All Fracked Up: Study Shows How Natural Gas Worsens Climate By Delaying Renewables

September 29th, 2014 No comments

 Policy Mandates Like Renewable Portfolio Standards Can Drive GHG Emissions Reductions

Powerful Economic Interests & Discredited Ideas Block Reforms

Source: The effect of natural gas supply on US renewable energy and CO2 emissions (Christine Shearer et al 2014 Environ. Res. Lett. 9 094008)

Source: The effect of natural gas supply on US renewable energy and CO2 emissions (Christine Shearer et al 2014 Environ. Res. Lett. 9 094008)

a laissez faire economic theory is maintained in an industrial era through the ignorant belief that the general welfare is best served by placing the least possible political restraints upon economic activity. The history of the past hundred years is a refutation of the theory; but it is still maintained, or is dying a too lingering death, particularly in nations as politically incompetent as our own. Its survival is due to the ignorance of those who suffer from the application of this theory to modern industrial life but fail to attribute their difficulties to the social anarchy and political irresponsibility which the theory sanctions. Their ignorance permits the beneficiaries of the present anarchic industrial system to make dishonest use of the waning prestige of lasssez faire economics. The men of power in modern industry would not, of course, capitulate simply because the social philosophy by which they justify their policies had been discredited. When power is robbed of the shining armor of political, moral, and philosophical theories by which it defends itself, it will fight on without armor; but it will be more vulnerable, and the strength of its enemies is increased.  ~~~ p. 33 “Moral Man and Immoral Society” (Niebuhr – 1932)

I begin this post with that Niebuhr quote because, although it is more than 80 years old and written in the depths of the Great Depression, it remains apt for our times of climate and economic crises.

The same discredited ideas and economic powers impose great suffering and exert a chokehold on reforms.

Today, so called Neoliberal “free market” based policies have been discredited. Yet powerful defenders of the status quo continue to insist upon market based approaches to policy and restrain government intervention. As a result, effective government action is blocked and multiple crises deepen.

On the domestic US energy and climate fronts, President Obama backs an “all of the above” policy which guarantees that we pass what scientists have said are critical tipping points that could trigger runaway catastrophic climate change.

At the international level, ironically, after decades of inaction, the UN seems poised to adopt a market based approach by “putting a price on carbon” via a deeply flawed and discredited cap and trade program. The irony is cruelly doubled because climate activists have abandoned the UN at just the moment that their involvement is critically needed to derail the pending cap/trade catastrophe.

And right here in NJ, despite the recent climate related Sandy disaster, Gov. Christie is dismantling NJ’s climate related policies while the legislature sits on the sidelines, or seeks to revive discredit market based approaches like RGGI cap & trade.

Despite the recent crash in solar markets, repeated boom & bust cycles, and the so called high price of wind that is blocking off shore wind development, the Legislature continues to rely on and seek to expand market based approaches to renewable energy.

However, an upcoming debate on the role of markets versus government policy could change some of that, but the degree to which is unclear at this time, because the bills have yet to be introduced, e.g. see the ghost bill, S2444 (Smith – Bateman) Establishes Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards

So, just like Niebuhr observed, discredited market myths continue to block desperately needed reforms.

So, let’s drill down on just one aspect of the energy/climate debates.

A recent study found – contrary to the widespread myth that natural gas is a viable climate change strategy as a bridge fuel to a renewable powered future – that natural gas is a disaster for the climate, delaying renewable power by decades and allowing the status quo carbon emissions to blow through tipping points and assuring catastrophic and irreversible warming.

Abstract

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.

