Tag Archives: Cap and trade

GRANT COOKE: CBR permit denied and new Green Inudstrial Revolution developments impact Benicia

Repost from the Benicia Herald

Grant Cooke: CBR permit denied and new Green Inudstrial Revolution developments impact Benicia

By Grant Cooke, September 22, 2016
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Grant Cooke

History, or at least precedence, was made Tuesday evening when the Benicia City Council denied Valero a land use permit to bring in volatile Bakken and Tar Sands crude oil from North Dakota and Canada by train.

In what appeared to observers to be a stunning change of heart, the council unanimously agreed with the Planning Commission’s earlier recommendation to reject Valero’s project permit.

With other Northern California cities —and San Luis Obispo—watching carefully, the council’s action set a precedent and reaffirmed a city’s right to regulate local land use and protect the health and safety of its citizens.

The decision may have marked the first significant rejection by a California small town of a fossil fuel company’s proposed major business expansion, and probably notes the diminishing power of the industry in local and state politics.

Interestingly enough, the most prominent rejection by a small town of an oil company’s intended expansion occurred in Denton, Texas. Denton, a quiet and prosperous suburb of Dallas, in the middle of America’s oil patch, banned fracking (a method of shale gas extraction that uses large amounts of water pumped at high pressure into channels drilled into rock to release gas) within the city limits in 2014.

Benicia council’s decision has signaled the city’s first steps away from its past dependence on the fossil fuel industry and its Company Town identity, and marks a tentative step toward a new reality. While local, the decision was significant and reflects the growing momentum of the megatrend known as the Green Industrial Revolution, which is replacing carbon dependent economies with those powered by renewable energy.

Despite the decision, and for years to come Benicia’s tax revenue will still be highly dependent on fossil fuel, and so the developments of the Green Industrial Revolution with its twin drivers of carbon emission reduction and non-carbon energy expansion will have enormous consequences. As the Green Industrial Revolution expands, it will lead to the decline of the fossil fuel industries and correspondingly to the reduction of Benicia’s tax base and carbon-dependent economy.

Here are some other recent events furthering this expansion, and while not local, all have a bearing on Benicia’s future.

The first event happened at the recent G20 meeting in Hangzhou, China. The G20 meeting, which occurs annually, brought together the world’s 20 major economies to discuss international problems and potential policies and solutions. Leaders from the U.S., the European Union, China, Japan and Russia among others, came together for the two-day summit. Next year’s meeting is in Germany.

Woodrow Clark, my writing/business partner, is a member of the B20, a G20 subgroup that focuses on international business and economic issues. As a member of the group that delivered a policy report at the Hangzhou meeting, Woody had a front row view of the historic G20 meeting. Among the policy discussions that the meeting generated, there were some remarkable initiatives. One was that Russia agreed to join the US and China, along with the EU in addressing climate change. I imagine that India will also commit to GHG reductions next year at the G20 meeting in Germany.

This is an expansion of the initial US/China agreement from December’s UN Climate Conference in Paris. It increases the pressure on the fossil fuel industry, which is already beset by plunging oil prices, corrupt and chaotic politics, and furthers the rapid development of non-carbon renewable energy. Its impact on Benicia is indirect, unlike a report from Japan’s Eneco Holdings, LTD, which was part of the G20 Executive Talk Series. (Here’s the link to the vertical edition http://g20executivetalkseries.com )

A second development was also part of the G20 meeting and featured the showcasing of a remarkable chemical breakthrough by Eneco Holdings, LTD, from Japan. The company has the potential to be one of Asia’s largest energy companies with their development of a nano-emulsion technology. It appears that the company has succeeded in making a “complete fusion” between water and oil through the ultra-miniaturization of components at the molecular level. In simple terms, they have succeeded, where all others have failed, in mixing water and oil into a combustible fuel. The result is a mixture that is 70 percent water and stable enough to be a used in internal combustion engines. Further, it is safe and environmentally friendly, emitting about half the carbon, nitrous oxide, and sulfur dioxide released in traditional internal combustion gasoline and diesel combustions. Additionally, when produced in large quantities it will be significantly cheaper than conventional gasoline and diesel.

Originally produced for the Japanese market, Eneco’s Plasma Fusion fuel is being tested and used in China and other parts of Asia. With clean emissions levels, it is ideal for the heavily polluted Asian megacities, and should rapidly grow into a viable alternative to conventional gasoline and diesel. Just imagine how healthy West Oakland’s port area would be without its diesel contaminates? Regardless, this emulsion fuel will be a transitional fuel to hydrogen powered vehicles.

The third development that will have a significant impact on the fossil fuel industries is the continual plunge in the price of solar panels. Last week at a meeting, a solar developer told me that panel prices are now the lowest they have ever been in California, plus they are functioning at their highest levels of efficiency.

Driven by the economic principle of Zero Cost Margins—once the equipment is paid for, the rest of the energy is free—solar and renewable energy are expanding at the rate of Moore’s Law, or doubling about every 18 months. Developing and developed nations are rapidly adopting renewable energy, mostly wind and solar, as a replacement for fossil fuels. In about 20 areas in the world, particularly in Asia, solar and renewable energy are less expensive than fossil fuel. Even Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are developing large solar power generation sites.

