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President Unveils “Obama Climate Pollution Test” for Future Energy Projects

4:55 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

Today, in his speech at Georgetown University, President Obama challenged us to answer the essential question for every future energy policy decision we face – what will the net climate impact be if this project goes forward?

It was a bold, monumental speech, the best by not only this president, but any president to date on the climate crisis. Greenpeace supporters have told Obama for years that the longer he waited to take sides, the worse climate change would get. Today’s speech showed that the time has clearly gotten late enough for him to publicly side with the people, not the fossil fuel industry.

We proudly stand with the President in the fight against carbon pollution, but we know that this fight won’t be won with words alone.

The President framed the Keystone decision this way:

“Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

Within this frame, it’s clear there’s no room in our future for the Keystone pipeline, fracking, Arctic drilling, or giving away our public lands to the coal industry. Each of these projects will have a significant negative climate impact and not be in our national interest.

*Oil Change International reported earlier this year that “the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would, if approved, be responsible for at least 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year, comparable to the tailpipe emissions from more than 37.7 million cars or 51 coal-fired power plants.” Climate impact? You betcha.

*Fracking? Once you account for the impacts of extraction and not just burning natural gas, the climate impact of methane pollution from natural gas has the potential to be an even more severe driver of climate change than carbon pollution from oil and coal. That means it’s a bridge fuel to nowhere.

*In the Arctic, the climate impact isn’t as obvious as the impact of Shell’s oil rigs on Alaskan islands, but it’s coming more and more into focus every summer. If we continue to extract and burn oil and gas from the vulnerable Arctic region, the region itself will continue to disappear at an astonishing rate, short-circuiting our planet’s natural cooling system and making the vicious circle of climate disaster much much worse.

*And giving away publicly owned coal for pennies on the dollar? That’s a big climate lose. The expansion in US coal exports has the potential to release as much if not more carbon pollution than any other new fossil fuel project in the United States.

As the President said today at the end of his address:

“And someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world? And I want to be able to say, yes, we did. Don’t you want that?”

Yes, Mr. President, we do. And we’re thrilled to know that you do too.

For Our Future, Today Can’t Be Obama’s Final #ActOnClimate

11:05 am in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

This afternoon at Georgetown University, President Obama plans to announce a series of “steady, responsible steps” to tackle climate change. It appears that the President will finally begin to make good on his climate promises, but to truly meet his obligation to future generations, this must be the foundation – not the final act – of his climate legacy.

The current Congress has made it clear that it will be on the wrong side of history, so it is absolutely vital for the President to use his authority to reduce power plant pollution, move forward with renewable energy projects on public lands, and increase energy efficiency. What the President will propose today is just a part of what it’s possible to do without Congress, and to solve the climate crisis, the solutions will have to be equal to or greater than the problem.

Greenpeace’s three million worldwide members will surely applaud the President beginning to lead on climate issues, but the bigger test will be whether Mr. Obama has the ability to follow through on this progress with concrete action. The President must finally abandon George W. Bush’s catastrophic “all of the above” energy strategy without half-measures or false promises. If the President intends to hand pass on a healthy and sustainable world for our children, there is no place for the Keystone pipeline, ‘clean coal,’ fracking, Arctic oil drilling, or giant giveaways to the coal industry.

While much of the President’s statement will be old policies repackaged, new carbon standards on power plants are one of the biggest steps that the President can take. The battle lines have been drawn; the coal industry will fight tooth and nail to stop new public health safeguards on carbon pollution. And the fight will continue to urge the President to take greater action to promote off the shelf, affordable clean energy.

We applaud the President for making this fight come into clearer focus. but his continued
actions on climate change in the days and years to come will mark his place, not only in environmental history, but in world history.

2012 is Make or Break (the Planet) for Dirty Duke Energy

3:07 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

Right now, Greenpeace’s new Rainbow Warrior, our flagship, is docked in Southport, NC -smack in the center of Duke Energy’s domain.

Our activists have just descended from the 400-ft smokestack of Progress’s Asheville Generating Station and been arrested. Progress Energy and Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) are pursuing a merger that will make them the nation’s largest utility, with the power to either lead us forward with high-tech clean energy investments or throw us back to the industrial age.

And today, I’m officially announcing our campaign to make Duke Energy the clean energy company that North Carolina and the United States deserve.

We must shine a light on Duke’s activities in 2012 because this is a make or break year for the climate, and Duke is at the center of it. The merger alone is enough to warrant an extra level of scrutiny–and has in fact been delayed this far by FERC (The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) because of concerns about the company holding an energy monopoly in North Carolina.


North Carolina ratepayers don’t have a choice about where they get their energy. Despite a committed local movement opposing the most recent rate hike, they’re seeing a 7.2% increase on their electricity bills in March, not to pay for an investment in renewable energy, but to invest more in new coal projects like the Cliffside plant.

