Category Archives: Energy

Learn how to teach climate change to K-8 students with free online course

Climate Change for educators
EdX screenshot

Just came across this powerful resource. Enjoy!

Sign up for new IDB free online course on:
Climate Change Education

In this course you will learn how to teach climate change to elementary and middle school students in a constructive and fun way by promoting mitigation and adaptation actions in your school.

You’ll learn:

The basic science behind climate change;
The main consequences of climate change for water, energy, landscape, soil and health;
The tools for positive, attractive and participative teaching;
Ethical and social issues related to climate change.
If you are a teacher or if you are interested in climate change, this course is for you!

Format: Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
Start date: April 27, 2017
Duration: 7 weeks
Effort: 3-4 hours per week
Cost: Free

In 2nd agreement, Volkswagen recalls 83,000 diesel vehicles & settles on emissions cheating scandal

No more lies
Source: GreenPeace via Twitter
WASHINGTON – In a second partial settlement announced today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State of California, automakers Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Porsche AG and related entities (collectively referred to as Volkswagen), have agreed to recall 83,000 model year 2009 through 2016 3.0 liter diesel vehicles sold or leased in the U.S. that are alleged to be equipped with “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests, in violation of the Clean Air Act and California law. For the older vehicles, Volkswagen is required to offer to buy back the vehicles or terminate leases, and must also offer an emissions modification to substantially reduce emissions if one is proposed by Volkswagen and approved by regulators. For the newer vehicles, if Volkswagen demonstrates it can make the vehicles compliant with the certified exhaust emission standards, it will have to fix the vehicles and will not be required to buy the vehicles back. Volkswagen is also required to spend $225 million to fund projects that will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx).

Today’s partial settlement does not resolve any pending claims for civil penalties, nor does it address any potential criminal liability. The settlement also does not resolve any consumer claims, claims by the Federal Trade Commission, or claims by individual owners or lessees who may have asserted claims in the ongoing multidistrict litigation. The state of California has secured a separate resolution for the 3.0 liter violations that addresses issues specific to vehicles and consumers in California.

The affected older vehicles (referred to as “generation 1” vehicles) are the 2009 through 2012 Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7 diesel models. The affected newer vehicles (referred to as “generation 2” vehicles) are the 2013-2016 Volkswagen Touareg diesels, 2013 through 2015 Audi Q7 diesels, 2013 through 2016 Porsche Cayenne diesels, and 2014 through 2016 Audi A6 quattro, A7 quattro, A8, A8L and Q5 diesel models.

“EPA has a public health imperative to hold Volkswagen accountable and remedy the illegal pollution their cars put into the air,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “From the start, our team vigorously pursued this case to ensure these cars were fixed or taken off the road. Today we’ve secured another important settlement that delivers on EPA’s essential public health mission.”

“The settlement marks another significant step in holding Volkswagen accountable for cheating Americans out of the promise of cleaner air by selling vehicles equipped with defeat devices,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden. “This consent decree provides a remedy for every affected vehicle which will be removed from the road or meet enforceable standards that will reduce emissions, and will also require VW to provide additional funding to address the harmful impacts to human health and the environment from VW’s violations.”

“This settlement highlights the fact that cheating to get a car certified has consequences for air quality and the public’s health — and that cheaters will be caught and held accountable, said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “Because California is able to enforce its vehicle regulations, CARB was instrumental in uncovering the cheating in the 3-liter, and before that, in the 2-liter diesel engines. The mitigation in this settlement will now help California address its serious air quality and climate challenges with a focus on putting the very cleanest vehicles in disadvantaged communities where they are needed most.”

According to the civil complaint against Volkswagen filed by the Justice Department on behalf of EPA on January 4, 2016, and amended on October 7, 2016, Volkswagen allegedly equipped its 3.0 liter diesel vehicles with illegal software that detects when the car is being tested for compliance with EPA or California emissions standards and turns on required emissions controls only during that testing process. During normal driving conditions, the software renders these emissions control systems inoperative or reduces their effectiveness, resulting in increased emissions. This is known as a defeat device. By using a defeat device, these cars meet emissions standards in the laboratory, but emit up to nine times or more above the EPA-compliant levels for NOx during normal on-road driving conditions. The Clean Air Act requires manufacturers to certify to EPA that vehicles will meet federal emissions standards. Vehicles with defeat devices cannot be certified.

Because Volkswagen cannot modify the affected 2009 through 2012 Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7 generation 1 diesel vehicles to meet EPA-certified exhaust emissions standards, the settlement requires Volkswagen to offer owners of generation 1 vehicles the option to have the company buy back the car and to offer lessees a lease cancellation at no cost. If a plan is proposed by Volkswagen and approved by EPA and CARB to substantially reduce emissions from the generation 1 vehicles, Volkswagen will also have to offer that as an option for consumers.

For the generation 2 vehicles, Volkswagen will recall and fix these vehicles so they meet their certified exhaust emissions standards, after the technical solution is approved by regulators. If after extensive testing the solution does not perform as expected and is not approved, Volkswagen must offer to buy back the vehicles. In that case, the company can also seek approval of an emissions modification plan to substantially reduce emissions and, if approved, can offer that as an additional option for generation 2 vehicles.

