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Published: Tue, 20 Feb 2018 06:11:15 +0000

Last Build Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2018 06:11:15 +0000

Copyright: Copyright 2005 - Steal what you want

The administration is trying to eliminate heating assistance for the poor — again

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 22:57:31 +0000

The Trump administration is trying to eliminate a heating assistance program that helps the poor stay warm during the winter months, according to the Associated Press. Their second attempt.

The administration is using the same arguments from a year ago when it tried to abolish the program, saying it’s rife with fraud and that no one would be left freezing if the program goes away.

“These arguments are very misleading and wrong,” said Mark Wolfe, director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association in Washington, D.C.

The program, known as LIHEAP — Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program — helps families pay their heating bills primarily in the form of a grant that’s sent directly to utility companies or heating fuel vendors.

Last time Trump tried to get rid of LIHEAP, Congress wasn’t having it. Forty-five senators appealed to the President and asked to keep funding for the program. He originally wanted to eliminate 90% of its funding. The program helps 6 million households across the country.

This move is particularly cruel considering how climate change is creating more extreme temperatures in the United States, which can mean longer, colder winters and longer, hotter summers. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is a life-saving program. 

It’s just another battle in the GOP war against the poor.

Judge forces Perry to enforce energy efficiency standards, but Energy Star is probably dead

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 17:51:28 +0000

There are things Donald Trump has done that seem petty and vindictive, then there are some that go beyond petty. They’re petty-plus. Super-spiteful and at the same time, deeply, deeply picayune. Things like killing the Energy-Star program

Trump’s budget would get rid of Energy Star. The government labeling program for energy-efficient appliances and consumer products is on the chopping block as the president tries to slash spending so he can steer $54 billion more a year to the military.

It’s not that the Energy-Star program isn’t important—it has saved American consumers over $430 billion in electrical expenses, while cutting back on the pollution that energy would use. But it’s not really the program costs that Trump is after. The whole Energy Star program operates on less than $50 million a year, making it a terrific national investment. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s been emulated by many other countries.

Energy Star is on the chopping block for two reasons: First, the idea of saving energy, whether it’s with hybrid cars or LED bulbs, offends the rolling-coal conservatives who view an erg not turned into smoke as an erg wasted. And second because Trump has a personal stake in this game.

Energy Star is best known for labels that tell you how much you'll pay on your utility bill if you buy a new refrigerator or television. But it also has ratings for hotels, condominiums and office buildings.

Trump's properties tend to receive low Energy Star ratings. … On a scale of 1 to 100 for energy efficiency, Manhattan's old Mayfair Hotel, which Trump converted into condos, rated a 1.

Another day, another conflict of interest. What’s giving up insight into product efficiency if it helps Trump sell a condo? But even if Trump is turning off the lights on Energy Star, not every efficiency rating will die, because a federal judge was willing to slap down Trump’s actions.

Clean Air On The Way As Nation’s Largest Polluter Ceases Operation

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 21:37:08 +0000

This is big news that will literally save lives - in a major clean air and water victory for Dallas-area residents and the nation, today the massive Big Brown Coal plant ceased operations. Big Brown is the nation’s single largest source of the deadly sulfur dioxide pollution that’s linked to asthma, heart attacks, and other severe health problems - not just the biggest coal plant source, but the biggest source, period. For Texas families and downwind communities as far afield as Illinois and Michigan, pollution from the plant is a matter of life and death. “Any parent with an asthmatic child from Dallas to Denton knows that smog and our dangerous air quality has been a problem for decades,” said Misti O’Quinn, a Beyond Coal organizer with the Sierra Club in Dallas. The problem extends far beyond Texas. Big Brown is also one of the nation’s top sources of mercury pollution, a potent neurotoxin that affects babies in utero and can lead to lifelong developmental delays, like lowered IQ. The retirement of Luminant’s Big Brown coal plant will save an estimated 163 lives every year, prevent nearly 6,000 asthma attacks, prevent tens of thousands of lost work and school days, and save $1.6 billion in in annual public health costs, according to analysis conducted with EPA-approved air modeling This Texas-sized victory could not have happened without the amazing work of tireless activists in the area. Moms and dads, health professionals, faith groups, community groups (like the amazing Breath is Lyfe), environmental organizations, business owners, students, and more have collaborated for years against this major polluter via rallies, public hearings, letter-writing, and lawsuits. Sierra Club and allies and partners were active over the years pushing for reductions in ozone-causing NOx pollution that elevated smog levels in Dallas-Fort Worth, and using lawsuits and regulations to try and cut back emissions of sulfur dioxide pollution that caused both public health problems as well as clouded the skies in iconic national parks like Big Bend in far west Texas. “Luminant’s phase out of some of its dirtiest coal plants has been a long time coming, and it wouldn’t have been possible without local leadership, legal battles, and community organizing,” said Cherelle Blazer, a long time organizer with the Sierra Club in Dallas. Luminant announced in late 2017 that it would phase out its Big Brown coal plant along with its Sandow and Monticello power plants. Operations already ceased at the Sandow and Monticello coal plants in January of this year. In 2016, these three Luminant coal plants together emitted a total of 166 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, 24 million pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 21 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution! These retirements continue a long term trend: Despite President Trump promising the resurgence of coal, since he was elected coal plants have been retiring at about the same rate as during the Obama years, approximately one every 19 days. In fact, more coal plants have retired in the first six weeks of 2018 than in four of the eight Obama years. Moreover, year-to-date coal production at U.S. mines is down around 8% compared to coal mining by this point one year ago. Aging coal plants are increasingly obsolete and uneconomic, both across the nation and locally in Texas. Clean energy and climate action are leading the way. In Texas, wind energy reached a crucial milestone at the end of 2017 when it surpassed coal to become the second-largest electricity source in Texas. Cities like Austin and San Antonio are drafting climate action plans and expanding community solar programs to increase access to low-cost clean energy. That progress can’t happen fast enough. Despite clean energy’s rapid growth in Texas and the profound change in how Texas is powered, companies like Luminant, Dynegy, and NRG and communities like San Antonio and Austin are still collectively burning more coal in Texas than in any other state in th[...]

The Coal War in the West: Wyoming legislature considers suing Washington to force them to take coal

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 05:03:36 +0000

For two decades, coal companies with operations in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana have been looking for a way to ship their coal across the Pacific. There are existing ports that could handle some coal, but nothing that could handle the millions of tons that the companies hope to ship to steam plants across Asia. Volume was an important factor, because Powder River coal is relatively low-BTU low-price coal. Making a new port designed to handle coal worth it means making something that can handle, at least, tens of millions of tons per year. But that sheer scale—a new port, tens of millions of tons of coal being shipped through by rail, handling of that coal on the ground, etc.—has led coastal states to turn down every proposal. In many cases, these projects have been strongly opposed not just by activists, but by local residents who don’t want to turn their town into the gateway for Wyoming coal. 

But at the other end if the rail line is Wyoming, a state that’s structured their finances around the fees that come in from fossil fuels. With hundreds of millions of tons of coal rolling out of the Powder River Basin, and a hefty tax on every ton, Wyoming residents have enjoyed top flight schools and facilities, while having no state income tax. The state has even socked away billions in savings. But the rise of cheap natural gas from fracking, and the rapidly falling prices for solar and wind has resulted in a sharp decline in demand for steam coal in the United States. That’s left Wyoming in a pickle. 

What to do about a looming, $684 million budget deficit will be the top priority as Wyoming lawmakers begin their annual legislative session Monday, but major changes to taxes or spending don't appear imminent.

Instead, tax-phobic Wyoming residents are facing some severe spending cuts. But rather than face the idea of implementing new taxes or getting by with less, Wyoming legislators have another idea.

A Republican lawmaker wants Wyoming to sue Washington State for denying a coal port that could carry Powder River Basin coal overseas – and set aside a quarter of a million dollars to do it. 

Trump can’t turn on the lights for Puerto Rico, but helping coal baron Bob Murray is an 'emergency'

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 19:37:44 +0000

Donald Trump doesn’t know where to find the money for his infrastructure program. He doesn’t have a clue about how to fund his budget. But he has a very good idea of where to get the dollars to save his friend, the coal baron

After failing to win a bailout for cash-strapped coal plants, some Trump administration officials are considering emergency orders that could keep at least some coal generators online, people familiar with the discussions said.

Campaign Action

To make this work, Trump would have Rick Perry dip into Section 202 of the Federal Power Act. It would seem to be a fairly restricted authority which allows the secretary of Energy to step in during emergencies to authorize power companies to operate plants that might otherwise be closed. It’s been used in the past to bring on line plants after floods and hurricanes, to reroute power during widespread system failures, and to address manipulation of the market in California that was causing rolling blackouts. But 202 doesn’t just allow Perry to order a plant back on that might otherwise be off. It allows the DOE to pay companies for following the order.

… may prescribe by supplemental order such terms as it finds to be just and reasonable, including the compensation or reimbursement which should be paid to or by any such party.

So in an emergency, the government can act to keep the lights on, and can reward companies for cooperating. Which seems like a good idea. But in this case, it’s a different kind of emergency.

Coal mogul Bob Murray, an outspoken advocate for the bailout plan and a Trump supporter, had previously called on Perry to use his emergency authority to save the FirstEnergy Solutions plants but was shot down. He’s warned that his company, which supplies some of the units, may face default if they shut.

Trump can’t turn on the lights for Puerto Rico, but he’s not about to let them go off for Bob Murray.

The Best Speech by a Politician on the Future of the Grid I've Ever Read

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 00:56:57 +0000

Jeremy Corbyn really understands what the future of the grid needs to be in an age of anthropogenic climate change.

A green energy system will look radically different to the one we have today. The past is a centralised system with a few large plants. The future is decentralised, flexible and diverse with new sources of energy large and small, from tidal to solar.

Smart technologies will optimise usage so that instead of keeping gas plants running just in case there is a lull in renewable generation the system fulfils needs by identifying the greenest, most local energy source.

There will be much more use of local, micro grids and of batteries to store and balance fluctuating renewable energy.

We will still need a grid to match energy supply with demand and import and export renewable energy abroad because the wind won’t always blow where energy is needed.

But it will be a smart grid, radically transformed.


What he is suggesting is not only practical now but also more reliable and more affordable than our present grid, according to the studies I’ve seen.  

Company fails to unload its coal-burner's costs and financial risks onto West Virginia ratepayers

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 21:07:09 +0000

A vigorous grassroots campaign has led to surrender and retreat in an Ohio-based energy company’s attempt to transfer the costs of its struggling coal-burning power plant onto West Virginia ratepayers. 

Like many of the nation’s coal operators, FirstEnergy Corp., a backer of Pr*sident Trump’s pro-coal agenda, has been having financial difficulties as a consequence of the lower costs of electricity-generated by natural gas, solar, and wind. 

One of those plants, Pleasants power station in Willow Island,West Virginia, is owned by FirstEnergy’s unregulated subsidiary Allegheny Energy Supply. FirstEnergy wanted to transfer it to Monongahela Power (Mon Power) and Potomac Edison, the company’s regulated utilities. This would place all the plant’s costs and financial risks on West Virginia ratepayers and guarantee the company a revenue stream from the plant’s operations. It would, in effect, amount to a subsidy from ratepayers. Energy consultants and environmental advocates put the long-term extra cost to customers at $470 million over 15 years. That would average about $69 a year for each customer.

But in a Monday letter to the state’s utility-regulating Public Service Commission, Mon Power and Potomac Edison said they would no longer seek the transfer.

