Month: December 2020

U.S. Energy Secretary Seems to Have Learned Nothing From His Texas Electricity Failures

first_imgU.S. Energy Secretary Seems to Have Learned Nothing From His Texas Electricity Failures FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Texas Observer:In late 2005, then-Governor Rick Perry was in the middle of a protracted battle with a coalition of environmentalists, renewable energy advocates, mayors and local leaders. TXU, the state’s largest utility, had announced that it wanted to build 11 new coal plants. At the time, natural gas and coal made up about 46 and 39 percent, respectively, of the energy mix of Texas’ main grid. The fracking boom had not yet hit Texas, and wind power provided a tiny percentage of the state’s energy needs.TXU was betting big on coal having a bright future. Perry loved the plan. It probably didn’t hurt that he was running for re-election at the time and had received about $200,000 from TXU since 2000. On the campaign trail, Perry claimed the coal plants would be cleaner than the national average and ordered the state environmental agency to expedite their review.Now, 12 years later, Perry and TXU’s plan to invest in coal seems shortsighted. While TXU is moving away from coal investments, as energy secretary Perry is continuing to prop up old and dirty coal plants at a time when scientists are warning that countries need to reduce carbon pollution to stave off the worst effects of climate change.As energy secretary, Perry has proposed guaranteeing profits to plants in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest that stockpile coal. Perry claims the plan is necessary for grid reliability and cites the 2014 polar vortex as an example of why the government should subsidize coal plants. If the plan is implemented, it will cost taxpayers between $800 million and $3.8 billion every year through 2030 regardless of whether the plants are making money, according to one estimate.“I think you take costs into account, but what’s the cost of freedom?” Perry recently testified to lawmakers.Ultimately, in 2006, facing pressure from environmental groups and business interests, TXU dropped its plan to build eight of the 11 coal plants. Perry’s order to fast-track the environmental reviews was also blocked by a court. And now one of the coal plants Perry wanted to see built — Sandow 5 in Milam County — is among those facing closure. Another, Oak Grove Plant Project in Robertson County, has low cash flows. The plants began operations in 2009 and 2010, respectively.But Perry doesn’t appear to have learned from his experience in Texas. As energy secretary, Perry has proposed guaranteeing profits to plants in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest that stockpile coal. Perry claims the plan is necessary for grid reliability and cites the 2014 polar vortex as an example of why the government should subsidize coal plants. If the plan is implemented, it will cost taxpayers between $800 million and $3.8 billion every year through 2030 regardless of whether the plants are making money, according to one estimate.“It’s basically putting your thumb on the scale in favor of coal and nuclear plants,” said David Schlissel, director of resource planning at the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis. “It’s a gift from the Trump administration to their friends in the coal industry.”For Perry, the costs are secondary. “I think you take costs into account, but what’s the cost of freedom?” he testified before the House energy subcommittee recently. “What’s the cost to keep America free? I’m not sure I want to leave that up to the free market.”Even if Perry’s plan to guarantee profits to the coal and nuclear industry is implemented, he won’t be helping Texas coal plants. That’s because the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), Texas’ primary grid, is the only major wholesale electricity market that doesn’t fall under the supervision of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will be responsible for implementing Perry’s plan.In 2016, Schlissel authored a report that seems prescient now. He analyzed the economics of running seven Texas coal plants and predicted that the Monticello and Big Brown plants were bleeding money. Continued operation of the two “will be extremely unprofitable for Luminant,” he wrote.Schlissel based his analysis on two main drivers: the increasing cost of producing coal-fired power and the decreasing price of power on the energy market. As natural gas plants and renewables produce energy at a cheaper rate, there’s less demand for coal-fired power. Since the cost of operating and maintaining coal plants doesn’t change dramatically when they produce less power, utilities then make less money per megawatt of coal energy. The double whammy has made coal uneconomic in Texas, Schlissel said.“What’s killing these coal plants is not the Obama war on coal,” said Schlissel. “It’s the natural gas’ war on coal and all the wind available on [the grid].”Schlissel wasn’t alone in predicting Luminant’s decision to shut down the three coal plants. In a 2016 report, ERCOT projected that between 8,000 and 18,000 megawatts of coal-fired plants will be shut down between 2017 and 2031. The group modeled eight scenarios and found that in all cases the Monticello and Big Brown plants would be shuttered.Robbie Searcy, a spokesperson for ERCOT, said her group will study whether the three Luminant plants are needed for reliability and will make determinations about them by December. Luminant has said it hopes to close the plants by early 2018, but when they’re shut down will depend on ERCOT’s recommendation.More: After Failing to Prop Up Coal in Texas, Rick Perry is Trying Again Nationwidelast_img read more