Because of Russian aggression and threats of shutting off the natural gas supply, Europe has accelerated its transition from fossil fuel and atomic energy to wind and solar. Germany is a major user of solar energy despite the northern climate, and the United Kingdom is building the world’s biggest offshore wind farm called Hornsea off the Yorkshire coast. Hornsea will be the world’s first offshore wind farm to exceed 1 GW in capacity and will produce enough energy to power well over 1 million homes.

Closer to home, the United States’ Pacific coastline has enough wind and tidal resources to power most of the nation’s needs, and by adding solar to the mix, the U.S. could easily generate enough electricity for centuries to come. Roughly speaking, wind power costs about 2 to 4 cents per kilowatt hour and solar about 5 to 6 cents. PG&E charges around 22 to 24 cents per kilowatt hour, so it’s just a matter of time before on-site or distributive energy overtakes traditional energy delivery.

Further, the carbon industries and the large central utilities have flawed business models that are dependent on ever increasing growth and they cannot adapt to the lower prices available from renewable energy, or the increasing efficiency of vehicles and buildings. This is why Clark and I have written extensively on energy cost deflation and the shrinkage and decline of the carbon industries and the large central utilities.

Finally, we come to Sept. 8’s monumental signing by Gov. Jerry Brown of Senate Bill 32, the legislation that has catapulted California into a leadership role of the international efforts to slow global warming. SB 32 will force the state’s trillion-dollar economy, one of the biggest in the world, into a much smaller carbon footprint. In fact, the legislation requires the state to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, a much more ambitious target than the previous goal of hitting 1990 levels by 2020. Cutting emissions will affect nearly all aspects of our lives, accelerating the growth of renewable energy, prodding people into buying electric autos, and pushing developers into building denser communities connected to mass transit. (Details: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-jerry-brown-signs-climate-laws-20160908-snap-story.html ).

One other key element to California’s pursuit of clean air and reduced greenhouse gases is the state’s cap-and-trade program. The program requires the state’s heavy polluters to buy carbon offsets, or credits, to release emissions into the atmosphere, creating an additional operating cost for the oil and utility industries.

SB 32 and the expansion of cap-and-trade will have dramatic impacts on the state’s fossil fuel industries. Likely many of us are driving our last conventional gasoline powered vehicle, with the next one probably powered by electricity or hydrogen. It’s not hard to predict that since the Bay Area’s refineries are the heaviest of the area’s polluters, that the combination of reduced revenue from shrinking demand and increased costs of production and operation will eventually lead to refinery closings.

The fossil fuel industries won’t give up easily, there’s trillions of dollars at stake. Many of the industries leaders and the more prescient investment bankers know that the fossil fuel era has peaked and started to decline, which is why Russia overran the Crimea and is poised to take over Ukraine. Which is why the U.S. and Canada are being besieged by the fossil fuel interests to ignore or eliminate environmental and safety protections that hamper production.

Which is why Valero pushed so hard to transport volatile Bakken crude by rail cars through the densely populated Sacramento corridor and cram the trains into Benicia and a refinery that is not designed or equipped to deal with them. The industries, the refineries and all connected to the fossil fuel era, know that the incredibly lucrative period when oil was king and black gold flowed from the sand is coming to an end.

Bringing this back to Benicia, we see a city that is dependent on Valero for tax revenue and its governing process glimpsing a new reality. Small cities like Benicia that have been so dependent on the fossil fuel industries for so much and for so long, struggle to change. Other cities like those in the deindustrialized Midwest that have suffered sudden collapses of their major companies and tax bases have had to reinvent their economic drivers or just blow away. But it’s hard for a city like Benicia with its apparent prosperity and ease of living to understand that its fossil fuel base is in decline and that the future is elsewhere.

Grant Cooke is a longtime Benicia resident and CEO of Sustainable Energy Associates. He is also an author and has written several books on the Green Industrial Revolution. His newest is “Smart Green Cities” by Routledge.
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VALLEJO TIMES-HERALD LETTER: Valero is NOT good neighbor!

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

Valero is NOT a good neighbor!

By Rebekah Ramos, September 25, 2015

Valero’s self-proclaimed “Good Neighbor” status is laughable when you begin to peel back the onion and remove the layers of misinformation (or missing information) and reveal the same flavor of corporate propaganda and fearmongering that is used to hold small communities hostage.

There are hidden costs to having Valero as a neighbor that you may not be aware of.

Valero says the City of Benicia is losing more than $360K per year in revenue because of delays in approving their crude by rail project, which could get us 4 new police officers.

