News Archive:

California can do better than carbon neutrality by 2045

Opin­ion piece in the Los Ange­les Times, May 17, 2022

To jump to the news­pa­per, click here.


      Cal­i­for­nia can do bet­ter than car­bon neu­tral­ity by 2045


Ten years ago, many Cal­i­for­ni­ans could not have imag­ined the cli­mate night­mare we are liv­ing today — dark orange skies dur­ing wild­fire sea­son, heat waves in the dead of win­ter, manda­tory water restric­tions amid crip­pling drought.

With­out urgent action, we may well look back on this moment as the calm before the storm. Over the course of the next decade, California’s biggest cli­mate chal­lenges — hot­ter sum­mers, a shorter rainy sea­son and more destruc­tive wild­fires — could dou­ble in intensity.

It’s against this back­drop that the Cal­i­for­nia Air Resources Board (CARB) last week released a draft of our state’s scop­ing plan, a blue­print for com­bat­ing cli­mate change that will guide California’s pol­icy for years. Despite the stakes for Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and although my research indi­cates the state could actu­ally become car­bon neg­a­tive by 2030, the draft pro­posal would delay reach­ing car­bon neu­tral until 2045. The bar­ri­ers to a tar­get of 2030 are polit­i­cal, not technical.

The draft plan calls for invest­ment in new fos­sil fuel elec­tric­ity resources, and it relies on unproven and costly car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies that would lock in fos­sil fuel pol­lu­tion. Adopt­ing this approach would be lazy, non­sen­si­cal and racially unjust. Dur­ing the cur­rent 45-​​day period for pub­lic review of the plan, Cal­i­for­nia has the chance to choose a smarter path.

An aerial view of wetlands next to a power station

The Hunt­ing­ton Beach Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion includes a nat­ural gas gen­er­a­tor that began oper­a­tion in 2020.

                                                                     (Allen J. Sch­aben /​ Los Ange­les Times)

Renew­able energy, even when cou­pled with energy stor­age, is cheaper than fos­sil fuels. California’s own state laws say that renew­able energy must be pri­or­i­tized before build­ing out expen­sive and pol­lut­ing gas power plants. Instead, Cal­i­for­nia must set ambi­tious tar­gets that imme­di­ately cut pol­lu­tion through no-​​regrets strategies.

If we fall short of the cli­mate action that sci­ence demands, Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and espe­cially lower-​​income Cal­i­for­ni­ans and com­mu­ni­ties of color, will pay the price. What’s more, we could see this failed model repli­cated across other states and nations. It’s not hyper­bole to say bil­lions of peo­ple could be worse off if Cal­i­for­nia fails to lead.

By the same token, if our state sets an ambi­tious but achiev­able goal — like car­bon neu­tral­ity by 2030 or 2035 — the ben­e­fits rip­ple widely. Other states and nations are look­ing to Cal­i­for­nia. If we set an ambi­tious tar­get and focus future pol­icy toward meet­ing it, oth­ers are more likely to adapt as well. Even when cli­mate goals are not reached, they keep poli­cies and invest­ments mov­ing in the right direction.

Last sum­mer, when he directed CARB to exam­ine accel­er­at­ing California’s cli­mate tar­gets to 2035 or sooner, Gov. Gavin New­som said “sci­ence demands we do more.” Hav­ing just announced a his­toric $32-​​billion invest­ment in cli­mate pro­grams over the next five years, he must now step in and ensure that reg­u­la­tors live up to his call to increase cli­mate ambi­tion across the board.

To get this plan­ning process back on track, reg­u­la­tors must start by cor­rect­ing the flawed method­ol­ogy that is the under­pin­ning of their cur­rent pro­posal. CARB’s eco­nomic and jobs mod­el­ing fails to incor­po­rate both the true cost of delay­ing emis­sions reduc­tions and the full health and soci­etal ben­e­fits from more ambi­tious emis­sions reduc­tions. Put sim­ply, Cal­i­for­nia can cre­ate more jobs and more pros­per­ity with renew­ables than we can with fos­sil fuels.

In devel­op­ing the scop­ing plan, CARB staff used a mea­sure called the social cost of car­bon, which puts a dol­lar value on the dam­ages cre­ated by addi­tional green­house gas emis­sions. The prob­lem is, these esti­mates vastly under­es­ti­mated the costs of delay­ing cli­mate action.

