Santorum, Sanders Miss Energy Boat, Chafee Pro Hydro

There are a lot of candidates vying to be the next president of the United States floating around the Iowa State Fair, but for being in Iowa, many are missing the boat on two very important issues to the state – energy and agriculture. This weekend, presidential candidates Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator of Pennsylvania (Republican); Lincoln Chafee, former Governor of Rhode Island (Democrat); and Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator from Vermont (Independent running for the Democratic nomination) all pushed their economic and military agendas as part of the Des Moines Register Soapbox series while laying low on other major issues. Let’s recap their remarks.

Rick SantorumRick Santorum touted his military expertise by noting that “no one in this race has the record I do on national security”. If elected, he will defeat ISIS and how he will do this is being explained in his 2020 Perfect Vision for the Future. Like George Pataki (R-NY) he wants to cut corporate taxes. Santorum was silent on renewable energy, agriculture and climate change.

Listen to why Rick Santorum wants to be president here:Rick Santorum at the Iowa State Fair

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders had quite the crowd and has set himself apart as being the only candidate to speak on the soapbox so far who wants to expand social security. He plans on doing this by lifting the cap on taxable income. Several other hot button issues: make all higher education free; overhaul campaign finance; end racism by bringing about major reform in the criminal justice system; equity pay for women in the workforce; and economy – “We need an economy that works for working people”.

And, climate change is real. He said, “When we talk about our responsibilities, as adults, as parents, as citizens of this Earth, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that we leave this planet in a way that is habitable for our kids and grandchildren. The debate is over. Climate change is real. Climate change is caused by human activity. Climate change is already causing devastating problems in our country and around the world. What the United State must do, and I will do as president, is lead the world in working with other countries to transform our energy system.”

Listen to why Bernie Sanders wants to be president here:Bernie Sanders at the Iowa State Fair

Lincoln ChafeeLincoln Chafee believes that when electing legislators, voters need to look at past performance, character and vision. He told the crowd that while he was governor, he worked to curb climate change; fought for marriage equality; made investments in education a priority; and helped to lead the nation in the rollout of Obama Care. In terms of national security, he will work hard to end wars if elected saying, “Prosperity comes with peace”.

While he didn’t address renewable energy during his remarks, he did answer the question on his stance on renewable power for rural America. His answer: hydropower. He was part of a group who worked with Canada to bring hydropwer down to the northeast. He stressed that it is reliable, affordable and clean and needs to have a more prominent position in the energy discussion. He also supports other forms of renewable energy including geothermal, wind and solar.

Listen to why Lincoln Chafee wants to be president here:Lincoln Chafee at the Iowa State Fair

None of the candidates specifically addressed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this time around. But at some point all candidates in the race will have to discuss their position to win the state’s nomination- Iowa is the leader in biofuels production including ethanol and biodiesel and has been leading several campaigns to save the RFS.

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

The Quest for a Sustainable Highway

The Mission Zero Corridor Project in Troup County West Georgia is trying to build a ‘green highway’. The travel corridor would, according to Innovia Technology, who has been commissioned for the project, rethink the purpose and function of infrastructure to generate social, environmental and economic value.

Ray-C-Anderson-Memorial-Highway-Exit-14-artist-impressionSome of the technologies being looked at for the project include algae biodiesel gas stations, smart solar-powered roads, moon-cycle adjusting lights, wildlife bridges, driverless cars, electric-car charging lanes and cultural greenways.

“Worldwide the highway infrastructure is continuously maintained, rebuilt and expanded at considerable economic and environmental cost. The Mission Zero Corridor Project is proposing an alternative future where highways have a positive impact on our communities. It’s very exciting to be involved in making this vision a reality,” said Alastair MacGregor, CEO of Innovia Technology, of the challenge ahead.

The late Ray C. Anderson, founder of Interface, Inc. developed the Mission Zero framework to eliminate Interface’s environmental impact while maintaining productivity and still turning a profit. The aim was a promise to “eliminate any negative impacts the company may have on the environment by 2020” and the framework created a blueprint for business sustainability. As a memorial, the Ray C Anderson Foundation is using a 16 mile stretch of Interstate 85 as the living experiment of the “regenerative, restorative and sustainable highway”.

To get the project started the Foundation and Interface funded a vision study through The Georgia Conservancy’s Blueprints for Successful Communities program. Using Interface’s Mission Zero framework as a roadmap, graduate students in the School of Architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, with studio instruction from a team of architects from Perkins+Will in Atlanta, explored how a highway could be a tool of change. The outcome was an inspirational report that identifies a broad range of potential technologies and opportunities. Innovia’s role is to provide a creative exploration of new opportunities, evaluate the technologies for viability and scalability, and to propose a strategy to bring the vision to life.

