What rural Alaska can teach the world about renewable energy

March 13, 2017 by  
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With plenty of trickling streams and blowing wind, many remote Alaskan communities are doing away with fossil fuels altogether.

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What rural Alaska can teach the world about renewable energy

Standing Rock protesters evicted by police at gunpoint

February 24, 2017 by  
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Yesterday police in riot gear evicted Standing Rock protesters after an evacuation deadline passed. Though the majority of demonstrators left the Oceti Sakowin camp before the February 22nd deadline, about 50 Dakota Access Pipeline protesters remained. Most of these passive resistors – including veterans and tribal elders – were arrested at gunpoint by officers clad in full riot gear. The raid was livestreamed on Facebook over the course of 4 hours throughout the day. The initial evacuation was ordered on the pretext of protecting demonstrators from seasonal floods, which could potentially affect the area. While this is certainly a legitimate concern, the fact that over 200 police officers were sent to clear the area, armed with rifles and military-style equipment, makes it clear that the protesters’ safety isn’t Governor Doug Burgam’s main priority. Related: Judge throws out request to halt Dakota Access Pipeline construction Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told ABC News in a statement, “I am very happy to say that we finally introduced rule of law in the Oceti camp. I am hopeful that this announcement brings us closer to finality in what has been an incredibly challenging time for our citizens and law enforcement professionals. Having dealt with riots, violence, trespassing and property crimes, the people of Morton County are looking forward to getting back to their normal lives.” For many of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe members, there is no “normal life” to get back to. Now that the pipeline construction is slated to go forward , they live in fear that a catastrophic oil spill could put their community’s access to clean water at peril. The “violence, trespassing, and property crimes” they’ve been subject to at the hands of police in the past year include being attacked by security dogs , blasted with water cannons at hypothermia-inducing temperatures, and having land they claim was granted to them as part of a 1851 treaty given away to oil companies by the federal government. Related: Trump claims he received no calls about the Keystone and Dakota pipelines Though the protests are Standing Rock have been ended by force, the movement to force banks to stop supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline continues. Oakland , Los Angeles , and New York City are just a few of the local governments urged to divest from the pipeline. Seattle has already voted to end all financial support of the project by moving $3 billion of the city’s funds from Wells Fargo. Via ABC News Images via Kelly Hayes , Unicorn Riot , Jamil Dakwar , Standing Rock Rising

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Standing Rock protesters evicted by police at gunpoint

America will soon surpass the clean energy standards Trump wants to kill

February 9, 2017 by  
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Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan , first announced in 2015, caused no end of political controversy in conservative circles for its ambitious carbon-cutting goals. By February 2016, the Supreme Court halted enforcement of the regulations due to complaints from 29 mostly Republican-led states. Opponents argued that the plan would cause massive layoffs in the energy sector. Now, a new report shows the US is actually poised to surpass the Clean Power Plan’s federal requirements – quite a different picture from the one Trump and his cabinet are painting. The new data comes from the 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook , published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. The report notes: “Within the power sector, the progress is even more noteworthy: in 2016, greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants dropped 5.3% in just one year. Since 2005, the power sector has shrunk its carbon footprint by 24% – in other words, the US is 75% of the way to the Clean Power Plan’s “32% by 2030” headline target, with 14 additional years left to go.” Part of the reason for the lowered emissions is the fact that coal is losing its share of the energy market. Right now it only comprises 30% of the electricity grid in the US – the lowest percentage in the last 70 years. The rise in solar energy is another contributing factor – the solar industry grew by 51,000 jobs last year and seemed poised to continue growing until at least 2022, with the encouragement of the solar energy tax credit. Related: Supreme Court freezes Obama’s plan to cut CO2 emissions This report shows that the transformation in America’s energy market was in effect before the CPP was even on the table. While Obama’s clean energy policies surely accelerated it and made it easier for businesses to make the switch to renewable energy, the change was well underway. Trump’s administration may be expressing interest in repealing the rule , but it’s unlikely to stop the clean energy revolution that’s already underway. Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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America will soon surpass the clean energy standards Trump wants to kill

