Southeast Coast Up For Sale For Offshore Drilling?

Today, the Obama administration proposed a sale to lease the waters off of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia for oil and gas development. The details of this proposal were released in the draft five-year program for the Outer Continental Shelf, which lays out what types of offshore oil and gas activities will be permitted in the next offshore planning period, from 2017 to 2022.

The proposed lease sale for the Mid- and South Atlantic is slated to take place in 2021, with drilling following thereafter.

It is especially unfortunate that the Obama administration is taking this step as we approach the 5th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy this spring, particularly while oil prices have plummeted and the cost of natural gas is at historic rock bottom.

If the lease sale goes as planned, a potential lessee’s next step is to drill an exploratory well to determine if the resource is large enough to economically extract. For those who say that we should at least allow exploration to see what’s out there, it must be noted that even the exploratory phase of offshore drilling is highly risky. The Deepwater Horizon blowout of 2010 occurred while drilling an exploratory well, which killed 11 workers and exposed tens of thousands of cleanup workers to hazardous chemicals for months; devastated seafood and tourist-driven businesses; coated beaches and wetlands with an oily slick; killed countless birds, fish, and marine mammals; cost tens of billions of dollars; and ultimately dumped 200 million gallons of oil into the ocean over the course of 87 days.

Yes, our nation’s greatest environmental disaster in history occurred while they were “just exploring to see what’s out there.” Read more…

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“Reliable” Nuclear Reactor Shuts Down in Blizzard

NEI tweet from January 26, 2015 -- the day before the Blizzard of 2015

Update: Pilgrim, which creates enough power for up to 550,000 homes,  is still down two days after Juno blew through the region and InsideClimate News highlighted this in their 1/29/15 article, “Winter storm exposes vulnerability of nuclear power plants.” Though the plant operators are working to get the reactor back online, there is no estimate yet as to when that will be…

Once again nuclear power is proven unreliable here in the U.S. This time the culprit is Juno, the Blizzard of 2015, and the victim is the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth, Mass., which is now relying on its back up diesel generators. Once again, the nuclear industry’s cheerleading team over at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) expressed confidence that this would not happen given their tweet yesterday, which we can now all consider an epic social media fail.

In marked contrast, during the last polar vortex wind power performed stunningly well (and affordably). Take that for a lesson in what real reliability means dear nuclear power industry!

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Yes, America wants solar and wind, not nukes

This guest blog was originally published by Michael Mariotte, president of the Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) in GreenWorld on January 16, 2015. Find the direct post here. The post references the recent, exciting news about a solar ballot initiative in Florida recently announced by the coalition Floridians for Solar Choice, of which the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is one of several members.

Just in case there was any doubt, “Americans ‘overwhelmingly’ prefer solar and wind energy to coal, oil, and nuclear energy, according to a Harvard political scientist who has conducted a comprehensive survey of attitudes toward energy and climate for the last 12 years.” So begins a New Year’s Day column in Forbes by Jeff McMahon that a lot of people missed–for most people, New Year’s Day is not prime time for reading about energy issues.

Investing in solar power now brings a better return than investing in the S&P 500. Graphic from NC Clean Energy Technology Center.

It’s not even close. 80% of the American people want solar and wind to increase a lot, and another 10% want it to increase somewhat (The other 10% probably earn their living either directly or indirectly from the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, or perhaps live in caves and don’t want electricity, or maybe just lie to pollsters).

Said Harvard Professor Stephen Ansolabehere, “In order to get 90 percent, that means a lot of Republicans like solar and wind—more than coal. Everybody likes those sources. This is non-partisan.”

Interestingly, Ansolabehere began his surveys on energy preferences in 2001, when a group of MIT engineers–including a guy named Ernest Moniz, now Secretary of Energy–wanted to see if the public would go along with their idea to address climate change by building 300 new nuclear reactors.

Those MIT folks were probably pretty disappointed. Although as a DOE secretary still pushing nuclear power, Moniz does not seem to have internalized that lesson.

Perhaps Moniz should look a little closer around him. The American people are not just touting solar in public opinion surveys, they’re putting solar on their homes in ever-increasing numbers.

Americans aren’t stupid. Solar power simply makes sense, from any angle you look at it: it makes sense environmentally, it makes sense economically. Not only is solar now cheaper than grid electricity in 42 of the 50 largest U.S. cities, but “the numbers show money spent on a residential solar system earns a better return than investing in Standard and Poor’s 500 index fund.Read more…

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Mighty Ducks: How do wind turbines affect ducks?

As duck hunting season comes to a close, flocks of hunters have enjoyed a potentially record-breaking season thanks in part to good weather and successful conservation efforts. Despite strong conservation measures which aided this year’s hunt, ducks do face a number of threats that must be recognized and mitigated. As more wind turbines are installed throughout the country, researchers, communities and hunters are asking: how do wind turbines affect ducks?

Duck hunting is not only a cultural heritage, it also supports hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity every year. The Fish and Wildlife Service conducts an annual review of waterfowl hunter activity. For the most recent review, FWS estimates that some 881,400 duck hunters spent nearly 6.2 million days hunting afield. Estimated expenditures by duck hunters runs over $600 million annually. In 2013, FWS estimates hunters bagged 13.7 million ducks.

