SOLAR VIDEOS

Solar DIY Videos on YouTube

Solar panel install to SkyMax grid tie inverter DIY How To

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 07:36 AM

Make Solar Panels DIY | Build Wind Turbines Tutorial | How to Build Solar and Wind Energy System

Wed, 03/5/2014 - 07:55 AM

The DIY World Installing Solar Panels On A Home In Australia PT4

Sun, 02/23/2014 - 10:37 AM

The DIY World Installing Solar Panels On A Home In Australia PT3

Fri, 02/21/2014 - 11:11 PM

The DIY World Installing Solar Panels On A Home In Australia PT2

Fri, 02/14/2014 - 09:41 PM

The DIY World Installing Solar Panels On A Home In Australia

Sat, 02/8/2014 - 11:05 AM

Renewable Energy at Home | Solar Panels DIY | Build Solar Panels at Home

Mon, 02/3/2014 - 08:00 PM

OFF GRID FAMILY #58 - DIY Repair a solar panel and get the internet fixed at the off grid homestead

Wed, 01/15/2014 - 05:22 PM

My solar power system - DIY solar panels

Mon, 01/6/2014 - 11:31 PM

DIY Solar Panel from broken scrap cells UV CURE Resin

Mon, 01/6/2014 - 05:39 PM

Solar Panels - How it Works YouTube Videos

Solar Cell System - Solar Cell How It Works

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 03:54 AM

How solar panels work 2

Tue, 12/24/2013 - 12:07 AM

Doc Physics - How Solar Panels Work - Convert Sunlight to Electricity in Your Own Backyard

Thu, 12/12/2013 - 05:30 PM

Pop Music Makes Solar Cells More Efficient

Thu, 11/14/2013 - 02:00 PM

How Solar Panel Works

Sun, 11/10/2013 - 06:46 PM

Fast Lecture Series: How Solar Panels Work

Fri, 10/11/2013 - 09:19 PM

How Does a Solar Cell Work

Mon, 09/16/2013 - 06:30 AM

how to make solar panels.solar power system.how solar panels work.vertical wind turbine

Thu, 09/12/2013 - 08:19 AM

P-N junction solar cells

Fri, 08/30/2013 - 09:08 AM

How Photovoltaic Solar Panels Work

Sat, 08/3/2013 - 08:13 PM

Solar Projects In Google News

Xcel sets stage for solar bidding war - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 01:49 AM

Xcel said it plans to add 100 megawatts of solar power, about seven times than the state's current capacity from about 730 smaller, mostly rooftop arrays. Large solar projects, often called utility scale, usually are built on the ground, each FLS issues RFP for 100 MW-AC of solar PV projects in the Carolinassolarserver.comXcel issues big solar-energy RFPMinneapolis / St. Paul Business Journalall 3  
 

Xcel Energy plans solar power addition in Minnesota - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:07 PM

solarserver.com
Xcel Energy on Tuesday asked renewable energy developers to submit proposals to build 100 megawatts of large-scale solar projects in Minnesota to comply with a new state mandate for increased electricity from the sun. Overall, the new solar power would Xcel issues big solar-energy RFPMinneapolis / St. Paul Business JournalFLS issues RFP for 100 MW-AC of solar PV projects in the Carolinassolarserver.comall 3  
 

Earth Day 2014: KYOCERA Invests in Solar Projects Valued at $38M - EarthTechling

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:03 PM

reNews
Scottsdale, AZ – April 21, 2014 – Kyocera today announced plans to invest in a tax equity partnership for the development of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects valued at $38 million in New York state, leveraging the 30% federal energy investment tax credit.Kyocera to Invest in $38 Million of New York Solar ProjectsBusinessweekall 20  
 

New Q1 US solar installs fall by one third - PV-Tech

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 12:11 PM

In total from January to March 2014, 47 new solar projects came online with a generating capacity of 584MW. This is in comparison to the same period last year, when 66 solar projects totalling 877MW came online. However, solar still leads renewables  
 

Yingli to supply solar PV cells to “made in France” modules for projects under ... - solarserver.com

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:07 AM

reNews
Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. (Baoding, China) has entered into an agreement to supply multicrystalline silicon solar photovoltaic (PV) cells to an un-named French PV module manufacturer, which will produce modules which comply with French Recent Yingli Solar News RoundupEnergy MattersYingli Green Energy Cooperates with a Local Module Manufacturer in FrancePR Newswire (press release)Yingli module tie-up in FrancereNewsall 16  
 

Commissioners OK zone for solar projects - Herald and News

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:03 AM

By SAMANTHA TIPLER H&N Staff Reporter | 0 comments. Klamath County commissioners reluctantly agreed to special zoning for two solar projects to move forward in Bly and Malin. “This project  
 

KYOCERA Invests in Solar Projects Valued at $38M with US Light Energy - AltEnergyMag (press release)

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 12:36 AM

Domestic Fuel
Scottsdale, AZ – April 21, 2014 – Kyocera today announced plans to invest in a tax equity partnership for the development of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects valued at $38 million in New York state, leveraging the 30% federal energy investment tax credit.Kyocera to Invest in $38 Million of New York Solar ProjectsBusinessweekall 12  
 

Commissioners OK special zoning for solar projects - Herald and News

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:42 PM

0 comments. Klamath County commissioners reluctantly agreed to special zoning for two solar projects to move forward in Bly and Malin. “This project and these types of projects, I know they really aren  
 

Solar Stock Alert: KYOCERA (NYSE:KYO) (TOKYO:6971) Invests in Solar ... - InvestorIdeas.com (press release)

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 07:30 PM

Solar Stock Alert: KYOCERA (NYSE:KYO) (TOKYO:6971) Invests in Solar Projects Valued at $38M with U.S. Light Energy. Kyocera leverages federal energy investment tax credit; investment designed to increase growth and market penetration. Ideas get 
 

Are There More Willing Investors Than Bankable Solar Projects? - Greentech Media

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 05:39 PM

Sol Systems and Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital (HASI) will work together to put $100 million of HASI construction and term debt funds into financing for commercial and industrial-scale distributed solar projects. Yingli Green
 
 

California Solar Projects In Google News

California to Utilities: Connect Battery-Solar Energy Systems to the Grid - Energy Collective

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 05:35 PM

California regulators have just issued a rebuke to utilities, and a thumbs-up to customers and companies that want to connect hundreds of now-stalled battery-backed solar PV projects across the state. LastTuesday, the California Public Utilities Utilities Beware, Solar Power and Energy Storage Could be Coming for your Environmental Defense Fund (blog)all 7  
 

SunEdison completes California solar array - STLtoday.com

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 04:02 PM

reNews
SunEdison worked with the companies on two Nevada solar projects that developed 50 megawatts of power. The companies also collaborated on a 2.5 megawatt solar project in North Carolina. A sales price was not disclosed. Jacob Barker is a business Southern Company subsidiary and Turner Renewable Energy strengthen PR Newswire (press release)Southern Power, Turner Renewable Energy close on solar power plantUtility ProductsSouthern Power and Turner add Adobe site to portfolioAtlanta Business ChroniclePennEnergy (press release)all 26  
 

PowerREIT acquires site for 60 MW-AC solar PV project in California - solarserver.com

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 12:55 PM

Image: PowerREIT. Power REIT (Old Bethpage, New York, U.S.) has closed on its previously announced acquisition of the site for a 60 MW-AC solar photovoltaic (PV) project in California, and additionally has entered into a USD 26.2 million credit facility.
 

California Solar Energy Gets Crowdsourced - Guardian Liberty Voice

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 05:10 PM

So far, they are boasting 100 percent repayments on the projects which makes their business model nearly as reliable as the sun rising in the morning. In the meantime, California solar energy users recently saw their ″net metering″ extended by Energy Capital's Solar FarmMillard County Chronicle Progressall 2  
 

Democrats awash in 'green' energy deals on public land - WND.com

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 09:14 PM

YourErie
Democrats awash in 'green' energy deals on public landThe project died last year, but the BLM's library of renewable energy projects revealed it was only one of than 50 solar, wind and geothermal projects planned for Nevada, California, Arizona and other Western states. Big payout. The plan to White House Celebrates Leadership on SolarYourErieall 118  
 

Desert community mobilizes against solar project - WND.com

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 03:12 PM

(Los Angeles Times) One by one, a parade of Owens Valley residents rose at a public hearing Tuesday to assail the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's plan to meet its renewable energy goals by covering 2 square miles of high desert with 1 
 

California Regulators Decide Utilities Can't Charge Solar-Killing Fees - ThinkProgress

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 02:52 PM

California Regulators Decide Utilities Can't Charge Solar-Killing FeesOn Tuesday, California regulators issued a decision that state utilities could not charge certain fees for solar-plus-storage systems in homes and offices, clearing the way for such projects to proceed. For about a year, California's big three Don't Bet Against SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY)Green Chip StocksSolarCity Resumes Storage Applications After California DecisionBusinessweekSolarCity Corp Recommences Connecting Energy Storage SystemsValueWalkBusiness Insiderall 21  
 

California desert community mobilizes against solar project - WND.com

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 04:40 AM

Inyo Register
(Los Angeles Times) One by one, a parade of Owens Valley residents rose at a public hearing Tuesday to assail the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's plan to meet its renewable energy goals by covering 2 square miles of high desert with 1 Public passion against DWP's solar ranchSierra Waveall 9  
 

