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December 27 2013

01:35

Roundup of U.S. Environmental Achievements in 2013

In 2013, concerned people, organizations and companies in the U.S. and around the world helped move environmental causes forward. From new legislation to the protection of habitats and ecosystems, here is a sampling of U.S. environmental achievements in 2013.

The environmental achievements  of 2013 show that we can act as good stewards of the planetEnvironmental success stories

A new study showed that a solid majority of Americans accept the reality of global warming and are calling for action on climate change.

U.S. President Obama launched the most ambitious government wide climate action plan in the history of the nation. In the summer of 2013, Obama said, “As a president, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.” The President’s Climate Action Plan includes limiting pollution from power plants, new standards for energy efficiency on public lands, doubling renewable energy, and working on leading efforts to forge international action.

The EPA’s new standards to reduce emissions from U.S. power plants are of great importance as these plants produce approximately 40 percent of American greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The U.S. joined the U.K. and the World Bank in a decision to limit financing to coal power plants around the world. The U.S. Treasury Department indicated that except for some rare circumstances, it will not finance any new coal projects.

A study published this summer suggested that global warming may have slowed somewhat over the past 15 years. The observed slow down may be at least partly attributable to a global phase out of potent greenhouse-trapping gases called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The eradication of CFCs is attributable to the Montreal Protocol. This finding can be interpreted as evidence that international agreements can be effective at reducing climate change causing GHGs.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another GHG have largely replaced CFCs and these are also being phased out. President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, forged a new historic agreement that outlines critical steps both nations will take to end the use of HFCs. Other world leaders are following suit.

The WWF highlighted a dozen environmental success stories in 2013. Here is a their summary of U.S. achievements:

  • People are getting involved with events designed to raise awareness and increase actions that will help reduce our environmental impacts. One such event was Earth Hour. On March 23, 2013, Americans joined hundreds of millions of people around the world who switched off their lights for one hour to show their commitment to the planet. American cities are among the 60 cities worldwide that are participating in the 2013 Earth Hour City Challenge. This challenge involves quantifiable actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand renewable energy, and/or increase energy efficiency.
  • The U.S. is also taking action in support of native people’s land and animal stewardship. One such initiative is the first tribal national park for Oglala Sioux in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This park will more than double the number of Bison stewarded by the tribe.
  • Responsible forest management and trade practices were adopted by International Paper. This brings the number of companies and communities involved in the WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network to 200 worldwide.
  • In Alaska, Royal Dutch Shell shelved a plan to drill for oil and gas in mammal-rich Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2013.
  • In July, U.S.-based multinational Coca-Cola renewed an agreement with the WWF through 2020 that will help to conserve the world’s freshwater resources and measurably improve Coca-Cola’s environmental performance across the company’s value chain. This includes agriculture, climate, packaging and water efficiency impacts.
  • President Obama is working to address wildlife crime including poaching and trafficking around the world and in Africa in particular.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Denver crushed six tons of illegal elephant ivory tusks, trinkets and souvenirs. This event highlighted U.S. intolerance to ivory trafficking and wildlife crime.

Here is a summary of the Sierra Club’s list of 10 clean energy success stories in 2013.

  • The American Electric Power announced it would add enough wind energy to power 200,000 homes in Oklahoma while providing substantial savings to customers.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado signed into law new legislation that will double the state’s renewable energy standard. Under the new law, 20 percent of the state’s energy will from clean sources.
  • In Minnesota, comprehensive legislation passed the state legislature that will boost the state’s solar electricity from 13 megawatts (MW) to 450 MW by 2020. This represents an increase of more than 1,200 percent.
  • Facebook announced that its Altoona, Iowa data center will be fully powered by wind by early 2015 due to a 138 megawatt wind farm in Wellsburg.
  • Nebraska’s huge wind potential is being tapped after Governor Dave Heineman signed progressive wind energy legislation.
  • The Nevada state legislature passed legislation to retire the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant and bring an end to the importing of coal power from Arizona. The state will also expand local clean energy development.
  • California’s growing solar industry reached a major milestone with more than 150,000 homes and businesses with rooftop solar installations.
  • Environmental groups and Georgia’s Tea Party teamed up to create the Green Tea Coalition. The group pushed for the Georgia Public Service Commission to approve Georgia Power’s proposal to retire 20 percent of its coal plants and add 525 MW of solar power to Georgia by 2016.
  • The Long Island Power Authority is investing in 100 MW of new solar power on the island, and they have plans to add an additional 280 MW of renewable energy. This is the single largest investment in renewable energy in New York history. New York City also announced a 10 MW project at Staten Island’s Freshkills Park, once known as the world’s largest landfill.
  • Maryland is moving forward with clean energy legislation known as the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 and Prince George’s County Council voted to require renewable energy in all new and renovated governmental facilities.

