Renewable Energy on Tribal Lands

This development could be very big in Arizona where the opportunity for a combination of wind and solar would help local tribes improve their economies and their health.

By, Karen Petersen, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

From the redwood forests of northern California to the green lowlands of upstate New York, from the high desert of southern Nevada to the frozen tundra of northern Alaska, visionary Native American leaders are forging a new path to economic vitality and community resiliency. It’s a new path that honors traditional ways, while addressing longstanding challenges and barriers.

There’s no denying the persistent gaps between American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) populations and the rest of the country in areas such as housing, healthcare, education, and employment. For generations, tribal leaders have worked to close those gaps and provide for their communities, and for some, gaming has provided one avenue for doing so. But forward-looking tribal governments are continually seeking new and innovative approaches to economic development. And increasingly, they are focusing on energy.

Within the broad swaths of mostly rural, often remote land Native Americans call “Indian Country” exist considerable untapped resources. Despite representing less than 2% of the total U.S. land base, Indian lands contain an estimated 5% of all U.S. renewable energy generation potential, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

When considered in light of the rapid decline in costs for clean energy technologies, the proliferation of policies that incentivize clean energy, and the increasingly urgent need for energy transformation, this disproportionate wealth in renewable resources represents a nascent opportunity—one not reserved for tribes alone.

“Indian Country is ripe with opportunity for profitable, mutually beneficial business engagements with tribes,” said DOE Office of Indian Energy Director Chris Deschene.

Positioning Tribes to Thrive

Deschene’s characterization of the opportunity for energy development on tribal lands is grounded in data-driven analysis and empirical evidence. In addition to funding technical resource and market analyses and contributing to intergovernmental energy and climate initiatives, the DOE Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs has an established track record of cultivating propitious – and practicable – tribal energy visions. Since 2002, DOE has invested more than $50 million in nearly 200 tribal energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

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We Need Stronger Fuel Economy Standards

Vehicles driving on a crowded freeway.Now that the power sector is making strong gains on reducing emissions, transportation is the greatest source of climate pollution – accounting for a third of US greenhouse gases.

How do we reel in pollution from millions of cars and trucks? The easiest way that’s a win-win is to make cars and trucks more efficient, so they use less gas. In exchange for being bailed out of bankruptcy by the Obama Administration, automakers – after decades of blocking progress – agreed to produce much more efficient vehicles; 35 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2016 and 54 mpg by 2025. But now, they want the Trump Administration to relieve them those “expensive, hard to meet targets” and the heavy toll of “burdensome regulations.”

This is exactly why we need regulations. The private sector will not act on its own. All Americans benefit from vastly more efficient cars, trucks and buses – driving a car that gets 54 mpg is a huge step forward from the 24 mpg cars were stuck at for decades.

Individuals and businesses really like going further on a tank of gas. Americans have already saved $35 billion on gas, while avoiding consumption of 270 million barrels of oil, cutting cancer-causing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, all since 2011. The trucking industry actually ASKED for standards – turns out, getting 6 mpg isn’t great for trucking companies!

Fuel economy standards were the single biggest energy efficiency policy of the Obama administration and automakers successfully met the first milestone in 2016 – fleet-wide averages of 35.5 mpg.

Reaching 54 mpg requires innovation and selling lots of hybrids and plug-ins, but right now automakers are mostly selling very profitable gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks. Besides, electric car sales are slow, they opine. Have you ever seen an ad for plug-in or electric cars? The answer is No or Rarely. Have you seen ads for SUVs? Yes, Constantly.

Research on national TV ads confirms this, and there’s also a dearth of electric vehicles (EVs) at dealerships. They either don’t stock them or have a few hidden in the back. Forget a test drive! Salespeople aren’t trained on their benefits and often aren’t aware of state and federal tax credits and rebates. Another survey finds that 60% of Americans don’t even know that plug-ins exist and that 80% have never been in an EV.

Read more…

 

Critical Facts about Water-Borne Diseases

If you live in a developed country, and I assume many of you are if you’re reading this, waterborne diseases probably aren’t something you typically worry about. But did you know that poor water sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water take a greater human toll than war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combined?

Even in America, pumps, pipes and purification facilities could all fail, leaving you susceptible to waterborne diseases.

So what exactly are waterborne diseases? How many people are actually affected by them? How do we keep our water clean and safe? How many people are dying from these diseases, and what can we do to prevent that from happening? We’ll answer all of those questions here.

How Much Drinkable Water Is There?

First things first. Before we can understand why waterborne diseases are so prevalent, we need to have a clear understanding of how much drinkable water is actually available.

While nearly 70 percent of the world is covered in water, only 2.5 percent of it is drinkable. And of that, only 1 percent of it is easily accessible, with the rest trapped in glaciers and snowfields.

