China plays rainmaker with modified drone flights

While most countries have backed away from weather modification, China has embraced the concept and is stepping up efforts to create rain on demand. The China Meteorological Administration’s first purpose-built weather modification drone, the Ganlin-1, made its first flight last week.

Ganlin, which means “sweet rain”, is part of a project launched in March 2019 to increase rain and snow in the Qilian mountains region, which has suffered from repeated droughts. Ganlin is a modified version of the Wing Loong II flown by China’s military and has a wingspan of about 20 metres and a flight endurance of more than 14 hours. Its 5,000-kilometre (3,000) range is enough to traverse the entire region and it is much less expensive to operate than crewed aircraft. Previously the Chinese have used aircraft and rockets to launch rainmaking payloads – usually powdered silver iodide – into the clouds.

Ganlin carries a variety of weather sensors as well as a payload of rain-seeding catalyst. The developers claim it can identify the optimal area for cloud seeding, release the catalyst and measure the effects afterwards.

Previous rain-making programmes have suffered from lack of statistical evidence: it is difficult to tell whether it would have rained anyway. China’s cloud seeding operations with Ganlin drones may provide more data and settle the debate for good.

Original author: David Hambling
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All-Tesla Ride Share Company Aims To Clear The Air

Tesla EV in the fleet of Earth Rides, a Nashvile-based ride share company with an all-Tesla fleet.

Jen Perkins

Raven Hernandez wasn’t always healthy. Just as she was entering law school in Malibu, California, she found herself “very, very ill” and the view of smog rising from Los Angeles International Airport was simply a sickening sight. 

She decided to learn to heal herself, changing her lifestyle and eating better, which led to her and her husband thinking about trying to make the world a little healthier with fewer carbon emissions. The result? Going back to her hometown of Nashville, Tenn. and last October, launching Earth Rides—a ride share company where every vehicle is a battery electric car.

Raven Hernandez. Found of Nashville ride share company Earth Rides.

Peter Smith

“The reason we started it is to make healthy cool again,” said Hernandez in an interview. “We’re removing the emissions out of the transportation equation.”

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Pepsico Pledges Net-Zero Emissions By 2040

SAN ANSELMO, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Bottles of Pepsi are displayed on a shelf at a convenience store on ... [+] February 13, 2018 in San Anselmo, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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PepsiC PEP o pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its value chain by more than 40% before 2030 and to reach net-zero by 2040, a decade earlier than called for in the Paris Agreement. This change is expected to avoid more than 26 million metric tons of GHG emissions.

To achieve its goals, PepsiCo wants to focus on sustainable agriculture using low emission fertilisers,  precision technology and regenerative practices to improve soil health, biodiversity and productivity; alongside maximizing efficiency in its supply chain and adopting low or zero emission fuel transport.

Also, the ‘Sustainable from the Start’ program will ensure a product design that mitigates the environmental impact of the packaging, as shown by the recent announcement to reduce the use of virgin plastic and move nine European markets into 100% recycled plastic bottles by 2022.

“There is no vaccine for climate change. But our planet is in crisis,” said Silviu Popovici, CEO of PepsiCo Europe. “PepsiCo’s new climate goal will double our efforts on emission reductions. This impacts both our company-owned businesses but also includes our suppliers and bottlers. Simply put, we all have to do more.”

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The Morning After: Here’s The Worst Of CES 2021

CES can leave you with side effects like TMI.

Back Market, c/o Agathe Braut

CES is like a public viewing of the Batcave or 007’s latest toolkit. It’s incredible to see what kind of powerful and ingenious tools humanity can create. It’s remarkable that humans now have the ability to design a faucet that can dispense exactly 1 tablespoon of water with a voice command. In the words of the internet: “What kind of sorcery is this?”

Well, in terms of impact, it’s not the kind of sorcery that will take the world very far. It needs to be said: a lot of the powerful tools presented are also absurd. Not that CES claims to showcase innovations that bring humanity forward... it’s all in the name after all: Consumer Electronics SHOW. And everyone is, indeed, entertained.

New Ways To Make Waste.

Perhaps nothing is more entertaining than the ultimate first world problem: how to optimize pooping. Last year we saw a toilet that had Alexa built into it and this year we were presented with a toilet that can analyze our droppings. Fortunately people don’t change their toilets all that often, but we still need to ask the question: is all this entertainment worth the waste we are going out and encouraging everyone to create? 

