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The Green New Deal: From Below or from Above?

The Green New Deal and the Politics of the Possible

OUT-POLLUTING PROGRESS: Carbon Emissions From Biden-Approved Fossil Fuel Projects Undermine CO2 Cuts From Inflation Reduction Act

By Shaye Wolf, Ph.D., et. al. - Center for Biological Diversity, November 2023

A report from the Center for Biological Diversity demonstrates what many of us have feared—that carbon emissions from Biden-approved fossil fuel projects will cancel out the expected CO2 reductions from the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Approving more fossil fuels not only torches our climate future, but it also harms people’s health, degrades ecosystems, and threatens wildlife,” writes Shaye Wolf, the lead author. “The potential carbon emissions from 17 massive fossil fuel projects approved by the Biden administration are larger than the projected emissions reductions from the IRA and other climate policies.”

Those 17 projects have the potential to release emissions totaling 1,642 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year, or the same as the annual emissions of 440 coal-fired power plants.

Download a copy of this publication here (link).

Animal Liberation Is Climate Justice

By Laura Schleifer and Dan Fischer - New Politics, Winter 2022

Twenty twenty-one was the Year of the Flood(s)—and droughts, fires, famines, and plague. Floods swelled from Chinese subways to Alpine villages; fires raged from the Canadian-U.S. Pacific Northwest to Greece and Turkey; Madagascar suffered drought-induced famine; locusts ravaged crops from East Africa to India to the Arabian Peninsula; flesh-eating bacteria spawned in the Atlantic; the coronavirus killed millions; and right-wingers began begrudgingly acknowledging the eco-apocalypse, shifting from climate change denialism to increasingly Malthusian, eco-fascistic narratives.1

Meanwhile, world leaders discussed how to save capitalism from global warming. The much-hyped 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) regurgitated reformist policies that aimed to preserve the very system causing this catastrophe. Its accomplishments included pledges to reduce coal usage and end global deforestation by 2030, and a recommitment to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This target (let alone 1 degree, as scientist James Hansen advocates) seems purely aspirational considering our current trajectory toward 3 degrees or higher. Moreover, these voluntary measures may never even materialize at all.

It’s particularly difficult to take such pledges seriously when the discussion at COP26 barely touched on a leading cause of global warming, deforestation, species extinction, water depletion, ocean “dead zones” and plastics, soil erosion, air pollution, world hunger, antibiotic resistance, and infectious diseases—including, most likely, COVID-19.2 The delegates chowed on meat, fish, and dairy-based meals, which comprised 60 percent of the conference’s menu, ignoring these meals’ high carbon footprint. To quote Carl Le Blanc of the Phoenix-based nonprofit Climate Healers: “The cow in the room is being ignored at this COP. Animal agriculture has been taken off the agenda and put on the menu.”3

In accounting for climate change, a focus on cows is essential for several reasons. First, farmed animals—mainly cows raised for beef and dairy—produce roughly one-third of the world’s methane emissions. Despite being shorter-lived than carbon dioxide (CO2), methane is the more potent greenhouse gas by far—by a factor of eighty to one hundred. Second, land used by the cattle industry has a staggering opportunity cost. Scientists found this year that if the world abolished animal agriculture and restored the liberated land to forest and wild grassland, the flora and soil could sequester 772 billion tons of CO2.

Although the UN released a special report two years ago stressing that one of the most effective ways to mitigate warming is a plant-based diet,4 not one day of COP26 was devoted to the issue, in stark contrast to the time dedicated to energy, transport, and finance. Even as protests outside the conference called attention to this issue, the delegates inside ignored it.

One reason cited for the omission was that addressing animal agriculture would unfairly target historically oppressed communities, continuing the Global North’s legacy of dominating and controlling those they’ve colonized.5 While this may seem motivated by the noble impulse to be “sensitive” to colonial dynamics, the knowledge that these same imperialist nations’ delegates also removed from the conference’s concluding agreement the so-called Loss and Damages Finance Facility,6 which mandated compensation be paid to poorer countries for climate damages, should put any uncertainty about their true motives to rest. This is just one manifestation of how the call for sensitivity toward oppressed groups is exploited by those most responsible for current crises in order to avoid making transformative changes within their own societies.7

Unfortunately, the Western left bears some responsibility for this manipulative usage of political correctness, due both to its collective failure to reject the neoliberal exploitation of identity politics, and to its constant smearing of veganism and animal liberation as “middle class and white.”8 While it’s certainly true that vegan and animal advocacy are often conducted in colonial, Eurocentric ways, that does not mean there are no liberatory ways of advancing these goals, or that no marginalized individuals do this type of work themselves. Around the world, Indigenous, colonized, and working-class people engage in praxis that recognizes how the fates of other species enmesh with our own, and that our collective survival depends upon the liberation of humans and other species alike.

