SOLAR VIDEOS

Solar DIY Videos on YouTube

DIY Boat Solar Power Solution for LED Lighting

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

M101 DIY SOLAR PANEL KIT

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

Make Solar Panel at Home | How to Build Solar Panels DIY | Learn to Make Your Own Solar Panels

Wed, 03/5/2014 - 07:14 AM

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

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

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

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

Solar Panels - How it Works YouTube Videos

How Solar Power Solar Panels Work by SolarCity mp4

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 07:15 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 Cell System - Solar Cell How It Works

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

How solar panels work 2

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

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

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

Solar Projects In Google News

Where to now with solar projects? - The Northern Times

Mon, 09/1/2014 - 02:17 PM

A review conducted by businessman Dick Warburton recommends reducing or scrapping the target, which was introduced to encourage investors to support solar projects. A number of solar electricity generation projects are proposed within the shire.Why Warburton wants to set solar industry back a decadeRenewEconomyThe RET - why it is important to keepThe Sunshine Coast Dailyall 49  
 

HelioSage Energy announces sale of 12 solar PV projects in North Carolina - solarserver.com

Mon, 09/1/2014 - 11:16 AM

HelioSage Energy (Charlottesville, Va., US), a national developer of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, has announced the sale of a 77 MWdc/60 MWac portfolio of development-stage solar PV facilities in North Carolina. The portfolio is  
 

Solar in India: Telangana starts solicitation for 500 MW of PV projects - solarserver.com

Mon, 09/1/2014 - 11:16 AM

Telangana, the newest Indian state, has released a Request for Solicitation (RfS) for selection of 500 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) projects, RESolve Energy Consultants (Chennai, India), reports. This move follows less than 2 weeks after Andhra  
 

Scatec Solar teams with Norfund on African PV - PV-Tech

Mon, 09/1/2014 - 11:16 AM

Norwegian PV developer Scatec Solar and the country's overseas development finance body, Norfund, have agreed to jointly invest in solar projects in developing countries. The two organisations have already worked together on four PV power plants in Scatec Solar and Norfund sign partnership agreement to develop and invest in solarserver.comall 3  
 

First Solar Announces 250 MW Worth Of New Projects In Japan - CleanTechnica

Sun, 08/31/2014 - 12:23 PM

The company has announced it will invest about $100 million to develop solar projects in Japan. Its first plant — a 1.3 MW station in the southwestern city of Kitakyushu — started running in March. Japan's solar market is booming after the country
 

HelioSage Energy Sells Portfolio Of 12 NC Solar Projects - Law360 (subscription)

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 07:56 PM

Once constructed, the 77 megawatt portfolio of ground-mounted solar projects will sell power under a purchase agreement with either Duke Energy Progress or the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency, according to the company. Financial 
 

Hareon Solar Announces 3350 MW Worth Of New Solar PV Projects - CleanTechnica

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 04:51 PM

3,350 MW worth of new solar PV projects were recently announced by the China-based company Hareon Solar Technology. The projects, which have all now been signed off on, are set to be developed throughout China and Turkey. In accompaniment to  
 

HelioSage Energy Announces Sale of 12 Solar Projects in North Carolina - MarketWatch

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 01:10 PM

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Aug. 29, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- HelioSage Energy, a national developer of utility scale solar projects, has announced the sale of a 77 MWdc / 60 MWac portfolio of development-stage solar facilities in North Carolina. The portfolio  
 

Why SunPower is Increasingly Holding Solar Projects On Its Books - Forbes

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:49 PM

The company has been working on projects such as the 579 megawatt Solar Star – one of the worlds largest solar projects – and has also been scaling up its project pipeline overseas, with the help of its parent company Total S.A. Overall, the business
 

Schools explore solar - The Manchester Journal

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 05:39 PM

"The general idea here is to connect our community members with investors to develop these solar projects that work for everyone," DiCerbo said. "We understand that municipalities and school districts are limited in their cash flow, so this is designed  
 
 

California Solar Projects In Google News

Fluor designed and built the 170-megawatt Centinela Solar Energy Facility near ... - DigitalJournal.com

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 08:34 PM

The construction of the renewable energy project provided hundreds of jobs to workers in the Imperial Valley region of southern California. The construction team installed a total of than 875,000 solar photovoltaic panels on the 1,600-acre site. 
 

Fluor Completes 170-Megawatt Centinela Solar Energy Facility in Southern ... - MarketWatch

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 08:34 PM

Located near El Centro, California, the 170-megawatt photovoltaic solar project will provide clean, renewable energy in the southwestern U.S.. “The successful completion of this large solar facility is the result of a long-standing relationship and  
 

Fluor Completes 170-Megawatt Centinela Solar Energy Facility in Southern ... - Business Wire (press release)

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 08:30 PM

The construction of the renewable energy project provided hundreds of jobs to workers in the Imperial Valley region of southern California. The construction team installed a total of than 875,000 solar photovoltaic panels on the 1,600-acre site. 
 

OneRoof raises $58M for solar projects - U-T San Diego

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 03:28 AM

Recharge
It initially will be used to provide rooftop solar energy for customers who sign power-purchase agreements in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York, OneRoof said in a statement. The company also does business in Arizona, and there are plans Rooftop solar fundsSan Diego Source (subscription)all 15  
 

Rooftop solar funds - San Diego Source (subscription)

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 09:03 PM

The fund, provided by an undisclosed third party, initially will be used to provide rooftop solar to customers signing power purchase agreements in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York, OneRoof said Wednesday. The equity is expected to be  
 

Solar Farms Threaten Birds - Scientific American

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 01:13 PM

Last week, that long-dead clapper rail stoked a legal action that challenges at least a half dozen additional solar plants planned in California and Arizona. Their bird-killing effects have been serious enough to kill and hamper some planned  
 

Duke Energy cuts involvement in large California solar farm - Charlotte Business Journal (blog)

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 07:34 PM

Duke Energy Renewables has pulled back from a 247-megawatt solar farm in California, becoming a minor investor in the as-yet-unbuilt project for which it had been the half-owner and principal financer, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Charlotte-based  
 

Can Birds Be Protected From Huge Solar Plants? - Climate Central

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 06:58 PM

Last week, that long-dead clapper rail stoked a legal action that challenges at least a half dozen additional solar plants planned in California and Arizona. Their bird-killing effects have been serious enough to kill and hamper some planned  
 

Huge solar farm proposed south of Silicon Valley wins power contract, but ... - San Jose Mercury News

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 04:35 AM

Earlier this month, Southern California Edison announced it has signed a 20-year contract to purchase electricity from the proposed San Benito County solar farm. Such "power purchase agreements" are critical for large solar projects to move forward  
 

Huge solar farm proposed near Silicon Valley wins power contract, but loses ... - San Jose Mercury News

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 12:18 AM

Earlier this month, Southern California Edison announced it has signed a 20-year contract to purchase electricity from the proposed San Benito County solar farm. Such "power purchase agreements" are critical for large solar projects to move forward  
 
 

New Jersey Solar Projects In Google News

Local solar energy companies have enjoyed growth in recent years. Will it ... - Washington Post

Sat, 08/30/2014 - 03:42 PM

Solar energy start-ups that have taken root in the Washington region in recent years are maturing into bona fide businesses, buoyed in part by economic forces and government policies that have made renewable energy attractive to consumers. 
 

