World’s Largest Solar Farm: Why Now?

by Parker Head

Tom Phillips’ article on China’s construction of the world’s largest solar panel farm is a useful primer on the various perspectives surrounding the project. China’s grandiose scale of renewable energy initiatives can be read as a strategic move to increase their global soft-power. This is prescient in a world where many global superpowers regard climate change as a serious threat. Phillips acknowledges this upscaling as stratagem when he notes its concurrence with the election of a U.S. President who is a climate-denier. But a single solar farm, no matter the grandeur of its sobriquet, cannot nullify the environmental impact of an entire nation, and issues of curtailment – energy produced that does not reach the grid – undercut the potential reformative power of China’s green energy production. According to a New York Times article also on the new solar farm, 19% of China’s wind energy produced in the first six months of 2016 was curtailed, compared to “negligible” amounts of energy lost in the U.S. [www.nytimes.com/2017/01/05/world/asia/china-renewable-energy-investment.html]. And while China’s current enthusiasm for energy reform is a hopeful sign, long-term commitment is necessary for real change. If current initiatives are only political maneuvers made in a global climate that is changing with the succession of a Trump presidency, then the difference Phillips reports between “a climate leader but not the climate leader” will be felt in their, the initiative’s, long-term ineffectiveness. Is a China-as-world-climate-leader that unimaginable in a world of said radical change? Continue reading

Trump Moves to Continue Construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline

by Lauren Bollinger

On his second weekday in office, President Trump filed an executive order to reopen construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that was formerly blocked by the Obama administration after months of protests by Native American activists. The 1,172 mile-long pipeline is slated to run through four states, from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota through Illinois, and transport around half a million (470,000) barrels of crude oil per day.

Originally planned for delivery by January 1st of this year, the project was stalled after widespread protests led by Native American activists which gained international attention. In the early stages of planning, the pipeline was proposed to run through Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted to run adjacent to the Standing Rock Reservation, after concerns from Bismarck residents. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux oppose the project as they argue it threatens environmental safety and indigenous sovereignty, as the pipeline is slated to run only a mile from their tribal borders. Continue reading

Clean Power Plan Faces an Uncertain Future

by Emily Audet

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), an enforcement plan of the Clean Air Act, establishes caps to carbon dioxide emissions of current power plants [https://www.law360.com/articles/880858/epa-denies-bids-to-reconsider-or-stay-clean-power-plan]. The CPP has been controversial since its beginning. In December 2016, Texas and West Virginia led 24 states in urging President Trump to overturn the CPP [http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/05/fate-of-the-clean-power-plan-remains-uncertain/]. In response, many states and cities requested the preservation of the plan.

The implementation of the CPP is on hold as of January 2017 by order of the Supreme Court as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the legality of the plan, which could take days to years [https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-could-replace-the-clean-power-plan/].

On January 13, 2017, the EPA denied the majority of petitions challenging the plan or asking for a suspension of the plan’s implementation. The EPA claims that many of the petitions rejected by the EPA on January 13th raised similar issues to petitions included in the comment period of the CPP’s proposal. Of the 38 petitions asking for revisions of the plan, the EPA retained only 7 for further review. All 22 of the petitions advocating for a suspension of the CPP were rejected by the EPA on the grounds that the Supreme Court’s stay of the plan already achieves this end.

As of January 2017, the CPP’s future grows even more murky as it gets swept up in the uncertainty around environmental regulations in the new Trump administration. Throughout his campaign, Trump claimed that he would overturn the CPP, and an executive order from Trump could end the CPP, even before the courts release an official ruling on the plan. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA under the new Trump administration, has expressed his opinion that the EPA’s strategy to lower carbon emissions should focus on individual technology innovations in firms to decrease emissions, rather than encouraging firms to move from coal to other, cleaner forms of energy, which the CPP currently does. If the new administration tried to weaken the CPP, environmental non-profits would likely bring the plan to court. If the CPP is overturned, the EPA continues to hold the authority to implement the Clean Air Act through other vehicles. As of January 2017, the EPA offers resources and other forms of support for states to implement similar regulations on the state-level [https://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan/clean-power-plan-existing-power-plants].

 

Rodriguez, Juan Carlos. “EPA Denies Bids To Reconsider Or Stay Clean Power Plan.” Law 360. N.p., 13 Jan. 2017. Web. 24 Jan. 2017. https://www.law360.com/articles/880858/epa-denies-bids-to-reconsider-or-stay-clean-power-plan

Profeta, Tim. “Fate of the Clean Power Plan Remains Uncertain.” National Geographic. N.p., 5 Jan. 2017. Web. 24 Jan. 2017. http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/05/fate-of-the-clean-power-plan-remains-uncertain/

Holden, Emily. “What Could Replace the Clean Power Plan?” Scientific American. N.p., 23 Jan. 2017. Web. 24 Jan. 2017. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-could-replace-the-clean-power-plan/

US EPA. “Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants.” EPA. N.p., 12 Jan. 2017. Web. 24 Jan. 2017. https://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan/clean-power-plan-existing-power-plants