Biomass has gotten a bit hot of late. The subject of several high profile documentary films including Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs’ highly controversial Planet of the Humans as well as last year’s Burned, lawmakers within the European Union are finally starting to question its classification as a carbon-neutral and renewable fuel—especially as more scientific evidence emerges to the contrary. Despite advances in wind and solar, biomass still fuels 70% of global renewable energy. Michael Buchsbaum takes a look in the first of a multi-part series on biomass.
In May, the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Environmental Action Germany (DUH), and Food and Water Europe organized online conferences entitled “Fracking, Plastics, Methane Emissions and the Gas Lobby” to better explain the connection between them and climate crisis. The first of the two drew upon startling new satellite data explained by globally renowned methane and fracking expert, Prof. Robert Howarth from Cornell University. In his presentation, he detailed how the ongoing fuel switch from coal to gas has likely worsened the overall climate. Other speakers, including two Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), several environmental attorneys, and other fracking activists discussed continuing gas lobbying efforts to “greenwash” uninformed MEPs and the general public. Now available for streaming, the first webinar-debate provided a welcome space for an informed discussion around fossil gas policies, many of which ignore established science in favor of economic and political expediency—our L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews.
Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs new movie, Planet of the Humans (POTH) serves to uncomfortably remind viewers that in many ways, despite our increased awareness of the growing biodiversity and climate crises, often our “environmental” and “sustainable” solutions, such as “natural” fossil gas, biomass and biofuels, have proven as bad or worse than the coal and petroleum they were intended to replace. Though the angry criticism from many within the community about some of the film’s flawed math is justified, the ensuing flurry of mainly negative media around the film has sadly resulted in diverting critical attention away from POTH’s otherwise vital questions about why, after half a century of environmental activism, we are still collectively failing. L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews where POTH is spot-on and laments where the filmmakers should have gone even further.
Famous for his attacks on Republicans, outspoken filmmaker and activist Michael Moore long ago also staked out a provocative position left of the neoliberal Clinton/Obama/Biden-led Democratic party. But despite becoming a leading progressive figure, Moore has largely stayed clear—at least cinematically–from environmental topics…until now. Working with life-long friend and frequent collaborator, Jeff Gibbs, on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day they released their new myth-shattering film, Planet of the Humans (POTH) free over YouTube.
Despite the recent historic agreement between OPEC, Russian, American and other global oil producers to slash supply by the 1st of May with the hopes of bolstering prices, the United States will still suffer an “unprecedented” economic blow according to the International Energy Agency. With high production costs and deeply in debt, many U.S. producers, especially those extracting from shale fields, are bleeding cash as they try desperately to cut costs. Output is expected to shrink by more than two million barrels per day. Analysts predict waves of bankruptcies, along with thousands of job losses and steep drops in tax revenues for oil-dependent states as the fallout from a monster oil bust ripples throughout America’s already staggering economy. L. Michael Buchsbaum reviews the worsening situation.
Overshadowed by the pandemic, an oil production and price war waged between the Saudi Arabian-led OPEC, Russia, the U.S. and other nations has landed a body blow upon the already weakened global economy. With billions worldwide now sheltering in place, oil usage has dropped by over 30%. But production hasn’t. The massive oversupply has crashed market prices lower than at any point in almost 20 years. To stop the bleeding, OPEC and other producers as well as the G20 have seemingly come to an historic deal that will slash global production across the boards. But the damage to the underlying fossil-fuel based economy means that Corona’s economic wreckage will ripple out just as we start to emerge into a brave new social-distance demanding world. L. Michael Buchsbaum examines the origins and implications of the Corona oil crash.
A year after Germany’s 28-member “Coal Commission” presented a fragile compromise brown coal phase-out, in mid-January Merkel’s Grand Coalition government formally released their own plan. Breaking with the Commission’s recommendations by slowing down the pace of the phase-out, immediately greenlighting the new Datteln 4 hard coal plant and showering RWE and other coal operators with billions of Euros, it also calls for more gas plants and additional wind turbine construction limitations. Neither ensuring Germany can adhere to the Paris Agreement nor its own clean energy targets, environmental groups are outraged as investors celebrate. L. Michael Buchsbaum takes us into the dirty deal.
Although Trump keeps pushing lumps of coal and tankers full of freedom gas down the world’s collective throats, his industry-friendly administration hasn’t prevented America’s coal industry from dying or its fracking companies from losing piles of money. Nor has he stopped wind from gaining even more traction. After setting growth records last year, another breakthrough is forecast for 2020 as investors pour resources into new waters: offshore wind energy. But fearing its tremendous potential energy capacity, Trump’s minions are ramping up efforts to hold it back. As election fever grips the nation, L. Michael Buchsbaum looks at the state of offshore wind in Part 3 of his series on America’s energy transition.
After swallowing up many assets of former rival E.ON and daughter company Innogy in a reconfiguration of both the European and global energy sectors, the new RWE has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040. Long Europe’s worst polluter and a steadfast opponent of the clean energy transition, it’s working hard to rebrand itself as a green innovator. However, as it plans to annually invest 1.5 billion euros in new wind, solar photovoltaic and storage, RWE is mainly focusing outside of its German backyard where it continues to generate the filthiest energy in the world, cynically profiting off the rapidly slowing Energiewende. Michael Buchsbaum explains the new RWE.
As the race to decide this year’s Democratic U.S. Presidential candidate barrels towards the heart of the nation’s long and confusing primary season, it’s becoming a contest between progressive Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the left; former New York Mayor, recent Republican, and billionaire businessman, Mike Bloomberg on the right; and the two middle-of-the-road party favorites former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Senator Klobuchar fighting for attention in the narrowing center. But as environmental voters really start feeling Sanders, the party establishment is pushing back. L. Michael Buchsbaum takes us there.