December 7, 2018
The Senate voted 50-49 to confirm Bernard McNamee to serve on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Democrats say he should recuse himself from coal and nuclear matters because of his work on a bailout proposal for both while working in Trump's Department of Energy.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is a leading contender to be the top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, which is deeply involved in climate-related policy. While Manchin doesn't deny that climate science is happening, his pro-coal positions and campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry are raising concerns among Democrats.
During his presidential campaign, Jair Bolsonaro pledged to open more of the Amazon to mining and agriculture, alarming environmentalists. But as he assembles his cabinet, competing philosophies of key appointees make the incoming administration's actions on climate and other policy areas harder to predict.
December 6, 2018
Melting on Greenland's ice sheet has gone into "overdrive," with meltwater runoff increasing 50 percent since the start of the industrial era and continuing to accelerate, new research shows. As more water runs off the ice sheet, it drives sea level rise, putting new pressure on coastal communities around the world.
Alberta, home of Canada's tar sands, announced it would temporarily cut oil production next year to boost prices in the face of limited pipeline capacity. It's an effort to buy time, but it may be a sign of lasting troubles for the industry.
Between 2014 and 2016, emissions remained largely flat, leading to hopes that the world was beginning to turn a corner. But in 2017, global emissions grew 1.6 percent. The rise in 2018 is projected to be 2.7 percent.
China is the world's biggest carbon polluter and it burns half the world's coal. But it's also a leader in renewable energy and gets a quarter of its electricity from renewable sources. That makes it a key country to watch in climate talks.
Taylor Energy, which has been ordered by the Coast Guard to fix a 14-year oil leak, says oil seeping from the seafloor is producing the large sheen near the site of the company's damaged MC-20 Saratoga oil platform. Coast Guard officials say that can't explain the large amount of oil.
New Zealand considers climate change to be the greatest threat to its security, a defense memo shows. While there are clear physical threats from climate change, the memo notes that countries could use assistance on climate change to boost their influence in the region.
California's Building Standards Commission has given the final approval for a first-of-its-kind state policy that requires new homes in California to incorporate solar power by 2020. Combined with a host of other energy efficiency upgrades, the revised building codes are expected to slash energy use in new homes by more than 50 percent.
Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport is about to be the first airfield in the U.S. run on 100 percent solar power. The airport began installing solar panels this week and expects by the end of next month to derive all of its power needs from the sun.
There's renewed interest in using an old technology to cut the shipping industry's massive emissions contributions. European and U.S. tech companies are pitching futuristic sails to help cargo ships harness the free and endless supply of wind power.
December 5, 2018
The Trump administration plans to eliminate Obama-era restrictions that essentially require newly built coal plants to include carbon capture technology, The New York Times reports. That alone might not result in more coal plants being built, but it is another addition to the administration's environmental rollback efforts.
Americans are consuming less coal now than at any time since 1979, a federal report says. Cheap natural gas and other rival sources of energy have frustrated the Trump administration's pledges to revive the U.S. coal industry, AP reports.
Maersk, the world's largest shipping company, says it wants to be carbon neutral by 2050 in part by developing a new kind of container ship to combat its industry's huge emissions output. The company is urging other shipping companies to help develop new shipping technology that is better for the environment.
Xcel Energy, which provides power to 3.6 million customers in eight states, says it will try to eliminate all carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. It's counting on advances in technology to get there. "This risk of climate change isn't going away and we want to be the company that does something about it," CEO Ben Fowke said.
A draft permit for a proposed coal plant in southern Indiana says it would spew millions of tons of greenhouse gases and dozens of tons of cancer-causing chemicals into the air each year, the Indianapolis Star reports. But state regulators say those emissions would not exceed any legal limits, meaning the findings likely aren't a roadblock to construction.
Feeling out a presidential run in Iowa this week, Michael Bloomberg said he would make climate change "the issue" of the 2020 presidential race. He also indicated that he would take on the coal industry, saying coal "shouldn't be part of the mix at all now."
Legislative controversies over natural gas in West Virginia have grown in recent years, and lawmakers who stand to personally benefit have been directly involved. The speaker of the House, for example, who wields significant control over which bills come up for a vote, is an attorney whose clients have included natural gas companies and lobbying groups. But that isn't enough to keep him from voting on matters affecting the industry.
Indonesia is one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases, but its climate policies haven't attracted much global attention=. Deforestation is one of the big reasons for the country's sizable emissions, and the country plans to increase its production of palm oil for biofuels, leading to even more forest loss.
December 4, 2018
For dozens of workers who cleaned up the nation's worst coal ash spill and became sick, a recent jury verdict against their employer was a major victory. Now, their attorneys will need to link each plaintiff's illness or death to toxic substances in the ash to determine financial damages. The outcome is likely to be closely watched by others who live near coal ash sites.
Mainly due to higher oil and natural gas use, carbon emissions from the world's advanced economies are set to rise slightly in 2018, the International Energy Agency says. That would break a five-year decline in emissions.
Champions of coal claim it can be made environmentally friendlier using chemicals and a technology backed by a billion dollars in U.S. government tax subsidies annually. But a Reuters analysis of EPA data shows that power plants burning it often pump out more nitrogen oxides—the main contributor to smog—not less.
The U.S. government's "clean" coal subsidies can mean big money for investors. Some have been selling chemically treated coal to utilities below cost while still making eye-popping returns from the government funds, Reuters reports in its deep dive into the subsidies.
The Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, plans to raise a sea wall by more than 2.5 feet to combat sea level rise, the academy's superintendent says. Read more from ICN about how sea level rise threatens other critical military installations.
White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Monday the Trump administration will seek to end subsidies for electric cars and renewable energy sources. It's unclear how the administration plans to cut the tax credits, since Congress enacted them and would have to act to end them, The Hill reports.
Nearly one year after President Trump slapped a 30 percent tariff on solar cells and modules, industry leaders say the tariffs have suppressed growth but aren't hurting the industry as much as feared. A report from a solar industry trade group found that installations decreased 9 percent compared to last year.
As a result of pressure from investors, oil giant Shell says it will set emissions reduction targets that will be linked to executive pay. Shareholders had criticized the company for previously setting long-term "ambitions" to halve emissions by 2050 without binding targets for implementation.
December 3, 2018
Icebreakers are critical to science and security in the polar regions, and their importance is increasing as the planet warms. But the U.S. has been pushing off funding new ones, leaving the military with only has two aging icebreakers compared to Russia's more than 40. Now Congress is set to decide again whether to fund a new icebreaker—or spend that money on other projects, like Trump's border wall.
International climate talks opened in Poland with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging world leaders to take bold actions to avert catastrophic global warming. "In short, we need a complete transformation of our global energy economy, as well as how we manage land and forest resources," he said.