The Coal vs Clean Energy Show

The Sierra Club has released a new video series of short, animated sketches that highlight a different health or environmental impact from coal – “The Coal vs Clean Energy Show.” The videos are also accompanied by a web-based game featuring the same characters, which viewers can play as they try to wrack up the highest score. Additional videos in the series will be released in the coming months.

“Just like the coal character in The Coal vs Clean Energy Show, the coal industry continues to turn a blind eye to the dangerous health and environmental effects of mining and burning coal,” said Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “We hope this series helps to educate viewers on the dangers of coal and the benefits of clean energy, in a fun and engaging way.”

Renewable Energy Roadmap for Central America

According to a new report, The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America,  authored by the Worldwatch Institute, Central America is far from harvesting its enormous renewable energy resources to their fullest potential. The region is a worldwide leader in hydropower and geothermal and is developing wind energy, yet has room to expand.

Renewable Energy in Central America“Central America is at a crossroads,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Climate and Energy at Worldwatch and co-author of the study. “As the economies of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama expand, regional use of fossil fuels is growing quickly while the use of traditional fuel wood, primarily for cooking, remains unsustainably high.”

Ochs continued, “These developments come with significant health, societal and economic costs, including rising greenhouse gas emissions and worsening air and water pollution. Central America has the potential to meet 100 percent of its electricity needs with sustainable renewable energy, but the proper policies and measures need to be put in place now.”

The report assesses the status of renewable energy technologies in Central America and analyzes the conditions for their advancement in the future. It identifies important knowledge and information gaps, evaluates key finance and policy barriers, and makes suggestions for how to overcome both. The study serves as a “roadmap of a roadmap,” scoping the improvements needed to facilitate the transition to a sustainable energy system and establishing the necessary methodology and groundwork for comprehensive regional and national energy strategies.

The reports focuses on four “high-impact” areas for transitioning Central America’s energy systems: Continue reading

Volvo Debuts Noiseless Electric Buses

The launch of an ultramodern bus service in Gothenburg, Sweden will pick up passengers indoors, without noise or emissions via electric buses. The initiative is sponsored by the Volvo Group, Swedish Energy Agency, the City of Gothenburg, Västtrafik, Lindholment Science Park and Johanneberg Science Park. The project has been coined, ElectriCity.

“This represents an entirely new mode of travel and will allow for the public-transport system to contribute to a more pleasant urban environment,” said Olof Persson, president ElectriCityand CEO of Volvo. “A silent and emissions-free public-transport system will enable the inclusion of locations in the city that are currently off limits. It is immensely satisfying to be able to launch this in our hometown, in cooperation with Region Västra Götaland and the City of Gothenburg.”

The use of electric power not only places Gothenburg on the map in terms of sustainable and innovative solutions for public transport; the new bus service will also open up new possibilities in city and urban planning. Commencing in 2015, the electric buses are to run between Johanneberg Science Park adjacent to Chalmers and Lindholmen Science Park in Hisingen.

Anneli Hulthén, Chairman of the Municipal Board added, “The electric bus service entails a new mode of public-transport system usage, which is highly positive for Gothenburg. It will highlight Gothenburg as a progressive city in terms of city planning. This is also in line with our prioritized objective of having Gothenburg reduce its climate impact to become a climate-neutral city, and increasing sustainable travel.”

In addition to the electric buses, the cooperation also includes the creation and trial runs of new bus-stop solutions, traffic-routing systems, safety concepts, energy supply and business models.

U.S. Firms Sign Climate Declaration

Twenty-two American investment firms with nearly $240 billion in assets under management have signed a Climate Declaration, calling on U.S policymakers to seize the American economic opportunity of addressing climate change. The move was timed with the start of the Global Investor Forum on Climate Change that took place this week in Hong Kong. The declaration asserts. “Tackling climate change is one of America’s greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century … There must be a coordinated effort to combat climate change—with America taking the lead here at home.”

