Quantcast
EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.

By Alleen Brown

Under orders from President Trump, the Army Corps of Engineers on Feb. 7 approved a final easement allowing Energy Transfer Partners to drill under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Construction has re-started, and lawyers for the company said it could take as little as 30 days for oil to flow through the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Nika Knight

Experiments involving genetically engineered animals have nearly tripled in Germany in the past 10 years, driven by a burgeoning global industry that involves inventing and patenting genetically altered species for scientific research, says a new study commissioned by Germany's Green Party and conducted by the research group Testbiotech.

A GMO mouse with a gene related to hair growth removed from its genome, at left, next to a mouse with an unaltered genome.Wikimedia Commons

"The massive increase in animal testing in the genetics field is unacceptable," Nicole Maisch, the Green Party's parliamentary spokesperson for the protection of animals and consumer policy, told the newspaper Der Westen.

"Particularly when the experiments' usefulness from a medical standpoint is extremely questionable or when the trials have revealed themselves to be unsuccessful," Maisch said, "we must not allow any more animals to be tortured."

The study, which was released Wednesday and shared with Süddeutsche Zeitung and newspapers owned by Germany's Funke Mediengruppe, found that nearly 950,000 animals were subjected to experiments in Germany in 2013 alone and a full third of those involved genetically modified animals.

The genomes of mice, rats and fish are being tinkered with the most, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung, but rabbits and pigs are popular choices, too.

Moreover, Süddeutsche Zeitung notes:

In contrast to conventional animal testing, the research on genetically manipulated animals is especially deadly, says Silke Strittmatter of the organization Doctors Against Animal Experiments: "We can safely assume that up to 54 animals die for the creation of a single genetically modified animal." To achieve the desired outcome, scientists must experiment with many variations, which in many cases involves breeding multiple generations and then killing them. In this fashion, the number of genetically altered animals is increasing, despite the fact that in the last two years, for the first time the number of animals used for traditional experimental trials has fallen.

A race to patent and profit from genetically modified species is driving the growing global market for such creatures, observes the German newspaper: "Researchers patent altered animals, such as "knockout mice" and sign license deals with corporations, which in turn aggressively market the animals to laboratories—as "custom-manipulated rodents," for example."

The newspaper continues:

In the USA, biotech corporations market patented animals aggressively. [Study author Christoph] Then describes a downright "price war." Patents for new genetic engineering techniques then lead to more animal trials. In recent years, patent applications were even submitted for genetically modified primates and great apes—and some of those were approved. It is for this reason that the speaker for the Green faction on genetic engineering, Harald Ebner, is calling for a Europe-wide ban on patents on living things.

Ebner also told Süddeutsche Zeitung that he fears so-called "free trade" deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will lead to the worldwide dispersal of products from genetically modified animals.

The newspaper observes that "meat and other products from genetically modified animals cannot be sold in Germany. [...] In other countries, however, among other things scientists are experimenting with altering the ingredients of milk by changing the genes of cows. For such experiments, embryos must be genetically altered and then implanted in a surrogate. The Testbiotech study notes that these experiments often involve pain and suffering, as such laboratory animals are frequently killed in order to remove cells or the genetically modified embryo."

It seems other countries have reason to worry, as the U.S. government continues to fight for pro-GMO legislation. Indeed, when President Obama last week signed into law a corporate-friendly GMO labeling bill, he "scratched out the laws of Vermont, Connecticut and Maine that required the labeling of genetically engineered foods," reports AlterNet.

"He also nullified the [GMO] seed labeling laws in Vermont and Virginia that allowed farmers to choose what seeds they wanted to buy and plant," the progressive outlet observes, adding that "for good measure he preempted Alaska's law requiring the labeling of any [GMO] fish or fish product, passed to protect the state's vital fisheries from contamination by recently approved genetically engineered salmon."

AndreyPopov / iStock / Getty Images

Many homeowners can benefit from installing solar panels, harnessing the sun's energy to help reduce or even eliminate their dependence on traditional utilities. Although solar panels can be expensive, solar loans make residential systems more accessible to homeowners.

Indeed, if you live in an area that gets consistent year-round exposure to the sun, solar panels can be an effective way to lower your home's energy costs while minimizing your environmental footprint. The biggest obstacle to solar adoption is the initial cost of solar panels.

All in, solar panel installation costs typically range from $10,000 to $35,000. In this article, we'll explain how solar loans can make that initial investment much easier to handle.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on for and is not intended to provide accounting, legal or tax advice.

Solar Loan Basics

So, how do solar loans work, exactly? Well, they're similar to home improvement loans, or any other type of purchase loan: They enable you to buy a residential solar system and pay it off over time.

There are plenty of solar loan options to choose from. For example, to finance solar panels, you can typically choose from any of the following:

  • An unsecured personal loan
  • A home equity loan or line of credit
  • In-house financing through your solar installation company

For the most part, the terms and conditions of solar loans mimic those of any other standard loan. Specifically:

  • Getting a lower interest rate means having a lower overall cost to borrow.
  • A shorter loan term generally means higher monthly loan payments but a lower overall cost to borrow.
  • Loans are available in a wide array of interest rates, term lengths, loan amounts, credit requirements, etc.

An important thing to note is that homeowners who finance their solar energy systems with a loan are still eligible for the federal solar tax credit. This gives you a credit worth 26% of your total solar installation costs.