Enough is enough–Duke ratepayers have said loudly and clearly that they don’t want to pay for more investments in dirty energy. Read the rest of this entry →

Salem Citizens Win Against Big Coal

2:43 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

A mother and daughter protest the Salem Coal Plant

This week the people of Salem, Massachusetts got the news they’ve been waiting for years to hear: the 60 year old, dirty coal plant in their community that leads to 53 premature deaths per year is shutting down.

The Harvard School of Public Health reported that pollution from the Salem Harbor Coal Plant not only leads to 53 premature deaths per year, but also 570 emergency room visits a year, 14,000 asthma attacks a year, and nearly 100,000 daily incidents of upper respiratory irritation.

This victory for our health and the health of our children would not have been possible without the decades of hard work from communities across Massachusetts and beyond. Families that didn’t need a Harvard report to know the plant was causing asthma attacks, heart disease, respiratory illnesses, and even premature death.

Greenpeace was one of the groups that answered their call, along with the Salem Alliance
for the Environment, Healthlink, Conservation Law Foundation, and the Sierra Club.

Greenpeace first visited Salem Harbor in 2001 when we sailed the Rainbow Warrior to
the plant. There 15 of our volunteers crossed the line of the plant and posted crosses
in the coal pile to honor and protest the deaths caused by this coal plant each year.

We continued to work side by side with local community members and this year stopped
in Massachusetts with another one of our ships, the Arctic Sunrise. The ship was on its
Coal-Free Future Ship Tour, stopping in cities along the East Coast to support local coal
fights. The Arctic Sunrise requested a visit to Salem but was denied entry. The activists
were not deterred; Salem and Marblehead residents headed to the State House in Boston
to call on Governor Patrick to shut down the Salem Harbor Coal Plant.

The people of Massachusetts have paved the way for change across the country. They’ve
shown us that if we’re determined, if we’re organized, and if we don’t give up, we can
stand up to Big Coal.
Read the rest of this entry →

What would a Chernobyl or Fukushima disaster at Indian Point mean?

9:42 am in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

Twenty-five years ago the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, sending plumes of radiation around the planet and devastating the area surrounding the plant to this day.

The world learned firsthand then about the dangers of nuclear power. Today, the ongoing nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant is a tragic reminder of the threat that nuclear plants pose to nearby communities and the environment.

Yet many in Washington appear so captured by the nuclear industry that they are still seeking to run old nuclear reactors longer and harder than ever before, and still trying to subsidize the nuclear industry so it can build new reactors.

Will it take a Chernobyl or a Fukushima on US soil before our lawmakers understand that nuclear power is unnecessary, dangerous and expensive?

Despite the spin from the nuclear industry, the truth is that every nuclear reactor has the potential for a Chernobyl-scale release of radiation. Can we imagine what a catastrophe would look like at one of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States?

1 in 3 Americans live within 50 miles of a nuclear plant, and many plants threaten major cities. More than 17 million people live within 50 miles of New York’s Indian Point, an old nuclear plant in an active seismic zone north of New York City. What would happen in New York City if an earthquake, terrorist attack, or accident led to a catastrophic release of radiation?

We don’t have to live with this threat. Instead of allowing these old reactors to run decades beyond their licensed life spans, we should be shutting them down. Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars to subsidize the construction of new nuclear reactors, we should be investing in safe solutions like renewable energy and energy efficiency.

These technologies are ready now – in the last four years, 30,000 megawatts of wind and solar power have been built in the United States, and 0 megawatts of new nuclear power. Our global energy scenario shows that we truly can meet our energy needs and phase out nuclear and coal power.

Let’s take the lessons from Chernobyl and Fukushima to heart, and phase out nuclear power before the next catastrophe. Read the rest of this entry →

Chicago’s True Cost of Coal

1:50 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

This week researchers at Harvard University released a historic study on the Full Cost of Coal. The study outlines the costs of each stage in the life cycle of coal—extraction, transport, processing, combustion, and waste. It concludes that the entire cycle of coal costs the American public up to one-half of a trillion dollars annually. Like many scientific climate studies, that is a conservative estimate.

For many people around the country the true cost of coal is much higher than any monetary value. From families whose homes are bulldozed in the name of mountaintop removal in Appalachia, to parents who have to miss days of work to treat their children’s asthma, the cost of coal is much more personal.
Greenpeace image: Mayor Daley’s green legacy
In my hometown of Chicago two of the country’s oldest power plants, Fisk and Crawford, are making the true cost off coal personal for thousands of people. More than 10% of Chicago’s population (310,173 residents) live within three miles of the plant, resulting in 40 deaths and a 44% asthma rate in children closest to the plants.

