Saturday, September 29, 2012

WEEK OF ACTION: STAND UP TO DOMINION'S RIP-OFF • Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Chesapeake Climate Action Network


Even though Dominion Power hasn’t invested in a single wind or solar power facility in Virginia, the company is receiving $76 million in extra profit for its supposed renewable energy investments.
Monday, October 1, through Friday, October 5, join us for a sustained week of action outside of Dominion's Richmond office to protest this huge rip-off and call for wind and solar power in Virginia. We'll also send in a representative each day, asking for a personal response from Dominion’s CEO, Tom Farrell.
And every day we'll highlight a specific way that Dominion's actions are harming Virginians, from increased extreme weather from climate change, to mountaintop removal coal mining and fracking for natural gas, to health impacts of the company's pollution. Then we’ll cap off the week with a rally on Saturday, October 6. 
RSVP below to get the details on the time and place.
Dominion executives exploit weaknesses in our state’s renewable energy law, getting credit for meeting the requirement through purchases from old, out-of-state renewable energy facilities, like hydro dams built before WWII. Ratepayers have to foot the bill for this bogus reward and Virginia families have to live with the consequences of Dominion's dirty power generation: climate change and pollution.
Check out the details on the impacts we're covering each day, and where we're helping to organize carpools throughout the week.
Please sign up now to join this historic week of action!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Plundering Appalachia - The Tragedy of Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining

Plundering Appalachia - The Tragedy of Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining - YouTube

Appalachia, a region of extraordinary beauty and natural diversity, is under attack. Mountaintop removal is strip mining on steroids—a radically destructive form of surface mining whereby coal companies bulldoze the forest, decapitate the peaks with explosives, push the shattered rubble into adjacent valleys, and destroy the ecologically crucial headwater streams that had been there before. This is an ecological and human tragedy of epic proportions—and yet few Americans realize how the coal industry, seeking maxium profit and abetted by lax government regulation, is turning an entire region into an undeclared national energy sacrifice zone.

Plundering Appalachia is a searing exposé, in words and images, of the greatest ecological calamity now being wreaked upon America—an outrage justified by the desire for “cheap” power. With large-format photography and engaging writing from Wendell Berry, Judy Bonds, Ross Gelbspan, Denise Giardina, Richard Heinberg, Mary Anne Hitt, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., David Orr, Carl Pope, Erik Reece, Vivian Stockman, and others, Plundering Appalachia illuminates Big Coal’s assault on the people and wildlife of the region. The book includes first-person testimonies from coalfields residents about life in the shadow of mountaintop-mining operations, and dissects the current coal-powered energy economy that is toxic to people and nature—and helping cook the planet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rainbow Warrior Indian Ocean Tour 2012 | Seafood

Rainbow Warrior Indian Ocean Tour 2012 - YouTube

In late 2012, Greenpeace is sailing the Indian Ocean to investigate the overfishing crisis there. We will be visiting local communities, listening and learning about the issues they face with their oceans. The food security and economic prosperity of the Indian Ocean region are at risk due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices, often conducted by large-scale foreign fishing fleets.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

random images 120925

Viktoria Stutz

Tar Sands Blockade - Taking non-violent direct action
 to stop the Keystone XL pipeline

Hurricane Paths on Planet Earth

From a series of photos at the Humboldt State University Library - capturing lumberjacks working among the redwoods in Humboldt County, California "back in the day."
More historic lumberjack images of giant redwoods

Friday, September 21, 2012

Petition | California Coastal Commission: Protect Whales~ Stop Seismic Testing off the Coast of Central California!

