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.