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This Changes Nothing – Timing Is Nothing

NJ Environmental Groups Miss The Boat

Meanwhile, as a massive hurricane barrels toward the east coast …

Electric Bus Campaign Could Have Been Designed By PSEG & Big Oil & Gas

[Technical Update Below – 9/13/18)

NJ Spotlight reports today that environmental groups have created a political campaign focused on retrofitting NJ Transit’s bus fleet, see:

This “campaign” comes at a time when the focus should be on the fact that NJ Gov. Murphy must deliver on his repeated campaign pledges to make it a top priority to rapidly and aggressively respond to the climate crisis and convert NJ’s fossil and nuke based electric infrastructure to 100% renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, etc) by 2050.

To meet these goals, Murphy has issued Executive Orders that directed:

1) the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to exercise regulatory powers to create a financing mechanism for 3,500 MW of off shore wind  and to adopt an Energy Master Plan (EMP) to lay out a detailed path to 100% renewables. BPU is now holding public “Stakeholder” meetings to solicit public comments on necessary revisions to the Christie EMP.

2) the BPU and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to renegotiate the prior agreement and rejoin the northeast States Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). A draft RGGI regulation is expected to be proposed for public comment this fall.

Additionally, the Murphy administration is subject to legislation:

3) the voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction goals of the 2007 Global Warming Response Act (80% below 2006 emissions by 2050);

4) the legal mandates of a 2004 law to develop zero emission (electric) cars and – implicitly – the necessary infrastructure to recharge them. There are no concrete plans in place to demonstrate compliance with either law; and

5) recently enacted legislation requires 21 percent of the energy sold in the state be from Class I renewable energy sources by 2020; 35 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030, including 3,500 MW of offshore wind by 2030. Utilities are required to reduce electricity usage by 2 percent and natural gas by 0.75 percent, and install 600 MW of energy storage by 2021 and 2,000 MW by 2030.

(I highlighted energy sold in the state because millions of NJ ratepayer dollars are being shipped out of state to purchase so called “renewable energy credits” from energy generated in other states (e.g. Illinois wind and dirty Maryland garbage incinerators) and are doing nothing to promote NJ based clean energy, jobs or economic development. More to come on this “RPS” sham in a future post.]

Actual implementation of these programs will cost billions of dollars and they will be extremely complex to design and implement (even without political attack by corporate power and special interests (e.g. the PSEG union got a no layoff deal in the nuke bailout).

The aggressive timetables, complexity and powerful corporate and political resistance that will challenge the BPU – in light of BPU’s historical track record in failing to meet legal deadlines – do not inspire confidence that the timetables or goals will be met.

Additionally, there are external legal and technical constraints imposed by NJ’s 1999 Electric Deregulation and Energy Competition Act (“EDECA”), the PJM regional grid operator, the other RGGI states, NJ’s RGGI statute, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

NJ laws also erect restrictions on municipal and cooperative owned power systems and limits the size renewable energy systems and economic incentives known as “net metering”:

System size of renewable energy facility is limited to that needed to meet annual on-site electric demand. A.B. 3723 enacted in May 2018  authorizes Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to limit net metering to 5.1% of the total annual kWh sold in the State by each electric power supplier during prior one year period. The legislation instead of providing a firm aggregate limit on net metering, it authorizes the BPU to cease offering net metering if this capacity is reached.  BPU may continue to allow net metering even if this threshold is reached.

The limit on size to annual demand blocks expansion of renewables, restricts competition and protects the corporate utilities – as does net metering limit of just 5.1%.

Finally, there are major loopholes in DEP regulations with respect to climate change (both emissions reductions and adaptation) and DEP’s GWRA implementation recommendations have been completely ignored, see:

So, it is almost a certainty that  none of this will be accomplished – absent huge public demands that are organized by informed analysis and mobilized in support of aggressive government policy response.

So, how has NJ’s environmental and climate community responded to these challenges?

NJ Spotlight reports today that they have created a political campaign focused on retrofitting NJ Transit’s bus fleet, see:

Of course, the NJ energy sector and corporate NJ are breathing sighs of relief as environmentalists divert public attention from anything that could change the corporate status quo or cost them a thin dime.

Electric bus fleet replacement cost would be at least $660 million, and all of it from PUBLIC money, not one corporate dollar. *** There were no estimates provided of actual GHG emissions reductions associated with this public expenditure. (*** See Technical Update below)

(To illustrate the cowardly Neoliberal politics that are operating here, consider:  instead of a small bore public transit bus focus, why not a campaign to mandate that Amazon, Fed Ex, and UPS electrify their fleets and install solar on millions of square feet of warehouse rooftops?)

For context, that $660 million is about 12 years of all the new RGGI funds and almost 3 years of all annual Societal Benefit Charge (SBS) funds.

This latest “green” “campaign” ignores all of the above challenges and retains the typical silo single issue focus, incoherent, and “safe” politics that Naomi Klein criticized the environmental community for in her recent book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate”: (review)

The immediate threat to the earth “changes everything” in the sense that just adding “the environment” to our list of concerns is not good enough.

The sheer scale of the problem necessitates a politics that can take on capitalism. We must do away with any notions, Klein asserts, that the environmental crisis can be contained and eventually rolled back through policy tinkering (though addressing symptoms is necessary); technical fixes (though sensible technological advances should be vigorously pursued); or market-based solutions (no qualification necessary — it’s silly to expect the market to solve problems it was instrumental in creating). Something far more comprehensive is required.

