Clear The Air Energy Blog Rotating Header Image

Editorial: No viable future for coal anywhere

The UN climate conference in Paris last December decided to limit the temperature increase to well below 2°C/1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Climate Action Network Europe argues in a new report that “either of these targets would mean eliminating coal completely, and this is what the EU must commit to doing. The Paris Agreement sends a clear signal that there is no viable future for coal anywhere. Coal-fired generation is the quick win: 18% of Europe’s greenhouse gases came from the chimneys of just 280 coal power plants.”

The CAN-E report demands that a full coal phase-out should be one of the EU’s stated goals. This phase-out effort needs to be accompanied by dedicated support for mining regions affected by the transition from coal power and the development of clean energy with 100 per cent renewables.

In 2014, for the first time, renewables produced more electricity than coal in the EU. There are good examples from 2016 that goverments have started phasing out coal:

  • In March, Scotland witnessed the end to the coal age that fired its industrial revolution, with the closure of Longannet power station. In the UK nearly half of the coal fleet will close this year.
  • In May, the EU authorised Spain and Germany to subsidise the closure of significant parts of their coal sectors. Spain was given the green light to spend €2 billion closing 26 coal mines by 2019 and Germany to subsidise the closure of eight lignite-burning installations between 2016 and 2019, representing 13 per cent of Germany’s lignite-burning capacity.
  • In June 2016 the leaders of the G7 countries (UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan) and the EU pledged to eliminate “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” (for coal, oil and gas) by 2025.And in June the Croatian government stopped building a new 400 MW coal power plant.
  • These are positive signs, but at the same time the coal industry is strongly promoting further coal use. The International Energy Agency is still running a clean coal centre, even though the IEA’s own policy conclusion is that no new coal plants should be built from 2016 if UN climate targets are to be reached. This summer, Green Budget

Europe criticised the UN Economic Commission Europe (UNECE) for still promoting clean coal policies. Euracoal, which has 34 coal industry members in 20 EU countries, is jointly campaigning with the World Coal Association (WCA) for “a ‘clean coal’ strategy to fight climate change”, relying on what it calls “high-efficiency, low-emissions coal combustion technologies”.

Coal is a climate killer whatever its efficiency is, argues WWF in a new report. The argument that high-efficiency coal-fired power plants are a viable solution for reducing CO2 emissions, the main cause of climate change, is completely discredited by research from Ecofys, among others. It shows that emissions from the global electricity sector need to rapidly reduce and reach close to zero globally by 2050 in order to stay well under 2°C. An even more rapid decline will be needed in order to achieve the commitment taken in Paris to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”. As a result, it makes clear that in a post-Paris world, there is simply no role for coal anymore. Demand-side management and renewable energies are the solutions we need, says WWF. FOE Germany has proposed a legally binding phase-out plan for coal in Germany and in this issue of Acid News such a phase-out plan is proposed for the EU (page 12). The trend is clear. There is no more time for the EU to continue experiments with different environmental and economic measures to reduce emissions from fossil fuel plant emissions. The EU must now commit to a phase-out plan of all coal power plants, with complete closure before 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate change and to achieve many co-benefits, including the reduction of ill health and mortality for thousands of Europeans from air pollution.

Reinhold Pape

Coal kills across borders

Every coal-fired power station switched off will bring great benefits that reach beyond national borders, for both human health and the climate.

In 2013, air pollutant emissions from coal-fired power stations in the EU were responsible for over 22,900 premature deaths, tens of thousands of cases of ill-health from heart disease to bronchitis, and up to €62.3 billion in health costs. As air pollution travels far beyond national borders, a full coal phase-out in the EU would bring enormous benefits for all citizens across the continent, according to the report “Europe’s Dark Cloud: How coal-burning countries make their neighbours sick”.

Each coal power plant closed will provide major health benefits, not only for those living nearby, but also for those abroad. For example, the planned UK phase-out of coal by 2025 could save up to 2,870 lives every year, of which more than 1,300 in continental Europe. A German phase-out of coal could avoid more than 1,860 premature deaths domestically and almost 2,500 abroad every year.

The analysis of transboundary impacts shows that the five EU countries whose coal power plants do the most harm abroad are: Poland (causing 4,690 premature deaths abroad), Germany (2,490), Romania (1,660), Bulgaria (1,390) and the UK (1,350). It also shows that the countries most heavily impacted by coal pollution from neighbouring countries, in addition to that from their own plants are: Germany (3,630 premature deaths altogether), Italy (1,610), France (1,380), Greece (1,050) and Hungary (700).

The study used data from 257 (of the total of 280) coal power stations that report SO2, NOx and particulate matter (PM) emissions to the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (EPRTR) and for which 2013 data was available. It is noticeable that the 30 most polluting coal power plants – the “Toxic 30” – alone were responsible for more than half of the premature deaths and health costs (see figure).

“The report underlines the high costs to health that come with our reliance on coal power generation. It also debunks the myth that coal is a cheap energy source. Clearly, no country on its own can solve the problem of air pollution from energy production,” said Anne Stauffer, Deputy Director of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

Looking at greenhouse gases, the 280 coal plants released 755 million tonnes of CO2, which represents around 18 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Almost half of these CO2 emissions (367 million tonnes in 2014) came from the 30 highest-emitting plants – the “Dirty 30”. Three countries are home to 19 of the “Dirty 30” plants, namely Germany (eight), Poland (six) and the UK (five).

The report recommends that a full coal phase-out should be one of the EU’s stated goals and that speeding up the process of transitioning out coal will require stiffening of specific EU policies, including a rapid and ambitious structural reform of the EU Emissions Trading System in order to put a meaningful price on carbon emissions. This should be accompanied by the introduction of an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) for CO₂ from power plants to provide a clear investment signal for the decarbonisation of the power sector.

In addition, the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) and National Emissions Ceilings Directive (NECD) must introduce stricter pollution limits for the emissions they cover, and EU funding instruments need to be reformed so that they aid the transition away from coal and other fossil fuels and support regions and communities with mining region transformation.

“The report shows that every coal-fired power station switched off will bring great benefits reaching beyond national borders, for both human health as well as climate” – Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe concluded. “After the Paris Climate Agreement, EU leaders have even more responsibility to dramatically ramp up efforts to shut down all coal power plants and swiftly move to 100 per cent renewable energy”.

