Reaching the goal means conserving additional areas twice the size of Texas—some 440 million acres—within 10 years. If the Red Rock legislation passes, it would give strong protections to 1.5% of the additional land that must be shielded from exploitation by 2030 to meet the goal. In a recent, exquisitely done advocacy report, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance notes that passing the act would “increase landscape connectivity in the region, providing a critical link in the chain of predominantly natural landscapes known as the Western Wildway. Such connectivity is critical to mitigating the climate and extinction/biodiversity crises.” The 6,000-mile Western Wildway stretches through Canada, the United States, and Mexico. It contains 10 eco-regions. Of the more or less “middle” of the wildway that the Red Rock legislation would protect, Michael Soulé, the father of conservation biology who died in June, said, “This is the healthiest, most intact country in the West. The Central Colorado Plateau is, by and large, a connected set of roadless areas that completes a landscape linkage to wildlands networks to the north, south and east.”
The protections would facilitate movement of species through increased connectivity of the different parts of the region, and reduce the impacts of climate change; according to the 2020 study “Contribution of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act to Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Efforts,” protections would help ecosystems adjust to the changes, and protect Colorado River flows.
Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Reps. Jared Huffman of California and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania introduced legislation Thursday that would permanently protect the nearly 20 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. With 75 co-sponsors, the lone Republican being Fitzpatrick, the Arctic Refuge Protection Act would designate the coastal plain of the refuge as wilderness, the strongest protection it can be given in U.S. law. The refuge had long been a target of companies eager to drill for oil. But when the Trump regime, in its twilight days, opened the refuge up to auction late last year, it was a major flop, with just three bidders winning 10-year leases on nine tracts. The state of Alaska was the biggest bidder, with the auction bringing in what is, by previous standards elsewhere, a paltry take—$14.4 million. Partly due to the ongoing oil glut and relatively low prices combined with the difficulty and extra expense of drilling in the Arctic, most companies, including all of the big guys, just weren’t interested. It’s not that there isn’t lots of oil remaining to be extracted: Alaska’s North Slope oil fields have produced 12 billion barrels of oil since 1977, and best estimates are that another 2 billion barrels are recoverable onshore in Alaska. But the wild coastal plain hosts hundreds of thousands of breeding caribou and millions of migrating birds each year. There are bears—black, brown, and polar—musk oxen, wolves, moose, and Arctic foxes, and a unique ecosystem that oil drilling would disrupt. Among his first moves in office, President Joe Biden issued a broad environmental executive order that includes a temporary moratorium on any oil or gas activity on the coastal plain and a mandate for the secretary of the Department of the Interior to “review the program and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, conduct a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program.” Alaska’s congressional delegation, governor, and many state lawmakers blew a gasket over the move. The bill to make that moratorium a permanent ban is certain to produce a difficult fight.
The Trump regime did yeoman’s work in giving experienced federal employees reason to leave their jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, various divisions in the Department of Energy, and elsewhere. Many retired earlier than expected or found other work in agencies less under the gun or in the private sector. For the staff at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management, however, the push out the door was more literal. Its offices were moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, just 30 miles from the Utah border. The move was characterized by critics as a way to hollow out the agency, and that clearly is what happened. Of the 328 BLM HQ employees who were supposed to move to the Centennial State, only 41 did. Of the 480 BLM HQ jobs now spread across the West, 100 are vacant. “What it looks like, because of all of that secrecy, is that this headquarters move has just been a total failure,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, adding that “it was, as we expected, just a move to eviscerate the agency and centralize control, ironically, with [former Interior] Secretary [David] Bernhardt in Washington, D.C.” But the governor and some other Colorado politicians are happy with the move. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper wrote to President Joe Biden two weeks ago to reiterate their support for a “full BLM headquarters in Grand Junction.” So did Rep. Lauren Boebert, whose 3rd congressional district includes Grand Junction, in her own letter to Biden, expressing the view that the move saves money and can better meet the needs of Westerners who live where the bulk of federal land is. Twenty-one other representatives signed her letter.
