All posts by Lauren Stanford

The Road to 100 Percent Renewables is Closer than you Think

Photo by Ben Bocko of solar panels and an American flag on top of the governor's office in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo by Ben Bocko – Governor’s Office in Boston, Massachusetts

By: Stephanie Borsum, September 2013

Conventional ways of thinking of renewable energy as too expensive or unreliable are old and outdated, according to Renewables 100, a nonprofit organization founded to study and advance the global transition to a 100 percent renewable energy future. This organization firmly believes that, “it is not a question of ‘if’ the 100% renewable energy future will become a reality; it is solely a question of ‘when’ and ‘how’.” Renewables 100 was the first to host an international conference in the United States that focused on 100 percent renewable energy targets and solutions. The Pathways to 100 Percent Renewable Energy Conference was held on April 16, 2013 in San Francisco and intended on providing the public with knowledge of renewable energies along with hope for a completely sustainable future.

At the conference there were various esteemed and influential speakers who discussed global warming, climate change, technology, policy and economics in relation to renewable energy systems. These speakers all put forth the compelling claim that entire towns, cities and countries could, and eventually will be, powered and run completely on renewable energies. They also helped to prove, by citing a number of recent authoritative energy studies, that the shift away from fossil fuels is technically and economically viable in today’s world.  With current technologies, including photovoltaic solar panels, wind turbines, biomass and hydropower, enough energy security can be provided to supply societies demands and more. These speakers have helped create a vision for the potential of renewable resources and illustrated it becoming a reality. Their research and presentations helped to educate the public and overcome some barriers found when transitioning to a renewable system.

Since the conference, 8 Countries, 41 cities, 48 regions, 8 utilities, and 21 NonProfit, educational and public institutions committed to shifting to 100% renewable energy within the next few decades. Continue reading The Road to 100 Percent Renewables is Closer than you Think

Clean Coal Is A Dirty Lie

Fifteen homes like this one in Harriman, Tenn., were flooded with fly ash sludge on Monday after a storage pond wall broke. The first floor of this two-story house is almost completely covered with coal ash sludge.
J. Miles Carey/Knoxville News Sentinel, via Associated Press, Harriman, Tenn.

By: Robert Miles, August 2013

WHAT IS COAL ASH

The most significant toxic byproduct of burning coal is coal ash. Coal ash is a blanket term for four residuals: fly ash – fine powdery particles that float up the smokestack and are captured by pollution control devices; bottom ash – heavier materials that descend to the bottom of the furnace; flue gas desulfurization – wet sludge or dry powder formed by chemically combining sulfur gases with a sorbent; boiler sag – crystallized pellets that result when molten slag and water in the furnace come in contact. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), coal ash typically contains heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, selenium, other assorted heavy metals and trace amounts of radionuclides such as uranium. The majority of heavy metals that are present in coal ash are among the most toxic heavy metals listed by the U.S. Department of Health’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Arsenic in particular has been proven to cause cancer. Despite the known danger posed by coal ash waste, little to no government policy exists to regulate the disposal of coal ash. Due to the toxic nature of coal ash waste it continues to be a focus for multiple organizations to research the amount of coal ash being produced and the effect it is having on our air and water. Clean Water Action and Rainforest Action Network have recently published individual research reports on the information they gathered from coal ash research.

RECENT RESEARCH ON THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF COAL ASH

The very first survey of coal ash pollution in Colorado – Coal Ash: Colorado’s Toxic Trash Exposed – was published by Clean Water Action on June 26th 2013. “Clean Water Action’s research found that coal ash disposal is a serious threat to Colorado’s water resources,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action.  “Right here in Colorado, about 1.7 million tons of coal ash pollution is produced every year and safeguards are not in place to protect the environment or the public’s health.” Continue reading Clean Coal Is A Dirty Lie

Oikos, Gaia, and Earth System Science: Our Planet’s Blueprints for Human Energy Systems

Martin Ogle, Founder, Entrepreneurial Earth, LLC

Presentation

Simple and sophisticated lessons and insights for the future of human energy systems bubble up scientifically and metaphorically from our planet. Join Clean Energy Action for a presentation by biologist and educator, Martin Ogle, sure to make you think and renew your energy for renewable energy! Martin will illuminate the parallels between geophysiology and human metabolism, explore ways that human development can mimic symbiotic evolution and tease out a new brand of entrepreneurship from ancient and modern understandings of the human mind.

