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Some of the Biggest Green Groups Have Cold Feet over the “Green New Deal”

Kansas, Opinions, Policy, Sustainability
January 16, 2019

by Emily Atkin (The New Republic)  More than 600 organizations signed a letter supporting the ambitious proposal, but eight of the largest ones did not.  —  … Sent by 626 environmental groups on Thursday, the letter calls on lawmakers to support the idea, popularized by freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of a sweeping economic stimulus package to fight global warming.

These 626 environmental groups, including Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, and 350, say a Green New Deal should include an expansion of the Clean Air Act; a ban on crude oil exports; an end to fossil fuel subsidies and fossil fuel leasing; and a phase-out of all gas-powered vehicles by 2040, among many other things.

But the letter also shows how far Ocasio-Cortez and her allies still have to go to in gathering support for the Green New Deal, because six of the largest, most influential environmental advocacy groups didn’t sign it: the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, Mom’s Clean Air Force, Environment America, and the Audubon Society. Two green groups founded by deep-pocketed Democratic celebrities are also absent: Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and Tom Steyer’s NextGen America.

Speaking on background, though, some said the letter did not allow for enough flexibility on the details of a Green New Deal—such as one section promising that all signatories will “vigorously oppose” a deal that includes “market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, waste-to-energy and biomass energy.”

Dominique Browning, the co-founder of Mom’s Clean Air Force, wasn’t shy about putting her criticisms on the record. She noted that the letter characterized market-based solutions to climate change—such as carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems—as “corporate schemes that place profits over community burdens and benefits.” This can be true, Browning said, but “equity and environmental integrity factors could be built into those mechanisms.”  READ MORE    Download letter

Debate over Biomass’ Role Enters “Green New Deal” Fray (Environmental and Energy Study Institute)

We Need More Than Solar and Wind to Power the Green New Deal (New York Times)

To curb climate change, we have to suck carbon from the sky. But how? (National Geographic)

ADDING UP A GREEN NEW DEAL: (Politico’s Morning Energy)

Why Excluding Nuclear, Fossils With Carbon Capture, & Biofuels From The Green New Deal Makes Financial & Climate Sense — #RealityCheck (Clean Technica)

 

Excerpt from Environmental and Energy Study Institute:  On January 10th, 626 environmental organizations sent a letter to Congress with a list of demands for a potential Green New Deal.  Among other things, the letter calls for reliance mostly on wind and solar technology in any federal climate change mitigation plan, and states that “in addition to excluding fossil fuels, any definition of renewable energy must also exclude all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass energy, large scale hydro and waste-to-energy technologies.”

Biomass use makes up about 45 percent of renewable energy consumption in the United States, according to the Energy Information Administration’s 2017 statistics.  Of this, wood energy is 19 percent, biomass waste is 4 percent, and biofuels is 21 percent. Biomass energy as a total share of renewable generation will stay relatively flat or even decrease as other renewables, particularly wind and solar, continue to ramp up. However, biomass will certainly make an important contribution in hard to decarbonize sectors, such as heavy-duty shipping, aviation, as well as heating and cooling. Additionally, utilizing woody biomass resources can be right-sized for local communities to meet interrelated goals of forest health, economic development, and climate mitigation.

In October, EESI and Sustainable Northwest along with 86 organizations, released a statement on the importance of smart woody biomass utilization, noting that “From producing long-lived building materials that sequester carbon, to generating renewable heating, cooling, and energy in local communities, smart biomass utilization can support the interrelated goals of forest health, forest carbon sequestration, water and air quality, creating and maintaining jobs, as well as keeping forests healthy for Americans’ enjoyment and recreation.”  Additionally, while it has not been deployed at any meaningful scale, Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (commonly referred to as BECCS), is a common ingredient in most 1.5 and 2 C degree modeling scenarios.  READ MORE

 

Excerpt from National Geographic:  At McCarty Family Farms, headquartered in sun-blasted northwest Kansas, fields rarely sit empty any more. In a drive to be more sustainable, the family dairy still grows corn, sorghum, and alfalfa, but now often sows the bare ground between harvests with wheat and daikon. The wheat gets fed to livestock. The radishes, with their penetrating roots, break up the hard-packed surface and then, instead of being harvested, are allowed to die and enrich the soil.

