On Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued a sweeping executive order that effectively guts national efforts to address climate change. If he isn’t stopped, the endpoint of this approach is the ruination of our livable climate and the needless suffering of billions of people for decades to come.
The order starts the process of undoing President Obama’s Clean Power Plan standards for power plants. It also spurs fossil fuel consumption and blocks federal efforts to even prepare for the multiple, simultaneous catastrophes that unrestricted carbon pollution the world faces?—?severe drought, ocean acidification, ever-worsening heat waves, rising seas that threaten to destroy coastal cites.
This is not politics as usual. …
Decades of progress on cleaning up our dirty air took a significant hit on Tuesday, along with hopes for a livable future climate, when President Trump issued his Energy Independence Executive Order. Most seriously, the order attacks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan, which requires a 32 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from existing power plants by 2030 (compared to 2005 emission rates.)
Tuesday’s blow was just the latest in a series of attacks that threaten our health and the planet’s health. On March 15, Trump also ordered…
…At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The US National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.
I had no idea then that this disappearing act had just begun.
Since January, the surge has transformed into a slow, incessant march of deleting datasets, webpages and policies about the Arctic. I now come to expect a weekly email request to replace invalid citations, hoping that someone had the foresight to download …
Sometimes, when I look at the things the Republicans and their leader, Donald Trump, are doing, I think of that poignant line in so many actual and fictional moments: “You have killed me.”
Someone says that because the killing is done, but they are not yet dead. The knife is driven deep, the car is heading for the cliff, the contract killer is closing in. Then the person dies, but not before they get to say, “You killed me.”
Today, I look at Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers, Rex Tillerson, the petroleum industry, the Heartland institute. They didn’t kill me, but they have killed my daughter, and they have killed my son.
And I wonder, why the hell did they do that?
Wondering leads to thoughts, and thoughts lead to blog commentary, so this:
ExxonMobil, to take one example, made a very significant mistake and essentially killed themselves as a corporation. They did this by choosing to not shift their corporate activities to follow, if not actually lead, in the energy transition that is absolutely required if our global civilization is expected to survive into the future, decades hence. ExxonMobil and the other petroleum corporations can not exist 100 years from now, though they could have made decisions over recent decades to ensure that they do.
I’m reminded of my deceased mentor’s comments (before he ceased) on patrilines. Irv Devore, when discussing patriliniality and kinship systems, would note that patrilines and corporations, unlike people, are expected to exist for all eternity, or at least, up until the day they stop existing. Once you grasp that idea, it is possible to understand why either does what they do. An elder man in a patrilineal kinship-based society will go to great lengths to preserve the patriline. The very strong often heinous preference for male over female children is part of this. Since only sons carry on the patriline, too many daughters are a threat. Infanticide of daughters is therefore significantly more common than infanticide of sons. And so on.
(Hell. My writing is interrupted by an Amber Alert. An ex-boyfriend stabbed the mother of his son, took off with the son. A male associate assisted. Long life the patriarchy. Fuck the patriarchy.
This should mean that decisions by corporations are made with very long term consequences in mind. When ExxonMobil and the other Big Oil corporations realized, in the 1980s, that continued use of fossil fuel would eventually a) be curtailed by regulation and/or b) cause the end of civilization and thus corporations, they should have started on plans to change what they do. A big energy company could have developed non-fossil fuel burnable materials, they could have muscled their way into the electricity industry, figuring that electric motors, already the preferred means of running a lot of machines that could have been run with IC engines, were part of the future. They could have done a lot of things to usher in a new age of reduced fossil fuel use and expanded use of other energy sources.
But no. They didn’t. Instead, they’ve killed us.
They, the big energy companies, the corporate sycophant-parasites known as Republicans, and their allies and puppets like the Heartland Institute and others chose to kill us all rather than do the right thing.
So why would someone like Rex Tillerson, when he was CEO of a major oil company, make decisions like this?
A lot of you will say: they do it for the short term profits, for the quarterly earnings report, because the corporation is beholden to the stockholder, etc. etc.
I do not disagree with any of that, all of that is true. But, there is another element that I think needs to be considered.
Even though all those reasons are true, there is something else that should be going on, and that in fact HAPPENS ALL THE TIME in other corporations. Not all corporations fail to consider the long term. Leaders of many corporations make decisions that positively affect the long term. They recognize that short term reduction in earnings can have long term positive effects on earnings. They choose sensible investment in the future, in all the future quarterly earnings.
