A new study concludes that the "carbon budget"--the total amount of carbon that can be emitted to keep global warming at 2 degrees Celsius--will likely be exhausted in 15 to 30 years. That means there can be no carbon emissions after that if the 2 degree goal is going to be met. This study included analysis of emissions of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, such as methane, which increase the urgency of the problem.
Obviously, neither the Clean Power Plan goals nor even Minnesota's Next Generation Energy Act goals are on anything like that pace. The concept of a "carbon budget" is controversial, but It is becoming more certain every day that we will need to adapt to warming in excess of the 2-degree target that drove the Paris accords.
Oregon appears ready to pass legislation that will require its investor-owned utilities to phase out coal entirely by 2030 and require at least 50% renewable energy by 2040. The utilities are supporting this legislation, because they know a more stringent ballot initiative would likely pass easily.
There is similar broad public support for moving away from coal and stepping up renewables in Minnesota, but the current legislature will not follow Oregon's lead. There is, however, no reason the Dayton/Smith Administration cannot adopt these goals as executive branch policy, similar to what California Governor Jerry Brown did last year. Minnesota needs to reclaim its leadership on energy policy and it will take bold, courageous actions to accomplish that.
More lengthy, thoughtful appraisals of Justice Scalia's record on the Supreme Court are starting to appear:
"Scalia's Pro-Business Legacy" - The Atlantic
"How Scalia Kept the Little Guys Out of Court" - Bloomberg Business
"Justice Scalia and Environmental Law" - Legal Planet
The bottom line is that, despite all the rhetoric about principled adherence to the text of the Constitution, the intent of the founders, and the plain language in statutes, the only consistent principles in Justice Scalia's jurisprudence were what appeared to be genuine contempt for environmental regulation, limiting citizen access to the courts, and siding with corporations over everyday Americans. Obviously he was smart, funny, and a spirited questioner in Supreme Court oral arguments. But his legacy will be weakened environmental protection, enhanced corporate power, and big money domination of politics.
Another article on the EPA's authority since the Paris accord to impose greenhouse gas emission reduction standards and practices on states that go well beyond the electric power sector and the Clean Power Plan. This apparent authority under section 115 of the Clean Air Act was the subject of a memo from a number of highly respected environmental law professors, and has already triggered a House bill to repeal the section altogether. That legislative blowback effect is a pretty common experience here at MCEA.
Important post from Joe Romm today, listing many of the studies showing that because of methane leaks, shifting from coal to natural gas for electricity generation does not do much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and may make it worse, particularly if it delays the transition to renewables. This issue is coming up right now in Minnesota. With Xcel Energy committing to close down the Sherco 1 and 2 coal-burning units by the early 2020's, the question now is what will come next. Xcel will want to build major natural gas facilities, probably right on the Sherco site, to replace the old coal units, and will likely seek PUC authorization to do that, but it is very important that a switch to natural gas not get locked down. With the price of solar continuing to plummet, it may well make sense, economically and certainly environmentally, to wait. By the early 2020's, the case for natural gas may weaken substantially.