SOLAR VIDEOS

Solar DIY Videos on YouTube

DIY Boat Solar Power Solution for LED Lighting

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

M101 DIY SOLAR PANEL KIT

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

DIY 15$ 40w Solar Panel

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

DIY Portable Solar Panel Stand for $10

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

Homemade Solar Panels Diy tutorial

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

Solar panel install to SkyMax grid tie inverter DIY How To

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solar Panels - How it Works YouTube Videos

How Solar Power Solar Panels Work by SolarCity mp4

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

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

Panasonic and Coronal Group Complete Nine Solar Projects to Provide Clean ... - Rock Hill Herald (press release)

Wed, 10/1/2014 - 02:16 PM

NEWARK, N.J. — Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company (Panasonic) and Coronal Group LLC (Coronal) announce the completion of nine solar projects in Tulare and Kings Counties in Central California. The projects provide 16.2 MW of energy to  
 

Panasonic and Coronal Group Complete Nine Solar Projects to Provide Clean ... - Business Wire (press release)

Wed, 10/1/2014 - 02:00 PM

NEWARK, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company (Panasonic) and Coronal Group LLC (Coronal) announce the completion of nine solar projects in Tulare and Kings Counties in Central California. The projects provide 16.2 MW of 
 

RGS Energy to exit commercial solar power installation, focus on residential - Denver Business Journal (blog)

Wed, 10/1/2014 - 01:51 PM

RGS's residential and Sunetric business segments will work on small commercial solar projects, which generally have a capacity of less than 200 kilowatts, Lacey said. “Oftentimes our residential solar customers own a small business and we also provide  
 

SPI Solar creates subsidiary, announces big contracts in Japan - Sacramento Business Journal

Wed, 10/1/2014 - 12:41 PM

In September, SPI Solar (SOPW: OTCBB) announced it had agreements to develop 29 megawatts of solar projects in China. It has agreements to build 19 megawatts of distributed solar through multiple projects, and is building a 10 megawatt array in 
 

Japan to slap more restrictions on solar power -paper - Reuters

Wed, 10/1/2014 - 03:10 AM

TOKYO Oct 1 () - Japan will make changes to a scheme introduced after the Fukushima crisis to encourage investment in renewable energy by tightening rules on guaranteed payments for larger solar projects, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.
 

Louisville solar power company, RGS Energy, to focus on small-scale solar - Denver Business Journal (blog)

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 11:16 PM

RGS's residential and Sunetric business segments will work on small commercial solar projects, which generally have a capacity of less than 200 kilowatts, Lacey said. “Oftentimes our residential solar customers own a small business and we also provide  
 

Pattern Energy Increases Identified ROFO List With Wind and Solar Projects - Stockhouse

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 10:35 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 30, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Increasing its identified growth opportunities, Pattern Energy Group Inc. (Nasdaq:PEGI) (TSX:PEG) ("Pattern Energy"), today announced the addition of two projects to its list of identified Right of  
 

New York awards $94mn for solar projects - Argus Media

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:32 PM

KpopStarz
Washington, 30 September (Argus) — New York has given $94mn to 142 solar projects that would increase the state's solar capacity by than 214MW. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority made the awards through a solar New York State's Solar-Friendly Policies Could Become a ModelOilPrice.comNew York Solar Energy: Solar Panels To Be Put On 24 Schools In $28 Million KpopStarzall 6  
 

State announces grants for 18 solar projects in Albany area - Albany Business Review

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 06:24 PM

The solar farm was one of 142 solar projects that received a state grant through a program designed to increase solar capacity in the state. There are 18 project sites in the Albany area, including the town of Moreau Industrial Park, the town of  
 

Pattern Energy Increases Identified ROFO List With Wind and Solar Projects - CNNMoney

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 12:05 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 30, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Increasing its identified growth opportunities, Pattern Energy Group Inc. (Nasdaq:PEGI) (TSX:PEG) ("Pattern Energy"), today announced the addition of two projects to its list of identified Right of  
 
 

California Solar Projects In Google News

Panasonic Adds 16.2 MW of Solar to Southern California Edison Grid - PV Solar Report

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 02:42 PM

Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company (Panasonic) and Coronal Group LLC (Coronal) have announced the completion of nine solar projects in Tulare and Kings Counties in Central California. In total, the projects provide 16.2 MW of energy to Southern 
 

Panasonic and Coronal Group Complete Nine Solar Projects to Provide Clean ... - AltEnergyMag (press release)

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 02:26 PM

26, 2014 -- Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company (Panasonic) and Coronal Group LLC (Coronal) announce the completion of nine solar projects in Tulare and Kings Counties in Central California. The projects provide 16.2 MW of energy to Southern Panasonic, Coronal complete nine PV projects totalling 16.2 MW in Central solarserver.comall 3  
 

Massive Solar Power Project for California Desert Scrapped - KCET

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 12:58 AM

Boulder Weekly
Originally approved by the commission in 2010 as a large parabolic trough solar project, Palen changed hands in 2012 after its original owner Solar Millennium went bankrupt. Bought by BrightSource Energy, who later brought Abengoa Solar on as a project Tower of power coming to the desertOCRegisterThe pros and cons of industrial-scale solarBoulder Weeklyall 8  
 

Panasonic Calif. projects online - Recharge

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 05:17 PM

A $50m funding commitment by Ullico, a labor-union owned insurance and investment company, also contributed to the acquisition and completion of the projects. Panasonic and ImMODO Energy Services built them. "Our total joint project development with Panasonic opens California PV tallyreNewsPanasonic, Coronal complete Valley solar projectsFresno Business JournalPanasonic And Coronal Complete Nine Solar Projects For SCESolar Industryall 7  
 

Panasonic opens California PV tally - reNews

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 02:47 PM

Panasonic Enterprise Solutions and Coronal Group have completed nine solar projects in California, US, totalling 16.2MW. The schemes in Tulare and Kings Counties will supply energy to Southern California Edison's grid. "Significant solar projects are  
 

Tower of power coming to the desert - OCRegister

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 05:23 AM

A California Energy Commission committee is recommending approval of the Palen solar project, which would put a 750-foot “power tower” hovering above about 85,000 mirrors on almost 6 square miles north of Interstate 10 about halfway between Indio and  
 

Sol Systems Finances 944kW California Church Solar Project in Partnership with ... - AltEnergyMag (press release)

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 05:57 PM

BAKERSFIELD, Calif., Sept. 25, 2014 -- Sol Systems announced today that it successfully financed a 944 kilowatt solar project in partnership with its investor client, Washington Gas Energy Systems (WGES), a subsidiary of WGL. The operational solar
 

Sol Systems Finances 944kW California Church Solar Project in Partnership with ... - Insurance News Net

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 11:55 AM

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. , Sept. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Sol Systems announced today that it successfully financed a 944 kilowatt solar project in partnership with its investor client, Washington Gas Energy Systems (WGES), a subsidiary of WGL. 
 

