Week of January 18, 2016
This week in Eco News: Flint Michigan, international investments in clean energy, Obama’s moratorium on land leasing to coal companies, and the success of state Renewable Portfolio Standards.
Data visualizations published by Bloomberg illustrate a record high level of international investment in clean energy, 329 billion USD, in 2015. China led the way with $110 bn, followed by the US at $56 bn. Although European investment has declined since a $132 bn peak in 2011, some non-OECD nations such as Chile ($3.5 bn), Morocco ($2 bn) and South Africa ($4.5 bn), have seen spectacular growth. The world total in 2015 was nearly six times that of 2004, and was highest in solar ($162 bn) and wind ($110 bn). Perhaps the most significant aspect of this data is in comparison to declining coal and natural gas prices over the same period. (Bloomberg)
Land Leasing Paused to Coal
Currently, 40 percent of coal mined in the US is mined on public land. That figure is likely to fall with President Barrack Obama’s recent decision to pause land leases to coal companies until a three year review of the industry can inform a thorough reform program. According to the administration, existing leases will be able to supply the US for another 20 years at current production levels. The administration’s stated goal in this moratorium is raising the cost of coal
production to reflect the otherwise externalized
costs of climate change. (NYT Leases, NYT Easing)
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has apologized for the water crisis in Flint Michigan and has promised transparency and $28 mil for bottled water, healthcare compensation and infrastructure improvements going forward. The city began using the Flint River as an interim water source to save money in the spring of 2014, but did not treat the water with chemical agents to prevent corrosion of the lead pipes through which the it flowed. In September a medical research study identified lead, which can have a range of negative effects on the human body, at heightened levels in the bloodwork of local children. Class action lawsuits have been filed against Snyder, two former Flint emergency managers and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which did not take EPA recommendations after serious risks were identified. Although the city has switched back to their original water source, the corroded pipes are still rendering the water unsafe.
Renewable Portfolio Standards
A Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, is a regulation committing a state to an amount of renewable energy generation or percentage of renewable generation in an energy mix, by a certain date. 29 states in the US, plus DC, have made RPS commitments. The specifics range from 75% in Vermont by 2032, to 5,880 MW in Texas by 2015. According to a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, these standards have been driving the growth of renewables to the extent that “58% of all new renewable energy capacity additions since 2000 [are] being used to serve current RPS demand.” The vast majority of this new renewable energy comes from wind (70%). (Full Report from LBNL)
Photo Credit: Flickr/Intel Free Press,Flickr/steve p2008, Flickr/Michigan Municipal League, Flickr/Greg Goebel