Most U.S. school buses run on diesel, which has been shown to cause numerous health problems, including damage to the climate’s health from tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases. As with the rest of U.S. surface transportation run on fossil fuels, there’s a solution: electric school buses. However, school budgets already straitened by years of cuts, often don’t allow for fleet changes, at least not quick ones, given how expensive electric buses are. Now, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Environment America Research & Policy Center have released a new report, with several specific recommendations on how school districts working with electric utilities could save $130,000 per bus and do schools, utilities, and the environment a lot of good. From the report:
Electric utilities have a lot to gain from the large-scale adoption of electric school buses, and could play a major role in supporting the transition. Electric buses can expand and stabilize the grid, provide surplus energy storage, and increase energy demand. By providing discounted rates on electric bus charging and building charging infrastructure, utilities can help speed the adoption of electric buses. Utilities can also support electric buses by investing in infrastructure for bus charging in depots and on routes, helping to finance the upfront purchasing costs of electric buses, and introducing smart charging systems to maximize integration of renewable energy. Several utility companies have already launched programs to help school districts adopt electric buses,including Dominion Energy in Virginia and Portland General Electric in Oregon.
Particularly promising options are vehicle-to-grid technology and Pay-As-You-Save programs. Vehicle-to-grid technology allows buses to send stored energy back to the grid. When equipped with vehicle-to-grid technology, electric buses can use their batteries for energy storage, providing a service to the grid by reserving and selling electricity back at times of high demand.
The first-of-its-kind hub will be built on an island fabricated about 50 miles from the Jutland peninsula. It will be owned by a public-private partnership. It is part of Denmark’s contribution to the green transition of Europe, and will help strengthen the integration of power grids and boost the amount of renewable electricity needed to cut carbon emissions. When completed in 2030 at an estimated cost of $34 billion, the hub will be able to generate and distribute electricity to 10 million European households from at least 200 wind turbines in waters surrounding the island. Said the Danish Minister for Climate Dan Jørgensen, “We are at the dawn of a new era for energy. Last year, Denmark set a cutoff date for fossil fuel extraction. Today we are taking a decisive step toward a clean energy future. The EU has set a goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and the commission has set a target of 300 GW [gigawatts] offshore wind energy in order to attain this goal. By constructing the world’s first energy hub with a potential capacity of 10 GW, Denmark significantly contributes to this ambitious target. Not only by dramatically expanding renewable energy production, but also by supplying our European neighbors with an abundance of renewable energy.” In 1991, on the real island of Lolland, Denmark built the Vindeby Offshore Wind Farm, the world’s first offshore wind farm.
One item in President Biden’s executive orders on the climate crisis, issued last week, was a transformation of the 645,000 fleet of fossil-fueled federal vehicles into a fleet of electrics made in America by union workers. That’s going to give just a handful of automakers the opportunity to cash in on what could be a bonanza. Trouble is, a very big portion of the vehicles needing replacing are trucks, and no major manufacturer or start-up has cranked out electric trucks at scale. They’re coming, but not expected in large numbers for at least a couple of years. In the case of the U.S. Postal Service, almost all of its vehicles are trucks. Currently, the government’s total of electric vehicles is 3,215, mostly owned by the Navy.
Certainly much of the federal fleet is ready to be retired, as Kyle Stock at Bloomberg Green found when he scrutinized the situation. The average vehicle is close to 15 years old, three years above the typical car or truck on the road. But mail trucks are even older, averaging 22 years old. Maintenance on these aging vehicles now runs about $1 a mile; the government forks out $4.4 billion a year on the vehicles, with almost half of that going to fuel and repairs. Powering and maintaining electric vehicles would be cheaper because they have far fewer moving parts than gas- and diesel-powered vehicles, and they require no spark plug or oil changes, and have no expensive transmissions or stolen catalytic converters to replace. Replacing most of the entire fleet by the time Biden’s first term is over means somebody will have to crank out around 150,000 vehicles a year. Perhaps the automakers can take a lesson from themselves from when they quickly went from making sedans to rolling out tens of thousands of tanks, jeeps, and airplanes in World War II. Production of civilian automobiles ceased in February 1942 while the switch was made.