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The Effect of Natural Gas Supply on US Renewable Energy and CO2 Emissions

By Christine Shearer, et. al. - Environmental Research Letters, September 9, 2014

Increased use of natural gas has been promoted as a means of decarbonizing the US power sector, because of superior generator efficiency and lower CO2 emissions per unit of electricity than coal. We model the effect of different gas supplies on the US power sector and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Across a range of climate policies, we find that abundant natural gas decreases use of both coal and renewable energy technologies in the future. Without a climate policy, overall electricity use also increases as the gas supply increases. With reduced deployment of lower-carbon renewable energies and increased electricity consumption, the effect of higher gas supplies on GHG emissions is small: cumulative emissions 2013–55 in our high gas supply scenario are 2% less than in our low gas supply scenario, when there are no new climate policies and a methane leakage rate of 1.5% is assumed. Assuming leakage rates of 0 or 3% does not substantially alter this finding. In our results, only climate policies bring about a significant reduction in future CO2 emissions within the US electricity sector. Our results suggest that without strong limits on GHG emissions or policies that explicitly encourage renewable electricity, abundant natural gas may actually slow the process of decarbonization, primarily by delaying deployment of renewable energy technologies.

Read the report (PDF).

California’s Pension, 55th Largest Fossil Fuel Company in the World

By Brett Fleishman, Senior Analyst at 350.org, with later edits by Jay Carmona, Community Divestment Campaign Manager - Fossil Free, September 3, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

California is the 8th Largest Economy in the World, And California’s pension fund is the 55th Largest Fossil Fuel Company in the World.

Today, Fossil Free Indexes’ research team published a deep dive analysis on CalPERS’ holdings of the Top 200 coal, oil and gas companies by CO2 emissions potential.

California’s pension fund isn’t really a fossil fuel company, or a company at all; but they currently finance enough coal, oil, and gas reserves to put them well within the top 100 oil and gas reserve holders and also the top 100 coal reserve holders.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) is the nation’s largest pension fund, with a $300 billion portfolio. CalPERS is a leader in the investment world and has a huge impact on the global economy. When it comes to framing the climate crisis and finding solutions through an investment perspective, everyone, including the United Nations, looks to CalPERS for leadership.

On August 16th, Anne Stausboll, CalPERS CEO, published this article describing CalPERS response to climate and carbon risk within their portfolio. Essentially, the CalPERS team is focused on requesting transparency with companies on carbon risk issues (e.g. emissions and stranded assets), it’s called “disclosure.” They have done some fairly significant and progressive work changing the rules so that companies will have to disclose climate risk or carbon output with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) – which is a good thing. With that being said, Ms. Stausboll noted in her article that their efforts have fallen short of the issues, “…the breadth and quality of the disclosures with the SEC are still lacking.”

While CalPERS claims that “Climate change is an important issue for [the pension] System,” it’s useful to ask: what statements are they making with their money?

Fossil Free Indexes found, shockingly, that over the last 10 years, CalPERS has roughly doubled the potential emissions it finances. In 2004, CalPERS held 90 coal, oil, and gas companies on the Top 200 list; today they hold 149. If CalPERS directly held the fossil fuel reserves allocated to its 2013 portfolio it would rank #55 on the top oil and gas reserve holders list and #88 on the top coal reserve holders list.

Wrong Side of the Tracks: Why Rail is Not the Answer to the Tar Sands Market Access Problem

By Lorne Stockman, et. al. - Oil Change International, September 2014

Tar sands pipelines face increasing resistance both in the United States and Canada. As existing pipelines reach capacity, the delay and possible cancellation of new pipelines is costing tar sands producers billions of dollars and reducing investment in the sector. The success of anti-pipeline campaigns has forced industry to look to rail in an attempt to address these losses and open new markets for their product.

The crude oil produced from the Albertan tar sands is a semi-solid substance called bitumen, rather than a liquid crude oil. Shipping bitumen by rail is more expensive than shipping it by pipeline and the added cost is a substantial challenge to the long-term viability of the tar sands industry. Despite significant evidence, market analysis, and real world experience to the contrary, some prominent institutions - including the U.S. Department of State - continue to assert that rail has the potential to replace tar sands pipeline capacity, and thus the rapid pace of tar sands development will continue regardless of whether new pipeline capacity is built or not.

This report details why this is not the case.

Read the report (English PDF).

Last Chance to Speak on Compressor Expansion

Article and Photo by Anya Tikka - Pike County Courrier, August 14, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Speak now or forever hold your breath.

--FW Alex Lotorto

MILFORD — Milford already has a natural gas compression station on Firetower Road. NiSource, which owns the Columbia Pipeline system, wants to replace it with a new compressor with 13 times the capacity, said Alex Lotorto, one of the organizers of Stop the Milford Compressor Station Expansion.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which issues one of the two permits needed for station's expansion, will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 18, at Delaware Valley High School in Milford.

Lotorto said this is the last chance for residents to express their concerns over the expansion. He described the many adverse effects on health that a large compressor's emissions can cause, including cancer and respiratory problems.

