Biden-Harris Administration announces $4.9 billion to deploy infrastructure necessary to manage and store carbon pollution

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced a nearly $4.9 billion set of funding opportunities to bolster investments in the carbon management industry and to significantly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released into the atmosphere through power generation and industrial operations. The funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will support three programs to help drive the demonstration and deployment of carbon capture systems, along with carbon transport and storage infrastructure. Large-scale deployment of carbon management technologies is crucial to addressing the climate crisis and meeting President Biden’s goal of a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy by 2050, which will both protect existing industrial jobs and create new ones. 

“Nearly every climate model makes clear that we need carbon management technology—especially in hard to decarbonize sectors and heavy industries such as steel and cement production—to tackle the climate crisis. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is helping DOE pick up the pace on projects that can store tens of millions of tons of CO2 that would otherwise be emitted, which will bring jobs to our economy and deliver a healthier environment for all Americans.” 

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Biden, invests even further in building a domestic carbon management industry, with substantial improvements to the federal carbon capture tax credit (45Q/Sec. 13104). DOE’s analysis estimates that actions taken through the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will drive 2030 economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 2005 levels.  

DOE continues to prioritize federal investments in climate solutions that deliver broadly shared prosperity, minimize harms, ensure meaningful benefits disadvantaged communities, and support American workers and collective bargaining. As such applicants for funding will be required to submit Community Benefits Plans detailing their commitments to community and labor engagement, quality job creation, diversity and equity, and implementation of the  Justice40 Initiative. Projects selected under these opportunities will be required to develop implementation strategies and report on activities, and outcomes related to community economic and other benefits and environmental impacts, such as investments in registered apprenticeships, hiring local workers, participation of minority-owned business, or changes to non-CO2 pollution.   

DOE today is announcing three funding opportunity announcements (FOAs):   

  • Carbon Storage Validation and Testing – This FOA supports the Carbon Storage Assurance Facility Enterprise (CarbonSAFE) Initiative, managed by FECM, and provides up to $2.25 billion to support the development of new and expanded large-scale, commercial carbon storage projects with capacities to store 50 or more million metric tons of CO2, along with associated CO2 transport infrastructure. Projects will focus on detailed site characterization, permitting, and construction stages of project development under CarbonSAFE. Read the full FOA here.
  • Carbon Capture Demonstration Projects Program – DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), in partnership with the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), will manage the Carbon Capture Demonstration Projects Program. The program provides up to $2.54 billion to develop six integrated carbon capture, transport, and storage demonstration projects that can be readily replicated and deployed at fossil energy power plants and major industrial sources of CO2, such as cement, pulp and paper, iron and steel, and certain types of chemical production facilities. The FOA released today provides up to $189 million for up to 20 integrated front-end engineering design studies, with a second FOA expected later in 2022 to support detailed design, construction, and operation of carbon capture projects, as well as transport and storage of the captured CO2. Read the full FOA here.
  • Carbon Dioxide Transport Engineering and Design – FECM will manage the Carbon Dioxide Transport, Front-End Engineering and Design FOA which provides up to $100 million to design regional CO2 pipeline networks to safely transport captured CO2 from key sources to centralized locations. Projects will focus on carbon transport costs, transport network configurations, and technical and commercial considerations that support broad efforts to develop and deploy carbon capture, conversion, and storage at commercial scale. Read the full FOA here

Since January 2021, DOE has invested more than $242 million in 55 research and development projects and front-end engineering design studies to advance carbon management approaches that include CO2 capture, transport, and storage. Visit the OCED and FECM websites for more information on how DOE is working to accelerate market adoption and deployment of carbon management technologies to support an equitable transition to a decarbonized energy system.

Students protest in climate strike demanding UI fossil fuel divestment

Read the full story in the Daily Illini.

Organized by the Students with Environmental Concerns RSO, students converged by Alma Mater at noon on Wednesday as part of a climate strike that aimed to draw attention to the climate crisis and demand that the University divest from its economic holdings in fossil fuels and nonrenewable energy.

