You are browsing the archive for green energy.

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.

Why North Carolina’s ‘Moral Mondays’ Matter for Democracy and the Planet

3:33 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

 

Every Monday for the past month, North Carolina citizens from across the spectrum have gathered at the State House in Raleigh to protest the pro-corporate, anti-rights agenda of the legislature’s newly elected Republicans. The top priority of these Republicans is to pass every law imaginable to wreck the environment and strip away the ability of people to defend their communities — which is exactly why Reverend William Barber and the hundreds of dedicated people of North Carolina will be there again this Monday, singing, chanting, and raising their voices in every way they can to make sure the corporate right doesn’t win in North Carolina.

Greenpeace activists will be there alongside Reverend Barber and groups across issues, because this fight matters in a big way — not only for North Carolina but for everyone in the country who cares about voting rights and environmental protection.

Why?

Because the big money groups fighting the citizens of North Carolina are the same big money groups fighting across the country to disempower the majority who believe in the rights of communities to be safe and self-determined. If the corporate right sees it can win in North Carolina, it will take the same tactics to every vulnerable state in the Union in a full court press against people and the environment. We can’t let that happen.

For years, the people of North Carolina have struggled against the State House influence of big corporations like Duke Energy, which has had the state’s regulators and politicians on lockdown for decades but now sees its old, dirty energy business model barreling towards obsolescence. So Duke and other old economy behemoths are getting desperate, trying to hold onto all the power they can before demographics and history sweep them aside.

Art Pope, North Carolina’s self-appointed kingmaker and honorary Koch Brother, along with the right wing legislation factories ALEC, AFP, and State Policy Network are gleefully running amok at the state house, trying to ram through legislation that would fire all the state’s environmental regulators, restrict renewable energy, wish away global warming, and make sure disenfranchised voters stayed that way.

These guys don’t divide us into social justice groups and environmental groups — they see us as all one enemy, which is why in North Carolina we are one movement. They try to take away voting rights from people of color because they know those are the people that — if empowered — will fight to make sure that coal plants and toxic waste incinerators don’t end up in their back yards. Communities of color and low-income communities are hurt first and worst by Duke’s rate hikes for dirty energy. They are hurt first and worst by pollution, since companies usually site the coal plants and toxic waste dumps in their communities. They are the people who could benefit most from solar panels on their rooftops and the ability to free themselves from the regressive, costly, polluting electricity grid that Duke currently offers. Which is why we’re standing together to make sure the people are empowered. An attack by corporate interests against North Carolina’s working people, women, people of color, or any other vulnerable group, is an attack on North Carolina’s environment too, and we will stand with our allies to fight that corporate funded threat.

Protecting Our Communities From a Chemical Disaster

4:44 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

When was the last time you heard about Republicans and Democrats agreeing on something?

Christine Todd Whitman. Photo by Stuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm Green.

Recently, the Center for Public Integrity reported that on April 3, Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President George W. Bush sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging her to use Clean Air Act to prevent chemical disasters.

Yes, you heard that right, in a world where Newt Gingrich is calling for the abolition of the EPA, there is common sense bi-partisan support for the EPA using its authority to make us safer. Governor Whitman can speak with authority about this issue because she, as EPA chief under President George W. Bush, drafted such a program in 2002, driven by the country’s national security concerns following the 9/11 attacks.

The EPA’s 2002 proposal, complete with a roll out plan, hinged on using the “Bhopal Amendment” of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. Commonly called the “General Duty Clause” (GDC) this section of the Clean Air Act obligates chemical facilities who handle hazardous chemicals to prevent chemical disasters.

Read the rest of this entry →

Obama’s Job: Protect Us from Pollution [video]

3:27 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

While Obama’s jobs speech is being framed as a turning point for his tenure as President, there is another job I would respectively suggest he concentrate on: protecting the lives of America’s children.

Here’s a quick video ad that I think gets right to point:

Late last week the President blocked reforms to the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to improve pollution measures to protect Americans against the harmful effects of toxic ozone smog. The President chose to side with big corporate polluters instead of with the 12,000 Americans that, according to the EPA, would have been saved by these proposed updates to pollution controls. Obama also chose to side with the big polluting industries instead of with the estimated 24 million men, women and children suffering from asthma in this country who are forced to suffer even more because of heightened smog levels.