The Wilderness Society is at the forefront of efforts to protect forests, parks, refuges and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Here is thier summary of their environmental success stories for 2013.

  • President Obama designated 5 new national monuments in March.
  • California’s Pinacles National Park, was upgraded from national monument status.
  • Washington state legislature passed a bill that protects 50,000 acres of land in the Teanaway River Valley, east of Seattle.
  • Sensitive areas in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska gained protection from oil and gas drilling when the Department of the Interior issued a final management plan that will protect 11 million acres of “Special Areas.” The BLM also announced a strategic plan to clean up more than 130 abandoned oil and gas well sites.
  • Utah’s red rock lands were protected by a federal judge who struck down a management plan that prioritized off-roading over Utah’s wildlands.
  • Yosemite National Park was removed from a logging bill after a public outcry.
  • A ban on new uranium mining was upheld by the court’s ruling on the Greater Grand Canyon
  • In Montana a bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is moving forward. The bill will add 67,000 acres to protected areas in that state’s eastern fringe of the existing Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas.
  • The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is safe for another year despite repeated efforts by Governor  Parnell (R-AK) to launch seismic testing to search for oil and gas in the refuge. All three of Parnell’s attempts were rejected by the Interior Department.

Taken together, these victories give us reason to hope that we are capable of acting more responsibly to defend the planet for future generations.
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Chauncey Davis, courtesy flickr

The post Roundup of U.S. Environmental Achievements in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 23 2013

16:18

Enviro News Wrap: Latest IPCC Report; Colorado Flood Aftermath; Coal’s Long Goodbye, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • I spent last weekend in Denver and it turned out to be a terrible time to visit. In the Boulder area floods carved out the land and roads. Gas and oil tanks were disrupted during the flood, spilling their contents. There is a fundamental problem with using dirty energy sources, in the end we spill it.
  • The newest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report expands on the certainty that humans are the cause of climate change. Arguing against the theory of climate change is like arguing against the theory of evolution. Well, I guess people try to do that too.
  • The International community has yet to agree on and act out a plan to address climate change. The balance of our climate should be of interest to every country and person. Earth is on track for increasingly disruptive climate change that continues to assault the wealth and health of humans. We need to address this issue both locally and globally.
  • Global warming is not the only reason to reduce emissions of pollutants. We live and breath in our ocean of air, the atmosphere. Pollutants have a real impact on human life, illustrated by this map from NASA.
  • A lot of the oil coming out of Nigeria has been illegally siphoned off of pipelines. Besides the damage to the oil industry the process of stealing oil from pipelines is really dirty and broken pipes are just left to spill after thieves have taken their fill. We should be dependent on less destructive energy sources.
  • Google has invested a lot of money in renewable energy. The effort continues with a wind energy contract.
  • Wind-Turbine-Syndrome is a thing. I really don’t know what to think of it. Maybe its a psychosomatic reaction of people that live next to wind turbines and politically don’t like renewable energy.
  • Coal in America will have to clean up its act. The EPA is enacting new stricter rules and its a win for us and our environment. Even with these new rules coal has been on the decline due to the booming natural gas industry. Coal and gas are easy substitutes and investors are choosing gas over coal. Coal is being attacked from two fronts and this might be the beginning of the end for the industry. This is not just happening in the US, China is another large stage for the decline of coal.
  • Ever wonder how the managers of evil corporations maintain their sanity? What if they weren’t? Dirty energy companies, banks, they make huge profits off of obviously hurting people. Maybe we are being played by sociopaths.
  • A negative externality is the cost of producing a good or service that is not included in the price paid by the consumer. Unaccounted for environmental externalities are messing up our economy because it creates a false market signal with dirty energy priced low and renewable energy priced high. But, renewable energy has a lower cost to society than dirty energy.