Jack Ehnes, chief executive officer of CalSTRS, one of the organizations who signed the Climate Declaration said, “As the global economy moves toward a low-carbon future, governments that act aggressively to enact strong, long-term climate and energy policies will reap the biggest rewards. In order to tackle the global climate crisis, we must realize the strength of our combined efforts. That is why CalSTRS signed the Climate Declaration. U.S. policy leaders need to step up on this issue and embrace climate change policies as an economic opportunity.”

Investors have been an important force in supporting policy changes related to clean energy and efficiency. Last year, investors managing $800 billion in assets called on Congress to renew the Production Tax Credit for renewable energy, which was ultimately extended for another year. Investors have also been outspoken proponents of state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) that more than two-dozen states have enacted to boost sourcing of wind, solar and other renewable energy. RPSs have catalyzed billions of dollars of investment, thousands of new projects and hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs, including 30,000 new jobs in 2012 alone.

“Being smarter when it comes to climate change is the right thing to do for all of our families, and it also will translate into economic and investment opportunities,” said Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who has previously called for better disclosure of climate-related opportunities and risks and who also signed the declaration. “I am proud to stand with Oregon’s largest employers and premier ski destinations to recognize that a cleaner future will also be a more profitable one.”

Continue reading

Groups Petition Cali to Evaluate Clean Energy Policy

Several organizations in California, including Californians Against Utilities Stopping Solar Energy (CAUSE), American Lung Association of California, California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) and Presente.org are petitioning the California Energy Commission to quantify the air quality and economic benefits associated with the states “net energy metering” policy.

According to CAUSE, net metering provides solar consumers with fair credit for the energy they put back on the grid, which utilities then sell to other customers. The organization says monopoly utilities in California and across the country are trying to eliminate net metering in order to halt the consumer-driven popularity of rooftop solar.

Rooftop Solar Installation“By driving the expansion of rooftop solar, net metering helps improve the quality of the air we breathe while creating jobs in our community,” said Dr. Luis Pacheco, Medical Director of the Transitional Care Unit at California Hospital Medical Center and CAUSE co-chair. “These were key considerations when net metering was adopted, and should be included in an assessment of the policy’s overall effectiveness.”

The requested study would supplement analysis of the more limited impact of net metering on non-solar ratepayers’ electric bills and would also include various other benefits including: local job growth and increased employment throughout California; increased local economic activity that generates tax revenue for state and local governments; improved air quality through reduced need for fossil fuel power generation; reduced death and disease associated with fossil fuel power generation; reduced greenhouse gas emissions; lower wholesale market prices for electricity due to decreased demand; and improved grid security and reduced economic costs from power outages.

CAUSE says attention to these additional society impacts comes at a time when Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) have begun to diverge from one another on the impact of net-metered solar on the grid. In a recent ratepayer impact study conducted earlier this year by Crossborder Energy found that net metering will deliver net benefits of more than $92 million per year to California ratepayers.

“Air pollution poses a serious threat to our state’s health. Powering our buildings with on-site clean, renewable energy instead of burning fossil fuels can help reduce harmful air pollution and lower energy costs at the same time,” addedStrela Cervas, co-coordinator of the California Environmental Justice Alliance. “We should better understand the societal benefits associated with net metering before making policy changes.”

Project Volt Gas Volt – A Breakthrough Program?

During the EU Parliament in Brussels, a “breakthrough” green renewable energy program coined Project Volt Gas Volt was called for to make fossil fuel and first generation biofuel use obsolete. The call was made by Corinne Lepage, Member of the European Parliament (also the former French Minister of the Environment) and American Professor of Management, Robert I. Bell.

According to Lepage and Bell, renewable energy can now “keep the lights on” without disruption due to new technology and long term financing proposal for the project allowing surplus energy from wind and solar to be stored. Project Volt Gas Volt (VGV) offers a reliable, safe, Project Volt Gas Voltphase-out of nuclear power and fossil fuels with the possibility of enhancement rather than a reduction in life style.

