Wednesday, August 31, 2016

President Obama Designates the World's Largest Marine Protected Area

Catch this story, and many more, on our main site at Renewable

We think preservation of our natural capitol is key to healthy economic growth.  This is a good step forward to safeguard ecological assets and to protect important industries.

Last Friday, President Obama expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, creating the world’s largest marine protected area. Building on the United States’ global leadership in marine conservation, today’s designation will more than quadruple the size of the existing marine monument, permanently protecting pristine coral reefs, deep sea marine habitats, and important ecological resources in the waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.

Following this historic conservation action, the President will travel to Hawaii next week. On Wednesday evening, he will address leaders from the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which is being hosted in the United States for the first time. On Thursday, he will travel to Midway Atoll, located within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, to mark the significance of this monument designation and highlight first-hand how the threat of climate change makes protecting our public lands and waters more important than ever.

The monument was originally created in 2006 by President George W. Bush and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.  Since that time, new scientific exploration and research has revealed new species and deep sea habitats as well as important ecological connections between the existing monument and the adjacent waters. Today’s designation will expand the existing Marine National Monument by 442,781 square miles, bringing the total protected area of the expanded monument to 582,578 square miles.

The expansion provides critical protections for more than 7,000 marine species, including whales and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act and the longest-living marine species in the world — black coral, which have been found to live longer than 4,500 years. Additionally, as ocean acidification, warming, and other impacts of climate change threaten marine ecosystems, expanding the monument will improve ocean resilience, help the region’s distinct physical and biological resources adapt, and create a natural laboratory that will allow scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on these fragile ecosystems.

The expanded monument area also contains resources of great historical and cultural significance. The expanded area, including the archipelago and its adjacent waters, is considered a sacred place for the Native Hawaiian community. It plays a significant role in Native Hawaiian creation and settlement stories, and is used to practice important activities like traditional long-distance voyaging and wayfinding. Additionally, within the monument expansion area, there are shipwrecks and downed aircraft from the Battle of Midway in World War II, a battle that marked a major shift in the progress of the war in favor of the Allies.

All commercial resource extraction activities, including commercial fishing and any future mineral extraction, are prohibited in the expansion area, as they are within the boundaries of the existing monument. Noncommercial fishing, such as recreational fishing and the removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices, is allowed in the expansion area by permit, as is scientific research.

In recognition of the value of Papahānaumokuākea to Native Hawaiians, and in keeping with President Obama’s commitment to elevating the voices of Native peoples in management of our resources, Secretary of the Interior Jewell and Secretary of Commerce Pritzker also announced that the Departments will soon sign an agreement with Hawaii’s Department of Natural Resources and Office of Hawaiian Affairs providing for a greater management role as a trustee in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.  This arrangement has been previously requested by Senator Brian Schatz and Governor Ige.

Friday’s action by President Obama responds to a proposal put forward by Senator Schatz and prominent Native Hawaiian leaders, in addition to significant input and local support from Hawaii elected officials, cultural groups, conservation organizations, scientists and fishermen.  This step also builds on a rich tradition of marine protection in Hawaiian waters and world-class, well managed fisheries, including a longline fishing fleet that is a global leader in sustainable practices.

In addition to protecting more land and water than any Administration in history, President Obama has sought to lead the world in marine conservation by combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, revitalizing the process for establishing new marine sanctuaries, establishing the National Ocean Policy, and promoting ocean stewardship through the use of science- based decision making.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

93 Percent Of Public Companies Face Climate Risk; Only 12 Percent Have Disclosed It

 This is a perfect example of the business side of green, and an area we've covered many times.  Evaluating the strength of companies just became a whole lot more complicated thanks to our massive shift away from a fossil-fuel economy.

Evaluation their balance sheet, sifting through assets/liabilities and how they are flip-flopping, is tricky.  Companies that don't have good CSR scores are at great risk, and investment money is going in the opposition direction away from their coffers.

 We like the language used in this report--"transitional period".  This is a monster transition to a low-carbon economy.  Are most companies ready to make the leap?  Certainly they are quickly gaining traction.  We hope they do. We want to preserve as many jobs as possible going into the new, green economy.  Let's come out of this welcomed change with more company winners than losers.

93 Percent Of Public Companies Face Climate Risk; Only 12 Percent Have Disclosed It

by Jeff McMahon

Almost all U.S. publicly traded companies face risk either from climate change itself or from the changes needed to fend it off, experts agreed Monday at the S&P Global offices in New York—but few companies have warned their investors.

