I spent the weekend in the Twin Cities attending several environmental events. The first event was a screening of the documentary Chasing Ice, produced by environmental photographer James Balog who founded Extreme Ice Survey. It is hard for me to put my emotions into words after watching this moving. It was simultaneously incredibly beautiful and yet horrific. Beautiful in that the imagery of the ice was stunning and horrific because the crew caught on film the melting of glaciers.
James Balog, along with several teams, installed 25 cameras in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and Montana and over the course of three plus years, the cameras took photos every 20-30 minutes and as I write this, have taken thousands of photos of the glaciers. Every six months, the teams traveled in oftentimes heralding weather to check the cameras, take additional photos and video and switch out memory cards. The results was stunning time lapse photography – who knew that ice could be so beautiful.
Yet what might have been most amazing, was that his cameras and crew caught what is to believed the largest calving incident ever recorded on film. A portion of a glacier in Greenland broke off (nearly the size of Manhattan) over the course of 75 minutes. It was amazing to watch but then the reality of what you are witnessing takes hold – watching the disappearance of the glaciers. While glaciers have calved for centuries, they typically stay about the same in size – one piece breaks off while more ice forms. Yet today, these glaciers are not being replenished, per say, they are vanishing.
One element of the film that could be most interesting, was that James Balog began as a climate skeptic and now believes that climate change is real, and a major part of it is caused by human actions. For those who already believe in climate change, or those who continue to be climate skeptics, this is a must see film. And for those climate skeptics who still deny that climate change is real after seeing this film, well then nothing will change your mind. (I would like to thank the Will Steger Foundation for providing 840 free tickets to see Chasing Ice).
According to the World Energy Council (WEC), the world is far away from achieving environmentally sustainable energy systems. According to the organization’s global ranking of country energy sustainability performance, over 90 countries assessed are still far from achieving fully sustainable energy systems.
The 2012 Energy Sustainability Index, published within the WEC’s 2012 World Energy Trilemma report, “Time to get real – the case for sustainable energy policy,” finds that most countries still have not managed to balance the energy trilemma. The WEC argues that countries must balance the trade-offs between the three challenges of the trilemma: energy security, social equity, and environmental impact mitigation, if they are to provide sustainable energy systems.
The Index reveals that:
Environmental impact mitigation remains a universal problem;
Providing high-quality and affordable energy access remains a significant challenge for developing and emerging economies; and
Countries at various stages of development struggle with energy security.
“The message of the Energy Sustainability Index is clear: all countries are facing challenges in their transition towards more secure, environmentally friendly, and equitable energy systems,” said Pierre Gadonneix, Chairman of the World Energy Council. “What makes the difference is how they set their final goals, how they balance market economics and public policies, and how they design the smartest policies in order to promote efficiency and to optimise costs, resources and investments for the long term. If we are to have any chance of delivering sustainable energy for all and meeting the +2°C goal, we need to get real.” Continue reading →
“A focus of ours is to produce teachers who can teach science, math and technology in the context of agriculture,” Robinson said. “We really feel like our teachers have a unique opportunity to integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competencies at the secondary level through real-life application of their students’ agricultural projects.”
It has been nearly three years in the making and now the National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF EPSCoR) has joined the project. Currently students Marshall Baker and Joey Blackburn, are developing curricular materials for high school agriculture teachers focusing on biofuels and renewable energy. Environmental and energy education has become a primary initiative for teachers around the country, but many need help in developing curriculum and getting access to materials. This initiative is designed to meet this need.
“Everywhere you turn you read about green energy and the need for clean energy,” Robinson said. “We stress the importance of being a lifelong learner to our students. We stress to them the importance of being aware of the current issues of the world we live in and being able to talk about those issues in the classroom. Therefore, it’s important for our pre-service and in-service teachers to be knowledgeable about biofuels and other renewable energies.” Continue reading →
“Our message to Congress is clear: Don’t throw wind power off the fiscal cliff,” said Courtney Abrams, Clean Energy Advocate for Environment America. “Our clean air, water, and children’s future are too important to blow it now.”
