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Things to Worry About in 2014: US Electric Grid Edition

The US electric sector is surprisingly easy to understand.  It’s big, capital-intensive, complicated and integral to our standard of living – which gives it a massive bias in favor of the status quo.  Neither its owners nor its regulators have any incentive to risk their money or their careers with sudden change.  This makes it fairly predictable: take what’s happening today, and assume that will continue indefinitely forward until such time as (a) we overshoot some fundamental technical constraint and/or (b) some regulatory action upends the balance of power in the industry. There have been several, noteworthy instances where regulatory …

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U.S.-India: Dealing With Monsoon Failure

The scene plays out in India. At a reception, I met the head of Indian operations for Esso (now ExxonMobil). When I asked him how business was, he said it was great. In particular, diesel sales to fuel irrigation pumps were nearly double the previous year’s level. Why? Because farmers were pumping continuously to try to save their crops. Soon after, I met an embassy staff person, an avid duck hunter. He usually took off a few weeks in the fall to go hunting on a lake up north. This year he had canceled his vacation because the lake was …

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Catastrophe in West Virginia: Delivering Water to Prenter Holler

(This is a guest post from Steve Norris) This is a tough story to write about: the horror of contaminated water, the images of the mining families' peoples' faces, the children, the confederate flags, the beautiful mountains, the extreme gratitude of folks we gave water to - these are all so fresh that I can't take it all in. Add to this the fact that I have in the past gone to this area to protest against the way of life of these very poor but good-hearted people, and . . .Well. I guess I am getting ahead of myself. …

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Enough is Enough: Coal Pollution Spills Reveal a Water Safety Crisis

When it comes to rivers and clean, safe water, you don't know what you've got until it's gone. Hundreds of thousands of people have learned that the hard way over recent weeks, after a dangerous coal chemical spilled into the Elk River in West Virginia's capitol city, and then toxic coal ash from a retired Duke Energy power plant spilled into North Carolina’s Dan River (and now there's yet another coal slurry spill in WV). In the wake of these disasters, frightened  families have been faced with a sobering reality – the state agencies they were counting on to keep …

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Climate Movement on the Move

“The fight to stop KXL will be one of the defining battles of our generation. A victory here will mark the close of the old carbon era, and the start of the new energy revolution—our revolution. America’s youth now have the chance to take up the torch, and light a new fire.” Conor Kennedy, youth climate activist Revolutions are unpredictable things, literally. Was there anyone who thought that when Rosa Parks sat down in 1955 on that Montgomery, Al. bus that her action would lead to a powerful Freedom Movement which, in ten years, would force an end to legal …

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Secretary Jewell highlights Pacific Northwest climate impacts, but dodges questions about coal leasing

The same week that a Government Accountability report highlighted problems with the way the Interior Department is leasing taxpayer owned coal, Interior Secretary Jewell was touring the Pacific Northwest to discuss the impacts of climate change. That included a discussion with scientists in Seattle and a tour of Mount Rainier to “see firsthand the impacts of a changing climate on the park’s glaciers, rivers, infrastructure, access and neighboring communities.” During that tour, Secretary Jewell was asked about the Interior Department’s role in fueling those climate impacts through the federal coal leasing program. From the audio of an interview with Ashley …

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Senator Markey calls on Secretary Jewell to suspend federal coal leases, as Peabody brags about exporting our coal

Senator Ed Markey called for a suspension of new federal coal lease sales this week, following the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that highlighted problems with the Department of Interior’s coal leasing program. Markey detailed his concerns in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell with eight questions about the coal leasing program, including one focused on the BLM’s failure to account for coal exports: BLM's guidance states that appraisal reports determining Fair Market Value should consider specific markets for the coal being leased, including export potential. But the GAO found that some offices, such as Wyoming, …

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New Poll: Americans Ready for Action on Carbon Pollution

Public hearing in Washington, DC, Thursday will be packed with supporters This week we once again heard the call for action from Americans loud and clear: They want clean energy and they want it right away. On Tuesday the Sierra Club released a new poll with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research showing that seven-in-ten Americans favor the Environmental Protection Agency putting limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants can release. And that's not the only amazing statistic from the poll. Just look at the key findings: By nearly a 2-to-1 margin, voters think the country should be investing …

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Yes, chef: Tom Colicchio fights to make your food better

Tom Colicchio

You might know Tom Colicchio as a Top Chef, but he also seems to be in the running for Top Food Activist.

In addition to being head judge of the Bravo hit reality TV show and chef/owner of Craft Restaurants, Colicchio is an influential advocate for ending hunger and improving the safety and environmental practices of the food system. He is a board member of the nonprofit Food Policy Action, and he recently served as executive producer of A Place at the Table, a film about food insecurity in America directed by his wife, Lori Silverbush.

Colicchio is concerned that different segments of the food movement aren't coming together to support each other. In fact, he wonders if there's really a food movement at all.

Among other issues, he's worried about systematic overuse of antibiotics in the raising of animals, which has been linked to a rise drug-resistant superbugs.

We spoke last week, the day after the U.S. House passed its version of the farm bill.

Q. What got you interested in issues like hunger and food access?

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2013 Marked the Thirty-seventh Consecutive Year of Above-Average Temperature

By Janet Larsen Last year was the thirty-seventh consecutive year of above-normal global temperature. According to data from NASA, the global temperature in 2013 averaged 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit (14.6 degrees Celsius), roughly a degree warmer than the twentieth-century average. Since the dawn of agriculture 11,000 years ago, civilization has enjoyed a relatively stable climate. That is now changing as the growing human population rivals long-range geological processes in shaping the face of the planet. Fully 4 billion people alive today have never experienced a year that was cooler than last century's average, begging the question of what is now “normal” …

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