Some executives seem to be in denial, while other executives may not have any idea how to assess climate risk, according to panelists convened by the international Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

“If you look at the boards maybe they don’t have the expertise to assess climate risk and opportunities,” said Diane Larsen, Americas assurance markets leader for Ernst & Young. ”So then this is about good governance. How do we get that expertise, how do we bring it on board?”
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) chaired by Michael Bloomberg reported in December that 93 percent of American public companies face some degree of climate risk, and only 12 percent have disclosed it.

The SASB report was overlooked by news organizations at the time, perhaps with so much news breaking from the Paris Climate Conference. Bloomberg himself was in Paris, announcing the formation of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, which he also chairs.

Recommended by Forbes “Make no mistake, climate change means business,” wrote SASB CEO Jean Rogers. “It affects 93 percent of the U.S. equity market, representing $33.8 trillion market capitalization. As we’ve said before, because climate risk is systemic and embedded across a portfolio, investors can’t diversify away from it.”

Those 93 percent of companies could face “transition risks” as the world shifts to a low-carbon economy, including declining revenues, stranded assets, asset write-downs, impairment charges, and changes in cash flow.

To prepare for those risks, investors need information on companies’ future emissions profiles, capital-expenditure plans and risk-management plans, the panelists said. Investors need to know who is responsible for assessing risk at each company, how they’re doing it, and how far they’ve gotten.
Mike Wilkens of S&P called on companies to prepare carbon stress tests, calculating revenues and cash flows under different emissions limits and carbon prices.

Among the companies that seem to be in denial, Wilkens singled out American oil majors. Unlike their European counterparts, some American oil companies continue to predict, at least publicly, that oil demand will continue to grow, he said.

“I’m not entirely sure what planet they’re living on because clearly there is a second- or possibly third-generation renewables revolution happening at the moment,” said Wilkins, the global head of environmental and climate risk research for S&P Global.

If the world is to limit global warming to 2ºC, then fossil fuel demand has to fall, added Mark Lewis, the head of European utilities equity research for Barclays.

“Over the next 25 years the global fossil fuel industry in our view would stand to lose $33 trillion of revenue compared with a business-as-usual scenario,” Lewis said, citing a Barclay’s analysis that also came out last December. Most of those lost revenues, he added, are oil revenues.

The use of fossil fuels for energy, transportation and industry accounts for about 70 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, Lewis said, so those sectors seem most vulnerable.
But climate risk is spread across the market, can come from unforseen directions, including storm damage and coastal flooding, and companies outside of the energy sector may be less prepared to assess it.

“I think the first step, in terms of baby steps, is to acknowledge the possibility that there is a risk or an opportunity out there—there could be opportunities,” said Diane Larsen, “and then bake that into a process, you know, do an assessment, figure out what it means.

“There could be real significant financial impact to the organization, and the governance structure of that company needs to really understand that impact and when will that impact come home to roost.”
If the companies don’t do it, the panel suggested, it will get done another way.

“If you don’t use a reasonable assumption for your climate policies and your climate risk, then the market will do it for you,” Lewis said. ”And then ultimately you’re going to be at the mercy of the market, which most companies don’t want to be.”

The Dutch pension firm PGGM is shifting $20 billion in assets based on four “megatrends” that it believes will affect the value of companies going forward: climate change, water security, food security, and access to health care.

“We have started divesting from those companies with the highest carbon footprint,” said Eloy Lindeijer, PGGM’s chief of investment management, “and then reinvesting those funds on a country- and sector-neutral basis with those companies that have a better performance in that field.”

Monaco Solar Boat

We continue to profile industries that are transforming while getting smarter and cleaner.  Let's hope all others work as diligently and catch up with their progress.

Monaco Solar Boat Challenge: A sustainable future for sailing?

The Monaco Yacht Club (YCM) will host the second annual Monaco Solar Boat Challenge on July 14-16.

