Oklahoma residents who produce their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property will now be charged an additional fee, the result of a new bill passed by the state legislature and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R). On Monday, S.B. 1456 passed the state House 83-5 after no debate. The measure creates a new class of customers: those who install distributed power generation systems like solar panels or small wind turbines on their property and sell the excess energy back to the grid. While those with systems already installed won’t be affected, the new class of customers will now be charged a monthly fee — a shift that happened quickly and caught many in the state off guard. “We knew nothing about it and all of a sudden it’s attached to some other bill,” Ctaci Gary, owner of Sun City Oklahoma, told ThinkProgress. “It just appeared out of nowhere.”
The next big thing in solar energy could be microscopic. Scientists at MIT and Harvard University have devised a way to store solar energy in molecules that can then be tapped to heat homes, water or used for cooking. The best part: The molecules can store the heat forever and be endlessly re-used while emitting absolutely no greenhouse gases. Scientists remain a way’s off in building this perpetual heat machine but they have succeeded in the laboratory at demonstrating the viability of the phenomenon called photoswitching. “Some molecules, known as photoswitches, can assume either of two different shapes, as if they had a hinge in the middle,” MIT researchers said in statement about the paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry. “Exposing them to sunlight causes them to absorb energy and jump from one configuration to the other, which is then stable for long periods of time.”
Leaders from eight tribes in South Dakota and Minnesota pitched their flags. Participants erected nine tipis, a prayer lodge and a cook shack, surrounding their camp with a wall of 1,500-pound hay bales. Elders said they would camp out indefinitely. Speakers said they were willing to die for their cause. This spirit camp at the Sicangu Lakota Rosebud reservation was the most visible recent action in Indian Country over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. But it was hardly the first … or the last. On the neighboring Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Debra White Plume, an activist and community organizer involved in Oglala Lakota cultural preservation for more than 40 years, has been leading marches, civil disobedience training camps and educational forums on the Keystone XL since the pipeline was proposed in 2008. White Plume is the founder of the activists groups Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), the International Justice Project and Moccasins on the Ground…
State geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to gas drilling, leading the state to issue new permit conditions in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest. A state investigation of five small tremors in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, last month has found the high-pressure injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica Shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.” While earlier studies had linked earthquakes in the same region to deep-injection wells used for disposal of fracking wastewater, this marks the first time tremors have been tied directly to fracking, Simmers said. Five seismic events in March were all part of what was considered a single event and couldn’t be easily felt by people.
After months of resisting student and alumni demands for fossil fuel divestment, Harvard University announced yesterday that they would be taking a number of new steps to address climate change and their investment portfolio. “A year ago Harvard was no way no how. But science is pushing everyone in the direction of action; students should be proud they’ve breached the dam of resistance,” said Bill McKibben, a Harvard graduate and founder of 350.org, which helps coordinate the fossil fuel divestment movement. In a letter to the Harvard Community on Monday, President Drew Faust wrote, “In addition to our academic work and our greenhouse gas reduction efforts, Harvard has a role to play as a long-term investor.”
In The Energy of Nations: Risk Blindness and the Road to Renaissance, Dr Jeremy Leggett – a former oil geologist and government adviser on renewable energy – warns of the risk of an imminent global oil crash as early as next year, and no later than 2020. In my first post on Leggett’s new book, I focused on his analysis of our “risk blindness.” But despite his trenchant and uncompromising stance on the potentially catastrophic consequences of business as usual, Leggett is no doomer. Indeed, straddling the interface of a wide range of disciplines and professions – from geological science to financial market analysis, from environmental activism to world-class energy entrepreneurship – Leggett is uniquely positioned to tell the inside story not just of the scale of the risks, but also the scale of the opportunities ahead.
From CreativeResistance.org: A group of people, including two woman dressed as bats, stopped work at Idemitsu’s Boggabri coal mine to protest habitat destruction caused by ongoing expansion of coal mining in Leard forest. Two activists in bat costumes have scaled a coal loader on site and have unfurled a banner reading “Save the Leard” The action is part of an ongoing campaign to protect vulnerable species of the Leard State Forest from coal mining. A spokesman for the group said “We stand firm in protest over these open pit coal mines. We will not stop until this forest is protected.”
Germany’s environment minister has called for the controversial gas extraction technique known as “fracking” to be made illegal. Her comments came ahead of an emergency energy summit. The country’s 16 state premiers were set to meet on Tuesday evening in Berlin in an attempt to smooth over disagreements around the financing of the country’s switch over to renewable energy, known as the Energiewende. Ahead of the meeting, Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said Germany should never consider turning to fracking as a solution for its energy needs, despite the success of the technology in the USA. Fracking involves blasting water mixed with sand and chemicals at high pressure into rocks, releasing the gas. “Unlike the USA, our country is densely populated and small,” Hendricks told the Passauer Neue Presse on Tuesday. She added that not only would a successful commercial fracking industry in Germany be “wishful thinking” but that “a rethinking of our energy policy should take us away from fossil fuels – no matter where they come from.”
