• Court Challenges are Unlikely to overturn EPA’s New Emissions Standards

    Court Challenges are Unlikely to overturn EPA’s New Emissions Standards

    1

    If you sued the EPA, who would be your lawyer?


    On April 12, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced vehicle emissions standards that would require auto companies to lower the average carbon dioxide emissions from their tailpipes to 82 grams per mile by 2032. Then, on May 11, the EPA announced emissions standards for coal and natural gas power plants, requiring that natural gas plants capture 90 percent of their emissions by 2035 and coal plants capture 90 percent by 2030 unless they plan to retire the plant. Both of these emissions standards came with major announcements from the EPA, followed by news stories stressing their historic significance. But while these new rules are important, the EPA was less so trailblazing and more so just doing their job. And since they did their job and nothing more or less, it feels unlikely that any court challenge against these standards would find success. Ethan explores what the EPA’s legal obligations are with regard to carbon emissions, the pros and cons of these new regulations, and why it would be strange for them to be struck down in court in this week’s “Tip of the Iceberg.”

    The Sweaty Penguin is presented by Peril and Promise: a public media initiative from The WNET Group in New York, reporting on the issues and solutions around climate change. You can learn more at pbs.org/perilandpromise.

    Support the show and unlock exclusive merch, bonus content, and more for as little as $5/month at patreon.com/thesweatypenguin.

    CREDITS

    Writer: Ethan Brown, Velina Georgi, Mo Polyak, Madeleine Salman

    Fact Checker: Hallie Cordingley

    Editor: Megan Antone

    Producers: Ethan Brown, Hallie Cordingley, Shannon Damiano

    Ad Voiceover: Megan Antone

    Music: Brett Sawka

    The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Peril and Promise or The WNET Group.

  • Eagle Ford Shale: Why Even the Oil Woes Are Bigger in Texas

    Eagle Ford Shale: Why Even the Oil Woes Are Bigger in Texas

    0

    What is your favorite car and bird combo?


    A few months ago, The Guardian did a five-month investigation into “carbon bombs,” or fossil fuel projects that would, over the course of their life, emit over one billion tons of carbon. They found that there are 195 planned oil and gas carbon bombs around the world, and if they proceed as planned, these projects alone would blow past internationally agreed upon climate targets. For our tenth deep dive on carbon bombs, we take a look at the Eagle Ford Shale: an oil and gas formation near the Gulf Coast of Texas. The U.S. portion contains 6.5 billion barrels of oil, 5.7 billion barrels of natural gas liquids, and 1.3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, which together would have the potential to emit 5.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Beyond the global climate impact, Eagle Ford has run into several local issues, from water shortages to highly polluting flaring systems to economic inefficiencies that have driven several companies that explored Eagle Ford into bankruptcy. Today, we’ll explore what problems the Eagle Ford Shale presents, how climate change impacts the Gulf Coast of Texas, and how the region can move forward in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. With special guest Dr. Rabi Mohtar:  Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University.

    The Sweaty Penguin is presented by Peril and Promise: a public media initiative from The WNET Group in New York, reporting on the issues and solutions around climate change. You can learn more at pbs.org/perilandpromise.

    This episode is the third in our four-part series collaborating with the Gulf Climate Listening Project covering environmental issues on the Gulf Coast. If you are interested in learning about stopping LNG exports and creating a better future on the Gulf Coast, visit GulfCoastMurals.com.

    Support the show and unlock exclusive merch, bonus content, and more for as little as $5/month at patreon.com/thesweatypenguin.

    CREDITS

    Writers: Hallie Cordingley, Mo Polyak, Ethan Brown, Velina Georgi, Madeleine Salman

    Fact Checker: Owen Reith

    Editor: Megan Antone

    Producers: Ethan Brown, Hallie Cordingley, Shannon Damiano

    Ad Voiceover: Megan Antone

    Music: Brett Sawka

    The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Peril and Promise or The WNET Group.


    Clips

  • Permitting Reform: The Bipartisan Climate Issue of 2023

    Permitting Reform: The Bipartisan Climate Issue of 2023

    0

    How long should it take for clean energy projects to get a permit?


    It may not be the flashiest environmental issue, but it appears that permitting reform could be the hot topic of the summer, with both Republican and Democratic legislators putting forth proposals. The concern is clear: while it’s important to determine whether or not new energy projects will harm the environment, it’s also detrimental to climate progress if clean energy projects are held up for several years by a slow, tedious permitting process. Politicians on both sides appear interested in finding a plan that dramatically speeds up permitting without sacrificing environmental protection or public input. If successful, permitting reform has the opportunity to supercharge climate action in the United States. In this week’s “Tip of the Iceberg,” Ethan explores what permitting regulations are currently in place, what the pros and cons have been, and why despite lots of partisan bickering today, permitting reform offers a golden opportunity for the two parties to find common ground. The Sweaty Penguin is presented by Peril and Promise: a public media initiative from The WNET Group in New York, reporting on the issues and solutions around climate change. You can learn more at pbs.org/perilandpromise. Support the show and unlock exclusive merch, bonus content, and more for as little as $5/month at patreon.com/thesweatypenguin.