It's an event that organizers hope will make environmental waves.
From July 14 to 16, The Monaco Solar Boat Challenge, organized by the Monaco Yacht Club (YCM) and supported by the International Union of Powerboating, seeks to steer a path towards a more sustainable sailing future.
The event pits some of the world's most innovative sailors against each other as they compete to register the highest speed in hand-built boats powered solely by solar panels.
"Today it was really raining like hell, but we still pushed the boat to limit -- we managed a top speed of 52.4 km/h (32.5 mph)," Gerard van der Schaar, the 2015 winner, told CNN after a day of practice.
The annual improvements are impressive, too. Van der Schaar's 2016 practice time already marks an increase of almost 10 km/h (6 mph) on the speed that saw him set the benchmark for the International YCM Speed Record for Solar Boats in 2015 -- clocking a speed of 23.9 knots (44.4 km/h) over a set course of one eighth of a nautical mile."It's no coincidence that the boat is called the Arrow460-Granturismo as in motoring history the Granturismo has always been the most admired of cars," Paolo Bonaveri, Silver Arrow Marine global marketing and communications director, told CNN. "Granturismo blends performance, comfort and style -- and that's exactly what our yacht achieves."
But the Dutchman believes the boats have far from reached their limit and is confident the technology can continue to break records in the future.
"In 2006, when we had the first Solar Boat Race, the top speeds were 15 km/h," van der Schaar recalls. "First we thought if we get it to 50 km/h then that's a good mark, today we passed that. I think in the future we will go to 55, 56 and maybe even 60 km/h."
However, this advanced technology doesn't come cheap and if you would like to take part in next year's edition, then be prepared to part with up to €150,000 ($165,000).
And while the competitive racing provides great entertainment for those watching, the main objective to is create sustainable sailing for the future and eliminate the carbon footprint left by luxurious mega-yachts -- marine diesel contributes around 20 pounds of CO2 per gallon, according to conservation group, Sailors for the Sea. 
The principality -- whose Port Hercules is routinely packed with super yachts -- has led the way in sailing innovation. The first powerboat meeting -- organized by Prince Albert I, an experienced sailor himself -- was held alongside royal yachts more than a century ago. 
Although the objectives of technological advancements may have shifted, "the desire to embrace innovation has not," the YCM said in a statement.
It's a sentiment echoed by van der Schaar who believes the technology to make sailing greener is approaching faster than people might think.
"It is actually quite close," he explains. "My company supplies e-batteries for super yachts and, especially in Monaco and Italy, we are pushing this technology further. 
"We have contacts with a lot of large boats who want to have a chip or full electric. Hybrid is really upcoming because if you have a super yacht, you also want to have a silent mode for eight hours, so you can go swimming without the diesel oil in the sea.
"We see that people want large batteries to achieve this. It's still not 100% green but the transition to being more electric is coming."
Focusing on this week's competitive action, van der Schaar is confident of ruling the waves in his green machine once again.
"Yes, our boat is in good condition (to win)," he says. "But, I must say, we are now also in close combat with another team. Normally we have a bigger difference, but now it is very close.
"So in Monaco it will be really exciting."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Smart Beer, New York's First Organic Beer Company, Continues To Expand - See more at:

Organics keep growing through the entire food chain.  Feel good about a few beers this weekend..  See more at Renewable and listen to this week's new radio segment.

Smart Beer, New York's first organic beer company, has just expanded distribution to New Jersey, bringing premium organic beers brewed with herbal ingredients for a pure, clean, crisp, refreshing taste to discerning drinkers of the Garden State.

Smart Beer is an innovative new brand with a focus on active lifestyle and health-conscious positioning. Headquartered in New Paltz, in the heart of the Hudson Valley, the company crafts beers with pure, certified organic ingredients, yielding a refreshing taste for consumers who want to enjoy a beer they can feel good about drinking. Smart Beer's great brews and core values have made them a fast favorite among consumers, prompting a rapid expansion to stores and bars in all boroughs of New York City and beyond, including Mets' Citi Field and citywide Whole Foods locations.

Smart Beer founder Gabriel Heymann, a certified yoga instructor and former touring musician, devised the brand as a means to bridge the gap between his health-conscious, active lifestyle and his social world. States Heymann: "We shouldn't have to sacrifice well-being in order to celebrate life's moments, and that's what Smart Beer is about." The brand released its first flagship brew, an Organic Golden Ale, in October and it immediately resonated with consumers looking for a craft beer made from sustainable ingredients and a brand that supports social and environmental values. The Golden Ale was joined by a bold and refreshing Organic IPA this past May.