If we don’t begin to rapidly reduce fos­sil fuel pol­lu­tion, the impacts on California’s health­care sys­tem, our econ­omy, our food sup­ply and our com­mu­ni­ties will be orders of mag­ni­tude greater than what CARB has accounted for. Reg­u­la­tors can cor­rect this by align­ing with experts’ lat­est analy­sis, which cal­cu­lates the true social cost of car­bon at $50 per ton of pol­lu­tion emit­ted.

As a next step, reg­u­la­tors need to acknowl­edge it is far too late in the game to gam­ble our state’s future on unproven car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies that may never mate­ri­al­ize. CARB’s draft scop­ing plan projects that Cal­i­for­nia will use 100 mil­lion met­ric tons (MMT) of direct air cap­ture in 2045. Glob­ally, only 0.01 MMT of annual direct air cap­ture is hap­pen­ing today. It is unre­al­is­tic to assume we can scale up this tech­nol­ogy so much overnight, and fool­ish to direct invest­ment to unproven exper­i­ments when afford­able nat­ural car­bon removal solu­tions like com­post­ing and tree-​​planting are read­ily avail­able now.

We have afford­able renew­able energy tech­nolo­gies avail­able today that not only cut car­bon emis­sions but also tackle our state’s air pol­lu­tion cri­sis. California’s scop­ing plan should mobi­lize a vast expan­sion of renew­able energy tech­nolo­gies. Instead, the cur­rent pro­posal calls for 10 gigawatts of new nat­ural gas gen­er­at­ing capac­ity — the equiv­a­lent of 33 large new gas plants.

There is still time for CARB and New­som to deliver a bold cli­mate blue­print that cen­ters equity and pub­lic health and focuses on a no-​​regrets approach of renew­able energy invest­ment. It’s California’s legacy and lives around the world that are at stake. We can­not afford to fall short.

Daniel Kam­men is a pro­fes­sor of sus­tain­abil­ity at UC Berke­ley. He is a for­mer coor­di­nat­ing author of the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC),  Kam­men in cur­rently serv­ing in the Biden-​​Harris Admin­is­tra­tion as Senior Advi­sor for Energy & Inno­va­tion at the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment (USAID) 


One way to combat Russia? Move faster on clean energy

Sammy Roth — Feb­ru­ary 26, 2022 - Los Ange­les Times


The sun sets behind an off­shore wind farm in the Irish Sea off the coast of England.
(Paul Ellis /​ AFP/​Getty Images)

Direct link:–02-26/one-way-to-combat-russia-move-faster-on-clean-energy


When a geopo­lit­i­cal cri­sis sent gaso­line prices sky­rock­et­ing four decades ago, Pres­i­dent Carter called on Amer­i­cans to achieve “energy inde­pen­dence” from Mid­dle East­ern oil exporters. He installed solar pan­els on the White House, donned a cardi­gan sweater to stay warm and took steps to boost domes­tic oil production.

Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine has again upended global energy sup­plies, threat­en­ing to raise gas prices that are already higher than ever in Cal­i­for­nia. The U.S. oil indus­try wants Pres­i­dent Biden to ease restric­tions on drilling, and Europe has already started import­ing more fos­sil fuel from the United States to reduce its depen­dence on Russ­ian supplies.

But dou­bling down on oil and nat­ural gas isn’t the answer, some secu­rity experts say — and nei­ther is energy independence.

The war in Europe adds to the urgency of tran­si­tion­ing to clean energy sources such as solar and wind power that are harder for bad actors such as Rus­sia to dis­rupt, those experts say. The con­flict also high­lights the impor­tance of the U.S., the Euro­pean Union and other allies work­ing together to con­front the cli­mate cri­sis while tak­ing global secu­rity into account.

There’s been a lot of con­cern about depen­dence on Russ­ian [nat­ural] gas, and whether that inhibits coun­tries’ abil­ity to stand up to Rus­sia,” said Erin Siko­rsky, direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based Cen­ter for Cli­mate and Secu­rity. “The more that coun­tries can wean them­selves off oil and gas and move toward renew­ables, the more inde­pen­dence they have in terms of action.”

It’s also impor­tant to remem­ber that cli­mate change poses a major national secu­rity threat, with the Defense Depart­ment and other fed­eral offi­cials warn­ing last year that wors­en­ing climate-​​fueled haz­ards are likely to drive a surge in global migra­tion, stok­ing polit­i­cal insta­bil­ity. That helps explain why the U.S. Army released its first-​​ever cli­mate strat­egy this month, set­ting a goal of slash­ing its planet-​​warming emis­sions in half and pow­er­ing all bases with climate-​​friendly elec­tric­ity by 2030.