“With Project VGV, industry and government have the solution for a successful energy transition, to optimize wind and solar energy,” said Lepage and Bell.

An element of the program would rely on new technology that converts surplus electricity generated by wind farms and solar parks to methane, that can then be stored for months in the existing natural gas grid. Bell and Lepage say the methane would become the “battery” for renewable energy while simultaneously making fracking obsolete.

“We will use the surplus energy from nuclear, now largely wasted at night, to help pay for the exit from nuclear. And we will use the CO2 generated from burning waste, biomass and from steel mills and cement plants to generate the methane,”  explained Bell.

Lepage added, “From now on, the question of exiting from nuclear while maintaining a continuous and sufficient production of electricity should not be a taboo, but a realistic political choice, one which will determine the employment of tomorrow.”

WWF Launches Renewable Energy Campaign

WWF is calling on the world to Seize Your Power and invest in renewable energy.

wwfWWF, the international name for the 50-year-old environmental focused World Wildlife Fund, is issuing a global call to action urging governments and financial institutions worldwide to increase investment in renewable energy by at least $40 billion over the next 12 months.

“We are running out of time. We know that if we continue to rely on fossil fuels we will face a future of worsening air pollution and an increasingly inhospitable climate. It is now our collective responsibility to commit to the future we want. We call on political and financial decision-makers to seize their power to make the switch to clean and sustainable renewable energy and end the inertia of coal, oil and gas,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International.

The WWF Seize Your Power campaign features an on-line pledge that enables supporters to call for increased investments in renewable energy and the phasing out of investments in coal, oil and gas.

The pledge, which can be found on www.panda.org/seizeyourpower, calls on financial institutions and governments worldwide to act immediately, by making stronger commitments to increased financing for renewable technologies and policies and to directly invest more money in sustainable energy powered by wind, water and sun.

From today, WWF will campaign to seek major public commitments from governments and international financial institutions to make new investments of $40 billion USD beyond business-as-usual in the renewable energy sector. The public campaign will feature in more than 20 countries, where WWF is targeting public finance, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds. By establishing a business case for moving new money into renewable energy, the campaign will show the environmental, social and economic risks of the dependence on dirty energy such as coal, oil and gas.

“The energy markets’ driving forces include speculation, institutional inertia, lack of accurate information, perverse incentives but also huge economic and political interests. It’s time to reframe the debate and expose the real costs of fossil fuels and the real opportunity of the renewable energy sector. The call to action we’re launching today is an invitation to every decision maker to invest in the future we want – one that is powered by clean, renewable and sustainable energy,” said Samantha Smith, Leader of the Global Climate and Energy Initiative of WWF-International.

While US$40 billion is only the start of the additional amount of investment that is needed, WWF believes that these new investments are an essential turning point in shifting money from risky fossil fuels into clean and renewable energy.

Groups Ask For Water “Road Map”

Leaders of the Committee for the American Clean Energy Agenda (ACEA) praised Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and 22 of her House colleagues for urging new U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to release the long overdue “road map” on how to manage the development of U.S. energy resources without harming the quality and supply of water supplies. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 required water-related recommendations, but as of yet, have not been submitted to Congress.

The coalition comprised of more than 120 citizen organizations and 2 million members, is concerned about the link between energy development and a clean, safe Waterwater supply. With this mission in mind, ACEA applauded the letter submitted by several U.S. House members to Energy Secretary Moniz.

“Without this information, Congress is flying blind when it comes to developing an energy policy so reliant on the availability of fresh water. As we enter the summer months when the impacts of droughts on agriculture and water shortages are felt across the country, access to these recommendations become all the more crucial,” said Pam Solo, president and founder of the Civil Society Institute.”We should have an energy policy where people mater and that includes having access to clean and safe water.”

Back in January, an ACEA survey found that 92 percent of Americans think “U.S. energy planning and decision making” should be based on a “comprehensive understanding of what our natural resources are.” In essence, this is the “road map” that Congress requested but which was never produced. According to ACEA, the national water road map attracts the support of 92 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents, and 94 percent of Democrats.

