Thunberg, UN urge quick action on climate migration

  • In World
  • 2023-01-27 22:33:04Z
  • By The Hill

Climate activist Greta Thunberg and United Nations officials called on Friday for immediate action to address environmental impacts on individuals forced to flee their homes.

About 20 million people are displaced every year due to climate change, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The U.N. agency stressed the importance of curbing the environmental crises that are driving this movement.

"This is a question of life and death for countless of people having to flee because of the climate crisis," Thunberg said during a Friday discussion with the organization's chief.

António Vitorino, director-general of the IOM, echoed Thunberg's sentiments, while commending her generation for "being relentless in addressing this huge challenge."

"The ones who are being more seriously hit by climate change are the populations that have less contributed in the past for the problems that we are confronted with," Vitorino said.

In two countries alone - Somalia and Pakistan - more than 15 million people require humanitarian assistance due to crippling drought in the former and historic floods in the latter, the IOM estimated.

The Greta Thunberg Foundation has donated about $269,000 to support the IOM's emergency response to these extreme weather events in these two countries, according to the U.N. agency.

"We need to support people before they move, we need to support people while they move, and afterwards, it's a chain of events," Thunberg said. "We need to think holistically like in any other emergency."

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter tracking the global battle over the future of sustainability. For The Hill, I'm Sharon Udasin. Not on the list? Subscribe here.

Today we'll explore why Russia may need to sell oil at steep discounts, take a look at the record broken by America's second biggest oil company and see why the Biden administration is betting on biofuels.

☄️ Plus: Far-flung meteorites reveal Earth's past.

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Russia may need to bend amid strict oil sanctions

As the West twists the screws on Russia with more sanctions, the country is facing increasing pressure to sell more oil at a discount despite previous reluctance to do so.

It may not have much of a choice.

Depleting funds: Moscow is grappling with a quickly draining budget as it struggles to finance its yearlong war in Ukraine, according to an analysis from the Atlantic Council.

  • The war has cost the government far more than it makes in revenue amid strict sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe, with the EU's penalties set to expand next month.

  • With fewer funds at its disposal, Moscow can no longer afford to block discounted oil sales.

Unpredictable oil: Russian oil initially declined following the Dec. 5 implementation of an EU embargo on crude, as well as a $60 price cap set by the EU and Group of Seven nations.

While Russian exports have partially rebounded, the International Energy Agency warned that additional Western sanctions could rattle the status quo.

What are the new sanctions? On Feb. 5, the EU will be expanding sanctions to include refined petroleum products, as we previously reported.

Russia is one of the biggest exporters of such products, including diesel for farm machinery, according to the World Economic Forum.

Oil flowing to India: Since the December sanctions took effect, at least seven Russian tankers with Western insurance have left the country's ports for Indian refineries, The Financial Times reported.

  • These tankers would not have been allowed to insure their cargo if they were selling above $60 per barrel.

  • India's oil processors have expressed interest in buying even more Russian crude at discounted prices, Bloomberg reported.

  • Meanwhile, the State Department confirmed that Pakistan could purchase this cheaper Russia petroleum, according to Jordan-based news site menafn.

Getting around the cap: Russian is still likely looking for ways to sell above the capped price, the Atlantic Council noted.

  • Moscow could self-insure and then use Indian or Chinese vessels that are not subject to U.S. and EU rules - and eventually build up its own fleet.

  • Russian refined oil products could also find homes in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, Turkey's Anadolu Agency reported. 

Circuitous journey for diesel: The EU still needs diesel and will likely purchase the resource from the U.S. and India, according to the Atlantic Council.

  • Russian diesel may therefore "travel a lot more before finally reaching the EU again," the authors noted.

  • The EU has signaled it is prepared to cope with the resulting market inefficiencies.

Russia is far from thriving: "Contrary to Moscow's claims, the Russian economy is not sanctions-proof and the war is in fact draining Russia's budget," the Atlantic Council authors wrote.

"Russia has used band-aids to prop up its economy, but 2023 could be the year it comes crashing down, leading to slashing funding for schools and hospitals," they added.

Chevron posts record oil profits for 2022

California oil giant Chevron Corp. posted record profits of $35.5 billion last year, according to a 2022 fourth quarter report released on Friday.

Reaching records: Last year's earnings were more than double those of 2021, when profits reached only $15.6 billion, according to the report.

  • Driving up profits was a record annual cash flow from oil operations of $49.6 billion.

  • "We delivered record earnings and cash flow in 2022, while increasing investments and growing U.S. production to a company record," Mike Wirth, Chevron's chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

The spoils of war: Chevron is the second biggest oil company in the U.S., behind ExxonMobil, which is set to release its own fourth quarter earnings next Tuesday.

  • Both companies benefited last year from a surge in global oil prices, prompted by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions on Russian crude that followed.

A surge in profits: Comparing the fourth quarters of 2021 and 2022 alone, Chevron cited a rise in profits from $5.1 billion to $6.4 billion.