Here is what the results look like – with a lot lot cheap gas available, renewables reaching parity with gas is delayed 36 years [ and we have to go way beyond parity].That’s a climate disaster, brought to you by reliance on markets and so called low cost energy:

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Friday is for Fish

September 26th, 2014 No comments

fish

Source:

Even when Obama does the right thing, he compromises the core principle to economic interests:

The total is somewhat smaller than a proposal to protect some 1.8 million square kilometers that the White House floated in June. Obama will extend fishing bans and other monument protections to include the entire U.S. exclusive economic zone around the islands of Jarvis, Johnson, and Wake (the zone extends to up to 200 nautical miles offshore). But the White House did not advance plans to greatly expand protections around the islands of Palmyra, Howland, and Baker, which are targeted by tuna fishing boats. Making that move would have allowed the new U.S. monument to bump up against another megareserve, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, and create the world’s largest swath of ocean closed to fishing. Fishing groups had opposed closing the tuna fishing areas, saying it would have created economic hardship.

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Obama Bombs Syria For Breakfast Before UN Climate Lunch

September 24th, 2014 No comments

 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Has A Corporate Climate Strategy

un1

UN Building, from Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park (Wolfe)

My brain’s been battered,

splattered all over Manhattan  ~~~ Stones

With no less a sense of enchantment than Dorothy gazing upon the Emerald City, the small boy shivered in the shadow of the massive modernist slab, as the cold wind blowing off the East River snapped the colorful flags of the nations of the world. He contemplated:

WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and 
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom

The boy had not been so inspired by the vision of a bright, modern, peaceful future since he’d been to the World’s Fair, earlier that summer of 64:

Plaza of Astrounauts The Rocket Thrower

Plaza of Astronauts - The Rocket Thrower (who knew the Rocket thrower would be a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the rockets would become drones?)

The soundtrack for all that:

There is just one moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to everyone
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It’s a small world after all  ~~~ Small World

The enchanted boy’s next adventure to the Emerald City would come the next year on another class trip to Broadway – the boy still gets goosebumps from these words: 

This is my quest, to follow that star
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far
To fight for the right, without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell for a heavenly cause

The small boy grew, and next’ year’s adventure to the Emerald City, off Broadway, brought this tune: “How are things in Glocca Morra?”

Well, 50 years have gone by, and that small boy, scorned and covered with scars, still strove to visit the Emerald City again yesterday, to bear witness to the Camelot Branded Nobel Peace Prize winner’s address to that same UN at a special Climate Summit.

After launching another war (his 4th? or 5th?, with a “major renewal” and expansion of US nuclear weapons), here are Obama’s empty wordsto run where the brave dare not go – to fight for the right without question or pause?- and here’s the vision of the UN the boy now saw, as the helicopters hovered overhead:

 un7  NYC, just outside the UN Climate Summit (9/23/14)

Here’s the words version of the story:

We need to highlight the fact that the United Nations has sold out to corporate interests. At U.N. meetings on climate change you see corporate logos on display. During the last meeting on climate change in Poland, the U.N. held a simultaneous conference to promote coal as a clean energy source. These U.N. meetings have become corporate trade shows where discussions on climate are hijacked to promote corporate interests. Barack Obama has announced he will continue the U.S. stance of only calling for voluntary climate goals in advance of the upcoming climate summit in Paris next year. ~~~ Kevin Zeese

And where were our brave climate protesters?

Barricades at the ready, there were more cop than protesters in

A Potemkin Protest? Barricades at the ready, there were more cops than protesters in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza

ps – there was no freedom at the Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park – it is closed on Tuesday’s!

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People’s Climate March – Some Scenes

September 22nd, 2014 No comments
this is one of my favorite shots - the juxtaposition of science and religion is superb depiction of one of the roots of the problem - too many people are listening to their preacher, not their science teachers. There are too few science teachers and far too many wildly irresponsible fundamentalist anti-science preachers

the juxtaposition of science and religion depicts one of the roots of the problem – too many people are listening to their preacher, not their science teachers. There are too few science teachers and far too many wildly irresponsible fundamentalist anti-science preachers

Went to The People’s Climate March yesterday, so thought I’d post some photos, provided below this brief note.

I should be at the Flood Wall Street direct action going on right now as I write this, but, frankly, I’m too exhausted (and broke) to make it. Maybe tomorrow at the Occupy the UN.

