The Konkan coast of Maharashtra, India -- dubbed the California of India -- has been the stage for an impressive people’s movement bent on opposing a slew of coal-fired power projects and mines. These developments will ravage one of Maharashtra’s most serene areas, home to an international biodiversity hot spot as well as world famous Alphonso mango. Despite its idyllic setting, Konkan locals have proven themselves to be street-smart activists capable of striking back at those who threaten their way of life.
In the 90s, Konkan’s grassroots movement opposed big projects from Sterlite Copper and Enron Power. Both projects were successfully closed or forced out by local resistance. However, the sheer scale of development they now face is staggering. At least fifteen proposed coal-fired power projects equaling 25 GW of power – the equivalent of 50 US coal-fired power plants - are set to be built on a narrow strip of coastal land 50 to 90 km wide and 105 km long. This represents a 200% increase in coal-fired power for the entire state of Maharashtra, a state which already has the largest total installed capacity equal to 11 GW, or 13% of nationwide capacity.
The grassroots resistance is comprised of NGOs such as the Ankur Trust and Conservation Action Trust , Mango exporters that are seeing their crops jeopardized by uncontrolled fly ash and toxic acid rain , and local citizens threatened with displacement. These groups have stood in unwavering defiance of state and national government planning; private corporations that are owned by some of the world’s richest men , and international financiers. They have done so to uphold a vision that places people and the natural world at the heart of development - something that no amount of PR or marketing spin can give large-scale fossil fuel projects.
It now seems that Konkan’s David-like struggle has found an ally in the government; Jairam Ramesh, the Green Crusader . Ramesh recently ordered a review of 55 mining projects and over a dozen coal-fired power projects ( including one of the Government of India’s nine Ultra Mega Power Projects ) to study the effect such development will have on the entire Western Ghat region. The Western Ghat region is home to an international campaign to save the rich biodiversity that has been recognized by numerous international organizations.
While Ramesh’s support is laudable, his hand was ultimately forced by the efforts of determined local resistance to the destruction these projects would leave in their wake. With controversy swirling over the Vedanta mining scandal in Orissa on India’s Eastern coast it seems that local people across the country are making their stand. Today, those in the industrialized world must tip their hats to the courageous efforts of a determined few who are helping to shape their country’s, and by extension our planet’s future, with or without our help.
The primary conclusion is that electrification of transportation significantly reduces petroleum energy use, but GHG emissions strongly depend on the electricity generation mix for battery recharging.
This summer, we’ve witnessed the 10-day traffic jam in China, the million-gallon Enbridge pipeline oil spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and, of course, ongoing efforts to clean up the BP oil disaster in the Gulf.
Traffic. Oil spills. What do they have in common? Both are at the core of our transportation system in the United States, a system which leaves us dependent on cars to get around, drains as much as $1 billion from our economy each day, and keeps Americans stuck in traffic for 4.2 billion hours each year while wasting 2.8 billion gallons of gas.
We know that America can do better. We need a 21st century transportation system that enhances our national security, economy, environment and quality of life. So the Sierra Club is launching a new network of Transportation Activists, the Club's front line on creating a 21st century transportation system in the United States.
Sick of traffic jams and oil spills? Want to learn about and take action on national transportation issues like ending our dependence on oil, expanding public transit, and promoting the development of walkable and bikeable communities? Sign up to be a Transportation Activist here and join the movement.
Our mothers were right: the best way to deal with bullies is to confront them. In the face of yet another round of public criticism, Canadian oil giant TransCanada has backed down from bullying American landowners into putting toxic pipelines on their land. The company sent letters to Nebraska landowners in the proposed path of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, threatening them with legal proceedings if they did not agree to sell their land by the end of August. They invoked eminent domain, an obscure provision of the law that allows the government and some utilities to appropriate private property
But in response to public outcry about the injustice to private landowners who want to keep their communities safe and healthy, TransCanada has changed its tune.
A TransCanada spokesman announced Monday, August 30 that the company has withdrawn the negotiating deadlines and has no intention of seeking eminent domain actions, at least for now. This announcement is a win for landowners who have raised serious concerns about the safety of the Keystone XL pipeline.
This is the second time this month that TransCanada has advanced an underhanded scheme at the expense of American landowners, but been forced to back down when activists and community members turn the spotlight on them. The company had also been lobbying the Department of Transportation for a special safety waiver that would allow them to operate the pipeline at a higher pressure, increasing odds of a spill. The permit, which would essentially have allowed TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline with thinner steel, would have saved the company approximately a billion dollars, but put American health and safety at risk. In the wake of outcry over the Enbridge spill of tar sands into the Kalamazoo River, TransCanada announced that they had withdrawn the application, although they reserved the right to reapply in the future.
TransCanada spokesman Jeff Rauh said that the company's intent wasn’t to threaten landowners, and that they were trying “to be clear and straightforward with what we’re doing.” The message--that TransCanada will build their pipeline regardless of the cost to American communities-- is clear, indeed.
If there is one thing we have learned from this pattern of bad behavior from TransCanada, it is that they are always looking for the next corner to cut. The good news is that increased scrutiny from the public, the media, and elected officials is making it much more difficult for TransCanada to hide their dirty deeds and hurt communities.
Canada may be stereotypically associated with politeness and friendliness, but one of its major oil companies is bullying and intimidating American property owners. Canadian oil giant TransCanada has told landowners along the path of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline that if they don’t sign over their land by the end of the month, TransCanada will take it by force through eminent domain proceedings.
A letter sent to a Nebraska landowner by TransCanada executive Tim Irons and obtained by the National Wildlife Federation states that the company “is constructing and will operate a 1,833 mile crude oil pipeline, which […] will cross a portion of your property.” The letter continues, asserting, “In the event we cannot reach an agreement, Keystone will use eminent domain to acquire the easement.” (emphasis added)
Such threatening language is an attempt to intimidate and silence the many landowners who have voiced safety concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline. Nebraska landowners in particular fear that a spill would contaminate the shallow Ogallala Aquifer which provides a third of the water for the nation’s crops. TransCanada is trying to trick politicians into believing the pipeline is safe, and knows that these landowners can’t be fooled. Spills from pipelines are common and harm the land and the people who live on it. Last month's Enbridge oil pipeline spill of more than 800,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan is the latest of more than 2,500 significant pipeline incidents that have occurred in United States over the last decade, which have resulted in 161 fatalities and 576 injuries.
Such behavior on the part of TransCanada is not just an atrocious example of a foreign company attempting to turn profits at the expense of the American people. It’s also stunning evidence of the contempt and disrespect the company is showing to the U.S. government. TransCanada's letter declares that its risky pipeline will be built—but conveniently leaves out the fact that Keystone XL has not yet received a permit for the construction of the pipeline. In fact, growing concerns about the project from Congress, the EPA, and the American people are making this approval less likely by the day. Perhaps that’s why the company’s resorting to desperate, underhanded tactics.
TransCanada should stop trying to bully landowners. The State Department can protect Americans by denying TransCanada’s permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Update 9/3: Gap, Levi- Strauss and Timberland have not specifically committed to eliminating “tar sands oil” from their fuel sources, but each have committed in their own way to reducing the environmental and social impacts of their fuels. Any action to reduce environmental and social impacts of fuel choices must consider the significant impacts of tar sands, and give preference to suppliers who avoid it, but these companies are not specifically targeting tar sands fuel for a boycott. Walgreens, however, has made an explicit move away from tar sands oil, and has directed its suppliers to source non-tar sands fuels.