Energy plan calls for big renewables projects in state's deserts - SFGate

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 06:36 PM

Energy plan calls for big renewables projects in state's desertsIndustrial-scale solar, wind and geothermal projects could be built within a few miles of national parks in the California desert as part of the Obama and Brown administrations' efforts to combat climate change, under a mammoth plan released by federal
 

Coda Claims Battery-Backed Solar Is Now Grid-Competitve in California - Greentech Media

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 05:53 PM

Several of these projects involve on-site solar PV, such as its solar carport EV charging installations in Benicia, Calif. and Chicago, he added. But one of the most interesting involves the potential for battery-backed, solar-equipped commercial  
 
 

New Jersey Solar Projects In Google News

Advanced Solar Products Building Solar Array For Bausch + Lomb ... - Packet Online

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 09:59 PM

most challenging and innovative solar projects in the country, but has also been a tireless advocate for clean, renewable energy. In 2007, New York Times Magazine called Mr. Rawlings, “the founding father of renewable energy legislation in New Jersey.”
 

Panasonic, Coronal complete nine PV projects totalling 16.2 MW in Central ... - solarserver.com

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 05:35 AM

Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company (Newark, New Jersey, US) and Coronal Group LLC (Pasadena, California, US) on September 26th, 2014 announced the completion of nine solar photovoltaic (PV) projects in Tulare and Kings Counties in Central
 

Rutgers hosts 'Energy Café' on solar power - RU Daily Targum

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 03:13 AM

Rutgers hosts 'Energy Café' on solar powerTwenty-four centralized solar projects are currently in service, he said. The two new ones will open in February of next year. The program currently provides power to than 20,000 New Jersey homes. Building on these properties required various 
 

PSE&G Breaks Ground on 10-Megawatt Solar Farm, Its Largest Yet - NJ Spotlight

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 04:57 AM

Solar Industry
PSE&G Breaks Ground on 10-Megawatt Solar Farm, Its Largest YetPublic Service Electric & Gas yesterday began building a 10.14-megawatt solar farm at the closed Parklands Landfill in Bordentown, which will be the biggest system of solar arrays yet to be built in New Jersey by the utility. The solar system at the PSE&G Begins Work To Build Solar Farm On Parklands LandfillMarketWatchPSE&G starts work on ParklandsRecharge10 MW Landfill Solar Project Started Under PSE&G ProgramSolar Industryall 8  
 

PSE&G Begins Construction on 10 MW Solar Farm on Jersey Landfill - PV Solar Report

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 11:47 PM

PSE&G Begins Construction on 10 MW Solar Farm on Jersey Landfill“Landfills like Parklands offer prime opportunities for large-scale solar development that benefits New Jersey and our customers,” said Joe Forline, vice president of customer solutions at PSE&G. “We can convert this property into a productive asset PSE&G building solar farm on former landfill in Burlington County, NJNewsworks.orgPSE&G begins work to build solar farm on NJ landfillNJBIZPSE&G starts work on ParklandsRechargeBusinessweekall 19  
 

PSE&G starts work on Parklands - Recharge

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 02:39 PM

PSE&G starts work on ParklandsSolar 4 All is a 125MW (dc) program that utilizes rooftops, solar farms, utility poles and landfills/brownfields for large-scale, grid connected solar projects. There are now 80MW (dc) installed, all of which was developed during the program's first phase. 
 

PSE&G Begins Work To Build Solar Farm On Parklands Landfill - MarketWatch

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 02:05 PM

Solar Industry
PSE&G Begins Work To Build Solar Farm On Parklands Landfill"Landfills like Parklands offer prime opportunities for large-scale solar development that benefits New Jersey and our customers," said Joe Forline - vice president, customer solutions - PSE&G. "We can convert this property into a productive asset that PSE&G starts work on ParklandsRecharge10 MW Landfill Solar Project Started Under PSE&G ProgramSolar Industryall 5  
 

US, California release roadmap for solar projects - New Jersey Herald

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 09:23 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - State and federal officials sought Tuesday to bring order to California's boom for renewable-energy plants in the Mojave and other southern California deserts, releasing a roadmap covering 22.5 million acres that designates some  
 

US, California release roadmap for solar projects - My9NJ

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 07:37 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Tuesday unveiled a proposed roadmap for developing massive solar and wind projects in California's Mojave Desert while trying to minimize damage to desert habitat and animals. The plan  
 

Industry Updates, Market Activity, Planned Outages, Major Solar Projects, and ... - PR Newswire (press release)

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 01:21 PM

On September 15, 2014, Exelon Corporation (Exelon) reported a planned refueling outage at its Oyster Creek Generating Station, Ocean County, New Jersey. According to Exelon, its employees and supplemental workers will undertake maintenance  
 
 

Colorado Solar Projects In Google News

Colorado developer plans $5.5m solar project in Philadelphia - WatertownDailyTimes.com

Thu, 10/2/2014 - 03:17 AM

Mr. Stewart said that his firm was attracted to farmland in the town of Philadelphia because it is situated inside a strategic area designated by National Grid where an incentive for solar projects is offered by NYSERDA. A total of 25 percent of
 

Oct. 1, 2014: Enphase Energy Joins Charitable Partnership to Support Solar ... - ACHR NEWS

Wed, 10/1/2014 - 09:37 AM

PETALUMA, Calif. — Enphase Energy Inc. has announced a charitable partnership with the Brian D. Robertson Memorial Solar Schools Fund (BDR Fund) to install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in than 25 schools across the nation at the K-12 level. 
 

Advanced Energy Introduces Innovative String Inverter Accessory to Enhance ... - AltEnergyMag (press release)

Wed, 10/1/2014 - 02:52 AM

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Sept. 5, 2014—Advanced Energy Industries, Inc. (Nasdaq:AEIS) today announced details on a new AE 3TL inverter accessory that enables solar installers, site designers and project developers to conserve space and increase project 
 

Wunder Capital Launches Financing Marketplace - NewsFactor Network

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 03:47 PM

BOULDER, CO, September 29, 2014 -- Wunder Capital is thrilled to announce that after graduating Techstar's competitive technology accelerator program, the company has officially launched and will begin connecting investors with vetted solar projects  
 

Companies mentioned: ZSW, Manz,Frauenhofer Institute for Solar Energy ... - PV Insider News and Analysis

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 08:22 AM

Duke Energy has announced a number of partner companies that it will use to build three previously announced solar projects in North Carolina by the end of 2015. The company will construct and own some of the largest solar facilities The project
 

Massive clean energy project would light homes in Southern California with ... - Wisconsin Gazette

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 12:58 PM

Jeff Meyer of Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, one of the companies behind the plan, described it as “the 21st century's Hoover Dam,” referring to the 726-foot high span across the Colorado River that for decades has produced hydroelectric power for  
 