Army approves Dakota Access Pipeline route – and construction could begin immediately

February 8, 2017 by  
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In a surprise move, the US Army Corps of Engineers just approved construction on the final 1.5 miles of the Dakota Access Pipeline . The move cut short a public comment period and environmental impact assessment that was supposed to last two weeks – the Army was originally supposed to accept comments through February 20th, but it expedited the process under the direction of Donald Trump . The accelerated timeline makes legal challenges to the pipeline extremely difficult. The agency has also announced it’s planning to waive its usual policy of waiting 14 days after notifying Congress of the decision to grant an easement. Instead, the easement could be granted within 24 hours, allowing Energy Transfer Partners to begin construction immediately. Due to the nature of the project, it’s not necessary for the company to apply for a separate construction license. Related: 76 water protectors arrested at Standing Rock The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reports that it plans to file a lawsuit and ask for a temporary restraining order to halt construction while the decision’s legal standing undergoes a review. The protestors are also coordinating an international day of action to stand against the decision. In the past, police have soaked Standing Rock protectors with water cannons in freezing conditions, attacked them with dogs , and early in February 76 protestors were arrested during a raid on a new camp at Standing Rock. Via NPR Images via Standing Rock Uprising Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )  

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Army approves Dakota Access Pipeline route – and construction could begin immediately

Electric cars and solar power could freeze fossil fuel growth by 2020

February 3, 2017 by  
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Fossil fuels could officially be a thing of the past as early as 2020, according to a new report. The report shows the declining costs of electric vehicles and solar energy could put a stop to the growth in worldwide demand for oil and coal in less than three years time. According to the Guardian , a report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative entitled “ Expect the Unexpected: The disruptive power of low-carbon technology,” polluting fuels could lost 10 percent of their market share to solar power and “clean cars” within a decade. To put it in perspective, a 10 percent market share loss was enough to cause the recent collapse in the U.S. coal industry , while the five major utilities in Europe collectively lost about $100 billion between 2008 and 2013 because they didn’t ready themselves for the 8 percent growth in renewable energy . Related: Ireland votes to be the world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels According to the study , “Big energy companies are seriously underestimating the low-carbon transition by sticking to their “business as usual” scenarios which expect continued growth of fossil fuels, and could see their assets “stranded.” The study also notes that solar photovoltaic power could supply 23 percent of global power generation by 2040, and as much as 29 percent by 2050. That’s enough to entirely phase out coal and leave natural gas with just a 1 percent market share. At the same time Exxon is predicting renewables will supply just 11 percent by 2040. The researchers also see electric vehicles making up about 35 percent of the road transport market by 2015, and as much as 67 percent by 2050. That growth trajectory will see EVs displace about two million barrels of oil per day in 2025, and grow to 25 million barrels per day by 2050. Via Guardian and Carbon Tracker Images via USAF and Ride_and_Drive , Wikimedia Commons

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Electric cars and solar power could freeze fossil fuel growth by 2020

Ireland votes to be world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels

January 26, 2017 by  
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In a historic move, Ireland may become the world’s first country to fully divest from all fossil fuels , according to 350.org’s Fossil Free Europe . The country’s parliament just passed “first-of-its-kind fossil fuel divestment legislation” with a majority vote. The historic bill could enable Ireland to fully divest their sovereign wealth fund, which is worth more than 8 billion Euros or around $8.5 billion, from oil, gas, and coal. Fossil Free Europe and Trócaire reported today that the bill passed in the Irish parliament’s lower house, the Dáil. Fossil Free Europe described the event as “an important moment in the history of the divestment movement.” Related: Sydney plans to divest $500 million from fossil fuels Trócaire Executive Director Éamonn Meehan said in a statement, “The Irish political system is now finally acknowledging what the overwhelming majority of people already know: that to have a fighting chance to combat catastrophic climate change we must phase out fossil fuels and stop the growth of the industry that is driving this crisis.” The bill is now headed for the committee stage, according to Trócaire and Fossil Free Europe, who noted last week all major political parties support it, except the Fine Gael political party.. Meehan thinks the move could send a powerful message to the rest of the world, as a climate change denier takes control of the White House, and said, “The support of a majority in the Dáil for this bill is an incredibly important moment for the climate justice movement in Ireland and will inspire other countries to follow our lead.” A few years ago Norway’s sovereign wealth fund also made a move to divest from some fossil fuel companies, but not all; according to EcoWatch they still had billions in other fossil fuel companies. Via Fossil Free Europe and Trócaire Images via Justin Pickard on Flickr and Fossil Free Facebook