Public passion against DWP's solar ranch - Sierra Wave

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 02:38 AM

Public passion against DWP's solar ranchWhen Los Angeles Department of Water and Power official, MichaelWebster, travelled to Independence to explain the City's Solar Ranch project, he heard some angry and some frank comments against LADWP's plans. The LA Times quoted Supervisor Jeff Tom  
 

MOJAVE DESERT: Huge solar project questioned - Press-Enterprise

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 01:32 AM

Worries about possible environmental damage from another large-scale solar project proposed for the Southern California desert has prompted the federal government to give people time to submit comments on the proposal. The Silurian Valley solar First Solar update on desert projects expected ThursdayThe Desert Sunall 2  
 
 

New Jersey Solar Projects In Google News

Eclipse of the Sun - The Economist (blog)

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 03:02 PM

Followed by Arizona, New Jersey and North Carolina and Nevada, the sunshine state shows no sign of slowing down—at least, for the next few years while PV arrays continue to sprout on rooftops. The regulated utilities are a different matter. Financing  
 

Difference Engine Eclipse of the Sun - The Economist (blog)

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 02:24 PM

Followed by Arizona, New Jersey and North Carolina and Nevada, the sunshine state shows no sign of slowing down—at least, for the next few years while PV arrays continue to sprout on rooftops. The regulated utilities are a different matter. Financing  
 

Obama's Keystone Cop-Out - Canada Free Press

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:52 AM

Obama's Keystone Cop-Out“That fits with his current economic interests: banning coal-fired power plants will boost the value of his solar projects.” Steyer isn't alone in promoting New Jersey's Star-Ledger editorial page editor Tom Moran connects the dots. “This oil will  
 

Obama's Keystone Cop-Out - Right Side News

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:22 AM

Obama's Keystone Cop-Out“That fits with his current economic interests: banning coal-fired power plants will boost the value of his solar projects.” Steyer isn't alone in promoting New Jersey's Star-Ledger editorial page editor Tom Moran connects the dots. “This oil will  
 

Every day is Earth Day for two young activists - NorthJersey.com

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 05:36 AM

The apartment basically looks like all the others in this complex on the campus of Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah. But the four students who "It's a new kind of job, so essentially, it's a lot of the things I would like to see in a
 

Andover school board to seek revised agreement with Newton - New Jersey Herald

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 03:39 AM

- . Member Center: Create Account|; Log In; Manage Account|; Log Out. SITE SEARCH WEB SEARCH BY Google. Top News Headlines · Home Connections · Health 
 

SMECO plans second solar facility - Bay Net

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 12:05 AM

To date JSI has built large-scale solar projects in Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas, totaling than 100 MW of operating capacity. JSI also provides operations, monitoring, and maintenance services  
 

Bird, plane safety devices installed on new power lines - New Jersey Herald

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 12:07 PM

Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 7:55 AM EDT. Photo by Bruce A. Scruton/ Devices to protect flying objects from running into power transmission lines can be seen along the new Susquehanna-Roseland route Thursday. 
 

A Breakthrough for Utility-Scale Solar Energy on Contaminated Lands? - Energy Collective

Sat, 04/12/2014 - 12:07 PM

By comparison, the Bureau of Land Management estimates that it controls 19 million acres suitable for solar projects and 20 million acres suitable for wind. New Jersey's master plan prioritizes landfills and industrial sites for development. So far
 

Ridgewood Green RME Wins Biogas Project of the Year - RenewablesBiz

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 10:28 PM

The overall objective is to improve affordability, resiliency and sustainability of wastewater treatment operations for the Village of Ridgewood, New Jersey. Ridgewood Village Project. A biogas production system was designed to RECs produced by the  
 
 

Colorado Solar Projects In Google News

Solar savings: Area fire department latest to panel up - Mohave Valley News

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 07:36 AM

Earlier joint projects were at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Colorado River in 2010 and Mohave Community College in 2011. Since 2009, MEC's Community Renewable Energy Program has provided funding for 24 solar projects with eight additional projects 
 

What Was Kansas Really About? - CleanTechnica

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:13 AM

This study concluded that, instead of costing the utility money, rooftop solar was actually delivering as much as “$11 million in annual benefits to Colorado ratepayers.” Rooftop solar energy supporters rally in Denver, before marching to the offices  
 

Los Cerritos Center to celebrate installation of thousands of solar panels - Long Beach Press-Telegram

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 11:14 PM

Those include the Panorama Mall in the Panorama City area of the San Fernando Valley and Inland Center Mall in San Bernardino as well as another mall in Fresno, two in Colorado and another in Arizona. Plans for future solar panel installations include
 

Green Lending Provides Variety - Credit Union Times

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 12:05 PM

Many credit unions have found that green loans for energy efficiency or solar projects are good for business, according to a new Filene Report titled “Improving Social and Environmental Sustainability: A Credit Union Assessment and Comparison.” “By
 

SMECO to build second solar farm - So Md News

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 05:22 AM

The Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative has signed an agreement with a Colorado company to build a second solar farm in Charles County twice the size of the facility built by the co-op in Hughesville in 2012. Per the 20-year agreement, SMECO will be  
 

Sally Jewell's frustrating first year in Washington - Grist

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 07:42 PM

Sally Jewell's frustrating first year in WashingtonShe has spent much of the past year traveling the country to hear from scientists like the team at Rainier, to raise awareness of their work and to tout new wind and solar projects on public lands. “I don't have all the answers in this job, but I do
 

Solar Energy, Sky Cameras, and Hard Math: A New Way to Integrate PV on the ... - Energy Collective

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 01:07 PM

That involves partners like Colorado-based Homer Energy, a spinout of DOE's National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), which focuses on financial modeling to prove out the value of different combinations of assets for microgrid deployments. But the kind of
 

Through Solar Energy Jobs, Veterans Find a Continuation in Mission to Serve ... - Energy Collective

Sat, 04/12/2014 - 02:23 PM

Chris Turek, Director of Online and Educational Services at Solar Energy International, a Carbondale, Colorado education and training provider, spent eight years in the military, including time in an M1A1 ard tank division. He calls veterans and
 

Clean Energy Collective and RGS Energy to Deploy First Community-Owned ... - IT Business Net

Sat, 04/12/2014 - 09:22 AM

Since establishing the first community-owned solar garden in the country in 2010 near El Jebel, Colorado, CEC has built or has under development 40 community solar projects with 18 utility partners across 7 states, representing 26 MW of community solar  
 

Solar, Sky Cameras and Hard Math: A New Way to Integrate PV on the Grid - Greentech Media

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 01:54 PM

That involves partners like Colorado-based Homer Energy, a spinout of DOE's National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), which focuses on financial modeling to prove out the value of different combinations of assets for microgrid deployments. But the kind of
 
 

Department of Energy Solar Projects

Cadmium Telluride Solar Module Startup RSI Gets Acquired by Chinese Strategic - Greentech Media

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 11:19 PM

Early in his career he worked in R&D at IBM and the U.S. DOE. His research included high temperature materials for the first solar thermal power station, in Barstow, CA. Mr. Burton holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic
 

Cadmium Telluride Solar Module Startup RSI Gets Acquired - Greentech Media

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:51 PM

Early in his career he worked in R&D at IBM and the US DOE. His research included high temperature materials for the first solar thermal power station, in Barstow, CA. Mr. Burton holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic
 

New financing method could secure the solar industry's future - Consulting-Specifying Engineer

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 02:52 PM

New financing method could secure the solar industry's futureNERL is spearheading the DOE's Sunshot Initiative, a program with a goal of having solar power meet 14% of the country's electricity needs by 2030, which would be a dramatic increase from 1% in 2012. Attacking high capital costs. Performance data  
 

Mercatus Aims to Accelerate Solar Securitizations - eReleases (press release)

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 10:50 PM

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE)'s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) convened the SAPC working group in 2013 with a mission to enable securitization of solar PV assets and associated cash flows in the marketplace. “The SAPC public  
 

Mercatus Aims to Accelerate Solar Securitizations - SYS-CON Media (press release)

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 07:04 PM

Since its 2009 inception, Mercatus has assessed over 20GW of commercial and residential solar projects, and currently serves 50% of the distributed generation U.S. solar market. NREL is operated for DOE by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC. 
 

Mercatus Aims to Accelerate Solar Securitizations - PR Newswire (press release)

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 06:56 PM

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE)'s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) convened the SAPC working group in 2013 with a mission to enable securitization of solar PV assets and associated cash flows in the marketplace. "The SAPC public  
 

Obama touts solar power - The Oregonian

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 04:30 AM

Another branch of DOE, along with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is also going to lend its staff and expertise to ensure that the administration meets its goal of having 100 megawatts of renewable energy installed on-site at federally
 

White House to use executive orders to aid the solar industry - Daily Caller

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 06:39 PM

This includes $2.5 billion from the Energy Department for loan guarantees for solar projects — the same loan guarantees that were given to failed companies like Solyndra and Abound Solar. This announcement comes as the Energy Department announces Obama to challenge private companies to boost solar power useWashington Postall 79  
 

DOE Pledges $15M To Boost Community Solar Development - Law360 (subscription)

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 04:10 PM

The funds are aimed at helping communities develop multiyear plans for commercial-scale deployment of solar power, which could include developing public-private partnerships and new financing mechanisms for solar projects, speeding up the regulatory 
 

Amid dipping power reserves, gov't mulls higher installation cap for solar ... - InterAksyon

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:53 AM

Amid dipping power reserves, gov't mulls higher installation cap for solar Pedro H. Maniego Jr., National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) chairman, said its recommendation for the next set of installation targets for renewable energy sources will be submitted to the Department of Energy (DOE) before the month ends. Besides 
 
 

The Green Life

Ideas for living well and doing good from Sierra magazine.

