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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Josh Marks, Environmental writer joins us live tomorrow at 1p EST

We found Josh through a series of article he had written, including one that reported on solar panels producing both heat (which is usually the bane of solar production) and electricity.  We found Josh had traveled extensively and reported frequently on many subjects we love to cover as well:  EV's, mass transient, clean energy, urban planning and, as a bonus, lots of reporting on sports.  We look forward to a great show.

Here's some background on Josh, his writings and blog (which we like a lot).  Listen in or catch it in a couple of months on our main site:

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His site:



Environmental journalist and clean energy blogger Josh Marks writes about the transition to renewable power and the sustainable economy at Green Forward and guest blogs on Winning Progressive.
He also blogs about the business of professional hockey at The Hockey Stop on the website SportsFanLive and guest blogs on GetReal Hockey.
His two newest blogs are Josh's Travel Blog, where he posts stories, photos and videos from his trips around the world, and Federal City Film, about film shoots and entertainment industry connections in Washington, DC. 
Josh was a Web Production Editor at in Los Angeles for over five years and contributed many entertainment industry articles and reviews to the "Hollywood Bible." 
Josh edited and wrote articles for Sea Technology Magazine, the ocean/marine industry's premiere trade publication covering marine business, science and engineering. 
As a freelance writer he has contributed to New Mexico-based arts and culture website Adobe Airstream with feature stories on electric cars and high speed rail. He has also contributed to sustainable urban transportation blog TheCityFix, interviewing US High Speed Rail Association President and CEO Andy Kunz about the future of high-speed rail in America and writing aboutthe five best high-speed rail networks in the world.
He also wrote a feature piece on socially responsible investing and shareholder dialogue for Green American Magazine. His previous article for Green American was on comprehensive home energy audits.
Josh also has written for the advice website His two most recent advice columns are on Green Mountain Energy's Effects on the Air and Facts About Air Pollution Caused by Smoking.
Josh most recently wrote for progressive political news site The National Memo and currently is a soccer and hockey writer for Rant Sports and a writer for sustainable design sites Inhabitatand Inhabitat NYC where he wrote a story about California breaking ground this summer on the nation's first high-speed rail line.
Just another great guest at Renewable Now Network, the business side of green.

Monday, July 28, 2014

DEP: Oil and gas operations damaged water supplies 209 times since end of ’07

This story is a good follow up to recent radio shows exploring the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing and domestic gas exploration in general.  We'd had some great experts come on and talk to us from both industry support and opposition.  

There's mixed data coming from both sides.  Proponents of fracking claim there's been no major contamination with over 10,000 sites drilled.  However, countering their claims are stories like this, and there's many of them, documenting at least low-level spills around sites.

We like domestic energy--the positive impact on our economy and jobs.  We see natural gas as a great bridge between dirtier fossil-fuel sources and a clean-energy driven economy.  We dislike fracking heavy use of unknown chemicals (that is soon to change, as you will learn listening in to some of our shows), and their pouring of millions of gallons of water, some of which is quite sparse, particularly out West, deep into the ground.

If you have information or expertise to add, feel free to send us material.