 

 

 

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: Latest IPCC Report; Colorado Flood Aftermath; Coal’s Long Goodbye, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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August 19 2013

17:34

Enviro News Wrap: Climate Change and Conflict; GOP Clings to Global Warming Hysteria; Egypt and the Price of Oil

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: Climate Change and Conflict; GOP Clings to Global Warming Hysteria; Egypt and the Price of Oil appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 29 2013

18:07

Enviro News Wrap: Young Americans Reject Denial; the Politics of Solar; Halliburton’s Slap on the Wrist, more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Young people in America believe in science: when polled 73 percent say that global warming deniers are “crazy, out of touch and ignorant”
  • Solar energy is vulnerable to political attacks. Each state and local area has its own rules and laws that make solar possible. California has lead the charge for solar and also receives the most attacks, including a current round of attacks by lawmakers and conservative interests.  Despite the attacks solar is winning the battle in a dozen states.
  • Utilities hate solarmost utilities and their investors consider solar energy as a risk to their profit margins. Companies and investors respond in a big way when their bottom line is threatened. I just wonder if they will respond by trying to dominate the solar market or crush it.
  • After the Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf of Mexico blew up in 2010 the three companies operating the rig – BP, Transocean and Halliburton – scrambled to prove their innocence and limit their liability. In that scramble Halliburton destroyed documents that were not favorable to their position. The truth has come out and now Halliburton has to pay for their crime, just a little though: three years of probation and a maximum fine of $200,000. A tiny drop in the bucket for the ginormous corporation. Certainly not enough to stop them from what they do best – profiting off of the destruction of the only environment we have.
  • Coal-fired power plants in Australia could be a thing of the past in Australia by 2040 if the current growth rate of the solar market doubles. Good luck Australia!
  • What does a hot America in 2100 look like? NASA is helping us conceptualize the future of global warming.
  • With the popularity of electric vehicles on the rise we need more charging stations. The growing pain of so many other industries, determining industry standards – in the case for charger standards – puts producers, designers, manufacturers – and consumers – at odds.
  • Climate change deniers claim that global temperatures have not increased for 15 years. The fact is that we had a really hot year 15 years ago, but that does not negate the upward trend of global temperatures in the past 50 years. It is sad that articles like this one by Benjamin Zycher push this lie and call it news.
  • China is trying to bring millions of people out of poverty and restore themselves as the superpower of the world. But, this is happening at the cost of their environment. If your economy is dependent on depleting the resources that provide the fuel for the economy then at some point you hit a breaking point.

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: Young Americans Reject Denial; the Politics of Solar; Halliburton’s Slap on the Wrist, more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 19 2011

20:28

Enviro News Wrap: Rushing the Tar Sands Pipeline; Raining Mercury; Spilling Oil; Melting Ice, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

 

 

 

 

 

October 03 2011

17:36

Enviro News Wrap: UK Cod Fisheries Collapse; Outlook for Global Climate Treaty; No Fracking in France, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

May 09 2011

19:30

Environmental News Wrap: Climate Change and Crop Yield; Oil Prices and Politics Water in Our Future, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

Crop yields are greatly affected by changes in temperature, humidity and precipitation. In the last 10 years it is has gotten hotter and dryer in some crop regions but more CO2 in the air means more productivity for plants. Until now the changes have mostly canceled each other out, but its the future that we are worried about. The New York Times reports on this, as well as The Economist.

Humans are forced to get more crafty as less fresh water is available and the value of what is left increases. Harvesting mist is now being pursued in water barren areas of Africa.

The United Kingdom government revisits the amount that they are spending on subsidizing large-scale solar power. If they significantly reduce the rebate then the solar industry will be dealt a major blow while it is still  just developing.

National Geographic reports on plastic bags and their interaction with our environment and lifestyle.

Sea level has been dropping in the San Francisco Bay Area for several decades now, but that trend is being reversed. Much of the current coastline of San Francisco could be under water by 2050 if nothing is done to safeguard the coastline.

The Obama administration wants more natural gas extraction done on US soil and also wants the process to be safer for human health and our environment. Obama is yet again trying to please everybody, lets see if he can do it.

World population is still growing with Africa possibly tripling in population by 2100. Every new human is an another legacy of resource use. The next generation is critical, and every one of these new humans needs to be able to lead a decent life while using resources sustainably.

The movie Who Killed the Electric Car was a big hit (all about the death of the electric car industry in the 1990s), now electric cars are a big hit and a sequel to the movie is coming out called Revenge of the Electric Car.

The GOP is once again using rising oil prices to call for more oil extraction on US soil and less environmental regulation. Their plan insures that when they do extract oil here it will have the highest possible negative impact on humans and the environment.

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January 31 2011

18:54

Environmental News Wrap: Shell in Nigeria; Climate and Weather; Koch Bros. Seeks Total Domination, and more…


The latest environmental news headlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

December 29 2010

18:22

The Best and the Worst Environmental News of 2010


The best and worst environmental stories of 2010Here is a quick review of some of the best and the worst environmental stories of 2010.