Technology shapes culture. It can change the course of history—just look at the wheel or the internet. And yet, too often, what people call innovation feels a lot more like distraction: shiny new objects with benefits for the near future that keep consumers from looking at the long run. There’s no better way to do it than perpetuating a navel-gazing obsession with individual data, small comforts, and the occasional light show. What is waiting at the long run that everyone’s eyes are being averted from? The check. This is the real “worst of” from CES 2021 (and the others before it). Sooner or later, someone is going to have to pay that bill.

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Prince Charles Wants Companies To Raise $10 Billion For His Earth Charter

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales wearing a face-mask during a visit to Gloucestershire Vaccination ... [+] Centre. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

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The Prince of Wales is asking companies to join "Terra Carta" (Earth charter) for a more sustainable future, aiming to raise £7.3 billion ($10 billion) to invest in nature. After he met with Greta Thunberg in Davos last year, Prince Charles presented his new campaign at the virtual One Planet Summit on Monday.

"If we consider the legacy of our generation, more than 800 years ago, Magna Carta inspired a belief in the fundamental rights and liberties of people,” he wrote in Terra Carta’s presentation. "As we strive to imagine the next 800 years of human progress, the fundamental rights and value of nature must represent a step-change in our 'future of industry' and 'future of economy' approach."

The Prince of Wales, who has been committing to the environment since the 1970s, added on Monday that he “can only encourage, in particular, those in industry and finance to provide practical leadership to this common project, as only they are able to mobilize the innovation, scale and resources that are required to transform our global economy."

Eurasian Resources Group (ERG) was among the first 25 world- leading organizations to support the ‘Terra Carta’. As co-chair of Global Battery Alliance and CEO of ERG, Benedikt Sobotka said "it will catalyze action and commitments across industries, and bring about precisely the type of systemic transition that is needed over the course of this decade and beyond".

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China’s Rare Earths ‘Slump’ A Sign Of Domestic ‘Hoarding’ For EV Batteries, And More

EV batteries are loaded with rare minerals like lithium. China is a huge player in this supply ... [+] chain. For some rare earths, China is downright dominant. Their recent slump in exports is partially due to the pandemic, but industry experts see it as China hoarding supply for themselves to drive up prices. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto via Getty Images

China loves to be in everybody’s strategic supply chains. Rare earths is one of them. These are the minerals, often dug out of mines in Africa, that China controls. They go into your iPhone. They go into the Panasonic battery that powers your Tesla TSLA .

China’s rare earth exports fell to 35,448 tons last year from 46,330 tonnes in 2019, customs data showed on Thursday. China blamed the pandemic for weak demand. The 2020 exports were the lowest since 2015, according to Reuters.

But there may be more to it than the pandemic. For those China watchers, and competitors, looking for tears in the fabric, the slump has a little less to do with the pandemic than Beijing may be letting on.

“We are seeing the unfolding of the Chinese Communist Party’s Made in China 2025 and Belt and Road initiatives,” says Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth. Both policies have been strategies for China’s continued dominance as a global manufacturer and exporter of finished goods. This strategy is leading to an increase in local demand for rare earth metals, from lithium to cobalt.

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Clean Trucks Can Deliver Biden’s Goals For Climate, Jobs, and Equity

Written by Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund.

The Biden administration should put the United States on a path to 100% zero pollution new trucks ... [+] and buses by 2040.

getty

President-elect Biden has made clear that clean transportation is at the heart of his plan to Build Back Better. That’s the right focus — but it can’t be accomplished without a strong emphasis on America’s 13 million heavy duty trucks and buses, which produce significantly more climate pollution than the entire British economy.

To achieve its goal, the Biden administration should put the United States on a path to 100% zero pollution new trucks and buses by 2040 — and commit to quickly setting ambitious pollution standards to drive this transition.

More Jobs and Healthier Communities

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Thirteen Predictions For 2021 In Sustainability Private Equity (Part Two)

2021 Benjamins

getty

Earlier this week, I posted the first part of this column, in which we’re looking at what 2021 might have in store for us. Now here’s the second of my personal predictions for the year ahead, specifically for private markets in sustainability in North America. Remember, this isn’t investment advice, but just a sharing of ideas heading into the new year. And I think 2021 could be a big one for our industry:

8) In 2021, what happens on Wall Street could impact private markets more than usual

Normally, venture capital and private equity are fairly insulated from the short-term vagaries of the stock market. The monthly ups and downs of the S&P 500 do affect the windows of opportunity for venture-backed companies to IPO or to be acquired, but otherwise in normal times private markets and public equities are generally correlated only by the fact that they both are driven by the overall state of the economy — not that one directly drives the other.

And yet for the past year, at least for some observers the stock market seems to be defying gravity, with the NASDAQ NDAQ price-to-sales ratio near all-time highs, for example. This, in the midst of an economy that has clearly been disrupted by a global pandemic. Can it keep going up? Some investors seem to think so, arguing that negative real yields in assets like government bonds could continue to drive capital into stocks and other alternative assets.

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Feds Approve Plan To Drill And Frack 5,000 New Oil Wells in The Powder River Basin Of Wyoming

GILLETTE, WYOMING--antelope grazing near a gas compressor station.

Denver Post via Getty Images

Wyoming oil and gas boosters succeeded a few weeks ago in pushing through Bureau of Land Management approvals for a massive campaign in the Powder River Basin that could see the drilling and fracking of 5,000 new wells . The region is better known as being home to America’s biggest coal mines — now in severe decline. So it’s no surprise that state were eager to see a project approved before the anti-fracking Biden Administration could block it.

This is no kneejerk project. It was only after seven years of environmental analysis that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) signed, in late December, a Record of Decision to approve the drilling on federal leases in Converse County in Wyoming.  

The numbers are large: 5,000 wells, 1,500 well pads each large enough to accommodate up to 16 individual wells, plus new infrastructure entailing hundreds of miles of water and gas pipelines, electricity lines, and roads. The duration of the project is to be 10 years.

The BLM has a heavy hand in this because the minerals they manage (which include oil and gas) lie beneath 64% of the total area even though they only manage about 6% of the surface area.

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Biden’s Pick Of Granholm For Energy Sec. Could Buoy Renewables Markets

By: Maria Chavez

Electric car plugged into a charging station while parked.

getty

In December 2020, president-elect Joe Biden nominated former Michigan governor, Jennifer Granholm, to be his pick for Secretary of Energy. Granholm has a history of backing new energy policies in her home state and backed policy that offered battery manufacturers tax breaks and set goals to require Michigan to source 10% of its power from renewable resources by 2015. Although those plans had mixed results during her time in office (2003-2011), a new administration might be the right time to successfully push through ambitious energy policies.

Implementing Green Transportation Strategies

The Biden team has outlined policy proposals that are intended to accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies. Among them are plans for renewable energy, energy storage, and transportation electrification. As part of his ambitious climate goals, Biden wants to move toward net-zero emissions by 2050, a plan that would most likely require continuous growth of the zero-emissions vehicle market. In her time in office, Granholm signed into law tax incentives for the development and manufacturing of EVs. Granholm’s nomination could give her another opportunity to work with automakers in Detroit to advance the market for EV manufacturing. 

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Biden’s Pick Of Granholm For Energy Sec. Could Buoy Renewables Markets

By: Maria Chavez

Electric car plugged into a charging station while parked.

getty

In December 2020, president-elect Joe Biden nominated former Michigan governor, Jennifer Granholm, to be his pick for Secretary of Energy. Granholm has a history of backing new energy policies in her home state and backed policy that offered battery manufacturers tax breaks and set goals to require Michigan to source 10% of its power from renewable resources by 2015. Although those plans had mixed results during her time in office (2003-2011), a new administration might be the right time to successfully push through ambitious energy policies.

Implementing Green Transportation Strategies

The Biden team has outlined policy proposals that are intended to accelerate the adoption of clean energy technologies. Among them are plans for renewable energy, energy storage, and transportation electrification. As part of his ambitious climate goals, Biden wants to move toward net-zero emissions by 2050, a plan that would most likely require continuous growth of the zero-emissions vehicle market. In her time in office, Granholm signed into law tax incentives for the development and manufacturing of EVs. Granholm’s nomination could give her another opportunity to work with automakers in Detroit to advance the market for EV manufacturing. 

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Paper-Free Isn’t Enough: The Keys To Sustainable Web Design For Every Business

Sustainable web design prioritizes the health of our home planet through a focus on reducing carbon ... [+] emissions and energy consumption

getty

Online banking, e-statements, apps replacing paper documents—the world is moving online. One major push to digital has come from those concerned about finite resource depletion: If we use less paper, fewer trees need to be cut down. However, the footprint of our digital shift is, frankly, huge. Tom Greenwood, cofounder of U.K.’s Wholegrain Digital web design agency, shares that if the internet were an actual country, it would be the sixth-largest polluting country in the world. 

Greenwood and his team at the Certified B Corporation have not only developed a mission to assist clients build sustainable sites, but also to take steps in creating an internet that is good for both people and planet. “Sustainable web design is an approach to designing web services that prioritizes the health of our home planet; at its core is a focus on reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption,” said Greenwood. “Business, design, and technology can be part of the solution, but only if environmental protection is at the core of key decisions and not an afterthought.” 

In his new book, Sustainable Web Design, Greenwood discusses the topic more in-depth and explores how brands, businesses, and corporations can take steps to mitigate the trend. 

Christopher Marquis: Congratulations on your new book! What led you to write the book, and more generally, how did you become interested in this work?

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Air pollution will lead to mass migration, say experts after landmark ruling

Air pollution does not respect national boundaries and environmental degradation will lead to mass migration in the future, said a leading barrister in the wake of a landmark migration ruling, as experts warned that government action must be taken as a matter of urgency.

Sailesh Mehta, a barrister specialising in environmental cases, said: “The link between migration and environmental degradation is clear. As global warming makes parts of our planet uninhabitable, mass migration will become the norm. Air and water pollution do not respect national boundaries. We can stop a humanitarian and political crisis from becoming an existential one. But our leaders must act now.”

He added: “We have a right to breathe clean air. Governments and courts are beginning to recognise this fundamental human right. The problem is not just that of Bangladesh and the developing world. Air pollution contributes to around 200,000 deaths a year in the UK. One in four deaths worldwide can be linked to pollution.”

The comments follow a decision by a French court this week, which is believed to be the first time environment was cited by a court in an extradition hearing. The case involved a Bangladeshi man with asthma who avoided deportation from France after his lawyer argued that he risked a severe deterioration in his condition, and possibly premature death, due to the dangerous levels of pollution in his homeland.

The appeals court in Bordeaux overturned an expulsion order against the 40-year-old man because he would face “a worsening of his respiratory pathology due to air pollution” in his country of origin.

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One, two, tree: how AI helped find millions of trees in the Sahara

When a team of international scientists set out to count every tree in a large swathe of west Africa using AI, satellite images and one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, their expectations were modest. Previously, the area had registered as having little or no tree cover.

The biggest surprise, says Martin Brandt, assistant professor of geography at the University of Copenhagen, is that the part of the Sahara that the study covered, roughly 10%, “where no one would expect to find many trees”, actually had “quite a few hundred million”.

Trees are crucial to our long-term survival, as they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global heating. But we still do not know how many there are. Much of the Earth is inaccessible either because of war, ownership or geography. Now scientists, researchers and campaigners have a raft of more sophisticated resources to monitor the number of trees on the planet.

Satellite imagery has become the biggest tool for counting the world’s trees, but while forested areas are relatively easy to spot from space, the trees that aren’t neatly gathered in thick green clumps are overlooked. Which is why assessments so far have been, says Brandt, “extremely far away from the real numbers. They were based on interpolations, estimations and projections.”

The most recent attempt at a global tally of trees was in 2015, when researchers, using a combination of satellite data and ground measurements, estimated there were just over 3tn. This was a dramatic increase from the previous estimate of 400bn in 2009, which was based on satellite imagery alone.

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Pope’s adviser says Covid has highlighted ‘existential’ climate risk

The pope’s newly appointed scientific adviser said the coronavirus pandemic has forced world leaders to face up to the “existential risk” of the climate crisis.

Prof Ottmar Edenhofer said rich countries now had a moral duty to compensate poor countries already suffering the impacts.

Edenhofer, director of the climate research institute MCC in Berlin and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, was appointed to provide scientific advice to the Vatican agency focusing on justice for refugees, the poor and the stateless.

His appointment follows Pope Francis’s 2019 declaration of a climate emergency in which he said failing to act would be a “brutal act of injustice” towards the poor and future generations. Edenhofer told the Guardian he hoped his input would help drive action by governments.

“Weather extremes triggered by the destabilisation of our climate are already driving migration movements worldwide,” he said. “Droughts can cause simmering conflicts to flare up violently, and crop failures can drive up food prices. Unfortunately, if the planet continues to warm, migration and conflicts are likely to increase further.

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Coal’s Unstoppable Decline Means Carbon Emissions From Electricity Will Keep Dropping For Years To Come

A truck delivers coal as heavy equipment moves coal into piles at PacifiCorp's Hunter coal fired ... [+] power pant outside of Castle Dale, Utah on November 14, 2019. - The 1,577 Megawatt power pant opened in 1978 and is one of the largest coal fired plants in the western United States. (Photo by GEORGE FREY / AFP) (Photo by GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

When it comes to carbon emissions coal is king, even though it’s been over 10 years since coal abdicated its throne as the primary source of electricity in the United States. In 2020, coal accounted for under 1/4th of electricity generation—less than the combined total of renewables and nuclear generation—yet is responsible for the majority of carbon emissions.  

Carbon emissions from the U.S. electric sector have been on a downward trajectory for more than a decade. The reason behind this trajectory is straightforward.  The U.S. electric sector has been burning less coal every single year. So much so that carbon emissions from coal in the U.S. electricity sector are more than 50% lower today than just a decade ago. This is a result of the declining economics of coal power plants due to low natural gas prices, increasing numbers of low-cost renewable plants, and more stringent environmental regulations.