But in some industries, I suggest, this is much less likely because of the interplay between risk and compensation.
If you run a company that makes shirts, nothing is going to happen in your corporation that causes the entire world to suddenly focus on you as the person in charge of a deadly disaster. Well, OK, in the past that did happen for shirt companies now and then, but not any longer. But if you run a company with offshore rigs, chemical factories, refineries, giant ships full of oil, a fleet of passenger carriers, and so on, then there is a risk of a sudden and singular disaster that will attract everyone’s attention, cost hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, and that may become truly notorious. Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, Deep Water Horizon. Unforgettable disasters.
(I think we actually do forget about some of the disasters, if they are in a category with frequent events over decadal times scales. So, even if you don’t remember Tenerife, you know that plane crashes are bad.)
If you are a Rex Tillerson in charge of an ExxonMobil, or the CEO of any of these high risk corporations, there is a distinct possibility that you will wake up one morning to the news that a chemical leak in one of your factories just killed thousands of townspeople, with thousands more to have permanent debilitating injuries. You might be informed, just before picking up your bonus check, that one of your ships ran ashore and dumped 41 thousand cubic meters of crude oil on a formerly pristine natural coastline. You might get the news just before going to bet that one of your off shore rigs has exploded and is burning, eleven dead, three months of oil blowing into the sea, the worst environmental disaster ever, and on your watch. Or perhaps you’ll learn that one of your aircraft just colided with another at an obscure airport in the Canary Islands, and nearly 600 died in the fiery crash.
Most of us would be able to live for years off of a single year’s salary of any of the top CEOs in the oil industry. And, by years, I mean hundreds of years. But from the CEO’s point of view, the relevant balance is between getting a huge salary and bonus this year, allowing one to never have to work a day again, to cover high end living expenses for the whole family and their offspring, vs. the long term health of a corporation that might fire you at any day if something really terrible goes wrong.
Why would a corporate executive choose to stop earning an income forever? Well, if your company kills a few thousand people or destroys a major habitat under your watch, you might not be working for a while.*
The bottom line: In an industry that can spit out major career ending disasters, the foresight of corporate leaders becomes myopic, and long term prospects become invisible, much more easily than in most corporations. This strongly biases the already myopic focus on short term earnings reports. The result: corporate, or any, sustainability goes out the window.
It is ironic that the biggest petroleum related disaster ever was the sinking of a rig named Deepwater Horizon. There is nothing deep about the time horizon considered by Big Oil. Yes, that is because of the quarterly report fetish, but the mitigation of short term thinking is obviated by the grotesquely imbalanced comparison of likely disaster vs. outlandish salary and bonuses.
FYI: The top paid oil company execs get between 15 and 150 a year in salary, and between 4 and 10 extra in bonuses.
*Note: People in charge of major corporations when there is a major disaster don’t necessarily lose their jobs or become unhirable. But it does affect them. Lawrence Rawl was in charge of Exxon when the Exxon Valdez crashed into Alaska, and he was criticized for badly handling the response. He kept his job for four more years and retired, and I don’t know if he got very many more bonuses. But, he is officially “known for the Exxon Valdez spill.” That is his legacy. Warren Anderson was in charge of Union Carbide when Bhopal happened. He was charged with manslaughter. He remains a fugitive. Other higher ups in the Indian part of that company were tried and convicted of various charges. Tony Hayward, CEO of BE at the time of Deepwater Horizon, was not fired but then was replaced, and that disaster and his handling of it has left him a very controversial figure. He is dogged by protestors and companies and institutions that have anything to do with him find themselves shunned. So, no, this is not a simple formula: I will be fired if there is a disaster. But there are consequences, and I suspect, a perception of fear of consequences is very real.
Details are unclear, but the idea is to have states and local communities regulate their environmental pollution.
The EPA centralizes research programs, policy guidance, and regulatory procedures. To ask each community to do this amounts to a huge tax increase, because the same effort would have to be repeated many times across the country.
The reason we have a national EPA is because pollution does not respect boundaries. People who live in states run by anti-environmental lawmakers will not pay for pollution mitigation, and the pollution they create will flow down stream or blow down wind to states where people act responsibly about the environment. This is unacceptable.
