SOLAR VIDEOS

Solar DIY Videos on YouTube

Solar panel install to SkyMax grid tie inverter DIY How To

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The DIY World Installing Solar Panels On A Home In Australia

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

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

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

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

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

My solar power system - DIY solar panels

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

DIY Solar Panel from broken scrap cells UV CURE Resin

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

Solar Panels - How it Works YouTube Videos

Solar Cell System - Solar Cell How It Works

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

How solar panels work 2

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

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

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

Pop Music Makes Solar Cells More Efficient

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

How Solar Panel Works

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

Fast Lecture Series: How Solar Panels Work

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

How Does a Solar Cell Work

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

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

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

P-N junction solar cells

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

How Photovoltaic Solar Panels Work

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

Solar Projects In Google News

Green Desert: Solar projects gaining momentum - The Desert Sun

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 01:51 AM

On the issue of bird deaths at solar projects — particularly the deaths of water birds found at Desert Sunlight that may have mistaken the project's dark, shiny panels for a lake — Cook sees ongoing development as necessary for gathering data and
 

US backs community-level solar power projects - UPI.com

Sat, 04/19/2014 - 11:43 AM

Community-level solar projects targeted by U.S. Energy Department. By Daniel J. Graeber | April 18, 2014 at 8:54 AM | Comments. 2. 9. 1. 1. U.S. funding to go toward community-level solar power options. UPI/Stephen Shaver. | License Photo. WASHINGTON Obama to challenge private companies to boost solar power useWashington PostObama makes a push for solar powerGristHouseholds invest billions in solar as utilities stall on big projectsRenewEconomyCleanTechnica -Daily Caller -vtdigger.orgall 118  
 

Adenium finances multimillion dollar solar projects in Jordan - Renewable Energy Focus

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 12:01 PM

First Solar to provide advanced thin film modules, EPC services for Jordan's largest PV plant. November/December preview: Riddle of the sands. The Middle East has huge potential for solar power. Now there are hopes of solving the myriad problems that 
 

Yingli Green Forms Fund for Chinese Solar Projects - Analyst Blog - NASDAQ

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 10:07 PM

- NASDAQUnder the agreement, the solar panel manufacturer will contribute 51% of the total capital via several installments and both firms will play an active role in the management of the fund. The fund will be exploited primarily for the development of solar
 

Yingli Green Forms Fund for Chinese Solar Projects - Zacks.com

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 07:50 PM

Under the agreement, the solar panel manufacturer will contribute 51% of the total capital via several installments and both firms will play an active role in the management of the fund. The fund will be exploited primarily for the development of solar JinkoSolar grid connects 39 MW of solar power in JiangsuPennEnergy (press release)all 5  
 

JinkoSolar Adds More Solar to Chinese Grid - Zacks.com

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 07:50 PM

The two latest solar projects will receive government subsidies for 20 years – 1.125 RMB/KWh for the Xinyi plant and 1.1 RMB/KWh for the Lianyungang power plant. JinkoSolar's shares have skyrocketed 350% last year and a sharp 14.6% so far this year. - Analyst BlogNASDAQJinkoSolar grid connects 39 MW of solar power in JiangsuPennEnergy (press release)all 5  
 

You Can Now Invest in Your Neighbors' Solar Energy Projects - Mashable

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 04:54 PM

You Can Now Invest in Your Neighbors' Solar Energy ProjectsThe loans are administered by Mosaic, an Oakland, Calif., startup that made its name by letting ordinary investors - that's you and me - put money into commercial and non-profit solar projects that were once the exclusive domain of big banks and
 

Households invest billions in solar as utilities stall on big projects - RenewEconomy

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 06:40 AM

The only projects likely to get committed this year include two solar projects from the ACT's reverse auction scheme, and possibly some wind projects to be allocated in another upcoming auction. Australia currently has around 3.4GW of solar  
 

Court ruling means solar projects can move forward - New Jersey Herald

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 04:11 AM

Photo by Tracy Klimek/ The upper parking lot at Sussex County Community College in Newton is covered by solar panels in a 2012 file photo. It's one of 14 solar projects by developer Sunlight General Capital in Sussex County. 
 

