You are here

Green News

As millions of solar panels age out, recyclers hope to cash in

Grist - Sat, 03/18/2023 - 06:00

In Odessa, Texas, workers at a startup called SolarCycle unload trucks carrying end-of-life photovoltaic panels freshly picked from commercial solar farms across the United States. They separate the panels from the aluminum frames and electrical boxes, then feed them into machines that detach their glass from the laminated materials that have helped generate electricity from sunlight for about a quarter of a century.

Next, the panels are ground, shredded, and subjected to a patented process that extracts the valuable materials — mostly silver, copper, and crystalline silicon. Those components will be sold, as will the lower-value aluminum and glass, which may even end up in the next generation of solar panels.

This process offers a glimpse of what could happen to an expected surge of retired solar panels that will stream from an industry that represents the fastest-growing source of energy in the U.S. Today, roughly 90 percent of panels in the U.S. that have lost their efficiency due to age, or that are defective, end up in landfills because that option costs a fraction of recycling them.

But recycling advocates in the U.S. say increased reuse of valuable materials, like silver and copper, would help boost the circular economy, in which waste and pollution are reduced by constantly reusing materials. According to a 2021 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), recycling PV panels could also cut the risk of landfills leaking toxins into the environment; increase the stability of a supply chain that is largely dependent on imports from Southeast Asia; lower the cost of raw materials to solar and other types of manufacturers; and expand market opportunities for U.S. recyclers.

Of course, reusing degraded but still-functional panels is an even better option. Millions of these panels now end up in developing nations, while others are reused closer to home. For example, SolarCycle is building a power plant for its Texas factory that will use refurbished modules.

The prospect of a future glut of expired panels is prompting efforts by a handful of solar recyclers to address a mismatch between the current buildup of renewable energy capacity by utilities, cities, and private companies — millions of panels are installed globally every year — and a shortage of facilities that can handle this material safely when it reaches the end of its useful life, in about 25 to 30 years.

Solar capacity across all segments in the U.S. is expected to rise by an average of 21 percent a year from 2023 to 2027, according to the latest quarterly report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. The expected increase will be helped by the landmark Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 which, among other supports for renewable energy, will provide a 30 percent tax credit for residential solar installations.

Laminate removed from a solar panel is examined at SolarCycle’s facility in Odessa, Texas. The laminate contains silicon, copper, and silver. SolarCycle

The area covered by solar panels that were installed in the U.S. as of 2021 and are due to retire by 2030 would cover about 3,000 American football fields, according to an NREL estimate. “It’s a good bit of waste,” said Taylor Curtis, a legal and regulatory analyst at the lab. But the industry’s recycling rate, at less than 10 percent, lags far behind the upbeat forecasts for the industry’s growth.

Jesse Simons, a co-founder of SolarCycle, which employs about 30 people and began operations last December, said solid waste landfills typically charge $1 to $2 to accept a solar panel, rising to around $5 if the material is deemed hazardous waste. By contrast, his company charges $18 per panel. Clients are willing to pay that rate because they may be unable to find a landfill licensed to accept hazardous waste and assume legal liability for it, and because they want to minimize the environmental impact of their old panels, said Simons, a former Sierra Club executive.

SolarCycle provides its clients with an environmental analysis that shows the benefits of panel recycling. For example, recycling aluminum uses 95 percent less energy than making virgin aluminum, which bears the costs of mining the raw material, bauxite, and then transporting and refining it.

The company estimates that recycling each panel avoids the emissions of 97 pounds of CO2; the figure rises to more than 1.5 tons of CO2 if a panel is reused. Under a proposed Securities and Exchange Commission rule, publicly held companies will be required to disclose climate-related risks that are likely to have a material impact on their business, including their greenhouse gas emissions.

Stripped from solar panels at the SolarCycle plant, aluminum is sold at a nearby metal yard. Glass is currently sold for just a few cents per panel for reuse in basic products like bottles, but Simons hopes he will eventually have enough of it to sell for a higher price to a manufacturer of new solar panel sheets.

Crystalline silicon, used as a base material in solar cells, is also worth recovering, he said. Although it must be refined for use in future panels, its use avoids the environmental impacts of mining and processing new silicon.

SolarCycle is one of only five companies in the U.S. listed by the SEIA as capable of providing recycling services. The industry remains in its infancy and is still figuring out how to make money from recovering and then selling panel components, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Elements of this recycling process can be found in the United States, but it is not yet happening on a large scale,“ the EPA said in an overview of the industry.

In 2016, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) forecast that by the early 2030s, the global quantity of decommissioned PV panels will equal some 4 percent of the number of installed panels. By the 2050s, the volume of solar panel waste will rise to at least 5 million metric tons a year, the agency said. China, the world’s biggest producer of solar energy, is expected to have retired a cumulative total of at least 13.5 million metric tons of panels by 2050, by far the largest quantity among major solar-producing nations and nearly twice the volume the U.S. will retire by that time, according to the IRENA report.

The raw materials technically recoverable from PV panels globally could cumulatively be worth $450 million (in 2016 terms) by 2030, the report found, about equal to the cost of raw materials needed to produce some 60 million new panels, or 18 gigawatts of power-generation capacity. By 2050, the report said, recoverable value could cumulatively exceed $15 billion.

For now, though, solar recyclers face significant economic, technological, and regulatory challenges. Part of the problem, says NREL’s Curtis, is a lack of data on panel recycling rates, which hinders potential policy responses that might provide more incentives for solar-farm operators to recycle end-of-life panels rather than dump them.

Another problem is that the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure — an EPA-approved method used to determine whether a product or material contains hazardous elements that could leach into the environment — is known to be faulty. Consequently, some solar farm owners end up “over-managing” their panels as hazardous without making a formal hazardous-waste determination, Curtis said. They end up paying more to dispose of them in landfills permitted to handle hazardous waste or to recycle them.

The International Energy Agency assessed whether solar panels that contain lead, cadmium, and selenium would impact human health if dumped in either hazardous-waste or municipal landfills and determined the risk was low. Still, the agency said in a 2020 report, its findings did not constitute an endorsement of landfilling: Recycling, it stated, would “further mitigate” environmental concerns.

NREL is currently studying an alternative process for determining whether or not panels are hazardous. “We need to figure that out because it is definitely impacting the liability and the cost to make recycling more competitive,” Curtis said.

Despite these uncertainties, four states recently enacted laws addressing PV module recycling. California, which has the most solar installations, allows panels to be dumped in landfills, but only after they have been verified as non-hazardous by a designated laboratory, which can cost upwards of $1,500. As of July 2022, California had only one recycling plant that accepted solar panels.

In Washington State, a law designed to provide an environmentally sound way to recycle PV panels is due to be implemented in July of 2025; New Jersey officials expect to issue a report on managing PV waste this spring; and North Carolina has directed state environmental officials to study the decommissioning of utility scale solar projects. (North Carolina currently requires solar panels to be disposed of as hazardous waste if they contain heavy metals like silver or — in the case of older panels — hexavalent chromium, lead, cadmium, and arsenic.)

In the European Union, end-of-life photovoltaic panels have, since 2012, been treated as electronic waste under the EU’s waste electrical and electronic equipment directive, known as WEEE. The directive requires all member states to comply with minimum standards, but the actual rate of e-waste recycling varies from nation to nation, said Marius Mordal Bakke, senior analyst for solar supplier research at Rystad Energy, a research firm headquartered in Oslo, Norway. Despite this law, the EU’s PV recycling rate is no better than the U.S. rate — around 10 percent — largely because of the difficulty of extracting valuable materials from panels, Bakke said.

But he predicted that recycling will become more prevalent when the number of end-of-life panels rises to the point where it presents a business opportunity, providing recyclers with valuable materials they can sell. Governments can help speed that transition, he added, by banning the disposal of PV panels in landfills and providing incentives such as tax breaks to anyone who uses solar panels.

“At some point in the future, you are going to see enough panels being decommissioned that you kind of have to start recycling,” Bakke said. “It will become profitable by itself regardless of commodity prices.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline As millions of solar panels age out, recyclers hope to cash in on Mar 18, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Discovery of Novel Gene to Aid Breeding of Climate Resilient Crops

Environment News Service - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 18:23

Researchers have revealed for the first time how a key gene in plants allows them to use their energy more efficiently, enabling them to grow more roots and capture more water and nutrients.

Categories: H. Green News

How Can We Tackle the Biggest Challenges? Ask a Plant

Environment News Service - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 18:18

Without plants, we’d have no air to breathe or food to eat, yet plant science lingers in the shadowy wings while other fields take center stage. 

Categories: H. Green News

EPA and Montana mining company promise action after revelations of cozy relationship

High Country News - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 13:38
Previous reporting showed how regulators and the mine teamed up to rebut independent researchers.
Categories: H. Green News

Quantum Sensing in Outer Space

Environment News Service - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 13:31

New NASA-funded research will build next-gen tech to better measure climate.

Categories: H. Green News

Giant Underwater Waves Affect the Ocean’s Ability to Store Carbon

Environment News Service - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 13:01

Underwater waves deep below the ocean’s surface – some as tall as 500 metres – play an important role in how the ocean stores heat and carbon, according to new research.

Categories: H. Green News

New Study Provides First Comprehensive Look at Oxygen Loss on Coral Reefs

Environment News Service - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 13:00

Scripps Oceanography scientists and collaborators provide first-of-its-kind assessment of hypoxia, or low oxygen levels, across 32 coral reef sites around the world.

Categories: H. Green News

“Denoising” a Noisy Ocean

Environment News Service - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 12:59

Come mating season, fishes off the California coast sing songs of love in the evenings and before sunrise. 

