By Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch & Brent Millikan, International Rivers. When Brazilian energy planners proposed to choke the Amazon’s Tapajós River and its tributaries with dozens of large hydroelectric dams, they underrated a formidable foe: the Munduruku people. The largest indigenous group in the Tapajós Basin, the Munduruku are proving to be sophisticated adversaries who are throwing a wrench in the dam industry’s plans. The tribe has frequently caught the Brazilian government off guard with their tactics. They have a flair for the theatrical – they staged a series of dramatic protests in Brasilia, including a “die-in” at the Ministry of Mines and Energy – and the practical. In January, they delivered a protocol to government officials demanding a culturally-appropriate process of free, prior and informed consultation and consent (FPIC). While enshrined in Brazil’s constitution and integral to ILO Convention 169, the indigenous right to FPIC has been systematically ignored in Brazil.
By Joel Yudken in The Economic Policy Institute – The Obama administration is considering whether to divest all or part of the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as a means to pay down the U.S. debt. The selling off of all or part of the TVA to private ownership would have far-reaching consequences, especially for the 9 million people in the 80,000-square-mile region—encompassing parts of Tennessee, northern Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia—to whom the TVA provides electricity and other services. The proposal has sparked a debate about the benefits and problems that divestiture might bring. Conservatives have long opposed the TVA on the grounds that it is an illegitimate government intrusion into the marketplace.
By Emerson Urry in EnviroNews – The Obama Administration has finally done it. They have approved an even bigger carbon bomb than what would be created by the bitumen that would flow through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline should it be ultimately approved. More Powder River Basin coal. Lots more. Although it’s debatable on how much carbon could be ultimately released if Alberta’s tar sands were exploited to the max, it would be hard for them to get 16.9 billion metric tons of that carbon south, down the Keystone XL pipeline and through America. That’s how much carbon-release was just okayed by the Bureau of Land Management in a recent move — 16.9 billion tons — the equivalency of about 1/33 the amount of CO2 released by humans since the dawn of the industrial age.
By Joshua Krause in Activist Post – Robin Speronis had been living in an off-grid home for many years without incident, until she was interviewed by a local FOX affiliate in November of 2013. Shortly thereafter, the city of Cape Coral tagged a “notice to vacate” on her property, due to multiple code violations, all of which stem from the fact that her home isn’t connected to water, sewage, or the electrical grid. The city has tried to argue that she is in violation of the International Property Maintenance Code for relying on rainwater and solar panels, instead of utilities. Since that time, Speronis has been fighting the courts for her right live off the grid. Magistrate Harold Eskins recently ruled that she can live without using water or electricity, but she still has to be connected to these utilities no matter what.
Climate change is going on. Extreme weather conditions, storms, floodings, landslides, droughts and ice melting are reported ever more regularly from many parts of the world. Millions of people are losing their livelihood, their homes, their jobs – and many also their lives. The successive reports of the United Nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have increasingly called for urgent action in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. However, after having negotiated for 20 years, our political leaders have failed to take necessary action. The result is that emissions are increasing rather than decreasing (61 percent increase from 1990 to 2013). Temperature increase is on course for 4-6oC rather than maximum 1,5-2.0oC, something which will mean climate catastrophe.
The authors say that large-scale solar installations are needed to curb our carbon emissions in the future, but the only way to get more and better solar is for it to be more cost effective and that will come down to better investments and government subsidies. Currently, solar receives far fewer subsidies than fossil fuels, but a shift in those policies could transform the energy mix of the U.S. Meanwhile, greater investments would help to develop technologies that cost less to produce and install like thin-film wafers. The other major hurdle is funding technologies that would ease the integration of solar power into the grid, like smart grid infrastructure and energy storage technologies that could provide clean energy during peak demand hours and at times when the sun wasn’t shining. The good news is that current solar resources dwarf current and projected future electricity demand. If we can remove the roadblocks, especially fossil-fuel-leaning government policies, solar is ready for prime time now.
The small Scandinavian country of Denmark doesn’t hold many minerals in its soil. Its supply of oil from the North Sea that has long contributed to the country’s economy – not least thanks to the high taxes imposed on it – is slowly depleting. But one resource is in abundance here: wind. And the Danes are now busier than ever harnessing it. Production of wind energy is taking a bigger and bigger share of the country’s economy, as the export of wind turbines, technology, expertise and electricity has become one of the biggest Danish export industries. Denmark has turned itself into something of a showroom for the market; in the first quarter of this year, wind power contributed to 44 percent of the country’s total electricity production, up from 39 percent in the same period last year.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, gas, and oil. FERC also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydro-power projects. Since 1935 when it first became an independent regulatory agency it has done little to protect citizens from exploitation. Instead, the agency uses its vast powers to facilitate the expansion of dirty and deadly extraction for export to international markets. FERC ensures that toxic energy projects create greater profits for rich developers while leaving poisoned communities with the lie of so-called U.S. energy independence through fossil fuels.
