Author: L. Michael Buchsbaum


L. Michael Buchsbaum

L. Michael Buchsbaum is an energy and mining journalist and industrial photographer based in Germany. Since the mid-1990s, he has covered the social, environmental, economic and political impacts of the transition from fossil fuels towards renewables for dozens of industry magazines, journals, institutions and corporate clients. Born in the U.S., he emigrated to Germany and Europe to better document the Energiewende.

CCS Seduction IV: A new dawn for the oil industry goes Nova

Though increasingly framed as a key way to slow climate change, for most commercial Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) operations, selling the carbon they capture to produce more fossil fuels through Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) production is the only way they can ensure profits for investors. According to a count by the Global CCS Institute, of the 28 currently operable CCS complexes worldwide, 22 rely on EOR as their back end “storage” system. CCS advocates hope that under the right public policy regimes, this profit-making motive will help scale up CCS operations while driving costs down. Getting the public onboard means selling CCS as a way to prevent climate change, but who pays when they fail? L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews one of 2020’s biggest CCS disasters as the fourth part of the on-going Seduction series.

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Seduction Pt III: Carbon Capture’s expensive failure to capture carbon

As many nations develop net-zero carbon plans both to honor the Paris Climate Agreement and address the climate crisis, many are leaning heavily upon unproven and misunderstood Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technologies. Despite billions of dollars spent in research and development, it’s unclear how much environmental progress is actually achieved by CCS. Not only is there little accurate data around how much carbon has really been buried, but there’s reason to believe CCS will actually increase overall greenhouse gas emissions. In the third part of his “Seduced by CCS” series, L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews CCS’ math and how utilizing it to produce more oil only makes things worse.

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Seduced Pt. II: Looking under Carbon Capture & Sequestration’s oily hood

Touted as a key component within many emerging national net-zero emissions strategies, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) received a huge credibility boost from several recent IPCC and IEA studies. But CCS’ greatest advantage is that it enables oil majors to have a market in an otherwise decarbonized economy. What it doesn’t do is stop the pollution stream. Framed as a climate solution, in fact most current and planned projects use the CO2 they capture to produce more fossil fuels through various enhanced oil recovery (EOR) schemes. As part of an ongoing series deconstructing CCS, L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews some recent history.

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Seduced: Climate moderates worldwide are getting sold on big oil’s carbon capture fantasies 

The last few months have seen a rivulet of announcements around proposed carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) plans. Long trumpeted by the fossil fuels industry and given a recent boost by the scientists at the EIA and IPCC, it has become a favored climate change solution by policymakers in the EU, Johnson’s UK and plays a key role in the new Biden Administration energy transition strategies. CCS is also a key component within various envisioned “clean” hydrogen and net-carbon neutral schemes. But many fear that depending on CCS will only anchor fossil energy polluters long into the future. The first of a three-part series, L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews some of the fundamentals and current status of carbon capture projects worldwide.

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Good riddance to 2020, but there was still cause for cheer

Given the flood of media we all experienced in 2020, in particular as we were stuck inside our homes, one of the challenges is finding and holding onto some of the good and positive developments in the stream. For his first blog post in 2021, our leader writer, L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews some of his energy transition highlights from 2020. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Once you’ve read through the end, please feel free to comment and share with us your own “good news” from 2020.

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Coal collapse in Western Europe: Nations accelerate closure plans

We are all looking for some good news. Here’s some: coal is tanking globally, nowhere faster than in the EU including the UK. With over 8.3GW of generation capacity coming offline during the first half of the year, coal-fired energy has fallen by almost a third across Europe. Even better: at least another 6 GW of capacity is scheduled to shutter during the second half of 2020 as Spain and Portugal join Sweden and Austria in ending their coal ages. As part of a series on the global decline of coal in 2020, L. Michael Buchsbaum takes a look at Europe, where coal is increasingly unwelcome.

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Free falling: Coal crashes throughout Trump’s America in 2020

Though Trump promised to save America’s coal industry, the latter appears to be in worse shape than ever. Over a dozen coal companies have filed for bankruptcy over the past two years and as investors pour resources into green energy instead, the U.S. Energy Information Agency now projects that renewables will overtake coal this year for the first time. However, cheap fracked gas is flooding the coal space. During the presidential campaign America’s gas burn has soared. In the second piece of an on-going series, our lead blogger, L. Michael Buchsbaum, looks at coal’s collapse in the United States.

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Playing Out: Covid-19 helps stop coal’s endless global expansion

 New data reveals that for the first time since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the world’s fleet of coal-fired power stations has grown smaller. With economies in Covid-19’s grip, more coal capacity was retired during the first half of 2020 than the amount that came online. Though terrible for the climate, make no mistake, King Coal’s reign isn’t ending just for environmental reasons. Coal has become bad for business and banks are starting to freeze investments. L. Michael Buchsbaum takes a deeper look in the first of his Playing Out of Coal series.

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Not presidential: Down-ballot victories propel clean energy advances

In the 2020 American elections, neither the Democrats nor the climate achieved the clear victory for which many of us wished. But across party lines, voters are demanding action to address the nation’s rapidly changing climate. In several cities and states, particularly out west—voters demanded energy progress. Given how divided Washington remains, these subnational decisions may enable regional carbon neutrality to progress faster while providing actionable models for the entire nation to follow. L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews the election results.

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Narrow victory: A divided Congress may force Biden to temper climate ambitions

The initial sense of relief the world felt over Donald Trump’s defeat needs to become much more tempered—in particular through the lens of climate and energy ambitions. Given the near 50/50 split in the Senate, essentially mirroring a starkly polarized electorate, with each passing day that Trump and many of his loyal Republican allies refuses to concede, the chances of bold reforms happening within Biden’s term narrow further. Though more Americans voted for Biden than in any other election, the Democrats have essentially been defeated in both houses of Congress, in so far as they gained neither control of the powerful Senate nor managed to hold, let alone increase, their previous majority in the House of Representatives. Though there are many tools he can still use, by no means will Biden be able to freely wield his power, including whatever climate mandate we wish he had won. L. Michael Buchsbaum discusses what a weakened Biden can still accomplish.

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