Despite this trajectory, coal still remains the largest fuel source of carbon emissions on the U.S. electricity grid, accounting for 60% of CO2 emissions. While some clean energy advocates may have moved on to fight natural gas as a source of carbon emissions, understanding the carbon intensity of the U.S. electricity grid remains a question for the future of coal.

U.S. Electric Sector CO2 Emissions - 12 Month Trailing Average

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Elon Musk Is The Richest Person In The World—Again

Tesla billionaire Elon Musk reclaimed the top spot on Thursday, as he and Jeff Bezos continue to ... [+] trade places.

Hannibal Hanschke-Pool/Getty Images

Tesla billionaire Elon Musk is the richest person in the world once again, overtaking Jeff Bezos as shares of Amazon fell on Thursday.

Amazon’s stock fell 1.2%, lowering Bezos’ net worth by $2 billion, to $182.8 billion. Shares of electric-vehicle maker Tesla, on the other hand, lost 1.1% on Thursday, pushing Musk’s net worth down by $1.8 billion. 

Musk is now worth $182.9 billion, which again makes him the wealthiest person on the planet, according to Forbes’ estimates. The Tesla chief is now just less than $1 billion richer than Bezos, who falls to second-richest person in the world.

The two billionaires have spent much of the last week competing for the title of wealthiest person on the planet. Musk took the number one spot from Bezos last Friday and again on Tuesday, Forbes calculates. 

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2020 was hottest year on record by narrow margin, Nasa says

Last year was by a narrow margin the hottest ever on record, according to Nasa, with the climate crisis stamping its mark on 2020 through soaring temperatures, enormous hurricanes and unprecedented wildfires.

The average global land and ocean temperature in 2020 was the highest ever measured, Nasa announced on Thursday, edging out the previous record set in 2016 by less than a tenth of a degree.

Due to slightly different methods used, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) judged 2020 as fractionally cooler than 2016, while the UK Met Office also put 2020 in a close second place. The European Union’s climate observation program puts the two years in a dead heat.

Regardless of these minor differences, all the datasets again underlined the long-term heating up of the planet due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities.

The world’s seven hottest years on record have now all occurred since 2014, with the 10 warmest all taking place in the last 15 years. There have now been 44 consecutive years where global temperatures have been above the 20th-century average.

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Revealed: business secretary accepted donations from fossil fuel investors

The UK’s new business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, accepted substantial donations from fossil fuel investors and advisers as part of his 2019 general election campaign, despite the government’s commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Kwarteng was energy minister until earlier this month, when he was promoted to secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy. He replaced Alok Sharma, who has now taken full-time responsibility for the UK’s hosting of this year’s UN climate talks, Cop26.

In the 2019 election campaign, Kwarteng received £16,000 from companies and individuals with a direct interest in fossil fuels, and a further £4,500 from companies that advise on or facilitate trading in fossil fuels.

The donations, according to the MPs’ register of interests, included £7,500 from IPGL, a holding company with a 40% stake in Cluff Energy Africa, a London-based company that prospects for oil in west Africa. IPGL is owned by the former Conservative party treasurer Michael Spencer, and donated £48,000 to Conservative MPs, of whom Kwarteng received the highest single amount.

He also received £4,000 from Majid Jafar, chief executive of Crescent Petroleum, a privately held company with oil and gas operations in the Middle East, and a board member of Dana Gas. A further £4,500 came from Helios Investment Partners, whose portfolio includes Eland Oil and Gas, Impact Oil and Gas, Vivo Energy and Africa Oil Corp.

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Western Australia LNG plant faces calls to shut down until faulty carbon capture system is fixed

Greenhouse gas emissions from Chevron’s Gorgon LNG facility have increased because the company’s carbon capture system is not working properly, meaning more carbon dioxide is being vented into the atmosphere.

Environment groups have blasted the Western Australian government for not imposing penalties on the energy company after documents revealed sand was clogging the injection system designed to bury up to 4m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year under Barrow Island.

The Conservation Council of WA said Chevron should be forced to shut the plant down until it can demonstrate its carbon capture and storage (CCS) was working.

The council’s director, Piers Verstegen, said the project had been “a disaster from the beginning” and should concern the Morrison government which has championed gas developments and the deployment of CCS technology.

Documents obtained by the independent energy news outlet, Boiling Cold, reveal the WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety allowed Chevron to continue injecting reservoir CO2 underground while its pressure management system was not working.

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