Negative Energy Pricing Becoming More Common as Clean Energy Outdoes Fossil Fuels

Imagine living in a world where one of the most significant threats in the decades ahead is for the most part not being properly addressed, and is in many ways being exacerbated. The threat is climate change, and for one thing, it’s being exacerbated by having massive fossil fuel subsidies instead of massive clean energy subsidies. This is of course despite clean energy already regularly outcompeting fossil fuels.

Bright and breezy days are becoming a deeper nightmare for utilities struggling to earn a return on traditional power plants.

With wind and solar farms sprouting up in more areas — and their power getting priority to feed into the grid in many places — the amount of electricity being generated is outstripping demand during certain hours of the day.

The result: power prices are slipping to zero or even below more often in more jurisdictions.

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Periods with negative prices occur when there is more supply than demand, typically during a mid-day sun burst or early morning wind gust when demand is already low. A negative price is essentially a market signal telling utilities to shut down certain power plants. It doesn’t result in anyone getting a refund on bills — or in electric meters running backward.

Instead, it often prompts owners of traditional coal and gas plants to shut down production for a period even though many of the facilities aren’t designed to switch on and off quickly. It’s left the utilities complaining that they can’t earn the returns they expected for their investment in generation capacity.

The Potential Carbon Bubble of the Future — Possibly Immense Damage to the Global Economy If It Bursts

Another reason to switch to renewable energy as quickly as possible. Bubbles can drive economies forward and actually produce some positive results (which was seen with the investment boom from the stock bubble in the 1990s in the U.S.) due to the increase in the wealth effect generating more demand, but if that demand isn’t compensated for with the burst of large bubbles, recessions happen. There is today a tremendous amount of wealth directly because of fossil fuels, and if that wealth sharply drops in value and isn’t replaced, there might be a shock to the world economy.

Several major economies rely heavily on fossil-fuel production and exports. The price of fossil-fuel companies’ shares is calculated under the assumption that all fossil-fuel reserves will be consumed. But to do so would be inconsistent with the tight carbon budget set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which limits the increase in global average temperature to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’. So far, this prospect has not deterred continuing investment in fossil fuels because many believe that climate policies will not be adopted, or at least not in the near future.

However, and crucially, researchers now show that ongoing technological change, by itself and even without new climate policies, is already reducing global demand growth for fossil fuels, which could peak in the near future. New climate policies would only aggravate the impact. Continuing investment in fossil fuels is therefore creating a dangerous ‘carbon bubble’ that could burst, with massive economic and geopolitical consequences.

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The scientists conclude that further economic damage from a potential bubble burst could be avoided by decarbonising early. “Divestment is a prudential thing to do. We should be carefully looking at where we are investing our money.”

Study: Cutting Carbon Emissions Sooner Would Likely Save Millions of Lives

There’s absolutely no positively justifiable reason that fossil fuels should still be used anywhere near their levels today, and this is another reason why.

As many as 153 million premature deaths linked to air pollution could be avoided worldwide this century if governments speed up their timetable for reducing fossil fuel emissions, a new Duke University-led study finds.

The study is the first to project the number of lives that could be saved, city by city, in 154 of the world’s largest urban areas if nations agree to reduce carbon emissions and limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C in the near future rather than postponing the biggest emissions cuts until later, as some governments have proposed.

Premature deaths would drop in cities on every inhabited continent, the study shows, with the greatest gains in saved lives occurring in Asia and Africa.

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The new projections underscore the grave shortcomings of taking the lowest-cost approach to emissions reductions, which permits emissions of carbon dioxide and associated air pollutants to remain higher in the short-term in hopes they can be offset by negative emissions in the far distant future, said Drew Shindell, Nicholas Professor of Earth Sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

“The lowest-cost approach only looks at how much it will cost to transform the energy sector. It ignores the human cost of more than 150 million lost lives, or the fact that slashing emissions in the near term will reduce long-term climate risk and avoid the need to rely on future carbon dioxide removal,” he said. “That’s a very risky strategy, like buying something on credit and assuming you’ll someday have a big enough income to pay it all back.”

Air pollution has also been found recently to have links to cognitive impairment in children.

Potentially Suing the Oil Industry for “First Degree Murder”

The case for this is that the oil industry was a major contributor to climate change, and primarily human-caused climate change is already causing major problems. One of those problems already being caused is the severity of extreme weather increasing — the NOAA reports a record $306 billion in damages over 2017 from natural disasters. This is an amount equal to about $2900 per family in the U.S., and the costs (including human lives) will be far worse in the future unless climate change is seriously addressed.

There is also a large corporate propaganda effort that promotes irrational climate change denial. This is striking when it’s considered that even Exxon Mobil admits on its website that climate change is real and is from the same greenhouse gas emissions that has been Exxon’s business. Even the Pentagon admits that climate change is real, referring to it openly as a national security threat, which it is, and it may be the most significant long-term national security threat.

And on the article, Schwarzenegger may have been a terrible governor of California in many ways, but credit should be given where it’s justifiably due. The potential environmental catastrophe needs much more awareness than it currently has.

Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t one to shy away from a challenge, and this time he’s given himself a particularly intimidating task.

During a live recording of Politico’s Off Message podcast, the former California governor and global environmental activist said he is gearing up to sue the oil industry for “knowingly killing people all over the world.”