"This facility's emissions will be equivalent to a fleet of idling diesel school buses packed into the Delaware Valley High School parking lot," he said. "In Pennsylvania, it's illegal to idle a school bus for more than 15 minutes, yet the natural gas industry is seeking permission for something a hundred times worse.”

The Truth About Natural Gas: A ‘Green’ Bridge to Hell

By Naomi Oreskes - EcoWatch, July 28 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy. The Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels. We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel—even a “green” fuel.

Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth. That truth is basic chemistry: when you burn natural gas, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced is, other things being equal, much less than when you burn an equivalent amount of coal or oil. It can be as much as 50 percent less compared with coal, and 20 percent to 30 percent less compared with diesel fuel, gasoline, or home heating oil. When it comes to a greenhouse gas (GHG) heading for the atmosphere, that’s a substantial difference. It means that if you replace oil or coal with gas without otherwise increasing your energy usage, you can significantly reduce your short-term carbon footprint.

Replacing coal gives you other benefits as well, such as reducing the sulfate pollution that causes acid rain, particulate emissions that cause lung disease, and mercury that causes brain damage. And if less coal is mined, then occupational death and disease can be reduced in coal miners and the destruction caused by damaging forms of mining, including the removal, in some parts of the country, of entire mountains can be reduced or halted.

Those are significant benefits. In part for these reasons, the Obama administration has made natural gas development a centerpiece of its energy policy, and environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, have supported the increased use of gas. President Obama has gone as far as to endorse fracking—the controversial method of extracting natural gas from low permeability shales—on the grounds that the gas extracted can provide “a bridge” to a low carbon future and help fight climate change.

So if someone asks: “Is gas better than oil or coal?” the short answer seems to be yes. And when it comes to complicated issues that have science at their core, often the short answer is the (basically) correct one.

As a historian of science who studies global warming, I’ve often stressed that anthropogenic climate change is a matter of basic physics: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which means it traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. So if you put additional CO2 into that atmosphere, above and beyond what’s naturally there, you have to expect the planet to warm. Basic physics.

And guess what? We’ve added a substantial amount of CO2 to the atmosphere, and the planet has become hotter. We can fuss about the details of natural variability, cloud feedbacks, ocean heat and CO2 uptake, El Niño cycles and the like, but the answer that you get from college-level physics—more CO2 means a hotter planet—has turned out to be correct. The details may affect the timing and mode of climate warming, but they won’t stop it.

In the case of gas, however, the short answer may not be the correct one.

Dockworkers Protest Crude-By-Rail Terminal and Unfair Labor Practices

Brett VandenHeuvel, Columbia Riverkeeper - EcoWatch, July 18, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In remembrance of the one-year anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic oil train tragedy that killed 47 people, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) raised a banner from cranes today calling out unfair labor practices and protesting unsafe oil at the Port of Vancouver in Washington.

The Port of Vancouver is under intense scrutiny because it has not supported the locked-out ILWU Local 4 who have worked the docks in Vancouver since 1937. The port refuses to assist the ILWU during a labor dispute with the multinational United Grain Corporation. 

At the same time, the port is trying to ram through a dangerous and dirty crude-by-rail terminal proposed by Tesoro. This terminal would send 42 percent of the capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline—360,000 barrels per day—by train to Vancouver, where the oil would be loaded onto oceangoing vessels to sail down the Columbia River. The ILWU has taken a stand against the massive crude-by-rail project.

“Longshoreman would be the guys tying up and letting the ships go, but our local said, ‘no, the risk isn’t worth the reward,’” said Cager Clabaugh, president of the Local 4, ILWU. “We don’t believe in jobs at any cost.” 

The 1,500 square foot banner read:

    Unfair grain
    Unsafe oil
    Community
    Under Attack

The ILWU Local 4 is requesting people call Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to ask him to end the labor lockout and reject the Tesoro oil terminal. Now is the time for labor and enviros to stand together for clean water and safe working conditions.

24 People Arrested Blocking Entrances to FERC to Protest Proposed Fracked Gas Export Facility

By Chesapeake Climate Action Network - Originally Published at Popular Resistance, July 14, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

WASHINGTON, DC—Residents impacted by shale gas infrastructure and their supporters blocked the entrances to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) headquarters today in protest of the proposed Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility and others proposed around the country.

This is the second consecutive day of action to demand that the Obama administration take the voices of impacted communities seriously in the federal regulatory process, and that FERC reject Dominion Resources’ proposed LNG export facility in Cove Point, Maryland, just 50 miles south of the White House on the Chesapeake Bay. Over a thousand people rallied on the National Mall and marched to FERC yesterday despite scorching heat and high humidity.

Protesters linked arms and blocked the main entrance and a secondary entrance of FERC as employees came in to work this morning. A total of 24 people were arrested for the shut down, including participants from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C. The protesters were arrested by Homeland Security police and then turned over to the DC Metropolitan Police for processing. They were charged with “incommoding,” or blocking a public passageway, and are being released with a citation and $50 fine.