The decision outraged his biggest backers in the Democratic Party. Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said that environmentalists should sue the Obama administration over the decision: “I hope they’ll be sued in court and I hope the court can stand by the Clean Air Act.” Read the rest of this entry →

Koch Industries Lobbying Puts Over 100 Million Americans in Danger

2:25 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png

Recent Greenpeace analysis of lobbying disclosure records reveals that since 2005, Koch Industries has hired more lobbyists than Dow and Dupont to fight legislation that could protect over 100 million Americans from what national security experts say is a catastrophic risk from the bulk storage of poison gasses at dangerous chemical facilities such as oil refineries, chemical manufacturing facilities, and water treatment plants. Koch lobbyists even outnumber those at trade associations including the Chamber of Commerce and American Petroleum Institute. Only the American Chemistry Council deployed more.

In 2010 Koch Industries and the billionaire brothers who run it were first exposed as a major funder of front groups spreading denial of global warming in a Greenpeace report, which sparked an expose in the New Yorker. Since then, the brothers have been further exposed as a key backer of efforts to roll back environmental, labor, and health protections at the state and federal levels. Through enormous campaign contributions, an army of lobbyists, and funding of think tanks and front groups, David and Charles Koch push their agenda of a world in which their company can operate without regard for the risks they pose to communities, workers, or our environment.

Today, in a new exposé, Greenpeace has shown how Koch Industries has quietly played a key role in blocking yet another effort to protect workers and vulnerable communities – comprehensive chemical security legislation. The Report is called “Toxic Koch: Keeping Americans at risk of a Poison Gas Disaster.”

Since before the September 11, 2001 attacks, security experts have warned of the catastrophic risk that nearly every major American city faces from the bulk storage of poison gasses at dangerous chemical facilities such as oil refineries, chemical manufacturing facilities, and water treatment plants. Nevertheless, ten years later, thousands of facilities still put more than 100 million Americans at risk of a chemical disaster. According to the company’s own reports to the EPA, Koch Industries and its subsidiaries Invista, Flint Hills, and Georgia Pacific operate 57 dangerous chemical facilities in the United States that together put 4.4 million people at risk.

A coalition of more than 100 labor, environmental, and health organizations has advocated for comprehensive chemical security legislation that would help remove the threat of a poison gas disaster by requiring the highest risk facilities to use safer processes where feasible. Koch Industries and other oil and chemical companies have lobbied against legislation that would prevent chemical disasters, despite repeated requests from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for disaster prevention. Instead Koch favors an extension of the current, weak Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) that exempt most facilities and actually prohibit the authority of DHS to require safer processes. As in other policy areas, Koch’s huge efforts have gone largely unnoticed.

Koch campaign contributions reveal the company’s influence over the chemical security debate in Washington DC. All of the key Senators and Representatives who have taken a lead role during the last year in pushing legislation that supports Koch’s chemical security agenda have received Koch campaign contributions. The House members who introduced two bills that would extend CFATS without improvements and block the DHS from requiring safer processes for seven years have all taken KochPAC contributions over the last three election cycles, including Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA), Gene Green (D-TX), Peter King (R-NY) and Dan Lungren (R-CA). And all of the cosponsors of similar legislation in the Senate – Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Pryor (R-AR), and before his retirement, George Voinovich (R-OH) – received KochPAC contributions during their most recent elections.

As Congress debates how to protect Americans from dangerous chemical facilities, Koch is once again opposing legislation that would make America safer, despite the enormous risk its facilities pose to communities, workers, and our environment.

In Chicago, coal is the real crime

10:00 am in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

A sad fact of living in an American city like Chicago is that every time we open a newspaper or switch on the local news, we hear of some senseless, tragic crime that has claimed an innocent life.

We become outraged, and we demand justice for those who have lost their children, their parents, their siblings or spouses. In 1982, Chicago acted to stem the tide of gun-related violence when confronted with a disturbing rise in homicides. In fact, between 1980 and 2006, some 32,300 American died every year due to handgun violence, which is second only to car crashes in deaths by injury.

Ever since I got my start as an advocate for a healthy environment on Chicago’s West Side, I have wondered why we fail to feel that same sense of outrage when the culprit in a crime against innocents is not a gunman seeking cash, but a corporation seeking to improve its bottom line. Maybe the impacts of a company’s misdeeds are of a scale so grand that it is difficult for us to imagine.

