SOLAR VIDEOS

Solar DIY Videos on YouTube

DIY - Solar Panels Meet Cattle Panels

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

DIY Boat Solar Power Solution for LED Lighting

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

M101 DIY SOLAR PANEL KIT

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

DIY 15$ 40w Solar Panel

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

DIY Portable Solar Panel Stand for $10

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

Homemade Solar Panels Diy tutorial

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

Solar panel install to SkyMax grid tie inverter DIY How To

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solar Panels - How it Works YouTube Videos

How Solar Power Solar Panels Work by SolarCity mp4

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

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

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

How Solar Panels Work - Aztec Renewable Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[solar energy for home] How Solar Panels Work

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

Solar Cell :: How it Works?

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

Solar 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

Solar Projects In Google News

Brazil's first solar power auction to clear 500 MW of new plants - Reuters Africa

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 05:45 PM

Brazil's first solar power auction to clear 500 MW of new plantsAbout 400 solar projects are registered to participate in Friday's auction, representing than 10 gigawatts of potential capacity. But an energy price ceiling and financing issues may limit new licenses, according to companies involved. Dozens of  
 

Fraser Institute study blames wind and solar contracts for sharply higher ... - St. Thomas Times-Journal

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 12:19 PM

The report by the right-leaning think tank suggests the Ontario government could prevent further electricity rate increase by halting all new hydroelectric, wind and solar projects. To reduce rates, the province could terminate, where possible Contracts with wind, solar power companies driving up electricity bills in OntarioCanada Free Pressall 20  
 

Change text size for the story - London Free Press

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 12:14 PM

Tillsonburg News
The report by the right-leaning think tank suggests the Ontario government could prevent further electricity rate increase by halting all new hydroelectric, wind and solar projects. To reduce rates, the province could terminate, where possible The Fraser Institute: Contracts With Wind, Solar Power Companies Driving Up HydroWorldall 9  
 

SunEdison Wins 150 Megawatts Of Solar Photovoltaic Projects In Karnataka India - CNNMoney

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 11:40 AM

Potential risks and uncertainties including that SunEdison or SunEdison affiliates, including Yieldcos, are envisioned as the ultimate owner(s) of these solar projects, and will sell the electricity generated to various entities via Power Purchase  
 

SunEdison Wins 150 Megawatts Of Solar Photovoltaic Projects In Karnataka India - PR Newswire (press release)

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 11:32 AM

SunEdison or SunEdison affiliates, including Yieldcos, are envisioned as the ultimate owner(s) of these solar projects, and will sell the electricity generated to various entities via Power Purchase Agreements (PPA's). "This is yet another milestone in  
 

2 solar projects planned - Albuquerque Journal

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 06:06 AM

SANTA FE – PNM is planning to purchase land in Santa Fe County and build two solar energy centers together valued at about $30 million. Separate applications were submitted to Santa Fe County's land use office last month. One would be located on 40 
 

SunEdison's Terraform buys $250 million of solar projects in US - STLtoday.com

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 11:54 PM

SunEdison's Terraform buys $250 million of solar projects in USTerraForm Power Inc., the company that owns and operates solar farms mainly built by Maryland Heights-based SunEdison Inc., will pay $250 million to Capital Dynamics U.S. Solar Energy Fund LP for solar projects in five U.S. states. TerraForm will buy  
 

SunEdison's Terraform buys $250 million of solar projects in U.S. - STLtoday.com

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 11:54 PM

SunEdison's Terraform buys $250 million of solar projects in U.S.TerraForm Power Inc., the company that owns and operates solar farms mainly built by Maryland Heights-based SunEdison Inc., will pay $250 million to Capital Dynamics U.S. Solar Energy Fund LP for solar projects in five U.S. states. TerraForm will buy TerraForm yield co adds 77MW of DG solar to portfolioPV-Techall 26  
 

Shunfeng $361 Million Bond Offer to Fund Solar Projects - Businessweek

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 05:54 PM

Shunfeng will use the proceeds for solar projects it's building, mainly in China, and to develop new business and for acquisitions. The company has set a goal of having 10 gigawatts of grid-connected solar plants by the end of 2016. When these bonds  
 

Shunfeng $361 Million Bond Offer to Fund Solar Projects - Bloomberg

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 05:53 PM

Shunfeng will use the proceeds for solar projects it's building, mainly in China, and to develop new business and for acquisitions. The company has set a goal of having 10 gigawatts of grid-connected solar plants by the end of 2016. When these bonds  
 
 

California Solar Projects In Google News

Southern California Edison Seeking Small Scale Solar PPAs - Mondaq News Alerts (registration)

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 11:46 AM

Southern California Edison (SCE) has announced a Request for Offers (RFO) seeking proposals for 63 MW of solar generation, with proposed projects being between 500 kW and 10 MW each. While SCE has made known its preference for project bids from 
 

At Ivanpah Solar Power Plant, Energy Production Falling Well Short of ... - Breaking Energy

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 02:09 PM

Still, the plant's slow start can't be good news for its owners, particularly BrightSource, the company whose technology is on display at Ivanpah and which has struggled to advance other planned power tower projects in California. Plant operator NRG High Desert residents ask for time to review, comment on draft DRECPVictorville Daily PressTime for county supervisors to take leadHesperia Starall 10  
 

SolarReserve Advances Leadership In Solar Thermal Energy With Technology ... - PR Newswire UK (press release)

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 02:08 PM

SANTA MONICA, California, Oct. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- SolarReserve, a leading global developer of large-scale solar power projects and advanced solar thermal technology, today announced its acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne's Concentrating Solar  
 

SolarReserve Advances Leadership In Solar Thermal Energy With Technology ... - SYS-CON Media (press release)

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 02:02 PM

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Oct. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- SolarReserve, a leading global developer of large-scale solar power projects and advanced solar thermal technology, today announced its acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne's Concentrating Solar Power  
 

First Solar sells 150MW Solar Gen 2 project to Southern Power - Semiconductor Today

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 10:29 AM

US wholesale energy provider Southern Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company, has acquired the 150MW Solar Gen 2 project in California from cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film photovoltaic module maker First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA First Solar sells 150 MW solar PV project to Southern Company subsidiarysolarserver.comCompanies mentioned include: First Solar, Southern Power, Turner Renewable PV Insider News and Analysisall 41  
 

First Solar sells 150 MW solar PV project to Southern Company subsidiary - solarserver.com

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 06:08 AM

Southern Company (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.) subsidiary Southern Power on October 23rd, 2014 announced the acquisition of the 150 megawatt (MW) Solar Gen 2 solar photovoltaic (PV) facility in California from First Solar Inc. (Tempe, AZ, U.S.). As the  
 

Soitec to supply 150MW of CPV modules for project in California - PV-Tech

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 10:41 AM

The customer has a power purchase agreement with San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) for the solar project in California. Construction of the facility will revolve around certain conditions related to the deal, but once operational, the project will be  
 

sPower Breaks Ground on 7MWdc Solar Facility in Palmdale, CA - AltEnergyMag (press release)

