Tag Archives: environment

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Conventional ways of thinking of renewable energy as too expensive or unreliable are old and outdated, according to Renewables 100, a nonprofit organization founded to study and advance the global transition to a 100 percent renewable energy future.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

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

To Frack Or To Freak? The Effects Of Hydraulic Fracturing On Our Environment

By: Robert Miles, July 2013

Hydraulic fracturing drilling rig on the Pinedale Anticline in Wyoming with mountain range in background.
Drilling rig on the Pinedale Anticline (Linda Baker)

Natural gas produced from shale formations, commonly referred to as “shale gas”, has become increasingly important in the energy supply market for the U.S. and worldwide. Obtaining natural gas from shale reserves was not considered economically feasible until recently because of low permeability of the shale rock formations. New developments in hydraulic fracturing technology have led to a boom in domestic shale gas production since massive scale utilization in 2003. The United States has experienced economic benefits via revenue and job creation in predominantly rural areas while simultaneously increasing the energy security of the U.S. by decreasing dependence on foreign oil supplies. However, the resounding question remains: at what cost? In order to realize the implications of this question we first need to understand some basics about the hydraulic fracturing process and the uncertainties that continue to surround the shale gas industry. In this report I will primarily focus on the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing and well development, but it is important to realize that direct impacts on the environment can and will extend to affect human health.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a stimulation process used to extract natural gas, and in some cases oil, from deep shale reserves 5,000-8,000 feet below the ground surface. This process allows energy companies to access previously unavailable energy sources in states that have deep oil and gas reserves. The fracking process involves pumping a mixture of water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into a well, which fractures the surrounding rock formation and props open passages that allow natural gas to freely flow from rock fractures to the production well. Once the well is developed, the carrying fluid can then flow back to the ground surface along with the gas.

Continue reading To Frack Or To Freak? The Effects Of Hydraulic Fracturing On Our Environment

Council Public Hearing For Boulder Municipalization on 4/16

EUoftheF_web_cornerOn Tuesday, April 16th, 2013, the City of Boulder will be holding a public hearing to decide whether to move forward on a municipal utility. The hearing will be held at the Council Chambers, 1777 Broadway Street at 6pm.

Boulder City Council released a report on February 21st, 2013 updating the progress on research devoted to the creation of a municipal electric utility. The report concluded that a shift from a private to a municipal utility company could: lower utility rates (for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors) projected over an estimated 20 year span, maintain levels of system reliability, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent through an increase in renewable energy production (by more than 54 percent).

The public with be given a chance to comment. Please bring your family, friends, co-workers, and colleagues.

“Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis”

wildlifeclimatecrisisWe all know that climate change has seriously impacted humans as a species, so it is no surprise that plants and wildlife are struggling with the changes as well. In January 2013, The National Wildlife Federation released the report, Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis, demonstrating how wildlife and their habitats are being affected in various regions across the United States.

A few of the key climate change related impacts seen on wildlife include shifting ecosystems, biological changes, and struggles to adapt to extreme weather events. Since average temperatures have increased overall, a noticeable shift in plant species and wildlife habitat in North America has occurred. Many species are being seen to relocate either to further north latitudes or towards higher elevations. According to the report, “fourteen species of small mammals in the Sierra Nevada region extended their ranges up in elevation by about 1,640 feet in the last century”. Also, the seasonal changes and habitat shifts are affecting species’ internal biological clocks, causing changes in migration, hibernation, and breeding. For instance, birds are migrating later than previously seen and bears are coming out of hibernation earlier in the spring. Another issue discussed in the report is the amount of stress that extreme weather events put on various species. In the western United States, droughts and low-stream flow are making it difficult for fish to breed, while off the east coast, tropical storms have decimated coastal habitats.

Continue reading “Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis”