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Showing posts from November, 2012

BrightSource Energy Distorting Reality

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BrightSource Energy recently submitted another petition to change conditions of certification set forth by the California Energy Commission (CEC)--which spell out what steps the company must take to  make up for ecological damage caused by the company's Ivanpah Solar project.  This time BrightSource is seeking to take advantage of a desert habitat conservation program administered by the California Department of Fish and Game, probably because the company is unable to secure quality desert tortoise habitat in the Ivanpah Valley area.

In its petition to the CEC, BrightSource Energy argues that conserving habitat in the Ivanpah Valley is not worthwhile because human development has limited the value of the area to serve as desert tortoise connectivity.  BrightSource, however, has a record that disqualifies it from making authoritative statements on wildlife issues.
Firstly, the company ignored wildlife biologists and built a 5.6 square mile industrial facility on prime desert tortois…

Prickly Poppy

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A prickly poppy in bloom in the central Mojave Desert.  Plenty of spikes, but a beautiful sight, nonetheless.

Climate Hawk Misses the Mark

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A fellow climate change activist -- who goes by "RLMiller" on the Twitter -- recently nominated a Los Angeles Times reporter as the "most anti-solar reporter in the mainstream media" in a blog post on the Daily Kos (RLMiller previously levied this criticism against a more deserving recipient -- Fox News).  The offending reporter, Julie Cart, published an article on how industrial-scale solar facilities built dozens of miles from the nearest county services, impose a financial burden on local governments.  Not only do the counties need to deploy new resources to emergencies (fire, police, medical) where they do not normally occur, they also have to accommodate heavy construction traffic on crumbling roads, increased water consumption where water is scarce, and then tell longtime taxpayers, voters, and residents that they have to put up with a giant, Wall Street-backed industrial behemoth next door that does not conform to the county's original zoning rules.

The …

Arizona and the Rooftop Revolution

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The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) -- the body responsible for rate adjustments for utility companies in Arizona -- was presented a report by its staff last month that recommended a paradigm shift in how it meets its renewable energy goal of 15% by 2025.  The ACC staff report recommends that Arizona meet its renewable energy needs with stepped-up investment in rooftop solar, which the ACC staff judges to be the lowest cost renewable energy option because distributed generation does not require expensive new transmission lines and centralized power plants.  The recognition of rooftop solar's value is a positive sign for our southwestern deserts, which are threatened by both climate change and industrial sprawl from large-scale solar and wind facilities.

Arizonans have an appetite for local clean energy, and the ACC staff recommendation would ensure that ratepayers' money goes back to the community in the form of incentives for customers to install solar panels.  Arizona ha…

Thankful for Wild Places

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I'm thankful for clean air and water, and beautiful wildlands where the next greatest thing is not a new iPad or video game, but nature's gift -- a wildflower blooming after winter rains, shadows cast by the sun setting behind desert ridgelines, a coyote's howl, a night sky full of stars...


...Happy Thanksgiving.

Big Victory for Wildlands

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Patriot coal announced this week that it was stepping away from mountaintop removal in Appalachia.  Although a far distance from America's southwestern deserts, industrial-scale energy development is a familiar threat to conservationists whether you live in West Virginia or California.
The Patriot Coal announcement is the result of sustained pressure from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, and West Virgnia Highlands Conservancy. Patriot is one of the three largest mountaintop coal mining companies, so its announcement is a reason to celebrate, although there is more work to be done to save the wildlands of Appalachia from other coal companies and industrial-scale wind.  The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, one of the groups involved in pressuring Patriot Coal, is also fighting to save the region's ridgelines from industrial-scale wind, which has destroyed viewsheds, fragmented habitat, and has begun to take a severe toll on the area's bird and bat po…

Five Reasons to Let the Wind PTC Expire, And Reinvest in Solar and Efficiency

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The Production Tax Credit (PTC) -- a 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour (kWh) credit for wind energy corporations -- is set to expire at the end of 2012, and a bevy of corporations and environmental organizations are calling on Congress to renew it immediately.  The tax break costs $1 billion dollars a year, which is much smaller than the subsidies Congress is giving to the fossil fuel industry, but has still drawn opposition from Congress and, of course, the fossil fuel industry.