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Ireland votes to be world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels

The Keystone XL pipeline would only create 35 full-time, permanent jobs

January 26, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump seems to think the words ‘create jobs ‘ grant him the ability to forgo any fact-checking. He’s said he supports the Keystone XL pipeline because it would create 28,000 jobs , but it turns out the controversial project would generate a mere 35 full-time, permanent jobs. Trump’s mysterious 28,000 number doesn’t originate in TransCanada’s government application or the State Department’s years-long study of the pipeline, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Instead, they say the pipeline would create 35 full-time, permanent jobs, and maybe 15 temporary contractor positions. Back in 2014 the State Department provided that 35-job figure in their 11-page report. The pipeline would also create 3,900 “person years of employment.” Related: Trump signs executive actions to reinstate Keystone and Dakota Access Pipeline Let’s dig into that “person years of employment” figure. According to the NRDC, that number means there’s enough pipeline construction work for 3,900 people to work full-time for one year. But since the pipeline could take two years, the NRDC said “a more realistic way to view this number is 1,950 full-time construction jobs lasting for the two year timeline of the project’s construction.” Those jobs could benefit thousands of people, but the figure isn’t even close to 28,000 jobs. The 35 full-time positions would work in TransCanada’s Nebraska office and monitor day to day operations for the pipeline. The reasons against the pipeline that led to President Barack Obama’s rejection still hold true today. According to NRDC, “It’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen, a climate-wrecking project with no place in today’s energy mix, and it’s not in America’s national interest.” They said the pipeline will benefit Canadian oil companies far more than the American economy. If Trump actually wants to create jobs instead of just blathering about it, he should take a closer look at renewable energy – the growing industry could add not 28,000, but millions of jobs . Via Natural Resources Defense Council Images via Wikimedia Commons and NRDC pix on Flickr

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The Keystone XL pipeline would only create 35 full-time, permanent jobs

Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson says Trump is wrong about climate change

January 12, 2017 by  
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In a startling statement, Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson publicly disagreed with the President-elect’s position on climate change. While Trump has stated he wants to withdraw from the Paris agreement, and has characterized climate change as an anti-American “hoax,” Tillerson told Congress , “I think it’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table on the conversations around how to address the threats of climate change, which do require a global response. No one country is going to solve this alone.” Tillerson’s position is an interesting one, considering that he’s the former CEO of ExxonMobil, a company that’s been accused of misleading the public on the existence of climate change since the 1960s . In fact, the company continues to fund climate-denial research to this day. Despite this, Tillerson insisted that he believes the “risk of climate change does exist” and that the consequences could be serious enough to “warrant action.” Related: Americans don’t trust climate change science because of fossil fuel industry’s disinformation While Tillerson has said Trump is aware of his views and he would be willing to advise the administration to take climate change seriously (perhaps with a bit more caution than environmentalists would like), it’s unclear if this could actually change Trump’s approach in any way. The administration’s other nominees have come out firmly against the very concept of climate change – including Rick Perry, Trump’s proposed head of the Department of Energy , and Scott Pruitt, the pick for head of the Environmental Protection Agency . Although Tillerson appears to grudgingly accept the reality of climate change, that’s no reason for the American public to let our guard down. The would-be Secretary of State did not address whether he believes climate change poses a threat to national security – an opinion held by the nation’s foremost military expert. He also refused to discuss ExxonMobil’s longstanding war against scientific research on the subject, and he would not give a firm answer on whether he would suspend US funding to the UN Green Climate Fund. There’s also the troubling matter of the former exec’s troubling ties to Vladimir Putin , which critics fear could compromise his ability to perform his duties effectively. Via Mother Jones Images via William Munoz and Wikimedia Commons

