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Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

For over six years, the Keystone XL pipeline has been under a long controversial discussion due to its numerous environmental concerns, including jeopardizing clean water along the pipeline all the way from Canada to Texas. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency has raised even further environmental concerns due to the possible increase of greenhouse gas emissions if the pipeline is built. Plunging oil prices make the alternative of transporting the tar sands oil by rail uneconomical. Building the pipeline would offer a cheaper method of transport and would therefor increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Alberta tar sands operation in 2008 - Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Alberta tar sands operation in 2008. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles’ letter calls for both the Department of State and President Obama’s attention to the EPA’s review of the proposed $7 billion pipeline. Tar sands have significantly greater total greenhouse gas emissions than other crude oils. The emissions equate to 1.3 to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which is “equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 5.7 passenger vehicles or 7.8 coal fired power plants,” according to Giles. “Over a 50-year lifetime of the pipeline, this could translate into releasing as much as 1.37 billion more tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

President Obama has continuously promised citizens that the pipeline’s entire potential climate hazards would be considered during his decision-making for Keystone, further supported in his speech back in 2013 regarding climate change.

Despite Obama’s inferred veto, there is still continued support for the Keystone pipeline. Companies like TransCanada, the energy company trying to build the international pipeline, claims that the drop in global oil prices will soon pass and that there has been a decrease in Canada’s gas emissions, but the company’s other claims, particularly about job creation have proved false.

Despite concerns about the project, the Senate has approved the Keystone Bill to start building the pipeline, further dividing the chamber and highlighting the Senators’ different stances on climate and environmental issues. The Obama administration is currently evaluating the nation’s comments along with the EPA’s review. Because Keystone crosses international borders, President Obama holds the ultimate right to either approve or reject the proposal.

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A study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication on the public perceptions of climate change indicates that the majority of citizens grossly misunderstand the repercussions of climate change and its effects on health. The report shows analysis of results from a national survey conducted in October of 2014 and indicates that most US citizens have given little or no thought to the potential health effects of climate change.

Few Americans are aware of any current health consequences of global warming. When asked ‘In your view, what health problems related to global warming are Americans experiencing, if any?’ a majority either didn’t answer the question (43%) – which likely indicates they didn’t have an answer – or answered that they ‘don’t know’ (14%).  Only one in four (27%) named at least one health problem related to global warming, and 10% answered, incorrectly, that there are no health problems associated with global warming.

The health effects of climate change are very prevalent and encompass a wide range of issues. According to the World Health Organization climate change affects both social and environmental determinants of health, including clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. The WHO predicts that:

Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency also states that weather and climate change play a significant role in people’s health. Warmer temperatures lead to heat waves which lead to most heat-related deaths and play a part in spreading diseases and increasing water and air pollutants. Increased frequency in extreme weather poses immediate and severe threats to people in dangerous areas. The consequences can be life-changing and efforts towards solving the issue are dependent on various factors.

The impacts of climate change on health will depend on many factors. These factors include the effectiveness of a community’s public health and safety systems to address or prepare for the risk and the behavior, age, gender, and economic status of individuals affected. Impacts will likely vary by region, the sensitivity of populations, the extent and length of exposure to climate change impacts, and society’s ability to adapt to change.

A variety of factors can increase the vulnerability of a specific demographic group to health effects due to climate change. Graphic from from US National Climate Assessment

A variety of factors can increase the vulnerability of a specific demographic group to health effects due to climate change.
Graphic from from US National Climate Assessment

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The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released a report yesterday titled “ERCOT Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan” regarding the costs, benefits, and concerns of Texas’ compliance with Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan, put forth by the EPA on June 2, 2014, would set new national carbon pollution standards, in an effort to combat the effects of climate change and air pollution. ERCOT, which operates the electric grid of Texas and manages the deregulated market for 75 percent of the state, concluded that there are reliability concerns and high costs associated with the changes necessary for the electric grid infrastructure and the shift to alternative low-carbon energy sources.

Environmental advocacy organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, and Public Citizen have begun commenting on this report, which they claim overstates the costs of compliance while understating the benefits of solar and energy efficiency. Not only does ERCOT’s report fail to take into account the affordability of solar energy and energy efficiency, it also neglects the steps that electric utility companies have already taken towards clean energy. Various electric utilities in Texas have been retiring inefficient coal plants and gas units in favor of adopting solar and wind energy projects. ERCOT’s own monthly interconnection report shows that more than 30,000 MW of solar and wind projects are in development stages. Texas’ energy storage and demand response capacities are also missing in the report. These two resources provide real-time reactive power when there is turbulence in wind and solar inputs, which would maintain a reliable power grid as Texas transitions to renewable energies.