Under the terms of the settlement, Volkswagen must achieve an overall recall rate of at least 85% for each of the generation 1 and generation 2 vehicles recall programs or pay additional sums into the mitigation trust fund. The buyback and lease termination program for generation 1 vehicles will begin within 30 days following court approval of the settlement. Vehicle modifications will become available to eligible owners and lessees once the modifications are approved by regulators.

Vehicle owners and lessees will receive updated information from Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche concerning their available buyback or modification options after today’s settlement is approved by the court, and can also obtain information about these options at: www.VWCourtSettlement.com and www.AudiCourtSettlement.com.

The settlement requires Volkswagen to pay $225 million to fund projects across the country that will reduce emissions of NOx where the 3.0 liter vehicles were, are or will be operated. This funding is intended to fully mitigate the past and future NOx emissions from the 3.0 liter vehicles. That money will be placed in the same mitigation trust to be established under the partial settlement for the 2L vehicles. This $225 million is in addition to the $2.7 billion that Volkswagen is required to pay into that trust under the prior settlement. The mitigation trust will be administered by an independent trustee. Beneficiaries, which may include states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Indian tribes, may obtain funds for designated NOx reduction projects upon application to the trustee.

The emissions reduction program will help reduce NOx pollution that contributes to the formation of harmful smog and soot, exposure to which is linked to a number of respiratory- and cardiovascular-related health effects as well as premature death. Children, older adults, people who are active outdoors (including outdoor workers), and people with heart or lung disease are particularly at risk for health effects related to smog or soot exposure. NO2 formed by NOx emissions can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, and may also contribute to asthma development in children.

The provisions of the settlement are contained in a proposed consent decree filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, as part of the ongoing multi-district litigation, and will be subject to public comment period of 30 days, which will be announced in the Federal Register in the coming days.

For more information: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/volkswagen-clean-air-act-partial-settlement

Refrigerators that use no electricity will reduce food spoilage in dry lands

A team of researchers that began their work at MIT found a way to restructure an ancient method of food storage into a mobile, modern unit that looks like a big pizza bag and costs USD$25. It can be used by families in hot, arid regions where money and electricity is scarce to keep foods cool so they last weeks rather than days.

How it works is pretty stupendous:

In ancient times food was cooled was achieved by using terra cotta containers buried in sand. These modern Evaptainers use lightweight materials and sit on any above-ground surface, like a table. The containers’ secret sauce is an outside channel into which a liter of water is poured every two days. Slow evaporation produces major cooling in a process quite similar to our bodies’ efficient method of cooling us down through sweat.

Hat tip to Dr. Jonathan Hodges for sharing this excellent find.

Wind electricity kills many less birds than do windows, coal and cats

What's killing birds
Source: Climate Reality Project
The Climate Reality Project e-book Wind Energy Myths points out that while wind turbines do kill birds, apparently they kill many less of them than do windows in tall buildings, the coal industry … and cats.

The Washington Post reports that “Outdoor cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds a year.”

Solar power and new tech make the Airo bottle fill up with water from the air

Diagram of Airo bottle
Source: Retezár Kristof

The Fontus bottles use solar power to pull in moisture from the air, cool it and fill them up with water. In high humidity conditions you can have half a quart of water in an hour (less in dryer conditions). Of course, you will want the air around the bottle to be pretty free of contaminants.

More on the science of Airo and Ryde (same type bottle for cyclists) by Fontus.

Visit the Fontus website to donate to their IndieGogo campaign and get a discount on the bottle when it comes out later this year.

Maria Herradi, Kimi Wei liked this post

March in Philly July 24 for a Clean Energy Revolution

July 2016 Clean Energy MarchOn the eve of the Democratic National Convention as the national spotlight shines on Philadelphia, thousands of Americans will gather on July 24 2016 to demand bold action be taken to end fracking, keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground and immediately transition toward a truly clean, renewable energy future. Will you be there too?

Together, we will march through downtown Philadelphia to call for:

  • Ban Fracking Now
    A ban on fracking, acid fracking and other unconventional, extreme fossil fuel extraction methods
  • Stop Dirty Energy and Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground
    A halt to the rapid and reckless expansion of gas and oil pipelines, frack sand mining, wastewater injection wells and other dirty fossil fuel infrastructure across the United States
  • A Quick and Just Transition to 100% Renewable Energy
    Bold government policies to build solar, wind and other clean energy sources and energy efficiency measures in order to transition quickly to a 100% renewable energy economy

RSVP to let us know you can join us in Philadelphia!
Sunday 24 July 2016
12-6PM

Request transportation help by contacting Rita email or 732-993-8966. More information at CleanEnergyMarch.org

Kimi Wei liked this post

How converting farmland to solar fields affects rural residents’ quality of life & the future of agriculture

Solar Array
Solar Array is in Fuquay-Varina Source: Raleigh’s News & Observer
Maybe a few silly things were said by residents of Woodland, North Carolina about yet another solar farm proposal for town land. But there are excellent reasons for residents to reject a fourth solar installation. Woodland Councilman Ron Lane shares the facts:

The Strata Solar project was not doomed by irrational fears. The photovoltaic panels were proposed just 50 feet from residential homes, and the project was too close to State Route 258 leading into town.

