Fossil Fuel Advocates Continue Attacking Ohio's Renewable Energy Future
By Sam Gomberg
The latest good news about clean energy in Ohio is that the state ranks No. 8 in the nation for solar jobs. But despite this, 2014 has not ushered in a new era of civility or honest debate about the merits of Ohio’s clean energy standards that require a percentage of Ohio’s electricity demand be met with renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Instead, Bill Seitz, chair of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, started off the 2014 legislative session right where he left of last year: With misguided efforts to roll back Ohio’s successful clean energy policies.
Senator Seitz spent much of January and February holding hearings on Senate Bill 34 that would repeal Ohio’s renewable energy standard. Similar legislation inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council has failed in Ohio and several other states in the past. And while this bill isn’t expected to make it out of committee, it does allow Senator Seitz to provide a venue for more attacks by fossil fuel-funded groups that make a living denying the reality of climate change and spreading misinformation about clean energy.
A who’s who of anti-clean-energy lobbyists
Last week’s hearing saw testimony from a veritable who’s who of climate change deniers and anti-clean-energy groups.
The Heartland Institute was there, best known for comparing those who believe the science around climate change to Unabomber Ted Kacynski. We fact checked the Heartland Institute’s false claims about Ohio’s renewable energy standard last year. We’ve also exposed their efforts nationally to mislead the public on the reality of climate change and the potential for renewable energy to cost-effectively produce electricity.
Also testifying was the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a group that found itself in hot water after one of its “scholars” compared a prominent climate scientist to convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky. The Institute for Energy Research (IER) and Buckeye Institute were also there. All of these groups are funded by the Koch Brothers—kings of the fossil fuel special interest lobby.
And what are they using to make their case? Flawed, and in some cases outright biased reports that have been debunked by us and others. IER continues to recite misleading information from a 2009 report that has been discredited by everyone from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to The Wall Street Journal. The Buckeye Institute provided testimony based in large part on another widely discredited analysis authored by the embattled Beacon Hill Institute, another group on the list of global warming skeptic organizations.
Now that Senator Seitz has given his fossil fuel interest buddies a chance to testify, Senate Bill 34 has been taken off the committee’s agenda. There was no opportunity for the majority of Ohioans, who believe the science behind climate change and support the state’s clean energy standards, to testify and set the record straight about how energy efficiency and renewable energy are benefiting the Buckeye State.
From one bad piece of legislation to the next
So what’s replacing Senate Bill 34 on the Public Utilities Committee agenda for this week? A new version of Senate Bill 58—the same bill that Senator Seitz tried to ram through the legislature last year and that was rejected by his own caucus because it was harmful to consumers and a huge give-away to Ohio’s largest utilities. We haven’t seen the new version yet, but given Senator Seitz’s repeated comparison of Ohio’s clean energy standards to Stalinist Russia, it’s a good bet that it isn’t friendly toward Ohio’s growing clean energy industries.
Senator Seitz is promising “devastating testimony” this week, most likely based on a recent report by Jonathan Lesser – a New Mexico-based consultant that has shown up in states across the country to provide his flawed brand of clean energy economics. His report attacks Ohio’s energy efficiency standard, claiming that because Ohio participates in a regional electricity market, the majority of the benefits of Ohio’s energy efficiency programs flow to other states that also participate in this market.
What he fails to address is how Ohio benefits from the energy efficiency standards enacted in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Indiana, Michigan, and Virginia that also reduce electricity demand and put downward pressure on electricity prices in this regional market. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) did a great job of explaining the multiple ways that energy efficiency provides economic benefits to Ohio’s consumers when they testified before Senator Seitz’s committee nearly a year ago.
Ironically, Ohio Senate President Keith Faber was recently quoted calling for a discussion about Ohio’s clean energy standards based on “science and economics.” We agree that the time is right for an honest and informed discussion about the role of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Ohio.
But the one-sided, special interest-driven attacks now under way in Senator Seitz’s committee clearly is not that discussion.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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