Siko­rsky pointed out that Defense Sec­re­tary Lloyd J. Austin III has called China the “pac­ing threat” for the U.S., mean­ing it poses greater sys­temic chal­lenges than any other nation. The cli­mate emer­gency, Siko­rsky said, is America’s “shap­ing threat.”

It is shap­ing every­thing in the back­ground now that the United States is deal­ing with,” she said.

Even before Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin launched his attack on Ukraine this week, Euro­pean nations were mak­ing plans to cut their reliance on energy exports from Rus­sia. The coun­try sup­plies more than one-​​quarter of Europe’s oil and nearly 40% of its nat­ural gas, a dif­fer­ent planet-​​warming fuel used for heat­ing and elec­tric­ity generation.

But Russ­ian aggres­sion has sped up the E.U.’s plans. Euro­pean offi­cials are expected to release a strat­egy next week for reduc­ing the continent’s use of fos­sil fuels by 40% over eight years, and ramp­ing up non-​​polluting energy sources.

It’s a plan designed to slow the cli­mate cri­sis, which is wreak­ing havoc around the world by exac­er­bat­ing wild­fires, floods, droughts and heat waves. But cut­ting back on fos­sil fuels would also help to limit Russia’s geopo­lit­i­cal influence.image

Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Decem­ber. (Alexei Nikol­sky /​ Asso­ci­ated Press)

UC Berke­ley energy pro­fes­sor Daniel Kam­men — who pre­vi­ously served as sci­ence envoy for then-​​Secretary of State John F. Kerry — lamented that Europe “has clearly needed higher moti­va­tions than cli­mate change to cut the Gor­dian gas knot with Rus­sia.” But if Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine pushes the E.U. to act, he said, it could be a sil­ver lin­ing to an oth­er­wise tragic situation.

For all we talk about how inex­pen­sive renew­ables are, and how quickly energy stor­age is com­ing down in price, that hasn’t been enough when it appears that ‘just’ the cli­mate is at stake,” Kam­men said. “Now Euro­pean sov­er­eignty is at stake.”

Still, there’s no guar­an­tee Europe will fol­low through on its lat­est cli­mate com­mit­ments. Even if the geopo­lit­i­cal cri­sis under­scores the ben­e­fits of shift­ing to renew­able energy, it could also dis­tract global lead­ers from the longer-​​term cli­mate crisis.

And in the mean­time, one of Europe’s strate­gies for deal­ing with con­strained Russ­ian gas sup­plies and ris­ing prices dur­ing the last few months has been import­ing more liq­ue­fied nat­ural gas from the United States. It’s an option made pos­si­ble by frack­ing, which opened up “shale plays” in regions such as west Texas and made Amer­ica the world’s largest oil and nat­ural gas producer.

Putin hates U.S. shale because of the influ­ence it gives the U.S. and the world, and the flex­i­bil­ity it gives us,” said Daniel Yer­gin, a Pulitzer Prize-​​winning oil his­to­rian and vice chair of research and con­sult­ing firm IHS Markit.

The Amer­i­can Petro­leum Insti­tute — a fos­sil fuel indus­try trade group known as API — has urged Biden to respond to the Ukraine cri­sis by allow­ing more oil and gas drilling on fed­eral lands and approv­ing new facil­i­ties to export liq­ue­fied nat­ural gas.

Twenty-​​seven Repub­li­can sen­a­tors made a sim­i­lar demand in a let­ter to Energy Sec­re­tary Jen­nifer Granholm last week, call­ing U.S gas exports “a depend­able source of energy and a reli­able alter­na­tive to strate­gic com­peti­tors like Russia.”

But those steps would carry long-​​term cli­mate con­se­quences,spew­ing more heat-​​trapping pol­lu­tion into that atmos­phere. They’re also unlikely to result in new energy sup­plies com­ing online quickly enough to make a mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence in Europe.

API’s answer for all of the world’s prob­lems is to remove con­straints on domes­tic oil and gas pro­duc­tion,” said David Vic­tor, an inter­na­tional rela­tions pro­fes­sor at UC San Diego. “It’s just a very well-​​rehearsed argument.”

Rendering of the proposed liquefied natural gas expansion at the Energia Costa Azul facility near Ensenada, Mexico. The plant is operated by IEnova, a Mexico-based energy company and a subsidiary of San Diego's Sempra Energy.

