‘Blueprint to Keep a U.S. Commonwealth Addicted to Imported Fuel’ FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Arianna Skibell for E&E:An industry institute this week bashed the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s new 20-year energy plan as a “deeply unimaginative blueprint to keep a U.S. Commonwealth addicted to imported fuel.”For the first time in its 75-year existence, the U.S. territory’s government-owned utility submitted a public integrated resource plan (IRP), a long-term strategy for electricity generation on the island.The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis this week issued a statement calling the IRP fundamentally flawed, as it does not envision a time when Puerto Rico would be free from imported fuel dependence.Puerto Rico today relies almost exclusively on expensive imported fossil fuels for electricity. PREPA is also the island’s largest single debtholder, with $9 billion of the $72 billion the government owes.“The only futures contemplated are those in which at least half a billion dollars is transferred out of the island every year to pay for fossil fuels,” Anna Sommer, president of Sommer Energy LLC, and Cathy Kunkel, energy analyst for IEEFA, wrote in their report submitted to PREPA.Under its “preferred scenario” in the IRP, PREPA would do little more than shift Puerto Rico from oil to natural gas, according to the report. While natural gas currently enjoys low prices, there is no guarantee of long-term affordability, it noted.Sommer and Kunkel say that instead of focusing time and resources on natural gas, PREPA should more aggressively pursue renewable development, which thus far the island hasn’t done with much success (Greenwire, May 2).“Our view is that PREPA can and should do better and that the agency should be promoting energy independence and affordability by aggressively pursuing energy-efficiency improvements and renewable-energy investments,” Sommer and Kunkel wrote.Full article ($): Group slams Puerto Rico’s plan to stick with fossil fuels
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享SNL:“When I look at the market right now … it’s a difficult and challenging market environment,” Foresight President and CEO Robert Moore said on an earnings call. “It continues to be. It has been, and I believe that it will continue to be.”Moore said that while there has been a reduction in utility inventories, it has not been at the levels that would have occurred if there had been a hotter summer. He also blamed the difficulties on a “lack of discipline” among coal producers.“There’s still too many tons in the market, and we continue to see markets being depressed as a result of that.”Moore said the oversupply of thermal coal is putting a cap on prices even as utility stockpiles have declined. More: ($) Foresight executive on coal: ‘There’s still too many tons in the market’ U.S. Coal Exec Sees Market Glut Continuing
U.S. Senate Bill Aims to Loosen Investment Restrictions for Florida Solar Industry FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享WTLV (Jacksonville):U.S. Senator Bill Nelson introduced legislation this week that could further expand the solar industry in Florida by allowing banks to invest heavily in the renewable energy sector, a financial move which is currently banned under Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation regulation.Under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, bank holding companies (BHCs) may invest in businesses engaged in non-banking activities, but are limited in the amount of outstanding stock they can control. Currently, BHCs are only allowed to control up to 5 percent of any non-banking company.Florida’s senior senator wants to increase that amount up to 20 percent for companies that engage solely in the production or storage of renewable energy, a stimulus for BHCs that could potentially flood the renewable energy sector with capital needed to expand.