Solar DIY Videos on YouTube

DIY Solar Panel System - Off Grid Ground Mount 300 watts

Sat, 11/29/2014 - 05:42 AM

DIY - Solar Panels Meet Cattle Panels

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 03:35 AM

DIY Boat Solar Power Solution for LED Lighting

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 12:06 AM

ground mount solar panel diy

Wed, 07/2/2014 - 12:05 AM


Fri, 05/9/2014 - 08:14 AM

DIY 15$ 40w Solar Panel

Mon, 05/5/2014 - 12:28 AM

DIY Portable Solar Panel Stand for $10

Mon, 05/5/2014 - 12:10 AM

Homemade Solar Panels Diy tutorial

Sun, 03/30/2014 - 02:12 AM

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

Solar Panels - How it Works YouTube Videos

How Solar Panels Work: Photovoltaic Cells + P-N Junctions

Fri, 12/5/2014 - 09:06 PM

How Do Solar Panels Work? 60 Second Educational Video from SunPower Solar

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 02:41 AM

How Solar Power Solar Panels Work by SolarCity mp4

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 07:15 PM

Solar Panel Systems for Beginners - Pt 1 How It Works & How To Set Up

Tue, 06/17/2014 - 05:34 PM

How Solar Panels Work - Aztec Renewable Energy

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 03:03 PM

How Do Solar Panels Work? Bonus! Simple trick to increase your solar output power

Wed, 05/7/2014 - 05:46 AM

[solar energy how it works] Solar Energy 101 - How Solar Panels Work

Tue, 05/6/2014 - 03:43 AM

How Solar Panels Work - Uses The Sun To Create Free Electricity MP4 2

Mon, 05/5/2014 - 04:38 PM

[solar energy for home] How Solar Panels Work

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 12:28 PM

Solar Cell :: How it Works?

Sat, 03/15/2014 - 02:25 AM

Solar Projects In Google News

Electric cooperative considering solar projects - East Oregonian (subscription)

Sat, 01/31/2015 - 03:59 AM

Umatilla Electric Cooperative is looking into developing “one or ” future solar projects as the utility anticipates shouldering greater investment in new renewable energy. Under the state of Oregon's Renewable Portfolio Standard, utilities that

Hawaiian Electric launches online tracker for solar, wind projects - KHON2

Sat, 01/31/2015 - 02:25 AM

Now, the IIQ will show an application's status relative to other projects proposed on the neighborhood circuit and on the island-wide electrical system, including customer-sited rooftop solar as well as mid-sized and utility-scale wind and solar Hawaiian Electric unveils online system to check status of energy projectsPacific Business News (Honolulu)HECO launches online site to monitor renewable energy projectsHonolulu Star-Advertiserall 4  

NJR Clean Energy Ventures Announces Completion of Solar Projects in Howell ... - MarketWatch

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 04:45 PM

“With solar projects, such as our grid-connected systems in Howell and North Hanover, we are bringing clean energy generation - and the benefits it provides – closer to home. That's good for New Jersey and our energy future.” The Howell solar farm is a  

NJR Clean Energy Ventures Announces Completion of Solar Projects in Howell ... - Business Wire (press release)

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 04:43 PM

WALL, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--NJR Clean Energy Ventures (NJRCEV), the unregulated distributed power subsidiary of New Jersey Resources (NYSE:NJR), announced the completion of a 9.9 megawatt (MW) grid-connected solar installation in Howell and  

World Bank Group launches “Scaling Solar” to create a market for solar power ... -

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 12:47 PM

The initiative combines World Bank guarantees, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) guarantees, and IFC financing to mobilize privately funded solar projects that are connected to the grid. A simplified process and suite of contract

NRG Renew and SunShare Partner to Build 8.2MWac of Community Solar Projects - AZoCleantech

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 09:54 AM

NRG Renew, a wholly owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc., and SunShare, one of the country's first and fastest-growing community solar companies, are partnering to finance and build 8.2 megawatts (MWac) of community solar projects along the Front Colorado Community Solar Partnership Could Be The Start Of A Beautiful MarketSolar IndustryNRG Renew to grant $25 mn to SunShare for solar gardensGreentech Leadall 4  

Japanese Utilities Will Resume Considering Solar PV Projects - CleanTechnica

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 09:38 AM

Things look set to get back on track in Japan with regard to utility-scale solar projects, based on recent news out of the country. Reportedly, the utility companies that had previously stopped accepting applications for utility-scale solar will begin

Foreign bidders cannot bid for NTPC's 3 solar projects - Economic Times

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 05:09 AM

Foreign bidders cannot bid for NTPC's 3 solar projectsNEW DELHI: Foreign players would not be allowed to bid for NTPC's three new solar power projects of total 750 MW capacity as the PSU has restricted the bidding to domestic companies. This comes at a time when the government is making a strong pitch for Indian energy firm bars foreign bids for three solar projectsReuters UKNTPC bans foreign bidders from participating in bid for three solar projectsFirstpostIndia's NTPC restricts foreign bidders for three solar power projectsPower Technologyall 33  

NTPC bars foreign bids for three solar projects - Reuters

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 04:59 AM

The spokeswoman declined to say why foreign companies were not able to bid, and stressed that Indian subsidiaries of foreign manufacturers would be free to participate in its future solar projects. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious plans Foreign bidders cannot bid for NTPC's 3 solar projectsEconomic TimesNTPC bans foreign bidders from participating in bid for three solar projectsFirstpostall 24  

County should approve Rugged, Tierra del Sol solar projects - San Diego Source (subscription)

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 07:06 PM

The San Diego Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. Feb. 4 in Room 310 of the County Administration Building, 1600 Pacific Highway, concerning the Rugged and Tierra del Sol solar projects. The board should wholeheartedly approve these  

California Solar Projects In Google News

California Projects Selected to Boost Solar Deployment - Rocklin and Roseville Today

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 08:10 PM

The 15 Solar Market Pathways projects announced by the White House yesterday pursue various approaches to developing actionable solar deployment plans and strategies to promote deployment at residential, community, and commercial scales-from  

What Is Community Solar? It's Coming To California - Forbes

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 06:34 PM

What Is Community Solar? It's Coming To CaliforniaThe utility will buy solar energy from owners of solar power projects that range from 0.5 to 20 megawatts and are located within the PG&E's territory, said Jonathan Marshall, a PG&E spokesman. What PG&E will carry out is commonly called community solar  

Gov. Brown Announces Partnership to Provide Money for Solar -

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 06:07 PM
to start a pilot project aimed at providing money for solar energy projects in multifamily housing in California. Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro announced the project from the roof of Marlton California affordable housing gets solar pushSFBayall 9  

California affordable housing gets solar push - SFBay

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 10:23 AM

State and federal leaders joined together Thursday to start a pilot project aimed at providing money for solar energy projects in multifamily housing in California. Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro  

California affordable housing going solar - SFBay

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 09:36 AM

Environment News Service
State and federal leaders joined together Thursday to start a pilot project aimed at providing money for solar energy projects in multifamily housing in California. Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro FACT SHEET: Administration and California Partner to Drive Renewable Energy (press release)Obama's Energy Dept. Invests $59 Million in Solar InnovationEnvironment News ServiceWhite House Administration and California Partner to Drive Renewable Energy Imperial Valley NewsMulti-Housing News -Midland Daily Newsall 14  

Obama's Energy Dept. Invests $59 Million in Solar Innovation - Environment News Service

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 08:03 AM

Obama's Energy Dept. Invests $59 Million in Solar InnovationThe pilot will enable PACE financing for an entire segment of commercial PACE projects that include some of the multifamily properties within HUD, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, and the California Housing Finance DOE Announces $59 Million for Small Solar and Solar ManufacturingPOWER magazineEnergy Department Announces More Than $59 Million Investment in SolarEIN News (press release)US to invest $59 million in solar energy innovationGreentech Leadall 13  

Solar power shines on apartments, renters in California - U-T San Diego

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 05:17 AM

One, called Sunrate, would let customers buy solar energy through SDG&E from various solar projects located in San Diego, Imperial and southern Orange counties. Another option, Share the Sun, would allow customers to acquire power produced by a  

Renters get chance to go solar in California - U-T San Diego

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 04:55 AM

Amber Albrecht of San Diego Gas & Electric said that “the price is going to be based on the cost of the solar energy project, which could be a higher energy rate.” She said rates could benefit from economies of scale as customers join. A  

FACT SHEET: Administration and California Partner to Drive Renewable Energy ... - (press release)

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 06:36 PM

Empowering Communities to Deploy Solar: Today, the Department of Energy is awarding than $14 million for 15 projects that will develop plans, streamline deployment and launch innovative programs to spur solar market growth in numerous HUD Announces Important Energy InitiativeMulti-Housing Newsall 2  

First Wind's major solar farm on Oahu's North Shore gets review from city - Pacific Business News (Honolulu) (blog)

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 05:30 PM

First Wind's major solar farm on Oahu's North Shore gets review from cityThe 49-megawatt Kawailoa Solar project, which will be built on about 300 acres of agricultural lands within the Kawailoa Plantation owned by Kamehameha Schools, would be co-located within the existing 69-megawatt Kawailoa Wind project. First Wind's

New Jersey Solar Projects In Google News

NJR Clean Energy adds 16 MW to New Jersey solar portfolio - Greentech Lead

Sat, 01/31/2015 - 06:32 AM

NJR Clean Energy (NJRCEV) has completed a 9.9 megawatt grid-connected solar installation in Howell and a 6.1 MW system in North Hanover, New Jersey. Addition of these projects will help NJRCEV to achieve a solar portfolio of 19 installations with a