Christer Ågren

Figure. The “Toxic 30” – the EU coal power plants that do the greatest health damage.

Figure. The “Toxic 30” – the EU coal power plants that do the greatest health damage.

A phase-out plan for coal in Europe

Very old and high-emitting plants are easy to replace with renewables and improvements in energy efficiency.

The worst 30 coal and lignite power plants in Europe (EU-28) emitted 353 million tons of CO2 in 2015, more than 10 per cent of EU emissions. A phase-out plan for coal in Europe could start with a mandatory age limit of 35 years, along the lines earlier presented for Germany by the Society for Environment and Nature Conservation BUND/FOE Germany.

Such an age limit would reduce CO2 emissions by almost 262 million tonnes per year just among the 30 worst.

CO2 emissions in Europe are dropping, but no way near fast enough to comply with the Paris agreement. The 2020 target, 20 per cent less than 1990, is clearly inadequate, which shows in the low carbon price on the ETS market. In practice, the EU still follows the “walk now, run later” scheme.

One of the lowest hanging fruits is the power sector, where very old and high-emitting plants are easy to replace with renewables and improvements in energy efficiency, which have no direct emissions at all.

The worst lignite plants emit 1.35 kg of CO2/kWh, more than three times more than a gas power plant, which is also fossil-fuelled.

One path to deal with the worst plants has been developed by BUND/FOE Germany, as reported earlier in Acid News 3/14. It is a ban on all plants older than 35 years, which means that plants that started operating in 1985 or before must be closed by 2020.

In 2013, German coal power increased, despite fast-growing renewables. This created a crisis for the Energiewende. It looked as if nuclear power had been replaced with more coal, both lignite and hard coal. This was not really the case. Renewables grew fast, but so did power exports. And, unexpectedly, for both economical and political reasons gas power suddenly fell, while imported coal became dirt cheap.

The sudden coal surge threatened Germany’s environmental targets and reputation. Something had to be done. BUND, the German Friends of the Earth, came up with a plan in 2014, aiming at phasing out the oldest and dirtiest coal and lignite power plants by 2020 and all such plants at age 35.

If such a 35-year age limit phase-out were to be implemented all over Europe (EU-28), it would cut emissions by about 260 Mtons (from 353 Mtons in 2015) by 2020 or very soon thereafter, just among the worst 30 plants , known as the Dirty Thirty.

About 140 Mtons of this reduction would come from lignite plants and the remainder from hard coal power plants.

This is calculated by taking the 2015 emissions from each of the Dirty 30 plants, their capacity and the share of that capacity that will have reached 35 years by 2020, or in a few cases by 2021 or 2022.

Some of these 260 Mtons will obviously be cut for other reasons.

Longannet in the UK closed in 2015 and there are plans for other plants to either close some units or to use them less, by downgrading them from baseload to peak or reserve operation. This can make a big difference; a baseload power plant is supposed to be operated for about 90 per cent of the year at full capacity, or 8,000 hours, but a peak/reserve plant may operate in the order of 100 hours per year, decreasing emissions proportionally.

Some plants may also switch from coal to biomass. Drax in the UK used more biomass than coal in the first six months of 2016. It is difficult to tell whether enough biomass will be available at justifiable cost five years from now and what the political conditions will be.

The age structure of the plants – at least among the Dirty 30 – is such that many plants are old, a few new, but not so many in between.

A 35-year limit is not a panacea, as a number of big coal power plants have been commissioned very recently, and unwisely from every perspective. Under a serious climate policy, they cannot be allowed to operate anywhere near the lifetime expected by the investors.

Big change does not, however, necessarily mean a long time scale. Japan had 54 nuclear power reactors that supplied 30 per cent of the nation’s electricity in 2010. Since the Fukushima disaster in 2011 almost all nuclear power has been shut down, with just 0-3 reactors operating between 2013 and now. This happened without any previous planning and, except for the first two summers, without any rationing or other exceptional measures. The demise of all coal mining and much coal power in the UK has also happened very fast.

The problem is not whether dirty coal can be phased out, using existing technology and without requiring big economic and administrative burdens. It can. The problem is whether it can win political acceptance by being done in an equitable way, without undue burdens on certain groups and regions.

The German Green Party has developed a Road Map for Coal Exit in Germany , a 10-point plan, which gives a picture of how stumbling blocks can be overcome.

  1. Start a dialogue about the coal exit (until the end of 2017).
  2. Resolve the coal exit (by June 2018).
  3. Establish an oversight commission (April to December 2018).
  4. Prohibit new open-cast mines (by June 2018).
  5. Introduce CO2 budgets for fossil fuel plants (by June 2018).
  6. Enforce environmental and health protection (by October 2018).
  7. Protect funding of subsequent cost (by December 2018).
  8. Shape the structural change (by December 2018).
  9. Get emission trading (EU) into motion (by June 2019).
  10. Economic and social safeguarding (starting June 2019).

The devil is indeed in the details, but so are his opponents.

Fredrik Lundberg


Paris changes everything

The Paris Agreement constitutes a global turning point away from fossil fuels and toward 100% renewable energy.

For the first time in history all countries have agreed to take drastic action to protect the planet from climate change, to jointly pursue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C and eventually reduce emissions to zero. Following this historic outcome, the next step is to translate these Paris commitments into deep emission reductions in all countries. There is no doubt that implementing the Paris Agreement will require a complete overhaul of the EU’s current climate and energy policies.

Since the Paris Summit we have already witnessed the transition to a 100% renewable energy economy speeding up. It is in the EU’s own interest to be a frontrunner in the race towards the zero-emission economy.

Increasing action before 2020 is a prerequisite to achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. Cumulative emissions determine the level of global warming, so in order to be consistent with the long-term goal of 1.5°C adopted in Paris, it is paramount to consider the cumulative emissions budget – the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. The IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report provides numbers for different global carbon budgets allowing for different levels of warming. With current emissions of 38Gt of CO2 per year, the entire carbon budget that would allow a 66 per cent chance of staying below 1.5°C would be completely exhausted in five years. A budget allowing only a 50 per cent chance would be gone in nine years (figure 1).