Ask your house member how they stand on the bill. Ask them to explain their position and report how they intend to vote.
Encourage your house member to vote against the bill.
Encourage your house member to act responsibly with respect to the environment.
Congressional Republicans, voting party line, will end an important provision protecting streams and rivers from coal waste, and a requirement that oil companies report payments to Foreign Governments. The former is blatant hippie punching anti environmental evil. The latter is a fully expected out come if you elect a Russian puppet president, and appoint a Secretary of state whose main job will be to exploit Russian oil fields. So, if that happened, and this happened, then everything is falling nicely into place for the oligarchs, both American and otherwise.
The House has already voted as of this writing, the Senate will be voting shortly, so there is still time to call your Senators
The Sierra Club has set up that will patch you through to your Senators: 888-454-0483.
This is from Feb 1 press release from the Center for Biological Diversity:
House of Representatives Votes to Block Rules Protecting Rivers From Coal Waste
Also Votes to End Requirement That Oil Companies Report Payments to Foreign Governments
WASHINGTON— In a party line vote, the U.S. House of Representatives today voted to rescind Obama administration rules to protect streams from coal waste and requiring mining and oil companies to report payments made to foreign governments. The vote was done through the Congressional Review Act, a rarely used statute allowing Congress to overturn federal rules enacted with the past 60 legislative days. It has not been successfully used since 2001.
“House Republicans just sold out America’s clean drinking water and efforts to combat international fraud in order appease Exxon and coal companies,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Polluting streams with coal waste is disgusting, dangerous and life-threatening to rural people. There will be hell to pay if Senate Republicans go along with repealing these common-sense rules that save lives and prevent corruption.”
The Stream Protection Rule was instituted by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to provide greater protections to streams from toxic coal mining waste. It would reduce pollution in 6,100 miles of streams while reducing coal mining output by less than 1 percent.
The requirement that U.S. mining, oil and natural gas companies report payments made to foreign nations was established by the Securities and Exchange Commission under the authority of the Dodd-Frank Act in order to reduce international fraud. Set to go into effect in 2018, the rule was aggressively, but until now, unsuccessfully attacked by Exxon under the leadership of Rex Tillerson.
And here is another press release from a coalition of organizations who have been fighting over this issue for some time:
CONGRESS IS ATTACKING CLEAN WATER SAFEGUARDS IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE COAL INDUSTRY
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives will use an obscure tool, the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to dismantle the Stream Protection Rule (SPR), which protects clean water for communities living near mining sites. The Senate is expected to vote on the House bill tomorrow.
SPR gives communities in coal country much needed information about toxic water pollution caused by nearby mining operations. It was finalized by the Obama administration in late 2016. The modest and long overdue rule also provides these communities basic protections from the devastating impacts of mountaintop-removal coal mining on water and public health.
This safeguard helps to ensure that coal companies don’t profit off of the destruction of drinking water supplies. Unfortunately, leaders in Congress have targeted the SPR in a blatant attempt to put industry profits before public health. Repealing this commonsense protection through the CRA is a heavy handed tactic that will put many communities at risk now — and could constrain future administrations from acting to protect public health and drinking water in these communities.
A broad coalition of public health, environmental, and conservation groups opposing the CRA, released the following statements:
“Nobody voted against clean air and water in the last election. Regulatory safeguards that keep our air and water safe from toxic pollution are crafted using a democratic process and based on the best available science”, said Trip Van Noppen, President of Earthjustice. “Any attempts to dismantle them using the Congressional Review Act should be opposed. These attacks have the power to fundamentally undermine the very goals of our environmental laws by trying to cripple future attempts to enforce protections for our air, water, and lands.”??
“This is an unconscionable attack on basic clean water safeguards for communities already devastated by toxic pollution from coal mining,” said Bob Wendelgass, President and CEO of Clean Water Action. “Everyone has the right to know what is in their water and every community deserves access to clean water. Congress should reject any action that puts industry profits before protections for drinking water and public health.”
“This attempt to scrap the Stream Protection Rule is a clear case of putting polluters’ profits ahead of the basic well-being of vulnerable communities, and we must do everything we can to stop it,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “No matter who you are or where you live, you have a right to clean water — but this shameless attack puts families and communities at risk.”