Wind energy proposal would light Los Angeles homes - Worcester Telegram

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 08:30 AM

Jeff Meyer of Pathfinder Renewable Wind Energy, one of the companies behind the plan, described it as "the 21st century's Hoover Dam," referring to the 726-foot high span across the Colorado River that for decades has produced hydroelectric power for  
 

Emerging solar plants are scorching birds in midair - TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 02:22 AM

The proposed plant is on a flight path for birds between the Colorado River and California's largest lake, the Salton Sea -- an area, experts say, that is richer in avian life than the Ivanpah plant, with protected golden eagles and peregrine falcons  
 

Solar Energy Boom In Texas Approaching? Looks Likely, According To Analysts - CleanTechnica

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 10:16 PM

Under this approach, industrial and commercial customers may choose to buy their power directly from solar projects. This is a new market in Texas, made possible Other examples would be Virginia, Colorado, and Iowa. New Mexico in 2000 was a tossup.Recreation District Taps Community Solar For Sustainability InitiativeInvestorIdeas.com (press release)all 61  
 

Solar and Wind Energy Development on Public Lands - Voice of the Valley

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 06:17 PM

public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah by establishing SEZs with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development in those zones and a process for considering additional SEZs and solar projects. 
 
 

Department of Energy Solar Projects

De Blasio announces major solar investment at City schools - Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Wed, 10/1/2014 - 02:34 PM

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the New York Power Authority will implement the projects, in partnership with the Department of Education (DOE). The planned 6.25 MW of solar power at these 24 installations will result in a  
 

Mayor announces new plan for going green in schools - Examiner.com

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 05:26 AM

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) and the New York Power Authority will implement the projects, in partnership with the Department of Education (DOE). The planned 6.25 MW of solar power at these 24 installations will result in a  
 

The Climate Post: World Sees Some Tangible Outcomes from U.N. Climate Summit - Huffington Post

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 07:41 PM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will award $68 million in loans and grants for 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, 240 of which will be solar projects. DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are releasing three new studies 
 

World Sees Some Tangible Outcomes from UN Climate Summit - National Geographic

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 07:24 PM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will award $68 million in loans and grants for 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, 240 of which will be solar projects. DOE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are releasing three new studies  
 

Report(s): Solar energy prices drop but regulations still have a big impact - Portland Business Journal (blog)

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 04:46 PM

The cost of developing utility-scale solar projects fell a third since the 2007-2008 period and the report notes the performance of the installations has increased. Tracking the Sun reports the installed cost of rooftop solar systems on residential and  
 

Executive Actions will advance solar deployment. - ThomasNet News (press release) (blog)

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 12:32 PM

September 24, 2014 - White House is announcing series of public and private sector commitments and executive actions to advance solar deployment and promote energy efficiency. Some actions include: partnering with military bases to create veterans  
 

DoE issues viability certificate to 2 Luzon solar projects - BusinessWorld Online Edition

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 02:27 PM

PV Solar Report
According to the Department of Energy (DoE), certifications of commercial viability were recently granted to RASLAG Corp. for its 8-MW plant in Mexico, Pampanga and to Majestics Energy Corp. for a 40-MW facility within the Cavite Economic Zone, on a White House Commits to More Solar and Energy EfficiencyPV Solar Reportall 8  
 

White House Commits to More Solar and Energy Efficiency - PV Solar Report

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 01:16 PM

The actions include investing $68 million in 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in rural areas across the country — with 240 of those being solar projects. Other actions include implementing energy-saving measures, funding clean  
 

A power plant on every roof - Inquirer.net

Sun, 09/21/2014 - 09:04 PM

Leviste's company expects to complete at least seven solar projects for shopping malls by end-2014. “I come from a family of environmentalists but for me, this is about addressing one Warning of a supply shortfall of 500 megawatts in 2015  
 

White House Issues Executive Actions On Solar Power - Solar Industry

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 04:24 PM

MiamiHerald.com
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is launching its Solar Powering America website providing access to a wide range of federal resources to drive solar deployment. The website will also be used to highlight and track private-sector commitments to FACT SHEET: White House Announces Executive Actions and Commitments National JournalPresident Obama Positions US With Actions on Efficiency, RenewablesSustainableBusiness.comall 116  
 
 

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.”

 

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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. 

 

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

How Can I Save Fuel on Summer Vacation Trips?

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

Mr GreenHey Mr. Green,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got a question? Ask Mr. Green!

 

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.

Feds approve Cove Point liquefied natural gas export facility

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 08:02 AM

Cove point

Late Monday the Federal Energy Regulatrory Commission (FERC) approved the controversial Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Maryland. The Sierra Club and a large coalition of groups -- including Earthjustice, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Patuxent Riverkeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper, Shenandoah Riverkeeper, and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper -- have been fighting this plan since its announcement because it means a massive expansion of natural gas fracking.

More than 40,000 people submitted comments opposing Cove Point.

"FERC's decision to allow LNG exports from Cove Point is fundamentally flawed because the agency failed to consider the simple fact that exporting LNG will mean more drilling and fracking, and that means more climate pollution, more risk of contaminated groundwater, and more threats to the health of people who live near gas wells," said Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Natural Gas campaign. "FERC should be standing up for the public good, not the interests of dirty polluters."

Once in full operation, Cove Point will also emit thousands of tons of dangerous air pollutants and millions of tons of greenhouse gases that will only add to increased climate disruption.

Beyond the increased fracking, the super-cooling process that turns fossil fuel vapor into LNG requires an immense amount of energy -- so much energy, in fact, that the LNG lifecycle is as dirty as coal. The industry wants to build enormous shipping terminals that would pave over fields, fill wetlands, and destroy estuaries.

As Deb noted about this Cove Point approval, FERC continues to bury its head in the sand and conclude that it is impossible to predict the effects related to the production of gas to be exported, or consumption of that gas once it is exported. This is despite the fact that even the Department of Energy agrees that if exports occur, they will induce additional gas production.

The Sierra Club and the coalition against Cove Point also believe that FERC has failed to procide for adequate public participation regarding this project. FERC must develop a full environmental impact statement that covers the entire effect of the project.

Some in Maryland are already planning a rally in response to the bad decision (6pm Tuesday, Sept 30, at 701 E. Pratt Street in Baltimore).

Stay tuned for more news on how we'll fight this decision. And stay involved - Cove Point isn't the only planned LNG export facility in the U.S.

-- Heather Moyer, Sierra Club

 

New Cases Show Risks of Trade Deals

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 01:14 PM

PCM 2 Courtenay Sierra Club Campaign Representative Courtenay Lewis planning with trade activists at the People's Climate March in New York City.