Figure 1. How many years of current emissions would use up the IPCC’s carbon budgets for different levels of warming? Source:  Carbon countdown graph by Carbon Brief Data IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report table 2.2.

Figure 1. How many years of current emissions would use up the IPCC’s carbon budgets for different levels of warming? Source: Carbon countdown graph by Carbon Brief Data IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report table 2.2.

For any fair likelihood of keeping temperature rise to 1.5°C, global mitigation efforts need to be stepped up between now and 2020, and extended to all sectors, including international shipping and aviation.

Increasing mitigation action before 2020 is vital for achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, and will be one of the key issues if the UN climate conference COP22 in Marrakech in November 2016 is to succeed. Keeping in mind that the EU has already achieved its -20% by 2020 target several years in advance, and is progressing towards 30 per cent domestic reductions by 2020, the EU can make a significant contribution to this discussion by, among other things, cancelling the surplus of pollution permits under the Emissions Trading Scheme and the Effort Sharing Decision.

We urge the EU to seek solutions that can help drive global emissions to a deep decline as of 2017, both in the context of the Global Climate Action Agenda as well as strengthening the national pre-2020 commitments on mitigation and finance.

2025 and 2030 targets must be revised in 2018 at COP24. The post-2020 commitments (INDCs) put forward by countries are inadequate for keeping warming to 1.5°C (or even 2°C). Last May the UNFCCC Secretariat published a report assessing the aggregate effect of countries’ post-2020 targets. The report’s graph below concludes that while most of the carbon budget was already consumed by 2011, countries’ unrevised INDCs will entirely consume the remaining 50 per cent chance of achieving a 1.5°C compliant carbon budget by 2025.

All COP22 countries need to commit to prepare their respective assessments on how to raise the level of post-2020 targets to bridge the adequacy gap by COP24 in 2018. To facilitate this process we urge countries to put forward updated and improved post-2020 INDCs as soon as possible and latest by 2018, and to finalise their long-term strategies as soon as possible, and latest by 2018 (figure 2).

Figure 2. Cumulative CO2 emissions consistent with the goal of keeping global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, with >50% probability by 2100. INDCs = intended nationally determined contributions. Source: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report scenario database and own aggregation.

Figure 2. Cumulative CO2 emissions consistent with the goal of keeping global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, with >50% probability by 2100. INDCs = intended nationally determined contributions. Source: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report scenario database and own aggregation.

The EU’s ongoing legislative work on ETS and non-ETS emissions should be used to align the EU’s 2030 targets with science and the commitments made in Paris, and make them economy-wide, covering EU-related emissions from international aviation and shipping.

International shipping and aviation currently account for around 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions, and these emissions are anticipated to have vast growth rates (50–250% by 2050 for shipping, and 270% for aviation). As these sectors’ emissions are not counted under national inventories, the 2018 stocktake must ensure that these sectors too are in line with the Paris Agreement and the 1.5°C compatible carbon budget.

Long-term strategies for zero greenhouse gas and 100 per cent renewable energy. The Paris Agreement includes a long-term goal to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C requires a reassessment of the EU’s climate and energy policies, and an increase in action by all. The goal to reduce the EU’s domestic emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 is not consistent with the Paris Agreement and has to change to be consistent with the long-term goals governments decided in Paris.

The Paris Agreement also contains a commitment to reduce net global emissions to zero during the second half of the century. Achieving this requires most sectors in the EU to achieve zero emissions earlier, within the next couple of decades. Most urgently, the EU should adopt timelines for fully phasing out the use of coal, gas and oil.

In order to facilitate the process of aligning all policies with the long-term targets of the Paris Agreement, all countries should swiftly proceed in the development of their respective 1.5°C compliant mid-century strategy. Having a long-term strategic vision will help to guide their short- and medium-term decisions and will have a positive impact on a long-term framework for innovation and business development. The updated EU 2050 roadmap should be finalised latest by 2018, and take fully into account the recent striking developments in renewable energy. A COP decision in Marrakech setting the deadline of finalised mid-century roadmaps by 2018 would ensure that all countries begin preparations swiftly.

Shifting of financial flows. The Paris Agreement also includes a requirement for making all financial flows consistent with low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development. In the first instance this requires the EU to tackle those financial flows that are obstructing emission reductions, and which hinder progress towards the EU’s broader economic and social objectives. They include fossil fuel subsidies, public finance for high-carbon infrastructure through European development banks, and policy frameworks that facilitate financial support of fossil fuels.

The climate finance roadmap to raise 100 billion US dollars by 2020 should be launched in advance of Marrakech COP22. The roadmap must not be an accounting exercise for already existing financial flows, but rather guarantee stronger transparency, as well as adequate and reliable support for tackling the causes and impacts of climate change. It should also explicitly spell out to what level the EU and other donor countries will increase annual adaptation finance by 2020.

The current review of the EU ETS provides a key opportunity to showcase the EU leadership on climate finance, committing to direct a portion of the revenues from auctioning directly to the Green Climate Fund. Setting up an EU ETS International Climate Action Reserve would give a clear signal to developing countries that the EU is committed to continue to provide additional finance for climate needs in predictable and transparent ways. The Financial Transaction Tax should be implemented as soon as possible.

Resilience, adaptation and loss and damage. Even with the existing and future measures to mitigate climate change, the adaptation needs of all countries will continue to grow, undermining the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in particular. The EU should lead efforts to strengthen human rights in all climate action, as mandated in the Paris Agreement.

Ratification of the Paris Agreement and its early entry into force. A rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement would demonstrate that there is a strong international support for ambitious climate action and would serve as a strong signal to the private sector. All COP22 countries should set 2018 as a deadline for full entry into force of the Paris Agreement, including finalising all the outstanding work on rules and modalities for countries to be able to implement the Agreement.

Ulriikka Aarnio
Climate Action Network Europe

Can ExxonMobil Be Found Liable for Misleading the Public on Climate Change?

Scientists at the biggest U.S. oil company understood as early as anyone that fossil fuel emissions were heating up the earth’s atmosphere.