Categories: H. Green News

NASA Uses 30-Year Satellite Record to Track and Project Rising Seas

Environment News Service - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 12:56

Observations from space show that the rate of sea level rise is increasing. Knowing where and how much rise is happening can help coastal planners prepare for future hazards.

Categories: H. Green News

NASA Rockets to Search for Swirls at the Edge of Space

Environment News Service - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 12:55

A NASA rocket team is on the hunt for giant hurricane-like swirls in our upper atmosphere. 

Categories: H. Green News

Activity Deep in Earth Affects the Global Magnetic Field

Environment News Service - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 12:54

Compass readings that do not show the direction of true north and interference with the operations of satellites are a few of the problems caused by peculiarities of the Earth’s magnetic field.

Categories: H. Green News

A government program hopes to find critical minerals right beneath our feet

Grist - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 03:45

In a remote and heavily forested region of northern Maine, a critical resource in the fight against climate change has been hiding beneath the trees. In November, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, announced the discovery of rocks that are rich in rare earth elements near Pennington Mountain. A category of metals that play an essential role in technologies ranging from smartphones to wind turbines to electric vehicle motors, rare earths are currently mined only at a single site in the United States. Now, researchers say a place that’s been geologically overlooked for decades could be sitting on the next big deposit of them — although a more thorough survey would be needed to confirm that.

While the U.S. government frets over shortages of the metals and minerals needed to transition off fossil fuels, it also lacks the basic geological knowledge needed to say where many of those resources are. Less than 40 percent of the nation has been mapped in enough detail to support the discovery of new mineral deposits, hampering the Biden administration’s plan to boost domestic mining of energy transition metals like rare earths and lithium, an essential ingredient in electric vehicle batteries. But the administration and Congress are now attempting to fill the maps in, by ramping up funding for the USGS’s Earth Mapping Resources Initiative, or Earth MRI.

Geologists Chunzeng Wang and Preston Bass in the field near Pennington Mountain. Bass carries a tool called a portable gamma spectrometer. United States Geological Survey

A partnership between the federal government and state geological surveys, Earth MRI was established in 2019 with the goal of improving America’s knowledge of its “critical mineral” resources, a list of dozens of minerals considered vital for energy, defense, and other sectors. The initiative was quietly humming along to the tune of about $11 million per year in funding until 2022, when Earth MRI received an additional influx of $320 million, spread out over five years, through the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Since then, Earth MRI has kicked into overdrive, with the USGS launching dozens of new critical mineral-mapping efforts from Alaska to the Great Plains.

The USGS will be hunting for minerals both in the ground and at abandoned mines, where there may be valuable metals sitting in piles of toxic waste. The deposits they identify could eventually be extracted by mining companies, though experts say lawmakers and regulators will need to carefully weigh the benefits of mining against its social and environmental costs.

For now, says Earth MRI science coordinator Warren Day, the goal is to accomplish something that’s never been done before. “Nobody’s ever mapped all the critical minerals for the nation,” Day told Grist. “This is a huge undertaking.”

Indeed, the process of mapping the Earth is both labor intensive and time consuming: Geologists must be sent out into the field to record observations and locations of geological features like faults, take measurements, and make detailed interpretations of a landscape. Those interpretations might be augmented with laboratory analyses of soil and rock samples, as well as data collected by aircraft and other remote sensing instruments. It can take several years for researchers to synthesize all of that information into a map with a resolution of an inch to 2,000 feet, the standard scale that state geological surveys work at. Those geological maps don’t fully characterize ore deposits to determine whether they are economical to mine. But they often form a starting point for private companies to conduct that more detailed exploratory work. 

“Our part is the definition of the geological framework where deposits could occur,” Day said. “Private industry takes that and tries to define the resources.”

That industry-led exploration can take an additional several years, after which it might take up to a decade to permit and build a mine, says Allan Restauro, a metals and mining analyst at the energy consultancy BloombergNEF. The mismatch between the time from exploration to mining, and the anticipated near-term ramp-up in demand for energy transition metals, has led many experts to predict we’ll see shortfalls of resources like lithium within the decade. 

“Even if something were to be discovered right at this very instant, it may not be an actual producing mine until beyond 2030, when demand has shot up,” Restauro told Grist. 

To help close the gap between mineral discovery and future demand, Earth MRI scientists are racing to collect as much baseline geological data as they can. The federal government is contracting private companies to do airborne geophysical surveys — flying specialized instruments over a region to measure specific properties of the rocks underfoot. The primary approach the USGS is using, called aeromagnetic surveying, measures slight variations in the Earth’s magnetic field that relate to the magnetic properties of local rocks. In some cases, the agency is also conducting radiometric surveys, which detect natural radioactive emissions from rocks and soils containing elements like thorium and uranium. These elements can indicate the presence of specific mineral types of interest: Thorium, for example, is often found alongside rare earth elements. 

The boom on this Earth MRI helicopter contains sensitive equipment for conducting airborne geophysical surveys. United States Geological Survey

As the USGS is conducting reconnaissance from the air, state geologists are sent out to the field for detailed surface mapping and sampling.

Earth MRI scientists have identified more than 800 focus areas around the nation — regions with at least some potential to host critical minerals. With the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law boosting the initiative’s total budget to $74 million annually from 2022 to 2026, the effort to survey all of them has ramped up “significantly,” says Jim Faulds, the president of the American Association of State Geologists. About twice as many states are now engaged in mapping projects as before the law, and individual projects are receiving three times the funding they were before. That’s expected to be a major boon for Western states like Nevada and Arizona, which have only had a quarter to a third of the land mapped in detail and are among the most promising places in the country to find energy transition metals.

“Many Western states are mineral rich,” Faulds said. “But we don’t necessarily know where those minerals are.” 

Even in places where large mineral deposits have been discovered already, we don’t necessarily have detailed maps of the region. That’s the case for the Thacker Pass area near the Oregon border, host to some of the largest lithium resources in North America, as well as an area of west-central Nevada that has large lithium deposits. New Earth MRI-funded survey work in these areas will help define the full extent of these resources, says Faulds, who directs Nevada’s state Bureau of Mines and Geology.

In the eastern U.S., where some states are relatively well mapped, there’s still a potential for new discoveries. Geologists had no idea, for example, that the Pennington Mountain area of northern Maine was host to rare earth-rich rocks: Earth MRI funded a project in the area because it had previously been mined for elements like copper and manganese, said Anji Shah, a USGS geophysicist who contributed to the study. 

“When we chose the area, we were thinking about those particular mineral resources,” Shah said. “It was only when we got the [airborne survey] data and we noticed some anomalies that we said, ‘Hey, this might be high in rare earth elements.’” Follow-up work in the field and lab confirmed not just elevated levels of rare earths, but also niobium and zirconium, minerals used in jet engine components and nuclear control rods.

A fine-grained volcanic rock, found on Pennington Mountain in Maine, that hosts rare earth elements, niobium, and zirconium. United States Geological Survey / Chunzeng Wang, University of Maine-Presque Isle

Discoveries like this could ultimately lead to the establishment of new mines and new domestic supply chains for critical minerals, a key policy goal of the Biden administration. But as companies start clamoring to dig these rocks out of the ground, the administration will have to think carefully about how to balance its climate and national security priorities with the potential harms of mining, which can degrade local ecosystems, cause air and water pollution, and transform rural communities. Projects that aren’t sited carefully are likely to meet local resistance, as illustrated by a proposed lithium mine at Thacker Pass that recently began construction despite fierce opposition from conservationists, a local rancher, and Native American tribes.

“We’re going to discover many more deposits” out of Earth MRI, said Thea Riofrancos, a political scientist at Providence College in Rhode Island who studies the intersection between resource extraction and green energy. But the benefits of extracting those minerals, Riofrancos said, “should not be presumed.” 

Riofrancos would like to see the government thinking holistically about better and worse places for mining, perhaps combining maps of mineral deposits with maps showing biodiversity, water resources, historically marginalized communities, and Indigenous lands, where a large fraction of today’s energy transition metal mining occurs, according to a recent study. (Day says the USGS always obtains written consent from tribes before mapping reservation lands.) Taking all of these factors into account when deciding where to permit new mining will help ensure that harm is minimized, Riofrancos says.

One of the more attractive places to hunt for energy transition metals could be abandoned mine land, which has already been degraded. Coal mining waste, for instance, can be enriched in rare earth elements; scientists with the Department of Energy are currently working out the best ways to extract them. Several years ago, Shah and her colleagues discovered that mining waste at abandoned 19th- and 20th-century iron mines in the eastern Adirondack Mountains in New York is also enriched in rare earths — in particular, the so-called heavy rare earths that are more economically valuable.

Riofrancos sees the USGS’s inclusion of mine wastes in its mapping efforts as a positive sign. “The more industrially developed an area is, the less new harm is created by mining,” she said, adding that it might be possible to extract new metals from mine waste in tandem with environmental cleanup efforts.

But ultimately, it’s private companies that will decide, based on the trove of new information the government is collecting, which areas it wants to explore further for possible mining. And at this point, Faulds says, “there’s quite a bit of interest at all levels” in Earth MRI data.

“I would say companies are on the edge of their seats,” he said.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline A government program hopes to find critical minerals right beneath our feet on Mar 17, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

‘Extrapolations’ is the climate TV show we’re finally ready for

Grist - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 03:30

If Hollywood has the power to shape our collective imagination for good, it has too often failed when it comes to compelling stories about climate. But that untapped power is part of what makes Extrapolations, the new Apple TV+ series being touted as the biggest-budget scripted TV show ever made about global warming, so intriguing. 

