Sunday, May 7, 2017

Trump is basically ignoring main sources of middle class employment in the energy sector



Coal provides middle-class Americans with less than 100,000 jobs. Wind/ solar/ renewable energy provides these same Americans with well over 500,000 jobs. So, of course, Trump, the Trump administration, and republicans in Congress will focus on increasing incentives for, and eliminating regulations for...the coal industry.

It is exactly this kind of backwards thinking that has government eliminating regulations around the fossil fuel industry's habit of polluting the environment, as well as dismantling laws forbidding the fossil fuel industry from developing in national parks and the arctic. This is a result of climate change denial, apathy concerning the environment, and the tremendous, ugly greed of Trump and his goons in the White House and republicans in Congress. But these governmental policies are also a reflection of the republican voter-at-large who put these people in government.

It is time for both our government and the people that vote these climate change denying, willfully ignorant people into government positions, to open their eyes, and see facts for what they are: facts. The future of employment in the energy sector is obviously renewable energy, not fossil fuels. This article in Mother Jones sums it up perfectly:

Wind [and solar] farms—and the new jobs that come with them—have swept across the Midwest, where coal and traditional manufacturing gigs have vanished. (Despite what President Donald Trump will tell you, coal jobs started to disappear back in the 1980s, when the steel industry began to sink and utilities stopped building new coal-fired power plants.)
In the "wind belt" between Texas and North Dakota, the price of wind energy is finally equal to and in some cases cheaper than that of fossil fuels. Thanks to investments in transmission lines, better computer controls, and more efficient turbines, the cost to US consumers fell two-thirds in just six years, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Still, not all windy states have a turbine-friendly climate. In Wyoming, for example, coal-loving legislators passed a tax on wind energy in 2010 and are also considering penalizing utilities for including renewables in their portfolios.
The next few years will see a showdown between "rural Republicans who really want to get the economic boost [wind & solar, other renewables] offers to their district, versus Republican ideologues who don't like renewables because they like fossil fuels"—and whose campaign contributions depend on protecting them.
So farmers—and voters —will have to fight for wind [and other renewables] which, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency,  offer the greatest potential for growth in US renewable power generation. In his energy plan, Trump speaks of reviving the country's "hurting" coal industry and argues that sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America.
We do—and those reserves could lead to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the coming years, and very few carbon emissions. And if Trump weren't so fixated on the sputtering coal industry, he might actually see them. (Article by Maddie Oatman)

Maddie Oatman is a story editor at Mother Jones. Read more of her stories here, or catch her on MoJo's food politics podcast Bite.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Climate Goals: Is Oslo Leading the Way?



Norway is deadly serious in its bid to become the most climate-friendly country in Europe and has aggressively set about managing its emissions levels.

In January 2017 Oslo issued a temporary ban on all diesel cars entering the capital from 6am to 10pm, a move indicative of the increasing worldwide hostile attitudes towards diesel cars. While some applauded the ban others were highly critical, especially as only 10 years ago Norwegians were being actively encouraged and even incentivised to buy “environmentally friendly” diesel cars.

A permanent ban?

There is already a congestion charge for entering Oslo city during the daytime. But in 2015 the city council announced its intention to make Oslo city centre a completely car-free zone by 2019 - that’s only two years away and six years in advance of a country-wide ban. If it does happen it will be the first permanent car-free zone in Europe and the largest of its kind.

The ‘carrot’ in this scenario is the planned boost to public transport and addition of 40 miles of bicycle lanes. The ‘stick’ however is the idea of new tax levies on heavy vehicles registered before 2014 and increased tax on passenger cars, though at the moment there is no indication of whether electric or hybrid cars would be exempt. The city is nonetheless putting its money where its mouth is: it has reportedly begun to remove parking spaces in preparation and is divesting fossil fuels from its pension funds.

