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Climate Change is Fracking Society

Fracking isn’t only happening in the gas fields. Because of the never before seen and almost impossible to grok (or solve) problem of climate change, fracking is happening all over the environmental movement. Moms are fighting kids. Boards are fighting staff. Nonprofits are fighting each other. Left is fighting right and left. Republicans are getting sick of their weird and lame leaders, like Romney, Gingrich, and McCain who clearly understood climate science until they didn’t understand it, and are spinning off on their own to fix the thing. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/07/10/513568/climate-republicans-global-warming-initiativ/?mobile=nc. Just this year, I supported state legislation on a key climate …

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Is New Nuclear Energy Just Mission Impossible?

Until headlines last week announced the end of his marriage to Katie Holmes, it seemed there was no mission too impossible for Tom Cruise to accomplish. But even his cool, Burj Khalifa-climbing character in the famous film franchise might refuse the Mission Impossible assignment facing global economies today - - powering growth with nuclear energy. The debate over nuclear has generally boiled down to the challenge of waste disposal. Of course there is always talk of safety, but proponents quickly point to the half-century of global experience with nuclear energy and the very few, albeit disastrous, incidents of the proverbial …

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Just Energy Independence or Clean Energy Self-Reliance?

In Thomas Friedman’s latest column, he praises Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts because he “took one for the country.”  Friedman sees that “America today is poised for a great renewal” if only it can get some “big, centrist, statesmanlike leadership.” Logically, there would be some renewable (energy) in America’s renewal, right? Wrong.  Here’s Friedman’s vision for America: Our newfound natural gas bounty can give us long-term access to cheap, cleaner energy and, combined with advances in robotics and software, is already bringing blue-collar manufacturing back to America. Web-enabled cellphones and tablets are creating vast new possibilities to bring high-quality, …

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MORE sex is better with energy efficiency

My first foray into this topic, “Sex is better with energy efficiency,” was warmly - aye, steamingly - received.  (We are a simple people, no?)  So let's dive deeper... First, for the record:  Jimmy Carter is a great man, a courageous humanitarian, and a vastly underappreciated former President.  It’s not his fault.  But one of the founding myths of the modern energy efficiency “movement”, if we can call it that, is that his “moral equivalent of war” speech and his fireside chats on energy were a huge cultural setback for conservation. By framing energy conservation as a moral proposition (goes …

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Blowing in the right direction: Two big wind projects are moving forward

As we continue to retire aging dirty coal plant after aging dirty coal plant nationwide (we just hit 112 coal plants secured to retire), we are also pushing hard to replace them with clean energy, and as little natural gas as possible. That's why we were excited this week to see two very large clean energy announcements from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

First, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the completion of the final environmental impact statement for a massive Wyoming wind farm. The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project would be comprised of up to 1,000 wind turbines across private and federal land in southeastern Wyoming, and generate up to 2,500 megawatts of clean energy.

This is a great move for a state where coal mining is devastating a beautiful and critical area -- the Powder River Basin. More wind power in Wyoming could mean less coal mining and fewer coal trains and coal plants in the West. It is also a smart move for a state that sees itself as an energy powerhouse, and wants to keep this role in a future that will have little to no coal in it.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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What can our protected places teach us about saving the Arctic?

Our national parks have been called "America's best idea," and Americans are proud of the special places we have protected for the inspiration and enjoyment of current and future generations. But protected areas from Florida to Alaska face new challenges on a warming planet, and melting sea ice means that a newly vulnerable area -- the Arctic -- is increasingly threatened by offshore oil drilling and industrial fishing. Protecting the Arctic is emerging as one of the great environmental challenges of our age -- so what lessons can we learn from earlier generations who came together and won protection for the parks, sanctuaries, and wildlife refuges that we enjoy today?

As we were making final preparations for our Save the Arctic tour in Alaska, some of the crew from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza had a chance to visit Kenai Fjords National Park, a wild and protected area in southern Alaska where the coastline is punctuated by extraordinary glaciers that empty into a sea dominated by humpback whales, seabirds, orcas, and seals.

The effects of climate change are impossible to ignore here, as these enormous glaciers melt and retreat back to the coast. Researchers here in 1909 observed and photographed Northwestern Glacier extending 10 miles into the sea. A century later, we find this glacier has retreated back so far that today it barely reaches the sea. Alaska has warmed twice as quickly as the rest of the United States, and this melting has accelerated in recent years.

Northwestern Glacier’s retreat has accelerated, and now it barely reaches the sea.

While the impacts of climate change are particularly dramatic here in Alaska, there's trouble for national parks and other protected areas across the United States. In many Western parks like Rocky Mountain National Park, pine forests are being decimated by the mountain pine beetle that thrives in warmer winters. In Florida, coral reefs in Biscayne Bay and the Dry Tortugas are being destroyed by warming and acidifying oceans, while sea level rise threatens low-lying areas like the Everglades. Glacier National Park may not have any glaciers left at all by 2030. The list goes on -- for more, see the National Parks Conservation Association's report, "Unnatural Disaster: Global Warming and Our National Parks."

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Selma, Montgomery, and Climate Change

(Reposted from Huffington Post) How weird would it have been if, in the 1960s, the press had reported from Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery like this: "Selma, Al. March 7 (AP) -- Protests Swell in the South! Hundreds marched out of Selma on Highway 80 today. Many protesters were left bloodied, coughing, and severely injured when State Troopers used tear gas and Billy clubs on the crowds. Man, people were pissed off. They really were demonstrating!" Of course, what's weird about that reporting is that the article doesn't say why the people were angry. To not report that would have simply …

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Why our biggest moral challenge doesn’t act like one

Al Gore tried to invoke the moral imperative for climate action.  “It’s not about right and left;” he said, “it’s about right and wrong.”  Climate deniers cynically pounced on Gore’s leadership as an opportunity to assert the exact opposite. (Really, it’s about both, but we'll get to that later.  See footnote if you can't wait.) Why don’t Americans accept the climate challenge as a moral imperative?  University of Oregon researchers Ezra Markowitz and Azim Shariff tackle the question in Nature Climate Change.  Markowitz blogs their conclusions here. Their analysis draws insights from broader research on “the moral judgement system – …

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Overturning the ’15% Rule’ Can Expand Distributed Generation

If you haven’t heard yet, there’s a “rule” that precludes distributed renewable energy projects from supplying more than 15% of the power to most “distribution circuits” (part of the low-voltage electric grid that brings power into homes and businesses).  With the rapidly falling cost of solar power, many places in the country are starting to push up against this limit. So there’s good news recently in California, where the state’s investor-owned utilities agreed to raise this somewhat arbitrary limit and accept more distributed generation. The process of setting the rule is almost comical, although the rationale isn’t.  Utilities want to …

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Crying Over Colorado

Reading the piece below by Julia Olson made me cry. One of the big memories of my childhood is a one-month vacation trip my family took when I was 14 years old, driving from Lancaster, Pa. to Colorado and staying in Manitou Springs, just outside of Colorado Springs, for two weeks. Now, Manitou Springs is burning. And there's no clear end in sight to these spreading fires. No clear end over the coming days and weeks (months?), and no clear end for years and decades, given the certainty that the earth's atmosphere will continue to heat up and regions of …

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