Biden and the future of clean energy politics

January 22, 2021 by  
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Biden and the future of clean energy politics Sarah Golden Fri, 01/22/2021 – 01:00 Have you heard about the clean energy triangle?  The theory goes that in order to rapidly deploy clean energy, you need three elements: technology; policy; and finance. When these components are integrated, we’re able to thoughtfully accelerate the speed and scale of clean technologies. The technology is there and is getting better. The finance is following as investors see there’s money to be made. The only missing piece, before this week, has been policy.  The inauguration of Joe Biden as president is the dawn of a new political era; for the first time, the stars are aligning for the clean energy sector to unleash its full potential.  Biden’s position on clean energy is as diametrically opposed to his predecessor as this analyst can fathom. On his first day, the new president signed executive orders killing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and recommitting the United States to the Paris climate accord. As a candidate, Biden called for 100 percent clean energy in the U.S. by 2035. He’s integrating climate experts across all departments in “the largest team ever assembled inside the White House to tackle global warming.” The political sea change is larger than the whims of a single politician. It’s a reflection of the growing, influential force of the clean energy sector itself that will be difficult for serious politicians to ignore forevermore.  How clean energy pros helped POTUS land his new job Biden didn’t always make clean energy his issue. He responded to the public’s growing concerns about climate change and listened to experts about its immense economic potential.  That didn’t happen by accident. The clean energy sector has been growing and maturing for years, and in this election cycle, it helped Biden land his dream job thanks in part to the all-volunteer organization Clean Energy for Biden (CE4B) .  “I’m not just hopeful, I’m pretty convinced [clean energy professionals were politically influential],” Dan Reicher, CE4B co-chair and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy, told me in a phone conversation. “They’ve shown themselves to be very capable in President Biden’s victory and made a real difference.” CE4B brought together more than 13,000 individuals in all 50 states, including 40 regional affinity groups in key locations across the county. It raised $3.2 million through more than 100 fundraisers and held hundreds of phone banks to get out the vote. The effort brought together impressive, diverse and passionate professionals  excited about leaders who understand clean energy. (Full disclosure: I’m a volunteer for CE4B.) The success of the CE4B’s organizing and campaign efforts inspired organizers to spin out a newly formed nonprofit, Clean Energy for America, which will support candidates and policies that will accelerate the clean energy transition at the state and national levels.  “Clean Energy for America is a recognition that the transformation that we need to address our clean energy challenges and opportunities needs to happen up and down the ballot,” Reicher said. “It’s not enough to work on a presidential campaign and then close up shop. We’ve got to continue on a variety of races on the national level, but we have to get really focused on state and local races as well.” It’s also a recognition that clean energy professionals are realizing their power and are here to stay. As clean energy continues to disrupt dirty energy incumbents, the sector will grow in numbers and power. It also means those in power today will decide the policy levers that shape our energy future; who benefits and in what way.  Clean Energy for America is continuing with the key tenets of CE4B, organizing around the principles of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion to ensure that the clean energy transition is a just transition for all. The long road to Clean Energy for America  Before Clean Energy for Biden, there was CleanTech for Hillary. Before that, there was CleanTech for Obama.  The evolution of the name — from cleantech to clean energy — is a reflection of the industry itself.  “We treated it as a technology play, not ready for prime time,” said Reicher, who was involved in each organization. “We now call it clean energy. We had decided we had become mainstream; we were no longer a large tech sector backed by venture capital communities. It is a large, mainstream energy sector backed by large investment firms around the U.S. and world.” Today, millions work in clean energy (about  3.4 million before the start of the pandemic), and those numbers translated into a larger network.  “We still marvel today at how fast [CE4B] grew to 13,000 people,” Reicher said. “We never saw that level of growth in the other organizations.” With the birth of Clean Energy for America, the group is poised to continue to mobilize in races quickly. That, combined with the virtuous cycle that promises millions more Americans will be employed by clean energy in the coming decades, plants a clean energy flag in the sand.  Topics Renewable Energy Energy & Climate Jobs & Careers Wind Power Solar Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Scotland to become first country to test 100% green hydrogen