Tackling pollution from cars head-on

Looking at the wider picture, the Norwegian government plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, and eventually only allow zero emission new cars to be registered. It already offers aggressive incentives for drivers to buy plug-in electric cars. In 2016 29% of new car sales in Norway were plug-in electric, and in January 2017 that number was 37.5%. Over the last few years Norway has been the only country in the world where all-electric vehicles have regularly topped the monthly rankings for new car sales.

The rest of Europe is watching

It’s easy to see the attractions of a car free zone. Apart from obvious improvements in air quality, newly emptied roads can be rededicated as sidewalks, cafes and public parks. After all a car is the most inefficient way to get around a city. Traffic in London today moves slower than the average cyclist and commuters in Los Angeles spend 90 hours per year in traffic.

Of course, the total car ban in Oslo has its critics. The council point out the proposed car-free zone is home to only about 1,000 residents but 90,000 workers. Commercial organizations, however, complain that area includes 11 of the city’s 57 shopping centers, so trade would be drastically affected. Not just from a possible drop in shopper numbers, but difficulties in getting deliveries if lorries have to meet stricter emissions levels. 

Other European capitals are watching Oslo closely. If successful, then the car-free zone could provide the blueprint for others to follow suit, making city centres a better place for everyone.

For more information, please see: fortune.com/2016/06/04/norway-banning-gas-cars-2025/

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Was the Clean Power Plan Just Wiped Out?


The Clean Power Plan was the subject of a Trump executive action, as you know by now. Without a doubt, this act by the current White House administration is a major attack on American’s clean air and water that we, in a first-world nation, have become accustomed to. The Trump administration is full of Climate Change deniers, who won’t even acknowledge that 2016 was the hottest year for the planet on record, and 9 of the last 10 years have also been the hottest years in history. 

In addition to the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration and Republican House have been busy dismantling EPA environmental regulations that protect air and water from polluting industries. However, there are a few caveats to these actions that deserve a closer look.

That executive order regarding the Clean Power Plan can't take effect immediately anyway. The subjects of Trump’s executive actions regarding the Clean Power Plan and other regulations that protect the environment are mostly regulations that must be litigated before any repeal can take place. When, and if, they do take effect, polluters can freely pollute or, rather, they could, if the CPP and other environmental regulations were actually repealed. 

However, even the environmental regulations that are repealed, are going to produce lawsuits, so either way, there's litigation. In the case of polluters freely polluting, in addition to the litigation, there’s also pollution, the cost of cleaning up the pollution, and the cost to human and animal health and well-being.

Coal-based energy production is the #1 cause of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as causing deaths among coal miners. There have been 76,000 coal miner deaths due to black lung disease alone, since 1968. It would be difficult to state an advantage dirty coal has over clean energy because there isn’t one. 

Renewable energy is also much more cost effective than coal, in addition to being cleaner. Jobs are trending towards the renewable industry, and away from the fossil fuel industry. Renewables, such as solar and wind, are also getting cheaper than coal and has been getting cheaper for years. (https://cleantechnica.com/2013/09/19/nrdc-clean-energy-affordable-way-power-us/)

Fossil fuel jobs accounted for only 22% of jobs in the energy sector last year in the United States. In 2016, there were only between 70,000-80,000 jobs in the coal industry. There were over 500,000 jobs in solar last year in the US alone, and much more across the world. So, let's set aside pollution and climate change; where's the economic benefit of coal? And, we're only talking about solar - there's also wind, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric. Now, let’s add back in the pollution from, and environmental hazard that is, coal. Where’s the benefit of coal???

Also see these articles for information about the Clean Power Plan, environmental regulations that are on the chopping block and the fight to protect the environment:

New York Times- http://nyti.ms/2nk3MF7


Monday, February 6, 2017

Recycling: How Are We Doing As A Global Community?


 Individuals and governments the world over are beginning to understand that if we don’t act now, as a global community, the environment is in grave peril. One major step many communities of the world have taken is educating about and enforcing recycling standards. As a result of increased wealth and population, extreme consumerism, and lifestyle changes, have led to increased waste. Recycling reduces toxins released into the atmosphere from landfills and reduces the pollution generated in manufacturing more (fully recyclable) packaging of products.