Original Post: The pen is mightier than the sword, but the purse may sometimes be mightier than the pen. Major US corporations are adding market pressure to the growing wave of opposition against tar sands expansion, giving tar sands producers a fresh reason to consider the consequences of their poor environmental street cred.
Whole Foods Market and Bed Bath and Beyond joined a list of six major Fortune 500 companies, including Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss, committed to reducing the environmental impact of their fuel sources. Walgreens also recently announced it will avoid purchasing tar sands oil to fuel its distribution network.
Federal Express also voiced concerns over the ‘environmental and social impacts’ of the fuel it sources, and committed to address them. Being the dirtiest fuel on earth, tar sands oil certainly makes the short list for these categories.
These companies are throwing the weight of their purchasing power behind the criticism of tar sands and the Keystone XL expressed by many Americans, including written letters from thousands of citizens, fifty members of Congress, and critique from major federal agencies like the EPA.
Forest Ethics, who organized the boycott campaign (and other successful efforts like it), says this is only the beginning, with a total of 13 companies expected to announce tar sands boycotts by the end of the year.
For an industry aggressively pushing to secure a leading role in the US energy market, businesses labeling tar sands oil as a “brand risk” is a major blow to the tar sands industry and its destructive practices.
As the old business adage goes, the customer is always right- and as the number one consumer of tar sands crude, US corporations and consumers need to be taking a stronger stance against products like tar sands that carry unacceptably high social and environmental costs. If consumers continue to demand a cleaner energy future, those who hope to profit from the vast American economy will have no choice but to clean up or clear out.
Meet Mr. Green's rabbit and handy machete (don't worry, it's safe for work):
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
-- The president "endorsed offshore drilling without asking his own oceans agency."
-- Grey wolves regain protection under the Endangered Species Act.
-- I'm enjoying this bicycle blog called Copenhagenize.
-- Here's a headline: "Self-Cleaning Technology From Mars Can Keep Terrestrial Solar Panels Dust Free."
-- The blogger who is collecting trash at Santa Monica Beach for a year has now picked up nearly 600 pounds in 145 days.
-- And last but not least, a beetle that loves this whole climate-change thing, threatens the world's coffee supply. No!!! Not my coffee!
This is the weekly blog post from Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
Power industry lobbyist Jim Roewer: "Wasn't a problem."
Leslie Stahl: "Well, it was a problem, but we just didn't know it."
This excerpt from a recent 60 Minutes story on toxic coal waste sums up the current trouble with the millions of tons of toxic ash left over each year from burning coal for energy.
While scientists and experts know, and have known for years that coal ash is full of harmful pollution that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses, the issue flew largely under the radar until the massive TVA disaster. Even now nobody, including the EPA, has a full picture of how much of this toxic waste is out there, where it is, or if it is staying put. The coal industry has dumped millions of tons of its toxic leftovers at thousands of sites across the country with no federal oversight, and utterly inadequate state policies.
The result? Toxic ash dump sites lacking even basic safety protections, drinking water sources poisoned and people unknowingly at risk.
A new investigative report reveals more than three dozen new sites in 21 states where toxic coal waste has made water supplies unsafe. These sites are the latest in a steadily growing number of waters known to be contaminated by poor management of coal ash. So far more than 130 cases of coal ash contamination have been found in 34 states, and even EPA admits this could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Many state agencies (like those in Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico and Tennessee to name a few) require no monitoring of waters near toxic coal ash sites. Other states, like West Virginia, do such a poor job of monitoring as to be useless. About 70 percent of the toxic coal ash generated nationwide is dumped in states that don't require monitoring to see if toxic contamination is leaking from coal ash sites.
The report shows that states responsible for only four of the coal ash sites have required an investigation to determine the scale of the pollution. Not one state has required the toxic pollution to be stopped, let alone cleaned up. There is a clear need for the EPA to step in where the states have failed to protect our communities.
Lisa Jackson and the EPA have recognized this and the agency is currently considering whether and how to regulate toxic coal ash. Monday the EPA will begin a series of hearings across the country to gather public comment on the new protections. The first hearing will be in Arlington, Virginia, followed by hearings in Colorado, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Kentucky over the next month. Whether you attend a hearing in person or submit comments online I urge you to send a strong message to EPA that federally enforceable protections are absolutely necessary in the face of the growing risk from coal's toxic waste.
Photos courtesy Andrew Christie
It seems like the ink is barely dry on this summer's victory to protect whales. But activists are already mobilizing for the next battle.
In June, the Santa Lucia Chapter celebrated after the International Whaling Commission (IWC) declined to lift a moratorium on commercial whaling. However, the IWC's resolution included a "one-year cooling off period," which means the tug-of-war on commercial whaling -- a back and forth that started after a 1986 moratorium -- might resume in the not-too-distant future.
"The nations that continue to exploit the loopholes in the moratorium and kill whales [Japan, Norway, and Iceland] have been loud and aggressive in their efforts to bring back full-scale whaling. It's safe to assume they're going to try again," said Andrew Christie, Santa Lucia Chapter Director.
Why the strong turn out? One reason was the U.S. government's lackadaisical approach to the IWC negotiations.“Attendees were incredulous that the Obama administration was supporting a return to commercial whaling,” Christie said. “Nearly every attendee signed the petition, a postcard, a prayer flag, and anything else site organizers came up with that'd convey a firm ‘no’ to our government.”
Meanwhile, the California legislature this week passed a resolution calling on the federal government to oppose lifting the IWC's moratorium.One reason whaling stirs activists so much is because seeing whales in person is such a memorable experience. Asked about his relationship with whales, Christie said, “I had the experience of reaching out and touching one of the people-friendly gray whales that swim up to meet the small boats full of tourists in those Baja California lagoons. They seem to enjoy checking out the people in between mating or calving.
"I also had the pleasure of crewing on a Sea Shepherd anti-whaling campaign about 15 years ago," he said. "I wish I’d seen a whale, but we were preoccupied with getting shot at, depth-charged, and rammed by the Norwegian Coast Guard."
Bicyclists probably already get a sense of satisfaction knowing that their preferred mode of transport is carbon free. But what goes through their heads when they read about a 10-day old logjam of cars that goes nowhere?
Outside Beijing, there was an epic 60-mile traffic jam described as a "standstill" that went on for a week and a half. Vendors gravitated toward the jam to sell food and items (and static drivers complained about being gouged.). It was so bad that the traffic jam morphed into "some kind of makeshift settlement." (What do you tell your boss in this scenario? "Sorry I was late to the meeting. I got tied up...")
Beijing is used to traffic horrors. According to Foreign Policy, "Despite the city's six surrounding ring roads, numerous expressways, and the government's restrictions on car use, urban planners simply can't keep up with the massive influx of new cars that many of Beijing's approximately 20 million increasingly wealthy people (many of whom have never driven a car before) have recently bought."
It's as good a time as any to dust of the ol' bike. And it's an opportunity to plug our tips here, here, and here on becoming a bike commuter. Save money, get healthy, lower your carbon emissions, and avoid scenes like this! Get more info here on Sierra Club's Green Transportation program. (Sign up to be a transportation activist.)