  • The company's 2022 investments rose by more than 75 percent from 2021, while annual U.S. production surged to 1.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

  • Chevron attributed this increase to 16-percent growth in unconventional oil production in the Permian Basin.

Some other 2022 ventures cited by the report:

  • A near-complete project in Kazakhstan

  • Approval of the deep-water Ballymore project in the Gulf of Mexico

  • Authorization to expand the Tamar gas extraction operations off the coast of Israel.

Friday's report follows an announcement this week that Chevron's board had approved a $75 billion share buyback - a move that typically raises stock prices.

Not everyone is celebrating: While the program might be a boon to investors, the White House slammed Chevron on Thursday for giving "handouts" to the wealthy.

"For a company that claimed not too long ago that it was 'working hard' to increase oil production, handing out $75 billion to executives and wealthy shareholders sure is an odd way to show it," White House spokesman Abdullah Hasan said in a statement.

"We continue to call on oil companies to use their record profits to increase supply, and reduce costs for the American people," Hasan added.

To read the full story, please click here.

Biden officials allocate $118M for biofuel projects

The Department of Energy said on Thursday that it will award $118 million in grants for the domestic production of biofuels, our colleague Zack Budryk.

Fueling tech development: Funding will be divided among 17 projects, each of which are receiving between $500,000 and $80,000 million, according to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

  • The projects will be located in nine states and in the District of Columbia.

  • They are split into four categories: emissions reductions in corn ethanol and integrated biorefinery technology in pre-pilot, pilot and demonstration stages.

What exactly are biofuels? They're derived from organic material - such as agricultural or domestic waste - and are different from fossil fuels due to their renewability.

  • Just how sustainable biofuels are depends on the feedstock used for their generation.

  • Biofuel producers could also be headed for a feedstock supply crunch, as demand for these resources surges, accordion to the International Energy Agency.

Big on biofuels: The Energy Department's announcement came just over a month after the Biden administration proposed an update to current biofuel blending standards, Budryk reported.

  • The proposal would increase the volume of biofuels required to blend into the national pool of retail fuel from 20.63 billion gallons in 2022 to 20.87 billion gallons in 2023.

  • The update would further increase the volume to 21.87 billion in 2024 and 22.68 billion in 2025.

Meteorites show likely origin of Earth building blocks

Meteorites have revealed the probable far-flung origins of Earth's volatile chemicals - some of which create the building blocks of life, a new study has found.

Critical resources traveled long distance: Half of the Earth's inventory of the volatile element zinc came from asteroids in the outer solar system, according to the study, published on Friday in Science.

This region is situated beyond the asteroid belt and includes Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus.

Divulging the unexpected: "About half of Earth's zinc inventory was delivered by material from the outer Solar System, beyond the orbit of Jupiter," senior author Mark Rehkämper, a professor at Imperial College London, said in a statement.

"Based on current models of early Solar System development, this was completely unexpected," he added.

What are volatiles? They're elements or compounds that change from solid or liquid state into vapor at relatively low temperatures, the authors explained.

  • They include the six most common elements found in living organisms, as well as water.

  • Researchers had previously thought that most volatiles came from asteroids that had formed closer to Earth.

Exploring the inner and outer solar system: The researchers examined 18 meteorites of varying origins.

  • Eleven came from the inner solar system and are known as non-carbonaceous meteorites.

  • Seven carbonaceous meteorites came from the outer solar system.

The power of zinc: The authors determined that while Earth only incorporated about 10 percent of its mass from the latter, this material supplied about half of the planet's zinc.

Material with a high concentration of zinc is also likely to be relatively abundant in water - providing clues about the origins of Earth's water, the scientists noted.

Follow-up Friday

In which we revisit some of the topics we've covered this week.

Arctic storm system to bring snow, cold to Intermountain West, Great Plains

  • Parts of the U.S. West are still enduring long-term drought, despite a set of so-called "atmospheric rivers" that recently battered the region. The National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center warned that heavy snow could begin impacting the Northern Rockies and northern High Plains on Friday evening, as an arctic storm system pushes south from Canada.

Despite incentives, U.S. solar faces challenges

  • JFK Airport will soon be getting New York City's largest rooftop solar  array - the latest advancement in a growing U.S. solar scene. Yet while the Biden administration's Inflation Reduction Act offers $370 billion in solar-related incentives, the industry is grappling with supply chain bottlenecks, trade tensions and delayed grid connections, Bloomberg reported.

Equinor, BP submit bid for NY offshore wind expansion

  • Building up a domestic supply chain for offshore wind will be costly, but projects continue to pop up on both U.S. coasts. Equinor and BP have submitted a joint bid to build a second stage of their existing Beacon Wind project, which would boost offshore wind power to the state of New York, Reuters reported.

Please visit The Hill's Sustainability section online for more and check out other newsletters here. See you next week.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.


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