Last fall, ExxonMobil executives hurried along the hushed, art-filled halls of the company’s Irving, Texas, headquarters, a 178-acre suburban complex some employees facetiously call “the Death Star,” to a series of emergency strategy meetings. The world’s largest oil explorer by market value had been hit by a pair of multipart investigations by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times. Both reported that as early as the 1970s, the company understood more about climate change than it had let on and had deliberately misled the public about it. One of Exxon’s senior scientists noted in 1977—11 years before a NASA scientist sounded the alarm about global warming during congressional testimony—that “the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”

The two exposés predictably sparked waves of internet outrage, some mainstream media moralizing, and the Twitter hashtag #ExxonKnew. The Washington Post editorial page, for one, chided Exxon for “a discouraging example of corporate irresponsibility.” Bill McKibben, the founder of the environmental group, which spearheaded protests against the Keystone XL pipeline, wrote an impassioned article in the Guardian accusing Exxon of having “helped organize the most consequential lie in human history.”

Kenneth Cohen, then the company’s vice president for public and government affairs, convened near-daily meetings to form a response. “We all sat around the table and said, ‘This feels very orchestrated,’ ” says Suzanne McCarron, who succeeded Cohen when he retired at the end of last year. McCarron still seems shocked that her company could come under sustained attack. “We wanted to know who’s behind this thing,” she says. While Exxon tried to identify its new nemesis—made difficult, perhaps, by the release of the two reports being coincidental—the executives also decided to nitpick the journalism and sent lobbyists to Capitol Hill to argue their side. That didn’t go so well. “I couldn’t get any journalist to actually evaluate the coverage,” Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers says, with evident frustration.

The crisis might have died down, a week or two of bad PR and nothing more, but several politicians saw an opening. On Oct. 14, four weeks after the first InsideClimate report, Democratic Representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier, both from California, asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch a federal racketeering investigation of Exxon. “It occurred to me that this looks like what happened with the tobacco companies a decade ago,” Lieu says. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton added her support for a Department of Justice inquiry. “There’s a lot of evidence that they [Exxon] misled people,” she said two weeks later.

Stoked by 40 of the nation’s best-known environmental and liberal social-justice groups—including the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, and Natural Resources Defense Council—the anti-Exxon animus only intensified. And if there wasn’t a coordinated campaign before, now there was: The groups all signed an Oct. 30 letter to Lynch also demanding a racketeering probe. (Lynch has since asked the FBI to examine whether the federal government should undertake such an investigation.) The same day, Lieu and DeSaulnier tried to interest the Securities and Exchange Commission in a fraud probe against Exxon, a request that’s pending. Five days later, on Nov. 4, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman opened a formal investigation into whether Exxon had misled investors and regulators about climate change.

“We cannot continue to allow the fossil fuel industry to treat our atmosphere like an open sewer or mislead the public about the impact they have on the health of our people and the health of our planet,” former Vice President Al Gore said at a subsequent news conference organized by Schneiderman. Compelled by the New York AG’s subpoena, Exxon has so far turned over some 1 million pages of internal documents.

Hours after Schneiderman issued his subpoena, Exxon Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson went on Fox Business Network. “The charges are pretty unfounded, without any substance at all,” he said. “And they’re dealing with a period of time that happened decades ago, so there’s a lot I could say about it. I’m not sure how helpful it would be for me to talk about it.” These remarks themselves weren’t terribly helpful—certainly not to Tillerson’s company.

McCarron and her colleagues can sound a tad overwrought when discussing all this. “The goal of the coordinated campaign is to delegitimize the company by misrepresenting our history of climate research,” she says. “Tackling the risk of climate change is going to take a lot of smart people, and we’ve got some of the best minds in the business working on this challenge.”

A company that has 73,500 employees and reported $269 billion in 2015 revenue would seem not to have much to fear from a bunch of tree-huggers and a grandstanding state AG. And yet the #ExxonKnew backlash comes at a financially perilous time for Big Oil. A glut-driven collapse in crude prices has rocked the entire industry. On July 29, Exxon announced second-quarter profit of $1.7 billion, its worst result in 17 years. That followed a rocky spring when ferocious wildfires reduced production in the oil-sands region of western Canada. (The frequency and intensity of such fires may be related to climate change, Exxon’s Jeffers acknowledges, adding, “But we just don’t know.”)

Most important, though, #ExxonKnew comes as climate change, after being on a legislative back burner, has gotten hot again. Signs of this include President Obama’s rejection last November of the Keystone pipeline from western Canada, the Paris summit in December that produced an international agreement to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and the U.S.-China plan, finalized on Sept. 3, committing the world’s two largest economies to implement the Paris accords. It’s too soon to say how much of a danger Schneiderman’s investigation poses to Exxon or if the corporation will ever be charged billions of dollars for carbon pollution. But it can’t ignore the risk of the sort of litigation storm that engulfed Big Tobacco in the 1990s. ExxonMobil doesn’t want to become the Philip Morris of climate liability.

#ExxonKnew has taken shape over the past year, but Peter Frumhoff traces its roots to January 2007. That’s when the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit, published a 64-page report alleging that Exxon used the cigarette industry’s tactics to “manufacture uncertainty on climate change.” Founded in 1969 by physicists worried about nuclear issues, the UCS has branched out over the years. Frumhoff, a 59-year-old Ph.D. ecologist, serves as its director for science and policy. He dresses in grad-school casual and seems highly amused by Exxon’s notion that he’s a central player in a conspiracy against the company. For starters, Frumhoff is a snap to track down and operates quite openly—violations of the conspirator’s imperative to plot in secret.

The 2007 report, which Frumhoff oversaw, compared Exxon to cigarette manufacturers that only five months earlier had been found liable by a U.S. district judge for violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). “ExxonMobil has underwritten the most sophisticated and successful disinformation campaign since Big Tobacco misled the public about the incontrovertible scientific evidence linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease,” the report asserted.

With a relatively modest expenditure of $16 million from 1998 to 2005, Exxon helped fund a network of some 40 advocacy organizations that raised doubts about the growing scientific consensus that global warming is caused by carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping emissions, the UCS found. Exxon, Frumhoff says, is “sort of the poster child for combining a very large contribution to the [climate] problem with an arrogant organizational culture and a significant investment in disinformation to avoid regulation.”