The first blow came last month when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nixed the transfer. West Virginia’s Consumer Advocate Division had asked FERC to reject the deal, arguing that it was being sought so FirstEnergy “could avoid a further write off of its investment in an aging coal plant that is no longer economic in wholesale markets” and stick customers with the bill.

The second blow came as a result of the efforts of some 2,500 people, businesses, cities, and activists who passed municipal resolutions, filed protest letters, and attended three jam-packed public hearings. A coalition called the West Virginians For Energy Freedom fought the proposal from the get-go. 

The PSC responded by okaying the transfer, but it placed conditions on it shielding customers from legal and financial risks. Those conditions were too much for the company to accept, hence this week’s letter saying the transfer was off.

Emmett Pepper, executive director of Energy Efficient West Virginia, said:

“This is a major win for the 530,000 Mon Power and Potomac Edison consumers in West Virginia. This deal was bad from the beginning and the extensive evidence presented at the PSC proceeding made clear that the proposed transfer would benefit FirstEnergy and hurt West Virginians struggling to survive in today’s economy.”

Eighth annual survey finds nearly 10,000 solar jobs shed in '17, but long-term trend remains strong

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 19:05:09 +0000

After years of soaring growth, the number of U.S. jobs in the solar industry fell in 2017, according to the Solar Job Census 2017. Authors of the census, a project since 2010 of the Solar Foundation, calculated the number of solar jobs last year at 250,271, a drop of 9,800 workers from the previous year, and a 4 percent reduction in the solar workforce. Of the total, some 7,500 jobs were lost in installation, sales and distribution, and project development, with about 1,200 shed in solar manufacturing. Given the record-breaking 2016 growth, a number of close observers had expected a modest pullback. 


In 2016, more than 51,000 solar jobs had been added to the workforce, a 25 percent gain over the previous year. Over the past seven years, the solar workforce has grown by 168 percent, an addition of 157,000 jobs.

The census authors project that more jobs will be added in 2018, continuing the previous trend. But they made that forecast before the White House announced its 30 percent tariff on solar panel imports.

One big reason given for continuing growth is the number of states that are driving solar and wind installations with their renewable portfolio standards. These mandate that a certain amount of electricity must come from renewable sources by a certain deadline. New York state, for instance, requires 50 percent renewables by 2030, while Arizona requires 15 percent by 2025, and Hawai’i has set its sights on 100 percent by 2045. Emma Foehringer Merchant reports:

“States are still setting their renewable portfolio standards; they’re still increasing them or talking about increasing them,” said Ed Gilliland, senior director of programs at The Solar Foundation. “We will likely experience some headwinds over the next  year or two, but certainly the stronger states can sail forward. I think we can still get some emerging states to do well, but they need strong policies to support growth.”

Despite the 2017 job losses in well-established solar markets like California’s, where 40 percent of nation’s solar capacity has been built, 29 other states and the District of Columbia saw their solar workforces grow in 2017. 

Measured against the total U.S. workforce, the percentage of African American employees in the solar industry is about half as large and there are 20 percent fewer women. The industry has higher percentages of Latino and Asian employees.

Nebraska GOP State Senator tries to erase the designation of wind power as “renewable.”

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 10:57:48 +0000

It is the height of bizarre policy formulation to edit out wind as renewable energy, but that’s what a State Senator in Nebraska has chosen as a means to oppose wind energy development. With the prospect of Facebook putting a massive wind energy development in Nebraska to support its data center, Tom Brewer R-District 43 deploys a bureaucratically lazy solution when the policy issues are far more nuanced. Rather than actually address the regulatory and environmental issues and the externalities of energy development, especially in a rural state, Brewer has chosen a pencil-pusher’s solution in arguing against developments not affecting his district. Nebraska State Senator Tom Brewer (R) has proposed a new bill that would restrict wind power development in the state and end the designation of wind power as “renewable.” One provision in Brewer’s bill would redefine the term “renewable energy generation facility” by striking out the word “wind” from the list of designated facilities: “Wind energy is not Nebraska Nice,” Brewer wrote in an opinion piece last October. “Wind energy is a scam that hurts people and animals, wastes billions in tax dollars, and isn’t ‘green’ energy by any definition of the term.” xNebraska Republican seeks to hobble wind power by redefining it as not ‘renewable’— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) February 7, 2018 xRepublicans in #Nebraska are trying to restrict #wind power development by labeling it as not 'renewable' - NationofChange via @NationofChange— Cindy A Matthews (@cynthianna3) February 6, 2018 x@DevelopNebraska Why are neighboring states selling wind power to Google, but not Nebraska? Lost economic development opportunity. Google powers up with wind from Iowa, South Dakota, Oklahoma— Transduction Tech (@TransdTech) December 9, 2017 [...]

EIAgov forecast subtitled: We are EFF'd ...

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 19:15:19 +0000

The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook has been released and one's hope, on first glance, is that this forecast is just as off as so much of energy forecasting has been because, if this is accurate, the simplest summary of this might be: The United States and humanity is EFFed when it comes to an opportunity to mitigate climate change through reduced energy emissions. If EIA is right, we will just fossil foolishly burn our way through fossil fuels even as the climate crisis worsens and as clean energy options become ever better economically. The critiques of EIA forecasting abound (see short bibliography here). Adam Scott well captured the situation last September in discussing the just-released International Energy Outlook (IEO). Be warned, the EIA has produced a forecast.   DANGEROUS: Do not use at home w/o adult supervision. the EIA has made a routine out of releasing unrealistic, distorted, and dangerous outlooks on the future of global energy demand. These projections should come with a warning label. Now, a forecast is that -- an effort, with a set of assumptions, to delineate what the future might portend. What is truly useful, in such endeavors, is to have multiple looks (scenarios) with seeking to understand what commonalities exist across scenarios, what assumptions drive change, and key uncertainties. Understanding those, rather than having a projection of oil production to three decimal points a decade from now, helps planning and investment across society. Leveraging a specific scenario forecast (typically the 'baseline') as core to investment decision-making creates (significant) risk (see GE troubles as evidence case #1) and failures to have an appropriate range of scenarios to span plausible futures also creates significant risk. On first review of the WEO's 54 page summary, striking elements include: In contrast to what has occurred over the past decade, after a decade of decline, carbon emissions are projected to increase steadily through 2050; reversing significant decline, coal use is projected to rebound somewhat and remain stable through 2050. carbon intensity (how much pollution per dollar of economic output) improvements slow. as do essentially all trend lines favorable to a clean energy future. Seemingly 'between the lines' efforts to satisfy/engage Trump Administration bias and priorities While "carbon" and "carbon dioxide" are in the report along with discussions related to the Clean Power plan, "climate change" and "global warming" are terms absent from the report. (Why does "carbon" matter if ...?) Coal's future is more constrained because of "as a result of supportive policies for renewables compared with coal" [page 16] rather than a more honest reality that coal, increasingly, simply can't compete with clean electricity options (solar and wind, primarily) and natural gas. Note that the same bullet asserts that there "favorable market conditions for natural gas" and nothing is evident along these lines in relation to why solar and wind are booming. A bizarrely aggressive forecast as to nuclear power pricing, suggesting a nearly 70 percent drop in "advanced nuclear" project pricing in the coming five years. (See graphic below.) A very rosy projection for shale (both fossil gas and oil) that might be far from viable. Renewable energy price forecasts are unreasonably high. EIA wind/solar projected costs above prices in market today …  Forecasted prices for 2022 (see page 16) for both wind and solar are well above what are already being bid into commercial contracts. EIA projects levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) to be in the ballpark of $30-$60 per mWh for new wind projects. Xcel Energy, in Colorado bids in December 2017, had[...]

Good News! Northern Pass Project-NH Permit Denied, By Unanimous Decision. Feb 1, 2018

Sun, 04 Feb 2018 18:20:04 +0000

♥Thank You Kossacks And Everyone, Everywhere, For All Your Interest And Help, Stopping This Northern Pass Project♥ Hydro-Quebec along with American partner, Eversource Energy, were all set to go. To start construction, April 2018. They already had; a Presidential permit, for the project. US NYSE Eversource Energy Very Good News! Northern Pass Denied CCNH-LFDA Feb 02, 2018 New Hampshire-Northern Pass Project, Denied Permit By Unanimous Decision. February 1, 2018 (CONCORD, NH) – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) released the following statement, in response to the, Unanimous 7-0 Vote Of The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). Denying, the Northern Pass Project, the necessary approvals to site and construct, its proposed transmission line in New Hampshire. Citing reasons; the overwhelming public opposition to the project and the undeniable impact it would have on the state’s precious landscapes.  State regulators have voted unanimously to reject an application for a controversial hydropower project that would have constructed almost 200 miles of transmission lines across New Hampshire. Newburgh Gazette NH Site Evaluation Committee Votes Against Eversource's Northern Pass Project  After nine months of careful analysis and input, the Committee voted 7–0 to deny Northern Pass the necessary approvals, noting the overwhelming public opposition to the project and the undeniable impact it would have on the state’s precious landscapes.  The 2,300-plus steel towers across more than 180 miles would destroy the state’s iconic scenic views that draw millions of visitors to the state’s mountains and forests, funding NH’s, tourism-dependent economy. Furthermore, Northern Pass is wholly incompatible with such conservation gems as the White Mountain National Forest and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, both of which would be negatively impacted. This unanimous decision shows that the people of New Hampshire; will no longer tolerate, Eversource’s attempts, to bulldoze and bully its way to approval. New Hampshire's people know it is wrong to have our scenic beauty and environmental legacy sacrificed for the money making interests of private power producers. Regulators reject hydropower project over tourism concerns. Michael Casey AP Associated Press February 2, 2018 With good cause, since the entire economy of New Hampshire, as well as Vermont and Maine is comprised of the Ski Industry and Outdoor Activities. Tourism, is the basis of the economy. Opponents led by scores of small town officials, property owners and environmentalists said they worried that the transmission line towers; some as high as 155 feet, would destroy scenic views, reduce property values and hurt tourism in a part of the state that includes the White Mountain National Forest. They also argued the project offers few benefits to New Hampshire, since much of the power is slated to go to customers in Massachusetts. Hydro-Quebec's Northern Pass Project Met with Broad Criticism in the US Shawn McCarthy, Toronto Globe and Mail April 30, 2017 Hydro-Québec and its local partner Eversource Energy Corp, face stiff local resistance to their proposed 1,090 megawatt transmission project through New Hampshire.  [...]

I need to have a little fun. Where do you escape the miserable politics of these days?!

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 01:18:55 +0000

Living under Trump turns out to be far worse than I thought it would be, and believe me, I thought it would be bad. But that’s where we’re stuck, IMO for the next three years. We CAN hobble him in the mid terms and I hope to hell we do. This will be HUGE, if we can pull off even taking over the house, and I think we can. 

And while I think Mueller’s investigation will turn out to be FAR FROM A NOTHING BURGER, I also think the republicans will protect their president. Smaller case intended. And who knows when Mueller’s investigation will come to it’s end? 

These days, while as a news junky I continue to follow the  winding road and path, I find I don’t do it as I used to. I find, I need space to find my peace and beauty, even under the chaotic rule of Mr. liar in chief, and Mr. I really don’t need to know my head from my A hole to make this work. Yeah, I think we’re in for that for another three years, for many reasons I don’t want to become the focus of this diary.

For me, here’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been reading A LOT more, all kinds of stuff, on line and on my kindle. Reading has been a savior for me my whole life.  These days I tend to choose the reading that takes me to a different place than where I might dwell with my face pressed up against the window, politically...but still shares many of the themes we hope to win on in these dark days.  Oh, and sometimes, I just want a good psychological  thriller, don’t care what it has to say about today or politics. 