December 4, 2020 by  
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The U.K. has moved one step closer towards its net-zero carbon target by unveiling a plan to test 100% green hydrogen for cooking and heating in 300 Scottish homes, making Scotland the first country to do so. Ofgem, the U.K.’s energy regulator, announced this plan on Monday. According to Ofgem, Scottish gas company SGN will be responsible for fitting houses with hydrogen heating systems. SGN plans to start fitting houses in Fife with free hydrogen systems that families will use over the next three to four years. The ambitious project is a trial begun by the U.K. government to monitor the viability of using carbon-free hydrogen generated through electrolysis. Ofgem funded the project with $24 million as part of an innovation competition aimed at finding new green energy sources. The group also chipped in $17 million for tests on using the available natural gas pipes to safely transport hydrogen gas over long distances. According to Antony Green, the head of the National Grid, the U.K. must embrace green alternatives such as this carbon-free hydrogen. “If we truly want to reach a net zero de-carbonized future, we need to replace methane with green alternatives like hydrogen,” Green said. “Sectors such as heat are difficult to de-carbonize, and the importance of the gas networks to the UK’s current energy supply means projects like this are crucial if we are to deliver low carbon energy, reliably and safely to all consumers.” While hydrogen is a safe gas, it comes with its fair share of challenges. For instance, electrolysis is only 80% effective. This means that the hydrogen generation process wastes about 20% of the energy used. Even so, the U.K. considers hydrogen a viable energy alternative for the 85% of the U.K. homes still using a gas furnace for heating. As the U.K. explores hydrogen-based energy, automobile and appliance industries are also testing this gas. For example, Toyota recently released news of the second generation Mirai, a car that runs on hydrogen. + Engadget Image via Pixabay

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Apex Clean Energy’s Mark Goodwin on how to reach escalating renewable energy demands

November 23, 2020 by  
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Apex Clean Energy’s Mark Goodwin on how to reach escalating renewable energy demands This video is sponsored by Apex Clean Energy. “One of the best ways to do that is to procure utility scale electricity from wind and solar so what’s needed in order to keep the momentum going is to ensure the ability of companies like Apex to deliver those projects.” Sarah Golden, senior energy analyst & VERGE energy chair at GreenBiz, interviewed Mark Goodwin, president & CEO of Apex Clean Energy, during the VERGE 20 virtual event (October 26-30, 2020). View archived videos from the conference here: https://bit.ly/3kMjeXt . taylor flores Sun, 11/22/2020 – 19:34 Featured Off

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Wartsila’s Risto Paldanius on the pathways to 100% clean energy

November 23, 2020 by  
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Wartsila’s Risto Paldanius on the pathways to 100% clean energy This video is sponsored by Wartsila. “Right now the industry grid scale energy storage is dominated by lithium-ion technology as restoring waste thanks to the EV car and battery development and the costs coming down, but I think we’ll be seeing more and more longer duration batteries in different view formats which we might even not know yet.” Sarah Golden, senior energy analyst & VERGE energy chair at GreenBiz, interviewed Risto Paldanius, vice president of Wartsila Americas, during the VERGE 20 virtual event (October 26-30, 2020). View archived videos from the conference here: https://bit.ly/3kMjeXt . taylor flores Sun, 11/22/2020 – 19:14 Featured Off

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LevelTen’s Bryce Smith on the state of the renewable procurement market during the pandemic

November 23, 2020 by  
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LevelTen’s Bryce Smith on the state of the renewable procurement market during the pandemic This video is sponsored by LevelTen. “It is clear that that corporate commitment to renewables is very strong remains strong and in in some ways maybe even stronger than it was at the end of the year.” Sarah Golden, senior energy analyst & VERGE energy chair at GreenBiz, interviewed Bryce Smith, CEO of LevelTen, during the VERGE 20 virtual event (October 26-30, 2020). View archived videos from the conference here: https://bit.ly/3kMjeXt . taylor flores Sun, 11/22/2020 – 18:57 Featured Off