The idea of “making oil the next tobacco” percolated quietly for several years and reemerged in June 2012 in sunny La Jolla, Calif., Frumhoff says. It was there that he co-convened a meeting of scientists and lawyers who discussed not only the parallels between fossil fuels and cigarettes, but also the method used to wound tobacco: the amassing via litigation of internal corporate documents showing that cigarette companies concealed the hazards of smoking. “Similar documents may well exist in the vaults of the fossil fuel industry and their trade associations and front groups,” an online report summarizing the La Jolla meeting stated. Even “a single sympathetic state attorney general might have substantial success in bringing key internal documents to light.”

Several more years passed before a passel of climate documents surfaced, not courtesy of a prosecutor’s subpoena, but as a result of journalistic digging: those reports in InsideClimate (21,000 words in length) and the Los Angeles Times. The two organizations reported that after accumulating climate knowledge for a decade or so, Exxon changed course beginning in the late 1980s, just as public debate over greenhouse gas emissions heated up.

By the 1990s, top Exxon executives were publicly raising doubts about the sorts of findings the company’s own scientists had made. In October 1997, Lee Raymond, then Exxon’s CEO, said in a speech in Beijing, “Let’s agree there’s a lot we really don’t know about how climate will change in the 21st century and beyond.” Arguing against the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an early attempt to forge an international agreement on emission reductions, he added, “It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.”

Working separately from InsideClimate, the Los Angeles Times showed how Exxon incorporated climate change projections into its Arctic exploration plans in the 1990s while publicly undermining such projections.

The overlapping investigative journalism efforts appeared as delegations from countries around the world were getting ready for the December climate talks in Paris. On the sidelines of the Paris summit, McKibben, the author-activist, co-hosted a mock trial of Exxon in which he served as a prosecutor. “This is not just some run-of-the-mill, usual corporate malfeasance,” McKibben said at the trial. “It’s hard to imagine a set of corporate practices that could have done more damage.” Exxon, needless to say, was found guilty.

By its public-relations staff’s own admission, Exxon spent last fall and winter in a largely reactive mode, scrambling to respond to each new revelation or congressional request for an investigation—and never succeeding in offering an alternative narrative. “It was like playing whack-a-mole,” spokesman Jeffers says.

Seeking to illustrate how InsideClimate “cherry-picked” evidence, the company’s communications team pointed Bloomberg Businessweek to a half-dozen alleged examples.

One focused on the site’s account of the late James Black, the Exxon scientist who told management in 1977 of the “general scientific agreement” about man-made global warming. Exxon accused the publication of failing to include qualifications feathered into Black’s work, such as his noting that “a number of assumptions and uncertainties are involved in the predictions of the greenhouse effect.” But InsideClimate did prominently note that Black’s “presentations reflected uncertainty running through scientific circles about the details of climate change.” Exxon also accused the organization of erroneously asserting that the company had “stopped” doing carbon research in the late 1980s. But InsideClimate had written, correctly, that the company “curtailed” its in-house research program during that period. (“Curtail” doesn’t mean “stop.”)

Exxon has also accused InsideClimate and the Los Angeles Times of having financial conflicts of interest. The Times articles were researched and written in collaboration with an environmental-reporting project at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and that program has taken substantial grants from environmentally oriented foundations, such as those funded by the Rockefeller family. Despite the source of their original wealth—in 1870, John D. Rockefeller created Standard Oil, the corporate forerunner of Exxon—the Rockefeller charities in recent years have taken strong stands against the fossil fuel industry. The Rockefeller Family Fund gave Columbia Journalism School $550,000 to help pay for its fossil fuel reporting project but exercised no editorial control, says Lee Wasserman, director of the fund. The Los Angeles Times initially failed to disclose the funding of the Columbia reporting project, though the newspaper eventually linked to the financial details online. Since 2013, the separate Rockefeller Brothers Fund has provided InsideClimate with $200,000 a year; that fund had no say over what the website published, according to David Sassoon, InsideClimate’s founder and publisher.

As its attacks on journalists fizzled, Exxon tried sending lobbyists to dozens of congressional offices to counter #ExxonKnew on Capitol Hill. Lieu, the California Democrat seeking federal investigations, is still shaking his head over a November visit from four Exxon emissaries. The lobbyists handed out a 10-page presentation titled Managing Climate Change Risks, which sought to underscore the company’s carbon-reduction bona fides. “It was a really surreal meeting,” Lieu says. The lobbyists “came in and said, ‘We believe in climate change and that it’s being caused by humans, and we support a carbon tax.’ I thought to myself, Where is this coming from? Is this like some white-hat department that no one else at Exxon knows about?”

Lieu hadn’t been keeping up with the evolution of Exxon’s climate-related positions since Tillerson replaced the hard-nosed Raymond as CEO in 2006. In 2007, Exxon began cutting off funding for some nonprofits that deny widely accepted science on global warming. The company in 2009 for the first time endorsed a tax on carbon emissions, a stance vehemently opposed by Republicans in Congress and therefore dead on arrival on Capitol Hill. At the Exxon annual meeting in Dallas in May, the silver-haired Tillerson went out of his way to tell shareholders that “the risks of climate change are serious and they do warrant thoughtful action.”

Strictly speaking, though, #ExxonKnew isn’t a campaign aimed at what the company is saying or doing today. #ExxonKnew focuses on discrepancies between past actions and past statements. That historical inquiry, Lieu says, deserves the authority and force of a government investigation. Exxon’s lobbyists didn’t change his mind.

Exxon executives say their view of #ExxonKnew as a conspiracy was confirmed by the gathering of 15 state attorneys general and Gore in New York on March 29. Schneiderman, the host, says he organized the event simply to educate fellow state officials about his Exxon investigation. At the news conference, he sounded like he’d already decided to take the company to court: With “morally vacant forces” blocking climate action in Washington, he said, states were obliged to devise “creative ways to enforce laws being flouted by the fossil fuel industry.”

Schneiderman also arranged for private briefings for the visiting AGs. These closed-door sessions featured a talk on climate science by Frumhoff and a legal backgrounder by Matt Pawa, a private plaintiffs’ attorney who in 2013 won a $236 million groundwater-pollution verdict against Exxon. The company’s public-affairs representatives see great significance in Pawa’s also having attended Frumhoff’s 2012 gathering in La Jolla. “You see the same people showing up at planning meetings over the years,” Jeffers says. Schneiderman says he doesn’t know anything about the La Jolla session and that his office routinely consults with outside experts.