Carbon Capture Coalition lobbied to weaken guardrails for expanded carbon capture subsidy

Read the full story from the Energy & Policy Institute.

The Inflation Reduction Act includes a major increase of the tax credits that subsidize carbon capture projects, as well as changes that weakened a key guardrail that was included in the earlier Build Back Better bill that would have required carbon capture projects at power plants to capture at least 75% of a facility’s emissions. That change followed lobbying against the 75% capture rate requirement by the Carbon Capture Coalition, whose members include coal, oil, and power companies.

Between the Inflation Reduction Act’s introduction on July 27 and its passage on August 7, another change further weakened those guardrails in a way that allows power companies to increase the output of coal and gas power plants after installing a carbon capture project in order to maximize revenue from the carbon capture tax credit, without increasing the size of the carbon capture facility.

Combined, the changes could allow power plant operators to receive generous taxpayer subsidies for carbon capture projects, even while increasing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Coalition to present concerns about proposed carbon capture pipeline to Knox County Board Wednesday

Read the full story at WQAD.

Navigator CO₂ Ventures has filed for a certificate of authority from the Illinois Commerce Commission, a petition it needs to get approved before it can start construction on the 1,300-mile carbon capture pipeline.

The “Heartland Greenway” pipeline is proposed to be built across five states, including Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. About 250 miles of the pipeline would run through 13 Illinois counties

Opponents are concerned about the pipeline permanently damaging farmland and threatening the safety of residents living nearby.

Looking back on America’s summer of heat, floods and climate change: Welcome to the new abnormal

Much of the South and Southern Plains faced a dangerous heat wave in July 2022, with highs well over 100 degrees for several days. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

by Shuang-Ye Wu, University of Dayton

The summer of 2022 started with a historic flood in Montana, brought on by heavy rain and melting snow, that tore up roads and caused large areas of Yellowstone National Park to be evacuated.

It ended with a record-breaking heat wave in California and much of the West that pushed the power grid to the breaking point, causing blackouts, followed by a tropical storm that set rainfall records in southern California. A typhoon flooded coastal Alaska, and a hurricane hit Puerto Rico with more than 30 inches of rain.

In between, wildfires raged through California, Arizona and New Mexico on the background of a megadrought in Southwestern U.S. that has been more severe than anything the region has experienced in at least 1,200 years. Near Albuquerque, New Mexico, a five-mile stretch of the Rio Grande ran dry for the first time in 40 years. Persistent heat waves lingered over many parts of the country, setting temperature records.

At the same time, during a period of five weeks between July and August, five 1,000-year rainfall events occurred in St. Louis, eastern Kentucky, southern Illinois, California’s Death Valley and in Dallas, causing devastating and sometimes deadly flash floods. Extreme rainfall also led to severe flooding in Mississippi, Virginia and West Virginia.

The United States is hardly alone in its share of climate disasters.

In Pakistan, record monsoon rains inundated more than one-third of the country, killing over 1,500 people. In India and China, prolonged heat waves and droughts dried up rivers, disrupted power grids and threatened food security for billions of people.

In Europe, heat waves set record temperatures in Britain and other places, leading to severe droughts and wildfires in many parts of the continent. In South Africa, torrential rains brought flooding and mudslides that killed more than 400 people. The summer may have come to an end on the calendar, but climate disasters will surely continue.

This isn’t just a freak summer: Over the years, such extreme events are occurring in increasing frequency and intensity.

Climate change is intensifying these disasters

The most recent international climate assessment from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found significant increases in both the frequency and intensity of extreme temperature and precipitation events, leading to more droughts and floods.

A recent study published in the scientific journal Nature found that extreme flooding and droughts are also getting deadlier and more expensive, despite an improving capacity to manage climate risks. This is because these extreme events, enhanced by climate change, often exceed the designed levels of such management strategies.

A girl in rain boots walks through a mud-filled yard. Damaged mattresses and other belongings from a flooded house are piled nearby.
Flash flooding swept through mountain valleys in eastern Kentucky in July 2022, killing more than three dozen people. It was one of several destructive flash floods. Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Extreme events, by definition, occur rarely. A 100-year flood has a 1% chance of happening in any given year. So, when such events occur with increasing frequency and intensity, they are a clear indication of a changing climate state.