Smart Beer conjoins the values of the craft beer and the organic, non-GMO product movements that are gaining worldwide momentum, providing a high-quality, authentic beer made with pure, domestically grown ingredients. For a health-focused and socially-conscious generation, it provides a great option for balancing celebration with healthy, active lifestyles.
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EPA and DOT Finalize Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Heavy-Duty Trucks -

Third in a series on improving efficiency on buses and trucks.  Yesterday we covered the technology side.  Today government rules and regulations.  Combining them into a cohesive policy that protects the environment but does not impose a huge financial burden on fleets, which passes on to consumers, is the big win.:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly finalized standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that will improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon pollution, while bolstering energy security and spurring manufacturing innovation. The final phase two standards were called for by President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and respond to the President’s directive in early 2014 to develop new standards that run into the next decade.

The final phase two program promotes a new generation of cleaner, more fuel-efficient trucks by encouraging the wider application of currently available technologies and the development of new and advanced cost-effective technologies through model year 2027. The final standards are expected to lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, save vehicle owners fuel costs of about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to two billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program. Overall, the program will provide $230 billion in net benefits to society, including benefits to our climate and the public health of Americans. These benefits outweigh costs by about an 8-to-1 ratio.

The final standards are cost effective for consumers and businesses, delivering favorable payback periods for truck owners. The buyer of a new long-haul truck in 2027 would recoup the investment in fuel-efficient technology in less than two years through fuel savings.

“The actions we take today on climate change will help lessen the impacts on future generations,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This next phase of standards for heavy- and medium-duty vehicles will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while driving innovation, and will ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in developing fuel-efficient technologies through the next decade and beyond.”

“Today’s ambitious but achievable announcement is a huge win for the American people, giving us cleaner air, more money saved at the pump, and real benefits for consumers across the supply chain,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Today’s action preserves flexibility for manufacturers to deliver on these objectives through a range of innovations and technology pathways.”

Heavy-duty trucks are the second largest segment and collectively make up the biggest increase in the U.S. transportation sector in terms of emissions and energy use. These vehicles currently account for about 20 percent of GHG emissions and oil use in the U.S. transportation sector. Globally, GHG emissions from heavy-duty vehicles are growing rapidly and are expected to surpass emissions from passenger vehicles by 2030. Through the Paris climate agreement and discussions with other countries, the United States is working with other major economies to encourage progress on fuel economy standards, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that will improve global energy and climate security by reducing our reliance on oil.

The product of four years of extensive testing and research and outreach to industry, environmental organizations, labor unions, and other stakeholders, the vehicle and engine performance standards would cover model years 2021-2027, and apply to semi-trucks, large pickup trucks and vans, and all types and sizes of buses and work trucks. These standards will result in significant GHG emissions reductions and fuel efficiency improvements across all of these vehicle types. For example, when the standards are fully phased in, tractors in a tractor-trailer will achieve up to 25 percent lower CO2 emissions and fuel consumption than an equivalent tractor in 2018.

The agencies are also finalizing fuel-efficiency and GHG standards for trailers for the first time. The EPA trailer standards, which exclude certain categories such as mobile homes, will begin to take effect in model year 2018 for certain trailers, while NHTSA’s standards will take effect as of 2021, with credits available for voluntary participation before then. Cost effective technologies for trailers – including aerodynamic devices, light weight construction and self-inflating tires – can significantly reduce total fuel consumption by tractor-trailers, while paying back the owners in less than two years due to the fuel saved.  Recognizing that many trailer manufacturers are small businesses, the program includes provisions that reduce burden, such as a one-year delay in initial standards for small businesses and simplified certification requirements.

Compared to the proposal, the final program:

Achieves 10 percent more GHG and fuel consumption reductions;

Has more robust compliance provisions, including improved test procedures, enhanced enforcement audits and protection against defeat devices;

Includes more stringent diesel engine standards

Improves the vocational vehicle program with a regulatory structure better tailored to match the right technology for the job;

Maintains the structure and incremental phase-in of the proposed standards, allowing manufacturers to choose their own technology mix and giving them the lead time needed to ensure those technologies are reliable and durable.

NHTSA and EPA have worked together to harmonize their standards under this program. The agencies have worked closely with the State of California’s Air Resources Board in developing and finalizing the standards. All three agencies are committed to the goal of setting harmonized national standards. Throughout every stage of development, this work has benefited from a collaborative dialogue with industry, labor and environmental organizations. For example, this feedback has improved the agencies’ ability to measure industry performance and enforce compliance for both full vehicle and engine standards.

Today’s final rulemaking builds on the fuel efficiency and GHG emissions standards already in place for model years 2014-2018, which alone will result in CO2 emissions reductions of 270 million metric tons and save vehicle owners more than $50 billion in fuel costs. Truck sales were up in model years 2014 and 2015, the years covered under the first round of truck standards.