Battleground States Support Clean Energy

According to new poll results in eight battleground states, there is widespread support for the Clean Power Plan. This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released final rules. Overall, 58 percent support the plan while 40 percent oppose it after hearing arguments for and against the plan. States polled included Virginia, Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.

AUFCLogoWideWebDuring a press conference releasing the poll results held by Americans United for Change who commissioned the research, climate advocates called on Republican Attorney Generals preparing to sue the EPA over the new public health standards and the “do-nothing Republicans in Congress” to stop putting polluters over people and act on climate change.

Among the findings by Tom Jensen, Director of Public Policy Polling, in his summary memo include:

  • There is widespread support for the EPA’s new plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants. Voters in all states, age groups, Democrats and Independents support the Clean Power Plan. Overall, 58% support the plan, while 40% oppose it after hearing arguments for and against the plan.
  • Voters across all 8 swing states and in all age groups consider climate change a serious problem. Democrats (77/22) are very concerned about climate change, with independents (55/44) in agreement. 37% of Republicans consider it serious while 62% don’t. There are more Republicans concerned about climate change than Democrats who are unconcerned.
  • When asked if they agree with Mitch McConnell’s urging the states to ignore the EPA and not develop a plan to cut carbon pollution, the answer was a resounding no: only 31% think states should drag their feet on implementation of new clean power plans; 59% say states should move forward and develop a plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.
  • Supporting climate change measures isn’t a particularly risky move for members of Congress. 63% say they would either be more likely to support their member or it would make no difference if they supported the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. This holds true in each state surveyed. Even Republicans say they would either be more likely to support their members in the future or it would make no difference: 47% total compared to 43% who would be more likely to oppose.

Continue reading

EPA Releases Final Clean Power Plan Rules

Final rules for the Clean Power Plan have been released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as announced by President Obama. The plan calls for carbon reduction from the power sector (aka utilities) by 32 percent below 2005 levels in 2030. According to the EPA, power plants are the largest drivers of climate change in the U.S. emitting nearly one-third of all carbon emissions. This legislation is the first of its kind to set limits on carbon emissions for this sector.

During the announcement, the President said, “There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”

The goal of the Clean Power Plan, and coupled with other pieces of legislation such as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is to reduce not only carbon emissions, but toxic emissions, from the two largest polluting sectors – power and transportation. By 2030, emissions of sulfur dioxide from power plants will be 90 percent lower and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be 72 percent lower, compared to 2005 levels. EPA said Americans will avoid up to 90,000 asthma attacks and spend up to 300,000 more days in the office or the classroom, instead of sick at home. And up to 3,600 families will be spared the grief of losing a loved one too soon. These statistics will be even better with the reductions from the transportation sector.

CCP infograph“We’re proud to finalize our historic Clean Power Plan. It will give our kids and grandkids the cleaner, safer future they deserve. The United States is leading by example today, showing the world that climate action is an incredible economic opportunity to build a stronger foundation for growth,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The valuable feedback we received means the final Clean Power Plan is more ambitious yet more achievable, so states can customize plans to achieve their goals in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses and utilities.”

EPA said they received and reviewed more than 4.3 million public comments on the proposal, and participated in hundreds of meetings with stakeholders. The plan, according to the EPA, works by building on strategies states and businesses are already using. Today, the U.S. uses three times more wind and 20 times more solar energy than it did in 2009, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. It safeguards energy reliability by setting common-sense, achievable state-by-state goals that build on a rapidly growing clean energy economy and gives states and utilities the time and flexibility they need to meet their goals.

The final rule establishes guidelines for states to follow in developing and implementing their plans, including requirements that vulnerable communities have a seat at the table with other stakeholders. EPA said it is proposing a model rule states can adopt, as well as a federal plan that they will put in place if a state fails to submit an adequate plan. Both the proposed model rule and federal plan focus on emissions trading mechanisms to make sure utilities have broad flexibility to reach their carbon pollution reduction goals. EPA also finalized standards to limit carbon pollution from new, modified and reconstructed power plants.

There were mixed emotions on the plan but general praise from environmental, health and the renewable energy industries that this was a bold move in a forward direction. Click here to read more about the Clean Power Plan from the White House perspective.

Voters Want Pro Clean Energy Prez Candidates

NextGen Climate has released the results of a survey that finds voters in key presidential swing states support transitioning to at least 50 percent clean energy by 2030. Hart Research conducted the poll in eight battleground states including: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. In particular, the survey found that young voters (Millennials) are more likely to vote for a candidate who embraces aggressive climate change goals.

