voters in 2008 when they approved the bond. Look, 11 other countries have high-speed trains. They are now taken for granted all over Europe, in Japan and in China. President Reagan himself said in Japan on November 11, 1983 the following, and I quote: “The State of California is planning to build a rapid speed train that is adapted from your highly successful bullet train.” Yes, we were, and now we are actually building it. Takes a long time.

Like any big project, there are obstacles. There were for the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, for the Golden Gate Bridge and the Panama Canal. I’ll pass over in silence the Bay bridge, that was almost 20 years. And by the way, it was over budget by $6 billion on a $1 billion project. So that happens. But not with the high-speed rail, we’ve got that covered.

But build it they did and build it we will—America’s first high-speed rail system. One link between San Jose and San Francisco—an electrified Caltrain—is financed and ready to go. Another billion, with matching funds, will be invested in Los Angeles to improve Union Station as a major transportation hub and fix the Anaheim corridor.

The next step is completing the Valley segment and getting an operating system connected to San Jose. Yes, it costs lots of money but it is still cheaper and more convenient than expanding airports, which nobody wants to, and building new freeways, which landowners often object to. All of that is to meet the growing demand. It will be fast, quiet and powered by renewable electricity and last for a hundred years. After all you guys are gone.

Already, more than 1,500 construction workers are on the job at 17 sites and hundreds of California businesses are providing services, generating thousands of job years of employment. As the global economy puts more Americans out of work and lowers wages, infrastructure projects like this will be a key source of well-paid California jobs.

Difficulties challenge us but they can’t discourage or stop us. Whether it’s roads or trains or dams or renewable energy installations or zero-emission cars, California is setting the pace for the entire nation. Yes, there are critics, there are lawsuits and there are countless obstacles. But California was built on dreams and perseverance and the bolder path is still our way forward.

What’s next?

On January 26th, the governor’s office made this announcement:

Taking action to further California’s climate leadership, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed an executive order to boost the supply of zero-emission vehicles and charging and refueling stations in California. The Governor also detailed the new plan for investing $1.25 billion in cap-and-trade auction proceeds to reduce carbon pollution and improve public health and the environment.

“This executive order aims to curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks and boost the number of zero-emission vehicles driven in California,” said Governor Brown. “In addition, the cap-and-trade investments will, in varying degrees, reduce California’s carbon footprint and improve the quality of life for all.”

Zero-Emission Vehicle Executive Order

California is taking action to dramatically reduce carbon emissions from transportation—a sector that accounts for 50 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and 80 percent of smog-forming pollutants.

To continue to meet California’s climate goals and clean air standards, California must go even further to accelerate the market for zero-emission vehicles. Today’s executive order implements the Governor’s call for a new target of 5 million ZEVs in California by 2030, announced in his State of the State address yesterday, and will help significantly expand vehicle charging infrastructure.

The Administration is also proposing a new eight-year initiative to continue the state’s clean vehicle rebates and spur more infrastructure investments. This $2.5 billion initiative will help bring 250,000 vehicle charging stations and 200 hydrogen fueling stations to California by 2025.

Today’s action builds on past efforts to boost zero-emission vehicles, including: legislation signed last year and in 2014 and 2013; adopting the 2016 Zero-Emission Vehicle Plan and the Advanced Clean Cars program; hosting a Zero-Emission Vehicle Summit; launching a multi-state ZEV Action Plan; co-founding the International ZEV Alliance; and issuing Executive Order B-16-12 in 2012 to help bring 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles to California by 2025.

In addition to today’s executive order, the Governor also released the 2018 plan for California’s Climate Investments—a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment–particularly in disadvantaged communities.

California Climate Investments projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture and recycling, among other projects. At least 35 percent of these investments are made in disadvantaged and low-income communities.

The $1.25 billion climate investment plan can be found here.