NextEnergy raises £86m for solar projects - Financial Times

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 07:44 PM

NextEnergy Solar Fund is to acquire eight UK solar projects after raising £86m in a London IPO. The amount raised is less than the £150m originally targeted by the fund, which has limited itself to acquiring existing UK solar power assets whose revenue Prudential joins investors in backing NextEnergy's solar IPOBusiness Greenall 7  
 
 

California Solar Projects In Google News

California Solar Energy Gets Crowdsourced - Guardian Liberty Voice

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

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

Desert community mobilizes against solar project - WND.com

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

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

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

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

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

California desert community mobilizes against solar project - WND.com

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

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

Public passion against DWP's solar ranch - Sierra Wave

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

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

MOJAVE DESERT: Huge solar project questioned - Press-Enterprise

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

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

MOJAVE DESERT: Huge solar project questioned | Local News | PE.com - Press-Enterprise

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

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

First Solar update on desert projects expected Thursday - The Desert Sun

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 09:49 PM

PALM DESERT – A major solar developer will give an update on its projects in the Southern California desert at the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership's Renewable Energy Roundtable at 7:30 a.m. Thursday at UC Riverside's Palm Desert Center, 
 

California to Utilities: Connect Battery-Solar Systems to the Grid - Greentech Media

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 05:52 PM

Business Insider Australia
California regulators have just issued a rebuke to utilities, and a thumbs-up to customers and companies that want to connect hundreds of now-stalled battery-backed solar PV projects across the state. On Tuesday, the California Public Utilities Musk's SolarCity: We Are Not Trying To Kill UtilitiesBusiness Insider AustraliaSolarCity Resumes Storage Applications After California DecisionBusinessweekMusk's SolarCity: We Are Not Trying To Kill Utilities (SCTY)seattlepi.comPV-Techall 9  
 

Why Your Neighbors Will Finance Solar Panels for Your Roof - The Atlantic

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 12:01 PM

solar loan. The loans are administered by Mosaic, an Oakland, Calif., startup that made its name by letting ordinary investors – that's you and me – put money into commercial and non-profit solar projects that were once the exclusive domain of big Organic EnergyEast Bay Expressall 5  
 
 

New Jersey Solar Projects In Google News

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

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

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

SMECO plans second solar facility - Bay Net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ridgewood Green RME Wins Biogas Project of the Year - RenewablesBiz

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

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

Ridgewood Green RME Wins Biogas Project of the Year - InvestorIdeas.com (press release)

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 07:48 PM

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

Ridgewood Green RME Wins Biogas Project of the Year - MENAFN.COM

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 05:29 PM

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

Ridgewood Green RME Wins Biogas Project of the Year - GlobeNewswire (press release)

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 05:21 PM

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

Ridgewood Green RME Wins Biogas Project of the Year Nasdaq:MSEX - GlobeNewswire (press release)

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 05:21 PM

The overall objective is to improve affordability, resiliency and sustainability of wastewater treatment operations for the Village of Ridgewood, New Jersey. Ridgewood Village Project. A biogas production system was designed to optimize the production Ridgewood Green RME Wins Biogas Project of the YearRenewablesBizall 6  
 

Ridgewood Green RME Wins Biogas Project of the Year - NASDAQ

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 05:21 PM

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

Colorado Solar Projects In Google News

Green Lending Provides Variety - Credit Union Times

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

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

SMECO to build second solar farm - So Md News

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

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

Sally Jewell's frustrating first year in Washington - Grist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sally Jewell's Frustrating First Year In Washington - Huffington Post

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 02:11 AM

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

Clean Energy Collective Plans Community Solar Expansion In Massachusetts - Solar Industry

Wed, 04/9/2014 - 02:20 PM

Colorado-based community solar developer Clean Energy Collective (CEC) says its recent purchase of two solar projects from Massachusetts-based BlueWave Capital represents a broader expansion plan to make community-owned solar available across 
 