Google Could Be Next Big Thing In Renewable Energy - Bidness ETC

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 04:26 PM

Over time, the cost of solar energy has declined in the US, owing to a rise in production as major companies are investing in key solar projects. The agreement to purchase 114 megawatts (MW) from NextEra Story County II's renewable energy power plant  
 

Solar Makers Set for Record 2014 Sales on Strong Demand - Businessweek

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:20 AM

product and program development at ConEdison Solutions Inc., a developer of solar projects mainly in the country's northeast and southeast, said yesterday in an interview. Those incentives are fairly stable, he said. In the state of New Jersey, for  
 

Solar Makers Set for Record 2014 Sales on Strong Demand - Bloomberg

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 12:19 AM

and CEO Gao Jifan said on a call with analysts following its earnings release yesterday. Solar is largely driven by incentives in the U.S., Jim VanderPas, director of solar product and program development at ConEdison Solutions Inc., a developer of  
 

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) working ... - Stocks.org

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 05:20 PM

The company has spent over $140 million so far and the latest investment is for solar installations of 10.2 megawatts in Massachusetts, Maryland, California, New York and New Jersey; where the installations will be made in a total of eight facilities  
 

SolarCity Corp (SCTY) Sees Leverage In Expenses - ValueWalk

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 05:53 PM

costs of around 8% to 9% on new funds are lower than those of most peers, which are around 10% to 14%. And with SolarCity's access to asset-backed security funding for its solar projects, Lee sees an even greater cost advantage that he believes is  
 

Verizon to become solar-power leader in the US telecom industry - Computerworld

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 08:28 PM

Energy Digital
This year, Verizon will install 10.2 megawatts (MW) of new solar power systems at eight Verizon network facilities in five states: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. The new investments nearly double the amount of With Verizon invests $40M to install solar power systems at eight facilitiesFierceTelecomVerizon Wireless Invests $40 Million in SolarEnergy DigitalSunPower Installing 10.2 MW Of New Solar For Verizon This YearSolar IndustryPennEnergy (press release) -Fierce Energyall 116  
 

Verizon plans major expansion of Its on-site 'Green Energy Program' - Renewable Energy Focus

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 03:57 PM

Verizon plans major expansion of Its on-site 'Green Energy Program'This year, Verizon will install 10.2 megawatts of new solar power systems at eight Verizon network facilities in five states: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. This investment nearly doubles the amount of renewable power
 

Verizon plans expansion of on-site green energy program - Telecompaper (subscription)

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 09:13 AM

In 2014, Verizon will install 10.2 megawatts of new solar power systems at eight Verizon network facilities in five states, namely California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. This investment nearly doubles the amount of renewable
 

Verizon's Strong Commitment to Solar Energy - Solar Novus Today

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 11:00 PM

Verizon's Strong Commitment to Solar EnergyThis year, Verizon will install 10.2 megawatts of new solar power systems at eight Verizon network facilities in five states: New York, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. This investment nearly doubles the amount of renewable power 
 
 

Colorado Solar Projects In Google News

Clean Energy Collective opens two Denver community solar arrays - Denver Business Journal (blog)

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 09:07 PM

Economic Times
CEC said it operates a total of 16 community solar power systems in Colorado. It has built ,or has under development, than 40 community solar projects with 18 utility partners in eight states. The projects represent a total of 26 megawatts of Solar leads Q2 US clean tech hiringRechargeall 49  
 

Solar leads Q2 US clean tech hiring - Recharge

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 05:44 PM

Each of these states has strong net metering policies, enabling residents to sell electricity back to the grid. Developers also continue to rush building utility-scale solar projects before a scheduled two-thirds cut in the federal Investment Tax  
 

Relief for Xcel Energy Customers Seeking Clean Energy Options - AltEnergyMag (press release)

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 11:34 PM

Since establishing the first community-owned solar garden in the country in 2010 near El Jebel, Colorado, CEC has built or has under development than 40 community solar projects with 18 utility partners across 8 states, representing 26 MW of 
 

Hawaii's Largest Utility Announces Plan To Triple Rooftop Solar By 2030 - ThinkProgress

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 06:33 PM

Hawaii's Largest Utility Announces Plan To Triple Rooftop Solar By 2030While admittedly vague on how the initiatives will be implemented and how they will impact prices, the package includes efforts to increase energy storage, develop smart grids, and support community solar projects. “Our energy environment is changing 
 

Other Voices: It seems we just can't win on energy - Spartanburg Herald Journal

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 07:25 AM

Other Voices: It seems we just can't win on energySocieties cannot survive or advance without energy. Yet, every new option becomes an object of moral strife involving water, air, birds, fish, weather or bugs. As activism obstructs one form of power, it typically enlivens another that comes with a new
 

REC Group Wins Its Largest US Utility-Scale Order to Date Totaling 85MW - Power Engineering International

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 05:08 PM

GTM Research predicts that the segment will exceed 3 gigawatts (GW) of new installations in 2014 and increase to nearly 6 GW by 2016, with much of the growth expected to come from states such as Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas. "Signing
 

REC Group Wins Its Largest US Utility-Scale Order to Date Totaling 85MW - PennEnergy (press release)

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 05:03 PM

GTM Research predicts that the segment will exceed 3 gigawatts (GW) of new installations in 2014 and increase to nearly 6 GW by 2016, with much of the growth expected to come from states such as Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas. "Signing  
 

REC wins largest order to date - Gasworld.com

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 03:54 PM

GTM Research predicts that the segment will exceed 3 gigawatts (GW) of new installations in 2014 and increase to nearly 6 GW by 2016, with much of the growth expected to come from states such as Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas. “Signing  
 

REC group wins its largest U.S. utility-scale solar PV order to date totalling ... - solarserver.com

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 02:46 PM

REC Group, (Sandvika, Norway) on August 26th, 2014announced that it has signed solar photovoltaic (PV) panel supply agreements totaling 85MW with a major U.S. engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company for utility-scale projects in the REC Group Wins Its Largest US Utility-Scale Order to Date Totaling 85MWPennEnergy (press release)all 12  
 

Washington View: Pity the poor streamers - The Columbian

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 01:01 PM

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say the power-tower style of solar technology holds "the highest lethality potential" of all the solar projects being developed in California. Nevertheless, the facility's developer, BrightSource Energy, is seeking Community Solar Heats Upenergybizall 108  
 
 

Department of Energy Solar Projects

MIT Energy Storage Spinout Sun Catalytix's Assets Acquired by Lockheed Martin - Greentech Media

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 08:23 PM

MIT Energy Storage Spinout Sun Catalytix's Assets Acquired by Lockheed MartinSun Catalytix signed a contract for than $4 million in funding from the U.S. DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in 2010, and the firm has won than $10 million in VC funding from Polaris, Tata Ltd., and others. 
 