Solar farm built in Howell - Asbury Park Press

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 10:22 PM

"As electric generation in the U.S. continues to shift and evolve, clean energy, like solar, is an increasingly important part of the mix," said Laurence M. Downes, chairman and CEO of New Jersey Resources. "With solar projects, such as our grid NJR unit builds 16 megawatts' worth of solar installationsNJBIZall 7  

NJR Clean Energy Ventures Announces Completion of Solar Projects in Howell ... - Rock Hill Herald (press release)

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 04:57 PM

“As electric generation in the U.S. continues to shift and evolve, clean energy, like solar, is an increasingly important part of the mix,” said Laurence M. Downes, Chairman and CEO of New Jersey Resources. “With solar projects, such as our grid

Sol Systems Takes Aim at Commercial-Scale - AltEnergyMag (press release)

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 10:45 PM

Sol Systems opened an office in San Francisco in January, has expanded its presence in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and will expand into New England mid-year. The company has also built out its investor team with the recent hire of Jerry Stalun  

Sol Systems takes aim at commercial-scale PV projects, will deploy USD 200+ ... -

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 06:07 AM

SeeNews Renewables
Sol Systems opened an office in San Francisco in January, has expanded its presence in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and will expand into New England mid-year. The company has also built out its investor team with the recent hire of Jerry Stalun Sol Systems set to finance at least 150MW of projectsPV-TechSol Systems to back 150 MW of solar plans in 2015SeeNews Renewablesall 3  

Sol Systems set to finance at least 150MW of projects - PV-Tech

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 12:23 AM

The company opened an office in San Francisco this January, branched out to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and is expected to make inlays into New England later this year. At this time, the company has financed 180MW of solar projects across the US.

Sol Systems Takes Aim at Commercial-Scale, Will Deploy $200+ Million in 2015 - PR Newswire (press release)

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 03:04 PM

Sol Systems opened an office in San Francisco in January, has expanded its presence in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and will expand into New England mid-year. The company has also built out its investor team with the recent hire of Jerry Stalun  

Facing down a constitutional amendment, FPL plans three new solar plants - (blog)

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 01:42 PM
"Unfortunately, FPL has not made any of its competitive bids for solar projects public, so it is impossible to know why FPL is making this claim," Smith said. "We welcome transparency in this round of solar projects and believe competitive bids FPL proposes to almost double Florida's solar power by end of 2016Tampabay.comall 188  

4.5 Megawatts of Solar Completed in Templeton, Massachusetts - Your Renewable News (press release)

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 03:06 PM

The company owns and operates non-residential projects in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, as well as residential projects in California and Hawaii. Integrys Solar, LLC is a subsidiary of Integrys Energy  

Net zero — a number many homeowners move toward - Alton Telegraph

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 07:07 PM

Sachs Electric Co. has solar projects all around the country, including an 88,000 solar panel installation in California producing 20 megawatts of electricity. No matter what the size, solar is subsidized both at the federal and state level. Buyers of

Colorado Solar Projects In Google News

Geronimo Energy Wins Bid To Build Community Solar For St. Paul Public Housing - Solar Industry

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 09:03 PM

Colorado Community Solar Partnership Could Be The Start Of A Beautiful Market · • Seminole Provides Tax Equity Financing For N.C. Solar Projects · • Sunforce Completes 234 kW PV Array For Colorado Town. Latest Top Stories. Colorado Community Solar  

Colorado Community Solar Partnership Could Be The Start Of A Beautiful Market - Solar Industry

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 10:10 PM

According to David Amster-Olszewski, CEO of SunShare, as the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) worked to craft the rules that would govern the projects operating under the state's community solar gardens law, his company made its first move NRG Renew to grant $25 mn to SunShare for solar gardensGreentech Leadall 2  

NRG Renew to grant $25 mn to SunShare for solar gardens - Greentech Lead

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 04:30 PM

Under the transaction, NRG Renew will provide financial aid to develop five new solar garden projects: four in the metro Denver area and a 2-megawatt one in Colorado Springs. The partnership is expected to develop 100 acres of solar panels that will 

Solar power firm to develop 5 'garden' projects, including one in Colorado Springs - Colorado Springs Gazette

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 10:54 PM

Solar power firm to develop 5 'garden' projects, including one in Colorado Springsbased First Solar Inc. last month acquired a minority stake in Clean Energy Collective, a Louisville company that has developed 45 solar projects in eight states. Solar gardens, also known as community solar, give businesses, nonprofit groups and

NRG to sell solar directly to consumers - San Diego Source (subscription)

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 09:01 PM

DENVER -- NRG Energy Inc. will sell solar power directly to consumers in Colorado as part of a push into renewable energy. NRG, the nation's largest independent power producer, will join with SunShare LLC to build five so-called community solar

NRG Renew and SunShare Form Community Solar Alliance - Solar Novus Today

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 03:45 PM

NRG Renew, a wholly owned subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc., and SunShare, a community solar specialist, are partnering to finance and build 8.2 megawatts (MWac) of community solar projects along the Front Range of Colorado (including Colorado Springs 

NRG Renew, SunShare to add 8.2 MW of community solar in Colorado - SeeNews Renewables

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 02:10 PM

Jan 28, 2015 (SeeNews) - The renewables unit of US utility NRG Energy Inc (NYSE:NRG) is joining forces with local firm SunShare to finance and build 8.2 MW of community solar projects along the Front Range of Colorado. The parties said in a joint 

Solar as an Energy Equity Solution - Clean Energy News (blog)

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 06:40 PM

In November 2010, ILSR's Community Solar Power report analyzed most of the existing community solar projects to assess which models had the best potential to replicate. Since then, community solar laws have been enacted in states from Colorado to  

Utilities vie for time in the sun - The Denver Post

Sun, 01/25/2015 - 07:02 AM

We think large-scale solar projects are cost-effective." Utilities in 28 states have raised questions about the use of net metering to financially credit rooftop solar, said Litvak, the industry analyst. Xcel Energy uses net metering. It pays  

Community Solar with Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL) - Green Chip Stocks

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 07:07 PM

Xcel's Solar*Connect program was shot down by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission in December. The PUC said solar gardens would give Xcel an unfair competitive advantage over other rooftop solar and community solar projects in Colorado. 

Department of Energy Solar Projects

Charting Hawaii's Spectacular Solar Growth - Greentech Media

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 07:20 PM

Charting Hawaii's Spectacular Solar GrowthDOE labs have been working with Hawaiian Electric, the company that runs utilities on Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Hawaii, to track these system effects, with results like these showing the telltale duck shape -- or, as HECO has dubbed it, the “Nessie curve  

Getting electricity right -

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 09:13 PM

According to the Department of Energy (DoE), South Africa has a high level of renewable energy potential and presently has in place a target of 10 000 GWh of renewable energy. The DoE has a goal of bringing online 3 725 megawatts (MW) to be The  

CPV Hopeful Soitec Exits the Solar Business - Greentech Media

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 09:36 AM

The layoffs come at the CPV module factory in Rancho Bernardo which received $25 million in a DOE grant and has produced 5 megawatts of CPV product so far, according to the firm. The 176,000-square-foot factory was to have an annual capacity of 200 

DOE endorses 14 RE projects for FIT eligibility - ABS CBN News

Wed, 01/21/2015 - 02:22 AM

For solar projects, the DOE has issued COEs to the San Carlos power project Phase A of San Carlos Solar Energy Inc. with FIT capacity of 13 MW and San Carlos power project Phase B of the same company with FIT capacity of nine MW. Wind projects that  

Project Review: 2014 CESA award-winning installations, Part II - Renewable Energy Focus

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:00 PM

This huge milestone for renewable energy in New Mexico would have not been realized so soon without the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (REPTC). The program supports utility-scale wind, biomass, and solar projects by providing a refundable  

DoE endorses 14 green projects - Manila Standard Today

Tue, 01/20/2015 - 03:55 PM

Among the solar projects endorsed by the agency are the phases a and b of the San Carlos solar plant owned by San Carlos Solar Energy Inc. while the endorsed wind projects are the 150-MW Burgos wind project of Energy Development Corp., 18.9-MW  

Desert Sunlight, Another 550MW Solar Farm From First Solar, Now Fully ... - Energy Collective

Sat, 01/17/2015 - 08:13 AM

In 2011, the U.S. DOE issued loan guarantees of $1.46 million for Desert Sunlight. Topaz has 9 million solar panels across 7.3 square miles in San Luis Obispo County on Manufacturers of the world's most efficient solar panels (SunPower) and some of

Sunrise Energy Ventures Offers Solar Project Development in North Carolina - (press release)

Fri, 01/16/2015 - 10:04 AM

For example, the Department of Energy (DOE) regularly announces loans, grants, and other opportunities for companies interested in solar projects. Because of the great deal of growth in the field of solar energy, the available funding, financing, and

Sunrise Energy Ventures Offers Solar Project Development in North Carolina - MENAFN.COM

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 06:22 AM

For example the Department of Energy (DOE) regularly announces loans grants and other opportunities for companies interested in solar projects. Because of the great deal of growth in the field of solar energy the available funding financing and lending 

2014 Clean Energy Investment Rebounds By 16% - CleanTechnica

Fri, 01/9/2015 - 05:45 PM

BNEF has published a comprehensive listing of its 2014 findings, including the number of solar projects which helped to make up the rebound in investment: This includes almost half the total of clean energy investment in 2014, with $149.6 billion  

The Green Life

Ideas for living well and doing good from Sierra magazine.