Despite its unflinching focus on the existential crisis of our times, Extrapolations resists the temptation to dwell exclusively on end-of-the-world narratives. The series manages to fold the requisite wildfires and epic storms into a more complex narrative of a society that hasn’t hasn’t evaded climate catastrophe but hasn’t ended, either.

“There has been so much storytelling done around the post-apocalyptic, denuded world,” said producer and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns. “But before we get to that end, there’s a lot of messy middle.”

With the help of an absurdly star-studded cast — Meryl Streep, Kit Harington, Daveed Diggs, Sienna Miller, Gemma Chan and Marion Cotillard are less than half of the big names involved — the eight-episode series sets out to imagine what life on our warming planet might look like in the very near future using interconnected vignettes that take place everywhere from Mumbai to Miami. 

“[Screenwriters] have this role to play in helping us understand these watershed moments,” Burns said, “and obviously, climate change is the big existential crisis of our time.”

While there’s plenty of climate science powering Extrapolations, the show focuses on the kinds of connections that can’t be adequately conveyed via a hockey stick graph — not that Burns doesn’t have experience trying. Nearly 20 years ago, he produced An Inconvenient Truth, arguably the most influential climate documentary ever made. For many Americans, An Inconvenient Truth was a wake up call to the very existence of climate change. Ever since then, as humans have increasingly felt the effects of rising CO2 firsthand, Burns has been wondering what more he can do.

Sienna Miller in “Extrapolations.” Apple TV

“Coming from having done An Inconvenient Truth, I think [Burns] felt like he had done everything he could to communicate the scientific reality with images and text and words to say, ‘Here is what is happening to the planet,’” said Dorothy Fortenberry, a former Handmaid’s Tale screenwriter who Burns recruited as his Extrapolations co-showrunner. “But what a documentary can’t capture is what it will feel like.”

When crafting each episode, Extrapolations writers started with the science – say, how many degrees of warming we might expect in 2037 — and tried to imagine how that scenario might impact the everyday lives of people around the world. The show follows a bevy of characters (in the first three episodes alone, these include an international climate conference delegate from a drought-stricken country, a tech billionaire, a rabbi in a coastal city, a wildlife researcher and a kid with a chronic, heat-induced health issue) whose trajectories are shaped by the changing climate. 

“We wanted to make something that someone who knew a medium amount or a large amount about climate change could watch and wouldn’t feel like, ‘They got that so wrong that I have to turn it off,’” said Fortenberry. “But we also didn’t want to have so much science or data that a person who had never thought about climate change would feel alienated or excluded.”

Extrapolations doesn’t try to bury its nods to real-world climate wonkiness. There are United Nations climate conference negotiations portrayed onscreen, complex story arcs exploring the pros and cons of geoengineering, and nods to the ongoing existence of activist groups like Extinction Rebellion and Sunrise Movement in the future.

Tahar Rahim in “Extrapolations.” Apple TV

Rather than distract, these heightened callbacks to our current climate-impacted reality demonstrate the dramatic potential that has always been hiding between the lines of IPCC reports. But it’s taken writers who actually understand the stakes, as well as the science, to tease that out.

Throughout the process of developing the show, the showrunners sought out notable climate thinkers and writers in the space to ground their script in relevant literature: Burns references Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement, calls Earth Day co-founder Denis Hayes his “environmental mentor,” and notes that he had conversations with Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert. (Readers of Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction and McKibben’s Falter will find particularly strong echoes of those books in episodes that grapple with extinction and escapist technology, respectively.)

Matthew Rhys, Heather Graham, Alexander Sokovikov and Noel Arthur in “Extrapolations.” Apple TV

Though the show does take scientific liberties — it is fiction, after all — they tend to come in the form of inventions that allow people to upload their memories to the cloud or change their eye color at whim, rather than anything that majorly distorts climate science. “I wanted to create an event horizon that I thought would make it harder for people to push this issue away and go, ‘Oh, that’s not my world.’ That’s why I wasn’t interested in flying cars, or other world building like that,” said Burns. “I wanted people to look at it and go, ‘Hmm, that looks a lot like my world.”

In the second episode, for example, Sienna Miller’s character uses technology to hold conversations with the world’s last humpback whale, voiced by none other than Meryl Streep. While that animal-translation tech is a product of the screenwriters’ imaginations, the humpback’s current endangered status is not. It’s precisely this combination of the fantastical and the real that hooks viewers into grappling with environmentally uncomfortable topics such as species loss.

The show is a feat of storytelling made all the more remarkable given that less than 3 percent of scripts from 2016 to 2020 touched on anything remotely related to climate change. Of the Hollywood productions that have dealt with climate throughout the years, most have been overwhelmingly apocalyptic (say, 1995’s Waterworld) or based on shoddy science (2006’s The Day After Tomorrow).

Read Next ‘Don’t Look Up’ shows how hard it is to satirize the end of the world

That’s not to say that Burns is inherently anti-apocalypse story; he just thinks it shouldn’t be the only option. Burns explains his thinking by recounting a conversation he had with Don’t Look Up director Adam McKay shortly after that film’s release. McKay asked, If there can be 20 cop shows, why not 20 climate change shows? “That’s what I hope for,” said Burns, “that the series that we made would become part of a very large body of work that allows us to look at this problem from every angle.”

With a total runtime of 60 minutes per episode, the first three of which are available starting March 17, Extrapolations feels like a sprawling body of work unto itself. When the show falters, it’s as much a result of what it leaves out as much as what it leaves in: Despite a couple strong episodes led by complex, multifaceted characters of color — Daveed Diggs as a rabbi whose Miami synagogue is sinking, Adarsh Gourav as a truck driver navigating drought-ravaged India — it’s hard not to wish the show had pushed even deeper into trying to tell the stories of frontline communities. 

That’s one pitfall of taking such an unbounded approach to the climate story: A show about one particular place and time can be more easily excused for leaving some people out than a show that sometimes spans the globe but still centers mostly Western (and often white, wealthy) viewpoints, even if it frames them critically. 

Even so, the showrunners’ attempts to meet the current moment, both in terms of filmmaking and climate zeitgeist, are still laudable. As Extrapolations Executive Producer Michael Ellenberg pointed out, these “big, epic, limited series” didn’t exist 15 years ago. The relatively new format allows the viewer to examine climate change from a number of different viewpoints, devoting entire episodes to geoengineering and coastal flooding rather than relegating the topics to a few minutes of dialogue in a two-hour runtime. 

Gemma Chan, left, as Natasha Alper in “Extrapolations.” Apple TV

The commercial appeal of an ambitious project about climate change is much higher today than it would’ve been even five years ago, Ellenberg said. Shopping Extrapolations around to the networks, it was clear to him that “this show wasn’t for everybody.” But those who got it, got it: When he pitched the series to Apple, they called to say they wanted it before he had even made it out of the parking lot.

“While this is the first of its kind, we don’t want it to be the last,” he said. “We’re hoping that this encourages more storytellers to tackle this subject with all their creative ambition.”

For people currently sounding the alarm about climate change, Extrapolations is a cathartic (if not always comforting) watch. Fortenberry said the writers wanted the show to resonate with those who already feel the nearness of climate catastrophe but often feel alone in grappling with it, to “disrupt that sense of feeling kind of insane” that can come from experiencing a bizarrely warm winter day and then “going home and watching TV that has a snowy Christmas episode.” 

“The very first thing that we can do is just show people: you’re not alone, you’re not crazy, yes this is happening,” she said. Maybe once people know they’re not alone, she hopes, “that gives them the energy to figure out what they want to do about it.”

The result of all these calculations is a show that feels haunting when it reminds us of how close we might be to an unwanted future, whether by exploring the oversized role tech billionaires might have in our climate politics or imagining our night skies filled with smog and the lights of hundreds of drones rather than stars. 

But it’s also a series shot through with beauty and moments of unexpected levity as it follows the lives of characters who continue to raise kids, have sex with strangers, ask questions of God, experience meaningful connection with animals, make music, and throw dinner parties even as the global temperature continues to rise — to continue living, in other words, even as the catastrophes unfold around them.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline ‘Extrapolations’ is the climate TV show we’re finally ready for on Mar 17, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Oscars goody bags contained ‘unseemly’ gift: certificates for Aboriginal land

Grist - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 03:15

As Academy Award nominees opened up their exclusive goody bags this year, they found vouchers for cosmetic surgery, invitations for complimentary stays at a lighthouse in Italy, and a chocolate box with a personalized video embedded inside. They also found a certificate to plots of land in Australia, one square meter of Indigenous territory in northeast Australia, gifted to recover the “spiritual connection” Aboriginal people have had with Australia and conserve and protect the area. 

But members of the Barunggam and other Aboriginal communities, the original caretakers of the territory in question, say they were never contacted on the matter, and Indigenous groups cited in materials given out to Oscar nominees also say they had no communication with the organization behind the goody bag gift.

Pieces of Australia, a for-profit conservation organization that claims to buy and sell private land in order to protect it, is one of many brands that paid to be included in the award-nominee gift bags, which are valued at about $126,000. Companies pay up to $4,000 to secure a place in the bag but are not affiliated with the Academy and prepared by a private advertising company. The gift of land from Pieces of Australia is known as the “Australia Mate Conservation Pack” and includes a personalized certificate of land license, a plot number, and the promise that for every conservation pack purchased, two trees will be planted. Online, the pack retails for $79.95. 

