News for Night Owls

the bone-chilling EIA, the color of Monet, the fires of Chile


The U.S. Energy Information Administration is a remarkable agency of the Department of Energy, a fount of data for energy nerds, tracking energy production and consumption across the nation. The EIA also makes future projections, published in its Annual Energy Outlook and its International Energy Outlook1, which assume that new climate action is not taken and that production and consumption of fossil fuels keeps growing. As I wrote in December 2010, the energy future envisioned by the EIA would “almost certainly commit the world to catastrophic climate change, including rapid sea level rise, extreme famine, desertification, and ecological collapse on land and sea.”

In the ensuing 22 years, through the Obama and Trump and Biden administrations, the EIA has not changed. The EIA continues to make bone-chilling predictions for fossil-fuel production and consumption under the status quo, which would lead to truly catastrophic levels of greenhouse pollution — 26 percent higher than even the International Energy Agency’s worst-case scenario, and 430% higher than the top of IEA’s net-zero range. We’re talking 3.5-4°C warming by 2100, real SSP2 or SSP4 energy.

One might think this would be taken as a clarion call of the danger of the status quo and the gross insufficiency of climate action taken so far. And on that front, some great news from the Land of 1000 Lakes: “Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota passed an ambitious climate law late Thursday night requiring the state’s power utilities to use 100 percent clean electricity by 2040.”

Of course, the Republican Party instead reads these reports as optimistic foretellings of our brightly burning fossil-fueled future.

Firefighters in Puren, Araucanía, Chile. Credit: Javier Torres

While much of the United States was hit by a brief deep freeze over the weekend, it’s an unrelentingly brutal summer in the Southern Hemisphere. “Record summer temperatures of more than 104°F are hampering efforts to tackle dozens of wildfires across central Chile that have killed at least 23 people, destroyed 800 homes and prompted the declaration of a state of emergency in three regions.”

What’s the color of Monet? Smog.

Anna Lea Albright and Peter Huybers carefully tracked the Impressionist paintings against air pollution and lo and behold, they’re painting smog:

Anthropogenic aerosol emissions increased to unprecedented levels during the 19th century as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution, particularly in Western European cities, leading to an optical environment having less contrast and more intensity. Here, we show that trends from more figurative to impressionistic representations in J.M.W. Turner and Claude Monet’s paintings in London and Paris over the 19th century accurately render physical changes in their local optical environment.

Houston oil-and-gas developer NextDecade is trying to build a pollution nightmare branded as “greenest LNG project in the world” next to the poor Hispanic community of Port Isabel, Texas, Matthew Green writes for DeSmog and the Guardian. The $10 billion liquefied natural-gas export terminal would have a carbon footprint equivalent to 44 coal plants, but get greenwashing 45Q tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act.

The oil-industry-backed petition to overturn California’s new law limiting oil drilling got its needed signatures through fraud and deceit, but California Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced Friday the signatures were valid, putting the petition on the ballot in November 2024—and putting the law on hold until then.

So those stories don’t make the oil and gas industry look so great, but here’s a story that puts them in a good light: NPR’s Jeff Brady tells us that gas-stove manufacturers have designed a cleaner-burning model that drastically reduces the amount of toxic pollution the stoves generate. Oh wait, I missed the detail that the burner design was developed four decades ago and the industry decided to ignore it and instead finance efforts to dismantle our democracy so as to avoid any efficiency or pollution standards and keep poisoning children for profit.

A Look Ahead at Hearings on the Hill:

Rep. Bruce Westerman’s (R-Ark.) House Natural Resources Committee is establishing its oversight agenda on Tuesday. Priorities include attacking the Endangered Species Act, increasing drilling, increasing mining, increasing logging, increasing grazing, increasing fishing, killing sea lions, killing whales, and privatizing more services associated with the national parks.

On Wednesday, House Transportation’s Water Resources Subcommittee Chair David Rouzer (R-N.C.) is going after the Biden administration’s wetland protections with a hearing on the Waters of the United States Rule featuring agriculture, homebuilding, and rock-mining industry lobbyists, as well as former Trump environmental official and polluter lobbyist Susan Parker Bodine. The Democratic witness is environmental law professor Dave Owen.

Also on Wednesday, Westerman hosts a drill-baby-drill and mine-baby-mine hearing. The hearing memo approvingly cites the EIA’s burning-future projections to justify the need for drilling and burning every last hydrocarbon under the aegis of the U.S. of A.

The Republican witnesses for the energy panel are oil & gas lobbyist Kathleen Sgamma; offshore wind, oil & gas lobbyist Erik Milito, and solar, wind, and gas lobbyist JC Sandberg. The Democratic witness is WE ACT’s Dana Johnson. The GOP witnesses for the mining panel are a mining lobbyist and two mining executives. The Democratic witness is Reno Franklin, chair of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians and a member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

On Thursday, Senate Energy and Natural Resources chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) holds a hearing with the governors of the five major U.S. territories. Although he and ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) are not too likely to talk rising sea levels and climate justice, there are a few climate hawks on the committee.

Also on Thursday, some fun for Hill climate hawks: the Environmental and Energy Study Institute’s first Congressional Climate Camp seminar on public polling on climate change and the Green New Deal happy hour.

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1 The IEO comes out almost every year; 2022 was one of the missing years.

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