31 December 2012

West Antarctica Warming Faster Than Thought, Study Finds

Reposted from NYT


West Antarctica has warmed much more than scientists had thought over the last half century, new research suggests, an ominous finding given that the huge ice sheet there may be vulnerable to long-term collapse, with potentially drastic effects on sea levels.
A paper released on Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience reports that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

“The surprises keep coming,” said Andrew J. Monaghan, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who took part in the study. “When you see this type of warming, I think it’s alarming.”Of course, warming in Antarctica is a relative concept. West Antarctica remains an exceedingly cold place, with average annual temperatures in the center of the ice sheet that are nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing.

But the temperature there does sometimes rise above freezing in the summer, and the new research raises the possibility that it might begin to happen more often, potentially weakening the ice sheet through surface melting. The ice sheet is already under attack at the edges by warmer ocean water, and scientists are on alert for any fresh threat.

A potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is one of the long-term hazards that have led experts to worry about global warming. The base of the ice sheet sits below sea level, in a configuration that makes it especially vulnerable. Scientists say a breakup of the ice sheet, over a period that would presumably last at least several hundred years, could raise global sea levels by 10 feet, possibly more.

The new research is an attempt to resolve a scientific controversy that erupted several years ago about exactly how fast West Antarctica is warming. With few automated weather stations and even fewer human observers in the region, scientists have had to use statistical techniques to infer long-term climate trends from sparse data.

A nearby area called the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts north from West Antarctica and for which fairly good records are available, was already known to be warming rapidly. A 2009 paper found extensive warming in the main part of West Antarctica, but those results were challenged by a group that included climate change contrarians.

To try to get to the bottom of the question, David H. Bromwich of Ohio State University pulled together a team that focused on a single temperature record. At a lonely outpost called Byrd Station, in central West Antarctica, people and automated equipment have been keeping track of temperature and other weather variables since the late 1950s.

It is by far the longest weather record in that region, but it had intermittent gaps and other problems that had made many researchers wary of it. The Bromwich group decided to try to salvage the Byrd record.

They retrieved one of the sensors and recalibrated at the University of Wisconsin. They discovered a software error that had introduced mistakes into the record and then used computerized analyses of the atmosphere to fill the gaps.

The reconstruction will most likely undergo intensive scientific scrutiny, which Dr. Bromwich said he would welcome. “We’ve tested everything we could think of,” he said.

Assuming the research holds up, it suggests that the 2009 paper, far from overestimating warming in West Antarctica, had probably underestimated it, especially in summer.

Eric J. Steig, a University of Washington researcher who led the 2009 work, said in an interview that he considered his paper to have been supplanted by the new research. “I think their results are better than ours, and should be adopted as the best estimate,” he said. He noted that the new Byrd record matches a recent temperature reconstruction from a nearby borehole in the ice sheet, adding confidence in the findings.

Much of the warming discovered in the new paper happened in the 1980s, around the same time the planet was beginning to warm briskly. More recently, Dr. Bromwich said, the weather in West Antarctica seems to have become somewhat erratic. In the summer of 2005, the interior of West Antarctica warmed enough for the ice to undergo several days of surface melting.

Dr. Bromwich is worried that this could eventually become routine, perhaps accelerating the decay of the West Antarctic ice sheet, but the warming is not fast enough for that to happen right away. “We’re talking decades into the future, I think,” Dr. Bromwich said.

30 December 2012

Energy Subsidies

Anti-wind and anti-solar folks (yes, there are a few out there — mostly tied to the fossil fuel industry) love to bring up renewable energy subsidies. However, there are so many reasons why they really shouldn’t be eager to do so. For example, fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies dwarf renewable energy subsidies.

Subsidies in first 15 years of subsidies for various energy sources.

Additionally, many indirect subsidies never even get counted in most subsidy analyses — such as the tremendous extent to which we subsidize oil through our military and the tremendous health externalities not included in the price of fossil fuels (neither of which are included in the price of fossil fuels).

But there’s another point which gets even less attention. Here’s a reader comment that I thought was worth a repost:

Yes, we have supported oil, wind and solar with subsidies. Look how that’s played out.

Wind, 30 years ago, produced electricity at $0.38/kWh. Now it’s producing at $0.04/kWh to $0.06/kWh and on its way down to $0.03/kWh in the near future. (Already, we’ve seen a 9.5x drop.)

Solar panels, 30-40 years ago, cost as much as $100/watt. Solar panels are now being manufactured for prices approaching $0.50/watt.  (That’s almost a 200x price drop.)

Oil, in 1946, was $18.89 a barrel (2012/current dollars) and in 2012 it’s running about $100 a barrel. (More than a 5x increase.)

Support for oil might have kept prices from rising further, but it has not made oil cheaper.

Support for wind and solar have made them much cheaper. Our investments are returning massive dividends.

Wind has gone down to 1/6th its early price, solar to 1/100th, and oil has risen by more than 5x. Exactly how has that oil subsidy worked out for us?

Image Credits: Climate Progress

Reposted from Solar Insider's News

29 December 2012


28 December 2012

27 December 2012

New Town?

26 December 2012

25 December 2012

No Comment

24 December 2012

EPA Announces Next Round of Clean Air Standards to Reduce Harmful Soot Pollution

WASHINGTON – In response to a court order, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized an update to its national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution (PM2.5), including soot, setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. By 2020, ninety-nine percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet revised health standard without any additional actions

Today’s announcement has no effect on the existing daily standard for fine particles or the existing daily standard for coarse particles (PM10), which includes dust from farms and other sources), both of which remain unchanged.

“These standards are fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act. We will save lives and reduce the burden of illness in our communities, and families across the country will benefit from the simple fact of being able to breathe cleaner air,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

Fine particle pollution can penetrate deep into the lungs and has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children. A federal court ruling required EPA to update the standard based on best available science. Today’s announcement, which meets that requirement, builds on smart steps already taken by EPA to slash dangerous pollution in communities across the country. Thanks to these steps, 99 percent of U.S. counties are projected to meet the standard without any additional action.

It is expected that fewer than 10 counties, out of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States, will need to consider any local actions to reduce fine particle pollution in order to meet the new standard by 2020, as required by the Clean Air Act. The rest can rely on air quality improvements from federal rules already on the books to meet this new standard.

More on the 2020 Map: http://www.epa.gov/pm/2012/2020map.pdf

The standard, which was proposed in June and is consistent with the advice from the agency’s independent science advisors, is based on an extensive body of scientific evidence that includes thousands of studies – including many large studies which show negative health impacts at lower levels than previously understood. It also follows extensive consultation with stakeholders, including the public, health organizations, and industry, and after considering more than 230,000 public comments.