BEST:

Mass Production of Electric Cars

Cars and trucks are responsible for a quarter of US carbon emissions. However, this year, both Chevrolet and Nissan were amongst a slew of car makers who launched electric vehicles. Even SUVs, crossovers, luxury cars, station wagons and hatchbacks are getting more efficient.

Social Media Activism Working for the Environment

Social media efforts succeed in pushing Nestle to reduce its palm oil deforestation footprint. Although the campaign against Nestle’s palm oil deforestation footprint began with Greenpeace, it quickly became an online grassroots movement that Nestle could not afford to ignore.

Progress at COP16

The Cancun Agreement reached at the UNFCCC talks in Cancun, Mexico put the multilateral process back on track toward a global climate framework. Some 26 individual agreements were reached in Cancun, including advances in the mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). The accord compensates developing countries for forest protection and peatland restoration. The Cancun Agreement also saw progress on a climate finance mechanism and technology transfer to help developing economies.

Californians reject prop 23California Defeats Proposition 23 and Adopts Cap and Trade

Proposition 23 would have overturned AB32, a bill that mandates a decrease in Calilfornia’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Despite the millions spent by oil companies to support it, Californians voted to maintain the state’s climate law. The California Air Resources Board voted to adopt cap and trade regulations. As part of the cap and trade system, California signed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (RED) deals with Mexico and Brazil it is scheduled to start in 2012.

US Government Tax Credits

In 2010 many Americans took advantage of this year’s tax credits of up to $1,500 to make their homes more energy efficient. While the home energy efficiency tax credits expire this year, tax credits for solar, wind and geothermal systems remain until 2016.

First US Offshore Wind Farm

After a decade of intensive review, Massachusetts’ Cape Wind project will finally be built off the coast. This is one of the largest greenhouse gas reduction initiatives in the US. Cape Wind is expected to create enough electricity to power much of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island combined. Besides green jobs, Cape Wind will cut C02 emissions from conventional power plants by 700,000 tons annually.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

A landmark agreement was reached in Nagoya, Japan by 193 nations on the Convention on Biological Diversity to help stave off mass extinctions of the world’s species. The agreement includes 20 measurable goals, such as restoring 15 percent of degraded lands and protecting 10 percent of marine waters by 2020. Although participation is voluntary and there are no penalties for non-compliance, there is a greater understanding of the importance of biodiversity.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (REDD)

A billion dollar agreement was signed by Indonesia and Norway to protect forests in the Southeast Asian nation, which has become the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter due to deforestation and peat lands degradation. The agreement includes provisions for monitoring, reporting, and verifying. Indonesia will establish a two-year moratorium on new forestry concessions in primary forest areas and peat lands beginning in January 2011.

Decreasing Deforestation Level

Deforestation is now estimated to account for around 10 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, down from 15-18 percent a decade ago. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to the lowest rate on record, putting Brazil on track to meet its targets for reducing rainforest destruction.

Conservation

This year, public and private interests came together to protect wilderness in the US and even China is beginning to develop conservation planning. The Montana Legacy Project succeeded in protecting 310,000 acres of forest, rivers and lakes. China developed large-scale plans for protecting the country’s land and water resources.

WORST:

BP Oil Spill

On April 20th, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded killing 11 people and for the next three months, almost 5 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico. The ecological and economic disaster killed thousands of marine animals and endangered coral reefs and devastated beaches and marshlands. Although it was the worst oil spill of all time and the largest environmental disaster the US has ever faced, America’s dependence on fossil fuels continues unabated.

Global Warming and Extreme Weather

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2010 will be the hottest year since record keeping began in 1880. This observation is echoed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which indicated that temperatures reached record levels in several regions of the world in 2010. Climate change is behind streak of floods in Pakistan, Colombia, Venezuela and the US. Massive wildfires were spawned by a deadly heat-wave in central Russia and record drought in the Amazon. Higher temperatures also caused warmer seas leading to devastating coral bleaching. Researchers observed bleaching activity in every ocean and sea where corals live.

America’s Climate Change Ignorance

Americans are profoundly misinformed about climate change. According to a Pew study, less than a third of Americans think that climate change is a very serious problem. Only 59 percent of Americans believe there is “solid evidence” that the planet’s getting warmer at all, down from 79 percent in 2006.

Death of US Climate Bill

The Congress failed to pass climate legislation in 2010. The midterm elections gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives and eliminated the Democrats’ super-majority in the Senate, making climate legislation very unlikely for at least two years.