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 02:51 AM

SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 22, 2014 -- sPower (Sustainable Power Group), a leading renewable energy provider, announced today recently breaking ground on the 7MWdc (megawatts of direct current) Little Rock Solar Facility in Palmdale, CA. The project is sPower breaks ground on 7 MW solar facilityPennEnergyall 2  
 

SunEdison 1.7 Megawatt (MW) Rooftop Solar Project Powers Southern ... - RenewablesBiz

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 10:59 PM

CleanTechnology News, Industry Analysis, Market Research Reports - Clean Technology Business Review
SunEdison, Inc., (NYSE: SUNE), a leading global solar technology manufacturer and provider of solar energy services, today announced the completion of a 1.7 MW DC roof-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) system in Hesperia, California that will both SunEdison Wins 17.7 MW Of Distributed Solar Projects In CaliforniaSolar IndustrySunEdison Awarded 17.7 Megawatts (MW) Of Distributed Solar Projects In DigitalJournal.comSunEdison secures 17.7MW of distributed solar PV projects in CaliforniaCleanTechnology News, Industry Analysis, Market Research Reports - Clean Technology Business Reviewall 35  
 

sPower breaks ground on 7 MW solar facility - PennEnergy

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 09:33 PM

Sustainable Power Group (sPower), a leading renewable energy provider, announced breaking ground on the 7 megawatts direct current (MWdc) Little Rock Solar Facility in Palmdale, CA. The project is expected to begin commercial operation mid-December  
 
 

New Jersey Solar Projects In Google News

SunEdison's TerraForm buys $250 million in U.S. solar projects - St. Louis Business Journal (blog)

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 05:07 PM

SunEdison's TerraForm buys $250 million in U.S. solar projects that went public in July, is coughing up $250 million to Capital Dynamics U.S. Solar Energy Fund to buy than 77 megawatts of solar projects in the United States. The projects — there are 39 in all — are located in California, Massachusetts SunEdison's Terraform buys $250 million of solar projects in U.S.STLtoday.comSunEdison's Terraform Buys $250 Million of Solar FarmsBloombergTerraForm yield co adds 77MW of DG solar to portfolioPV-Techall 54  
 

Minnesota Renewable Energy Experts JJR Power See 'Unprecedented ... - PR Web (press release)

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 03:38 PM

Minnesota Renewable Energy Experts JJR Power See 'Unprecedented We work with installers, constructors, developers and organizations interested in financing and developing solar projects. We've capitalized on opportunities in the energy sector and have created a In 2009, we began advising, developing and  
 

Minnesota Renewable Energy Experts JJR Power See 'Unprecedented ... - DigitalJournal.com

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 03:34 PM

Minnesota Renewable Energy Experts JJR Power See 'Unprecedented We work with installers, constructors, developers and organizations interested in financing and developing solar projects. We've capitalized on opportunities in the energy sector and have created a In 2009, we began advising, developing and  
 

PSE&G Commences Construction on 11.18MW-dc Solar Farm atop Closed ... - AZoBuild

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 11:49 AM

PSE&G Commences Construction on 11.18MW-dc Solar Farm atop Closed "New Jersey already is a national leader in solar energy, ranking near the top in residential and commercial solar projects, and this latest effort by PSE&G is the latest example of New Jersey's leadership as one of the largest and fastest growing
 

PLYMOUTH PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Local schools ranked second in nation for ... - Wicked Local Plymouth

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 09:34 PM

It is one of three solar projects the district planned to use to cut energy costs. The district is The national survey currently ranks Massachusetts fourth in the nation (behind California, New Jersey and Arizona) for installed solar photovoltaic
 

Second phase of Solar 4 All underway - Fierce Energy

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 02:39 PM

solarserver.com
New Jersey is a national leader in solar energy, ranking near the top in residential and commercial solar projects. The Kinsley Solar Farm is expected to be in service in the spring of 2015, at which time PSE&G will have returned than 110 acres of PSE&G announces start of construction of a 11.18 MW landfill solar PV farm in solarserver.comPSE&G targets Q2 '15 Kinsley startRechargeConstruction Under Way At PSE&G's Third Landfill Solar FarmYour Renewable News (press release)all 11  
 

PSEG begins New Jersey landfill solar project - PV-Tech

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 01:01 PM

solarserver.com
This project is the third instalment of PSE&G's Solar 4 All programme that transforms New Jersey's restless and open spaces like rooftops, parking lots and landfills, into large-scale, grid-connected solar projects. The Kinsley Solar Farm in Gloucester PSE&G announces start of construction of a 11.18 MW landfill solar PV farm in solarserver.comPSE&G targets Q2 '15 Kinsley startRechargeConstruction Under Way At PSE&G's Third Landfill Solar FarmYour Renewable News (press release)all 10  
 

PSE&G announces start of construction of a 11.18 MW landfill solar PV farm in ... - solarserver.com

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 11:08 AM

PSE&G announces start of construction of a 11.18 MW landfill solar PV farm in New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin and New Jersey State Senator Donald Norcross helped Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G, Bordentown, N.J., PSE&G targets Q2 '15 Kinsley startRechargeConstruction Under Way At PSE&G's Third Landfill Solar FarmYour Renewable News (press release)all 9  
 

Three Reasons Solar Will Outshine Fossil Fuels In Mexico - energybiz

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 10:45 PM

When Mexico reformed its energy markets to attract foreign investment, analysts focused bullish outlooks on natural gas and petroleum. And without a doubt, the country will attract billions in new fossil fuel projects. Mexico is in a difficult position
 

PSE&G targets Q2 '15 Kinsley start - Recharge

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 03:59 PM

reNews
PSE&G targets Q2 '15 Kinsley start like this one at the Kinsley Landfill allow PSE&G to help New Jersey realize both goals.” Solar 4 All is a 125 MW (dc) program that utilizes rooftops, parking lots, solar farms, utility poles and landfills/brownfields for large-scale, grid Construction Under Way At PSE&G's Third Landfill Solar FarmYour Renewable News (press release)all 3  
 
 

Colorado Solar Projects In Google News

Lowering electricity rates in Hawaii starts by substituting solar energy for ... - Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 01:05 AM

The way to get lower rates in Hawaii is to start directly substituting solar energy for oil, especially with bigger solar projects that end up being cheaper than oil, the former chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission told PBN on Thursday  
 

How Efficiency Is Learning About Market Segmentation From Internet Giants and ... - Greentech Media

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 04:04 PM

Hutchings joined CLEAResult when it acquired her firm, Boulder, Colorado-based Populus, which had developed a customer engagement methodology for motivating people to invest in energy efficiency. Populus was sending energy advisors into homes to 
 

Spirae Launches the Operating System for Distributed Energy - Greentech Media

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 03:06 PM

But Spirae, has been doing this kind of integration work for a diverse set of customers since its 2002 founding, including utility pilot projects in Colorado and Denmark, microgrids for the U.S. Navy, billionaire Richard Branson's Caribbean island, and
 

Solar power deal means more green energy in Minnesota - Hydrogen Fuel News

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 08:05 AM

According to Xcel, while it would buy all of the energy produced from the three new solar projects, it would not own the farms themselves. The company claims that the energy it would purchase would equal the amount that would be used by 41,000 homes. 
 