“Florida is the nation’s Sunshine State but ranks twelfth when it comes to solar production,” Nelson said in a press release Monday. “That needs to change.”Nelson’s ranking of Florida’s solar production is a generous one at that. The Portland-based commercial research company Solar Power Rocks ranked Florida No. 26 overall in its 2017 U.S. Solar Power Rankings.A total of 11 policy and incentive factors are used in the ranking of each state. Some of the factors include electricity cost, net metering, rebates and performance payments. Florida scored low on all weighed factors except for net metering and tax exemptions.According to Nelson, allowing BHCs to invest more freely in the relatively untapped marketplace would make it easier for those financial institutions to offer financing to homeowners for the instillation of rooftop solar power systems.Pricing for the instillation of a rooftop solar power system varies widely from state-to-state, but the average homeowner can expect to pay upwards of $21,000 before tax credits, according to HomeAdvisor. Banks have been hesitant to approve loans for such homestead modifications, giving rise to third-party financing via solar power purchase agreements.Nelson says his “Green Banking Act” would direct the Federal House Finance Agency (FHFA) to create uniform underwriting standards that banks owned by BHCs could use in the offering of loans to homeowners looking to go green.More: Bill Nelson looks to expand Florida’s solar industry through ‘Green Banking Act’
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Some of North America’s biggest new pipeline projects are already in the ground.As environmentalists and local activists make it extraordinarily difficult to build new oil and gas lines, energy companies are working around the opposition by supersizing old pipes that already crisscross parts of the continent.Executives at some of the biggest pipeline operators in the U.S. and Canada, including Enbridge Inc. and Kinder Morgan Inc say they pivoted to the strategy as plans for new pipelines came under attack. For decades, new pipeline projects rarely drew attention, much less ire. “We used to just show up with a map,” said Al Monaco, president and chief executive of Enbridge. “Now we engage with the local communities and indigenous groups early and often.”In recent years, groups with a goal of keeping fossil fuels in the ground have joined forces with Native American activists, landowners and other local opponents to stall numerous projects. Most notable among these was TransCanada Corp.’s much-debated Keystone XL pipeline for transporting Canadian crude southward.Skipping new lines—and the environmental reviews and taking of land by eminent domain that they often require—and instead working under existing permits and rights of way is just common sense, pipeline executives say. Mr. Monaco said the expansions also minimize impacts to land and the environment in addition to being cheaper. “Once the pipe is in the ground, you can do a lot of things: reverse flows, expand it, optimize it,” he added.More ($): Pipelines See Benefits In Expanding Existing Assets Pipelines Say They See Benefits in Expanding Existing Assets
Offshore wind, battery storage expected to play key role in Japan’s decarbonization efforts FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Japan will promote the use of offshore wind generation and battery storage in its new effort to become carbon neutral by 2050, according to a government official, indicating how the nation might change its policies to meet the ambitious goal.The world’s fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, which is expected to formally announce the emissions pledge Monday, is aligning itself with commitments made by other major economies including the European Union and China, after lagging peers through its continued reliance on coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.The new policy could have far-reaching effects across the third-largest economy that is home to major auto and technology manufacturers. The country will need to transition much of its infrastructure to meet the new carbon targets as it remains deeply reliant on oil, coal and gas. Earlier this month, Japan started reviewing its basic energy plan with a focus on how to change its long-term power mix.Using ammonia and hydrogen as alternatives to coal and liquefied natural gas will also be a part of the push, according to the government official, who asked not to be identified because the plan isn’t public. A spokeswoman at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the powerful ministry that oversees the country’s industry and energy sectors, wasn’t immediately able to comment.There are signs industry and government are already looking at ways to replace dirtier generation with cleaner technologies. Japan’s offshore wind capacity could jump to 90 gigawatts by 2050, which is equivalent to 60% of the fossil fuel and nuclear facilities expected to close by that time, Shigehito Nakamura, managing director at the Japan Wind Power Association, said last month.The commitment comes on the coattails of other efforts by the Japanese government to curb its carbon footprint, such as plans to shut more than 100 inefficient coal power plants and tightening rules that support sending the country’s coal technology overseas. Japan has faced increased scrutiny for policies that support coal-fired generation as investors and governments step up efforts to combat climate change.[Aya Takada and Stephen Stapczynski]More: Japan to use wind, batteries to meet lofty 2050 carbon goal