Since most of the Earth’s fresh water is frozen at the North and South poles, that leaves the rest of the fresh water in surface water and groundwater. Surface water is found in the Earth’s lakes, rivers, and streams. Groundwater is just surface water that has made its way into the soil.

You might be wondering if we will ever run out of fresh water. Our population is rapidly increasing, and most of our uses for fresh water are increasing right along with it. So, will we always have enough fresh water to go around?  We will.

The Earth is very efficient when it comes to recycling its water.  Every drop of water we use continues through the water cycle. Water on the ground and in lakes and streams is evaporated into the clouds, and then sent falling back down to the ground.  Although we may never run out of fresh water, we still need to do our part to be sure we keep it as clean as we possibly can.

What Are Waterborne Diseases?

A waterborne disease is simply any disease that is contracted by drinking dirty or contaminated water. In under-developed countries the water is typically contaminated by human and animal feces or a general lack of sanitation. In more developed countries, it can be caused by faulty pipes, pumps, or purification facilities. It’s even possible to get a waterborne disease by eating food that was contaminated by dirty water.

Read more here…

Industrial Agriculture and the Environment

What comes to mind when you think about farming? Amber waves of grain? Rolling hills and people seated on tractors? The smell of manure? What about pollution?

to pollution, most people don’t think of agriculture. In fact, in order for agriculture to continue, farmers must take good care of the environments of their land and animals.

However, there is a difference between farming and industrial agriculture. While family farms are often maintained over several generations, industrial agriculture is an entirely different thing, and it can contribute to pollution in some significant ways.

We’re going to give you the what, why, and how of industrial agriculture pollution.

What is Agricultural Pollution?

Farmed areas – both on land and in the water – provide vital habitats for thousands of wild animals and plant species. Farming operations that are managed with good sustainability practices help restore and preserve critical habitats, protect watersheds, and improve soil strength and water quality.

However, when practiced carelessly, farming is a great threat to species and ecosystems. Negative environmental impacts from unsustainable farming practices include land conversion, habitat loss, wasteful water consumption, soil erosion and degradation, pollution, climate change, and genetic erosion.

Perhaps even worse is the practice of factory farming. Scientific research has found that factory farming methods – such as confining and overcrowding animals in warehouse-like conditions before slaughter and meat production – create unacceptable levels of risk to public health and irreparable damage to the surrounding environment.

Although factory farms produce an enormous amount of waste and pollution, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, they are largely exempt from standard air and water pollution regulations. This means that factory farms – which produce more annual waste than the entire population of the United States – can dump their waste as they see fit.

Additionally, as factory farms tasked with raising thousands of animals to meet consumer demand continue to produce tons of waste, our water supply is at risk of contamination. As waterways become polluted with agricultural waste, they lose their ability to sustain marine ecosystems. Populations of marine life are adversely affected, and the food supply becomes contaminated.

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The Energy Of The Future Is Solar Power

Smart Energy in ArizonaNot so long ago, solar power was something of a dream for those who were ahead of the curve in the environmental movement. It appeared to be an option for the wealthy and for those who had committed themselves to environmentalism.

The idea that we could heat our homes and generate electricity from little more than sunshine seemed like a utopian ideal.

However, as the real and immediate effects of global warming are felt around the world in everything from droughts to mega-hurricanes, the implementation of solar power is now a feature of global policy and economics; it’s part of a combination of renewable energy sources which eliminate the use of fossil fuels that drive global warming.

Solar power has been steadily on the rise around the world, and as fossil fuels become increasingly scarce, we can expect to see solar power increasingly adopted.

Solar Power On The Rise

The surge in interest across the globe in solar power has largely been in response to the problem of carbon emissions and global warming. Solar power and other renewable sources of energy are the best ways to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.

As a direct result, global use and implementation of solar technology has been on a steady rise since the early 2000s. Solar is now the fastest rising source of renewable energy in the world, reaching about 1% of the total energy produced globally.

In fact, solar energy production now rivals nuclear power globally. Solar energy reached a capacity of about 350 GW (gigawatts) globally in 2015, compared to nuclear energy which topped out at 391 GW in the same year. In addition, it is predicted that at the current rate of conversion to solar energy, it will overtake the use of fossil fuels by 2050, with most of the globe running on energy produced by the sun.

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Fact-Checking Trump’s Antiquities Act Order

“San Juan County is now the epicenter of a brutal battle over public lands,” Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah, said as he stood before the Senate on April 24 and railed against former President Barack Obama’s end-of-term designation of the Bears Ears National Monument.