(Image via BoingBoing, which has links to photos of the jam in China.)
We applaud the Department of the Interior (DOI) for their publication today of the Agency's comments (pdf) on the Department of State's draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. We can now add the DOI to the growing list of critics (if of a subtler shade) of the State Department's assessment of this massive dirty infrastructure project.
In their comments to the Department of State, the DOI joins the EPA (which issued their own, hard-hitting comments to the Department of State last month in highlighting several unaddressed safety and environmental concerns with the Keystone XL project. To provide for a more robust assessment of the true impacts of this project, the DOI has requested the following:
- A more thorough and detailed plan to mitigate negative impacts to migratory birds. The DOI not only asks for a more in-depth report of how TransCanada will avoid negative impacts to migratory birds, it also requests that this plan be implemented prior to and during construction and operational activities.
- As such, the DOI requests five specific additional reports from the State Department relating to migratory bird impacts. The most notable of these includes the request for an explanation, if necessary, of why construction must occur during nesting season for migratory birds, and a demonstration that all efforts were made to avoid construction during this sensitive time.- The DOI again joins other cooperating agencies in calling for a more holistic assessment of this project than the Department of State gave upon first pass. Specifically, they too demand that the numerous power lines constructed to support the pumping stations be considered as part of project, and their impacts assessed therein.
- A more detailed map identifying all impacted wetlands, open for public appraisal, as well as a detailed plan with the goal of "no net loss" of wetland habitat.- The DOI notes the "minimal" assessment given to impacts on animal passage and aquatic biota, and calls for a more robust consideration of the project's potential disturbance of numerous species.
- And finally, the DOI highlights several "Areas of Conservation Concern," including TransCanada's proposed placement of a major power line across a highly frequented flight path out of a Wildlife Management Area wetland and nesting ground.
On the Crossroads blog we crosspost EV news from Plug-In-America's Paul Scott. Take a look at his latest commentary on what GM and Nissan are up to. You should also check out my interview with an EV owner on the topic of affordability.
Demand will soon exceed supply: (Forbes) EV expert Chelsea Sexton says that by "2011 there could be 40,000 to 50,000 cars on the market, but as many as 200,000 early adopters waiting to snap them up. A big challenge will be getting the cars to the cash-in-hand customers, which is why the automakers are carefully selecting their early sales markets.
Chelsea's message is also that building a good electric car is not enough. If customers have a frustrating experience with their dealership and service network, they could abandon the brand, or even electric vehicles entirely.
Cars that drive on hemp: (Autobloggreen) Motive Industries has announced that they will unveil Canada's first bio-composite-bodied electric car this September at the EV 2010 VÉ Conference and Trade Show in Vancouver. Dubbed the Kestrel, the four-passenger compact forgoes some of the traditional fibers used in composites for a green car (*ahem*) technology that is renewable – hemp.
E-trucks: (Earth2tech) Smith Electric Vehicles U.S., an electric truck and van maker based in Kansas City, Mo. and backed by $32 million in stimulus grants, has become the great green hope for its loss-making parent company, the UK’s Tanfield Group. Tanfield has decided against divesting itself from Smith: an option that was on the table earlier this year, before Smith saw its government funding more than tripled and jumped into the limelight with a visit from President Obama.
Much hype has surrounded
In the countries financial capital, Mumbai, which boasts a population of somewhere near 20 million residents, a sea-link (a short bridge) was recently built to allow suburban dwellers in the Bandra neighborhood to quickly and easily drive to the Business district in Worli. The project cost around $355 million and will primarily benefit the less than 3 percent of residents who travel to work by car. In contrast, an estimated 48 percent of Mumbai’s population walks or bikes to work. The rest rely on the cities trains and buses which are notorious for their super dense crush load, none of which will be helped by the costly sea link.
Finally, of course, there is transportation impact
on climate change. In the
With a myriad of daunting issues it is clear
Missed the previous videos? Don't sweat it. The most recent installment on steamed veggies was one of the more popular ones. Annie and Orli have also tackled beets, artichokes, stir fry, and, more recently, broccoli.
Thank you, Annie and Orli, for these helpful tips!
A couple of months back India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh made a little noticed, yet highly significant move when he called for a small tax on coal. This coal tax -- anathema to American politics -- will help create a national clean energy fund while reinforcing the vital public principal that the polluter pays.
Building upon this proposal, he is calling for an environmental levy on mining, saying “A polluter-pays principle could be laid down in the [Mines and Minerals] bill, which mandates an environmental levy for pollution caused by mining activity during the life of the project. This levy should be used directly for combating local environmental degradation…” In essence, over the past six months Jairam Ramesh has done more to uphold this critical principle than the United States Senate has over the past decade.
The significance of each of these acts must be put in perspective for
American politicians that dare not challenge King Coal. Ramesh’s call comes
amidst Naxalite violence in
This context must then be placed within the prevailing narrative of ramped up energy production fueled by coal to lift the masses out of poverty. This narrative is driving the country to build nine coal-based “ultra mega power projects” (UMPP) – above 4,000 Mw - in order to bridge persistent energy shortages. However, with some of the highest distribution losses in the world (to the tune of 25-40%), and the fact that many areas will never benefit from centralized grid connections, the wisdom of pursuing centralized coal fired power is dubious. Meanwhile the poor continue to struggle without adequate energy supplies while millions more face chronic power outages. And around and around we go…
The ultimate point is not to
While American politicians blame their ineptitude on the vagaries of the economy and US political system, Jairam Ramesh has deftly maneuvered his own minefield of destabilizing violence, mafia activity, debilitating poverty, and energy shortages to uphold this principle. It’s time we do the same – before it’s too late.
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
There have been waaaay too many depressing news stories over the past few weeks. Greenland is melting away; plants are refusing to grow; and politicians running for office are spreading falsehoods about climate change.
Let's start this off on a more positive foot. You know that there's still some good in the world when you read a headline like this: "Reducing World of Warcraft's Power Consumption: Taiwanese researchers' special take on virtualization means far fewer servers and less energy."
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft consume a lot of their players' time. They also consume a lot of energy, as more than a thousand servers can be required to create one game's virtual worlds.
Also in the blog-ville world:-- Sierra magazine has a new blog called Sierra Daily.
-- Edits made to the White House's Web site on energy and climate aren't encouraging.-- India is positioning itself to play a big role in this November's climate talks in Mexico.
For 20 years the amount of carbon-storing plant matter on the Earth's land surface had continued to increase as warmer temperatures led to a longer growing season, but somewhere around the start of the last decade, it began to decline.It puts a damper on the notion fueled by climate deniers that excessive atmospheric carbon is good for plants and trees. (Watch the video below.) While it might be logical to assume that more carbon equals faster plant growth (kind of like steroids and muscle growth), the numbers aren't working out that way.
Other recent studies have pointed to similar correlations between an increase in carbon in the atmosphere eventually leading to a decreasing ability of plants to store and use all that carbon. A paper in the peer-reviewed online journal PLoS ONE in July challenged the idea of "carbon fertilization" whereby more atmospheric carbon yields more plant growth, including greater agricultural yields.Scientists and other experts fear climate change will exacerbate starvation and water scarcity and will particularly hit poor countries hardest. If this new data reveal a new, declining trend in the coming years, these problems might end up worse than previously thought.