By 2030, it is expected that all standards that cut PM2.5 from diesel vehicles and equipment alone will prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths, 32,000 hospital admissions and 4.7 million days of work lost due to illness.

Because reductions in fine particle pollution have direct health benefits including decreased mortality rates, fewer incidents of heart attacks, strokes, and childhood asthma, the PM2.5 standards announced today have major economic benefits with comparatively low costs. EPA estimates health benefits of the revised standard to range from $4 billion to over $9 billion per year, with estimated costs of implementation ranging from $53 million to $350 million. While EPA cannot consider costs in selecting a standard under the Clean Air Act, those costs are estimated as part of the careful analysis undertaken for all significant regulations, as required by Executive Order 13563 issued by President Obama in January 2011.

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review its air quality standards every five years to determine whether the standards should be revised. The law requires the agency to ensure the standards are “requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety” and “requisite to protect the public welfare.” A federal court required EPA to issue final standard by December 14, because the agency did not meet its five-year legal deadline for reviewing the standards.

EPA carefully considered extensive public input as it determined the appropriate final standard to protect public health. The agency held two public hearings and received more than 230,000 written comments before finalizing today’s updated air quality standards.

More information: http://www.epa.gov/pm 

23 December 2012

Europe's Energy Transformation, and Why We're Being Left in the Dust

Americans' greatest challenge in energy generation is appreciating what is possible because too many of us don't know what is already happening in other parts of the world - for example, the powerful story of Europe's energy transformation.

When residents of the small city of Freiburg, Germany, go to school or work in the morning, they pass dozens of solar installations. There are solar panels on homes, on churches, on the facade of the main train station, on the soccer stadium, throughout a "solar housing development" and a "solar business park" and on the roofs of schools. All told, Freiburg's solar photovoltaic (PV) installations produce enough electricity to meet the needs of tens of thousands of homes.

Additionally, five large wind turbines are situated on hilltops within the city's boundaries and contribute to the town's energy supply. Small hydroelectric plants sit on the river, as well as combined heat and power plants and biomass plants that burn biogas and rapeseed oil, along with other facilities that burn wood chips and pellets.

Freiburg is known as a "Green City," but it is not atypical for the region or the nation. In May 2012, solar PV supplied 10 percent of Germany's electricity. During the first nine months of 2012, Germany produced enough electricity from renewable energy sources including wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric plants to supply 26 percent of its demand.

This capacity has been growing rapidly from year to year, and renewables already represent roughly double the share of Germany's electricity production as compared to the United States.

Click here for the rest of the article

22 December 2012

Largest Solar Farm in Virginia

By Scott Harper
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 4, 2012

The Navy has completed construction of the largest solar energy project in Virginia, a 10-acre landscape of black solar panels in neat rows within sight of the Chesapeake Bay and the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The solar farm contains more than 8,600 panels, each bolted onto steel stilts in a marshy field called Monkey Bottom, just outside the fenceline of Norfolk Naval Station. Together, they can generate up to 2.1 megawatts of electricity - enough to power 200 homes, said Michelle Perry, project manager for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

That's only about 2 percent of the electricity required to run the Norfolk Navy base, the largest of its kind in the world, "but you have to start somewhere," Perry said.

Although construction was finished late last month, the photovoltaic panels are not yet connected to the electricity grid that feeds the base. The connection is expected by Christmas, Perry said, allowing the base to start using the renewable energy and not have to pay Dominion Virginia Power for it.

"It's an absolutely amazing sight," Perry said Tuesday, as she and colleagues looked at the farm from a small sand hill. One colleague, Tom Kreidel, said the facility is the largest solar project at any Navy base on the East Coast, outsized only by ones in Western states where solar energy is more common.

The project cost $21 million and was part of President Barack Obama's stimulus package. According to Pentagon figures, the government allocated more than $335 million in stimulus money for renewable-power projects at bases - a move intended to speed the military's conversion from fossil fuels to cleaner energy, and to advance green technology.

Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, signed executive orders for the Department of Defense to pursue alternative energy. One mandate calls for each base to be using renewable sources for 50 percent of its power by 2020.

The solar project will help the Norfolk Navy base meet this requirement, said Paula Teague, an energy management specialist with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

No other solar-panel projects are in the pipeline at Navy bases in Hampton Roads, Teague said - though if the Monkey Bottom facility does well, the Navy might be inclined to seek money for more.

The project comes as Virginia is struggling to keep pace with neighboring states in developing large-scale solar energy.

Monkey Bottom is "by far the biggest project in the state right now," said Ken Jurman, who tracks such facilities for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

Jurman said the closest competitors can be found at an Ikea department store in Northern Virginia and at Washington and Lee University in Lexington. There, the school installed solar panels on a parking garage and atop a main campus building.

Those projects, he added, are each about a quarter of the size of the Navy's.

Jurman said North Carolina and Maryland are seeing major solar projects advance while Virginia remains near the starting gate.

The Pentagon's investments in clean energy have not been without controversy. House Republicans, especially, have questioned the efficiency and wisdom of spending so much money on noncombat programs during times of foreign wars.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon's inspector general has been watching how stimulus money has been spent over the past three years. Among many critical reports nationally, one issued last year found fault at Norfolk Naval Station and its handling of $1 million in solar and lighting upgrades.

Under Pentagon guidelines, the work was supposed to save enough money through lower utility bills and other discounts to make the investment worth it. But the report found that it would take 447 years for the Navy to make back its money because the savings are so scant.

Despite the criticism, an undersecretary of defense did not halt the work, as the inspector general recommended, arguing that it still was in the best interest of the Navy to finish the project.

There was no mention of Monkey Bottom and its expected performance in the report.

21 December 2012


20 December 2012

19 December 2012

18 December 2012

Socialism 101

17 December 2012

47% Stupid as hell!

16 December 2012

15 December 2012


14 December 2012

Oil Fact Check

13 December 2012

12 December 2012

OBAMA - Caught!