Hatch spoke in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s order to “review” all national monuments designated since 1996, announced Wednesday, starting with Bears Ears, located in rural San Juan County, Utah. The review will also include dozens of other monuments established over the last 21 years. As he signed the executive order on Wednesday, Trump praised the Utah senator and parroted some of Hatch’s points.

Some of the national monuments under review include Bears Ears (top), Basin and Range, Cascade-Siskiyou, Canyons of the Ancients and Grand Staircase-Escalante.
Brooke Warren, BLM

Hatch’s own speech was peppered with the type of Sagebrush Rebellion rhetoric that Utah politicians have spouted since Cal Black, the late San Juan County commissioner, threatened three decades ago to blow up ruins, bridges and trucks to retaliate against purported overreach by federal land managers. But in making his argument for abolishing the new monument, Hatch also relied on outright falsehoods or, in the nomenclature of the current administration, “alternative facts.”

Here, we fact-check the main arguments made by opponents of the monument, including Trump and Hatch.

Hatch: “As evidence of his disdain, President Obama issued this declaration with no open debate, no public hearing, and no vote in Congress.”

Fact check: The notion that Obama sprung this “midnight monument” on the locals without warning or consultation is one of the main arguments against the designation. It’s also false.

Read more by Jonathan Thompson at High Country News

“Drawdown” – Global Warming’s New Math

by Joel Makower at GreenBiz Group

An ambitious new book was recently published with the audacious goal of showing how to reverse the warming of the planet through a myriad of innovations, many of them led by business for profit.

“Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming” (Penguin Books), was edited by the author and entrepreneur Paul Hawken along with a self-described “coalition” of research fellows, writers and advisors. (Full disclosure: I played a very small unpaid role in reviewing parts of the manuscript, and am included among the 120 or so advisors listed in the book.)

The book contains 80 solutions — “techniques and practices” — that are ready today, and 20 additional “coming attractions” — innovations just over the horizon — that collectively can draw down atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in order to solve, not just slow, climate change by avoiding emissions or sequestering carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.

Hawken is quick to point out that the book’s seemingly brash subtitle is a bit tongue in cheek: this is the only “comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming,” he said. But the larger point is not lost. The book, along with an accompanying website, may be the first to provide the insight and inspiration, backed by empirical research and data, that could enable companies, governments and citizens to attack the climate problem in a holistic and aggressive way. Moreover, many, if not most, of the solutions can be undertaken with little or no new laws or policy, and can be financed profitably by companies and capital markets.

At minimum, “Drawdown” is likely the most hopeful thing you’ll ever read about our ability to take on global warming.

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Crazy Utility Bookkeeping

Okay, here’s the thing. All over the USA, badly managed utilities with strong, well-financed political clout are doing their best to kill solar and other distributed energy systems. They claim that non-solar customers have to foot the bill for maintaining the grid that solar customers use at very little cost. Of course, this is completely false and ignores the financial benefits to utilities of grid-tied solar installations.

For example, I have a grid-tied 4.2 kW system on my roof. I received no subsides from anyone to install it. It’s my investment. As the “net metering” program now stands in Arizona, I’m saving around $600/year with my system. That nets me between 5 and 6% on my investment. That’s a good thing.

My little system also provides most of its electricity to the grid during peak energy demands – from 10 -4 each day. During that time, we use very little electricity, so most of it is flowing to the APS grid. There they can resell that electricity for anywhere between 6 cents to 26 cents per kilowatt hour for the time of use customers. That gives them a healthy profit because I’m giving them the electricity essentially for free. At the end of the year, if I’ve put more electricity into the grid, APS credits my account at less than 3 cents per kWh.

So, if I’m not paying the $20/month for the grid, APS is making more than that by selling the peak electricity I provide to them…free. Also, we residential and commercial solar owners help APS avoid the huge costs of increasing their power generation by building new plants to meet peak demands. That’s worth a lot to a utility. Of course, they do not share this with the utility commissions when they complain about the “costs of solar.”

Here’s an article about what’s going on in Nevada. You can bet that Arizona utilities are learning lessons from the anti-solar wins in their neighboring state.

Read Who Owns the Sun.

Here’s an overview about solar in Arizona.

The Twisted Economics of the Dakota Assess Pipeline

Given the bizarre and possibly corrupt decisions being made in the White House these days, I thought this excellent article was worth posting.

As the weather gets colder, the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline is heating up, in rather ugly ways. Just days before Thanksgiving, law enforcement officers tried to blast the protesters away with water cannons in 25-degree weather and employed other “less than lethal,” though still harmful, dispersal methods. One protester may lose her arm as a result of injuries suffered during the violence. And to top it off, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to close one of the camps of “water protectors” next week, which may embolden law enforcement to take a more forceful approach.

