Study Proves Fossil Fuels Way Worse for Land Use than Renewables

Net primary production (NPP) loss due to oil and gas activity across the central provinces and states of North America. NPP loss represents the cumulative effect of annual losses from 2000 to 2012. - Allred et al 2015. Ecosystem services lost to oil and gas in North America. Science 24 April 2015: Vol. 348 no. 6233 pp. 401-402 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4785

A new, peer-reviewed article published in the scientific journal SCIENCE estimates that 3 million hectares of land (that’s 11,583 square miles, or 30,000 square kilometers) have been lost due to oil and gas well pads, storage tanks and associated roads developed in North America since the year 2000. Rangeland and cropland through the heartland have been particularly damaged. The study says, “The total amount lost in rangelands is the equivalent of approximately five million animal unit months…” and ”The amount of biomass lost in croplands is the equivalent of 120.2 million bushels of wheat…”.

The 3 million hectares of land lost “…is likely long-lasting and potentially permanent…”

Critics of wind energy and solar power lambast those energy resources’ land use. To make such a spurious argument, anti-renewable energy activists focus solely on the footprint of a power plant and ignore the so-called “upstream” land losses reported by the peer-reviewed article published in the scientific journal SCIENCE. For example, while the gas power plants themselves occupy a rather small landscape footprint, you must take into account that those power plants also require significant infrastructure to operate – well pads, storage tanks, pipelines, access roads and refineries, just to name a few. If you conveniently ignore the substantial landscape footprint of the plants’ associated with upstream infrastructure, then wind energy and solar power falsely appear to use more land than fossil-fueled power plants or nuclear reactors.

Consider this: the Department of Energy (DOE) recently released its Wind Vision Report, which outlines a goal of 20% wind energy by 2030 for this country, and 35% wind energy by 2050. Under those scenarios, the DOE estimates the amount of land used by wind turbines would ”require approximately 2,000 [square kilometers] (500,000 acres) by 2030, and 3,200 [square kilometers]  (790,000 acres) by 2050.” So for roughly 1/10th the land area used by oil and gas (3,200 square kilometers), America could obtain 30% of its electricity from land-based wind power (the other roughly 5% the Wind Vision Report evaluated came from offshore wind). Since these figures are linear (1 megawatt of wind energy capacity requires 1 hectare of land, or 0.01 square kilometers), 3 million hectares of land could provide 3,000,000 megawatts of wind power capacity – or about three times as much as all the electric power generating capacity in America today. (Math-whiz readers will note that getting 30% of the nation’s power from wind energy by using 1/10th of the land requirement of oil and gas would mathematically lead to 300% of the nation’s power from 10/10th’s of the land requirement of oil and gas.) Read more…

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Georgia faith leaders echo Pope Francis’ call for climate action

Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley voices his support

Last week, Georgia Interfaith Power & Light and Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign hosted a press conference in response to the Pope’s encyclical on the environment. Pope Francis’ newly released Encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, addresses the many environmental issues facing the planet today.

The press conference brought together diverse members of Georgia’s faith, scientific, business, environmental, and academic communities in support of the Pope’s commitment to mitigate human-induced climate change and respond to environmental degradation. Georgia Interfaith Power & Light’s Executive Director Rev. Kate McGregor Mosley, moderated the event, reading an official statement of support from the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Read more…

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GA Alternative Fuel Roadshow Touts Diversification

This week I had the pleasure of attending and participating in one of the Atlanta stops of the 5th Annual Alternative Fuel Roadshow hosted by Georgia Public Service Commissioner, Tim Echols.

Tuesday’s roadshow was at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, which was the perfect spot to kick off the Roadshow’s second week of activities. The College has initiated a number of stellar programs to become a more sustainable campus. In 2007, the College conducted a greenhouse gas inventory of their operations, and electricity was identified as their number one source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).  See more on their GHG inventory here.

Jennifer Kaduck, Sustainability Advisor in the College’s Office of Sustainability, opened Tuesday’s Roadshow with a highlight of some of the College’s efforts to reduce their emissions from the electricity and transportation sectors.