The Clean Power Plan is a crucial step in reducing climate pollution and our dependency on dirty coal and other fossil fuels. The benefits of clean and affordable energy in Texas cannot be overstated. ERCOT should take the time to reevaluate the role of renewable energies in Texas’ future.

Download our presentation on our view of the plan here update New ERCOT Cost Estimates 

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The Texas Board of Education is scheduled to meet from November 18-21, 2014 to vote on the approval of the textbooks proposed by publishers for Texas schools. These Texas textbooks have drawn national criticism for providing blatantly incorrect information about climate change and environmental issues. This isn’t a first for the Texas Board of Education, which has come into the national spotlight multiple times in the past due to internal disagreements about creationism and the causes of the civil war, among others.

National Center for Science EducationThe National Center for Science Education (NCSE), in response to the proposed textbooks, released a report in September titled, “Analysis of Climate Change in Proposed Social Studies Textbooks for Texas Public Schools”.  In this report they cite multiple instances where the textbooks were misleading or blatantly false in regards to climate change.

Several of the textbooks say that “scientists disagree on what is causing climate change”.  The NCSE responds that, “Scientists  do  not  disagree  about  what  is  causing  climate  change,  the  vast  majority  (97% of  climate  papers  and  actively  publishing  climatologists  (again 97%) agree that  human activity  is responsible.”

In one instance the position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that climate change is due to human activities is contrasted with the opposing opinion of two employees of The Heartland Institute, neither of whom are scientists, who claim that scientists disagree on the cause.  The Heartland Institute is a conservative think tank that denies climate change, is funded in part by the Koch brothers, and is considered a shill for the oil industries.

The IPCC is a highly regarded international science organization that won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.  The IPCC recently released a comprehensive report linking climate change to greenhouse gas emissions, saying that it is “extremely likely” that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and other anthropogenic drivers are the dominant cause of the observed warming.

Besides environmental issues, the proposed social studies curricula are also regarded by some critics as promoting tea party ideology, downplaying segregation, and mocking affirmative action.  The chairwoman of the History department at the University of Texas at Austin, Jacqueline Jones, focused on the historical inaccuracies of the proposed textbooks, citing “omissions of facts” and saying that they revealed “ideological biases that are either outside the boundaries of established, mainstream scholarship, or just plain wrong.”

A spokesperson for the textbook company, McGraw-Hill Publishing, said that they were simply fulfilling the state education requirements.  The errors stem from curriculum standards set in 2010, meaning that they’re unlikely to be corrected.  But we should expect more from our Board of Education.

justeducate.ffinalFellow Texans, please contact your respective Board of Education member and ask them not to teach Texas children misinformation on climate change, as well as the many other inaccuracies in other issue areas.  To get involved, the Texas Freedom Network has a campaign to reform the State Board of Education.

 

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Amid big losses for the more progressive candidates on the Texas statewide ballot, Denton residents voted to ban fracking within city limits.  This is the first fracking ban in Texas.  The ballot language was:

SHALL AN ORDINANCE BE ENACTED PROHIBITING, WITHIN THE CORPORATE LIMITS OF THE CITY OF DENTON, TEXAS, HYDRAULIC FRACTURING, A WELL STIMULATION PROCESS INVOLVING THE USE OF WATER, SAND AND/OR CHEMICAL ADDITIVES PUMPED UNDER HIGH PRESSURE TO FRACTURE SUBSURFACE NON-POROUS ROCK FORMATIONS SUCH AS SHALE TO IMPROVE THE FLOW OF NATURAL GAS, OIL, OR OTHER HYDROCARBONS INTO THE WELL, WITH SUBSEQUENT HIGH RATE, EXTENDED FLOWBACK TO EXPEL FRACTURE FLUIDS AND SOLIDS?