To emphasize this, however, is not just to expose the painfully inadequate solutions of the Right, but also to ask the hard questions of the environmental movement. As important as the movement has been to placing the issue on the agenda and bringing young people in particular into the struggle, its organizational forms simply do not match what we are up against. After decades of engagement, the environmental movement remains relatively marginal, capable of slowing down this or that trend but not of reversing and correcting capitalism’s reckless trajectory.

Klein is especially critical of those sections of the movement that jumped on the “green capitalism” bandwagon in the 1970s.


Meanwhile, as a massive hurricane barrels toward the east coast, out west, California Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a law imposing a phase out of fossil fuels by 2045 (yes, I understand that the phase out is not mandatory and has no enforcement teeth. But NJ groups are not even asking for a voluntary aspirational phase out goal.)

Similarly, NJ grassroots climate activists are demanding that Murphy’s BPU Energy Master Plan phase out fossil fuels and impose a moratorium on new fossil infrastructure.

Others – including myself – advocate that NJ activists embrace the Trade Unions For Energy Democracy. (be sure to read their Working Papers).

Why no environmental group campaign on any of these aggressive policies?

Others, like the “green capitalism” groups Klein criticizes,  are calling for a “carbon tax” – e.g. the State of Washington (where I am writing this post from) has a fall ballot initiative to impose a $15 per ton carbon tax.

By comparison, RGGI credits are selling for about $2 per ton (correction – most recent auction was $4.50)  and NJ’s RGGI law has an “exit ramp” that would trigger legislative review if the price of a RGGI credit exceeded $7 per ton. RGGI will not make a dent in reducing NJ’s current GHG emissions.

By comparison, economists – and even the EPA – estimate that the real “Social Costs of Carbon are over $100 per ton (depending on assumptions, including interest rates). Regardless, Trump repealed these EPA SCC estimates and barred federal agencies from using them.

At least 3 major new fossil powered gas power plants – almost 2,000 MW – and major fossil pipelines currently are under review by the Murphy DEP and BPU.

NJ’s electric grid requires massive new multi-billion dollar investments to be able to handle renewable energy.

NJ’s rechargeable vehicle infrastructure is woefully inadequate and NJ’s pubic transportation infrastructure is crumbling.

There is no attention on housing and the greenhouse gas emissions of other sectors.

Meanwhile, as a climate warming driven massive hurricane barrels toward the east coast, NJ, a highly vulnerable coastal state wiped out by Superstorm Sandy, still has no climate adaptation plan. That storm represents another opportunity to build public awareness and pressure Gov.Murphy to respond, but instead the environmental groups blow the moment and launch a electric bus campaign. Timing is nothing, eh?

None of these issues are getting adequate governmental, media or environmental group attention and resources.

What the fuck are they all doing with an electric bus campaign?

[End Note: I understand that environmentalists also justify this campaign on environmental justice and urban air quality grounds. Don’t be fooled. In a forthcoming post, I will expose the sham of Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order 23 on environmental justice and explain how it limits State agencies – especially DEP – to toothless “guidance”, not regulation.]

[Technical Update  9/13/18 – I tracked down the Environment NJ national Report supporting this campaign. According to that report:

  • Replacing all of the diesel-powered transit buses with electric buses in the United States could save more than 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

For context, according to the most recent 2018 US EPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory:

In 2016, total gross U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were 6,511.3 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 Eq.11

Do the math – at the national level, 100% fleet replacement of electric buses would reduce national GHG emissions by just 0.03% (and cost unknown billions of dollars): (2 MT/6,511.3 MT) x 100 = 0.030%

According to the most recent NJ DEP GHG emissions inventory, NJ emits about 110 million tons (MT) of GHG per year (2015). Although the transportation sector is the largest emissions sector (almost 50 MT), the driver for those emissions is increases in vehicle miles travelled, which would dwarf any reductions associated with electric bus retrofit:

As illustrated in Figure 2, the category with greatest contribution to GHG emissions in New Jersey since 1990 has been in the on-road transportation sector. This is most likely due to an increase in vehicle miles traveled in NJ despite a minor increase in the fuel efficiency of the overall U.S. motor vehicle fleet.

In NJ,According to the NJ Spotlight article, there are 2,200 NJ Transit buses. According to national bus registration data, NJ has over 25,000 buses. So the campaign targets just 8% of buses. Worse, NJ represents less than 5% of national buses. So, the total emissions reductions of electric buses as a percentage of national emissions are almost invisible: (0.03%/20)= 0.0015%.

Worse – and I won’t go into details here that would further embarrass and discredit my former colleagues – there is evidence that suggests that the “campaign” is motivated by organizational economic self interest and promotion of business interests that contribute financially to environmental groups. Readers interested in the basis for these claims should just Google. You’ll find stuff like this:

The Report was released AT THE corporate manufacturing facility in California. The press release named the company. It was part of the political buildup for the Gov. Brown Climate Summit in San Francisco. Here’s the advertisement – corporate promotion – press release:

“Burlingame, CA – Jersey Renews partners, including Environment New Jersey, GreenFaith and Jobs Move America, joined Environment America and Proterra, a cutting-edge electric bus manufacturer in Silicon Valley, in hosting delegations from ten states around the nation for a tour of Proterra’s bus factory, and a discussion on the state of the industry and hastening the transition to zero carbon transportation.

Makes Sierra Club small business boutique promotion in Boston look like chump change.

This s really bad.

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