Through Solar Jobs, Veterans Find a Continuation in Mission to Serve Nation ... - Natural Resources Defense Council (blog)

Mon, 04/7/2014 - 09:38 PM

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

Department of Energy Solar Projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama to challenge private companies to boost solar power use - Washington Post

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

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

Loan Guarantees Are Back: DOE Targets 'Catalytic' Grid Integration Technology - Greentech Media

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 10:31 PM

Loan Guarantees Are Back: DOE Targets 'Catalytic' Grid Integration TechnologyEnding a long hiatus, DOE indicated in February that it would finally use the remaining $1.5 billion allocated by Congress for loans to clean energy project developers. Today, the department is announcing the first public step in that process: a U.S. DOE to open new round of loan guarantees to support up to USD 4 billion solarserver.comall 21  
 

U.S. DOE to open new round of loan guarantees to support up to USD 4 billion ... - solarserver.com

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 09:34 PM

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation to support innovative U.S. renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, as well as projects to sequester greenhouse gases. The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy  
 

Yingli forming $161M solar plant JV - Seeking Alpha

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 06:58 PM

Yingli (YGE +6.7%) and China's Shanghai Sailing Capital Management have signed an MOU to create fund through which the companies will invest in local downstream solar projects. The fund will have an initial size of RMB1B ($161M), of which Yingli will  
 

South Africa may add additional renewable energy capacity through REIPPP ... - solarserver.com

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 12:37 PM

The South Africa Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it is considering adding an unspecified amount of additional renewable energy capacity under the third window of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme (REIPPP)  
 

Green Jobs: Executive Moves at Comverge, EPRI, Primus Power, KPCB - Greentech Media

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 03:33 PM

Founded in 2009, Primus has logged $35 million in total venture capital, along with significant funding over the years from DOE, ARPA-E, and the CEC. Fortune's Dan Primack reports that KPCB partner Amol Deshpande "appears to have launched a startup 
 

ENR talks grid security, reliability IG says FERC may not have adequate ... - Politico

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 02:08 PM

FERC MAY NOT HAVE 'ADEQUATE CONTROLS' FOR CLASSIFIED INFO — IG: FERC may not have proper controls for flagging sensitive information, DOE's top watchdog announced this afternoon as it continues its review of how a sensitive FERC analysis about the  
 
 

The Green Life

Ideas for living well and doing good from Sierra magazine.

The Rebels who Saved the Golden Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Image courtesy of iStockphoto/carterdayne

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

 

READ MORE:

Momenta: More than a Film

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

Brewery to Help LA River Flow Free

 

Original Beards of the Sierra Club

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

Wright_0260_ansels-beard

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

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

LeConte-JoeSr_portrait

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

MuirBurroughsKeithGroupPhoto

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

Wright_0257_cuthbertson

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

Wright_0307_wayburn-yng

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

Wright_0353-1_prof-lawson

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

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

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

 

READ MORE: 

Throwback Thursday: Retro Hiking Fashion

Groom and Grow Your Beard Naturally

If John Muir Tweeted 

 

DIY Waste Audit

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Cover image courtesy of iStock/moshimochi

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

 

Read More

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Eco-Vocabulary Quiz: Pollution and Waste

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5 Homemade Musical Instruments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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Ford vs. Cadillac: Whose EV Is More American?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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Public Transportation Surges in Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Image courtesy of iStockphoto/Merkuri2

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

READ MORE:

An Electric Car for Wheelchairs

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This Will Make You Ride Your Bike More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by the author 

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

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A Vegan Meal Made from Spring

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

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

Starter: Shaved asparagus salad

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

Shaved spring asparagus saladMakes 4 servings

Base:

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

Dressing: 

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

Directions: 

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

Main: Creamy penne pasta bake with zucchini

Cook time: 35 minutes

Serves 6

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

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

Creamy penne pasta bake with zucchiniBase:

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

Sauce:

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

Garnish:

Chopped fresh chives

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

Recipe Notes:

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

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

Dessert: Triple chocolate beet Bundt cake

Makes one 10" Bundt cake

Serves 12-16

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

Vegan triple chocolate beet bundt cake

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

Chocolate Ganache:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

--all recipes used with permission by the respective blog

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

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

 

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Sorry Wired, Coal Isn’t the “Future of Clean Energy”

Thu, 04/3/2014 - 03:27 PM

Wired CoverOuch! Here comes the April Wired poking its finger in environmentalists’ eyes with its provocative headline, “Coal: It’s Dangerous, It’s Dirty, and It’s the Future of Clean Energy.” (Last time it was James Fallows in the Atlantic with “Dirty Coal, Clean Future,” which I discussed here.) Both features are well written, compelling, but absolutely wrong--and for the same reason.

To be fair to Wired contributing editor Charles C. Mann, his article is far more nuanced than its contrarian cover line might suggest. In fact, much of it details the environmental evils of coal, particularly in China, which gets three quarters of its energy by burning nearly as much coal as the entire rest of the world:

According to one major research project involving almost 500 scientists in 50 nations, outdoor air pollution annually contributes to about 1.2 million premature deaths in China. Another study argued that eliminating coal pollution in northern China would raise average life expectancy there by nearly five years.

That’s in addition to the horrific climate effects: 

China already emits one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases, more than any other country. The International Energy Agency (IEA), a Paris-based think tank sponsored by 28 developed nations, estimates that Beijing will double its ranks of coal-fired power plants by 2040. If that happens, China’s carbon dioxide figures could double or even triple.

Like Fallows before him, Mann goes on to note that China is making tremendous efforts to harness clean energy, deploying solar and wind faster than any other country. But, he argues, as much as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace may scoff, renewables can’t do the trick.

No one has ever powered a nation solely, or even mostly, with sun and wind over the long term . . . . [T]he process of replacing the present coal-and-gas grid with a new, sun-and-wind grid—all the while keeping the old grid running—will be long, expensive, and risky.

So to recap: Coal is awful. Renewables would be better, but scaling them up would be hard and cost a lot of money. Therefore, conclude both Fallows and Mann, the solution must be “carbon capture and storage” (CCS)--stripping out the carbon dioxide from the burning coal and pumping it away for storage in deep underground caverns. China has a number of such facilities (although it turns out that GreenGen’s billion-dollar CCS plant in Tianjin just sells its CO2 to soft drink companies).

Mann acknowledges that there are some major problems with CCS, though--it uses a tremendous amount of energy (“20 to 30 percent of a power plant’s output”), costs a fortune (“as much as $100 per ton of stored CO2”), and is still largely experimental.

[T]he world has just 12 fully operational large-scale carbon-capture projects, most in the United States. Not one of them is what is most needed: a facility that traps and stores emissions from a big coal-fired power plant.

And yet, he argues, CCS is the future of clean energy. Unexplained is why China would apply this fantastically expensive fix to its coal plants when it doesn't even provide simple scrubbers that would prevent the horrendous particle pollution Mann previously cited. China burns coal because it's as cheap as dirt, but if it’s suddenly going to cost $2 trillion a year to bury that carbon in the ground (Mann’s figure), the entire rationale for coal disappears. And even if CCS did become widespread, it would do nothing to lessen the environmental horrors of coal extraction, transportation, and coal-ash pollution. 

If you’re going to spend billions--or trillions!--to prevent climate disaster, why spend it on an experimental scheme to clean up coal instead of proven, zero-carbon, renewable technology? The only reason to keep talking about “clean coal” and CCS is what it has always been--to maintain the pretense that someday, somehow, the coal industry will clean up after itself, and to delay the inevitable switch to truly clean energy.

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

 

Mission Compostable: Can Anyone Make Eco-Comedy Funny?

Tue, 04/1/2014 - 03:17 PM

EcoComedyFilmCompetitionWhy aren’t environmentalists funny? Because they recycle all their jokes.

