Climate change

With drought and climate change creating water shortages in lower desert states, Wyoming is looking for more ways to store its share of Colorado River water. Last week, a bill sponsored by Representative Cynthia Lummis that would expand the storage capacity of Fontanelle Reservoir on the Green River in southwest Wyoming passed the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously.

Lummis says Wyoming needs more water to grow.

April Barnes

You might think of the Grand Canyon as one of the wildest places in the U.S. But the fact is, the Colorado River that runs through that canyon is not wild at all. Here’s a quote from Cadillac Desert, a documentary on water in the West.

"This river, the Colorado, can be turned on and turned off down to the last drop on orders from the Interior Secretary of the United States," a voiceover tells us. "This was the first river on earth to come under complete human control."

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Carbon dioxide emissions have a pretty bad reputation these days. The Paris Climate Conferencebrought together delegations from all over the world in an effort to cut carbon emissions and avoid catastrophic global warming. But right now, the dirtiest fuel - coal - still supplies nearly 40% of the electricity in the U.S. and in even more in many developing countries.

uwyo.edu

Wyoming has long considered itself a leader in carbon management... how to capture and store carbon. And with the world's attention focused on the climate talks in Paris, the question of how to keep carbon out of the atmosphere has never been more pertinent. 

Kipp Coddington is the new head of the University of Wyoming's Carbon Management Institute, and he sat down with Wyoming Public Radio's Stephanie Joyce to talk about the future of carbon storage technologies.

Flickr Creative Commons

This month, global leaders are gathered in Paris to make a plan to combat climate change. There is broad scientific consensus that climate change is real, serious and caused by humans—but political consensus in this country has been elusive, often clouded by doubt. Over the years, climate denial arguments have changed, but the result has stayed the same: blocking action on climate change.

As an energy reporter in Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-producing state, it’s not uncommon for me to hear climate change denial. For example:

Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge

The shadows of cottonwood trees grow long as the sun sets over Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Wyoming. A perfect time to spot wildlife on the Green River. Among the reeds, I see a white patch with a long neck. A trumpeter swan. Refuge project leader Tom Koerner passes me a pair of binoculars.

“That's probably a single bird and right in this wetland unit we just drove by there's three different pairs that nest in here,” Koerner says. 

With the Paris climate talks just around the corner, environmental groups are asking the Department of the Interior to consider climate change when approving coal mine projects. 

The letter, signed by activists like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club calls on DOI to deny five proposed mine expansion plans in Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah, Montana, and Colorado. 

Energy Information Administration

Wyoming's total carbon emissions are on the rise, even as the state's per-capita emissions have fallen.

Wyoming’s falling per-capita emissions followed the national trend from 2005 to 2013. Forty-eight states’ per-capita emissions fell, while just three rose, according to the Energy Information Administration.

newsroom.unfccc.int/paris

Remember when Democrats controlled Congress a few years back? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had stout majorities back then. Yet even then Democrats couldn’t get legislation passed to combat climate change. So why is the Obama administration preparing to go to Paris to promise the world drastic emission reductions from the United States? U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis said the answer is simple.

“Oh, he’s bypassing Congress.”

Lummis said President Obama isn’t being honest with global leaders as he’s promising lavish reductions in CO2.

  

The New York attorney general and Peabody Energy have come to an agreement over the company’s disclosures related to climate change.

The attorney general’s office launched the investigation in 2007. Over the weekend, the office agreed to drop the investigation if Peabody includes certain disclosures about the risks of climate change in its future filings with regulators.

Photo by Henry Patton, Flickr Creative Commons

If the entire Greenland ice cap were to melt, scientists predict sea levels would rise more than 20 feet. Climate change is speeding up melting of the ice sheet, but it’s not clear by how much. The New York Times recently profiled one of the few research projects taking direct measurements to answer that question. One of the researchers is University of Wyoming graduate student Brandon Overstreet.

Department of Energy EIA

 

One of America’s largest coal companies is running out of options after a judge ruled against a move by the company that would have reduced its debt and interest payments. 

Arch Coal had hoped to improve its balance sheet with a debt swap deal. But last week a New York judge denied the company’s request to protect the deal, instead siding with a group of lenders who want to block it.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Wyoming provides nearly 40 percent of the coal we consume in the United States, but demand for coal-fired electricity is shrinking in response to a variety of factors – including low natural gas prices and environmental regulations aimed at slowing climate change.

basinelectric.com

Governor Mead announced that the so-called Integrated Test Center will be built at the Dry Fork Station, a coal-fired powerplant near Gillette. The state has pledged $15 million dollars in funding for the lab. Another $5 million will come from the Denver-based power company Tri-State Generation. The goal is to develop new technology to turn carbon dioxide into useful products, instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.