11 December 2012

No Comment

10 December 2012

Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Reach New Record WMO Bulletin highlights pivotal role of carbon sinks

Geneva, 20 November (WMO) – The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2011, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Between 1990 and 2011 there was a 30% increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases.
Since the start of the industrial era in 1750, about 375 billion tonnes of carbon have been released into the atmosphere as CO2, primarily from fossil fuel combustion, according to WMO’s 2011 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which had a special focus on the carbon cycle.  About half of this carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial biosphere.
“These billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on earth,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Future emissions will only compound the situation.”
“Until now, carbon sinks have absorbed nearly half of the carbon dioxide humans emitted in the atmosphere, but this will not necessarily continue in the future. We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs. There are many additional interactions between greenhouse gases, Earth’s biosphere and oceans, and we need to boost our monitoring capability and scientific knowledge in order to better understand these,” said Mr Jarraud.
“WMO’s Global Atmosphere Watch network, spanning more than 50 countries, provides accurate measurements which form the basis of our understanding of greenhouse gas concentrations, including their many sources, sinks and chemical transformations in the atmosphere,” said Mr Jarraud.
The role of carbon sinks is pivotal in the overall carbon equation. If the extra CO2 emitted is stored in reservoirs such as the deep oceans, it could be trapped for hundreds or even thousands of years. By contrast, new forests retain carbon for a much shorter time span.
The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations – and not emissions - of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere. Concentrations represent what remains in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and the oceans.
CO2 is the most important of the long-lived greenhouse gases – so named because they trap radiation within the Earth’s atmosphere causing it to warm. Human activities, such as fossil fuel burning and land use change (for instance, tropical deforestation), are the main sources of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The other main long-lived greenhouse gases are methane and nitrous oxide. Increasing concentrations of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are drivers of climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, quoted in the bulletin, shows that from 1990 to 2011, radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 30%, with CO2 accounting for about 80% of this increase. Total radiative forcing of all long-lived greenhouse gases was the CO2 equivalent of 473 parts per million in 2011.
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Carbon dioxide is the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. It is responsible for 85% of the increase in radiative forcing over the past decade. According to WMO’s bulletin, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 390.9 parts per million in 2011, or 140% of the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million.
The pre-industrial era level represented a balance of CO2 fluxes between the atmosphere, the oceans and the biosphere. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased on average by 2 parts per million per year for the past 10 years.
Methane (CH4)
Methane is the second most important long-lived greenhouse gas. Approximately 40% of methane is emitted into the atmosphere by natural sources (e.g., wetlands and termites), and about 60 % comes from activities like cattle breeding, rice agriculture, fossil fuel exploitation, landfills and biomass burning.  Atmospheric methane reached a new high of about 1813 parts per billion (ppb) in 2011, or 259% of the pre-industrial level, due to increased emissions from anthropogenic sources. Since 2007, atmospheric methane has been increasing again after a period of levelling-off with a nearly constant rate during the last 3 years.
Nitrous oxide (N2O)
Nitrous oxide is emitted into the atmosphere from both natural (about 60%) and anthropogenic sources (approximately 40%), including oceans, soil, biomass burning, fertilizer use, and various industrial processes. Its atmospheric concentration in 2011 was about 324.2 parts per billion, which is 1.0 ppb above the previous year and 120% of the pre-industrial level.  Its impact on climate, over a 100 year period, is 298 times greater than equal emissions of carbon dioxide. It also plays an important role in the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer which protects us from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

09 December 2012

To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios

Reposted from NYT

SWARTHMORE, Pa. — A group of Swarthmore College students is asking the school administration to take a seemingly simple step to combat pollution and climate change: sell off the endowment’s holdings in large fossil fuel companies. For months, they have been getting a simple answer: no.

In recent weeks, college students on dozens of campuses have demanded that university endowment funds rid themselves of coal, oil and gas stocks. The students see it as a tactic that could force climate change, barely discussed in the presidential campaign, back onto the national political agenda.

“We’ve reached this point of intense urgency that we need to act on climate change now, but the situation is bleaker than it’s ever been from a political perspective,” said William Lawrence, a Swarthmore senior from East Lansing, Mich.

Students who have signed on see it as a conscious imitation of the successful effort in the 1980s to pressure colleges and other institutions to divest themselves of the stocks of companies doing business in South Africa under apartheid.

A small institution in Maine, Unity College, has already voted to get out of fossil fuels. Another, Hampshire College in Massachusetts, has adopted a broad investment policy that is ridding its portfolio of fossil fuel stocks.

“In the near future, the political tide will turn and the public will demand action on climate change,” Stephen Mulkey, the Unity College president, wrote in a letter to other college administrators. “Our students are already demanding action, and we must not ignore them.”

But at colleges with large endowments, many administrators are viewing the demand skeptically, saying it would undermine their goal of maximum returns in support of education. Fossil fuel companies represent a significant portion of the stock market, comprising nearly 10 percent of the value of the Russell 3000, a broad index of 3,000 American companies.

No school with an endowment exceeding $1 billion has agreed to divest itself of fossil fuel stocks. At Harvard, which holds the largest endowment in the country at $31 billion, the student body recently voted to ask the school to do so. With roughly half the undergraduates voting, 72 percent of them supported the demand.

“We always appreciate hearing from students about their viewpoints, but Harvard is not considering divesting from companies related to fossil fuels,” Kevin Galvin, a university spokesman, said by e-mail.

Several organizations have been working on some version of a divestment campaign, initially focusing on coal, for more than a year. But the recent escalation has largely been the handiwork of a grass-roots organization, 350.org, that focuses on climate change, and its leader, Bill McKibben, a writer turned advocate. The group’s name is a reference to what some scientists see as a maximum safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. The level is now about 390, an increase of 41 percent since before the Industrial Revolution.

Mr. McKibben is touring the country by bus, speaking at sold-out halls and urging students to begin local divestment initiatives focusing on 200 energy companies. Many of the students attending said they were inspired to do so by an article he wrote over the summer in Rolling Stone magazine, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.”

Speaking recently to an audience at the University of Vermont, Mr. McKibben painted the fossil fuel industry as an enemy that must be defeated, arguing that it had used money and political influence to block climate action in Washington. “This is no different than the tobacco industry — for years, they lied about the dangers of their industry,” Mr. McKibben said.

Eric Wohlschlegel, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said that continued use of fossil fuels was essential for the country’s economy, but that energy companies were investing heavily in ways to emit less carbon dioxide.

In an interview, Mr. McKibben said he recognized that a rapid transition away from fossil fuels would be exceedingly difficult. But he said strong government policies to limit emissions were long overdue, and were being blocked in part by the political power of the incumbent industry.

Mr. McKibben’s goal is to make owning the stocks of these companies disreputable, in the way that owning tobacco stocks has become disreputable in many quarters. Many colleges will not buy them, for instance.

Mr. McKibben has laid out a series of demands that would get the fuel companies off 350.org’s blacklist. He wants them to stop exploring for new fossil fuels, given that they have already booked reserves about five times as large as scientists say society can afford to burn. He wants them to stop lobbying against emission policies in Washington. And he wants them to help devise a transition plan that will leave most of their reserves in the ground while encouraging lower-carbon energy sources.

“They need more incentive to make the transition that they must know they need to make, from fossil fuel companies to energy companies,” Mr. McKibben said.