And if Europe fol­lows through on com­mit­ments to ratchet down fos­sil fuel com­bus­tion — per­haps by invest­ing in green hydro­gen or long-​​duration bat­ter­ies — the U.S. could also reap the ben­e­fits, Vic­tor said. That’s because Cal­i­for­nia and other states, like Europe, have a grow­ing need for clean power sources that can keep the lights on when the sun isn’t shin­ing and the wind isn’t blow­ing. Euro­pean invest­ments to scale up those early-​​stage tech­nolo­gies could help drive down costs for everyone.

The tech­nolo­gies that are going to be used — whether it’s elec­trolyz­ers for hydro­gen or fuel cells that use hydro­gen for heavy trucks — these are all global,” Vic­tor said. “Those economies [of scale] are just mas­sive. That’s how solar got cheap.”

Westlands Solar Park in California's San Joaquin Valley.

West­lands Solar Park in California’s San Joaquin Valley.(Carolyn Cole /​ Los Ange­les Times)

Calls for energy inde­pen­dence, Vic­tor added, “often end up back­fir­ing, because we ben­e­fit from a global tech­nol­ogy marketplace.”

At the same time, bulk­ing up domes­tic sup­ply chains could help the U.S. shield itself against price swings and geopo­lit­i­cal con­flict — par­tic­u­larly when it comes to lithium and other min­er­als needed for clean energy tech­nolo­gies such as batteries.

Just this week, Biden joined with Gov. Gavin New­som to announce a $35-​​million con­tract with a Las Vegas com­pany that oper­ates the nation’s only rare-​​earth mine in the Cal­i­for­nia desert. Biden and New­som also dis­cussed fed­eral sup­port for lithium pro­duc­tion at the Salton Sea, in South­ern California’s Impe­r­ial Val­ley, which has been described as the “Saudi Ara­bia of lithium.”

Boost­ing domes­tic pro­duc­tion of crit­i­cal min­er­als could help com­bat Russ­ian influ­ence, since Rus­sia is a lead­ing pro­ducer of met­als includ­ing cop­per and nickel — a reminder that even the clean-​​energy econ­omy isn’t immune from bad actors.

At the same time, the idea of energy inde­pen­dence is “some­what dan­ger­ous, because it offers you a false sense of secu­rity,” said Sarah Ladis­law, a man­ag­ing direc­tor at the think tank RMI. The real­ity, she said, is that the U.S. will need to find ways to work with Rus­sia and other nations to slash cli­mate pol­lu­tion, even as it strives to diver­sify its own clean energy supplies.

You have to be sen­si­tive to your energy vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and have con­tin­gency plans in place,” said Ladis­law, who pre­vi­ously led the energy secu­rity and cli­mate change pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tional Studies.




Berkeley Science Review profile

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Dr. Daniel Kam­men has had a long and illus­tri­ous career defined by his com­mit­ment to expand­ing clean energy world­wide. He orig­i­nally became inter­ested in clean energy as a post­doc work­ing on wind and solar projects in Nicaragua and El Sal­vador in the mid-​​1980s. His research led to a fac­ulty posi­tion at Prince­ton until 1999, when he joined UC Berke­ley. Here, he founded and leads the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (RAEL), whose work includes iden­ti­fy­ing novel mate­ri­als for solar pan­els and bat­ter­ies, build­ing com­pu­ta­tional mod­els of regional energy sys­tems to iden­tify oppor­tu­ni­ties for renew­able energy, and imple­ment­ing energy policy.

Although RAEL’s research has resulted in hun­dreds of aca­d­e­mic papers, Kam­men cares deeply about hav­ing a real-​​world impact. He is par­tic­u­larly proud of RAEL’s projects in Africa, as they not only address cli­mate change but also increase peo­ples’ access to energy. One project installs mini solar grids in war-​​torn areas like South Sudan and the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of Congo. These instal­la­tions pro­vide renew­able energy to power crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture, like health clin­ics and women’s cen­ters. What started out as an aca­d­e­mic exer­cise in his lab is now a way for com­pa­nies to buy Peace Renew­able Energy Cred­its, an inter­na­tion­ally traded vir­tual com­mod­ity that pro­vides a rev­enue stream for devel­op­ers of renew­able energy projects and offers com­pa­nies a way to finance impact­ful projects in these coun­tries. Out­side of Africa, RAEL’s other projects include elec­tri­fy­ing 30 thou­sand taxis in China, defeat­ing a large coal project in Malaysian Bor­neo, and using Google data from 60 mil­lion rooftops to show the mas­sive amount of social inequal­ity in solar panel usage.