Watermark: Diving into Water Use

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 02:09 PM

WatermarkFilmPosterThe opening scene of Watermark, a new film from Edward Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal, creates a disorienting effect that leaves the viewer feeling tiny against the pure force of water. The film takes features 20 stories across 10 countries in what director Baichwal, Manufactured Landscapes and Payback, calls a “river-like rhythm.” Inspired by Burtynsky's images, the numerous stories create an overarching narrative around the ways we use, control and pollute water.

After working with Butynsky on Manufactured Landscapes (2006), Baichwal wanted to team up with the photographer again. His work had been the focus of her previous film about industrial manufacturing. When she saw the images he had been working on for a National Geographic essay about water in California, she knew it was the next film.

She felt that the dire tone of other environmental docs failed. Instead Watermark presents a visually compelling story that combines aerial vantages, macros shots and time lapses to present a holistic and artistic perspective. Baichwal said they wanted to capture the full reach of human interaction with water, resulting in a 90 minute film edited from 200 hours of footage.

Watermark moves between the expansive industrial projects around water, like China's Xiluodu Dam, which is six times the size of the Hoover Dam, and the individual human interactions with water, such as the water guard pacing the rice paddies of Yunnan, making sure no one diverts his family's supply. The lone guard’s patrol of trickling waterways contrasts with the Maha Kumbh Mela, a ritual gathering of 30 million people who bathe in a sacred river. Baichwal said the Maha Kumbh Mela served as the "spiritual connection to the water."

“We had broad and respectful ways of filming these stories,” Baichwal said. “Instead of having experts talking about it, we had the people living it.”

Another story focuses on the Dhaka, Bangledesh, leather tanneries that pump chemicals into the local water supply, highlighting the interconnectedness of different water usages. The same water used to process hides is later used for washing people and their clothes. In another scene the parched Colorado River Delta serves as a distinct contrast to the pools of Discovery Bay, a community built right onto the California Delta, built mere feet away from a body of water. California agriculture needs the scarce resource to produce the substantial amounts of produce it supplies the rest of the country, while the abalone farms near China’s Fujian coast are built into the water itself. There are parallels and divergences in how water is used by people around the world, but the recurring theme is that it is necessary for existence.

"It’s interesting living in Canada, which has about twenty percent of world’s fresh water supply. It’s very easy to take advantage of it," Baichwal said. "When you see the devastating effects of water pollution it’s impossible to take it for granted."

She wanted to create a greater awareness of and respect for water, but wanted to approach it different from other environmental documentaries. Instead of inundating viewers with interviews from experts, she chose a more philosophical approach. “We wanted to create a river - we wanted to immerse viewers in it,” Baichwal explained.

“I’m much more interested in understanding the complexity. Acknowledging complexity means not making quick judgements,” she said. “We worked hard on this film. Wanted to open up a space and move people. The power of film is that it can move you. The goal of the film is to do that and create an awareness, or expand our awareness, of this incredible natural force.”

Burtynsky’s studio is featured frequently as he makes edits to his book, Burtynsky-Water, which spans five years of work. The photographs were also part of a traveling exhibition in 2013, making this project a multi-platform experience.

The film, which won Best Documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards and Best Canadian Film from the Toronto Film Critics Association, is playing around the USA in limited release.

-- image reprinted with permission from filmmakers

 

BIANCA HERNANDEZ is the Acting Web Editor at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications.

 

Sea For Yourself

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 01:01 PM

NOAA gulf of mexicoThis month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research ship Okeanos Explorer is roaming the Gulf of Mexico, and its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is livestreaming video that any landlubber can enjoy. So far the expedition’s findings include tubeworms, crustaceans, chiton, brittle stars, urchins, small amphipods, and some corals. The very cool sea-bottom image at left is described by researchers as “chemosynthetic mussels and a few sea urchins residing next to a natural oil seep. Here you can see three active oil streams and several oil droplets caught in mucus of the mussels or a neighboring organism.”

The need to understand the Gulf should resonate this month, because the four-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion was Sunday, April 20. You can read about its legacy of damage to dolphins, tuna, and coastal marshes, as well as safety policies that languish and ongoing drilling plans here and here.

Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Gulf of Mexico 2014 Expedition.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

 

The Rebels who Saved the Golden Gate

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 12:02 PM

The Marin Headlands could have been home to MarincelloThe city of Marincello was to be built in the virtually untouched Marin Headlands. The area's natural beauty and proximity to San Francisco made it a no-brainer for suburban developers of the time, who had hoped to establish a planned community of 30,000 people. The project city had everything going for it — the rise of suburbia, big corporate sponsorships, and immense natural beauty — that is until it ran up against a nascent environmental movement that would stop the project in its tracks, saving the Headlands forever from development.

Rebels with a Cause tells the story of how a group of conservationists, politicians, ranchers, farmers, and volunteers spearheaded a campaign to block development projects like Marincello. Today, the planned city lies within the boundaries of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the most popular in the entire National Park Service.  The recreation area's existence is a direct result of the tireless work chronicled in Rebels with a Cause. Thanks to the efforts of those depicted in the film,  the only real remnant of Marincello is a mountain biking trail that follows what would have been the potential town's main boulevard.

"They were working against some behemoths, the biggest of which was Gulf Oil," said Kenji Yamamoto, the film's editor and co-producer. Formerly owned by the US military, Gulf Oil helped purchase a vast swath of land in the Headlands for the development. They weren't expecting a relentless effort to protect the land's natural beauty. "The campaigners always knew that it seemed impossible to battle against [Gulf Oil], but they kept on plugging away."

One of the most influential people in the fight against Marincello was Dr. Edgar Wayburn, a five-term president of the Sierra Club who was instrumental in the creation of Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore just to the north. Aside from the influence of Dr. Wayburn, the film also stresses the importance of local government in the fight against Marincello.

"With local government you can accomplish so much more of the groundwork," said Yamamoto. "Local support is key to winning any battle. It could be against a Wal-Mart or any company that wants to come into your community."

Yamamoto believes that the legacy of Golden Gate Recreation Area and the rebels' fight has been felt far beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. The film received an especially warm reception recently at a screening in Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Created in 2000 and just 20 minutes from Cleveland, the park has a similar urban proximity, and Yamamoto believes its creation was directly inspired by the fight for Golden Gate Recreation Area.

And Yamamoto hopes that Rebels has a similarly enduring legacy. The film has received a grant from Marin County that gives every school in the county a copy of the film and an accompanying readers' guide.

The film will be broadcast by American Public Television in tandem with Earth Week and Earth Month celebrations. Visit rebelsdocumentary.org for more info on the film.

--Image courtesy of iStockphoto/carterdayne

Callum Beals is an editorial intern at Sierra. He recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz where he studied history and literature. He enjoys hiking, camping, and waking up at ungodly hours to watch soccer games.

 

READ MORE:

Momenta: More than a Film

World Environment Day: Watch a Movie, Save the Earth?

Brewery to Help LA River Flow Free

 

Original Beards of the Sierra Club

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 06:00 AM

Wright_0260_ansels-beard

Early Sierra Clubbers documented a lot of their outings and, lucky for us, took snaps of some fantastic facial hair. For throwback Thursday, step into the archives and take a gander at these wondrous whiskers. (They look even more iconic in black and white.)

Can you guess the beard pictured above? Here's a hint: he was an early Sierra Club member who is legendary for his stunning nature photography. (Read on to see if you guessed right.)

LeConte-JoeSr_portrait

Joseph LeConte (pictured above) was a geologist and founding Sierra Club member. He was also BFFs with John Muir, and one can only hope they had epic beard growing competitions. 

MuirBurroughsKeithGroupPhoto

This great photo from 1909 captures the array of facial hair styles sported at the time. From left to right are Charles Keeler, John Muir, John Burroughs, William Keith (seated) and Francis Browne. Muir's posse of naturalists and artists definitely encapsulates the dapper-yet-strategically-unkept look. 

Wright_0257_cuthbertson

Morgan Cuthberston may not have a beard of wizarding status like Muir, but he still rocks the close cut style. 

Wright_0307_wayburn-yng

Dr. Edgar Wayburn is pictured here lounging around during a Sierra Club High Trip in the 30s or 40s. Wayburn and his stubble would go on to serve as the Sierra Club president for five terms.  

Wright_0353-1_prof-lawson

Whoa there Mr. Walrus! No, this is not Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame. Dr. Andrew Lawson was a participant in a Sierra Club trip and proves that mustaches can be as stunning as beards. 

Wright_0429_adams
Our mystery man made his mark from behind the camera, but we can appreciate Ansel Adams in front of the lens as well. In this photo we see his dark and brooding artistic side. One can only wonder what he's looking at beyond the frame (we just hope it wasn't a shaving kit). 

Bianca Hernandez is an editorial intern at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications. 

 

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DIY Waste Audit

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 05:36 PM

DIY Waste AuditThink of landfills as acne on the face of our planet: The more junk we bury, the worse the breakout is. An average person generates 4.5 lbs of waste a day, and the EPA says 75% of that could be recycled. On top of that, it's estimated that 21.5 million tons of food waste goes to landfills each year.

Unlike puberty, this problem won't go away with time unless we become conscious about waste. This Earth Day get down and dirty in your dumpsters and perform a waste audit. It's an easy and effective way to measure what you're producing. When it's completed you'll have a better understanding of the waste you create and how to reduce it.