Species Extinction

Humans continue to cause the worst extinction since the time of the dinosaurs, species including mammals, frogs, birds, butterflies, reptiles and fish, have been lost forever.

Hungary’s Red Sludge

One million cubic meters of red sludge devastated two Hungarian villages, killing nine, and injuring approximately one hundred others. The red sludge that devastated two Hungarian villages was made of waste products from an aluminium processor. The red muck extinguished freshwater life in a number of local rivers. Even though aluminium is entirely recyclable, mining continues to cause deforestation and pollution while using large amounts of water and energy.

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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, sustainable investor and writer. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. He is also the author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, green investing, enviro-politics and eco-economics.

October 25 2010

14:46

Environmental News Wrap: Solar Cheaper than Nuclear; Tea Party Delusions; Negotiating Biodiversity, and more…


The latest environmental news headlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • While gleaning stories from National Geographic (NG) I ran into advertisements  for Shell Oil Company, like at the Scientific American site discussed last week. The story I found on NG focuses on the intersection of water and energy in our economy.
    Then, I went to the website for Popular Science and found, yet again, a web page covered in ads for Shell. Shell now “Presents” Popular Science.
    Shell is still an oil company no matter how much it tries to appear to be an energy company, and I don’t support businesses that let companies like Shell spread its deception.
  • ConsumerEnergyReport.com covers a new study that claims that solar is now a cheaper energy source than nuclear. Whether or not this claim is true, solar energy is getting cheaper everyday while nuclear is getting more expensive because of increased regulation and the need for billions of dollars upfront to build a reactor.

October 18 2010

17:45

Enviro News Wrap: EPA Reconsiders Coal Permit, Kenya Constitution Calls for Enviro Rights, Smart Cars to Smart Grid, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

September 20 2010

14:10

Environmental News Wrap: Fracking, Better Batteries, Carbon Absorbing Foam, and more…


The latest environmental news headlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Fracking is a term used to describe a process that aids in the extraction of natural gas. The chemicals used for this process are under scrutiny now with the US Environmental Protection Agency getting involved. The natural gas industry claims that these chemicals are no more dangerous than chemicals found in any household arsenal; that is a funny thing to say as many people have some very toxic chemicals in their house.

  • Makers of detergent in the US recently had to decrease the amount of phosphorous in their products due to environmental concerns. In this New York Times article the columnist sadly misrepresents environmental products as less effective, more expensive and more inconvenient. It is these sorts of articles that perpetuate misconceptions about our lifestyle and new products that attempt to make our way of life less environmental devastating.
  • A new company, Ampirus, is bringing to market a lithium-ion battery that is 40% more efficient than current ones. Developments like this are greatly important as batteries accompany products like solar panels and electric cars. The more efficient batteries are the less expensive and more user-friendly these products will be.
  • EcoMotors International has revamped the two stroke engine to make it more efficient. Technology Review reports.
  • Scientific American asks, “Is Spent Nuclear Fuel a Waste or a Resource?
  • National Geographic presents the “Great Energy Challenge. Check it out!
    Side note; it is hard to believe that companies like National Geographic are truly dedicated to environmentalism when adds for companies like Shell cover their website.
  • Poverty is often an obstacle to environmentalism. The Week presents some sobering facts about poverty in the USA.
  • The 2010 Earth Awards has chosen a carbon absorbent foam as the winner of their contest. This foam will be placed in things like smokestacks and will grab carbon out of the air and turn it into sugar, the next step is to get that sugar to turn into biofuel. Good Luck!

August 30 2010

17:05

Environmental News Wrap – August 24-30: Unmistakable Signs of Warming, China’s Future, Eggs, Natural Gas, and more…