Soitec, SunPower and Suncore: The Last CPV Vendors Standing - Greentech Media

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 02:39 PM

When completed and interconnected, Soitec's 44-megawatt flagship project in Touws River, South Africa will be the largest CPV plant in the world. (Currently, the world's largest CPV deployment is the 30-megawatt Alamosa site in Colorado owned by The 
 

Global Thin Film Photovoltaic Cells Industry - SYS-CON Media (press release)

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 03:02 AM

Film Plant in Colorado II-40Linde and Schüco Ink Long Term Supply Contract II-403Sun Establishes Thin-Film Factory II-40Wipro Collaborates with DuPont II-40XsunX and Telecomps Technology Enter into Agreement II-40China National Building Materials
 

New Community Solar Program -- SolarPerks -- Opens Solar Access to ... - Virtual-Strategy Magazine (press release)

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 09:12 PM

Since establishing the first community-owned solar garden in the country in 2010 near El Jebel, Colorado, CEC has built or has under development than 40 community solar projects with 18 utility partners across 8 states, representing 36 MW of  
 

New Community Solar Program -- SolarPerks™ -- Opens Solar Access to ... - EIN News (press release)

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 05:00 PM

Since establishing the first community-owned solar garden in the country in 2010 near El Jebel, Colorado, CEC has built or has under development than 40 community solar projects with 18 utility partners across 8 states, representing 36 MW of 
 

Xcel Energy signs deal for 3 large solar projects - mySanAntonio.com

Sat, 10/25/2014 - 07:55 PM

Friday that it definitely wants to proceed with at least two of the projects, a 62-megawatt system near Marshall proposed by NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Florida, and a 25-megawatt array near Tracy planned by Juwi Solar of Boulder, Colorado. 
 

Xcel Energy signs deal for 3 large solar projects - SFGate

Sat, 10/25/2014 - 07:54 PM

Friday that it definitely wants to proceed with at least two of the projects, a 62-megawatt system near Marshall proposed by NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Florida, and a 25-megawatt array near Tracy planned by Juwi Solar of Boulder, Colorado. 
 
 

Department of Energy Solar Projects

More Problems for CSP: Ivanpah Solar Plant Falling Short of Expected ... - Greentech Media

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 09:26 PM

Some might point to Ivanpah's struggles as another potential black eye for the U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee program, but losses in the DOE portfolio have been small, well under what was budgeted for the program by Congress. Still, the plant
 

DOE Still Betting Big on Solar, Says Energy Secretary Moniz at SPI - PV Solar Report

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 02:08 PM

October is National Energy Action month, Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz reminded attendees at Solar Power International (SPI) last week. While this may not lead to partying on our part, he said in his keynote address, there is certainly  
 

How Groundbreaking Is DOE's New $53M Solar Investment? - Greentech Media

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 10:29 AM

How Groundbreaking Is DOE's New $53M Solar Investment?Talking with reporters after his speech, Moniz described the SunShot Initiative as one of the most crucial pieces of the DOE's solar strategy. "There are lot of new ideas -- not only on the technology side, but on the marketing side. And the we  
 

US Energy Department announces USD 53 million to drive next generation PV ... - solarserver.com

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 05:02 AM

Due in part to the Energy Department's long-term investments and partnerships with private industry, academia, and DOE National Laboratories, solar PV panels now cost 50 percent of what they did three years ago. To accelerate the development of next  
 

SPI 2014: DOE puts US$53m into solar cost-cutting drive - PV-Tech

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 07:11 PM

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is to provide US$53 million to fund 40 R&D projects aimed at slashing the cost of solar. The funding was announced by energy secretary Ernest Moniz at Solar Power International in Las Vegas today. The DOE hopes the  
 

Opinion: energy storage - Sierra Wave

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:49 PM

Private sector companies, the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are making progress on energy storage cost and scale, but there are not yet any major breakthroughs and the need for storage  
 

Microgrids: 5 things to know - TechRepublic

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:28 AM

The DoE promotes its master "smart grid" plan, but no one should expect a giant smart grid to appear any time soon. A reasonable plan involves microgrids, which have emerged as a popular solution as people have taken solar and other clean energy 
 

California PPAs to take different shape for 2015 - PV Insider News and Analysis

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 07:57 AM

Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with the state's big three Investor-Owned Utilities (IOU)s; PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E now include most of the world's largest solar projects. In a gigantic solar gold rush that was brought into being by the Recovery Act
 

Honda, SolarCity expand sun-powered partnership with new $50 million fund - Autoblog (blog)

Wed, 10/8/2014 - 02:04 PM

It must be solar-power announcement time. The DOE is ready to throw $25 million at concentrating solar power and New York State just announced $94 million for solar projects. At the broadly green-minded South By Southwest Eco festival in Austin, TX  
 

Is America's Renewable Energy Revolution About to Fall Off a Cliff? - Motley Fool

Sun, 10/5/2014 - 02:42 PM

Is America's Renewable Energy Revolution About to Fall Off a Cliff?Well according to Ryan Wiser, a co-author of the DOE/ Berkeley Laboratory report, it would raise the cost of wind power by 60% to four cents/KWhr. of 2016 this tax credit is set to go to 0% for residential systems (such as those installed by  
 
 

The Green Life

Ideas for living well and doing good from Sierra magazine.

Hiking Guru Shares Perfect Paths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

READ MORE:

6 Most Dangerous Hiking Trails

Pro Hiking Tips: Excercises

Breathtaking Canyons

 

 

Defending The F-Word

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

Fracking protest sign

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

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

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

Image by iStock/Joe_Potato.

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

 

Read More

The Clean Dozen

Surcharge for Smoggers

China Chips Away at its Pollution Problem

 

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

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

Mount ranier

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

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

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

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

Sequoia Shuttle

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Photos and video courtesy of the National Parks Service

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

 

Read More

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

How Can I Save Fuel on Summer Vacation Trips?

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

Mr GreenHey Mr. Green,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got a question? Ask Mr. Green!

 

READ MORE:

How Does Less Gas Become More Emissions? 

How Much Energy to Make a New Car?

Does Obesity Waste Fuel? 

 

5 Blogs about Sierra Club History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

- top image courtesy of the Library of Congress

- bottom image by Joseph N. Leconte

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

 

 

Environmental Media Draws Kids into the Green Movement

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

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

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

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

Mayah's lot

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

Read More:

Peoms to Inspire Outdoor Adventures

Mothers of the Movement: Rachel Carson and Her Sisters

Book Review: EarthArt

 

Environmental Media Draws Teens into the Green Movement

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


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

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

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


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

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

 

 

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

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

Read More

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

 

 

Mothers of the Movement: Rachel Carson and Her Sisters

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

Martha_maxwell Martha Maxwell with her two favorite things.

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

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

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

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

Richards_telescope Ellen Richards and her mentor Maria Mitchell.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Read More:

How Rachel Carson are You?