Luckily this year’s Eco-Comedy Film Competition winners have better jokes than I do. Started by Professor Chris Palmer of American University, the competition is now in its fifth year and receives around 50 submissions annually. They are judged on multiple criteria and being funny is only one of them. The winning video receives $1,000.

Palmer, an environmental filmmaker and one-time stand up comedian, came up with the idea to combine his interests.

“[Participants] gain a renewed appreciation of how using comedy and humor can help convey the message of conservation more powerfully,” Palmer said. He hopes comedy can encourage people to act on environmental problems.

“Comedy has so much potential, and as advocates for our planet, we must learn to harness this potential to do good,” Palmer said at the DC Environmental Film Fest.

The winners were announced at American University. See this year’s top picks below.

First Place: Be a Better Roommate 

Second Place: Joe Wakes Up

Second Place: Go Green with Eloise

Third Place: Earth Copz  

 

 

--Cover image courtesy of iStock/

 

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

 

Read More: 

Green Your Humor: Irreverant News

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Compass

Pointing the way to a clean energy future.

Kosovo Says No to World Bank's Dirty Coal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14041518/a94abc08-1d9f-4e60-902c-dcd19ee5fbdf.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Radha Adhar, Associate Washington Representative

 

WWF Holds Big Coal Accountable

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

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

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

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

When the ad appeared, WWF was quick to act.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Japan replaced half its nuclear capacity through energy efficiency

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

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Japan was facing darkness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14041018/b4b8ca9f-1b3a-4bc0-ac24-88edd5d05a73.png

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Securing a Positive Climate Legacy

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

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

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

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

CAFEvsClimateDisrupters_All

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

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

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

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

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

 

How Coal & Clean Energy Will Define Indian Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

West Virginians and North Carolinians Agree - It's Time for Serious Environmental Protections

Mon, 04/7/2014 - 12:32 PM

Wv water crisisIn the wake of dangerous coal chemical and coal ash spills in their states already this year, West Virginia and North Carolina voters have gotten a wake-up call on the need for environmental and public health protections - and they know it.

According to two recent polls conducted by Hart Research on behalf of the Sierra Club, a majority of West Virginians and North Carolinians believe that it is high time to get serious by taking action on policy that protects our families and communities.

On January 9th, a coal chemical plant owned by Freedom Industries spilled 7,500 gallons of toxic 4-methylcyclohexane methanol - part of the coal production process - into the Elk River, just upstream of the largest water treatment plant in West Virginia. The contamination affected drinking water for 300,000 people across nine counties in the Kanawha Valley. Local emergency rooms treated 169 patients for symptoms related to chemical exposure, and ten people were admitted to hospitals for non-life-threatening symptoms.

West Virginians were shocked and angry. According to a poll conducted between February 4th – 7th, 73 percent of Mountain State voters agree that their state "has spent too little attention to addressing threats to air and water, and that the Elk River spill is a wakeup call that things must change."

More than two in three voters across the political spectrum say that "stronger regulations and better enforcement of existing regulations would have prevented the spill" (79 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents, and 57 percent of Republicans).

And 62 percent of voters say they would be more likely to support a candidate who favors "strong regulations and enforcement to protect the water, air, and health of West Virginians."

"You can throw the coal industry's conventional wisdom out the window," says Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "[These polls are] yet another indication that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in coal-dependent states want leaders who will stand up to big coal companies and enact common-sense initiatives to protect our air, our water, and our families from toxic coal ash and pollution."

Dan River coal ash spill - courtesy Appalachian VoicesNorth Carolinians received a similar shock in early February, when a Duke Energy facility spilled tens of thousands of tons of coal ash into North Carolina's Dan River. What's more, the Southern Environmental Law Center says that this plant has been leeching arsenic, boron, and sulfate into groundwater for years, and that "Duke Energy had experienced coal ash structural failures at three of its other facilities in North Carolina."

Voters in the Tar Heel state responded powerfully. A March 10th - 13th poll found that 63 percent of voters think state leaders are not doing enough to protect the state's rivers and streams from contamination. And an overwhelming 83 percent of North Carolinians feel that coal ash should be treated as a hazardous substance that needs to be regulated.

