Category Archives: Clean Energy

Subsidies: More on Fossil Fuel than on Education

A June 15, 2019 article in Forbes discusses a new International Monetary Fund study showing that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017, an increase of a half-trillion dollars over 2015. The increase is despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, and despite renewable energy production becoming cheaper.

“The study includes the negative externalities caused by fossil fuels that society has to pay for, not reflected in their actual costs. In addition to direct transfers of government money to fossil fuel companies, this includes the indirect costs of pollution, such as healthcare costs and climate change adaptation. By including these numbers, the true cost of fossil fuel use to society is reflected.”

The article notes that “analysis of the inefficiency of fossil fuel subsidies is illustrated best by the United States’ own expenditure: the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education. When read in conjunction with a recent study showing that up to 80% of the United States could in principle be powered by renewables, the amount spent on fossil fuel subsidies seems even more indefensible.”

Read the full article here.

Fracking Endgame

Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution, and Climate Chaos is a new report from Food and Water Watch. It focuses on three key industries that are both benefiting from and helping to drive the fracking boom in the US: “the petrochemical and plastics industries that use natural gas liquids as a key feedstock for their manufacturing; gas exporters building liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals to ship gas overseas; and natural gas-fired power plants.” The report discusses the expanding and “symbiotically profitable business alliance with the fracking industry”:

  • Proliferation of plastics plants to capitalize on fracking
  • Pushing natural gas exports to raise domestic prices
  • Wave of new fracked gas-fired power plants

The report’s covering letter from Food and Water Watch’s Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter, notes, “But perhaps most alarming was the mounting evidence of fracking’s impact on our climate. Natural gas, touted as a ‘bridge fuel’ to a clean energy future, was actually helping to tip the scales of climate stability past the point of no return. Fracked gas was found to be a climate killer.”

Gas Is Not A Bridge Fuel


A new report released by Oil Change International makes the case that gas is not a ‘bridge fuel’ to a safe climate. As the global climate crisis intensifies and gas production and consumption soars, it is clearer than ever that gas is not a climate solution. Leaking methane along the gas supply chain has been at the center of the debate around the climate impact of gas, but it’s far from the only issue at stake. There are five additional reasons why gas cannot form a bridge to a clean energy future, even if methane leakage is addressed.

Five key points from the report:

  • Gas Breaks the Carbon Budget
  • Coal-to-Gas Switching Doesn’t Cut It
  • Low-Cost Renewables Can Displace Coal and Gas
  • Gas Is Not Essential for Grid Reliability
  • New Gas Infrastructure Locks In Emissions

Read the announcement here.
Download the full report.
Download the 2-page summary.
Download key figures.

A recent article makes some of the same points:  5-30-19 Vox. More natural gas isn’t a “middle ground” — it’s a climate disaster.

And an article in Forbes emphasizes the increasingly high costs of fossil fuels compared to renewables:  5-28-19 Forbes. Renewable Energy Costs Take Another Tumble, Making Fossil Fuels Look More Expensive Than Ever.

Greenwashing

Writing in the Virginia Mercury on May 20, 2019, Ivy Main says Dominion’s “investments in greenwashing are transparent and heartfelt. Dominion has had several bad months here in Virginia and would very much like to change the conversation.” She writes that “Dominion just joined a corporate coalition calling for a price on carbon. This must have been in the works about the same time Dominion was criticizing Virginia’s proposed entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which actually puts a price on carbon.”

She notes a claim that recently appeared in Dominion’s Twitter feed: “The future of our planet depends on clean energy, which is why more than 85% of our generation comes from clean energy sources such as solar.”

How in the world does Dominion come up with 85%? Main says, “Let us pause for a moment to reflect that this tweet comes from a company whose solar generation amounts to a rounding error.” She cites the pie chart from Dominion’s latest Integrated Resource Plan that shows:

  • Nuclear: 33%
  • Natural gas: 32%
  • Coal: 18%
  • Purchased (wholesale) power: 10% (that’s coal and gas)
  • Non-Utility Generation (purchased under contract): 5% (more coal)
  • Renewable: 2% (almost all hydro and biomass, plus a smidgen of solar)
  • Oil: 0%

Maybe Dominion considers everything except coal to be “clean”? That would add up to about 85%. Main concludes, “Nobody looking at these figures could find a basis in reality for a claim of 85% clean energy,” and wonders why, “if you have traveled this far into the realm of fantasy, why not claim 100%? Or heck, with a nod to Spinal Tap, why not 110%?”

Read the full article here.

Virginia Mercury added an editorial comment to Ivy Main’s article: “Editor’s note: Dominion says it has developed 1,200 megawatts of solar in nine states since 2013, with an estimated 5,200 megawatts that ‘could be added’ in the next 25 years.” Notice Dominion says could be added….

Internet Giants Reject Dominion Plan

At Dominion Energy’s integrated resource plan hearings on May 8, 2019, cloud computing and internet giants delivered a letter demanding the company shift away from its plan to meet their energy needs with fracked gas through the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and demanded the utility focus instead on renewable energy solutions.

The Clicking Clean Virginia report issued by Greenpeace in February documented Dominion’s reliance on growing electricity demand from Virginia’s “Data Center Alley” to justify further fossil fuel investments, including the construction of the $7B Atlantic Coast Pipeline.  But some of the largest tech companies have stated unequivocally they do not want their demand to be met with more fossil fuel projects.  In response to the letter, Greenpeace Senior IT Sector Analyst Gary Cook said, “These tech companies and their customers are demanding the utility focus instead on renewable energy solutions. This pipeline has been rejected by the public, the courts, and now the very customers Dominion claimed it was for.”

Read the letter from the tech companies here.

Additional press coverage here.

Dominion Keeps Trying to Pull the Wool Over Our Eyes

Writing in the Virginia Mercury on May 5, 2019, Ivy Main outlines the ways Dominion is currently trying to pull the wool over our eyes. She muses on “the series of full-page ads Dominion Energy has taken out in newspapers over the past few weeks bragging about the company’s investments in solar energy. The ads are misleading — I’ll get to that in a minute—but the more interesting question is what the company is up to that it hopes we’re too busy looking at solar panels to notice.”

A few of the things Main says Dominion wants to distract us from:

  • Dominion Energy paid no federal income tax for 2018, in spite of earning over $3 billion in U.S. income.
  • Most of that untaxed income comes from customers here in Virginia, but not all of it is earned (she explains why).
  • After getting authority to spend all that customer money, one of Dominion’s first moves was to interpret “spending” as “keeping.”
  • Dominion’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline could shape up to be a huge profit center for the company, but also a huge financial burden for utility customers.
  • In March, Dominion boasted customer-funded spending numbers at least $3 billion higher than it gave its regulators at the State Corporation Commission just two weeks before.
  • And so on.

She notes, “Yet at least some Dominion leaders seem to be aware that other people think the company should be ashamed of its greed, and that some of these people are voters who may eject its friendly legislators from office this fall. Their answer is to run an ad about solar panels to distract us and change the conversation. But the ad just starts its own conversation — and not in the intended way.” She enumerates the errors and faulty implications in the ads e.g. boasting about 2 million added solar panels (which, at an average of 300-watt panels “comes out to 600 MW, which is a pitifully small amount compared to Dominion’s fossil fuel investments”), and the fact that all of that solar is for data centers and other large customers rather than ordinary customers.

Read the full article here.