When Kam­men isn’t help­ing com­mu­ni­ties around the world tran­si­tion to clean energy, he’s star­ing out into space. He says, “I have some pretty cool tele­scopes. I do a lot of deep space pho­tog­ra­phy, look­ing at exo­plan­ets and plan­ets around other stars.” Clearly Kam­men cares about plan­ets, whether it’s dis­cov­er­ing new ones or sav­ing ours.


For the orig­i­nal: click here.



ERG & RAEL PhD Student Annelise Gill-​​Wiehl cooks at the Boston Marathon!

On Indige­nous People’s Day, Annelise Gill-​​Wiehl fin­ished the 125th Boston Marathon in 3 hours and 15 min­utes. Now that is cooking!

The BostonMarathon is typ­i­cally held in April, but was can­celed in 2020, and post­poned to the fall of 2021 due to the COVID19 Pandemic.


Annelise qual­i­fied in 2019 at the Santa Rosa Marathon, just before start­ing her Ph.D. at the Energy & Resources Group. 

Mul­ti­task­ing, anyone?

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Build Back Better on Climate with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Alex Padilla


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Octo­ber 14, 2021: Build Back Bet­ter on Cli­mate Press Event

RAEL direc­tor Dan Kam­men had the plea­sure to appear with

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen­a­tor Alex Padilla (D-​​CA), Eddie Ahn, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Bright­line Defense, and Rev. Sally Bing­ham, Pres­i­dent Emer­i­tus, Regen­er­a­tion Project.

Com­ments by Daniel Kammen

Advi­sor for Inno­v­a­tive Energy Solu­tions, US Agency for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment (USAID)


James and Kather­ine Lau Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Sustainability

Energy and Resources Group & Gold­man School of Pub­lic Pol­icy, & Dept of Nuclear Eng., UC Berkeley

For­mer Sci­ence Envoy, US Depart­ment of State

Coor­di­nat­ing Lead Author, Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC)

Twit­ter: @dan_kammen | URL: http://​rael​.berke​ley​.edu


I could not be more hon­ored than to share the stage with these remark­able Cal­i­for­ni­ans who are craft­ing pro-​​climate, pro-​​justice poli­cies for a healthy state and fed­eral econ­omy.  Thank you, Speaker Pelosi and Sen­a­tor Padilla for your efforts and com­mit­ment to a just, inclu­sive, and sus­tain­able energy transition.

Cal­i­for­nia is com­mit­ted to a car­bon neu­tral econ­omy by 2045, and is in dis­cus­sions to move that date for­ward.  This com­mit­ment has already gen­er­ated eco­nomic and jus­tice returns for res­i­dents of the state, and for our neigh­bors and trad­ing partners.

As part of SB32 and SB100, Cal­i­for­nia com­mit­ted 35% or more (a floor, not ceil­ing) of its Cap & Trade rev­enue funds to meet­ing the needs of com­mu­ni­ties of color, of under-​​served and of fence-​​line com­mu­ni­ties.  The jobs and equity ben­e­fits of this pol­icy are already clear: Cal­i­for­nia now has sev­eral times more jobs in the clean energy sec­tor than in the fossil-​​fuel and cur­rent util­ity sec­tors.  Pres­i­dent Biden’s Justice40 and the Build Back Bet­ter Act builds on the Cal­i­for­nia goal with an expanded fed­eral effort that invests in smart infra­struc­ture to cre­ate jobs, that will also clean the air and water in the most needy com­mu­ni­ties nationwide.

The move to low-​​carbon elec­tric vehi­cle mobil­ity and freight trans­porta­tion addresses the largest remain­ing share of Cal­i­for­nia pol­lu­tion, with over 1 mil­lion EV now in use across the state[1].  Jus­tice is vital to meet­ing cli­mate and com­mu­nity goals. Com­mit­ments by ride-​​sharing com­pa­nies to 100% EV vehi­cles fleets by 2030 and mak­ing low-​​cost lease deals avail­able to dri­vers is an excel­lent exam­ple of a com­mit­ment that can be brought for­ward in time and expanded nation­wide[2].

