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Boone, NC Passes Historic Resolution: Ditch Fossil Fuels, Go 100% Clean Energy

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Boone, NC Passes Historic Resolution: Ditch Fossil Fuels, Go 100% Clean Energy
Apple's solar PV facility in Maiden, North Carolina is helping the state become a national solar leader. Photo credit: James West / Climate Desk

With an incoming presidential administration seemingly hostile towards action on climate change, local solutions are now more important than ever. With or without Donald Trump's help, the North Carolina municipality of Boone is calling on the whole state—and the United States at large—to encourage green jobs and transition to 100 percent clean energy across all energy sectors.

The resolution was approved by a 5-0 vote by Boone Town Council on Thursday. This makes Boone the first town in the country to officially demand that the U.S. completely ditch fossil fuels to "avoid climate catastrophe."

The country's total transition to clean energy is not as far-fetched as it seems. Boone's resolution was inspired in part by the research of renewable energy expert Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford University professor and cofounder of The Solutions Project, a state-by-state roadmap to convert the country to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

You might have heard of the project before. In fact, Jacobson stopped by David Letterman's late-night television show in 2013 to explain how the whole world, not just the U.S., can transition to renewables.

"There's enough wind to power the entire world, for all purposes, around seven times over," Jacobson explained then. "Solar, about 30 times over, in high-solar locations worldwide."

Jacobson is an advisor for the North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition which endorsed Boone's resolution.

"This decision by Boone, North Carolina to commit to transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable energy sets a great example for other towns and cities in the U.S. and around the world," Jacobson commented to EcoWatch. "It is now established that such a transition is possible state by state and country by country."

Last year, the Solutions Project team published a study explaining how each state in the country can replace fossil fuels by tapping into renewable resources available in each state such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and even small amounts of tidal and wave power.

The authors found that converting the nation's energy infrastructure into renewables is ideal because it helps fight climate change, saves lives by eliminating air pollution, creates jobs in the rapidly booming renewable energy sector and also stabilizes energy prices.

North Carolina's roadmap to renewables.The Solutions Project

"The results of such a transition are the creation of more net long-term jobs than lost (2 million more if the U.S. converts), more stable energy prices (since wind and solar fuel costs are zero), lower overall energy costs, lower terrorism and grid blackout risk (because energy sources will be more decentralized), no more air pollution mortality from fossil fuels and a reduction in global warming," Jacobson explained.

One reason Boone adopted its resolution is because North Carolina is a solar power all star. The Tar Heel state ranks third in the nation in installed solar capacity, with enough to power 260,000 homes. The state's solar power industry employs some 6,000 people. In 2015, nearly $1.7 billion was invested on solar installations in the state. Not only that, the Atlantic coast state also has incredible offshore wind energy potential.

"Leading economists, policy experts, and business leaders conclude that transitioning to a clean energy economy available for all would create millions of green jobs nationally, improve our living standards, and boost economic growth in coming years," Boone's resolution states.

Boone's resolution stresses that the state's most disadvantaged populations are most affected by a warming planet, which is why action is needed.

"Low-income communities and communities of color in North Carolina and the United States are inordinately exposed to pollution, that causes serious health problems such as cancer and asthma, from fossil fuels, including the dirtiest coal-fired power plants which produce coal ash, are disproportionately located in communities of color," it reads.

Unlike our president-elect and his top staff comprised of climate change deniers and fossil fuel puppets, Boone's town council accepts that rising global average temperatures are primarily due to human-caused fossil fuels emissions and that 195 nations agreed during the Paris climate talks to hold global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Jacobson believes that the country's transition to sustainable energy is possible but the main barriers are "social and political rather than technical or economic." See North Carolina's storied solar wars, for example.

"Boone," however, as Jacobson said, "has overcome many of the social and political barriers."

Dr. Michael E. Mann, renowned climate scientist and fellow North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition advisor, praised the town's vote.

"Daniel Boone was an early pioneer who explored our nation's frontiers during it's early history. So it seems fitting that a town named after him would serve as our next great American pioneer, boldly leading us into the frontier of a clean energy-driven economy," he told EcoWatch. "Just when we really needed some good news in the climate change battle, I thank the people of Boone, North Carolina for providing some."

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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