Hiking Guru Shares Perfect Paths

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 05:15 PM

Bob Manning at a trailheadRobert Manning is a hiking guru. At the University of Vermont, he researches and teaches park managment, which in practice means that he does a lot of hiking. With his wife, Martha, he cowrote the book Walking Distance (Oregon State University Press), which details 30 walks for any hiker's bucket list. Sierra spoke with Manning about his book, his experience with park management, and the best trail in the world.

The subtitle of your book is Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People. Who's "ordinary"? I mean, what's the face of the American hiker today?

I think it’s quite a cross-section, but the "ordinary people" part of the book is something that Martha and I feel strongly about. That’s the main purpose of the book, really: to get people walking more. Compared with people in a lot of the countries we’ve visited, not a lot of Americans are out there walking. With this book, we’re trying to do something about that, to get people to explore and create and ultimately protect these places.

A section of the Muir TrailYou have a strong connection to the John Muir Trail in particular, which you call one of your top 10 walks in the world.

I have a long and deep relationship with the John Muir Trail. When I graduated from college, it was 1968, and the Vietnam War was raging, and so I joined the Coast Guard. I enjoyed living in the city, but even more I enjoyed getting out to Yosemite. It really convinced me that I wanted something to do with the National Parks. That’s also how I became aware of John Muir and the Sierra Club. 

I always get a kick out of hiking above the tree line, of visiting places that I’d been seeing in Sierra Club calendars for years, thinking, "I really want to go there." Hiking over John Muir Pass and then on to Gifford Pinchot Pass -- the legacy of American conservation is just written into the landscape. To me, there’s no mountain range that’s more beautiful and friendly and engaging than the Sierras. That, combined with the Muir legacy, makes the trail my favorite hike.

Manning views the Colorado river nestled in the depths of the Grand CanyonYou’re an expert in park management. What’s your take on how the John Muir Trail is managed?

It has been around for a long time, so it’s well marked and well managed. One area where it excels is the permit system.

What makes a good permit system? The only innovation I’m aware of is the Grand Canyon's rafting permit system, which switched to a weighted lottery. I should also mention that you profile a hike along the Colorado River in your book.

The rafting waitlist was 20 years [laughs], and that can’t work. The John Muir Trail innovation is the simplicty of a single permit that cuts through two national parks and two U.S. Forest Service areas. It would be daunting if one had to get a permit from those four entities and then had to coordinate the dates. At Yosemite in general, they allocate things in a way that's easy for the user, even when it's not easy for them. 

Hiking the Camino de SantiagoSo nationally, we’ve got some good parks. What about internationally? In Walking Distance, you list a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as El Camino de Santiago, in northern Spain and parts of France.

UNESCO sites are very sucessfully managed. It’s the Parks Service ramped up on a global scale. For a country to get the status, they have to have a plan in place to manage it. And they take that very seriously. 

El Camino de Santiago is a Catholic pilgrimage, and yet there’s a mix of people that there.

The mix, the diversity of people, on the Camino is probably the most on any trail that I’ve walked. We met people from all over the world. Even more impressive, we came across people of all age groups. The religious significance is obviously important, but I’d say that a large portion of the people we encountered were not walking for religious reasons.

In your book, you focus on provencial hikes like the Camino and wilderness hikes like the Muir Trail. What about urban hiking? 

Martha and I have really begun to embrace urban walks. One that we did this summer is what’s called the River Thames Walk in England. It starts at the source in the Gloucestershire and goes right through London -- which takes three days -- and then on to the sea. Martha and I would like to include urban and suburban walks in a future book. We love, for example, that portion of the California Coastal Trail from Muir Beach south to Cliff House. We sort of christened it "the Golden Gate Way."

--interview by Cedar Attanasio / all photos courtesy of Robert Manning

You can learn more about Robert and Martha Manning, and 30 of their favorite hikes -- including Vermont's Long Trail, British Columbia's West Coast Trail, and Florida's Ocala Trail -- on their website.


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Defending The F-Word

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 02:59 PM

Fracking protest sign

The oil and gas industry dislikes the noun fracking, shorthand for hydraulic fracturing. It prefers frac, a literal reduction of fracture, but at this point it's probably out of luc. Last week, Merriam-Webster announced that it was including fracking in its 2014 Collegiate Dictionary (along with spoiler alert, hashtag, selfie, and turducken, among others). Frac hasn’t caught on outside the industry –- it seems vaguely French for starters -- and its verb form, fracing, would be totally confusing. (Some industry sources employ the even more tortured frac’ing.)

Blame it on those impish enviros, always eager to mock their opponents in as few words as possible on 36-by-48-inch protest signs. “No Fracking Way,” “Frack Off,” “Don’t Frack Our Future,” and “Stop Fracking Mother Earth” are just a few of the ways shale-oil opponents have happily turned the emotionally neutral term “hydraulic fracturing” into a dirty word.

It’s clever framing – put “fracking” on the list with “death tax” and “job creator” –- but environmentalists didn’t need to hire a political wordslinger to concoct a winningly charged term. Merriam-Webster traces industry use of the term “fracking” back to 1953.

Image by iStock/Joe_Potato.

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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Not Your Grandparents’ Road Trip: 5 Green Reasons to Visit National Parks

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 01:46 PM

Mount ranier

Wailing children, crotchety parents, sand and sunscreen in uncomfortable places… you get the idea. If this sounds familiar, chances are you’ve been on what feels like an eons-long summer trip with your family. But the National Park Service’s new, sustainable outlook on life may forever change the face of summer vacations, retrofitting the National Parks we know and love with some seriously awesome green technology.

With some of the vastest wilderness resources in the country, National Parks are feeling the brunt of climate change. Extreme flooding, serious drought, wildfires and glacial melt have meant that the severity of climate change is taken very seriously by the NPS. They are growing as a voice for climate change education and activism and are leading the way with green technology and infrastructure. On Earth Day of 2012 the NPS issued the Green Parks Plan (GPP), a comprehensive road map for change that emphasizes engaging visitors and communities in initiatives that mitigate climate change and educate about sustainability.

In the year since the plan’s debut, the National Parks have made impressive progress. Ninety-two percent of construction waste is diverted from landfills and greenhouse gas emissions are down thirteen percent. Here are five clean, green examples of why you should visit and support their efforts:

1.) The Pinnacles National Park West Side Visitors Center received a Platinum LEED certification (the highest available) for energy and water saving features—the building was even constructed using photovoltaic powers sources. Captain Planet would approve.

Sequoia Shuttle

2.) At Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, you can now take a sustainable ride through the forests—the surrounding communities have partnered with park services to implement hybrid and electric buses as transportation. Thirteen other parks have also received grants from the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program to make the switch from fuel hogging diesel vehicles to electric and hybrid technologies. Ah, smell that fresh, clean air! 

3.) Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks also spearheaded an initiative to start illuminating park attractions with solar power—the famous Crystal Cave is now completely lit by solar powered lights, which seriously lower energy consumption.

4.) On the East Coast, Assateague Island National Seashore is using solar power to generate light for the bathrooms, convenience store, campground office, ranger station, and parking lot.

5.) In Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Cottonwood Cove Marina Building on Lake Mohave is the first ever LEED certified floating building, and is highly energy efficient and sustainably constructed.

Cottonwood cove floating buildingJeffrey Olson, an NPS Spokesman, said “There were over 273 million visitors to the parks last year alone, and we hope our sustainable initiative will engage visitors, neighbors and communities and to ask them to participate for the betterment of national parks and our world.”

When asked why Sierra readers should make an effort to visit the parks, Olson responded “visitor participation can have big environmental benefits. We hope our commitment to sustainability spreads and that park visitors, Sierra readers included, find opportunities to take similar steps in their own lives”.

- Photos and video courtesy of the National Parks Service

MAREN HUNSBERGER is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a rising senior studying biology and environmental science at the College of William and Mary. She loves hiking, running, animals of all shapes and sizes, and wants to be David Attenborough when she grows up. 


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Save the Vacation No Vacation Nation: 7 Facts That Will Have You Packing Up Public Transportation Surges in Los Angeles

How Can I Save Fuel on Summer Vacation Trips?

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 01:11 PM

Mr GreenHey Mr. Green,

Our family will take a long road trip by car this summer. Now don’t get on your high horse, Mister Know-It-All, and command us to ride bikes to our destination. Here’s the deal: I don’t give a damn if burning fossil fuel causes global warming, but I do want to save money on gas. How can I accomplish this? —Neal, in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

Enjoy your trip, Neal, and keep the ol’ car radio tuned to your favorite right-wing global-warming-denial talk show so you can pick up some new rhetoric for blasting us climatological Cassandras.

There are a number of ways you can cut your fuel consumption. The first thing to do is to give your vehicle a tune-up if it hasn’t had one in awhile. Following are eight more ideas, with estimates how much they’ll save you, courtesy of the EPA and Car and Driver magazine. (The percentages have a big range because of wide variations in fuel efficiency and driving habits.)

1. Drive sensibly: Chill out, don’t stew about environmentalists or vent your road rage with jackrabbit starts, jamming on the brakes, changing speeds, etc. Aggressive and stupid driving can reduce fuel efficiency by anywhere from 5 percent to 33 percent.

2. Slow down: You can waste 30 percent or more of your fuel by speeding. For every 5 miles an hour you drive over 55, you use 6 percent more fuel.

3. Keep your cargo off the roof, if possible: Wind resistance can squander from 6 to 17 percent of your fuel on the highway.

4. Don’t idle excessively: Don’t leave the engine running when you pop into your favorite fast food joint. A minute of idling can cost 1–3 cents, depending on the type of  engine. You get zero mpg when idling.