As a result of neoliberalism, writes Mark Bittman in the New York Times, “some corporations are more powerful than governments.” This message was a theme of many of the signs and chants at the People’s Climate March, where more than 400,000 participants came together in New York City, many denouncing corporate greed at the expense of a sustainable planet. And nowhere is that power divergence more apparent than in free trade pacts, where a provision called “investor state dispute settlement” (ISDS) empowers corporations to sue governments over nearly any policy that a corporation alleges would reduce its expected future profits.

The Dominican Republic, for example, faces two new corporate challenges to its environmental policies. Instead of supporting the Dominican Republic’s right to implement environmental safeguards, the U.S. is pushing to expand these “investor” rights in new trade agreements currently under negotiation—the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S. and the European Union.

Under the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), Corona, a Florida-based construction materials company (not to be confused with the beer), has announced a case against the Dominican Republic for $100 million because the Dominican Republic denied Corona an environmental license to mine for construction materials after citing concerns about the proposed project’s risks to waterways. Separately, three U.S. investors are threatening to bring a case against the Dominican Republic for not allowing them to “extend” a resort—which already includes luxury homes, a restaurant with a rotating floor and tennis courts— into a neighboring national park. The coveted “extension” would allow the developers to construct a second restaurant, spa, and “world-class boutique hotel.


It’s important to note that around 41 percent of Dominicans live below the poverty line, and the richest (overwhelmingly white) 10 percent of the population owns most of the land and enjoys around 40 percent of the national income. In their notice of intent to sue the Dominican Republic, the developers hoping to expand the luxury resort emphasize that they have “developed a deep love and affection for the country’s people and their culture.” But if these cases move forward and the investors win, it’s the Dominican taxpayers that would pay the millions of dollars in compensation. Even if the Dominican Republic were to win these cases, taxpayers could be forced to pay for a share of tribunal costs, which average $8 million per case.

Neither domestic nor international courts determine the outcomes of ISDS cases. They take place before three attorneys in private trade tribunals. Many of these attorneys rotate between acting as tribunal “judges” and as the lawyers launching cases against governments on behalf of the corporations. ISDS also exists in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which recently empowered a U.S. oil and gas company to sue the government of Canada for $250 million in response to a fracking moratorium around the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. To date, ISDS in free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties has allowed corporations including Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, and Chevron to file nearly 600 cases against almost 100 governments.

The Dominican Republic cases may seem surprising, but cases like this are quickly becoming the norm. Last week, for example, people gathered in front of the World Bank to protest an investment case brought by Oceanagold Corporation, an Australian mining company, against El Salvador, simply because the country denied the company a gold mining permit. Communities in El Salvador are concerned about mining’s costs to water quality, since 90 percent of the country’s surface water is already heavily contaminated. Yet even while protests against ISDS gain international momentum, our own government continues to promote ISDS in massive new trade agreements which could further empower big corporations to challenge countries’ environmental policies.

El-salvador-world-bank Complete with a giant inflatable fat cat, protesters rally outside the World Bank in support of El Salvador’s right to ban toxic mining along its principal watershed. (Photo: Ron Carver / Institute for Policy Studies)


These cases give a taste of the consequences that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could have both abroad and in the U.S. We know that the TPP includes ISDS and that the TTIP will likely include it unless negotiators listen to the massive public opposition on both sides of the Atlantic. If approved with ISDS, these trade agreements would empower tens of thousands of new corporations from around the world to sue the U.S. and other governments for federal, state, and regional policies that protect communities and safeguard the environment.

You can take action now, and let our government officials know that you oppose investor-state dispute settlement in all current and future trade pacts.

--Courtenay Lewis, Campaign Representative, Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program

 

 

Japan Draws Condemnation For Continued Overseas Coal Financing

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 12:59 PM

. Photo courtesy of Greenpeace India

The world’s largest public financier of overseas coal-fired power plants is facing serious pressure to move beyond coal.

Earlier this month, four residents of the central Java district of Batang, Indonesia were in Tokyo to protest the Japanese government’s support for a proposed $4 billion coal-fired power plant slated to be built in Batang. Since it’s inception in 2011, the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC)-funded coal project has been subject to fierce local resistance. Residents refusing to sell their land have already delayed the start of construction for over two years, but, in turn, activists have faced harassment and arrests over their efforts to protect their land.

Yet, the community members refuse to give up their fight, concerned that pollution from the coal-fired power plant will negatively affect fertile agricultural land and fragile coastal fishing zones which support the livelihoods of many local villagers. Locals are also worried about the health effects of pollutants contaminating the area’s air and water.

The 2,000-megawatt plant is poised to be the largest coal-fired power plant in Southeast Asia at an estimated cost of 400 billion yen (U.S. $4 billion). Riodi and Taryun, two of the Batang natives who traveled to Japan, were delegated by local Japanese residents to meet with officials from JBIC.

“We want to express our refusal directly to the responsible parties: Japan’s Ministry of Finance and the key companies, Itochu and J Power,” said Riodi in Tokyo last Tuesday. “After fruitless attempts in Central Java, and in the capital Jakarta, we hope our journey to Japan can ensure the cancellation of the power plant construction in our villages”.

Thanks to their efforts, parliamentarians from two Japanese opposition parties -- Mizuho Fukushima, an ex-minister who lead the Social Democratic Party from 2003-2013, and Naoto Sakaguchi, director-general of the international department of the Restoration Party of Japan -- have lent their support to the Indonesian community representatives.

Securing opposition to this coal project in Japan will be a major victory considering JBIC is the world’s leading financier of coal and Japan has provided more international funding to coal than any other country. Clearly, getting the Japanese government out of the dirty coal business is no small task, but these activists are not alone.

A new norm amongst the international community has solidified over the past year: a swift and sweeping transition away from financing new coal-fired plants overseas by many OECD countries -- including the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and other Nordic countries. Each of these countries have established strict restrictions for the support for overseas coal-fired power plants. In fact, just this week at the UN Climate Summit, the German government announced plans to offer its own restrictions for overseas coal financing.

In addition, these countries’ large international financial institutions (IFIs) -- like the World Bank Group -- have enacted similar coal financing policies.

However, it seems as though the World Bank -- which is still pondering its test case of these coal financing policies in Kosovo -- is actively defying its own coal ban by participating in this Japanese coal project. The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) helped create the Indonesia Infrastructure Guarantee Fund. This fund has provided a $33.9 billion guarantee for the Batang coal-fired power plant. Furthermore, the World Bank’s infrastructure project in Indonesia includes policies to subsidize and promote over 40 coal projects worldwide.

With the world’s nations committed to limiting climate disruption and keeping a global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, Japan and JBIC do not have the luxury of continued investment in burning or extracting dirty coal.

The health of our climate and our communities is at stake. It’s time for Japan to join the international community. It’s time to move beyond coal.