Environmental Justice Equity Principles for Green Hydrogen in California

By various - California Environmental Justice Alliance, October 13, 2023

We represent heavily polluted communities throughout the State of California. Our communities border oil refineries, gas-fired power plants, industrial farming operations, fossil fuel extraction facilities, waste processing centers, ports, transportation corridors and other polluting operations. These cumulative sources of pollution cause a wide range of adverse health outcomes in working class communities of color. Our communities share a common fence with facilities and operations that emit toxins, foul smells, and noise and cause nuisance impacting people’s quality of life at all hours of the day and night.

The State of California intends to expand the use of hydrogen as a fuel, and to this end, we offer these guiding principles, which are essential to respect and protect our communities.

The following principles represent our collective values and positions to support communities as hydrogen energy is utilized across the state.

These principles were developed in 10 workshops and learning sessions for environmental justice partners across California between March and September of 2023. The learning sessions examined the current science, including risks, benefits, and unknowns, and shed light on each stage of the hydrogen cycle, including production, delivery, storage, and use. The workshops allowed our organizations to discuss different perspectives, build consensus, and reflect on how hydrogen may impact our communities. 

We adamantly oppose all non-green hydrogen proposals and projects. We insist that new projects protect communities first and do not perpetuate the injustices that polluting infrastructures impose on fence-line communities today. Each stage of the hydrogen life cycle—production, delivery, storage, and end use—can present unique risks and harms to environmental justice communities and to all Californians.

Discussions about building new green hydrogen infrastructure must involve the community, and its members should be meaningfully engaged. Siting green hydrogen infrastructure should also take into account the cumulative impacts of environmental justice communities and the risks associated with hydrogen.

The Climate Contradictions of Gary Smith

By Paul Atkin - Greener Jobs Alliance, September 21, 2023

In agreeing to be interviewed by the Spectator under the title the folly of Net Zero GMB General Secretary Gary Smith lets his members down; not least because remarks like these from a leading trade unionist help give Rishi Sunak encouragement to accelerate his retreat from the government’s already inadequate climate targets.

The phrase “the folly of Net Zero” makes as much sense as “the folly of getting into the lifeboats when the ship is sinking”

Difficulties in making a transition to sustainability does not mean that making it isn’t essential, and the faster we move the less damage is done. We can see that damage all around us even now. 

Gary doesn’t seem to get this, any more than Rishi Sunak does, and he latches on to some of the same lines as the PM does, albeit with a more pungent turn of phrase. To go through these point by point, quotes are either directly from Gary Smith or the Spectator.

Blue Hydrogen Webinar

Blue hydrogen: Not Clean, Not Low Carbon, Not a Solution

By David Schlissel and Anika Juhn - Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, September 12, 2023

Blue hydrogen hype has spread across the U.S., spurred by the billions of dollars of government funding and incentives included in the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The fossil fuel industry promises that blue hydrogen, produced from methane or coal, can be manufactured cleanly and contribute to climate change mitigation measures. As we demonstrate in this report, the reality is that blue hydrogen is neither clean nor low-carbon. In addition, pursuing it will waste substantial time that is in short supply and money that could be more wisely spent on other, more effective investments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the immediate future.

In short, fossil fuel-based “blue” hydrogen is a bad idea.

Blue hydrogen’s environmental benefits rest largely on the assumptions baked into a Department of Energy (DOE) model named GREET (Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation) that is the congressionally mandated evaluation tool for U.S. hydrogen projects. Due to a set of unrealistic and flawed assumptions, the model significantly understates the likely greenhouse gas intensity associated with blue hydrogen production.

Among the key shortcomings:

  • It assumes an upstream methane emission rate of just 1%. This is far less than recent peer-reviewed scientific analyses have found and what has been demonstrated by numerous airplane and satellite surveys.
  • It uses a 100-year Global Warming Potential (GWP). This significantly understates methane’s environmental impact in the short term, since its 20-year GWP is more than 80 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • It does not include any estimate (either over 20 or 100 years) for the global warming impact of hydrogen, which works to extend the lifetime of methane and increase its atmospheric abundance. Hydrogen also has a 20-year GWP more than 30 times that of CO2.
  • It does not include a full life cycle analysis (LCA) of all the emissions from the blue hydrogen production process. In particular, downstream emissions from the produced hydrogen and the generation of the electricity needed to compress, store and transport the hydrogen to the ultimate user(s) are excluded.
  • It includes overly optimistic assumptions about the effectiveness of carbon capture processes.