After the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee mysteriously canceled an 18 month study on tar sands tailings and water quality -- even going so far as to shred the drafts-- members of the Liberal government and Environment Canada recently released a report on tailings waste, showing dramatic increases in many toxic substances.
The shocking data released in the report is a major blow to the culture of secrecy and minimal oversight practiced by the Alberta government around tar sands tailings.
Industry has repeatedly sought to characterize the toxic lakes as benign ‘water recycling’ sites, and so far the oil royalty-soaked Alberta government has expressed little interest in regulating the massive waste ponds as toxic facilities.
The report makes public what opponents of the tar sands industry have been saying all along- that the government and industry are lying about the toxicity of tailings, and these massive poison lakes are a real threat to public heath and environment in Canada.
The report details a laundry list of rising toxic chemical concentrations in the 50,000 tons of tar sands tailings released between 2006 and 2009. Arsenic, a toxin sold as rat poison, increased 26 percent -- from 256 thousand kilograms in 2006 to 322 thousand kilograms in 2009. Other toxic heavy metals, like cadmium, surged 36 percent; nickel and lead increased 30 percent. Mercury, a potent neurotoxin, rose 13 percent in the same period. Concentrations of benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, both known human carcinogens, also rose.
The report leaves out naphthenic acids -- a chemical that researchers consider the most potent toxin in tar sands tailings, but the Alberta government has resisted classifying as a pollutant because it can be hard to track and remains dangerous for decades.
These figures are especially alarming considering current plans to triple tar sands production by 2025. For every one barrel of water produced, up to six barrels of freshwater are contaminated. The resulting contaminated waste water inevitably leaks into groundwater- by some estimates at a rate of 11 million liters a day.
If the industry continues its current tailings disposal practices, levels of toxins in Canada’s water and environment will inevitably and dramatically increase.
The Alberta government will have a much tougher sell in making tar sands and its toxic byproducts seem safe in light of this study. One can only hope Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, a longtime ally of tar sands, will take action to protect the health of Alberta’s people and environment by creating stringent standards for tailings disposal instead of propagating the fallacy of safety upheld by current lax regulations.
Remember when 12 million Shrek glasses offered by McDonald's earlier this summer had to be recalled because they had cadmium in them? And then you asked yourself, "What the heck is cadmium?"
The federal government today took a small step toward banning the toxic metal from kids' products. In recent years it has increasingly been found in toys, including kids jewelery. Cadmium, a "cheap, unregulated alternative to lead," can typically be found in batteries. It can cause serious lung damage when inhaled. More serious cases of cadmium poisoning can lead to kidney failure.Through the Federal Registrar, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission today opened a comment period on potential regulations for the hazardous metal. The Sierra Club has been leading the charge with other consumer and environmental groups to get it out of our everyday products.
Hopefully, cadmium will be treated with the same seriousness as lead. Keeping these harmful chemicals from the path of our kids should be a no-brainer.
Take one quick glance at the upcoming election season -- it's not pretty. An election cycle brings a whole slew of new climate deniers and asinine media sound bytes. And because of D.C.'s failure to pass climate and energy legislation, climate is a hot issue. It's only August and we're already getting some headache inducing quotes. The most recent display comes from Wisconsin candidate Ron Johnson who attributed the planet's changes to sunspots.
It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time.(Read here and here why the sunspots argument is baseless.) Other candidates are drinking from the same punch bowl. Former Rep. Steve Pearce, who is running for his old seat, is resorting to the hacked "climate-gate" emails even though everyone involved was exonerated and the emails did nothing to disprove the science.
In California, Sen. Barbara Boxer's challenger Carly Fiorina suggested that Boxer is more concerned about "the weather" than terrorism. Fiorina's campaign receives dirty-energy donations, including funds from a coal executive whose idea of climate change is "hysterical global goofiness."
California in particular is a state to watch this November. A dirty-energy funded proposition (Prop. 23) will cripple the state's greentech sector. It's imperative voters reject this proposition. Considering that the federal government has yet to move on climate and energy, cities and states need to be in a position to pick up the slack.
Wondering how dirty-energy money influences politicians? Visit BobbingInPetroleum.org. And be sure to vote this November for Pete's sake.
by Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign
Contrary to the impression you may have been left with after reading a recent Associated Press piece about the future (or lack thereof) of coal in this country, the reign of “King Coal” is ending.
Though the AP piece makes some good points (specifically, noting that “the process [for producing electricity from coal] has changed little since Thomas Edison built the first plant in 1882” and that even after $3.4 billion in stimulus spending, there is currently “no way of capturing carbon” from coal-fired power plants), the idea that coal-fired power is expanding as opposed to rapidly declining is inaccurate.
Just a few years ago, “King Coal” was hoping to build 151 new coal-fired power plants while the Bush Administration’s coal-friendly federal regulators were “on the job.” This was a troubling idea for many reasons. From the mine, to the plant, to the ash pond, coal is our dirtiest and most dangerous energy source. It causes four of the five leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases. It destroys mountains and releases toxic mercury into communities. The carbon pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants is responsible for more than 30% of our country’s total global warming pollution.
In response to this Coal Rush, the Sierra Club in 2005 launched a nationwide Beyond Coal campaign with a broad swath of allies to block these plans.
As of today, the Sierra Club and our allies have blocked 129 new coal plants from being constructed, keeping well more than 530 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. No new coal plants have broken ground since 2008 and clean energy is filling the vacuum, with record amounts of both wind and solar power projects up and running in 2009. Yes, there were some coal plants that sneaked through and came online in 2008 with enormous help from the Bush Administration’s coal-friendly permitting process. That number of coal plants, however, is a fraction of what was planned and represents significantly less than the growth in clean energy during the same time period- growth that would not have been possible if the energy market had been swamped with filthy coal. The wind industry alone added 8,300 MW to the grid in 2008- more than five times the 1,400 MW of new coal added to the grid that year.
Make no mistake, the Coal Rush is over. The costs of the plants that did make it through should serve as a reminder than no clean energy project has ever taken five years to build and witnessed 100 percent cost overruns. The steps to finally move America beyond coal have begun.
We are now in phase two of our efforts to dethrone King Coal, get our energy infrastructure out of the 19th century and build a modern and clean power sector. This phase involves retiring and replacing the oldest and dirtiest coal plants and opening up more market share for clean energy. Since January 2009, more than 8,300 megawatts of existing coal (about 16 average-sized coal plants) have been slated for retirement in the next decade. The tens of thousands of dedicated grassroots activists who first help to stop the coal rush are now busy phasing out outdated existing coal plants.
While we have made significant progress over the past few years, our work is clearly far from done.
It was an outrage when earlier this summer, corporate polluters relied on a minority of Senators to block action to cut coal plant pollution when conservationists, labor, veterans, communities of faith, small businesses and everyday citizens all agreed it was the right thing to do. Failing to address this problem puts all the collective future of our country, and our planet, in jeopardy. Scientists tell us that to avert runaway global warming we need to phase out coal plants in less than two decades.