According to the Guardian, the pack also came with a handbook and claims that Pieces of Australia partnered with the Indigenous Carbon Industry Network, or ICIN, an Indigenous-led advocacy group that promotes and facilitates Indigenous inclusion in the carbon industry. But ICIN says there is no relationship with Pieces of Australia, and that there has been no correspondence with the Academy Awards, Distinctive Assets (the brand behind the goody bags), or Niels Chanelier, Pieces of Australia’s 29-year-old CEO.

According to Pieces of Australia’s website, the area where the parcels are located is nearly 38,000 square kilometers — an area just slightly smaller than Switzerland — and home to species like koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, and red belly black snakes. The company calls the area their “flagship piece of Australian native land that we are proud to own and preserve.”

Chaneliere told the Telegraph his intent was to get nominees to engage with the Australian bush in a responsible manner, adding that he also wanted to make a profitable business while raising awareness for Australia’s Indigenous heritage and the unique flora and fauna. 

Pieces of Australia’s website includes a land acknowledgement but has also been accused of stealing text and photos from Indigenous groups. ICIN CEO Anna Boustead told National Indigenous Television, or NITV, that several photos featuring Aboriginal ranger groups appeared to have been taken from their website and reproduced by Pieces of Australia, as well as written material, without the organization’s permission. 

Tim Wishart, principal legal officer of the Queensland South Native Title Lands, an organization that provides native title services, said that Chanelier’s business is a “money-making scheme” and that his involvement in the Oscars goody bags was an “unseemly and inappropriate piece of self-promotion.” 

In 2022, Highland Titles gave out land parcels in Scotland that included nominees receiving the title of Lord, Lady, or Laird of Glencoe. On Piece of Australia’s “about us” section, Chanelier writes he was inspired by the novelty Scottish plots. “I realized our own backyard is abundant in unique flora/fauna known to the world and currently undergoing its own set of environmental stresses.”

Requests for comment from Pieces of Australia were not returned.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Oscars goody bags contained ‘unseemly’ gift: certificates for Aboriginal land on Mar 17, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

‘There is a whole hell of a lot of water up there right now’

High Country News - Fri, 03/17/2023 - 01:00
A parade of atmospheric rivers dumped historic rain and snow on California and beyond. What happens next?
Categories: H. Green News

Low-Cost Device Can Measure Air Pollution Anywhere

Environment News Service - Thu, 03/16/2023 - 23:25

Air pollution is a major public health problem: The World Health Organization has estimated that it leads to over 4 million premature deaths worldwide annually.

Categories: H. Green News

Зошто не треба да се патува со авион

Green European Journal - Thu, 03/16/2023 - 08:32

Иако авијацијата придонесува со 2,8 проценти во вкупната емисија на CO2, нејзиното штетно влијание ретко се појавува во агендата за климатски акции. Во една глобализирана економија со бизниси и животен стил што се одвиваат со авионски превоз, навиката да се патува со авион може тешко да се напушти. Според Фабрицио Менардо луѓето мора да го променат своето однесување, а креаторите на политики мора да ги адресираат социо-економските предизвици на овој сектор за да ги координираат патувањето и климатските цели.

Во 2015 година, под влијание на прочуениот Париски договор, речиси секоја земја на планетава се заколна дека ќе го ограничи порастот на глобалната температура на помалку од 2 Целзиусови степени во споредба со прединдустриските нивоа и да „вложи напор“ да го одржи затоплувањето на 1,5 Целзиусов степен. Најновиот извештај на Меѓувладиниот панел за климатски промени (IPCC) покажува дека емисиите на стакленички гасови како резултат на активностите на луѓето веќе предизвикале затоплување од околу 1,1 степен, што довело до пораст на екстремните временски услови и климатските настани, како топлотни бранови, огромни врнежи и суши. Многу од овие влијанија ќе траат со векови, а нивната големина ќе расте согласно со кумулативните емисии во иднина. IPCC проценува дека, со цел да постигне веројатност од 67 проценти да остане под вредност од 1,5 Целзиусов степен, нашите кумулативни емисии на CO2 од почетокот на 2020 година мора да останат под 400 милијарди тони. Моменталните годишни емисии на CO2 изнесуваат околу 35 милијарди тони.

Влијанието на воздушниот сообраќај врз климата

Пред пандемијата со ковид-19, авијацијата беше одговорна за емисии на повеќе од милијарда тони CO2 секоја година, што претставуваа околу 2,8 проценти од емисиите глобално. Овој сооднос е во извесна мера поголем во многу земји со високи примања. Авијацијата е еден од главните предизвикувачи на екстремни разлики во личниот јаглероден отпечаток помеѓу глобалното население. Се смета дека околу 80 проценти од речиси осум милијарди луѓе во светот никогаш не патувале со авион. Друга крајност е тоа што една студија објавена во 2020 година укажува на тоа дека најчестите патници со авион, околу еден процент од вкупното население, се веројатно одговорни за повеќе од 50 проценти од емисиите создадени при комерцијални летови. Пандемијата со ковид-19 драстично го намали воздушниот сообраќај, со околу 55 проценти помалку патници во 2020-2021 во споредба со 2019 година. Сепак, воздухопловната индустрија очекува за неколку години бројот на патници да се врати на нивото од пред пандемијата, a прекините поврзани со ковид-19 веројатно ќе имаат минимален ефект врз долгорочното влијание на авијацијата врз климата.

Додека во моментов емисиите поврзани со авијацијата се ниски во споредба со други сектори, широко прифатено е дека стакленичките гасови и други емисии кои придонесуваат за глобалното затоплување, како кондензациските траги, кои веројатно се одговорни за значителен процент од климатското влијание на авијацијата, е тешко да се избегнат. Освен тоа, се очекува овие емиисии да растат во следните децении согласно зголемената побарувачка. Како резултат на овие фактори, освен ограничениот износ на преостанатиот јаглероден буџет, емисиите од авијацијата набргу ќе бидат превисоки. Тоа ќе остане така дури и ако успешно го декарбонизираме остатокот од економијата. Како што се наведува во Извештајот за разликата во емисиите од 2020 година на Програмата за животна средина на ООН: „Без дополнителни мерки за ублажување, до 2050 година комбинираните меѓународни емисии [од авијацијата и бродскиот превоз] ќе трошат околу 60 до 220 проценти од достапниот глобален јаглероден буџет“.

Донесена во 2020 година, иницијативата Нула емисии од млазни авиони на британската влада ги прикажува предизвиците на постигнување јаглеродна неутралност во авијацијата. Оваа стратегија предвидува решенија вклучувајќи брзо и невидено подобрување на воздухопловната ефикасност и одржливо производство на горива, покрај масовно напуштање на технологиите со негативни емисии (NET). Според најоптимистичното сценарио анализирано во Нула емисии од млазни авиони, до 2050 година Велика Британија ќе треба да отстранува од атмосферата 9 милиони тони CO2 годишно, што е 2.250 пати повеќе од капацитетот на најголемата постројка за отстранување CO2 во моментов. Според пореалистични сценарија, оваа бројка е до четири пати повисока.

Спротивно на тврдењата на воздухопловната индустрија и на владите, овие бројки ќе покажат дека да се постигне јаглеродна неутралност без намалување на бројот на летови ќе биде речиси невозможно во блиска иднина. Се разбира, опциите за авијацијата треба одново да се разгледаат кога ќе станат достапни нови технологии. Сепак, во моментов е јасно дека масовното патување со авион е едноставно некомпатибилно со стабилна клима. Но, постои консензус во масовните медиуми и во јавната дебата генерално, дека намалувањето на воздушниот транспорт е едноставно незамисливо.

Економските предизвици од намалување на авијацијата

Клучната причина за верувањето дека воздушниот транспорт е незаменлив е неговата економска важност. Авијацијата е вкоренета во глобалната економија, овозможувајќи услуги и извор на приход за милиони луѓе во светот. Во случај на значително намалување на воздушниот сообраќај, многу од 90-те милиони работни места во светот што го опслужуваат овој сектор ќе бидат укинати. И меѓународните економски активности би биле сериозно нарушени: околу 35 проценти од светската трговија се одвива со авионски превоз, а многу меѓународни бизниси се потпираат на често летање за да одржуваат контакти со потрошувачите и со добавувачите.

За успешна транзиција кон свет со помалку воздушен сообраќај треба целосно да се имаат на ум овие прашања со сета нивна комплексност. Авијацијата во својата актуелна форма не се разликува од другите фактори што загадуваат, како екстракцијата и обработката на фосилни горива кои ќе треба да се намалат и конечно да исчезнат ако сакаме да постигнеме јаглеродна неутралност. Мора да ги штитиме нашата животна средина, како и здравјето и изворите на приход на луѓето и на општествата, а не постоењето на индустрии што се во основа неодржливи.

Пандемијата јасно покажа дека навистина можат да се направат крупни промени во начинот на кој функционираат нашите бизниси, што беше практично незамисливо пред пандемијата. На пример, во 2020 и 2021 година, деловното патување речиси не постоеше, а компаниите беа обврзани да ги адаптираат своите оперативни модели. Пандемијата придонесе и кон радикална промена на тоа што можат и треба да направат владите за да влијаат врз економијата. Интервенции како принуден одмор за да се намали отпуштањето, зголемена потрошувачка на владите и издавање заеднички обврзници на ЕУ беа незамисливи пред пандемијата. Сепак, без нив јавноздравствената и економската криза би биле многу пострашни. За да ги заштитат луѓето од коронавирусот, владите ги ограничија, па дури и ги укинаа авиолиниите. Нема причина истото да не се направи и за заштита од климатските промени.