New financing trends — term loan B, green bonds, state green banks, yield cos ... - Lexology (registration)

Sun, 08/24/2014 - 10:41 PM

If the DOE is a precursor to what you will be dealing with, you have a long road ahead. MR. The third type is a roll up of assets acquired from third parties, like some people are trying to do with solar projects, and then take the company public
 

Fishermen's Energy signs DOE grant - Today's Energy Solutions

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 04:09 AM

Fishermen's Energy signs DOE grantAtlantic City, New Jersey – At the end of Steel Pier, with the ocean as a backdrop, Fishermen's Energy, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, state Senator Jim Whelan, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, Jose Zayas, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Director of the 
 

Can These New Small Wind Companies Finally Duplicate the Success of the ... - Greentech Media

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 06:18 PM

Over the years, Morgan Stanley has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in various funds to support U.S. rooftop solar projects. According to DOE, the weighted average installed cost of a new small wind turbine in the U.S. was $6.90 per watt
 

Can These New Small Wind Companies Finally Mimic the Success of the Solar ... - Greentech Media

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 05:31 PM

Over the years, Morgan Stanley has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in various funds to support U.S. rooftop solar projects. According to DOE, the weighted average installed cost of a new small wind turbine in the U.S. was $6.90 per watt
 

Does Senator Markey Want Higher Energy Prices? - Canada Free Press

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 12:53 AM

The Department of Energy (DOE) has come to the rescue with a $150 million loan guarantee. That loan guarantee, which Energy Management Inc., Cape Wind's developer, first applied for Proponents of offshore wind technology like to point to European  
 

Another Casualty of the Department of Energy's Loan Program Is Making a ... - The Slatest

Fri, 08/8/2014 - 11:52 AM

Another Casualty of the Department of Energy's Loan Program Is Making a But many of the other giant wind and solar projects that received loans are performing well. Even a This cycle looks to be repeating itself with another smaller energy storage casualty of the DOE's loan program—only this time without any Chinese
 

The long, hard slog to unlock the potential of geothermal energy - Earth2Tech

Thu, 08/7/2014 - 03:42 PM

Yieldcos have become common, and quite successful, for solar projects. Since AltaRock's EGS tech is so new, though, it remains to be seen how much the tech would mitigate the risk and what the return would be for the investor. However, large geothermal  
 

SunPower Acquires Solar Power Electronics Startup Dfly Systems - Greentech Media

Tue, 08/5/2014 - 11:18 PM

Dfly Systems, originally Dragonfly Systems, has gained funding from the DOE, Stanford's TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy, and The Cleantech Open, as well as a variety of private investors. Founders of the firm include Andrew Ponec, Daniel Maren and  
 

SunPower Acquires DFly Systems, a Solar Power Electronics Startup - Greentech Media

Tue, 08/5/2014 - 08:40 PM

Dfly Systems, originally Dragonfly Systems, has gained funding from the DOE, Stanford's TomKat Center, The Cleantech Open as well as a variety of private investors. Founders of the firm include Andrew Ponec, Daniel Maren and Darren Hau. MJ, Shiao 
 
 

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.

READ MORE:

6 Most Dangerous Hiking Trails

Pro Hiking Tips: Excercises

Breathtaking Canyons

 

 

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.”

 

Read More

The Clean Dozen

Surcharge for Smoggers

China Chips Away at its Pollution Problem

 

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. 

 

Read More

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!

 

READ MORE:

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 jodg@comcast.net.

--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.

 

READ MORE:

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.

 
 

Compass

Pointing the way to a clean energy future.

Uncertainty, Rising Costs Cloud Indian Coal Sector After Landmark Supreme Court Rulings

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 08:53 AM

.India’s coal bubble is perilously close to bursting.

This week the Indian court system handed down three landmark energy rulings. While an ultimate decision still looms, the combined weight of these initial rulings reaffirms one thing -- it’s time to diversify away from coal.

Of the three rulings, the most talked about came in response to public outrage over sweetheart deals for private mining companies that provided access to coal mine leases for next to nothing. The discovery of these backroom deals -- now referred to as the ‘coal gate’ scandal -- has rocked the Indian government, and the coal sector, for well over two years. The court’s ruling found that 218 of these leases were illegal, in a sweeping verdict that affects all mine leases issued from 1993 through 2010.

The court is set to decide whether the companies awarded these mines will be fined or whether they will lose the mines entirely on Sept. 1. Regardless, the signal the court has sent  both the coal industry and the Indian government is that it is time to start over and only allocate energy resources -- like coal and coal mines -- in a transparent and fair manner. No matter how you slice it, that means increased costs.

The fallout was immediate. Most notable was the financial community’s reaction to concerns over billions of dollars that could be lost in bad loans issued to stranded assets. Indeed, with 8 percent of non-food lending exposed across the banking sector and billions invested in 37-gigawatts of new coal-fired power plants in Odisha alone, the fallout could be all too real.

The irony here runs thick. The “coal gate” scandal that birthed this verdict began under the previous Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and was really the epitome of all corruption scandals -- though there were quite a few.

In fact, “coal gate” has been a major issue facing  the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Despite bending over backwards to fast track coal projects, Modi’s administration now faces serious setbacks to advancing coal power. Thats because while the courts ruling doesn’t end coal expansion, it does potentially push the reset button -- a death knell for dozens of coal projects hanging by a financial thread. In addition, that reset will force coal miners to competitively bid for new mines which will only raise fuel prices for an already financially struggling sector.

As bad as this news for the coal industry was, it’s the second ruling from the Supreme Court that has delivered the one-two punch that may hurt the coal industry most.

While most of the country was focused on the final stages of the engrossing  coal gate scandal, the court handed down a new verdict in response to pleas for a bailout from the Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Power Plant (UMPP)and other coal-fired power plants struggling with rising coal import prices. Initially, Tata low balled its construction bid in order to win the project by underestimating the price of volatile and uncertain foreign imports. But this strategy backfired as coal prices rose so high that they now threaten to make the Tata Mundra coal plant, in the words of the Tata Mundra CEO, “financially unviable.”

But rather than allow these companies to pass on the skyrocketing costs and raise rates for average citizens, the Supreme Court reversed earlier rulings deeming any retroactive changes to tariff structures a no-go. That’s incredibly important because if private developers are able to bid artificially low prices to win contracts and then retroactively change those contracts, the system as a whole is undermined. The signal this ruling sends is tremendously important because it goes right to the heart of contract sanctity in India.

