OPPOSING FALSE SOLUTIONS
When the impacts of climate change finally overwhelmed the denial campaign that the fossil fuel industry has been pushing for decades, they switched strategies, promoting false climate solutions to further delay decarbonization.
What are false climate solutions?
False climate solutions are technological or market based schemes promoted by fossil fuel companies and their political allies to give the appearance of meaningful climate action while actually functioning to delay effective policies that might challenge their power, control and/or profits. These include the introduction of carbon offsets and carbon credit trading schemes that commodify air, land and water while failing to reduce emissions, as well as the promotion of unproven technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and "Clean" Hydrogen that promise a convenient magical cure that will allow our current dependence on fossil fuels to continue unchanged.
"CLEAN" HYDROGEN IS AN OXYMORON
While so called "green" hydrogen has a place in reducing emissions, more than 99.8% of hydrogen is produced using enormous quantities of fracked gas, including both "blue" hydrogen, in which carbon emissions from production processes are sequestered using as yet unproven technology, and "grey" hydrogen, which results in many times more carbon emissions than actual hydrogen produced. Hydrogen emissions are 20% greater than directly burning natural gas or coal for heat, and 60% greater than burning diesel oil for heat.
In 2022 Hydrogen Hub Development legislation was introduced in the NM legislature four times, and was defeated each time, but the Governor ignored the people's will and signed a memorandum of understanding with adjoining states to seek federal dollars to develop this dangerous new industry in New Mexico, an industry that will increase pollution and increase our dependence on fossil fuels for revenue.
Hydrogen is NOT clean. It will lead to economic losses and increased emissions.
1. Hydrogen has no environmental benefits. Hydrogen production increases climate-warming emissions.
Hydrogen production is responsible for an enormous amount of greenhouse gas pollution, particularly due to the release of fugitive methane; Oil and gas companies produce 99.8% of the United States’ hydrogen supply from gas. Globally, less than 1 percent of hydrogen is produced through electrolysis, and less than 0.02% is green (i.e., powered by renewable electricity) .
Blue hydrogen emissions are 20% greater than directly burning natural gas or coal for heat, and 60% greater than burning diesel oil for heat.
Green hydrogen production requires an enormous amount of fresh water and is not feasible for production in New Mexico.
2. Hydrogen is not economical. There is no cost benefit to hydrogen as fuel.
Hydrogen-based electricity generation is more costly than solar + wind + battery storage.
Fuel cells will remain more expensive than simpler battery systems.
Hydrogen has value today mainly in ammonia fertilizer production and oil refining.
The electric transportation industry based on batteries is already dominant.
With state, federal, and private investments, a robust network of EV charging stations is being developed to support trucking and private vehicles. Virtually no such investment has been made in hydrogen fueling stations.
3. Hydrogen production and distribution is technically complex, leading to cost overruns, failed projects and stranded assets that lose taxpayer dollars.
Hydrogen is the smallest atom, highly reactive and difficult to contain. It embrittles pipelines, making it difficult to transport. Truck-stop refueling is a problem. Hence the far greater investment in e-charging nationwide.
4. "Clean" hydrogen viability depends on another false solution that simply doesn't work:
Carbon capture & storage, another false solution
Carbon capture technology has repeatedly failed to achieve results, causing billions of dollars in public and private losses. Of $2.66 billion spent by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) since 2010 to develop advanced fossil energy technologies, nearly half was dedicated to nine carbon capture and storage(CCS) demonstration projects. Only three major projects remained active at the end of FY17 and cost the DOE a combined $615 million.
Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project, USA: Received $190 million in public funding and cost over $1 billion. Captured less than 2 million tons of CO2 annually. It was shuttered in 2021 for financial reasons. The CCS technology at Petra Nova required so much energy that NRG built a separate gas plant—the emissions of which were not offset by the Petra Nova technology—just to power the scrubber. NRG, the plant’s major investor, said CCS couldn’t compete because of its reliance on volatile O&G markets. The government lost all its investment, as did other investors.
Mississippi Power’s Kemper Project, USA: The project was supposed to cost $2.4 billion but the cost ballooned by 212.5 percent to $7.5 billion, $270 million of which came from the DOE, without ever actually coming online. Mississippi Power’s ratepayers and taxpayers were stuck with the bill.