Праведна економска транзиција кон свет со помалку воздушен сообраќај може да се постигне со мерки како јавни инвестиции, стимулирање на пазарот, регулативни и политики за социјална заштита, од кои голем број се разгледани во последниот дел од овој напис. Сепак, за успешен развој и имплементација на овие политики се потребни години, ако не и децении со континуирани политички заложби, како и блиска соработка помеѓу владите. За тоа е неопходна силна јавна поддршка. За жал, моментално отсуствува ова ниво на јавна поддршка на ограничувањата на воздушниот сообраќај.

Културен отпор на ограничувањето на воздушниот сообраќај

Постојат индиции дека еколошките размислувања биле причина за намалување на бројот на патници во Германија и во Шведска во 2019 година, а малото движење против летањето расте, поддржано од научната заедница. Сепак, глобално, бројот на патници се зголемуваше од година во година пред пандемијата, кога значително опадна. Се предвидува дека до 2025 година побарувачката ќе се врати на нивоата од пред пандемијата и дека ќе продолжи да расте во иднина.

Додека економските фактори претставуваат структурна пречка за намалување на воздушниот сообраќај, поголемиот број летови се поради одмор, а не деловни обврски. Придружена со масовна промена кон виртуелни состаноци и драстични намалувања на деловните патувања, пандемијата со ковид-19 ја зголеми важноста на патување со авион поради одмор. Ова може да продолжи долгорочно. Така, постои принудна индивидуална одговорност.

Честото патување со авион стана и симбол на социјален статус и аспект на личен идентитет.

Една анкета спроведена во 2020 година, покажала дека 82 проценти од лондончаните биле загрижени за климатските промени, а 87 проценти биле мотивирани да помогнат во нивно спречување, а сепак само 13 проценти се откажале од патување со авион од еколошки причини. Овие резултати се поткрепени со резултатите од глобалните анкети направени пред пандемијата: глобалното затоплување претставува итна состојба за 64 проценти од населението во светот, но само 14 проценти би избрале алтернативна форма на транспорт, дури и ако тоа е поскапо или помалку удобно од патувањето со авион. Еден од главните фактори зад ова е драстичното потценување на климатското влијание на воздушниот сообраќај во класична манифестација на ниска „јаглеродна писменост“.

Иако свесноста е важна, едноставно информирање на луѓето за климатските штети од летањето често не е доволно за да се постигне промена во изборот при патување. Знаењето, било ново или латентно, прво мора да се усвои. Успешното усвојување е една од најчестите причини за укинување или за намалување на воздушниот сообраќај од еколошки побуди. Освен тоа, нашите одлуки се под силно влијание на општествените норми и очекувања. Често патуваме со авион бидејќи тоа се очекува од нас; се плашиме дека ќе ги загрозиме нашите кариери или пријателства ако одбиеме да го направиме тоа. Со цел да се намали когнитивното разидување што тоа може да го создаде, го потценуваме влијанието на нашите постапки и се повикуваме на недостиг можности, предност, верување дека намалувањето на емисии е одговорност на другите (корпорации, идни технологии итн.) и во вклучување во компензаторни активности како неутрализација на јаглеродниот диоксид или други доблесни избори.

Честото патување со авион стана и симбол на социјален статус и аспект на личен идентитет, особено меѓу новинарите, бизнисмените, славните личности и креаторите на политики. Луѓето од овие категории претставуваат мало малцинство од населението, но тоа има непропорционално влијание врз јавното мислење и јавните политики.

Конечно, нашиот став во однос на патувањето со авион зависи од нашиот географски и социо-демократски контекст. Постои разноликост и во рамки на заедниците, каде што различни демографски групи ги правдаат своите патувачки навики на разни начини и патуваат од разни причини, и помеѓу разни заедници. На изолирани локации како Исланд, на пример, отсуството на алтернативен транспорт e особено важно. Затоа, поддршката, политиките и кампањите мора да се адаптираат за да им бидат привлечни на различни заедници и различни патници.

Што може да нè научи авијацијата за еколошката транзиција

Како резултат на очигледната несоодветност на технолошките решенија, авијацијата ги нагласува предизвиците својствени за нула-нето емисии подобро од повеќето други сектори, овозможувајќи ни подобро да ги разбереме напорите неопходни за поуспешна поширока трансформација.

Како што видовме, ќе биде речиси невозможно да се постигне јаглеродна неутралност во претстојните децении без намалување и на авиолиниите и на активностите во бизнисите што зависат од воздухопловниот сектор. Ова е практично прифатливо за авијацијата, наспроти пристапот „глава во песок“ типичен за многу влади и како што сме виделе во јавниот дискурс. Сепак, истото важи и за економските активности генерално. Емпириски докази укажуваат дека дури и најмалку ригорозните цели наведени во Парискиот договор е малку веројатно да се исполнат во контекст на континуираниот раст на глобалната економија, концепт со важни последици што допрва треба да стане дел од нашата колективна свест.

Во смисла на културни бариери, сме виделе дека повеќето луѓе го потценуваат и/или го рационализираат влијанието на нивното патување со авион. Како резултат на тоа, тие не се подготвени да ги променат своите навики. Ова понекогаш се губи во климатските расправи. Не постои сомнеж дека корпорациите и владите мора да бидат отчетни, и дека е неопходна системска промена. Но, нула-нето трансформацијата, исто така, подразбира значителни промени во однесувањето на поединците, барем во богатите земји.

Третиот предизвик е поврзан со социјалната праведност и нееднаквоста. Како што е наведено погоре, воздушниот сообраќај се одликува со глобална јаглеродна и социо-економска нееднаквост. Количеството јаглерод што се создава при само еден меѓуконтинентален лет по патник е поголемо од просечните годишни емисии на жители во многу од најсиромашните држави во светот, а влијанието на приватните млазни авиони или на вселенскиот туризам е уште пострашно. Секој сериозен обид да се реши климатската и еколошка криза мора да ги опфати и да се справи со прашањата за социјална праведност, во спротивно, со право, би бил некоректен и лицемерен.

Авијацијата во својата актуелна форма не се разликува од другите фактори што загадуваат, како екстракцијата и обработката на фосилни горива кои ќе треба да се намалат и конечно да исчезнат ако сакаме да постигнеме јаглеродна неутралност.

Стратегии за намалување на воздушниот сообраќај

Особено е важно предизвиците наведени погоре да бидат целосно разгледани од страна на активистите и креаторите на политики кои работат на намалување на воздушниот сообраќај. Предлозите за политики треба да имаат цел да донесат промени кои ќе бидат широко прифатени; јавните кампањи може да ја зголемат поддршката и да ја засилат свеста за и на подалекусежните мерки. Во моментов, стратегиите за намалување на емисиите од воздухоплови се стремат кон технолошки решенија поддржани од пазарни механизми, како оданочување на јаглеродот или планови за тргување со емисии.

Сепак, беа предложени и низа политики чија цел е намалување на опсегот на летање. Од нив, најголемо внимание привлече предлогот за забрана на кратки летови. Ваква забрана неодамна беше усвоена во Франција за домашни дестинации на кои може да се стигне со воз, а би можела веднаш да се примени и во други земји каде што ова прашање се разгледува, како и за кратки меѓународни летови.

Втората предложена мерка, што ја бараа и активистите и воздухопловната индустрија, е преглед на регулативите за користење на аеродромите во ЕУ. Во моментов, компаниите летаат со празни авиони во периоди на мала побарувачка со цел да не го изгубат правото на полетување и слетување на аеродромите. Бидејќи тоа не е единствената причина да се управува авион со неколку патници, треба да се разгледаат дополнителни регулативи за зголемување на стапките на пополнување на авионите.

Трета можна мерка е укинувањето на даночните олеснувања за керозинот како што предложи ЕУ за домашните летови; ова може да се прошири и на други земји и на меѓународни летови. Конечно, беше предложена и забрана на програми за често летање. Овие програми кои поттикнуват штетно однесување не треба да продолжат. Таквата забрана треба да се комбинира со прогресивен данок за често патување со авион.

Со понудено намалување на обемот на летови и со побарувачка од економско дестимулирање на честото патување со авион, овој релативно благ збир политики ќе придонесе за решавање на најсериозните пречекорувања поврзани со емисиите во авијацијата. Предноста на овие политики е што тие засегаат релативно мал број луѓе, па според тоа е поверојатно да добијат доволно поддршка. За да бидат ефикасни неопходна е координација помеѓу повеќе влади. Ако тоа не успее, патниците и авиолиниите ќе преминат во соседните земји со помалку строги регулативи и пониски трошоци, што ќе доведе до истекување јаглерод. Овие политики треба да се имплементираат заедно со други мерки како нова обука и финансиска поддршка за вработени во воздухопловната индустрија и финансирање на достапен, удобен и одржлив патен транспортен систем. Освен тоа, на заедниците што зависат од воздушниот туризам треба да им се помогне да се адаптираат на различни модели на патување и во диверсификација на нивните економии за да се зголеми нивната издржливост и одржливост.

Зголемувањето на цената на (честото) летање би придонело за намалена побарувачка генерално, но e малку веројатно дека тоа ќе предизвика промена на навиките на најбогатите. Милијардерите имаат личен јаглероден отпечаток стотици или дури и илјадници пати поголем од просечниот, главно поради тоа што користат приватни млазни авиони, хеликоптери и суперјахти. Забрана или висок прогресивен данок на приватните авиони би го засилиле кредибилитетот на другите мерки. Сепак, без меѓународна координација овие политики би биле претежно симболични бидејќи воздухопловите би се префрлиле и би се сервисирале во други земји.