More importantly, the issue of equity and fairness was at play.  It’s hard to believe that billion dollar  companies like Tata would have passed on fuel savings if coal prices magically dropped. Instead these energy giants were seeking to operate in a “heads I win, tails I win” situation. Thus far  the Indian Supreme Court isn’t having any of it.

The fallout of this decision may ultimately be as sweeping as that of “coal gate.” It will directly affect the country’s flagship UMPPs program, a series of 4-gigawatt plants meant to stem the power crisis. Despite government and industry promises that these UMPPs will not succumb to the same dire fate as Tata Mundra and won’t be affected by the court’s revocation of mine leases, their future remains highly uncertain.

For instance, two UMPPs are currently caught up in delays over concerns related to bidding processes and the ability to pass on fuel prices in the wake of Tata Mundra. As they wait to sort out the details, delays and local opposition continue piling on costs.  Meanwhile, another coal project seeking finance from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the Tilaiya coal project,  is mired in controversy and opposition from locals with over 100 Indian organizations opposing the Bank’s potential support.

In short, despite what the industry would have you believe, all is not well with coal in India.

So with this brick wall settling across the road to coal expansion, what is a power-starved nation to do? Diversify to the fastest, cheapest, and most readily available energy resource at hand -- solar.

As has been widely reported, all indications are that Prime Minister Modi takes solar power very seriously -- including a pledge to provide solar power for all by 2019. Rumors are that Modi is planning an incredibly ambitious solar target that could dwarf the already impressive 20-gigawatts of power the country has planned. That’s a reflection of the rapidly changing economics of solar in India which are on course to be cost competitive with coal as early as 2018, according to HSBC. This is a feat wind power has already achieved which is leading the nation to dramatically increase support for new wind power to the tune of 10,000-megawatts every year.

As it happens, just as the Supreme Court closed one door, another has remained wide open thanks to the Indian legal system. Solar companies were facing uncertainty over proposals to retroactively remove subsidies in  Gujarat - which just so happens to be the state where the most solar has been installed to date. Here the Indian court system again upheld contract sanctity by refusing the government the ability to retroactively change contracts and subsidies for existing solar projects.

So, there you have it. Investors  can certainly continue to plow billions of dollars into a  sector facing a highly uncertain and increasingly costly future. Indeed many of these fossil fuel investors will be sure to keep their heads firmly grounded in the sand as their bank accounts empty, thanks to their belief in the inevitability of coal.

But for those who can see the writing on the wall, the future looks much brighter. Indeed, when it comes to future power sector investments in India, one thing is clear: all signs point to solar.

-- Justin Guay, Associate Director, International Climate Program

 

Labor of Love: How My WV Small Town Launched a Game-Changing New Model to Go Solar

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:50 AM

Mary Anne at her solar church

This week, my small town in West Virginia cut the ribbon on a solar project that isn't just the largest crowd-funded solar project in the state, but also launches a new model making it possible for any WV community organization to go solar. On a perfect sunny day, 100 elementary school students and dozens of community members joined my husband, Than Hitt, and my daughter Hazel, who cut the ribbon for a 60-panel solar system at the historic Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church. It was an unforgettable day that crystalized all our hopes for the future of West Virginia, and exemplified the power of regular people to change the world.

The genius of this project was that the church went solar for just $1, thanks to over 100 community members who contributed - but they donated their water heaters, not their dollars. Maryland-based Mosaic Power pays homeowners $100 per year to have smart meters installed on their home water heaters that save energy and, in the aggregate, operate as a safe, efficient mini-power plant. These community members are each donating their $100 per year to the church solar project, collectively raising enough money to pay for the solar system. The financing model was developed by our brilliant friend Dan Conant and his company Solar Holler, and now that we have proof of concept in Shepherdstown, he's taking it statewide.

Than Hitt at the solar churchThe church is going to generate nearly half of its electricity from the sun, reducing pollution, saving money, and living out the congregation's commitment to caring for the Earth. I'm a member of this remarkable church, where we've spent many a Sunday morning lamenting the destruction polluting energy development has wreaked on our state, from mountaintop removal mining to the coal chemical spill in Charleston earlier this year.

By going solar, we’re not only reducing our reliance on dirty energy, but we've demonstrated a model that other WV nonprofits are lining up to replicate. Making this project work was a labor of love three years in the making, dating all the way back to 2011 when my family was the first in our historic town to go solar, which helped get the community talking about how we could do more. Take it from me, when you go solar, it's like creating ripples in a pond - you may set into motion changes bigger than you ever imagined.

Now that we've figured out the details of this community-supported solar financing model, Solar Holler already has two more projects on deck in West Virginia communities, and those are sure to be followed by many more. And the project is being noticed around the country, with press coverage including USA Today, the Associated Press, and this great piece by Think Progress. I'm so proud of my husband, who led this project for the church, and so proud of our community.

At the ribbon cutting, our pastor Randall Tremba offered powerful remarks that have stayed with me, because he beautifully captured why the church undertook this groundbreaking project, and what it means for the community and the nation. I'd like to close the post with an excerpt from his remarks:

I am the pastor of SPC, which now stands for: Solar Presbyterian Church.

These solar panels symbolically and actually reconnect this church to an old and long Presbyterian tradition of respect, reverence and connectedness for and with Mother Earth - a reverence sadly forsaken several hundred years ago. We are happy to reconnect to Mother Earth.

That old reverence is reflected in a poem composed by St. Francis in 13th century and addressed to Mother Earth, Sister Water, Brother Wind, and Sister Moon. But it begins this way: Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; you give light through him.
He is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, Brother Sun bears your likeness.

This project will make a lot of Presbyterians, living and dead, very happy. Let me explain by taking you back through time a ways.

The Fellowship Hall is attached to the Meeting House out front which was built in 1836 by a community of Presbyterians first organized on the banks of the Potomac in 1743, which was 33 years before there was a United States of America.

These solar panels would make our 18th century founding Presbyterians very happy for, in case you didn't know, most of them were Scots and the Scots like nothing more than saving a penny. Think Andrew Mellon.

Scots love saving a penny and these panels will save us many of those.

As much as frugality, the Scots also love technological inventions. Think Alexander Graham Bell.

As much as inventions, the Scots also love the natural world and work to keep it whole and holy. Think John Muir, son of a Scottish Presbyterian minister. Love of nature is in SPC's DNA....As happy as this project makes Presbyterians, I hope it makes our civic community just as happy and proud. For this project could not have happened without ecumenical and communal support.