Hubby and I have also found some great TV series to lose ourselves in. To “binge” for an afternoon or evening on a story that releases us from our current stresses and worries, just a bit, has great value for us. We cannot fight this steaming pile of shit every day, without some healthy form of escape. 

Lastly, I have been walking more, and that is a challenge in our winter Northland. But when I find time to do it, when everything is not so iced over it’s relatively safe to do it, I find  the simple movement of walking, taking in the view around me, noticing the things that survive and are beautiful, despite Trump, coming home with my cheeks full of apples, and a happiness to be home after that exertion, gives my mind some rest, and at the same time, more elasticity. More will to fight.

So that’s my story, morning glory. What is yours? How are you escaping ENOUGH to balance yourself out, and to find renewed energy for our fight? How are you keeping yourself strong and ready for the next battle? 

I really think we all must, and I’m curious about how y’all are doing that. 

Trump claims he has ended the 'war on energy,' but that doesn't include his war on renewable sources

Thu, 01 Feb 2018 20:46:33 +0000

“We have ended the war on American energy—and we have ended the war on clean coal. We are now an exporter of energy to the world.”
~Donald TrumpState of the Union.  Jan. 30, 2018

In Trumpworld, energy is all about fossil fuels. From the minute he stepped into the Oval Office, Pr*sident Trump has done everything in his power to try to expand their extraction and burning.

Federal regulators and lawsuits have blocked his way in many instances, but the regime continues its efforts, whether it’s opening up more federal leasing of coal and oil on public lands, including those under the sea, or smashing regulations imposed in recognition of the toll these fuels are taking on people’s health and the environment, particularly the climate. A big portion of the outcome depends on the federal courts.

When Trump says the war on clean coal has been ended, he’s not talking about what most people with any knowledge about such things think of as “clean coal,” stuff that is processed in such a way to eliminate or at least capture its pollutants—including carbon dioxide emissions, a goal that, despite some progress, remains illusory.

When he says “clean coal,” he just means … coal. Period. 

While touting the alleged benefits of removing the modest government protections and controls over the exploitation of fossil fuels, however, he’s fully engaged at the behest of the fossil fuel industries in a war on the renewable sources of energy on which our future relies—short, that is, of success in reaching another illusory goal, nuclear fusion, which is always just a few more decades away from achievement.

Chris Mooney and Steve Mufson on Wednesday spotlighted one of the battles in Trump’s war on energy, his attempt to slash the federal budget on renewables and energy efficiency. This isn’t the first time:

The Trump administration is poised to ask Congress for deep budget cuts to the Energy Department's renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, slashing them by 72 percent overall in fiscal 2019, according to draft budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Many of the sharp cuts would likely be restored by Congress, but President Trump's budget due out in February will mark a starting point for negotiations and offer a statement of intent and policy priorities.

Spotlight on green news & views: More trouble for right whales; Pruitt helps erase websites

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 23:30:06 +0000

This is the 542nd edition of the Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) usually appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Here is the January 27 Green Spotlight. More than 28,(324) environmentally oriented stories have been rescued to appear in this series since 2006. Inclusion of a story in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.


Pakalolo writes—Endangered whale's calving season peaks, but no babies seen: “ ‘We're in a bad spot with right whales, there's no doubt about it. Everybody's anxious to see more calves and the calves aren't coming.’ Barb Zoodsma, U.S. Southeast for NOAA Fisheries. Last year was devastating for North Atlantic right whales. They suffered a loss of 17, about 4 percent of their population. This is depressing news for such a critically endangered species. Their population is currently estimated at only animals with only 100 females of reproductive age. NOAA notes that the majority of deaths in 2017 were female and that live births have been declining in recent years they say. Whale necropsies have confirmed that blunt force trauma (being struck by shipping vessels), and drowning from entanglement in fishing gear were the reason for the deaths.”

NBBbooks writes—Protectionism in the age of solar cells: “When the Trump administration announced last week that it was imposing tariffs on solar cell panels mostly coming from South Korea and China, it appears that the progressive blogosphere was almost unanimous in condemning the action as an attack on solar energy.cI was dismayed that the neoliberal lies about free trade had apparently been accepted by so many. As Jon Larson wrote on Real Economics, ‘In certain corners of the economic world, this is a major story—mostly because it flies in the face of neoliberalism's first commandment—Thou shall not condone protectionism!’ The tariffs should be attacked, but not because they are tariffs, not because they are protectionist, not because they may lead to less imports of panels and therefore the loss of jobs of people installing them. The tariffs should be attacked because they are not accompanied by a robust industrial policy that will help USA manufacturers replace panels no longer being imported, by panels of domestic manufacture.”

We don't need to re-litigate 2016 to learn and move forward.

Sun, 28 Jan 2018 03:13:42 +0000

Re-litigation of anything is a tricky business, as it attempts to re-wind, re-phrase, review things that really are lost in the fog of then, vs. now. Dueling links and arguing “facts” about what was only increase the fog machine. Even history does not agree with itself.  The latest pick your pie flavor is the story of Clinton and her faith advisor, from 2008. I will not say one word about this, except to say my initial reaction to this story was, really?!?! And it remains my reaction to this story. Here’s why. We are now moving towards 10 years later, and Imo, times don’t change in a nice neat linear and equally timed line, it changes, geometrically, and pops out here there and everywhere, way outside any linear line, and way outside of what we can predict.  IOW, change has babies, so the more change, the more changes and faster, there will be.  So what used to be considered a lot of change 100 years ago, is not the super amped up change we face today.  So when we say “history will repeat itself if we don’t learn from it,” I say, history is important, but only one slice of the pie, and one that is becoming thinner as progress moves faster. History can only teach the lessons that were available at the time, it cannot provide answers to things that were not factors at that time. Yes, human nature doesn’t change all that much, but the things that wick and inflame our nature,  in various ways, and how we respond, ARE changing at warp speed.  And, there’s a difference between looking at broader concepts of success and failure, and arguing about the same old details over and over again.  I don’t EVER EXPECT there to be an agreement on Clinton vs. Sanders on this site, and WE DON’T NEED ONE. Whatever our challenges as progressives are, they surely have and will continue to surprise and confound us enough, without putting so much emphasis on what was then. I think we’ve all learned as much as we’re willing to learn from the 2016 primaries and election at this point, and no one is convincing anyone of different, and it saddens me to see the energy wasted trying to do so, and swiping at each other over things we can no longer effect, and times that have moved past us. Yes, those times HAVE moved past us. And the present is throwing us all kinds of new hard balls while we argue about the past.  As a former history teacher, I am always reminded, yes, how much we remain the same, but if you are a student of history, you also become very cognizant of how much things change. Again, WE might not be all that different as human beings, but the things that shape our responses and actions are VERY DIFFERENT.  To take an easy example, Lincoln remains one of our most respected presidents, for good reason, and yet a simple read of many of his words will show him to be outrageously outdated in many of his attitudes, as he is entitled to be, in his grave, because he isn’t here and now. And here and now IS very different than the years he lived and guided this country.  This idea that if we don’t keep arguing about 2016, we won’t do well in 2018 or 2020, is just not Imo, where it’s at. Hillary will not run again, and in the end, I doubt Bernie will either. So, we will be faced with new personalities , new opportunities and new problems in whoever our candidates might be.  And while those candidates will certainly take a page or two out of history, they will have to be on their toes enough to realize that history follows us, not the other way around. I wish I had a wand that would cleanse us all of all the unnecessary and wasteful bickering about the past, and give us the  strength to take on a very c[...]

Trump's 30% solar tariff takes 1st casualty: SunPower has put a hold on a $20 million expansion

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 21:17:52 +0000

SunPower Corp., a San Jose, California-based company that makes high-efficiency solar panels mostly in Mexico and the Philippines, announced late Thursday that it will hold off on a $20 million factory expansion that would employ hundreds of people in the United States unless it is exempted from the Trump regime’s 30 percent tariff on solar cells and solar panels.

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The tariff takes effect on Feb. 7. The Solar Energy Industries Association has calculated that it will cost 23,000 solar-related U.S. jobs in its first year. The tariff will be reduced at the rate of 5 percent a year for four years. Supporters of the tariff—including the two foreign-controlled cell- and panel-making companies that made the complaint to the International Trade Commission which led to the it—have argued that imposing the duty would spur creation of solar manufacturing jobs in the United States.

The two-facedness of the Trump regime in this matter would be stunning except that it is the Trump regime. In May, the White House released documents that showed cuts in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to just $636 million in new funding compared with a budget allocation of $ 2.07 billion in 2017. If you don’t have your calculator handy, that’s a decline of more than 69 percent. The idea that the Trump team cares about solar jobs is ludicrous.

Nichola Groom at Reuters reports:

SunPower has argued that its premium-priced panels, which are among the most efficient in the industry at transforming sunlight into electricity, should receive an exemption from the tariffs because their unique technology cannot be compared with that of more conventional models, including those made by the companies that sought the tariffs, Suniva and SolarWorld.

“We have to stop the $20 million investment because the tariffs start before we know if we’re excluded,” Werner said. “It’s not hypothetical. These were positions that we were recruiting for that we are going to stop.”

That investment would create “hundreds” of jobs at SunPower facilities in California and Texas, Werner said. They would include jobs in research and development, manufacturing and sales and would be focused on the company’s next-generation cell technology.

Important matters of trade fairness on a broad range of products exist between China and the United States, and China and Europe. Many U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost over the past decade to China with its lower labor costs and extremely lax environmental laws. But the imposition of the solar tariff is a counterproductive approach not unlike the steel tariff imposed in 2002 by President George Bush that cost many thousands of U.S. jobs.

Ryan Zinke's lies about Florida's special exemption from drilling get even more blatant and bizarre

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 16:07:35 +0000

In the first week of January, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that the Trump administration was discarding decades of restrictions on offshore drilling, opening America to the joys of tar-covered beaches and oil-soaked wildlife. State and local officials on both coasts immediately protested, but a week later, just one state got a miracle reprieve. 

The Trump administration said Tuesday it would not allow oil drilling off the coast of Florida, abruptly reversing course under pressure from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Why did Florida get an out? The initial excuse from Zinke was that it was done because Rick Scott asked to be left out. When other states made the same request, they were immediately granted … nothing. With a rising tide of anger, Zinke shifted his excuse to Florida needing tourists for its beaches made it “unique”—a claim that was quickly shouted down by other states.

But now Zinke is back with an all-new, all totally believable excuse for why it’s okay to blacken every beach in America … except for the ones next to Mar-a-Lago.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke defended his surprise decision to exempt Florida waters from the Trump administration's push for new offshore drilling, saying in an exclusive interview with CNN that the state's coastline is unique.

"The coastal currents are different, the layout of where the geology is," Zinke said Sunday.

The geology is Florida is … everywhere. So is the geology everywhere else. The Florida current is famous, but it also runs past several other states. There’s no point trying to twist Zinke’s statement into something more specific to oil-bearing strata, or looking for something special about drilling off the “Sunshine State,” because there’s no way to make this statement anything but he latest in a line of obvious lies.

The only interesting thing at all is that Zinke is feeling enough pressure to lie—when he’s been so destructive in other ways without so much as a shrug.