“The Stream Protection Rule protects both clean drinking water for people and habitat for endangered species and other wildlife,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “We can’t have a bountiful natural heritage without securing clean water. Legislators who attack this rule through the Congressional Review Act are voting in the interest of big polluters, not local communities or future generations.”
“The potential devastation if the Stream Protection Rule is struck down is unimaginable,” said Aimee Erickson, Executive Director of Citizens Coal Council. “In the 25 states with active coal mining, nearly 100% of the drinking water comes from surface and groundwater that feeds into both public and private water supplies. These water supplies serve 11.4 million people in some of the poorest areas of the nation, where poverty levels in some areas reach nearly 43 percent.”
“Republican leadership has wasted no time in rewarding Big Polluters by attempting to roll back the historic environmental progress made under President Obama. Undoing this critical Stream Protection Rule that helps prevent coal mining companies from dumping toxic waste into drinking water would be outrageous on its own, but this extreme attack goes even further by blocking the Department of Interior from ever issuing rules that allow communities living near mining operations to know what’s being put in their water or to hold these polluters accountable for the increased rates of cancer, birth defects, and other health problems that have been linked to their waste”, said Gene Karpinski,
President of the League of Conservation Voters. “With communities across the country increasingly alarmed by contaminants like lead, flame-retardant chemicals, and many other pollutants showing up in their drinking water, shredding safeguards for clean water is the exact opposite of what Congress should do. We call on Congress to do what’s right by standing up to Big Polluters and rejecting this radical attack on clean water.”
“The politicians in Washington, D.C. are out of touch with Alaskans. Across our great state, Alaskans want healthy wild salmon streams,” said Bob Shavelson, Advocacy Director of Cook Inletkeeper. “But the political elites don’t get it—they take money from the coal corporations and ignore the will of the people.”
“Think about it: spiking a rule that tells coal companies they can’t poison our water sources, harm our landscapes or kill fish and wildlife with their waste,” said Scott Slesinger, Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is a polluter-motivated attack on the American people.”
“Appalachia has already lost 2,000 miles of streams to mountaintop removal mining. It’s crucial we protect what is left”, said John Suttles, Director of Litigation and Regional Programs for SELC. “Congress is placing coal-mining profits above the health of the people in Appalachia and the basic right to clean water.”
“National parks and people stand to lose if Congress succeeds in dismantling the Stream Protection Rule,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association. “The rule safeguards waterways from toxic pollution produced by mining operations. Millions of Americans visit national parks in the Southeast each year, for activities such as bass fishing at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area or white water rafting at New River Gorge National River each year. Will they continue to visit and spend millions of dollars in surrounding communities, if polluted waterways greet them upon arrival?”
“Mountaintop removal has devastated Appalachia’s land and water, and it continues to threaten the health and wellbeing of residents throughout the region,” said Tom Cormons, Executive Director of Appalachian Voices. “Appalachian communities are actively working toward a stronger economic future, not dominated by a failing coal industry. We are counting on Congress to do what is right for the people of Central Appalachia by preserving the Stream Protection Rule.”
These projects had previously been stopped because they did not meet environmental standards, or because they violated tribal agreements. It is still quite possible that these reasons still matter, and that President Trump cant’ simply wish the projects back into existence. Or maybe he can. It remains to be determined.
Here is the statement:
Washington, D.C. – Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva and key members of the Committee released the following statement today on the announcement that President Donald Trump will advance the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines through executive order. Grijalva – who published a Feb. 27, 2014, New York Times op-ed opposing the Keystone pipeline and who met with leaders at the Standing Rock Sioux camp opposed to Dakota Access early last year – has been a leading advocate for due process and environmental justice in pipeline construction. He held a Capitol Hill forum with Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) on Sept. 22, 2016, to highlight the damage often done to Native American sovereignty, health and environmental quality when pipelines are rubber-stamped.
“Even for a president who mistakes his own whims for the rule of law and corporate profits for the public interest, these orders are irresponsible,” said Grijalva. “These pipelines are being approved because President Trump wants to make polluter corporations happy, not because they’re good for the country. If either of these pipelines is finalized, the damage to water quality, public health, and eventually our climate will be on his hands. Approving the Dakota Access project in particular violates Native American sovereignty, treaty rights and federal trust responsibility which the Obama administration rightly recognized when it decided the pipeline needed further review.”