waterimpact.big Drilling-related water impacts

"Oil and gas operations have damaged Pennsylvania water supplies 209 times since the end of 2007, according to official determinations compiled by the Department of Environmental Protection that the agency is preparing to release for the first time.
State environmental regulators are planning to post the information on DEP’s website this month, but an early version of the spreadsheet was provided to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in response to an open records request.
The spreadsheet lists the 209 affected water supplies by county, municipality and the date regulators concluded that activities related to oil or gas extraction were to blame for contaminating or diminishing the flow to a water source.
The document does not disclose property owners’ names or addresses and it does not detail which companies that were deemed responsible for the damage, what caused the disruptions or what pollutants were found in the water.
DEP’s deputy secretary for oil and gas management, Scott Perry, said the agency intends to enhance the spreadsheet by adding links to the letters or orders related to each case at some point, which should reveal more information about how water was affected.
Environmental regulators are required by law to determine within 45 days of getting a drilling-related water complaint if oil and gas operations contaminated a water supply or reduced its flow. DEP reports its findings in letters to property owners. It also issues orders to companies to fix the damage in cases where oil and gas operations are found to be accountable or are presumed to be the cause because of the proximity between drilling activities and a disrupted groundwater source.
Those conclusions are public records.
After initially fighting news organizations’ requests for the determination letters and arguing it would be too difficult to find all of them in its files, DEP has increasingly provided access to the documents in the last year after courts required their release and as public interest in the information has grown.
When DEP posts the tally of damaged water supplies this month, it will mark the first time the agency has released its official accounting of drilling-related pollution and diminution cases on its website.
“This frequently requested information is being shared with the public in our continued effort to be as open and transparent as possible,” DEP spokeswoman Morgan Wagner wrote in an email. She said the department plans to update the list as more determinations are made.
The number of impacts is small relative to the number of new oil and gas wells drilled during the same time period – nearly 20,000, according to DEP records.
Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the industry trade group the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said in a statement that “this data further demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of oil and natural gas wells in Pennsylvania – over 99 percent – have been developed without any impact on ground or well water.”
But people who have seen their water disrupted often describe the experience as uniquely unsettling..."
You will find the rest here:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tesla confirms plans for 3rd, mainstream model

Good news for Tesla and consumers of EV's.  Let's keep the new, affordable models with great range coming.

"California battery-car start-upTesla Motors has shown it can take on established premium-luxury brands with its Model Sedan, but the real test will come when it launches an all-new mainstream electric vehicle it's planning to call the Model 3, or Model III, depending on which tweet you read.
CEO and founder Elon Musk has long made clear his plans to go down-market, and the new sedan is expected to come in somewhere around $35,000 — or between one-half and one-third of the price of the bigger Model S, depending on equipment and range. That would position the new offering as a direct competitor to the likes of, appropriately enough, the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedans.

2014 Tesla Model S (© Tesla Motors, Inc.)

Model S, depending on equipment and range. That would position the new offering as a direct competitor to the likes of, appropriately enough, the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedans.
The Model 3 actually would be Tesla's fourth model, following the original Roadster, the Model S and the upcoming Model X sport-utility vehicle set to debut next year. But it would, by Tesla's count, bring the debut of the brand's third-generation battery technology.
And it would allow the maker to come close to its original plans for a somewhat inside joke. The smaller model was originally scheduled to be called the Model E — until, that is, Tesla was reminded by rival Ford Motor Co. that the Michigan maker owned that trademark.
In one of his frequent Twitter posts, Musk noted he told a friend that since "we had the model S and X, we might as well have the E." Then Ford stepped in, Musk explained, and "I thought this is crazy, Ford's trying to kill sex! So we'll have to think of another name." And that's why it's going to be the Model 3, he went on, noting, "we'll have three bars to represent it and it'll be S III X!"
Whether buyers will be as passionate about the midrange model as Musk remains to be seen. While the Model S has been selling reasonably well in select, upscale markets, such as Beverly Hills and Silicon Valley's Palo Alto, it still is generating demand for barely 3,000 vehicles per month, little more than an asterisk on the industry sales charts.
Indeed, battery cars as a whole, including both plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs (such as the Model S), have so far captured a fraction of one percent of total U.S. sales. And conventional hybrids saw demand slide by nearly 10% during the first half of 2014.
Industry analysts such as Dave Sullivan, of AutoPacific, Inc., caution that existing mid-range models have been plagued by limited range and long charging cycles, mediocre performance, and hefty premiums for their battery powertrains.
With the Model S — and for the upcoming Model X — Tesla has tried to overcome as many of those limitations as possible. The sedan, for one thing, can be ordered with an 85 kilowatt-hour battery that provides nearly 300 miles of range under optimum conditions. At the same time, the Model S can launch from 0 to 60 in barely 4 seconds, on a par with a Porsche 911. Using the most powerful home set-up, an owner can recharge in about 3 hours, while an expanding network of so-called Supercharger stations can yield an 80% "fill-up" in about 20 minutes.
Price is still an issue, and it remains to be seen where Tesla will have to cut back to meet the $35,000 target. At the current cost for lithium-ion batteries, an 85 kWh pack itself would cost the car maker about that much.
But Musk has set a goal of slashing the cost of lithium-ion technology, and with partner Panasonic is getting ready to set up a so-called Gigafactory, a $5 billion battery plant that will be the biggest lithium cell production center in the world. The goal is to both increase production volumes and sharply drive down costs.
The Model S has drawn strong praise. Consumer Reports, for one, has declared it the highest-scoring vehicle the magazine has ever tested. But it appeals to a rarified niche audience. Tesla has to rapidly expand its appeal if it is to consistently earn a profit — something it has only done through non-standard accounting practices.
Nonetheless, the maker has generated the sort of investor enthusiasm that more traditional automakers can only dream of, with its stock hitting a $265.00 peak earlier this year. Shareholders had a cautious reaction to word of the Model 3 — or III — with Tesla shares sliding just over 1% on Wednesday in the hours after the new model was confirmed."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Green’ Communities Awarded Nearly $8 Million