Over the past year, Agnes Scott has installed five (5) solar arrays totaling 238 KW of installed solar capacity. The systems provide enough clean energy to meet average electricity needs of ~31 homes. The five arrays are located on the College’s Bullock Science Center, the Office of Facilities, the Gellerstedt soccer field, the parking deck on McDonough, and on top of the Bradley Observatory. They recently installed a geothermal HVAC system and are on track to receive LEED Gold certification of the recent renovation of Campbell Hall. This system is the most efficient heating and cooling system in the world today and is saving the College 500,000 gallons of water a year.  Read more…

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Google Announces New Data Center – Inside A Coal Plant!

Recently, Google announced its plans to open its 14th data center – this new one in Northern Alabama. The internet giant will be building the data center inside the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA’s) Widows Creek coal plant, which is set to retire . Google will begin construction in 2016 and is working with TVA to ensure that the data center is powered by renewable energy resources. The data center will take advantage of the existing transmission lines at the plant to bring in renewable energy.

Google is working with TVA to scout new renewable energy projects over the next 12 months and bring those onto TVA’s electrical grid. In addition to being powered by clean energy, Google will incorporate advanced efficiency technologies, allowing the company to get 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy.

Read more…

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Exploring Federal Climate Data Tools

SACE recently had the privilege of attending the 2015 HHS Climate Justice Conference in Raleigh, N.C. hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The conference was a unique space to hear directly from some of the low-income communities and communities of color that are most vulnerable to climate disruption, and to hear from federal officials working to anticipate, analyze, and mitigate a wide variety of public health impacts. We are particularly excited to share three of the data-based tools communities, researchers, public health practitioners, and advocates can utilize to organize and advocate for policies that will increase community resilience to climate change impacts.

The Interagency Crosscutting Group on Climate Change and Human Health (CCHHG) presented the Climate Data Initiative, Metadata Access Tool for Climate and Health, and Climate Resilience Toolkit which together represent thousands of datasets and resources that can empower communities with tools and knowledge to plan for future and present climate disruptions.

New York City: future sea level rise and the most recent special flood hazard area

Climate Data Initiative

The Climate Data Initiative is an ever-growing one-stop shop for the federal government’s datasets related to the impacts of climate change. Datasets and resources are broken into themes that provide a depth of information on climate change impacts to:

  • human health, including changes to precipitation and heat patterns and changes to disease patterns;
  • food resilience, including the impacts of a changing climate on “food security;”
  • water, including changes to the availability of our most precious resource;
  • ecosystem vulnerability, including wildfire patterns, biodiversity, and changes to the habitats of invasive species;
  • transportation, including the impacts of climate change on transportation infrastructure; and
  • coastal flooding, including what rising sea levels will mean for coastal communities.

By compiling and making these datasets and resources available on one site, federal agencies hope to “…stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship in support of national climate change preparedness.” We’re encouraged to see that the datasets available on the site continue to grow.

Read more…

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SACE Comes Out Strong on Policies to Expand Solar Development in Florida

SACE staffer John Wilson also contributed to this post.

Today the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) responded to the Florida Public Service Commission’s Request for Comments on policies and programs to “promote solar” in the Sunshine State.

If you’re visiting our blog, you probably know about the Floridians for Solar Choice ballot initiative – which aims to open up the rooftop solar market by allowing solar companies to sell energy directly to homes and businesses. But how many other specific ideas are there for advancing solar power in Florida? In SACE’s comments to the Commission, we laid out almost a dozen ways to grow the solar market in Florida.

Florida has a tremendous potential to deploy solar energy – the state ranks 3rd nationally in rooftop solar potential, and has the best solar resource east of the Mississippi – but has consistently failed to live up to this potential. Today the state has only 239 megawatts (MW) installed, with an additional 383 MW planned over the next three years. This leaves Florida trailing far behind neighboring states Georgia and North Carolina, both of which plan to install almost three times as much solar during the same period, and even New Jersey, which has almost 1,500 MW already on its system.

Florida can do better. Read more…

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In Memory of a Creation Care Champion: SACE Mourns the Loss of Sen. Clementa Pinckney

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy offers our condolences to all those affected by the tragic massacre at Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday night.

One person killed that night was Reverend and State Senator Clementa Pinckney who worked with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in 2006 to produce the South Carolina segment in our Treasured Places in Peril video series.