    CREDITS

    Writers: Ethan Brown, Velina Georgi, Mo Polyak, Madeleine Salman

    Fact Checker: Hallie Cordingley

    Editor: Megan Antone

    Producers: Ethan Brown, Hallie Cordingley, Shannon Damiano

    Ad Voiceover: Mo Polyak

    Music: Brett Sawka

    The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Peril and Promise or The WNET Group.

  • Stilt Houses: How an Ancient Architectural Design Could Become a Climate Solution

    Stilt Houses: How an Ancient Architectural Design Could Become a Climate Solution

    1

    What’s your favorite type of house to live in?


    As climate change has driven increasing sea level rise, hurricanes, and floods, coastal communities have had to come up with new, innovative ways to adapt to their changing environments. One such idea has been around for millennia: stilt houses, or houses build on elevated platformed raised by pillared scaffolding. Stilt houses can reduce flood risk, and even offer better ventilation, local tourism revenue, and in the Arctic, less risk to the permafrost beneath them. But stilt houses have challenges to overcome, from vulnerability to wind, earthquakes, and permafrost thaw to inaccessibility to social stigmas. Today, we explore what opportunities stilt houses present, what issues they face, and what needs to happen for this climate solution to live up to its full potential. With special guest Dr. Thang Dao: Associate Professor of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alabama.

    The Sweaty Penguin is presented by Peril and Promise: a public media initiative from The WNET Group in New York, reporting on the issues and solutions around climate change. You can learn more at pbs.org/perilandpromise.

    This episode is the first in our four-part series collaborating with the Gulf Climate Listening Project covering environmental issues on the Gulf Coast. If you are interested in learning about stopping LNG exports and creating a better future on the Gulf Coast, visit GulfCoastMurals.com.

    Support the show and unlock exclusive merch, bonus content, and more for as little as $5/month at patreon.com/thesweatypenguin.

    CREDITS

    Writers: Olivia Amitay, Madeleine Salman, Mo Polyak, Ethan Brown

    Fact Checker: Owen Reith

    Editor: Ethan Brown

    Producers: Ethan Brown, Hallie Cordingley, Shannon Damiano

    Ad Voiceover: Mo Polyak

    Music: Brett Sawka

    The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Peril and Promise or The WNET Group.


    Clips
  • Five Signs of Nuclear Fusion Progress Around the World

    Five Signs of Nuclear Fusion Progress Around the World

    Nuclear fusion reactions have existed for well over 60 years. Yet, despite the demand and capacity for renewable energy increasing, fusion is not available for mass production as are solar, wind, and hydropower. Fusion energy generation is an intense process, requiring planning and the construction of expensive facilities. That said, the industry has many advancements toward developing this potentially lucrative energy source. Here are five places globally that are helping turn nuclear fusion into a viable electricity source.

    1. 1 Japan’s superconductor

      The National Institute of Fusion Research, located in Toki, Japan, hosts the largest superconducting plasma confinement device in the world: the Large Helical Device. Nuclear fusion combines light in the form of plasma, which is the hot and charged state of matter that generates huge amounts of energy. To facilitate a fusion reaction, areas to confine plasma are necessary. In the 2020 fiscal year, the device powered plasma that reached 100 million degrees. Previously, ions reaching this temperature or higher meant lower electron temperatures. But research at this institute generated high heat for both ions and electrons, essential components of the plasma used for nuclear fusion.

    2. 2 MIT’s magnetic field

      A tokamak is a machine that confines the plasma used in fusion using magnetic fields. This makes it necessary to heat plasma to temperatures even hotter than the core of the sun in nuclear fusion reactions. There are a lot of hurdles with tokamaks, and scientists today struggle with keeping the device hot enough while also preventing the walls of the machine from completely melting. What has exhibited scientific progress though, is the magnetic field used in fusion. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), researchers have run fusion experiments since the1970s. In 2021, the Institute’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) assisted Commonwealth Fusion Systems in creating a superconducting magnet that reached a field strength of 20 tesla, making it the most powerful magnetic field of its kind ever created on Earth. The invention has made it possible for engineers and scientists to finally be able to facilitate fusion reactions in labs, which was previously making limited progress.