5. Keep tires inflated: You can save up to 3 percent on fuel by keeping tires inflated to the recommended level.

6. Reduce air conditioning: You can waste up to 15 percent of your fuel by using the air conditioner. Although driving with windows open creates wind resistance and therefore reduces efficiency, the loss is considerably less than the loss from air conditioning. I once advised rolling up the windows when going over 45 mph. I hereby stand corrected.

7. Shed weight: You can waste 1 to 2 percent of fuel for every 100 extra pounds you carry. This includes human cargo. See my timely blog, “Does Obesity Waste Fuel?”  which cites a study indicating that moving overweight Americans in cars requires a billion more gallons of fuel per year than if we all weighed what health professionals recommend. 

8. Use cruise control except on steep hills, in heavy traffic, on roads that are winding or have sharp bends, or are slippery from rain, ice or snow.

If you want to go way, way deeper into saving gas, delve into "109 tips for Hypermiling.”  But beware, because some of this advice might lead to family squabbles, like “Let the most efficient driver drive,” or sound way too eco-trippy: “Drive like you ride a bike,” or be downright dangerous, like driving barefoot, coasting in neutral, turning off the engine to coast, or pushing your car instead of starting the engine when you’re only moving a short distance. - Bob Shildgen

Got a question? Ask Mr. Green!



How Does Less Gas Become More Emissions? 

How Much Energy to Make a New Car?

Does Obesity Waste Fuel? 


5 Blogs about Sierra Club History

Tue, 05/27/2014 - 10:56 AM

MuirAndRooseveltThe Sierra Club was founded by John Muir and his eco-conscious compatriots 122 years ago this week. Since then the club has sought to explore, enjoy and protect this amazing planet. Together we’ve protected millions of acres of wilderness, saved endangered species and kept natural resources clean. Muir would surely have been proud of the relentless efforts of our members.

To commemorate this anniversary week enjoy these Green Life posts about the Club’s legacy.

1. Women of the Sierra Club: Marion Randall Parsons - A writer, artist, photographer, mountaineer and nature enthusiast, Parsons was a force to be reckoned with. Read all about the first lady to be elected onto our board of directors.

2. Original Beards of the Sierra Club - Beards have come back into fashion, but our earliest members were masters of this style long ago. Take a look at some of our favorite facial hair.

3. Women of the Sierra Club: Allison Chin - After working with an Inner CIty Outings group, Chin stepped up her involvement and eventually became the first board president of color. Learn more about her thoughts on the outdoors, diversity and civil disobedience. 

RetroHikingFashions4.Retro Hiking Style - Early Sierra Club ladies wore dresses and bloomers on outdoor club trips. Check out these fabulous photos from 1896 to 1946.  

5. Chiura Obata and his Sierra Legacy - After Obata was released from the interment camps he took part in Sierra High Club trips, sharing his technique with other clubbers on the trail. The painter left behind inspirational art and a story of resilience.


- top image courtesy of the Library of Congress

- bottom image by Joseph N. Leconte

HS_Bianca_BlogBIANCA 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.



Environmental Media Draws Kids into the Green Movement

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 01:38 PM

Some act of vision
When you think of sustainability, chances are that young adult novels and comic books are not the first things to come to mind. But getting kids to read new narratives may be the thing that piques their interest in the world's well being. Earth-conscious novels have a long and illustrious history, from Edward Abbey's 1975 The Monkey Wrench Gang to Carl Hiaasen's 2002 Hoot. The newest wave of YA fiction is addressing the reality of contemporary teen life while honing in on green issues, like fracking and environmental justice (you can find a great list here).

Lori Ann Stephens’ new novel Some Act of Vision, for example, is a fast-paced read with a sci-fi lens. It has political and environmental intrigue, teen drama, vivid characters, and a splash of romance—it’s currently a finalist for the National Reader’s Choice Awards in the YA category. Stephens’ novel centers around a young protagonist whose life is disrupted when fracking-induced earthquakes rip her town apart. The geological disturbance destroys a nearby chemical plant, which releases a compound that has a, shall we say, interesting effect on her and her family (that's where the sci-fi comes in--no spoilers here!). Stephens says she was thinking of her own teenage son when she heard a piece about fracking on NPR. She was listening to the piece in her car when it suddenly hit her that he, and many young people his age, probably had no idea what was going on with the fracking industry in their home state of Texas.

She wanted to write a novel with elements that would appeal to young readers while sparking curiosity in real-world issues. Stephens hopes the novel will not only make young people more aware of fracking, but get them to look into it further to understand the reality of the situation. She says “Being aware and educating themselves about the reality of the situation is the first step." When she adds that "youth already feel like their world is falling apart," she's admitting that including environmental catastrophe in her novel felt like a bit of a risk. But despite the seriousness of the subject matter, Stephens hopes readers will see themselves in her protagonist and feel more empowered to explore the issues and take action on their own.

Mayah's lot

The comic book world is also taking a turn for the green and the visual nature of this medium makes it very compelling, especially for younger readers. Comics like Mayah's Lot, about a young girl's fight to keep her inner city community from being exploited by an irresponsible corporation, are created to be both entertaining and educational. The genre has become increasingly popular in the last decade or so, grabbing the attention of educators and students alike. Rebecca Bratspies, one of the authors of the comic, is also the founder of the Center for Urban Environmental Reform. She writes that the main goal comics like Mayah's Lot, is to reach "non-traditional audiences with an environmental justice message." 

Hop on the brain train to get your kids connected to the environmental issues outside their tween bubble.




- Photos coutesy of Lori Ann Stephens and Charlie LaGreca & Rebecca Bratspies, respectively

--Maren Hunsberger is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a rising senior studying biology and environmental science at the College of William and Mary. She loves hiking, running, animals of all shapes and sizes, and wants to be David Attenborough when she grows up. 


Read More:

Peoms to Inspire Outdoor Adventures

Mothers of the Movement: Rachel Carson and Her Sisters

Book Review: EarthArt


Environmental Media Draws Teens into the Green Movement

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 10:26 AM

Some act of visionWhen you think of sustainability, chances are that young adult novels and comic books are not the first things to come to mind. But getting kids to read new narratives may be the thing that piques their interest in the world's well-being. The green novel for adults is nothing new (Edward Abbey’s 1975 The Monkey Wrench Gang), and the earth-conscious read for kids and teens has been rapidly evolving (Carl Hiaasen’s 2002 Hoot). The hyper-popular YA dystopian novel is even incorporating elements of eco-awareness: from the coal mines of The Hunger Games’ District 12 to the desolate wasteland outside the walls of the Divergent series, environmental devastation is taking up more space in young adult literature. The newest wave of YA fiction is breaking away from the dystopia and focusing on the reality of the present, addressing green issues like fracking and environmental justice while keeping the focus on teen life.

Lori Ann Stephens’ new novel Some Act of Vision, for example, is a fast-paced read with a sci-fi lens. Currently a finalist for the National Reader’s Choice Awards in the YA category, Stephens’ novel centers around a young ballerina whose life is disrupted when fracking-induced earthquakes rip her town apart on the eve of her big debut. The geological disturbance destroys a nearby chemical plant, which releases a compound that has a, shall we say, interesting effect on her (that's where the sci-fi comes in--no spoilers here!). The political intrigue that follows the disaster is thrilling, and the splash of first romance makes balances out the whole book perfectly.

Stephens says she was listening to a piece on NPR about fracking when she thought of the premise for the novel. It hit her that her teenage son, and many young people his age, probably had no idea what was going on with the fracking industry in their home state of Texas—things like geological instability and water pollution so bad residents could light their tap water on fire. “The first step” she says in reference to eco-awareness, “is being aware and educating [yourself] about the reality of the situation.” She admits that including environmental catastrophe in her novel felt like a bit of a risk, adding that “youth already feel like their world is falling apart”. But despite the seriousness of the subject matter, Stephens hopes readers will see themselves in her protagonist and feel more empowered to engage with their environment and take part in activism on their own.

Mayah's lotThe comic book world is also taking a turn for the green. Like young adult novels, the material is engaging and colorful, with characters so vivid you feel like you could reach out and touch them. Comics like Mayah's Lot, about a young girl's fight to keep her inner city community from being exploited by a corporation that wants to dump toxic waste in an empty lot where she’s growing a garden, showcase teen heroes bringing people together to fight for the good of the city. Rebecca Bratspies is one of the authors of the comic (along with Charlie La Greca), and is also the founder of the Center for Urban Environmental Reform.

The main goal of comics like Mayah’s Lot and YA novels like Some Act of Vision is to reach young people with the messages they may be accustomed to tuning out. As part of a narrative, environmental issues become personal and tangible for teens, ultimately using fiction to deepen their awareness of the real world around them.



-Photos courtesy of Lori Ann Stephens and Charlie La Greca & Rebecca Bratspies, respectively

MAREN HUNSBERGER is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a rising senior studying biology and environmental science at the College of William and Mary. She loves hiking, running, animals of all shapes and sizes, and wants to be David Attenborough when she grows up. 

Read More

Mothers of the Movement: Rachel Carson and Her Sisters Books For Young Environmentalists Eco-Activities for Parents and Kids



Mothers of the Movement: Rachel Carson and Her Sisters

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 04:54 PM

Martha_maxwell Martha Maxwell with her two favorite things.

