Politics, Economics, the Environment, and the Arts


Exxon Sets a 2050 Goal for Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions – The New York Times

“HOUSTON — Exxon Mobil, under increasing pressure from investors to address climate change, announced on Tuesday that it had the “ambition” to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 2050.

The oil company, the largest in the United States, still remains behind several of its major competitors in its public climate commitments.

Exxon said it had identified 150 modifications of its exploration and production practices to help reach its goals, including electrification of operations with energy from renewable sources. Initial steps will include elimination of the flaring and venting of methane, a byproduct of drilling that is a powerful greenhouse gas.”

“. . . Exxon’s targets include so-called Scope 1 emissions, which are produced directly by the company, and Scope 2 emissions from the generation of power that Exxon buys, such as electricity supplied by utilities.

But the new policies stop short of including Scope 3 emissions, which result from the combustion of fuels by drivers and other customers, as well as other companies along Exxon’s supply chain. The overwhelming majority of emissions linked to companies are Scope 3, and they are the hardest to control or compensate for.

European companies have begun to embrace commitments to Scope 3, which will require immense efforts, including reforestation, the capture and removal of carbon from operations, and technological advances such as fuels made from recycled carbon. Many of the companies are selling off hydrocarbon businesses and redirecting resources to renewable energy like solar and wind power.” . . . .

Shell, the largest European oil company, has set a 2050 target for net zero emissions that includes Scope 3, which it says accounts for over 90 percent of its emissions. Equinor, the Norwegian national oil company, has a similar target, as does BP, although it excluded its joint operations with Rosneft, a Russian company.

A North Sea Auction Produces Big Plans for Scottish Wind Farms – The New York Times

“Oil giants like BP and Shell as well as Iberdrola, the Spanish utility, look like the big winners in Scotland’s first offshore wind auction, whose results were announced on Monday.

If the proposed wind farms are constructed, they would triple Britain’s capacity to generate electricity from turbines at sea.

They would also advance still nascent plans to transform the Scottish North Sea region from oil and gas production into a major area for renewable electric power.

“This is not just going to be a matter of producing green power,” said Soeren Lassen, head of offshore wind at Wood Mackenzie, a market research firm. “This is fuel to build up a green economy,” he added.”

Opinion | For the Climate, Biden Must Be More Aggressive in Ending New Truck and Bus Emissions – The New York Times

Margo Oge and 

“Ms. Oge is the chair of the International Council on Clean Transportation and was the director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality from 1994 to 2012. Mr. Kodjak is the executive director of the I.C.C.T.

At a gathering on the White House lawn last August, President Biden spoke of a future in which electric cars and trucks will be the only vehicles on the road. “The question,” he said, “is whether we’ll lead or fall behind” in the global race to achieve that vision.

Mr. Biden has been vigorous in pushing for the end of the internal combustion engine for cars and light trucks. In August he signed an executive order that called on the federal government to do all it can to ensure that half of those vehicles sold in the United States are electric by 2030.

But when it comes to electrifying heavy trucks and buses, among the most polluting vehicles on the road, the country is in danger of falling behind the efforts of other nations. After the global climate summit in Glasgow last fall, 15 nations, including Canada and Britain, agreed to work together so that by 2040, all trucks and buses sold in those countries will be emission-free.

Missing from that group was the United States (and China and Germany, for that matter). Developing standards in the United States to make those vehicles electric is essential if the nation is to meet its global climate commitments. Heavy-duty trucks are responsible for nearly a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s transportation sector, itself the biggest contributor of those emissions in the economy. Clearly this segment of the transportation sector cannot be ignored.”

YSE Study Finds Electric Vehicles Provide Lower Carbon Emissions Through Additional Channels | Yale School of the Environment

“With new major spending packages investing billions of dollars in electric vehicles in the U.S., some analysts have raised concerns over how green the electric vehicle industry actually is, focusing particularly on indirect emissions caused within the supply chains of the vehicle components and the fuels used to power electricity that charges the vehicles.

But a recent study from the Yale School of the Environment published in Nature Communications found that the total indirect emissions from electric vehicles pale in comparison to the indirect emissions from fossil fuel-powered vehicles. This is in addition to the direct emissions from combusting fossil fuels — either at the tailpipe for conventional vehicles or at the power plant smokestack for electricity generation — showing electric vehicles have a clear advantage emissions-wise over conventional vehicles.

“The surprising element was how much lower the emissions of electric vehicles were,” says postdoctoral associate Stephanie Weber. “The supply chain for combustion vehicles is just so dirty that electric vehicles can’t surpass them, even when you factor in indirect emissions.” ”

Source: YSE Study Finds Electric Vehicles Provide Lower Carbon Emissions Through Additional Channels | Yale School of the Environment

A Widening Web of Undersea Cables Connects Britain to Green Energy – The New York Times

“BLYTH, England — Britain’s economic and political ties to Europe may be fraying, but a growing web of undersea electrical cables binds the nation’s vital power system and its clean energy aspirations to the continent.