The survey also found:

  • 70% of voters had a favorable reaction to a goal of at least 50% clean energy by 2030 — including 69% of independents and 54% of Republicans.
  • 61% of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who embraced this goal, while only 14% say they would be less likely.

“Transitioning to a clean energy economy is an ambitious goal, but one that is necessary and achievable — and politically potent, ” said NextGen Climate President and Founder Tom Steyer. “It’s time for presidential candidates in both parties to produce plans to achieve at least 50% clean energy by 2030 and put us on a path to a completely clean energy economy by 2050—creating millions of jobs across the country and protecting our economy from the most devastating impacts of climate change.”

The survey supports that swing state voters believe achieving at least 50 percent clean energy by 2030 is an “important priority” and “necessary” and favor specific policies and initiatives that will build a clean energy economy. Millennial voters are particularly likely to support the goal, and see it as “inspiring.”

The poll is part of an NextGen Climate initiative to call on leaders to embrace policies that accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.

Climate Deniers Uncovered

A paper published by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), “The Climate Deception Dossiers,” reveals decades of corporate misinformation campaigns by the fossil fuel industry. The paper focuses on seven deception dossiers, or collections containing nearly 85 internal company and trade association documents that have either been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information Act requests.

gw-cover-climate-deception-dossiersThe authors say that many call climate change a hoax, including U.S. Senator James Inhofe who is now chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. However, write the authors, the biggest climate hoax is continuing today and that is, “…the decades long campaign by a handful of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies – such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy – to deceive the American public by distorting the realities and risks of climate change, something acting directly and sometimes acting indirectly through trade associations and front groups.”

The authors continue that that deception dossiers tell an undeniable truth, “…that for nearly three decades, major fossil fuel companies have knowingly worked to distort climate science findings, deceive the public, and block policies designed to hasten our needed transition to a clean energy economy.

So what do we learn?

  • Fossil Fuel companies have intentionally spread climate disinformation for decades.
  • Fossil fuel company leaders knew that their products were harmful to people and the planet but still chose to actively deceive the public and deny this harm.
  • The campaign of deception continues today.

The authors write that while many fossil fuel companies acknowledge the main findings of climate science, some still continue to support groups that spread misinformation about climate science and policy. Some of these front groups include: Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity, and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. The authors say these groups, along with industry trade associations such as American Petroleum Institute (API), American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). The fossil fuel industry also uses a host of fake grassroots organizations such as Fed Up at the Pump and Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy to fight against legislation such as the Clean Power Plan and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Continue reading

Time is Now for Non-Renewable Carbon Fee

Advanced Biofuels USA has gone public with a new idea for capturing externalities of non-renewable fuels for funding needed research – a Non-Renewable Carbon Fuel User Fee. The organization made the announcement during the Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum that took place in Washington D.C. on July 9, 2015.

“If we’re serious about reducing Climate Change caused by Green House Gases, then we need serious actions,” said Joanne Ivancic, executive director of Advanced Biofuels USA. Advanced Biofuels USA logoIn her presentation, Ivancic laid out the salient points of the plan. “The first steps are including the price of Green House Gas (GHG) effects in non-renewable carbon fuels and committing serious money to renewable fuel research and infrastructure development.”

The Advanced Biofuels USA proposal uses lower priced renewable fuels to drive the consumer market. When the true costs of fuel become apparent, they argue, consumers will demand higher renewable portions of fuels for transportation, power and heat. The fee, which they base on current scientific estimates of climate change effects and mitigation costs, applies to only the non-renewable portion of liquid and gas used for transportation and stationary source combustion.

The fee would be between $50 and $100/ton of non-renewable carbon and translates into only 3.5 percent to 7 percent increases in current transportation fuel prices; or, less than the volatility we commonly experience in gasoline prices. The fee, Ivancic explained, will disappear as lower priced renewable fuels take over the market. Revenues from the fee will be used for two purposes:

  • Renewable Fuel R&D: An immediate Apollo type program should be funded with between 50% and 60% of the fees. It should be administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and be focused on getting affordable non-food biomass fuels and gases into the pipeline in less than seven years.
  • Renewable Fuel Infrastructure: The upgraded fuel pumps, decentralized processing/distribution modules, and temporary rebates to people not able to afford the initial lack of renewable fuel would be funded with between 40% and 50% of the fees. These programs would be run by the states.