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UNESCO weighs in on Lamu coal plant debate, wants answers from Kenyan government

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Quartz:The controversy over a planned coal plant in Kenya’s idyllic coast is far from over.The United Nations cultural organization this week called on the Kenyan government to reassess the impact of the coal-fired power project on the heritage and natural environment of Lamu. The archipelago is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. The decision was made during UNESCO’s 43rd session in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.The heritage committee asked Nairobi to also review the cultural and environmental impact of the Lamu Port South Sudan Transport Corridor (LAPSSET), a multibillion-dollar infrastructure and transport project connecting Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. Calling the situation a “matter of urgency,” UNESCO also lamented Nairobi’s provision of “only limited information” over the years, especially how the LAPSSET project would impact Lamu’s traditional architecture and history.Kenyan officials were given a deadline of February 2020 to submit a report, with the committee mulling the possibility of putting Lamu on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The UN body designed the list to highlight how existing heritage sites were threatened by war, pollution, unchecked development, and natural disasters.The decision from UNESCO follows a ruling from Kenya’s National Environmental Tribunal in late June which halted the plans to build the coal plant. Judges said authorities had failed to conduct a thorough assessment of the plant’s impact on Lamu, canceled the license issued by the National Environmental Management Authority and ordered developer Amu Power undertake a new evaluation. The environmental court also faulted the Chinese-backed power plant for failing to adequately consult the public about the initiative and cited insufficient and unclear plans for handling and storing toxic coal ash.The announcement in Azerbaijan comes days after environmental activists said Kenyan authorities were trying to water down the status of Lamu as a heritage site. In a draft document published on UNESCO’s site, proposed amendments included removing considerations of the impact of the coal plant on Lamu. Authorities argue the plant would generate 1,050 megawatts of power upon completion, and boost the country’s fast-growing demand for electricity.More: UNESCO wants Kenya to review plans to build its first coal plant on a world heritage site UNESCO weighs in on Lamu coal plant debate, wants answers from Kenyan governmentlast_img read more

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Muddy Waters

first_imgDear EarthTalk: What is “nonpoint source pollution?” How much of a problem is it and how can it be controlled?                                                                                               — Devon Corey, New York, NYUnlike pollution that comes from specific industrial factories, sewage treatment plants and other easily discernible ‘points’, nonpoint source pollution comes from many diffuse sources, but in the aggregate creates a formidable challenge for municipal, state and federal environmental and water control authorities.According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nonpoint source pollution is “caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground [where it…] picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters.” Some of the most common pollutants in nonpoint source pollution include excess fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides from agricultural lands and residential areas and oil, grease and toxic chemicals from urban runoff and energy production. Sediment from construction, mining and agricultural sites as well as salts, acids, bacteria and atmospheric deposition from myriad sources also play a role. While its effects vary region to region, nonpoint source pollution is likely the largest threat to our water quality. The U.S. has made “tremendous advances in the past 25 years to clean up the aquatic environment by controlling pollution from industries and sewage treatment plants,” says the EPA. “Unfortunately, we did not do enough to control pollution from diffuse, or nonpoint, sources.” The EPA also calls nonpoint source pollution the U.S.’s “largest source of water quality problems” and the main reason 40 percent of our rivers, lakes, and estuaries “are not clean enough to meet basic uses such as fishing or swimming.”Because it comes from so many sources, regulating nonpoint source pollution is almost impossible, so it really comes down to individuals taking steps to minimize the pollution generated by their actions. The EPA reports that we can all do our part by: keeping litter, pet waste, leaves and debris out of street gutters and storm drains, which usually drain right into nearby water bodies; applying lawn and garden chemicals sparingly; disposing of used oil, antifreeze, paints and other household chemicals properly, that is, at your nearest hazardous household waste drop-off, not in storm drains; cleaning up spilled brake fluid, oil, grease and antifreeze, not hosing them into the street where they will eventually reach local waterways; and controlling soil erosion on your property by planting ground cover and stabilizing erosion-prone areas. 1 2last_img read more

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Camp on the John Muir Trail

first_imgAugust is pumping up the heat and humidity across the Blue Ridge which it why we just put out our Swimming Holes issue. Relief from the oppression can be scarce in the South, unless you are willing to search for it. But isn’t that what the weekend is for, anyway? Temps will actually be down slightly this weekend as tropical summer weather moves through, so it’s the perfect time to get out of the house and hit the trail for a weekend camping trip that is chock full of high elevation, stunning vistas, and of course, swimming holes.The (other) John Muir National Recreation Trail in eastern Tennessee follows a portion of the route Muir took from Kentucky to Florida in 1867. It also follows the Hiwassee River, providing instant reprieve should the sun prove too hot to handle. Along with the river, the trail also highlights the lush Hiwassee River gorge via switchbacks up ridgelines. Get there: The trail runs about 20 miles from the Childers Creek Parking Area upstream to Highway 68 with camping along Coker Creek.View Larger Maplast_img read more

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Weekend Pick: Franklin April Fool’s Trail Days

first_imgYou can tell spring has sprung in the Blue Ridge by the telltale signs. The wildflowers begin their epic journey from sprout to bloom. The rivers run swollen and dirty with snow runoff from high in the mountains. The songbirds trumpet the changing season with songs of love, blah, blah, blah. What really marks the transition from cold dreary winter to warm vibrant spring in this part of the country is all the enthusiastic thru-hikers beginning their 2,000 mile trek on the Appalachian Trail. Most won’t make it of course, but these first few weeks of the hiking season will set the tone for what could be a three to four month endeavor.Whether you admire A.T. thru-hikers or think them foolhardy, you have to respect the desire to accomplish something so vast that takes such a commitment. Thru-hiking the A.T. remains one of the more attainable ‘extreme’ accomplishments of the common man; even if you are not strong enough to climb Denali or Everest, you can still hike the A.T. This is part of the reason there are so many festivals and events in trail towns celebrating the hikers. Virtually all thru-hikers are not pro athletes, but regular Joes who want to test their mettle against the most famous trail in the U.S., if not the world. The bottom line is, they need a little boost from time to time and the trail towns are more than happy to oblige, and you should be too.Given the religious significance of this Sunday (Easter) giving a little back would probably help your Karma – not to mix East and West, but America is a melting pot right? Head for historic Franklin, N.C. this weekend for their annual April Fool’s Trail Days. Franklin will be hopping with entertainment, workshops, exhibits and more. Take some time to hang with some hikers, hear some stories, and lend a hand if you can. Also, swing by the Blue Ridge Outdoors tent, pick up the new issue and say hi to Dusty. He’ll sign you up to win some cool stuff in our raffle.View Larger Maplast_img read more

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Race Ahead: Anthem Wicked 10K and Old Point National Bank Monster Mile

first_imgTOP RACES AND EVENTS TO HIT BEFORE THE END OF THE YEARAnthem Wicked 10k and Old Point National Bank Monster MileWhen: October 26, 2013Where: Virginia Beach, Va.What: 10K & Mile RunStart time: 8 amWebsite: www.wicked10k.comThis 10k is a Halloween Party with a running problem. Join 10,000 of your closest ghouls and goblins to run the Boardwalk of Virginia Beach. Each participant receives a long sleeve technical shirt for the 10k, finisher medal and Blue Moon Beer.Anthem Wicked 10k (6.2 Miles)This fast and flat 10k course will begin at the Virginia Beach Convention Center and take you along the beautiful Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Participants will run down 19th street, up Atlantic Ave, down the boardwalk to Rudee Inlet and Back to the Virginia Beach Convention Center. (click here for directions).Old Point National Bank Monster MileThis one mile fun run begins on 19th Street in front of the Virginia Beach Convention Center, runs east for a half mile and then returns to the Virginia Beach Convention Center. You will have fun waving at your friends on the crowd filled streets.**The Monster Mile is a 1-mile race open to participants of all ages.  Parents or guardians are encouraged to run with their minor children but must be registered for the race.  Responsible adult family members must be present at the finish to receive their minor children as there will be no additional security beyond the secured finisher’s area, and no specific parent/child reunion area.Costume ContestThe costume contest judging will occur before and after the race. If you want to be eligible for a prize, come to the table with your bib, group name (if you are a group) and all members of your group. We will be judging before the race inside the convention center from 6:30am – 7:30am and after the race from 8:45am – 10:15am. You must wear your costume during the race to enter the costume contest. For complete rules, see our FAQ section.EVENT [email protected] OUT OUR FULL LIST OF THE TOP RACES AND EVENTS OF THE END OF THE YEAR IN OUR FALL RACE & EVENT GUIDElast_img read more