Let it roll: Alabama Shakes deliver garage-flavored soulALABAMA SHAKESThe Alabama Shakes deliver funky garage soul from the small town of Athens, Ala. The group’s raw grooves are propelled by the dynamic vocals of front woman Brittany Howard, who lands somewhere between Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin. The band was discovered by Drive-By Truckers leader Patterson Hood, who caught them performing in a local record store. After hooking them up with management, the Shakes have become a dominant force on the touring club circuit, selling out venues from coast to coast. Just last month, the band released their debut album, Boys and Girls. Catch them at the Hangout Music Festival and Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.DAVID WAX MUSEUMThis dynamic duo combines the roots of Appalachia with a traditional style of Mexican folk called Son Jarocho to create an aggressive hybrid of acoustic rock. Fiddler Suz Slezak grew up on a family farm in Central Virginia soaking in old-time mountain sounds, while her musical partner David Wax spent a fellowship year in Mexico during his time at Harvard studying old folk sounds. Together they’ve created a high-energy string concoction that has landed the group on big stages with the Avett Brothers. Catch them at FloydFest and the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion.Cross-culture David Wax museum blend sounds of Appalachia with Mexican folk.DAWESThere’s a reason these guys—still in their early 20s—have already backed Jackson Browne and Robbie Robertson. The California-based indie phenoms have honed a down-easy brand of Americana that mixes the mellow gold of Lauren Canyon folk with the electric grit of The Band. On their sophomore album, last year’s Nothing is Wrong, front man Taylor Goldsmith delivers road-weary transient wisdom through his band’s pure vintage rock that’s accentuated by soaring harmonies and infectious melodies. It’s an honest formula, where the classic perfectly meets the present. Dawes will play the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, as well as two special sets at FloydFest, including one backing Browne on the main stage, Thursday, July 26.LEFTOVER SALMONColorado’s zany slam-grass heroes have only played sporadic shows—rarely on the East Coast—since going on an indefinite hiatus in 2004. This year, though, the group is set to play up to 50 gigs, including multiple appearances at regional festivals. Front man Vince Herman leads the group with plenty of crazy antics, while mandolin picker Drew Emmitt and new banjo player Andy Thorn shred notes with pants-on-fire precision, resulting in a wild mix of bluegrass, zydeco, and jam rock. Look for a new album later this year. They’ll appear at DelFest and FloydFest.THE BLACK LILLIESCruz Conteras, the multi-instrumental force formally behind his ex-wife songstress Robinella, now fronts his own country-flavored crew. Flanked by fiddle and roadhouse electric guitar, Conteras’ heartbreak tunes are more pure than anything being manufactured by the suits in Nashville. It’s modern Americana crafted in a way that will make you find currency in country again. Catch them at the Lake Eden Arts Festival and the NC Brews and Music Festival.For a full list of Festivals, click here!
The Winter Splash 8 Mile and 5K Trail Race is this Saturday, February 2nd, on Springmaid Mountain which is in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. The race starts at 1pm, but please arrive early if you still need to register. The entry fee for the 8 miler is $30 and $20 for the 5K.Like the name suggests, water will be involved but only for those participating in the 8 mile run. The river cross is roughly 20 yards and is located near the finish. The course is a mixed bag with rocks, roots, snow, and hills. Be prepared for it all. No whining allowed!There will be a bonfire to greet you at the finish line and a warm after party for spectators and participants.