“This letter from lawmakers echoes the sentiment of the American people that we must better understand how our energy policy impacts this country’s precious water resources,” stressed Heather White, executive director of the Environmental Working Group. “The Department of Energy cannot afford to delay any loner the release of the ‘Water Nexus’ road map when energy production increasingly threatens water quality across the country, as well as quantity in places where water is scare.”

What Do Orca Whales and Solar Have in Common?

What do Orca whales and solar energy have in common? Nothing until now. Canadian Solar Solutions has donated solar modules to power the OrcaLab Whale Research Centre, on a remote island off the British Columbia coast near Alert Bay. OrcaLab has been recording the Johnson Strait whales for more than four decades. Founder, Dr. Paul Spong and his wife Helena Symonds have spearheaded global research that confirms orca “clans” have distinct, highly sophisticated dialects. This Orca Whalesscientific evidence in turn has led to bans against commercial orca hunting, and to the creation of nearby orca sanctuaries.

“The solar installation is performing beyond our expectations,” said Dr. Paul Spong a whale expert and advocate. “We are now running all of our power needs without a generator, and looking forward to a future here without oil. We are so grateful to Canadian Solar for everything they have done for us.”

According to Canadian Solar Solutions, a subsidiary of Canadian Solar, the new donated solar system allows the off-grid OrcaLab to cut gas generator use and fuel costs dramatically, increase battery performance and life, expand the range of microphones and cameras, and improve amenities for summer volunteers. The system is designed to perform with minimal maintenance for several decades. In addition, the panels will power the main OrcaLab site, and a network of underwater microphones and cameras which will track migrating orca whale and other marine animals.

“We are honored to be involved in the ground breaking OrcaLab foundation’s noble orca whale research,” said Shawn Qu, chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar. “We are proud to be able to help advance the team’s ambitious work through this latest exciting application of solar energy. As an industry leader, Canadian Solar strives to also lead in our philanthropic efforts with organizations around the world.”

100 Days of Action to Fight Climate Change

The Sierra Club is celebrating a successful campaign, “100 Days of Action to Fight Climate Disruption,” that began with President Obama’s inauguration and concluded on Earth Day. The goal of the campaign was to push the president to take bold action that would avert the climate crisis. According to Sierra Club, over one million Americans from across the country participated in events as well as signed petitions and sent letters to decision makers.

“In his inaugural address and again during the State of the Union, President Obama invited a national climate conversation. Over the past one hundred days, more than one million Americans responded to that invitation with a demand for bold action on climate disruption,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “The past one hundred days have seen major climate victories — from President Obama’s 364_100days_06WhatWeNeed04designating five new national monuments that will protect our wild places from fossil-fuel drilling and mining, to the Mayor of Los Angeles announcing that the city will be coal-free by 2025. Now we’re looking to the President to follow through with his climate commitments and secure his legacy with bold climate solutions like rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.”

The 100 Days of Action to Fight Climate Disruption campaign launched on January 14, just before President Obama’s second inauguration, and provided a framework of administrative steps the President can take to help curb climate disruption. During the past 100 days, a Forward on Climate Rally was held in Washington, D.C. in what the Sierra Club is calling the country’s largest rally with more than 50,000 people in attendance. In addition, climate advocates met with policy makers and held Climate Legacy Town Hall meetings and other grassroots events.

“With President Obama well into his second term, the next few months and years will be pivotal in the fight to address climate disruption and move America toward clean energy,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Over the past one hundred days, the American people have shown that they are ready and willing to join the President in this fight that is not only winnable, but one in which we are already beginning to succeed. Working together, the President and the American people can fight the climate crisis, reenergize the American economy, create millions of jobs, and give our children the type of future they deserve.”