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THE DIRT: Weekly Outdoor News From The Blue Ridge And Beyond

first_imgCyclist Dies in Shenandoah 100 CrashA mountain biker was killed during the National Ultra Endurance Mountain Bike Race Series in Virginia’s George Washington National Forest early last week.The cyclist, a 54-year old man from New York named Ross Hansen, was found approximately 500 feet from the crash site, where his bike, helmet, and broken pair of glasses were recovered.According to the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office, Hansen was ejected from his bike after striking a tree.Prior to the collision Hansen was thrown down a steep embankment just off the Bald Rock Trail.“It is with a heavy heart that the NUE Race Series wishes to express our condolences to the family, friends and Long Island Cycling community that was the home of Masters racer, Ross Hansen, who passed away yesterday following a severe crash at the race,” race organizers posted on Facebook. “According to the Long Island Cycling Community, ‘Ross was a good riding spirit for local Long Island riding.’”Asheville Land Trust Preserves Land in Newfound MountainsThanks to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, hundreds of acres in the Newfound Mountains near the corner where Buncombe, Haywood, and Madison counties converge, has been set aside for permanent protection and conservation.At a total of 267-acres, the newly protected tracts in the Sandy Mush area will help ensure clean water, healthy forest habitat for wildlife, and secure views from as far away as downtown Asheville, writes Karen Chavez of the Asheville Citizen-Times.“These projects continue our decadeslong commitment to conservation efforts in the Sandy Mush community,” the conservancy’s executive director Carl Silverstein told Chavez.In the last 20 years, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has set aside more than 10,000 acres in the Asheville area.To learn more click here.Missing Veteran Emerges from Appalachian TrailAfter abandoning his job and leaving his cell phone behind, a North Carolina veteran suffering from PTSD took to the Appalachian Trail, providing little to no warning to friends and family.After more than a month on the trail, 29-year-old Michael Kirkpatrick, who served overseas as an Army infantryman, rejoined society and was reunited with his family.Kirkpatrick says he regrets the worry and pain that his dissapearance caused friends and loved ones but credits the trail with saving him from a potential suicide.Learn more here.last_img read more

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The K-PAK Folding Boat: A Kayak You Wear On Your Back

first_imgThe K-PAK Folding Boat offers hassle free access to the water, anywhere to do most anything. Weighing just 21lbs, this portable boat fits neatly into a comfortable backpack, allowing you to take it on any adventure. When you’re ready to paddle, simply assemble your boat in minutes. User friendly and super durable, the K-PAK will provide hours of fun on the water, whether it’s simply paddling with the family, or fishing with friends. Unfold your next adventure. For more information or to purchase your own, check out the K-PAK Folding Boat.the folding boat colast_img read more

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Rock Climbers Plan To Replace 4,000 Bolts In East Tennessee Crag

first_imgDubbed “America’s New Climbing Capital” in 2016 by Climbing Magazine, Eastern Tennessee is a home to some of the best rock climbing in the nation.The East Tennessee Climbers Coalition, a non-profit organization from Knoxville, is working with volunteers from across the Southeast to maintain that reputation. Within five years, the organization plans to replace all 4,000 bolts on the East Tennessee Crag of the Obed Wild and Scenic River. During this first stage of the effort, a total of 504 man hours from 63 volunteers was needed to replace over 400 bolts across 40 routes.Stretching along the Cumberland Plateau, “The Obed” is part of the National Parks Service. With over 350 sport (permanently-bolted) routes, climbers come from around the world to challenge the crag. The area is home to some 500-foot-deep gorges, offering visitors unspoiled, rugged terrain and exceptional climbing opportunities. The crag receives a lot of assistance from local climbers who volunteer to help educate visitors on the park rules and good climbing ethics.The Cumberland Plateau is a 300-mile ridge that runs from Kentucky, across Tennessee, and into Northern Alabama. Along the plateau lies a wide variety of high-quality sandstone rock climbing opportunities including tiered roofs, crack systems, ledges, and more.You can follow the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition on Facebook to learn more about volunteer opportunities or to stay up to date with their latest efforts on maintaining the climbing scene in their area.For their work in the Obed, the East Tennessee Climbers Coalition will be awarded one of 6 Sharp End Awards by the Access Fund at their annual summit meeting in New York City this September.Photos by Mark Large and Kevin FlintJustin Forrest is an outdoor writer, fly fishing addict, and co-founder of Narrative North—based in Asheville, N.C. He posts pictures of cats and fishing on Instagram sometimes.last_img read more