As we mark the 20th anniversary of Blue Ridge Outdoors, it’s time to celebrate some major successes in protecting human health and the environment in our region, resulting from the tireless efforts of public interest groups and thousands of concerned citizens. At the same time, we’d be remiss to ignore the substantial work yet to be done. Here, then, is a rundown of several significant environmental milestones in Appalachia—both successes and setbacks—over the past two decades.Southern Appalachian national forests saved. Almost five million acres of national forest from Virginia to Alabama offer some of the best recreational opportunities in the East, protect drinking water, shelter a wide variety of fish and wildlife, and pump millions of dollars into local economies. We are happy to report that a sizable chunk of this precious resource has been protected. Expanded wilderness areas, improvements to long-term forest management plans, and halts to clear cutting have helped. So has inclusion of 725,000 acres of roadless areas in the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the rule to stand in 2012.“The roadless areas in our national forests represent an essential part of America’s natural heritage,” said Southern Environmental Law Center General Counsel David Carr. “Permanently protecting them ensures that they will remain healthy and whole to be enjoyed by current and future generations.”Amid the onslaught of misguided road-building proposals, excessive use of off-road vehicles, and, of course, continuous pressure from industry to drill, baby, drill, victories like this will help preserve increasingly rare hardwood forests and myriad other natural resources.Pointless, destructive road through Smokies Stopped. Powerful forces in Swain County, N.C., lobbied hard for decades to build a road straight through the wildest area of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. But in the end, reason and respect for the earth prevailed.It all started when another county road was flooded in the 1940s to create Fontana Lake. In the 1960s, the National Park Service started to build a replacement. The project was abandoned on economic and environmental grounds, but apparently that didn’t matter to some county residents, who wanted a road no matter what.Thankfully, in February 2010, a settlement was reached to halt construction permanently. Swain County got $52 million out of the deal, and environmentalists were thrilled because the proposed road would have lacerated the largest unbroken, federally owned forest in the East. Vital habitat for rare birds, bears, and fish—not to mention the wilderness character of that section of the park—would have evaporated.“Stopping this ‘road to nowhere’ was a significant victory for all who treasure the beauty of this region, and it protected one of the most breathtaking areas in the Smokies,” said D.J. Gerken, managing attorney in SELC’s Asheville Office.Wilderness Bill Saves Jefferson National Forest. In March 2009, U.S. legislators approved the largest piece of wilderness legislation the Southern Appalachians have seen in a decade. The Virginia Ridge and Valley Act ensures that more than 53,000 acres of the Jefferson National Forest will remain forever wild by establishing six new wilderness areas and expanding several others. It also designated a wilderness study area and two new national scenic areas. It helped that the bill had a lot of fans, including religious, tourism, and recreation groups, state and local governments, businesses, and, of course, conservationists.Bills like this are sorely needed. For example, according to the SELC, in Virginia just 177,214 acres—less than one percent of the state—are congressionally designated wilderness. By contrast, a 1999 U.S. Forest Service study found that in 2050, demand for wilderness recreation opportunities will have soared by 171 percent. Numbers like these eviscerate the claim that there’s too much useless wilderness out there. One percent is too much? Really?Proposed new coal plants defeated; existing plants retired. Although King Coal might appear to be invincible, he most assuredly is not. Consider, for example, the significant number of new coal plants that were stopped or scrapped throughout the region in the past 20 years. The proposed 1500-megawatt coal plant for Surry County, Va., is one. This smog-belching monstrosity, which the Old Dominion Electric Company was persuaded not to build after a massive public outcry, would have torched about 9,000 tons of southern Appalachian coal—much of it from devastating mountaintop removal mines—every single day. Instead, tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants will be kept out of the atmosphere and peoples’ lungs. Victories like these have prevented untold air and water pollution in the Southeast, which, as a region, remains one of world’s largest contributors to climate change. That’s why environmental groups are still working to convince utilities that it’s time to retire aging coal plants and invest in cleaner technologies. It’s an uphill slog, to be sure, but there’s arguably no greater environmental priority in Appalachia.Major gains made in renewables, especially solar. To hear industry apologists tell it, renewable energy is, and always will be, a pipe dream. You’ve heard the refrain: Renewables are too expensive, plus the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, so let’s just cut our losses and keep choking on coal dust.But the challenges that come with renewables aren’t the