Valero DOESN’T say…

    • CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) is a law that requires due diligence to properly evaluate environmental impacts and most importantly, inform the public of those impacts. City staff initially attempted to push this project through, under the radar, and without LITTLE public notification – skirting the law. Had it not been for a group of alert citizens bringing this to the public’s attention Valero would have gotten away with implementing a project that would have enormous ramifications to our health, safety, and economic viability, not only in our community, but every community along the rails.
    • Our personal safety is NOT at risk because we are short on police officers, it’s at risk because transporting highly volatile crude oil by rail is extremely risky business. More than 17 major oil train accidents have occurred in the last 24 months resulting in explosions, spills, and derailments.

Valero says they contribute 25% to Benicia’s general fund.

Valero DOESN’T say…

  • That number is actually 20% AND it doesn’t reflect the millions that Valero has taken away from the city’s coffers in recent years.
  • The City of Benicia was forced to pay Valero $2.3 million because Valero filed an appeal for a reduction in its property value from $1.02 billion to $230 million and $964 million to $100 million in 2012 and 2013 respectively despite climbing profits and gas prices since 2010. Benicia loses $2.3 million AND any on-going revenue generated from Valero’s property taxes. How many police officers do you think $2.3 million get us?

Valero says the crude by rail project will reduce air emissions and decrease greenhouse gases. In addition, they say they are entitled to $57million in emission reduction credits because of improvements made to the refinery.

Valero DOESN’T say…

  • The recirculated EIR for their crude by rail project specifically states that there will be significant increases in air emissions and greenhouse gases.
  • Valero has received dozens of notices of emissions violations nearly every single month of 2014 and 2015 including a violation for Benzene.
  • Valero has failed to install any publically accessible emissions monitoring equipment despite their pledge to do so since 2008.
  • Emission reduction credits would allow Valero to increase their emissions for new projects, sell or trade their credits to other polluters. Because of Cap and Trade legislation, big polluters in our own backyards get to pollute even more.
  • According to the EPA, Valero is the biggest polluter in Solano County, contributing 82% of all toxic releases in 2013. Data for 2014 and 15 is not available.

Valero is desperate to turn a profit and will use whatever means is necessary – squeeze money from the city coffers, pollute our environment, and put our lives at risk – to satisfy the short-term interests of their shareholders. They even threaten to lay people off or sell the refinery if the city doesn’t comply.

We can’t let one business keep our community in such an economically vulnerable situation. The City of Benicia has adopted a Climate Action Plan, but can’t seem to address THE REAL CLIMATE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, which is Valero. It’s time that serious action be taken to seek out and invite other, more sustainable industries to our city because Valero is NOT a Good Neighbor!

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Letter to the Bay Area Air District: require strict emissions caps on refineries

Posted with permission

Benicia Resident Marilyn Bardet’s letter to the Chair of the Board, Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD)

Direct staff to require numerical emissions caps on all refinery emissons
By Marilyn Bardet, Sept 16, 2015

Dear Chair Groom,

Marilyn Bardet
Marilyn Bardet, Benicia CA

In response to the overwhelming testimony the District has received from all corners of the Bay Area, as chair of the BAAQMD board of directors, you, with your board, have the authority to direct District staff to revise DRAFT Rules 12-15 and 12-16 as currently released, to require strict numerical emissions caps on all refinery emissions, including GHG.

By all means of public testimony over a two-year period, you have heard from concerned and affected members of the public, respected regional and national organizations (including Sierra Club, NRDC, CBE, 350 Bay Area, APEN, Sunflower Alliance) and other experts in the field who have recommended and put forward well-defined revisions that would impose strict numerical emissions caps on refinery emissions tied to current emissions baselines for TAC, VOCs, heavy metals and PM2.5, including GHG.

You know that oil companies in the region aim to acquire and process the most dangerously polluting crude in the world — tar sands. Refineries processing changed crude slates whose blends have increasing amounts of heavy crude, unconventional crudes such as Bakken oil, and/or tar sands will adversely impact regional and local air quality, especially affecting front-line communities and those “downwind communities.” Allowing emissions to “go up to” long ago established permitting levels (Valero Benicia’s permit was established in 2003) is tantamount to the District “giving in” to benefit the oil industries’ profit, not public health.

The District’s mandate is to clean up the air for the benefit of public health, and, in accordance with state mandates, to protect the climate by drastically reducing GHG. Oil refining is the biggest industrial source of GHG. Carbon trading by refineries will simply send “pollution credits” elsewhere and keep toxic emissions “at home” that kill thousands of people in the Bay Area each year. GHG emissions from fossil fuel combustion threaten to destroy our global climate and way of life.

Strong refinery rules that set numerical limits on toxic emissions tied to current baselines and limit GHGs are our best chance to protect public health and protect the climate.

We need your leadership more than ever now! I am writing to ask that you make it clear to your directors that the “highest good” must be done by BAAQMD in the name of public health and climate protection, such that, until revisions to Rules 12-15 and 12-16 are adopted that set refinery emission caps at today’s levels, including for GHG, the agency will suspend permitting for refinery projects.

This is a bold request, but these are very uncertain times that require every precaution and concerted action by leadership to create policies that protect people and the planet.

Thank you for your public service, and for you attention to my comments.

Respectfully,

Marilyn Bardet
Benicia
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