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Trail Mix – J.P. Harris

first_img“I truly believe my dog saved my life that night.”Country troubadour J.P. Harris, whose latest record is titled Sometimes Dogs Bark At Nothing, once found himself in a situation where his life depended on his dog not barking at something.That story, captured below, is just one of many that Harris spins about his vagabond lifestyle, which began as a teenager when he caught a Greyhound bus bound for Oakland, California, and saw him hopping trains and hitchhiking across the country for much of his early adult life.Harris has traded the bevy of odd jobs that kept him afloat during his traveling days for life behind a guitar and microphone, belting out vintage country tunes and honky tonk swagger. This latest collection of songs reflect the fantastical nature of their writer – Harris’s life on the road provided him with fodder requisite for crafting unparalleled country yarns.Take a listen to the new record, and his previous releases while you are it, and then dig deeper into J.P.’s story. His stories are delightfully outlandish and absolutely real, and they bring an authenticity to his songcraft that is desperately lacking in modern country music.I recently caught up with J.P. to talk about life on a freight train, songwriting that hits close to home, and how that dog once saved his life.BRO – You hit the road as a teenager. What was the first lesson you learned about life in the great wide open?JP – Well, to watch my back was the first one. I had a couple close calls at various points, and I learned to size people up and to also keep my mouth shut a little more often. I’m still working on the latter.BRO – You are the only person I know who has legitimately hopped freight trains. Anything you miss about life on the rails?JP – There truly isn’t anything that can compare to the thrill of boarding a freight train. All at once, you’re experiencing danger, speed, and freedom. It’s kind of like stealing a ride on the world’s biggest motorcycle with no license or registration. I also believe it’s the most quintessentially American vagabond’s dream. Even the rail cops seem to have a little tinge of envy when pulling you off a train.BRO – You and I once spent a long time chatting about the state of modern country music. At the time, things seemed dire. Is there cause for hope out there right now?JP – Well, I must say that country radio has only gotten worse since the last time we talked, but I honestly don’t have the energy to complain that much about it anymore. No time for the negativity, and the bottom line is that there are people out there that legitimately love the music I hate, so it ain’t going anywhere. That said, there’s been a definite upswing in the genre-wide success of Americana, which seems to be a direct reaction to the radio norms. Althought I don’t hear that much new music coming out that could truly be called country in the Americana genre, I think that roots-influenced music has made a superb comeback and proven that it’s much more than a trend in taste or style. I think the success of that broad genre designation has helped turn a lot of folks on to me, as well.BRO – We are featuring “When I Quit Drinking” on this month’s Trail Mix. Was this a tough one to write?JP – Yeah, it truly was. And it’s a little hard to play live on some nights, too. I wrote the chorus years ago, but it wasn’t until I’d lived through the story for a while that the verses, and the weight of it, came to me. Good to get it off my chest, though, and it seems to resonate deeply with a lot of my fans, which is priority number one for me.BRO – Got any good dog stories?JP – I found a little mutt on the Navajo reservation years ago when I was herding sheep and took her as my own. We had a great ten year run together, traveling all over and riding trains and hitchhiking and whatnot. A bunch of years ago, I was waiting in the CSX Intermodal Yard in Teaneck, New Jersey, trying to catch a high-priority train west. That’s a rough little area, being on the outskirts of New York City. I was sleeping in the bushes just off the tracks with my dog, when she suddenly sat bolt upright and put a paw on me, waking me up. She was a little bit overzealous with her barking sometimes, but this time she just put her hackles up and let out a low, almost inaudible growl and stood stock still. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. It was almost pitch black, but I suddenly heard footsteps on the ballast and could see about eight guys walking slowly up the side of the stopped train. I watched them start hopping into the 48 and 54 wells – the cars that carry sea-land shipping containers – and heard a few loud clangs. These dudes were certifiable train robbers, busting open containers with crowbars and looking for high dollar goods, and they definitely would have put the hurt one me had they seen me watching them. They might have even killed me. I truly believe my dog saved my life that night.Yeah, that story got me in the feelies. Makes me want to get home and give my own mutt, Fender, an extra little scruff behind the ears this evening.Country music fans across the ponds, take heed. J.P. heads to Europe next week for most of the month of November. If he gets close, grab a ticket!For more information on J.P., the new record, or when he might hit a stage near you, please hitchhike over to his website.And be sure to check out “When I Quit Drinking,” along with new tunes from Town Mountain, Lauren Morrow, Paul Kelly, and Sarah Borges on this month’s Trail Mix.last_img read more

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