Frack Free DentonClearly, the people of Denton were convinced that this is the best way to protect their health, safety and quality of life.  The science strongly supports this view.  The environmental and health impacts of fracking are numerous, severe and some are long lasting.  Releases of toxic pollutants into the air are making people sick in the short term and causing long-term health impactsWater pollution from fracking operations poses health risks and hardship on people whose water supply is destroyed.  Billions of gallons of water are removed from the hydrological cycle when Texas is already struggling to meet its water needs.  Ejection wells in some areas are causing earthquakes.  On top of all that, methane leakage from fracking, natural gas processing, and transportation of natural gas is contributing to climate change.

There will be legal challenges to the Denton fracking ban, and possibly legislative action to try to roll it back.  That’s where the rest of us who care about protecting human health and the environment come in.  We can’t leave Denton residents to fight alone.  This is not a problem that is unique to them, and it’s one that we all contribute to by using natural gas.  Our individual and community decisions are impacting real people in serious ways.  Natural gas is not a clean or harmless energy choice.  Its use should be minimized as much as possible.  That includes moving away from natural gas-fired power plants, not building more of them.

Even if Denton’s fracking ban stands up to legal challenges and avoids legislative destruction, many communities in Texas will continue to suffer the impacts of fracking.  Denton has the benefit of being an urban area with a significant student population.  The Eagle Ford area, on the other hand, is largely rural and less affluent and residents find themselves powerless against the rampant fracking around them.  The community advocates who worked to pass the fracking ban in Denton deserve an incredible amount of credit for their work, as do Denton residents for making the smart decision to protect themselves.  Now we must not forget about those left on the front lines of fracking who are less able to organize to protect their health, their land, our shared water resources, and the climate.  We need a Sharon Wilson for every fracked community.

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satellite-image-of-the-methane-hotspot_1_NASA and University of Michigan scientists have discovered a massive cloud of methane that spans 2500 square miles (about the size of Delaware) located above the the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

The atmospheric methane concentration of methane in that area is equivalent to 1.3 million pounds of emissions a year, which is 80% higher than EPA estimates.  This is the largest concentration of methane in the United States.  It was so large in fact that scientists “weren’t sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error,” but they recently verified the levels of methane in the affected area.

Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor attributed the dramatic methane emissions to leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin.  The San Juan Basin is the most active coalbed methane production area in the US.  The coalbed methane covers the pores and cracks in coal.  As this methane seeps out from underground coal mines, it causes fatal explosions almost yearly.

While the methane concentrations in that area are not an immediate health risk to the local inhabitants, it has significant implications for climate change.  As a greenhouse gas, methane is 86 times more potent in its atmospheric effect than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after release.  25% of human-induced global warming is caused by methane emissions in the environment.

As the U.S. considers transitioning from coal to natural gas as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is critical that accurate assessments of leaking methane are accounted for in all calculations.  If leakage of natural gas isn’t greatly reduced, switching fuels may make little or no difference in combating climate change.  This methane hot spot should serve as a warning that other undiscovered leaks are probably out there and having a significant impact.

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China Heat Wave- US China Daily Australia experienced record-breaking temperatures and many other countries are experiencing uncharacteristically intense heat waves. Whether or not these events are related to climate change has been questioned in the past, but has recently come to light as something that is very probable.

Recently, researchers and scientists come up with the phrase “extreme event attribution” which acts as a unit of measure for the extent to which these weather events are human-caused. For instance, according to extreme event attribution, the heat wave in Korea was 10 times more likely due to human caused climate change. Scientists want extreme event attribution to be in real-time by the end of 2015.

The American Meteorological Society recently released a bulletin based off of 22 case studies. It concluded saying that high temperatures made heat waves more intense and more likely and that the emission of greenhouse gases is causing these extreme weather events. Recent heatwaves in Australia, Korea, Japan, China, and Western Europe are all judged to be due to climate change. The National Climate Assessment also made a connection between climate change and the drought in Australia.

The impact of climate change seems clear, with China experiencing its biggest heat wave in 140 years August of 2013, during which at least 40 people died. Health effects of heat waves range from heat strokes to aggravated chronic diseases. The heat also increases ground-level ozone levels, causing lung injury and increasing the severity of respiratory diseases.
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2014-09-29 Austin Mayoral Candiate Forum on AE Issues - YouTubeOn Monday, we concluded our series of Austin City Council and mayoral candidate forums.  Over the course of two and a half weeks, we heard a variety of views on Austin Energy issues from an astounding 54 candidates.  On top of that, 49 candidates submitted responses to our questionnaire on Austin Energy issues.