A more consequential aspect of the prosecutors’ conclave was the announcement by the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Claude Walker, that his tiny Caribbean territory had launched a parallel investigation of Exxon. In theory, the Virgin Islands has ample reason to be anxious about climate change: Warming, rising ocean waters could swamp its homes and resorts in coming decades. But in practice, the territory proved itself inadequate to the task of confronting Exxon.

In March the Virgin Islands issued a sprawling, loosely worded subpoena that demanded the company’s correspondence with scores of conservative and free-market organizations, including FreedomWorks, the Heartland Institute, and the Heritage Foundation. In a separate subpoena, it sought documents directly from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning group that’s cast doubt on mainstream climate science and formerly received financial support from Exxon. This focus on communication opened the door for Exxon’s New York law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, to seek to kill the islands’ subpoenas on First Amendment grounds. Paul Weiss filed court papers in Texas on April 13 condemning the Virgin Islands’ attempt “to deter ExxonMobil from participating in ongoing public deliberations about climate change.” (The more precisely tailored New York subpoena didn’t explicitly name nonprofits with which Exxon may have communicated.)

Finally, Exxon had its counterpunch: that hostile outsiders had attacked the company’s free-speech rights. There’s a reason Theodore Wells, the Paul Weiss partner who’s led Exxon’s legal defense (and has represented such clients as Philip Morris), is known as one of the craftiest people in his profession. However unlikely the image of Exxon as victim, that’s how Wells decided to characterize his client—and it worked. On April 22, the Washington Post carried two opinion pieces on the topic: a column by George Will headlined “Scientific Silencers on the Left Are Trying to Shut Down Climate Skepticism” and one by Sam Kazman and Kent Lassman, respectively general counsel and president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, condemning “the environmental campaign that punishes free speech.” In the following days, dozens of similar broadsides were issued from the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, and many others.

Once again, politicians followed. In mid-May, the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology began investigating what it called “a coordinated attempt to deprive companies, nonprofit organizations, and scientists of their First Amendment rights.” The only company the panel mentioned by name was Exxon. Committee staff members and Exxon’s McCarron say that despite the company’s widespread lobbying of Congress, it didn’t ask the panel or its chairman, Lamar Smith (R-Texas), to begin the probe. First elected in 1986, Smith has received almost $685,000 in career campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By early July, the Virgin Islands had turned tail and withdrawn its subpoenas of Exxon and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Trying to put the best spin on his humiliating retreat, Virgin Islands AG Walker said via e-mail that extricating itself from the subpoena imbroglio will allow his office to “use our limited resources to address the many other issues that face the Virgin Islands and its residents.” Wells didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Schneiderman now finds himself under investigation, too. When the New York AG’s office refused to cooperate with the science committee, Smith issued subpoenas to Schneiderman; Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who’d launched her own investigation of Exxon; and eight nongovernmental organizations, including the Rockefeller funds, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and “Unfortunately, the attorneys general have refused to give the committee the information to which it is entitled,” Smith told reporters on July 13. “What are they hiding and why?”

Not a thing, according to Schneiderman, who says Smith’s inquiries evoke 1950s-era communist hunting by the House Un-American Activities Committee: “They have no evidence of any cabal, no evidence of any misconduct.” As for the science panel’s concern about Exxon’s First Amendment rights, Schneiderman says the federal government’s successful RICO case against the tobacco companies made “very clear that the First Amendment doesn’t give you the right to commit fraud.”

If Schneiderman continues to resist the House committee’s document demands, the confrontation could end up in court—a fight the New York official sounds eager to have. He’d have an excellent chance of winning, too. It’s unusual for a congressional panel to interfere with a pending state investigation, says Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a former federal prosecutor who advocates putting Exxon under a microscope. Smith “is trying to subvert the power of state government [and] do something he is not entitled to do under any kind of discovery rules,” Whitehouse says. More succinctly, Peter Shane, a law professor at Ohio State University, says, “Congress has no authority over the conduct of state law enforcement.”

Exxon, for its part, has been cooperating with Schneiderman’s subpoena because the company’s lawyers at Paul Weiss advised their client that it had no choice, according to a person familiar with the situation. Schneiderman is investigating under the broad provisions of a 1921 state law called the Martin Act, arguably the most potent securities-fraud statute in the country. Named for sponsor Louis Martin, an otherwise-forgotten state assemblyman, the law forbids “any fraud, deception, concealment, suppression, [or] false pretense.” Crucially, it doesn’t require a prosecutor to demonstrate that a defendant consciously intended to defraud investors or regulators. New York’s top court has interpreted it to cover “all deceitful practices contrary to the plain rules of common honesty.”

Schneiderman doesn’t have a slam-dunk case. “The New York attorney general has a plausible theory, but he’ll need more than the results of the journalistic investigations,” says Michael Gerrard, a law professor at Columbia who directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. “It’s not enough to show that Exxon had internal knowledge of climate change when external knowledge was widespread. The government would have to show that there were things that only Exxon knew and that were material to investors and that Exxon kept from investors. Such evidence might be there, but we don’t know yet.”

One potential defense that Exxon is floating: Since the 1970s its scientists have published climate findings in more than 50 peer-reviewed articles. What Exxon knew, the argument would go, the wider scientific world also knew. The company didn’t keep secrets the way the tobacco industry did.

Few complicated securities-fraud cases go to trial; the risk of losing and the costs of extended litigation impel settlement. With those risks in mind, Exxon and New York may eventually look to a separate case resolved by Schneiderman’s office in November. The attorney general found after a two-year investigation that coal producer Peabody Energy provided incomplete information to investors by saying in public reports that it couldn’t “reasonably predict” the risks it faced from climate-related regulations. St. Louis-based Peabody, which in April declared bankruptcy amid a collapsing coal market, neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing and didn’t face pecuniary punishment. The company did agree to provide more forthcoming disclosures to investors.