Many other CCS projects were abandoned for financial reasons, despite large amounts of public funding, among them the Antelope Valley Project, USA, ($400 million in public funding), the Sweeny Gasification Project, USA, ($3 million in public funding) and numerous international projects.
Tim Baxter, a senior researcher with the Australian Climate Council, reported that he was not aware of a single large carbon capture and storage project linked to fossil fuels in the world that had delivered on time, on budget, and captured the agreed amount of carbon.
We love this "Honest Government Ad" that explains the false promises of carbon capture and storage perfectly.
understanding carbon credits, offsets and trading schemes
WHAT ARE CARBON OFFSETS AND CARBON CREDITS?
Carbon offsets are projects that are claimed to prevent or even reverse specified amounts of emissions. These supposed emissions savings are treated as if they were equivalent to actual emissions reductions, even though many are unverifiable, allowing companies, industries and state actors to claim that emissions are being reduced when actual emissions continue unabated.
Carbon offsets generate credits which can be sold to polluters to allow them to emit pollution over and above their cap. Because buying credits is often cheaper or easier than actual emissions reductions, they are attractive to businesses that want the cheapest or easiest way to meet emissions reduction targets
Offsets usually run in parallel with cap and trade schemes in which a cap is set to limit the total amount of pollution allowed. One company or entity can buy a credit from another company that has supposedly reduced emissions by a certain amount in order to meet its carbon reduction targets, without actually making any real change itself.
Consider this diagram explaining how carbon markets work:
Looks good right? But now ask:
1. Could Emitter A have reduced its emissions to meet the target, but chose not to because Emitter B had some cheap credits to sell?
2. Wouldn't we have made more progress if both Emitter A and Emitter B had simply been required to meet the target and rewarded for exceeding it?
3. Who is measuring how much emissions were saved by Emitter B or other credit sellers? Are those savings real or just on paper? Many offset projects that sell credits are tree planting or conservation projects, which means savings are difficult to quantify and can be erased the moment there is a forest fire (not to mention that an oak tree planted today will take at least 20 years to begin absorbing the carbon it is projected to sequester). Other offset projects include renewable energy plants that are not in fact reducing emissions, but rather replacing energy that would otherwise come from carbon emitting sources. They should not serve as a license for industry to continue polluting.
4. Most importantly, what progress is being made here? Carbon offsets and credit trading scheme do not reduce climate changing emissions, they simply shuffle them around between companies. Only ambitious emissions reduction mandates can make a significant dent in the climate crisis that we face.
THERE ARE THREE KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN IT COMES TO CARBON OFFSETS AND CARBON CREDITS:
1. Are the carbon credits being earned and traded a result of emissions reductions that would otherwise not be achievable through direct action like regulation and enforcement?
2. Are the polluters buying credits making a cynical calculation that buying credits is cheaper than just reducing emissions?
3. In those cases when an industry truly CAN'T reduce emissions, are the emissions credits being purchased based on accurately measured and enduring reductions??
Offsets do not reduce emissions. In fact, they do not even compensate for emissions, as they are advertised to do, merely creating an illusion that something is being done about climate change. Instead, they allow emissions to continue and thus exacerbate global warming.
Further, as research on offset projects in the global South has demonstrated, they violate human rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples and result in land grabs. In moving the responsibility for reducing emissions from one location to another, often from countries in the global North to countries in the South, they not only make climate change worse but also increase global inequality.
Carbon offsets, credits and trading schemes are designed by the fossil fuel interests that are promoting them around the world to obscure the truth.
The most effective, rapid and just climate solutions are simple and direct - the Government must mandate reductions from every industry and incentivize the adoption of clean renewable energy if we are to avoid the worst climate disasters predicted by science.
Carbon Credit Research and News
One of the oldest and most enduring state efforts is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, a carbon cap-and-trade system operating in nine Northeastern states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. For those just getting to know RGGI, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s working. A sane, bipartisan process yielded a smart policy framework with enduring and broadly shared social and economic benefits. The bad news is that RGGI isn’t succeeding in the one way that counts most: reducing carbon.