The rule also builds on standards that the Administration has put in place for light-duty vehicles, which are projected to reduce carbon pollution by billions of tons of over the lifetime of vehicles sold, and will save consumers money at the pump.

For more details on DOT’s and EPA’s phase two greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, click here for details.

Massachusetts Governor Baker Enacts
Hydro Cle
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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Electric-highway test

This is a very different way of powering electric buses and trucks, very different than charging batteries at a high rate as we just reported.  Much different than laying down solar on highways to charge batteries as you drive over them, as we see in the US.

Overhead wires?  Big capital investment, for sure.  We are guessing that is a lot of power needed.  Building out the system would be a little like having natural gas available in every state (readily available).  Yet it would feasible, certainly, in certain lanes, certain routes.  The first electric trucks are, in fact, hitting the road now.  They will depend on big battery systems.

No doubt Sweden's test will improve all aspects of our push to reduce fuel use in commercial-class vehicles.  

Electric-highway test for freight haulers starts in Sweden

By Bruce Brown

The world’s freight moves via trucks. Even when goods are flown or shipped in containers around the world, delivery to the end of the supply chain is by truck. And while the carbon footprint for a freight-hauling truck is much greater than any car, SUV, or small truck, so far no one has presented a green solution for large trucks.

When Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler during its recent TecDay issued statements about the absolute need to electrify cars, light trucks, and even city buses, it stated that there was no plan in place for trucks. It’s easy to say, “Just add batteries, like with cars,” but the battery mass and weight to haul around 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of vehicle and passengers in a typical car or light truck pales in comparison to what it would take to move a tractor trailer with 80,000 pounds of freight over long distances. So the solution for “greening-up” trucks has remained an unsolved challenge.

Swedish firms Siemens and Scania are testing an electrical system with the potential for solving at least part of the big truck/big carbon question. German Siemens AG and Swedish heavy-vehicle maker Scania AB have teamed up to test the world’s first e-highway in central Sweden, according to CleanTech Canada.

The test route, which runs for 2 km (about 1.2 miles) uses an overhead wire system called a catenary that provides electrical power. The system is similar to those you might see in some U.S. cities to power trolley cars or electric trains. A device called a pantograph mounted on the roof of the truck moves up and down to automatically maintain a connection to the overhead wires.

Siemens designed the wire system and Scania adapted two trucks with a diesel-hybrid drive capable of running on electric power from the overhead grid when available and automatically switching to diesel power when they move off the overhead grid. The Siemens/Scandia system design lets the trucks switch connections and maintain speeds up to 90 kph (55 miles per hour). Hybrid systems will be imperative during the transformation from fossil fuel to all-electric trucks.

Sweden has pledged to transform its transportation system to run fossil fuel- and emissions-free by 2030, and like the rest of the world depends on trucks. “By far the greatest part of the goods transported in Sweden goes on the road, but only a limited part of the goods can be moved to other traffic types,” said Anders Berndtsson, chief strategist at the Swedish Transport Administration.

“That is why we must free the trucks from their dependence on fossil fuels, so that they can be of use also in the future … Electric roads offer this possibility and are an excellent complement to the transport system,” he added.
Siemens is also planning another e-highway test route in California in 2017, the company said.

Fast charging system for electric buses — quicker than filling a tank

Things have changed quickly in the world of electric buses.  We profiled Proterra, a manufacture of electric buses, on the radio side 3 years.  We liked the story so much we ran up to Worcester, MA and taped a report from one of their buses.  It was a great ride.

Making renewables competitive goes well beyond pricing.  It is convenient, speed of refueling, range, performance, maintenance, and many other important factors.  Good to see on the bus side charging has become faster than filling a gas tank.  That gets the fleet back on the road quickly and starts the fares flooding back in.  Great for the owner of those buses.

Right now not all EV's--outside of Tesla--can super charge this fast.  As soon as that changes, EV's will fill up our roads.

Fast charging system for electric buses — quicker than filling a tank

by Bruce Brown
With the focus and progress on electrifying cars to cut emissions in many parts of the polluted world  — that would be all of it — the future does look cleaner. It would make sense to turn to trucks and buses next. But electric power for over-the-road freighters is a whole other consideration — the weight of the batteries required to haul heavy freight is a conundrum no one has yet sufficiently solved. City buses, on the other hand, travel the same daily routes and make lots of stops, making wider use of electric buses is a logical next step.