Assess your options
Before diving in, you need to see what options are available for waste diversion in your area. You may already have a curbside bin for recycling and compost, just make sure you know what materials are appropriate for each. Many county websites offer information about local services and resources. Pay attention to the plastic numbers that are accepted in your area because they differ by region.

If you don’t have a municipal recycling or compost hauler then you’ll have to research alternatives. There are a multitude of redemption centers and independent recycling services to choose from. Make sure to take note of exactly what materials each place does take, because not every type of plastic or food waste is accepted. Some local farms may take your compostables, or you could start your own compost pile or bin at home if you have the space.


Understand your habits
Designate a week for the audit and make sure everyone sharing your home understands the process. Make a log for yourself that includes the following categories: item, material, amount and stream. (Stream refers to where the item would be sorted; Either landfill, recycling or compost.)

Place the log by the waste bins and record each item as it goes in. Be as specific as possible about the materials and measures. A cereal box, for example, is made up of a plastic bag (landfill), cereal (compostable) and the box itself (recyclable). In that case you would note that each item was sorted into a different bin and estimate the amount of cereal. Make a distinction between pre-consumer (ends of veggies) and post-consumer (uneaten carrots) food waste.

Clean up your act
When you've finished recording you'll have an idea of what's passing through your household. Use your results to adjust your consumption habits.

Are you using a lot of molded plastics that can’t be recycled in your area? Maybe you should buy a reusable cup that can be brought to your favorite coffee shop instead of needing a new one for each visit (many places do not compost the paper cups that are coated with plastic). Few places recycle the types of cups used for iced beverages, but even if you can recycle it, the relatively common practice of shipping the waste to Asia is not very green.

Did no one eat that huge pot of white bean soup or the three bunches of kale from the market? Consider cutting down, or cutting out altogether, the food items you see that are not being touched. Sure, we’d all like to eat healthier, but if no one is actually making beet smoothies then that’s just a weekly waste.

Food packaging often makes up a large part of household waste. This is where a steady relationship with local farmers and vendors can come in handy. Farmers markets allow you to bring reusable bags to pack up produce, rather than buying it prepackaged in plastic, or worse, Styrofoam. Farmers that do use packaging -- those little green plastic baskets that are often used for berries, for example -- may be open to taking it back once you are finished with it. If markets are not easily accessible then consider buying in bulk.

Seek out options that work for you and remember that a zero waste lifestyle doesn't develop overnight. Small changes to your habits can have a huge impact over time.

--Cover image courtesy of iStock/moshimochi

Bianca Hernandez is an editorial intern at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications.

 

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5 Homemade Musical Instruments

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 02:42 PM

Egyptian wooden sistrumMusical instruments can cost an arm and a leg. Good thing you can make them yourself from cheap materials like nails, tin cans, and dry pasta. Homemade instrument specialist Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou, who recently released an e-book and accompanying CD, shared some of her DIY projects, which we've included along with others found online. 

Daria currently has an e-book available featuring 10 instruments to celebrate Earth Day. These homemade music instruments are perfect crafts to make with kids and the young at heart. Relying on common household items, they’re inexpensive and allow recycled items to shine in a new way!

Balloon bongo: Kate from the blog Mini Eco created an amazing 3-in-1 instrument using just a few common household items. Fetch those tin cans out of the recycling bin and you’ll soon find yourself with a balloon bongo drum, a rice shaker, and a güiro (a Latin American instrument made from a gourd). Mix it up with different colored rubber bands and balloons.

Sistrum: Sistrums were commonly used by musicians in ancient Egyptian temples, but it’s not too hard to come up with your own modern version (pictured above). All you need are a Y-shaped tree branch or old hanger and a few bottle caps and washers to go in the middle.

Fancy egg shakers DIYEgg shakers: Mama Smiles blogger MaryAnne crafted up an entertaining rainy day activity with these fancy egg shakers (pictured to the right). Simply add uncooked rice, quinoa, or beans to leftover plastic Easter eggs..

Rainstick: This rainstick tutorial from Anna of The Imagination Tree is a little bit more labor-intensive, but the final product will be worth the extra trouble. Small, dry pasta or beans trickle like a rain shower down the nail-ridden tube. Decorate the exterior to add a personal touch.

Australian clapstickAustralian clapstick. Clapsticks, or bilma, have been used by aboriginal tribes in Australia to keep rhythm during chants. You can make your own version by, well, banging two sticks together. The fun part is engraving and painting them.

 

 

--First and third images courtesy of Daria, second image courtesy of Mama Smiles

Jessica ZischkeJessica Zischke is a former editorial intern at Sierra. She is currently studying environmental studies at Dartmouth College. On campus she works as an editor of Dartbeat, the blog of the student-run newspaper The Dartmouth, and as the Sustainability Chair for her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta.

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Ford vs. Cadillac: Whose EV Is More American?

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 09:57 PM

2014 Cadillac ELR CommercialWelcome to the battle of electric-car snark. First, Cadillac started running ads for its new luxury ELR, a sleek $75,000 coupe based on its popular “range extended” Volt (a small gas engine kicks in when the battery is depleted -- after about 37 miles -- extending a driver’s range to the fuel tank’s capacity of 380 miles or anywhere on the continent there’s a gas station). The ad, called “Poolside,” is notable because Cadillac doesn’t aim its pitch at greenies (read: Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf drivers) or even at high-tech early adopters (say, Tesla Model S drivers), but at self-made high earners looking to make a statement about themselves. You know, Cadillac drivers. (In fact, the ad never mentions the word “electric,” though we do see the ELR’s owner plugging in his vehicle outside his garage.)

But the chorus of “yuck, what a d-bag!” reactions to the ad has gotten even more attention. Cadillac’s self-made high-earner is presented as someone who represents the best of American pluck. After all, America is home to Bill Gates, Ali, Les Paul, and the Wright Brothers. Americans are the only ones who’ve gone to the moon, and the only ones going back. “We’re crazy, driven hard-working believers,” precision-haircut ELR-guy tells us. He’s got the infinity pool, the stark modernist house, the $75,000 car. But instead what’s most important is good old American exceptionalism: “You work hard. You create your own luck. And you gotta believe anything is possible.”

Ford saw an opportunity and ran with it, chuckling the entire way. Its counter-ad, “Upside: Anything is Possible” follows real-life urban-farmer Pashon Murray, who sports a Carhartt work jacket and one of the coolest Afros since Pam Grier, as she explains why she works hard…and drives Ford’s $33,000 gas/electric C-MAX Hybrid Energi. “We’re crazy entrepreneurs trying to make the world better,” Murray says as we tour Detroit Dirt’s operations, collecting “food scraps from restaurants, manure from zoos” to keep it out of landfills and make “good, rich dirt.” Murray’s version of American exceptionalism? “You work hard. You believe that anything is possible. And you try to make the world better. You try.” Her prize isn’t “stuff” but helping the city produce locally-grown vegetables. “That’s the upside of giving a damn,” she concludes.

Perhaps it time for Nissan, Tesla, and other electric car makers to jump in the fray and keep the parodies going. As Oscar Wilde put it, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” You can watch the ads below.

 

 

Image of Cadillac ELR from ELR commercial "Poolside."  YouTube videos from Cadillac and ad-agency Team Detroit.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

 

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Public Transportation Surges in Los Angeles

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 02:19 PM

Chinatown station on the LA Metro Gold LineThe American Public Transportation Association is partying like it's 1956. That's because Americans took 10.65 billion trips on public transit systems in 2013 -- numbers not seen since the 1950s. In its annual ridership report, APTA stated that more Americans were using trains, buses, and subways as an alternative to commuting to work by car.

The 2013 numbers narrowly surpassed the post-1950s high of 10.59 billion in 2008, when gas prices ballooned. According to APTA, what makes the 2013 numbers so exciting is that gas prices are lower now than they were in 2008.

Public transit powerhouse New York City saw a 4.2% heavy rail ridership increase. More surprisingly, Los Angeles posted a 4.8% heavy rail increase coupled with a 6% light rail increase for 2013.

The LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is betting big on public transit as the future of the area. "It has to be," said Marc Littman, the LA Metro's deputy executive officer of public relations. "Mobility is the linchpin of the economy."

By the end of 2014, the LA Metro will have started construction on multiple new heavy and light rail projects that will become operational over the next decade. "Voters in LA are so fed up with traffic that in 2008 they voted to tax themselves three times over," said Littman. The taxes he is referring to are all part of Measure R, a 2008 county ballot that will award around $40 billion of taxpayer money to traffic relief and transportation upgrades over the next 30 years.

While traffic reduction was undoubtedly at the forefront of voters' minds, so too was an increasing environmental consciousness. "You can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 20 pounds of CO2 per day," says Littman. "We've tapped into people who are fed up with traffic as well as those that are environmentally conscious."

This green rider is exactly who APTA believes is behind 2013's surge in public transportation ridership. In an interview with the Associated Press, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy proclaimed, "People are making a fundamental shift to having options for getting around. This is a long term trend. This isn't just a blip."

Quantifying the affect of environmentalism on increased public transit ridership is difficult, but the fact that 2013's levels resemble those of the 1950s can't be ignored. With the rise of the automobile and suburbia, public transit has long been a secondary option for commuters.

Littman believes that Americans, especially Los Angelenos, want a return to a sprawling public transit infrastructure. "In Los Angeles, there were more than 1000 miles of track 100 years ago, and people want it back. It's kind of like that baseball movie [Field of Dreams]. If you build it, they will come."

