Category Archives: Clean Energy

Fossil Fuel Divestment II

In a January 1, 2018, post we discussed the news release from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office announcing that New York was going to divest its vast pension-fund investments in fossil fuels and an almost simultaneous statement from the comptroller of the city of New York that the city was actively investigating methods for “ceasing additional investments in fossil fuels, divesting current holdings in fossil-fuel companies, and increasing investments in clean energy.” The NY state pension fund totals two hundred billion dollars, making it one of the twenty largest pools of money on Earth, and the city’s pension funds add up to a hundred and ninety billion dollars, also in the top twenty.

On January 11, 2018, The Guardian reported that on January 10 New York City leaders, “at a press conference in a neighborhood damaged over five years ago by Hurricane Sandy, announced that the city was divesting its massive pension fund from fossil fuels, and added for good measure that they were suing the five biggest oil companies for damages. Our planet’s most important city was now at war with its richest industry. And overnight, the battle to save the planet shifted from largely political to largely financial. …. Smart money has been pouring into renewables; dumb money has stuck with fossil fuel, even as it underperformed markets for the last half-decade. Just two months ago Norway’s vast sovereign wealth fund began to divest, which was a pretty good signal: if even an oil industry stalwart thought the game was up, they were probably right.”

In addition to divesting $5 billion in their funds from fossil fuels, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city had just filed a lawsuit against major five fossil fuel firms – BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell – for their contributions to climate change, saying they “knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits.”

According to a January 10 Guardian article, “Court documents state that New York has suffered from flooding and erosion due to climate change and because of looming future threats it is seeking to ‘shift the costs of protecting the city from climate change impacts back on to the companies that have done nearly all they could to create this existential threat.’ The court filing claims that just 100 fossil fuel producers are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution, with the five targeted companies the largest contributors. The case will also point to evidence that firms such as Exxon knew of the impact of climate change for decades, only to downplay and even deny this in public. New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is investigating Exxon over this alleged deception.”

Writing in The Intercept on January 11, 2018, Naomi Klein says, “Now, with New York City’s lawsuit for climate damages, the market is confronting the prospect of a cascade of similar legal actions — cities, towns, and countries all suing the industry for billions or even (combined) trillions of dollars in damages caused by sea-level rise and extreme weather events. The more suits that get filed, the more the market will have to factor in the possibility of fossil fuel companies having to pay out huge settlements in the near to medium term, much as the tobacco companies were forced to in past decades. As that threat becomes more credible, with more players taking New York City’s lead, the investor case for dumping these stocks as overly high risk will be strengthened, thereby lending a potent new tool to the fossil fuel divestment movement. A virtuous cycle. Oh, and the more we are able to hit the industry in the pocketbook, the less likely costly new drilling and pipeline projects will be to go ahead….”

Energy Efficiency: Compare and Contrast

Virginia is dominated by Dominion, but:

These reports are cited in a December 29, 2017, article in Blue Virginia, which discusses how Virginia utilities are significantly underperforming in achieving energy efficiency, ways in which advances in energy efficiency will bring great benefits to Virginia, and suggestions for policies Virginia could implement to achieve the significant advances other states have made.

Meanwhile, in contrast to Dominion’s and Virginia’s dismal record, Germany’s investment in renewables is paying off. Imagine US customers being PAID to use more electricity!

On December 25, 2017, the New York Times reported that Power Prices Go Negative in Germany, a Positive for Energy Users. “German has spent $200 billion over the past two decades to promote cleaner sources of electricity. That enormous investment is now having an unexpected impact – consumers are now actually paid to use power on occasion, as was the case over the [Christmas] weekend.”

The same story was covered in the Independent in Great Britain: Germany energy consumers paid to use power over Christmas as supply outstrips demand. “Demand for energy has particularly been outstripped by supply on weekends this year, when factories across the country tend to power down and many offices are closed. German energy consumers were paid to use power over the Christmas period, thanks to a slump in demand, warm weather and plenty of wind power on the grid, trading data shows.”

Fossil Fuel Divestment

In a December 21, 2017, article, The New Yorker reported that The Movement to Divest from Fossil Fuels Gains Momentum. “Tuesday should have been a day of unmitigated joy for America’s oil and gas executives. The new G.O.P. tax bill treats their companies with great tenderness, reducing even further their federal tax burden. And the bill gave them something else they’ve sought for decades: permission to go a-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But, around four in the afternoon, something utterly unexpected began to happen. A news release went out from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, saying that New York was going to divest its vast pension-fund investments in fossil fuels. The state, Cuomo said, would be ‘ceasing all new investments in entities with significant fossil-fuel-related activities,’ and he would set up a committee with Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, to figure out how to ‘decarbonize’ the existing portfolio. Cuomo’s office even provided a handy little Twitter meme of the type that activists often create: it showed three smoke-belching stacks and the legend ‘New York Is Divesting from Fossil Fuels.’ The pension fund under Albany’s control totals two hundred billion dollars, making it one of the twenty largest pools of money on Earth. Not to be outdone, half an hour later the comptroller of the city of New York, Scott Stringer, sent out a similar statement: he, too, was now actively investigating methods for ‘ceasing additional investments in fossil fuels, divesting current holdings in fossil-fuel companies, and increasing investments in clean energy.’ Stringer’s pension funds add up to a hundred and ninety billion dollars—that’s in the top twenty, too.”

