By Alvin Compaan
When most Americans think about renewable energy, the Rust Belt state of Ohio might not be the first place that springs to mind. But Ohio’s claim to be at “The Heart of It All” holds true when it comes to wind and solar manufacturing.
The origins of the photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing boom now underway in Northwest Ohio can be found in the region’s traditional industrial strengths in glass handling and manufacturing. In 1987, I started a PV research and development program at the University of Toledo that has played a key role in the region’s transformation into a hub for solar innovation. First Solar was founded in Toledo, OH, as Solar Cells Inc. just a few years later and has since grown into a global leader in thin film PV.
Ohioans support our growing clean energy industry, and that support is reflected in our state’s policies. In 2008, state lawmakers came together in near unanimous fashion to enact Ohio’s bipartisan Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS), which includes a requirement that utilities provide 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025.
Why I Support Renewable Energy in Ohio
Like for many people from my generation, it was the oil crises of the 1970’s that first sparked my interest in renewable energy. I soon became active in the Union of Concerned Scientists to advocate for clean energy solutions.
A firm believer in the value of renewables, I have applied what I’ve learned as a scientific researcher in my personal life. In 1998, my wife, son, brother-in-law, and I installed a First Solar PV system that provides nearly all of the electricity we need to power our home and charge the batteries of our now fully electric 1982 GMC S-15 pickup truck, which covers 20 miles of commuting daily. My family now purchases less than $10 worth of electricity per month from First Energy, our local utility.
We were recognized for this project with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Energy in 2005. I was also appointed to the Public Benefits Advisory Board, which works to ensure affordable access to energy for low-income households.
Defending Ohio’s Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard
I believe that democracy thrives when sound science informs sound decision making, and have worked closely with state policymakers to support Ohio’s AEPS. I have provided testimony on the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy, most recently in the form of an open statement signed by more than two dozen of my colleagues and shared with members of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee.
I am inspired by the great success of Ohio’s AEPS in a state that depends heavily on coal for electricity generation (over 80 percent) and is therefore one of the states with the heaviest pollution footprints due to electricity generation.
Ohio ranks in fourth in the nation for wind energy jobs and is among the top 10 states for most solar jobs. I am inspired by the success of renewable electricity standards now in place in Ohio and 28 other states, plus the District of Columbia. But Ohio is still dependent on coal for nearly 80 percent of our electricity, making our state one of the worst for toxic air pollution and carbon emissions. Our clean energy policies must be not only maintained, but ultimately strengthened and innovative news solutions enacted.
I encourage my colleagues to join me and academic experts from across the Buckeye State as we put our passion and expertise to work supporting Ohio’s AEPS.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES pages for more related news on this topic.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.