Like many other environmental advocates, Schwarzenegger sees a direct parallel between what happened with the tobacco industry and what is now happening with the oil industry.

“This is no different from the smoking issue. The tobacco industry knew for years and years and years and decades, that smoking would kill people, would harm people and create cancer, and were hiding that fact from the people and denied it,”  Schwarzenegger said.

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Schwarzenegger added that “if you walk into a room and you know you’re going to kill someone, it’s first degree murder. I think it’s the same thing with oil companies.”

Proving in the court of law that these oil companies willfully and malignantly killed innocent people will be quite difficult, and Schwarzenegger understands that he’s up against a very rich and powerful adversary.

Unprecedented Oil Spill in the East China Sea

Another dangerous risk of the continued usage of fossil fuels.

Over the last two weeks, the maritime world has watched with horror as a tragedy has unfolded in the East China Sea. A massive Iranian tanker, the Sanchi, collided with a Chinese freighter carrying grain. Damaged and adrift, the tanker caught on fire, burned for more than a week, and sank. All 32 crew members are presumed dead.

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities and environmental groups have been trying to understand the environmental threat posed by the million barrels of hydrocarbons that the tanker was carrying. Because the Sanchi was not carrying crude oil, but rather condensate, a liquid by-product of natural gas and some kinds of oil production. According to Alex Hunt, a technical manager at the London-based International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, which assists with oil spills across the world, there has never been a condensate spill like this.

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While studies of condensate’s environmental effects are limited, one lab study found that its toxicity to corals, for example, was greater than expected based on its molecular components.

In the best-case scenario, the fuel will come to the surface in a slick that is massive but thousandths-of-millimeters thin. From there, it would evaporate into the atmosphere. However, as Richard Steiner, an Alaska-based environmental consultant, told BuzzFeed News, “there’s a lot we don’t know about a major condensate spill since we’ve never seen one.” He described a scenario where there was an “invisible, subsurface toxic plume that is spreading outward from the site.”

Renewables Set to Strongly Outcompete Fossil Fuels in the Years Ahead

By several important metrics, renewables are already much less costly than fossil fuels. Fossil fuels contribute to an estimated $4.6 trillion in annual pollution costs and another report states that $5 trillion — 6.5 percent of world GDP — is spent on annual fossil fuel subsidies. Also, if the world keeps burning high levels of fossil fuels for decades, there probably won’t be much of a civilization remaining, and that’s the biggest, priciest cost of all.

A new report showing that renewable prices may soon out-compete fossil fuels offers just the latest evidence to bolster demands that oil, gas, and coal to be left “in the ground.”

The cost analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) for delivering electricity was presented Saturday at the opening of the organization’s Eighth Assembly in Abu Dhabi.

Prices are already falling for renewable power generation, the publication notes, and says that wind and solar power will be on par with—or even cheaper than—the cost of fossil fuel-generated electricity by 2020.

Among the “remarkable” price reductions has been for utility-scale solar PV which have dropped 73 percent since 2010, the report says.

New York City is Suing Oil Companies and Divesting $5 Billion from Fossil Fuels

It’s major news for the financial capital of the world to be suing a large part of one of the richest, most toxic industries in history. Climate change is truly among the defining issues of these times. With all that being said, the New York Times had this story on page 23 of their paper today, disappointingly enough. The valuable parts of the alternative media have thankfully been covering this story though.

New York City is seeking to lead the assault on both climate change and the Trump administration with a plan to divest $5bn from fossil fuels and sue the world’s most powerful oil companies over their contribution to dangerous global warming.

City officials have set a goal of divesting New York’s $189bn pension funds from fossil fuel companies within five years in what they say would be “among the most significant divestment efforts in the world to date”. Currently, New York City’s five pension funds have about $5bn in fossil fuel investments. New York state has already announced it is exploring how to divest from fossil fuels.

“New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major US city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels,” said Bill de Blasio, New York’s mayor.

“At the same time, we’re bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits. As climate change continues to worsen, it’s up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient.”

De Blasio said that the city is taking the five fossil fuel firms – BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell – to federal court due to their contribution to climate change.

Court documents state that New York has suffered from flooding and erosion due to climate change and because of looming future threats it is seeking to “shift the costs of protecting the city from climate change impacts back on to the companies that have done nearly all they could to create this existential threat”.

The court filing claims that just 100 fossil fuel producers are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution, with the five targeted companies the largest contributors.

The case will also point to evidence that firms such as Exxon knew of the impact of climate change for decades, only to downplay and even deny this in public. New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is investigating Exxon over this alleged deception.

New York was badly rattled by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and faces costs escalating into the tens of billions of dollars in order to protect low-lying areas such as lower Manhattan and the area around JFK airport from being inundated by further severe storms fueled by rising sea levels and atmospheric warming. De Blasio’s office said climate change is “perhaps the toughest challenge New York City will face in the coming decades”.

The legal action and the divestment draw perhaps the starkest dividing line yet between New York and the Trump administration on climate change. Under Trump, the federal government has attempted the withdraw the US from the Paris climate accords, tear up Barack Obama’s signature climate policies and open up vast areas of America’s land and waters to coal, oil and gas interests.

De Blasio and the city comptroller, Scott Stringer, have come under pressure for several years from activists to rid New York’s pension funds of any link to fossil fuels, with some environmentalists claiming the city has been too slow to use its clout to tackle climate change.