To get involved with local public transit projects, visit publictransportation.org

--Image courtesy of iStockphoto/Merkuri2

Callum Beals is an editorial intern at Sierra. He recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz, where he studied history and literature. He enjoys hiking, camping, and waking up at ungodly hours to watch soccer games.

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This Will Make You Ride Your Bike More

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 01:56 PM

Photo (7)Most of you don’t need any convincing that you can save the world with two wheels, and that knowledge alone is doubtless sufficient to make many new bike commuters. Good for you! Please skip ahead to the cute animal posts.

But perhaps there are a few among you who like to ride your bikes, who know that they’re good for your health and that of the planet, but who just don’t get on them very often. (I’m speaking here about commuting, errands, etc. Recreational cyclists are more likely to have the opposite problem--they don’t get off the bike very often.)

If you want to up your mileage, here’s the tool you need: a cheap cycle computer. Sure, you can spend $700 on a Garmin Edge 810 that will track your cadence, calorie consumption, and heart rate while teaching you Swahili (OK, almost), but you can easily find far cheaper yet serviceable models that will give you a speedometer, a clock, and what you need most--an odometer. (As you can see, I use my pre-Garmin Cateye; a similar modern model will set you back about $25. Planet Bike has one for around $35.)

Why is an odometer so important? Because the trick to riding more is to set yourself an ambitious but achievable goal and then use the odometer to track your progress. The goal can be weekly, monthly, or annual; make it large enough to require a change in your present behavior, but not so large that you could never do it. Then let your odometer be your guide.

Last year, for example, I rode about 800 miles on my commuter bike. (OK, 832 but who’s keeping track?) This year I decided to kick my goal up to 1,000. That means (I figured this out while riding along) I need to ride 83.3 miles a month. And so far, so good! I was sidelined for a couple weeks by illness, but that just made me determined to make up the deficit. I started riding to the grocery store regularly, riding to the pool on Saturday morning, riding over to my friend George’s house to borrow a tool. If I’m behind one week, I find excuses the next to get on the bike and catch up.

Would I have ridden 250 miles by now without a goal and a way to track it? Possibly, but not likely. As anyone who’s ever played a video game knows, computers are great enablers of obsessive fixations. A simple computer on your bike can harness your completion drive to change the way you get around. Onward to 1,000.

Photo by the author 

PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and dad. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber

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A Vegan Meal Made from Spring

Mon, 04/7/2014 - 12:31 PM

Spring is upon us, and with it come asparagus, beets, artichokes, and citrus fruits. Here are three fantastic dishes using the best that spring has to offer. Try them together for a vegan meal that’ll even have carnivores begging for seconds.

Starter: Shaved asparagus salad

This spring-inspired salad from Sunny Vegan blogger Amanda is crisp, light, and quick (no cooking required).

Shaved spring asparagus saladMakes 4 servings

Base:

1 pound large stalk asparagus 
8 ounces firm tofu- crumbled 
1/4 cup Italian parsley - roughly chopped

Dressing: 

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
1/2 cup olive oil 
1 1/2 teaspoon light agave 
1 teaspoon dijon mustard 
salt and pepper

Directions: 

With a mandoline, knife, or vegetable peeler, shave off long lengths of asparagus. In a jar or bowl with whisk, combine dressing ingredients and mix well. Pour dressing over shaved asparagus, add tofu and parsley and toss together. Serve immediately.

Main: Creamy penne pasta bake with zucchini

Cook time: 35 minutes

Serves 6

While zucchini isn't officially in season until late spring or early summer, this creamy pasta from Gluten-Free Goddess lends itself perfectly to be used with any of your favorite spring veggies. We suggest substituting artichoke hearts, arugula, peas, or spinach until zucchini begins to bloom.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil the bottom of a large gratin dish or casserole and set aside. 

Creamy penne pasta bake with zucchiniBase:

12 ounces gluten-free brown rice penne pasta
1 medium zucchini
Olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
Sprinkle of dried dill or Italian herbs, to taste

Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vegan butter such as Smart Balance
4 tablespoons brown rice flour
2 1/2 cups organic soy milk* see notes
1/4 cup gluten-free nutritional yeast* see notes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon mild rice vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, optional

Garnish:

Chopped fresh chives

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and partially cook the brown rice penne, till just this side of al dente. You don't want to cook it completely, or you'll end up with mushy pasta, after it bakes.

Meanwhile, wash, trim, and slice the zucchini into half moons. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add the zucchini and minced garlic, season with sea salt, ground pepper, and a dash or two of dried dill or Italian herbs. Stir to coat, and quickly stir-fry, just until the zucchini is tender-crisp. Don't overcook it. It will continue to cook in the oven.

Start making the creamy pasta sauce. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the vegan butter. When the "butter" melts, add in the brown rice flour and stir with a whisk to make a paste. Heat it through, stirring and cooking the paste for a minute. Slowly add in the soy milk (or your milk of choice) and whisk the milk with the paste to combine. Add in the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, sea salt, nutmeg, rice vinegar and mustard (if using). Stir the sauce until it thickens and turn down the heat. If it gets too thick you can thin it with a dash of white wine, or more soy milk.

When the pasta is done, drain it well, and drizzle it with a touch of good olive oil. Pour the cooked penne into a large gratin dish or casserole. Add in the zucchini. Pour the sauce in and gently, very gently, combine the penne, zucchini, and sauce until the penne is coated. Sprinkle the top with fresh snipped chives.

Cover the dish with foil. Bake the penne in the center of a preheated oven for 20 minutes, until heated through and bubbling.

Recipe Notes:

I used organic soy milk in this sauce- and it helps make the sauce rich and creamy. If you cannot tolerate soy, try unsweetened, clean tasting hemp milk, almond milk, or light coconut milk (like So Delicious).

If you do not care for nutritional yeast, omit it and add one to two tablespoons 

Dessert: Triple chocolate beet Bundt cake

Makes one 10" Bundt cake

Serves 12-16

It's true -- you can have your cake and eat your veggies, too. Or at least with this fabulous Bundt cake by Sarah of The Sweet Life you can. All your guests will be begging to know what the secret ingredient is.

Vegan triple chocolate beet bundt cake

3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups beet puree (6-7 small beets)
1 cup warm water
3/4 cup apple sauce
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Chocolate Ganache:

1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Place beets in a large pot and cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until beets are soft and can be easily pierced with a knife. Remove from heat, drain, and allow beets to cool for 15-20 minutes. Once cool enough to touch, remove skins and place in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 10" Bundt pan and set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl whisk together beet puree, apple sauce, water, canola oil, and vanilla extract. Add the wets to the dries and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Transfer to prepared Bundt pan and bake for about 45-60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Flip out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

To make the chocolate ganache, place chocolate chips in a small, shallow bowl. Heat coconut milk to a scald (you should see a skin form over the surface). Pour over chocolate chips and cover for 5 minutes. Gently stir together until the ganache is well combined and thickened. Pour over cooled cake and serve.

--all recipes used with permission by the respective blog

--first image courtesy of Sunny Vegan, second image courtesy of Gluten-Free Goddess, third image courtesy of The Sweet Life

Jessica ZischkeJessica Zischke is a former editorial intern at Sierra. She is currently studying environmental studies at Dartmouth College, where she also works as an editor of Dartbeat, the blog of the student-run newspaper The Dartmouth.

 

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Compass

Pointing the way to a clean energy future.

Behind the Veil: The Truth About Trade in 'Environmental Goods'

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 01:58 PM

The United States might be part of another disheartening trade deal veiled with a false promise of environmental protection. As I wrote about before, on Jan. 25, a group of World Trade Organization (WTO) members including the United States, the European Union, Australia, and Canada, want to eliminate tariffs on a set of supposedly “environmentally beneficial” products.

At first blush the idea makes sense. Eliminate the taxes, or tariffs, on a set of environmentally beneficial products and they’ll be traded and used more. The problem, however, comes when the so-called environmental goods that governments want to trade more of actually harm the environment.

Here’s a bit of background. The WTO negotiations will build on the work of the 21 countries that make up the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). In 2012, these countries agreed to reduce or eliminate tariffs by the end of 2015 on a list of 54 "environmentally beneficial" products.  Unfortunately, a number of products on APEC’s list could actually do more harm than good.  Incinerators, for example, are used to burn waste material and release toxic chemicals and byproducts into the water we drink and the air we breathe. Steam generators are found in equipment used in producing dirty fuels such as coal and nuclear power. And, centrifuges, which are used to filter and purify water for a variety of reasons, can also be used in the production of oil and tar sands — dirty fuels which should stay in the ground as more clean energy comes online in America. Yet each of these products is considered “environmentally beneficial” according to the APEC.

Sounds bad, but it might just get worse.

According to Inside U.S. Trade, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Mike Froman sent a letter in April requesting that the International Trade Commission provide a report containing its advice as to the “probable economic effect of providing duty-free treatment for imports of environmental goods for all U.S. trading partners” on industries in the United States and on consumers.  Because there is no universally accepted definition of an “environmental good,” the USTR requested that the Commission analyze the effect of increased trade on a set of products attached to the letter.

Here’s where things get ugly.

The list attached to the letter contains hundreds of so-called environmental goods—many of which could be described as nothing other than destructive for our air, water, and environment. According to Inside U.S. Trade, a USTR spokeswoman said that the products listed comprise "all environmental goods" proposed for trade liberalization during past WTO and APEC meetings, in addition to "products we anticipate other WTO members may propose in the course of the forthcoming environmental goods negotiations.”