You may have heard of Rachel Carson, but have you heard the story of Martha Maxwell?  Maxwell married a miner 20 years her senior and followed him through the west, panning for gold.  When their claim was jumped by a German taxidermist she was inspired to pursue taxidermy and began shooting and stuffing animals on her own, building a large collection of species, from foxes to bighorn sheep, which she displayed at museums around the country.  A staunch vegetarian she addressed those who would call her a hypocrite by asking, “Which is the more cruel? To kill to eat? Or to kill to immortalize?”

Maxwell is just one of many inspiring women profiled in Robert Musil’s book Rachel Carson and Her Sisters. Musil had several goals in writing this book. One was to contextualize Silent Spring as the culmination Musil cover of decades of work by other women in science, who were consistently overlooked, underappreciated and dismissed by their male peers and institutions.

These ladies ranged from Victorian garden observers to die-hard chemists and marine biologists. “They are tied together by a fierce sense of activism” and beautiful writing, says Musil. Compelling writers like Rachel Carson and Terry Tempest Williams bred curiosity and bridged the civilian-scientist gap by presenting scientific evidence in a ‘readable’ format. Indeed, their writing is what drew Musil in.  He too wants “people to connect with science in an approachable way.” 

These women were not writing for the sake of writing, they all had political motivations.

Richards_telescope Ellen Richards and her mentor Maria Mitchell.

One of Musil's most intriguing subjects is Ellen Swallow Richards, the first woman admitted to MIT. She quickly established herself in chemistry and focused on sanitation.  Not one to mince words, she accused the American Public Health Association of murder for their shoddy upkeep of Boston Public Schools, which until then, had no ventilation or clean toilets. This speech rendered her unemployable, but she continued to teach chemistry and lobby for better sanitation in schools despite being blacklisted.

Women like Richards and Maxwell shattered the idea of the lady as a ‘shrinking violet.' Their dogged activism paved the way for Carson’s crusade against pesticides, argues Musil. Carson’s work has opened the doors for countless other female environmental activists. 

Rachel Carson and Her Sisters is a Rutgers University Press publication and is available on bookshelves and as an ebook now.


--top image courtesy of The Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, the second courtesy of Robert Musil and the third courtesy of The Vassar College Observatory

HS_Caitlin_BlogCaitlin Kauffman is an editorial intern at Sierra. She is a sea kayak and hiking guide in the Bay Area and the Greater Yellowstone area. She enjoys good eye contact and elk burgers.


Read More:

How Rachel Carson are You?

"Silent Spring"--Told in Vanity License Plates

Women of the Sierra Club: Marion Randall Parsons


No Vacation Nation: 7 Facts That Will Have You Packing Up

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 03:18 PM

Cathedral LakeWhen was the last time you took a vacation? How long did it last? These are among the important questions explored in the recent short film The Great Vacation Squeeze, written and directed by John de Graaf. De Graaf has explored the differences in vacation and leisure time between the US and Europe for years, and in 2002 he co-founded the organization Take Back Your Time “to point out the problems connected with overwork in America.”

Supported by Sierra Club Productions, this film is one of his latest projects that examines just how stark these differences are and hopes to inspire people to do something to change it. De Graaf believes that the idea of vacation and leisure is strongly intertwined with the Sierra Club’s mission statement.

“The Sierra Club's purpose is enjoying, exploring, and protecting the natural world, and it's hard to enjoy it or explore it when you don't have any time off. It also leaves you less likely to want to protect it,” he said. “As a member I think it important that the club not forget its commitment to enjoying and exploring nature.”

Which of these facts from the film will convince you it's about time for paid vacations?

Time to catch up. The US is the only wealthy country without paid vacation time, which may be an underlying cause of a whole host of issues, including stress and overwork. “Our lack of policy [mandating paid vacations] contributes to serious health problems, weakens family connections, and [reduces] the opportunity for all of us to get out in the natural world, especially children,” de Graaf said.

Strong ties. “It was John Muir, key founder of the Sierra Club, who, as I point out in the film, was the first American to advocate a paid vacation law, way back in 1876,” de Graaf said. Muir called for a law of rest that would give time off each year for people to reconnect with nature. The idea lived on in the early 20th century when President William Howard Taft suggested of a three-month long vacation for every worker.

So close, yet so far. During the Great Depression, the Labor Department proposed a two-week paid vacation law, but it failed due to business opposition. Still, two-week trips were common in America at this time, whereas they’ve now dwindled into near oblivion.

Practice what we preach. Seventy-three percent of Americans say vacations help recharge their batteries, but fewer actually take this time. Of all working Americans, 28% receive no paid vacation time and 24% get only one week or less.

Vacations are win-win. “They do wonders for us in so many ways, as every other country understands, and they are actually helpful to business productivity and creativity as well,” de Graaf said. On an individual level, vacations can be healing in that they give us relief from stressors of daily life. Time off also promotes reflection. “In idleness there is the opportunity for contemplation, there is the opportunity for soul-searching, and for seeing, for really truly, clearly seeing, what’s around us,” says Yosemite Park Ranger Shelton Johnson in the film.

Europeans have it better. On average, Europeans live longer and are less likely to suffer from chronic illness after age 50, even though they spend less on health care. Having long, paid vacation time may have something to do with this. It's known that taking breaks from work greatly reduces stress and even improves productivity. 

It’s about justice. “Most low-income Americans never have the opportunity and don't even get paid vacations,” de Graaf said. Many believe that a law mandating paid vacations would eliminate this inequality and ultimately benefit all Americans.

If you’re interested in organizing a viewing with your community, school, or local Sierra Club chapter, you can reach de Graaf at

--Image by David Fox, used with permission of John de Graaf

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.



Save the Vacation

Family Vacations: The Good, the Bad, the Eco-Friendly

Holy Green Vacation!


A Supercell is Born

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 11:40 AM

While you were watching a CGI Godzilla emerge from the Pacific this weekend, these stormchasers were capturing the birth of a monster storm (no special effects required).

Thanks to the time-lapse video made by Basehunters, we can see this supercell thunderstorm taking shape over Newcastle, Wyoming.  

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.



Pointing the way to a clean energy future.

2014 Grassroots Anti-Coal Movements To Watch

Thu, 12/4/2014 - 06:59 AM

MBC cover screenshotWherever there are coal mines, coal shipping ports, and power plants around the globe, local communities are fighting back against deadly pollution and economic destruction. Today, the Sierra Club released our fourth annual report on some of the world’s major, ongoing grassroots coal fights around the world. Pitted against unimaginable wealth and power and too often facing violence and intimidation, these are the people that refuse to be silent.

This year, the danger coal poses to local communities has never been more apparent.

In January, a chemical used to wash coal was leaked into the water supply in West Virginia, causing drinking water to be shut off to over 300,000 Americans across the state. Just weeks later, a coal ash dam pond failed in North Carolina, dumping up to 82,000 tons of toxic material into the Dan River, and again, forcing the shut off of local drinking water. In February, a fire broke out in Australia’s Hazelwood mine, which would last for 45 days and force residents of the nearby town of Morwell to endure weeks of smoke laden with dangerous materials. In May, 301 miners were killed in an explosion in Soma, Turkey.

These are just a few of the reports that grabbed international attention in the past year. What was less reported though were the daily fights in these locations and other places around the world as affected communities worked to protect their air, their land, their water, and their health. Here are their stories.

In September, the Indian Supreme Court cancelled almost all the coal blocks that would be life threatening to several communities in the Madhya Pradesh region of India. Following intensive local campaigning, even the Mahan forest coal block -- which would threaten the livelihoods of over 50,000 people -- was cancelled. Local communities continue to fight against re-allocation of these coal blocks.

Similarly, the island of Palawan in the Philippines also faces the threat of having two coal-fired power plants built in the region. A state university and a catholic church are leading the fight against the coal industry in Palawan. A huge network of anti-coal activists in Krabi, Thailand, are fighting against a planned 870-megawatt coal-fired power plant. Over the past few months, non-profit organizations, community groups, research scientists, and local fisherman have all come together and denounced the destructive power plant project. Finally, the people of Kosovo, along with several organizations, are pressuring the government to ensure clean energy future free from dependency on dirty lignite coal. This year, the government of Kosovo and the World Bank were pressured to begin the first steps at assessing the environmental and social impacts of the Kosovo Power Plant.

These communities are proving that all the wealth and power of the coal industry is still not enough to silence the dedicated people who are standing up for their right to breathe clean air, drink uncontaminated water, and live on safe land. They will not give up, and every year more people from around the world join in the fight.

You can check out our report here.

-- Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International Climate Program, and Neha Mathew, Executive Coordinator, Beyond Coal Campaign


Holiday Season Brings Big Developments For International Coal Financing

Tue, 12/2/2014 - 12:44 PM

Coal picWhile we were celebrating the start of the holiday season last week, there were a lot of big developments around the world to be thankful for, and a few to be wary of.

As the world turns its eyes to Lima for the COP20 climate negotiations, which kicked off on Monday, France decided it was not going to wait until next year’s negotiations in Paris to show leadership. President Francois Hollande announced an end to export credit financing for coal, making France the latest domino to fall as countries and banks commit to ending support for this deadly fossil fuel, whose pollution kills up to 100,000 people in India and 250,000 people in China every year. With policies in place at the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Nordic countries, and the Netherlands, the pressure is mounting on the rest of the world’s major economies comprising the UN’s Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to make a commitment before Paris.