On behalf of SPC, I thank Than Hitt and Dan Conant along with their blue-ribbon committee who successfully guided this project through thick and thin, over humps and bumps, on sunny days and cloudy days, and around twists and turns more than once. But I also thank the citizens of this community. For it takes many hands to make light work and work light.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Campaign director

 

100+ Indian Organizations Sign Letter Opposing Export-Import Bank Coal Project

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 08:12 AM

After the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) stated last month that it was considering financing Reliance Energy’s 3,960-megawatt Tilaiya Ultra Mega Power Plant (UMPP) and associated coal mine in the Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand, India, over 100 organizations in India signed a letter urging the the Bank to reject the coal project.

The fact that Ex-Im would consider financing Tilaiya is particularly shocking given the human rights and environmental abuses the Indian Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) uncovered at Reliance Energy’s 3,960-megawatt Sasan UMPP and associated mine. These abuses have been documented in the CSO’s report:  Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project, Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh: A Brief Report.

Additionally, the Sasan coal project has been dogged by allegations of corruption, and as a result, the Supreme Court of India ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation into reported irregularities surrounding the allocation of coal blocks -- the land used for coal mining -- to Reliance. Sasan received over $900 million in financing from Ex-Im, but despite Reliance Energy’s precarious past, instead of working to prevent financing energy companies with environmental and human rights abuses, the Bank is digging in its heels and doubling down with Reliance Energy and Tilaiya.

And we’ve already seen evidence to suggest that Reliance Energy is prepared to follow the same pattern of infamous environmental and human rights abuses when it comes to Tilaiya. In 2012, more than 200 people at risk of being affected by the Tilalyia coal project were arrested for peacefully protesting at a public hearing. A week later, 20 villages in Hazaribagh decided against allowing Reliance to mine coal in their region, but Reliance pushed on, ignoring the objections of local people.

Even more vexing is the fact that Ex-Im voted last December to stop funding coal plants overseas following the announcement of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). Prior to that plan, the Bank financed some of the largest coal plants in the world, including Sasan and South Africa’s 4800-megawatt Kusile coal-fired power plant.  In total, Ex-Im has provided over $7 billion to destructive coal projects since 2007.

It’s time for Ex-Im to listen to the 109 Indian CSOs and all the communities affected by these dangerous coal projects and commit to rejecting the unnecessary, outdated coal agenda once and for all.

--Neha Mathew, Executive Coordinator, Beyond Coal Campaign

 

More Than A Light Bulb: How Clean Energy Is Powering Health Clinics Beyond the Grid

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 11:04 AM

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14082517/84f7adfe-fd9c-486c-bfbc-dd63d4ae311a.png Photo courtesy of SunFarmer

It is hard to overstate the effect that access to reliable electricity can have on people’s lives in rural communities worldwide.  

That’s why we are so supportive of interventions like off-grid clean energy that not only put power directly in people’s hands, but do it in a time frame that matters: now, not decades from now. That’s something traditional grid extension and centralized power plants simply can’t do.

Despite the important leg up off-grid clean energy provides these communities, we’ve heard some concerns that these interventions can only be used to provide lighting and supplies like light bulbs.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

To help us understand what kinds of resources these companies are powering with clean energy, we turned to SunFarmer, a U.S.- and Canadian-based non-profit organization, to learn more about off-grid companies powering health clinics.

SunFarmer is a pretty unique organization. As a non-profit, they have learned important lessons all off-grid companies should live by, including not to give things away for free. That’s why SunFarmer employs a rent-to-own business model that specifically seeks to empower local companies to deliver clean energy services to hospitals and health clinics. SunFarmer’s value to these companies is simple, but big: it unlocks crucial financing. Given how hard financing is to come by in this market, that’s incredibly important.

In addition, SunFarmer provides ever critical after-sales service in the form of technical assistance, quality assurance, and system maintenance -- while local partners lead on project management. SunFarmer is also developing a monitoring and control platform to track the levels of energy production, observe the system’s battery performance, and communicate any issues (including energy theft) to health clinic staff. All of these critical data points prove that the next big frontier for these markets is data analytics.

But why should SunFarmer target large consumers, like health clinics, when most organizations working in this clean energy market start with small household needs -- including lighting and mobile phone charging?

The answer is simple: the founders of SunFarmer were moved by the negative effect unreliable power has on 300,000 healthcare facilities worldwide. These critical public health care providers suffered from hours of power shortages and cuts that were keeping them from doing their job -- saving lives.

When hospitals or health clinics lack reliable power, they can’t refrigerate vaccines.  They can’t perform surgeries.  Babies are delivered by flashlights or candlelight.  Health clinic staff with SunFarmer projects have described the difference between delivering babies in darkness versus light, noting, “Previously, delivery was difficult using flashlights held in the mouth as they could neither see clearly nor could give instructions.”  

This is particularly problematic during complicated births; as noted by the UN Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, lack of access to electricity is a leading cause of maternal mortality.  Worst of all, if a medical team doesn’t have a charged cell phone, they can’t even call for extra help in an emergency situation.  In short, reliable power is critical, and in the areas where these hospitals are located, the centralized grid has been failing miserably.

In Nepal, for instance, these hospitals may receive power from the grid for as little as four hours per day. Even the widely-used replacement for the unreliable grid -- diesel gen-sets -- aren’t able to keep up with the demand. That’s because the diesel fuel needed may not be delivered for days or weeks on end and may be diluted with water and other chemicals -- not to mention, its hefty price tag.

For six health clinics (and counting), SunFarmer’s Nepal staff and local partner, Gham Power, have changed this.

Funding from the SunEdison Foundation, MaRS, and crowd-funded contributions (through Indiegogo and Kiva) have allowed SunFarmer to install solar projects at six health clinics, with two more projects expected to reach completion in the next two to three months.  All projects are 2-kilowatts or above and provide the reliable power the grid and diesel gen-sets have failed to supply in the past.

Currently operating in Nepal, SunFarmer plans to expand.  They are raising $5 million to install solar projects at 250 more health clinics around the world.        

What SunFarmer drives home is that clean energy access has far-ranging benefits -- including empowering women by making maternal health care services more readily available and assuring safe deliveries in a well-lit space.

This is why the Sierra Club’s International Program advocates for energy access. Because it’s always been about more than a light bulb, and it’s time the world woke up to what Beyond the Grid markets are capable of delivering.  

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

 

David Keeps Winning: Game-Changing Month for Clean Energy

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 12:29 PM

Indy beyond coal win

Wow. That's the word I've been repeating over and over this month, as news has rolled in of one clean energy victory after another. These are David and Goliath campaigns, led by community groups fighting for the health of their families, for clean air and water, and for a safe climate. Over and over, against all odds, from the deep South to the Oregon coast and everywhere in between, David keeps winning.

Each one of these campaigns represents a major victory for local families, who point to these coal projects as threats to the safety of their kids and communities. They also add up to a sea change in how we make electricity in America: 178 coal plants and 503 coal boilers are now slated to be phased out, and FERC just reported that 100 percent of new electricity on the U.S. grid in July was renewable, mostly wind and solar.

