Mark Ruffalo: There's No Fracking That Can Be Done Safely
This weekend I have the pleasure and honor of coming to London for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards for Spotlight, a film honoring the victims of a terrible injustice and celebrating exceptional journalism that brought the story to light.
I'm also taking this opportunity to lend my voice to residents of Lancashire who are fighting to prevent another kind of injustice, drilling and fracking in their neighborhoods. Fracking is an extreme form of oil and gas extraction that leads to water contamination, air pollution, earthquakes, illness, exacerbates climate change and turns communities upside down.
I've seen it firsthand in the state of Pennsylvania, where hundreds and of families have had their water turn brown and toxic. Nosebleeds are common. So are persistent rashes, trouble breathing, headaches, vomiting, hair loss and much more.
At first in 2008 and 2009 when I first visited affected residents these symptoms were anecdotal; now more than five-hundred scientific studies confirm the harms of drilling and fracking.
The United Kingdom has only tried fracking once—in Lancashire back in April 2011. That one well suffered structural failures—a common problem that leads to water contamination—and caused two earthquakes.
Lancashire County Council has since rejected two fracking applications, through long democratic processes that included many public consultations and expert testimony. As is common, the more people learn about fracking, the more they're against it, and now the people of Lancashire decisively oppose fracking.
Unfortunately prime minister, David Cameron, supports fracking. Yet he vowed that “local people would not be cut out or ignored" and that fracking “decisions must be made by local authorities in the proper way." In June 2015, Lancashire County did just that and decided: No fracking!
Then in November, Cameron indicated he would break his promise, announcing that the central UK government would make the final decision about whether fracking should go ahead in Lancashire. Instead of listening to local voices as promised, his ministers in London will have the final say, and will likely make a decision about Lancashire in the next month or two.
When this was announced, more than 30,000 people quickly signed Friends of the Earth's petition calling on Cameron not to overturn Lancashire's decision to reject fracking.
This week, I joined them, issuing a short video calling on him to respect Lancashire's decision, and saying that supporting fracking is an enormous mistake.
The British people agree. Polls show significant opposition to fracking and once again find that the more people know about fracking, the more they are against it.
That held true in my home state of New York, where the Department of Health performed the first public health review of fracking, along with an environmental study, and concluded that fracking poses serious public health and environmental risks. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo rightly banned fracking, and has turned the state into a national leader on clean energy solutions that will create long-term jobs and prosperity.
Today we are at the precipice of a renewable energy revolution, the cusp of a new economy that not only promises wealth and jobs but is also crucial to addressing climate change. The time for the UK to seize the clean energy future is now, not to develop dirty fossil fuels.
Along with New York and the states of Maryland and Vermont, France, Bulgaria, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, and parts of Canada, Spain and Switzerland, Scotland and Wales have all banned or suspended fracking while the risks are examined.
The only way fracking could go forward in Lancashire now is against the wishes of the people who live there, a terrible injustice. I urge Cameron to keep his word and let their decision to reject fracking stand. And I invite you, prime minister, to join the anti-fracking majority and join us in building the renewable energy future.
This op-ed originally appeared in The Guardian.
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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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