Study Shows Ethanol Reducing Footprint

A new study indicates that ethanol production is continuing to reduce its energy and environmental footprint.

cutcThe study, entitled “2012 Corn Ethanol: Emerging Plant Energy and Environmental Technologies”, found that recent innovations in corn ethanol production have resulted in increased yield per bushel even as less energy is required for production. Thermal energy use at a typical dry mill ethanol plant has fallen 9% since 2008, the study found, meaning the carbon footprint of corn ethanol continues to shrink.

The authors, Steffen Mueller, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center and John Kwik, PE, of Dominion Energy Services, LLC wrote in summary, “Our work includes an assessment of over 50% of operating dry grind corn ethanol plants. On average, 2012 dry grind plants produce ethanol at higher yields with lower energy inputs than 2008 corn ethanol.”

“Furthermore, significantly more corn oil is separated at the plants now, which combined with the higher ethanol yields results in a slight reduction in DDG production and a negligible increase in electricity consumption,” the authors concluded.

Listen to an interview with Steffen Mueller here: Steffen Mueller, study author

Read the study here.

Who Knew? Morocco & Environment Go Together

220px-Principal_Cast_in_Casablanca_Trailer_cropI have this urge to travel to Morocco if nothing for the sheer desire to re-enact Casablanca as Ilsa Lund, played by Ingrid Bergman. (Who wants to come along and play my husband Victor Laszlo played by Paul Henreid and Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart? Apply to @jmschroeder) While many people will be mumbling to themselves this is the stupidest idea they have ever heard, I now have a better reason to go: Morocco was one of the major cities selected to host major environmental events to celebrate Earth Day. Who knew that Morocco and the environment go together like Pringles and applesauce (Try it; it’s tasty!).

earth day morocco_for_distribution-1Rabat, the country’s capital was one of six cities around the world representing Global Earth Day for its environmental initiatives. For instance, Morocco has launched a $9 billion project to harness the Sahara sun; the solar farm is expected to supply 42 percent of its power by 2020. His Majesty King Mohammed VI, one of Green Morocco’s strongest advocates, has launched a project to plant a million palm trees by 2015. He has also directed creation of a national agency for the development and safeguarding of oases zones and Argan trees across the country.

In fact, back in 2010, then EPA Administer Lisa Jackson praised Morocco as a model for “its commitment to a clean, green economy.” She also praised Morocco’s leadership on the environment and sustainable development and noted that their projects offer a great example for how sustainable ideas can be spread around the globe.

Leading up to Earth Day, the city held dozens of events including environmental awareness workshops, seminars and presentations on innovative, environmentally friendly technologies. On April 22nd, Morocco unveiled its “National Charter for the Environment and Sustainable Development,” the first of its kind in Africa and the Arab and Muslim work, according to Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers. As part of this charter, 10 major new environmental projects were announced ranging from preserving ecosystems to environmental education in schools to fighting desertification to establishing rural development through environmental programs.

Today is the Day of Global Celebration and internationally known musician Seal, along with Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai as well as other celebrities joined Moroccans for Earth Day celebrations and asked the country to support the commitment for a Green Morocco.

I’m ready to celebrate a Green Morocco. I’m just going to arrive circa 1942 style.

Ornicept: Wind Energy Technology for the Birds

DSC_2294Earlier this month, the winners were announced in the Clean Energy Challenge, and prize winner, Ornicept, has a unique technology that can aid in the mitigation of bird issues associated with wind turbines. The technology was developed last May by young entrepreneurs Justin Otani and his co-founder Russell Conard, who graduated from Indiana University. Early on they won a business plan competition called the “Best Competition,” that gave them the initial seed capacity. From there they relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Conard, says Otani is computer scientist with a bird habit and in college set out to create a computer program that could identify birds with video. When reaching out to biologists and other people on how he could improve the system, the commercial applications became apparent. Simultaneously, while Conard was working with biologists, Otani was working at the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship for Innovation and running the on campus incubator and also serving as a consultant for student-started companies. It was through this process that he was connected with Conard.