How to Choose the Right Solar Loan

As you seek the best solar loan for your situation, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. These include:

  • Monthly payment amount: If you end up choosing a shorter loan term (i.e., a loan that you must pay off in a shorter amount of time), your monthly payments will probably be higher. The overall cost of the loan will be lower, but it's nevertheless important to consider the impact on your household budget.
  • Down payment amount: Depending on the loan you choose, you may or may not be required to put down a payment on the solar panels. Generally, larger down payments will mean lower interest rates and a more affordable loan overall.
  • Fees: Some solar lenders may charge prepayment penalties or monthly fees in addition to your monthly principal and interest payments. Always make sure you get fee information upfront, so as to ensure there are no surprises on your loan statement.

Secured Vs. Unsecured Solar Loans

Another important factor to consider is whether you'll get a secured solar loan or an unsecured solar loan. Here's what homeowners should know about these two options:

  • Secured loans are usually connected to some piece of collateral, such as a piece of equity in your house; this provides the lender with some protection. If you fail to make your payments, the lender can claim their piece of collateral. Because the lender has some insurance, secured loans usually offer lower interest rates and more favorable terms overall.
  • Unsecured loans do not have any collateral or security provisions for the lender. They represent a greater risk on the lender's part, and thus usually come with higher interest rates and less favorable terms.

Ultimately, the decision about which type of loan to seek comes down to this question: Do you have enough equity in your home to take out a secured loan? If so, and if you are willing to use some of that home equity to pay for solar panels, then a secured loan may be the smarter choice overall.

How to Get Low Interest Rates for Solar Loans

In addition to choosing the right type of loan, there are other steps you can take to keep your interest rates manageable when you finance a solar panel system:

  • Shop around: It's usually best not to go with the very first lender you find. Spend some time shopping around and comparing rates. Most lenders will give you a free quote that's good for a number of days while you compare offers from other companies.
  • Have someone co-sign: Having a co-signer on your solar loan — especially one with excellent credit — creates extra assurances for the lender and will usually result in more favorable rates.
  • Improve your credit score: There are several ways to improve your credit score to get a lower interest rate on a solar loan. For example, you can pay down old debts and credit card balances, be on time with monthly bill payments, and ensure you don't open any new credit cards as you apply for your solar loan.

Also be aware that there are things you can do to pay less over time other than getting a lower interest rate. Examples include choosing a shorter repayment period, looking for discounts like paperless or auto-pay discounts, avoiding loans with high fees and, if applicable, making a more substantial down payment.

Local Solar Loan Programs

Homeowners who are interested in going solar should also know about Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan programs. According to the Department of Energy, PACE programs "allow a property owner to finance the up-front cost of energy or other eligible improvements on a property and then pay the costs back over time through a voluntary assessment." What makes these programs unique is that the assessment is tied to the property itself, not to the individual.

PACE financing legislation exists in some form in 36 states plus Washington D.C. A handful of states have separate loan programs for homeowners interested in solar. Here are some current programs worth knowing about:

State Solar Loan Program Maximum
Loan Amount
Interest Rate Longest
Repayment Term
Connecticut Energy Conservation Loan Program $25,000 0% to 7% 12 years
Louisiana Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) $6,000 2% 5 years
Michigan Michigan Saves Home Energy Financing $50,000 4.44% to 7.90% 15 years
North Carolina State-regulated municipal loan options Varies Up to 8% 20 years
Ohio Energy Conservation for Ohioans
(ECO-Link) Program
$50,000 3% APR reduction
on bank loans
7 years

Additionally, certain municipalities and local utility companies may offer low-interest solar loans. We recommend researching your specific area before turning to banks or credit institutions.

Where to Get a Solar Loan

If your state doesn't have its own solar energy loan program or you're not eligible for enrollment, there are plenty of other places to get solar loans. Some of the best places to check include:

  • Credit unions
  • Lending institutions
  • In-house financing through your solar installer (which will come from a third-party solar lender)

Again, it's crucial to shop around and compare rates before deciding on which solar lender is the best fit for your needs. To get started with a free quote and find solar loan information from a top solar company in your area, you can fill out the form below.

Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Loans

Are solar loans worth it?

There are various factors to consider as you decide whether getting a solar loan is worth it. Solar loans help you increase the value of your property, lower utility bills, minimize your impact on the environment and potentially claim some tax incentives. Then again, financing does decrease your overall savings, and extends the break-even point for your residential solar system.

Do banks do solar loans?

Some banks do offer solar loans, though often with interest rates that exceed what you'd pay elsewhere. It may be worth checking with your local bank, but always remember to shop around and compare.

What is the best way to finance solar?

If you have sufficient home equity, a secured solar loan is often the most cost-effective approach. If you don't have sufficient home equity, an unsecured solar loan can work just fine.

What type of loan is a solar panel loan?

Solar panel loans are generally considered to be a type of personal loan, similar to a home improvement loan.

Can you buy a solar battery with a solar loan?

Most often the answer is yes, but make sure you double-check the terms of your loan.

Trending

By Lukas Ross, Friends of the Earth Action

The same day TransCanada sued the U.S. government for $15 billion, the Democratic Party's platform drafting committee met in Missouri. Between the two, there is a lesson to be learned about free trade and the climate crisis.

The lawsuit was the anticipated result of President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.Using a notorious provision in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canadian oil giant is hoping to claim $15 billion in lost future profits by dragging the U.S. before an international tribunal. These sorts of extra-judicial forums, where corporations can sue governments for enforcing their own laws, are a hallmark of established free trade deals like NAFTA and looming ones like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Forty environmental groups signed a letter urging Congress to reject the TransPacific Partnership. Dylan Petrohilos / Think Progress

The meeting in Missouri was to finalize a draft of the 2016 Democratic Party platform, a usually sleepy and symbolic process that this year has exploded into a proxy fight between presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Pipelines like Keystone XL and free trade writ large were both on the agenda—and the votes cast reflect a growing divide between the party establishment and the grassroots.

Within hours of TransCanada filing its lawsuit under NAFTA, the platform committee had the chance to officially oppose the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim trade deal that would allow hundreds of new fossil fuel companies access to provisions similar to those used by TransCanada. The motion was rejected. Despite both candidates being on record opposing the current TPP, the motion was rejected in a 10-5 vote. It was supported by appointees from Sanders and opposed by appointees from Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Compromise language was offered instead, calling for trade deals that protect workers and the environment without mentioning the TPP by name.

Talking about responsible trade but refusing to be clear about the TPP isn't a good look, for the DNC or anyone else. If the TPP and its European counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, were both enacted, it would radically expand the power of fossil fuel companies to sue the U.S. for laws and regulations that hurt their expected future profits. The power to launch lawsuits like TransCanada's would be put on steroids and everything fromlocal fracking bans to renewable energy mandates could be litigated in trade tribunals run overwhelmingly by corporate lawyers.

Besides missing the boat on trade, the committee managed a few other favors for the TransCanadas of the world. Jane Kleeb, the founder of Bold Nebraska and the newly elected Chair of Nebraska Democrats, supported a motion calling for ending the use of eminent domain in support of fossil fuel projects. It was unceremoniously voted down. Another rejected motion was an endorsement of the so-called "climate test," the principle that infrastructure and other projects shouldn't be approved if they worsen carbon emissions. Applying this standard was what led President Obama to reject Keystone XL in the first place.

In fact, Friday turned out to be a bad night for serious climate policy all around. Motions pushed by Sanders's appointee Bill McKibben supporting a carbon tax and a national frackingban were both rejected. So too was a motion to keep fossil fuels in the ground by ending new leasing on our public lands and waters.

Even the ambitious energy target supported by both Clinton and Sanders—100 percent clean energy by 2050—wasn't an unqualified success. The language is vague enough that it could include everything from wind and solar to dangerous false solutions like biomass, carbon capture and sequestration and nukes.

The concern about what exactly counts as clean energy isn't unfounded. If Bill McKibben was chosen by Sanders as a progressive voice on climate, his alter ego appointed by Clinton is Carol Browner, a one-time Environmental Protection Agency administrator who splits her time these days between professional lobbying and pro-nuclear advocacy.

The good news is that Missouri isn't the end. The platform still needs to be approved by the full platform committee next month in Orlando and after that by the full convention in Philadelphia. When it comes to pushing back on trade and climate, there are still two more shots.

As philosopher Dr. Cornel West, another Sen. Sanders appointee, said as he abstained from the final vote, "Take it to the next stage."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Oakland Bans Coal Exports, Huge Win for Local Residents

Kochs Dump Trump to Fund Climate-Denying Senators in Ohio and Nevada

'Three Amigos' Vow to Get Half Their Electricity From Clean Power by 2025

DNC Platform Calls for Fossil Fuel Investigations, 100% Renewable Energy

By Molly Dorozenski

At a time when Secretary Clinton should be strengthening her progressive policies, it does not make sense to pick an industry insider who supports fracking to lead her transition team. Unfortunately, that's the exact move that Clinton made this week in appointing former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to that post.

A flare burns near a hydraulic fracturing drilling tower in rural Weld County in northern Colorado, the most intensively fracked area in the U.S. Image of fracking site in Colorado: © Les Stone / Greenpeace

Though not an official lobbyist, Salazar took a job as partner at WilmerHale after leaving the Department of the Interior in 2013, a law and lobbying firm working on energy and environmental issues amongst other things. Salazar's track record has illustrated time and time again that he is on the side of big industry, and not the people. He is pro-Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), pro-fracking and pro-Keystone XL pipeline. If Clinton plans to effectively tackle climate change, the last thing her team needs is a fossil fuel industry friend like Salazar.

A NASA study released this week identified fracking as responsible for a methane "hot spot" in the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, the largest concentration of the potent greenhouse gas in the country. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, yet Salazar has actually made the statement that "there's not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone." The truth is fracking is devastating his home state of Colorado, yet he has chosen to side with industry.

Most recently, Salazar came out in opposition to ballot initiatives to restrict fracking in Colorado. Communities throughout the state spent months collecting signatures for the ballot measures that would establish setbacks for drilling operations from schools and hospitals and empower communities to vote on fracking. Organizers on the ground were fought tooth and nail by the industry, which spent more $75 million since 2014 on PR firms and front groups intent on defeating the ballot measures. Earlier this month, people power overcame its first major hurdle by gathering enough signatures to submit the ballot measures to the Colorado Secretary of State. The office is now officially counting the signatures for qualification for the ballot in November.

A massive fight remains for Colorado activists in the months leading into November. As more oil and gas money flows into the state to mislead voters on the ballot initiatives, it is more important than ever for Secretary Clinton to pick the side of the people over the industry and its mouthpieces. Clinton has indicated support for local control over fracking, but picking an industry insider like Salazar who is fighting against the people's will sends the wrong message about which side she is truly on.

If Secretary Clinton wants to be the environmental leader that she claims to be in campaign speeches, she has to put the people before industry insiders.

Molly Dorozenski is the campaign director for Greenpeace Democracy.

Trending

"I'm thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine," presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted at 8:11 p.m. Friday.

Though the news was not a surprise, as Kaine has long been known as a likely choice, Clinton's pick stirred immediate reaction among the environmental movement. The Virginia senator supports fracking and offshore oil drilling, but was an early opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline.

350 Action Director May Boeve shared her concern of Clinton's vice presidential pick.

"Tim Kaine won't energize the climate base, so it's up to Hillary to start staking out some clearer positions," Boeve said. "Kaine was with us on Keystone XL, but against us on offshore drilling and fracking. This November, climate activists, young people, and progressives will turn up at the polls for candidates who say the magic words, 'keep it in the ground.' If Democrats want to drive turnout, it's time to come out more clearly against drilling, fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure."

On Sunday at 1 p.m., one day before the Democratic National Convention begins in Philadelphia, thousands of people will take part in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution calling for a ban on fracking. The march is organized by Americans Against Fracking and Pennsylvanians Against Fracking and backed by more than 900 organizations across all 50 states.

"Hillary Clinton's vice president and entire administration should be committed 100 percent to combating catastrophic climate change by keeping fossil fuels in the ground, supporting renewable energy and protecting our democracy from corporate influence," Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard said.

"It's clear from the polling that Secretary Clinton needs the progressive wing to vote in force if she's going to win in November, so Tim Kaine must show himself from the start that he'll use his office to be a climate champion," Leonard continued.

"He showed he could do this when he became an early opponent of the Keystone Pipeline, but Kaine's opposition to regulating fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and his support for natural gas exports and pipelines, prove he still has a long way to go. Clinton's positions on fracking may have progressed during her candidacy, but the climate movement will continue to push her and her running mate until they pledge to keep all fossil fuels in the ground."

League of Conservation Voters

Sierra Club's Executive Director Michael Brune feels "Secretary Clinton's selection of Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate completes the strongest environmental ticket we've ever seen." When comparing Clinton's campaign to Donald Trumps, Brune said, "The Democratic ticket is in sharp contrast to the Republican's, which features not one but two climate deniers, a first in American history. The Trump-Pence regime would be the only world leaders to hold that position. Simply put, a Trump-Pence Presidency wouldn't be the only 'TPP' that would destroy our climate."

Trending

Bernie Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton—a decision many Democrats have been waiting for—Tuesday morning at a joint campaign event in New Hampshire.

During his endorsement speech, the Vermont senator said he intends to do everything in his power to ensure the former secretary of state is the next president of the U.S. Sanders began his speech by saying:

Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that. She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.

I have come here today not to talk about the past but to focus on the future. That future will be shaped more by what happens on November 8 in voting booths across our nation than by any other event in the world. I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president.

Sanders' endorsement comes less than two weeks before the Democratic National Convention. On Sunday the senator, who was in charge of picking the members of the Democratic National Convention's Platform Committee, praised the adoption of "the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party," Democracy Now reported.

While Clinton wasn't known as the first pick for many environmental activists, Sanders has helped the presumptive party nominee develop a more extensive climate policy.

Throughout the primaries, Sanders helped pull Clinton and the party to the left and take stronger climate action.

"Democratic voters have been fortunate to witness a vigorous and hard-fought campaign between two candidates with a clear and progressive vision for out country—which is exactly how it should be," Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, said in a statement.

"Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders made this campaign about ideas. Ideas on how to stop climate disruption while speeding our transition to clean, renewable energy and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Ides on the importance of rejecting dangerous trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership. And ideas on how best to help those whose homes and lives have been wrecked by pollution."

The Sierra Club formally endorsed Clinton in June.

Not everyone was as pleased with the endorsement announcement, though. Several people took to Twitter to show their dislike of the news:

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump weighed in on the endorsement, too:

The Democratic National Convention will be held July 25-28 in Philadelphia.

By Andy Rowell

According to a new analysis, the U.S. now holds more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, the first time this has happened. And more than half of the U.S.'s remaining oil reserves are in shale oil.

The analysis, by Rystad Energy, has concluded that recoverable oil in the U.S. from existing fields, discoveries and yet undiscovered areas is equivalent to 264 billion barrels, which easily beats Saudi Arabia's 212 billion barrels and just squeezes past Russia's 256 billion.

Photo credit: Paul Lowry

The crux though will be whether the U.S. shale industry can access the finance to carry on exploiting shale. And that remains to be seen.

The mini-revival in the oil price may be over. Having rallied since its low point earlier in the year of $27, oil had reached the $60 a mark, but has slipped back to below $50 a barrel on concerns about a slowdown in the global economy has increased.

And those looking for a rapid increase in the next few months look set to be disappointed. The CEO of the world's largest oil trader, Vitol, which trades about 6 million barrels a day, has told Bloomberg that oil prices will not rise much further over the coming months.

Vitol's boss, Ian Taylor said: "I cannot see the market really roaring ahead. We have a lot of oil in the system and it will take us considerable time to work that off."

The international benchmark will probably end the year "not too far away from where we are today" and rise to about $60 by the end of 2017, Taylor said.

According to Bloomberg: "The wild card for next year is U.S. shale supply, which appears to have reached a bottom, but it's too early to say whether growth will resume."

But shale growth is not looking certain, with the industry still struggling with a low oil price and access to financing. And one of the key way to access financing is via bond sales.

As the Financial Times reported: "Bond sales by U.S. independent oil and gas companies have fallen to their slowest rate for more than a decade, in a warning sign of financing constraints that could hold back the industry's recovery."

In the second quarter of this year, the U.S. shale sector sold a paltry $280m of bonds in the second quarter, making it a slower period than any since the financial crisis of 2008-09.

In contrast, the paper points out, the industry raised almost $860bn from bond sales and bank loans during the boom years of 2007-2014. It is an industry still sitting on a crumbling pile of debt.

And the bottom line is that the industry is still spending more than it is earning. According to the FT, the leading U.S. exploration and production companies cut their capital spending to $14.9 billion in the first quarter of this year, which is a whopping $10 billion more than they earned.

This is totally unsustainable and will constrict the smaller players from accessing bonds and finance. Gary Ross of Pira Energy told the FT: "It's not going to be easy to reconstruct this industry."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

The Future of Nuclear Power Is 'Challenging,' Says WNA Report

Public Lands Development Rigged in Favor of Oil and Gas

Free Trade, DNC Platform and the Climate Crisis

Kochs Dump Trump to Fund Climate-Denying Senators in Ohio and Nevada

EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.

By Alleen Brown

Under orders from President Trump, the Army Corps of Engineers on Feb. 7 approved a final easement allowing Energy Transfer Partners to drill under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Construction has re-started, and lawyers for the company said it could take as little as 30 days for oil to flow through the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Nika Knight

Experiments involving genetically engineered animals have nearly tripled in Germany in the past 10 years, driven by a burgeoning global industry that involves inventing and patenting genetically altered species for scientific research, says a new study commissioned by Germany's Green Party and conducted by the research group Testbiotech.

A GMO mouse with a gene related to hair growth removed from its genome, at left, next to a mouse with an unaltered genome.Wikimedia Commons

"The massive increase in animal testing in the genetics field is unacceptable," Nicole Maisch, the Green Party's parliamentary spokesperson for the protection of animals and consumer policy, told the newspaper Der Westen.

"Particularly when the experiments' usefulness from a medical standpoint is extremely questionable or when the trials have revealed themselves to be unsuccessful," Maisch said, "we must not allow any more animals to be tortured."

The study, which was released Wednesday and shared with Süddeutsche Zeitung and newspapers owned by Germany's Funke Mediengruppe, found that nearly 950,000 animals were subjected to experiments in Germany in 2013 alone and a full third of those involved genetically modified animals.

The genomes of mice, rats and fish are being tinkered with the most, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung, but rabbits and pigs are popular choices, too.

Moreover, Süddeutsche Zeitung notes:

In contrast to conventional animal testing, the research on genetically manipulated animals is especially deadly, says Silke Strittmatter of the organization Doctors Against Animal Experiments: "We can safely assume that up to 54 animals die for the creation of a single genetically modified animal." To achieve the desired outcome, scientists must experiment with many variations, which in many cases involves breeding multiple generations and then killing them. In this fashion, the number of genetically altered animals is increasing, despite the fact that in the last two years, for the first time the number of animals used for traditional experimental trials has fallen.

A race to patent and profit from genetically modified species is driving the growing global market for such creatures, observes the German newspaper: "Researchers patent altered animals, such as "knockout mice" and sign license deals with corporations, which in turn aggressively market the animals to laboratories—as "custom-manipulated rodents," for example."

The newspaper continues:

In the USA, biotech corporations market patented animals aggressively. [Study author Christoph] Then describes a downright "price war." Patents for new genetic engineering techniques then lead to more animal trials. In recent years, patent applications were even submitted for genetically modified primates and great apes—and some of those were approved. It is for this reason that the speaker for the Green faction on genetic engineering, Harald Ebner, is calling for a Europe-wide ban on patents on living things.

Ebner also told Süddeutsche Zeitung that he fears so-called "free trade" deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will lead to the worldwide dispersal of products from genetically modified animals.

The newspaper observes that "meat and other products from genetically modified animals cannot be sold in Germany. [...] In other countries, however, among other things scientists are experimenting with altering the ingredients of milk by changing the genes of cows. For such experiments, embryos must be genetically altered and then implanted in a surrogate. The Testbiotech study notes that these experiments often involve pain and suffering, as such laboratory animals are frequently killed in order to remove cells or the genetically modified embryo."

It seems other countries have reason to worry, as the U.S. government continues to fight for pro-GMO legislation. Indeed, when President Obama last week signed into law a corporate-friendly GMO labeling bill, he "scratched out the laws of Vermont, Connecticut and Maine that required the labeling of genetically engineered foods," reports AlterNet.