Ending coal’s contribution to global warming, as well as the smog that plagues most of our cities, is a top priority for the Sierra Club, and we will continue to fight for the necessary changes in federal policy. With Congress stymied by a minority of Senators, we are engaged in other venues to address the litany of serious problems caused by coal.
Lisa Jackson at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is busy working on enforcing clean air and clean water laws designed to end the regulatory loopholes too-long exploited by King Coal. After eight years of Bush Administration backsliding and inaction, the safeguards seek to put public welfare back on top of the priority list. Among those safeguards are efforts such as:
Strong regulation of each step of coal’s dirty and dangerous life-cycle (from the reckless mining practices to the hazardous disposal of the toxic byproduct of the waste left over when coal is burned) is not only going to level the playing field between coal and clean energy, it is also to usher in a new era of American energy.
We know that continuing our dependence on coal chains us to dirty energy and prevents us from making the changes we need to bring about a clean, secure energy future. If our economy is to be revitalized by the clean-energy industry, if the health and safety of families is to be considered, if we want to have any hope of stopping the worst effects of climate change, King Coal’s reign cannot continue.
We have made unprecedented progress in recent years to prevent new coal plants and massive amounts of new pollution for decades into the future, but our work is not done. Whether it is pursuing federal legislation that will cut carbon pollution or pushing and supporting Lisa Jackson as she enforces the law to protect public health and our communities, we will continue the fight to move our country beyond coal.
What is it going to take to get climate legislation signed into law? More compromise and giveaways to coal and nuclear? A bare-knuckled, no-quarter approach? Something in between? Robert Walker -- he works for the Population Institute -- writing for Grist, has seen his fair share of battles in Washington. He worked to get the federal assault weapons ban passed in the 90s. He says, if you want to get federal climate and energy standards passed, look toward the NRA for inspiration. In other words, get loud and get in their faces.
Some members of Congress may be won over by the urgency of your cause, but most will only be persuaded by the urgency with which their constituents speak out on this issue. Sadly, loud voices at town halls count for more than all the scientists in the world.
The NRA has grown into one of the most powerful lobby groups in D.C. (The assault weapons ban expired in 2004.) Over the years, gun rights advocates have worked both political parties and re-framed issues and messaging. When they talk, politicians listen. "Progressive groups, including many supporters of climate-change legislation, love to be loved. The gun lobby doesn't care if you don't like it, so long as you fear it," writes Walker.
While Walker wants assertiveness through mimicking the NRA, pundit Matt Yglesias disagrees with the premise. He thinks the best advantage one can have in D.C. is the "lack of an effective opposition." And climate advocates have plenty of opposition.
Have you visited Bobbing in Petroleum yet -- a new site that highlights U.S. Senators who are smothered in oil? The amount of money that pours into Washington from dirty energy is staggering. Yglesias writes:
The problem for climate change activists is that nothing is going to make the fossil fuel producers or energy-intensive manufacturers go away or somehow forget that they care about this issue. So you’ll never achieve the kind of dominance over the congressional landscape that the NRA has. Which is why any real-world climate change bill is likely to, à la Waxman-Markey, represent a compromise between sound climate policy and the demands of relevant interest groups.
This is too bad, and it’s a reason that people who care about climate change also need to care about political reform.
1. Green Mountain College (Poultney, Vermont)
2. Dickinson College (Carlisle, Pennsylvania)
3. Evergreen State College (Olympia, Washington)
4. University of Washington (Seattle, Washington)
5. Stanford University (Palo Alto, California)
6. University of California, Irvine (Irvine, California)
7. Northland College (Ashland, Wisconsin)
8. Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
9. College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, Maine)
10. Hampshire College (Amherst, Massachusetts)
11. University of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, California)
11. [TIE] Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vermont)
13. University of Colorado, Boulder (Boulder, Colorado)
14. Warren Wilson College (Asheville, North Carolina)
15. University California, San Diego (San Diego, California)
16. University of California, Davis (Davis, California)
16. [TIE] University of Vermont (Burlington, Vermont)
18. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
19. New York University (New York, New York)
20. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia)
Those of you who listen to Ira Flatow's "Science Friday" on a regular basis know how good the show can be. Tonight was especially good as Ira had Mark Perry of Nissan and Tony Posawatz of GM on as guests. Both talked of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt respectively.
I urge you all to listen to this show. Intelligent questions were asked by Ira, along with several callers, and both Mark and Tony were spot on with their answers. Best of all, they were collaborative.
Each car represents a different market niche, and both are needed. Twenty years from now, virtually all vehicles sold will be either fully-electric or some variation of plug-in hybrid.
Rather than trying to one up each other, they spoke of the relative merits of each car. I detected mutual admiration from both parties since they seemed to understand that this is more about electricity vs. gas than Nissan vs. GM.
The sleek Leaf knifes through the air.
The Volt holds Bruce Tucker's upright bass with room to spare.
photos courtesy Jim Richardson.
At nearly 5,000 megawatts of output, the Kusile plant would be one of the largest dirty-coal plants in the world, and would be one of the single largest point sources of climate disrupting pollution on Earth. The Kusile project would annually emit more than 150 percent of the annual carbon emissions from projects supported by the Ex-Im Bank in 2009.
Greenland is retreating to the sea. Russia is on fire. And the Gulf is full of oil. There's no better time to express yourself. And there are few better ways than art.
That's why the Sierra Club is one of many partners in the CoolClimate Art Contest, a first-of-its-kind online contest that will be judged on Huffington Post by several climate activists, including Van Jones, Philippe Cousteau, Jackson Browne, and comedian Chevy Chase. The contest is sponsored by Creative Visions Foundation and Crosscurrents Foundation.
Enroll and post your entry at deviantArt by Sept. 6. The panel of judges will narrow the field to 20 finalists. These submissions will then be moved to HuffPost for a public vote. The best of the best will be featured on Planet Green's Planet 100 show. So connect with your inner Pollack and get to work!
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer! Here's a little of what I've been reading this week:
--Remember August of last year when the "tea party" folks stormed congressional town hall meetings and freaked out at their elected officials? Well, after the government's failure to act on climate and energy, some greenies are mobilizing for their own town hall moments.
-- In the U.K., a Daily Mail climate denier starts to come around: "Greenland appears to be literally cracking up in front of our eyes." Welcome to the party!
-- More wildlife killed or injured by BP's oil disaster have been found over the past three-plus weeks than the entire stretch since the April explosion.
-- Delivering "oily hands" to polluter funded senators.-- "Nearly 45 percent of the electricity in Portugal’s grid will come from renewable sources this year, up from 17 percent just five years ago."
-- Green your bathroom habits and such.
-- And last but not least, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association asks that you to help the environment by eating (invasive) fish to extinction. Bon appetit!
CCS is Viable: There are no insurmountable technical, legal, institutional, or other barriers to the deployment of this technology.For a more in-depth look at the recommendations, check out this Associated Press article.
A Carbon Price is Critical: Widespread cost-effective deployment of CCS is best achieved with a carbon price, but there are market drivers and actions that can and are taking place now, which are essential to support near-term CCS demonstration projects that will pave the way for broader deployment after a carbon price is in place.
Federal Coordination should be Strengthened: With additional federal actions and coordination, the task force believes our nation can meet the president's near-term goal and get 5-10 commercial demonstration CCS demonstration projects online by 2016. The report recommends the creation of a standing federal agency roundtable and expert committee to facilitate that goal.