Read more…

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Solar as an Energy Equity Solution

This guest blog was written by John Farrell who directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at ILSR  and was published here on RenewableEnergyWorld.com on January 21, 2014.  

For over 100 years, the American economy has been fueled by enormous expansion of fossil fuel energy. It has emitted a disproportionate share of its environmental impact (too much) and economic rewards (too few) on those less fortunate.

More than any 21st century energy source, solar can power an equitable and environmentally sound energy future.  Solar can mean reversing decades of environmental injustice.

Consider the results of the 20th century model of centralized control and generation of energy:

  • Sixty-eight percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal plant, as opposed to 56 percent of whites (source)
  • 71% of African Americans live in counties that violate federal air pollution standards, compared to 58% of the white population (source)
  • The median per capita income in counties with coal power plant is 15% lower than for the overall U.S. (source)
  • The 8.1 million Americans who live within 3 miles of coal power plant have a per capita income 15% lower and are 25% more likely to be people of color (source)

Read more…

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FL Senate Measure Seeks to Eliminate Onerous Taxes on the Sun

Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes just took a big step toward removing a major roadblock to more solar development in the Sunshine State.  He filed a measure that would end burdensome taxes on solar power. The resolution to amend the state constitution would exempt renewable energy devices from the state’s tangible personal property tax. The punitive tax currently increases the cost for power from renewable energy devices, such as solar energy systems. This limits energy choices for Florida’s families and businesses that want to invest in renewable energy.

Additionally, the resolution would exempt the assessed value of renewable energy devices when calculating real estate taxes. The resolution, if passed by both chambers in the state legislature, would place the tax measures on the 2016 general election ballot – where voters will make the ultimate decision.

In a statement, Senator Brandes says  “The Sunshine State should be the leader in solar energy. This legislation is designed to remove barriers to businesses so that they can enter this growing renewable energy market. Reducing burdensome taxes is a key component to fostering the solar energy market in Florida.” Read more…

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White House Announces Steps to Curb Methane Emissions

Yesterday, the White House announced its first-ever efforts aimed at reducing methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industries.  President Obama announced his latest step in his Administration’s effort to combat climate change that will come in the form of a proposed rule under the Clean Air Act in mid-2015.  Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted from human activity and has a warming effect more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide.

Historically, and humorlessly, cows and other grazing livestock have been a significant source of methane emissions, including from massive agriculture waste (manure) lagoons.  As the U.S. increases its natural gas production, however, more and more methane is being emitted from the oil and gas industry.  Natural gas is composed primarily of methane, so even small methane leaks can pose a large problem for the climate.  As part of his overall Climate Action Plan, President Obama and the EPA are now working on limiting methane emissions from these industries by 40 – 45% from 2012 levels part of a larger effort to reduce our nation’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Read more…

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When It Comes to Energy Efficiency, Health and Environment Are Bigger Motivators Than Saving Money

The National Academy of Sciences published a report yesterday that found that messages about the environment and health motivate people to save energy more than messages about saving money.

Fortunately, consumers don’t have to choose between the two because saving energy results in environmental and health benefits AND saves money! Read more…

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Knoxville Advances to Quarterfinals in Georgetown University Energy Prize

Saving money through energy efficiency is already a sweet deal, but the chance to win a $5 million prize sweetens the pot quite a bit. Today marks the official start of the quarterfinalist phase of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national two-year competition to reduce energy usage through coordinated community efforts in small- to medium-size towns, cities and counties. The 50 quarterfinalist communities are distributed among 26 states across the country, including the Southeast. Knoxville, Tenn. is one of the quarterfinalists, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) is a formal partner in planning Knoxville’s energy-saving strategy. The other quarterfinalists in the Southeast are Huntsville, Ala.; Calhoun County, Ark.; Winter Park, Fla.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Arlington County, Va.; Blacksburg, Va.; and Charlottesville, Va.

The competing communities will be judged based on residential and municipal energy savings in 2015 and 2016, and the quality of the energy-saving strategies employed. The finalist round will be announced in 2017, and the winning community will receive $5 million to support local energy efficiency programs.

Knoxville’s efforts are being coordinated by the city’s Office of Sustainability, but the competition is a community initiative. In addition to SACE, the formal partners in Knoxville are Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB), University of Tennessee’s Office of Sustainability, Knox County Schools, Alliance to Save Energy, Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light, Harvey Broome Group (Sierra Club), and Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment. SEEED, Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance and Climate Knoxville have also expressed interest and intent to participate. Read more…

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TVA Announces New Energy Efficiency Program for Homeowners

Yesterday, TVA announced the unveiling of its new energy efficiency program, eScore. The new program provides homeowners with expert recommendations and instant rebates through installations to make their home as energy efficient as possible.

The recommendations and instant rebates are grouped within 10 categories, targeting the major energy consumption in most homes. (The rebates available for each program can be found by clicking on each of the categories.) After registering for the program online, all you have to do is contact one of TVA or your local power company’s qualified contractors and get started saving money and making your home more comfortable! The eScore program allows you to identify the upgrades and improvements you need to get your house to a 10, and work towards that goal at your own pace. Each improvement you make moves your house closer to be the most energy efficiency it can be! For more information, contact TVA or your local power company for more details.

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