Most college administrations, at the urging of their students, have been taking global warming seriously for years, spending money on steps like cutting energy consumption and installing solar panels.

The divestment demand is so new that most administrators are just beginning to grapple with it. Several of them, in interviews, said that even though they tended to agree with students on the seriousness of the problem, they feared divisive boardroom debates on divestment.

That was certainly the case in the 1980s, when the South African divestment campaign caused bitter arguments across the nation.

The issue then was whether divestment, potentially costly, would have much real effect on companies doing business in South Africa. Even today, historians differ on whether it did. But the campaign required prominent people to grapple with the morality of apartheid, altering the politics of the issue. Economic pressure from many countries ultimately helped to force the whites-only South African government to the bargaining table.

Mr. Lawrence, the Swarthmore senior, said that many of today’s students found that campaign inspirational because it “transformed what was seemingly an intractable problem.”

Swarthmore, a liberal arts college southwest of Philadelphia, is a small school with a substantial endowment, about $1.5 billion. The trustees acceded to divestment demands during that campaign, in 1986, but only after a series of confrontational tactics by students, including brief occupations of the president’s office.

The board later adopted a policy stating that it would be unlikely to take such a step again.

“The college’s policy is that the endowment is not to be invested for social purposes” beyond the obvious one of educating students, said Suzanne P. Welsh, vice president for finance at the school. “To use the endowment in support of other missions is not appropriate. It’s not what our donors have given money for.”

About a dozen Swarthmore students came up with the divestment tactic two years ago after working against the strip mining of coal atop mountains in Appalachia, asking the school to divest itself of investments in a short list of energy companies nicknamed the Sordid 16.

So far, the students have avoided confrontation. The campaign has featured a petition signed by nearly half the student body, small demonstrations and quirky art installations. The college president, a theologian named Rebecca Chopp, has expressed support for their goals but not their means.

Matters could escalate in coming months, with Swarthmore scheduled to host a February meeting — the students call it a “convergence” — of 150 students from other colleges who are working on divestment.

Students said they were well aware that the South Africa campaign succeeded only after on-campus actions like hunger strikes, sit-ins and the seizure of buildings. Some of them are already having talks with their parents about how far to go.

“When it comes down to it, the members of the board are not the ones who are inheriting the climate problem,” said Sachie Hopkins-Hayakawa, a Swarthmore senior from Portland, Ore. “We are.”

Brent Summers contributed reporting from Burlington, Vt.

07 December 2012

All Plastic Bags Banned in Delhi

by Kristina Chew

Plastic bags were banned in the Indian capital of Delhi in 2009. As of this past month, the government has imposed a far more extensive ban, with new rules outlawing plastic wrappers on magazines and greeting cards. The ban covers “all use, sale and manufacture of plastic bags in the city” and “no exceptions will be made,” as an anonymous official said to AFP (via the Telegraph). Plastic bags can also not be used for garbage collecting in the city and the bags cannot be imported, notes The Hindu.

Delhi’s population of 17 million generates 1.2 million pounds of trash, plenty of it plastic, per day. As the anonymous official comments, citing the health hazards to humans and animals:

Plastic is an environmental disaster. These bags clog the city’s drains, they are non-biodegradable. It might take time, but we have to ensure that this ruling is enforced throughout Delhi.

Unfortunately, the 2009 ban turned out to be mostly toothless, with fruit and vegetable vendors, small stores and restaurants offering take-out food still using cheap bags made of thin plastic.

Now those who violate the law could face a fine of 100,000 rupees ($1,807) or up to five years in jail, says the BBC. But how to actually carry out the ban remains an issue. The Hindu says that government officials “appeared at a loss on how to implement the stringent provisions.”

The new law has already been challenged. As in the U.S. and Canada, manufacturers of plastic are none too pleased about it. The All India Plastic Industries Association (AIPIA) has filed a lawsuit against the Delhi government and claims that the ban will mean the end of jobs for thousands of people who make plastic bags and sell them. The case is being heard by the Delhi High Court.

Canadian and U.S. cities including Toronto, Los Angeles and Dana Point have banned plastic bags. Toronto is facing not one but two lawsuits from manufacturers over the ban.

Of course the Delhi ban will cause difficulties in the short term. There are few alternatives available; AFP (via the Telegraph) notes that bags from jute are popular but not widely available. Plastic bags can still be used for biomedical waste products and for packaging food (cooking oil, milk, flour) and plastic cups are still allowed.

The Delhi government has said that unspecified “efforts would be made to create awareness about the issue.” One effort ought to involve informing the public about alternatives to plastic bags and incentives to create, make and use them.

But the uproar over the law and the degree of reliance people are expressing about plastic bags make it all the more clear why a ban is needed. Plastic bags are just too convenient and too readily available and, human nature being what it is, people are highly unlikely to stop using them unless they are not there for the taking — something for us all to keep in mind, whether we’re in India or the U.S.

Read more

05 December 2012

From Tom "amen brother" Degan

The Petitions are rolling in from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas - all calling for secession. Good. Let them secede. 

I say this to you as someone with generations of southern roots that lie underneath the soil at the foot of my family tree. I am a direct descendant of Lord Baltimore, founder of the state of Maryland. I am also descended from a southerner who signed the Declaration of Independence (Charles Carroll) and I have relatives whom I love dearly from Texas and Georgia. When it comes to Dixieland, my family's historical credentials are on pretty solid ground. That being said, I must confess to you that I'm sick and tired of the south. I'm sick of southern accents. I'm sick of southern values and culture. I'm sick of southern music. And, God almighty, I'm sick-to-death  of southern politicians.

I've got a really grand idea. LET 'EM SECEDE! Throughout our history, presidents of every political persuasion have been forced to twist themselves into knots, bend over backwards, walk on cracked eggshells - just to avoid offending the sensibilities of the reactionary halfwits in dear ol' Dixie. For over two long centuries it's been like dealing with an ocean of one-hundred million, mentally ill eight-year-old children. Let's just throw in the towel here and now and finally admit it: They weren't worth the trouble. Let them go and be done with them.

One-hundred and fifty years ago, their ancestors waged a war against the government of the United States. Close to three-quarters of a million people perished in that war. That's genocide. A century and a half later, most of the descendants of that confederacy of dunces are proud of this fact. In some places they still fly the rebel flag at courthouses and state capitals. Some have it flying over their homes. Why keep these fools in the union if they obviously don't appreciate what it means to be a citizen of this country?

Their insane reaction to the reelection of the first African American president in history should tell us that - not only do they not want to be here - they don't belong here. If they really are so intent on leaving, let them leave. Don't fight another civil war over the matter. They have proven that they're not worth the trouble.