Zero Net Energy

Tue, 23 Jan 2018 18:06:20 +0000

Zero Net Energy - January 19, 2018 Clovis, CA net zero energy development The Zero House - Zero net energy, Zero carbon footprint, Zero toxins, Zero construction waste - slide show Transforming the Real Estate Market: Scaling Net-Zero Energy Homes at No Additional Up-front Cost REACT home produces its own energy and food Net zero residence built out of recycled materials Innenco says they can reduce existing buildings' energy use by 58-90% using the buildings’ own thermal mass, heat pumps, and chillers Oxford, UK plans zero emissions zone for vehicles Passivhaus for 6,500 people from the Eco Architect blog about all things Passivhaus Reversible tent design for homeless Net zero building over-view 2018 More Than Housing in Zurich, Switzerland, with 13 buildings, nearly 400 housing units, 35 retail units and large shared community spaces built to 2000 Watt per person standard where 1,200 residents and 150 employees live and work Maersk Tower in Copenhagen with "Denmark’s most energy-efficient laboratories" Editorial Comment:  Living in Cambridge, MA, the energy-efficiency of laboratories is of increasing importance as we work towards becoming a zero emissions city Archives of all my Zero Net Energy links at [...]

That 30% solar tariff Trump boasts will protect U.S. workers will kill tens of thousands of jobs

Tue, 23 Jan 2018 21:07:49 +0000

In yet another decision by the Trump regime to put obstacles in the path of renewable energy, the pr*sident announced the imposition of a 30 percent tariff on solar cells and modules Monday. The tariff will drop to 15 percent in its fourth year. The target: China, which currently produces 61 percent of solar cells and 71 percent of solar modules, according to a fact sheet issued by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.

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In the past decade, solar costs have plummeted. One reason: cheap imports from China and Chinese-based factories in other Asian countries. These imports have grown by 700 percent since 2007.

Putting a tariff on solar components comes in the wake of a decision and recommendations made last year by the U.S. International Trade Commission in response to a petition filed by two U.S.-based manufacturers of photovoltaic cells. These were the previously German-owned SolarWorld Industries Americas with about 300 workers in Oregon, and Suniva, a bankrupt Chinese-owned operation in Georgia that employs about 1,000 workers. SolarWorld had sought a 50 percent tariff.

Without mentioning the company’s Hong Kong ownership, Suniva spokesman Mark Paustenbach gave a deadpan statement in December when Trump’s stance on imposing the tariff became known:

“Suniva applauds the Trump Administration for championing American manufacturing in the face of cheating by China and its proxies who want to kill American jobs and make America dependent on China for its energy and security needs."

The tariff was presented by Pr*sident Trump as a means to "protect American jobs and American workers." In fact, it is widely seen in the U.S. solar industry as doing the opposite. 

Pennsylvania coal mine closes as Trump's promises to miners go up in smoke

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 21:31:08 +0000

The people who actually do dig coal are going to be digging less of it as another coal mine closes.

It was announced this past week that a coal mine - the 4 West Mine - in southwestern Pennsylvania will close. It's another blow to the coal industry, which President Trump has promised to revive. Mepco, the company that owns 4 West, said it would be shutting down the Greene County mine because it had become less productive and more costly to operate. About 400 workers will lose their jobs. 

Trump made multiple tweets at the start of 2017 bragging about a Pennsylvania mine that ended up employing around 70 people. He even made it the highlight of a rally last summer. But so far Trump has been shockingly silent about the closure of a much larger mine just up the road.

Last June, Scott Pruitt claimed that Trump’s support caused an explosion in coal jobs.

"In fact, since the the fourth quarter of last year until most recently, we've added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector. In the month of May alone, almost 7,000 jobs."

Except Pruitt was lying. It wasn’t 50,000 jobs. It wasn’t 5,000 jobs. At peak, the number of coal jobs, including temporary positions, was up around 1,300—38 times less than Pruitt stated. And that was a seasonal bump that’s been fading ever since. Before the closing of the 4 West Mine, the increase since Donald Trump took the helm was … about 500 jobs. With the closing of 4 West, all but 100 of those jobs have been eliminated. The closure in Pennsylvania followed another mine closure in Kentucky

The mine closure follows the unanimous rejection of the plan created by Trump and Rick Perry to artificially boost the price of coal—even though the majority of commissioners were appointed by Trump. It also follows continued coal-powered power plant closures.

This time, even the New York Times is going to have to work hard to find someone who thinks Trump is the savior of coal.

Ryan Zinke says 'Florida is obviously unique' as Trump condemns rest of coast to more oil drilling

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 18:47:53 +0000

Last week, Trump announced that offshore drilling was coming to a shore near everyone as he issued new rules that would lift decades of protections for America’s coastlines. By returning the nation to the open-to-oil state that existed before a series of major spills led to restricting the areas in which oil companies could build future disaster sites, Trump pleased oil companies, and practically no one else.

With memories spanning from Santa Barbara to Deepwater Horizon offering up scenes of spoiled beaches, devastated fisheries, and wildlife dying under sheets of soot-black tar, it’s not hard to understand why most states affected by this massive gift to America’s oil companies upset politicians on the left and the right. The thoughtlessness and risk posed by this proposal is not even countered by a national need, as America continues to be in the midst of an oil and gas glut.

A total of 22 states are affected by the proposal, and only a handful—all of which already had offshore drilling—voiced any support for the idea. But the next step by Trump was the one that really infuriated the rest: he gave Florida a free out.

The Trump administration said Tuesday it would not allow oil drilling off the coast of Florida, abruptly reversing course under pressure from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

It was a decision that rubbed a truckload of “this is a completely political decision” into the wound.

States that approve or oppose Trump’s huge expansion of offshore drilling

Another Company Makes Fraudulent Claims About GOP Tax Bill

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 02:12:37 +0000

On January 5th, Pepco, the energy provider that services Washington, DC and surrounding areas announced that it was going to cut rates for DC customers in the wake of the reduction in the nominal tax rate for corporations from 35% to 21% recently passed by Congress. According to the President and CEO of Pepco, “The tax law will result in lower bills for our customers and lower taxes for Pepco. We are pleased to provide these savings to our customers, while at the same time ensuring we are making prudent investments in the local power grid to maintain the safe, reliable, and affordable service our customers have come to expect.”

It seemed to reflect exactly what Trump and the Republicans had promised. Too bad, like so many other company’s announcements of similar nature in the wake of the tax bill’s passage, it probably isn’t true. The reality is that just slightly more than two weeks beforehand, Pepco had filed a request with its regulators to actually raise rates which would generate an additional $66 million in revenue for the firm. According to a Pepco spokesperson, “The increase to a typical residential customer’s monthly electric bill would be $7.54.” That doesn’t sound like a cut to me.

Originally published at on January 9, 2018.

DIY Solar Systems for Puerto Rico and Other Emergencies or Disasters

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 03:48:05 +0000

Jehu Garcia is designing & explaining how to build DIY simple solar systems for Puerto Rico & other emergencies on Youtube: $400 solar system  $500 solar system  Solar IS Civil Defense.  Practical, affordable, and available off the shelf or DIY.  It’s not only for such places as Puerto Rico, the American Virgin Islands, or the other hurricane affected islands in the Caribbean.  Everybody should have enough solar electricity for a light, a phone or a radio, to charge batteries to be prepared for disaster and emergency, especially since the cost is now from a day’s to a week’s wages even for the poorest of the poor. If people want to contribute to Puerto Rico’s efforts here are some of the other efforts on the ground that I’ve found: individual scale: Solar4PR Solar Puff Lights (Solar Electric Light Fund also distributed solar lights but their campaign seems to have ended.) Family, institution, and neighborhood scale:   Joseph Mangum of Sunnyside Solar of Brattleboro, VT: Barrio Solar—2 Institution, neighborhood, and town scale: Community Solar for Puerto Rico Sunnova is coordinating getting supplies and batteries to Puerto Rico so they can repair close to 10,000 customers' systems in Puerto Rico 20 group consortium through The Solar Foundation The American Virgin Islands were also deeply affected by the recent hurricanes but get much, much less attention than Puerto Rico.  US Virgin Islands Recovery ( is one place you can go to find out more about the situation in St Croix, St Thomas, and St John. [...]

Spotlight on green news & views: Australia burning hot; activists blast offshore drilling plan

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 23:20:04 +0000

This is the 538th edition of the Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) usually appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Here is the Jan. 6 Green Spotlight. More than 28,220 environmentally oriented stories have been rescued to appear in this series since 2006. Inclusion of a story in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it. OUTSTANDING GREEN STORIES AmericaAdapts writes—The Snow Leopard adapts to Climate Change: “In episode 57 of America Adapts, Doug Parsons talks with experts from all over the world focusing on the conservation of the elusive snow leopard of High Asia and how this species and the communities around this species, are adapting to climate change.  Guests from Nepal, India, China, Russia, Sweden, and the US share stories on studying this amazing cat and talk about some of the innovative adaptation strategies that are being put in place thanks to funding from a USAID project that is being implemented by World Wildlife Fund. Two additional themes emerge in this episode, the influence of Peter Matthiessen’s epic masterpiece, The Snow Leopard, and stories from these experts about their own magical encounters with the snow leopard in the wild. Peter Matthiessen never did see a snow leopard, but several of these experts did. Hear their amazing stories in detail.” Pakalolo writes—Sydney Australia Basin-The hottest place on Earth. "Day Zero" water crisis looms for Cape Town: “The Sydney Australia Basin has been suffering from some of the most dangerous heat and humidity  on earth with a high of 117F in Penrith. So hot that roads are melting. In addition to suffocating heat, extremely dangerous bushfires were burning out of control in South Australia’s southeast on Saturday afternoon, and residents were warned that their lives and properties were at risk. The Climate Forecasting System (CFS) issued the apocalyptic warning to residents in the impacted area. ‘If you are in this area you are in danger. There is a risk to your life and property...take shelter inside a solid building. Do not leave or enter this area in a vehicle or on foot. It is too late to leave and the roads will not be safe.’ Sydney's weather is expected to remain hot with another heat burst building around the end of this week.” [...]

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: A Sustainable and Prosperous Future for All

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 23:00:03 +0000

We have the knowledge and technology. Where these are lacking, we have the processes for making improvements. Our economic and political cultures are the challenges. If we reestablish more hopeful and progressive systems, then we can all have livable wages and respectful relations on a hospitable planet. It won’t be easy. It doesn’t mean that we each get a gold throne or toilet. Nevertheless, opportunities remain for us to leave a suitable home for future generations. PLASTIC Let’s start on the other side of the world. China banned the import of most plastic waste. They have been a primary dumping ground for our waste for decades, which has led to significant detrimental impacts to people’s health and their environment. The new ban has led to recycling chaos in the US and Europe. Meanwhile, businesses producing more new plastic to trash the earth with are seeing this ban as a boon to their sales and revenues. In a purely economic world, the markets are telling us to throw more waste plastic into the infinite void while we make more and more new plastic. Any fool smarter than the genius in the White House can see that this course will not end well. A broader approach will address this more holistically and turn this challenge into opportunity. First, we can take responsibility for our waste. Stop dumping it on others. We should consider reciprocating China’s import ban with our own ban on the export or import of plastic waste. In addition, we can use our plastic waste, just as China did, as resource inputs for recycling and manufacturing of downstream plastic products that will be made for the foreseeable future. We can have the recycling and manufacturing facilities both located here. In so doing, we can decrease the demand for new plastic, as well as, the natural gas precursor that is too often pumped out of the ground through fracking. Any negative impacts on fossil fuel drilling and processing jobs will be more than offset by gains in industries associated with recycling and manufacturing of products from recycled plastic Making this work will require public-private partnerships. We cannot rely on the market. We can provide government supported R+D, award grants to innovative startups, and give tax incentives to plastic recycling factories. With domestic recycling, we can require that they abide by our environmental standards, as opposed to unknown, and probably lax standards, in developing countries. Proper regulation can limit plastic recycling to inland locations with rail access and, thereby, keep plastic waste out of rivers and oceans. In short, China’s ban is an opportunity for us to be more responsible and sustainable with plastic, while benefiting the domestic industrial sector. Coordinated efforts between the public and private sectors will be required to make it work. ENERGY Where will these factories, and everyone else get their energy? Fortunately, we are transitioning to renewable energy. Renewable energy sources are increasingly competitive. Wind and solar are now as cheap as any fossil fuel. Countries are shifting to renewable sources, while in the United States, California and Hawaii, along with many other states are leading the domestic transition to renewable energy sources. All of these energy sources also produce jobs. A DOE report concludes that the expansion of solar energy is employing as many people as[...]