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Episode 242: Responsible mining, the politics of clean energy

October 23, 2020 by  
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Episode 242: Responsible mining, the politics of clean energy Heather Clancy Fri, 10/23/2020 – 02:00 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (7:25). Microsoft, Tiffany help carve out new responsible mining standard Green 2.0: Corporate advocacy and the environmental movement’s racial justice reckoning How big-time investors think about deforestation: Q&A with investment manager Lauren Compere Features 5 questions with renewable fuels company Neste (20:40)   Jeremy Baines took on his role as president of Neste U.S. a little more than a year ago. He joins us to answer five questions about the organization’s strategy. The clean energy voting bloc (27:50)   GreenBiz senior energy analyst Sarah Golden offers an inside view to Clean Energy for Biden, which is raising visibility for the economic potential of clean energy industries ahead of the presidential election.  *Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “More On That Later,” “Night Caves,” “New Day,” “Curiosity” and “Sad Marimba Planet” *This episode was sponsored by WestRock and MCE, and features VERGE 20 sponsor Neste. Resources galore Lessons in resilience from the produce industry. Subject matter experts from Kwik Lok, Walmart and Second Harvest Food Bank join us at 1 p.m. EST Nov. 10 to discuss responding to disruption and how to balance food safety and security to minimize food waste. Behavior change and the circular economy. How innovation and new business models alter people’s relationship with waste. Join the discussion at 8 p.m. EST Nov. 12.  Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce six weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday); Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday); VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday); Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday); Food Weekly by Carbon and Food Analyst Jim Giles (Thursday); and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose which you want to receive. The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here . Enrolling is free and should take two minutes. Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Sarah Golden Topics Podcast Renewable Energy Supply Chain Policy & Politics Mining Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 37:26 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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A vote for clean energy