Every year, the toxic pollution that spews from the smokestacks of America’s coal-fired power plants kills between 13,000 and 34,000 people, according to studies by the Clean Air Task Force and Harvard University. That staggering figure doesn’t include the carbon pollution–one third of all US emissions–that is driving the planet into runaway climate change.

2011-05-24-kellypic.JPG

The lives lost to the coal industry are as real and as important as any other, as are the dollars the industry plucks from our pockets without us ever knowing it. Between healthcare costs for heart attacks, asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases; birth defects; and damage to communities done by mountaintop removal mining, land degradation, solid coal wastes, and other impacts; the hidden costs of coal amount to half a trillion dollars annually, according to a recent study by Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment.

That’s five hundred billion dollars that you and I are paying to the coal industry so that they can continue poisoning our communities and standing in the way of clean, green energy. This massive, invisible public cost is only one of the many accounting tricks used by utilities to rob the public of billions each year.

If that scale is too hard to imagine, perhaps we should focus on a more local level. The city of Chicago is home to two ancient coal-fired power plants, owned by Edison International subsidiary Midwest Generation. The Fisk Street and Crawford plants spew millions of tons of pollutants–including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, and barium–that cause health impacts like those mentioned above. They churn out more carbon pollution than any other single source in Chicago.

And, according to multiple studies, these two facilities kill more than 40 people of this city every year. If those numbers bother you, they should. But even more scandalous is this figure: the number of Chicago homes and businesses that they power is exactly zero. Fisk and Crawford were originally built in 1903 and 1924 to provide power to the city, but since California-based Edison International bought them in 1999 they have not been needed in Chicago and have instead sold their power to the open markets in the mid-Atlantic.

So these plants are sickening and killing Chicagoans to send power to the East Coast and profits to California. Adding insult to injury, while Edison is claiming that coal is the only way to preserve jobs in Illinois, they are investing millions of dollars in job-creating clean, green energy in Southern California. Instead of southern California’s skyrocketing clean energy industry, Chicago is saddled with $127 million dollars in health costs as a result of these two old coal plants.

This situation persists because of a failure of our government to have the courage to protect people. Lobbyists have gutted commonsense public health safeguards, with predictably disastrous results for regular people. One example is the EPA’s decades-long failure to rein in the pollution pouring from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants–a situation they’re finally looking to correct. Sadly, the failure also extends to Chicago’s city government, which last month failed to vote on Alderman Joe Moore’s Clean Power Ordinance, which would have reined in the pollution from Fisk and Crawford.

But sometimes overlooked is the fact that companies like Edison bear real responsibility to the communities that surround them. Fisk and Crawford are a good example. In pursuit of profit, Edison continues to run power plants whose electricity is no longer needed by Chicagoans while people get sick and die.

Chicago’s clean power coalition, made up of over fifty local groups, have continually shown Edison that people can stand up to the enormous and destructive power of the coal industry. The people who have written letters, showed up at hearings, marched, rallied and called their aldermen are my inspiration and our great hope for the future. Today, Greenpeace activists scaled the smokestack of the Fisk Street station to support them and make sure the message is heard all the way back in California.

A battle for the Earth’s last remaining frontier

2:42 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

A fire ship hoses down an iceberg near the Stena Forth drilling ship in Baffin Bay.

There are clear signs that a new Arctic oil rush has begun. Earlier this month Shell submitted plans to the US government for for new drilling in the icy waters off Alaska’s north coast, and now a Scottish company has won permission to take a similar gamble near Greenland. Tomorrow Hilary Clinton will fly to the picturesque town of Nuuk in Greenland to discuss how spill response equipment might work in one of the world’s most extreme and beautiful environments. I can save her the trip – it won’t.

Here are some facts. Over the next few years a handful of powerful oil companies will tow rigs beyond the Arctic Circle to drill for a few short months before the winter sea ice closes in. They’ll rely on untested equipment and wildly ambitious response plans in the event of a blowout or other major accident. When October comes, the sea ice will close in and leave the area completely isolated until the following summer.

Think about that for a moment. This means that if a blowout happened in the fall, oil could gush out underneath the ice from Halloween through Thanksgiving, all the way to Memorial Day or, depending on the oil spill and the ice, the fourth of July or longer. Wildlife like bowhead whales, polar bears, seals and walrus would have to fend for themselves as the world looks on helplessly and the oil companies make their excuses. We tried. We took precautions. It’s a big ocean. The Arctic will recover. Sound familiar?