If you find yourself falling victim to despair or cynicism about the fate of our planet, look no further.

- Mississippi: After six years of grassroots pressure and legal challenges against the Kemper coal plant, a landmark legal settlement was announced earlier this month that will bring $15 million in energy efficiency and clean energy investments to Mississippi.

"With this agreement, we are building a future where dirty, expensive, and unnecessary projects like Kemper coal plants will be things of the past," said Louie Miller, state director of the Mississippi Sierra Club and Kemper's leading opponent over the last six years. "This agreement represents a quantum leap forward for Mississippians by creating a clear path for residents to install solar on their homes, make their own clean energy choices, and avoid huge rate hikes for unnecessary coal plants."

- Indianapolis: The city is home to a polluting downtown coal plant, long targeted by community leaders as a source of dangerous air and water pollution. After a two year campaign lead by local community groups including the NAACP, the Sierra Club, and dozens of others, Indianapolis Power & Light announced this week it will stop burning coal at its downtown Harding Street power plant.

"Harding Street is the largest single source of industrial pollution, sulfur dioxide, soot, and carbon in our city," says Megan Anderson, an Indianapolis-based organizer with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "This retirement marks the 500th coal boiler to be retired since the launch of the Club's Beyond Coal campaign in 2010, so we're dubbing this victory the Indy 500."

Memphis clean air victory- Tennessee: The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced it will retire the Allen coal plant in Memphis, which emits thousands of tons of pollutants in the air every year. Of special note in this story is that the TVA pointed specifically to community pressure as the reason they chose to go with a smaller natural gas plant and leave room for clean energy options:

TVA president Bill Johnson said TVA evaluated gas plants as large as 1,400 megawatts in their Environmental Assessment, but they went with a smaller plant in consideration of comments received urging TVA to "preserve the opportunity to use other kinds of energy resources such as solar or wind to meet future demands."

Scott Banbury, Conservation Program Coordinator for the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, says Tennesseans know that clean energy is the best choice for the Volunteer State - and they'll continue to let TVA know that.

"TVA, which is one of the nation's largest utilities, sees that coal is becoming an increasingly bad bet," said Banbury. "Clean energy technologies, like solar energy and wind power, as well as increased energy efficiency, are cheaper, cleaner and ultimately a better path forward for TVA and for Tennesseans."
 
- Oregon: On Monday, the Oregon Department of State Lands rejected a vital permit for Ambre Energy’s proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project along the Columbia River. The rejection is the first time a Pacific Northwest state agency formally rejected a permit for one of the proposed coal export terminals - and is a severe blow to the plan. Some are calling it a "death rattle" for the port plan!

This comes afters years of tremendous pressure from residents of all backgrounds -- from doctors, parents, people of faith, small business owners, Tribal communities, and many others.

- Illinois: In a moderate victory for Illinois activists (we're fighting for more clean energy and a solid transition for the workers), earlier this month NRG announced its plan to stop burning coal at two of its coal facilities in Romeoville and Joliet.

- Los Angeles: And in some great news for ground-breaking television, on Sunday the Showtime documentary "Years of Living Dangerously" - one episode of which featured amazing coal activist Anna Jane Joyner, TV star Ian Somerhalder, and yours truly -- won the Emmy for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Series!

What a month! I can't wait to see what the next few weeks bring.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign

 

Big Clean Air Victory in Indianapolis

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:20 AM

Power-Indy-Forward

After a two-year campaign by 50 organizations in the Power Indy Forward Coalition, Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) has announced its intention to stop burning coal at its downtown Harding Street power plant in 2016 and close the unlined coal ash lagoons at the plant, located on the city's south side.

Harding-Street-victory

"Harding Street is the largest single source of industrial pollution, sulfur dioxide, soot, and carbon in our city," says Megan Anderson, an Indianapolis-based organizer with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. (That's Anderson at center, below, delivering petitions to IPL headquarters in 2012.) "This retirement marks the 500th coal boiler to be retired since the launch of the Club's Beyond Coal campaign in 2010, so we're dubbing this victory the Indy 500."

Delivering-petitions-to-IPL

[Note: Coal plants are made up of one or more boilers, or "units" -- Harding Street has three. With the Aug. 21 announcement that TVA's Allen plant in Memphis will be retired, the Beyond Coal campaign has helped retire 178 coal plants and 503 boilers since the campaign launched in 2010.]

Indy-clean-energy-activists

A long-standing tradition at the Indianapolis 500 car race is for the victor to drink a bottle of milk immediately after the race. Below, local volunteers toast the Harding Street victory in downtown Indy.

Harding-Street-victory

IPL's August 15 announcement came as the Indianapolis City-County Council was preparing to vote on a resolution urging IPL to stop burning coal at Harding Street by 2020. Resolution 241, which also urged IPL to invest in greater amounts of clean, renewable energy, had 11 co-sponsors, and a majority of council members had pledged to vote yes.

Vote-Yes-for-Clean-Air

The measure passed the Community Affairs Committee 4-1 last month, with supporters of the resolution vastly outnumbering opponents at the hearing. Hours earlier, the Sierra Club released a poll showing that nearly 7 in 10 Indianapolis voters supported IPL phasing out coal entirely in Marion County, and for the utility to increase its energy efficiency and use of renewable energy like wind and solar.

July-hearing

Among those who testified at the July hearing was Amber Sparks, below in tan jacket, who lives about three miles from the Harding Street plant. She told the City-County Council how asthma-related illnesses have regularly kept her children home from school, led to about 20 emergency room visits and half a dozen intensive care stays, and thousands of dollars in medical bills.

July-hearing

"Asthma has changed our lives," she said. "We continue to adjust and eliminate as many triggers as possible … but there are some triggers I can't control. On bad air days, the children must stay indoors, limit physical activities, and have round-the-clock breathing treatments. Their quality of life is affected, and it breaks my heart each time they look at me and ask why they have asthma."

Below, clean-air activists at the hearing.

July-hearing

According to the EPA, Harding Street was responsible for 88 percent of the toxic industrial pollution released in 2012 in Marion County. It is also the largest source of dangerous soot and sulfur dioxide pollution in the county, contributing to central Indiana's failing grades for air quality announced earlier this year by the American Lung Association.

Harding-Street-StationPhoto courtesy of NUVO News

Over 55 churches, neighborhood associations, student groups, and other organizations comprising the Power Indy Forward Coalition passed resolutions urging IPL to power our city with clean energy and put an end to toxic pollution in Indianapolis. Hoosier Chapter volunteers knocked on doors, talked to people at festivals and on the street, made phone calls, and spoke out at rallies and public hearings about the public health impacts of burning coal.

Power-Indy-Forward

Above and below, clean-energy activists celebrate IPL's August 15 announcement.