“Advancing the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines ignores years of environmental studies and opposition from local residents and landowners,” said Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.). “Instead of investing in polluting fossil fuels, we should be supporting clean, renewable energy projects that will create jobs and help our nation reduce carbon emissions.”
“Today’s actions are short-sighted with so many questions still remaining as to the risks these pipelines pose to water quality, public health, and the environment,” said Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.). “As the new Ranking Member of the Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Subcommittee, I am especially concerned with the threat the Dakota Access Pipeline poses to Native American sovereignty given the lack of input from tribal leaders whose lands stand to be severely impacted. President Trump should have allowed the thorough review process initiated by the Obama administration to be completed before rushing through this decision.”
“Just days after being sworn in, Mr. Trump has already shown he is ignoring scientists and the community in an effort to serve the big oil industry,” said Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.). This is a complete disregard for the environment and for Native American rights to water, their land, but above all, to be treated with dignity and respect.”
One order directs all federal agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to expedite approval of the easement to complete construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline project. Moving forward Ranking Member Grijalva will continue to maintain strong oversight of the Dakota Access Pipeline to ensure that any further action taken by the Trump administration protects water quality, tribal sovereignty and does not turn American energy infrastructure projects into super highways that carry oil from Canada to China.
The science is clear: Human caused global warming is happening and is serious. Building and expanding infrastructure to make it easier to burn fossil fuels is a very bad idea. The Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline were two such projects, and in recent years, the environmental community, politicians, and others managed to stop these projects.
Today, President Trump signed an executive order that brings these projects back to life and moves them forward.
From Rhea Suh, president of the National Resources Defense Council:
“It’s appalling that Trump wants to throw open our borders to big polluters. Eliminating the national interest determination process, used by both Republican and Democratic administrations for decades, cedes control of our borders to multinational corporations to jam through cross-border infrastructure projects. And it completely shuts out public engagement in decisions that affect our communities, air, water and climate.
“These unprecedented actions could also pave the way for approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline—a project vehemently opposed by the U.S. tribes whose land its crosses and waters it could pollute. Equally troubling, they also revive the Keystone XL pipeline— a tar sands project that would lock our country into, for a generation or more, massive development of among the dirtiest fuels of our past. They pose a grave threat to our water, communities and climate. We will use every tool available to help ensure that they are not built.”
Climate hawks fought one White House over the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and we won. We’re going to fight the next one. And we’re going to keep on fighting until we clear the American skies of the fossil-fueled stormfront of Trumpism – and we will, ultimately, prevail.
In the wake of Trump’s election, thousands of our members pledged resistance, including peaceful civil disobedience if necessary. We’re now calling on all Americans — including political candidates and elected officials — to pledge to resist these climate-destroying pipelines.
Today, President Trump will be signing executive orders reportedly to fast-track approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines. In response, David Turnbull, Campaigns Director at Oil Change International released the following statement:
“Both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines will never be completed, no matter what President Trump and his oil-soaked cabinet try to do. Trump’s first days in office saw massive opposition, marking the beginning of four years of resistance to his dangerous policies. We stopped Keystone XL and Dakota Access before and we’ll do it again. These are fights Trump and his bullies won’t win.”
It appears that this isn’t just hippie punching by Trump, but rather, a shrewd business deal for someone. According to DeSmogBlog:
As DeSmog has reported, Donald Trump’s top presidential campaign energy aide Harold Hamm stands to profit if both pipelines go through.
Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources who sat in the VIP box at Trump’s inauguration and was a major Trump campaign donor, would see his company’s oil obtained from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Bakken Shale flow through both lines.
Trump has suggested that these projects would produce tens of thousands of jobs. This is only true in Alt-Universe. In Real-Universe, they will only produce a few dozen jobs long term. In fact, making the movement of a commodity more efficient, which pipeline builder argue pipelines do, reduces the number of jobs to move that commodity, by definition.
The term “Evangelical” is a bit of a moving goal post. But, there is a strong association between Evangelical and getting climate science totally wrong in a way that is actually materially damaging to our planet and to future generations. So, it is not hard to be angry at Evangelicals because they are ruining it for everyone.