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is posed to conduct seismic testing in a grid pattern over a large area off the Central Coast of California from Cambria to the Santa Maria River. Tests could begin as early as September 2012 and last until the end of the year. The research ship would emit blasts of very loud noise into the ocean. Streamers four or five miles long would be towed behind the vessel, which would pick up the sound waves as they penetrate several miles into the Earth’s crust and reverberate back to the surface. 
Tests would last for 24 hours and would kill or injure marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and otters. A deaf marine mammal is a dead one as this is the sense they rely on to communicate, navigate and find food. Seabirds and other species such as endangered sea turtles, could be affected as well, with little or no way of mitigating the impacts. Great potential harm is highly possible to the small population of harbor porpoises in the Morro Bay area. They are most sensitive to loud man-made sound and the mammal most vulnerable to habitat abandonment and to hearing loss. 
PG&E’s position is that the tests are necessary to map the ocean floor so geologists can better understand the earthquake faults near Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, close to San Luis Obispo, California. Earthquake faults were known at the time the plant was built. PG&E states these tests are essential in the aftermath of the Fukushima earthquake and subsequent tsunami, and the potential for a nuclear disaster. 
If an earthquake happened within the near future, what could be done to ensure that the Diablo Canyon plant would not have a meltdown? How will these tests prevent that scenario? The nuclear plant was constructed knowing that faults were nearby and that earthquakes were a potential danger. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend the millions of dollars the tests will cost to instead begin plans to shut down the plant and find ways to shift to safe energy? Wouldn’t this be wiser than destroying untold numbers of animals within a Marine Protected Area, particularly when the necessary safeguards have not been implemented?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kelly Rigg: When Worlds Collide: Nukes vs. Climate

I'm notoriously bad at remembering jokes, but the reaction to last week's announcement that Japan would phase-out nuclear power by 2040 reminded me of this one:
Three guys are stranded on a deserted island. They've been there for years; their clothes are shredded and hanging from their emaciated bodies. One day a bottle washes ashore, and out comes a genie offering three wishes. The first guy says, "I wish I were back at home, feasting and drinking to my heart's content," and poof! He disappears. The second one says, "I wish I were back at home in bed with a beautiful woman," and poof! He disappears too. The third guy looks around and says, "Gee, it's lonely here without those other guys -- I wish they'd come back..."
What does this have to do with Japan's announcement? Unfortunately, the nuclear phase-out was unnecessarily coupled with a lowering of its climate ambition. Japan had a conditional plan to decrease CO2 emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, but is now looking at only a 5-9 percent reduction commitment. This led some commentators to play the role of the lonely guy whose frame of reference was so narrow he couldn't see the opportunity for what it was. Take Mark Lynas writing in The Guardian for example, who veritably shouted that: "without nuclear, the battle against global warming is as good as lost." 


Creative Commons: Stanislav Dogparry via DeviantArt

Just as the choice between being lonely and dragging his friends back to the island was a false one, so is the choice between phasing out nuclear power and addressing climate change. The fact is we can do both. Over the weekend, I contacted several renewable energy experts who explained how Japan could fully make up for its nuclear phase-out by committing to energy efficiency and adopting a 100 percent renewable electricity target.
Greenpeace has produced a robust scenario in conjunction with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), which shows "Japan can switch off all nuclear plants permanently by 2012 and still achieve both economic recovery and its CO2 reduction goals." WWF also has a 100 percent renewables scenario.
As Sven Teske, lead author of the Greenpeace report explained it to me:
Japan's decision is a revolutionary step, reflecting a complete change in mentality which will have knock-on effects for the renewable industry elsewhere. For example, with government support an 11-company consortium has been developing floating offshore wind technologies. This will open up opportunities not only for Japan, but for other countries including China and India.
Christine Lins of the REN21 Renewable Energy Policy Network was equally enthusiastic:
Energy efficiency and rapid deployment of renewable technology can provide all the power Japan needs. Clearly the announcement will be a boon for the renewable energy industry. See for example the announcement of Masayoshi Son, Softbank chief executive and founder of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, to build a 1 GW wind farm on Hokkaido.
According to Antony Froggatt, Independent Energy Consultant and Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House in London:
It's worth noting the role of energy saving and energy efficiency. In 2011, despite halving the output of nuclear and replacing it with coal, oil and gas Japan's total energy sector emissions were only 0.2 percent higher than in 2010. While emissions are likely to rise on the short term, this will stimulate rapid structural, investment and policy changes that will lead to rapid reductions on the mid-term. Given Japan has failed to drive down its CO2 emission reductions over the last decade, a significant reform of the energy sector was already overdue.
Teske added that the increase in fossil fuel use should be seen as a bridge -- Japan did not build new coal or gas plants to compensate for the loss of nuclear electricity.
They're in the process of trying to shift the entire electricity sector. Solar is going through the roof. Wind is going a little slower, but headed in a very positive direction. It doesn't look like they plan any major expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, but have simply expanded the capacity factor of existing power plants where necessary -- i.e. operating existing plants for more hours.
While there are many barriers to renewable energy development in Japan, (planning, ownership and structure of the utilities, creating an integrated national electricity grid, and overcoming the stranglehold of the powerful Keidanren, to name a few), all of the experts I spoke to highlighted political will as the single most important ingredient to overcoming them.
In a recent study examining the rapid transition underway in Germany and Japan, the authors concluded, "If there is adequate political consensus and will, significant and rapid change can occur to a country's energy system, with big gains to be had not only financially but also for environmental sustainability."
The take-home message for me is that winning the long hard fight against a dangerous nuclear future does not have to come at the expense of the climate. Japan's weaker climate targets are not set in stone -- we can and should push to accelerate the renewables revolution in Japan and elsewhere. In other words, to build the political will for a future in which our families are safe, healthy and prosperous.