RUSSELLOtani said there needs to be a balance between business and the need to protect wildlife – an issue that the wind industry is also dealing with. Eventually, the technology emerged and when it did, it was a state-of-the-art network of distributed cameras, computers, and computer vision algorithms. When working in tandem, it is a system for remotely collecting data on birds by species as they move through a survey zone.

What’s interesting, Otani explained, is that it may not be a whole wind farm that creates risks to bird but maybe one or two wind turbines that have the majority of impact. So if it’s pre-construction, using their data that lets you know where those high use areas are, you can often offset the placement of the turbines, even a 100 meters, and dramatically reduce the risk to birds.

Today, the technology is being beta-tested and refined and the plan is to roll-out the technology full scale soon. In anticipation of the launch, the Ornicept team will be displaying and discussing their technology during the upcoming American Wind Energy Association Conference & Exhibition taking place May 5-8, 2013 in Chicago.

Listen to my interview with Justin Otani here: Wind Energy Technology for the Birds

Neil Young Fills ‘er Up with Cellulosic Ethanol

Earlier this month, Hall of Fame recording artist Neil Young stopped by Sioux Falls, South Dakota to fill up his LincVolt with POET-DSM cellulosic ethanol. LincVolt is a hybrid-electric 1959 Lincoln Continental with onboard charging powered by cellulosic ethanol. He’s on a cross-country tour to highlight renewable energy.

During his visit, Young said you don’t see much about what is going on with the climate in the media. “It’s just not a fast moving subject. It’s a slow moving big story. But it’s not going to be going away unless we do something.”

He supports American-made fuel and noted that when he filled up with cellulosic ethanol, his vehicle is able to get an 80 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) over traditional gasoline. “This is just incredible for the planet,” added Young.

Check out the video here and I must say his refurbished Lincoln is “DYNOMITE”.

Ten Ways Renewable Fuels are Enviro

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) has unveiled a list of 10 ways the renewable fuels industry is helping to improve the environment. According to IRFA, renewable fuels offer positive impacts on the environment compared to petroleum-based counterparts.

“Renewable fuels make our planet a better place to live with healthier air and water, and that’s exactly what Earth Day is all about,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Smart energy policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) encourage the production and use of cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuels like E15 and B20 that significantly reduce the environmental harm that is caused by petroleum-based fuels.”

Corns impact source NCGAThe following Top 10 list highlights ways in which ethanol and biodiesel have benefited the environment over the past decade through improvements at the plant, on the farm, and out of the tailpipe.

1.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), for every unit of fossil energy needed to produce biodiesel, 5.5 units of energy are gained, while ethanol generates 2.3 units of energy for every unit of fossil energy input. By comparison, gasoline and diesel fuel have negative energy balances.

2.  The adoption of regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTO) has significantly reduced volatile organic compound emissions from ethanol plants.

3.  On a per gallon basis, today’s ethanol plants require 28% less thermal energy and 32% less electricity than a decade ago, according to the University of Illinois at Chicago.

4.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), biodiesel reduces greenhouse gases (GHG) by up to 86% compared to petroleum diesel, while Yale University found that ethanol reduces GHG by up to 59% compared to gasoline.

5.  Water used to produce a gallon of ethanol has dropped 40% over the last decade, while biodiesel production reduces wastewater by 79% and hazardous waste by 96% when compared to petroleum diesel.

6.  Increased income from ethanol demand for corn has allowed farmers to invest in precision farming equipment and stronger conservation and environmental protections.

7.  The environmental footprint of U.S. corn production has improved greatly since the advent of the ethanol industry, including significant reductions in soil loss, irrigation, energy use and the amount of land required to produce a bushel of corn.

8.  Ethanol and biodiesel are both biodegradable and non-toxic.

9.  Biodiesel and ethanol significantly reduce tailpipe carbon monoxide emissions, air toxics, fine particulate matter and smog pollution compared to petroleum diesel and gasoline, making our air healthier to breathe.

10. Since the beginning of the RFS, biodiesel use alone has reduced lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by nearly 74 billion pounds, the equivalent of removing 5.4 million vehicles from U.S. roads.