Harding-Street-victory

"For the past two years, thousands of Indianapolis residents have demanded clean air for our community," says Jodi Perras, Indiana representative for Beyond Coal. "They've signed petitions and postcards, rallied on the steps of Monument Circle (above) and at the Indiana State Museum, and urged their City-County Councilors to call on IPL to stop burning coal at Harding Street. Today, those calls have been answered."

Cleaner-air-in-Indy

 

Chinese Coal Consumption Just Fell For The First Time This Century

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 07:33 AM

. Sources: Compiled from China National Bureau of Statistics and China National Coal Association statistical releases.

There may be a light at the end of the long dark tunnel: It appears China’s coal boom is over.

While positive signs have been emerging from China for well over a year, it appears the ‘war on pollution’ is not just talk. According to analysis produced by Lauri Myllyvirta and Greenpeace International in the first half of this year, China’s coal use dropped for the first time this century - while the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) actually grew.

You read that right: coal and GDP growth have decoupled in China.

At the same time, the growth of imports -- the seemingly endless source of optimism for the moribund U.S. coal industry -- ground almost to a halt, with only 0.9 percent growth so far this year, as opposed to more than 15 percent yearly figures we have seen since China first became a net importer. Topping off the trifecta of good news is that domestic production dropped by 1.8 percent [article is in Chinese]. While uncertainty over the changes in coal stockpiles still exists, we’re confident that the unbelievable may be at hand: peak coal consumption in China.

It’s hard to understate just how historic this shift is. Analysts have been arguing over if, and when, Chinese coal consumption would peak. Some were forecasting a peak before 2020 while others -- including Wood Mackenzie -- have been loudly claiming Chinese coal demand may not ever peak but would instead double by 2030. This new data exposes the wide gulf between reality and hype that those predictions rely on.

In a sign of just how dramatically the tables have turned on the previously skyrocketing projections for the coal industry in China, consider this: the China National Coal Association is now calling for a 10 percent reduction in second half domestic coal output in many of the main coal-producing provinces. That about face comes as quite a shock considering as recently as December, the Association was busy advocating for a billion tonnes of coal to be added to the Chinese coal market by 2020. My what a difference a year makes.

But, it’s important to understand how the many who still believe in the myth that Chinese coal demand can grow endlessly will respond to the news. Two easy to believe short-term explanations have already been offered for the slowing coal demand.

The first is that China’s economic growth is slowing and skyrocketing coal consumption will resume when the economy rebounds. The problem with this explanation is that while the first five years of the century saw coal use and GDP grow almost hand in hand, the second half saw them decouple. More importantly, the Chinese economy registered a year-on-year growth rate of 7.4 percent, which indicates that the fundamental growth pattern of the Chinese economy has changed.

. A widening gap between economic growth and coal consumption increases. Sources: Compiled from China National Bureau of Statistics and China National Coal Association statistical releases.

The second explanation was offered by Bloomberg: a surge in hydropower generation offset coal use. China did indeed add a lot of hydropower capacity in the first half of 2014; however, the 9.7 percent year-on-year increase in hydropower generation was business-as-usual. In fact, the average for the past five years was 9.3 percent. This increase in hydropower was only capable of changing the coal consumption growth rate by less than one percentage point, which hardly changes the big picture.

So, what’s really going on? The times they are a changing, and the Chinese economy is changing with them. We’re finally starting to see movement away from the energy-intensive fossil fuel industries and investments that fueled China’s rise.

. Basic energy-intensive industry products are no more the engine of growth in China. Source: Compiled from China National Bureau of Statistics yearbooks and press releases.

It has been long acknowledged that, in China, investments and a heavy reliance on industry cannot sustain growth while the services sector and household consumption remain suppressed. This adjustment seems to be slowly progressing, with growth in services (excluding real estate) and private consumption only recently outpacing the manufacturing industry. While still nascent, if this restructuring gains pace, along with the promising growth in clean energy, there is much reason for optimism.

But there is still a long way to go from a peak in coal consumption to the necessary reductions needed to move toward a clean energy future. Fortunately, this change does not have to be linear, and interestingly, it seems Chinese investors were ahead of the curve as many have been busy shifting their money from coal to clean energy over the past few years.

It looks like the smart money in China has long realized what the data is now showing: bullish predictions on future coal growth are unfounded, and clean energy is the future.

-- Justin Guay, Associate Director, International Climate Program, and Lauri Myllyvirta, Greenpeace International

 

BMW i3: A Subtle and Sublime Revolution

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 04:25 PM

BMW-i3Photo courtesy of BMW

The BMW i3 made its debut in U.S. markets in May. The best way to describe the car is that it's radically different. It really looks like a concept car; its design is futuristic and colorful, with the added bonus that you can actually buy it today. The i3, though dead silent, has impressed with a 22kwh battery that has a range of 81+ miles between electric charges and can take you from 0-60 in under 7 seconds.

"It takes off like a rocket!" says i3 owner Charlie Rabie, a Tufts University professor and former business leader, who took delivery of the first i3 in the U.S. [Check out the Sierra Club's electric vehicle guide.]

So what's all the fuss about?

We met with Rabie to discuss the car. He explained why he found himself drawn to it. "[The car] is flawless… it drives like a BMW…I don't have to deal with gas stations. The car had been built from the ground up to be electric, and it shows."

Charlie-RabiePhoto courtesy of Charlie Rabie

Rabie went on to show us some of the innovative functionality that is available to smartphone users through the i3's own app. You can remotely view charge levels, check historical efficiency stats, lock and unlock your doors, start and stop charging, precondition the battery's temperature for optimal efficiency, and even see how many pounds of CO2 you've avoided releasing into the atmosphere.

Charger-&-CO2-calculator

Additionally, BMW seems to have come up with a solution to the range anxiety issue experienced by some. My dad, who also happens to be an i3 owner, decided to go for the Range Extended (REX) model. The REX version comes with a small gasoline engine that effectively doubles the car's range, kicking in only when the battery is about to drop below 5 percent.

The fact of the matter is that the range extender is a foolproof safety net; it doesn't just double your mileage range; it gives you total freedom to drive i3 to its full electric range every time you charge it. Most times, you'll drive in only electric mode. But if you happen to run out of electric charge, you can rely on gasoline and even fuel up at a gas station if you don't have access to or time for EV charging. However, all the i3 drivers I've spoken to, including my dad, say that the vast majority of the miles they're driving are electric.

"I've driven 6,000 miles, 95 percent of that was on electricity, and I've never gotten stuck " said my dad, Jack Mark. "For a city, it's the ideal size. And it's so quiet, my wife and I can sit and chat as if we are in our living room."