And if you happen to come across a genie in a bottle anytime soon, be careful what you wish for.

Follow Kelly Rigg on Twitter:

Kelly Rigg: When Worlds Collide: Nukes vs. ClimateBreaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post

Friday, September 7, 2012

Mining Giant Joins Belo Monte Dam | International Rivers

Vale's Amazon blemish. An aerial view of the Carajás mines.
Vale's Amazon blemish. An aerial view of the Carajás mines.
The world's second-largest mining corporation, Vale, has stepped into one of the world's most controversial dams: Belo Monte. With its new share in the dam, Vale – and the Brazilian government – are banking on the hope that the electricity from so-called "clean" dams can power Brazil's continued export of commodities to China. In the case of the Amazon, Belo Monte may help power a record expansion of dirty mining. In so many ways, a nightmare "Avatar" scenario is ever closer to reality.
Hydropower – far from the "clean" reputation that development pundits have given it – has long been utilized to power dirty mining and smelting operations around the world.  Despite the Brazilian government's best efforts to paint Belo Monte as impact-free – check out the government's latest expensive public relations spots released in 17 Brazilian airports last week – Belo Monte will be no different, as Vale's 9.2% share will allow it to dedicate about 400 MW of the dam's guaranteed capacity for use in mining.
400 MW may be a drop in the bucket, but when added to Vale's investment in 9 other Brazilian dams, and after considering the more than 60 dams planned by the Brazilian government for the Amazon, the future of dam-powered mining in the Amazon becomes a bit more frightful.According to Brazilian Mining Institute IBRAM, over $40 billion USD of investment in mining is expected to cover the entire Brazilian Amazon through 2015.  

A New Mining Threat in the Amazon

Scroll through the slideshow below to see maps of current, planned, and future mining concessions, in that order, in the region of the Belo Monte Dam. Southeast of the Belo Monte Dam is one area of concern: the Carajás mines, the world's largest iron deposits, owned and operated by Vale. On the maps, the Carajás mines are colored red, near the bottom center of the image. Over the next few years, Vale is set to begin a massive expansion of these enormous Carajás mines, by adding 40 million tons of iron ore per year to the 90 million tons per year that are already produced there. With the expansion of the Carajás mines on the horizon, Vale's entry into Belo Monte looks like the portent of a drastically different landscape.