-- Rohan Bhatia, International Climate Program Intern

 

Tens of thousands celebrate National Drive Electric Week in 152 cities

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 11:45 AM

Copenhagen cars

by Gina Coplon-Newfield and Zan Dubin-Scott

In 152 cities and 39 US states, more than 90,000 people attended events last week associated with the 2014 National Drive Electric Week. Getting people into plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) to experience the fun, quiet, and clean air benefits of EVs first-hand was part of the point. Event organizers from San Diego alone reported 600 test rides, and Littleton, CO reported a respectable 200. All told from our city captains, we estimate that there were more than 5,500 test rides in plug-in cars at our events.

California Governor Jerry Brown celebrated National Drive Electric Week by signing a number of new EV programs into law. One measure sets a goal of one million plug-in vehicles on the road in California by the end of 2022, about a tenfold increase in the next eight years. The legislation directs the state Air Resources Board to draft a plan to meet that goal and make sure that disadvantaged communities can participate. The policies will also ensure that it's easier for EV drivers to install charging units in apartment building parking areas. "We face an existential challenge with the changes in our climate," Brown said about the EV programs and other environmental initiatives he announced on Sunday, timed to coincide with a United Nations climate summit. "The time to act is now. The place to look is California. We're not finished, but we sure are setting the pace."

NYC Gas SuxIn New York City on Sunday, an estimated 400,000 people took to the streets to demand serious action among world leaders to address climate change. As part of Drive Electric Week, our 'EV Bloc' participated in the People's Climate March with signs like "Don't Pollute on Your Commute."

Public officials nationwide came out in droves to test drive and promote plug-in cars last week. Governor Jay Inslee of Washington issued a Drive Electric Week proclamation for his state. There was a "wicked strong" showing at the Cranston, RI event: U.S. senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, Mayor Allan Fung, and Rhonde Island Office of Energy Resources Commissioner Marion Gold all turned out to celebrate plug-in cars in the ocean state. In Juneau, Alaska, several mayors, Attorney General Michael Geraghty, and state representative Cathy Munoz gathered for test drives and promotion of new charging stations.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake of Baltimore was among many mayors who issued ‘drive electric' proclamations for their cities and towns. Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles said in his own proclamation, presented at UCLA, that EVs "reduce our dependence on foreign fuels, and support a healthy environment and economy."

Cupertino's celebration peaked when a judge with GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® pronounced a new record for most all-electric vehicles in a parade: 507. The fume-free procesion, cheered on by a crowd of a couple thousand, was organized by San Francisco BayLEAFs and the Silicon Valley chapter of the Electric Auto Association, an enduring granddaddy founded in 1967. Among parade EVs was the AC Propulsion tzero, upon which Tesla Motors based its Roadster, and Stella. With onboard solar panels, this low-slung, four-passenger car is said to produce twice as much energy as it uses in an average day. It won the 2013 World Solar Challenge, a competition that launched the storied EV1 and our era's EV resurgence. Stella was designed and built by students of the Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands.

Many other students participated in Drive Electric Week this year, thanks to our new Ambassador Schools initiative. Still in pilot phase, we expect to have more about this program next year, but the idea is to raise awareness of EVs among youth. In Murray, Utah, about 450 of young and old alike got to check out not only electric cars, but also electric motorcycles, bicycles, and lawn-mowers. Even Mike Lookinland, also known as Bobby Brady from The Brady Bunch, showed up to talk about his love for EVs.
Wellesley people and cars

We at Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association could not have put on National Drive Electric Week without the hundreds of volunteers and dozens of partner groups at the local level, including many Clean Cities Coalitions. We also appreciated the promotion from allied groups, such as the 11th Hour Project, which announced during Drive Electric Week several exciting newly funded EV grant projects. Our friends at Union of Concerned Scientists took the opportunity to issue new blog posts on the scientifically proven benefits of plug-in cars, including: How do EVs Compare with Gas-Powered Vehicles?  Better Every Year…; and How Clean are Electric Cars? A Life Cycle Assessment of Advanced Vehicle Technologies.

Most of the events were in the US, but gatherings took place in four other nations as well. Many thanks go to sponsors and other supporters in the US and abroad. Automakers, dealerships, solar and EV-charging equipment companies, as well as municipalities, government agencies, and universities are among them. It wouldn't be fair to name only a few, but we do want to send a shout out to our exclusive automotive sponsor, Nissan LEAF.

Media interest in National Drive Electric Week was unprecedented this year, with coverage appearing in more than 180 national and local outlets. The Weather Channel broadcast prime-time TV news coverage, and EV owners of all sorts got some ink from coast-to-coast. Attending a Woodland Hills, Calif. event, Linda Tcimpidis spoke to a reporter with the Los Angeles Daily News. "I love this car," said Leaf driver Tcimpidis, 61. Added the event's 17-year-old organizer, Eric Doroski: "It's the future of cars, being plugged in."

National Drive Electric Week was a hit on social media, too, reaching a peak of 3.4 million Twitter users. If you want to spread the good news about plug-in cars, please share this article. Also, post a comment to let us know how your local event went and how charged up you are.

Photo 1: an EV parade in Copenhagen, courtesy of John Krøll; Photo 2: Kendra Griffin with her sons in New York City, courtesy of Gina Coplon-Newfield; Photo 3: workplace charging event in Wellesley, MA, courtesy of Bob Frechette Photography and John Hancock Property Management.

Gina Coplon-Newfield directs the Sierra Club’s Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative. Zan Dubin-Scott is founder of National Drive Electric Week and the Communications Director at Plug In America.

 

Connecticut on its way to a coal-free future

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 06:30 AM

Earlier this month activists in Bridgeport, Connecticut, cheered when city council members took a bold step in moving the city (and state!) beyond coal.

A bi-partisan resolution that calls for the retirement of the state's last coal plant -- the Bridgeport Harbor Station -- and a community transition process passed out of the city council's Economic and Community Development and Environmental Concerns subcomittee. Granted, this is a non-binding resolution, but activists say it's still a great step that will encourage other residents and officials to see the momentum and call for the plant's retirement as well.

"This will send a strong message that Bridgeport wants to move beyond coal, and that the city wants to do so in a way that protects the community and the workers," says Onte Johnson, a Beyond Coal organizer in Bridgeport.

The next step for the resolution is a review and possible final approval from the full city council on October 6. Between now and then, Johnson says even more work will be done by local activists in coalition with the Sierra Club, the Healthy Connecticut Alliance, and other community groups. He adds that this resolution evolved from an earlier push by a city councilman who the Sierra Club educated about the effects of the coal plant on children's health.