Using more realistic numbers shows blue hydrogen to be a dirty alternative. For example, if we change just two variables—using methane’s 20-year GWP and a more realistic 2.5% methane emission rate—the carbon intensity of blue hydrogen calculated by GREET jumps to between 10.5 and 11.4 kilograms of CO2e/kgH2 (kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents emitted per kilogram of hydrogen). This is between two and three times the 4.0 kg CO2e/kg hydrogen Clean Hydrogen Production Standard (CHPS) established by Congress and the DOE. Note that these already very high carbon intensity figures still reflect DOE’s overly optimistic assumption that hydrogen production facilities will capture at least 94.5% of the CO2 they produce. They also exclude the impact of downstream hydrogen emissions.

If more conservative assumptions are used, reflecting: 1) more realistic carbon capture rates; 2) downstream leakage of the hydrogen produced; and 3) downstream CO2e emissions from the production of the electricity needed to fully compress, store and transport the hydrogen to the site where it will be used, then blue hydrogen gets even dirtier, with a carbon intensity more than three times as much as the DOE’s clean hydrogen standard.

Given these results, IEEFA is extremely concerned that the current blue hydrogen hype is going to result in the funding of projects that exacerbate climate change and lock in our reliance on fossil fuels for decades. For this reason, we have undertaken a series of analyses into the emissions from blue hydrogen production based on current scientific knowledge of methane emissions and hydrogen leakage rates and the existing status of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies. This report focuses on the production of blue hydrogen from methane; a subsequent report will examine hydrogen from coal gasification.

Download a copy of this publication here (Link).

Aluminum Revitalized

By Ariel Pinchot, et. al. - Blue Green Alliance, June 2023

As one of the most important metals for modern life, aluminum is all around us. From our bridges and high-rise buildings to our smartphones and kitchen appliances, this highly durable, lightweight, and conductive material is essential. It’s also a key ingredient for achieving our climate, jobs, and national security goals. As a primary component of solar panels, power lines, electric vehicles (EVs), and other clean technologies, aluminum is a building block of our clean energy solutions. At the same time, producing aluminum requires a tremendous amount of energy, and globally, the sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As the world produces increasing amounts of this material for the clean energy economy, we must simultaneously decrease the emissions from its production in order to achieve global climate targets.

In the United States, our growing need for aluminum already far surpasses the dwindling output from our domestic primary production. As a result, much of the aluminum we use comes from abroad, including from countries where aluminum production is much more emissions-intensive. Increasing our aluminum procurements from highly-polluting overseas producers will only push our climate justice goals further out of reach. What we need to advance these goals is a secure, domestically produced supply of clean aluminum made with high-road labor standards.

Revitalizing clean aluminum manufacturing in the U.S. will not only cut a major source of climate pollution, reduce worker and fenceline community exposure to airborne pollutants, and secure a reliable supply of an essential material for clean energy—it will also create good jobs for hard-hit workers and communities, while supporting the current workforce and retaining existing jobs. This report lays out a set of targeted recommendations for getting there. After assessing the state of the domestic industry, we outline the employment, climate, and community benefits of revitalizing clean aluminum manufacturing and present a set of policy solutions that can help create and sustain a strong, clean aluminum industry.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Climate and Ecology Bill: Uniting Solutions

By Tina Rothery - Greeener Jobs Alliance, May 21, 2023

The first page of the Greener Jobs Alliance website makes clear what’s needed to face the challenges posed by ever increasing harm to the climate – uniting campaigns and bringing together the solutions.

I work with the campaign group, Zero Hour, on the Climate & Ecology Bill, and as highlighted on our website, we make clear we think the same:

“Zero Hour has been working hard to build a broad and representative alliance of support for the CE Bill, including 165 MPs and Peers, 230 local authorities, 144 leading scientists, 465 organisations—including The Co-operative Bank, Women’s Institutes, National Education Union, and University College—alongside 30,000 members of the public.”

Bringing together a diverse range of groups and organisations to create and support solutions that are essential to a just transition just makes sense—and the power of ‘unions’ has never been clearer. This article asks that the GJA, and its supporters, consider joining Zero Hour in this union – and supporting the CE Bill as one of the solutions.

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