Raleigh News & Observer reporter John Murawski explains that converting farmland to solar fields is not only a quality of life issue for local residents – it may be an important agricultural issue for our nation as well:

…resistance often flares up in areas that have become magnets for solar farms – agricultural communities with cheap farmland near electrical substations where solar farms can interconnect to the power grid, said Stephen Kalland, executive director of the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center.

But the state’s remarkable transformation of soybean fields into rows of indigo panels is also alarming some agriculturalists. In a Nov. 30 letter to the state’s extension agents, N.C. State University crop science professor Ron Heiniger warned that the rapid spread of solar farms “may well be one of the most important agricultural issues of our generation.”

Heiniger’s call-to-arms, reproduced in at least one local paper, predicts that solar farms could shift land use to such an extent that “it is highly unlikely this land will ever be farmed again.”

Thanks to Thomas Beckett for setting the record straight concerning this matter. I joined the social media crowd in poking fun of Woodland’s residents but obviously, this is no joking matter.

About the webinar: What is Energy Democracy and Why Does It Matter?

Denise Fairchild
Source: Webinar Archive of What is Energy Democracy and Why Does It Matter?
Streamed live on Nov 12, 2015
Featuring:
Janet Redman, Institute for Policy Studies (moderator)
Denise Fairchild, Emerald Cities Collaborative
Meghan Zaldivar, PUSH Buffalo
Miya Yoshitani, Asian Pacific Environmental Network

As the climate crisis heats up, and its impacts on the economy and people’s lives become more pronounced, concerned people everywhere are looking for new alternatives. Energy democracy seeks to replace the current corporate fossil-fuel economy with one that puts racial, social, and economic justice at the forefront of the transition to a 100% renewable energy future.

By energy democracy we mean bringing energy resources under public or community ownership and/or control, a key aspect of the struggle for climate justice and an essential step toward building a more just, equitable, sustainable, and resilient economy.

We’ve invited key energy democracy leaders to kick-start a conversation on why energy democracy is so important.

Here’s the webinar archive:

Raise your voice against Great Adventure destroying 18,000+ trees instead of putting solar on its parking lot

Jim Florio opposes great adventure forest destruction
Former Gov. Jim Florio opposes Great Adventure’s forest destruction plan. Photo credit: Jennifer Peacock
Great Adventure has 100 acres of parking lots sitting out reflecting sunlight all year round helping to increase global warming. The perfect place for solar panels, as Clean Water Action NJ points out: “Green energy and shade for cars and people.” So why is the Texas based company planning instead to demolish 70 acres of 18,000 plus full-growth trees for its solar farm?

In May, the Department of Environmental Protection offered to buy the forest with Green Acres dollars for the state’s open space inventory, but the entertainment company wasn’t swayed. NJ Spotlight quotes assistant DEP commissioner Richard Boornazian, who wrote in a letter to Six Flags,

“We oppose large solar projects that damage or destroy previously undisturbed resources, such as the project you proposed … Such projects are entirely inconsistent with our mission and with our guidance for solar siting.”

100 Jackson, NJ residents residents turned out at a town hearing few days ago to ask why the forest destruction is still being considered. Help by raising your voice too! As CWANJ’s director writes in an email,

There will be another hearing and much more. You don’t have to be from Jackson to be involved…anyone can attend and speak at the hearings, write letters and (spread the word through) social media.

Governor Jim Florio cautions,

“The reputational risk for the company,” Gov. Florio added, “is very high. The whole idea of a facility that caters to young people, children, and doing the things that they’re doing and having the negative impact climate-change-wise is something that will not resonate well with the young people.”

Start by signing the petition.

To get special updates on the campaign, email Director David Pringle and follow CWANJ on Facebook or Twitter.

Elon Musk’s SolarCity used cheap prison labor to fulfill state funded contract

Chain Gang Street Sweepers
Source: Wikipedia. Chain gang street sweepers, Washington, DC 1909
Grist reports that under the pretense of enhancing the Oregon economy with good paying jobs, SolarCity used prison labor to fulfill contracts to put solar panels on two universities. The workers were paid under $1.00 an hour and the contracts were funded with government dollars:

For SolarCity, the contract also looked like a win. Under a lucrative state program, the Oregon Department of Energy doled out $11.8 million in tax credits for the $27 million project. (SolarCity would not confirm the amount of the tax breaks despite repeated requests.) Those generous tax incentives — part of the Business Energy Tax Credit program, which ended in 2014 — came with an imperative for “job creation and retention requirements.”

For its part, SolarCity did install panels that were produced by Oregon workers. But those workers were behind bars at Sheridan Federal Prison — and instead of benefiting from a program that was supposed to pump up the regional economy, they were paid less than a dollar an hour for their labor.