See a good wrap-up of the vote from earlier this month and a talk about the next steps by Johnson in this video.
 

p>Here's the text of the resolution
 
A Resolution by the Bridgeport City Council regarding Bridgeport Harbor Station
WHEREAS, the operation of coal fired power plants has an ongoing negative impact on air and water quality; and
WHEREAS, state legislation has reduced sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions statewide by 90 percent; and
WHEREAS, the Bridgeport Coal plant emits thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter into the air in Bridgeport and these emissions are much higher for a coal plant than for other fossil fuels, including natural gas; and
WHEREAS, the process for moving the coal to the plant sends plumes of coal dust into the air impacting Long Island Sound, Bridgeport Harbor and the East End of Bridgeport; and
WHEREAS, such activity impairs the health of nearby residents and the community; and
WHEREAS, the children of Bridgeport continue to have exhibit elevated levels of respiratory issues, including asthma; and
WHEREAS, those children come from homes which are most in need and most financially vulnerable; and
WHEREAS, coal-fired power plants, like Bridgeport Harbor Station, have been losing market share and revenue in the New England electricity market to the point that many plant owners have suffered large financial losses, written off billions in value and/or have retired coal-fired power plants with little or no notice to the host community thereby creating a loss of jobs and revenue.
WHEREAS, the city of Bridgeport must proactively plan for transition and the potential retirement of Bridgeport Harbor Station in order to protect the community, public health, and the environment.
 
Now therefore, be it hereby RESOLVED BY THE BRIDGEPORT CITY COUNCIL:
1. The City calls upon PSEG to phase out the coal-fired electricity generation at Bridgeport Harbor Station at the earliest possible date;
 
2. The City shall undertake a Transition Initiative that shall include both a Reuse Study and the establishment of a Citizen's Advisory Committee in order establish a redevelopment analysis initiative to research and develop a plan for the reuse of the Bridgeport coal plant site. Reuse alternatives must bring good, green jobs to the city and improve the quality of life for all those who live and work in our community.  
 
The Transition Initiative shall Include the establishment of a Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) by the Mayor's office December 31, 2014 as an integral part of the Bridgeport redevelopment analysis in order to:
 
        1.     represent the affected community, residents, and workers,
        2.     provide input to the redevelopment analysis process, and
        3.     provide public outreach as the redevelopment analysis begins and progresses.
        4.     Collaborate with the City of Bridgeport’s Economic Development Department by December 31,                 2014, to
                        o pursue funding for a professional reuse study;
                        o develop a framework for the study and issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for qualified contractors;
                        o in the study, explore possibilities and propose sustainable alternatives/solutions for                         the site as well as the workers affected by a potential closing and explore opportunities                         including but not limited to legislation or other mechanisms to support Bridgeport                         revenues impacted by reduced operations and or retirement of Bridgeport Harbor                                 Station;

The CAC shall operate in accordance with precepts of open and accessible public process and hold at least 4 meetings a year. The CAC shall include, but not be limited to, community leaders, relevant city councilors, union representatives, and PSEG representatives, public health organizations. The CAC can elect to add members through a majority vote and with approval of the Economic Development Department. The CAC shall develop and implement a public engagement plan. The Economic Department will report to the Mayor and City Council on the progress of the redevelopment analysis at least quarterly;

3. The City calls upon the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to act to protect public health and air and water quality in Bridgeport and Bridgeport Harbor by acting expeditiously on any and all expired or extended permits for the facility, including but not limited to the NPDES permit which was issued in 1999 and has yet to be renewed despite the Clean Water Act’s mandatory five-year permit terms and the significant impingement and entrainment mortality and thermal loading attributable to Bridgeport Harbor Station;
 
4. The City Clerk Is Authorized And Directed To Provide Copies Of This Resolution To The Mayor, The Public Utilities Control Authority, The Commissioner Of Energy And Environmental Protection and the PSEG Company.

END of resolution

 

Wrapping Up the UN Climate Summit

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 12:36 PM

 

At Tuesday’s United Nations Climate Summit, political and economic leaders came together to announce new actions and launch new initiatives to help tackle the climate crisis. Over 125 world leaders and hundreds of CEOs participated, making it the largest such meeting on climate disruption in history. The meeting had two objectives: to catalyze ambitious action to reduce climate-disrupting emissions and strengthen resilience; and to mobilize political will for an ambitious global agreement by 2015 that limits the world to a less than 2°C rise in global temperature.

But even with all the presidents, prime ministers, and corporate bigwigs in attendance, the day belonged to Kathy Jetnil-Kijinera, a 26-year-old poet from the Marshall Islands who gave civil society’s opening statement. Her astonishing poem, in the form of a video message to her infant daughter, captured the moment in a way that none of the assembled luminaries could. It was at once unflinching in describing the human stakes, uncompromising in calling out those who impede progress, and unshakable in its faith in the power of ordinary people to force their leaders to take action. Coming on the heels of Sunday’s People’s Climate March, in which 400,000 people marched through New York City demanding that our leaders pursue jobs, justice, and a prosperous economy powered by clean energy, it was a powerful call for continued civic engagement. Watch it here. It’s the most inspiring 3 minutes you’ll spend today--assuming you can watch it just once.

It would be tempting to say that the rest of the event was disappointing by comparison--the usual dronings for which the United Nations is so frequently taken to task. And in fact, much of it was. But there was also cause for optimism to be found in a range of commitments and initiatives that will help address the crisis, and will build political momentum for the more transformative actions that countries have agreed to announce in early 2015 in the runup to the Paris negotiations. Some highlights included:

China’s announcement that it will put forward its plan to reduce emissions in early 2015, and that it will seek to peak its emissions “as soon as possible.” Coupled with the recent news that China’s voracious appetite for coal may be waning, this raises the real possibility that China will be able to peak its emissions much earlier than previously projected.

Denmark’s announcement that it will be powered exclusively by renewable energy by 2035, and the commitment of other countries such as Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Ethiopia and Iceland to be carbon neutral by 2050.   

France’s commitment to contribute $1 billion to the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund.

Germany’s announcement that it will no longer use its development assistance to fund overseas coal projects, ending an important source of public subsidy for coal plants.

And, of course, President Obama’s call for his fellow world leaders to lead on tackling the climate crisis – as he called it, the “one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other.”  

In addition to the country commitments, a number of promising initiatives were launched to expand financing for clean energy, improve the efficiency of cities, limit deforestation, strengthen climate resilience and improve agricultural practices. The full range of commitments and initiatives can be found here.

But even if all of these initiatives were flawlessly implemented and wildly successful, they would not save Ms. Jetnil-Kijinera’s daughter and her compatriots from the fate that threatens them:

that the

lucid, sleepy lagoon lounging against the sunrise…will devour you…

[and] you, your daughter and your granddaughter, too

will wander rootless

with only a passport to call home

That will take far more ambition from political leaders—and more vigilant, sustained public pressure to force them to act. That’s why the hundreds of thousands who marched on Sunday know these were only the first steps for a growing, strengthening movement.