The longest and most powerful of these cables was recently laid across the North Sea, from a hydroelectric plant in Norway’s rugged mountains to Blyth, an industrial port in northeast England. Completed last year, it stretches 450 miles, roughly the distance from New York to Toronto. The twin cables, each about five inches in diameter, can carry enough power for nearly 1.5 million homes.

The idea is to use the cable to balance the two nations’ power systems and take advantage of differences between them. In the broadest terms, Britain wants to tap into Norway’s often abundant hydropower, while the Norwegians will be able to benefit from surges of electricity from British wind farms that might otherwise be wasted.”

Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops (a video) by  Woods Hole Research Center



The Earth is warming the Earth. In this series of five short films, learn why natural warming loops have scientists alarmed—and why we have less time than we think. SUBTITLED IN 23 LANGUAGES. 

Greta Thunberg“I highly recommend you to watch these five very educational short films on feedback loops.”—GRETA THUNBERG 

  • Forests Video Still


  • Permafrost Video Still


  • Atmosphere Video Still


  • Albedo Video Still




Source: Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops

Is Carbon Capture Here? – The New York Times

This article is part of a special report on Climate Solutions, which looks at efforts around the world to make a difference.

“Stephan Hitz paused from his work operating an odd-looking machine in an otherworldly landscape in Iceland and reached for a “Star Wars” analogy to explain his job at the frontier of climate technology.

“I feel like I have come from the Dark Side to become a Jedi warrior,” he joked as he braced against a chill wind blowing across the treeless stretches of cooled lava and distant volcanoes.

The 37-year-old service technician from Zurich spent nine years working in the aviation and marine industries before joining Climeworks, a Swiss start-up that is trying to undo the damage caused by such heavily polluting industries.

“It does give you extra satisfaction to know that you’re helping the planet instead of damaging it,” he said.

Mr. Hitz and his small team of technicians are running Orca, the world’s biggest commercial direct air capture (DAC) device, which in September began pulling carbon dioxide out of the air at a site 20 miles from the capital, Reykjavik.

Credit…Sigga Ella for The New York Times

As the wind stirred up clouds of steam billowing from the nearby Hellisheidi geothermal power plant, a gentle hum came from Orca, which resembles four massive air-conditioners, each the size of one shipping container sitting on top of another.

Each container holds 12 large round fans powered by renewable electricity from the geothermal plant, which suck air into steel catchment boxes where carbon dioxide or CO2, the main greenhouse gas behind global warming, chemically bonds with a sandlike filtering substance.

When heat is applied to that filtering substance it releases the CO2, which is then mixed with water by an Icelandic company called Carbfix to create a drinkable fizzy water.

Several other firms are striving to pull carbon from the air in the United States and elsewhere, but only here in the volcanic plateaus of Iceland is the CO2 being turned into that sparkling cocktail and injected several hundred meters down into basalt bedrock.

Carbfix has discovered that its CO2 mix will chemically react with basalt and turn to rock in just two or three years instead of the centuries that the mineralization process was believed to take, so it takes the CO2 that Climeworks’ DAC captures and pumps it into the ground through wells protected from the harsh environment by steel igloos that could easily serve as props in a space movie.

It is a permanent solution, unlike the planting of forests which can release their carbon by rotting, being cut down or burning in a warming planet. Even the CO2 that other firms are planning to inject into empty oil and gas fields could eventually leak out, some experts fear, but once carbon turns to rock it is not going anywhere.

Credit…Sigga Ella for The New York Times

Orca is billed as the world’s first commercial DAC unit because the 4,000 metric tons of CO2 it can extract each year have been paid for by 8,000 people who have subscribed online to remove some carbon, and by firms including Stripe, Swiss Re, Audi and Microsoft.

The rock band Coldplay recently joined those companies in paying Climeworks for voluntary carbon credits to offset some of their own emissions. The firm hopes to one day turn a profit by getting its costs below the selling price of those credits.

The problem is that Orca’s output equals just three seconds of humanity’s annual CO2 emissions, which are closer to 40 billion metric tons, but Orca has at least shown that the concept of scrubbing the air clean and putting carbon back underground has moved from science fiction to science.

Tarek Soliman, a London-based climate change analyst at HSBC Global Research, says the launch in Reykjavik is not the sort of “quantum leap” that would prove the technology can reach the scale and cost required to have a real impact on climate change.

“But it is a step in that direction,” Mr. Soliman said. “Given that direct air capture has been seen by many people as a nonsense, this is something you can see and touch that puts it on a pathway to credibility.”