"Silent Spring"--Told in Vanity License Plates

Women of the Sierra Club: Marion Randall Parsons

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

READ MORE:

Save the Vacation

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

Holy Green Vacation!

 

A Supercell is Born

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

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

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

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

 
 

Compass

Pointing the way to a clean energy future.

The TTIP: A Very Scary Proposal

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 10:49 AM

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102915/59a811a6-4cb5-4946-89b0-fc6d88dac549.png Cartoon by Courtenay Lewis

What do Halloween and the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have in common? Both are packed with things that should make your skin crawl. Earlier this October, I joined a meeting hosted by the Catalonian Campaign against the TTIP in Barcelona to discuss the many risks of the TTIP, a massive proposed free trade agreement between the U.S. and EU. That same weekend, towns and cities across Europe protested  the TTIP and its corporate-empowering, fracking-enabling rules. These events reconfirmed that Americans and Europeans share many reasons to fear the trade agreement, including these ghastly features:

1. Secret trade agreements are like vampires. In Barcelona, trade policy expert Susan George stated that, like vampires, the TTIP could not survive the light of day. Even though the agreement would have huge impacts on everything from the food we eat to the energy we use, the European Commission and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative are negotiating the TTIP in complete secret. The U.S. and EU public, press, and government officials are not allowed to see the negotiating texts.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., hundreds of “trade advisors,” almost exclusively representing corporations, do have access to key texts and are actively influencing the pact. Our government should allow the public, at the very least, to have the same access to the texts as Halliburton has. And as Senator Elizabeth Warren has stressed, “If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the U.S.” 

2. Rise of the toxic sludge (in your drinking water). The U.S. is pushing for the TTIP to contain rules that empower corporations to sue governments—before private trade tribunals— over virtually any policy that the company claims could impact its expected future profits. Similar rules in the North American Free Trade Agreement have empowered a U.S. oil and gas firm to sue Canada for $250 million in response to a fracking moratorium in Quebec, demonstrating the threats that “investor-state” rules pose to countries and provinces’ policy-making processes.

Like in North America, countries across Europe are implementing fracking moratoriums and restrictions, often to the frustration of fracking companies. For example, when France implemented a fracking moratorium in 2011, a U.S. oil and gas company took this decision to court—and lost. Now corporations are pushing for the TTIP to give more “protections” to oil and gas companies, which – based on the NAFTA precedent— would allow foreign companies to circumvent government and court decisions over energy policies, and sue taxpayers over policies that companies deem inconvenient. In light of the air and water contamination and climate-disrupting emissions associated with fracking, the last thing communities need is rules that threaten their ability to regulate it.

3. The rise of Frankenfoods. In the EU, safeguards around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are some of the strongest in the world. The EU bans or restricts the import of GMO products and requires that GMO foods are labelled. The U.S., however, has no national laws requiring the labelling of GMO foods, even though polls indicate that more than 90 percent of Americans would support GMO labelling. In response to citizens’ concerns, more than 20 states have introduced over 60 bills that would require GMO labelling in these states—proposed rules that GMO-producing agribusinesses vehemently oppose. The TTIP would give industry a new vehicle to threaten these policies, as the trade agreement would likely identify GMO-labelling policies as “barriers to trade,” which could both stymie U.S. states’ efforts to label GMOs, and threaten the EU’s GMO regulations.

Be afraid. The TTIP could prevent countries and states from implementing policies that protect communities and stabilize the climate. Fortunately, people in the U.S. and EU are mobilizing to highlight the many tricks— and no treats— of this pact. With enough public pressure, U.S. and EU negotiators may finally be compelled to release the TTIP texts. Then we’ll see whether the TTIP can survive the light of day, or will go the way of the vampire. 

-- Courtenay Lewis, Campaign Representative, Responsible Trade Program

 

From Hurricane Sandy to the People's Climate March

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 07:10 AM

121030-F-AL508-081c_Aerial_views_during_an_Army_search_and_rescue_mission_show_damage_from_Hurricane_Sandy_to_the_New_Jersey_coast,_Oct._30,_2012

Two years ago this week, Myrtle Williams' life changed in a way she had never imagined. The healthcare professional was at work in a nursing home in the Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, New York, when Hurricane Sandy came ashore.

The deadly storm destroyed homes and knocked out power to tens of thousands -- including the nursing home. Yet despite damage to her house, Williams and many of her colleagues chose to stay in the nursing home and take care of the patients.

Now on the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Williams has much on her mind.

"I'm still thinking about the realization of what all took place," said Williams, a member of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. "I still think about how we were all affected, how many lost their lives, how it affected us in the healthcare industry. We were drastically affected by losing those we cared for."

But from her remembrance also comes an urge to take action. Before Sandy she never thought much about climate disruption, but October 2012 permanently changed her point of view.

"We have so far to go to make people realize that just because Sandy's over, that's not the end of this. We can see how the climate is changing around us, "said Williams.

Myrtle Williams (L) and others at the climate marchWilliams (on the L in the photo) joined tens of thousands of her union brothers and sisters and people from all over the U.S. at September's massive People's Climate March in New York City because she was ready to be a voice for climate action.

"It was important to march and make my voice heard, but also to do it for those who can't be heard," she said. "I marched for those who are sick and frail and need someone to care for them. There were so many affected in the nursing home around me and they could not go on their own. Going to the march gave me that feeling that I'm not just doing this for my community, but for a whole group of people who need assistance."

Williams' perspective as a healthcare worker is also valuable in the face of climate disruption. She knows that certain diseases will become more prevalent as the climate changes and has already seen an uptick in respiratory illnesses in her line of work.

She hopes the amazing diversity of groups and people who marched in NYC in September continues to push for climate action in the coming months and years.

"When Sandy hit, it didn't hit just poor people or those who were scraping by, or the middle class - it hit everyone around us. It affected the rich, the poor, the homeless - those who are caregivers, teachers, children -- so many people were affected," said Williams. "So the People's Climate March and movement in turn should include everyone in our society who can make their voice heard. We need to make that message clear that we are all affected.

"The People's Climate March made me more in tune with the fact that, yes, we can do something, whatever small part I play, I want it to be effective. It's not just for my family and the people I care for, but for future generations, for my kids, and their kids.  We need to take drastic action. We as a nation should do what we can to make a change."

-- Heather Moyer, Sierra Club. Top photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen. Second photo courtesy of Myrtle Williams.

 

From Narmada to Tata Mundra: Iconic Indian Activist Demands Clean Energy Transition at World Bank

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 07:10 AM

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102814/6a72f4bb-cba5-41ff-8592-d265ddb13a3e.png Medha Patkar speaking in Washington, D.C. in October 2014. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.

Medha Patkar made her name fighting the push for large dams in the 1980’s. Decades later, the fight rages on.

That fight all began with the Narmada River Valley Project -- the largest river dam development in India. When Medha was researching social inequality and social movements for her PhD, she learned of the plight of indigenous people in Gujarat in conjunction with the construction of the dam.