October 16, 2020 by  
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A vote for clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 10/16/2020 – 01:45 I recently joined the most impressive group of clean energy leaders I’ve known, and it happens to have come together in support of Joe Biden for president. The network: Clean Energy for Biden (CE4B).  It includes more than 9,500 clean energy professionals in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. There are entrepreneurs, engineers, policymakers, technicians and investors. There are thought leaders I’ve long admired and business leaders that have made clean energy more accessible to all people. Clean energy professionals as a voting bloc CE4B is evidence that the clean energy sector is, perhaps for the first time, a significant voting bloc in the United States.  Before the start of the COVID crisis, the clean energy sector employed nearly 3.4 million Americans in all 50 states. In 42 states, more people are included in clean energy than in the fossil fuel industry. If mobilized, these millions of Americans could have a major impact in this and future elections.  CE4B shows that support for clean energy as a voting issue is already widespread. The self-organizing, all-volunteer effort has more than 25 active state teams and organized more than 100 grassroots events, which collectively have raised more than $2.6 million on behalf of the Biden campaign.  The executive council is more than 50 industry leaders, including household names (for energy nerds) and representation from major companies, including Kate Brandt of Google, Jigar Shah of Generate Capital, Kate Gordon of California’s Office of Planning and Research and Jon Wellinghoff, former chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Why get political now? We don’t write about politics much at GreenBiz (although I’m sure regular Energy Weeklyians have a sense of my personal politics).  Much about this presidential contest is outside of the purview of my job as an energy analyst. But when it comes to accelerating the adoption of clean energy, I would be remiss to not call attention to what may be the starkest difference in energy platforms in American history.  If I may simplify the two men’s stances, Donald Trump’s energy policy looks backward to the energy that powered our past, and Biden is looking forward to the fuels of the future. I’m not going to dive into either candidate’s specific platform; others already have written much on the topic. Rather, I’m here to highlight that candidates who support clean energy policy are also supporting economic, climate and social justice policies.  Clean energy policy is economic policy As the economic fallout of the COVID pandemic is coming into focus and the job creation is leveling off, the clean energy transition represents an opportunity to put Americans back to work.  First, clean energy is more jobs-rich than fossil fuels, meaning more people are employed per unit of energy created. A 2010 study found that for every $1 million invested, oil and gas would create roughly five jobs, while wind and solar would create 13 or 14 jobs.  Second, clean energy jobs are distributed. While dirty energy is usually centralized — think coal miners in West Virginia or roughnecks in North Dakota — clean energy manufacturers, technicians and installers are needed in every community, and provide options at every skill level. According to E2, all but two of America’s 3,007 counties are home to clean energy jobs.  Third, prioritizing clean energy gives America a chance to be a global leaders in advanced energy technologies. Getting ahead of the innovation curve means the country could be exporting technologies as other nations race to meet climate goals. Which I find a lot more exciting than trying to prop up dinosaur industries.  My two cents: if you are worried about the economy, supporting candidates that understand the jobs potential in the clean energy sector is a smart move.  Clean energy policy is climate policy  Scientists agree that the next decade will be critical to addressing climate change and avoiding the worst of its economic impacts and human toll.  So it makes sense that voters are beginning to see climate as a voting issue. A recent poll from Pew Research shows that 68 percent of likely voters rank climate as “very” or “somewhat” important, up from 44 percent in 2009. Luckily, the same policies that will create clean energy jobs will curb energy-related emissions. While energy is not the only source of climate-changing emissions, it is a sector that has carbon-free solutions today, meaning it must rapidly decarbonize to give us a chance at a safe climate future.  We’re already seeing the economic impacts of extreme weather across the country and world. Politicians that work to curb the worst impacts of climate change are working to curb the human and economic tolls.  Clean energy policy is social justice policy Like so many other issues, those most affected by pollution from dirty energy are low-income communities and communities of color.  If you’re Black in America, you have higher rates of lung cancer and asthma, and are more likely to have (and die from) heart disease, all linked to living with dirty air. Nearly one in two Latinx people in the U.S. live in counties where the air doesn’t meet EPA smog standards. People of color are more likely to live near highways, airports, power plants and refineries.  That all takes a toll on health, economic potential and quality of life. Supporting a just energy transition is synonymous with supporting marginalized communities to become more resilient, prosperous and healthy.  Clean energy technologies — the same that uplift the economy and address climate change — can help all communities thrive. Politicians who understand that are taking the realities of environmental racism seriously.  Vote Clean energy is a rare issue that is win-win-win: it uplifts the economy, creates jobs and helps curb climate change. The only downside is incumbent energy powers need to get out of the way.  Of course, the sector isn’t perfect. Clean energy advocates are working hard to not replicate the same inequities or unintended consequences as the old, dirty energy sources. But I, for one, am ready for political debates about how to best create energy systems for the future, rather than debate if we should stay in the past.  And, no matter what your political ideology is, if you’re a U.S. reader, vote in whatever way you can. It’s what being American is all about.  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Topics Energy & Climate Policy & Politics Social Justice Clean Energy Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Luxury in the new normal: Leadership and innovation in 2020 and beyond