In light of the results of the report, several U.S. Senators who support wind energy offered comments. U.S. Senator Mark Udall, whose bill to repeal the clause that prevented the U.S. military from pursuing aviation biofuels was passed by the Senate, said, “Extending the wind Production Tax Credit is one of the most straightforward ways we can support clean, Made-in-America energy and American manufacturing jobs. We need the PTC to help create more good-paying jobs here at home, including jobs for our veterans who are transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce. The wind PTC is also a commonsense way to support clean energy and to reduce our carbon emissions. It is critical that Congress extend the PTC ASAP and support clean, renewable wind energy.”
U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, noted, “Wind energy is a win for the economy, a win for the environment, and a win for New Jersey. We will continue fighting in Congress to extend the wind production tax credit and support the kind of energy development that is needed to create jobs, clean up the air our children breathe, and move America to a clean energy future.”
“We’re happy to welcome GCEH under the RSB umbrella,” said Dr. Michael Keyes, Senior Agriculture and Natural Resources Specialist for SCS Global Services, the company that oversees the program, “GCEH is a model for how biofuels can be produced sustainably and contribute to reducing the carbon intensity of our fuels, while providing concrete contributions to communities and the environment.”
According to SCS, the RSB certification is the most stringent of all consensus standards for sustainable biofuel production. To achieve the designation, a biofuel producer must a high level of compliance with environmental and social criteria that includes, but is not limited to, agricultural sustainability.
GCEH grows jatropha in the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula on marginal land with no irrigation. In order to protect local plant species and wildlife, the company sets aside over 10 percent of its land to create conservation areas and buffer zones. I find this interesting because many in the environmental community believe jatropha is more harmful as a biofuel feedstock than helpful.
“The certification process included a very comprehensive review of all our operations,” added Noah Verleun, Sustainability and Regulatory Affairs Manager at GCEH, “We’re proud to report that we only had to institute minor operational adjustments to our already strong internal processes to qualify for the comprehensive RSB sustainability certification.”
A group of business leaders who purport to “promote sound environmental policy that builds economic prosperity” have a report making the case that biofuels used and developed by the military could help the economy. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) will release the report during a news conference tomorrow, Nov. 14 at 11 a.m. EST that says the Department of Defense’s Advanced Biofuels Initiatives could generate more than $10 billion in economic activity and more than 14,000 jobs:
Congress is about to take up the National Defense Authorization Act, which in current versions would prohibit the DoD from moving forward with its plans and desires to increase its use of biofuels. Citing national security concerns, the Navy and Air Force want to replace 50 percent of their fuel supplies with non-petroleum biofuels by 2020.
Just as military innovation and leadership transformed our nation’s economy in sectors ranging from aviation to communication to computers, the military’s biofuels expansion could provide a major boost to the economy and job creation, and help transform the nation’s energy, airline and agriculture industries.
E2 leaders, biofuels executives and military advocates will be on the phone call to discuss how military investments in biofuels can pay off for the private sector.
Media members are encouraged to contact Bob Keefe at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 289-2373; or Patrick Mitchell at email@example.com or (703) 276-3266 to sign up for the news conference.
World and energy industry leaders are gathering this week in Dubai at the World Energy Forum. The major goal of the forum is to chart a roadmap for a sustainable energy mix. In light of the meeting, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) renewed its call for the adoption of politices that will include biofuels as a significant part of the world’s future energy mix.
The World Energy Forum facilitates a conversation and an exchange of ideas between heads of state, national energy ministers, and energy industry leaders. The goal is to find solutions to the challenges facing a sustainable energy future through technological innovations, research and political will.
“2012 is the United Nations ‘International Year of Sustainable Energy for All’ and is the ideal time for World Energy Forum attendees to push for more biofuels friendly policies,” said Bliss Baker, who is the spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. “We cannot continue to rely on our addiction to oil that continues to hamper economic growth, exacerbate climate change and drive up food prices.”
According to the GRFA, biofuels contributed $277.3 billion to the global economy and supported nearly 1.4 million jobs in 2010. This year ethanol production is forecasted to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 100 million tonnes globally. Last year the International Energy Agency released, Technology Roadmap – Biofuels for Transport, which stated that biofuels could make up 27% of the worlds transport fuels by 2050, eliminate 2.1 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions and not jeopardize food security. Recently the IEA called for biofuels production to double so their CO2 reduction goal could be met by 2020.
“World and energy industry leaders must follow IEA recommendations and adopt policies that ensures global biofuels production doubles in the coming years to meet CO2 reduction goals and reduce our dangerous reliance on crude oil imports,” said Baker.