But while France is stepping up, Japan is once again falling behind. It appears Japan has not learned its lesson from the fight over the Batang coal plant in Central Java, Indonesia. There, strong local opposition to this plant backed by the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) has delayed construction over two years as residents refuse to sell their land as they protest the project. Even still, both JBIC and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are reported as possible financiers of Sumitomo Corporation’s proposed 4,000 MW coal-fired power plant in Andhra Pradesh, India. Reports from the ground indicate Baruva village is under consideration as a possible site, despite the fact it is located near Sompeta -- the village that “launched” the anti-coal movement in India when over 3,000 people rose up to stop a coal plant. A resulting crackdown by police and security forces left three community members dead yet stiffened the resistance of citizens who are standing up to coal -- meaning Japanese investors may be picking another fight they will have trouble winning.

But Japanese institutions aren’t just supporting coal plants that threaten the land, air and water of communities in India and Indonesia; the nation is attempting to claim that these projects actually benefit the climate. Around $1 billion that Japan has pledged under a U.N. initiative to help developing countries fight global warming has actually gone to support Japanese coal-fired power plants in Indonesia, despite the fact that coal is the most carbon intensive fuel in the world. U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres has said that such unabated coal projects have "no room in the future energy system.” But the Japanese government isn’t just denying any wrongdoing - it’s denying justice to the people in villages like those in Cirebon who have lost their livelihoods to these coal projects.

Perhaps most disappointing, though, is the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) and its Chairman Fred Hochberg, which appear ready to flout President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and its pledge to end financing for overseas coal.

It has been over two years since media reports linked Ex-Im to Adani’s plans to open up Australia’s Galilee Basin to coal mining. Its an effort that would require shipping coal by rail to the coast, and dredging and dumping waste in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage site in order to expand ports and channels for shipping the coal to India. Sound absurd? You’re not the only one that thinks so. Citibank, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase have all publicly stated they will not finance the project due to poor economics and environmental concerns surrounding the plan.

Ex-Im? Not so much.

This taxpayer-backed bank has apparently renewed its interested in the project. Now that the State Bank of India (SBI) is considering financing a $1 billion loan to Adani, new reports are again tieing the U.S. government institution to the proposed mining project.  The SBI loan is already raising allegations of crony capitalism, given the strong connection between the Adanis and new Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the objections of Indian MPs who have said the project is not viable.

Of course, Ex-Im has repeatedly shown it has no problem financing projects connected to massive human rights and environmental violations -- and this wouldn’t even be the first time it supported a project in the Great Barrier Reef plagued by legal controversies.

But Japan and Ex-Im are swimming against the tide. Other news coming out last week shows coal is on its way out. In addition to France’s commitment to end financing for overseas coal, KLP -- Norway’s largest pension fund manager with assets close to $70 billion --  announced it was divesting from 27 coal companies. At the same time, Germany’s largest utility, E.ON, announced plans to sell off its coal and gas units to focus on renewables.

While Japan and Ex-Im are considering pouring even more money into a coal industry that’s on its last legs, all the signs show the smart money is going toward renewables. That’s something to be thankful for.

-- Justin Guay, Associate Director, International Climate Program, and Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International Climate Program


Grassroots Activists Leading The Fight For A Nuclear Free Future

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 11:11 AM

Nukes picSusan Corbett, team leader of the Sierra Club Nuclear Free Campaign, has been a leader in anti-nuclear
activism since the 1970’s. Growing up in South Carolina, the state with the highest dependence on nuclear energy in the US, she was drawn into the anti-nuclear movement when a nuclear plant was built 10 miles from her childhood home.

This past weekend, Corbett joined over 70 other leaders in the anti-nuclear movement, representing over 30 U.S. states, Canada and Japan for The Summit for a Nuclear Free Future in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The Sierra Club’s Nuclear Free Campaign was there in force, along with groups from around the country committed to ending nuclear power.

These leaders met and discussed ending nuclear power, dealing properly with radioactive waste, fighting nuclear industry attacks on clean energy, getting to a nuclear free and carbon free future, and many other nuclear related topics.

“Everyone was so thrilled to be there. We had a packed audience”  said Corbett, noting that at the conclusion of the summit “all participants were saturated with information and willing to fight” against nuclear power.

When asked why about the anti-nuclear movement is important now, Corbett explained that nuclear power is not safe -- with a poor track record made worse by the recent Fukushima disaster.

Furthermore, Corbett notes that “without government subsidies and support for nuclear, it would be too expensive." Nuclear energy “would be priced out of the market without the government propping up the nuclear industry.”

Corbett notes that nuclear energy production creates a host of other problems, like radiation and toxic waste, which are harmful to our environment, our wildlife, and our families. Additionally, nuclear by-products are “harmful and long-lived”.

“We can barely keep a trash container from leaking for 50 years,” said Corbett. “Byproducts can’t be safely isolated for 10,000+ years.”

The activists at the Summit for a Nuclear Free Future are driven by the belief that nuclear energy’s hazardous pollution far outweighs any benefits - and that’s the message they took to Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on two lobby days following their conference.

Corbett met with her Senator Tim Scott, while other participants targeted the EPA, including members of the Navajo tribe who took up the issue of nuclear energy on Native American lands including the Yucca Mountain Waste Repository and uranium mines. Others told the EPA that a proposed increase in what is deemed “acceptable” doses of radiation should be scrapped.

“There is no acceptable level of radiation,” notes Corbett.  “It is harmful to everyone at any level.”

The lobbying push is more important than ever. With a new Congress taking power in January, fears are rising that the House and Senate will attempt to kick start the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and fail to clean up nearly 10,000 uranium mines on Native American lands.

Corbett said that’s why the planning that happened at The Summit for a Nuclear Free Future is so important. Anti-nuclear activists like Corbett and many others are engaged and ready to fight -- armed with the hope for a clean energy future free of dangerous, expensive nuclear energy.

For more information, check out or the facebook

--Maggie Dunham Jordahl, Sierra Club Media Intern


The World’s First Rural Feed-In Tariff?

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 07:36 AM


How do we move clean energy access beyond just a light bulb?

With millions of dollars in new investment capping a record year for beyond the grid solar markets, that’s the question many are now asking. This record investment is building markets, starting with pico solar products like lanterns, from the bottom up. But just over the horizon lies much larger solar home systems and the next big opportunity capable of powering whole communities -- mini-grids.

One way to get us from here to mini-grids is a novel new concept: rural feed-in tariffs, or RFITs for short.  

What an RFIT does is adapt the principles that made feed-in tariffs (FITs) wildly successful in Germany and other parts of the world -- including certainty for investors and early stage support for nascent clean energy markets -- to a radically different operating environment. That’s because policy making beyond the grid requires a whole new approach steeped in the realities of the communities it’s attempting to serve. That’s how you tame the wild west of beyond the grid policymaking.

So what exactly is an RFIT? Here’s a checklist:

Guaranteed Minimum Revenue: An RFIT provides a targeted payment per household ‘connected’ to either a large solar home system or a village power/micro-grid  installation. This guaranteed revenue will make projects bankable and investable, triggering much needed capital investment without the need for capital cost subsidies.

Target Energy Services, Not Kilowatts: An RFIT guarantees a minimum level of energy service delivery -- one set by policymakers above what the private market is currently delivering. That means an RFIT adheres to the number one rule in beyond the grid markets: energy efficiency unlocks clean energy for low-income populations by prioritizing service delivery, not kilowatt hours.

Sunset Payments Over Time: An RFIT sunsets over time with volumetric reductions (as did the much ballyhooed California Solar Initiative).

All of which is well and good, but are there any RFITs actually in use?

Interestingly enough, yes. The World Bank’s Lighting Africa program is currently piloting such an approach with mini-grids in Mali. Details are still not forthcoming, and the Bank has not currently labeled the program an RFIT, but conversations with Bank staff suggest all the aspects of an RFIT are present. This means Light Africa could well be the world’s first RFIT.

At the same time, many of the concepts integral for RFITs have been in place in the world’s most wildly successful beyond the grid solar market for years: Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, their solar program just so happens to be doubling in size and introducing support for mini-grids and mobile money. More importantly, there are new initiatives being announced all the time, including the Rockefeller foundation’s $100 million, 1,000 mini-grids in India (where Prime Minister Modi has promised solar for all by 2019).

With sky high bills for subsidizing dirty kerosene already in the crosshairs in certain countries, funds for potential RFITs need not be found, only redirected to support all this activity. And to be clear, there is the full expectation households will pay for these services given the large amounts they already pay for dirty, expensive forms of energy like kerosene. This means RFIT revenue may never be needed. But the payments can still help unlock these markets by covering the risk of default by households while helping to get more services to low-income communities than they could otherwise afford themselves.

All of this means governments need to make a choice to use smarter, better targeted, and ultimately cheaper support for rural electrification. That’s why it’s important for policymakers interested in expanding clean energy access to become intimately familiar with what an RFIT is. Because it just may help unlock clean energy for all.

-- Justin Guay, Associate Director, International Climate Program


Beyond-the-Grid Is Not Just About Light, It’s About Resiliency

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 11:14 AM

image from Photo courtesy of Prudhvi Mitra

At times when the grid fails, distributed generation offers a way to keep the lights on -- not only in areas beyond the reach of the grid but in cities as well.

People often highlight the cost-effectiveness and rapidity of deploying beyond-the-grid solar solutions. As the story goes, beyond-the-grid solar companies are providing power to rural places in developing countries where the grid hasn’t yet reached and at a lower cost than other available options. But distributed generation has other important benefits: it can offer more reliability than a centralized grid, too.  

Following Superstorm Sandy, which pummeled the eastern seaboard of the United States and the Caribbean and left 8.1 million homes without power, the term “grid resiliency” gained new popularity as utilities and regulators scrambled to think about how to modernize the grid to avoid blackouts in places following superstorms of the future.  