“It’s really too soon to tell” whether the Peabody settlement provides a model for the Exxon case, Schneiderman says. He expects to amass evidence in the Exxon investigation of “a much more sophisticated ongoing policy of deception” than what his office found inside Peabody—wrongdoing that could warrant seeking substantial money damages. Exxon has kept that alleged policy in place through recent years, Schneiderman says, pointing to a 2014 company report claiming that international efforts to reduce climate change wouldn’t oblige fossil fuel producers to leave enormous amounts of oil in the ground untouched.

Exxon denies any deception took place and isn’t ready to talk settlement, McCarron says. She calls Schneiderman’s comments “an attack on the integrity of the company” and says Exxon “will pursue all available legal options to defend ourselves.”

World first for Shetlands in tidal power breakthrough

Nova Innovation deploys first fully operational array of tidal power turbines in the Bluemull Sound

A power company in Shetland has claimed a breakthrough in the race to develop viable offshore tidal stations after successfully feeding electricity to local homes.

Nova Innovation said it had deployed the world’s first fully operational array of tidal power turbines in the Bluemull Sound between the islands of Unst and Yell in the north of Shetland, where the North Sea meets the Atlantic.

It switched on the second of five 100kW turbines due to be installed in the sound this month, sending electricity on a commercial basis into Shetland’s local grid.

Existing tidal schemes use single power plants or installations rather than a chain of separate turbines. A French company, OpenHydro, says it too is very close to linking two tidal machines, off Brittany, to build a more powerful 1MW array.

After a series of commercial failures in Scotland’s nascent marine power industry, including the collapse of two wave power firms, Pelarmis and Aquamarine, Nova Innovation’s announcement was applauded by environmental groups.

Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, said: “News that power has been exported to grid for the first time by a pair of tidal devices marks yet another major milestone on Scotland’s journey to becoming a fully renewable nation.

“With some of the most powerful tides in Europe, Scotland is well placed to lead in developing this promising technology, which will help to cut climate emissions and create green jobs right across the country.”

The islands, which are not connected yet to the UK grid, get most of their electricity from a diesel-fuelled power station which is supplied by tankers, despite having some of the world’s strongest and most reliable wind, wave and tidal resources.

Shetland has also been the site of one of the UK’s most bitter disputes over renewable power. Thousands of islanders campaigned against an ambitious scheme backed by the local council to build the 370MW Viking windfarm, involving 103 turbines erected on the main island.

That scheme finally won legal approval in 2015 but construction has yet to begin; it is waiting for a UK government announcement on new energy supply deals and the installation of a national grid connection to mainland Scotland.

Nova Innovation said the two turbines installed so far were operating at 40% of their installed capacity. The company hopes its turbines, which were cofunded by the Belgian renewables company ELSA, will be sold worldwide now they have been commercially proven.

“We are absolutely delighted to be the first company in the world to deploy a fully operational tidal array,” said Simon Forrest, the firm’s managing director.

UK government could approve Hinkley Point but delay Essex project

The government is considering a proposal to detach development of the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant from an agreement allowing China to build a reactor in Essex.

The proposal is one of the options under consideration after Theresa May delayed approving the £18bn Hinkley Point project last month, according to a report in the Times (£).

The prime minister is concerned about China’s involvement with the project to build Britain’s first nuclear power plant for a generation in Somerset and a further agreement for China to build reactors in Bradwell, Essex, and Sizewell, Suffolk.

The government enlisted China last September to fund a third of Hinkley Point in a deal meant to ease financial pressure on EDF, the French builder of the plant, and forge closer links with China.

But May, who raised objections to the deal when she was home secretary, called a surprise review soon after becoming prime minister.

An option under consideration in Whitehall is to approve Hinkley Point but delay a decision on the Bradwell reactor to allow a discussion about its effect on British security, the Times said.

Any attempt to split Hinkley Point from the agreement to let China build reactors in Britain would endanger the whole deal because the Bradwell plant was meant to be a showcase for China’s nuclear technology in Europe.

Tension over Hinkley Point means May risks an awkward first G20 meeting of world leaders as prime minister. The meeting, on 4 and 5 September, takes place in the Chinese City of Hangzhou and will be hosted by Xi Jinping, China’s president, who signed the Hinkley Point agreement last year.

EDF, the French state-owned energy group, approved the building of Hinkley Point in July after months of doubts about whether it was financially strong enough to take on the giant project.

On Sunday, Vincent de Rivaz, EDF’s UK chief executive, called on the UK to set aside concerns about Chinese involvement in the project.

“We know and trust our Chinese partners.” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. De Rivaz said there were “enormous benefits for the UK” from the involvement of China, which has the largest civil nuclear programme in the world.

China has made clear its frustration over May’s decision to delay a decision on Hinkley Point. The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, wrote that relations with Britain were at a “crucial historical juncture”.

May then wrote to Xi and China’s premier, Li Keqiang, promising closer business and trade ties between Britain and the world’s second-biggest economy.

May’s chief of staff, Nick Timothy, last year raised concerns that Chinese state-owned companies were investing in sensitive infrastructure.

Timothy wrote on the ConservativeHome website: “Rational concerns about national security are being swept to one side because of the desperate desire for Chinese trade and investment.”

Coal Executive Says His Industry Must Confront Climate Change

Richard Reavey says climate denial is eerily parallel to the tobacco industry’s old tactics, which hurt that business long-term

It’s one thing when environmentalists say that fossil fuel companies’ positions on climate change are similar to Big Tobacco’s past deflections about the hazards of smoking.

It’s another entirely when it’s done by a coal official, who says his industry should heed tobacco’s costly lessons.

That’s what Richard Reavey, vice president of public affairs of Cloud Peak Energy Inc., a major coal miner in the western United States, appears to have done on June 29, 2015, when he presented a 24-page slideshow at an industry conference organized by the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute in Snowmass, Colo.

Reavey said one of his goals for the presentation, titled “SURVIVAL IS VICTORY: LESSONS FROM THE TOBACCO WARS,” was to encourage the industry to move past debating climate change and talk to critics of the industry about addressing greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.

“The tobacco industry spent a lot of time in the bunker not listening to its critics, denying that there was any legitimate concern about smoking and health, and effectively trying to parse hairs and debate science,” Reavey said in an interview, “instead of trying to get to where they finally got to, which was that recognition that regulation was a legitimate goal of the public health community and something that the industry could live with.”