Many of our Austin supporters joined us in person for the forums, but for those of you who weren’t able to make it out to your district forum or the mayoral forum, we have posted all of the videos on a special Austin Elections page of our blog. Or you can view them directly on the Public Citizen’s Texas Office YouTube channel.

If you care about climate change, shutting down polluting power plants, expanding the use of solar energy, energy efficiency, preserving our water, or keeping electric bills affordable for low-income customers, you’ll want to check out the Austin Council candidate forum videos for your district and the mayoral race.  Get the information you need to make an educated vote on November 4.

Public Citizen didn’t host these forums on our own.  We were joined in this effort by the SEED Coalition (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development), Sierra Club, Solar Austin, Texas ROSE (Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy), Clean Water Action, Austin Climate Action Network, Texas Drought Project, First Unitarian Universalist Green Sanctuary Ministry, and the Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church.  Many thanks to everyone who helped with the forums, especially former Austin Mayor Will Wynn for moderating the mayoral forum, Progress Texas deputy director Phillip Martin for moderating the districts 6 and 10 forum, and Treehouse for donating their space for the districts 5 & 8 forum.

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Wildlife Decline Graph - from The GuardianResearch published in a new report by the World Wildlife Foundation and the Zoological Society of London found that the population of wild animals on Earth is now half of what it was in 1970. Freshwater species have seen an even more dramatic decline of 75%.

The researchers concluded that the decline in wildlife populations is due to human activity: unsustainable hunting, pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change.

Though climate change in this report accounts for 7% of the loss of wildlife in the past 40 years, climate change’s impact on the Earth’s ecosystem is expected to dramatically increase.  Some experts estimate that a-fourth of the Earth’s species could be extinct by 2050 due to the effects of climate change.

Climate change will also have negative impacts on humans.  Global temperatures are projected to rise 4 degrees by 2100.  In the hotter months of the year we can expect exposure to temperatures above 38 degrees Celcius (100ºF) on a common basis, which can cause organ damage and death.  Crops and livestock will struggle with the rising temperatures and water shortages.  Humanity’s staple crops, corn, rice, wheat and soybeans have a temperature limit of 40 to 45 degrees Celcius (104ºF to 113ºF), “with temperature thresholds for key sowing stages near or below 35 ºC (95ºF).”

The current human consumption of natural resources is unsustainable.  Climate change exacerbated by human activities at this rate is detrimental to both wildlife and the human species.  At this rate, we can expect to see the collapse of ecosystems on which we depend for our survival.   The scientists behind these various reports hope that these statistics and projects will serve as a wake-up call to ramp up conservation efforts and mitigate the effects of climate change and our exploitation of the environment and its resources.

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Renewable RoundupThe Renewable Energy Roundup & Sustainable Living Expo is a full 3 day event on September 26th, 27th, & 28th at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, TX.

Booths will feature products and information on:
• Renewable energy resources; solar, wind, biomass and other resources and services – The Public Citizen booth will offer information on solar energy.
• Smart Grid solutions available to homeowners now
• Green Building and remodeling
• Sustainable transportation solutions
• Tips for improving health and well-being
• Insights on organic gardening and cooking, tree care and soil care
• Climate Change innovation
• Texas water conservation and drought solutions
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The Climate Reality ProjectClimate Reality Project - Be the Voice of Your Generation is dedicated creating a healthy and sustainable future by making a global shift from fossil fuels to renewable energies. This year, they’ve decided to give a voice to the generation that will be most impacted by climate change by hosting a video contest and rewarding the winner a trip to the U.N. Climate Summit in New York on September 23 as a representative of the Climate Reality Project.

The U.N. Climate Summit is a day-long event that will feature some of the world’s leaders discussing environmental issues and solutions. Serving as a public platform for all UN Member states, finance, business, and civil society leaders from public and private sectors, the event will be educational and progressive as leaders from around the world work together to address the climate issues.

To participate, contestants must post a video to YouTube or Instagram asking “Why? Why not?” about a climate issue (Ex: Why are we still burning fossil fuels? Why not switch to clean renewable energy and protect our future?) and talk about the issue in under one minute. Six winners will be chosen and flown to New York to watch their video get played to the leaders of the world at the U.N. Climate Summit opening ceremony.