October 16, 2020 by  
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Luxury in the new normal: Leadership and innovation in 2020 and beyond Elisa Niemtzow Fri, 10/16/2020 – 01:00 Business as usual for the luxury industry is over. 2020 brings with it the end of a positive growth cycle, as analysts expect global luxury sales to contract 25-45 percent in 2020 , with a recovery that could take up to three years. And yet, the coronavirus pandemic, for all the havoc it has wrought on the industry, has pushed the sustainable business agenda even further, forcing business leaders to reevaluate their role in society and better articulate their value, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of corporate purpose and the way they contribute to the world.   Recent months have revealed several fragilities and also several strengths as the luxury industry navigates its future. Companies demonstrated the depth of their commitment and a certain financial resilience by shifting production lines to manufacture hand sanitizer and masks or forgoing government aid to demonstrate social solidarity. Brands have reimagined design and distribution of products in a context of lower sales volumes and digital acceleration. The crisis also has multiplied the insecurity of some workers and left some precious material supply chains, such as cashmere and exotic skins, even more vulnerable.   As luxury fashion brands adapt and survive in the “new normal,” they can drive a renewed vision of the luxury business that demonstrates how to decouple volume growth from value growth. They can seize opportunities to strengthen resilience and further set the example when it comes to long-term value creation, business transformation and progressive leadership. To drive innovation and demonstrate leadership in the years ahead, luxury leaders should consider these three opportunities: 1. Deepen luxury’s value proposition Luxury brands can deepen their value proposition by further embedding efficiency, sustainability and inclusion into business models and practices, building on the new approaches that the pandemic accelerated. Designers are streamlining collections, focusing on evergreen best sellers and incorporating upcycling, regenerative materials and use of dead stock (French) in collections. Meanwhile, digitization is accelerating efficiency and agility. Design teams are working together online and using virtual sampling. Showrooms and fashion weeks have gone digital. And brands are hurrying to transfer business to online outlets. Supply chain experts argue companies can make less product and increase margins as they reduce waste (via better inventory management), better connect supply and demand (via strengthened omni-channel programs) and optimize understanding of client needs and trends (via enhanced client data). For an industry on the receiving end of considerable finger-pointing for its destruction of unsold merchandise, the win-win of increased embedded efficiency and sustainability is substantial — less environmental impact, more financial resilience and, potentially, redistribution of investment across the supply chain to benefit primary raw material producers and workers upstream. For an industry on the receiving end of considerable finger-pointing for its destruction of unsold merchandise, the win-win of increased embedded efficiency and sustainability is substantial. Optimized distribution of value creation is important in a context where the pandemic has rendered raw material and manufacturing workers more vulnerable. For example, the Sustainable Fibre Alliance raised the alarm of COVID-19’s considerable consequences for the economic security and well-being of cashmere goat herding families. In the case of exotic leather, a controversial material prior to the pandemic according to animal rights activists, conservationists recently have raised their voice about the necessity of protecting the benefits to species, people and ecosystems generated by this trade. At the moment, luxury brands are still struggling to develop the business cases and financially support all of these actors. One promising mechanism to explore is a “reverse-sourcing” approach whereby value chain actors for a specific raw material pilot interventions to drive positive change and then connect the dots to create a traceable, sustainable supply chain. In one example, this approach allowed vulnerable suppliers who committed to improved environmental and social practices to broker a long-term contract with a global beauty company at a premium — enabling investment in long-term sustainability while the beauty brand achieved the security of a traceable, sustainable supply chain. Additionally, luxury brands can leverage sustainable finance mechanisms and growing investor interest in ESG to partner on long-term value creation. Following on the heels of Prada, Burberry, Moncler and other players outside the sector, Chanel made its first public offering on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange in September. Its sustainability bond will support business transformation including raw material extraction, regenerative agriculture and innovation across its supply chain. This announcement is notable as it signals the emergence of a deeper value proposition and the importance of communicating this value to key stakeholders. 2. Build on luxury’s predisposition for circular and regenerative practices Over the last several years, the industry has adopted several circular economy initiatives, such as the CEDRE recycling platform  (French) initiated by LVMH, support for innovation via Fashion for Good and training designers on circular economy principles. Yet huge barriers still exist to scaling an efficient luxury fashion circular ecosystem — whether it’s closing the loop on certain product categories such as luxury leisurewear and sneakers, which have shorter lives than typical luxury items; acquiring sustainable, regenerative materials in sufficient quality and quantity (such as leather); or fully embracing the idea of producing fewer new items, including encouraging the multiple lives of products and brand-controlled secondhand markets (as Gucci has just done with The RealReal). Further, as luxury companies make their way in the “new normal,” there is a strong rationale to focus on the third leg in the circular economy stool: regenerating the natural and agricultural systems they rely on for their high-quality natural materials . With 60 percent of species and ecosystem functionality lost, the clock continues to tick. In 2021, the Convention on Biological Diversity will launch a new 10-year strategic plan with the Business for Nature coalition driving business support for policy changes and new targets. Additionally, late last month, an informal working group, Task Force on Nature-related Disclosure, was launched. The work will take several months but signals an expectation of increasing accountability for companies and investors related to their impacts on nature. Luxury brands are well-poised to demonstrate leadership on this and other aspects of the circular economy. Luxury brands also can explore two newer areas: first, assessing their performance against a comprehensive set of circularity indicators to focus on circular economy practices across entire operations and increase robustness of efforts. Second, brands can explore how to take a people-centered approach to circular fashion systems which ensure that as new infrastructure and business models are created, they are inclusive and fair for people from the outset. 3. Demonstrate socially progressive leadership As described above, in the urgency of initial responses to the coronavirus, luxury companies relied on their financial resources and business infrastructure to contribute to their workforce and local communities. Against the profound upheaval transforming our world, luxury leaders have significant opportunity to continue using this power to drive positive change. Doing so will help to preserve the social acceptance of luxury and create the stable operating environment needed by all businesses. Earlier this year, BSR published a report discussing five principles for business action to contribute towards creating a 21st century social contract that supports economic prosperity and social mobility. While the luxury industry can contribute to all principles, it is well-placed to focus on contributions to developing stakeholder capitalism, an approach to business strategy focused on long-term value creation and based on a multi-stakeholder model. Specific actions luxury companies can take include: ensure that corporate governance structures, including board and executive leadership, are inclusive and consider the interests and perspectives of all; pay their fair share of taxes; and align policy advocacy, participation in industry associations and monetary contributions with environmental and social objectives. What’s next Given luxury’s outsize influence on society, luxury brands and their leaders have significant opportunity to build on their efforts and demonstrate the behaviors we need to drive resilient and thriving societies. When will we see every luxury CEO’s bonus dependent on achieving Scope 3 climate targets, paying a living wage in supply chains and achieving zero product destruction? Thriving in the “new normal” will take nothing less than bold leadership such as this. Pull Quote For an industry on the receiving end of considerable finger-pointing for its destruction of unsold merchandise, the win-win of increased embedded efficiency and sustainability is substantial. Topics Circular Economy Fashion Collective Insight BSR Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off LVMH’s partnership with CEDRE centers on finding second-life uses for its products.

