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EGEB: Scientists and the NRDC score a big court win against the EPA

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

  • Federal judge says the EPA can’t bar grant recipients from science advisory panels.
  • Oil giant Shell announces that it will become net zero by 2050.
  • Former US presidential candidate Tom Steyer on why green energy just makes basic market sense.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Science wins

Yesterday, a federal judge in New York invalidated an October 2017 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) directive from former EPA head Scott Pruitt. That directive led to the EPA removing many of the US’ top scientists from its roughly 23 advisory committees. Judge Denise Cote found that the EPA “failed to articulate any reason” or provide any evidentiary basis for its decision.

The lawsuit was filed by the international environmental organization the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The directive disqualified scientists who receive research grants from the EPA, mainly scientists from universities and other nonprofit institutions, on the groundless pretext that these scientists may be biased.

The EPA hypocritically allowed scientists, consultants, and others who work for or receive funding from the chemical and fossil-fuel industries to serve on the advisory committees.

NRDC attorney Vivian Wang said: “EPA should return to relying on science to protect people from dirty air, unsafe water, and toxic chemicals, and do it now.”

This was the 107th lawsuit that the NRDC has filed against Trump administration environmental rollbacks. The NRDC has won 60 of the 65 resolved cases to date.

Chris Zarba, former chair of the EPA Science Advisory Board, said:

This decision was clearly a victory for science. It will help ensure that some of the nation’s leading scientists will no longer be prohibited from advising EPA on how best to fulfill its mission to protect public health and safeguard the environment. However, there are a number of additional steps that need to be taken to ensure that EPA actions and decisions are based on the best available science.

Shell aims for net zero

The Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has announced that it intends to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner by selling more green energy to reduce its carbon emissions.

Shell CEO Ben van Beurden told investors today:

Society’s expectations have shifted quickly in the debate around climate change. Shell now needs to go further with our own ambitions, which is why we aim to be a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner. Society, and our customers, expect nothing less.

Shell said it plans to offset CO2 emissions from its own oil and gas production by 2050. Those emissions do not include the much larger category of greenhouse gases emitted from products it sells such as jet fuel and gasoline. The plan includes an interim target to cut those emissions by more than 33% by 2030, up from 20% previously.

The Guardian compares Shell’s plan to BP’s plan:

Whereas BP’s ambitious targets include an absolute reduction in emissions, Shell has chosen to focus on the overall carbon intensity of the energy it sells, which could be lowered by selling more clean energy alternatives without reducing the amount of fossil fuels produced.

Green investing is smart

Hedge fund manager, philanthropist, environmentalist, and former Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer wrote an op-ed for Green Tech Media titled, “A Pandemic Is No Time to Pander to the Fossil Fuel Industry.” You can read the full op-ed by clicking here, but here’s an excerpt. (And we at Electrek agree with Steyer’s point of view.)

From transportation to energy generation, the fossil fuel industry is largely protected by its deep, complex and pervasive roots reaching throughout our global economy. But that’s precisely what also makes the investment risk all the clearer. All the corporate boardrooms, investment advisers, and brokers who have fought not to divest have been working strenuously to protect their God-given right to lose a lot of money. Jim Cramer and Larry Fink agree on that.

Investing in clean energy isn’t just a social investment in curbing climate change — it also makes basic market sense. Wind energy is already on track to supply 20% of electricity in the US by 2030, and the solar industry has experienced a growth rate of more than 48% a year since 2010. In addition to avoiding the volatility of high-tension foreign commodities markets and the mounting social cost of carbon-polluting energy sources, an investment in clean energy doubles as an investment in long-term, good-paying American jobs. For example, the solar industry employs a quarter-million people, a number that’s doubled since 2012 due to the industry’s rapid growth.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.