Let them start the deregulated, right wing paradise of their weird and twisted fantasies. Give them their Confederate States of America. And then watch in utter glee as they sink into an unlivable, ungovernable cesspool. No other region of the nation has been more dependent on federal cash than the south. Let's see how long they last when the rest of us are no longer around to sustain them. Watch them as they implode into an inferno of political, social and economic chaos. Sweet schadenfreude. Good bye and good riddance.

But before they leave, let's build a sturdy wall of steel and concrete and razor wire. What better way to stem the tide of political and economic refugees who will surely flood our border after less than six months?

For two-hundred and thirty-six years they've been dragging the rest of America down into the dirt. For two-hundred and thirty-six years we've had to make excuses for their idiocy to the rest of the planet. For two-hundred and thirty-six years they've been a national embarrassment, an economic and sociological albatross.

Let them go. Just let them go.

Goshen, NY

03 December 2012

No Comment

02 December 2012



01 December 2012

Social Security Has A Simple And Easy Fix

The Republicans are still trying to damage Social Security. They have always hated it, and have tried many ways to get rid of it. The latest effort was an attempt to privatize it (putting the elderly at the mercy of the stock market). That didn't work, so now they are trying a different attack. They say that the program is bankrupt and cannot continue with cutting benefits and raising the retirement age. And they say the program won't be there for younger Americans when they need it.

These are all LIES! Social Security can continue to pay full benefits for another 25 years, and then continue paying over 75% of benefits even if nothing is done. And a simple adjustment, raising or eliminating the cap on FICA taxes, would make the program solvent for generations. The program is NOT bankrupt, and WILL be there when younger Americans need it.

And the best part of this simple adjustment is that almost all of the working and middle classes wouldn't have to pay any more in FICA taxes than they currently pay. All it would do is ask wealthy Americans to pay the same percentage that workers already pay (which they should be doing anyway).

Don't fall for the Republican lies. Don't let them cut benefits, raise the retirement age, or privatize Social Security. The truth is that Social Security is an excellent government program, which works exactly like it was supposed to work. It has significantly reduced the number of elderly Americans living in poverty.

Reposted from Jobsanger

30 November 2012

29 November 2012

California Sells Out Of Pollution Permits

As the Wall Street Journal explains:

Businesses are required to either cut emissions to cap levels annually, or buy pollution permits called “allowances” from other companies for each extra ton of emissions discharged annually.

The cap and number of allowances will decline over time in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions year-by-year.

The final price for 2013 allowances was just nine cents above the $10 minimum price set by regulators.

However, not everyone approves of cap-and-trade.

No surprise here: petroleum refiners, manufacturing companies and other industries have spoken out strongly against the program, calling it an illegal tax that will hurt California’s economic recovery.

The California Chamber of Commerce last week filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the cap-and-trade auction, arguing that the Air Resources Board exceeded the authority granted under AB 32.

But they may well be outnumbered. As Rob Day of Black Coral Capital in Boston explains:

“The price of carbon matters, but the price is going to change over time. It’s more important to me to see that there was an appetite for these credits,” Day said. “This is a robust market. It’s real. It’s not going away. California is pricing carbon, and companies are saying, ‘I need to start paying attention to my carbon footprint.’ “

Good for California!

Read more click here

28 November 2012

Greenhouse gas volumes reached new high in 2011: survey

Date: 21-Nov-12
Country: GENEVA
Author: Tom Miles

Atmospheric volumes of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change hit a new record in 2011, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin on Tuesday.

The volume of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities, grew at a similar rate to the previous decade and reached 390.9 parts per million (ppm), 40 percent above the pre-industrial level, the survey said.

It has increased by an average of 2 ppm for the past 10 years.

Fossil fuels are the primary source of about 375 billion metric tonnes (413.37 billion tons) of carbon that has been released into the atmosphere since the industrial era began in 1750, the WMO said.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said the billions of tonnes of extra carbon dioxide would stay in the atmosphere for centuries, causing the planet to warm further.

"We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs," he said in a statement.

Levels of methane, another long-lived greenhouse gas, have risen steadily for the past three years after leveling off for about seven years. The reasons for that evening out are unclear.

Growth in volumes of a third gas, nitrous oxide, quickened in 2011. It has a long-term climate impact that is 298 times greater than carbon dioxide.

The WMO, the United Nations' weather agency, said the three gases, which are closely linked to human activities such as fossil fuel use, deforestation and intensive agriculture, had increased the warming effect on the climate by 30 percent between 1990 and 2011.

The prevalence of several less abundant greenhouse gases was also growing fast, it said.

Sulphur hexafluoride, used as an electrical insulator in power distribution equipment, had doubled in volume since the mid-1990s, while hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) were growing at a rapid rate from a low base.

But chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and most halons were decreasing, it said.

27 November 2012

Climate change evident across Europe, says report

By Mark Kinver
Environment reporter, BBC News

The effects of climate change are already evident in Europe and the situation is set to get worse, the European Environment Agency has warned.

In a report, the agency says the past decade in Europe has been the warmest on record.

It adds that the cost of damage caused by extreme weather events is rising, and the continent is set to become more vulnerable in the future.

The findings have been published ahead of next week's UN climate conference.

They join a UN Environment Programme report also released on Wednesday showing dangerous growth in the "emissions gap" - the difference between current carbon emission levels and those needed to avert climate change.

"Every indicator we have in terms of giving us an early warning of climate change and increasing vulnerability is giving us a very strong signal," observed EEA executive director Jacqueline McGlade.

"It is across the board, it is not just global temperatures," she told BBC News.

"It is in human health aspects, in forests, sea levels, agriculture, biodiversity - the signals are coming in from right across the environment."

2C or not 2C

The report - Climate Change, Impacts and Vulnerabilities in Europe 2012 - involving more than 50 authors from a range of organisations, listed a number of "key messages", including:

Observed climate change has "already led to a wide range of impacts on environmental systems and society; further climate change impacts are projected for the future";
Climate change can increase existing vulnerabilities and deepen socio-economic imbalances in Europe;
The combined impacts of projected climate change and socio-economic development is set to see the damage costs of extreme weather events continue to increase.
As it currently stands, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has set a target of limiting the rise in global mean temperature to 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels.

But the report's authors warn that even if this target to mitigate warming is met, "substantial impacts on society, human health and ecosystems are projected to occur".

To limit the impacts, experts say effective adaptation strategies need to be developed in order to minimise the risk to nations' infrastructure, homes and businesses.

The European Commission is expected to publish its European Adaptation Strategy in 2013, outlining measures it think will help the 27-nation bloc deal with future climate shifts.