Environmental headlines for the past week GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Global Warming is now being documented and confirmed as a theory. Causes aside, how are humans going to react to the changes that have already occurred and will occur soon?
  • Would you eat meat from a laboratory, no head or brain involved? It may be the future of food. The meat could be made to be healthier for humans, it wouldn’t affect soil erosion directly, and cows would not fart methane or contaminate water supplies. The factory would have an environmental impact, but what if it was less than tending a live animal?
  • China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon emissions and is finding much of its future in coal and water power. Reuters provides an analysis of China’s energy future.
  • China is pursuing liquefied coal as an alternative fuel for cars. The energy decisions that China makes today will affect us all in the near future.
  • The global use of natural gas is increasing and being framed as a green fuel.
  • Large oil companies are buying out other types of energy companies. This could pump a lot of money into the alternative energy industry, but it could also be a way for oil companies to control the growth of alternative energies.
  • A microbe has been found in the Gulf Oil Spill that eats oil, this will supposedly decrease the long term effect of the oil spill. Could this also happen for plastic, there are millions of tons of plastic in our oceans?
  • With the egg recall in the US, The Week asks; are free range eggs more safe to eat than factory eggs? As with the last spinach recall, the omega of this case is a large factory-food operation.
  • Friends of the Earth (FoE), an environmental non-profit, is advocating for the EU to end its demand for increased production of biofuels. FoE is claiming that Europe’s demand for biofuels will negatively affect Africa by increasing deforestation and decreasing production of food crops. Decide for yourself though.
  • The New York Times reports that the US birthrate has dropped since the beginning of the recession. Urbanized populations will have a negative incentive to have more kids in hardship, while rural populations are often incentivized to have more children. This dip in the birth rate in the developed world will shape the globe in the next 50 years, creating an anti-boomers generation experience, probably increasing our reliance on cheap immigrant and foreign labor.

July 12 2010

14:57

Environmental News Wrap: July 6-12


GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

Picks of the Week:

Natural Gas has been touted as a green way to shift our economy off of petroleum, but the public is slowly realizing that things like shale gas are not such a great new revelation. Natural Gas still involves an extraction and refinement process that is comparable to petroleum.

Scientific American covers Obama’s dedication of $2 billion to two renewable energy companies to create 5,000 jobs, that’s $4 million per job.

The EPA is finally regulating green house gas emissions from dirty power plants due to a 2008 Supreme Court ruling ordering them to do so. This move is significant since the Clean Air Act of 1963 does not apply to plants operating before its enactment. Now these grandfathered plants are being regulate.

The Week covers the question, “Should Exxon buy BP?” Exxon is the fusion of the two most powerful east coast parts of the Standard Oil Company. Standard Oil was broken up into 32 companies in 1911 by court order for their tyrannical rule over the oil market. BP also owns legacies of the Standard Oil Company, including Amoco (Standard Oil of Indiana).

In the past year Australia finished some desalination plants built in response to a long drought. Australia has created a great water system for itself but it has also doubled the price of tap water. Some believe that this the cost of climate change, others think that desalination plants are an overreaction from environmentalists.

The renewable energy sector in Europe is forecasted by this Technology Review article to stay vibrant in the next year. Solar panel manufacturers are having a hard time staying profitable because of so much pressure to cheapen their products while installers should be able to make a decent profit.

The Christian Science Monitor asks, “are there greener ways to travel? The article ends by mentioning carbon offset companies that you can pay to do something green to make up for the damage done by flying in an airplane. I used carbonfund for my trip to Europe last summer, but always do your own homework before deciding on where to spend your money.

Near my hometown of Seattle is the infamous Hanford Plant in Eastern Washington. Apparently the plant now has 3 times more radioactive waste beneath it than previously thought. The Hanford plant was used for weaponry in world war two, and then became a huge money pit for ongoing clean up that started in the 1990s.

Environmentalism is Altruism. The NY Times published this book review about an American scientist that wondered; where does Altruism come from? Besides being a book review it is a great exploration of Altruism in animals.

July 09 2010

19:09

Playing it "Safe" With Big Oil: Deepwater Offshore Drilling Moratorium Upheld


Once again, the money and power yielded by Big Oil has trumped any concern for the environment, our nation’s natural resources and precious eco systems, countless numbers of plants and animals, as well as the safety and even lives of our fellow human beings. For just last night, the 5th District Court of Appeals has terminated any hope of the Obama administration’s 6-month moratorium of new permits and the exploratory drilling of 33 deepwater wells to allow for time to review safety protocols, discover why the Deepwater Horizon blowout happened and to develop measures to ensure this never ever happens again.

Instead, the federal court ruled in favor of Judge Martin Feldman’s June 22 decision that struck down the moratorium. Whereas Feldman claimed it was an “arbitrary and capricious” use of administrative power that would cause “immediate and irreparable harm to business” and, as Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal asserted,  “cost the region thousands of lucrative jobs.”  Other arguments were that the moratorium would cause further damage to the economy as companies take their businesses, jobs and money to foreign waters; amount to a loss of $10 billion to the Federal Treasury; threaten national security as we would have to rely even more on foreign oil – and even cripple world energy supplies.