Christoph Gebald, Climeworks’ co-founder, is adamant that the technology can grow into a trillion-dollar industry in the next three or four decades, a goal that he says would be helped if the upcoming COP26 meeting in Glasgow saw most nations commit to net zero emissions by 2050.  . . . “

Battling for Bolivia’s Lithium That’s Vital to Electric Cars – The New York Times

“SALAR DE UYUNI, Bolivia — The mission was quixotic for a small Texas energy start-up: Beat out Chinese and Russian industrial giants in unlocking mineral riches that could one day power tens of millions of electric vehicles.

A team traveled from Austin to Bolivia in late August to meet with local and national leaders at a government lithium complex and convince them that the company, EnergyX, had a technology that would fulfill Bolivia’s potential to be a global green-energy power. On arriving, they found that the conference they had planned to attend was canceled and that security guards blocked the location.

Still, the real attraction was in plain sight: a giant chalky sea of brine high in the Andes called the Salar de Uyuni, which is rich in lithium, among several minerals with growing value worldwide because they are needed in batteries used in electric cars and on the power grid.

Surrounded by rusty equipment, empty production ponds and pumps uncoupled from pipes, it seemed a forlorn spot. But to Teague Egan, EnergyX’s chief executive, it had nothing but promise.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
A light handed approach may be best, given how sensitive the Bolivians are about foreign encroachment. They will be looking for trustworthy, generous, and state of the art. It appears this Texan entrepreneur has a shot.

Meet an Ecologist Who Works for God (and Against Lawns) – The New York Times

“WADING RIVER, N.Y. — If Bill Jacobs were a petty man, or a less religious one, he might look through the thicket of flowers, bushes and brambles that encircle his home and see enemies all around. For to the North, and to the South, and to the West and East and all points in between, stretch acres and acres of lawns.

Lawns that are mowed and edges trimmed with military precision. Lawns where leaves are banished with roaring machines and that are oftentimes doused with pesticides. Lawns that are fastidiously manicured by landscapers like Justin Camp, Mr. Jacobs’s neighbor next door, who maintains his own pristine blanket of green.

“It takes a special kind of person to do something like that,” Mr. Camp said, nodding to wooded wilds of his neighbor’s yard. “I mow lawns for a living, so it’s not my thing.”

Mr. Jacobs and his wife, Lynn Jacobs, don’t have a lawn to speak of, not counting the patch of grass out back over which Mr. Jacobs runs his old manual mower every now and then.”

” . . . About 20 years ago, he began compiling quotes from the Bible, saints and popes that expound on the sanctity of Earth and its creatures, and posting them online. He considered naming the project after St. Francis of Assisi, the go-to saint for animals and the environment. But, not wanting to impose another European saint on American land, he instead named it after Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th Century Algonquin-Mohawk woman who converted to Catholicism as a teenager and, in 2012, became the first Native American to be canonized.”

Europe Looks to Nuclear Power to Meet Climate Goals – The New York Times

“PARIS — European countries desperate for a long-term and reliable source of energy to help reach ambitious climate goals are turning to an answer that caused earlier generations to shudder: nuclear power.

Poland wants a fleet of smaller nuclear power stations to help end its reliance on coal. Britain is betting on Rolls-Royce to produce cheap modular reactors to complement wind and solar energy. And in France, President Emmanuel Macron plans to build on the nation’s huge nuclear program.

As world leaders pledge to avert a climate catastrophe, the nuclear industry sees an opportunity for a revival. Sidelined for years after the disasters at Fukushima and Chernobyl, advocates are wrangling to win recognition of nuclear energy, alongside solar and wind, as an acceptable source of clean power.

More than half a dozen European countries recently announced plans to build a new generation of nuclear reactors. Some are smaller and cheaper than older designs, occupying the space of two football fields and costing a fraction of the price of standard nuclear plants. The Biden administration is also backing such technology as a tool of “mass decarbonization” for the United States.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Thank you Liz Alderman and Stanley Reed for this fascinating report. I also enjoyed the top 20 or 30 comments, which were impressively pro-nuclear, and well informed. I hope you write a lot more on this important subject. One article could pick up on some of the comments, and chase down some sources.
What I am most keen to read about, is what are the technical changes in the new nuclear designs. Is the Bill Gates team nuclear plant superior or inferior to the one now being promoted by Rolls Royce? et cetera. Gates describes his new plant broadly in a Netflix documentary, Inside Bill’s Brain, part three. I recently read that there might be as many as 20 new designs of this next generation of relatively safe nuclear plants.
I would like to know what their similarities and differences are, and where to go to get more details, if I am able to follow along on the technical discussion. And again, Thanks for this great work. David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net
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