Overnight Energy: Obama declares clean energy push 'irreversible'

Overnight Energy: Obama declares clean energy push 'irreversible'
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OBAMA TOUTS CLEAN ENERGY MOMENTUM: President Obama took to the pages of the academic journal Science on Monday to assure his supporters that the transition toward clean energy has "irreversible" momentum.

The opinion piece was complete with citations and endnotes. It served both to celebrate Obama's climate and clean energy agenda and to inject some optimism that President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: 'DC should annex' Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia's House of Delegates MORE might not be the environmental disaster liberals fear.

"The United States is showing that [greenhouse gas] mitigation need not conflict with economic growth. Rather, it can boost efficiency, productivity, and innovation," Obama wrote.

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Obama leans heavily on data and anecdotes showing that businesses favor clean energy investments, whether or not there are policies in place mandating or encouraging them.

"Businesses are coming to the conclusion that reducing emissions is not just good for the environment -- it can also boost bottom lines, cut costs for consumers, and deliver returns for shareholders," Obama wrote.

"Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the economic benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States."

Trump said on the campaign trail that he plans to quickly start undoing Obama's climate change legacy, which was largely built on executive actions.

It isn't Obama's first foray into academic writing as president. He wrote last week on criminal justice in the Harvard Law Review, and previously wrote about healthcare reform in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Read more here.

NY'S INDIAN POINT TO CLOSE: The embattled Indian Point nuclear power plant outside of New York City will close by 2021, years ahead of schedule, plant operators and state officials announced on Monday.

Indian Point, a 2,000-megawatt power plant, will close one of its reactors in April 2020 and shutter a second reactor one year later, both more than a decade ahead of federal relicensing deadlines.  

Indian Point operator Entergy said closing the power plant was an economic decision, citing low prices for other forms of energy like gas and expected increases in operating and licensing costs.

The plant has been a top target for environmentalists and some Democrats in New York, who warn that an accident at the plant would pose a threat to the New York City area, which is about 40 miles away.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Monday noted safety and operational problems at the plant and celebrated its closing.

"I am proud to have secured this agreement with Entergy to responsibly close the facility 14 years ahead of schedule to protect the safety of all New Yorkers," he said in a statement.  

Read more here.

POLAR BEAR PLAN RELEASED: Federal officials on Monday released a plan to help protect the dwindling polar bear population in the Arctic.

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) finalized a proposal to reduce humans' impact on the polar bear population, but they noted a plan to prevent warming in the Arctic is the only way to protect the bears long-term.

Under the plan, officials committed to limiting "conflicts" between humans and bears, managing polar bear deaths in the region, protecting their habitat and reducing oil spills that could contaminate bears and where they live.

Federal officials listed the polar bear as endangered in 2008 due to sea-ice habitat loss. The current population is estimated to be 26,000, according to the FWS, which noted increased greenhouse gas emissions and disappearing sea ice will further threaten the species.

"This plan outlines the necessary actions and concrete commitments by the Service and our state, tribal, federal and international partners to protect polar bears in the near term," Greg Siekaniec, FWS's Alaska Regional Director, said in a statement.

"But make no mistake; without decisive action to address Arctic warming, the long-term fate of this species is uncertain."

CLIMATE ENVOY HEADS TO HEWLETT FOUNDATION: Jonathan Pershing, Obama's special envoy for climate change, is heading to the nonprofit world.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced Monday that Pershing will start next week as director of its environmental program.

"The past few years have brought tremendous gains in the global effort to mitigate climate change, and Jonathan has been a critical part of that," Larry Kramer, the foundation's president, said in a statement.

"That's hardly surprising, as few people working on this all-important problem have his unique combination of experience, expertise, and vision. We are both delighted and fortunate that, in joining the Hewlett Foundation, Jonathan can continue his efforts, now by enhancing the role of civil society and philanthropy in protecting our planet and its inhabitants from the potentially devastating effects of global warming."

Pershing took over last year as climate envoy and led the United States' efforts in starting to implement the Paris agreement.

He has previously worked at the Department of Energy and the World Resources Institute, among other positions.

US COAL PRODUCTION AT LOWEST LEVEL SINCE 1978: U.S. coal production fell in 2016, driving levels to their lowest since 1978, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).

American coal miners produced 743 million short tons of coal in 2016, a 17 percent drop from 2015, according to EIA. Coal production in the U.S. has now fallen every year since hitting a record high in 2008.

Production was below the 2011-2015 average in all five of the major coal-producing regions of the country, with the largest decline in the western Powder River Basin.

EIA attributed the decline in production to electric utilities' increasing reliance on cheaper forms of energy, including natural gas and renewables.

The new figures illustrate the challenge inherent in President-elect Donald Trump's promise to increase coal production and put miners back to work.

Coal use is down in the United States thanks to cheaper forms of energy, and exports have also waned as other countries move away from coal. That means a significant shift in energy markets -- not just government policies -- is necessary for a coal renaissance like the one Trump has promised.

Read more here.

AROUND THE WEB:

Vermont's new Republican governor will stick with the 90 percent renewable energy goal established by his Democratic predecessor, the Associated Press reports.

The cost of Southern Co.'s Kemper County Energy Facility under construction is now over $7 billion, the AP reports.

Green mega-donor Tom Steyer is urging Democrats to fight back against Trump and undertake the "hard but joyous work of engaging millions of Americans who feel left out, left behind and disrespected" in a Sacramento Bee op-ed.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Monday's stories ...

-Manchin: Trump will help on miners fight
-New York's Indian Point nuclear plant to close
-GOP chairman uses House floor speech to decry NYT column as 'fake news'
-Obama: Clean energy trend 'irreversible'
-Trump EPA pick leaves conservative law group
-Offshore drilling regulator tapped to lead solar group
-Week ahead: Former Exxon chief to face questions on Russia, climate

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