The old-fashioned method of providing electric power to large vehicles is to run electricity through rails on the ground or continuous networks of overhead lines, called pantographs, along fixed routes. That solution doesn’t require batteries because the connection with the power supply is constant as long as you never deviate from the route. Sweden is testing a pantograph electric highway for trucks. Until battery technology catches up, overhead wiring in a single truck lane along highways may be the best solution; possibly a hybrid with diesel motors or battery power when the truck leaves the throughway. But buses offer more opportunities for adopting electric power.

Many companies worldwide manufacture battery powered buses. As with cars, range, charging station locations, and charging times are the biggest challenges. U.S. EV bus manufacturer Proterra has developed a fast-charging system for electric buses that can get a bus back on the road in as little as ten minutes, according to Ars Technica.

The Proterra charging stations use a robotic arm that lowers down to connect to the top of the bus for charging. The stations can be most conveniently located at bus terminals or at fueling yards where diesel-powered buses go to refill. The comparison of charging to filling times is interesting, as charging is faster.

“The interesting thing is these diesel buses have such massive fuel tanks — given how inefficient they are — that it takes longer to completely refill an 80- or 120-gallon diesel bus system than it does to recharge our electric vehicles,” said Proterra CEO Ryan Popple. “So we’re actually getting to the point where the vehicles that are configured for fast charge can be replenished faster than you can stick a hose in the side of a diesel bus and fill it with fuel.”

Popple said the fast-charging system can provide enough charging in ten minutes for a bus with a 100kWh battery to travel about 30 miles. If it has a circular route measuring less than that distance, or a terminal turn-around at the other end of its route not more than 30 miles away (which will often be the case), using electric power could be more convenient as well cleaner for the environment than diesel buses.

Responding to customer questions about infrastructure compatibility and also to stay focused on its core business, which is building and selling buses, not charging stations, Proterra decided to open-source the patents so other companies could build and use the same fast-charging technology.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Here’s how huge amounts of trash from the Pearl River Delta washed up on Hong Kong’s shores

Following the story we just posted, is this government's failure or our own for creating mountains of waste?  Perhaps we are all headed to seeing oceans of trash dumped back on our shorelines?

Here’s how huge amounts of trash from the Pearl River Delta washed up on Hong Kong’s shores

Over the past several weeks, Hong Kong residents have become increasingly angry about the unprecedented amount of trash landing on the city’s beaches.

While Hong Kong certainly generates plenty of its own garbage, activists and residents noticed that a majority of the trash landing on the city’s beaches had labels popular in mainland China, not Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department (EPD) believes the mainland is to blame, too. The amount of trash surfacing on the city’s beaches is six to ten times the ordinary amount at this time of year, the EPD said in a statement to Quartz. Floods and storms in mainland China are the reason:
The EPD notices that in mid-June, there had been severe rain storms and floods in many provinces along Pearl River (e.g. Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan and Jiangxi) and there were reports that Guangdong as well as Liuzhou of Guangxi might encounter a serious 1-in-20 years flood. We suspect that the floods in mid-June in the Mainland might have brought the refuse to the sea and then the refuse is brought to Hong Kong by the southwest monsoon wind and the sea currents. Similar phenomenon happened in 2005 when massive amount of debris and refuse were found at various beaches and coastal areas of Hong Kong after a serious 1 in 100 year flood in the Mainland.

How does trash from China get here?

Yongqiang Zong, Professor at Hong Kong University’s Department of Earth Sciences, backs the Hong Kong government’s statement, though he suspects that a majority of the trash originates from Guangdong and Guangxi province, not Hunan and Jiangxi, which are further inland.

Throughout May and June, heavy rainfall has plagued Guangdong and Guangxi province. Floods swept through cities including Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the two commercial hubs in the region, disrupting traffic and displacing as many as 8,000 people.
Official data on this year’s storms remains scarce, but Yong believes rainfall was “significantly” more severe this year than last. On May 8 alone, Shenzhen received 430mm of rain—the heaviest daily rainfall in six years, and almost twice the amount of rain Hong Kong had for the entire month.

Water from the storms flows into China’s municipal sewage system, out into streams, into the Pearl River, and eventually, out into the South China Sea. This water carries a huge amount of trash because China has a number of open dump sites that are not well maintained or regulated (more on this below).
Normally, that trash would just drift further out into the South China Sea. But winds blowing from the southwest towards the northeast caused the filthy water to flow towards Hong Kong in recent weeks, Yong says.