Welcoming Feldman’s original decision, the American Petroleum Institute had announced, “Our industry and its people can get back to work to provide Americans with the energy they need, and do it safely and without harming the environment.” Ah…

On June 15, during the Subcommittee on Energy and Environmental’s hearing, the czars of Big Oil declared that they would never make the same mistakes as BP did, and that their business practices were far safer, espousing their “overriding commitment to safety excellence.” For example, CEO, Rex Tillerson, described ExxonMobil’s culture of “Nobody Gets Hurt…We do not proceed with operations if we cannot do so safely.” Chevron’s CEO John S. Watson, asserted that, “Chevron’s drilling and control practices for deepwater wells are safe and environmentally sound…Chevron’s commitment to safety is fundamental to who we are.” (except perhaps in Nigeria) President of Shell, Marvin E. Odum stated, “The first imperative of any project is that it be done safely. Safety and environmental protection are, and always will be, Shell’s top priorities.”

However, despite these declarations, all of their Gulf safety response plans, written by the same company, are “virtually, 90% identical” to BP’s. Ergo, in the words of Hon. Edward J. Markey, “just as deficient.” All the plans, except for Shell, mentioned how to protect walruses, although “there aren't any walruses in the Gulf of Mexico; and there have not been for 3 million years,” and both ExxonMobil and Conoco Philips, along with BP, list the contact number for the same long-expired marine biology expert, Dr. Lutz.

More so, each exec admitted that they do not possess the knowledge, technology, or resources to handle a spill like Deepwater Horizon’s. Basically, as Tillerson explained, “We have to take every step to prevent these things from happening, because when they happen it is a fact that we're not well equipped to prevent any and all damage…There is no response capability that will guarantee you will never have an impact. It does not exist and it will probably never exist. ”

When asked by Rep. Gonzalez, TX if they could give the American public 100% assurance that that their drilling operations were “free from a similar accident as Deepwater Horizon” the czars responded with, we “cannot give 100 percent assurance of anything in our lives.” “Nothing is 100 percent failsafe.” “There is risk. There are no guarantees in life.”

That being said, the industry does not appear to be overly concerned with developing response capabilities that would minimize the risk. With their massive profits totaling nearly $289 billion over the last 3 years ($64 billion just for last year), the monies spent to research, develop and ensure safe drilling practices are but a pittance. While spending $39 billion in exploration for new oil and gas reserves, the average investment in research and development for safety, accident prevention, spill response and overall risk reduction, was a paltry $20 million, which is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of their profits, less than 1 one-hundredth of a percent of their gross revenues. BP spent $10 million – .06 percent of its profits –  less than one third of what it paid its CEO Tony Hayward ($36.5 million), and  one fifth of what they recently spent on televisions ads to manage their image ($50 million).

So, as there are no guarantees in life, there are guarantees that deepwater drilling is a relatively new technology and that despite their assurances, those who are doing the drilling cannot promise that another disaster will not occur – nor do they have the capability to respond. Are we willing to take the risk? Can we truly risk even more death, destruction, devastation to the Gulf, which is quickly spreading to other shorelines? It seems the federal court, amongst others – at least those who profit from Big Oil –  are willing to take that risk.

For, in defense of Feldman’s decision, the federal appeals court agreed, stating that “ the Interior Department failed to show the federal government would suffer “irreparable injury” if the moratorium is lifted,” unlike those who are employed by and/or profit from (i.e. the Judges) Big Oil. But see, we’re not talking about injury to the federal government, nor the reduction of profits; rather the injury to the wildlife, and to the numerous livelihoods destroyed by BP’s negligence, as well as the inherent dangers of deepwater drilling.

Already, because of these factors, as of last Sunday, the lives of at least 11 humans have been lost, and however many falling ill from the clean up efforts. 1359 birds, 442 Sea Turtles,  and 53 mammals including dolphins, totaling 1854 animals killed,  and these are just the ones 'officially' recorded. This does not include the countless number of animals burned, drowned and poisoned from exposure to the oil, or those injured during response efforts. And then there is the loss of breeding grounds, migratory posts, change in foraging patters and the altering of reproductive behavior in a region that was once one of the nation’s most precious ecological treasures; now most likely reduced to a dead zone.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has already said that the country can not handle “an additional concurrent oil spill at this time.” Especially as hurricane season begins, with conditions ripe with potential for disastrous storms. Not to mention that other accidents have already recently occurred – Chevron’s spill in Utah, which threatened the Great Salt Lake, and two different blowouts of natural gas.

Obviously, Big Oil cannot, does not, and will not ensure that this will never happen again, nor are they invested in developing means to prevent such tragedies. But, yet again, they get away with it. As always seems to happen with environmental issues, if not disasters, it’s economics and jobs first, before any long term thinking like what will happen to all of those jobs that depend on seafood and tourism that, with a dead Gulf, will not exist.