A clean energy econ­omy is huge lift, but it is not enough.  We must re-​​invest in healthy forests, fire-​​safe com­mu­ni­ties, and a healthy ocean[3].  Build Back Bet­ter begins that rein­vest­ment while launch­ing new sus­tain­able eco­nomic sec­tors such as off-​​shore wind, green hydro­gen, advanced energy stor­age, afford­able green homes, and smart build­ings[4].

The world is mov­ing to clean energy – over the last 2 years, 90% of new power plants installed world­wide over use renew­able energy. The Build Back Bet­ter Act will cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties for US exports, and accel­er­ate all of these crit­i­cally impor­tant clean invest­ments in impres­sive pro-​​job and pro-​​justice ways. As the US gets ready for the inter­na­tional cli­mate con­fer­ence (COP26) next month in Glas­gow, Scot­land, the Build Back Bet­ter Act is what we need eco­nom­i­cally, socially, envi­ron­men­tally, and morally. It is time to act.

[1]   Scott Wiener and Daniel Kam­men (2021) “Why hous­ing pol­icy is cli­mate pol­icy,” The New York Times, March 25, 2019. http://​www​.nytimes​.com/​2​0​1​9​/​0​3​/​2​5​/​o​p​i​n​i​o​n​/​c​a​l​i​f​o​r​n​i​a​-​h​o​m​e​-​p​r​i​c​e​s​-​c​l​i​m​a​t​e​.​h​tml

[2]   Daniel Kam­men (2020) “How elec­tric vehi­cles can help advance social jus­tice,” The San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle, June 21. https://​www​.sfchron​i​cle​.com/​o​p​i​n​i​o​n​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​H​o​w​-​e​l​e​c​t​r​i​c​-​v​e​h​i​c​l​e​s​-​c​a​n​-​h​e​l​p​-​a​d​v​a​n​c​e​-​s​o​c​i​a​l​-​1​5​3​5​1​2​9​3​.​php

[3]   Such as The Blue Cli­mate Ini­tia­tive, https://​www​.blue​cli​mateini​tia​tive​.org & USAID’s Clean Cities, Blue Ocean Pro­gram,–2021-united-states-launches-clean-cities-blue-ocean-program-tackle-plastic-pollution

[4]   Daniel Kam­men and Manuel Pas­tor (2021) “Car­bon neu­tral isn’t good enough.  Cal­i­for­nia needs to be car­bon neg­a­tive by 2030,” The San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle, July 31. https://​www​.sfchron​i​cle​.com/​o​p​i​n​i​o​n​/​o​p​e​n​f​o​r​u​m​/​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​/​C​a​r​b​o​n​-​n​e​u​t​r​a​l​-​i​s​n​-​t​-​g​o​o​d​-​e​n​o​u​g​h​-​C​a​l​i​f​o​r​n​i​a​-​1​6​3​5​1​1​4​9​.​php

Batteries are “the glue of the clean-​​energy economy”

Episode 537 (Octo­ber 12, 2021)

On the “Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly” Mar­ket­place pod­cast (the hosts of Mar­ket­place), we sat down and talk about the cur­rent and future state of energy storage:

Hosted by Kai Ryss­dal and Molly Wood

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Bat­ter­ies are “the glue of the clean-​​energy economy”

To down­load or lis­ten: click here.

Episode link:


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The Guardian: Why California’s enormous oil spill won’t be its last

For the orig­i­nal in The Guardianclick here.

The state’s age­ing oil infra­struc­ture means more dis­as­ters are likely as com­pa­nies move away from fos­sil fuels

in Los Angeles

A gash in an under­wa­ter pipeline sent tens of thou­sands of gal­lons of oil rush­ing into the waters near Los Ange­les last week­end, black­en­ing beachesand endan­ger­ing wildlife.

While the US Coast Guard believes a ship’s anchor may have dam­aged the pipeline months ago, California’s age­ing oil infra­struc­ture will also bear increas­ing scrutiny. Experts say that the dev­as­tat­ing spill is unlikely to be the last, espe­cially in a rapidly chang­ing indus­try where equip­ment is primed to suf­fer from under­in­vest­ment and lack of attention.

We are in store for more spills,” says Daniel Kam­men, a researcher at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley. “And it’s not because spills just happen.”

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Part of the issue is California’s tran­si­tion away from fos­sil fuels and toward green energy. The state has some of the most ambi­tious cli­mate goals in the coun­try, aim­ing for net-​​zero emis­sions by 2045. As a result, infra­struc­ture to sup­port fos­sil fuel extrac­tion is being phased out in favor of greener tech­nolo­gies. But in the mean­time many oil rigs remain in oper­a­tion, and com­pa­nies may be dis­in­clined to invest in a sec­tor that’s slowly going out of business.