Rev. Pinckney spoke eloquently about the importance of caring for creation and working within nature, particularly in South Carolina’s Lowcountry whose people and culture (including the Gullah people) face a range of impacts from pollution and climate change.

To watch the full video including his interview clips, click here. To request a copy of this video, contact SACE.


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Pope Francis: Substitute Fossil Fuels with Renewable Energy

Laudato Si, Pope Francis' Encyclical, Top 150 Words Word Cloud

This post is part of the “Prelude to Paris” series highlighting updates and analysis on international climate negotiations in the lead up to the United Nations climate change conference – the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) — to be held in Paris this December. Other posts in the series are available here.

After months of anticipation, Pope Francis has released his encyclical,  Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. Encyclicals are letters written by a pope to the other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. In his 184-page letter, Pope Francis touched on many environmental issues facing the planet today: climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, animal husbandry, genetically modified organisms and other “aspects of the present ecological crisis.” The encyclical’s title (which means “Praised Be”) is inspired after Saint Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures. St. Francis’s life of simplicity and cooperation with nature is the embodiment of Pope Francis’ encyclical (after all, Pope Francis chose his name after St. Francis).

According to Pope Francis, it was necessary to discuss the breadth of environmental issues because ”Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” And indeed, substantial portions of the encyclical discuss the connection between environmental damage and the disproportionate impact such destruction has on people living in poverty. In a press conference yesterday, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, DC, noted that Pope Francis focused on society because “The starting point is the dignity of the human person as part of God’s plan in all of creation.” Read more…

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Denying the climate change and health connection got them nowhere; polluters try (and fail) to convince Latinos and African Americans that the Clean Power Plan is bad for their bottom line

This post, written by Juan Declet-Barreto, originally appeared on NRDC’s Switchboard blog on June 11, 2015 and is reposted with permission.

Addressing the disproportionate impacts of carbon pollution on the health of low-income and minority communities is one of the most compelling reasons for combating climate change. Many serious and rigorous scientific studies have shown that minorities bear high exposures to air pollutants and toxics in their neighborhoods. In addition, emergency room visits and hospitalizations during heat waves (which are becoming worse due to climate change) are higher among Latinos and African Americans. And as we at NRDC recently showed, increased ground-level ozone and pollen that worsens asthma and respiratory allergies are linked to climate change and threaten the health of millions in cities the United States. The millions of Hispanics and African Americans living in the “sneeziest and wheeziest” cities in the U.S. indicate these populations are at elevated health risks from climate change.

Knowing that there’s no credibility in denying science’s sound verdict on the connection between climate and health of minorities, the polluter industry is now working hard to convince low-income Latinos and Blacks that what’s good for polluters’ profits is also good for the economic well-being of minorities. It seems they’ve been successful at co-opting the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) into conducting a “study” showing that the EPA’s soon-to-be-finalized Clean Power Plan will be catastrophic for the bottom line of Latino and African American families. The paper begins with well-known socio-demographic trends over time of, and socio-economic disparities among, Black and Hispanic populations. As we know, the Latino population is the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S., and there are large gaps in health outcomes, health care access, income, and economic security between minorities and Whites. So far so good. Then the paper goes off into Fantasyland by concluding that these disparities will be worsened under the Clean Power Plan because a previous study already debunked as shoddy science (and financed by the polluter industry!) claims that carbon standards will rush over the economy like a tsunami and wash away the income of Latinos and African Americans with it. They dedicate exactly one sentence to explaining their “analysis”: Read more…

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TVA Advisory Board Meeting Gives Preview of Final 2015 IRP

Today, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Regional Energy Resource Council (RERC) ended two days of meetings in which they were given a preview of the recommendations in TVA’s forthcoming 2015 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). SACE staff have played an integral part in both the 2011 and 2015 IRP planning process, serving on each of the various IRP stakeholder working groups. Throughout these processes, we’ve educated our members and TVA’s customers about the development of TVA’s draft 2015 IRP. Although SACE Executive Director Dr. Stephen Smith is a member of TVA’s RERC, he was unable to attend this meeting due to a schedule conflict made prior to TVA scheduling its meeting.

SACE staff was on hand at the meeting to learn about what will likely be the final recommendations put before the TVA Board of Directors for a vote at the August TVA Board meeting. We’re please to share with our readers some of the information that was made public at the RERC meeting. Read more…

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