Wanting to help the cause, Medha  began working with Adivasi youth groups in the districts of Dang, Sabarkantha, and Banaskantha and farmers in the Narmada Valley in India. She worked with allies to found the Narmada Bachao Andolan -- an organization dedicated to fighting for justice for hundreds of thousands of people scheduled to be displaced by dams along the Narmada river.

Beyond the Narmada valley, Medha Patkar has played a crucial role in empowering people struggling to protect their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights across India. She she is a national Convener of the National Association of People's Movements (NAPM) and has won numerous awards, including the Goldman Environmental Prize.

I sat down with Medha Patkar while she was in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the Narmada communities at the World Bank Fall meetings.

Nicole Ghio: How did you get involved with activism, and what is your history with activism?

Medha Patkar: “I was born in a family where both parents were activists. [My] father was a freedom fighter, and [my] mother was a government servant earning for the family. But she also was involved in the socialist youth organization. That’s where they got married. So since childhood, I was observing the meetings with the laborers taking place in my own house and also participating in student camps.  

“While in Gujarat, I came to know about the Narmada dam issue. I thought this was very symbolic. I went for a two day long walk in the tribal areas with an advocate wanting to take legal action. I thought legal action would not help. What was needed was mass mobilization and struggle. Going through those indigenous people’s communities, the Adivasis, I realized they were not told or asked about the project that is going to have huge impact on their lives and livelihoods.

“[The Narmada struggle] was seen as a symbol of the development paradigm. That’s why we couldn’t restrict ourselves to a single issue or project.[…] We thought that everything should be well-knit to present the paradigm as it is today, and the alternative vision.[...] Since we challenged the World Bank, we also questioned the whole international economic vision that these financial institutions are pushing and everything that comes with it.”

NG: What do you see as the alternate vision?

MP: “[One] that is based on the values and principles of equity and justice. To us, sustainability cannot be just compensatory measures, as World Bank and other actors put it. [...] It has to be linked with the equity and justice.”

NG: Where have you seen the use of renewables and other alternative sources in India? And what is or isn’t working?

MP: “The energy intensive way of life, way of industrialization, of everything is really taking a toll on the resources. The pace and the concentration in the areas where there [are] natural resources […] is really not just displacing, [but also] destroying everything there. The worst is that the people not involved [in planning] are cheated. [...] [In the energy sector] the allocation of resources [goes] neither to the local communities  [or] even to the statutory agencies -- [they are] giving it [all] to the private corporations. [...] That is absolutely not affordable. If you want to really use the resource for dealing with the inequities, for fulfilling the basic needs, this is not the way at all.

“That is why these kinds of major mineral based energy [projects are] having huge targets and huge claims of reaching out, etc. but [are] not even bringing in that result. It’s concentrated centralized generation of power and concentrated distribution -- with no justice in distribution.

“The renewable sources are decentralized. They are in the hands of the people already, which they can have knowledge to tap and use.

“So the technologically [is] manageable for the common people.  Because [of] the decentralized availability of the resource, the benefits can also be distributed in a just manner.  And ecological sustainability beyond generation has to be thought of. All of those things are better served through the renewable technology. […] It has to be alternatives not only in terms of the technology, but who owns the resource and who manages the harnessing process and who gets the benefit.

NG: Is there a message you’re bringing to the World Bank meeting in D.C. this week?

MP: “The World Bank [has] experience within itself [from] when they dealt with the Narmada issue. [...]  There were protests by a number of environmental [non-governmental organizations],NGOs, in this part of the world, but they also could get a response from within [the World Bank] when they protested. [...] We know that the World Bank’s small input in a project’s cost makes large impacts, whether it is in Tata Mundra today or in Narmada that day.

“We as the activists at the country level could join hands with NGOs here. [...] The World Banks says in many of its documents that they learned a lot from Narmada.  We say that were not good learners. [...] They dropped large hydro, but now they are beginning to come back again to it.”

As I was leaving the interview, Medha Patkar asked me to pass on one last message to activists in the U.S. She told me now is the time to re-engage in Narmada. The world-wide pressure gave strength to the people on the ground and forced the World Bank to re-think its approach to large projects.

But now that is slipping. The Bank has forgotten its lesson and is considering backing large, dangerous hydro projects once again. Meanwhile, there is a renewed push to complete Narmada.

It is time to once again join hands and say no to displacement and destruction in the name of development.

***

During her visit, Medha Patkar invited others to join her in protesting the new draft of revised safeguards at the World Bank, which instead of helping protect communities are actually regressive on many issues. She testified at a meeting with civil society on safeguards during the World Bank fall meetings, where activists presented a statement condemning the draft and staged a mass walkout. Once outside, she rallied the crowd at the protest.

--Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International Climate Program

 

Five Principles For Taming the Wild West of Beyond the Grid Clean Energy Policy

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 08:05 AM

Misguided and inappropriate safeguards threaten to handicap some of the most dynamic and innovative approaches to ending energy poverty for 1.3 billion people around the world.

That the findings of Sierra Club’s latest report -- Expanding Energy Access: Beyond The Grid --  which proposes five policy principles to ensure clean energy access markets thrive.

If we don’t fill the vacuum of safeguards that exist for companies serving those living beyond the reach of the grid, we threaten the long term viability of these beyond the grid clean energy markets. These approaches are already pioneering cutting-edge Machine to Machine (M2M) technology, dynamic financial innovations like pay as you go (PAYG), and even big data to unlock clean energy for low-income populations. That’s all while unlocking tremendous economic opportunity in a $12 billion market.

But all of that is threatened if policymakers don’t set appropriate rules of the road. Without rules, we all but ensure that those most in need of energy solutions pay the price for the most expensive electron -- the one that isn’t delivered. An outcome no one wants to see because without access to electricity, communities may suffer from poor healthcare and restricted opportunities for economic advancement.  

In order to ensure these markets continue to grow rapidly and deliver for low-income populations, we’ve identified five principles for policymakers to abide by:

1. Energy Services Not Electrons: It was the LED light bulb, not just the falling price of solar, that unlocked clean energy for low-income populations by bringing down the size of all components in a solar home system. It’s vital we apply that principle -- that energy efficiency unlocks clean energy for low-income populations -- to the next steps of energy service delivery. That means supporting the deployment and development of highly efficient appliances and agricultural equipment.

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2. Build Markets From The Bottom Up: Starting with ‘pico’ power -- like solar lanterns and solar home systems -- populations get onto the energy ladder by displacing existing expenditures on dirty kerosene lighting. Lighting, however, is the beginning, not the end, of energy access. As people move up the energy ladder to higher levels of access, policymakers should transition deployment support to full access technologies like mini-grids and larger solar home systems.

3. Level The Playing Field With Fossil Fuels: Right now, clean energy access providers are getting hit both coming and going. Their competitors -- fossil fuel companies -- are highly subsidized, but clean energy companies are taxed. Policymakers should seek to direct fossil fuel subsidies directly to low-income populations and gradually eliminate the fossil fuel industry’s support over time (see Michael Liebrich’s paper on this here). At the same time, policymakers should focus on reducing taxes, like value added taxes (VAT) on solar products, which hinder our ability to end energy poverty.