Which countries recycle the most?


        The top six countries for recycling are Germany, South Korea, Slovenia, Austria, Belgium and Switzerland. Germany gained number one status (although technically, it is virtually tied with Austria) by implementing what is called the green dot initiative. (We give Germany the edge in global ranking for recycling, due to the fact that Germany came up with the Green Dot system). In order to get a green dot on the package, manufacturers have to pay a fee based on the size of the packaging, which is used for recycling. Manufacturers have thereby been encouraged to reduce the volume of packaging, and to make packaging more easily recyclable. This encourages companies to produce more minimalistic and innovative packaging. They also came up with an intricate system of domestic and commercial sorting to make sure every material is able to be recycled properly.  The Green Dot system started in Germany in 1991, and now has spread to 26 countries on the European continent.
Who Recycles the Worst?
        The worst countries worldwide for recycling are Turkey and Chile. Turkey recycles a mere 1% of its total waste. The government places little to no importance on the recycling issue. Chile is known for having bad infrastructure for waste management, and so a lot of illegal dumping occurs.
How Can We Improve Recycling Rates?



        In order to improve recycling rates, it is important to make recycling receptacles ubiquitously available. This means both installing public receptacles, and providing recycling services free of charge to residential areas. Most people will choose to recycle when it presents no apparent added effort.
        When people have to think too hard about which item goes in which bin, they tend to give up and either throw it in a random bin, or just throw it in the trash. Unless zero-sort recycling infrastructure is already in place, incorrectly recycled items create increased cost in the recycling process. In fact, zero-sort facilities are a great way to avoid the apparent added effort of having to think. Most people know that, in general, glass, paper, and plastic are recyclable, and everything else is landfill material. With zero-sort receptacles, there is no added thought required.
            Creating a penalty for not recycling is also a tool that can be implemented for increased community recycling. It actually costs you to not recycle, and throw out your trash is a special plastic bag, in Switzerland. In Denmark, trash disposal is closely monitored and regulated in order to ensure the maximal recycling is done correctly.Germany issues each household 5 different colors/ categories of recycling bins. Cities where you can be fined if you don't recycle, include Burlington, VT, Dayton, OH, San Francisco, CA and Cardiff, Wales.
            Most importantly, city officials need to evaluate the needs of their city. If it is particularly windy, they may need to provide covered bins for residence; if there is constant illegal dumping, they may need to provide more accessible recycling and trash centers. The needs of each community vary so widely that it is impossible to prescribe one generic solution. The important take away is that we all need to be doing something as a global community, to increase environmental welfare.

Monday, October 24, 2016

6 ideas to aid the world water crisis

How important is clean drinking and potable water for household use? 1/3 of the world’s population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water. Water used for cooking, cleaning and bathing must also be clean, as many diseases (especially in developing countries) are water-borne diseases, from bacteria or other microorganisms in unclean water (see: climatechange/health_impacts/waterborne_diseases/). Household (or village) is not currently safe for most of the world's developing countries. In fact, over 10% of the world’s population doesn’t even have access to clean potable water. Meanwhile, over 70% of the earth is covered in water.
water nano-water filter
1(a). The most immediate way to help the world water crisis is to provide filters to people who lack clean water, primarily to the 3rd world and low-income people of the world. This takes relief funds, both established by governments and private charities. There are many promising and emerging water purification technologies such as LifeStraw. "LifeStraw technology was originally introduced in 2005 as an emergency response tool to filter water..." (see: lifestraw)
(more clean water technologies are described here: water-purification-new-technologies-change-world)
Established, available filter technologies also range from: activated charcoal (or other carbon-based materials) to new nanotechnologies which use materials such as graphene, silver and titanium which are made into microscopic filtration membranes. There are a variety of very promising uses of graphene in newly designed and developed filters -(can-graphene-make-the-worlds-water-clean).
More media on nanotechnologies (including graphene materials used in combination with other nanomaterials):
Another great example of the use of graphene in water filters and water systems comes from the company G2O: g2o
“G2O’s graphene filter technology addressing a $2Bn market and reducing energy costs by up to 97%. In addition to use in filter technologies, this company sees applications for its graphene technology in:
  • Environmental maritime applications in aquaculture and oil & gas production
  • Drain water and waste water management
  • Desalination of seawater”
1(b). Develop more water treatment (storm water, river/ stream/ lake water, industrial use water, sewage) plants (waste-water/treatment)
clean_waterdrop_Fotolia2. Improve and create new rainwater collection systems such as the ones found here: rainharvest
3. Water reclamation:
desalination
4. Develop more desalination plants...(please check the desalination article on our website: desalination-clean-water-for-a-thirsty-world and also desalination-quest-quench-worlds-thirst-water
5. Improve water infrastructure (reservoirs, aqueducts, piping networks…) and 6. Utilities (especially in 3rd world countries) to further develop the use of micro-payments via mobile/ smart phones (also great for solar electricity, in addition to water)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Incentives for Energy Efficiency: A Look at Global Practices