Економските дестимулации и намалениот број летови може да предизвикаат луѓето добро да размислат во поглед на воздушниот сообраќај, но тие нема да го сменат мислењето. Затоа, потребни се кампањи за поткревање на свесноста за вистинскиот ефект на летањето кои ќе ги предизвикаат општествените норми во врска со него. Познато е дека еколошкиот отпечаток на климатските истражувачи и на еколошките поборници влијае врз нивниот кредибилитет; според тоа, важен фокус при таквите кампањи треба да бидат личните примери на активистите, креаторите на политики и научниците кои одбиваат да прифатат дека патувањето со авион е нормално.

Климатските поборници може да претстават алтернативна, нискојаглеродна визија на исполнет живот што го деконструира синонимот на патување и летање и да подвлече дека искуствата што збогатуваат се стекнуваат со патување, а не со летање. Ваквите пораки мора да се внимателно ускладени за да се избегне елитизам. Не тежнееме кон свет во кој само оние што добро заработуваат имаат ресурси и време да патуваат; нашата визија е дека секој треба да има можност да ги доживее далечните места и култури и тоа да го стори на одржлив начин.

Списокот политики неопходни да ја остварат оваа визија е долг и опфаќа мерки што не се директно поврзани со патувањето. Рекламите на авиокомпаниите треба да се забранат или строго да се ограничат. Би можеле да се воведат намалување на работното време и право на подолг период за одмор или за платено отсуство. Таквите мерки, покрај солидните системи за социјална добросостојба, би им овозможиле на луѓето да патуваат подолго без да страхуваат од економски проблеми или разнишани изгледи за работното место при нивното враќање. На младите би можеле да им се даваат патнички надоместоци што би ги користеле на транспорт и престој со мало еколошко влијание за да им се приближи искуството да патуваат во текот на формативните години.

Тешкотиите што би произлегле при имплементирањето на овие идеи не треба да се игнорираат, а неопходна е и добра доза реализам при предложување на практични промени во политиките, особено со оглед на актуелниот геополитички и економски контекст. Сепак, овие идеи се дел од една поширока визија за одржлив и коректен живот за сите и заслужуваат да го најдат своето место и во рамки на колективните замислени политички опции и во рамки на можните политички опции.

Categories: H. Green News

The Far Right’s Firm Grip on the Mainstream

Green European Journal - Thu, 03/16/2023 - 04:06

Despite predictions of peak populism, the authoritarian strand of right -wing politics has not lost its steam over the past 12 months. Far-right parties are still winning elections, and even when they lose, they have a deep influence on politics and society. Parts of the centrist establishment and the ultra-rich seem to be playing along.

In Brazil, 2023 began with the inauguration of leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for a third presidential term. His far-right predecessor and challenger in the elections, Jair Bolsonaro – known for his admiration of the military dictatorship that ruled the country for over 20 years, his homophobia, and his climate and COVID denialism – lost the popular vote at the end of October 2022.

But political developments have not ended this well everywhere. While the right-wing tide is not as high as at the time of Brexit and Trump, the far right, with its hostility to the values of liberal democracy, has penetrated the political mainstream and debates, even in established democracies.

The radical right has managed to mask its toxicity…

In the European Union, the far right has made spectacular electoral progress in France, Sweden, and Italy. While Marine Le Pen was once again unable to beat Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential elections, her party – the National Rally – managed to obtain a record 89 seats in the lower house of parliament in the June 2022 legislative elections. Last time around it won only seven seats.

MPs in France are chosen in single-seat districts in two rounds. For years, this system managed to effectively block the far right with its cordon sanitaire of political parties faithful to republican values. Even if Le Pen’s candidates managed to get into the second round, other parties’ supporters joined forces and voted against them. In the most recent elections, however, this dam developed serious cracks that may not be mended until the next elections.

Our latest issue – Priced Out: The Cost of Living in a Disrupted World – is out now!

Read it online in its entirety or get your copy delivered straight to your door.


In Sweden’s September 2022 elections, a record number of votes were won by the Sweden Democrats (SD), a party founded in the 1980s with roots in neo-fascist movements. With 20.5 per cent of the vote and 73 MPs, SD became the second largest political force in the Swedish parliament. While the SD is not officially part of Ulf Kristersson’s centre-right minority government, the fact that the government is reliant on its support means that the party has direct influence on policy-making for the first time. In 2010 the SD won just 5.7 per cent of the vote, meaning that it managed to quadruple its vote share in just four electoral cycles.

In Italy, the new prime minister is Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy (FdI). The FdI grew out of another political force – the National Alliance – that was a successor to the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, created directly after the Second World War by allies of Benito Mussolini. Four years ago, FdI obtained just 4.4 per cent of the vote. At the September 2022 elections the party’s vote share rose to 26 per cent, allowing it to become the main force of the Italian right and within the governmental coalition.

The reasons behind such triumphs are quite complex. None of these parties would even dare dream of such popularity if it weren’t for their leaders’ ability to steer them centreward without losing touch with their more radical base. Or perhaps they just managed to better mask the most toxic aspects of their political identities from their more moderate voters. This was exactly the strategy adopted by Marine Le Pen, who distanced herself from the excesses of her father and went as far as to change the name of the party he created. Giorgia Meloni, however, took this approach to another level. Previously known for her support of the “Great Replacement”, a racist conspiracy theory according to which “native Europeans” are purposely being replaced with immigrants, Meloni has recently made concerted efforts to position herself as a responsible politician and a credible partner to both the EU and the US. These included emphasising the necessity of helping Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression, thus distancing herself from right-wing politicians with connections to Putin such as Silvio Berlusconi or Matteo Salvini.

…but is not able to reign in its authoritarian impulses

This political makeover turned out profitable for the Italian politician. Not only did it make her more acceptable to Washington and Brussels; it also smoothed the way for her to become prime minister. Meloni’s government has maintained an Atlanticist, generally pro-Ukrainian course and has presented a broadly responsible face to the European Union, mainly to ensure a steady flow of EU recovery funds on which Italy’s debt-laden economy is dependent.

Domestically, however, the FdI leader’s government has not been so quick to tame its authoritarian, reactionary side. One of its first legislative proposals was a law targeting the organisers of unregistered rave parties. Critics of the proposal pointed out that it could be used to criminalise any spontaneous protest, and social pressure subsequently led to its withdrawal.

Meloni’s victory also had an impact outside of the political arena. Her supporters have been emboldened to threaten or use violence against people they consider their political enemies, in particular Italian journalists working on the far right such as Paolo Berizzi. Berizzi has been living under round-the-clock police protection for years since receiving death threats for his work on far-right activism. Following Meloni’s victory at the polls, Berizzi commented, “The whole extremist right-wing galaxy has become more confident and feels protected.”

Another prominent individual who came under the spotlight of the far right was Rula Jebreal, a Palestinian journalist and activist who holds dual Italian and Israeli citizenship. In response to a tweet by Jebreal recalling Meloni’s apparent endorsement of replacement conspiracies during her election campaign, the Italian politician attacked her on social media and threatened to sue. While Meloni eventually decided not to file a lawsuit, Jebreal was flooded by a wave of threats and hate speech.

Meloni’s authoritarian instincts can be seen in their strongest form in relation to immigration policies. In her first weeks as prime minister, Meloni refused to allow the Ocean Viking – a ship carrying 234 refugees rescued from the Mediterranean – to dock in any Italian port. In the end France begrudgingly allowed the ship entry to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. This led to conflict between Paris and Rome, which resulted in France suspending a plan to take in more than 3,500 refugees from Italy.

At the end of 2022, Meloni’s government passed new regulations that made life even harder for NGOs helping migrants who find themselves in distress while trying to travel to Europe via the Mediterranean. Activists do not mince their words: the new laws mean that many more migrants will not receive the help they need if they are able to survive their seaborne journeys. Organisations that are caught breaking these rules will be liable for severe punishment, including the seizure of ships used to help people stranded at sea.

While the right-wing tide is not as high as at the time of Brexit and Trump, the far right, with its hostility to the values of liberal democracy, has penetrated the political mainstream and debates.

A similar nativist, authoritarian way of thinking has been forced on Kristersson’s government by the Sweden Democrats. The Tidö agreement, which sets out the conditions for cooperation between the coalition parties and the SD, stipulates that Sweden’s annual quota of resettlement places – available to refugees who have been selected for resettlement in a third country by the UN – be reduced from 5000 to just 900. Permanent residence permits will also be abolished, and public authorities will encourage migrants seen as failing to integrate into Swedish society to leave the country. The criteria required to request Swedish citizenship will become stricter, and the right to family reunion will be limited. Police will also be granted additional powers to fight illegal migration. Human rights defenders fear that this may lead to intensified police harassment of people of colour.

Trump’s candidates lost, but the problem of plutocratic populism remains

In the run-up to the US 2022 midterm elections, Donald Trump supported a number of radical candidates who promised they would not allow victory to be “stolen” from him next time around. Luckily, they were unable to replicate the successes of the Brothers of Italy and the Sweden Democrats. The most spectacular defeats were experienced by candidates for top posts offering responsibility for the administration of federal elections, including counting votes and declaring winners.

American democracy still has two sizeable problems to deal with. The first is the Supreme Court, currently controlled by the religious right. The court has already demonstrated that it is determined to use its power to enforce an extremely conservative interpretation of the constitution that is at odds with the majority of public opinion.