“We have a choice: We can ACT on our knowledge about climate change. Or we can sit idly by and watch as things get worse. Both options come with a price tag. So why not create a world we like, with a climate we like – while we still have time? With this campaign we want to focus the debate on the solutions and find out what is holding us back from applying them,” said Commissioner Hedegaard about the campaign.
A portion of the campaign focuses on innovative climate solutions that reduce CO2 and also improve people’s lives through giving real-world examples of projects that are currently doing just this. The 70 plus organizations and educational institutes participating in the campaign will be able to upload their success stories to the website and Facebook page.
The campaign will run until the end of 2013 and hopes to help the EU achieve its short-term objective of lowering greenhouse gas emission by 20 percent, improve energy efficiency by 20 percent and increase electricity created from renewable energy by 20 percent. The second objective is to achieve the long-term goal of an 80-95 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Today, EU emissions are approximately 17 percent below 1990 levels.
You are never too old, or too young to learn about energy. Tempe Union High School District (TUHSD) and Chevron Energy Solutions have launched a cross-curricular science, technology, engineering and math (STEM – even the acronym is sciencey) and sustainability program designed to give students more knowledge about energy and environmental issues. Each campus now has a Living Laboratory where students can conduct a myriad of tests of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
Each Living Laboratory contains the usual technology, but also contains data collection devices that transmit data to a web-based telemetry system. The labs also integrate with a web-based dashboard, supporting new cross-curricular lesson planning and curriculum development.
“Tempe Union High School District discovered several years ago that studying both sustainability and energy offered an extraordinary opportunity for learning, career preparation and citizenship for our students,” said Greg Wyman, associate superintendent at Tempe Union High School District. “This significant accomplishment for our District offers an extraordinary opportunity for learning and positions our new generation to build a more diverse, energy-efficient and sustainable tomorrow.”
Many of the schools participating in the Living Laboratory program have additional renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that will be woven into the curriculum. For example, one school has a roof-mounted solar thermal collection system, another school has a natural gas powered heat pump system, another has a natural gas powered fuel cell, another has a solar PV system, and one school is in the process of developing an energy storage system showcasing cutting-edge battery technology that will power a greenhouse.
The labs, as well as many of the energy projects were designed, engineered and implemented by Chevron Energy Solutions. “Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for environmentally sustainable operations at Tempe Union High School District – one that will allow its students, faculty and the community the opportunity to experience the benefits of combining sustainability and energy science education,” said Chevron Energy Solutions President Jim Davis. “The District has created a model for collaboration that can be replicated by other districts dedicated to investing in transformative, sustainable programs.”
The Port Washington Public Library has added thin film solar cells to its roof’s cap sheet layer to generate solar energy. The only building in Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York state to generate power this way, the system has the ability to generate an average of 42,000 kWh of electricity per year and but CO2 emissions by more than 2.2 million pounds each year. During a celebration ceremony, Nancy Curtin, Port Washington’s Public Library Director; Garry Schwall, Chief Operating Officer of Winthrop-University Hospital; and Paul Polizzotto, President and Founder of CBS EcoMedia gave remarks while entertainment was provided by local singer/guitarist Tom Cavanagh, known to library audiences for his Johnny Cash and George Harrison performances.
The new Energy Education Station in the Library displays the actual energy savings from the system for the public to view. In addition, the green initiatives implemented by the Port Washington Public Library also includes a Recycling Center in the Children’s Room.
“The Library is committed to green initiatives and as a center for lifelong learning wishes to lead by example promoting solar energy and a healthy environment for the Port Washington community,” said Nancy Curtin, Port Washington Public Library Director. “This technology is a sustainable solution and we thank Winthrop University Hospital and CBS EcoMedia for their support.”
As the country struggles with economic difficulties, education has been hard hit with the reduction of teachers in schools and staff at libraries. “With this project, the Library sets an important example: by adopting solar power in our homes and businesses, each one of us can cut our own energy costs and emissions,” said Paul Polizzotto, President and Founder of CBS EcoMedia Inc. “Thanks to the generous support of Winthrop-University Hospital, the Library will reduce its carbon footprint and cut its electricity bills, freeing up crucial funds for books, staffing, special programming, and equipment.”