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The governments of ACT, Queensland and Victoria are preparing a list of demands for federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg ahead of next week’s crunch meeting on the future of the proposed National Energy Guarantee (NEG).
An expert team appointed by Alaska Governor Bill Walker (I) has proposed to implement a revenue-positive carbon tax for the US state as part of its ongoing process to create a climate change action plan.
The Ontario government on Thursday announced its legal challenge to the constitutionality of the federal government’s ‘backstop’ carbon pricing scheme, making good on another of Premier Doug Ford’s campaign promises and setting up a courtroom battle over Ottawa’s attempt to impose its climate strategy on the rest of Canada.
North American carbon prices on both coasts this week held steady as the northeast RGGI programme shrugged off higher emissions data while activity was barren in the WCI market.
European carbon prices eased in quiet trade on Thursday after eking out another new seven-year high.
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BITE-SIZED UPDATES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
Rollback reveal – The US EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ended months of speculation by releasing their revised vehicle fuel economy standards for cars and trucks on Thursday, freezing the levels through 2026 and revoking California’s wavier under the Clean Air Act to set its own separate requirements. The Trump administration’s proposal argued that mandating automakers to roughly double the fuel economy of their fleets to reach an average of 54 miles per gallon (4.4 litres per 100 kilometres) – as the original Obama-era standards proposed – would make vehicles more expensive and encourage people to continue driving older, more dangerous vehicles, thereby savings lives in the process. However, environmental and public health groups criticised the decision for not only increasing GHG emissions and increasing oil consumption, but also ignoring the health benefits of less-polluting cars and lower fuel usage. Meanwhile, a group of 19 attorneys general joined California AG Xavier Becerra in vowing to enact a legal challenge to the federal government, with Governor Jerry Brown (D) saying California “will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.” (The Washington Post)
Cap-and-try – US Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) is devising a cap-and-trade bill – the third congressional carbon pricing measure either introduced in 2018 or reportedly in-the-works for later this year. According to Axios, while a spokesperson for the congressman would not provide details on the bill, the staffer did confirm that Tonko is soliciting input on the legislation. The top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee nevertheless faces a daunting task in obtaining broad support for his legislation with a Republican-dominated legislative and executive branch. The news follows Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) introducing a carbon tax bill in July, while Tonko’s New York colleague Rep. Ted Deutch (D) announced he will also pursue a CO2 fee this fall. Axios also suggest that oil majors including Shell and BP were engaging with lawmakers on the bills.
Making coal great again – US exports of coal used by power stations are set to hit a record this year on increased global demand for the nation’s high-energy-content fuel, Bloomberg reports. Steam-coal shipments will probably jump 58% to 58 million metric tonnes this year, according to Guillaume Perret, founder of Perret Associates, a London-based research company. He expects exports to reach 65 Mt by 2025. President Trump was elected partly on a platform of boosting the US coal industry. US production, including metallurgical coal used for steel production, advanced last year for the first time since 2013. “Historically, exports of U.S. coal have been handicapped by its high sulfur content,” said Perret. “However, we think this will gradually be offset by its high calorific value, which is becoming increasingly scarce worldwide.” Meanwhile, a Reuters survey of the top 10 US power companies showed eight have no plans to purchase and install carbon capture and storage (CCS) equipment, citing high costs and uncertain demand, while the other two declined to comment. Another three utilities that are well-placed to adopt the technology – because of their proximity to existing carbon pipelines and coal reserves – also said they have no plans to tap the newly enriched subsidy.
Coal to gas – A coal-fired power plant in Herne, Germany is to be replaced by a gas-fired plant with turbines delivered from Siemens, Handelsblatt Online reports. Upon its completion, expected in four years, it will be one of Germany’s largest gas plants. Energy company STEAG, which is planning the construction of the plant, specialises in hard coal but is shifting to new sources of energy. (Clean Energy Wire)
A bit of a threat – The process of “mining” cryptocurrencies is so energy intensive that it poses a threat to the Paris Agreement, according to a study published in Energy Research & Social Science. According to the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, annual electricity consumption stands at 73.12 TWh, a near 400% increase over the past 12 months. The process involved in a single bitcoin transaction could provide electricity for a home in Britain for an entire month. “This threatens the planet to the extent that intervention is necessary to prevent similar models emerging,” wrote the authors.
And finally… Hot dirt – As global temperatures rise, carbon in the Earth’s soil is being released into the atmosphere at a rapid pace, new research shows. A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature finds that hotter temperatures makes microbes living in dirt more active, causing them to feed aggressively on dead plants and leaves in the ground and creating a feedback loop as the carbon from that plant matter is released into the atmosphere. This process – called soil respiration – releases five times more carbon dioxide worldwide than human activity, and the study found that soil respiration increased 1.2 percent between 1990 and 2014.
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