On the train ride, I met a wonderful, obviously wealthy, corporate (re-insurance Exec) and cosmopolitan dual citizen German couple currently living in Princeton. Despite our cultural & class differences, we had a lively conversation the whole way. I learned things and found we shared similar views, from the political power and influence of the Green Party in Germany and  German solar and recycling programs, to the fact that US is so insular and so far behind in various cultural, political, land use, transportation, environmental and technological curves on many issues – an outright backward nation in many respects.

(* eg, the woman was not at all reluctant to talk engagingly with a strange man about politics, ideology, race, class, the role of government etc – a conversation you could virtually never have with a US citizen, and probably not a US academic and certainly not a US policy maker or journalist. And almost impossible with an attractive woman with her husband sitting next to her).

Before going to the march, I was disappointed by how it was organized – on top of the flaws Chris Hedges has written about, e.g. no demands, avoidance of the UN, etc,  after attending the march, I must ask:

Did organizers fail to get a permit for an event in Central Park, from a so called progressive Mayor?

Why was a Park location not made a litmus test for the Mayor’s progressive bona fides? If permits were sought for the Park and denied, why was there no very public legal fight over this?

Admittedly, I did not follow these issues – but did I miss all that?

A Park event seems much better than a march, especially one with no terminus (11th ave & 38th street??). A march should end in a specific place and there should be some organizing activity, e.g “March On (insert place) FOR (insert goal/message)….”

I certainly am no organizer or event planner, but it seems that people attending an event in an unstructured  large space have freedom to enter the space from multiple points, greatly easing congestion in access and egress. People don’t fragment into their organizational silos – they intermingle and are visually and spatially unified, promoting a common message and shared objective.

In contrast, the march tended to fragment each group and undermine the central organizing objective of the march: which was to build a coalition amongst many very different groups working on the various aspects of the climate crisis.

The march was highly structured and controlled by police security barricades – those barricades caused huge congestion on sidewalks and forced folks in the march to stand in place with no movement for significant periods of time.

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I began from the starting point and walked north against the direction of the march to get a sense of the size and photos of the groups assembled.  At points it was impossible to move at all – thousands of people were jammed and many were forced to walk west a block over from the parade route.  Entrance points from the west were all jammed, almost all the way to 83rd street.

bus for progressI finally made it to the end of the line at 83rd Street 2:20 pm – 3 hours to go 25 blocks! Where I met the Bus For Progress:

Along the way, I had many conversations with protesters and event organizers, but one with a NYC cop sticks in my mind.

I observed that the cops seemed laid back in dealing with such a huge crowd, a very different posture than how they responded to Occupy Wall Street. I told him that if Occupy turned out that many people, then cops could not have abused them the way they did, especially the white shirts (supervisors).

His reply to the white shirt abuse (“they don’t get out that often”) was funny, but his response to the relaxed level of security was disturbing:

“We have good intel on the groups participating in this march – they are non-violent.”

Obviously, cops must do some analysis in planning security for such a huge event, but to hear that described as “intel” suggests that “intelligence” is somehow formalized, e.g. infiltration, monitoring, or spying on political groups.

My guess is that their response to the Flood Wall Street event will be very different.

pcm30Yes, the march was completely peaceful and marchers were extremely compliant with police controls – even stopping at intersections immediately at police commands to let traffic flow.

Sorry kids, you can’t stop climate change if you won’t stop traffic and disobey police orders.

This is what its gonna take (quote in its entirety):

We were told the following: If President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of the regents in his telephone conversation, why didn’t he make some public statement to that effect? And the answer we received, from a well-meaning liberal, was the following: He said, ‘Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his board of directors?’ That’s the answer!

Well, I ask you to consider: If this is a firm, and if the board of regents are the board of directors; and if President Kerr in fact is the manager; then I’ll tell you something. The faculty are a bunch of employees, and we’re the raw material! But we’re a bunch of raw materials that don’t mean to be—have any process upon us. Don’t mean to be made into any product. Don’t mean… Don’t mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We’re human beings!

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all! (watch it on YouTube)

But we didn’t get any of that:

 According to inside sources a push early on for a Seattle-style event—organizing thousands of people to nonviolently shut down the area around the United Nations—was thwarted by paid staff with the organizing groups.

