As Environment America prepared to unveil its report More Wind, Less Warming: How American Wind Energy's Rapid Growth Can Help Solve Global Warming at a press conference today, the U.S. House of Representatives showed that it continues to resist a clean energy future.
Wednesday evening the House passed H.R. 5771, which extended clean energy credits only until the end of 2014. Today senators Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Tom Udall of New Mexico joined Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, and Anna Aurilio of Environment America at the Senate Visitors Center to talk about the report and the carbon reduction benefits of encouraging the growth of wind power through renewable energy tax credits and urge Congress to extend the credits through 2015.
"The House just delivered a blow to wind power by adopting a meaningless three-week extension of clean energy tax credits," said Aurilio. "Now it’s up to the Senate to push for a two-year renewal of these incentives, so that Americans can reap the benefits of and cleaner air. Speeding the development of pollution-free wind energy will slow global warming. But Congress needs to invest now in healthy air and a healthy planet.”
"Congress needs to provide stability so that American workers can make more of our own energy here at home and reduce carbon pollution as rapidly and cheaply as possible,” added Kiernan. “We need to get out of short-term thinking, including three-week extensions of the policy that is critical to building more wind energy, the Production Tax Credit. That’s why we are urging the Senate today to stand up for renewable energy, vote for the EXPIRE Act and extend the PTC at least through 2015, before considering a phase-out that would provide a glide path for the industry to keep scaling up.”
At the press conference, Udall urged his colleagues to do the right thing, citing the impacts he sees in his home state.
"New Mexico is at the eye of the storm when it comes to the impacts of climate change," he said. "But while global warming is a threat we must fight, it's also a tremendous opportunity to invest in clean energy jobs of the future. Wind has huge potential—not only is it carbon free, it's abundant in New Mexico and it uses almost no water. Now is the time for Congress to make a commitment to fight climate change and help create jobs of the future by extending the wind production tax credit—not just for one year but long enough for this important industry to meet its full potential."
More Wind, Less Warming points to the dramatic increase in wind-generated power in the U.S. and says that by 2030, the country could be generating 30 percent of its electricity from wind while cutting power plant pollution by 40 percent over 2005 levels in the same time period. That exceeds the 20 percent that a recent Greenpeace/Global Wind Energy Council report projected wind could be providing of the world's power by that same deadline.
"The U.S. generates 24 times more electricity from wind power than we did in 2001, providing clean, fossil fuel-free energy that helps the nation do its part in the fight against global warming," it says. "In 2013 alone, wind power averted 132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions—as much as would be produced by 34 typical coal-fired power plants," adding, "But with the United States and the world needing to move toward a future of 100 percent clean energy in order to prevent the worst impacts of global warming, America must do much more."
Currently, wind generates about 4 percent of electrical power in the U.S. But the report points to nine states—Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Colorado and Oregon—that currently produce more than 12 percent of their electricity with wind, and two states—Iowa and South Dakota—in which wind already provides more than a quarter of their power.
There is enough potential wind energy to power the U.S. ten times over, the report says, but tapping offshore wind power will be key to reaching this goal. It cites the success of operational wind farms in Europe as an indicator of what this could mean for the U.S. in terms of producing clean energy.
But, it says, "America is unlikely to achieve a 30 percent wind energy goal without strong policy action. Much of the nation’s recent growth in wind energy has been driven by policies such as state renewable electricity standards. Continuing and expanding those policies will be necessary to keep wind energy growing quickly."
To get there, it urges the federal government to adopt the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan, proposed by President Obama in June, to reduce greenhouse gases produced by power plants 30 percent by 2030, to join with state governments in setting ambitious goals for the expansion of wind power, to expedite development of offshore wind with responsible environmental protections, and to renew and extend the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit to continue to drive the development of wind power and launch a U.S. offshore wind industry.
“When we support clean energy development, we’re promoting job creation that will help all of creation," said Markey. "That’s because good clean energy policy is good climate policy and helps us be the leader in developing the technologies that power our economy and protect our environment. America’s wind energy industry is the future of our economy, and we need to invest in the fuels of the future, not the industries of the past.”
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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