The term “global warming” can sometimes be misleading, as it seems to suggest that as humans put more heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world is going to get a bit warmer everywhere. What it fails to convey is that warming temperatures also lead to a more violent world with more extreme climate disasters, as we saw this past summer.

Climate models showed these risks were coming

Much of this is well-understood and consistently reproduced by climate models.

As the climate warms, a shift in temperature distribution leads to more extremes. The magnitudes of changes in extreme temperature are often larger than changes in the mean. For example, globally, a 1 degree Celsius increase in annual average temperature is associated with 1.2 C to 1.9 C (2.1 Fahrenheit to 3.4 F) of increase in the annual maximum temperature.

A man works on a car with an older mechanic in overalls standing next to him under the shade of a large beach umbrealla.
Heat waves, like the heat dome over the South in July 2022, can hit outdoor workers especially hard. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

In addition, global warming causes changes in the vertical profile of the atmosphere and equator-to-pole temperature gradients, leading to changes in how the atmosphere and ocean move. The temperature difference between equator and the poles is the driving force for global wind. As the polar regions warm at much higher rates then the equator, the reduced temperature difference causes a weakening of global winds and leads to a more meandering jet stream.

Some of these changes can create conditions such as persistent high-pressure systems and atmosphere blocking that favor more frequent and more intense heat waves. The heat domes over the Southern Plains and South in June and the West in September are examples.

The initial warming can be further amplified by positive feedbacks. For example, warming increases snow melt, exposing dark soil underneath, which absorbs more heat than snow, further enhancing the warming.

Warming of the atmosphere also increases its capacity to hold water vapor, which is a strong greenhouse gas. Therefore, more water vapor in the air leads to more warming. Higher temperatures tend to dry out the soil, and less soil moisture reduces the land’s heat capacity, making it easier to heat up.

These positive feedbacks further intensify the initial warming, leading to more heat extremes. More frequent and persistent heat waves lead to excessive evaporation, combined with decreased precipitation in some regions, causing more severe droughts and more frequent wildfires.

Higher temperatures increase the atmosphere’s capacity to hold moisture at a rate of about 7% per degree Celsius.

This increased humidity leads to heavier rainfall events. In addition, storm systems are fueled by latent heat, or the large amount of energy released when water vapor condenses to liquid water. Increased moisture content in the atmosphere also enhances latent heat in storm systems, increasing their intensity. Extreme heavy or persistent rainfall leads to increased flooding and landslides, with devastating social and economic consequences.

Even though it’s difficult to link specific extreme events directly to climate change, when these supposedly rare events occur with increasing frequency in a warming world, it is hard to ignore the changing state of our climate.

A woman with her eyes closed holds a screaming 1-year-old boy in a National Guard helicopter, with a guardsman standing in the open helicopter door.
A family had to be airlifted from their home in eastern Kentucky after it was surrounded by floodwater in July 2022. Michael Swensen/Getty Images

The new abnormal

So this past summer might just provide a glimpse of our near future, as these extreme climate events become more frequent.

To say this is the new “normal,” though, is misleading. It suggests that we have reached a new stable state, and that is far from the truth.

Without serious effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, this trend toward more extreme events will continue. Things will keep getting worse, and this past summer will become the norm a few years or decades down the road – and eventually, it will seem mild, like one of those “nice summers” we look back on fondly with nostalgia.

Shuang-Ye Wu, Professor of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, University of Dayton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Reuse Catalyst aims to create network for circular packaging research

The Reuse Catalyst program by the U.S. Plastics Pact aims to create a collaborative network of companies working towards a reusable plastics program. The program’s applications are open through Oct. 20.

The U.S. Plastics Pact will select program participants on a case-by-case, rolling basis. Participants will be engaged for 6-18 months depending on the specific characteristics of the company and their project scale.

Read more about the program at Waste360.

Study finds that Mississippi River Basin could be in an ‘extreme heat belt’ in 30 years

Read the full story from Investigate Midwest.

