By Andy Rowell
The fire that engulfed Chevron’s refinery late on Aug. 6 in Richmond, California may now be extinguished, but worrying questions remain about the company’s ongoing safety record at the refinery.
The fire caused a huge toxic black cloud to sweep over the city and other parts of the San Francisco Bay area.
In the direct aftermath of the accident, nearly 1,000 people went to medical centers complaining of dizziness, eye irritation, shortness of breath and other breathing problems.
More than 130,000 residents were told to stay indoors with their windows closed.
And once again there is huge anger from the local community, of which more than 80 percent of residents are African Americans, who live with in the dangerous shadow of the refinery, which has had a long history of accidents and explosions.
On Aug. 7 that resentment and anger bubbled over as 500 residents crowded into a local hall for a meeting with the oil giant. Locals held signs that read “How many more ‘accidents’?” and “Chevron out of Richmond.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the most often asked question at the meeting by local residents was “What are we breathing?”
However, they were getting few answers from either the company or local health officials. When Chevron refinery General Manager Nigel Hearne spoke, he was greeted with boos and catcalls of “liar!” He had to be escorted out of the hall by police.
One person who attended the meeting was local truck driver Greg McClain: “This stuff with Chevron has been going on as long as I remember,” he said. “Chevron never seems to get the message.”
Another person was General Haymon, who said there were years of frustration and accumulated anger against Chevron. “The more people who show up and the rowdier they are helps get the message across this cannot happen again,” Haymon said. “I don’t care how rowdy people get, these guys have got to get the message.”
The city’s mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, was also highly critical of Chevron. “The community of Richmond has borne the brunt of this major oil refinery,” she said. “We have borne the health impacts, borne the impact on our city’s image, and what they have given us is not nearly enough to compensate.”
Chevron, which has repeatedly apologized for the accident, is now facing questions as to what it did between the discovery of the small leak of oil, which was around 4:15 p.m. local time on Aug. 6, and 6:30 p.m., when the refinery unit ignited into a huge ball of fire and smoke.
Local union officials have said that Chevron should have acted immediately to shut down the crude unit. “From the time they did see the leak, they debated what to do,” Kim Nibarger, a refinery safety expert for the United Steelworkers union, who represents workers at the plant told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It was not so much whether to fix the leak, it was about what could they do to keep the line running and get it fixed.”
Chevron is not alone in having problems with its refinery. Data shows that for the last five years the number of refinery accidents in the U.S. has not improved.
A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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