--Steve Herz, Senior Attorney, International Climate Program, Sierra Club



 

Why The Climate Movement Cannot Ignore Trade

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 10:24 AM

This past weekend, I joined more than 400,000 community members on the frontlines of climate disruption, environmentalists, workers, students, parents, and others to demand action on climate and to claim our collective rights to clean water, air, and land.

As someone who has spent many years in the halls of Congress and United Nations climate conventions calling for strong climate action, this diverse, public, outspoken, and in-the-streets action was a beautiful, incredible feat that signals a tipping point in the climate movement that policymakers will not be able to ignore.

But there is another tipping point that will affect the success of the climate movement: the free trade tipping point.

The health of our planet depends on our ability to make big changes in our economy.  These changes include moving beyond fossil fuels and building local green economies. However, our current model of free trade, which is written into agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and free trade pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), threatens nearly every aspect of this much-needed economic transition. And yet, the U.S. is currently negotiating massive new free trade pacts, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 Pacific Rim nations and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union. These deals would severely restrict the ability of governments to restructure our economy and address the climate crisis.

If these deals are beat-back, we can open up space for governments to embrace a new model of trade that is compatible with—even supports—efforts to combat the climate crisis. If these agreements move forward, they lock in a new set of rules that will further hinder our ability to solve the climate crisis.

Let’s take a deeper look at just how our trade rules are getting in the way of climate progress.

Corporate challenges to climate and clean energy policies: In order to combat the climate crisis, we must move beyond fossil fuels and embrace clean energy. However, investment rules in free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties threaten our ability to do so. The rules actually empower corporations to sue governments, in the secrecy of private trade tribunals, over laws and policies that corporations allege reduce their profits, including protections from dirty fossil fuels. Such rules have allowed corporations including Chevron and ExxonMobil to launch nearly 600 challenges against almost 100 governments. Increasingly, corporations are using these perverse rules in free trade and investment agreements to challenge energy and climate policies, including a moratorium on fracking in Quebec, a nuclear energy phase-out and new coal-fired power plant standards in Germany, and requirement for a pollution clean-up in Peru. Nearly 60 percent of so-called investor-state cases are decided in favor of the investor (making taxpayers foot the bill to the corporation or investor) or settle (sometimes weakening the policy, as happened in Germany). When governments “win,” they just get to keep the policy in place and are often stuck with part of a legal tab averaging $8 million per case.

Unfettered exports of fossil fuels: The vast majority of fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground in order to avoid climate catastrophe. We have to move beyond fossil fuels here at home and stop exporting them to other countries. Current free trade rules once again stand in the way. The U.S., for example, is legally bound to automatically approve all exports of natural gas to countries with which it has a free trade pact. (If no free trade pact is in place, the Department of Energy must conduct a public analysis to determine whether exports are inconsistent with the public interest before granting a license.) And there is increased talk of a potential free-trade challenge to current U.S. restrictions on crude oil exports. In fact, the EU is pressuring the U.S. to lift its crude oil export restrictions in the context of its negotiations on TTIP, the U.S. EU trade pact. According to Oil Change International, lifting the crude oil export ban would lead to 9.9 billion barrels of additional crude between 2015 and 2050, which would release as much carbon dioxide as 42 coal-fired power plants.

Restricting local and low-carbon economies: Another part of solving the climate puzzle relates to production and consumption: We need to start producing and using products, from our food to our energy, closer to home. Sadly, the current trend is to produce goods wherever labor is cheapest and environmental protections are lowest and ship them across the world. (This trend, incidentally, was made possible—even encouraged—by free trade rules.) But think about the endless benefits, both for our climate and for the creation of new green jobs, of producing wind turbines and solar panels locally. In fact, strong domestic renewable energy industries may be one of the most powerful tools to combat climate disruption. The transition to a clean energy economy depends on local renewable energy industries that can challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry.

Governments across the world recognize the benefits of renewable energy programs that create green jobs. From Ontario, Canada to India—in addition to a number of U.S. states—governments are increasingly using “local content rules” that require enterprises to purchase or use locally-manufactured goods in renewable energy programs. But a long-standing tenant of trade law is that governments cannot “privilege” local goods or producers over foreign ones, so there have been a string of cases at the WTO challenging local content rules in renewable energy programs. Japan and the EU have used WTO challenges to strike Ontario, Canada’s local content rule out of its clean energy program; the U.S. is challenging local content rules in India’s national solar program; India has, in turn, threatened a number of U.S. state-based renewable energy programs; China is threatening local content rules in EU renewable energy programs, and the list goes on.

Unfortunately, the trade rules described above are a small sample of the myriad rules that make it difficult to bring about what the 400,000-plus people marching the streets of New York City want -- strong action on climate.

But, all of this is not reason to despair—it’s a reason to organize.

Bigger and badder threats from the fossil fuel industry have set a fire under the climate movement. New, dangerous trade deals such as the TPP and TTIP, which threaten health, environmental, and worker protections, have set ablaze another movement of trade justice advocates. If we can combine the force of these movements and continue to strengthen our work, the power of our movements will tip our governments to act on behalf of the people instead of on behalf of the polluters. The climate movement must stand up to the free trade rules and ideology that helped get us into this climate mess and that will thwart our ability to solve it and say, “enough is enough.”

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

 

Developing clean energy and protecting wild places

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 01:21 PM

IMG_1062

What does a plan to protect the often undervalued and misunderstood California desert and its wildlife have to do with moving the U.S. to a clean energy economy? Everything! If California gets renewable energy development done correctly here, then it can be a blueprint for clean energy development nationwide.

Today, the Obama administration and the California Governor Jerry Brown administration released the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, or DRECP, a habitat conservation plan designed to protect species, ecosystems, and other heritage areas in the California desert region while developing up to 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2040. This plan covers 22.5 million acres of public and private land across seven counties and will provide protection for 37 keystone desert species, many of them threatened or endangered.

Photo 3California's vast desert region has been the focus of rapid large-scale renewable energy development for the past several years, aided by both California' s aggressive 33 percent by 2020 renewable energy goal and federal stimulus funding. In a rush to meet targets and funding deadlines, federal and state agencies approved multiple large projects, mainly on public lands, many of them with dire consequences for important desert ecosystems and species like the desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, Mohave ground squirrel, and rare endemic plants.  

The Ivanpah project, a huge solar thermal project built on the California/Nevada border, became the emblem of harmful siting. This vast project eliminated several square miles of prime habitat for desert tortoise and became the leading edge in protests against governments' failure to protect important wild habitats while building renewable energy. Unfortunately, once up and running, operators further discovered that as blazing heat was reflected from mirrors to the top of the power towers, birds attracted to the location were being killed or maimed, their wing feathers damaged by the high temperatures.  

Rapidly increasing our clean energy capacity is essential to stopping the worst of climate disruption, and as new technology is tested, unforeseen impacts will occur. But we must prioritize protecting vulnerable wildlife and habitats while we build renewable energy. We don't have to trade one for the other.  