Recommendations on Liability: The task force conducted an in-depth analysis of options to address concerns that long-term liability could be a barrier to CCS deployment. It concluded that open-ended federal indemnification is not a viable alternative but that four approaches merit further consideration: relying on existing frameworks, limits on claims, a trust fund, and transfer of liability to the federal government (with contingencies).
On 3 August, researchers at the Ecological Society of America conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, presented what they say is the first conclusive evidence of a direct link between this type of mining and environmental damage. Their research has teased apart the effects of mountain-top mining and urbanization on local water quality in West Virginia, and found that even relatively small mining operations can cause serious harm to ecosystems.Meanwhile in Oregon, check out this article from Northwest Labor Press about the Boardman Coal Plant near Portland (oddly, the headline for this story is for another article, but the article is the one you want to read) It's a thoughtful article covering a common theme in the clean energy battle - jobs.
"Even at very low levels of mining we found a dramatic impact on water quality and stream composition," Emily Bernhardt, a biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and one of the study's lead researchers, told Nature. The scientists have called on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to tighten the water pollution limits faced by mining companies.
In your book, you seem to agree with Kermit that "it's hard to be green.” What's so hard about doing nothing? And what could be greener? Aside from exhaling carbon dioxide (more than offset by my trees), I do as little as possible. Some call it laziness but I call it living green.Click over to Mr. Green's site to read his answer. He agrees with the premise, but only to a certain extent.
–Steve in San Rafael, California
What would we do without The Onion?
PORT FOURCHON, LA—In what may be the greatest environmental disaster in the nation's history, the supertanker TI Oceania docked without incident at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port Monday and successfully unloaded 3.1 million barrels of dangerous crude oil into the United States.
According to witnesses, the catastrophe began shortly after the tanker, which sailed unimpeded across the Gulf of Mexico, stopped safely at the harbor and made contact with oil company workers on the shore. Soon after, vast amounts of the black, toxic petroleum in the ship's hold were unloaded at an alarming rate into special storage containers on the mainland. . .
Unlike some renewable energy projects blocked by objections that they would despoil the landscape, this one has the support of environmentalists.In the world of dirty energy, there's been some news out lately about toxic coal ash (the by-product of burning coal for electricity). Right now the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed two very federal safeguards for coal ash - and this Alamogordo Daily News article looks at residents in New Mexico who are fighting to make sure its regulated as a toxic substance.
The San Joaquin initiative is in the vanguard of a new approach to locating renewable energy projects: putting them on polluted or previously used land. The Westlands project has won the backing of groups that have opposed building big solar projects in the Mojave Desert and have fought Westlands for decades over the district's water use. Landowners and regulators are on board, too.
"It's about as perfect a place as you're going to find in the state of California for a solar project like this," said Carl Zichella, who until late July was the Sierra Club's Western renewable programs director. "There's virtually zero wildlife impact here because the land has been farmed continuously for such a long time and you have proximity to transmission, infrastructure and markets."
An expert report issued today finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can move forward in a timely way on new air quality rules for power plant emissions to improve public health while maintaining the reliability of the nation's power system.Related to air quality, EPA just issued air pollution rules for facilities that produce cement. This may sound small and inconsequential, but it's quite the opposite. From EPA's release:
"However, these will tend to be older, smaller generating units that are already reaching the end of their design life. We have identified at least 40 units that are scheduled for retirement with an average age of more than 50 years old."
The report, Ensuring a Clean, Modern Electric Generating Fleet while Maintaining Electric System Reliability....reviews the impact on power plant operations of proposed EPA rules to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury, and other hazardous air pollutants.
(The final rules) protect Americans' health by cutting emissions of mercury, particle pollution and other harmful pollutants from Portland cement manufacturing, the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States. The rules are expected to yield $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs.And finally, we go back to clean energy. Our friends over at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy have a brand new website in honor of their 30th anniversary - go check it out.
Mercury can damage children's developing brains, and particle pollution is linked to a wide variety of serious health effects, including aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease.
The folks over at Think Progress managed to get a report from a fly on the wall from a meeting of the West Virginia Coal Association at the exclusive Greenbrier resort in Sulphur Springs, WV. Of particular concern to the members was the bad rap their industry was getting among the youth. Here's coal executive Jim Bunn:
BUNN: There’s so much negativity in the classroom, and I really don’t understand that. I can tell you that every industry has negatives throughout. I don’t care what it is. The education system has negatives. We need to get them to understand that we are not Darth Vader, we are good people. We’re just like you in that we come to work every morning.
Various solutions to this dilemma are discussed: a statewide "Coal Day"; a "natural resources week." Raleigh County, we learn, already has a pro-coal curriculum designed by "retired teachers and the Friends of Coal Ladies Auxiliary." Read the whole post here.
If the coal industry is so worried about being portrayed as Merchants of Death, we must be doing something right. The industry's own self-image is altogether different: Below is the hero of a coloring book put out by the Families Organized to Represent the Coal Economy, called "Power Rock":
While risks to individuals are small and are dwarfed by risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity, the overall effect on the public is big, says Robert Brook, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan and lead author of the report.Some in Congress want to gut EPA's Clean Air Act powers - and yet air pollution levels are so dangerous that these unhealthy air warnings recommend that kids should not be outside. Kids should not be outside in August? Right. Summer vacation is still in full force, so kids are outside, and that means they are at risk of permanent lung damage because the oil and coal companies are holding congress hostage.
Much of the worrisome data concerns "fine particulate matter" - tiny bits of soot that come from burning coal, oil, diesel fuel or wood, mostly in factories, vehicles and power plants.
"These fine particles get deep into the lungs," says Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association....It's also possible that some fine particles seep into blood vessels and the blood itself, causing direct damage. Dirty air also may trigger irregular nervous system activity that affects the heart and blood vessels.
Catastrophic floods in Pakistan, a new Asian temperature record of 128 degrees, and record Russian temperatures that have caused stalwart climate skeptics to change their tune are just the latest visceral impacts of climate change. Add to this the recent death of the US climate bill and it’s frightening to hear that according to Michael Levi at the Council on Foreign Relations, we really have no idea where the clean energy revolution is headed.
However, in spite of our apparent inability to respond to climate change at a policy level and the conventional wisdom that predicts fossil fuels will dominate future energy supplies -according to the IEA 77%- a clean energy transition is taking place. Take the 1500% increase in solar panel installations in the “sunny” United Kingdom, which is outpacing Spain’s “abysmal” increase of 730%. Or look at the recently released US wind power figures showing nearly 10 GW of installed power accounting for almost 40% of new US electricity capacity.
Even more impressive are the numbers from the recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report on global low carbon investment. The report shows that in 2009 alone $90 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was directed towards renewables, recycling, and low-carbon technology manufacturing. All of this despite Bloomberg’s recently released study showing that global energy subsidies provide 12 times more support to fossil fuels than renewables.
What is particularly striking however, is that it more and more this transition is being lead by rapidly industrializing nations that according to conventional wisdom can simply not afford these technologies and must rely on harmful, outdated fossil fuels to achieve development. These nations are demonstrating that not only is the clean energy revolution feasible, it represents a strategic positioning for tomorrow’s clean technology economy.