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102714/13a397a8-43a6-450b-80f9-11d8def97871.png

4. Unlock Finance: In many ways, enabling access to finance is job number one. Public policy can help achieve that in part by setting the rules of the road. But it can achieve it more directly by de-risking private investment through loan guarantees. In certain cases, like mini-grids, subsidy support -- in the form of innovative approaches like rural feed-in tariffs (rFit) -- are required to unlock the market. Regardless, the effect of access to finance, particularly for consumers, is dramatic.

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102714/3639c177-80c2-43ab-9e5d-5ee800ae45c8.png

5. Define Utility Regulations In The Off-Grid And Mini-Grid Space: This is perhaps the largest looming threat to the burgeoning beyond the grid clean energy industry. There simply is no policy certainty for companies in this market, and policymakers need to ensure light touch regulation that accommodates, rather than precludes, the growth of the clean energy industry by, amongst other things, defining what constitutes a utility and benchmarking prices to protect consumers.

We firmly believe that these solar companies should be regulated and consumers protected. But current clumsy attempts to fit a square peg in a round hole can have unintended, harmful impacts by -- amongst other things -- handicapping the ability to charge consumers what is required for a sustainable business model. By applying the body of regulations and policymaking designed for the operational realities of the grid -- like benchmarking prices against grid resources instead of diesel generators -- we ensure the most expensive power of all: its absence.

That means we need a whole new body policy steeped in the realities of the populations living beyond the reach of the grid whom we are attempting to serve. This will require new innovative, light-touch policy making to ensure rules of the road so that investment continues to flow and that these markets remain as innovative as ever in their quest to end energy poverty.

-- Justin Guay, Associate Director, International Climate Program

 

Millions in New Investment Cap Record Year for Beyond the Grid Solar Markets

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:49 AM

It has been a record year for beyond the grid solar investment.

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102318/36aa6c2e-1dd0-41ee-b3c3-21b7e8265e27.png Photo courtesy of OMC Power.

Over $45 million in investments have closed in the past year, including: $1.8 million for plug and play solar provider BBOXX, $11 million for industry pioneer d.light, and $20 million for mobile money pioneer M-KOPA. Not to be left out of a potential $12 billion market, three more new major funding announcements have taken place in the past two weeks alone.    

First, SolarNow, the solar asset finance company operating in East Africa, announced it closed a round of equity funding of €2 million (U.S. $2.56 million) from Novastar Ventures and impact investor Acumen.  Uganda-based SolarNow is, in the words of CEO Willem Nolens, “not just a solar product company or a pay-as-you-go service provider; we are an asset finance and distribution company with a focus on renewable energy.”  

SolarNow is living proof of two things: these energy markets are moving beyond just a light bulb, and its all about unlocking financing. SolarNow sells 50-500-watt solar home systems through an innovative in-house credit facility in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya designed to support a range of appliances including lights, radios, TVs, and refrigerators. This approach to solving affordability and distribution challenges is incredibly important as an alternative to partnering with financial institutions, such as microfinance institutions. The new round of investment will allow SolarNow to respond to growing demand from existing customers and to expand their distribution network to new East African markets.

On the heels of the announcement from SolarNow, ‘Tower Power’ pioneer OMC Power announced that it has secured major funding from Singapore-based Energy Investment Tech Pte. Ltd.  OMC Power, one of the companies featured in our video with the Center for American Progress about energy poverty in India, is at the cutting edge of micro-grid development, proving that micro-grids may just be the next big opportunity for beyond the grid markets.

The undisclosed amount of new funding from Energy Investment Tech will go toward building 200 micropower plants in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which will provide energy to over three million people in 6,000 villages.  The fact that the company’s installations are growing ten-fold is very exciting news and speaks to the high level of demand for clean energy services in India.

But it’s not just the private sector that sees the growing beyond the grid solar opportunity and is moving rapidly to invest.  Exciting programs like the Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s Africa Clean Energy Finance (ACEF) and USAID’s’ Renewable Energy Microfinance & Microenterprise Program (REMMP) and Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) are building an impressive pipeline of beyond the grid solar companies. Add to that the recent European Union grant of €6 million (U.S. $7.63 million) to Mobisol -- now the largest rent-to-own solar energy provider in Africa -- and you have a handful of innovative programs helping build these markets.

But while some public sector actors are waking up to this opportunity, the fact is that leading development banks -- like the World Bank -- are missing in action. A recent report from Sierra Club and Oil Change International found that the World Bank categorically fails to invest in these dynamic markets. So in some ways it’s two steps forward, one step back.

However, as investment continues to flow and services expand, it will be harder and harder for public sector companies to justify their absence. In the meantime, dynamic companies like OMC and SolarNow will be sowing the seeds of a clean energy revolution from the bottom up.

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

 

Industry Push Poll Breaks Cardinal Research Rules, Claims Voters Oppose EPA Clean Power Plan

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 07:41 AM

A new industry-sponsored poll is resorting to biased push-poll tactics in an apparent attempt to offset the growing body of research that shows Americans support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s proposed carbon pollution standards for coal-fired power plants. The so-called “Partnership for a Better Energy Future,” a self-described industry association that includes the American Petroleum Institute and the National Mining Association, has released new polling they claim shows voters nationwide and in swing states are wary of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. But a look at the actual research documents reveals a blatantly-biased survey and a lack of transparency about the survey sample.

According to the Partnership for a Better Energy Future’s press release, the survey conducted by Paragon Insights “finds that Americans have major concerns about the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations and are unwilling to pay even a dollar more for energy in exchange for these new rules.” But while the survey documents look legitimate and detailed, this research breaks two of the cardinal rules of public opinion research: being transparent about research sampling methodology and avoiding bias in question wording and sequence.

One of the first steps in survey analysis is to double-check that the demographics of the final survey sample (i.e. the group of people who completed a poll) closely matches those of the population of interest. The Partnership for a Better Energy Future, nor their pollsters at Paragon Insight, are transparent about the demographic breakdowns of their sample. The population of interest for this research was “likely voters,” for which there is no standard demographic profile to compare a survey sample against. Some informed judgement calls are necessary when sampling from this population, making it even more important to release demographic breakdowns in a survey release. The omission of this information is puzzling and could be interpreted as suspicious.  

As any survey researcher will tell you, question wording and sequence are very important, as they influence how survey respondents interpret poll questions and how they answer them. And biased question wording or sequence will usually yield biased survey results. And given that this industry poll employs both biased question wording and biased question sequence, the results are automatically suspect.