IBEW, Fitters Locked Out by Construction Standards for the Milford and Easton Compressor Station Expansions

By Alex Lotorto - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 18, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

To: Executive Board, Officials, and Business Agents, et al.

  • United Association Local Union 524
  • IBEW Local 81
  • IUOE Local 542
  • Teamsters Local 229
  • LIUNA Local 130

From:  Alex Lotorto

Electrical Workers, Fitters are Locked Out By Construction Standards for the Milford and Easton Compressor Station Expansions

The proposed Milford and Easton Compressor Station expansions are part of Columbia Gas Transmission Co.’s (subsidiary of NiSource) East Side Expansion Project. Both proposed expansions do not utilize industry best practices to reduce or eliminate emissions that also require more manhours to install. This means that NiSource, which earned $5.7 billion in net revenue last year, is minimizing its costs, effectively swindling trade union members out of the best possible Project Labor Agreements. In this case, the cause of labor is also aligned with the cause of local environmentalists who seek to limit unnecessary harm to public health and air quality.

Specifically, it has been established by the gas industry associations and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Natural Gas Star program, that electric compressors, gas capture technology, and limiting production tank emissions are now the best practices for protecting air quality during transmission and distribution of natural gas. Columbia Gas is a partner in the EPA’s Natural Gas Star program and should be aware of their own recommendations.

In fact, technology like electric compressors and gas capture methods that eliminate blowdowns of methane during maintenance and inspections can pay for themselves as more methane is shipped to downstream customers. Methane that is now released into the atmosphere during blowdowns could be injected into the intersecting Tennessee and Transco pipelines at the Milford and Easton facilities, respectively, and sold to market. This would generate savings for NiSource within one to three years, depending on the price of methane. Above, you will find links to fact sheets for these technologies from the EPA, produced via industry partnerships.

Commonly, best practice recommendations become codified in EPA regulations once they have been shown to work in the field. This is the case for production tank rules limiting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions to less than four tons per year, about to be enforced in January 2015 . Both Milford and Easton facilities will have waste liquid and condensate tanks that will be required to be fitted with VOC control technology next year. However, NiSource stated to Milford residents in pre-filing meetings that they will not be installing this technology, meaning lost work for union members and more exposure for neighboring families. In fact, there is nothing in their Resources Report submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission describing VOC controls. There is also nothing in the Resources Report describing how hazardous waste will be tended, removed, and disposed of from the facilities, a responsibility best handled by trained union labor.

Join the Anti-capitalist Protest Against FERC on July 13th, 2014

By x365252 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 11, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

On July 13th, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) will be organizing a march from the Capitol Building to the office of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to protest FERC's refusal to conduct an environmental impact statement on the liquid natural gas export plant Dominion is planning to build in the Cove Point area of Lusby, MD. FERC has also basically been cozying up to Dominion, and has not taken the residents of Cove Point's concerns about health and environmental safety into account.

While CCAN's efforts against the proposed LNG plant at Cove Point is being supported by some mainstream unions and environmental groups alike, there has been growing frustration from the residents and rank-and-file members of CCAN that the group is ineffective in stopping the plant.

To this end, some Fellow Workers from the DC GMB and members of Chesapeake Earth First! will be forming an anti-capitalist bloc at the protest to show that unless capitalism is abolished, agencies like FERC will do the bidding of companies like Dominion, with no regard for the environment or the safety of working class citizens.

We are meeting at the Capitol Building on Sunday, July 13th, at 12:30 pm. We will be marching from the Capitol Building to the FERC office, which will end at 2:30pm.

If you're free on Sunday afternoon, please come out and show your support! While I'm not sure the bloc alone will be effective in any immediate change, it can serve to help us get contacts with people interested in organizing workers around environmental safety issues.

For further details, contact x365252 [at] iww.org

The Inevitable Demise of the Fossil Fuel Empire: Rocketing production costs, proliferating write-downs, stranded assets pave the way for renewable renaissance

By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, originally published by Guardian Earth Insight blog, June 10, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The latest data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and other sources proves that the oil and gas majors are in deep trouble.

Over the last decade, rising oil prices have been driven primarily by rising production costs. After the release of the IEA's World Energy Outlook last November, Deutsche Bank's former head of energy research Mark Lewis noted that massive levels of investment have corresponded to an ever declining rate of oil supply increase:

"Over the past decade, the oil and gas industry's upstream investments have registered an astronomical increase, but these ever higher levels of capital expenditure have yielded ever smaller increases in the global oil supply. Even these have only been made possible by record high oil prices. This should be a reality check for those now hyping a new age of global oil abundance."

Since 2000, the oil industry's investments have risen by 180% - a threefold increase - but this has translated into a global oil supply increase of just 14%. Two-thirds of this increase has been made-up by unconventional oil and gas. In other words, the primary driver of the cost explosion is the shift to expensive and difficult-to-extract unconventionals due to the peak and plateau in conventional oil production since 2005.

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