    3. 3 Europe’s commercially viable tokamak

      Speaking of tokamaks, the Joint European Torus (JET) is the largest operating one in the world. As with some other projects, plasmas in JET are hotter than anywhere else in the solar system. JET was specifically designed to explore fusion techniques needed for use in power plants, and so it is equipped to actually make progress toward the wide scale use of nuclear fusion in power grids that so many labs are aiming for. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, commercial nuclear fusion will use fuel that is a specific 50-50 mix of two hydrogen isotopes, due to this mixture facilitating fusion at the lowest temperature and having the highest energy yield. JET is the only established machine operating in the world equipped to handle this particular combination, making it the pathway towards larger fusion implementations.

    4. 4 California’s powerful laser system

      The National Ignition Facility is the world’s most powerful laser fusion facility, located at a lab in Livermore, California. The facility has 192 beams, allowing it to deliver more than 60 times the amount of energy to its target than any previous laser system. In 2013, the laser site resulted in a fusion reaction’s output exceeding the amount of energy taken up by the fuel, but not the energy used to power the laser beams. At the end of 2022, however, the system finally exhibited a net output of energy, what headlines are labeling the latest nuclear fusion “breakthrough”. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the site of the National Ignition Facility, is now home to two historical nuclear fusion reactions that pushed the industry closer to its goal of commercial energy development.

    5. 5 Global agreement on experimentation

      The world’s largest nuclear fusion project, incorporating the efforts of seven members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project is currently being constructed in France. ITER, not coincidentally, also means “path” or “journey” when translated directly into Latin. The project works in alignment with various smaller labs and machinery around the world, making it the center of convergence for global efforts in nuclear fusion. And it certainly is a journey, with various countries joining, pulling away, and rejoining, construction in France did not begin until 2007, but plans had been approved beginning in 1991. Seven members, the United States, Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the European Union have the goal to achieve efficiency with ITER. The facility has no future plans of generating electricity, that will all happen in demonstration devices across the world. Instead, the project focuses on creating a large thermal output, 500 megawatts to be exact, with less than 50 MW of energy input. More of an experiment and less of a place with commercial intentions, ITER has had several delays. Regardless, concrete planning of continued construction and ambitious goals set ITER on track to enhance the productivity of future reactors.

  • 39% of Climate Scientists Report Online Harassment

    39% of Climate Scientists Report Online Harassment

    0

    How did you celebrate Earth Day?


    On April 4th, Global Witness published the results of a survey of 468 climate scientists, and found 183 (39%) said they have experienced online harassment or abuse. For scientists who have published over ten academic papers, that number goes up to 49%. And out of the harassed scientists, 51% reported feeling anxiety, 48% reported a loss in productivity, and 21% reported experiencing depression. Jobs in academia are already thankless, so this additional barrier for climate scientists to do their work is extremely concerning. Ethan shares the findings of this survey, why it would be in the best interest of climate-skeptical cyberbullies to engage more respectfully, and some reflections on his experience interviewing and getting to know over 100 climate professors through The Sweaty Penguin in this week’s “Tip of the Iceberg.”

    The Sweaty Penguin is presented by Peril and Promise: a public media initiative from The WNET Group in New York, reporting on the issues and solutions around climate change. You can learn more at pbs.org/perilandpromise.

    Support the show and unlock exclusive merch, bonus content, and more for as little as $5/month at patreon.com/thesweatypenguin.

    CREDITS

    Writer: Ethan Brown, Velina Georgi, Mo Polyak, Madeleine Salman

    Fact Checker: Owen Reith

    Editor: Megan Antone

    Producers: Ethan Brown, Hallie Cordingley, Shannon Damiano

    Ad Voiceover: Megan Antone

    Music: Brett Sawka

    The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Peril and Promise or The WNET Group.

  • Chloroprene: The Chemical Behind Cancer Alley’s Latest Lawsuit

    Chloroprene: The Chemical Behind Cancer Alley’s Latest Lawsuit

    2

    What’s your favorite trendy carcinogen?


    On March 20, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion for a preliminary injunction under the Clean Air Act requesting that Denka Performance Elastomer LLC — the only chloroprene plant in the United States — impose significantly greater pollution controls. Chloroprene is a chemical used in the production of neoprene, which is used to create wetsuits, beer cozies, laptop sleeves, orthopedic braces, and automotive belts and hoses. It is also a known carcinogen. The Denka plant is located in the majority Black community of LaPlace, Louisiana, which is part of Cancer Alley — a stretch of land where low income and minority communities have been exposed to disproportionate cancer risk due to petrochemical and fossil fuel infrastructure. Today, we’ll examine this one sliver of the story of Cancer Alley, exploring what chloroprene is, how the Denka plant has impacted the surrounding community, and how LaPlace can create a healthier future. With special guest Dr. Kimberly Terrell: Research Scientist and Director of Community Engagement at Tulane University’s Environmental Law Clinic.