High Country News has reported what’s at stake for the Standing Rock Sioux tribal members and their allies trying to stop or re-route the project: Tribal sovereignty, water, environmental justice, holy lands, treaty-rights and antiquities. Add to that the prospect of more carbon spewing into the atmosphere, and one can see why activists are risking so much to stand in the pipeline’s way.

Less clear is what the $3.78 billion, 1,172-mile-long crude oil pipeline offers in return if and when construction is completed and it goes into operation. Energy Transfer Partners, the project’s main proponent, says that the pipeline will offer jobs, economic relief to a struggling region and, by spurring production of North Dakota Crude, it will take the U.S. closer to the lofty ideal of energy independence.

Construction on the pipeline is about 85 percent complete and it has, indeed, put people to work. Yet it is not clear how many new jobs have been created since the jobs are spread out over 1,000 miles. Rural towns along the pipeline’s corridor have reported a boost in hotel and campground occupancy rates as the contractors move through. That, in turn, generates sales and lodging tax revenues for the local governments. The boost, however, won’t last. In a few months, when (and if) construction is complete, the workers and their spending money will depart. The finished pipeline will require just 40 permanent maintenance and operational jobs along its entire stretch.

Once oil is flowing, property tax revenues — an estimated total of $55 million annually — will kick in. While it’s a big chunk of change, the impacts will be diffused, shared by four states. North and South Dakota are expected to receive about $13 million each, divided between several counties, a drop in the budget bucket (Colorado generates nearly $20 million per month from taxes and fees on marijuana). That said, it might be enough to buy the county sheriffs some more military gear from the Pentagon in order to squelch the next pipeline protest. It will not, however, cover the costs of such squelching: The current law enforcement effort has reportedly cost $15 million so far.

The fact is, pipelines, like transmission lines, don’t have a major economic impact except when they’re built. They otherwise go mostly unnoticed until they spill, burst or explode.

Read more by Jonathan Thompson at High Country News

Energy Efficiency Saves Billions in Maryland

Baltimore, MD—Maryland electric customers will save more than $4 billion due to energy efficiency improvements made at homes and businesses through a successful Maryland program, according to a first-of-its-kind study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The study, co-authored by a former Maryland Public Service Commission energy analyst, highlights how the first phase of EmPOWER Maryland has yielded substantial economic growth and environmental benefits across the state.

EmPOWER Maryland, enacted in 2008, created energy efficiency programs that are offered through the state’s five largest electric utilities. The program helps homeowners and businesses save energy, partly by offering incentives and technical assistance for adding insulation, sealing air leaks, and installing more efficient appliances. It also facilitates efficient commercial lighting and other improvements at industrial facilities.

ACEEE’s study reveals that EmPOWER Maryland has produced significant benefits, including:

  • More than $4 billion in savings in total customer bills over the life of the improvements, which were made between 2008 and 2015;
  • $1.81 in benefits for every dollar spent on energy efficiency measures as a result of lower wholesale prices for energy, savings from reduced need to build new power plants and power lines, reduced air pollution, and reduced need for electricity production;
  • Total lifetime energy savings of more than 51 million megawatt hours, equivalent to the electricity used by 850,000 residential customers over five years;
  • Reduced emissions of nearly 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, more than 34 million pounds of nitrogen oxides, and nearly 78 million pounds of sulfur dioxide over the lifetime of the programs.

The full study can be viewed at: http://aceee.org/research-report/u1701

“EmPOWER Maryland is an unqualified success story for the state,” said Brendon Baatz, study co-author and utilities policy manager at ACEEE. Yet despite its achievements, Baatz believes the program’s future is not guaranteed: “With Phase One of the program complete, Maryland regulators must now renew their support for EmPOWER Maryland so that consumers and businesses can continue to reap the benefits of lower utility bills and cleaner air.”

“EmPOWER has proven critical for helping us improve the energy efficiency of our affordable multifamily properties, which lowers utility costs and provides healthy homes for our residents” said Trisha Miller, sustainability director for WISHROCK. “At Windsor Valley Apartments, EmPOWER helped fund efficiency improvements that are expected to reduce utility bills by as much as 20% per year. Without EmPOWER, the upfront costs of making these upgrades can be prohibitive in the affordable housing industry.”

The first phase EmPOWER Maryland aimed to reduce per capita electricity usage 10% and peak electricity demand 15% by 2015. The Maryland Public Service Commission, in its annual report to the legislature in 2015, concluded that state utilities achieved 99% of the per capita consumption goal and 100% of the per capita demand reduction goal.

Due in part to the EmPOWER Maryland program, Maryland now ranks as the ninth most energy-efficient state in the nation, according to ACEEE.