Global warming is happening faster in the Arctic than on anywhere else on earth, and multinational oil companies are desperate to exploit the newly opened seas for huge profits. Safety is not their first priority, whatever the glossy brochures and reassuring words might say. The Deepwater Horizon disaster took 6,500 well equipped vessels over three months to cap. In the Arctic Ocean there aren’t even that many kayaks.

In the Arctic Ocean, the world’s last real frontier, Big Oil is taking bigger risks than ever before and dressing up their recklessness as necessity. They’re wrong. We can prevent extracting oil from the Arctic – and the Gulf of Mexico, and the Tar Sands in Canada -by taking it out of Detroit instead. We can ‘produce’ millions of barrels a year simply by not using it in the first place. Cleaner cars with better engines mean lower bills, less pollution and a healthier industry.

Our politicians have become hypnotized by the mantra of the fossil fuel lobby and are repeating it like drones – more, more, more. At some point this thirst, this reckless and desperate urge has to stop. One day, somewhere, we must draw a line in the sand and say: enough. This year just might be the moment, and Alaska’s Arctic Ocean might be the place.

Homeland Security Chairman Peter King ignores poison gas disaster threat to New York City

12:52 pm in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

The Kuehne chemical plant stores deadly chlorine gas that threatens 12 million people in the New York City area
Congressman Peter King (R-NY), the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, faced protests from hundreds of New Yorkers and interfaith leaders this weekend over his plans to single out Muslim communities in upcoming Congressional hearings. While Rep. King seeks to look tough on terrorism by scapegoating people for their religious beliefs, last week he showed his willingness to leave New Yorkers and millions of other Americans vulnerable to a catastrophic terrorist attack on dangerous chemical plants.

Instead of ensuring that the highest risk chemical plants convert to safer technologies, King joined Representatives Dan Lungren (R-CA) and Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) in supporting weak chemical plant security standards. Championed by chemical industry lobbyists, these rules leave 110 million Americans threatened by these pre-positioned weapons of mass destruction. In a press release, Congressman King explained why he supports the weak rules, but not the disaster prevention legislation that the chemical industry opposes: “Congress must ensure that DHS’s current authority is extended in a manner that protects our homeland without additional burdensome and costly requirements or job-crushing mandates.”

In case you need help translating those chemical industry talking points, “burdensome and costly requirements or job-crushing mandates” is code for the common sense requirement that if a chemical plant can use a safer chemical or process that would remove the threat of a poison gas disaster to hundreds of thousands of people, then it should do so. And in fact, an independent analysis showed that the disaster prevention legislation the House of Representatives passed in 2009 (which Rep. King voted against) would have created 8,000 jobs each year for the next decade, despite his unsubstantiated “job-crushing” claim.
Read the rest of this entry →

White House Hid the Truth on Spill: The Truth and the Oil is Still Out There

7:57 am in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

The President’s National Oil Spill Commission released preliminary findings today from its investigation into BP’s oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

And its initial findings will cause at least two major headaches, I mean headlines, for the White House.

First, the report finds that the White House blocked efforts by federal scientists to publicly reveal how high the oil spill rate was based on modeling they had to estimate the worse case scenario.

Visiting the Gulf of Mexico

In section 2 called The Fate of the Oil Released, there are two major issues. First says that the numbers that the Administration used to base its announcement that most of the oil had just disappeared was in fact not meant to be rigorous accounting. And second, in a section called The Fate of all Hydrocarbons, a study done in late September concluded that "most of the initial biodegradation in the plumes involved gaseous hydrocarbons (propane and ethane), rather than oil". Meaning that what happened to most of the oil remains a mystery.

Let’s take the first piece. The Obama White House, for whatever reason and we can make a fair guess, did not want to disclose to the public how bad the oil spill could really be. Much like BP, the government instead chose to paint rosy scenarios about the size and impact of the spill. Who was the White House protecting? Certainly not the good people of the Gulf Coast. Certainly not the American public. And certainly not the Gulf of Mexico.

Now part 2, the White House continues to shakily stand by their initial assertions that 75% of the oil has disappeared. They based that on an "Oil Budget" estimate meant to help responders with their efforts, not as a definitive estimate. However, the commission report states that the Oil Budget was simply not designed to explain, or capable of explaining, the “fate of the oil”. It was not robust enough scientifically for that. Much like BP who wants to down play the presence of oil in the ecosystem and it’s effects because of legal liability, the White House is joining the industry chorus perhaps to down play it’s political liability.

