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Lisa Hymas' Posts


Solar crowdfunding project Mosaic sells out in under 24 hours

Yesterday we told you about the launch of Mosaic, a new Kickstarter-style service that makes it easy to invest in rooftop solar projects. Today comes news that it's already sold out shares in all of its public projects. Talk about pent-up demand!

happy people & solar panel
Solar Mosaic
These people invested in a solar project and now they're happy.

From a company press release:

Mosaic, an online marketplace that connects investors to high-quality solar projects, sold out its first four projects in less than 24 hours with over 400 investors putting in between $25 and $30,000. In total, investors put in over $313,000 with an average investment of nearly $700. ...

To date, Mosaic has raised $1.1M from more than 700 investors to finance twelve rooftop solar power plants in California, Arizona and New Jersey. Mosaic’s latest projects were available to residents of California and New York as well as accredited investors from around the country. ...


Tar-sands operations dump carcinogenic pollution in Canadian lakes

tar sands operation
Poisonous as well as ugly.

Here's yet another way that tar-sands oil extraction sucks. From The New York Times:

The development of Alberta’s oil sands has increased levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes well beyond natural levels, Canadian researchers reported in a study [PDF] released on Monday. And they said the contamination covered a wider area than had previously been believed.

For the study, financed by the Canadian government, the researchers set out to develop a historical record of the contamination, analyzing sediment dating back about 50 years from six small and shallow lakes north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, the center of the oil sands industry. Layers of the sediment were tested for deposits of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PDF], or PAHs, groups of chemicals associated with oil that in many cases have been found to cause cancer in humans after long-term exposure.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we lacked long-term data,” said John P. Smol, the paper’s lead author and a professor of biology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “So some in industry have been saying that the pollution in the tar sands is natural, it’s always been there.”

The researchers found that to the contrary, the levels of those deposits have been steadily rising since large-scale oil sands production began in 1978.

As scientist David Schindler told British Columbia news site The Tyee, the study's findings should "deep-six once and for all the bullshit that all pollution from the tar sands is natural."


Cleantech investment fell off a cliff in 2012

dollar signs falling down a cliff

"You could call it the cleantech cliff," writes the San Jose Mercury News:

Global clean-technology venture investment plunged to $6.46 billion in 2012, down 33 percent from the $9.61 billion invested a year ago, according to San Francisco-based research and consulting firm Cleantech Group.

Why such a big drop-off?

The low price of natural gas has made it harder for renewable energy to compete on cost. Venture capitalists are shying away from capital-intensive deals after seeing companies like Santa Clara-based Misasolé sold at fire sale prices. And global economic uncertainty took a toll: Several privately backed cleantech companies, including Oakland's BrightSource Energy, were forced to shelve their IPO plans and raise additional funds from existing investors.


Green car sales were up in 2012, and should be even more up in 2013

Chevy Volt
The Chevy Volt had a pretty good year in 2012.

Green cars account for just a teeny, tiny fraction of U.S. auto sales -- 3.3 percent in 2012. But that teeny, tiny fraction is growing fast!

BusinessGreen reports:

Analyst firm Mintel estimated last month that sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars in the US will exceed 535,000 units in 2013, a sizable increase on the 440,000 sold last year. Sales of hybrids and electric cars rose 73 per cent in 2012, making it the fastest growing segment in the US auto market.

A separate market analysis by Pike Research "estimates annual global sales of 3.8 million electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2020," the International Herald Tribune reports. It also "estimates that sales of plug-in cars will grow by 40 percent annually. During that same period, general car sales will grow by 2 percent."

The plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt gets some of the credit for those rising numbers. "General Motors sold three times as many Chevrolet Volts in 2012 as it did in 2011, which was the car's first full year on the market," reports CNN -- "23,461 Volts in 2012 compared with just 7,671 in 2011." That's still below GM's sales targets, but, as Climate Progress points out, it makes GM "the first American auto manufacturer to sell more than one million vehicles with a 30-mpg fuel rating." No thanks to all the Volt-hating right-wingers out there.


Sea-level rise could be way, way worse than we already thought

flooded city street
Petrov Stanislav
Could your city look like this in 2100 (assuming it hasn't looked like this already)?

It might be time to buy that dry suit you've had your eye on -- or start saving up for a submersible.

"Glaciologists fear they may have seriously underestimated the potential for melting ice sheets to contribute to catastrophic sea-level rises in coming decades," reports The Independent. Here's more from NBC News:

Melting glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland may push up global sea levels more than 3 feet by the end of this century, according to a scientific poll of experts that brings a degree of clarity to a murky and controversial slice of climate science.

Such a rise in the seas would displace millions of people from low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, swamp atolls in the Pacific Ocean, cause dikes in Holland to fail, and cost coastal mega-cities from New York to Tokyo billions of dollars for construction of sea walls and other infrastructure to combat the tides.

"The consequences are horrible," Jonathan Bamber, a glaciologist at the University of Bristol and a co-author of the study published Jan. 6 in the journal Nature Climate Change, told NBC News. ...

Read more: Climate & Energy


Could Chuck Hagel, defense secretary nominee, turn out to be a climate hawk?

Chuck Hagel
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Chuck Hagel: Will his inner climate hawk defeat his inner climate skeptic?

Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, has long been confused about climate change ... and yet concerned about it too. He has a history of obstructing climate action, but also a record of elevating climate as a national security issue. If he's confirmed to head the Department of Defense, he might ultimately show himself to be a climate hawk -- though not one who hews to green orthodoxy or any party line.

Confused Chuck

On the one hand, Hagel -- a Republican senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2008 and now co-chair of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board -- has professed many views you might associate with a climate denier.

In fact, his name is tied to the Senate's first high-profile repudiation of climate action: In 1997, he cosponsored the Byrd-Hagel resolution calling for rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, arguing that it would hurt the U.S. economy and should have required emissions cuts from developing countries. Five years later, he was still enthusiastically bashing the treaty:

The Kyoto Protocol would have eliminated millions of jobs in America. It would have driven our economy downward. It would have eliminated opportunities for investment, such as clean energy technology, in developing countries. It would have driven a stake through any hope of prosperity for America.

In 2001, at the start of the George W. Bush administration, Hagel and three other senators sent Bush a letter asking him to clarify his positions on Kyoto and on regulation of carbon dioxide. As Hagel explained later, "There was talk within this new administration that EPA had the power, through the Clean Air Act, to be able to enforce, in particular, carbon dioxide emissions. We didn't think that the EPA had that power." Bush wrote a letter in response saying that he didn't think the EPA had that power either, setting the course for his administration to do essentially nothing about climate change over its eight years.

In a 2005 interview with Grist, Hagel questioned the causes of climate change:


The hottest race of 2013: House climate hawk Markey is gunning for Kerry’s Senate seat

Ed Markey
Martha Coakley
Could Ed Markey be the Senate's newest climate hawk?

The Senate will lose an advocate for climate action when John Kerry becomes secretary of state (assuming he gets confirmed, which seems pretty darn safe to assume). But it could gain another senator who's just as climate-hawkish if Ed Markey wins the race for Kerry's soon-to-be-vacated seat.

Rep. Markey (D-Mass.) announced last week that he intends to run in the special election next spring or summer to fill Kerry's spot. He's not the only Democrat who's talking about a run, but he's the most senior and high-profile, so the establishment swiftly got behind him, hoping to avert a primary fight.

Kerry didn't outright endorse Markey, but he praised him effusively, calling him "the House’s leading, ardent, and thoughtful protector of the environment." Kerry continued: “He’s passionate about the issues that Ted Kennedy and I worked on as a team for decades, whether it’s health care or the environment and energy or education."

Markey is arguably the most passionate, outspoken climate advocate in the House. You might remember him from such legislation as the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill, which was passed by the House in 2009 and then died a slow and painful death in the Senate. Markey was the one and only chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming during its existence from 2007 to 2010. Though Republicans killed the committee when they took control of the House two years ago, that hasn't stopped Markey from pushing energy and climate issues into the spotlight -- and writing about his efforts on Grist.


Wind-energy tax credit would get extension under ‘fiscal cliff’ deal

wind turbine and American flag
Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group Inc.

It appears that a deal in the works to avert the so-called fiscal cliff would extend a critical tax credit for the wind-power industry for one year.

"The potential agreement that's being talked about ... would extend tax credits for clean-energy companies that are creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil," President Obama said at a press conference today.

The production tax credit (PTC) for the wind industry expires today. With its status up in the air, wind companies across the country have been laying off workers and putting projects on hold. If the PTC isn't renewed, 37,000 jobs could be lost, according to the American Wind Energy Association.


It’s a sports dome and a hurricane shelter all in one

There's a lot of talk these days about the need to become more resilient and ruggedize our systems in order to better cope in a climate-changed world. It's nice to actually see a little action on this front -- in Texas, of all places.

Eagle Dome in Woodsboro, Texas
Jay Phagan
Texas' first "hurricane dome" in Woodsboro will do double duty as a gym and a shelter. We expect it'll look more appealing once the gale-force winds start blowing.

From the Associated Press:

Most of the time, the windowless building with the dome-shaped roof will be a typical high school gymnasium filled with cheering fans watching basketball and volleyball games.

But come hurricane season, the structure that resembles a miniature version of the famed Astrodome will double as a hurricane shelter, part of an ambitious storm-defense system that is taking shape along hundreds of miles of the Texas Gulf Coast.


Rebecca Tarbotton, head of Rainforest Action Network, dies at 39

The green movement has too few visionary leaders and too few women leaders and too few leaders under the age of 40. Tragically, this week it lost one leader who stood out in all three categories.

Rebecca Tarbotton
Rainforest Action Network

On Dec. 26, Rebecca Tarbotton, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, died while vacationing along the west coast of Mexico, north of Puerto Vallarta. In a freak accident at the beach, she got tossed around in rough surf, took too much water into her lungs, and asphyxiated. She was 39 years old.

Tarbotton had been at the helm of RAN since August 2010, and had worked with the organization for almost six years. Under her leadership, RAN has focused on the intersections between forests, fossil fuels, and climate change, and run aggressive campaigns pushing corporations to change the way they do business. Most recently, Tarbotton helped convince entertainment giant Disney to adopt a major new policy that will eliminate the use of paper connected to the destruction of endangered forests.