The real question is whether this transition will become the revolution it needs to be - whether it will occur quickly enough, and at the needed scale to avert the worst of the impacts many of which we are already experiencing. The answer relies on defying convention and embracing and pushing leaders to follow the path unfolding before us. Forcing them to accept that is up to us.
We cannot afford another pipeline disaster, and we don't need a multi-billion dollar project that directly undermines America's clean energy future. We must stand up and tell the State Department that another risky pipeline carrying the world’s dirtiest crude will never be in the national interest.
Main Switchboard for State Department:
TTY:1-800-877-8339 (Federal Relay Service)
(Visit Sierra Club Green Home.)
ESCONDIDO, CA -- Ever been to Chicago on St. Patty's Day? The river is dyed green, and the hundreds of Irish Pubs scattered throughout the city offer green beer. Thanks but no thanks.
As a big fan of microbrews -- the slightly larger producers brew what is properly called "craft beer"-- I am always on the lookout for environmentally friendly labels. In Escondido, about 20 miles north of San Diego, is what is surely among the greenest breweries in the world -- Stone Brewing Co. The idea of an environmentally friendly brew house seems out of sync with one of their best-selling labels, "Arrogant Bastard?" But we will forgive them, after all, it is fabulous marketing tool that has encouraged beer enthusiasts from around the world to come witness this green suds establishment.
The story of Stone Brewing Co. begins with the two founders, Greg Koch and Steve Wagner. Koch owned recording studios in L.A. and Wagner was a studio musician who rented space. Serendipitously, they ran into each other at a "How to Make Microbrews" seminar and, as they say, the rest is history. Since its founding in 1996, Stone Brewing has become one of the largest craft beer producers in America, with annual output of well over 100,000 barrels.
What makes Stone green? Only the largest, operating room clean, state-of-the-art facility you've ever seen, a huge 100,000 foot building tucked in an anonymous area of Escondido. On a guided tour with Stone's knowledgeable Director of Communications, Ken Wright, we learn that the hundreds of thousands of pounds of by-product created during the brewing process (it looks like wet sawdust) is fully biodegradable and trucked to local farms for use as cattle feed. The plant has a full gray water recycling capability to help cut water consumption (this is critical because the brewing process is very water-intensive), and the roof is adorned with solar panels to help reduce the enormous energy consumption brewing requires by almost one-half.
All Stone bottles and cardboard carriers are fully recyclable, and the plant was built using a variety of reclaimed woods and other metals. One of the most impressive features of the tour was seeing the process from brewing the hops, to bottling, to hauling off for distribution. Unfortunately a rarity in modern day American culture - a vertically integrated manufacturing process. There were costs involved in making Stone a green operation, but the founders determined that this was worthwhile investment for business and environmental reasons. Stone has not really played this card from the marketing standpoint, instead preferring to let the sustainable design speak for itself and hope the word spreads virally and by reputation.
A beautifully designed one-acre beer garden lies adjacent to the brewery; visitors can meander along the heavily landscaped pathways and walkways while sipping the wide variety of ales, hefeweizen and seasonal brews. Although I am a Belgian-only beer drinker at heart, the spectacular facility produces increasingly good seasonal beers such as Levitation Ale and Ruination, as well as their mainstays Stone Pale Ale and IPA, and of course Arrogant Bastard.
Our only criticism of the entire operation, and this is echoed in many internet reviews by consumers, is the food. The restaurant is very appealing visually, the design and materials used are breathtaking. Unfortunately, the grub leaves a lot to be desired. I do, however, admire the Bistro's "Meatless Monday" promotion. As a greenie, even if the food is horrendous, you gotta love their enthusiasm for vegetarianism! They are the largest consumer of locally grown, organic ingredients in San Diego. The Meatless Monday credo is as follows:
"If you have dined with us before, you already know that we use locally grown, organic ingredients as part of our dedication to sustainability, community, and better health. Now we are kicking it up a notch by offering a meatless menu on Mondays. Meat dishes are available on request but we encourage you to make a commitment to your health and the environment by trying our Chef's fantastic vegetarian creations. You won't miss the meat!"
Tours are available twice daily. Take one you'll be pleased to see how even an inherently non-green activity such as craft brewing can be made much more energy efficient and sustainable with some forethought, commitment and investment as demonstrated by Stone Brewing Co. As always, I invite your comments and recommendations of other green brew-ha!
Follow Jennifer Schwab on Twitter: twitter.com/SCGreen_Home
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
-- Tesla's CEO bad mouths Nissan's electric LEAF.
-- And Chevrolet dealers are thinking about marking up the price of the Volt.-- And last but not least ... what's it like to live on top of an ant hill? We're talking 50 million ants or so. This article will make you squirm.
After careful review of the present disposal of these wastes, we believe these additional measures are needed to ensure that public health and the environment are fully protected. If the states and industry do not take steps to address these wastes adequately in a reasonable amount of time or if EPA identifies additional risks to public health, EPA will revisit this decision to determine whether a hazardous approach is needed.Consider these facts: There are more than 2,000 coal ash storage sites across the U.S. and dozens of documented cases where coal ash has contaminated surface water or groundwater in at least 23 states. (U.S. EPA, Coal Combustion Waste Damage Case Assessments, July 9, 2007.)
EPA noted a U.S. Green Building Council representative's affirmation that Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design incentives would remain for fly ash in concrete even under a broader (coal combustion residual) hazardous waste classification. If USGBC and EPA continue to recognize fly ash as an environmentally beneficial portland cement substitute, the proposed rule states,The list of inaccuracies in these letters goes on. We encourage you to read the letters (PDF) - House Letter 1, House Letter 2, House Letter 3, Senate Letter 1, Senate Letter 2.
"The use of this material is unlikely to decrease solely because of 'stigma' concerns. We believe it is unlikely (the American Society for Testing and Materials) will prohibit the use of fly ash in concrete under its standards solely because of a determination that fly ash is regulated under subtitle C of (the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act), especially given that [such usage] is accepted [worldwide] as a practice that improves the performance of concrete. It is one of the most cost-effective, near-term strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and, there is no evidence of meaningful risk--nor any reason to think there might be--involved with its use in cement or concrete."
(Image via RealClimate.org)
Personally, I've never much taken to the term "global warming" (perhaps, it's my British roots, or that, yes, it seems too narrow in its scope) so I'm happy to stick with "climate change". I think we've reached a point now when we all know what we are talking about, even though the world will always be populated by the predictable pedants who love to crow that "the climate has always changed" when they know full well that what is being discussed is anthropogenic climate change.
Nearly everyone who's been paying attention knows that the world is undergoing a warming trend. But is it wise to call it "global warming" anymore? After all, from my vantage point here in California, it's August and freezing outside. And the 10-day forecast says that temperatures are going to get even colder next week. It's bizarre to be pulling out my coats from the closet at this time of year.
We all saw why last winter when the D.C. area got an unusual amount of snow. Climate deniers in political and media circles used the snow dump to mock climate advocates and distort the issue. (See here and here and here for examples. Meanwhile, Vancouver needed snow to be trucked in for the Winter Olympics.)
The snow in D.C. did nothing to disprove what scientists have been saying for quite some time: the climate is artificially changing because of us and this will precipitate the likelihood of local weather extremes. This point is why I'd like to see "global warming" yield the floor to "climate change" or something else that reflects the realities of what's going on out there.