This is a nice investment by Mass Energy in their 43 municipalities.  We think this reflects the changing economic landscape and offers innovative ways of pumping money into green communities and sustainable cities and towns.

This award, over 7m, is a significant infusion of cash into sometimes cash-hungry cities and towns.  We applaud these Green Communities and the state of Ma for a wonderful program.

We have reached out to them for a radio interview.  

By ecoRI News staff
The Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs and Department of Energy Resources recently awarded $7.9 million in grants to fund dozens of clean-energy projects in 43 municipalities statewide.
Green Communities competitive grants are awarded to designated Green Communities that have successfully invested their previously awarded Green Communities grants. Awards are capped at $250,000 per municipality.
This round of grants, totaling $7,905,438, was funded through proceeds from carbon allowance auctions under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The goal of this Green Communities program is to support energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects.
There are 123 Green Communities, representing 48 percent of Massachusetts residents. 
“Green communities are setting the standard for other towns and cities across the commonwealth to follow, and are a major contributor to our state’s national standing as a leader in clean energy,” Senate President Therese Murray said.
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy has ranked Massachusetts No. 1 for three straight years. Last year, Gov. Deval Patrick set a new solar goal after reaching the previous goal of 250 megawatts four years early. The state now aims to install 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020. Currently, there are 518 megawatts installed, capable of powering nearly 79,000 homes. The state’s clean-energy revolution is yielding economic benefits as well, with 11.8 percent job growth in the last year; nearly 80,000 people are employed in the clean-tech industry in Massachusetts, according to state officials.

Carbon Tax goes DOWN Under. Major Set Back For Australia

This is a very interesting story we carried on our main site today...

We think a carbon tax can be an effective tool for government to use.  It can be a bridge to capture new revenue and pump those dollars into sustainable improvements.  It can be a new exchange for private buyers and sellers of credits.  It can force grid operators, transportation companies and others to invest more quickly in clean tech...leveraging a higher pain level for such organizations trying to maintain the status quo.

We are sorry to see the tax "go down under" in Australia.  Could it be tweaked or implemented over a longer period if it was dampening economic growth?  Yes, of course.  We see that as a better solution than repealing the legislation.

Also, here in the US we are expecting higher energy costs as well.  If that is the only factor in evaluating the value of the carbon tax, then there might be much disappointment in Australia as energy costs rises anyway, and there's no carbon reduction to at least compensate society.