Here are just a few of the products listed:

Liquified natural gas, which is an extremely energy-intensive fossil fuel that, when exported, incentivizes more fracking;

Crude palm oil, which is made from the fruit of an oil palm tree and can be used to produce a variety of products from cosmetics to margarine to biofuels, and which, when exploited and exported, increases deforestation and habitat loss for endangered species;

Wood pellets, which the United States is increasingly exporting to Europe to be burned in power plants, and which, when cut and burned, are carbon intensive and associated with deforestation and habitat loss;

Nuclear reactors, which facilitate expensive and dangerous nuclear energy projects;

Ethylene, a flammable gas used to produce ethylene oxide, which the Department of Labor says is associated with cancer, reproductive risks, and other health hazards.

Vacuum cleaners and digital cameras also appear on the list. These items aren’t necessarily bad for the environment, but they also aren’t good – which raises the question of why any of these products are classified as “environmental goods.”

The answer to that question is increasingly apparent. This is merely a front for expanding free trade under the guise of environmental protection. In fact, these WTO members are considering tariff elimination without any analysis (that we know of) on the environmental impact. What we need for the health of the planet is not an expansion of the WTO or our current model of free trade. Instead, we need fair and responsible trade to sustainably manage natural resources and confront the climate crisis.

--Ilana Solomon, Director, Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program

 

World Bank's Tata Mundra conflicts with climate findings

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 06:45 AM

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14042213/dd081c22-83c2-436f-b9bd-e2d90c4190e1.png

If we don’t curb greenhouse gas emissions now, we’ll soon be past the point of no return to save the planet.

That’s the conclusion of the newest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But how does Tata Mundra, a massive coal-burning power plant in India, fit into that equation?

It doesn’t.

For the local people living near Tata Mundra on the Kutch coast of Gujarat, India, this information is crucial. When the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) poured $900 million into one of the world’s largest coal-burning power plants, they were dooming the local residents to years of air and water pollution.

The Tata corporation attempted to justify these risks under the pretense of increasing cheap energy access for millions of people. However, Tata Mundra’s expenses quickly ballooned, and the Tata corporation requested permission to raise rates, forcing residents to foot the bill. Even if nearby communities could afford to pay for power generated by Tata Mundra they couldn’t actually access the power without costly grid extensions. Now, the residents are suffering from the health effects of coal pollution without reaping any energy access benefits.

Clearly, the Tata Mundra coal-burning power plant is not a viable solution to meet energy demands in India, and the IPCC report also shows it is the wrong choice for curbing global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the report, the energy supply sector is the biggest climate disruption culprit. In 2010 alone, energy emissions from coal and oil accounted for 35 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions -- and we can already see the effects.

“The consequences of unchecked climate change for humans and natural ecosystems are already apparent and increasing,” the report concludes. “The most vulnerable systems are already experiencing adverse effects. Past emissions have already put the planet on a track for substantial further changes in climate, and while there are many uncertainties in factors such as the sensitivity of the climate system many scenarios lead to substantial climate impacts, including direct harms to human and ecological well-being that exceed the ability of those systems to adapt fully.”

But the IPCC also indicated that it’s not too late to halt the climate crisis, and the report’s authors have called for a carbon-free electricity supply in the form of clean energy for all. Over the past decade, the cost of clean energy has dropped dramatically and has “achieved a level of technical and economic maturity to enable deployment at a significant scale,” according to the report.

Additionally, the report reveals, “[t]here are often co‐benefits from the use of [renewable energy], such as a reduction of air pollution, local employment opportunities, few severe accidents compared to some other forms of energy supply, as well as improved energy access and security.”

If World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim is serious about improving public health, providing a road out of poverty, and fighting climate disruption, he should direct the World Bank and encourage other international financial institutions -- like ADB -- to invest in the clean energy solutions recommended in the IPCC report. By doing so, the World Bank would support all three of Dr. Kim’s goals for a cleaner, healthier planet rather than defend dirty coal projects like Tata Mundra that will undoubtedly cause irreparable damage to our environment.

--Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International Climate Program

 

Kosovo Says No to World Bank's Dirty Coal

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 01:02 PM

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14041519/0483eb54-c0ff-4660-ac3c-95fd2ff29260.png                     Visar Azemi (center) at KOSID's fourth annual workshop.                     Photo courtesy of KOSID.

KOSIDEditor’s Note: Visar Azemi is the coordinator for the Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development (KOSID) and a faculty member at the University of Maryland. Before joining KOSID, Mr. Azemi, a Kosovo native, was an electrical engineer.

Leaders, journalists, and civil society organizations gathered at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. this past weekend for the World Bank’s annual spring meetings. Halfway across the world, the people of Kosovo were and still are speaking out.

The Republic of Kosovo, nestled in the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe, is home to approximately 2 million people facing an energy crisis. If the World Bank gets its way, our young country will be locked-in to a dirty energy future for decades to come.

The proposed Kosovo Power Project (KPP), a 600-megawatt lignite coal power plant, is slated to be built despite the outcry of the public. Lignite coal is widely considered one of the dirtiest forms of coal, and its use in the existing power plants is already taking it’s toll on our people.

In the World Bank’s own estimate, air pollution in Kosovo “is estimated (midpoint) annually to cause 835 premature deaths, 310 new cases of chronic bronchitis, 600 hospital admissions, and 11,600 emergency visits.”  The total economic costs for those health effects are estimated to be as much as 158 million euro annually.

If KPP is constructed, we can expect those numbers to increase.

Additionally, Dr. Ted Downing, president of the international network on displacement and resettlement (INDR), released a report earlier this week that sheds light on the potential involuntary displacement over 7,000 Kosovars will face if KPP is constructed. These thousands of people from the Obiliq municipality would be displaced in favor of an expanded open pit mining operation, called New Mining Field (NMF). Once again, money would come before the people.

The report warns that forced displacement would trigger, “a tsunami of likely outcomes, including joblessness, homelessness, loss of livelihoods and income-earning assets, marginalization, increased food insecurity, loss of common land and resources, increased health risks, social disarticulation, disruption of formal educational activities, loss of sacred sites, threats to cultural identity, disappearance of mutual self-help mechanisms, and the loss of civil and human rights.”

But we aren’t just going to stand by and let the World Bank evict our countrymen and decide the fate of our country.  The Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development (KOSID) wants to make sure its voice is heard. With 11 organizations on board, KOSID has been working to ensure that Kosovo’s future isn’t left out of the global conversation and our countrymen and women have a chance at a clean energy future.

As KOSID continues to bring awareness to Kosovo’s energy situation, we implore our government to pursue clean energy solutions for our energy crisis. The sequencing of measures the government and the stakeholders involved in the energy sector in Kosovo should take are of the utmost importance. By investing in energy efficiency and solar and wind energy, Kosovars will be healthier, our country will be more independent, and our future will be brighter than ever.

 

Signs of Life for Key Wind Investments in Congress - Will They Continue?

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 12:11 PM

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The facts are speaking for themselves: wind is winning. But is Congress listening?

Deemed the fastest-growing energy source in the world, wind has created 80,000 jobs at over 550 U.S.-based manufacturing facilities, powered over 15 million homes, and added $105 billion in domestic investments over the last 10 years. In the face of severe weather and extreme climate disruption, wind has offered the U.S. and the world the opportunity to invest in a clean solution to meet our energy demand without exacerbating climate disruption.

But without the support of our legislators, the wind industry could--to the detriment of millions of Americans and our environment--slow its progress.

The Production Tax Credit (PTC) was enacted as a temporary provision over two decades ago as a part of the Energy Policy Act. Despite expiring eight times, the PTC has led to continual progress and job-creation in the wind industry.

More than four months ago, however, the PTC expired once again, leaving the wind industry in the lurch. In a positive move last week, the Senate Finance Committee advanced a package of renewable energy tax credits--including the PTC--marking the first step toward future wind progress. The next step in the process is moving the legislation to the Senate floor where it will likely face staunch opposition from Republican climate deniers.

But the facts don’t lie. Wind energy has created thousands of jobs and invested millions in our economy, and failing to renew the PTC would be economically and environmentally irresponsible.

A recent report released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reveals that “U.S. wind power deployment through 2020 is sensitive to both the prospective PTC level and market conditions over time.”

The report continues, “a reduction in domestic wind power deployment is likely to have a direct and negative effect on U.S.-based wind turbine manufacturing production and employment. This is notable as the manufacturing sector has been observed to represent a substantial share of wind industry jobs.” If recent history has taught us anything, it is that reductions in demand will rapidly lead to factory closures and job losses.

The report predicts that without a PTC renewal, yearly wind installations will drop to as little as 3-gigawatts a year, though by 2020, experts expect 9.6-gigawatts will be needed per year to help fill the 80 percent energy supply gap left by retiring coal plants. Additionally, the report calls for 38 gigawatts of wind energy to be added each year to completely decarbonize the energy sector by 2030.

Essentially, we won’t be able to meet our clean energy needs without wind and the PTC.

Wind energy has seen development and job creation in over 70 percent of congressional districts. If our members of congress are serious about creating jobs and bolstering our economy, they should support the PTC and invest in a clean energy future for their constituents, our generation, and the generations to come. Click here to take action and tell your member of Congress to extend this critical credit.

--Radha Adhar, Associate Washington Representative

 

WWF Holds Big Coal Accountable

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 01:33 PM

Wildlife is fighting back against big coal--the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), that is.