To illustrate the biasedness of the Partnership for a Better Energy Future’s poll, consider its main finding that a plurality of voters (47 percent) oppose “the EPA regulations” while 44% support them. If you look at the parts of the survey questionnaire which were released, you will see that these results come from a question that appears after respondents hear a battery of arguments for and against the “Obama administration’s regulations to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.” Instead of following industry standard and asking for respondents’ opinions before influencing them with qualitative information, this survey first presented twice as many arguments against it than arguments for it. While the negative arguments included questionable (and scary) claims like “the new regulations could increase your yearly household energy costs by as much as $130” and “could lead to job losses in your state,” the positive arguments were far less personalized. One reads “the new regulations could persuade other countries to join the fight against global climate change or the environment” and another claims “the regulations could reduce global carbon emissions by as much as 1.5%.” Conveniently absent is any mention of the significant public health benefits of reducing harmful pollution from coal-fired coal plants. Our own research has found that protecting public health is seen as one of the most-convincing reasons to support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

These arguments influenced how these respondents would respond to this question. If I did not know much about about the EPA’s Clean Power Plan before taking this survey, I would be more likely to say I opposed it after hearing just three “pros” and six “cons.” Especially if the list of “pros” did not include the top reason Americans support the plan: its positive impact on the health of America’s families.

There’s good reason to believe these biases yielded flawed data, as these survey results run counter to every major publicly-released poll this year. Earlier this year, a national survey conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 58% of registered voters support federal government limits on “the release of greenhouse gases from existing power plants.” These findings are consistent with a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, which found that two-in-three American adults (67%) supported the EPA setting “strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants.” Another 57% said they would approve of a proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from companies, even if it would lead to higher utility bills for consumers.

--Grace McRae, Sierra Club Polling and Research Strategist

 

Quiz: Is an Electric Car Right for You?

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 07:24 AM

PickAPlugInPromo_with_text

A lot of people have heard the buzz around electric vehicles (EVs), but they don't know if an EV would be right for them. In fact, many don't even know what would be the right questions to ask themselves to figure out whether cars like the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, or Ford C-Max Energi would fit their lifestyles -- not to mention their budgets.

I'm happy to report that we at the Sierra Club have launched a 'pick-a-plug-in' web tool to help people figure out which electric cars, if any, are right for them. I hope you'll check it out and share it with your friends.

A poll last year found that nearly half of American households could purchase an EV for their next car; it would be a great fit for their driving needs, and they would have a place to charge it with electricity. We're talking about many millions of people. Are you one of them?

There are a lot of compelling reasons why more than a quarter million Americans have already bought EVs since they first came on the mass market a few years ago. They are cool high-tech wonders (imagine driving an iPhone!), there is little or no need to ever visit a gas station (depending on whether you purchase a full battery electric or a plug-in hybrid car), they are much cheaper to fuel (the equivalent of about $1 a gallon), and they are much better for the environment (even when considering the emissions from the electricity to charge them up).

Also, there is a $2,500-7,500 federal tax credit that comes with the purchase of an EV. And many people live in cities and states where they can take advantage of additional incentives, like a purchase/lease rebate (in some places get a check in the mail for thousands of dollars -- I am not kidding!), carpool lane access, and special utility rates for EV drivers. Linked to our new 'pick-a-plug-in' web tool is our online EV Guide that has all of this information if you enter your zip code. If you click on a specific EV, we'll even tell you how much you’ll avoid in carbon emissions and fueling costs compared to the average conventional car.

But are EVs currently the right fit for everyone? No. For example, some people don't have a place to charge them with electricity. For many, though, it’s simpler than they think. I had a basic 110 volt outlet installed on the side of my house, so I can charge up my car in our driveway. Easy peasy.

Many people ask me, "What's the best electric car to get?" My answer is always, "it depends." How many miles do you drive in a typical day? Do you take a lot of long-distance trips? How much money are you willing to spend? There are nearly 20 great models available in the US and more coming out every year.

So, what are you waiting for? Check out 'pick-a-plug-in,' and start your EV journey.

-- Gina Coplon-Newfield, Sierra Club's Director of Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative

 

Are U.S. taxpayer dollars supporting coal industry human rights violations overseas?

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:51 AM

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102013/c1807283-8ab6-4080-9880-78e1f803ea16.png The Sasan coal-fired power plan and coal ash pond. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.

Today, a fact finding team of five non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- the Sierra Club, 350.org, Carbon Market Watch, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Pacific Environment -- released a scathing report, The U.S. Export-Import Bank’s Dirty Dollars,  on the rampant human rights abuses at the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) financed Sasan coal-fired power plant and mine in Singrauli, India.

For years, reports of human rights, indigenous rights, labor, and environmental violations have plagued Sasan and its owner, Indian company Reliance Power, and the U.S. government are partly to blame. The 3,960-megawatt project has received over $900 million in taxpayer finance from Ex-Im, and when allegations against the project are raised, Ex-Im prefers to look the other way.

When Indian groups and NGOs alerted Ex-Im to a smokestack collapse that killed 30 workers, the Bank

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102013/f7e57873-5f4b-4265-8d0a-22077db38a7c.png This tribal child is one of the people who have been relocated in order to build Sasan. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.


did nothing. When reports emerged of irregularities with the coal allotments for Sasan, foreshadowing the coal-gate scandal that would envelop then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ex-Im said nothing. Eventually the outrage prompted the Bank to conduct a visit to the project, but while they met with Reliance, the Bank refused to meet in the communities. Instead, they insisted that the affected people who had faced violence at the hands of Reliance – people without access to reliable transportation – meet them at a hotel that catered to industrial interests. Shockingly, people were afraid to speak out in such an unsafe venue. But even so, they refused to stay silent for long.

Today’s fact finding report contains first-hand accounts from the front line communities Ex-Im attempted to ignore.

What we uncovered in our trips to Sasan was heartbreaking. We heard from villagers whose homes were destroyed in the middle of the night while they were still living in them. We met with indigenous residents whose children were denied entry into schools. And we learned how Reliance covers up injuries -- and even deaths -- at the project.

There were two groups, though, that we did not hear from. Reliance Power refused to meet with the fact finding team, and Ex-Im refused to provide the supplemental environmental reports -- including the remediation or mitigation plans and related monitoring documents  -- that Reliance is required to submit to Ex-Im, and which federal legislation and the Bank’s own policies require be made available on request.

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14102013/53e0a623-c14e-457e-a907-5e1741766aec.png This seed pod is covered in coal dust from the conveyor belt that brings coal to Sasan from the mine. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.

Recognizing the risk Sasan could pose, Ex-Im classified it as a Category A project when the Bank approved the financing. This means the coal project is required to comply with additional standards, including the IFC Performance Standards and their provisions for environmental and social impacts, labor and working conditions, pollution prevention, community health, and resettlement. It is clear from first hand reports that Sasan fails in all these areas.

However, without the monitoring documents, it is impossible to know if Ex-Im willfully ignored these requirements or if it failed to do its own due diligence to monitor Sasan and investigate complaints. In order to learn the truth, the Sierra Club submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request today to obtain the missing documents.

But the truth is not enough for the people living with the impacts of Sasan. They need justice.

We hoped the first step would take place last week, when the U.S. Export-Import Bank Office of the Inspector General (OIG) – the independent investigative body for Ex-Im -- traveled to Singrauli for an inspection of Sasan. But the OIG seemed more interested in building a relationship with Reliance than listening to the communities.