Duke Energy is attempting to block citizens’ groups from taking part in regulatory action against the company’s 14 polluting coal ash dumps across North Carolina. According to the Associated Press, Duke filed a motion on Monday to remove the citizens’ groups from the case, arguing that the groups ought to be “prohibited from expanding this enforcement action beyond the claims asserted and relief sought by” the state environmental agency. The energy giant is hoping to block local and environmental organizations from having “any role in the case,” leaving litigation and enforcement to state regulators—who have a long history of giving preferential treatment to Duke. “Duke fears that we would seek to strongly enforce the law against Duke’s illegal coal ash pollution and dangerous storage on North Carolina rivers,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, in an interview with Common Dreams. “Well, they’re right. That’s exactly what we will do and what we have done.”
The success of each state’s CCAs depends on several factors. One is how the electric status quo in the state was changed or deregulated to allow the formation of CCAs and another is what the state wanted to accomplish with this new type of state body. Most of the reform and deregulation of the old electric utilities occurred during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The actual electric product was separated from the transportation of the electricity and the delivery infrastructure that brings it to the customer’s door. That allowed CCAs to be formed by local cities and counties to buy electricity from one or more sources to lower the price, encourage and enact more energy conservation and, if motivated, to move to cleaner forms of energy. Sometimes the CCAs put their emphasis on providing this new electric choice and sometimes state laws limited their options.
A new front in the battle against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is opening up for tribes and others in South Dakota in a rural area near Mission. A group sanctioned by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe is setting up a prayer camp near Mission to keep up pressure against the pipeline. The camp will be located off of U.S. Highway 183 near the town of Ideal. Aldo Seoane, project coordinator for the Shielding the People Project, said the tribe has concerns about trouble from pipeline workers and the tribe’s sovereign rights being violated by the project. “Rosebud wasn’t consulted in the process of getting the pipeline put through,” said Seoane. Seoane said part of where the pipeline’s path cuts through an area that contains historical and cultural tribal artifacts.
On Wednesday, March 27th, the largest state in the contiguous United States got almost one-third of its electricity by harnessing the wind. According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the bulk of the Lone Star State’s power grid, a record-breaking 10,296 MW of electricity was whipped up by wind turbines. That’s enough to provide 29 percent of the state’s power, and to keep the lights on in over 5 million homes. The landmark is further evidence of one of the nation’s unlikeliest energy success stories. Conservative politicians have a renowned aversion to clean energy (thoughRepublican voters favor it overwhelmingly), and Texas is still deep red. Yet wind farms are cropping up in there faster than almost anywhere else.
‘I don’t think Nebraskans have any emotional or financial commitment to coal. They want clean, cheap energy.’ In the eyes of political consultants and party operatives, environmentalists in the United States are mostly urbanites who sip espresso and oddballs who dabble in other substances. By that logic, America’s heartland—much less a reliably red state like Nebraska—is no place for clean energy advocates. But a slate of candidates running in the Cornhusker State is hoping to prove conventional wisdom wrong. Driven by the impending Keystone XL pipeline—which would cross about 250 miles of the state—clean energy is on Nebraska’s electoral agenda. Several candidates for office in 2014 are running campaigns that focus on not only stopping the pipeline, but also putting renewable energy sources, such as wind, front and center.
We need to show that the claims made by the fracking industry and its supporters don’t stand up to scrutiny: it’s very unlikely to cut energy bills, it’s not clean (the academic jury is still out on whether shale gas is cleaner than coal, but the bottom line is that it’s still a fossil fuel) and it involves big risks for the local environment and human health. In short, fracking is a risk we simply do not need to take, and cannot afford to take. We need to show that there are alternatives. And that’s where Balcombe is showing the way. The local community isn’t just saying no to fracking – it has launched Repower Balcombe, an initiative to install solar panels on village roofs to generate all the electricity the village needs.
Monday afternoon, March 24, an estimated 500 gallons of oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, leaked into Lake Michigan, poisoning the source of drinking water for 7 million people in and around Chicago. The BP refinery on the lake’s shore has admitted responsibility, but has yet to take sufficient action to ensure the safety of drinking water and the ecosystem. This serves as further evidence that the reliance on fossil fuels in all its forms has serious and long-term effects on the health of the planet and the people who inhabit it. This is doubly true in the case of the processing of tar sands that goes on at BP’s Whiting facility. This most current spill comes after years of legal challenges to the Whiting plant, which is one of the largest sources of industrial pollution in the nation.