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Fri, 2014-12-05 11:00Mike Gaworecki
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George Shultz, Reagan's Secretary Of State, On Climate Change: "The Potential Results Are Catastrophic"

George Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State from 1982 to 1989, is not only willing to buck the Republican Party's orthodoxy on global warming by acknowledging climate science, he's outright calling for action. And he's even willing to walk the talk.

Shultz, a former University of Chicago economics professor and president of Bechtel, has installed solar panels on his house and drives an electric car around the Stanford University campus, where he’s a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace.

According to Bloomberg, Shultz’s climate awakening came when a retired Navy admiral showed him time-lapse footage of disappearing Arctic sea ice and “explained the implications for global stability.”

“The potential results are catastrophic,” Shultz says to his fellow Republicans. “So let’s take out an insurance policy.”

Thu, 2014-12-04 11:00Mike Gaworecki
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BLM Hasn't Performed An Environmental Review of Coal Leasing Program Since 1979

It has been 35 years since the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last performed an environmental review of its coal leasing program.

Two environmental groups are suing the BLM to force a review of the program.

Given advances in scientific knowledge of the risks posed by mining and burning coal to human health and Earth’s climate made since 1979, the groups argue that the review will “compel the Bureau of Land Management to deliver on its legal obligation to promote environmentally responsible management of public lands on behalf of the citizens of the United States.”

Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils filed the lawsuit last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, naming Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and BLM Director Neil Kornze as lead defendants, along with the Department of the Interior and the BLM.

Fri, 2014-11-28 12:33Mike Gaworecki
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Walmart’s Reliance On Dirty Energy Responsible For 8 Million Metric Tons of Carbon Pollution Per Year

Recent revelations that the Walton Family, majority owners of Walmart, are funding attacks against the rooftop solar industry called into question the big-box retailer’s very public “100% renewable energy” commitment. A new report by the Institute on Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) documenting Walmart’s massive carbon emissions is likely to add even more fuel to that fire.

According to ILSR, which also exposed the Walton Family’s anti-rooftop solar initiatives, Walmart is one of the heaviest users of coal-fired electricity in the United States, resulting in 8 million metric tons of carbon pollution produced every year by the mega chain’s operations.

Since making its environmental commitments in 2005 with great fanfare, Walmart has done little to honor its pledge to transition to renewable energy and “be a good steward of the environment.”

Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at ILSR and co-author of the new report, wrote in April that Walmart's use of renewables peaked in 2011 and has slipped since then.

“Walmart’s progress on renewable power is particularly pitiful when you look at other retailers,” she added. “Staples, Kohl's, and Whole Foods, along with numerous small businesses, have already passed the 100 percent renewable power mark.”

Today, just 3% of the electricity powering Walmart’s U.S. stores comes from renewable sources.

Sun, 2014-11-23 11:57Mike Gaworecki
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Monster Wells: Hundreds Of Fracking Wells Using 10-25 Million Gallons of Water Each

While the oil and gas industry likes to claim that fracking is not an especially water intensive process, a new report has found that there are more than 250 wells across the country that each require anywhere from 10 to 25 million gallons of water.

The American Petroleum Institute suggests that the typical fracked well uses “the equivalent of the volume of three to six Olympic sized swimming pools,” which works out to 2-4 million gallons of water.

But using data reported by the industry itself and available on the FracFocus.org website, Environmental Working Group has determined that there are at least 261 wells in eight states that used an average of 12.7 million gallons of water, adding up to a total of 3.3 billion gallons, between 2010 and 2013. Fourteen wells used over 20 million gallons each in that time period (see chart below).

According to EWG, some two-thirds of these water-hogging wells are in drought-stricken areas. Many parts of Texas, for instance, are suffering through a severe and prolonged drought, yet the Lone Star State has by far the most of what EWG calls “monster wells” with 149. And 137 of those were found to be in abnormally dry to exceptional drought areas.

Texas also has the dubious distinction of having the most wells using fresh water in the fracking process. In 2011 alone, more than 21 billion gallons of fresh water were used for fracking Texas wells. Increased pumping by companies seeking to extract the oil and gas in the Eagle Ford shale formation, meanwhile, has been cited as a major cause of the state’s rapidly declining groundwater levels.

Fri, 2014-11-21 10:54Mike Gaworecki
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EPA’s Clean Power Plan Could Leave A Lot Of Renewable Energy Gains On The Table

Many states are already on track to meet or beat the renewable energy targets laid out for them by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, according to a new report from Earthjustice, which is calling on the agency to strengthen the plan in order to promote more ambitious renewable energy growth.

The Clean Power Plan sets out different emissions reduction levels for each state to reach by 2030, and suggests renewable energy targets as one means of achieving those goals. But Earthjustice has found that many states have already adopted their own renewable energy standards that either meet or even exceed the suggestions made by the EPA.

Three extreme examples are California, Colorado, and Hawaii, some of the states that have done the most to embrace renewable energy. California ranks first in installed solar capacity and third in wind—it even set a record earlier this year for single-day solar photovoltaic energy generation—and has set a mandatory goal of generating 33% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. Yet the Clean Power Plan sets a standard of 21% by 2030 for the Golden State.

Colorado has a similarly ambitious self-imposed goal of 30% by 2020, but the EPA’s suggestion is also 21% by 2030. And Hawaii, which is aiming for 40% by 2030, is being urged by the Clean Power Plan to hit just 10%.

Here’s how several other clean energy early adopter states' own commitments stack up against the goals called for in the Clean Power Plan:

Wed, 2014-11-19 17:45Mike Gaworecki
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Renewable Energy Loan Program That Funded Solyndra Is Paying Off

Despite the high-profile bankruptcy of solar panel maker Solyndra, the Department of Energy's renewable energy loan program is officially in the black as of September and now expects to earn as much as $5 to $6 billion.

According to a report released last week by the Energy Department's Loan Program Office, some $810 million in interest has already been collected on the $21.71 billion the program has loaned out so far. Solyndra and three other companies that failed after receiving funds from the program, meanwhile, accounted for $780 million in losses.

The $5-6B in projected earnings is calculated based on average rates and expected returns over the next 20 to 25 years. Michael Morosi, an analyst with Jetstream Capital, told Bloomberg Businessweek that that return is better than many venture capital and private equity investors, many of whom got burned by Solyndra along with the federal government, will see from their investments in renewable energy. “A positive return over 20 years in cleantech?” Morosi says. “That's not a bad outcome.”

According to the LPO report, 20 projects that received funds from the program are already in operation, generating revenue, and have begun paying back their loans (some $3.5 billion in loan principle has been recouped so far). Tesla Motors is perhaps the biggest success of the program so far, and it paid back its loan of $465 million last year—9 years early.

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