Yesterday, WWF filed a complaint against the world’s largest private coal company, Peabody Energy.  The complaint, filed with Belgium’s Jury d’Ethique Publicitaire (JEP), alleges that an advertisement Peabody ran in the European edition of the Financial Times breaks JEP’s code for honest advertising.

While Peabody makes its billions though dirty coal, its advertisement scheme attempts to put the coal titan among the ranks of “clean, modern technology.” With a clean energy revolution thriving, Peabody is desperate to keep coal on top and wind and solar just out of reach for those who need it most.

When the ad appeared, WWF was quick to act.

“As coal loses ground in developed countries to more modern sustainable alternatives, Peabody is marketing its dangerous technologies onto those poorest countries with the least development options,” Tony Long, director of WWF European Policy Office, said in a press release.

“Trying to sell coal to poor people as a path to better and healthier lives is socially irresponsible and morally wrong. We already know that poor countries are most affected by climate change, and are the least equipped to fight its negative impacts.”

Specifically, WWF alleges that in the advertisement, Peabody “fails to disclose that the core of its operations is coal mining and supplying coal-fired power plants; claims that energy poverty is ‘the world’s number one human and environmental crisis’; claims that ‘clean, modern energy’, meaning so-called advanced clean coal technologies, is ‘the solution for better, longer and healthier lives’ misleading readers as to the negative climate, environmental and health impacts of coal pollution; uses absolute and misleading assertions such as ‘clean coal’ that are not substantiated by relevant scientific evidence and commercial application.”

In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report that revealed the majority of energy access investments need to be in distributed clean energy in the form of mini-grids and off-grid interventions--not coal--if global energy poverty has a hope of being solved.

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14041420/cca61d1a-5892-48c9-a267-f68bb0103b44.png Graphic from IEA report page 22

According to the IEA, “modern energy access for all by 2030 would therefore require more than three-times the expected level of investment in the New Policies Scenario, growing from $14 billion per year to $48 billion per year.”

The New Policies Scenario, outlined in the 2011 IEA report, “takes account of broad policy commitments and plans that have been announced by countries, including national pledges to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and plans to phase out fossil-energy subsidies.”

This includes the “450 Scenario” to limit global temperature increase to 2°C, the “Efficient World Scenario” for energy savings to improve energy efficiency, and the “Energy for All Case” which “estimates the additional investment required to meet[...] the goal of achieving universal modern energy access by 2030 [...].”

With an increase in investments in these New Policies Scenarios, we can expect an increase in investments in clean energy, because when it comes to energy access, distributed clean energy is simply the right tool for the job.

The Sierra Club stands with the World Wildlife Fund’s efforts to hold the coal industry accountable while working toward a clean energy future.

--Justin Guay, Associate Director, Sierra Club International Climate Program

 

How Japan replaced half its nuclear capacity through energy efficiency

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 11:48 AM

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Japan was facing darkness.

Three years after the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake, Japan’s energy capacity was rapidly reaching its peak going in to the high-energy summer months. A tremendous amount of conventional generation capacity--including the entire nuclear fleet--was unavailable, and the country faced the risk of power cuts. But miraculously, or seemingly so, in just a few short weeks, Japan managed to avert the rolling power cuts that many believed inevitable. Even more impressive, Japan has turned these emergency measures into lasting solutions.

So how did a country on the brink of blackout suddenly meet their country’s energy needs without forcing people back to the stone age? Japan overcame this daunting task by tapping the cheapest and most widely available source of energy savings available--energy efficiency.

Much of the electricity savings were initially driven by a popular movement known as “Setsuden.” This movement emerged to encourage people and companies to save electricity and prevent rolling power cuts. Simple measures such as upping the thermostat by a few degrees in homes and offices, 'thinning' lighting by reducing the use of some lightbulbs, cutting back on the use of big screens and exterior lighting, and powering down electric toilet seats--a Japanese peculiarity--enabled Japan to dramatically reduce power demand almost overnight. Dress codes in offices were even eased to ensure employees were more comfortable in light of the changes, and both large and small companies were audited to identify savings potential.

These temporary measures have proven to have long term impact. They've dramatically increased the awareness of energy use and energy efficiency with large companies now running high-profile, long-lasting programs. Japan’s economy and gross domestic product (GDP) grew and power consumption stayed stable thanks to these newly ingrained practices.

More importantly, there is huge potential for technical measures to reduce energy usage even further--a resource Japan has only just begun to tap.

What's even more surprising is how far off the energy pundits were in predicting the impact this would have on Japan. Aside from worrying that the sky would fall, the pundits made dire predictions about the need to replace the nuclear fleet with 'cheap coal'--a myth we previously debunked.

Fortunately, through a combination of common sense energy saving measures, Japan instead turned to permanent efficiency gains. In the process, the Japanese people and its business community proved the pundits wrong.

The key lesson from the Japanese experience--the lesson pundits failed to appreciate--is that coal plant construction is simply too slow to be relevant in the modern world where resiliency is highly valued. To cope with rapid loss of generation capacity, Japan needed fast, nimble and modular 21st century solutions. That means efficiency and clean energy.

Despite major hurdles to deploying these solutions, due to a complete absence of renewable energy policies prior to the Fukushima disaster, solar power surged in 2013 blowing away earlier predictions. In fact, Japan invested the most money in solar power of any country in 2013, and this investment is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.

In contrast, coal power projects proposed in the wake of Fukushima are still sitting on the drawing board. By the time these coal projects are projected to be online, their output will be rendered obsolete due to the rapidly dropping price of renewable energy. Even worse, these investments lock Japan into a volatile international coal market.

Japan should scrap these coal plans all together. Japan needs to look no further than India's recent imported coal debacle - Tata Mundra - for a warning of what that market can do to energy security. Coal investments there have knocked India into a market relying on volatile, dangerous fossil fuels that Indians can’t rely on.

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At the end of the day, a nation can’t achieve energy security by depending on coal. Aligning energy investments with the need to address climate disruption is a critical concern to protect the health of communities and families. Replacing half of the nuclear fleet with efficiency is just one step in the right direction for an advanced country like Japan. As scientists continue to warn of the impending global greenhouse gas emissions peak, Japan must begin reducing its emissions--not increasing them with more fossil fuels. The easiest and most important step it can take is removing the illusion of the need for new coal-burning power plants.

After all, the efficiency gains and promising developments with clean energy show that Japan can be a leader in 21st century energy solutions.

--Justin Guay, Associate Director of Sierra Club's International Climate Program, and Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace

 

A Parent and Faith Leader's Perspective: Why We Need Strong Smog Standards

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 11:21 AM

Reverend-Doug-BlandAs the father of an asthmatic child, and as a person of faith, I'm grateful for the Clean Air Act. That might seem like an odd introduction, but let me explain.

Last fall, Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) complained that, in enforcing the standards of the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has "overreached" its authority. Overreach - that mental picture might seem scary to some: the hand of big government imposing its way into our lives to tell us what we can and cannot do.

As a Christian, though, the image that comes to my mind when I think of overreach is very different. On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, against a clear blue sky, God over-reaches space and time. In the touching of two fingers, heaven and earth meet, and Adam "became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7b). According to the second creation story, God took the dust of the earth and gave it human form. But the lump just lays there, inert, lifeless, until God breathed spirit---the Hebrew word is ruach, "breath" - into Adam's lungs.  

That Biblical story takes on real flesh and blood as I'm desperately racing to the emergency room with my son, Aaron, in the seat beside me. It's another bad air quality day where I live, and Aaron is having yet another asthma attack. His face is ashen and his lips are sky blue as he tries to suck in the life giving air that he can't force into his lungs. I reach out my hand across the seat to him---to assure him, to assure myself---but he's too weak to even lift his fingers up to meet mine. There is no breath in him.

I carry him in my arms, limp as a ragdoll, into the emergency room where doctors and nurses who meet us at the door. I watch as their hands reach out to heal. Aaron's breath is restored. Standing next to his bed I can't talk without crying, so I just make an OK sign with my hand, a question in my eyes. He lifts up his hand so his OK meets my OK. Overreach.

It could have been much worse for Aaron. The reason there aren't more bad air quality days like this for Aaron and for millions of others was because, in 1970, Republicans on one side of the aisle and Democrats on the other side of the isle reached their hands across the partisan divide to create the Clean Air Act.

The reason there aren't more bad days like this for Aaron and for millions of others was because a Republican president, reached over, pen in hand, to signed the Clean Air Act into law. As a result, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, some 400,000 premature deaths have been prevented.

Here in Arizona, the EPA is proposing to reduce harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), a coal plant that is one of the largest sources of NOx emissions in the U.S. as well as from the Apache, Coronado, Sundt, and Cholla generating stations. NOx is a key ingredient in both ozone and fine particulate pollution, both very dangerous forms of pollution.

Every year, air pollution from these coal plants contributes to significant health problems including heart attacks, asthma attacks, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, chronic bronchitis, and costing Arizonans hundreds of millions of dollars in health expenses. Certain groups are especially vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, such as: infants, older adults and people with lung diseases like asthma.

Grand_canyon_hermits_rest_2010Smokestack pollution from NGS also adds to smog haze in 11 national parks and wilderness areas surrounding the plant, including the Grand Canyon, which is less than 20 miles away. Emissions from the Apache, Coronado, and Cholla coal plants add to dirty air at 18 national parks and wilderness areas in four states. The Sundt plant, right in Tucson, affects our public lands and the public health of those in surrounding neighborhoods.