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Luxury in the new normal: Leadership and innovation in 2020 and beyond

Hydropower demand is damaging Indigenous lands

June 23, 2020 by  
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Many U.S. states are setting renewable energy goals, turning to hydropower as a cheap source of cleaner energy. But for Inuit hunters in far eastern Canada , Americans’ demand for cheap, renewable energy, particularly in the form of hydropower, is ruining traditional hunting grounds. The remote community of Rigolet on the northern coast of Labrador is downstream from Muskrat Falls, a dam on the Churchill River and an important drainage point for the province’s biggest watershed. The state-owned company Nalcor built the dam and has another — which would produce thrice the electricity — in the works. Most of the energy is exported to the U.S. Related: Fish-friendly whirlpool turbine makes hydropower green again But the Nunatsiavut government, which represents the area’s 2,700 Inuit people, said the dams disrupt ecosystems and expose residents to increased amounts of naturally occurring mercury. Flooding land unlocks mercury from the ground. Once it gets into the water, bacteria transforms it into methylmercury, a neurotoxin that gets into fish, waterbirds and seals as well as the people who eat these animals. The Inuit community living in Labrador already have higher methylmercury concentrations than non-Indigenous Canadians. “When they poison the water , they poison us,” said David Wolfrey, Rigolet conservation officer. These issues are all too common among First Nations people in Canada. A 2016 survey found that of 22 planned Canadian hydropower projects, all were within 60 miles of one or more Indigenous communities. Many U.S. states have announced ambitious energy goals in the last few years, including Maine, Vermont, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and California. Lacking ways to generate this much energy locally, they’ve turned their gaze toward Canada. The northern neighbor of the U.S. is second only to China in hydropower production. Canada already has 900 large-scale dams which supply about 60% of Canada’s domestic energy needs, and the country has big plans for tripling output and damming the last wild rivers. Nalcor and other dam-building companies have offered Indigenous populations money and support for local community initiatives. But residents are divided, and many will never be won over, such as Alex Saunders, an Inuit citizen who has been treated for methylmercury poisoning. “Think about what you’re buying here,” he said, as reported in The Guardian. “You’re buying the misery from the local people of northern Canada. That’s not a good thing.” Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Taming plastic waste with silica plastic blocks