Support The Most Important Clean Energy Bill you never heard of: CA's SB100 - Twitterstorm Monday

Sat, 06 Jan 2018 17:17:35 +0000

Want 100% clean energy? Tweet on Monday, Jan 8th to make a difference.  California legislation (#SB100) will commit the state to reaching 100% zero carbon electrical power by 2045, joining Hawaii on the road to 100%. The bill passed the CA Senate in 2017 and now has to get out of the more moderate Assembly. Local 350 groups and many other organizations across California are working hard in a statewide coalition to pass this bill this year.  Join us on Twitter on Monday, Jan. 8th,  for a large twitterstorm from 1-4pm PST go to #ActonSB100 and @righttozero for a twitter chat with some awesome experts from 1-2pm including: Vien Truong, CEO, Green for All, Bonnie Holmes-Gen, Am Lung Assoc of CA, Todd Gloria, State Assemblyperson, and Dan Kammen, energy expert at UC Berk And yes, we welcome tweets even from outside of Calif to our Governor (@jerrybrowngov) the author of the bill (@kevindeleon)  and others mentioned in this nifty Twitterstorm Guide (that may be useful to you if you ever want to organize a twitterstorm) developed for our coalition by Earth Justice and Rally Communications.   You could even use this occasion to tweet to your own Governor about joining California on the road to 100% clean energy.  Help us make a LOT OF NOISE!    Go to…  to RSVP and get your Twitterstorm Guide. Thanks for your support, and thanks for all your important work! Background info:… A strong SB100 is Endorsed By: Environment California Vote Solar Sierra Club California Environmental Defense Fund NRDC Coalition for Clean Air EarthJustice Union of Concerned Scientists CALFACT 350 Sacramento Citizens' Climate Lobby, Pasadena Foothills chapter 350 Silicon Valley Long Beach 350 350 South Bay Los Angeles SanDiego350 California League of Conservation Voters 350 Riverside Californians Against Waste SoCal 350 Climate Hawks Vote Fossil Free California Environmental Defense Center America Lung Association 350 Bay Area NextGen California Center for Climate Change and Health Friends of the Earth – US Clean Water Action California Bicycle Coalition Environmental Working Group Center for Environmental Health Climate Action Campaign Planning and Conservation League Mono Lake Committee Voices for Progress Sunflower Alliance The Nature Conservancy 350 Conejo/San Fernando Valley SolEd Benefit Corp The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club Citizens’ Climate Lobby Alameda Chapter Save The Bay No Coal in Oakland Mothers Out Front South Bay/San Jose Mothers Out Front Orange County [...]

Republicans let a tax on oil companies expire, and oil spill response could pay the price

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 16:52:06 +0000

Congressional Republicans let a tax on oil companies expire this week, giving the companies a big tax break (another one!) and taking money away from a federal oil spill response fund:

The tax on companies selling oil in the United States generated an average of $500 million in federal revenue per year, according to the Government Accountability Office. The money, collected through a 9 cents-per-barrel tax on domestic crude oil and imported crude oil and petroleum products, constituted the main source of revenue for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

The fund has at least $5.75 billion in reserve. Intended to help the government respond quickly to accidents on land or offshore, it was established in 1986 but only got a stable source of funding in the wake of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.

The tax, which expired Sunday, had lapsed before but was renewed under the bipartisan 2005 Energy Policy Act. Federal officials recently had debated whether it should be expanded to apply to oil sands products.

Republicans haven’t ruled out bringing the tax back retroactively, and Democrats are pushing for just that.

“The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund ensures that when there is a spill, American taxpayers are not left holding the bag to clean up Big Oil’s mess,” Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who as a House member chaired hearings on the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, said in a statement. “We should have a robust trust fund — not just trust that oil companies will do nothing wrong — in case a disaster like the BP spill happens again.”

This is one to keep an eye on. Will Republicans do the right thing for once, or will they quietly let the issue die, until the next time a major oil spill makes everyone sit up and notice?

Trump to open up federal waters to oil drilling on both coasts

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 18:34:15 +0000

xBREAKING: AP sources say Trump administration moves to sharply expand offshore drilling, including in Pacific Ocean for first time in decades.— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) January 4, 2018 There are currently 32 drilling platforms off the California coast. Before leaving office, President Obama did his best to make sure that number would not increase. Working to lock in environmental protections as the clock runs out on his presidency, President Barack Obama on Friday released a plan for offshore oil drilling in federal waters that bans until 2022 any new drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon or Washington. But naturally, Donald Trump views the fact that President Obama set it up as sufficient reason to knock it down. However, in this case, Trump seems to be going beyond simply reversing the protections set up by Obama. Indications are that Trump plans to announce the opening of all federal waters to drilling. This would include areas off Florida and California that have been blocked since the 1960s. The expansion is likely to trigger huge political backlash, particularly on the West Coast and in Florida, where offshore drilling has generated sharp opposition from residents, environmental groups and businesses who fear a spill like BP’s in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 could devastate beaches and destroy the tourist industry that is vital to the regional economies. Thursday, Jan 4, 2018 · 9:52:09 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner The Washington Post has the details of which areas are going to be opened to drilling.  The Trump administration unveiled a controversial proposal Thursday to permit drilling in most U.S. continental-shelf waters, including protected areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic, where oil and gas exploration is opposed by governors from New Jersey to Florida, nearly a dozen attorneys general, more than 100 U.S. lawmakers and the Defense Department. As expected, it’s everywhere.  [...]

Rebuilding the Caribbean After the 2017 Hurricanes

Sun, 31 Dec 2017 18:37:39 +0000

I’ve been working on a panel for the upcoming  Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s Building Energy conference in March in Boston ( on PDPVD: Post-Disaster Renewables Deployment: Up-to-the-minute review of efforts to deploy renewables post-catastrophe, particularly throughout the Caribbean, but also elsewhere in the immediate post-2017-hurricane-season landscape. As of this draft, 10/18/17, not even one month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, much is unsure about the future of energy systems, especially electricity, in many areas. Clearly, different islands and regions will be following vastly different pathways, from depopulated Barbuda to "bombed-out" BVI to the hellish conditions in Puerto Rico. Pre-existing PV, in many cases, emerged bruised but repairable. Individual installations that had previously been grid-connected are now scrambling to "island" and connect up with new battery systems. Will renewables make a large impact as the next months go by? Various entities have been talking, others are already working and on-the-ground. What quite will be the yield from the big names, like Branson, Musk, DiCaprio; and what can be accomplished by those who do the work, like SEIA, RMI, SELF? Islands and nations that were already on pathways to PV may now be accelerating their efforts. Come March, much work will still lie ahead. All in the NESEA community need to be enlightened as to these efforts, and emboldened to participate in ongoing deployment. [The situation on the ground will be developing between now (October) and March, and how deployment plays out will in turn inform the content of this session.] In the course of my work, I’ve come across at least two efforts to envision how Puerto Rico’s (and the Caribbean’s) energy infrastructure may be rebuilt: Build Back Better:  Reimagining and Strengthening the Power Grid of Puerto Rico This is a joint NY state and Puerto Rico initiative. A Resilient, Cost-effective Energy Future for Puerto Rico This is from Rocky Mountain Institute which has been working for a few years with 10 island nations in the Caribbean on their Islands Energy Project (, a transition from fossil fuel energy to renewables for the whole region. The Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, is a graduate of MIT and I understand he met with energy experts there earlier in December so there may be something coming out of that meeting too. In addition, The Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Equitable Rebuild Act is cosponsored in the Senate by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Reps. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Darren Soto (D-Fla.) will introduce a companion bill in the House. The bill is endorsed by 75 organizations. More information at… and If people wa[...]

Reuters: Russia Secretly Supplying North Korea with Fuel via Cargo Transfers at Sea

Sat, 30 Dec 2017 04:49:57 +0000

From Reuters:

LONDON/MOSCOW - Russian tankers have supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea, according to two senior Western European security sources, providing an economic lifeline to the secretive Communist state.

The sales of oil or oil products from Russia, the world’s second biggest oil exporter and a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, breach U.N. sanctions, the security sources said.

The transfers in October and November indicate that smuggling from Russia to North Korea has evolved to loading cargoes at sea since Reuters reported in September that North Korean ships were sailing directly from Russia to their homeland.…

This could get interesting, considering that just yesterday, PeePop tweeted this:


However, the odds of Trump criticizing Russia after being “caught red handed” are slim to none. 

It makes sense that Putin needs North Korea to have enough oil. Otherwise they would be unable to test launch the long-range ballistic missiles he is providing them.

Wind Power Could Accelerate to Meet Half the World’s Energy Needs in 24 Years

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 16:00:03 +0000

© by Will Driscoll Increasing global wind power installations by 20 percent each year would yield six terawatts of wind power globally by 2030.  Then, maintaining global wind installations at the 2030 level for 12 more years would yield 18 terawatts of wind installed by 2042.  (This growth trajectory is modeled on an analysis of solar power’s potential trajectory, published in Science magazine* and discussed here.) Eighteen terawatts of wind power in 2042 would be enough to meet half the world’s energy needs for current uses of electricity, plus transportation and heating.**  If solar power provided the other half, we could have 100 percent renewable energy for all energy needs by 2042—twenty-four years from now. Increasing wind power installations at 20 percent per year through 2030 would be a midway point between a potential 29 percent annual increase in solar installations through 2030, deemed “challenging but feasible” in the Science magazine analysis, and a potential 12 percent annual increase in wind installations through 2030 projected by the Global Wind Energy Council.   The wind industry’s increasing scale (see bar chart) has already yielded cost reductions that buyers find attractive; indeed, low-income China is a major market. And history shows that the wind industry can scale up at a 20 percent rate through 2030.  As related in MIT’s report The Future of Solar Energy, “military aircraft production in the U.S. grew by one-to-two orders of magnitude between 1939 and 1944, highlighting the tremendous level of growth that is possible for commodity-based goods.”  Moreover, the wind industry uses automated manufacturing techniques not available in the 1940s. The feasibility of a 20 percent annual growth rate also makes intuitive sense.  For every five factories a wind turbine manufacturer owned, next year it would need to build and equip another factory—that would be a 20 percent growth rate.   The wind industry needs more than the technical potential to grow at this rate, however.  It also needs a growing backlog of orders for wind turbines, to give manufacturers confidence that if they build wind turbine factories, the customers will come.  In the solar industry, for example, First Solar pointed to 2017 orders of three times its shipments to justify its plan to double its solar panel manufacturing capacity over the next three years (which represents a compound growth rate of about 29 percent per year).  Conversely Vestas, the world’s largest wind turbine maker, reported a stable backlog and no plans to increase its manufacturing capacity. To persuade the wind industry as a whole to plan for ever-increasing additions to manufacturing capacity through 2030, we need to keep modernizing the electric grid so that more and more wind farms may be interconnected, and the electricity they produce can be transmitted to end users.  Indeed, we need to show the wind industry that we are committed to this grid modernization process over the next 24 years.  After all, U.S. military aircraft manufacturers in the 1940s had a ready buyer: the U.S. Government.  Low-cost wind turbines will keep finding ready buyers only if those buyers have a way to connect to the grid, and transmit, [...]