Globally, it is undeniable that there has been a proactive approach towards promoting sustainability. Different nations, their respective governments, as well as private organizations, have been incessantly searching for the best ways to protect the environment and promote what is best for it, specifically through the use of renewable energy. In fact, federal and state subsidies have been common in many developed countries, which is a way of encouraging businesses and citizens to be contributory in the quest towards having a cleaner world.

In the rest of this post, we will have a quick look at some of the various federal and state programs to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, including tax incentives and subsidies that are in place in different countries. These programs are meant to attract governments, states, businesses and entire countries, into considering alternatives to promote clean energy.

United States

When it comes to providing tax incentives for the use of green energy, United States is perhaps one of the best. The Solar Investment Tax Credit is one of the most popular examples of such. This will provide tax credit of up to 30% to eligible residential and commercial users. It is in place until 2023, which means that businesses in the solar industry can expect steady growth in their finances. There is also a Production Tax Credit for those who are engaged in the production of electricity using renewable sources. In addition, there are also various federal and state subsidies that are in place. The US Department of Agriculture, for instance, has a program that helps in energy generation and transmission in rural communities. More so, under the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit, combining 20% of biodiesel in various equipment can make an organization eligible for further tax credits.

Clean Energy Incentive Program - The EPA is providing a Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) to reward early investments in renewable energy generation and demand-side energy efficiency measures that generate carbon-free MWh or reduce end-use energy demand.  State participation in the program is optional.   

The Clean Power Plan is no different, as state participation is optional, based on the level of desire for participation in this program. This Plan was stayed by the Supreme Court until further litigation is resolved. However, it will see its day in court and EPA remains fully confident in its legal merits. The Plan rests on a strong legal and technical foundation and is consistent with Supreme Court decisions, EPA’s statutory authority, and air pollution standards that have been put in place to tackle other pollution problems. More info. on the Clean Power Plan:

Germany

China

Sweden

In order to demonstrate their concern towards environmental sustainability, a plan has been enforced since 2005, which has mainly been aimed towards improving energy efficiency and included more than 180 power-intensive companies. In exchange for their participation in the reduction of their energy use, they have been provided tax credits. The government also provides a fee-based system in order to recognize businesses that have been actively pursuing strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada

The country’s government has expressed its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% by 2030 compared to its level in 2005. By the same year, the government has vowed to source 90% of its electricity from clean sources. There are various tax incentives in place to encourage wide-scale participation. For instance, there is an Investment Tax Credit for companies performing research and development concerning the use of green energy. The Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance and Canadian Renewable and Conservation Expense are open for eligible businesses, which can effectively lessen their income tax in exchange for the use of renewable energy sources.