We should oppose the Wind PTC, but for much different reasons than those put forward by its traditional opponents.  The bottom line is that wind energy does not meet even a modest "green" standard, and we should be putting our money to much more sustainable energy generators.  Our energy choices (mistakes?) so far have ensured that we will feel the effects of climate change for hundreds of years -- rushing to deploy a destructive and subpar "bridge" technology will only cost us more in the long r…

Powerful Change in a Small Package

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I wrote last week about Utah-based Goal Zero's efforts to bring solar power chargers to victims of Hurricane Sandy, giving folks the ability to run essential appliances and lights as they wait for utility companies to rebuild a vast and vulnerable electricity grid.  The company has a "one for one" relief effort.  For every solar device purchased through its online store or participating retailers (including Amazon), they will donate a kit to Sandy relief victims.  As of late last week, the company had already lined up about 2,500 donated kits for victims of Sandy.

The Goal Zero products range in size -- from units that can charge cell phones, to larger kits that can keep a refrigerator running -- but the impact is always powerful.  For people that are without electricity, being able to count on a sustainable light supply can make a world of difference. Obviously solar charging kits are not going to replace the grid, but I hope they turn out to be a gateway drug …

Disentangling Urgency from Foolishness: Exposing the Climate-Terror Paradigm

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After 11 September 2001 the country recognized an urgent threat to its security.  The debate prompted by this tragic event is still relevant even after three Presidential elections and eleven years -- how much of our civil liberty do we sacrifice to mitigate this threat?  Military tribunals, library records, torture, and transparency.  We are still questioning compromises of justice and privacy for the end state of security.  This debate will last for centuries, much like the threat.
"Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."  - Benjamin Franklin Are we making a foolish sacrifice to mitigate the threat of climate change? Rising seas, extreme and destructive weather patterns, lives lost, property destroyed, and degraded ecosystems.  Climate change is an urgent threat. The toxic cocktail of carbon and other poisons that we have already spewed into the atmosphere has created a climate that will punish us for decades, according to climate expert Bill McKibben, e…

Time for a Real Energy Policy

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The election is over.  It's time for our country's leaders to implement a real energy policy that  generates clean power through rooftop solar, or other renewable energy facilities on already-disturbed lands.  The "all of the above" policy endorsed by the previous two Presidents has not been successful in combating climate change or protecting our wildlands, as we have seen with the landscape destruction wrought by fossil fuels and industrial-scale wind and solar.  We have a serious opportunity to revolutionize the way we use and generate energy -- we can make our homes and businesses more energy efficient, while using the untapped space in our cities for solar panels.

The policy tools are in place, or waiting for implementation.  EPA's RE-powering America's Land initiative that guides energy companies to build projects on already-disturbed lands (instead of pristine desert habitat), feed-in-tariffs that reimburse rooftop solar operators for excess energy th…

Goal Zero and Hurricane Relief Efforts

Goal Zero, a company that sells portable solar chargers for household electronic devices, has jumped into the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, driving a Penske rental van full of their products to New Jersey and New York to provide solar power to relief centers and citizens in need.  While utility companies are struggling to untangle the mess of substations and downed transmission lines in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, thousands of people are left without the energy we have taken for granted to run everything from our cell phones to medical devices.  One thing is for sure, even without the more frequent weather extremes brought on by climate change (which Hurricane Sandy may, or may not be a result of...see Andy Revkin's post), we need to create a cleaner, and more resilient energy supply.

From Goal Zero's blog post:
"We first showed up to the FEMA location to meet up with Team Rubicon Division 3. We then proceeded to the community center across the street where they h…