See what you think:


"Some Australians are calling this a "perfect storm of stupidity," while others, like Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry head Kate Carnel are saying, "The carbon tax was a dead weight on the Australian economy and abolishing it is a win for consumers, a win for energy users and a win for business."

Well, for Australians the carbon tax may be dead; but they don't expect to see a major difference in power bills - or for too long.

It doesn't matter that many households were compensated for any impact of the scheme under the Household Assistance Package, or that the carbon tax prevented 11 to 17 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

Nor does it matter higher it resulted in some filthy brown-coal fired power stations being mothballed.

Like it or loathe it, it's kaput. Spin bettered substance and Thursday's passing of the repeal turned Australia from a leader to laggard.

"The repeal of Australia’s carbon price is a tragedy, not a triumph,"said Michael Raupach, Director, Climate Change Institute, Australian National University.

"It flies in the face of three giant realities: human-induced climate change, the proper role of government as a defender of the common good, and the emerging quiet energy-carbon revolution".

According to the ABC, consumers can expect to save between 20 and 50 cents each day on their electricity bills now the carbon tax has been repealed.

However, any financial benefit relating to power bills could quickly be eaten up by increases in other charges.

For example, in New South Wales, Ausgrid wants increases of around 2 per cent a year over the next five years and TransGrid wants to raise prices by almost 4 per cent - this is just in relation to network charges.

Other states including South Australia have just implemented more electricity price rises. The average South Australian household will pay around $85 a year more.

In Queensland, households were recently hit with a 13.6 per cent increase, expected to cost the average household an extra $190 a year.

Depending what end of the scale of carbon tax savings are to be had, any relief may have already been gobbled up before many will receive their post-carbon tax bill.

Anyone planning to do something other than pay power bills with the perceived windfall may need to re-evaluate those plans."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How do you like this quote: " Our mountains, rivers and wildlife belong to all and so too must the power of justice belong to all those who desire to protect our nation's natural treasures. Working together, we will continue holding accountable those who would harm the environment and our communities, and we will continue to ensure that the earth has a good lawyer.Our mountains, rivers and wildlife belong to all and so too must the power of justice belong to all those who desire to protect our nation's natural treasures. Working together, we will continue holding accountable those who would harm the environment and our communities, and we will continue to ensure that the earth has a good lawyer."

No bad, huh?  That from the front page of Earthjustice a group we will be talking about tomorrow on our live radio show (stream is still set to WARL, former call letters of the station:

Good to hear talk about lawyers doing good work.  We know there's great lawyers out there doing some fabulous work, in fact.  We have one who co-hosts with us monthly, Seth Handy.  At Renewable Now we very much appreciate their efforts and impact.

Tomorrow we talk with Michael Weller from Bracewell & Giulani LLC and get a lawyer's view of the Earthjustic petition to the EPA that they develop disclosure and more regulations around the chemicals pounded into the ground as part of hydraulic fracturing of gas, and better oversight/regulations regarding the health risks of fracking.  Certainly a controversial topic that evokes incredible passion on both sides.

Here's part of a blog Bracewell & Giulani posted concerning the petition.  We've included a link to this post which will get you on their site.  It appears to us that they do some very good work as well. 

Listen in live and, if you can't, we'll post the show on our main site--renewable a few weeks:


""The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken its first official step toward creating a federal regulatory program that would require disclosure and reporting concerning chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process.  On May 9, 2014, EPA released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that seeks public comment on the types of information that should be reported or disclosed for hydraulic fracturing substances or mixtures and the mechanism for obtaining this information.
While the ANPR is directed to the public in general, companies in the oil and gas industry, particularly those that manufacture, import, process or distribute chemical substances used in hydraulic fracturing treatments, should take note.
In August 2011, Earthjustice and 114 other organizations petitioned EPA under section 21 of TSCA to adopt a rule that would require, among other things, mandatory disclosure and reporting of the chemicals used in oil and gas exploration and production (E&P). 
Specifically, the petition requested that EPA adopt a rule pursuant to TSCA section 8(a) requiring manufacturers and processors of E&P chemical substances and mixtures to maintain records and submit reports to EPA disclosing:
  1. the identities, categories, and quantities of E&P chemical substances and mixtures,
  2. descriptions of byproducts of E&P chemical substances and mixtures,
  3. all existing data on potential or demonstrated environmental and health effects of E&P chemical substances and mixtures, and
  4. the number of individuals potentially exposed to E&P chemical substances and mixtures.
In addition, Earthjustice petitioned EPA to adopt a rule pursuant to TSCA section 8(d) to require submittal of all existing, not previously reported health and safety studies related to the health and/or environmental effects of all E&P chemical substances and mixtures.
In November 2011,  the EPA granted in part the TSCA section 8(a) and 8(d) petitions for chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing but denied the petitions to the extent they addressed E&P chemicals not used in hydraulic fracturing, finding that the request was overly broad and petitioners had failed to demonstrate that such a broad rule was necessary.  EPA also rejected companion petitions under TSCA section 4 (for lack of foundation) and section 8(c) (which does not authorize petitions).
In July 2013, EPA released a document that set forth the Agency’s reasons for denying in part Earthjustice’s petition and announced its plans to move forward with an ANPR focused on the reporting of chemical substances and mixtures used in hydraulic fracturing, including submission of unpublished health and safety studies.
In the ANPR published today, EPA seeks comment on the types of information  associated with hydraulic fracturing chemicals and mixtures that should be disclosed, in addition to the options for reporting related health and safety studies. 
The Agency has not yet decided whether disclosure should be mandatory, voluntary, or a combination of both.  EPA solicits views on this question and also asks whether best management practices should be disclosed, whether third-party certification and collection should be required, and whether EPA should employ incentives for disclosure of information..."
- See more at:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Fine Line : New Program Predicts When Human Impact Becomes Too Much

This strikes at the heart of our mission--to convince others that we need a careful balance between the economy and environment, and we can't possibly sustain commerce without natural resources.

So, what is the tipping point on population growth and demands on our eco-infrastructure?  What would run out first...water, land, food, clean air?   Does it matter?   Have we already pulled back from the precipice with conservation, investments in clean energy, better EPA standards, closing down coal-fired plants, recycling, educating kids around sustainability?

We welcome your thoughts and comments:

From: Morgan Erickson-Davis, MONGABAY.COMMore from this Affiliate 
Published July 6, 2014

Indigenous groups control approximately half of the world’s vegetated areas. As globalization changes the ways in which traditional communities interact with the land on which they live, it is important to be able to predict how the surrounding environment will respond.

Scientists at Stanford University recently unveiled a new modeling program that can predict the response of the environment to the land-use changes of human communities. Using their model, they found that natural resources can support humanity — up to a certain point. They recently published their findings in the journal Environmental Modelling & Software.
Their model showed that in an area in which food is acquired through mostly hunting and with some cultivating, a human community can remain in-balance with the surrounding environment if it stays within a certain population range.
"Once indigenous populations move outside that [range], the land use rapidly shifts to another state characterized by a much lower forest cover, with negative impacts on both biodiversity and carbon stocks in the vegetation," said Eric Lambin, a professor and senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.
Lambin and his team developed the model by incorporating many different ecological factors that are known to affect native communities, such as vegetation diversity and deforestation rate. They then projected how changes in these factors would impact the growth rate of communities through food availability. While the actual dynamic between human communities and the environment is more multifaceted and also involves a complex of social factors like education and policy, the researchers believe this initial version of their model will still be useful in predicting land changes.
"This makes it more of a universal model, because all people need calories," said Jose Fragoso, a senior scientist at Stanford and co-developer of the model. "They must meet their daily caloric requirement. If they farm more to do that, then they hunt less, or vice versa. But that drives the system and causes all the changes to occur."
Continue Reading at Mongabay