This was deeply felt in June 2022 when the Supreme Court overturned the Roe vs Wade verdict, ending the protection of abortion rights by the US Constitution. Access to this right now relies on a ZIP code lottery, with abortion care drastically reduced in conservative states and maintained or expanded in politically liberal states.

The second problem relates to the Republican Party. In a process that began in the Reagan era and gathered steam during the Obama administration, the party has been drifting rightward into openly authoritarian and anti-democratic waters. The process is so advanced that even Joe Biden – a president from the moderate wing of the Democrats who is always willing to work across the aisle – has identified “Make America Great Again” Republicans as a direct threat to American democracy.

The contemporary Republican Party is a de facto coalition of two groups with a joint interest in curtailing democracy and protecting institutions allowing minoritarian rule. The first is formed from a white, radical right-wing strand of the popular and lower-middle classes determined to protect the US as a democracy of white Christians. This group is ready to limit the freedoms of minorities or migrants and accept authoritarian power structures in order to maintain the status quo. The second is populated by the American plutocracy, which fears extensive democracy that could – in short – result in them paying higher taxes. This conjunction of interests and worldviews forms modern Republican Party ideology, described by American political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson as “plutocratic populism”.

Trump embodied this ideology with every fibre of his being and every moment of his biography. But even if he loses (or refrains from running in) the next election, the influence of this ideology on the party will not simply fade away.

Plutocratic populism gained impressive support in 2022 when billionaire Elon Musk took over Twitter. A former self-declared “centrist” who kept an equal distance from the Democrats and the Republicans and supported candidates from both sides in elections, Musk has effectively declared his allegiance to the populist-authoritarian wing of the Republican Party. Not only has he adopted Trump’s language; he also acts as his ally in the conflict over freedom of speech on the Internet. The reforms he pushed through at Twitter clearly show his willingness to enhance the visibility of radical right content on the platform.

If nothing changes before the next electoral cycle, this means that one of the key social media platforms will become a machine for spreading disinformation generated by the radical wing of the Republicans, for instance by enhancing the visibility of conspiracy theories challenging the legality of Democrats’ electoral victories. This may lead to events even more horrific than those of 6 January 2021, when Trump supporters – incited by the man himself, who was then leaving office – tried to prevent the official approval of Biden’s victory by attacking the Capitol.

Three extreme examples

Perhaps surprisingly, the most dramatic example of the triumph of the radical right can be found in the EU. In Hungary, long-time prime minister and Fidesz leader Viktor Orbán has managed to create something his right-wing allies in Western Europe or the United States can only dream of: a “mafia state” in which state resources are used to generate wealth for high-powered party loyalists. He has dismantled most of the constitutional checks and balances designed to protect citizens from government overreach and subdued all major government-critical media channels. In order to legitimise these changes, the government organises hate campaigns aimed at convincing society that only they are able to protect Hungary from Muslim invasion or the shenanigans of George Soros and other dark figures of obvious origin.

To manage the growth of the far right, we now need democracies that can listen to their citizens and translate their will into policy change.

As a result, Hungary has morphed into something the European Parliament described last year as a “hybrid electoral autocracy”. Even an (unsuccessful) electoral challenge by a united Hungarian opposition and the EU’s decision to freeze a portion of Hungary’s cohesion funds – a step in the right direction – have not been enough to overturn the authoritarian changes resulting from a long Fidesz rule.

Budapest has long been a source of envy for the conservative United Right alliance in Poland. The alliance’s largest member – the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, led by Jarosław Kaczyński – and Fidesz are ideological siblings. While 20 years ago these parties were situated broadly in the mainstream of the European centre-right, they have since shifted to increasingly reactionary, anti-liberal, and authoritarian positions. Just last year PiS attempted to create an international alliance of the far right aimed at Brussels, Paris, and Berlin – including openly pro-Russian political parties such as Marine Le Pen’s National Rally. On issues such as reproductive and LGBT rights, PiS is now more extreme than most of the European far right.

Thanks to the relative strength of independent actors in politics, media, society, and the economy in Poland, PiS has not managed to go as far as Orbán. Furthermore, Kaczyński’s party is obviously getting weaker and losing its political steam. There now is talk of whether an opposition victory would lead to the long-term political marginalisation of PiS or oblige the party to discard the elements of its political identity that conflict with Polish liberal democracy.

The example of Israel should be a warning. A broad coalition aimed at stopping five-time president Benjamin Netanyahu from regaining power lasted no more than 18 months. Now this controversial politician is back, heading the most radical right-wing government in Israel’s history. The price the Likud leader had to pay for regaining power and escaping his conflicts with the law was delivering power over key aspects of the functioning of the state into the hands of extremists.

The position of extremist-in-chief is occupied by Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir. An radical Jewish nationalist accused of hate speech against Arabs, Ben-Gvir had until recently a portrait of Baruch Goldstein – perpetrator of the Hebron massacre of 1994, in which 29 Muslims praying in the Cave of the Patriarchs were shot dead – hanging on a wall in his home. Now Ben-Gvir is heading reforms aimed at increasing direct control of the ministry over the police force.

The coalition also wants to introduce regulations that would allow the parliamentary majority to overturn sentences handed down by the Supreme Court. This would lead to political power being outside of the control of an independent judiciary, violating one of the basic tenets of liberal democracy. The bill passed the first reading in March this year.

This wave will not disappear by itself

Despite good news from places such as Brazil and the US, events in 2022 showed us that the authoritarian, radical right-wing wave is likely to remain a problem for Western democracies for some time at least. Support for the radical right will not dissolve until the parties that were once a pillar of the post-war political order find a solution to their current identity crises or are supplanted by new political forces.

The force of the populist wave will be further enhanced by social stratification, the (perceived) denigration of the lower-middle and working classes, the unequal distribution of the costs of the climate transition, tensions with regard to migration and migrant integration, and the shortcomings of the European project. We can in principle reject the language used by right-wing populist politicians such as Giorgia Meloni, but it goes without saying that the countries of the European South should receive more help with migration from across the Mediterranean.

The strengthening of far-right forces has also been boosted by parts of the centrist political establishment, which either saw them as allies or failed to muster the courage to oppose them. The fact that Orbán was able to create a semi-authoritarian mafia state in the heart of the EU was largely possible thanks to political protection from the German Christian Democrats. In the US, apart from a few praiseworthy exceptions, supposedly centrist Republicans were either seduced by the Trumpian wing of the party or lacked the political backbone to oppose its expansion.

To manage the growth of the far right, we now need democracies that can listen to their citizens and translate their will into policy change – while strongly opposing the political forces trying to undermine the pillars of the liberal order. But political forces that do so are sadly still few and far between.

The article was first published in Polish by Krytyka Polityczna in January 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

The dubious economic calculus behind the Willow project

Grist - Thu, 03/16/2023 - 03:45

President Joe Biden’s decision to approve the massive Willow oil project earlier this week infuriated climate advocates and environmentalists while drawing praise from Alaska politicians and oil industry figures. As the Biden administration weighed the benefits and drawbacks of the project over the past year, the latter camp argued that the project would help replace Russian oil supplies as well as deliver an economic boon for Alaskans.

The Willow project’s champions have stressed the need for the U.S. to achieve energy independence in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said last month that Willow could help “reduce our energy imports from some of the worst regimes in the world.” Mary Peltola, a Democratic representative and Alaska Native who was elected to Congress last year, said just last week that the project could “make us all safer in a world that has grown more unpredictable after Russia invaded Ukraine.”

There’s no doubt that the Willow project, led by ConocoPhillips, represents the largest new Alaskan oil project in decades. At full capacity, it could increase total oil production in the state by more than a third. But experts told Grist that the energy and economic benefits of the project are smaller and less certain than its boosters have suggested. Not only will the Willow project provide an insufficient substitute for Russian oil, but it will also deliver an ambiguous mix of costs and benefits to Alaska state coffers, which have long relied on fossil fuel revenue that is increasingly hard to come by — even with new drilling in the Arctic.

It’s not clear how much the Willow project would help replace Russian oil supplies. First there’s the matter of timing: The project will not deliver its first barrels until 2028 or 2029, and it will take even longer for all three well pads that the Biden administration approved to start producing at full capacity. It’s possible the global oil supply picture will look very different by then: Western countries may have access to new sources of oil, like recent offshore projects in places like Guyana, and where crude prices will be is anyone’s guess.

Second, the particular kind of oil that Willow will produce isn’t a perfect substitute for the oil that the U.S. once bought from Russia. The chemistry of petroleum beneath Alaska’s North Slope is different from both light shale oil and the heavier oil that tends to come from places like Russia and Venezuela, so it will need to be blended with other oil in order to enter domestic refineries, which are mostly designed to refine specific types of crude. That’s why the United States kept importing oil even after the fracking boom began, and it’s why much of Willow’s oil wouldn’t replace imports from other countries.

“Alaska remains an important energy state, but it will not make or break the nation’s energy independence in the coming decades,” Phil Wight, an assistant professor of history and northern studies at the University Alaska Fairbanks, told Grist. 

Indeed, the federal Bureau of Land Management’s own analysis found that Willow’s effect on the global energy market and American energy independence will be muted. According to the Bureau’s final environmental impact statement, only around half of the oil produced from the project will replace foreign imports from tankers and pipelines, with around 30 percent replacing other oil extracted in the United States. 

Furthermore, the project’s position on the North Slope of Alaska will constrain potential demand for the new crude from refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, since it would need to travel through the Panama Canal to get there. The top domestic markets for the oil will be California, Oregon, and Washington, three states that are all making aggressive attempts to promote electric vehicles and transition away from fossil fuels. Given that some estimates suggest electric vehicles could make up the majority of U.S. passenger car sales by 2030, it’s difficult to gauge how much West Coast demand there will be for Willow’s oil over the coming decades.