This follows the December 12, 2017, announcement in The Guardian, World Bank to end financial support for oil and gas extraction. “The World Bank will end its financial support for oil and gas extraction within the next two years in response to the growing threat posed by climate change. In a statement that delighted campaigners opposed to fossil fuels, the Bank used a conference in Paris to announce that it ‘will no longer finance upstream oil and gas’ after 2019. The Bank ceased lending for coal-fired power stations in 2010 but has been under pressure from lobby groups also to halt the $1bn (£750m) a year it has been lending for oil and gas in developing countries. The Bank said it saw the need to change the way it was operating in a ‘rapidly changing world,’ adding that it was on course to have 28% of its lending going to climate action by 2020. At present, 1-2% of the Bank’s $280bn portfolio is accounted for by oil and gas projects.”

Charlotte NC Editorial Opposes Pipeline

An editorial in the Charlotte NC News & Observer, published on November 18, 2017, says the ACP will slow conversion to renewable energy.

“The pipeline will not be a lifeline for eastern North Carolina. It will instead delay Duke from more urgently converting to renewable sources. This is not a theoretical issue. Eastern North Carolina has felt the flooding from hurricanes intensified by global warming, and it is feeling the encroachment of rising sea levels. What’s in eastern North Carolina’s best interest with regard to energy sources is the same as what’s in the world’s best interest. Build more wind turbines and solar arrays and encourage the rapidly improving battery technology for storing solar power. Those steps – not running a 50-foot wide swath through eastern North Carolina for the pipeline – represent the best path for the state’s energy future.”

McAuliffe’s Folly: The Atlantic “Trump” Pipeline


The November 12, 2017, Huffington Post asks, “Is outgoing Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe a climate change denier?” It notes that just asking the question “is bound to offend the governor and some of his supporters,” who list his efforts to reduce emissions and his very recent return from the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23), where he signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing Virginia to reduce carbon emissions (after he leaves office) as part of the Under2Coalition.

But, the article continues, “Never mind that close observers have called McAuliffe’s record on climate change ‘abysmal’ and ‘marred by contradictions and empty rhetoric,'” that by joining in November 2017 Virginia came very late to the Under2Coalition, formed in May 2015 and already including 180 jurisdictions. And “never mind that McAuliffe has spent the past three years as the state’s biggest cheerleader for two massive and controversial fracked gas pipelines, that, according to recent estimates, will produce greenhouse gases equivalent to that produced by 45 coal fired plants or 158 million metric tons per year, more than doubling Virginia’s carbon footprint.”

The article goes on to discuss

  • A Moment of Choice for Virginia and Terry McAuliffe – How the Water Control Board hearings in December are an opportunity for “an historic choice for climate change action – or climate change denial” as McAuliffe, after belatedly signing on to the Under2Coalition, is “trying to write the final chapter of his gubernatorial narrative – or the preface to his next campaign.” But, “If these pipelines are approved, Terry McAuliffe will forever be where any Democratic politician does not want to be, particularly in a Democratic primary – firmly on the side of climate change denier in chief Donald Trump.”
  • The Atlantic “Trump” Pipeline – Less than a week after taking office, Trump released a list of top 50 domestic priorities, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, saying the permitting process was done. Actual fact, of course, is that the process is not done, and since January “the public debate and the legal, regulatory and political terrains have shifted decidedly against these pipelines. The tide has started to turn – and smart politicians are catching on fast.”
  • The Anti-Pipeline Movement Grows Strong – “The opposition to these pipelines is growing and is not going away. Indeed, the scope of opposition activity over the past few months has been breathtaking.”
  • The Legal Terrain Shifts Beneath McAuliffe’s Feet – In August two different federal appeals courts issued rulings on two different pipelines (in New York and in Florida) making it “much more difficult for these pipelines to survive judicial scrutiny,” and in early November a court issued an order halting a third pipeline.
  • Regulatory Agencies Start to Balk – Both NC and WV state environmental agencies delayed approvals and demanded new and additional information from pipeline proposers. Two brand-new Trump appointees to FERC, who gave FERC a quorum of three, approved both the proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines, with an almost unheard of stinging dissent from veteran FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur. On election day, “Virginia Democrats swept all three statewide offices and erased what many thought was an insurmountable 66-34 Republican majority in the House of Delegates.” Dominion also lost big: “Thirteen newly elected members of the House of Delegates – fully one quarter of the caucus – were elected on a platform that included signing the Activate Virginia pledge. Justin Fairfax, who also took the pledge and ran as a pipeline opponent, was elected Lieutenant Governor.”
  • It is Time to Choose Sides – “But more importantly, by acting now – before the December State Water Board hearings – McAuliffe could stop these two massive environmentally irresponsible, job killing, social justice destroying methane projects. He would be doing Virginia a world of good. That would transform his signature on the Bonn agreement into a new beginning for real action on climate change. McAuliffe can join Obama’s FERC appointee, Senator Tim Kaine, Lieutenant Governor-Elect Justin Fairfax, the newly elected anti-pipeline Democratic delegates, supported by landmark anti-pipeline federal court rulings, and stop these pipelines, or he can stand with climate change denier Donald Trump.”

Read the full Huffington Post article here.