The project is global and winners will be selected based on their passion and the relevance of the issue. Contestants must be between the ages of 13 and 21 to participate.

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As Austin prepares to enter a new phase under 10-1 governance (10 Council members to represent geographic districts and 1 at-large mayor), many voters may find themselves overwhelmed with the large number of candidates to chose from.  A whopping 78 candidates filed to run for City Council this year.  District 3 alone has 12 candidates.

2014-08-21 Austin City Council and Mayoral Candidate Forums on Austin Energy - image for blogSo how do you, as a voter, choose between so many options?  We aren’t going to tell you who to vote for, but we are helping you get some of the information that you might want when making that important choice.  Along with some of our local allies, we are hosting a series of candidate forums focused on Austin Energy issues that are free and open to the public.

  • Districts 6 & 10: September 12, 6 – 9 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 8001 Mesa Dr, Austin, TX 78731
  • Districts 2 & 3: September 19, 6 – 9 p.m., Austin JATC Electrical Training Center, 4000 Caven Rd, Austin, TX 78744
  • Districts 1 & 7: September 20, 12:30 – 3:30 p.m., Northwest Recreation Center, 2913 Northland Dr, Austin, TX 78757
  • Districts 4 & 9: September 22, 6 – 9 p.m., First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Ave, Austin, TX 78756
  • Districts 5 & 8: September 23, 6 – 9 p.m., Treehouse, 4477 S. Lamar Blvd, #600, Austin, TX 78745
  • Mayoral: September 29, 7 – 10 p.m., First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Ave, Austin, TX 78756

If you don’t know which district you are in, you can look it up. Type in only your street address. For example, if you live at 1234 Barton Springs Rd, Apt 44, type in only “1234 Barton Springs Rd.”

While there are many important issues facing Austin, we believe that governance of Austin Energy will remain one of the single most important responsibilities for any City Council member.  Valued at $3.8 billion, Austin Energy is the City’s most valuable asset.  In addition to providing power for the city, its residents and businesses, Austin Energy revenue to supports city operations such as parks, infrastructure, EMS, firefighters and libraries.

Candidates will be asked to respond to a series of questions relating to Austin Energy, including questions on climate change, energy sources, affordability and governance of the utility.  The public is invited to attend to learn more about the candidates.

Let us know that you’ll be at one or more of the forums.

Participating organizations are: Public Citizen, SEED Coalition (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development), Sierra Club, Solar Austin, Texas ROSE (Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy), Clean Water Action, Austin Climate Action Network, Texas Drought Project, First Unitarian Universalist Green Sanctuary Ministry, Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church

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City sets ambitious solar goal, path to zero carbon pollution from Austin Energy by 2030

Some of the Affordable Energy Resolution community supporters celebrate with Councilman Chris Riley, who was the lead sponsor of the resolution.  Photo by Al Braden.

Some of the Affordable Energy Resolution community supporters celebrate with Councilman Chris Riley, who was the lead sponsor of the resolution. Photo by Al Braden.

A diverse coalition of groups representing workers, people of faith, low-income residents, clean energy supporters and environmental advocates united in their of goal of expanding affordable clean energy and protections to public health cheered the Austin City Council for adopting the Affordable Energy Resolution late Thursday evening.

The resolution comes after years of community-led work to study Austin Energy’s portfolio and generation plan, identify opportunities to strengthen the municipal utility’s clean energy and climate commitments while meeting the needs of low-income communities and after community members demonstrated strong demand for more affordable clean energy and less pollution on a reasonable but aggressive timeline.

The Affordable Energy Plan calls for Austin Energy to generate more than 60 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025 and eliminate carbon pollution from its generator fleet by 2030. It directs the utility phase out the Decker gas-fired power plant by investing in 600 megawatts of solar power, enough to power more than 100,000 homes.

“Solar is now cheaper than building a new natural gas plant. Our analysis shows that 600 megawatts of solar will save Austin Energy between $12 and $33 million per year,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group. “We’re grateful for the strong leadership shown by Council Members Chris Riley, Mike Martinez, Kathie Tovo, Laura Morrison and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole.”

The landmark resolution also takes significant steps to expand local solar power.  It doubles Austin’s local solar goal to 200 megawatts, with half of that goal reserved for distributed residential and commercial solar projects. And the resolution expands access to rooftop solar projects by including solar leasing as an option for residents and businesses and by refining Austin Energy’s innovative value of solar tariff.