Why is so much trash drifting around?

Activists and trash experts believe that mismanagement of dump sites in both Hong Kong and China have contributed to this year’s garbage pileup.

According to Paul Zimmerman, councilor of Hong Kong’s Pok Fu Lam district, Hong Kong alone currently has 3,000 legal “refuse collection points” where household trash is kept. But it has “thousands” more in the city which are illegal and not properly maintained, he said. During periods of heavy rain, trash will follow the flow of water and ultimately end up in the sea.

“Right now in the New Territories you can see a lot of trash heaps laying out in the open. That stuff gets washed out, and goes into the gullies from the gullies it goes into the sea,” says Zimmerman.

Zimmerman and others say mainland China has plenty of poorly maintained dumps too. One extreme example was spotted on Wai Ling Ding island, which lies about 20 kilometers from Hong Kong’s Lantau island but is under the jurisdiction of mainland China. Satellite images show a bleached white spot amidst a green landmass.

Stokes obtained photographs from sailors in the area that show that spot is an illegal landfill, with trash piled just above the high water mark.

This dump is just one of several thousand in South China that can easily disgorge trash into open waters during rainy season, Zimmerman says. Since this year’s rainfall was especially severe, that amount of trash traveling into open waters was higher than normal.

What can be done?

There are several steps Hong Kong could take to mitigate the amount of trash piling up along its beaches.

Hong Kong’s government and residents can do more to prevent the city’s trash from flowing ashore. Zimmerman argues the city government needs to open more refuse collection points and make them bigger
Most of the formal refuse collection points we use were designed thirty or forty years ago, and the land allocation is based on a very small population and our population has increased,” he says. “These things need to be rethought, redesigned, increased in size, and well-contained so the trash doesn’t overflow.

Getting mainland China to commit to revamping its trash collection is a bigger hurdle.
Hong Kong is classified as a Special Administrative Region inside the People’s Republic of China, and is seldom treated as an equal. So Hong Kong’s government is unlikely to sway municipalities across the border into managing trash better to keep the city’s beaches clean, experts believe.

While there’s not much the city can do to keep out trash from the mainland, it could do more to clean up once it gets here.

Doug Woodring, co-founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance, argues the government ought to invest in more boats capable of skimming trash out of the water. This wouldn’t solve the problem of trash entering the water, but would make things better on the beaches.

The government has some very small scooper boats mostly out by the south side, but they don’t have large vessels to handle large volumes of stuff like this,” he says. “Why don’t we get some big boats out and get some serious cleaning done, instead of waiting every day for it to get on the shore and have a bunch elderly go there with little brooms and baskets?” he adds.

Another option, Woodring says, would be to place nets along the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge once it is completed. One wrinkle is that only about 10% of the structure belongs to waters under Hong Kong’s jurisdiction, and “the trash flow isn’t coming from that 10% of where the Hong Kong part of the bridge is.”

Hong Kong’s activists are quick to stress that the city should use this incident as a catalyst to manage its own trash better, rather than just blame the mainland for the pileup.
“This is not just a case of ‘China made a mistake,'” Woodring says. “The whole planet does not have the capacity to handle waste management and recycling in a proper way.”

Four years' trash, one jar ... zero waste

Great example of a personal commitment to living sustainably?  What lessons can we learn from Ms. Singer's lifestyle?

Four years' trash, one jar ... zero waste

"Within the past four years all the trash that I've produced can fit within a 16 oz mason jar," says Singer, whose blog Trash is for Tossers shines a light on how to live sustainably.
She says compared to the average American, who produces on average around 4.5 pounds (two kilos) of trash per day, she's saved over 6,000 pounds (2,720 kilos) of it from going to landfill sites.

"I do compost and recycle but only as a last resort -- I try to avoid packaging at all costs," says the 25-year-old.

Saying goodbye to plastic

It all started when she was studying Environmental Science at New York University, when she discovered her passion for sustainability was limited to the classroom.
"One day I went home after class and opened my fridge to make dinner, and I realized that every single thing that I had in there was packaged in plastic."

How to keep four years of trash in one jar 03:05
It was a light bulb moment for Singer, who quickly decided to make some changes -- first by going plastic free, and then by committing to a zero waste lifestyle.