Message to the politicians and the pundits: Voters are more liberal than you realize

Wed, 27 Dec 2017 18:02:27 +0000

Democratic and Republican politicians have one thing in common: they think that voters are further to the right than they actually are. A new analysis of 91 targeted congressional districts, done by political scientist Chris Skovron and reported by Sean McElwee, shows clearly how the constant pundit calls for Democrats to move right lead the party astray:

We averaged support for each policy across the districts, to measure the average across the districts. In the average DCCC target district, fifty-nine percent of the public support allowing a woman choose whether she wants to have an abortion and 57 percent support a path to citizenship. More than half of individuals in the average district either strongly or somewhat agree that white people have advantages because of their skin and 73 percent support a higher minimum wage. Less than half of the public in the average district believe that the government should prohibit spending on abortion (the so-called Hyde Amendment).

In addition, these districts are favorable towards climate policy, with 64 percent support for a renewable energy mandate and 68 percent support for the Environmental Protection Agency regulating carbon in the average district. Far from running away from gun control, Democrats can safely support an assault weapons ban, which has support among 61 percent of individuals in thes average district. Democrats can abandon “tough on crime” rhetoric, because 63 percent support for ending mandatory minimums. Even examining only the most contentious districts, a progressive Democrat would be on the right side of all ten issues modeled.

Is that what you would believe from watching cable news (even excluding Fox?) or from reading the opinion pages of top newspapers? The real problem is, too many Democratic politicians don’t get it either:

What we discovered here is along the lines of what Skovron has found in past research. In a study from March, Skovron and David Broockman found that Democratic state legislators regularly underestimate how liberal their constituents are (as do Republicans, who believe their constituents are far more conservative than they are in reality). Democrats simply aren’t confident that the voters support them on policy positions that we typically consider liberal, especially in areas like gun control and abortion, despite extensive data suggesting voters agree with Democratic positions on these issues.

It’s most important for politicians to realize where voters really are. But damn, wouldn’t it be nice if the pundits would take this research to heart, too.

States have set deadlines on switchover to renewables. But those deadlines don't come soon enough

Wed, 27 Dec 2017 16:02:12 +0000

Back in October, David Roberts at Vox gave readers an excellent look at the impacts of Renewable Portfolio Standards at the state level. It’s too bad he couldn’t have written about the federal RPS. But that would have been a short conversation. Because a nationwide RPS doesn’t exist. 

Back in the 1990s and 2000s, when Democrats had more power in state governments, 29 states (and DC) passed some form of renewable portfolio standard (RPS), a policy that requires a state’s utilities to get a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources by a certain year.

Standards range from California’s wildly ambitious 50-percent-by-2030 to Ohio’s modest 12.5-percent-by-2026, and everywhere in between.

Though they aren’t as sexy as perpetually-discussed-but-rarely-passed carbon taxes, and they are flawed and insufficient in a number of ways, RPSs have been the quiet workhorses of renewable energy deployment in the US. According to one Lawrence Berkeley Lab report, fully 62 percent of the growth in US non-hydro renewables since 2000 has been undertaken to satisfy RPS requirements.

With the science deniers in the White House determined not to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, the state RPS are extremely important. Combined with ever-better, ever-cheaper technology as well as federal and state tax credits, the RPS are a big reason for the speed at which renewables installations are expanding.

If you look at that map above, and the map and the detailed state-by-state list on this webpage of the National Center for State Legislatures (NCSL), you can get a quick education which states have the best RPS (or RES—renewable energy standards) policies and which have the worst. Unfortunately, that last category includes 21 states that have no RPS policy at all. You can take a deeper dive by checking out the 40-page report from Galen Barbose at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory titled U.S. Renewables Portfolio Standards 2017 Annual Status Report. Lots of charts and graphs.

France bans oil drilling and fracking across the entire country

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 16:41:16 +0000

The Guardian is reporting that France’s parliament passed a law that will ban all production of oil and gas by 2040. 

In Tuesday’s vote by show of hands, only the rightwing Republicans party opposed, while leftwing lawmakers abstained.

No new permits will be granted to extract fossil fuels and no existing licenses will be renewed beyond 2040, when all production in mainland France and its overseas territories will stop.

The Guardian points out that most of France’s oil and gas importing comes from abroad and this “gesture” is largely symbolic; but it is an important one to be made.

The Cost of Personal Solar Power

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 03:14:16 +0000

I bought a solar hand crank radio flashlight with USB mini plug DC output about 5 years ago.  It cost around $30.  It provided in one package what we are supposed to have on hand in case of emergency or disaster - light,  cell phone or radio, extra batteries - in one package.  This is also entry level electricity for the over 1 billion people around the world who don't have access now.   A month or two ago, I bought a second solar hand crank flashlight.  No radio, no DC output.  It cost around $4. Before the invasion of Afghanistan, NATO forces distributed solar/dynamo AM/FM/SW radios to the civilian population. After the invasion, they gave away more.  The NATO radios charge only the internal hardwired battery. A single additional circuit would allow them to charge external batteries. If the solar/dynamo could charge batteries, then you could use batteries in rotation, charging one set while using another. The solar/dynamo would be a source of electricity day or night, by sunlight or muscle power, at least for the lifetime of the batteries, crank, and PV panel. Combine this with bicycle generators that charge batteries in the course of daily riding and you have the possibility of providing survival level power to everyone in the world now. In 2016, the world reportedly spent $4.61 billion per day on the military or $1686 billion, equivalent to 2.2% of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and $227 per person. Source: Solar electricity now costs from $4 to $30 AA survival or emergency and disaster power. The image I have is of a solar swadeshi, hand-made electricity. Instead of turning the handle of the charkha spinning wheel making thread for khadi cloth an hour a day as Gandhi did, turning the crank of a dynamo or riding a bicycle a half hour a day, the direct production of survival power for yourself, your family, and your community, swadeshi, local production. Solar Swadeshi Solar Insurgency Solar Is Civil Defense, Illustrated Solar Tactics in Afghanistan Under-Utilized Installed Solar Capacity in Afghanistan Sun Money [...]

Reflections and Silver Linings From a Tough Year

Tue, 19 Dec 2017 15:03:57 +0000

I don’t have to tell you it’s been a rough year. Our environment and communities are under unprecedented assault from an Administration led by a megalomaniac misogynist who doesn’t believe in science and is willing to break the law to deliver favors to his friends in corporate America. It’s been particularly heartbreaking to watch Trump-emboldened Republicans in Congress trample on the sovereignty and human rights of the Gwich’in people of the Arctic to ram through drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a way to pay for massive tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, in the same week that Trump himself took to the stage to dismantle protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments - continuing a shameful and violent history of broken promises to Native American Tribes and prioritization of extractive industries over the rights of local communities and native populations. It’s disgusting. But - don’t stop reading yet! - there are silver linings amidst this insanity, and in the face of it all, a great hope is bubbling up from the streets. First off, Trump is widely unpopular, with an overall approval rating hovering at 32 percent. And, if Virginia and Alabama are any indication, the actions of this Administration and their henchmen will only pave the way to their undoing. Remember, 70 percent of Americans favored staying in the Paris Climate Agreement, even as Trump and Tillerson pulled us out. 80% of voters in the American West support keeping National Monuments in place, even as Trump and Zinke eviscerated Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. 70 percent of voters oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as Lisa Murkowski and Republicans in Congress ram it through as part of the budget reconciliation bill. And more than half of American oppose the Republicans’ terrible tax plan overall! These jokers are so hellbent on delivering political favors to their cronies, they’ve forgotten to check in every now and again with public sentiment - and that’s not a sustainable situation (as long as we can keep people engaged - more on that later). This overreach is paving the way for the undoing of this administration and the Republicans who are supporting it. Second, more people than ever are fighting back. Activists are pouring into the streets to hold decision-makers accountable and remind them that most of us actually want clean air and water, and that we will fight to defend our environment and our communities in the  courts, in the halls of Congress, and in districts around the country. For instance, it was so inspiring to see almost 9,000 people rally in Salt Lake City on December 2nd in support of National Monuments in a pre-planned event, and then almost 2,000 show up again spontaneously, just two days later,to greet Trump when he landed on December 4th, highlighting their support for keeping sacred lands protected and standing with the tribes on Bears Ears. Thousands are rallying against dangerous fossil fuel projects, like the Atlantic Coast fracked gas Pipeline, demanding that their sta[...]

Engineers take huge step toward creating plants that will glow

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 21:22:15 +0000

Engineers at MIT have taken an enormous step forward in their quest to create plants that can glow, or emit light. This is some sci-fi clean energy.

MIT engineers have taken a critical first step toward making that vision a reality. By embedding specialized nanoparticles into the leaves of a watercress plant, they induced the plants to give off dim light for nearly four hours. They believe that, with further optimization, such plants will one day be bright enough to illuminate a workspace.

“The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don’t have to plug in. The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself,” says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the senior author of the study.

This would not solve all of our problems, but in all honesty—GIVE ME A PLANT LAMP!

Lighting, which accounts for about 20 percent of worldwide energy consumption, seemed like a logical next target. “Plants can self-repair, they have their own energy, and they are already adapted to the outdoor environment,” Strano says. “We think this is an idea whose time has come. It’s a perfect problem for plant nanobionics.”

To create their glowing plants, the MIT team turned to luciferase, the enzyme that gives fireflies their glow. Luciferase acts on a molecule called luciferin, causing it to emit light. Another molecule called co-enzyme A helps the process along by removing a reaction byproduct that can inhibit luciferase activity.

One of the first big steps was extending the “glow life” of the plant from 45 minutes to 3.5 hours.

City Agriculture - December 13, 2017

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 19:41:36 +0000

Plenty - a start-up that plans vertical farms outside of every city over 1 million population, 500 in all Smart living wall for purifying indoor air Sky forest planned for Ho Chi Minh City Solar powered floating farm and restaurant Agritecture Blog IKEA, David Chang, and ruler of Dubai invest $40 million in Aerofarms Association for Vertical Farming Farmscape - bringing farming to corporate campuses Amazon patents a “garden service" La Caverne, an underground vegetable and mushroom farm under Paris Singapore plans to be the first food sustainable city Hanoi cafe with koi pond and aquaponics [...]

Zinke says energy wasn't involved in Bears Ears decision. Nuclear company documents say otherwise

Sat, 09 Dec 2017 19:56:33 +0000

Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has made it a point to declare that energy concerns had nothing to do with his recommendation to Pr*sident Trump that Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be cut by 85 percent and the remnant hacked into bits. There’s no mine in Bears Ears, he told reporters after Trump issued two proclamations Tuesday cutting Bears Ears and another national monument in Utah, the Grand Staircase-Escalante.  Here’s the whackjob on Bears Ears that the whackjob in the White House proclaimed Tuesday. But The Washington Post has obtained documents showing there was heavy lobbying in favor of reducing the monument’s acreage by the owner of the nation’s only remaining uranium mill. It sits just outside the boundary of Bears Ears as designated last year by President Obama, but miles away from the new boundary under Trump’s truncated designation. Juliet Eilperin’s report on the documents shows that Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian firm, lobbied the Trump regime to shrink the monument—which is rich with scenic beauty and ancient American Indian archeological sites—to make it easier to access deposits of uranium ore:  In a May 25 letter to the Interior Department, Chief Operating Officer Mark Chalmers wrote that the 1.35 million-acre expanse Obama created “could affect existing and future mill operations.” He later noted, “There are also many other known uranium and vanadium deposits located within the [original boundaries] that could provide valuable energy and mineral resources in the future.” [...] Energy Fuels Resources did not just weigh in on national monuments through public-comment letters. It hired a team of lobbyists at Faegre Baker Daniels — led by Andrew Wheeler, who is awaiting Senate confirmation as the Environmental Protection Agency’s deputy secretary — to work on the matter and other federal policies affecting the company. It paid the firm $30,000 between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, according to federal lobbying records, for work on this and other priorities. The company’s vice president of operations, William Paul Goranson, joined Wheeler and two other lobbyists, including former congresswoman Mary Bono (R-Calif.), to discuss Bears Ears in a July 17 meeting with two top Zinke advisers. Although there are a few rich deposits in the world that are as much as 18 percent uranium, most sources, like those in Utah, are well below 1 percent. A mill uses various techniques to turn the ore into yellowcake—U308, triuranium octoxide. The milling process also leaves behind massive piles of tailings—powdery, slightly radioactive waste. The yellowcake is shipped to processing centers that turn it into uranium hexaflouride, which is then enriched to a level useful as fuel in commercial power reactors, a higher level for test reactors and production of medical isotopes, or to a much higher level for use in making nuclear weapons.  [...]

