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Farmer- and family-owned wind power rises in Iowa

Iowa ranks third in installed wind power capacity in the U.S., it's 5,500 megawatts behind only Texas and California (and much higher per capita).  But like many windy places, the turbines sprouting from the Iowa prairie are often owned by multinational corporations, taking advantage of the local resource and sending the electricity revenue out of state. Iowa farmer Randy Caviness saw an opportunity to keep the value of Iowa wind local and he's helped to develop eight utility-scale wind turbines with community ownership, providing clean, local and locally owned power to municipal and rural electric utilities in southwestern Iowa. Listen …

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Peabody Energy: cheating workers and taxpayers to destroy our climate

Peabody held its annual shareholders meeting in Gillette, Wyoming on Monday, hoping to avoid more of the massive protests the coal company has faced at its headquarters in St. Louis. Indeed, while Peabody executives tried to put a positive spin on the company’s outlook for shareholders in Wyoming, thousands of union mine workers converged in downtown St. Louis to protest against Peabody and its efforts to cheat coal miners out of the pensions they were promised. The protest took place outside a bankruptcy hearing for ‘Patriot’ Coal, the company left with those obligations to retired miners and their families after …

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What Sandy Looks Like Six Months Later

Two weeks ago, I visited Keansburg, NJ, one of the many Jersey Shore communities devastated by the fossil-fueled Superstorm Sandy. My ostensible purpose was to deliver a check from members of my organization, Forecast the Facts, who had graciously donated to support the rebuilding effort. But I also wanted to see first hand what a climate disaster looked like six months later, after the nation’s attention had moved on. If you want the headline, it is that Keansburg is still reeling from Sandy. But it’s a headline that doesn’t scream at you when you first roll into town. As I …

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Hunger Strike on 27th Day

As I write this Brian Eister is on the 27th day of a water-only climate hunger strike outside the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, D.C. The only thing he has consumed since April 1st is water, sodium and potassium. Brian’s latest posts on his website, http://www.1future.net, report on both his continuing resolve but also the hunger and physical difficulties he is experiencing. On the 26th day he wrote, “The days are dragging on and hunger has become quite intense, but the sacrifice I am making here is modest. . .” I know what he is going through. I have done …

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Bike sharing goes global

D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare.
James Schwartz
D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare.

Politicians, lobbyists, and tourists alike can ride bicycles along a specially marked lane between the White House and the U.S. Capitol, part of the 115 miles of bicycle lanes and paths that now crisscross Washington, D.C. In Copenhagen, commuters can ride to work following a “green wave” of signal lights timed for bikers. Residents in China’s “happiest city,” Hangzhou, can move easily from public transit onto physically separated bike tracks that have been carved out of the vast majority of roadways. And on any given Sunday in Mexico City, some 15,000 cyclists join together on a circuit of major thoroughfares closed to motorized traffic. What is even more exciting is that in each of these locations, people can jump right into cycling without even owning a bicycle. Welcome to the era of the bikeshare.

Cyclists have long entreated drivers to “share the road.” Now what is being shared is not only the road but the bicycle itself. Forward-thinking cities are turning back to the humble bicycle as a way to enhance mobility, alleviate automotive congestion, reduce air pollution, boost health, support local businesses, and attract more young people. Bike-sharing systems -- distributed networks of public bicycles used for short trips -- that integrate into robust transit networks are being embraced by a growing number of people in the urbanizing world who are starting to view car ownership as more of a hassle than a rite of passage.

Today more than 500 cities in 49 countries host advanced bike-sharing programs, with a combined fleet of over 500,000 bicycles. Urban transport adviser Peter Midgley notes that “bike sharing has experienced the fastest growth of any mode of transport in the history of the planet.” It certainly has come a long way since 1965, when 50 bicycles were painted white and scattered around Amsterdam for anyone to pick up and use free of charge.

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New Solar Farm Shows Clean Energy Can Be Compatible with Conservation Values

Today the Sierra Club welcomes the Antelope Valley Solar Projects in California, one of the largest planned solar projects in the U.S., as developer SunPower and owner MidAmerican Solar marked the start of major construction. The Sierra Club endorsed the project early on because it was planned and sited in a way that protected local plants and wildlife. The project location was chosen in strict accordance with conservation values, seeking to avoid harming wildlife or building new infrastructure. The projects are located on previously disturbed private land that did not have any threatened and endangered species. Although the project site is …

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The death of ‘sustainability’

Can destroying a tropical rainforest be “sustainable”? Well, according to a decision taken yesterday by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the major industry-NGO body, this greatest of environmental crimes is now officially “green.” Palm oil plantations have driven the destruction of more than 30,000 square miles of tropical forest in Indonesia and Malaysia alone, pushing species like orangutans and Sumatran rhinoceroses and elephants to the edge of extinction. It’s the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Southeast Asia, and has propelled Indonesia to be the world’s third largest climate polluter behind only China and the United States. …

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Two More Victories in the Fight Against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

While the fight to end mountaintop removal coal mining is still far from over, we are celebrating today's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on a massive mountaintop removal project, the Spruce Mine. The court affirmed that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority under the Clean Water Act to veto mountaintop removal coal mining permits after they've been issued. This is a major milestone in the fight to end the destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining. The Spruce Mine - the focus of this case - was the largest mountaintop removal permit ever proposed …

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Three Unequal Choices for a Local (Renewable) Energy Future

Earth Day highlights the need for a sustainable energy future, and experience suggests that there are only three meaningful choices for communities trying to increase local control of a greener energy future.  But the three policies – deregulation (“customer choice”), municipal aggregation (“city choice”), and municipal utilities (“city ownership”) – are not equal.  Two recent articles highlight the relative value of these policies quite clearly. The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) of Illinois, a nonprofit ratepayer advocacy organization, just released a report on the results of electricity deregulation and municipal aggregation. Deregulation or “Customer Choice” CUB didn’t think much of deregulation …

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Time to Recognize the Rights of Nature

With Earth Day 2013 around the corner, it’s a good time to step back and see how we’ve been doing since the first Earth Day in 1970, when 20 million people took to the streets to protest rivers on fire, DDT-poisoned birds, sewage on beaches, and a devastating oil spill off the pristine Santa Barbara coast. Soon after, many of our basic national environmental laws were passed in direct response to this massive grassroots movement. Is there another wave of this activism coming? Since those early days, we have improved sewage treatment plants and banned DDT, but new threats to …

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