show-stoppers they once were. Solar alone could easily supply a good portion of Appalachia’s energy needs if we would stop subsidizing Big Oil and build a solid renewable energy infrastructure.Not only has the cost of solar panels plummeted some 400 percent in just the past few years, but the intermittent nature of many renewables is no longer a big deal thanks to a host of new energy storage technologies, including higher-capacity, longer-lasting batteries, compressed air systems, and hydroelectric pumps. We’ve come so far that a Delaware-sized area would be enough to power the entire country using solar-concentrated power plants.So it’s now a question of public policy, not technology, and that’s why we need politicians who aren’t beholden to the petrochemical industrial complex. “If you look at Europe, especially Germany, they create policies that create good energy systems,” says Jeff Deal, senior project manager at the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy. “There’s no question that it’s a policy issue, not a feasibility issue.”Tennessee Wilderness still in jeopardy. The vast area known as the Cherokee National Forest in east Tennessee exemplifies our continuing struggle against those who would destroy our last wild places for dubious short-term gain. According to SELC, this national treasure comprises some 640,000 mountainous acres sheltering a huge variety of wildlife in diverse forest habitats, including 43 species of mammals, 55 species of reptiles and amphibians, dozens of bird species, and some of the region’s largest quantities of native brook trout. The Appalachian Trail and Benton MacKaye Trail wind through here, too, which makes the area a bucket-list destination for legions of hikers every year.Unfortunately, only about 10 percent of the Cherokee National Forest is officially designated as wilderness. That leaves it vulnerable to logging, mining, fracking, road building, and other indignities. A coalition called Tennessee Wild is trying to stem the tide of exploitation by promoting a bill that would designate almost 20,000 additional acres of the forest as wilderness. It needs all the support it can get—meaning yours.Mountaintop removal mining remains a scourge. Blowing up mountains to extract the coal from within may be relatively cheap and easy, but it’s been an unmitigated disaster for those unfortunates who happen to live near the resulting scars in the earth. Toxic chemicals and sediment leaching from open-pit mines flow directly into once-pristine waterways that provide vital drinking water and animal habitats. People and animals are poisoned, sometimes severely. Fish die in droves.The so-called mitigation efforts trumpeted by industry aren’t working very well, either. For example, one recent study found there are more streams damaged or destroyed from mining than “restored,” and even the restored streams don’t function like they used to and wouldn’t pass a reasonable environmental assessment.The bottom line: mountaintop removal mining has decimated more than 500 of the oldest, most biologically rich mountains in America, along with more than 2,000 miles of headwater streams. It has also destoryed countless communities and degraded human health across Appalachia.For the time being, market forces are beginning to stem the tide as Appalachian coal gets more expensive compared to Western coal and natural gas. “Those two things are sort of out-competing mountaintop removal coal from Appalachia,” says Eric Chance, spokesperson for Appalachian Voices. The bad news is that markets are, of course, cyclical, and coal could be cheap again before we know it.GW National Forest partly opened to drilling. Last November, the Forest Service released a new long-term management plan opening 177,000 acres of the George Washington National Forest to fracking. It’s not an unmitigated disaster, considering the GW contains some 1.1 million acres, the vast majority of which remain protected. Indeed, two new wilderness areas are proposed, others will be will be expanded, and a new recreation area will be added. And the draft management plan released three years ago would have opened most of the forest to vertical drilling.But the final plan sets an unwelcome precedent and helps perpetuate this country’s seemingly unending addiction to fossil fuels. “We think our public lands should be preserved for the public good,” Chance says. “There are still a lot of unknowns regarding the long-term consequences of fracking.”And more than just those 177,000 acres are at stake; fracking requires an extensive infrastructure that will diminish the wilderness character of the rest of the forest, and fishing, paddling, and other recreational activities—not to mention drinking water supplies—could be threatened. The GW is the largest national forest in the East with more than one million visitors annually. Millions more living downstream depend on its protected drinking water supplies. The government should have said no to fracking, period.So there you have it: some significant achievements, to be sure, but storm clouds loom. That’s where you come in. Apathy will guarantee that our environmental successes are swallowed by a host of atrocities perpetrated by those who view the natural world as their personal ATM. So get off the couch and do something. Volunteer, donate, write your congressional representative—whatever you can. Together, let’s make the next 20 years even better than the last and leave a legacy for our children that we can be proud of and they will cherish.