Coal companies should take a proactive strategy and talk about solutions, such as carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technology, Reavey said.

“There’s no good that comes from continuing to be in that kind of binary debate,” he said.

Reavey said the roughly 250 listeners to the June presentation had a swath of reactions. Some saw his suggestions as savvy and others glossed over it. Some in the crowd, “troglodytic types,” Reavey said, maintained that climate change is still debatable.

“I don’t really understand their point of view,” he said.

Before coming to Cloud Peak, Reavey worked in public relations for Philip Morris International Inc., the cigarette and tobacco company, when the Department of Justice was suing the industry in the 1990s.

“The parallels are remarkable and eerie,” one slide reads. It says tobacco was and coal is under attack from “well funded, well organized NGO opposition driving regulatory policy, media messaging, and shaping public opinion—often with poor/no science.”

Reavey said he wasn’t comparing behavior of coal and tobacco firms. “The analogy I drew was between the tactics of coal’s opponents and the opponents of tobacco,” he said.

Analogies between fossil fuel companies’ knowledge of climate change and cigarette-makers’ knowledge that smoking caused cancer are common in environmental circles.

Congressional Democrats held a briefing in June on the subject—an event titled, “Oil Is the New Tobacco” (ClimateWire, June 23). And some believe fossil fuel companies could be legally liable if they knew about climate change dangers but suppressed that information. That possibility is the crux of the investigations by New York and Massachusetts attorneys general into Exxon Mobil Corp.

The fossil fuel industry bristles when it’s compared to the tobacco industry. And some environmentalists are suspicious about Reavey’s motivations.

Greg Zimmerman, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, an environmental advocacy group, said he came across the slideshow online last summer.

“It was unbelievable seeing it in writing,” Zimmerman said, adding that he’s familiar with the tobacco-to-oil analogy, but that the link to coal seems new.

Zimmerman seized on Reavey’s “poor/no science” line when reading the document.

“It’s maybe not an explicit denial, but it’s certainly an implicit denial,” Zimmerman said. “He’s still trying to undermine the science.”

Kert Davies, founder of the Climate Investigations Center and a former Greenpeace campaigner, read Reavey’s presentation, too.

“What he’s saying is ‘Coal, you can survive, look at tobacco,’” Davies said. “It’s a guy coming from tobacco sort of trying to teach coal,” he added. “Instructing them to go heavy on the clean coal, it buys you credibility, it buys you time.”

Concrete step on cleaner fuel

The first contractor in Hong Kong to use B5 biodiesel in its batching plants and equipment said it has cut carbon dioxide emissions by 5,529 tonnes between 2013, when it started using the cleaner fuel, and the end of last year. The reduction is equivalent to one person taking 5,119 return flights between Hong Kong and Melbourne.

Gammon Construction is the first and only company in Hong Kong that uses the environmentally friendly B5 biodiesel in all of its plants, road vehicles and equipment, such as excavators, in its railway, housing, airport, bridge and other project sites.

Emma Harvey, manager of Gammon’s group sustainability and corporate social responsibility, said using B5 biodiesel also helps reduce landfill waste aside from cutting carbon emissions.

“Another benefit in its use is reducing waste oil that will end up in landfills,” she said, adding B5 biodiesel use has enabled Gammon to reduce its diesel carbon emissions by about 5 percent.

Gammon has also brought B5 biodiesel to retail filling pumps in Hong Kong with its fuel partner Shell. Last November, they introduced this clean fuel to a petrol station in Tsing Yi. Next month, a second petrol station near the airport will offer B5 biodiesel.

Last year, about 15 percent of Gammon’s land vehicles, mostly mixer trucks, used B5 biodiesel. They consumed about two million liters of B5 biodiesel last year.

Gammon procurement head Susan Siu Kit-ling said: “B5 biodiesel costs 30 HK cents more per liter [than ordinary diesel], but this can be offset by reduced usage with the higher efficiency of this fuel type.”

She said Gammon undertakes from time to time planning studies on construction equipment, aimed at reducing diesel consumption.

Siu said waste oil comes mainly from local food producers or grease trap waste, oil and grease separated in wastewater. Gammon only imports waste oil if local supply is not stable. Waste oil helps produce B5 biodiesel. More than 95 percent of Gammon’s timber and plywood requirements for form work carry Forest Stewardship Council and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. These wood types have a shorter life cycle and have less adverse impact on the environment.

Gammon also uses low-carbon materials, like low-carbon concrete and cement. It has been awarded the Carbon Care Label Certificate by Carbon Care Asia in 2014 and 2015 for its endeavors in creating low-carbon construction processes and for helping reduce carbon emissions.

$40m Waste to Energy Research Collaboration in Singapore

Singapore’s National Environment Agency has joined forces in a Collaboration Agreement with the NTU Singapore to develop a S$40 million waste to energy research facility.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) has joined forces in a Collaboration Agreement with the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) to develop a S$40 million ($30 million) waste to energy research facility.

According to the NEA the facility will be the first of its kind in Singapore and is planned to enable the translation of emerging waste to energy technologies, such as the use of syngas in demonstration and test-bedding projects.

Possible projects to be conducted at the facility include turning waste and biomass into synthetic gas, cleaning and upgrading syngas to run an gas engine or turbine for higher energy recovery efficiencies, the utilisation of slag in engineering applications, novel flue gas treatment module for lower emissions, low-grade heat recovery and using a gas separation membrane to extract oxygen from air.

History of Collaboration
The collaboration agreement was signed by Ronnie Tay, CEO of NEA, and Professor Ng Wun Jern, executive director of NTU’s Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI).

“NTU has an established track record of industry collaboration and for translating research into impactful commercial applications,” commented Prof Freddy Boey.

“It will provide local institutions and industries access to the world-class research facilities and expertise at NTU, helping them to innovate and develop clean solutions that are globally competitive,” the professor continued.

Expected to be commissioned by late 2018, it is hoped that the facility will be an open platform to support research and its translation, as well as personnel training to build technical competencies in waste to energy.

Ronnie Tay added: “We hope that this facility will provide stakeholders such as research institutes, academia and industry with a platform to collaborate in and create more effective and sustainable waste management solutions through research, development, demonstration and test-bedding.”