Government blocks rule to reduce spills of methane, a gas 36 times more potent than carbon dioxide

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 17:01:05 +0000

The Bureau of Land Management is relaxing environmental rules on oil and gas allowing more release of methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

A notice slated to be published Friday in the Federal Register by the Bureau of Land Management said the agency “has concerns regarding the statutory authority, cost, complexity, feasibility, and other implications” of the 2016 rule, which is set to go fully into effect next month.

Enforcing rules is hard. It takes people who actually check to be sure companies are doing the right thing and … stuff. Much easier to just let oil companies vent excess methane into the atmosphere. Which they will.

Methane is a colorless and odorless gas that is up to 36 times as potent as carbon dioxide in terms of contributing to global warming. As development of oil and gas has increased through hydraulic drilling, or fracking, in shale formations, so have methane emissions.

Unlike the theoretical carbon capture of so-called “clean coal” plants, methane can easily be captured. In fact, methane is captured at every single natural gas well in the world. Methane is natural gas. But oil companies often find it easier to simply release (vent) or burn (flare) methane produced when drilling primarily for oil. And both oil and gas operations are subject to frequent leaks of methane which, because it is odorless and colorless, can become massive before anyone bothers to take action.

But the Trump administration has another very good reason for blocking the rules besides the “it was hard” argument. They also say that there’s little point enforcing them because the rules “may be rescinded or significantly revised in the near future.” Or not.

There’s not much point in changing a rule if it’s not being enforced.

Household Fire Update: Energy Efficent

Tue, 05 Dec 2017 13:59:07 +0000

I’ve bitched here often about the nightmare of a process this all was.

Having been back in my house for two months one thing I was mad about I am now happy about.

I was supposed to get flooring samples. Color ideas. Lighting suggestions. I never got a single suggestion from my contractor. I choose and bought it all down to door knobs. To pat myself on my back, when people learn this and see the house they say I should go into interior design.

Another thing I pushed hard on was the house being energy efficient. Not only is it a “smart” house (contractor fought me here) I wanted the best of the best I could afford with my HVAC. Gas. Insulation. Water heater. When they are all being replaced from scratch, I figured I needed to invest in the house.

I paid a ton of money outside the estimate for what the contractor wanted to put in.

My gosh!

Gotten three bills for power, water, sewer (one bill, all from my city). They range from $95-$98. That is about 75% cheaper than normal. Oh did I mention I live in a five bedroom house.

Gas which I use for heat and stove, under $20/month. That is not an accurate number, since I’ve not really used any heat this year. It has been a low of 35 and then a high into the 60s and 70s most days. I like it cold when I sleep so not even really ran my heat much.

I was sad I couldn’t afford solar. I paid, not from the insurance money, to reroof the house. But solar was just so much darn money. But my house has a 5,000 acre corn field in front of my house. The sun pounds my house into the ground.

Heck I paid a small fortune for “black out” curtains to stop the sun pounding my senses.

If these bills keep coming in at these numbers I will make back everything I paid out-of-pocket in a few years.

When I opened the bill yesterday and saw it was $98.07 and not $175 or $200 I kind of got emotional. I have some financial resources, but I might be looking at saving $100/month. That is really money.

Frack Trump and the GOP: Looting the Treasury, UT National Monument giveaway for development

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 00:47:15 +0000

Obama, as expected, named 1.35 million acres of federal land as the Bears Ears National Monument in late December, just a month before leaving office. Tribes and environmentalists celebrated, but Utah officials were angry. Strategy sessions began with Gov. Gary Herbert, House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, San Juan County commissioners, state lawmakers and the Utah federal delegation to figure out the best approach to prod the incoming administration to act. Some wanted a full rescission of Obama’s new monument while others cautioned it would be best to keep the designation but reduce it dramatically. Trump's plans add up to the largest elimination of protected areas in American history. He is a vandal in our midst, coming in person to lay waste to the land. Trump goes to Utah on Monday to announce more GOP predation on natural resources in favor of mineral exploitation and against the Earth itself. Because Trump is all about undoing Obama’s legacies, and if native peoples are subjugated also, then all the better, because Trump’s codetalking is all about oxymoronic wise use and as recent boorishness reveals, racial animus. President Trump now plans to go to Utah on Monday to decimate the Bears Ears National Monument, public land that's sacred to five tribes of Native Americans. "It is no surprise that the Trump Administration is bowing to special interests, including the oil and mining companies, and these maps show how extreme his plans are for some of the most treasured and culturally significant lands in our nation," said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. “President Trump's attempt to splinter and shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante would be the largest rollback of federal land protections ever," said Mark Salvo, vice president of Landscape Conservation at Defenders of Wildlife. Bears Ears in particular features thousands of Native American archaeological and cultural artifacts. "For us, Bears Ears is a homeland. It always has been and still is," the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition said. "The radical idea of breaking up Bears Ears National Monument is a slap in the face to the members of our Tribes and an affront to Indian people all across the country. Any attempt to eliminate or reduce the boundaries of this Monument would be wrong on every count. Such action would be illegal, beyond the reach of presidential authority." xInteresting story from @thomaswburr on how Donald Trump Jr. was recruited to fight designation for #BearsEars National Monument. @brcalvert— Nate Carlisle (@natecarlisle) December 3, 2017 xDonald Trump to slash size of national parks in Utah to allow drilling— Telegraph News (@TelegraphNews) December 3, 2017 President Trump will on Monday announce plans to slash the size of two US national parks (sic), provoking fury from enviro[...]

Arlington, VA to Add Solar on Five Schools, For Largest Such Procurement in the State

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 08:02:22 +0000

© By Will Driscoll, Arlington 350 core group member Arlington has solicited bids to add rooftop solar panel systems on at least five schools by 2020, for the largest solar-on-schools procurement to date in Virginia.  School system staff designed the solicitation to achieve a competitive price for solar, and to avoid financial headaches such as roof repairs down the road. The solicitation is structured to attract competition among bidders, yielding a competitive price, by: Specifying a larger project size of five schools (with an option for more), rather than the two schools initially envisioned; and Reducing the cost of bidding, by providing bidders with ready access to structural and electrical system information for each of the five schools, as well as each roof’s age, type, and warranty information. The resulting bids will be easy to compare on price, because each bidder must set a fixed price at which it will sell solar electricity to the school system over a period of 15 to 25 years.  This contrasts with many existing solar power purchase agreements that specify a starting price and an annual price increase—a more complex approach that is harder to compare across bids.*   The solar-on-schools project has been de-risked in several ways: Firms or teams are only eligible to bid if: 1) they have installed at least five similarly-sized projects; 2) operated and maintained at least five smaller projects; and 3) have appropriate contractor and electrical licenses.   A bidder must state its plan for financing all stages of the project, and provide audited financial statements for the firm (which will be kept confidential). The selected contractor must operate and maintain the solar panel systems.  (This provision is self-enforcing, since the contractor will only receive payment for the electricity that the system generates.) The contractor must specify a method for determining a buy-out price in case the school system chooses to terminate the contract for convenience. Additional provisions address potential roof issues: Ballasted systems are preferred, to eliminate roof penetrations that could leak. The use of ferrous metals, wood or plastic (e.g., in the solar panel racking system) is not permitted. The selected contractor must work with the obligor under any roof warranty to ensure that the warranty remains in effect. The contractor must repair any damage to the school caused by the system, including moisture damage. In the event that roof repair is needed due to aging of the existing roof, the contractor must remove the solar panel system and then replace it once the repair is completed, at no extra charge; the contractor’s price must account for this possibility. Arlington’s solar solicitation follows an amendment to the school system’s purchasing resolution, unanimously approved by Arlington’s school board last spring, to permit the use of power purc[...]

Western States Petroleum Association expands in-house lobbying team with newest staff addition

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 05:12:03 +0000

SACRAMENTO —The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, on November 30 announced the addition of Margo Parks to their in house lobbying team. “Margo’s energy, enthusiasm and understanding of California policy and politics will be a great asset to WSPA,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, WSPA President and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create “marine protected areas” in Southern California, said in a statement. “Parks accepted the newly formed position of Manager, California Policy Advocate, where she will work with WSPA’s members, navigating policy and politics to help achieve the organization’s goals in the legislature,” according to Reheis-Boyd. “I’m excited to help tell the oil industry’s story during this pivotal time in California, while legislators are designing policies that both protect our environment and ensure that Californians have the energy they need to power this great state’s economy,” Parks said. Prior to joining WSPA, Parks was an associate lobbyist at Political Solutions,  working on issues ranging from tax policy to agriculture to natural resources. Prior to her time at Political Solutions, she served as the Director of Government Relations for the California Cattlemen’s Association, according to WSPA. She is a former Capitol staffer and Senate Fellow, and a graduate of Scripps College, Claremont. Parks joins a growing staff to promote Big Oil agenda Parks joins a large and expanding staff that promotes the oil industry’s agenda in the West. On October 23, WSPA announced the hiring of international public relations expert Argelia León to the position of Manager of Strategic Partnerships, where she now manages “growing and maintaining WSPA's affiliations in the five western states including California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Nevada,” according to a WSPA news release. Information: In March, WSPA hired former Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) as Senior Vice President, Policy and Strategic Affairs. Perea advises WSPA on public policy and legislative matters in California: In addition to Perea, León, and Parks, the organization this year also hired three public relations specialists and an in-house general counsel as the oil industry gears up to further expand its already huge influence and power in California politics. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) bills itself as a “non-profit trade association that represents companies that account for the bulk of petroleum exploration, production, refining, transportation and marketing in the five western states of California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Nevada.” WSPA and Big Oil are top lobbying spenders in California While state officials and the[...]

