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Renewable energies and ‘green hydrogen’: Renewing destruction?

By Joanna Cabello - World Rainforest Movement, July 9, 2021

Industrial-scale renewable energy infrastructure has seen a revival in the agenda of the ‘energy transition’ and as part of the economic recovery plans in front of the pandemic. Besides, the production of so-called ‘green hydrogen’ from these projects adds another layer of injustices. The energy matrix and over consumption remain untouched.

In a 2020 statement from the International Hydropower Association, the world’s largest hydropower corporations are calling on governments for “fast-track planning approvals” to ensure new large dams construction can commence as soon as possible. (1) The hydro energy industry is also lobbying to make sure large dams are seen as essential to the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and to “the transition to net-zero carbon economies” (2), casting devastating projects as both ‘clean’ and central to a ‘green energy transition’.

Industrial-scale renewable energy, including hydro, wind and solar, is positioned as a solution to our ever-increasing energy consumption. On top of this, the production of the so-called ‘green hydrogen,’ adds another layer of injustices related to this mega infrastructure. Yet, the replacement of the energy source by no means addresses the real problem posed by the excessive levels of energy consumption, which are driven by accumulative economic growth. This also leaves unchallenged the violence intrinsic to the societies that such energy powers. (3)

Many corporate and state actors are pushing for increasing their capacity to produce and use hydrogen as part of the ‘green’ recovery plans from the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. It is becoming central in the ‘green transition’ debates. The German government has announced plans to spend 9 billion euros (UD10.7 billion dollars) supporting its domestic hydrogen industry. (4) Likewise, the European Commission has started to promote hydrogen as a way of cutting carbon emissions and reaching its Green Deal climate targets. The EU plans to scale up ‘renewable hydrogen’ projects and invest a cumulative amount of 470 billion euros (US740 billion dollars) by 2050. (5) Moreover, US Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm, said that hydrogen “will help decarbonize high-polluting heavy-duty and industrial sectors [in the United States] (…) and realizing a net-zero economy by 2050.” (6)

Two Years After a Huge Refinery Fire in Philadelphia, a New Day Has Come for its Long-Suffering Neighbors

By Daelin Brown - Inside Climate News, July 5, 2021

The petroleum smell is gone, the benzene emissions are being monitored and residents in nearby neighborhoods of color feel they’re finally being heard.

Dorthia Pebbles inhaled harmful pollutants and smelled noxious odors from the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery for years when she would leave her rowhome on Hoffman Street to walk to the corner store.

After losing family members to cancer, she and her neighbors who lived across the street from the massive South Philadelphia refinery, once the largest on the East Coast, couldn’t help but conclude that its emissions were giving them asthma and threatening their health in even more serious ways. But no one from the refinery or the city ever gave them any information, or seemed to care.

Then one night in June 2019, the refinery exploded, creating a whole new set of hazards and issues for the neighbors to wrestle with.

“The most recent explosion woke us up out of our sleep,” said Pebbles. “But hearing that it will not be a refinery anymore is good. A lot of people ended up with cancer from the neighborhood.”

Two years after the explosion, Pebbles and other nearby residents said in interviews that relations with the site’s new owner, Hilco Redevelopment Partners, which bought the 1,300-acre property in bankruptcy court last year, have improved and led to talks involving cleanup of the site and jobs.

10 reasons why climate activists should not support nuclear

By Simon Butler - Climate and Capitalism, June 23, 2021

In a recent Guardian article, Jacobin magazine’s founding editor Bhaskar Sunkara declared that “If we want to fight the climate crisis, we must embrace nuclear power.” He praised nuclear as a clean and reliable and suggested that opponents of nuclear power are either gripped by “paranoia … rooted in cold war associations” or are relying on “outdated information.”

I disagree entirely. Here are 10 reasons why nuclear power is still no solution for climate change.

1. Nuclear is dangerous. Building many new nuclear power plants around the globe means a higher risk of unpredictable Fukushima-type accidents. We know more extreme weather events are locked in due to climate change, adding to the danger as time passes.

What if a nuclear power plant had been in the path of Australia’s huge bushfires in 2020? What nuclear power plant could withstand super typhoons like the one that flattened Tacloban City in the Philippines in 2013? What if a nuclear plant was submerged by unexpectedly massive floods, like those in Mozambique for the past three years in a row?

Planning for a hotter future means switching to safer, resilient technologies. Building more nuclear power plants in this context is reckless.