We should not have to wait decades for clean air. We need strong clean air standards that include the most protective pollution control technology to safeguard our health and our environment now, as well as that of future generations. I thank God for the Clean Air Act, and for the people who are willing to stand up in the name of life and healing and common sense. I hope Rep. Gosar can be one of those people who "overreaches" across the aisle to support strong EPA clean air standards.

- Rev. Doug Bland, Director of Arizona Interfaith Power & Light

 

Securing a Positive Climate Legacy

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 06:10 AM

Our world faces an unprecedented environmental, social, and economic challenge-- climate disruption. As the most recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change notes, the impacts of climate change are already being felt around the world as seas rise, extreme weather events increase, areas suffer drought or flood, and plants and animals edge closer to extinction.  Scientists agree that fossil fuels are the main culprit behind climate disruption and as a new Sierra Club report details, it is vitally important that undeveloped dirty fuels remain that way.

Using publicly available data already gathered by federal agencies, the report, Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures (PDF), calculates the potential carbon dioxide emissions from dirty fuel development proposals. Such calculations send a clear message: Actions to effectively reducing climate disruption must include keeping dirty fuels in the ground.

Four major potential sources of carbon pollution have been identified, the Arctic Ocean, the Green River Formation, the Powder River Basin, and the Monterey, San Juan Basin and Marcellus shale plays. If just a fraction of the oil, gas and coal from these major climate disrupters was developed, the resulting carbon pollution would cancel out our country's greatest accomplishments in the fight against climate disruption--efforts like the Obama administrations new fuel economy standards.

CAFEvsClimateDisrupters_All

Thankfully, President Obama can take pragmatic actions to keep dirty fuels in the ground and speed our country down the path to clean energy future.  Over the remainder of his time in office he has an opportunity to:

Fully implement his Executive Order 13514 requiring all resource management agencies to fully consider climate pollution, like they do other types of pollution, prior to leasing or exporting onshore and offshore oil, gas, coal, and unconventional fuels sources such as oil shale and tar sands.   Stop any new leasing of federal oil, gas, and coal until potential environmental, climate, and public health impacts are fully considered, including: Withdrawing plans to allow development of oil shale and tar sands on 800,000 acres of federal public lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. No issuance of new federal coal leases until reforms that increase royalty rates, set sensitive lands aside, insure public transparency, and fully assess impacts from all aspects of coal production are implemented. Withdrawing plans to offer any new offshore oil leases in the Arctic Ocean. No issuance of any new oil and gas leases on federal lands that use fracking and well stimulation techniques until impacts on water, air, and climate are averted. Close oil, gas, and coal industry exemptions from environmental and public safety laws. Stop the export of coal and liquefied natural gas.

By showing leadership and taking these actions, President Obama can put the world on a path to avert climate catastrophe and create a clean-energy future that generates quality jobs, protects public health, and secures a wild lands legacy for our children’s future.  He can bolster his National Climate Action Plan and secure the progress that his administration has made in reducing domestic carbon emissions.

TAKE ACTION: Tell President Obama to drop his "All of the Above" energy plan to protect our future!

-- Dan Chu, Director of the Sierra Club Our Wild America campaign

 

How Coal & Clean Energy Will Define Indian Elections

Tue, 04/8/2014 - 01:06 PM

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On the coast of India’s Gulf of Kutch in Western Gujarat, near a small town called Mundra, an iconic fight against Tata Power’s Mundra coal plant is brewing. This fight has become the epicenter of a “rousing struggle” against coal expansion - and a microcosm of India’s election politics.

A small group of local fisherfolk are opposing the plant and leading a campaign that exposes the dark side of unchecked coal development and contradictions in the campaign of leading Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

In a country that recently made headlines for the largest power outage in history, Gujarat is an anomaly – it has a power surplus. That, along with industry-friendly policies including a heavy emphasis on special economic zones (SEZs), has helped propel the state's Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, to become the primary challenger in the race for prime minister. Indeed, the idea Modi's campaign has touted about Gujarat energy development is something many Indians aspire to.

Even more appealing is that Modi's power surplus has been supported by a 'saffron revolution' thanks to dramatic solar expansion. A true anomaly in coal-dependent India.

But despite Modi’s fervent support for solar energy, Gujarat is also home to some of the biggest coal plants in the country. Power companies are building a series of 16 ultra mega coal power plants (UMPPs) to stem the power crisis, including Tata Power’s flagship Mundra coal plant, or “Tata Mundra.” But the projects have exposed just how poorly the industry is now performing, and just how desperate the need is to diversify India’s energy mix away from coal.

Tata Mundra has been a debacle since day one. Despite abundant promises of cheap power, Tata Mundra’s costs have skyrocketed, forcing it to raise rates for average citizens. Worse, it has set a harmful precedent in the country: it’s the first project to be exempt from a legally binding contract by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission in order to raise rates and boost profits. Tata Mundra will be defending the exemptions in courts for years to come as states and consumers appeal these decisions.

The devastation to locals from this project is even more grim. Tata Mundra has burdened local fishermen by diverting waterways and releasing thermal pollution that kills fish for miles along the coast.

That’s why local fisherman have filed for a full audit of the World Bank Group’s financing of the project. The audit’s damning findings were swept under the rug by World Bank President Dr. Kim, but are once again under investigation by another international financier -- the Asian Development Bank.

Rampant, unchecked industrialization is ravaging the environment and the social fabric of India’s coasts, and Modi’s political enemies know it. Arvind Kejriwal, chief of an opposing political party, traveled to Gujarat to “tour" the development progress of the state.

While Gujarat has seen large industrial growth, it’s also home to some of the lowest social indicators in the country. In fact, Gujarat represents one of the lowest per-capita, per-day earnings for salaried people in the country. Most Indians don’t see these facts, thanks to Modi’s impressive marketing campaign.  

But it’s not just opposing political parties who are highlighting the contradictions inherent in Modi’s state and campaign. Already the Congress party has organized several political rallies up and down Gujarat’s heavily industrialized coastline to appeal to fishing communities affected by coal development. The message: end environmental destruction.

Modi’s association with some of the world’s largest coal projects will undoubtedly darken the candidate’s image. It may even put him in the same company as India’s current Environment Minister “Oily Moily.”

As Indians head to the polls, what’s happening in Mundra could end up ultimately defining Modi and his plan for the nation.

--Justin Guay, Associate Director, Sierra Club International Climate Program

 

Hazardous Waste Next Door: The Importance of the Definition of Solid Waste

Tue, 04/8/2014 - 07:49 AM

1296-hazardous-waste-caution-sign-s-0519Did you know that chemical companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the industrial waste industry are exempt from a law requiring companies handling hazardous waste to protect public health and the environment?

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was enacted in 1976, but in 2008 the Bush Administration exempted these companies handling the most dangerous substances from complying. This new rule was called "The Definition of Solid Waste" (DSW).

Take a look at the chemicals slipping through this regulatory gap:

Solvents like benzene, toluene, TCE and perc (linked to cancer, low birth weight, miscarriages, major malformations, and heart defects) Heavy metals like Arsenic, lead, and mercury - potent neurotoxins and carcinogens

These chemicals are carcinogens and are also linked to a long list of health issues for babies, including low birth weight and heart defects.

In 2011, thanks to legal challenge from the Sierra Club, as represented by EarthJustice, and due to the advocacy of environmental justice, civil rights, public health and other organizations, the EPA completed a groundbreaking environmental justice analysis and found that DSW's lapse rules for hazardous waste disproportionately affected communities of color and low-income communities:

Hundreds of sites where toxic releases have occurred in the past are consistently located in communities of color and low-income communities. The 2008 DSW rule removes opportunities for public participation in siting and permitting decisions, disenfranchising non-white and low-income communities from critical decisions affecting their health and livelihoods. The industries exempt from federal controls are often located in areas that already face exposure to multiple environmental hazards, and already have high cancer rates and neurological hazard rates as a result of exposure to pollution.

Epa superfundIn fact, in Illinois and Idaho, almost every hazardous waste recycling facility operating under the regulatory exemption is located in a community of color and low-income community.

The 2011 legal challenge required the EPA to publish a new DSW rule in 2012, but the EPA had taken no action until last month. On March 15, 2014, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) finally began its regulatory review of the EPA's DSW rule.

The Sierra Club is part of a coalition of public interest organizations and individuals from across the U.S. that supports a DSW standard that protects our health, environment and livelihood from hazardous waste released from recycling operations. Together we are urging the administration to abide by the 90-day limit for review of this rule and to publish a final DSW rule by July 1, 2014.

The delay in issuing a final rule is exacting a high toll on communities of color and low-income communities. Since 1982, hazardous waste recycling has polluted more than 200 sites, including many on the Superfund National Priority List, which identifies the worst toxic waste sites in the nation. The EPA found that the majority of the contamination at these sites occurred when recycling operations were exempted from compliance with safeguards under the RCRA.

This is why the final DSW rule must reinstate these essential safeguards. There is an urgent need to close this gap for the health of the nation and particularly for environmental justice communities. The rule impacts management of 1.8 million tons of hazardous waste, predominantly in communities of color and in low-income communities.

Any further delay is unacceptable while toxic releases to air and water poison fenceline neighborhoods at recycling operations. We call on the OMB, the EPA, and the Obama administration to ensure that this important rule receives the priority it deserves so that the safety of the nation’s most vulnerable communities can be ensured now and for future generations.

-- Leslie Fields, Director of the Sierra Club Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Program

 
 

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