For the rest of the article click here

26 November 2012


25 November 2012

Gerrymandering Works (For Party In Power)

Reposted From Jobsanger

We all know by now that President Obama defeated his GOP opponent rather easily in the 2012 election (both in the popular vote and the Electoral College). In addition, most of the contested senate seats were won by Democrats -- giving them a slightly bigger majority in the U.S. Senate than they had before. They now have 55 votes (counting the two Independents who caucus with them).

But what most Americans don't know is that the Democrats also got more votes for all House seats in the country than the Republicans got. The Democrats got 57,340,724 votes for House seats (50.23%), while the Republicans got 56,818,399 votes (49.77%). That's an advantage of about 522,325 votes for the Democrats (or slightly more than half a million).

Now a person might think that would mean the Democrats had a slight majority in the House, or at least the division between the two parties would be very close. But that wouldn't be true. Even though the GOP lost the total raw vote, they were still able to hold on to a significant majority of the House Seats. They won 234 seats and the Democrats won 201 seats, giving the Republicans a 33 vote advantage in the House. That's down from their 49 vote advantage after the 2010 election, but it still will allow them to easily control the House.

How does this happen? How can a party get fewer votes, but still win a significant majority of House seats. The answer is gerrymandering (the practice of establishing a political advantage for a particular party by manipulating geographic boundaries to create a partisan district). And 2010 the Republicans were able to seize control of many state governments, giving them the power to redraw congressional districts to benefit their own party. And from the House results in the 2012 election, it looks like they did a very good job of protecting their own party by gerrymandering districts.

The two pictures above show some districts in Tarrant County, Texas. The top picture shows the congressional districts as drawn by the Republican legislature (note the very oddly-shaped 12th and 26th districts). The federal court threw this out, saying it discriminated against minorities, and instituted the lower map instead, to be used only in the 2012 election (which means the legislature will have to try again to redistrict next January).

You might be wondering why this is allowed to happen. Isn't gerrymandering illegal? Well, yes and no. The 1965 Voting Rights Act made it illegal to gerrymander to deny representation to minorities. Then when the Texas districts were redrawn in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was legal -- as long as it did not deprive minorities of representation. So now the Republicans, especially in Texas and the South, stuff as many minorities as they can get into as few districts as possible, and then gerrymander the remaining districts to scatter Democratic votes and create safe Republican districts. By creating a few minority districts, they satisfy the law and are able to do what they want in the rest of the state (including dividing up an area with a strong Democratic vote and putting the pieces into several different Republican districts).

Is this dirty politics? Of course it is, and it's played by both political parties. The Republicans were just able to gain an advantage in the 2010 state legislatures -- and that allowed them to gerrymander the redistricting to protect their own. And we saw the results of that in the 2012 election (where Democrats got more votes, but Republicans got more seats).

This really needs to be changed. A few states are going to non-partisan committees for redistricting to prevent the party in power from gerrymandering to their own advantage. The idea is still too new to know if it works or not, but it certainly sounds like it would be better than how redistricting is currently done in most states.

24 November 2012

Electricity Production in the United States

Another Great Study from the Brilliant David Roper - Click here

23 November 2012

Ripe for Retirement: The Case for Closing America's Costliest Coal Plants

As many as 353 coal-fired power generators in 31 states — representing up to 59 GW of power capacity — are no longer economically viable compared with cleaner, more affordable energy sources

A significant number of U.S. coal-fired generators are old, inefficient, dirty, and no longer economically competitive. Simply stated, they are ripe for retirement and should be considered for closure.

America’s coal power fleet is facing an increasingly uncertain economic future. Growing competition from cheaper, cleaner alternatives — including natural gas and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar — is making it harder for these generators to produce energy economically.

With appropriate planning, these outdated coal generators can be closed down while still maintaining a reliable electricity system. By ramping up underutilized natural gas plants, increasing renewable energy through existing state policies, and reducing demand through improved energy efficiency, every region in the country could more than replace the electricity currently produced by ripe-for-retirement generators.

Shutting them down doesn't just make sense financially. Reducing America's reliance on coal would also improve public health, lower global warming emissions, and provide a historic opportunity to accelerate the transition to a cleaner, healthier energy future.

For the rest of this report Click here

22 November 2012

Global investors call for action on serious climate danger

(Reuters) - A coalition of the world's largest investors called on governments on Tuesday to ramp up action on climate change and boost clean-energy investment or risk trillions of dollars in investments and disruption to economies.

In an open letter, the alliance of institutional investors, responsible for managing $22.5 trillion in assets, said rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions and more extreme weather were increasing investment risks globally.

The group called for dialogue between investors and governments to overhaul climate and energy policies.

The call comes less than a week before major U.N. climate talks in Doha, Qatar. Almost 200 nations will meet in Doha from November 26 to December 7 to try to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the existing plan for curbing greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations that runs to the end of 2012.

On Sunday, the World Bank said current climate policies meant the world was heading for a warming of up to 4 degrees Celsius by 2100. That will trigger deadly heat waves and droughts, cut food stocks and drive up sea levels.

"Current policies are insufficient to avert serious and dangerous impacts from climate change," said the group of investors from the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia.

The investments and retirement savings of millions of people were being jeopardized because governments were delaying tougher emissions cuts or more generous support for greener energy.

The group said the right policies would prompt institutional investors to significantly increase investments in cleaner energy and energy efficiency, citing existing policies that have unleashed billions of dollars of renewable energy investment in China, the United States and Europe.

But many economies were still going to be heavily reliant on polluting fossil fuels such as coal, and policies needed to be implemented to speed up the shift to cleaner energy, the investors said.

They issued seven action points, including slashing fossil fuel subsidies and boosting carbon markets, for governments to focus on and said the re-election of Barack Obama in the United States and the leadership change in China were an opportunity to push for tougher climate talks.

"Strong carbon-reducing government policies are an urgent imperative," said Chris Davis, director of investor programs at Ceres, a U.S.-based coalition of investors and green groups.

"Hurricane Sandy, which caused more than $50 billion in economic losses, is typical of what we can expect if no action is taken and warming trends continue," said Davis, who also works for the Investor Network on Climate Risk, which groups 100 institutional investors with assets of more than $11 trillion.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

21 November 2012

Dust Bowl Revisited

Janet Larsen

On October 18, 2012, the Associated Press reported that “a massive dust storm swirling reddish-brown clouds over northern Oklahoma triggered a multi-vehicle accident along a major interstate…forcing police to shut down the heavily traveled roadway amid near blackout conditions.” Farmers in the region had recently plowed fields to plant winter wheat. The bare soil—desiccated by the relentless drought that smothered nearly two-thirds of the continental United States during the summer and still persists over the Great Plains—was easily lifted by the passing strong winds, darkening skies from southern Nebraska, through Kansas, and into Oklahoma.