    The Sweaty Penguin is presented by Peril and Promise: a public media initiative from The WNET Group in New York, reporting on the issues and solutions around climate change. You can learn more at pbs.org/perilandpromise.

    This episode is the first in our four-part series collaborating with the Gulf Climate Listening Project covering environmental issues on the Gulf Coast. If you are interested in learning about stopping LNG exports and creating a better future on the Gulf Coast, visit GulfCoastMurals.com.

    Support the show and unlock exclusive merch, bonus content, and more for as little as $5/month at patreon.com/thesweatypenguin.

    CREDITS

    Writers: Owen Reith, Velina Georgi, Ethan Brown

    Fact Checker: Hallie Cordingley

    Editor: Ethan Brown

    Producers: Ethan Brown, Hallie Cordingley, Shannon Damiano

    Music: Brett Sawka

    The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Peril and Promise or The WNET Group.


    Clips
  • Arizona v. Navajo Nation: A Crucial Legal Battle Amidst the Southwest’s Drought Crisis

    Arizona v. Navajo Nation: A Crucial Legal Battle Amidst the Southwest’s Drought Crisis

    2

    What’s your favorite controversial issue in Arizona?


    On March 20, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Arizona v. Navajo Nation, wherein the Navajo Nation argued that the United States government breached its legal responsibility to ensure access to water on the Navajo reservation. The American Southwest is currently experiencing its worst drought in 1,200 hitting the Navajo Nation harder than anyone. Navajos use 8-10 gallons of water per day — about a tenth of the average American — and 30% of Navajos have no running water. The oral argument was interesting for a few reasons. There is unlikely to be an even split between the conservative and liberal justices, and it is very unclear which way the justices will rule. If the Navajo Nation win, it will only be the beginning of their battle. And if the United States win, they may have inadvertently set themselves up for future liability based on their long history of interfering with the Navajo Nation’s water. Ethan breaks down what Arizona v. Navajo Nation is about, how the justices might rule, and the strange concession that the U.S. attorney made repeatedly throughout the hearing in this week’s “Tip of the Iceberg.”

    The Sweaty Penguin is presented by Peril and Promise: a public media initiative from The WNET Group in New York, reporting on the issues and solutions around climate change. You can learn more at pbs.org/perilandpromise.

    Support the show and unlock exclusive merch, bonus content, and more for as little as $5/month at patreon.com/thesweatypenguin.

    CREDITS

    Writer: Ethan Brown, Velina Georgi, Mo Polyak, Madeleine Salman

    Fact Checker: Hallie Cordingley

    Editor: Megan Antone

    Producers: Ethan Brown, Hallie Cordingley, Shannon Damiano

    Ad Voiceover: Megan Antone

    Music: Brett Sawka

    The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Peril and Promise or The WNET Group.

  • Extended Cut: The Leviathan Gas Field with Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed

    Extended Cut: The Leviathan Gas Field with Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed
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  • Israel’s Energy Dilemma: Leviathan Gas Field vs Clean Tech Solutions

    Israel’s Energy Dilemma: Leviathan Gas Field vs Clean Tech Solutions

    2
    Leviathan Gas Field

    Who is your favorite serpent?


    In February, Ethan had the opportunity to travel to Israel and participate in the Jerusalem Press Club’s Climate Innovation Press Tour, meet several clean tech CEOs, and learn about Israel’s cutting edge climate solutions. But despite all these clean energy ideas, shockingly few have actually been implemented in Israel. Instead, Israel’s big energy project has been the Leviathan Gas Field: an offshore natural gas formation about 81 miles west of Haifa in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. With the potential to emit 1.06 billion tons of carbon dioxide, the Leviathan Gas Field is one of the 195  “carbon bombs” identified in last year’s investigative report by The Guardian. Though it has only been in production for three-and-a-half years, the Leviathan Gas Field has already misled on its environmental damage, heightened international tensions in the region, and struggled to live up to its economic promise. Today, we explore what issues have arisen at the Leviathan Gas Field, what solutions Israel has in-house to tackle energy and climate, and what needs to happen to make those innovations a reality. With special guest Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed: Executive Director of the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies.

    The Sweaty Penguin is presented by Peril and Promise: a public media initiative from The WNET Group in New York, reporting on the issues and solutions around climate change. You can learn more at pbs.org/perilandpromise.

    Support the show and unlock exclusive merch, bonus content, and more for as little as $5/month at patreon.com/thesweatypenguin.

    CREDITS

    Writers: Ethan Brown

    Fact Checker: Owen Reith

    Editor: Megan Antone

    Producers: Ethan Brown, Hallie Cordingley, Shannon Damiano

    Ad Voiceover: Megan Antone

    Music: Brett Sawka

    The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Peril and Promise or The WNET Group.


    Clips
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