2. Nuclear wastes water. Nuclear power is an incredibly water-guzzling energy source compared with renewables like solar and wind. We know climate change-induced droughts and floods will make existing freshwater shortages a lot worse. So it’s a bad idea to waste so much water on more nuclear.

Uranium mining can also make nearby groundwater unusable forever. Half of the world’s uranium mines use a process called in-situ leaching. This involves fracking ore deposits then pumping down a cocktail of acids mixed with groundwater to dissolve the uranium for easier extraction. This contaminates aquifers with radioactive elements. There are no examples of successful groundwater restoration.

Just Minerals: Safeguarding protections for community rights, sacred places, and public lands from the unfounded push for mining expansion

By staff - Earthworks, June 17, 2021

Mining has harmful climate, equity, and resource impacts that, without reform, may ultimately undermine the benefits of transitioning to renewable energy. Building a sustainable economy based on clean energy gives us an historic opportunity to confront the legacy of injustice to Indigenous communities and damage to the public lands held in trust for future generations.

This report outlines how current federal minerals policy conflicts with the Biden-Harris administration’s clean energy and environmental justice agendas, and how those policies must change to ensure minerals are sourced in a way that better protects marginalized communities and the environment. The infrastructure to support the transition to low-carbon energy requires a variety of minerals—cobalt and lithium, among others. Just Minerals encourages government officials to prioritize recycling, reusing and substituting minerals needed for renewable energy technology over new extraction.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Updating the rules that govern mining on public lands must be an integral part of this administrations’ environmental justice agenda, until Congress acts to reform the antiquated 1872 Mining Law. Even without Congressional action, the Biden administration has a variety of policy tools available to reduce the pressure to source minerals from irresponsible mines.
  • There is significant untapped mineral recycling and reuse potential available using current technology. With the right policies in place, we can create a more circular economy that may approximately halve global demand for certain minerals, like cobalt, lithium, and nickel, key to the clean energy transition.
  • Major consumers, including automakers and electronics companies, have also directed their suppliers to source more responsibly. Ford, Microsoft, BMW, and Daimler-Benz, among others, have committed to the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), which independently audits and certifies environmental and social performance at mines.

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Webinar: "Clean" Energy Proposals and Real Climate Solutions

By staff - Food and Water Watch, June 17, 2021

There’s been a lot of debate recently about President Biden’s climate agenda, especially something called a Clean Electricity Standard. Sounds great, right? It’s not quite as simple as it sounds, and it all depends on your definition of “clean”. Join experts and advocates for an educational webinar on the nuances of these climate policies and how we can fight for meaningful solutions to the climate crisis.

Keystone is Dead!

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, June 11, 2021

On June 9, TC Energy issued a press release announcing that the company, in consultation with the Alberta Government, has terminated the Keystone XL Pipeline project, although it will continue “to co-ordinate with regulators, stakeholders and Indigenous groups to meet its environmental and regulatory commitments and ensure a safe termination of and exit from the project.” The Alberta government had invested over $1 billion in the project as recently as March 2020 , and continued to defend it even after U.S. President Biden rescinded the permit in January 2021. The WCR compiled sources and reactions in January in “President Biden’s Executive Orders and Keystone XL cancellation – what impact on Canada?” A new compilation of Alberta Government statements is here . CBC Calgary describes Keystone XL is dead, and Albertans are on the hook for $1.3B.

Climate activists in Canada and the U.S. rejoiced at the latest news: “‘Keystone XL Is Dead!’: After 10-Year Battle, Climate Movement Victory Is Complete” , and activist Bill McKibben (and others) are hammering home a message of “never give up, activism works!”. The article from Common Dreams quotes Clayton Thomas Muller, longtime KXL opponent and currently a senior campaigns specialist at 350.org in Canada: “This victory is thanks to Indigenous land defenders who fought the Keystone XL pipeline for over a decade. Indigenous-led resistance is critical in the fight against the climate crisis and we need to follow the lead of Indigenous peoples, particularly Indigenous women, who are leading this fight across the continent and around the world. With Keystone XL cancelled, it’s time to turn our attention to the Indigenous-led resistance to the Line 3 and the Trans Mountain tar sands pipelines.” The National Observer expands on this with “Keystone XL is dead, but the fight over Canadian oil rages on” (June 10). The Indigenous Environmental Network news chronicles the ongoing resistance to pipeline development, as well as the reaction to the Keystone announcement.