But, within the “Evangelical” movement, there are people who are trying to change that. I wish them luck. One person is Katharine Hayhoe, and here she is talking about that:
Climate change is a confusing and polarizing issue. It may also prove to be the most daunting challenge of this century because children, the elderly, and the poor will be the first to feel its effects. The issue is all over the news, but what is seldom heard is a conservative, evangelical perspective.
Connecting the dots between science and faith, this book explores the climate debate and how Christians can take the lead in caring for God’s creation. The authors answer top questions such as “What’s really happening?” and “Who can we trust?” and discuss stewarding the earth in light of evangelical values. “Acting on climate change is not about political agendas,” they say. “It’s about our kids. It’s about being a disciple of Jesus Christ.” Capping off this empowering book are practical, simple ideas for improving our environment and helping our families and those around us.
So, if you are an Evangelical, take heed. If you are not, find one and pass these items on to them.
UPDATE: The Department of Energy has reportedly refused Donald Trump’s request for names of DOE employees and contractors who have been engaged in climate change research. That does not mean that Tump will never get those names. Once he is President, he can get the names. But for now, he’ll have to sit it out.
The Donald Trump transition team circulated an eight page questionnaire to the US Department of Energy. Such questionnaires are not normal. This particular questionnaire is deeply disturbing.
There are seventy-four questions. They provide insight into likely Trump administration energy policy, and there is not much of a surprise there. Most disturbing are the questions that elicit the sort of information one would gather at the outset of a purge or harassment campaign against a class of individuals, in this case, climate scientists and related personnel.
Here I provide text of a handful of the questions, brief descriptions of others, and a link to a copy of the original document, which was originally “obtained” by Bloomberg.
At the bottom of the post, I also provide a link to a letter from a leading member of Trump’s DOE transition team, possibly leaked (but maybe intentionally distributed, I’m not sure).
11. Which Assistant Secretary positions are rooted in statute and which exist at the discretion and delegation of the Secretary?
In other words, which senior people at DOE can we get rid of and which are we stuck with. Question 33 more or less asks the same question again, but slightly differently.
12. What is the statutory charge to the Department with respect to efficiency standards? Which products are subject to statutory requirements and which are discretionary to the department?
In other words, can we roll back efficiency standards, because … because Exxon-Mobile wants to sell more oil? … because we want to increase the rate of climate change because we know the 1% will do better than anyone else? … because we want to punch some hippies?
13. Can you provide a list of all Department of Energy employees or contractors who have attended an Interagency Working Group of the Social Cost of Carbon meetings? Can you provide a list of when those meetings were and any materials distributed at those meetings, emails associated with those meetings, or materials created by Department employees or contractors i anticipation of or as a result of those meetings?
In other words, we would like to compile a list of administrators and scientists who are working in the climate change area, assess their position on climate change, and and then begin a campaign of bullying, harassing, and general ruining the lives of, those individuals and their colleagues and families?
14. Did DOE or any of its contractors run the integrated assessment models (IAMs)? Did DOE pick the discount rates to be used with the IAMs? What was DOE’s opinion on the proper discount rates used with the IAMs? What was DOE’s opinion on the proper equilibrium climate sensitivity?
What’s that all about? The IAMs are related to the more familiar to you (I’m guessing) RCPs (Representative Concentration Pathways). Simply put, these are complicated models that try to take into account everything from energy policy and use to how changes in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere change climate. There are two main known unknowns here. First, is how much CO2 and other greenhouse gasses we put into the environment (but that is an oversimplification) and the other is climate sensitivity, which is how much will global surface temperatures rise with a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere (again, an oversimplification).
Climate sensitivity is a dog whistle. If you are a science denier, you say “climate sensitivity is 1.2” but if you understand and accept the basic science, you say “Nobody knows for sure, but somewhere between 2.0 and 6.0, most likely very close to about 3.0 or 3.5.”
15. What is the Department’s role with respect to JCPOA? Which office has the lead for the Department?
This is not related to climate change, but I thought I’d throw it in there anyway. The JCPOA is the Iran Deal.
16. What statutory authority has been given to the Department with respect to cybersecurity?
Again, not related to climate change, but given the recent revelations that Russia has been effectively manipulating US elections, and it is hard to imagine how The Donald got elected President of the United States, and given Trump’s Russian associations, it makes sense that the Trump transition team would want to keep track of this sort of thing.
Probably, he could just ask the Russians instead of the DOE, but, well, whatever.
