Tag Archives: Climate Change

Meet New Jersey’s Biggest Polluter

Along the New Jersey Turnpike, it comes into view: a massive complex of tanks, smokestacks, and tangled pipes. This is New Jersey’s biggest polluter: the Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery.

The Phillips refinery releases far more toxic chemicals than anywhere else in the state, and more than twice as many as the runner-up (another refinery). Some of these chemicals may cause cancer.

Where do these chemicals go? Into poor communities in surrounding Linden, NJ:

“We live in a very low-income neighborhood, so we’re advocating for food, and shelter and everything else. I don’t believe we can get to the point where we’re able to advocate for the smells or the chemicals that are released in the air,” she said.

Despite its staggering environmental toll, the plant employees just 800 people and, even at full capacity, produces only 155,000 barrels of gasoline daily. This is less than 0.05% of the gasoline the US uses every day.

Even those far from New Jersey may have cause for concern: the plant sits two miles from Arthur Kill, the waterway that separates Staten Island from the Garden State and feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. I shudder to think what could happen in a natural disaster, to say nothing of a man-made one. Indeed, the refinery had to shut down prior to Hurricane Sandy.

We have a dangerous plant in the middle of one of the most densely populated places in the country, leeching out toxins. Its damage falls disproportionately on the poor and nonwhite. Its economic impact is modest.

Perhaps it’s time for a change?

More on New Jersey:

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In Norway, 60% of Cars Sold are Electric

Norway’s electric car market is powering ahead, with most new cars registered in September either fully electric or hybrids.

Electric cars accounted for 61.5% of the 15,552 cars registered that month in the country. When hybrids are included, the total jumps up to 89%.

The new Volkswagen ID.3 was the bestselling car, with 12.8% of sales, followed by the Tesla Model 3 and the Polestar 2.

Globally, too, we could be on track for an electric car breakthrough as battery technology gets less expensive. The cost of a lithium-ion battery pack for an electric car fell 87% from 2010 to 2019, according to research by BloombergNEF.

More here.

In the US, by contrast, only 2% of new car registrations are electric.

So why is Norway leading the world while the US, a major producer of electric vehicles, straggles far behind? Are Norwegians just a lot more environmentally conscious?

Well, not exactly. Norway currently has big tax incentives for buying an electric car as opposed to an internal combustion one. Those incentives are set to be pared back this year, but will still provide a tax advantage for electrics. US tax incentives are less generous, which is one major factor behind slower adoption.

Another factor: gas costs the equivalent of about $8 a gallon in Norway, compared to about $2.75 in my neighborhood in New Jersey.

High gas prices and huge tax incentives mean that Norwegians don’t have to be environmentalists to choose an electric car. They just have to be frugal.

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Photo: “IMG46347-2” by odd.bakken is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Texas Failed to Prepare Its Energy System for a Deep Freeze

As many in Texas enter a fifth day without power in freezing temperatures, I searched for information on how such a disaster could’ve happened.

I came upon some excellent perspective from Professor Daniel Cohan at Rice University:

See the entire Twitter thread here. Very much worth reading.

Not preparing the full energy system, from natural gas wells to the electrical grid, for a deep freeze seems to be the culprit.

This makes sense to me as someone who has lived his entire life in the frozen North…northern Maine, Wisconsin, and New Jersey. We’ve had storms and cold even worse than what Texas is experiencing on a regular basis, but I don’t recall the power ever going out. And I’m very grateful for that as I type this in my warm living room.

To me, this calls into serious question the Texas regulatory model, where ERCOT regulates a Texas-only grid that’s exempt from Federal oversight. If they can’t plan for extreme events, why do they exist?

In the mean time, as families resort to making little fires in their homes to stay warm, perhaps Governor Abbott can help. If the Governor’s Mansion has power, why not invite people to come there and warm up? Even a small gesture like that could bring warmth to a few people.

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Photo: “Caricature: Texas Governor Greg Abbott” by DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0