Modernizing the grid wasn’t the only lesson from Superstorm Sandy, though; the reliability of distributed generation solutions was revealed as well.  As Stephen Lacey wrote about in Greentech Media’s e-book, Resiliency: How Superstorm Sandy Changed America’s Grid:  

 “But the [centralized electricity] system didn’t fail for everyone. Scattered throughout the ruin,    tiny pockets of resiliency formed -- proving that smaller, cleaner, distributed technologies can be a  powerful defense against crises on the grid.”

As Lacey’s report shows, existing hybrid-solar storage systems provided power in some devastated areas of New York and New Jersey, and off-grid solar generators provided relief to many people without power as part of relief efforts.     

The resiliency of communities using distributed generation has been proven after other storms as well. This is true both in major cities and in rural areas beyond the reach of the grid.   

A recent example of this was highlighted by Kalluri Bhanumathi, whose coastal city of Visakhapatnam in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh was hit hard by last month’s tropical Cyclone Hudhud.  As Bhanumathi explained, the cyclone brought down trees, telephone poles, and buildings in her city, and left the city without power for a week. This affected other basic services such as water supply and communications as well.

However, Bhanumathi’s family has a 5-kilowatt solar power generation system which continued providing power during and after Cyclone Hudhud. The fact that Bhanumathi’s solar system remained intact meant that her household could maintain their own supply of clean water and cooked food. They had greater resilience to the storm than the rest of the city.      

Emergency responses by the international community to disasters increasingly include bringing beyond-the-grid solar products to disaster-impacted areas. For example, solar streetlamps were brought into tent camps to enhance safety following the massive earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, and solar lamps were also distributed to thousands of families in the Philippines as part of the relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).  

While disaster relief efforts are extremely important, we should see more beyond-the-grid solar home systems and lanterns as part of disaster preparedness and resilience-building efforts, rather than simply as a reaction to disasters.  Distributed generation is more resilient in the face of storms like Superstorm Sandy, Cyclone Hudhud, and Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).  And while distributed generation has provided niche resiliency for communities hit by major storms, it can form the backbone of power systems for people living beyond the reach of the grid.

As we move into a stormier world, distributed solar can keep people safer -- while keeping the lights on. 

Do you have stories about the impact of beyond-the-grid sources of energy that weathered storms?  If so, please leave them in the comments, email me, or tweet at me (@VrindaManglik).   

--Vrinda Manglik, Associate Campaign Representative, International Clean Energy Access


Despite Crackdown, Indian Courts Side With Public Health, Against Coal

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 07:40 AM

image from

In a huge victory for local communities, public health, and the rule of law, yet another enormous proposed coal plant has been denied clearance in India.

In another major setback for the expansion of the coal industry, a panel of judges rejected the environmental clearance (EC) for the 3,600-megawatt IL&FS coal-fired power plant in Tamil Nadu, India. The judges upheld an appeal from local villagers determined to halt the project over concerns about water and air pollution in an already critically polluted area. These are the same concerns that were hastily ignored by the project’s backers -- who, rather than conducting a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA),  haphazardly slapped one together in a mere two weeks.

Luckily for these villagers, the Indian court system is robust.

The information provided by the project’s backers was almost totally absent, including a lack of any baseline data, a limited scope for the study area -- where at least 45 industrial projects are already contributing to a critically polluted area -- and the use of the 2005 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (a convenient year for which standards don’t exist).  Given the missing information, the court had no choice but to deny clearance.

But while the court’s decision may seem like an easy one, consider the political context in which it took place. Since taking office,  India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to do everything in his power to expand the coal industry from reopening mines closed by the Indian Supreme Court, to relaxing environmental rules, to streamlining and speeding up environmental clearances -- all of this while conducting a targeted witch hunt of local and international environmental and public health organizations for daring to question the wisdom of coal expansion.

But this week’s court decision shows that India’s democracy is indeed robust. The system of checks and balances, of which the courts are a part, is capable of surviving harsh political environments and delivering justice. Neither the whims of new governments, nor powerful corporations, can change that -- though try they might.

Most importantly, it shows that the courts are responsive to local resistance, a stance that will go a long way in boosting the morale of communities challenging dirty energy.

-- Sierra Club International Climate Program


Our Solar System Kept Us In Orbit Despite The Hudhud’s Wrath

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 11:44 AM

. All photos courtesy of Prudhvi Mitra

Kalluri Bhanumathi, Director of the Dhaatri Resource Centre for Women and Children, penned this guest op-ed.

One of the greenest cities of India, known for its serene landscapes along the waves of the Bay of Bengal, was ripped apart by  the violent cyclone called Hudhud recently.

Visakhapatnam, a peaceful coastal city in Andhra Pradesh located on the eastern coast of India between the sea and the Eastern Ghats mountain stretch, shook under the 200 km/h wind speeds of Hudhud cyclone on the 12th of October this year. Within a few hours, the insanity of the cyclone devastated the Hudhud 2 region, tearing down the entire tree cover and bringing down huge trees dating back several decades. Nature’s anger spared neither itself nor man-made structures leaving buildings that came crashing down to their bare frames and brought down most of the electric poles, enveloping the district in complete
darkness and powerlessness.

The might of the winds that uprooted all the trees and crops left no shelter for the birds or animals, washing them away mercilessly into the whirlwind waters. An unprepared human population had to simply watch, helplessly waiting for the savage fury to subside and then live through weeks without power or water or any basic amenities. While the well-informed government did all it could to prevent the loss of human life and swung into disaster preparedness work by evacuating vulnerable communities from the coast and widely warning people to remain in safety, it could not also stop the devastation that was beyond human intervention. Hudhud 3So severe was the destruction that it was impossible for the government to bring back order into the region for several weeks, given the extent of damages on all fronts.

Frantically working around the clock to restore normalcy, the government and the public have gotten
together to clear the roads and restore basic services. Yet for an entire week, the city of Visakhapatnam remained in darkness as it was impossible to put back the brutally damaged power transmission systems with electric poles sprawled in every street corner of the city.

Without power, all the other basic services were badly affected as supplying water to the multi-storied housing colonies and the slums that were submerged in the flooded city was impossible. Most people had not prepared themselves for a disaster of this proportion and faced severe problems accessing drinking water and essential commodities. Communication networks were completely destroyed, and physical access in most places around the city was  difficult due to roads being blocked with huge trees and electric poles. Manpower and machinery that came pouring in from different states to help with the restoration work was no match for the extent of damage caused by the cyclone.

Hudhud 5

Amidst this havoc, we, a small community tucked behind the hills of Visakhapatnam, lived through the devastation and survived even when marooned from the rest of the world. Our farm and all its humble structures made from bamboo, grass, tiles, and other local material stood the test of nature’s fury. While they put up a resistance for a most part of the cyclone, they finally gave way with the thatched roof and tiled structures getting blown off by the winds, leaving us hanging on to each other under one leaking roof. Most of the trees - some more than 50 years old - all had to bow down to the might of Hudhud. The ten acres of mango, coconut, tamarind, cashew, and diverse other trees were uprooted and crashed to the ground and so were all our crops. Hudhud 4

The only single structure that proudly survived intact and remained our life line was the solar system -
our recently fulfilled dream of several years to be a self-reliant community.

A five kilowatt power generation system has been helping us slowly withdraw our dependence on the main grid and has enabled us to meet most of our energy needs for our domestic and office uses. The
moment the rains stopped and the sun peeped out, or rather plunged out of the sky, blazing the earth which had no tree shade, our solar system got into the act of giving us power. While all around us, the world stood in darkness, we were blessed by the shining sun giving us electricity and protecting us from facing any food or water crisis.  On our farm, we were able to light our houses at night, pump up the ground water to meet all our domestic water needs, and charge our basic communication systems.

Hudhud 6This ray of light through the eerie nights of darkness around us gave us and our cattle a sense of security and safety. We were spared the ordeal that the city had to face for lack of basic amenities after the
cyclone. As we write this piece, we are still totally supported by our solar power as the government machinery has not yet been able to reach our suburban villages to restore the power lines or the communication systems.

Thanks to our own alternate energy system, we were to have sufficient water, good, hot cooked food, and enough water to bathe every day - a luxury that none could afford in the rest of the city for an entire week. It is a learning experience and blessing, both how small, self-reliant, and decentralized systems that create minimum stress on the environment can come to our rescue not only in normal times but in times of serious Hudhuds.  

Hudhud 7


Move Over World Bank: Bilateral Institutions Lead Investment Beyond the Grid

Thu, 11/6/2014 - 11:39 AM

image from Photo courtesy of GSMA

While investments are continuing to flow into beyond the grid clean energy markets, most public institutions are missing in action.

The Sierra Club and Oil Change International recently released an assessment of multilateral development banks’ (MDBs) investment beyond the grid, and the findings aren’t good. MDBs -- including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and African Development Bank -- haven’t been ponying up as much financing as they should for the sector. Instead, their investment is heavily skewed toward grid extension and polluting power plants. That’s a big problem because the slow process of extending the grid will leave many people without power for years or even decades to come.

As disappointing as lack of beyond the grid support from MDBs is, a different set of public actors are stepping up in their absence: bilateral institutions. Programs such as USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s (OPIC) U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative (ACEF) are building impressive pipelines of companies serving populations beyond the grid. With millions of dollars in grants to catalyze early stage clean energy companies, these bilateral institutions are already having a big effect.

And U.S. agencies aren’t the only ones stepping up.  

GSMA, Group Speciale Mobile Association -- the industry association for mobile operators -- just announced £6 million (U.S. $9.6 million) in funding for these clean energy markets with support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), to expand support for the Mobile for Development Utilities program. The program, previously branded as the Mobile Enabled Community Services program, provides support to projects that leverage mobile technologies to deliver important services related to water, sanitation, and energy.  