There’s some mixed news coming out of Vancouver, Canada this week. On the one hand, the city announced at an international sustainability summit that it would commit to using 100 percent renewable energy to power its electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning within 20 years. On the other hand, Vancouver is also dealing with a fuel spill in the waters of English Bay that is washing up on beaches and threatening wildlife. On March 26, Vancouver’s city council voted unanimously to approve Mayor Gregor Robertson motion calling for a long-term commitment to deriving all of the city’s energy from renewable sources. At the ICLEI World Congress 2015 this week in Seoul, South Korea, the city went a step further, committing to reaching that goal of 100 percent renewable electricity, transportation, heating and air conditioning by 2030 or 2035.
When it comes to climate change (and other struggles), there is ample evidence that we won’t be able to accomplish what is necessary under the current economic framework. But people are instinctively leery of big changes. It’s natural to wish that we could persuade the oil companies and other bad actors to reform themselves and get with the program. It would be so much easier. But the weight of reason andhistorical evidence shows that to be a dead end. In such a case, and in the face of the rapidity with which climate change is spinning out of control, the rational way to proceed is to get to work doing what’s necessary, however unconventional or difficult it may seem. The demands put forward by the climate change movement should reflect this. Nationalizing the big energy companies would make all the difference to the fight to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Right from the start, it would eliminate profit from the energy calculus and remove a large pool of money that’s used to manipulate government policy.
A Stanford University study published earlier this week found that utility-scale solar development built alongside existing infrastructure, on rooftops or in backyards, may be more than enough to power whole communities. The research, published in Nature Climate Change, modeled land-use efficiency in California, a global solar energy hotspot. The study examined how urban areas could be made more efficient by developing more localized sources for renewable energy. “The quantity of accessible energy potentially produced from photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) within the built environment exceeds current statewide demand,” the study found. “Our results show that we do not need to trade these places of environmental value for the production of renewable energy as ample land and space exists elsewhere,” said Rebecca Hernandez, study lead author and an environmental earth system scientist at Stanford. “Additionally, developing renewable power generation in places close to where it is consumed reduces costs and loss of electricity associated with transmission.”
In a far corner of North Dakota, just a few hundred miles from the proposed path of the Keystone XL pipeline, 84,000 barrels of crude oil per day recently began flowing through a new line that connects the state’s sprawling oilfields to an oil hub in Wyoming. In West Texas, engineers activated a new pipeline that cuts diagonally across the state to deliver crude from the oil-rich Permian Basin to refineries near Houston. And in a string of towns in Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota, local government officials are scrutinizing the path of pipeline extensions that would pass nearby. While the Keystone project awaits a final decision, scenes like these are unfolding almost every week in lesser-known developments that have quietly added more than 11,600 miles of pipeline to the nation’s domestic oil network.
The state-record $25 million fine North Carolina’s environmental agency filed Tuesday penalized Duke Energy for years of groundwater contamination. Ash elements found in test wells around the Sutton power plant in Wilmington had broken state standards for as many as five years, state documents say. Duke acknowledged contamination problems at Sutton in late 2013, when it agreed to pay up to $1.8 million for a water line to a low-income community near the plant. The fine is the state’s largest for environmental damage, quadrupling the $5.7 million levied as part of a 1986 air-quality case.
Many people have claimed to have played a pivotal role in getting New York governor Andrew Cuomo to “ban” fracking, and although the “ban” is more of an extension of a temporary moratorium, it took the hard work of many thousands of activists, both sung and unsung. One person who can rightly claim to have done more than her fair share is Vera Scroggins, retiree, citizen journalist and dedicated “Northeast Pennsylvania frack tour” operator. As a member of Shaleshock Media Alliance, she has posted countless hours of videotaped interviews, fracking operations footage, hearings, meetings, rallies and protests, often accompanied by her own sometimes-amusing commentary.
From coast to coast across North America, people who are fighting for climate justice are connecting and thinking big about how to work together to end the era of fossil and nuclear fuels and move to clean and just energy. We want to share what is going on and ways that you can get involved. Sign up here for the Popular Resistance Climate Justice Affinity Group to stay informed about actions to retire fossil and nuclear fuels and move to renewable energy