The OIG representatives arranged to travel to Singrauli in a Reliance helicopter, but were forced to change their plans due to weather. Once they finally arrived, they also refused to meet with the affected people in their communities. The OIG did allow a few representatives to visit them at their hotel at 7:30 in the morning while Reliance officials waited outside and could take note of who attended, possibly endangering those who showed up.

The U.S. can no longer allow itself to be complaisant in the abuses taking place at Sasan. We call on the OIG to conduct a thorough inspection that includes follow-up visits using the best practices established by the CAO and with third party experts who can evaluate the impacts.

Moreover, it is imperative that Ex-Im use its influence to halt a proposed expansion of Sasan and work with Reliance to bring the project into compliance with the IFC Performance Standards. Should this prove impossible, Ex-Im must withdraw from the project.

To do less calls into question the legitimacy of the Export-Import Bank and its ability to effectively monitor the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars abroad.

--Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International Climate Program

 

Will the Export-Import Bank’s Office of the Inspector General Ignore Human Rights Violations?

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 09:27 AM

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14101716/11671cc0-4e11-42d9-b2e8-c1716e73630a.png The entire Harrahawa Village was relocated to make way for the Sasan coal ash pond. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.

Sudarshan Rajak disappeared under suspicious circumstances after protesting the relocation of families for Reliance Power’s 4,000-megawatt Sasan coal project in Singrauli, India. Some of his neighbors believehe was in his house when it was bulldozed by Reliance. Krishna Das Saha's home was destroyed in the middle of the night -- while his family was still living in it -- to make way for Sasan’s coal ash pond. And when Sati Prasad challenged Reliance’s refusal to hire local workers, he was dragged out of his home and beaten by the police.

These are just a few people who have met violence and intimidation at the hands of Reliance Power. This aggression is subsidized U.S. tax dollars in the form of over $900 million in financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im). Indian groups have documented these and other abuses in Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project, Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh: A Brief Report.

Ex-Im has turned a deaf ear to the allegations against the project, but it appeared as though the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) -- the independent investigative body for Ex-Im -- was prepared to listen. Now, we are not so sure

This week, the OIG traveled to Singrauli as part of its inspection of Sasan. While the two OIG representatives were happy to make arrangements to travel to Singrauli in a Reliance helicopter – plans they later had to amend due to rain – they refused to meet with the affected people, claiming that meeting in the communities would make the OIG appear biased. Instead, the OIG summoned a small group of local people to their hotel at 7:30 in the morning while Reliance officials waited outside and could see which villagers came to meet with the OIG.

This is flat out wrong. By holding the meetings at the hotel instead of in the communities, as was originally requested, the OIG put villagers who are concerned about the project at future risk.

Moreover, the OIG has an obligation to follow-up on complaints from affected people. Ex-Im classified

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/14101716/a0e299f0-de1d-4ff8-aff2-8825a5b7ab0f.png The Sasan coal-fired power plant in Singrauli, India. Photo courtesy of Nicole Ghio.

Sasan as a Category A project, which means that it is required to comply with additional standards, including the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standards for environmental and social impacts, labor and working conditions, pollution prevention, community health, and resettlement. The OIG is abdicating its responsibility if it ignores the human impacts and restricts its inspection to the Ex-Im standards for the export of equipment and other weaker benchmarks.

I personally met with affected communities and retold their stories to officials at Ex-Im -- including alerting the Bank officials to a smokestack collapse that killed 30 workers as well as irregularities in coal allotments. These irregularities foreshadowed the coal-gate scandal, which later rocked India and forced then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to defend himself to Parliament.

But instead of using their trip to listen to the people affected by Sasan, the OIG was only willing to take a tour of the sites by car, where they could view the communities out the windows while refusing to stop and talk to them. Unsurprisingly, the community members felt this was unacceptable.

This is not justice.

The OIG does not currently have a process for this type of inspection, but other institutions do. Last week, Civil Society Organizations sent a letter to the OIG outlining how to conduct an objective and complete report, using the process employed by the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) of the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation as a guideline. This includes conducting follow-up visits to meet with affected people in their communities and employing third party experts to assess the impacts.

Will the OIG step up and conduct an impartial inspection? Or will it aid in the suppression of the impacted communities?

If the OIG chooses the latter, they will receive a rude awakening. Local residents have shown time and time again that they will not be silenced.

--Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International Climate Program

 

Momentum builds in Louisiana, the latest front in the fight against coal exports

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 06:51 AM

La coal export mtg

In recent weeks, something amazing has been happening in the Gulf Coast of Louisiana – communities have been standing up and casting votes to ring the alarm about proposed coal export projects. As U.S. coal use has declined, mining companies are looking for a future in international markets. And while most people might think of the Pacific Northwest as ground zero for planned coal export facilities, the Gulf Coast is home to over a dozen proposed coal export terminals as well. Thankfully, as the plans to export coal through the state grow, so does the opposition from local residents.

Case in point - the small town of Gretna, Louisiana, in Jefferson Parish. This is a historic metro area of New Orleans, and it's also the site of a proposed coal export project called the RAM coal export terminal. If constructed, the facility could see some six to eight million tons of coal and refinery waste exported overseas every year (that's about six coal-fired power plants worth of coal). It would add to the dust and water pollution burden in the communities it neighbors by sending mile-long, uncovered coal trains running through historic neighborhoods, and it also threatens the state's vital coastal restoration projects.

La coal export signsThe fight over this export facility hit a milestone in September, when residents packed a Jefferson Parish Council meeting. They cheered when the council voted unanimously on a resolution that questioned the impacts that the RAM terminal would have on coastal restoration, and also called on the Army Corps of Engineers to hold public hearings and conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement on RAM.

"This was the outcome of an entire summer of outreach by the Sierra Club, our partners in the Gulf Restoration Network, and the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition," says Devin Martin, a New Orleans-based organizer with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "We made a big push to generate turnout and demonstrate public opposition to the export terminal at the previous council meeting in August, and more than 100 people attended -- it was standing room only."

Residents worked together to phone-bank, write letters, put up yard signs, collect petition signatures, and much more to educate their neighbors and to pressure the council. They also packed the Gretna City Council meeting in July and previous educational forums. Martin credits some amazing community activists, especially Grace Morris of the Gulf Restoration Network, for such a successful movement of residents against this polluting facility.

There's still much work left to do - especially after the Army Corps of Engineers responded to the Jefferson Parish Council vote by issuing a press release saying there's no need for public hearings on the RAM terminal proposal. But Martin and other coal export opponents still have lots of reasons for optimism.

Momentum is building against coal exports in the Gulf. The unanimous vote by the Jefferson Parish Council on Sept. 17 was preceded by a unanimous vote by the Gretna City Council on September 10. In June, the neighboring city of Westwego passed a resolution opposing coal trains.

"While the (Jefferson Parish Council) resolution doesn't stop the project or even force the Corps to act, the political implications cannot be overstated," said Martin. "Jefferson is Louisiana's second most populous parish, the home turf of some of our most powerful and infamous politicians, and so deep Red that it falls into the infrared spectrum of political leanings."

You can help! Sign the petition to oppose coal exports in Louisiana.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal campaign director

 
 

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