Even if ConocoPhillips does find buyers on the West Coast and overseas, Willow’s overall impact on oil prices will likely be small. According to the Bureau’s model, Willow will lower global oil prices by about 20 cents a barrel for as long as it operated at peak capacity. As of late Wednesday, the Brent oil benchmark was trading at around $75 a barrel.

“It’s hard to say that this will make a dent in either prices or supply,” said Chanda Meek, a professor of political science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The project’s economic impact within Alaska isn’t clear-cut, either, despite what the state’s politicians say.

Alaska is the third most oil-reliant state in the nation, behind Wyoming and North Dakota. According to the state’s own estimate, nearly 85 percent of the state budget comes from oil revenues. Taxes on oil have funded the construction of new buildings and hospitals, and oil prices affect how much funding public schools get. Alaskans, who don’t pay an income or sales tax, also get a check every year from a pot of money called the Permanent Fund Dividend, which is funded by oil royalties. (Each check topped more than $3,000 last year, the highest amount residents have ever received.)

But this picture is changing. In 1988, Alaska’s trans-Alaska pipeline, or TAPS, was pumping a tremendous amount of petroleum from Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope to Valdez on the state’s southern coast — approximately 2 million barrels a day. Now, however, depleted reserves within Alaska and the competing fracking boom in the Southwest’s Permian Basin have made the state’s oil less relevant — Alaska is currently pumping less than a quarter of the oil it was moving in the 1980s. Alaskan oil production hit a 40-year low in 2020

That’s why the Alaska congressional delegation lobbied the Biden administration long and hard to approve the Willow project. 

“Willow is finally reapproved, and we can almost literally feel Alaska’s future brightening because of it,” Murkowski said after the Biden administration announced its decision. “We are now on the cusp of creating thousands of new jobs, generating billions of dollars in new revenues, improving quality of life on the North Slope and across our state, and adding vital energy to TAPS to fuel the nation and the world.”

Experts in Alaskan economic policy say those assertions don’t hold up under scrutiny, and the Willow project is unlikely to bring back the kind of economic security oil provided the state a few decades ago.

Some estimates say Alaska could see $6 billion in revenue from the Willow project, but that payout is years away. In the short term, the state may actually see a decrease in revenue. Because the project is on federal land, the state can only collect production taxes on the project and can’t collect royalties on the oil produced there. More importantly, ConocoPhillips can use a carve-out in the state’s tax law to write off its expenses for this project against the taxes the company pays on its other oil developments in the state. One analysis, conducted by the governor’s office in 2018, forecast that the state wouldn’t see a positive economic impact from the Willow project until 2026 and that the development would result in up to $1.6 billion in negative revenue through 2025 — a 6 percent decrease to the state’s overall revenue. An analysis from this year, conducted by Alaska’s Department of Revenue, says the project wouldn’t become “cash flow positive” for the state until 2035.   

While the state would see negative revenue from the project’s first years of operation, municipalities will admittedly see more immediate positive benefits. Production taxes from the project are earmarked as grant programs for local communities, especially in the North Slope borough. The Department of Revenue’s recent analysis shows the North Slope will get $1.3 billion through 2053, and the cash will start flowing in the coming months. Communities impacted by the project will get an additional $3.7 billion over the next three decades.

Of course, the communities closest to drilling face a complex and sobering set of tradeoffs. The Alaska Native Village of Nuiqsut is going to be virtually surrounded by oil fields as a result of the approval of Willow, which threatens the subsistence hunting and fishing that has long sustained the town’s households. Nuiqsut’s mayor has been vocally opposed to the Willow project, and local tribal leaders passed a resolution opposing it in 2019.

Zooming out, Wight said, the project signals to Alaskans, oil companies, and the rest of the world that the United States believes there will still be a market for Conoco’s oil three decades from now. At that time, however, the world’s governments should be completing a transition to clean energy. Indeed, President Biden recently signed a law that puts the nation on track to slash emissions 50 percent by 2030. How can that be the same world that needs 600 million new barrels of oil from Willow?

“We have the policy to build a renewable energy future,” Wight told Grist. “It’s much less clear how a managed decline of fossil fuels is going to happen.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline The dubious economic calculus behind the Willow project on Mar 16, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Rural America gets $315 million for cleaner, more affordable energy

Grist - Thu, 03/16/2023 - 03:30

One-sixth of U.S households are in rural communities, where people often pay a larger share of their income for electricity. Reliability can be spotty, and investment in decarbonization scant. Geographically scattered towns and aging infrastructure can make maintaining the grid expensive. Even simple steps to improve energy efficiency, like insulating an attic, can be out of reach for cash-poor residents, especially renters. 

The Department of Energy hopes to address these longstanding challenges by dedicating $315 million toward a sweeping effort to help rural and tribal communities nationwide modernize their electrical grids, invest in renewables, and help residents increase the energy efficiency of their homes. 

The initiative, announced last week, is part of the Energy Improvements in Remote and Rural Areas program. The funding is part of a broader effort to allocate more than $1 billion over the next five years to support energy projects in communities of less than 10,000 people. The goal is to promote climate resilience and address rural energy cost burden — defined as the percentage of a household’s income allocated toward energy bills each month — through “replicable energy projects that lower energy costs, improve energy access/resilience, and/or reduce environmental harm.” 

“There isn’t one ideal project — we’re casting a wide net,” a senior Energy Department official told Grist. “[Rural] communities are not one-size-fits-all.” 

Applications for the funds are due in June, and must include a “community benefits plan” outlining how the project will ensure worker safety, fair wages, and diversity in hiring.

Advocates for rural and tribal communities say the funding does more than facilitate the green energy transition — it facilitates safe, affordable housing. According to a 2018 study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, rural households experience a higher energy cost burden than urban households. About a quarter of them occupy poorly insulated mobile homes. Electricity disconnects are high, and storms can knock out power for days. According to the study, even simple household improvements would save the average resident hundreds of dollars every year.  Another study found that renewable energy costs consumers less than coal, with 99 percent of coal-fired generation plants costing more to run than wind and solar facilities.

Small utilities and advocates for energy equity say federal investment is sorely needed, particularly in cash-poor, rural areas. Some communities already have pioneered exactly the types of projects encouraged by the federal program announced last week, and hope to secure the funds to launch more. 

The Ouachita Electric Cooperative in Arkansas is part of the country’s sprawling rural electric co-op system in which ratepayers are both members and owners of their utility and play a role in decision-making. Based in the small town of Camden, 100 miles south of Little Rock, Ouachita Electric recently embraced renewable energy to better serve its members, who often struggle to make ends meet.

“Our median income is $31,000 — blue-collar factory workers,” said co-op membership manager Leslie Holloway. Some members face an energy burden 30 percent above the national average, she said. Many lack the capital to invest in their homes, most of which are over 30 years old and in dire need of upgrades. Although loans for energy-efficiency upgrades are available to homeowners, they’re often out of reach for rural, working-class renters. To address that, Ouachita secured an $8 million federal grant to kickstart an energy savings program and build a solar array. It used the funding to help improve members’ homes with duct sealing, insulation, and other energy-saving upgrades. Ultimately, the program allowed the cooperative to reduce rates 3.4 percent and saved Ouachita Electric enough money to recoup almost all of its investment.

Rural utilities and power companies that are working toward a green transition say half the work lies in overcoming decades of economic disadvantage and disinvestment. Brett Isaac, the founder and executive chairman of public benefit renewable energy corporation Navajo Power, said public assistance in funding the energy transition is essential for communities that have long been left behind.    

“The investment from the various different opportunities under the Biden administration, from infrastructure to the Inflation Reduction Act … these are all monumental, because they’re actually putting quantifiable investments into certain areas that have never really experienced them,” said Isaac, a 2022 Grist 50 honoree. “We don’t have the institutions that created our economies, like we’re not in control of those things.” 

Since its beginning, uranium, coal, and other minerals have been mined on Navajo territory, but nevertheless left most of the people living there in poverty. That era may be passing. The Navajo Generating Station, formerly the largest coal-fired power plant in the country, powered down in 2019, leaving its massive service area in need of both new jobs and new energy resources. Almost 30 percent of the reservation’s homes still don’t have electricity.  But Navajo Power is currently in phase one of a plan to build utility-scale solar projects on tribal land and install panels on residents’ homes.  

In Kentucky, Chris Woolery, a residential energy coordinator with the Mountain Association, can’t wait to help rural power companies and electric cooperatives access the federal funding. Advocates throughout the state have been laying the groundwork for a renewable transition for many years. The Mountain Association, for example, provides loans for small solar projects and works with other groups to push for state policies friendlier to small-scale solar development. “What we are saying is, we know that we have the tools to address our problems. We pioneered them ourselves,” Woolery said.

A big barrier, he said, could be legislative — for instance, state lawmakers are trying to pass a bill banning utilities from accepting federal funds to shut down coal plants. Meanwhile, the outdated grid in central Kentucky left thousands without power for days after a windstorm last month. Woolery said energy efficiency and distributed renewables could increase grid resiliency during extreme weather — a necessity in remote communities where roads can be damaged and emergency services can be hours away. Ultimately, he said, providing energy equity and reliability is a matter of not just savings, but survival — a promise that no one should ever have to choose between their energy bill and their next meal. 

“We’re working towards a vision in which access to energy is just a human right,” Woolery said.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Rural America gets $315 million for cleaner, more affordable energy on Mar 16, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News


The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.