'I'm incredibly lazy'

With plastic bags, bottles and cutlery becoming part of everyday life, it may feel like drastic changes have to be made in order to "go green," but Singer believes anyone can do it.
"I am incredibly lazy -- I would never live a zero waste lifestyle if it meant spending extra time doing things to live this lifestyle. Contrary to what people think or might assume it's actually very easy."

It's about making small changes. For example, if you order a drink at a bar, just ask the bartender to not put a straw in your drink, Singer suggests. When you go shopping, take a cloth bag with you. And if you can't find toothpaste that doesn't come in a plastic tube, make your own.

"Everyone thinks it's really hard to make your own toothpaste but I think it's hard to go and buy my own," says Singer.
"I would have to get dressed, walk to the store, buy toothpaste, walk back - and I've spent $8 and wasted 30 minutes of my day. Whereas if I make my own toothpaste, it's three ingredients, I can do it naked in my kitchen and it takes me 30 seconds and doesn't cost more than 50 cents."

So ... what's in the jar?

From ditching packaging to making her own products, Singer has become an expert in living waste free. But she still accumulates the odd bit of plastic -- even if it's only enough to fit in a 16 oz jar.
Is your toothpaste polluting the waterways?

Is your toothpaste polluting the waterways? 01:14
Little stickers on fruit and veg can't be recycled, and although Singer only buys clothes in secondhand stores, the bits of plastic connecting the price tags also go straight in the jar.
"It's plastic that no one will recycle ... I like to collect my trash just because it helps me see what problems are difficult to avoid."

Check your trash

One of the ways Singer hopes to solve the landfill problem is to inspire people to cut down on their waste.

She says the easiest way to begin a sustainable lifestyle is just to start. Whether it's drinking from a reusable bottle or visiting the farmers' market, you have to make a first move, no matter how small.
Second, go through your trash and see what you're throwing away. If there's lots of food waste consider doing small, regular shops to avoid food going moldy. 
Third, change the products you use. Try brushing your teeth with a bamboo toothbrush, washing with hard soap rather than bottled products, and cleaning your house using vinegar instead of commercial chemicals. You may even find these options work out cheaper.

It won't break the bank

Not only has Singer saved lots of money, she's also eating a lot healthier, and has come to love her minimalist lifestyle, which she says is not just for the privileged few.
"People assume you're talking about upper class white people that have the money to buy organic products. It's a really funny comparison. Living a zero waste lifestyle has afforded me a lot of things."

So whether you want to save money or save the planet, the zero waste lifestyle might be worth a try.

"I've changed my lifestyle and prevented thousands of pounds of trash going to landfill," says Singer. "I believe that one person can make a difference, it's just having a desire to do so."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How toxic green slime caused a state of emergency in Florida

As we try to re-balance the environment and economy, what does worst-case-scenario look like to you in terms of eco-disasters?  Is it tidal surge washing out coastal areas and flooding away cities?  Is it oil spills coating our oceans?  Nuclear meltdowns?  Or just the on-going, pernicious destruction of our air, water, soil from pollutants?

For us losing our clean water supplies is our nightmare?  Here's an example, on top of Flint Michigan and other disasters, of waking up and being left with bottled water only.  Do we want to color our waters green with slime?  What if that scenerio plays out in multiple sites?

Sure, residents get angry after-the-fact but what are we doing, all of us, to prevent similar emergencies?  Is this government's problem our the responsibility of us all?  Everyone of us puts stress on the natural capitol.  Improving our own performance, and caring about others, will bring good changes faster than goverment regulations.

How toxic green slime caused a state of emergency in Florida

by Hannah Schwab and Tyler Treadway

Following a severe algae bloom in south Florida waters, Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency.  Dirty outflow water from Lake Okeechobee has been blamed for the regularly occurring blooms for years.  (July 1) AP
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in counties on the state's Atlantic coast last week over expansive algae blooms in the St. Lucie River.

Scott's executive order in Martin and St. Lucie counties called on state agencies to take actions to address the thick toxic blooms that are ruining the river's ecology, devastating water-related businesses and that could potentially cause health problems for those in contact with the water.

The smelly, disgusting blue-green algae blooms plaguing the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon are the result of discharges flowing out of Lake Okeechobee in southeast Florida.

Since the discharges started Jan. 30, about 150 billion gallons of the lake's water has been sent to the river, dumping nutrients and lowering the salinity of the naturally brackish water. Both spur the growth of blue-green algae.

Massive algae blooms have been growing in the lake since May 12, and the green slime can be seen moving from the lake and into the river.