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Elon Musk says Trump administration may be "positive on renewables"

January 6, 2017 by  
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Elon Musk , recently selected as a strategic advisor for President-elect Donald Trump , seems hopeful the next administration may be more open to renewable energy than we think. Speaking at the Gigafactory this week, he said we may “see surprising things” from the Trump administration. Even though the President-elect likely won’t be hard on fossil fuels , said Musk, his administration may be “positive on renewables.” After Trump’s tech meeting at Trump Tower last month, which was attended by executives like Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the President-elect picked the Tesla and SpaceX CEO as a strategic advisor. Many people welcomed Musk’s selection, hoping it was a good sign Trump was willing to have someone so outspoken on climate change as an advisor. Related: Donald Trump selects Elon Musk to serve as strategic advisor But don’t get too excited – Musk made it clear Trump hasn’t reversed his fossil fuel-loving stance. In a Gigafactory event with investors, Musk reportedly said, “The President-elect has a strong emphasis on U.S. manufacturing and so do we. We are building the biggest factory in the world right here, creating U.S. jobs…I think we may see some surprising things from the next administration. We don’t think they will be negative on fossil fuels…but they may also be positive on renewables.” Trump may go easy on the fossil fuel industry. He may be closed-minded about a carbon tax – an idea Musk recently championed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood documentary – but the President-elect might be unable to stop the progress towards a clean energy economy as solar and wind prices plummet . Tesla employs over 25,000 people in the United States, according to Electrek, and aims to add 1,000 jobs at a New York solar panel factory, 3,000 jobs at a California factory, and 6,500 jobs at the Gigafactory. As it would be irrational and irresponsible for Trump to turn his back on a growing industry that could greatly benefit the economy and the environment, job creation could be Musk’s trump card. Via Electrek Images via Steve Jurvetson on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Elon Musk says Trump administration may be "positive on renewables"

Gabriel Orozco designs mesmerizing geometric garden for the South London Gallery

January 6, 2017 by  
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A formerly inaccessible paved area has been transformed into a hypnotizing pattern of intertwining circles made from stone brick at the South London Gallery . Tokyo-based artist Gabriel Orozco designed this space as the new permanent garden for the contemporary art gallery in collaboration with 6a architects and horticulturists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The modern garden draws influences from sculpture, drawing, photography and video to create a textured gathering space that can be used for multiple activities. Created over the past two years, the South London Gallery’s new garden features Orozco’s recurring circle motif and tensions between symmetry and asymmetry. The circles are laid out in brick-dimensioned York stone, some of which were reclaimed from the newly opened up rear facade. The cool color palette and materials are a nod to the gallery’s Victorian architecture. The different levels into the landscape create seating, planting space, water feature areas, and more. Related: Penda designs beautiful Indian garden with water mazes and stepwells Inspired by the idea of urban ruin, Orozco intends for the garden to become overgrown with different grasses , low-level creepers, and fragrant plants over time. A key feature of the space is the planted walkway that connects the garden to the Sceaux Gardens housing estate. “From my first visit I was impressed by the SLG’s commitment to its local community and neighbourhood and intrigued by the relationship between the garden space and its different audiences, and the idea of creating something which could provide an inspiring platform for all of them,” said Orozco. “I started to think about various geometries emerging from the architecture surrounding the space and how they might be re-integrated into it as the basis of a design. It has been a fascinating process working directly with the gallery, architects and horticulturalists to develop the plans for the work which I am excited to see become a reality.” The garden is open to the public during the weekends and is used by invited groups on weekdays. + South London Gallery Images by Andy Stagg

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Gabriel Orozco designs mesmerizing geometric garden for the South London Gallery

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