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Christie Contradictions Could Doom Open Space Ballot Vote

September 18th, 2014 No comments

If voters figure out this scam, they might not be so supportive of open space funding until more cost effective land use planning and regulatory tools were beefed up. 

[update below]

NJ Spotlight has a story today on the PR campaign kickoff by open space advocates in support of the November ballot question, see:

I thought I might put a little context and critique on the table, while exploring some stunning contradictions in the arguments of open space advocates.

A commenter on the Spotlight story was quick to note a glaring contradiction and the hypocrisy of diverting clean water money to open space, and then justifying the open space money on the protection of clean water:

“If approved, the fund would provide approximately $30 million annually to programs to improve water quality, remove underground storage tanks before they leak, and clean up polluted sites.

They really should say, if passed this bill would be taking $48 million away from these programs. And how hypocritical that the people who imposed the nitrate dilution model of 24 acres to build a house in the highlands – in the name of clean water – are now taking money away from water quality programs.

So, in support of that comment, I responded with this series of comments, which I post here:

What is amazing is that we are spending taxpayer dollars to preserve land when:

1) local governments zone virtually all land for development, which vastly increases the market value of that land; 

2) The Christie administration has abandoned the State Land Use Plan in favor of a corporate economic development plan that promotes development everywhere;

3) the Christie administration is seeking to promote development and weaken regional land use restrictions imposed by the Highlands Council & Pinelands Commission;

4) The Christie Administration is promoting development in hazardous shore and flood prone locations and weakening existing DEP coastal protections -

This includes spending hundreds of millions of federal Sandy relief money on “Rebuild Madness” to re-create the same land use development pattern that got wiped out and will be even more vulnerable given climate change and sea level rise;

5) The Christie administration is weakening the enforcement and implementation of State land use regulations at DEP, including wetlands, flood hazard, and stream buffer protection programs;

6) The Christie Administration is using every state policy tool available to promote development everywhere, including massive multi-billion dollar corporate subsidies.

7) The Legislature has looked the other way and ignored all this or affirmatively supported it.

Given all these systematic efforts to develop land, subsidize development of land, and weaken planning and regulatory protections of land, why on earth are we spending taxpayer money to preserve land????

oops, I left out items #8 & #9 (and there are more, I’m sure):

8) The Christie Administration revoked prior restrictions on extending new sewers into environmentally sensitive lands in order to promote development there;

9) The Christie DEP is suppressing science and evading Clean Water Act TMDL pollution cleanup requirements in Barnegat Bay watershed to allow more development to occur there.

*10) The Christie DEP has failed to honor the Gov.’s 2009 campaign pledge to upgrade water quality and buffer protections protections on “Category 1″ (C1) exceptional waters, despite recommendations by DEP scientists. C1 designations reduce development potential.

And the Keep It Green Coalition has done nothing to criticize the Governor for any of this.

All they want is the money.

Thank you g iannitelli for noting the contradiction and hypocrisy of diversion of clean water money to open space, and then justifying the open space money on the protection of clean water.

Besides, do those Highlands advocates ever mention that huge quantities of sewage discharge are pumped to Highlands reservoirs? See:

Do you think NY DEC would allow sewage to be pumped IN TO pristine Catskill reservoirs?

How much pollution load is that, compared with the reductions associated with development restrictions under the Highlands Act?

And if pumped polluted river water is such a significant pollution load, and if Highlands Advocates care about clean water, why aren’t they criticizing the Christie DEP’s plans to weaken protections for the water quality in the rivers that are pumped to Highlands reservoirs?

Answer: Because they are not only hypocrites, they are craved cowards and incompetent to boot.

If voters figure out this scam, they might not be so supportive of open space funding until more cost effective land use planning and regulatory tools were beefed up.

Be glad to provide links and documentation to support all of the above claims.

Just submit a comment on this post or drop me an email.

* Updated addition to original list

[update 9/22/14 - and here’s another huge problem – Christie is allowing gas pipelines to be build through “protected” open space, NJ Spotlight reports:

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