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Hurricane Sandy's Battle Cry

Are we fighting to save our way of life, or the planet we live on?  Hurricane (and post-tropical cyclone) Sandy left lives, communities, and ecosystems scarred from the Caribbean up through the Ohio Valley.  People are measuring damage in lives lost, boardwalks destroyed, subway stations flooded, and homes without electricity.  The storm is front and center for those warning about the dangers of human-induced climate change -- weather patterns have become more extreme and unpredictable as the planet warms, leading to  frequent "100 year" events -- storms like Hurricane Sandy, the "derecho" wave of thunderstorms that knocked out power to thousands earlier this summer, the unusual rainfall in parts of the southwest, and prolonged "drought" in the Midwest.  Extreme is the new normal.

We are drowning our planet in toxic emissions, taking puffs from fossil fuels every time we turn on a light switch, or turn the key on an internal combustion engine. But are we …

First Solar's Funny Math in Ivanpah

First Solar is moving forward with the environmental review process for the Silver State South project, and is requesting permission to destroy enough desert wildlands to accomodate a 350 megawatt (MW) facility, according to the draft report published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).   But the company only has a buyer for 250MW, and it only has permission from energy regulators to ship 230MW over the transmission lines. This is significant because the company is proposing to build the project on a very narrow strip of desert habitat that serves as a critical genetic linkage for the desert tortoise, and First Solar appears to be inflating how much of the valuable desert land it actually needs. This is a location in the desert where every acre counts, but the company appears to be ignoring pleas by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and other desert experts to preserve this wildlife corridor.

According to the California Public Utilities Commission, First Solar has a power purchase …

Sunlight, Camera, Action!

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ReWire's Chris Clarke wrote on the winners of a video contest called "Sunlight. Camera. Action." hosted by Environment California, and the winners' videos are awesome.   The point of the contest was to tap the community's creative talent to promote the potential for rooftop solar in Los Angeles.  There are already thousands of rooftop solar installations in Los Angeles, but as these videos show, there is potential (and enthusiasm!) for so much more.

Below are the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners of the video contests:





Conservation Groups Weigh in on Destructive BrightSource Projects

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The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and NRDC have expressed concerns about BrightSource Energy's choice of project sites on desert habitat, recommending that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reject power purchase agreements (PPA) between BrightSource and Southern California Edison (SCE), according to letters filed with CPUC.  The CPUC was already looking into concerns that BrightSource's projects would sell electricity to the utility company at highly uncompetitive prices when compared to other renewable energy options. BrightSource Energy, which is responsible for displacing or killing hundreds of desert tortoises for its Ivanpah Solar project in the northeastern Mojave Desert, may have trouble financing and building two of its projects if CPUC rejects the PPAs.

Rio Mesa Solar Project Would Batter, Blind and Burn Birds The Sierra Club's submission to the CPUC expressed concern that BrightSource Energy's proposal to build  the massive Rio Mesa solar…

Race to the Bottom, or to the Roof?

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In tonight's Presidential debates, both candidates competed to be the person most willing to open public lands to energy companies. While there is undoubtedly a difference between the candidates on clean energy, neither seems to truly value our wildlands.  What if one of the audience members could ask how the candidates would address the urgent problem of climate change while protecting the iconic landscapes that we love?

Imagine if the candidates were eager to portray themselves as supportive of covering rooftops with solar panels, instead of handing public lands over to big corporations.  We need tax breaks and incentives for individuals to improve energy efficiency and put their rooftops to work, instead of more handouts to the 1%.


Palm Oil

I just read an article online about the destruction of remote rainforests in Sumatra to meet our demand for palm oil, an ingredient in many foods, soaps and cosmetics, according to Rainforest Action Network.  The rainforests being destroyed for palm oil are home to rare orangutans, but that is just one of the most charismatic of thousands of species that are being displaced.  I have never seen an orangutan in the wild (and I have never been to Sumatra), but it's deeply troubling to think that such a wild and beautiful place is being destroyed to feed mindless consumption.  But then again, we destroy mountains in West Virginia for coal, and deserts for solar.  We can rationalize or tolerate so much destruction until we are faced with the consequences.  And since our consumption draws on resources so far away, it is too easy to ignore the true costs.

Consider Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's (LADWP) recent announcement that it signed contracts to purchase solar energy…

First Solar's Silver State South: Wrong from the Start

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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) this month issued a supplemental draft environmental impact statement supporting First Solar's proposed Silver State South solar facility, which would be built on a narrow strip of desert that has also been recognized as a critical desert tortoise connectivity corridor.  BLM intends to approve a modified layout of the solar project that would destroy up to 4.8 square miles of mostly intact desert wildlands between the small gambling outpost of Primm, Nevada and the Lucy Gray Mountains.  The project layout preferred by the BLM appears to ignore a recommendations by the US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS), and Washington is rushing to approve the project before further wildlife connectivity studies are completed.

Project Benefits from Washington's Duplicitous Ivanpah Policy
The Ivanpah Valley has been subject to contradictory Federal actions and decisions that suggest Washington's land stewardship goals in this corner of the northeastern Mojave De…