Rebecca Huntington

The future of coal was the focus of the International Advanced Coal Technologies Conference in Jackson Hole this week.  

Researchers, officials, and advocates came from all over the world to discuss, among other issues, new ways to use coal. 

Imagine if carbon dioxide emissions, instead of being released into the atmosphere could instead be made into useful everyday products. A $20 million dollar prize was unveiled last week aimed at figuring out just that.

The call to submit ideas for how to actually do that came with the official announcement of the Carbon XPRIZE competition at a recent conference in Texas. 

The XPRIZE foundation itself is a non-profit that manages contests in five areas, one of which is energy and the environment. 

Beartooth Snowfields Melting

Oct 5, 2015
Dr. James Halfpenny

Snowfields that have topped the Beartooth Mountains for centuries are gone now. A Montana Scientist, Dr. Jim Halfpenny says they melted this summer.

A waterfall near the Beartooth Highway is just part of the beauty this area offers now. The highway brings travelers back and forth from Northwest Wyoming to southern Montana. The colors are brilliant. The sky is clear. The weather is warm and balmy.  

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

In Chinese cities like Taiyuan and Beijing, smog hangs heavy, blocking skyscrapers from view. It irritates your lungs and eyes. On a recent trip to China’s largest coal producing province, I even felt like I could taste the pollution.

A delegation from Wyoming had front row seats at the Low Carbon Development Forum on Wednesday in China’s main coal producing province. 

A State Senator said an agreement between the United States and China to share advances in Clean Coal technology is probably ten years too late. The deal was reached this week. Gillette Senator Michael Von Flatern said it’s better late than never.                

Wikimedia Commons

 

The world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide have agreed to share advances in clean coal technology. The terms of that deal were finalized after a meeting between U.S. and Chinese energy officials earlier this week in Billings, Montana. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

As part of a series of listening sessions held across the country, representatives from the Bureau of Land Management recently came to Gillette, Wyo., to meet with residents about the agency's federal coal program. The meeting quickly turned into an impassioned discussion about the future of the coal industry.

Janice Schneider, with the Department of the Interior, said the agency was looking for comments on “how the Bureau of Land Management can best manage its coal resources."

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

 

 

People from all over the state met in Gillette last week to comment on the Bureau of Land Management's controversial proposal to update the federal coal program. 

Office of the Governor

Energy has always been an important topic in Wyoming, but it’s increasingly becoming an important global conversation, especially in the context of climate change. Wyoming, as the second-largest energy producing state in the nation, is central to that conversation. Decisions made today will likely affect the state and the country for years and decades to come. In an interview with Wyoming Public Radio’s energy reporter Stephanie Joyce, Governor Matt Mead started by saying he thinks it’s time to move past the debate about climate change.

Obama's Clean Power Plan Visualized

Aug 4, 2015
Inside Energy

The Obama Administration announced final rules Monday for its plan to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants. While some concessions were made to critics, the final rules actually increase the carbon cuts demanded from states and will have long-lasting impacts on the way power is produced.

The White House previewed the announcement on Sunday with a video narrated by President Obama.

The Obama administration released sweeping environmental regulations today. The first-ever nationwide standards to regulate emissions from power plants are even more ambitious than expected.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Polar bears are one of the species that’s been hardest hit by climate change. But scientists have long thought the bears might be capable of effectively hibernating in summer, to save energy during a longer open water season. New research from the University of Wyoming disproves that hypothesis though. Merav Ben David is a professor of wildlife ecology and one of the authors of the new study. She told Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce that without hibernation, it’s an increasingly long and hungry summer for the bears.

Aaron Schrank/WPR

Thanks to the Pope’s environmental encyclical, some Wyoming Catholics are studying big issues like global climate change for the first time. Laramie’s St. Paul’s Newman Center is hosting a 4-week course this summer to dig in to the document.

Dan Boyce

Pope Francis made international headlines last month by calling on the world to proactively address human-caused climate change.

The document, a so-called encyclical, is one of the most important statements a pope can issue.

Shortly after its release, Inside Energy reporter Dan Boyce sat down with Paul Etienne, Catholic Bishop of Cheyenne.

His diocese, or jurisdiction, covers the entire state of Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal producer.

Philip Brewer / Flickr Creative Commons

Chemicals used in refrigeration and air conditioning can emit potent greenhouses gases. This week, the Environmental Protection agency passed regulations to curb these emissions. 

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