Like all plants, cereal grains and root vegetables feed on carbon dioxide. In 2017, according to a third-party auditplanting cover crops on land that once sat empty helped the McCarty farms in Kansas and Nebraska pull 6,922 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil across some 12,300 acres—as much as could have been stored by 7,300 acres of forest. Put another way: The farm soil had sucked up the emissions of more than 1,300 cars.

From planting more trees and restoring grasslands to using sophisticated machines with fans and filters to capture CO2 from ambient air, these far-ranging steps are all aimed at one thing: Sucking greenhouse gases from the sky.

Meanwhile, at least 18 commercial-scale projects around the world already capture CO2 from the smokestacks of coal or natural gas plants, storing it underground or even using it to create other products. Costs of that technology have dropped by half in a dozen years. While removing CO2 from smokestack gases is not the same as removing it from the ambient air—the former prevents new emissions, the latter cleans up old ones—both techniques require some means of sequestering CO2 after it’s captured. Additionally, advances in research and development from industrial carbon-capture can help drive innovation in efforts to pull old carbon from the atmosphere.

Even a GOP-led Congress hostile to climate change worked last year with climate hawks like Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, to approve a $50-a-ton tax credit for specific types of CO2 removal, including negative emissions techniques such as direct-air capture.

While trees grow fast in the tropics, forest restoration shouldn’t be limited to remote places. In fact, managing most land in the U.S. with an eye toward carbon reduction—both limiting new emissions and looking for places to pull CO2 back out of the atmosphere—could achieve the equivalent of cutting the country’s emissions by 21 percent, according to a recent study in Science Advances.

Managing land for carbon reduction would include restoring trees to native forests, slowing logging rotations on Southeast timberlands, and planting more trees in some 3,500 cities. But it also would mean better managing forests to reduce catastrophic wildfires, reconnecting tidal marshes cut off from the ocean, and restoring seagrasses. Cover crops would need to be added between plantings on every acre of corn, soil, wheat, rice, and cotton in the U.S.

Many—but not all—of the actions envisioned by his team would require a price on carbon to motivate landowners to change behavior. And there are potential pitfalls.

Probably the most important one is that managing land for carbon reduction could conflict with managing it for food production. With global food demand set to increase substantially over the next few decades, restoring the wrong farm land back to native forest or grasslands could limit food availability and send price shocks through the system.

A massive buildout of a technique called bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration—in which crops, wood, or waste biomass are burned for electricity or fuel, and the resulting CO2 is captured and stored—would double the amount of CO2 removed, the National Academies study says

Still, that would be a real achievement. Five gigatons of CO2 amounts to about half of fossil fuel emissions in the United States, the world’s second-largest polluter.

“In western Kansas, cover crops are not common,” McCarty (Ken McCarty, who runs the farms with his three brothers) says. “Water is scarce and a declining resource, and people historically viewed cover crops as a drain on water. Research shows it can help you capture more water, but it’s hard to break old ideas.”

“Why is wind and solar so cheap? Because subsidies created a marketplace where capitalism could do its magic,” Pacala (Stephen Pacala, a Princeton professor who oversaw a study of carbon removal strategies published this fall by the National Academies of Science) says. Creating a similar marketplace for negative emissions while decarbonizing the economy could bring rapid change. READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Politico’s Morning Energy: ADDING UP A GREEN NEW DEAL: It could cost more than $5.7 trillion in investment to shift the U.S. to 100 percent renewable electricity, as posed by some backers of the Green New Deal, according to new research from the conservative American Action Forum. READ MORE

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Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative Russia Russian olive rutabaga Rwanda ry rye Rye grass s saccharification Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) safety safflower sago pond weed SAIC SAK Salicornia salt-tolerant saltbush saltcedar sal tree salt water Sanctions Santa Monica sardine oil Saskatchewan Saudi Arabia sawdust scale up Scandinavia scholarships/fellowships Science Advisory Board (SAB) Science Policy Scotland scum sea level rise seashore mallow seawater Seaweed/Macroalgae seaweed cultivation Section 526 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seed-to-wheel seed husks Senegal Serbia sesame sewage Seychelles shale shale gas shale oil shark oil sheep shipping shipping containers shipworm Sierra Leone silica Silphie/cup plant/Indian cup silver silver maple simarouba Singapore sisal SK slash Slovakia Slovakia/Slovak Republic Slovenia sludge Small Business Administration small engines small refinery exemption (SRE) smog smokestack soap Social social cost social value 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