Capitalist Solutions WON’T Solve Climate Change: Carbon Pricing is a FALSE solution and not for NM - Pueblo Action Alliance - July 2021
We are already seeing land management projects on indigenous lands here in New Mexico. “The Mescalero Apache Tribe does the Forest Carbon Partners – Mescalero Apache Tribe Improved Forest Management Project on 200,000 acres in New Mexico (Indigenous Environmental Network).” This project sells permits (carbon credits) to polluters in California. And now there are some recent talks of Jicarilla Apache entering similar land management projects. Indigenous people and their lands are the carbon market’s target. Indigenous people are seen as exportable and leasing our land for carbon trading programs make the most sense. Tribes that are already in international carbon offset programs are making nothing compared to the trillion-dollar industry that is global oil and gas production. Carbon credits basically sell our clean air to polluters to keep up their dirty oil and gas productions in other parts of the world.
Why carbon pricing is not sufficient to mitigate climate change—and how “sustainability transition policy” can help - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) - April 2020
Carbon pricing faces five major issues that limit its use for accelerating deep decarbonization. First, carbon pricing frames climate change as a market failure rather than as a fundamental system problem. Second, it places particular weight on efficiency as opposed to effectiveness. Third, it tends to stimulate the optimization of existing systems rather than transformation. Fourth, it suggests a universal instead of context-sensitive policy approach. Fifth, it fails to reflect political realities.
The Hidden Disequities of Carbon Trading: Carbon Emissions, Air Toxics, and Environmental Justice - Frontiers in Environmental Science - November 2021
The article explores unrecognized disequities in carbon trading. The transfer of carbon affects people and place in ways not internalized by these market instruments, for example the potential creation of sacrifice zones – i.e., carbon emissions and other airborne toxins may accumulate in one area as a big local emitter continues emitting carbon by buying credits from sources in other areas.
Systematic over-crediting of forest offsets - carbonplan.org April 2021
To better understand whether climate claims hold up in practice, report authors performed a comprehensive evaluation of California's forest carbon offsets program — the largest such program in existence, worth more than $2 billion. Their analysis of crediting errors demonstrated that a large fraction of the credits in the program do not reflect real climate benefits. The scale of the problem is enormous: 29% of the offsets analyzed are over-credited, totaling 30 million tCO₂e worth approximately $410 million. The research group described the trend as a “systematic over-crediting” problem that “effectively allow[s] pollution to continue”.
Why Carbon Markets Won't Work for Agriculture - Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy - January 2020
A recent analysis found that oil and gas company emissions in California have gone up in the period the California carbon market has been active. Covered entities move their operations outside of the market’s area to areas with less stringent climate rules. This makes it appear as though the market has reduced emissions even though overall emissions rise. Many rural communities oppose carbon markets because they disproportionately impact low-income, minority and other disadvantaged communities. One company can buy up a large amount of credits to continue emitting or even increase their emissions, thus shirking responsibilities to address localized impacts from pollution. Because most power plants and polluting industries are situated in or near low income communities and communities of color, the continuing or even increased pollution in certain locations will harm those communities disproportionately. Inadequate measurement of carbon sequestration, volatile prices, and paying farmers for soil carbon offsets treats agricultural land narrowly as a carbon sink. Production for local food systems becomes a secondary function of farmland, bringing with it a range of social, economic and food justice concerns, particularly in areas where corporate retailers are divesting from rural communities. Furthermore, offset projects in a carbon market tend to work best for large-scale farms, raising concerns that corporate investment in carbon markets will contribute to further consolidation of agricultural land and disadvantage small to mid-sized farmers.
New mexico has clean, achievable alternatives
A 2022 report estimating the potential benefits of public ownership of New Mexico’s power production and transmission infrastructure concluded that development of 16,700 to 23,500 MW of renewable energy above current production plans, with investment in transmission, could generate energy export revenue in excess of $1 Billion annually, and annual wheeling revenue from transmission would exceed $100 million, while generating a minimum of 550 permanent jobs. The report is based on an analysis of growing renewable energy demand in the western United States and a RETA study identifying solar and wind production and transmission growth capacity in New Mexico
A Net Zero number achieved through questionable accounting gimmicks is not the same as REAL zero. Actual emissions reduction is the only barometer that counts.