Background Info

Martin Ogle

Martin Ogle graduated from Colorado State University in 1982 with a degree in Wildlife Biology. He spent a 27 year career as Chief Naturalist for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority during which time he oversaw the installation of solar energy and energy efficiency measures and initiated energy education programs in the early 1990s.

Martin is an advocate of Earth Science (especially through Gaia Theory – the scientific idea of Earth as a living system) for advancing sustainability. He gave lectures and courses at schools, universities, the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S.D.A. Graduate School, libraries, and many other organizations in 7 states, 3 countries and Puerto Rico.

Martin served on a variety of boards and task forces in Arlington, Virginia related to energy, sustainability and environment. In 2012, he was presented the Arlington Green Patriot Award for his outstanding work in sustainability by George Mason University, the Arlington Department of Environmental Services, Arlington Chamber of Commerce and Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment.

After retiring from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority last year, Martin moved to Louisville, Colorado with his wife, Lisa, and his twins, Cyrus and Linnea and started his own business, Entrepreneurial Earth, LLC.

Power Point

Gaia, Oikos and Earth System Sci, August 2013

The “Dazzling Dozen” Lead the Way in Solar Installation

Cover page of Environment America Research and Policy Center's Report "Lighting the Way: What We can Learn from America's Top Twelve Solar States." Picture of a solar panel array with a partially cloudy sky and the sun.

The “Dazzling Dozen” is not just a clever name for the twelve states that are leading the way in solar photovoltaic installations; they are an example to be followed in the move from fossil fuels towards a renewable energy utility of the future. On July 23rd, 2013, Environment America Research and Policy Center released a report, “Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States,” describing the benefits of solar energy and some of the related policies.

The Dazzling Dozen are ranked by the highest per capita solar electricity capacity, and include the states of Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, California, Delaware, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Maryland. Arizona ranked first, producing 167 Watts per person of solar electricity, while Colorado ranked eighth, producing 52 Watts per person. These twelve states account for only 28% of the population, but 85% of installed solar photovoltaic systems in the United States. Continue reading The “Dazzling Dozen” Lead the Way in Solar Installation

Fossil Fuel and Renewable Energy Subsidies

Introduction: Fossil fuels have a rich and diverse history, and their influence on the production of energy in the United States have been immense. Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas have helped the United States grow and further develop our energy innovations for the past 200 years. In order for fossil fuels to be economically viable in the beginning of the industries, the federal government provided subsidies to the coal, oil and gas businesses. These subsidies ranged from land grants from the timber and coal industries in the 1800’s, to tax expenditures for oil and gas in the 20th century. However, the burning of these prehistoric fuels for energy have a vast range of negative effects on the environments across the globe. These include the release of air pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxides, Sulfur Dioxide, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), and Heavy Metals—including the release of greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide, one of the major gases that is currently contributing to climate change. It is becoming increasingly important that we take the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner renewable energies more seriously. The following report will look at how fossil fuels have been subsidized and how these subsidies have helped the industry; as well as renewable energy subsidies, how subsidies have helped renewables grow, and why subsidies are important for economies of scale for cleaner fuels.

What is a subsidy? A subsidy is monetary assistance that is granted by a government to a person or group in support of an enterprise regarded as being in the public interest. Subsidies can be direct such as cash grants, interest-free loans—or indirect—being tax breaks, insurance, low-interest loans, depreciation write-offs, or rent rebates. Providing subsidies for fossil fuels in the 1800’s and 1900’s was truly in the interest of the public. Fossil fuels helped grow our country into what it is today by providing us the fuel necessary for the industrial revolution, and the fuels needed to transport and expand our population all over the continental United States.  When we look at the first 15 years of oil and gas subsidies, these industries received half a percent of the total federal budget in subsidies. Today, renewable energy subsidies make up only about a tenth of a percent of the federal budget (inflation-adjusted). Thus, the federal commitment to the oil and gas industries was five times greater than the federal commitment to renewables during the first 15 years of each subsidy’s life.   Continue reading Fossil Fuel and Renewable Energy Subsidies