Because while the loss of the Gulf, and the loss of thousands of jobs and livelihoods is a horrific tragedy, the ultimate environmental catastrophe, caused in main part by the fossil fuel industry,  is just around the corner. And if we do not 12-step our way off of fossil fuels, and truly, earnestly and immediately develop and implement viable sources of alternative energy, the Deepwater Horizon spill will be just a small travesty in the face of complete economic, environmental, social, and international devastation wrought about by climate change.

Sources and further reading
Huffington Post
Subcommittee on Energy and Environment  Hearing: “Drilling Down on America’s Energy Future: Safety, Security, and Clean Energy”

Image credits: SkyTruth, kbarid – all courtesy Flickr

June 17 2010

19:54

Environmental News Wrap – June 11-17


GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

I have $100 a year for my environment.

June 07 2010

13:33

Environmental News Wrap: Week of May 31-June 6


GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

May 24 2010

17:11

Environmental News Wrap: Week of May 17-23


GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • The Obama Administration recently threatened BP that if they did not invoke confidence that they have the Gulf of Mexico situation controlled soon the government will step in to clean up and stop the oil spill.
  • Obama raised the small vehicle fuel efficiency standards and now is looking to regulate the large trucks that drive our goods all over the country every day. This is a much needed, and long awaited, correction to our short-sighted market.
  • A new environmental bill in the US Congress would regulate greenhouse gas emissions. It is gaining political clout because it could be an alternative to regulation from the EPA, which has been mandated by the Supreme Court to do so.
  • The Christian Science Monitor explains the Pros and Cons of some climate-engineering ideas.
  • Obama’s stimulus bill has had some time to take affect now. Technology Review provides some analysis of what it has done so far for Clean Energy.
  • Biodiversity is decreasing and the Guardian highlights a recent economic analysis of its monetary effects.

Technology Review has several articles on its website right now about the advancement of solar technology:

  1. Thin Films are being developed as a better way to store energy than traditional batteries.
  2. The CEO of an Italian energy firm is funding development for solar energy so his company can one day make a switch over from hydrocarbons.
  3. A new material is being developed for solar panels to replace Silicon. Silicon is expensive, limited in reserves and has low efficiency when compared to upcoming technologies.
  4. Caltech offers advancement in solar technology.

May 17 2010

18:11

Environmental News Wrap: May 10-16


GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • We are in the middle of a comment period for an EPA ruling on how to classify and treat Coal Ash. The two classifications to choose from are similar with one providing more protection for the environment. Previously, Coal Ash was treated as a benign waste product. Coal Ash received attention after a spill of a large amount into a residential area a couple of years ago in Tennessee. This article from Grist covers the issue and provides a link to more information about the ruling.
  • The Gulf of Mexico BP spill is growing larger and so are its environmental effects. Dispersants that BP mixed into the spill seem to be making the situation worse by creating fields of oil two to four thousand feet below the surface and hiding the amount of oil spilled from helicopter estimates.
  • Drilling in US waters requires a permit that is given only to operations that will not harm endangered species or marine mammals. This is spelled out in the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Companies have been drilling in US waters without this permit for years. The Minerals Management Service is being accused of obviously corrupting its own permitting process for underwater mineral extraction.
  • The New York Times reports that Obama is being tough on BP for the Gulf of Mexico spill.
  • Grist reports that Obama is going easy on BP for the Gulf of Mexico spill.
  • The Tar Sands issue continues and most large oil companies are invested. This report from The Guardian covers the current state of business at the Tar Sands, and concludes with the fact that companies have pumped $200 billion into this project already. Large organizations like BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and the Canadian government (the ones invested in the Tar Sands) do not spend $200 billion on a project and then not fight to the end to see a return on their investment.
  • In a post a couple of weeks ago I highlighted an article about the Dark Mountain writing project. The Guardian responds to the claims the project makes about humanity ruining itself in the next 200 years.
  • A desalinization plant in Israel opens up, providing a lot of fresh water to a water starved country. When nature no longer provides a service to us we have to pay for it. This plant costs $425 million, Israel also recently spent $500 million on the countries water transportation infrastructure to deliver this new supply of fresh water.
  • Shocks on cars that generate electricity have been developing for a while and are now being peddled to operators of large vehicles. These shocks represent yet another way that we can slowly become more efficient in our use of energy.
  • LED lights are also being developed to use energy more efficiently and are pushing their way into commercialization.

May 10 2010

14:14

Environmental News Wrap: May 4-May 9


GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

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