A new study finds that droughts are costing California’s agribusiness billions. Meanwhile, Russian strikes shut down electricity in Ukraine and the Biden administration approved a new oil export terminal.
This is Overnight Energy & Environment, your source for the latest news on energy, the environment and more. For The Hill we are Rachel Frazin and Zack Budryk. Register online below or here.
Program note: We will take a break on Thursday and Friday. We’re back Monday. Happy Thanksgiving!
Persistent drought contributes to California losses: study
As California’s drought extends into a third straight year, the state’s agricultural industry is suffering billions of dollars in related losses, a new study has found.
- The report estimates the direct impact on farming activities at $1.2 billion this year – up from $810 million in 2021.
- But the impact of the 2022 drought far exceeded that $1.2 billion total, according to the report, published by the University of California, Merced’s Water Systems Management Lab.
- The impact on the food processing industry that depends on agricultural products was approximately $845 million in 2022 – up from $590 million in the previous year.
What makes that particularly bad? “California is no stranger to drought, but this current drought has hit some of the typically water-rich parts of the state, which are vital to the state’s overall water supply, really hard,” says co-author John Abatzoglou, professor of climatology at the University of California UC Merced said in a statement.
Overall, the combined direct and indirect effects of the drought have totaled about $2 billion in lost value this year alone, researchers found.
Using the numbers: Those losses amount to a 5.9 percent decrease compared to 2019 and also led to the loss of 19,420 jobs, according to the study.
In addition to suffering the effects of the drought, California’s agricultural economy suffered from supply chain disruptions, including the ability to ship crops out of the state, the authors explained.
According to the study, such delays could lead to increased inventories and affect some specialty crop prices in California.
While the researchers acknowledged such adverse effects of the drought on agriculture, they noted that things could have been worse.
Read more from The Hill’s Sharon Udasin.
Officials agree to Gulf oil terminal over local opposition
Federal regulators this week approved a new oil terminal in the Gulf of Mexico off Texas, over objections from local activists who argued the move violates the Biden administration’s stated climate goals.
- The Maritime Administration of the Department of Transportation officially granted the license on Nov. 21, ending a process that began three years ago under the Trump administration.
- The Sea Port Oil Terminal would be located off the coast of Freeport, Texas and would have a capacity of 2 million barrels per day.
- The project would include two pipelines running through the town of Surfside Beach, where the city council voted unanimously against the project in March 2020.
Greenpeace has blasted the Biden administration’s approval of the terminal, citing an environmental impact statement released in July that predicted the terminal would generate 83,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year from the construction process alone, with a projected total of 219 million Tonnes per year in downstream refining and combustion emissions.
The environmental group also noted President Biden’s recent attendance at the United Nations COP27 climate change conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, and the Biden administration’s stated commitment to cut carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030.
“When we say oil and gas companies are sacrificing communities to make money, we mean exactly that. We have less than a decade to halve emissions. Approving new oil and gas projects is not a bridge but a ramp to the collapse of the planet,” Destiny Watford, climate activist at Greenpeace US, said in a statement.
“It is supreme hypocrisy for President Biden and [Transportation] Secretary Pete Buttigieg to shorten the fuse on the world’s biggest carbon bomb by green-lighting additional oil export terminals, right after lecturing the world at COP27 on rising climate ambitions.”
Read more about the admission here.
Electricity in Ukraine rocked by Russian strikes
Russia launched mass strikes against critical infrastructure in Ukraine on Wednesday, disrupting electricity supplies to much of the country and causing temporary blackouts at power plants, Ukrainian officials said.
- Ukraine’s Energy Ministry said the “vast majority of electricity” to consumers in Ukraine was cut off after the shelling.
- Officials also reported a temporary blackout to all nuclear power plants and most thermal and hydroelectric power plants, affecting millions of people.
The details: “There are some emergencies. The lack of electricity may affect the availability of heat and water,” the ministry said in a Facebook update.
“Energy workers are already at work and are doing their best to restore power as soon as possible. but [given] the extent of the impact, it will take time.”
Russia has launched rocket attacks on civilian infrastructure and energy grids in Ukraine since October after suffering heavy losses in the war.
Despite the widespread blackouts, the Energy Ministry said: “Russia will not succeed in intimidating the Ukrainians.”
“Ukrainians are not afraid of the cold. Ukrainians are not afraid of the dark. Ukrainians are not afraid of terrorists,” officials wrote in the Facebook post.
Wednesday’s strikes included 70 missiles, about 51 of which were shot down by anti-aircraft guns, according to a telegram post from state carrier Ukrenergo, which is quickly working to repair the damage.
Read more from The Hill’s Brad Dress.
STORIES FROM THE GROUP(O)
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Tuesday signed legislation temporarily restricting cryptocurrency mining in the state for environmental reasons, becoming the first state nationwide to implement such a move.
The bill was served on the governor Tuesday after the state legislature passed the measure in June, and The Associated Press reported that Hochul had signed the measure.
The restrictions also come after the collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which has prompted increased scrutiny of the industry.
But the New York law instead targets the technology’s environmental impact, imposing a two-year moratorium on permits for fossil-fuel power plants used for cryptocurrency mining, which uses “proof-of-work authentication.”
The technology used for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies requires large amounts of energy, and the legal text suggests that its use will make it more difficult to meet the country’s climate goals.
Read more from The Hill’s Zach Schonfeld.
ON TAP NEXT WEEK
- The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to vote on the nomination, which includes (the multiple-delayed nomination of) Joseph Goffman as head of the EPA’s Air and Radiation Bureau, Beth Prichard Geer as a member of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Shailen Bhatt as head of the Federal Highway Administration.
- The Senate EPW Committee will hold a hearing on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the private sector.
- The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on a large list of energy bills.
WHAT WE READ
- How China, the world’s biggest polluter, is avoiding paying for climate damage (The Washington Post)
- US aims to sanction deforesters in Brazil and give bite to fight against climate change (Reuters)
- How the US Abruptly Shifted Decades of Climate Policy (The New Republic)
- EPA Skips Tighter Air Pollution Rules (E&E News)
🦃 Light click: Go turkeys!
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Visit The Hill’s energy and environment page for the latest news and reports. We meet next week.