Observers could not help but harken back to the 1930s Dust Bowl that ultimately covered 100 million acres in western Kansas, the Oklahoma and Texas Panhandles, northeastern New Mexico, and southeastern Colorado. Yet when asked if that was the direction the region was headed, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese was unequivocal: “That will never happen again.”

In the early decades of the twentieth century, earnest settlers of the semi-arid Plains, along with opportunistic “suitcase farmers” out to make a quick dollar, plowed under millions of acres of native prairie grass. Assured that “rain follows the plow,” and lured by government incentives, railroad promises, and hopes of carving out a place for their families, these farmers embraced the newly available tractors, powerful plows, and mechanized harvesters to turn over the sod that had long sustained Native American tribes and millions of bison.

The plowing began during years of rain, and early harvests were good. High wheat prices, buoyed by demand and government guarantees during the First World War, encouraged ever more land to be turned over. But then the Great Depression hit. The price of wheat collapsed and fields were abandoned. When the drought arrived in the early 1930s, the soils blew, their fertility stolen by the relentless wind. Stripped of its living carpet, freed from the intricate matrix of perennial prairie grass roots, the earth took flight.

Clouds as tall as mountains and black as night rolled over the land. Regular dust storms pummeled the homesteaders; the big ones drew notice when they clouded the sun in New York City and Washington, DC, even sullying ships hundreds of miles out in the Atlantic. Dunes formed and spread, burying railroad tracks, fences, and cars. “Dust pneumonia” claimed lives, often those of children. People fled the land in droves.

In The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan describes the topsoil loss, how a “rich cover that had taken several thousand years to develop was disappearing day by day.” The sodbusters had quickly illuminated the dangerous hubris in the 1909 Bureau of Soils proclamation: “The soil is the one indestructible, immutable asset that the nation possesses. It is the one resource that cannot be exhausted; that cannot be used up.” The rechristened Great Plains looked like it would revert back to its original name: the Great American Desert.

When a series of dust storms reached far-flung Washington, DC, in the spring of 1935, a reluctant Congress was finally convinced to allocate resources to help stabilize the soil. With government subsidies and direction from the newly created Soil Conservation Service, practices were introduced to help hold down the earth. Grasses were replanted; shelter belts of trees were planted to slow the persistent winds; contour farming or terracing was used to farm in line with the natural shape of the land; strip cropping was used to leave some protective cover on the soil; and crop rotations and fallow periods allowed the land to rest.

While some of the Dust Bowl land never recovered, the settled communities becoming ghost towns, many of the once-affected areas have become major food producers. By 1933 wheat production in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado was slashed by nearly three-quarters from its 1931 high of 411 million bushels, taking until 1947 to reach that level again. In 2012, the wheat output of these four states exceeds 700 million bushels, a third of the U.S. wheat harvest.

After World War II, well-drilling and pumping technologies allowed farmers to tap into the Ogallala aquifer, a vast reservoir of water beneath the Plains, stretching from southern South Dakota through the Texas Panhandle. Irrigation expanded, with center-pivot sprinklers creating the green circles overlain on brown squares that are familiar to anyone who has flown over the central United States.

In recent decades irrigation has allowed the traditional Corn Belt to move westward onto drier lands. Kansas, for instance, sometimes called “the Wheat State,” harvesting one-sixth of the U.S. crop, now produces as much corn as it does wheat. The wheat is primarily rainfed, but more than half the corn is irrigated.

As extraction of the underground water has increased, however, water tables have fallen. The depletion is particularly concerning in the Central and Southern Plains where there is virtually no replenishment of the aquifer from rainfall, foreshadowing an end to the use of this finite resource. In the former Dust Bowl states, irrigation had its boom, but in many areas it is beyond its peak. With wells going dry, some farmers have returned to the more-common rainfed wheat farming, which typically yields far less than with irrigation; others have gotten out of wheat all together.

In Kansas the average drop in the water table is 23 feet (7 meters), but drops of 150 feet or more have been reported. The fall in water tables is even greater in the Texas Panhandle. Statewide, Texas’ irrigated area is down more than 20 percent from its high nearly 40 years ago. Only recently, after the water table fell fast during the back-to-back droughts, have limits been placed on withdrawals from individual wells there to slow the depletion. According to scientists at the University of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Geological Survey, if current rates of extraction continue, irrigation over a third of the southern High Plains will be untenable within 30 years.

Beyond the farm, climatologists are making it clear that the recent droughts are exactly the sort of event predicted to come more frequently as the planet heats up. So rainfed crops are in trouble, too. Models agree that with the global warming in store absent dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, much of the western United States—from Kansas to California—could enter into a long-term state of dryness, what physicist Joseph Romm has termed “dust-bowlification.”

With soil conservation measures in place, when drought revisited the Plains in the 1950s, the mid-1970s, the early 2000s, and again in 2011-2012—when Texas and Oklahoma baked in their hottest summers on record—a full-blown Dust Bowl did not develop. But will the ground hold forever? The United States is by far the world’s leading grain exporter; thus the fate of the nation’s “breadbasket” matters for food prices, and food security, around the globe.

While our understanding of and respect for the soil is greater now than it was at the turn of the last century, erosion still exceeds new soil formation on most acres. The combination of higher temperatures, prolonged drought, and irrigation limitations turns the prospects for continued large-scale crop production on the Plains grim. In case going through the worst recession since the Great Depression was not enough to remind Americans of hard times in the country’s past, climate change and the pressures of population and consumption growth pushing farmers to produce ever more food on limited land will make it harder to avoid a repeat of history.

Janet Larsen is the Director of Research for the Earth Policy Institute.

Copyright © 2012 Earth Policy Institute

20 November 2012

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19 November 2012

How Germany Is Getting to 100 Percent Renewable Energy

by Thomas Hedges
There is no debate on climate change in Germany. The temperature for the past 10 months has been three degrees above average and we’re again on course for the warmest year on record. There’s no dispute among Germans as to whether this change is man-made, or that we contribute to it and need to stop accelerating the process.

Since 2000, Germany has converted 25 percent of its power grid to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and biomass. The architects of the clean energy movement Energiewende, which translates to “energy transformation,” estimate that from 80 percent to 100 percent of Germany’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2050.

Germans are baffled that the United States has not taken the same path. Not only is the U.S. the wealthiest nation in the world, but it’s also credited with jump-starting Germany’s green movement 40 years ago.