Iceland

In this country, the renewable energy that is produced is five times more than what can be consumed by the current population. This means that there is a lot that has yet to be utilized, especially in the form of geothermal and hydro energy. To promote the use of green energy, the country is offering tax credits to investors. BMW is one of the biggest companies to have taken advantage of such. The company noted that their operating costs were reduced to as much as 83% because of the incentives provided by the national government. This was mainly due to the profit tax being reduced from 20 to 15% due to their use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Denmark

Under the Green Growth Strategy, the government envisioned protection of the environment and promotion of the agricultural sector. To do this, the government has released 32 billion DKK annually in order to fund planting costs of farmers. They also provided starter fund for organic biogas production. Such federal and state subsidies reflect efforts of the government to help promote green energy in the country. Tax incentives are also in place for users of renewable energy sources, including solar panels and wind turbines.

Please also see: www.greencitytimes.com/Sustainability-News/feed-in-tariffs-simple-incentives-to-further-renewable-energy.html

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Injustice of the Dakota Access Pipeline



It is fair to say that the injustice presented by the Dakota Access pipeline is the most prominent example of big oil versus our most cherished communities today. Even though the Obama administration halted the construction of the pipeline for now, damage had already been done.

The pipeline was originally proposed to go through Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, but was rerouted to go through the Standing Rock Sioux tribal sacred grounds south of the capital. This was done because an oil spill near the capital would endanger the water supply near the capital, and it was seen as posing less potential damage in the case of a spill, to move the pipeline route near the tribal reservation.

The Army Corps of Engineers designated tribal land as "needed" for shipping crude oil through the Dakotas to Illinois. The land has been the site of construction of the Dakota Access pipeline that began to take place, and subsequently was stopped by the Obama administration, this September. 


The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is land west of the Missouri River in South Dakota (standingrock.org/history). A portion of this Native American land in South Dakota was designated for the pipeline, without consent from the Standing Rock Sioux, and without yielding to the concerns of the EPA and two other federal agencies.
"The EPA, the Department of the Interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation echoed those concerns [of the tribe] in public comments on the Army Corps' draft environmental assessment." dakota-access-pipeline-standing-rock-sioux-army-corps-engineers-approval-environment

Prior to the Obama administration's actions to stop the pipeline, bulldozers had already begun to go over the tribe's sacred ground in the area. This is damage done to the Native American's land already.
"Dakota Access Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners brazenly used bulldozers to destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts," Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said. 
"They did this on a holiday weekend, one day after we filed court papers identifying these sacred sites. The desecration of these ancient places has already caused the Standing Rock Sioux irreparable harm. We're asking the court to halt this path of destruction."full story
We need clean energy not more dirty fossil fuel infrastructure and energy, and this pipeline would provide nothing but damage to this land, endanger the water in the Missouri River, on which the surrounding population depends, and further the destruction brought by climate change. People in Washington, including politicians and lobbyists, need to take action to get the stay on the Clean Power Plan lifted, and stop construction for fossil fuels now. 
Clean energy is the way of the future, providing more tenable jobs and a more viable, vibrant future. Fossil fuel infrastructure will soon be outdated, as the clean energy revolution reaches full steam. This pipeline and all proposed pipelines show humanity the route backwards, not forwards. Clean energy is the wave of the future, not fossil fuels. renewables-replace-fossil-fuels
Oil pipelines already scar the earth with their antiquated, outdated means to provide humanity with energy. Native Americans have used renewable energy sources for centuries, thousands of years even, and it's up to for the rest of the human population on the earth to catch up. Native Americans have lived in harmony with nature successfully for millennia
"Renewable energy – low-tech or high, large-scale or small – harnesses the natural forces upon which much of traditional Native American culture revolves, Henry Red Cloud, a pioneering Native American renewable energy advocate and entrepreneur, points out. Akin to solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal energy, 'Our language, our song, our cultural traditions are based on the Sun, the winds, the Earth and its waters,' Red Cloud, a descendant of Lakota-Northern Cheyenne chiefs, said." environmental-justice/native-americans-renewable-energy-environmental-justice/