"He also nullified the [GMO] seed labeling laws in Vermont and Virginia that allowed farmers to choose what seeds they wanted to buy and plant," the progressive outlet observes, adding that "for good measure he preempted Alaska's law requiring the labeling of any [GMO] fish or fish product, passed to protect the state's vital fisheries from contamination by recently approved genetically engineered salmon."

AndreyPopov / iStock / Getty Images

Many homeowners can benefit from installing solar panels, harnessing the sun's energy to help reduce or even eliminate their dependence on traditional utilities. Although solar panels can be expensive, solar loans make residential systems more accessible to homeowners.

Indeed, if you live in an area that gets consistent year-round exposure to the sun, solar panels can be an effective way to lower your home's energy costs while minimizing your environmental footprint. The biggest obstacle to solar adoption is the initial cost of solar panels.

All in, solar panel installation costs typically range from $10,000 to $35,000. In this article, we'll explain how solar loans can make that initial investment much easier to handle.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on for and is not intended to provide accounting, legal or tax advice.

Solar Loan Basics

So, how do solar loans work, exactly? Well, they're similar to home improvement loans, or any other type of purchase loan: They enable you to buy a residential solar system and pay it off over time.

There are plenty of solar loan options to choose from. For example, to finance solar panels, you can typically choose from any of the following:

  • An unsecured personal loan
  • A home equity loan or line of credit
  • In-house financing through your solar installation company

For the most part, the terms and conditions of solar loans mimic those of any other standard loan. Specifically:

  • Getting a lower interest rate means having a lower overall cost to borrow.
  • A shorter loan term generally means higher monthly loan payments but a lower overall cost to borrow.
  • Loans are available in a wide array of interest rates, term lengths, loan amounts, credit requirements, etc.

An important thing to note is that homeowners who finance their solar energy systems with a loan are still eligible for the federal solar tax credit. This gives you a credit worth 26% of your total solar installation costs.

How to Choose the Right Solar Loan

As you seek the best solar loan for your situation, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. These include:

  • Monthly payment amount: If you end up choosing a shorter loan term (i.e., a loan that you must pay off in a shorter amount of time), your monthly payments will probably be higher. The overall cost of the loan will be lower, but it's nevertheless important to consider the impact on your household budget.
  • Down payment amount: Depending on the loan you choose, you may or may not be required to put down a payment on the solar panels. Generally, larger down payments will mean lower interest rates and a more affordable loan overall.
  • Fees: Some solar lenders may charge prepayment penalties or monthly fees in addition to your monthly principal and interest payments. Always make sure you get fee information upfront, so as to ensure there are no surprises on your loan statement.

Secured Vs. Unsecured Solar Loans

Another important factor to consider is whether you'll get a secured solar loan or an unsecured solar loan. Here's what homeowners should know about these two options:

  • Secured loans are usually connected to some piece of collateral, such as a piece of equity in your house; this provides the lender with some protection. If you fail to make your payments, the lender can claim their piece of collateral. Because the lender has some insurance, secured loans usually offer lower interest rates and more favorable terms overall.
  • Unsecured loans do not have any collateral or security provisions for the lender. They represent a greater risk on the lender's part, and thus usually come with higher interest rates and less favorable terms.

Ultimately, the decision about which type of loan to seek comes down to this question: Do you have enough equity in your home to take out a secured loan? If so, and if you are willing to use some of that home equity to pay for solar panels, then a secured loan may be the smarter choice overall.

How to Get Low Interest Rates for Solar Loans

In addition to choosing the right type of loan, there are other steps you can take to keep your interest rates manageable when you finance a solar panel system:

  • Shop around: It's usually best not to go with the very first lender you find. Spend some time shopping around and comparing rates. Most lenders will give you a free quote that's good for a number of days while you compare offers from other companies.
  • Have someone co-sign: Having a co-signer on your solar loan — especially one with excellent credit — creates extra assurances for the lender and will usually result in more favorable rates.
  • Improve your credit score: There are several ways to improve your credit score to get a lower interest rate on a solar loan. For example, you can pay down old debts and credit card balances, be on time with monthly bill payments, and ensure you don't open any new credit cards as you apply for your solar loan.

Also be aware that there are things you can do to pay less over time other than getting a lower interest rate. Examples include choosing a shorter repayment period, looking for discounts like paperless or auto-pay discounts, avoiding loans with high fees and, if applicable, making a more substantial down payment.

Local Solar Loan Programs

Homeowners who are interested in going solar should also know about Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan programs. According to the Department of Energy, PACE programs "allow a property owner to finance the up-front cost of energy or other eligible improvements on a property and then pay the costs back over time through a voluntary assessment." What makes these programs unique is that the assessment is tied to the property itself, not to the individual.

PACE financing legislation exists in some form in 36 states plus Washington D.C. A handful of states have separate loan programs for homeowners interested in solar. Here are some current programs worth knowing about:

State Solar Loan Program Maximum
Loan Amount
Interest Rate Longest
Repayment Term
Connecticut Energy Conservation Loan Program $25,000 0% to 7% 12 years
Louisiana Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) $6,000 2% 5 years
Michigan Michigan Saves Home Energy Financing $50,000 4.44% to 7.90% 15 years
North Carolina State-regulated municipal loan options Varies Up to 8% 20 years
Ohio Energy Conservation for Ohioans
(ECO-Link) Program
$50,000 3% APR reduction
on bank loans
7 years

Additionally, certain municipalities and local utility companies may offer low-interest solar loans. We recommend researching your specific area before turning to banks or credit institutions.