17. Can you provide a list of all Schedule C appointees, all non-career SES employees, and all Presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation? Can you include their current position and how long they have served in the Department?
These seem like reasonable things to know, if you are taking over the government and are responsible for staffing. But keep in mind that a) no one has ever done a questionnaire like this before; b) there is a transition process that is normally used that presumably addresses these issues; and c) we are talking about links between a part of the government that handles energy and climate and the outside world. If you were trying to build a list of Climate Enemies, this is where you would start. We have to assume, for the purposes of safety and security from what looks like it is going to be a tyrannical government, that this is what Trump is doing.
18. Can you offer more information about the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge?
19. Can you provide a list of Department employees or contractors who attended any of the Conference of the Parties (under the UNFCCC) in the last five years?
This, of course, is asking for a list of DOE employees and beyond who are involved in climate change research. The UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change.
30. Which programs with DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan?
The incoming Trump administration has indicated that it will reverse whatever it can among Obama’s accomplishments. We must assume that here, the incoming Trump administration is asking for a ready-made short list of things to eliminate in their apparent effort to move our civilization ever closer to apocalyptic doom.
There are several questions about the DOE’s Energy Information Agency, which is where you go to find out about how much energy we use, of what kind, where it comes from and goes, etc. In other words, the EIA provides an important set of baselines from which one might analyze, track, plan, and generally work on an energy transition. These questions seem to indicate an interest in moving away from renewables, or more precisely, towards changing assessment of energy policy to make renewables look less viable and fossil fuels look more necessary for a longer period of time. This seems to also indicate, unsurprisingly, a pro-fracking stance.
There are several vague questions about the DOE’s Environmental Management and the Handford nuclear waste site.
There are several questions that indicate an intention to expand Nuclear power, re-open Yucca Mountain, and privatize research. There is a question that indicates that the incoming Trump administration intends to cut the DOE budget by 10%
Finally, the last several questions ask about the DOE’s labs, focusing on the personnel. Who are they, what are they up to, what projects are they working on? That sort of thing.
A lot of higher education institutions are old, and back in the day, things were different. Not only were most schools simultaneously on top of and on the bottom of great snow covered hills, but they were often surrounded by nearly medieval settlement, or at least, pre-industrial ones, that lacked things like central heat, electricity, and so on, even after these things became common and normal.
I remember the legacy of this reality at my Alma Mater, a small university in Cambridge, Mass. Most of the campus had its own heating system, which was built at a time when centrally distributed electricity and such were certainly in place but just as certainly not universal. There, a power plant, which I am going to guess formerly burned coal but later natural gas and oil, made electricity for the general grid, but in so doing also produced steam. The steam was then shipped (mostly) across the river and quite a ways down the road to the campus, where it was distributed to many buildings to provide heat. At several points were grates that gave access to the steam heating system, creating open air warmer micro environment, on which homeless folks would sleep. It was a big deal when the University administration decided to put spiky metal barriers over the vents to keep the homeless people from having a chance to survive a cold winter. There was an outcry. The vents were uncovered in a matter of days.
But I digress.
Today’s news, which comes to us from the Department of Energy, is that educational institutions are using way less coal than they used to. And that makes sense only in the context of the above described sort of thing; educational institutions, as large and demanding places where people both lived in work, with many buildings and a lot of contiguous spaces, were among those places that historically developed their own electricity generation systems, as well as heating systems. Some of those electricity generating systems also fed out to the local grid, so the odd situation developed where among a region’s power plants would be one or more owned and operated by a university or college, or an agent thereof. And, a certain number of these burned coal.
Coal consumption by educational institutions such as colleges and universities in the United States fell from 2 million short tons in 2008 to 700,000 short tons in 2015. Consumption declined in each of the 57 institutions that used coal in 2008, with 20 of these institutions no longer using coal at all. Many of these institutions participate in the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, a program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Coal consumption has decreased as institutions switch from coal to natural gas or other fuels.
This coal consumption is less than a tenth of one percent of the total US coal consumption, so this may be little more than symbolic to some. But it isn’t. This is fossil fuel not being burned, and it means a lot.
The graph at the top of the post shows the trend.
This is not all good news. It is nice to reduce coal use, but a lot, most, of this coal has been replace with natural gas. However, in some cases, geothermal was used, and some renewable sources of energy have been deployed.