There are no end of scoundrels to blame for the United States' failure to address global warming: Climate-change deniers, obstructionists in the Senate, an apathetic public, even the recession. But looking at the big picture, director of the Centre for European Studies Daniel Gros finds one villain that stands above the rest.
"Why has every attempt to set prices for global carbon emissions failed?" he asks. "The answer can be found in one word: 'coal'."
His essay, "King Coal's Pyrrhic Victory," is short, so instead of summarizing it I'll just urge you to give it a quick read. His conclusion is not very optimistic. We failed after Kyoto, we failed after Copenhagen, and the chances of future failure are multiplying by the day.
The entire blogosphere has joined in the fun of ridiculing Colorado gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, the one who thinks that bicycles are a sinister U.N. plot. Just don't tell him about Jose Antonio Viera Gallo, the Chilean socialist and bicycle aficionado cited by Matt Yglesias:
Expounding on the sentiment, Viera Gallo had this to say:
The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.
If socialism can only arrive by bicycle, don't expect to wait long before you hear that only socialists ride bicycles.
In other Maes news, a commenter wonders what kind of car he drives. The answer, Mr. Google reveals, was a 1993 Mitsubishi Diamante (before he wrecked it) and subsequently a 2005 Chevy Impala. Turns out that Maes' driving habits have caused him a bit of trouble -- to the tune of $17,500 in fines he had to pay to settle a campaign finance violation for paying himself $42,000 in mileage reimbursements. Alan Prendergast at Westworld worked that out to be about 90,000 miles, at current IRS reimbursement rates. Imagine how long it would take to cover that much distance on a bicycle!
But, in interviews, scientists who worked on the report said the figures were based in large part on assumptions and estimates with a significant margin of error.Meanwhile, others are claiming environmentalists over-reacted to the disaster, calling it "more hype than harm." Don't worry, we've responded to that OpEd in The Hill.
Some outside scientists went further: In a situation in which many facts remain murky, they said, the government seemed to have used interpretations that made the gulf -- and the federal efforts to save it -- look as good as possible.
"There's a lot of...smoke and mirrors in this report," said Ian MacDonald, a professor of biological oceanography at Florida State University. "It seems very reassuring, but the data aren't there to actually bear out the assurances that were made."
Climate advocates were disillusioned. So they began to look to the next international meeting for hope. That meeting takes place this November in Cancun, Mexico.
And already the expectations are taking a downward spiral. Once again, the rift between rich countries and developing countries is taking center stage:
The divisions between industrialized and developing nations over climate policy seem even deeper than they were six months ago. China, which has long acted as a spokesman for developing countries, scolded developed countries on Monday for failing to accept their “historical responsibility” for climate change and urged them to do more in the way of emissions cuts, according to Xinhua, the government news agency.Instead of banking on some sort of deal, optimists hope the Cancun get-together will produce a step toward the direction of a deal:
A U.N. summit in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of the year will not result in a new climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, the co-head of the European Union's climate delegation said in an interview on Tuesday.
"It will not be the big deal. Hopefully it will be a big step forward to the deal," Artur Runge-Metzger told Reuters.
Did you ever stop to think about how many bicycles have names that are not quite American? Pinarello. Colnago. Bianchi. Cervelo. You get the idea--lots of them are downright European. Dan Maes, a Tea Party candidate for governor of Colorado, is right on it. Maes has identified the bike sharing program that Denver mayor John Hickenlooper helped start to be a United Nations plot:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are "converting Denver into a United Nations community."
"This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed," Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.
Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor's efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes "that's exactly the attitude they want you to have."
"This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms," Maes said.
Maes' proof is Denver's membership in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an association of local governments that provides information, training, and technical support for sustainable development initiatives. Some 1200 communities around the world are members, including 600 in the United States. You can tell which ones by all the people riding around them in bicycles. (H/t Think Progress, Eschaton.) (An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to Maes as a Denver mayoral candidate. The post has been corrected.)
It's official: China has now surpassed the United States as the world's largest consumer of energy by more than doubling its consumption over the last decade. Since 2000, U.S. per capita energy use has actually declined, while Chinese per capita use has nearly doubled. Even so, we still use four times as much energy as the average Chinese.
This is what it looks like summed up in graph form from the International Energy Agency. Bars are national energy use, dotted lines per capita use. It will take a long time for that red line and that blue line to meet.
Join the National Bike Ride to Support Climate and Energy SolutionsDavid also has a great write-up on Huffington Post about how the event will go and why you should join him. You should also watch this video from last year's ride.
The nation's largest environmental charity bike ride and 'climate conference on wheels' comes to California! After two years on the East Coast, Climate Ride debuts Brita Climate Ride California 2010 this September 21-25, 2010.
Two hundred cyclists will pedal beautiful country roads 300 miles along California’s rugged northern coast from Eureka to San Francisco to raise awareness of clean energy, the climate crisis, and pedal power.
This fully-supported adventure raises funds for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Green America, and 1Sky. Climate Ride is the first multi-day, multi-city bicycle ride to address climate issues and highlight renewable energy solutions. The event also showcases that the bicycle is the ultimate carbon-free machine and a viable form of transportation. Participants can register online at www.ClimateRide.org.
As the global economy attempts to make the transition beyond coal and oil, the broader societal implications of energy production and consumption are only fleetingly recognized. Perhaps one of the most important is the “radical” notion of putting energy in the hands of the people.
In many rapidly industrializing countries large scale coal fired
power plants are justified by the developmental necessity of lifting millions
out of poverty. This justification however, falls flat when 430 million people
live in rural areas that lack access to the grid as they do in
As is often the case, the poor end up paying much higher relative prices for the poor quality of energy they receive. For example, while off-grid lighting users spend over $40 billion per year on lighting - about 20% of all global lighting expenditures - they receive only 0.1% of the total lighting services consumed by the world. The Lumina project, estimates that the greenhouse-gas emissions from this lighting is equal to 190 million tonnes of CO2 per year – taken as a country it would be the 8th largest in the world.
the environmental motivations for promoting large scale renewable energy
To ensure that a clean energy transition reaches the base of the pyramid (BOP) the Indian hotbed of social entrepreneurism is rising to the challenge. A prime example of this movement is Greenlight Planet who recently won the Solar for all Prize sponsored by Deutsche Bank. The prize was created by Ashoka vice president David Green with a vision to achieve 2.5 million solar system installations annually in the initial years and to reach 60 million households by 2020.
Greenlight Planet took home the prize for its efforts to distribute durable, well designed, high quality LED solar lanterns to the BOP. With a multi level marketing strategy, an affordable price point of around $18, and an emphasis on quality products and service these lanterns are helping to provide millions of rural Indians with safe, clean sources of lighting that replace kerosene lamps.
We currently stand at a crossroads, climate change is drastically altering planetary cycles, fossil fuel supplies are contracting while demand is skyrocketing, and undreamt of wealth is becoming ever more concentrated in the hands of a few. There are few opportunities where strategic choices like promoting the use of decentralized, distributed energy applications can have such large societal ramifications. It’s time to support pioneers like David Green, Greenlight Planet and all of those who are truly promoting solar for all.