Vale's use of hydroelectric dams to power mining dates back almost 30 years to 1984, when the 256-foot high Tucuruí Dam (4000 MW) began operation, powering an explosion of iron ore extraction at the Carajás mines, and putting Brazil on the map in the global minerals trade. The Tucuruí Dam created the 72-meter deep Lago Tucuruí reservoir, which flooded 2,850 square kilometers. The reservoir displaced 35,000 people, flooded 38,700 hectares of the Parakanã Indigenous Reserve, and led to the removal and relocation of the Eastern Parakanã, a tribe that had been contacted only a decade earlier. Construction of the Tucuruí Dam attracted thousands of migrants to the area, which increased incidences of malaria and HIV. A full 20,000 workers were laid off after the completion of Phase I of Tucuruí’s construction, and by 1985, the Carajás mines had already produced 1 million tons of iron ore using Tucuruí’s electricity. By 1987, powered by Tucuruí Dam, the Carajás mines were producing 13.5 million tons of iron ore per year.
In 1998, Phase II of the Tucuruí Dam began when Eletrobrás added eleven 375 MW Francis turbine generators, bringing Tucuruí's total installed capacity to 8370 MW. As a result, by 2006, the Carajás mine produced 81.7 million tons of iron ore per year, and in 2009, that number reached 90 million tons of iron ore per year. What worries technical experts and civil society alike is that the Belo Monte Dam may follow the same progression as Tucuruí: what began as one hydropower project may become a larger, more harmful project years down the road. 
Xikrin Kayapó.
Xikrin Kayapó.
Instituto Socioambiental
The impacts of the Carajás mines on indigenous people have continued through recent history. In 2006, in protest over the dangerous impacts of iron ore production near the Catete indigenous territory, Xikrín Kayapó took 600 Vale workers hostage and blocked the Carajás train, which exports 250,000 tons of iron ore daily to the port of Porta Madeira in São Luiz for export abroad. It was a true protest against the dangers of ruthless commodity export. As seen in the above maps, future mining concessions could even take place inside indigenous territories themselves, including the Catete territory.
If the electricity from mega-dams like Belo Monte and theTapajós Complex comes on line, Vale – and also its competitors Alcoa, Gerdau, ArcelorMirral, Mineração do Rio Norte, AngloAmerican, and Colossus -- would be able to extract and refine unprecedented amounts of minerals from the soils of the Amazon. Mining would proliferate, and the Amazon could look more like the Alberta tar sands than a forest sea of green.

Dilma's Agenda for Vale

Vale may have decided to join the Belo Monte Dam only because the Brazilian government is playing a stiff hand to gain greater control over the company's profits. Indeed, Dilma recently sent CEO Roger Agnelli packing, a step towards gaining greater control over the company after it was partially privatized ten years ago
Having Vale in the Belo Monte Dam is a way for the government to make sure that Vale's profits from Chinese commodity purchases flow more easily into Treasury coffers. Treasury capitalizations to the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) have allowed BNDES to disburse record amounts to Brazilian industries, eclipsing the amount lent by multiateral development banks in the region. BNDES has disbursed $300 billion reais since 2008, including $20 billionreais for the Madeira Dam Complex, and an expected $25 billion reais or more for the Belo Monte Dam Complex.

Why is greater government control of Vale a problem? Environmentally and socially, the sheer size of the mining operations planned for the Amazon should scare anyone, whether a company like Vale is private or state-owned. Mining is one of the dirtiest industrial activities on the planet, due to both its immediate environmental impacts and its CO2 emissions. Also, mining enclaves often lead to poverty and social conflict, rather than improved livelihoods and development benefits.
Financially, government control of Vale is a problem because there have been recent concerns over Brazil's monetary policy. Some say that there is a direct line between the Treasury and BNDES that acts as a "parallel economy". According to Miriam Leitão, Brazil's military dictatorship similarly created a parallel economy that funneled public sector money directly into the pockets of government-owned developers. At the time, millions of reais were grafted from pension funds by government cronies and invested in pet hydropower projects such as Tucuruí Dam, Itaipú Dam, and Balbina Dam, three dams that emitted far greater amounts of greenhouse gases than equivalent-sized fossil fuel power plants. So far, commitments for the financing of the Belo Monte Dam have followed suit, as both BNDES and construction consortium Norte Energia, S.A. have relied on subsidies from Brazilian pension funds to bankroll their accounts.
With Vale in Belo Monte and the government taking greater control of the mining sector, it looks like the Amazon will turn increasingly into a hotbed for dirty mining. For centuries, citizens of the Brazilian Amazon have asked when their lands will be worth something greater than the resources extracted from them. With Vale now in Belo Monte, it doesn't look like they'll be getting an answer any time soon.

Mining Giant Joins Belo Monte Dam | International Rivers