“Local solar creates local jobs.  The Austin solar industry already employs more than 800 people and many of those jobs are in solar installation and can’t be outsourced,” said Kaiba White of Solar Austin.  “Money spent on local solar goes back into our local economy.  Allowing people from all walks of life to benefit from solar is a win-win for Austin.”

A separate resolution was also passed to establish a task force to make recommendations on expanding the utility’s energy savings goal and ensuring that energy efficiency services are provided to people of all income levels. Energy efficiency is the most easily deployed, lowest-cost option for meeting energy needs and will be a critical component of meeting climate goals for the utility.

The City of Austin has long been a leader in Texas and nationally. The City announced its plans to power all city buildings and operations with Texas wind power in 2012, and earlier in 2014 Austin Energy announced a new solar power project at the lowest cost in U.S. history. In June 2014, the Austin City Council became first elected body in the nation to endorse the goals of the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to curb carbon pollution that drives climate disruption.

“The impacts of a rapidly changing climate are clear in Central Texas and as a progressive community we have a moral obligation to lead in reducing our carbon footprint while providing clean, affordable electricity to our people, businesses and churches,” said Reverend John Elford with the University United Methodist Church of Austin. “This resolution sets us on a path to meet both those needs.”

The Decker natural gas-fired power plant is a major contributor to smog pollution in Travis County. Replacing the plant with clean solar power will cut smog and improve air quality for the more than one million residents in the county, protecting children, seniors and people suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“In its opposition to this resolution, Austin Energy continued the tradition of marginalizing the communities near Decker by citing money as a primary concern at the expense public health. By passing this resolution, City Council members have finally recognized that every Austinite should have the right to clean air. That this is an issue of justice and that it is an issue of equality,” said Mayte Salazar-Ordonez, a volunteer leader with Austin Beyond Coal.

As Austin Energy develops its plan to meet the goals of the Affordable Energy Resolution, building new gas- or coal-fired power plants will not be an option, representing an opportunity to move beyond traditional power plants and further tap Texas’s renewable energy potential.

The coalition will now look to secure timely retirement of the Fayette coal-fired power plant to meet the city’s carbon pollution elimination goal as well as to cut the soot, smog and mercury pollution coming from the plant that impacts local communities, farms and waterways. Nationwide, 178 coal-fired power plants have been announced for retirement as clean energy solutions like wind, solar and energy efficiency have cut air pollution, lowered costs for consumers and created jobs.

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World Cup 2014 BrasilThe FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil has so far been the biggest and most expensive tournament in soccer history. With ticket sales almost reaching full capacity and an estimate of over 500,000 visitors from around the world, the economic impact of this year’s World Cup has reached an all-time high. However, keeping this incredible event eco-friendly has been a daunting task with large amounts of pressure from environmental protection agencies around the world.

World Cup 2014 Eco Stadium

World Cup 2014 Eco Stadium

This year’s World Cup has exceeded CO2 emissions of the last World Cup in South Africa by over 1 million tons of CO2 with a total of 2.7 million tons. According to a study done by FIFA, and estimated 60% of the CO2 emissions are produced by transportation of personnel, equipment, teams, and fans coming from all over the world. Measures have been made to help prevent and offset the environmental impact such as building stadiums that run on solar power, rainwater collection facilities, and a large recycling program, but with any event on a scale and this grand is always a large environmental toll.

World Cup 2014 - I Take Care of My DestinationUNEP and Brazil’s Ministries of Environment, Sports, Tourism, and Social Development have teamed up to create and promote Green Passport Tours which promotes sustainable tourism specifically for World Cup 2014. FIFA’s head of corporate social responsibility, Federico Addiechi, pledges to offset 100% of the 2.7 million tons of CO2 emissions starting next summer with programs in reforestation and investment in wind energy and hydroelectric power.

Even with the changes that have been made to create a more sustainable World Cup, significant environmental improvements need to be made when hosting an event like the Olympics or World Cup; which emissions can equate to having 560,000 cars on the road for a year or the burning of 1.46 million tons of coal. Aside from emissions, the materials that were needed to improve Brazil’s infrastructure, build the stadiums and other buildings, power all telecommunications and TVs around the world, which has reached up to 3.2 billion viewers according to Bloomberg, also added to the degradation of the environment. With over $4 billion in untaxed revenue FIFA received for this World Cup alone, more time and money should be allocated towards the sustainability of our environment.