A coalition of organizations around the city are taking matters into their own hands to make the issue of coal personal for Mayor Daley, the city’s departing mayor who once called Chicago the greenest city in America.

This week environmental activists surprised Daley with a balloon-propelled message calling him to close Chicago’s two coal-burning power plants. The banner hung over City Hall reading “Mayor Daley – Is this your green legacy?”

As journalist Jeff Biggers describes, “Despite the fact that Chicago has ranked as the asthma epicenter of the nation, a growing movement in Chicago claims that Daley has blocked a proposed Clean Power Ordinance to effectively retire and transition the old plants to clean energy sources. Early this month, the mayor and his allies in City Hall refused to grant the Ordinance a hearing in the Energy, Environmental Protection and Public Utilities that is necessary for it to advance to a full City Council vote.”

If Mayor Daley wants to be a truly green mayor and show Chicago that he understands the true cost of coal he needs to make sure these killer coal plants shut down as soon as possible.

Koch’s Congress Proposes to Defund the EPA

2:09 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

The EPA was set up in 1970 with a mandate to protect public health Our health. Our children’s health. Things were not so different in America at that time—an unpopular war, a recession-ridden economy—but we knew then that we have to protect the environment in order to protect our own health. Back then we had rivers catching on fire, today it’s a global climate disaster. After 40 years we still need the EPA to ensure that the financial desires of greedy industry leaders don’t trump our needs as people. The government is supposed to work for the best interests of its citizens. It’s the very reason why lawmakers in a democracy have a job to begin with.
Greenpeace image: Poisoned water
These needs have not changed, but many members of Congress seem to think that we don’t matter and don’t care anymore. They want to pass a continuing resolution that would cut $3 BILLION from EPA funding, eliminate its top positions, and block its ability to require that wealthy companies reduce carbon pollution. With no one to run the EPA, no money to run it with, and few tools to do anything, the EPA would barely be more than a ceremonial body.

With no one to protect Americans from dirty industries, they will continue to profit by taking unnecessary health, financial, and emotional risks. Asthma. Cancer. Tuberculosis. Infant mortality.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Thoughts on Whose Ass Obama Should Kick

6:39 am in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

President Obama asked yesterday "whose ass to kick" over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. I have a few ideas.

1. Tony Hayward. BP CEO Tony Hayward and his company should be criminally charged for the reckless endangerment of their workers, for violations of the Clean Water Act by dumping millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, and for stealing the income of the people who rely on the Gulf for their livelihoods. Instead, seven of my colleagues are being aggressively charged with felonies for peacefully calling on the President to stop offshore Arctic drilling. Arrest the real criminals.

2. Lisa Murkowski. Senator Lisa Murkowski is just one of many of our elected officials who seem to be working for the fossil fuel industries instead of in the interest of the American people. As the Gulf Region watches in horror at the impacts of the oil spill on its coasts, its waters, and its economy, the US Senate is scheduled to consider a proposal tomorrow from Senator Lisa Murkowski that would protect oil companies and other big polluters by gutting America’s Clean Air Act.

3. His Own and His Staffs’. Obama and his top staff must take responsibility for their distinct lack of vision in a time of oil, national security, and climate crises, clinging to weak Senate climate legislation instead of pivoting towards a vision of getting the U.S. off of oil by 2030. A smart first step would be to call for all cars to be plug-in electrics by 2030.

The Energy [R]evolution

To eliminate the risks of another BP Deepwater Disaster, we must look away from the dinosaur fossil fuel companies of our past and towards a bright future of clean, renewable energy. It is possible right now to make the changes we need for that future. Don’t believe those who tell you that it’s too hard or too expensive.

Today, my colleagues at Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council released the new Energy [R]evolution report to illustrate the way forward. The report is one of the most comprehensive plans for future production and distribution of sustainable energy systems.

The report provides a detailed practical blueprint for cutting carbon pollution while achieving economic growth by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and energy efficiency. This phase-out of fossil fuels leads to energy security, independence from world market fuel prices, and a reduction in pollution-related illnesses.

The Energy [R]evolution shows how by 2050 renewable energy sources could provide around 96% of electricity produced in the USA and 74% of our total heating demand, accounting for around 71% of our overall primary energy demand. The blueprint would create about 800,000 jobs in the renewables sector alone, by 2030. The total fuel cost savings in the scenario described could reach a total of $4.5 trillion, or $107 billion per year.

Lack of vision by politicians and a pocket full of corporate contributions has held us back for too long. Our children are counting on us to leave them a planet free from the threat of rig explosions, devastating oil spills, and unchecked climate change, and we have that power. The Energy [R]evolution is here.

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