A climate study released during one of the hottest summers on record predicts a 125-degree “extreme heat belt” will stretch across a quarter of the country by 2053.

Birds migrate along ancient routes – here are the latest high-tech tools scientists are using to study their amazing journeys

Migrating waterbirds over South Dakota’s Huron Wetland Management District on North America’s Central Flyway. Sandra Uecker, USFWS/Flickr

by Tom Langen, Clarkson University

Although it still feels like beach weather across much of North America, billions of birds have started taking wing for one of nature’s great spectacles: fall migration. Birds fly south from the northern U.S. and Canada to wintering grounds in the southern U.S., Caribbean and Latin America, sometimes covering thousands of miles. Other birds leave temperate Eurasia for Africa, tropical Asia or Australia.

Using observation records and data collected through bird banding, 20th-century ornithologists roughly mapped general migration routes and timing for most migratory species. Later, using radar at airports and weather stations, they discovered how weather and other factors affect when birds migrate and how high they fly.

Today, technological advances are providing new insights into bird migration and showing that it is more complex and wonderful than scientists ever imagined. These new and constantly improving technologies are key aids for protecting migratory birds in the face of habitat loss and other threats.

Migratory flyways are paths that birds have traveled for centuries. Scientists are working to better understand how birds use these routes.

Birding across borders

The power of the internet has greatly aided migratory bird research. Using the popular eBird network, birders all over the world can upload sightings to a central database, creating a real-time record of the ebb and flow of migration. Ornithologists have also learned to use NEXRAD, a national network of Doppler weather radars, to visualize birds migrating down the North American continent.

Now, scientists are setting up a global network of receiver stations called the Motus Network, which currently has 1,500 receivers in 31 countries. Each receiver constantly records the presence of any birds or other animals within a nine-mile (15-kilometer) radius that scientists have fitted with small, lightweight radio transmitters, and shares the data online. The network will become increasingly useful for understanding bird migration as more receiver stations become active along migration tracks.

Tracking individual birds via satellite

Three new technologies are rapidly expanding what we know about bird migration. The first is satellite telemetry of bird movement. Researchers fit birds with small solar-powered transmitters, which send data on the birds’ locations to a satellite and then on to a scientist’s office computer. The scientist can learn where a bird is, the route it took to get there and how fast it travels.

For example, the bar-tailed godwit, a pigeon-sized shorebird, breeds in Alaska and then migrates to New Zealand. Satellite transmitters show that godwits often fly nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand. Recently, a godwit set the record for the longest nonstop flight by a land bird: 8,100 miles (13,000 kilometers) in 10 days, from Alaska to Australia.

Bar-tailed godwits have the ability to correct course if they are blown off track on their epic migratory journey.

Satellite telemetry studies show how much individual birds, even those from the same breeding location, vary in their migratory behavior. Individual differences in migratory behavior are probably due to differences in physical condition, learning, experience and personal preferences.

Another shorebird, the whimbrel, also makes a phenomenally long journey over the ocean. Satellite telemetry has shown that some whimbrels travel from northwest Canada, across the North American continent to Canada’s east coast, then set off over the Atlantic Ocean on a 3,400-mile (5,400-kilometer), six-day nonstop flight to the coast of Brazil. In total, they may travel 6,800 miles (11,000 kilometers).

Sadly, hunters kill some of these birds when they land to rest on islands in the Lesser Antilles. The unfortunate fate of two satellite-tracked whimbrels has catalyzed a campaign to tighten regulations on shorebird hunting in the Caribbean.

Geotagging small birds

Many birds are too small to carry a satellite transmitter. Given the energetic effort required for migration, a device must weigh less than 5% of a bird’s body weight, and many migratory songbirds weigh under 0.7 ounces (20 grams).

An ingenious solution for small birds is a geolocator tag, or geologger – a tiny device that simply records time, location and presence or absence of sunlight. Scientists know the timing of sunrise and sunset on a given date, so they can calculate a bird’s location on that date to within about 125 miles (200 kilometers).