June 23, 2020 by  
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In a bid to curb plastic waste pollution, India-based company Rhino Machines has invented a way of using plastic to make construction blocks. The silica plastic blocks (SPBs) are strong enough to build a house and can be useful in reducing world pollution problems. As the company behind this new technology, Rhino Machines experimented to determine the viability of making construction bricks from waste plastic and foundry dust. According to the company, they conducted experiments in collaboration with R+D Labs to prove that SPBs can be used to replace traditional construction blocks. Why recycle plastic waste? This experiment came from the need to find a permanent solution to India’s growing plastic waste problem. According to 2012 estimations by the Central Pollution Control Board of India (CPCB), India generates close to 26,000 tons of plastic a day. Additionally, as  The Economic Times  reports, over 10,000 tons of plastic waste go uncollected each day. This plastic waste litters streets, landfills and the seas. Furthermore, as non-biodegradable waste, the plastic ends up polluting rivers, agricultural land and even estates. The plastic waste pollution problem is not limited to India. According to a 2017  National Geographic  publication, over 91% of the plastic waste produced globally is not recycled. The same publication points out that as of 2018, the world has generated over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic since plastic began being mass-produced. About 6.3 billion metric tons of this waste ends up as waste in landfills , oceans and rivers. National Geographic also points out that if the global community doesn’t contain the current trend of plastic waste pollution, landfills will house 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste by 2050. All the problems caused by plastic waste are now pushing scientists and innovators to look for solutions that will create a sustainable world. Although some countries have banned single-use plastics , the current amount of plastic waste still takes an enormous toll on the environment. Technologies such as SPBs can help significantly reduce this waste. The convergence of plastic waste pollution problems and a need for urban housing developments also presents a unique opportunity for SPBs. According to the United Nations,  55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas . In urban areas, high population density leads to exacerbated plastic waste problems. The U.N. further estimates that about 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. By using available plastic waste to build housing for the growing urban population, SPBs could help reduce world plastic pollution.  How are SPBs made? When Rhino Machines started the SPB project, its objective was to attain zero waste through the reclamation of foundry waste . Initially, the experiment tested using foundry dust with cement to make bricks. This experiment resulted in 7-10% waste recycled for cement bricks and 15% waste recycled for clay bricks. The company realized the experiment required using resources such as cement , soil and water, which was not justified by the waste recycled. Further research led the team to use foundry dust with plastic waste to boost the project’s sustainability. Using plastic waste as a bonding agent eliminated the need for water and cement during mixing. Why SPBs? Building with SPBs contributes to the environment in two ways. Producing the blocks requires a mixture of about 80% foundry dust with about 20% plastic. Consequently, the project does not need water or cement. This means that the blocks use less natural resources while also reducing inorganic waste. The experiment to produce SPBs also uncovered additional positive revelations. Apart from the fact that these blocks are sustainable, they also offer the construction industry a strong building alternative. According to  Technology Times , SPBs are 2.5 times stronger than normal red clay blocks. Additionally, as SPBs are made from waste, “the cost of production can easily compete with the commonly available red clay brick or the CMU (concrete masonry unit).” Rhino Machines approached several organizations including hospitals, schools and local municipal corporations to collect clean plastic for the project. In about four months, the company collected over six tons of plastic waste and 15 tons of foundry dust. This collection helps demonstrate just how much plastic waste is available to be used in the production of SPBs. Furthermore, the company is “preparing to come up with an ecosystem solution so that the foundries across the country can develop and distribute” SPBs. As described in a statement from Rhino Machines, this is part of an effort to bring SPBs to impact zones that are part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), “a Government of India initiative for businesses to undertake philanthropic causes and give back to the community.” As the research and experimentation shows, SPBs have the potential to relieve plastic waste concerns not only in India but all over the world. If industries can adopt this new building technology , we may have hope for a future with less plastic pollution. Images via R+D Studio

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