Duke Energy isn’t feeling the love from the uber-health-conscious, eco-everything mountain town.Earlier this month, a study revealed that Duke energy’s coal-fired power plant in Asheville is releasing dangerous levels of pollution in some of the region’s most popular recreation areas. Duke has also been lobbying heavily against a new solar energy bill; Asheville is home to seven solar energy companies and a booming Solarize Asheville movement. And last night, over 100 parents and teachers packed a school cafeteria to voice concerns over Duke’s plans to build a substation right next to a new Asheville elementary school.Physicians at the school meeting expressed concerns about children’s safety near a high-voltage facility and their long-term exposure to electromagnetic fields, which have been associated with increased risks of leukemia and other cancers. Duke dismisses the concerns as scientifically inconclusive.Asheville’s outdoor enthusiasts are outraged by pollution plumes from Duke’s coal-fired power plant blanketing popular recreation destinations, including Bent Creek, Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. These areas experience sulfur dioxide levels that are dangerous to human health on one of every four days. Duke Energy admits that it could easily reduce its sulfur dioxide pollution levels by using scrubbers already installed at the facility, but it has chosen not to use these emission controls to save money.And just about everyone in Asheville is unhappy about Duke lobbying against the Energy Freedom Act in North Carolina, which would allow residents to buy clean power directly from a renewable energy company, bypassing their utility. North Carolina is one of only five states that still prohibits residents from purchasing energy from anyone except utilities like Duke.Duke Energy is generating some seriously bad karma, and all that bad energy could ruin its vibe. Hundreds are expected to attend Duke’s air quality permit hearing next Wednesday, April 29 (6 p.m. at Erwin High School) to demand full use of pollution controls and stronger air quality requirements for the facility. More rallies are planned by Solarize Asheville and environmental groups to overcome Duke’s opposition to the Energy Freedom Act. And the parents, teachers—and even the students—at Isaac Dickson Elementary are mobilizing to stop the Duke substation planned beside their school.Duke may be a mighty energy utility, but people power can still bring the juice.In Asheville’s already charged atmosphere, Duke has a choice to make: it can fight dirty, or it can play nice: it can use the pollution controls on its smokestacks, support renewable energy, and find a safer site for its substation.
Guinness recently announced that they’ll start distributing cans of a new Nitro IPA in the U.S., which is kind of a big deal. If you’re not familiar with nitro beers, they’re like your smooth talking, better looking cousin. Brewers substitute nitrous oxide for a portion of the carbon dioxide when they’re carbonating the beer, and the result is silky smooth goodness that rivals anything Barry White ever recorded. The technology to add nitro to a canned beer is limited and expensive, so you don’t see a lot of canned nitro beers out there. The standard Guinness Stout is the most common nitrogenated beer on the market.Oskar Blues puts a nitro version of their scotch ale, Old Chubb in a can. And that’s about it for breweries in our neck of the woods. Fortunately, most brewpubs and small breweries release small batches of nitro beers on tap. It’s a treat when you spot one of these smooth beers in the wild, sort of like when you’re hiking and you see a black bear. It’s exhilarating.Once every two months or so my wife tells me I have to take her out for a proper date. “Not burritos,” she says. She wants a place with forks and wine. A place where a half dozen roasted almonds will run you $8. Swell. I was having dinner with her at one of those fancy restaurants (the kind of place where you order the pasta because it’s the cheapest thing on the menu, but they only give you one ravioli on your plate so you have to go get burritos after) when I spotted Pisgah Brewing’s Stout on nitro. Bully for me. I’ve had this particular stout before, but never on nitro.On its own, it’s a decent beer. Good but nothing to write home about. On nitro, it becomes this velvet, coffee bomb–the kind of thing you want to get naked and bathe in.Stouts are the most common beer put on nitro because the already rich, subtle body of the style lends itself well to the nitrous. But I’ve been in brewpubs recently where just about every style under the brew kettle was given nitro treatment. Ok, not every style. Sours and wheat beers might suck on nitro, but lagers, pales and IPA–you’d be surprised what a shot of Barry White will do to these beers, adding a whole new dimension to appreciate. Mostly, what we’re taking about here is texture. Nitro can bring out flavors that are typically more subtle in a beer (it brings out notes of coffee in the Pisgah Stout) but mostly, the gas just makes the beer feel better in your mouth. That’s a weird sentence to read (and a weird one to write, I assure you) but that’s the deal. Nitro makes a beer feel better. and that’s an interesting proposition.In the words of Mr. White, “let’s get it on.”