Jerry-CuranPhoto by Joe Mark

The Sierra Club's New Hampshire chapter chair Jerry Curran is another i3 driver. He also adores his new wheels and recently gushed:

"The i3 is the most advanced electric car in America in terms of sustainability. To reduce energy consumption, it was built with light weight carbon fiber and aluminum... The carbon fiber was produced in Washington with Bonneville hydro power. The assembly plant in Germany is powered by three wind turbines. Recycled materials comprise half of the interior. It's a blast to drive, handles like a BMW, and will drop any other BMW muscle car off the line from 0 to 45." 

- Joe Mark, an incoming senior at Tufts University, is an intern with the Sierra Club's Electric Vehicle Initiative.

 

Predators, Prey, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 07:28 AM

IStock_000008201545_Medium
If you’re one of the 29 million Americans that can’t wait to tune in to this week’s Shark Week spectacular, you’re probably familiar with the incredible power, grace, and agility of the world’s 460-plus species of sharks.

For the past 27 years, audiences have been captivated by the annual week-long tribute to the world’s majestic aquatic predators. But what you might not realize is that sharks are in serious danger.

In fact, tens of millions of sharks are mercilessly killed each year. More than 160 species of sharks are categorized as at risk of extinction, ranging from near threatened to critically endangered. But what’s the biggest threat to these crucial and magnificent creatures? Shark finning.

Shark finning is the increasingly rampant and highly profitable process of stripping sharks of their fins and throwing the sharks back into the ocean, very much alive but unable to swim. This leaves the helpless sharks at risk of bleeding to death or becoming prey for another predator. Shark fins -- the most profitable part of a shark -- are then traded in a billion-dollar annual market.  For centuries, shark fins have been mainly used in the wildly expensive shark fin soup, a delicacy in some countries.

Importantly, some countries are beginning to take action to stop shark finning. The U.S., for example, has already banned shark finning, and eight U.S. states and three U.S. territories have passed bans outlawing the possession, sale, trade, and consumption of shark fins. And, thanks to the recent campaign by former basketball star Yao Ming, shark fin soup has been on the decline in China. In fact, shark fin trading has dropped by as much as 82 percent in some parts of the country and continues to decline.

While this is a step in the right direction to protect sharks, it’s not enough. We need strong action and common-sense policies to stop shark finning and associated trade around the world. Unfortunately, a massive trade agreement currently under negotiation between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries seems to leave shark fins on the chopping block.  

Lemon SharksIn fact, many of the 12 Pacific Rim countries negotiating the secretive trade pact -- Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore, to name a few -- have a long and bloody history in the shark fin trade. That’s why it is particularly worrying that a previously leaked chapter of the TPP includes only very vague references to shark finning -- not the full ban on shark finning and associated trade that we need. Other parts of the TPP would allow corporations to sue governments over environmental safeguards—like protections for sharks—that might decrease their profits. This could mean a huge step backward in the fight to protect sharks.

Luckily, there’s a way to protect the sharks -- and you can help. Some Members of Congress want to “fast track” the TPP by simply voting yes or no to pass the deal -- without taking the time to debate or amend it. We must tell our Members of Congress to oppose fast track in order to prevent a harmful TPP that threatens communities, our environment, and sharks. So while you’re watching prime time shark action this week, take action to tell your Member of Congress that the U.S. can’t be a part of any trade deal that puts our sharks at risk.

We know we need to protect our oceans’ top predator. It’s time the U.S. led the way.

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

 

Tar sands pipelines and their cumulative climate impacts

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 07:16 AM

Syncrude111110__MG_9810

Last summer, President Obama delivered a major climate speech in which he laid out his plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020. He also committed to deciding the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline based on it climate impacts, stating unequivocally: "The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward."

While the evidence (PDF) shows that Keystone XL would result in significant greenhouse gas emissions and should be denied in its own right, it is only one of many proposed tar sands pipelines on the Obama administration’s desk. The State Department is currently preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for an expansion of Enbridge's Alberta Clipper pipeline, which would increase its capacity to over 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) - roughly the same size as Keystone XL.  An expansion of Enbridge's Line 3 would transport up to 760,000 bpd of tar sands crude through the Great Lakes region; and a reversal of the Portland-Montreal Pipeline could bring up to 600,000 bpd through New England.

Because the tar sands deposits are landlocked in Alberta, the oil industry needs these pipelines to carry tar sands crude to U.S. refineries and overseas markets. Each one is a key part of the industry's plan to triple tar sands development to around six million bpd by 2030. Without these pipelines, much of the high-carbon tar sands would stay in the ground.

Last week, the Sierra Club and allies urged (PDF) the State Department to evaluate the cumulative climate impacts of these pipelines as part of its Alberta Clipper EIS. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires an analysis of the cumulative environmental impacts of a proposed project combined with other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable projects. Federal courts recognize that "the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change is precisely the kind of cumulative impacts analysis that NEPA requires."

In a recent decision, a court rejected federal agencies' attempts to downplay the climate impacts of permitting a coal mine based on the reasoning that other coal would be mined and burned regardless of their decision.
 
The State Department now has two major tar sands pipelines pending before it -- Alberta Clipper and Keystone XL -- and several more on the horizon. Yet so far, it has narrowly analyzed each pipeline in isolation without looking at their cumulative effect on tar sands expansion and the corresponding greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the State Department’s EIS for Keystone XL claimed that the approval of any one pipeline project is unlikely to have significant climate impacts because other tar sands pipelines are sure to be built in the future, allowing unchecked tar sands expansion in any scenario. State relied on this same flawed logic to approve the original Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline and the first Keystone pipeline.

The State Department cannot keep claiming that tar sands pipelines are inevitable when it has the authority to approve or reject each pipeline. Looking at each project in isolation ignores the bigger picture—the State Department’s series of decisions on individual pipelines will cumulatively have massive climate implications.

The Sierra Club and its allies are not alone in calling for a broader look expanded tar sands infrastructure. Last month, a coalition of leading scientists published an article in the journal Nature that called for a moratorium on tar sands pipelines and an end the "tyranny of incremental decisions" that has already allowed tar sands production to double in the last decade. As the scientists explained, the "current public debate about oil-sands development focuses on individual pipeline decisions... When judged in isolation, the costs, benefits and consequences of a particular oil-sands proposal may be deemed acceptable…[b]ut impacts mount with multiple projects...." A narrow view of each individual project "creates the misguided idea that oil-sands expansion is inevitable." Instead, the scientists thus urged leaders to pause, and craft a broader energy strategy under which “decisions on infrastructure projects…are made in the context of an overarching commitment to limit carbon emissions."

In preparing its EIS for the Alberta Clipper expansion, the State Department has an obligation to analyze the project's cumulative climate impacts in the context of Keystone XL and other past and future tar sands pipelines. As the scientists caution: "Anything less demonstrates flawed policies and failed leadership. With such high stakes, our nations and the world cannot afford a series of ad hoc, fragmented decisions."

-- Doug Hayes, Sierra Club Staff Attorney

 
 

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