The issue crosses party lines here too, with overwhelming majorities of Democrats (91 percent), independents (85 percent), and Republicans (75 percent) all supporting designating coal ash as a hazardous substance.

If all of this wasn't bad enough news for big coal and special interests, voters in both states hold the coal industry responsible. Two-thirds of West Virginians say that the coal industry bears some or a lot of the responsibility for air and water contamination, while 70 percent of North Carolinians say Duke Energy is totally or mostly to blame for the spill.

The so-called conventional wisdom peddled by the coal industry has been turned on its head, and even in coal country the results are clear: voters want leaders who won't cave to the special interests in the coal industry and who will stand up for clean water and public health protections. It's time our elected officials started paying attention.

-- David Shadburn, Sierra Club Intern

 

Wind Wins in Senate Committee

Fri, 04/4/2014 - 06:59 AM

Wind Turbine
Yesterday afternoon, the Senate Finance Committee advanced a critically important package of renewable energy tax credits, moving one step closer toward renewing these expiring or expired investments that help support clean energy jobs all over the country. The package includes the progressive renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) - key policies originally enacted to support the development of renewable energy production facilities here at home, boosting the American wind industry. But four months ago, those credits expired, resulting in job losses nationwide as the rug was pulled out from under the thriving wind sector - all while  fossil fuel companies counted among the most profitable in the world continued to get massive tax handouts.  

Today, the Senate Finance Committee gave a bipartisan vote of support to these wind investments, passing a successful mark-up of legislation including the wind energy PTC that should lead to consideration on the Senate floor soon.

The clearest sign of support for wind jobs and clean energy came in the face of opposition. Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, attempted to pass an amendment that would have crippled clean energy investments -- only to be met by a stiff wind of bipartisan support for these vital job-creating credits.

Toomey was only able to rally five Republicans to his side. Republican Senators John Cornyn, Mike Crapo, Rob Portman, and John Thune  joined 13 Democrats in supporting wind energy, sending Toomey’s amendment to the scrap heap by a vote of 6 to 18.

Senator Chuck Grassley - an Iowa Republican from a state with a thriving wind industry - dismissed the argument that supporting the wind PTC is akin to “picking winners and losers” as intellectually dishonest, pointing to long standing oil, gas, and nuclear subsidies.

Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow agreed, saying oil and gas tax credits were not part of the package under consideration “because we picked them to win a long time ago.”

As wind power supports tens of thousands of American jobs and powers homes and businesses across the country, its a wonder that the package didn’t receive unanimous support. That’s particularly true when you look at the impact wind has had in the home states of the small handful of Senators who opposed the package.

Kansas Republican Pat Roberts opposed the wind investments in spite of the fact that more than 870,000 homes in the Jayhawk state are wind-powered, and upwards of 5,000 Kansans work in the wind industry.

North Carolina’s Richard Burr seemingly voted in opposition to the 23 wind facilities currently operating in his home state, where combined production from offshore and onshore wind power is capable of exceeding the state’s energy needs seven times over.

Georgia serves as one of the headquarters for GE - the second largest manufacturer in the wind industry in the world. Yet, Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson voted against the jobs in his state.

Wyoming wind powers 400,000 homes, but Senator Mike Enzi opposed wind investments. Utah’s Orrin Hatch rejected wind tax credits while hundreds of Utah residents work in wind.

Most egregious, though, is Toomey, who sponsored the assault on wind energy in spite of 4,000 Pennsylvanians working in the wind industry, 300,000 homes running on wind power, and 18% of his state’s energy pledged to come from clean energy by 2021. Had Toomey’s amendment passed, he would have undercut not just this goal, but all of the Pennsylvania jobs wind will create.

Senators from both parties stood up for wind today - and we expect them to again do so when this legislation reaches the Senate floor. The numbers don’t lie - wind is creating jobs and powering homes and businesses from coast to coast.

--Radha Adhar

 
 

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