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Wed, 2013-06-26 09:43Kevin Grandia
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Is Obama's Faith in Carbon Capture a Technicolor Dream?

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President Obama's climate action announcement yesterday relies heavily on carbon capture and storage technology eventually paying off as a commercially viable option. But carbon capture and storage (or CCS) continues to be more of a dream than reality. And a very expensive dream at that.

According to a database maintained at MIT's Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies program, there are currently six large scale CCS projects underway in the United States. Five of the six projects are still in the planning phase, with one project listed as under construction. The current projected price tag of these six projects is a whopping $16.7 billion.

That's a lot to gamble on a risky technology that continues to struggle to prove it's even possible to deploy on a global scale. And $16.7 billion is only the opening bet. A full scale deployment of CCS technology across the entire US would likely be in the hundreds of billions. Estimates run as high as $1.5 trillion a year to deploy and operate enough carbon capture and storage worldwide to significantly reduce carbon emissions from the fossil fuels we consume.

President Obama announced his administration would make $8 billion available in loan guarantees for the development of enhanced fossil energy projects, which includes CCS technology. 

In a follow-up announcement today, the Interior department and the US Geological Survey released “the first-ever detailed national geologic carbon sequestration assessment.”

Thu, 2013-06-20 07:41Kevin Grandia
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[Infographic] Debunking the Economic and National Security Myths Around Keystone XL Pipeline

Today, billionaire clean energy philanthropist Tom Steyer held a press conference to debunk the myths that the Keystone XL pipeline will lead to major economic growth and national security. 

Keystone is an “export pipeline” that would transport toxic tar sands from Alberta down to a tax-free zone in Texas and out to foreign markets.

In other words, the EU, China and Latin America get the oil, the foreign-owned oil companies get the profits and North Americans are left cleaning up oil spills and shouldering the pollution burden from extracting and refining the dirty tar sands. It's a complicated issue for sure, so I've tried to break out the main points in an infographic. Please feel free to download and share it. All the information has been fact-checked and verified by energy policy experts.

Here is the high-resolution version for download.

Wed, 2013-06-05 05:00Kevin Grandia
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Google Promotes Involvement in Coal Industry Campaign to Block EPA Mercury Emission Regulations

Google, the search giant with the famous motto: “Don’t be evil,” is boasting about its involvement in a 2012 coal industry lobbying effort to block the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ability to protect the public from dangerous and potentially lethal coal plant emissions, according to a recently discovered Google case study.

In February 2012, long time coal industry supporter, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution proposing the elimination of the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants. The emissions from coal-fired power plants are the largest human-caused sources of the neurotoxin mercury, arsenic, cyanide, and a range of other dangerous pollutants, according to the EPAInhofe's proposal was ultimately voted down in the Senate by a vote of 53 to 46.

Legislative and policy experts close to the issue said that if Inhofe's proposal had been passed, it would have removed vitally important public health protections more than two decades in the making that every year prevent up to: 

  • 11,000 premature deaths;
  • nearly 5,000 heart attacks;
  • 130,000 asthma attacks;
  • 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits; and
  • 540,000 days when people miss work and school

 

The EPA regulations, approved under President Obama, are designed to reduce emissions of mercury and other pollution up to 90 percent by requiring plant owners to install pollution control mechanisms. Energy companies oppose the regulations for being too costly. The lobbying campaign was initiated by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), whose membership includes electric utilities such as Southern Company and American Electric Power, two of largest air-borne mercury polluters in the country.

A Google promotional document, Four Screens to Victory [PDF], describes Google's involvement in the 2012 election cycle, and specifically highlights its role in garnering support for Inhofe's proposal to abolish the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards:

Thu, 2013-05-16 11:24Kevin Grandia
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10 Reasons Canada Needs to Rethink the Tar Sands

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As a Canadian it blows my mind that we can have the second largest deposits of oil in the world, but our government remains billions in debt and one in seven Canadian children live in poverty.

Mon, 2013-05-13 11:45Kevin Grandia
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America's First Climate Refugees

The Guardian news outlet is running a series this week on the small Alaskan town of Newtok that is slowly being wiped off the map as the waters rise around it.

The Army Corp of Engineers predicts that the highest point in Newtok could be under water by as early as 2017. This is irrefutable evidence that climate change is here now, and the sea level rises are no longer a prediction by scientists, but happening as we speak.

Guardian journalist Suzanne Goldenberg writes,

These villages, whose residents are nearly all native Alaskans, are already experiencing the flooding and erosion that are the signature effects of climate change in Alaska. The residents of a number of villages – including Newtok – are now actively working to leave their homes and the lands they have occupied for centuries and move to safer locations.

Once upon a time, it was considered politically savvy in some quarters to downplay or outright deny the realities of climate change. But now, with communities in exile from the impacts, denying climate change seems to me to be borderline negligent.

Wed, 2013-04-24 10:35Kevin Grandia
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The Carbon Bubble: Are We Exploring for Fossil Fuels We Won't Need?

Despite an international agreement to reduce emissions from carbon-intensive sources, oil and coal companies continue to pour hundreds of billions of dollars a year into finding new fossil fuel deposits containing enough carbon to more than double global climate pollution emissions.  

This is the conclusion of a new report finding that $674 billion was spent globally last year alone on the discovery of new fossil fuel deposits that will likely never be used. 

The report, Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets, authored by researchers at the Carbon Tracker Initiative, Grantham Foundation and the London School of Economics and Politics, describes the idea of a “carbon bubble” that is the result of global fossil fuel reserves that already far exceed the maximum amount we can afford to burn and still avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change.

Despite this growing carbon bubble, and the inevitable movement towards a greatly reduced reliance on carbon intensive fuels in the future, energy companies continue to pour billions of dollars into discovering new fossil fuel reserves. 

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