Where to Get a Solar Loan

If your state doesn't have its own solar energy loan program or you're not eligible for enrollment, there are plenty of other places to get solar loans. Some of the best places to check include:

  • Credit unions
  • Lending institutions
  • In-house financing through your solar installer (which will come from a third-party solar lender)

Again, it's crucial to shop around and compare rates before deciding on which solar lender is the best fit for your needs. To get started with a free quote and find solar loan information from a top solar company in your area, you can fill out the form below.

Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Loans

Are solar loans worth it?

There are various factors to consider as you decide whether getting a solar loan is worth it. Solar loans help you increase the value of your property, lower utility bills, minimize your impact on the environment and potentially claim some tax incentives. Then again, financing does decrease your overall savings, and extends the break-even point for your residential solar system.

Do banks do solar loans?

Some banks do offer solar loans, though often with interest rates that exceed what you'd pay elsewhere. It may be worth checking with your local bank, but always remember to shop around and compare.

What is the best way to finance solar?

If you have sufficient home equity, a secured solar loan is often the most cost-effective approach. If you don't have sufficient home equity, an unsecured solar loan can work just fine.

What type of loan is a solar panel loan?

Solar panel loans are generally considered to be a type of personal loan, similar to a home improvement loan.

Can you buy a solar battery with a solar loan?

Most often the answer is yes, but make sure you double-check the terms of your loan.

Trending

By Lukas Ross, Friends of the Earth Action

The same day TransCanada sued the U.S. government for $15 billion, the Democratic Party's platform drafting committee met in Missouri. Between the two, there is a lesson to be learned about free trade and the climate crisis.

The lawsuit was the anticipated result of President Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.Using a notorious provision in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canadian oil giant is hoping to claim $15 billion in lost future profits by dragging the U.S. before an international tribunal. These sorts of extra-judicial forums, where corporations can sue governments for enforcing their own laws, are a hallmark of established free trade deals like NAFTA and looming ones like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Forty environmental groups signed a letter urging Congress to reject the TransPacific Partnership. Dylan Petrohilos / Think Progress

The meeting in Missouri was to finalize a draft of the 2016 Democratic Party platform, a usually sleepy and symbolic process that this year has exploded into a proxy fight between presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Pipelines like Keystone XL and free trade writ large were both on the agenda—and the votes cast reflect a growing divide between the party establishment and the grassroots.

Within hours of TransCanada filing its lawsuit under NAFTA, the platform committee had the chance to officially oppose the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, a Pacific Rim trade deal that would allow hundreds of new fossil fuel companies access to provisions similar to those used by TransCanada. The motion was rejected. Despite both candidates being on record opposing the current TPP, the motion was rejected in a 10-5 vote. It was supported by appointees from Sanders and opposed by appointees from Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Compromise language was offered instead, calling for trade deals that protect workers and the environment without mentioning the TPP by name.

Talking about responsible trade but refusing to be clear about the TPP isn't a good look, for the DNC or anyone else. If the TPP and its European counterpart, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, were both enacted, it would radically expand the power of fossil fuel companies to sue the U.S. for laws and regulations that hurt their expected future profits. The power to launch lawsuits like TransCanada's would be put on steroids and everything fromlocal fracking bans to renewable energy mandates could be litigated in trade tribunals run overwhelmingly by corporate lawyers.

Besides missing the boat on trade, the committee managed a few other favors for the TransCanadas of the world. Jane Kleeb, the founder of Bold Nebraska and the newly elected Chair of Nebraska Democrats, supported a motion calling for ending the use of eminent domain in support of fossil fuel projects. It was unceremoniously voted down. Another rejected motion was an endorsement of the so-called "climate test," the principle that infrastructure and other projects shouldn't be approved if they worsen carbon emissions. Applying this standard was what led President Obama to reject Keystone XL in the first place.

In fact, Friday turned out to be a bad night for serious climate policy all around. Motions pushed by Sanders's appointee Bill McKibben supporting a carbon tax and a national frackingban were both rejected. So too was a motion to keep fossil fuels in the ground by ending new leasing on our public lands and waters.

Even the ambitious energy target supported by both Clinton and Sanders—100 percent clean energy by 2050—wasn't an unqualified success. The language is vague enough that it could include everything from wind and solar to dangerous false solutions like biomass, carbon capture and sequestration and nukes.

The concern about what exactly counts as clean energy isn't unfounded. If Bill McKibben was chosen by Sanders as a progressive voice on climate, his alter ego appointed by Clinton is Carol Browner, a one-time Environmental Protection Agency administrator who splits her time these days between professional lobbying and pro-nuclear advocacy.

The good news is that Missouri isn't the end. The platform still needs to be approved by the full platform committee next month in Orlando and after that by the full convention in Philadelphia. When it comes to pushing back on trade and climate, there are still two more shots.

As philosopher Dr. Cornel West, another Sen. Sanders appointee, said as he abstained from the final vote, "Take it to the next stage."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Oakland Bans Coal Exports, Huge Win for Local Residents

Kochs Dump Trump to Fund Climate-Denying Senators in Ohio and Nevada

'Three Amigos' Vow to Get Half Their Electricity From Clean Power by 2025

DNC Platform Calls for Fossil Fuel Investigations, 100% Renewable Energy

By Molly Dorozenski

At a time when Secretary Clinton should be strengthening her progressive policies, it does not make sense to pick an industry insider who supports fracking to lead her transition team. Unfortunately, that's the exact move that Clinton made this week in appointing former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to that post.