Fire and Forest Ecology in the American West

Anti-imperialist Manifesto in Defense of the Environment

Biden Says He Backs a Just Transition for the Climate Crisis. Advocates Say, “Prove It.”

By Rachel M. Cohen - In These Times, June 2, 2021

While the administration has taken some early steps to provide support for energy workers and frontline communities in the transition away from fossil fuels, experts and activists say the crisis demands a more transformative approach.

One of the most difficult problems that political leaders have faced in addressing climate change has not involved the science or technology, but the politics, including bringing key constituencies like energy workers and their labor unions on board. This skepticism and resistance to change is why a so-called ​“just transition” — referring to an ethical and economically secure shift away from a fossil-fuel powered economy — has become so integral to crafting a successful climate plan. 

Figuring out how to provide economic security for both energy workers that have depended on the nation’s fossil fuels and frontline communities has become a leading priority for activists and elected officials alike. The Biden administration, for its part, has thrown its weight behind developing a just transition, though some advocates tell In These Times that federal leaders haven’t gone far enough, or worry the executive branch’s rhetoric won’t deliver real results. Other researchers have called for more careful study of past economic transitions, as well as more firm commitments around social programs such as universal healthcare. 

On January 27, one week after taking office, Biden signed an executive order establishing an interagency working group focused on addressing the economic needs of ​“coal, oil, gas, and power plant communities.” The group, co-chaired by National Economic Council director Brian Deese and National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy, is a collaboration between 12 federal agencies including the labor, interior, treasury and energy departments. 

In late April the working group published an initial report identifying 25 of the most impacted regions for coal-related declines, and highlighted existing federal programs that could provide nearly $38 billion in funding for relief. The report noted that ​“creating good-paying union jobs in Energy Communities is necessary but not sufficient” and stressed that ​“foundational infrastructure investments” including broadband, water systems, roads, hospitals and other institutions would be necessary to economically revitalize these areas. The group also noted that a just transition would require prioritizing pollution mitigation and environmental remediation, like plugging leaking oil and gas wells and reclaiming abandoned mine land. These objectives hold the potential not only for job creation but also achieving environmental justice priorities.

Turbulence Ahead: What LAX’s Expansion Means for the City of Los Angeles’ Legacy on Racial Equity and Environmental Justice

By staff, editor, et. al - SEIU United Service Workers West, June 2021

Right now, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is charging ahead on an expansion project of a scale not seen for decades. Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the organization that owns and operates LAX, quietly released a draft Environmental Impact Report late last year that reveals a project with a host of alarming implications for communities near the airport. If the City of Los Angeles and its elected officials are serious about leadership on environmental justice and equity, resolving the issues presented by this project will be critically important.

As it stands, the proposed development is poised to worsen traffic in an area already infamous for it, expose thousands of new residents to the noise of one of the busiest airports in the world, and intensify the air quality impact of a facility that is already a statewide leader in air pollution. Worse still, these outcomes are set to be concentrated within Black and Brown communities near LAX that already grapple with a longstanding history of environmental racism—communities that have suffered disproportionately from the health and economic fallout of the COVID pandemic.

LAWA’s current approach signals that the airport is not only failing to adequately protect the community from the consequences of LAX’s largest expansion in decades, but is, in effect, concealing the real, long-term effects of that expansion as it rushes toward approval as early as this year. The City of Los Angeles, LAWA, and the airlines that will occupy the new terminals have an obligation to do better and ensure that this project is carried out equitably, that it will not become another sad chapter in the story of environmental injustice in South Los Angeles and the continued exploitation of essential workers as the city emerges from the pandemic.

In this report, we take a deeper look at the proposed development and what the draft Environmental Impact Report does and doesn’t reveal about the consequences of LAWA’s plans for the airport. We will contextualize this project and what it means for workers, families and communities—particularly communities of color—as well as the direction of the City of Los Angeles as a whole. Finally, we will lay down a foundation for how the airport can approach this project as a real, positive opportunity for the region, and not a cautionary tale of corporate greed and bureaucratic complicity in the making. In the coming years, the City of Los Angeles will prepare to host major events—the Super Bowl, the 2028 Summer Olympics, the World Cup—and enjoy global attention. It is critical that the city and its leaders take every opportunity to be a leading model for an equitable and just economy. With the whole world watching, showing how LAX’s development can be done without harm to communities of color will be an excellent place to start.

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