“This is a very American idea,” Arne Jungjohann, a director at the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Foundation (HBSF), said at a press conference Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C. “We got this from Jimmy Carter.”

Germany adopted and continued Carter’s push for energy conservation while the U.S. abandoned further efforts. The death of an American Energiewende solidified when President Ronald Reagan ripped down the solar panels atop the White House that Carter had installed.

Since then, Germany has created strong incentives for the public to invest in renewable energy. It pays people to generate electricity from solar panels on their houses. The effort to turn more consumers into producers is accelerated through feed-in tariffs, which are 20-year contracts that ensure a fixed price the government will pay. Germany lowers the price every year, so there’s good reason to sign one as soon as possible, before compensation falls further.

The money the government uses to pay producers comes from a monthly surcharge on utility bills that everyone pays, similar to a rebate. Ratepayers pay an additional cost for the renewable energy fund and then get that money back from the government, at a profit, if they are producing their own energy.

In the end, ratepayers control the program, not the government. This adds consistency, Davidson says. If the government itself paid, it would be easy for a new finance minister to cut the program upon taking office. Funding is not at the whim of politicians as it is in the U.S.

“Everyone has skin in the game,” says writer Osha Gray Davidson. “The movement is decentralized and democratized, and that’s why it works. Anybody in Germany can be a utility.”

The press conference the foundation organized with InsideClimate News comes two weeks after one of the biggest storms in U.S. history and sits in the shadow of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would unlock the world’s second-largest oil reserve in Canada. The event also comes one day after a report that says that the U.S. is on track to become the leading oil and gas producer by 2020, which suggests that the U.S. has the capability to match Germany’s green movement, but is instead using its resources to deepen its dependency on fossil fuels.

Many community organizers have given up on government and are moving to spark a green movement in the U.S. through energy cooperatives.

Anya Schoolman is a D.C. organizer who has started many co-ops in the district although she began with no experience. She says that converting to renewable energy one person at a time would not work in the U.S. because of legal complexities and tax laws that discourage people from investing in clean energy.

Grid managers in the U.S., she explains, often require households to turn off wind turbines at night, a practice called “curtailment.”

“It’s a favor to the utility companies,” she says, which don’t hold as much power in Germany as they do in the United States.

Individuals and cooperatives own 65 percent of Germany’s renewable energy capacity. In the U.S. they own 2 percent. The rest is privately controlled.

The largest difference, panelists said, between Germany and the U.S. is how reactive the government is to its citizens. Democracy in Germany has meant keeping and strengthening regulatory agencies while forming policies that put public ownership ahead of private ownership.

“In the end,” says Davidson, who spent a month in Germany studying the Energiewende, “it isn’t about making money. It’s about quality of life.”

Thomas Hedges works for the Center for Responsive Law in Washington, DC

18 November 2012

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17 November 2012

16 November 2012

Final Electoral Map(s)

Reposted from Jobsanger

Florida finally finished counting their votes, and that state also goes to President Obama. The Republicans can call it a close election if they want to (a "squeaker"), but it looks like a good old-fashioned thumping to me!

But while that map shows the winner in each state, the map below is interesting because it shows the percentages in each state. All states are some shade of purple (because neither candidate got 100% of the vote in any state).

15 November 2012

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14 November 2012

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13 November 2012

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12 November 2012

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11 November 2012

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10 November 2012

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09 November 2012

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01 November 2012

Oil-Soaked Saudi Arabia Sets Goal of 100% Renewable Energy Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/oil-soaked-saudi-arabia-sets-goal-of-100-renewable-energy.html#ixzz2AhAMai7x

Saudi Arabia is one of the largest oil-producing countries in the world. Despite the fact that oil has been Saudi Arabia’s cash crop for decades, the country recently admitted that it does not represent the energy source of the future. EcoWatch reports that during last week’s Global Economic Symposium in Rio de Janeiro, Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia said, “I would like to see Saudi Arabia using 100 percent renewable energy within my lifetime.”  (He’s 67, by the way, so we’re talking about years, not decades).

Wow. When the country from which America imports most of its oil announces that it wants an economy based on renewable energy, it should be a wake up call. Too bad the oil and coal industries have paid to stuff our ears full of cotton and handed out pro-fossil fuel propaganda like sleeping pills. We can’t hear the alarm bells that have jarred Saudi Arabia into action.

In fact, Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries in the Middle East are banking on the fact that Americans will maintain their oil addiction up until the very last possible second. “I see renewable energy sources helping to prolong our continued export of crude oil,” Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, told The Wall Street Journal. This means that while his own country begins the shift to renewable energy for its own power needs, it will continue exporting to America and other oil-dependent countries, charging top dollar for ever barrel.

While our politicians scoff at the idea that we should abandon oil, gas and coal for clean energy alternatives, countries in the Middle East are proving that it’s possible — and doesn’t need to happen as gradually as we think. Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia announced that it would invest $109 billion to exploit its abundant solar resources. Mecca, which hosts millions of pilgrims a year visiting Islam’s most holy shrine, hopes to become the first city in Saudi Arabia to operate an entire power plant from renewable energy sources. In fact, Middle Eastern potential for solar energy production is so promising, American companies are investing in it…something they’re reluctant to do here at home.

The lesson here is plain: America is lying to itself. Oil isn’t safer or cheaper. It won’t last forever. Instead of burning through every last bit, oil-rich countries are making the move to renewable energy now. They’re saving those last, excruciatingly expensive barrels for the last chump standing, which is likely to be the U.S. We’re being outpaced by China, Spain, Germany, Norway, and now apparently Saudi Arabia in every aspect of the clean energy game.

As stated in Renewable Energy World, America’s energy “policy hiatus, coming ironically at a time when fully competitive renewable power is starting to be a realistic possibility in a few years’ time, is posing a threat to continued growth in investment in the sector in 2012 and beyond.”

If what our leaders (and Presidential candidates) really want is an energy-independent America, why do they insist we remain tethered to fossil fuel’s sinking ship? Wake up America. And think before you vote

Reposted for original click here

31 October 2012

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30 October 2012


29 October 2012

President Romney?

I am against " big government " & all for " personal responsibility ", but when the storm hit & wiped out everything I had, I called 911 & some union socialist thug answered the phone & I yelled " Help !!!! " I was told that funding had been cut by the GOP & to pick myself up by my boot straps. I told them my boot straps were lost in the storm. I was told President Romney would send in people like Bain Capital to offer cash ( pennies on the dollar ) for my land & give me a payday loan at 6759 % interest to tide me over & that there were charities that would feed me but not which ones.

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28 October 2012

It is that close

27 October 2012


26 October 2012

25 October 2012

24 October 2012

What Problem?

23 October 2012

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