In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • EPA weakens regulations of environmentally harmful methane emissions.
  • 5 East coast governors urge the feds to green-light a delayed offshore wind power project.
  • Scotland is building the world’s most powerful floating tidal turbine.
  • Why Kathmandu’s trailblazing EV movement failed — yet is now making a comeback.

EGEB: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that methane regulations will be weakened. According to the Washington Post:

The proposed rule will reverse standards enacted under former president Barack Obama that require oil and gas operations to install controls on their operations to curb the release of methane at the well head and in their transmission equipment, including pipelines, processing, and storage facilities.

Why has the EPA under the Trump administration done this? In short, so the natural gas and oil industries can self-regulate to save money.

Methane is second only to carbon dioxide as a harmful greenhouse gas. It makes up 10% of US greenhouse gas emissions, and most of it comes from oil and gas.

Interestingly, fossil-fuel giants such as Exxon, Shell, and BP oppose the EPA’s move, according to the New York Times:

Exxon wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency last year urging the agency to maintain core elements of the Obama-era policy. And, in March, Gretchen Watkins, the United States chairwoman for Shell, said the EPA should impose rules ‘that will both regulate existing methane emissions but also future methane emissions.’

Susan Dio, the chairwoman and president of BP America, wrote an op-ed article in March [in the Houston Chronicle] saying that regulating methane is the “right thing to do for the planet” and for the natural gas industry.

Expect to see a lot of active opposition from environmental groups on this move. Matt Watson, vice president, energy, at the Environmental Defense Fund, stated:

This proposal is irresponsible, dangerous, and out of step with calls from oil and gas industry leaders to preserve and strengthen federal methane rules. Without a strong federal framework in place, the case for natural gas evaporates.

And in the meantime, let’s hope individual states take steps to regulate methane at a local level — a green-energy trend we are regularly seeing under this administration.

5 US governors lobby feds for offshore wind farm

What was I saying about green-energy movements at the state level? Oh, yes.

The governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Virginia wrote a collective letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in support of advancing offshore wind power. (And it’s a bipartisan plea: The Massachusetts and New Hampshire governors are Republicans; the other three are Democrats.)

The governors wrote the letter in response to the federal government’s “recent decision to delay final permitting of the planned 84-turbine Vineyard Wind project south of Martha’s Vineyard,” says News Center Maine. They want a green light by March 2020.

The wind farm would reduce Massachusetts’ carbon emissions by over 1.6 million tons per year — the equivalent of removing 325,000 cars from state roads.

Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker says Bernhardt told him that he could get all the regulatory work done by March 2020. Let’s hope Bernhardt delivers.

Tidal power for Scotland

Orkney-based Orbital Marine Power is developing what’s being called the world’s most powerful floating tidal turbine for Scotland. It will be installed at Orkney’s European Marine Energy Centre once it’s complete.

“The new version in development could generate enough electricity for more than 1,700 homes a year, the government said,” according to the BBC.

Here’s a really interesting video that shows how the floating tidal turbine will work:

The rise and fall (and rise) of Kathmandu’s EV movement

Atul Bhattarai wrote a fascinating piece for CityLab about the Nepalese capital’s groundbreaking history of electric vehicles.

Like Utah’s Wasatch Front, Kathmandu sits in a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by mountains, so polluted air becomes trapped in the city. In the mid-1990s, the city introduced Safa Tempos or “clean three-wheelers.” The Safas replaced Vikram Tempos (smoke-spewing diesel three-wheelers).

By 2000, Kathmandu had more than 600 locally made EV Safas. It was the “largest fleet of battery-powered public transport vehicles in the world.”

But even with government support, local manufacturers of Safas ran into problems. The expensive batteries had to be imported from California and replaced every two years. So entrepreneurs became wary of investing. And the final straw was when the Nepalese government allowed former Vikram owners to import 15-seater Toyota microbuses for a 1% tariff concession. Plus, cartels of microbus owners wouldn’t allow Safa owners to drive on their routes.

That was the nail in the coffin for Safas and the number of polluting vehicles skyrocketed in Kathmandu. “According to government data, the number of vehicles in the city increased from around 100,000 in 2000 to 1.17 million this year.”

So, now what? Bhattarai said that “Kathmandu’s electric past may be prelude.” The Nepalese government has a lot of work to do to reverse this negative slide, but tariffs are now lower on EVs than on fossil-fuel vehicles. Further:

Last year, Nepal’s government inaugurated a campaign to transition to electric vehicles as part of its commitment to the Paris climate agreement. According to the “National Action Plan for Electric Mobility,” the government aims to halve the country’s consumption of fossil fuels by 2050. Kathmandu’s provincial government has pledged to replace all buses and microbuses with EVs by 2030, and this year, it committed funds to buy 30 electric buses. The central government recently announced that it would buy 300 more.

Kathmandu was a city initially ahead of its time. It ran into a huge bump in the road (sorry), but there’s hope yet.

Photo credit: WildEarth Guardians/cc/flickr

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