Colorful songbird with a small geolocation tag attached to its back.
A painted bunting equipped with a 0.024-ounce (0.7-gram) solar geolocation datalogger. Jeffrey F. Kelly, CC BY-ND

Birds carrying geologgers must be recaptured to download the data. That means the bird must survive a migration round trip and return to the same place where it was first captured and tagged. Amazingly, many geologger-tagged small birds do.

Geologgers have shown that Blackpoll warblers – small songbirds that breed in the boreal forests of North America – fly long distances over the Atlantic in fall, heading to the Amazon basin. Birds breeding in eastern North America head out over the Atlantic in maritime Canada or the northeastern U.S. and make a 60-hour, nonstop, 1,500-mile (2,500-kilometer) flight to the Greater Antilles. There they rest and recuperate, then continue across the Caribbean to South America.

Blackpolls breeding in Alaska fly across the North American continent before leaving shore on the Atlantic coast and flying to South America. In total, they journey 6,600 miles (10,700 kilometers) over 60 days.

Even more amazing, geologgers show that another small songbird, the northern wheatear, migrates from North America to sub-Saharan Africa. Wheatears that breed in Alaska fly 9,100 miles (14,600 kilometers) across Asia to East Africa, taking three months to do so. Those breeding in eastern Canada journey 4,600 miles (7,400 kilometers) across the Atlantic to Europe and then on to West Africa – including a 2,100-mile (3,400-kilometer), four-day nonstop overwater flight.

Recording birds’ night migration calls

Two hours after sunset in fall, I like to sit outside and listen to birds migrating overhead. Most birds migrate at night, and many give a species-specific “chit,” “zeep” or other call-note while in flight. The calls may serve to keep migrating flocks together, including different species heading to the same destination.

Ornithologists are using automated passive acoustic recording to study these nocturnal calls and identify the species or group of related species that make each sound. The technology is a microphone directed at the sky, connected to a computer that continuously records the sound stream and is aided by sound recognition software. Sometimes it reveals migrants overhead that are rarely seen on the ground.

Scientists use infrared cameras and birds’ nocturnal migration calls to assess the risks birds face from colliding with buildings.

Nick Kachala, an honors student in my lab, set up recording units on three university properties in the fall of 2021. One of the most common migrants recorded was the gray-cheeked thrush, a shy bird of the northern boreal forest that is rarely seen in the northeast U.S. during fall migration. He also detected the dickcissel, a grassland bird that I have never seen in our area.

Many birdwatchers are now building do-it-yourself backyard recording units to identify the birds flying over their homes during migration.

Conserving migratory birds

Radar monitoring indicates that the number of North American migratory birds declined by 14% between 2007 and 2017. There probably are multiple causes, but habitat loss is likely the principal culprit.

Satellite telemetry and geologgers show that there are special stopover sites along migration routes where migrants rest and refuel, such as the Texas Gulf Coast, the Florida Panhandle and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Conservation experts widely agree that to protect migratory birds, it is critical to conserve these sites.

Effective conservation measures require knowing where and how birds migrate, and what dangers they face during migration. Ornithologists, using these new technologies, are learning things that will help to stop and reverse the global decline in migratory birds.

Tom Langen, Professor of Biology, Clarkson University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Effects of flame retardants, maternal diet on children focus of talks

Read the full story at Environmental Factor.

Children’s health was front and center during the latest Early-Stage Investigator Spotlight Webinar, which was hosted by the NIEHS Environmental Health Sciences Core Centers Program on August 10. Angelico Mendy, M.D., Ph.D., discussed how replacement flame retardants affect children’s respiratory health, and Shelly Buffington, Ph.D., shared links between diet-induced obesity in pregnant women and neurodevelopmental disorders in children.

Tribal environmental health strengthened by NIEHS-funded scientist and her team

Read the full story at Environmental Factor.

For nearly three decades, Johnnye Lewis, Ph.D., has advanced Native American health by combining basic research, population-level studies, clear science communication, and robust partnerships with tribes. She is a longtime NIEHS grant recipient from the University of New Mexico (UNM), where she uses a transdisciplinary team approach to tackle issues related to environmental justice and health disparities, which affect many Indigenous communities.