The exciting thing about GSMA’s approach is that it seeks to piggyback on the most successful leapfrog technology to date: the mobile phone. Instead of extending telephone landlines, the developing world has turned to mobile phones to meet their demands.

In turn, this technology is already unlocking distributed solar with mobile-enabled money transfer platforms through machine-to-machine (M2M) devices and helping to change how utilities and basic services are delivered in developing countries. It is this combination of mobile phones, mobile money, and distributed solar that is unlocking rapid pay-as-you-go (PAYG) growth. This is especially true of countries in East Africa, but is now steadily expanding to new markets (for a case in point, see the dramatic growth of bKash in Bangladesh).     

image from Advertisement for bKash, Bangladesh’s leading provider of mobile financial services.

With the new funding, GSMA is inviting applications for seed grants (up to £150,000 in funding), market validation grants (up to £300,000 in funding), and utilities partnership grants (up to £300,000 in funding). The application process has two stages; the first step is submitting a Concept Note by December 7, 2014 following the online instructions.  

To understand why we are so enthusiastic about this new round of support from GSMA, look no further than the first and second round of innovation fund grant awardees. They included industry leaders M-KOPA in Kenya, which was able to offer a new pay-as-you-go solar product, Mobisol, which was able to pilot prepaid solar home systems in Rwanda, and Kamworks, which is testing rental services for solar home services in Cambodia.  With its latest round of funding from DFID, GSMA may just build a pipeline of companies to rival both USAID’s DIV and OPIC’s ACEF program.

All of this is incredibly exciting for those who have been working to unlock financing for these markets and ultimately unlock energy access for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Innovative programs like those being run by GSMA prove that public institutions can indeed step up to the plate and end this problem in our lifetimes.

But it also begs the question: With bilateral institutions able to support cutting-edge approaches to how basic energy services are delivered, shouldn’t MDBs, like the World Bank, be able to do the same? The only good news is that no one seems willing to wait around for the answer.

All of thiswhich is incredibly exciting for those who have been working topounding the drum that unlocking financinge for these markets and ultimately  means unlocking energy access for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Innovative programs like those being run by GSMA prove that public institutions can indeed step up to the plate and end this problem in our lifetimes.

But it also begs the question: Withth bilateral institutions able to support cutting- edge approaches to how basic energy services are delivered, shouldn’t MDBs, like the World Bank, be able to do the same?why can’t multilateral development banks like the World Bank?  The only good news is that no one seems willing to wait around for the answer.

-- Justin Guay, Associate Director, International Climate Program, and Vrinda Manglik, Associate Campaign Representative, International Clean Energy Access


More Than 700,000 Tell Congress: Fast Track Is The Wrong Path

Thu, 11/6/2014 - 08:57 AM

image from Photo courtesy of Teamsters

The saying goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same. This couldn’t be more true for the two largest trade agreements currently in negotiation, the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). While the Obama Administration and congressional supporters of the pacts have rekindled timeworn talking points that describe these deals as “21st century” trade agreements, in reality, they strongly resemble the failed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that went into effect more than two decades ago.

That’s why today, representatives from environmental, labor, food and farm, consumer rights and other fair trade allies delivered to Congress more than 700,000 petitions opposing “fast track”--a piece of legislation that would push these harmful trade agreements through Congress without any meaningful oversight or assurances that the trade pacts would actually benefit workers, families, and the environment.  The delivery, which comes days before President Obama leaves for Beijing, China, where leaders will once again make a push to finalize the stalled TPP, sends a clear message that, in the words
 of Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, “fast track is the wrong track for Americans who care

image from Photo courtesy of Teamsters

about the health of our families and access to clean air, clean water, and land.”

Today’s delivery wasn’t the first time members of Congress has heard that message. As I wrote about
before, back in September nearly 600 organizations including major environmental, labor, civil rights, and consumer rights groups sent a letter to Chairman Wyden reiterating their opposition to fast track and calling for a new model of trade.  And, it’s important to note that the recent election results in which the Republicans took control over the Senate and increased their majority in the House does not mean that fast track is any closer to completion.  In fact, there is considerable Republican opposition to fast track, and polling from this year demonstrates that giving fast track authority to President Obama is overwhelmingly unpopular among Republicans;  87 percent of Republicans polled, for example, oppose giving fast-track authority to President Obama.  The majority of democrats polled also oppose fast-track authority.

So why are members of the public so concerned?  Well, take a look at just a few parts of the TPP and you'll understand why.  While the TPP has been negotiated in near total darkness, leaks have revealed that the pact is laden with giveaways to big corporations. The pact includes, for example, rules that empower foreign corporations to challenge public interest and environmental policies in private trade tribunals and that give corporations right extract millions or billions in compensation from taxpayers if the corporation wins. The TPP also would require the United States to automatically approve all exports of liquefied natural gas to countries in the agreement, which would mean more dangerous fracking, more coastal export terminals, and more unstable pipelines here at home.

But, if fast track were to pass, our representatives in Congress would barely be able to make a peep in objection and wouldn’t be able to raise a pen to change the deal, as Congress’ Constitutional right to shape these massive and far reaching trade agreements would disappear.  Big corporations and Big polluters, naturally, are chomping at the bit to wield “fast track” and the trade pacts it would facilitate as tools to whittle away at legislation that safeguards our environment, advances clean energy, and protects our health.   

History has shown us that trade agreements like the TPP and TTIP have failed to support workers, strengthen our economy, and protect communities and the environment. Now, just months after almost 600 organizations said “no” to “fast track” and “yes” to a new model of trade, more than 700,000 Americans are speaking out. Members of Congress must listen. The Obama Administration must listen. Congress must act. And the corporations trying to sneak these trade pacts past any kind of oversight must pay attention. The age of NAFTA-like agreements must come to an end.

Join us in opposing fast track so we can create a new, more equitable model of trade that protects our environment and jobs, safeguards our communities and establishes the U.S. as a leader in responsible trade.

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


As scientists sound the alarm on climate, a reason for hope

Mon, 11/3/2014 - 12:28 PM

When I look at my daughter -- and I know all parents feel this way -- I know I would do anything to keep her healthy and safe. A new report out from the world's climate experts makes it undeniably clear that we still have the chance to protect our kids from climate disruption, but time is running out.

Here is how the New York Times summarized the findings of the report, which the paper said was the "starkest warning yet" from world scientists:

Failure to reduce emissions, the group of scientists and other experts found, could threaten society with food shortages, refugee crises, the flooding of major cities and entire island nations, mass extinction of plants and animals, and a climate so drastically altered it might become dangerous for people to work or play outside during the hottest times of the year.

The report paints a scary picture, but I think its most important message is that we still have time to turn the corner on climate change -- the next 15 years will be pivotal -- and we can do it affordably. As a matter of fact, it's the cost of inaction that's the true threat to our economy.

Indeed, across the U.S., as we make the transition to clean energy, we’re not just cleaning up the air and water, but we're also saving money on our electric bills. In Georgia, for example, utilities recently received bids for solar projects at 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour, which is competitive with fossil fuels.

So it's more than a little infuriating to hear the dirty fuels industry complain about the expense of cleaning up its pollution, when we know that clean alternatives are available and affordable. While big polluters drag their feet, our kids and families continue to pay the cost of this pollution with our health, our healthcare bills, and possibly the safety of our very planet.
Since 2010 when Sierra Club and allies launched our campaign focused on existing coal plants, 179 coal plants across the U.S. have announced retirement, and clean energy has come rushing in to fill that gap. According to a new analysis, from 2007 to 2013 U.S. coal generation fell by 21 percent, which resulted in a 16 percent drop in U.S. carbon emissions. The majority of that coal power was replaced by wind, solar, and energy efficiency -- not natural gas. Indeed, of our drop in emissions, 40 percent of the fall came from switching to renewables and 30 percent can be attributed to energy efficiency, while only 30 percent came from switching to gas (Greenpeace and EIA).
So far in 2014, renewable energy has accounted for 40 percent of all new energy projects, continuing to transform the U.S. energy landscape. Prices for clean energy have continued to fall (an 80 percent drop since 2009 for solar, 63 percent for wind), and according to Lazard these projects are now competitive with new gas plants. Furthermore, because we’re using energy more efficiently, U.S. energy demand has remained flat in recent years, which means some of this retiring coal capacity just won't need to be replaced.

These new clean energy sources also help us modernize the grid. Last year's polar vortex and natural gas shortage showed the vulnerability of relying too much on gas-fired plants. In contrast, wind and solar power held strong during this period and helped make up the shortfall in key markets like Texas and the Mid-Atlantic. This is one of the reasons why utilities should look to add clean energy to their portfolio when replacing coal.

Finally, this shift in our energy mix doesn't just benefit our children's future -- it also improves their lives today. Retiring the 179 coal plants announced to date is projected to prevent more than 4,600 deaths per year and $2.1 billion in healthcare costs, according to data from the Clean Air Task Force.
We don't want to go back to a system where power plants cause thousands of deaths per year and take a wrecking ball to our climate -- and we don't have to. In simple economic terms, it is not financially worthwhile to prop up aging, outdated coal plants that damage public health when we can invest in modern solutions like wind and solar.
As the world's leading scientists hold up a danger sign, hundreds of thousands of Americans who are moving their communities beyond coal are pointing the way to a solution. This is not a time for cynicism and despair -- it's a time for hope, determination, and action. Join us.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal campaign director



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