Oper­a­tions and main­te­nance are expen­sive, espe­cially if you don’t see a grow­ing future in this area,” says Kam­men, who was part of a

The spill is major but nowhere near the really big ones, says Richard Ambrose, a pro­fes­sor and researcher at UCLA who mon­i­tored the cleanup after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. He adds that this cur­rent spill has a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties to the 2015 Refu­gio spill in near Santa Bar­bara: “It ranks in the mid-​​tier.”

A lot of the dam­age depends on how quickly a response can be mobi­lized and on ocean con­di­tions, Ambrose says. “The biggest ques­tion here is how much oil comes to shore and for how long,” he says, and that depends on ocean cur­rents and winds.

This spill has already reached the Tal­bert Marsh, a 25-​​acre sen­si­tive and valu­able habi­tat along the coast. “Wet­lands are the most sen­si­tive to oil and they also sup­port a lot of sen­si­tive species,” Ambrose explains. “That’s the habi­tat we’d like to pro­tect and we haven’t been suc­cess­ful for all of them.”

Lisa Levin, an oceanog­ra­pher at UC San Diego’s Scripps Insti­tu­tion of Oceanog­ra­phy, says oil spills have a direct impact on shore birds and marine mam­mals – but they also affect food webs and smaller organ­isms that ulti­mately will reach com­mer­cial species. “All of this puts more stress on the ecosys­tem that is already cop­ing with cli­mate change and con­t­a­m­i­nants,” she says.

Ambrose says the sooner Cal­i­for­nia can move to renew­able energy, the sooner we won’t have to be mov­ing oil around – but that’s not going to hap­pen in the imme­di­ate future. “In all the ways we move oil, they are sub­ject to acci­dents. This pipeline is just one way, and there’s a whole oil trans­porta­tion net­work, with thou­sands of spills every year.”

team that won the 2007 Nobel peace prize for their work on the cli­mate cri­sis. “We see this in other indus­tries – for exam­ple the under­in­vest­ment in recy­cling, or car man­u­fac­tur­ers that are phas­ing out cer­tain classes of vehi­cles. Acci­dents, risks and costs all go up.”

The south­ern Cal­i­for­nia spill occurred in fed­eral waters at the Elly rig, owned by Amplify Energy, about five miles off­shore. The state declared an end to new off­shore oil drilling 50 years ago, and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment stopped issu­ing new leases 35 years ago. Yet there are still four rigs in Cal­i­for­nia waters and 22 in fed­eral waters off the coast of the state. Together, they pro­duce about an aver­age of 12,200 bar­rels of oil per day – only a frac­tion of a per cent of the total used in the US.

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A large glob­ule of oil in the sand from a major oil spill on Hunt­ing­ton state beach. Pho­to­graph: Allen J Schaben/​Los Ange­les Times/​REX/​Shutterstock

A Stan­ford study found that California’s oil is some of the most expen­sive in the world to extract – in terms of eco­nomic costs but also cli­mate costs. The easy oil was sucked out decades ago, and the oil that remains is dif­fi­cult to reach and requires more energy, mean­ing more green­house gas emissions.

Kam­men says that some com­pa­nies may take this moment of change to invest well, harden their lines, and use the pipes to trans­port a greener fuel, such as hydro­gen. But oth­ers are likely to phase down and under­in­vest in the upkeep of the infra­struc­ture. “High-​​level deci­sions made by com­pa­nies have a direct feed down to man­age­ment,” he says. “Acci­dents and spills are likely to hap­pen as the amount of vig­i­lance goes down.”

He adds that Joe Biden’s infra­struc­ture bill includes fund­ing to help the energy sec­tor tran­si­tion to a greener future, both for retrain­ing work­ers and for com­pa­nies to man­age the tran­si­tion, but it requires some flex­i­ble thinking.

For exam­ple, using exist­ing pipelines to move hydro­gen – a lighter, smaller mol­e­cule – instead of oil would require lin­ing the pipes with new mate­ri­als like Teflon. “Ironic that this pipeline could be a hydro­gen line even­tu­ally,” Kam­men says. “And if it had a rip in it under the ocean, there would be no envi­ron­men­tal down­side at all.” Wind energy will also get a boost from off­shore devel­op­ment in the near future – two weeks ago, California’s gov­er­nor signed a bill to accel­er­ate the state’s off­shore wind strategy.