That's why a broad range of people who care about the California desert region have been quietly working for several years on the DRECP, which aims to permit large-scale renewable energy development and at the same time provide lasting protections for the region's unique and irreplaceable desert ecosystems, American Indian cultural resources, and other essential elements of our desert heritage. People across California have provided a wealth of input to state and federal officials on where renewable energy should be built, how to best protect air and water quality, what areas should be off-limits to energy development, and what kinds of protections are important to ensure desert wildlife and other resources endure for the next hundred years and beyond -- even in the face of climate change.

Concerned citizens have also weighed in on California's overall energy policy, pointing out that greatly ramping up energy efficiency and local clean energy, like rooftop solar, will reduce the need to build large-scale projects and thus protect valuable and ever-shrinking intact ecosystems and cultural lands.  

The DRECP has the potential to provide long-term conservation to protect vulnerable desert species like the Mojave desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, and Mohave ground squirrel. At the same time it will incentivize and streamline renewable energy development focused in low-impact zones.

Most importantly, if done well it will set the bar for how to develop renewable energy in a way that protects our natural heritage and conserves critical landscapes far into the future. The right plan can be a blueprint for the rest of the nation as we move to a sustainable clean energy future.

-- Barbara Boyle, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign. Top photo by Jardine Hammond.

 

People's Climate March draws more than 400,000

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 08:23 AM

PCM2

"Coursing through Midtown, from Columbus Circle to Times Square and the Far West Side, the People's Climate March was a spectacle even for a city known for doing things big." So said the New York Times in its front-page coverage of the People's Climate March in Manhattan.

PCM6

More than 400,000 citizen activists, including more than 25,000 Sierra Club members, joined in what is being called the largest climate march in history. It was also the largest-ever gathering of Sierra Club members and supporters in the history of the organization. More than 100 buses from 35 states were organized and funded by the Club, which also ran Climate Caravan trains from Washington, D.C., the Midwest, and as far away as California.

Pcm marchers

Indigenous groups, labor, youth, scientists, food justice and clean water activists, religious groups, and civil rights organizations joined environmental groups in calling on world leaders attending the UN Climate Summit in New York this Tuesday to start taking real action to halt climate disruption.

PCM7

Among those marching were United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, former vice president Al Gore, and New York mayor Bill de Blasio, who just announced that the city was committing to and 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

PCM1

The march's official starting point was on 59th Street at Columbus Circle, on the southwest corner of Central Park. But from the early morning hours, the crowd stretched for miles up Central Park West to 86th St. and beyond, swelling in numbers and energy with each passing hour.

PCM8

Banners were raised, speakers, drummers, and musicians fired up the crowd, and marchers swapped stories as helicopters beat the air overhead.

PCM5

At the Sierra Club stage at 75th St., Beyond Coal director Mary Anne Hitt, national program director Sarah Hodgdon, former Club president Allison Chin, and Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota were among the speakers, and members of the Sierra Student Coalition fired up the crowd with call-and-response cheers like, "What do we want?" "Clean energy!" "When do we want it?" "Now!"

PCM ssc

"This was an opportunity to show the world that the climate movement can and should involve us all," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "I’m proud of the fact that the Sierra Club was able to harness the energy and commitment of so many people to join together with so many different organizations who have the same goal –- to take action on climate disruption and advance the new, clean, just, clean energy prosperity."

PCM4

Years from now, if world leaders listen to the alarm being sounded by citizens to take meaningful action to curb climate disruption, future generations may look back at the People's Climate March as the watershed moment when the tide turned in the fight against climate disruption.

PCM3

Check out this Sierra Club photo gallery of People's Climate March photos.

 

Will Germany Join the International Community and Restrict Overseas Coal Finance?

Fri, 09/19/2014 - 12:00 PM

"In New York, I will announce that the government will change its position on the financing of coal-fired power plants abroad." -- German Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendriks September 17th, 2014.

This exciting statement could substantially change what German overseas investments, from important institutions like KfW, support. That’s particularly important for those concerned about the impacts the global coal industry has on our health and environment because Germany is currently the third largest source of international public financing for coal.

In fact, since 2006, Germany has invested 3.3 billion euros in new coal infrastructure. Any change to their support for this dirty and deadly industry will have real financial impact as well as strike a symbolic blow to the industry.

But if Germany is so coal friendly, why is it contemplating this significant move away from international coal financing? Because the international community has moved swiftly and quickly to end coal financing, and Germany doesn’t want to be an outlier.

Since last summer, the World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank and the U.S. Export-Import Bank have all implemented narrow restrictions on coal support. A number of  countries -- including the U.S., U.K., Netherlands, and Nordic countries -- have done so as well.

When it comes to public divestment from coal, the dominoes keep falling.

But as exciting as Germany’s announcement is, the devil is in the details. Many observers are worried that there will be attempts to render Environment Minister Hendrik’s announcement toothless by creating loopholes that the coal industry could drive a truck through. Those concerns stem from KfWs fierce defence of financing for new coal plants in the past, claiming that it is compatible with a 2°C climate target. Coupled with a regressive push by parts of the government like the Ministry of Economy which is fighting tooth and nail to make sure that the limitations don’t apply to the funds they control, there is indeed cause for concern.

For instance, right now the announcement only covers the environment and development ministry’s budgets. That leaves over half of all support coming from key trade promotion agencies -- like Euler Hermes and IPEX -- uncovered. The details for restricting support for overseas coal financing through those agencies are still being negotiated and therefore vulnerable to these regressive efforts.

One key concern is that these agencies will seek to continue providing support for ‘highly efficient coal-fired power plants’. This would constitute a gaping loophole in the announcement , and would be well out of line with international best practice.

In order to join the international community and make this announcement something civil society can embrace, KfW must follow the steps of other major institutions -- like the European Investment Bank and the U.S. Export-Import Bank -- and announce an Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) that restricts the carbon intensity of power plant investments.

This approach is far superior to KfW’s current plan because it firmly aligns with a growing call to end support and investment for new unabated coal-fired power plants. An EPS achieves this by setting the investment standard between 500 - 550 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour, which only allows for coal-fired power plants that effectively capture and store their carbon emissions.

The German government will need to sort out these details after its announcement at the UN Climate Summit. If their proposal has weak criteria and large loopholes, it will be impossible for civil society to embrace what can and should be a climate victory for the German government.

If Environment Minister Hendriks’ does announce a  stringent, comprehensive  limitation on overseas coal financing, in line with the international community, it would be exactly the kind of  action that 100,000 environmental, labor, faith, and social justice activists will be marching for this Sunday in New York City at the People’s Climate March, and its affiliated events worldwide.

But the question looms - with the world now watching, will Germany join the international community or buck international trends?

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

 
 

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