Environmental improvements for future World Cups have great potential if more leadership and requirements from FIFA were to be made. With hosting the World Cup being highly desirable for countries around the world, requiring more and stricter environmental standards for the host country would drastically improve environmental quality for these events. FIFA holds great power with its sponsors and host country and has the ability to use that leverage with changes such as requiring an amount of funding specifically for environmental health, eco architectural standards for all new stadiums, positioning all new stadiums to be near public transportation for less vehicle carbon emissions, or requiring an environmental advisor to assist the planning process for stadiums, hospitality and transportation.

All of these changes have the potential of making a large positive impact on the environment along with creating more awareness to the importance of sustainability. With great the support of FIFA, the World Cup could become an event not just for the love of soccer, but for new sustainable ideas that could be showcased to the world.

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Texas Leads Nation in Generation of Wind Power, Lags in Solar Power

PC Earthday Texas AnnouncementAs Earth Day approaches, Texas environmental groups are urging state leaders to jump at a rare chance to lead the nation in using renewable energy technologies that U.N. climate scientists say are increasingly inexpensive antidotes to climate change.

“Even Citigroup is climbing on the renewables bandwagon,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “The company says that the ‘Age of Renewables’ is upon us.”

Smith quoted a recent Citigroup analysis, which said that solar, wind and other renewable energy sources are becoming cost-competitive as gas prices remain high and volatile. The report also predicted that renewables will continue to gain market share from nuclear and coal power.

Study after study has shown there is serious methane leakage during the process of drilling, fracking and processing natural gas and oil,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club. “Methane emissions are cooking our climate, and they are a public health threat. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Railroad Commission and ultimately the Legislature need to step up and adopt tough regulations, inspections and enforcement to prevent methane emissions.”

Last week, the International Panel on Climate Change, the U.N. panel of hundreds of climate scientists, issued its fifth and most dire report, warning that greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than ever. The report said that only concerted action to bring down emissions in the next 15 years will keep global warming to the level the international community has agreed to – an average 3.6 degrees above preindustrial temperatures.

But it also said renewable energy is an increasingly feasible and affordable alternative to fossil fuel-generated power, the culprit in rising greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy technologies have shown “substantial improvements,” “cost reductions” and the ability to be deployed “at significant scale,” according to the report. They also have “accounted for just over half of the new electricity generating capacity added globally in 2012, led by growth in wind, hydro and solar power.”

“Texas gets more power from wind than any other state in the nation,” Smith said. “Our climate makes solar power ideal. We need to take advantage of our natural ability to lead the nation in reducing the severity of the coming crisis.”

Texas’s wind farms already have generated as much as 38 percent of the electrical power on the ERCOT grid, according to a recent media report. That reflects the highest power output by wind turbines in the country.

Although Texas is rich in solar resources, it lags behind other states in solar-generated power, in part because the state legislature has not supplied the kind of incentives provided to the fossil fuel industry. Texas ranks 13th in the nation for the amount of power generated by solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (http://www.seia.org/state-solar-policy/texas).

Austin Energy, though, just agreed to what the Austin-American Statesman described as one of the largest solar projects in the world, which will more than double the solar capacity in Austin. The article pointed out that Austin Energy’s contract with Sun Edison is inexpensive – about 4.8 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity coming from two West Texas sites.

Texas is the No. 1 contributor of greenhouse gases in the nation. Texas emitted nearly 450 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, according to the most recent EPA statistics. The next highest contributor, Indiana, generated about 150 million metric tons in 2012. Earlier this year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry also proposed that Texas agree to take high-level radioactive waste from the Los Alamos national Laboratory in New Mexico.

“Gov. Perry’s proposal means a high level of risk for the state and its taxpayers,” said Karen Hadden, executive director of the Austin-based SEED Coalition. “Short-term exposure to waste can cause death, cancer, or birth defects. Almost every other state that has looked at this kind of proposal has said it is too risky and turned it away at the border.”

Smith added, “Texas faces both calamity and great possibility. More than most states, Texas is looking at catastrophic impacts from climate change. We’re already experiencing historic drought that has wreaked havoc on communities, businesses and the economy. But more than most states, we’re also in a position to reverse our reliance on the energy sources that cause climate change.”

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