Tech­nol­ogy can also help keep energy com­pa­nies hon­est as the oil rigs get older. When these pipelines were built, the abil­ity to deploy tech solu­tions to mon­i­tor them was much more lim­ited, Kam­men says. Now, smart sen­sors can report leaks, move­ments, or any rup­tures quickly. “This spill is a per­fect exam­ple of the need for pub­lic super­vi­sion at a stage when things are up for change.”

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Booms placed by crews to con­tain oil that flowed near the Tal­bert Marsh and Santa Ana River mouth, dur­ing cleanup efforts after the recent spill. Pho­to­graph: Patrick T Fallon/​AFP/​Getty Images

The spill is major but nowhere near the really big ones, says Richard Ambrose, a pro­fes­sor and researcher at UCLA who mon­i­tored the cleanup after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. He adds that this cur­rent spill has a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties to the 2015 Refu­gio spill in near Santa Bar­bara: “It ranks in the mid-​​tier.”

A lot of the dam­age depends on how quickly a response can be mobi­lized and on ocean con­di­tions, Ambrose says. “The biggest ques­tion here is how much oil comes to shore and for how long,” he says, and that depends on ocean cur­rents and winds.

This spill has already reached the Tal­bert Marsh, a 25-​​acre sen­si­tive and valu­able habi­tat along the coast. “Wet­lands are the most sen­si­tive to oil and they also sup­port a lot of sen­si­tive species,” Ambrose explains. “That’s the habi­tat we’d like to pro­tect and we haven’t been suc­cess­ful for all of them.”

Lisa Levin, an oceanog­ra­pher at UC San Diego’s Scripps Insti­tu­tion of Oceanog­ra­phy, says oil spills have a direct impact on shore birds and marine mam­mals – but they also affect food webs and smaller organ­isms that ulti­mately will reach com­mer­cial species. “All of this puts more stress on the ecosys­tem that is already cop­ing with cli­mate change and con­t­a­m­i­nants,” she says.

Ambrose says the sooner Cal­i­for­nia can move to renew­able energy, the sooner we won’t have to be mov­ing oil around – but that’s not going to hap­pen in the imme­di­ate future. “In all the ways we move oil, they are sub­ject to acci­dents. This pipeline is just one way, and there’s a whole oil trans­porta­tion net­work, with thou­sands of spills every year.”

Berkeley-​​Berlin (& Nairobi) team publish on sustainability in the Caribbean

Jes­sica Kersey of RAEL, Phillipp Belchinger of the Reiner Lemoine Insti­tute, and RAEL Alum Rebekah Shirley explore the path­way to car­bon sus­tain­abil­ity in the Caribbean with a multi-​​sectoral, multi-​​methods analy­sis, pub­lished in Energy Pol­icy.

For the pub­li­ca­tion, click here.


Accel­er­at­ing the rate of renew­able energy deploy­ment in Small Island Devel­op­ing States is crit­i­cal to reduce depen­dence on expen­sive fos­sil fuel imports and meet emis­sions reduc­tions goals. Though many islands have now intro­duced pol­icy mea­sures to encour­age RE devel­op­ment, the exist­ing lit­er­a­ture focuses on qual­i­ta­tive rec­om­men­da­tions and has not sought to quan­ti­ta­tively eval­u­ate and com­pare the impacts of pol­icy inter­ven­tions in the Caribbean. After com­pil­ing the first sys­tem­atic data­base of RE poli­cies imple­mented in 31 Caribbean islands from 2000 to 2018, we con­duct an econo­met­ric analy­sis of the effec­tive­ness of the fol­low­ing five pol­icy inter­ven­tions in  pro­mot­ing the  deploy­ment of  RE: invest­ment incen­tives, tax  incen­tives, feed-​​in tar­iffs, net– meter­ing and net-​​billing pro­grams, and reg­u­la­tory restruc­tur­ing to allow mar­ket entry by inde­pen­dent power pro­duc­ers. Using a fixed effects model to con­trol for unit het­ero­geneities between islands, we find evi­dence that net-​​metering/​net-​​billing pro­grams are strongly and pos­i­tively cor­re­lated with increases in installed capac­ity of renew­able energy — par­tic­u­larly solar PV. These find­ings sug­gest that the RE tran­si­tion in the Caribbean can be advanced through poli­cies tar­get­ing the adop­tion of small-​​scale, dis­trib­uted photovoltaics.

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