Ivancic said the proposal will spur investment, innovation, installation and use of renewable choices. “Not only will we see a rapid reduction in GHG emissions,” she said, “but more important, a sustainable renewable fuel industry will create good jobs for Americans in research labs, rural towns, and urban manufacturing plants.”

Collection of this user fee would not require new bureaucracies. Existing consumer point-of-sale fuel and utility tax collections systems (for natural gas) would be used.

Businesses Should Lead Way on Clean Power

Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) are calling on the National Governors Association (NGA) to implement the federal Clean Power plan. If done correctly, states can reap benefits, say the groups, that come with a clean energy economy. NGA is preparing for its summer conference in West Virginia July 23-25, 2015, around the same time the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to announce final standards. The Clean Power Plan is the first plan that limits carbon pollution emitted by power plants.

logos“The Clean Power Plan is not just smart environmental policy, it’s a major economic catalyst that will create jobs and drive economic growth,” said Bob Keefe, E2’s executive director. “Governors have a choice: They can implement the plan on their own terms and reap the benefits, or they can skirt the law and get left behind by other states.”

The formal letter also suggests NGA can help states by leading and facilitating engagement between governors, the EPA, state regulators and others.

“The Clean Power Plan will help states grow their economies and create jobs,” said ASBC’s Vice President of Policy Richard Eidlin. “It also gives businesses the certainty and transparency they need to increase investment in clean energy.”

E2/ASBC made their calls to action as some in Congress and industry urge states to skirt the law by failing to develop state plans. For instance, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell in March began urging governors to refuse to implement the standards. However, as the E2/ASBC letter states, steering a state down such a legally reckless path would negatively impact a state’s economy.

According to the letter from E2 and ASBC, the decision to “opt out” of the Clean Power Plan is simply bad for business. “The business community needs a consistent regulatory system based on sound science,” ASBC’s Eidlin added. “The Clean Power Plan provides this. Tackling climate change isn’t just good for the environment – it’s good for businesses, too.”

IRENA Launches INSPIRE Energy Platform

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has launched a new online platform called INSPIRE, or the International Standards and Patents in Renewable Energy platform. The project is the first of its kind, and provides information on nearly 400 international standards and more than 2 million patents for renewable energy technology.

INSPIRE platform2“The INSPIRE platform provides a strategic window into the innovation and growth taking place in the renewable energy sector,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “It consolidates vast collections of renewable energy patents and standards, which can foster collaboration between innovators, spur improvement through product comparison and benchmarking and help identify partners, matching domestic energy needs to innovative energy solutions.”

The project came to fruition with a partnership between IRENA, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The platform features several features including a standards section that allows users to search through a database of more than 400 internationally used standards and generate reports as needed. It also explains what standards are, how they can be used and why they are important for quality assurance, investor confidence and technology trading. The patents section houses the world’s most comprehensive global patent database for carbon mitigation technologies, the EPO’s PATSTAT, which contains nearly two million patent documents.

“The INSPIRE platform demonstrates the role of the global patent systemINSPIRE platform1 as a support for innovation in renewable energy, encouraging research and development in technologies to serve modern energy needs while addressing climate change,” added EPO President Benôit Battistelli. “INSPIRE also showcases the role of patent information, which provides valuable high-level information to advise policy makers on the renewable energy sector.”

IRENA said the combination of resources on INSPIRE will help users analyse various aspects of renewable energy policy and innovation, and the platform can help indicate the effectiveness of policies to promote renewable energy innovation through the analysis of trends in patent activity.

Pope Francis Advocates for Renewable Energy

Addressing all persons living on the plant, Pope Francis’ LAUDATO SI’, Encyclical Letter calls on mankind to address climate change and heal earth. He writes, “Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in “lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies”. He stresses throughout the Encyclical, “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change“.

do908_laudato_si-255x363“I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet,” writes Pope Francis and notes that while efforts have been undertaken, they are not enough. “Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest.”

Pope Francis’ Encyclical spans six chapters with each section focused on a particular area of importance to climate change discussions and action steps to be undertaken. In chapter 5 he focuses on approach and action as it relates to energy and calls for the end of fossil fuel use.

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions,” continues Pope Francis. 

He calls for a worldwide consensus – all countries – to come together to develop “renewable and less polluting forms of energy”. While he acknowledges the work already being done to develop more sustainable, alternative forms of energy, he stresses that countries must come together and take responsibility for paying for the costs of energy transition and that politics and businesses must speed up their pace of acknowledgement and action to curtail climate change.

If only one message were received by those reading LAUDATO SI, it is that humans are at the center of climate change, that none of us is without fault, and it will take all of us to restore earth to a state of health and beauty.