There’s much in this report that’s revealing but one last piece perfectly states why the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise is in the Gulf conducting independent science and why we’re thankful others are as well. In the study mentioned above, much of the bio-degradation the Administration hoped was eating the oil was not. It is eating gaseous hydrocarbons like propane and ethane. The oil is still out there and instead of ‘fessing up to the extent that remains and the damage it will do likely for decades, the government joins with industry to keep us in the dark.

Now the White House hopes we will take their word that we can indeed go forward with more offshore drilling and that it can be done safely. How many more fossil fuel disasters will it take for our politicians to lead us out of this rut and into the secure and environmentally friendly renewable energy future we need? Instead the White House and Congress are all pushing for Drill Baby Drill as per the President’s statement back in March.

[Philip D. Radford is the Executive Director of Greenpeace US.]

Going Beyond Oil

6:53 am in Uncategorized by Philip Radford

Despite the overwhelming evidence that Big Oil’s reckless pursuit of the last remaining oil reserves (and ever-more exorbitant profits) is disastrous for the planet, governments of the world are still greenlighting dangerous deepwater drilling projects.

That’s why this morning two Greenpeace activists locked down the anchor chain of Chevron’s drill ship the Stena Carron, which was scheduled to depart for a deepwater drilling site north of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. While our activists physically prevent one more irresponsible drilling project from getting underway, we’re calling on all governments to ban deepwater drilling once and for all.

The action was launched from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, which was also the base of operations for the activists who staged a 40-hour occupation of Cairn Energy’s Stena Don oil rig off the coast of Greenland earlier this month. There is real danger that the Stena Don could spark an Arctic oil rush, which would pose a huge threat to the climate and put the fragile Arctic environment at risk. So, for nearly two days, Greenpeace activists prevented this dangerous drilling operation from proceeding to threaten any more marine life and coastal ecosystems with catastrophic oil spills.

This is as much a moral issue as an environmental issue. We don’t fully understand the long-term effects of oil spills like the BP Deepwater Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. We need independent science to find out what those will be. All we do know for certain is that the oil and its impacts will persist for decades. Surely we can all agree that we owe our children a healthy planet to live on? And unfortunately, as is now all-too clear, expanding offshore drilling operations is incompatible with keeping our planet healthy enough to support future generations.

That’s why we’re not only working to stop more dangerous drilling, we’re also seeking to get to the truth about the impacts of oil spills. Our ship, the Arctic Sunrise, is now halfway through its three-month expedition in the Gulf and has hosted several teams of independent scientists who are working to understand where all of BP’s oil has gone and what it’s doing to marine wildlife and ecosystems in the Gulf. You can stay up do date with the crew’s findings via our Google Earth map, which is tracking blog posts, pictures, and videos coming from the crew onboard the ship.

If you want to know even more about the long-term effects of oil spills and how we can prevent future oil spills from happening, tune in this Friday to the blogger briefing Greenpeace is hosting as part of UN Week. Greenpeace USA’s Kert Davies is onboard the Arctic Sunrise in the Gulf right now and will be participating in the briefing as well as answering your questions live via video Skype.

We’re not just against oil, we’re for clean, sustainable energy. Sven Teske, the author of our Energy [R]evolution report, will be taking part in the briefing to discuss how expanding our offshore drilling operations is not only dangerous, but unnecessary. We can get to 80 percent renewable energy globally by 2050, and we’d be creating 12 million jobs by 2030 in the process.

A clean energy revolution would not only help stop global warming and get our ailing economy back on track, but it is also the only 100 percent fail-safe method for preventing oil spills. That’s because the only way to stop oil spills is to leave the oil in the ground (or hundreds of feet under the sea, as the case may be). We can’t do that until we move beyond oil and other fossil fuels as our primary energy sources.

Greenpeace will continue to confront reckless new oil drilling operations and bring attention to the issue, but we need to build a widespread movement that demands we go beyond oil as soon as possible. Join us on the blogger briefing this Friday to find out how you can help get us there.

This was originally posted on Huffington Post on September 21st.

[Philip D. Radford is the Executive Director of Greenpeace US.]