Warren G. Trump and Tea-Party Dome ... the worst POTUS in history is ready for WWIII

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 21:16:48 +0000

The Teapot Dome Scandal was a bribery incident that took place in the United States from 1921 to 1922, during the administration of President Warren G. Harding. Secretary of the Interior Albert Bacon Fall had leased Navy petroleum reserves at Teapot Dome in Wyoming and two other locations in California to private oil companies at low rates without competitive bidding. In 1922 and 1923, the leases became the subject of a sensational investigation by Senator Thomas J. Walsh. Fall was later convicted of accepting bribes from the oil companies and became the first Cabinet member to go to prison. No person was ever convicted of paying the bribes, however.   Tea-Party Dome, active measures, and a strategy of tension: At issue was a proposal to build dozens of nuclear reactors, billed by its backers as a “Marshall Plan for the Middle East”... of nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East President Brawndo has now made it an open secret that emoluments were the least important element of trying to foment a “Marshall Plan” to sell nuclear reactors across the Middle East. This whole affair has an ironic component not simply because of the ecological dangers. Then again, climate denial is a prerequisite to making money the GOP way, much like the ‘arms for hostages’ of Iran-Contra, maximizing profit by getting PoC on different continents to annihilate themselves with weapons they purchased, and win an election to boot … sweet! And Mexico will pay for it…. This action, regardless of who profited or will profit, creates more problems for the potential proliferation of nuclear materials in general and the logistical foundations for weapons of mass destruction in a region where sectarian violence and civil war is common.  More critical is that the same WH parties involved in the operation were also “in cahoots” with the same Russians who interfered in the US elections… even as Agent Orange has claimed that #TrumpRussia activity was all a hoax spawned by the person (HRC) least likely to benefit from such interference. xThe Trump administration is holding talks on providing nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia — a move that critics say could upend decades of U.S. policy and lead to an arms race in the Middle East.— ProPublica (@ProPublica) November 29, 2017 xNow is a good time to remember this --> Kushner, Bannon & Flynn met with Jordan's King while Flynn was pushing the for-profit deal to partner with Russia to put nuclear plants in Jordan... via @jasonleopold— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) November 28, 2017 xIt was a great honor to be with King Abdullah II of Jordan and his delegation this morning. We had a GREAT bilateral meeting!🇺🇸🇯🇴 pic.twit[...]

Solar Backpack and Bicycle Back Up

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 17:52:41 +0000

My backpack became a solar backpack when I sewed a $5 solar tail light and a $10 solar headlight to it.  The plastic blister pack is the holder for the headlight.  I've been assembling my own solar backpacks from off the shelf materials for close to a decade and a half now and this is the third version. This Solar headlight (links to sellers are from a search made on 11/26/17 and you should probably check others out even though these are now commodity products made in gross quantities) costs about $10.  I've been using one for a year or two and it works fine.  The on/off button top came off during the first winter but it hasn't affected the switch's performance. The solar light comes with a mini-USB to USB plug so I can supply battery power to another small device. This solar tail light costs about $5 and, again, I've been using two for a year or two, one on the rear fender of my bike and another sewn to my backpack, given one or two away, and they work fine. I have just ordered this bicycle chain charger with battery and USB connection for about $50 I want to see how that works out. The combination of solar and bicycle power gives anyone essential energy autonomy whatever the state of the grid.  Or the world. The fact of the matter is, for less than $100 dollars you can have a 5, 10, or 20 year, depending upon the quality of the equipment and based upon my experience, supply of basic electricity:  light, phone, radio, batteries, possibly a computer.... Small solar and bicycle power can also be entry level electrical power for the more than 1 billion people who don't now, in 2017, have access to reliable and affordable electricity. This is one reason why I say Solar IS Civil Defense. It is also why I say a Solar Swadeshi ( is extremely practical and an entry into Gandhian economics, nonviolent economics, and a new sense of independence and self-reliance.   [...]

Thankful for the Millions Moving Beyond Coal Globally

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 21:16:58 +0000

I’ve come back home from the United Nations climate talks (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, with so much to be thankful for - namely, for the inspiration from the many Beyond Coal activists I met from all over the world. Our movement has gone global, and seeing it with my own eyes was life-changing. We have roughly the same amount of coal power on the grid in the US and Europe, and by moving beyond coal to clean energy on both sides of the Atlantic, we actually have a fighting chance to turn the corner on climate change before it’s too late. That’s exactly what we intend to do. From Germany to the US, from Chile to China, people of all ages and from all backgrounds are taking action in their own countries and communities to try to slow climate disruption by moving beyond coal. Here are some of the big moments from my time in Germany and at COP23, the first in a series of posts I’ll be writing about this trans-Atlantic Beyond Coal movement. I joined Beyond Coal senior director Bruce Nilles and lead volunteer Verena Owen (both of whom started the Beyond Coal campaign years ago) to celebrate the launch of Europe Beyond Coal, a coalition of organizations in 28 countries working to phase out coal in Europe. It’s a sister effort to our US Beyond Coal Campaign, and we’ve been comparing notes and strategizing across the Atlantic for a couple of years now. After several days of meeting with local leaders from around the world, I was both inspired by their work, and struck by how similar their campaigns are to our work in the US. The call for entire countries to phase out coal was front and center throughout COP23. On November 4, we marched with 25,000 people in the streets all calling for a coal phase-out. This was the largest climate march in Germany’s history, and Bruce joined other international leaders on the main stage, where he gave a rousing speech (watch a clip in this video) about how we’ll move forward in spite of Trump. The UK and Canada announced a major new diplomatic effort to phase out coal, with 25 partners - including 20 nations! - committing to end their use of coal entirely. The Powering Past Coal Alliance marks a watershed moment in the global effort to move beyond coal, by creating the first-ever diplomatic initiative that’s laser focused on phasing out coal as a first, essential key step to tackling the climate crisis. The launch made headlines around the world. As Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna put it, "I think we can safely say that the response has been overwhelming." Mike Bloomberg traveled to Bonn where he announced a $50 million grant to international work to move beyond coal, important new support for efforts around the world. When he made the announcement at COP23, he encouraged Germans listening to call German chancell[...]

Why America Just Doesn't Get Trains Anymore

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 15:00:18 +0000

For reasons I may get to in a subsequent diary, I am more than a little pissed at the state of railroading in America. Once upon a time, America’s rail system was an example for the rest of the world. We weren’t the only ones building railroad empires and developing bigger, faster, better trains, but we were no slouches.  And then we lost it. A number of things contributed to America’s iron horse deficiency, some of then deliberate, some of them unanticipated, but the cumulative result is we simply do not have the rail system we deserve — and need. Steel wheels rolling on steel rails are still one of the most energy efficient means of transportation we have yet devised. (There a saying, a little too true to be funny, that proof of railroad efficiency is its ability to survive railroad management.) Rail technology already available could be used to create a transportation system that would be essentially carbon-free, do much for our energy needs, and boost our economy. The rest of the world gets it — in the Netherlands, their passenger rail system is 100% renewable. But in America, it just doesn’t come up. Why? There are some promising signs that a few places in America are starting to rethink rails. When both Texas and California are pursuing the development of high speed rail, when Florida is getting faster speed rail, what’s wrong with the rest of the country? I came up with a list of reasons that might explain why America continues to derail itself. Most Americans have never ridden a passenger train of any kind, except maybe in an amusement park or on a tourist line — if that much. They have nothing to relate it to in their lives, no experience to gauge what it could do for them. They just don’t see it as something they need. They ‘know’ commuter rail only works in big cities, is too expensive, and ‘those’ people use it. They ‘know’ High Speed Rail is super expensive, tickets will cost too much, no one will use it — and regular passenger rail is too slow. And you’ll never take their cars away from them. Most people have no idea how much of our economy turns on rail transport, or what they get from it. They do know about oil tanker ‘bomb trains’ and horrible accidents though. [Update: And most Americans believe railroads need to have lower ticket prices and pay for themselves, despite having to maintain their rails and pay property taxes on them while competing with airlines that don’t have to pay for airports or air traffic control systems, and highways that are subsidized by everyone.] All of the above means there’s a big dearth of public support for railroads today — which means they are not a priority for most politicians. Where there is interest in rail these days, it’s often because ther[...]

Flynn, Bannon, and Kushner were making money by proliferating nuclear materials in the Middle East

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 08:04:32 +0000

Kushner, Bannon and Flynn secretly promoted a US-Russian Saudi-financed program to build nuclear reactors in the Arab world. With that earlier revelation in September as confirmations, these appear to support the building #TrumpRussia speculation that Flynn may have “flipped”. More interesting is giving the project the ironic moniker of “Marshall Plan”, and as a side hustle, what are the implications of expanding the market for nuclear power in areas less secure.  Middle East states that could have nuclear cooperation agreements  Data from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicates that 436 nuclear reactors are presently operating in some 30 countries. However, with more than half of these 436 reactors due for retirement by 2030, countries which export nuclear infrastructure will likely be competing for a bounty of new contracts in the next decade. Indeed, worldwide another 53 nuclear reactors are currently under construction and a further 136 are in the planning stages. Emerging markets in the Middle East are keen to introduce nuclear power into their energy portfolios Also, were the recent activities by Kushner in Saudi Arabia and Israel concerning peace plans or simply continuing commercial interests of this type, among others. The difference has been that Flynn’s casual ignorance of operating as a foreign agent seems more exposed to prosecution than the nepotism from which Kushner has benefited.  “According to Alexandra Bell of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, giving a country nuclear power ‘…is like giving a country a nuclear weapons starter kit.’” ...and beaks were getting wet by personal profit deals lasting decades, those arrangements were made to overlap their government service and to use those connections for private gain. Profit precedes proliferation, as the market for new nuclear reactors expands. Information has been released by the House Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committee that Michael Flynn, former Trump appointed National Security Adviser, is confirmed to have attended a meeting between the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia regarding building nuclear reactors in the Middle East.  The meeting took place in 2015 when Flynn was working on behalf of U.S. owned oil companies. Flynn failed to disclose this meeting on his application for security clearance after being appointed National Security Adviser – as well as the $25,000 he received for attending the meeting. [...]  Adding fuel to the fire, journalist Anthony Cormier, announced confirmation of a similar meeting attended by Flynn and the king of Jordan – along with Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon on January 5, 2017. a consortium of US, French, Dutch, Russian, [...]

"How free enterprise can solve climate change"

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 03:43:45 +0000

How free enterprise can solve climate change Tuesday, April 25 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm MIT, Building E14-633, 75 Amherst Street, Cambridge Speaker: Bob Inglis Former Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC) traveled to Antarctica and Greenland as a member of the House Science Committee during his second, three-year term in Congress (2005-10) and became convinced climate change was a problem and needed action. In July 2012, he founded and launched, which is centered on conservative principles and a free-enterprise solution to climate change. Inglis will talk about how free enterprise and a "tax swap" can deliver the innovation to solve our climate change issues and lead the rest of the world. ESI People & the Planet Lecture Series Web site: Open to: the general public Cost: free Sponsor(s): Environmental Solutions Initiative For more information, contact:  Hannah Loomis  I came across this in my archives and thought I’d bring it out.   Bob Inglis is probably the most outspoken climate realist on the Right.  He and his organization, RepublicEn, are “energy optimists, climate realists.”  I tried to start a conversation with him about Solar IS Civil Defense when last he passed through MIT but haven’t heard anything back. Long ago, back in the 1980s when Reagan had killed the solar boom(let) and gasoline was cheap, some of the national environmental groups talked about “No Regrets” strategies, things people could do that would pay off whatever you thought about energy or the environment.  Nobody ever pushed it that hard, in my estimation, although the ideas of energy efficiency and energy conservation (not necessarily the same thing) have paid off over and over again but still haven’t changed enough minds to shift the deadlocked politics on energy and climate change in the USA. My rough notes from the talk: 4/25/17 MIT Bob Inglis Son made him confront climate change after knee jerk reaction to Gore in 1990s Went to Antarctica and trip made it real and apparent to him Snorkeling on Great Barrier Reef he realized the [scientist] showing him what he was doing was worshipping God Raise wages and cut carbon act proposed in 2009 - revenue neutral carbon tax, border adjustable meaning it applies to imports as well which he thinks will win at WTO He lost his next election to Trey Gowdy RepublicEn has 6 people and $1.2 million annual budget Conservatives are the "indispensable party in the indispensable nation" and need to be won over.  He uses the language of free enterprise and capitalism to explain climate change. The environmental left and eco right Energy optimists and climate realists Conservatives trust their messeng[...]