A flare burns near a hydraulic fracturing drilling tower in rural Weld County in northern Colorado, the most intensively fracked area in the U.S. Image of fracking site in Colorado: © Les Stone / Greenpeace

Though not an official lobbyist, Salazar took a job as partner at WilmerHale after leaving the Department of the Interior in 2013, a law and lobbying firm working on energy and environmental issues amongst other things. Salazar's track record has illustrated time and time again that he is on the side of big industry, and not the people. He is pro-Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), pro-fracking and pro-Keystone XL pipeline. If Clinton plans to effectively tackle climate change, the last thing her team needs is a fossil fuel industry friend like Salazar.

A NASA study released this week identified fracking as responsible for a methane "hot spot" in the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, the largest concentration of the potent greenhouse gas in the country. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, yet Salazar has actually made the statement that "there's not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone." The truth is fracking is devastating his home state of Colorado, yet he has chosen to side with industry.

Most recently, Salazar came out in opposition to ballot initiatives to restrict fracking in Colorado. Communities throughout the state spent months collecting signatures for the ballot measures that would establish setbacks for drilling operations from schools and hospitals and empower communities to vote on fracking. Organizers on the ground were fought tooth and nail by the industry, which spent more $75 million since 2014 on PR firms and front groups intent on defeating the ballot measures. Earlier this month, people power overcame its first major hurdle by gathering enough signatures to submit the ballot measures to the Colorado Secretary of State. The office is now officially counting the signatures for qualification for the ballot in November.

A massive fight remains for Colorado activists in the months leading into November. As more oil and gas money flows into the state to mislead voters on the ballot initiatives, it is more important than ever for Secretary Clinton to pick the side of the people over the industry and its mouthpieces. Clinton has indicated support for local control over fracking, but picking an industry insider like Salazar who is fighting against the people's will sends the wrong message about which side she is truly on.

If Secretary Clinton wants to be the environmental leader that she claims to be in campaign speeches, she has to put the people before industry insiders.

Molly Dorozenski is the campaign director for Greenpeace Democracy.

Trending

"I'm thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine," presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted at 8:11 p.m. Friday.

Though the news was not a surprise, as Kaine has long been known as a likely choice, Clinton's pick stirred immediate reaction among the environmental movement. The Virginia senator supports fracking and offshore oil drilling, but was an early opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline.

350 Action Director May Boeve shared her concern of Clinton's vice presidential pick.

"Tim Kaine won't energize the climate base, so it's up to Hillary to start staking out some clearer positions," Boeve said. "Kaine was with us on Keystone XL, but against us on offshore drilling and fracking. This November, climate activists, young people, and progressives will turn up at the polls for candidates who say the magic words, 'keep it in the ground.' If Democrats want to drive turnout, it's time to come out more clearly against drilling, fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure."

On Sunday at 1 p.m., one day before the Democratic National Convention begins in Philadelphia, thousands of people will take part in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution calling for a ban on fracking. The march is organized by Americans Against Fracking and Pennsylvanians Against Fracking and backed by more than 900 organizations across all 50 states.

"Hillary Clinton's vice president and entire administration should be committed 100 percent to combating catastrophic climate change by keeping fossil fuels in the ground, supporting renewable energy and protecting our democracy from corporate influence," Greenpeace Executive Director Annie Leonard said.

"It's clear from the polling that Secretary Clinton needs the progressive wing to vote in force if she's going to win in November, so Tim Kaine must show himself from the start that he'll use his office to be a climate champion," Leonard continued.

"He showed he could do this when he became an early opponent of the Keystone Pipeline, but Kaine's opposition to regulating fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and his support for natural gas exports and pipelines, prove he still has a long way to go. Clinton's positions on fracking may have progressed during her candidacy, but the climate movement will continue to push her and her running mate until they pledge to keep all fossil fuels in the ground."

League of Conservation Voters

Sierra Club's Executive Director Michael Brune feels "Secretary Clinton's selection of Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate completes the strongest environmental ticket we've ever seen." When comparing Clinton's campaign to Donald Trumps, Brune said, "The Democratic ticket is in sharp contrast to the Republican's, which features not one but two climate deniers, a first in American history. The Trump-Pence regime would be the only world leaders to hold that position. Simply put, a Trump-Pence Presidency wouldn't be the only 'TPP' that would destroy our climate."

Trending

Bernie Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton—a decision many Democrats have been waiting for—Tuesday morning at a joint campaign event in New Hampshire.

During his endorsement speech, the Vermont senator said he intends to do everything in his power to ensure the former secretary of state is the next president of the U.S. Sanders began his speech by saying:

Secretary Clinton has won the Democratic nominating process, and I congratulate her for that. She will be the Democratic nominee for president and I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.

I have come here today not to talk about the past but to focus on the future. That future will be shaped more by what happens on November 8 in voting booths across our nation than by any other event in the world. I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president.

Sanders' endorsement comes less than two weeks before the Democratic National Convention. On Sunday the senator, who was in charge of picking the members of the Democratic National Convention's Platform Committee, praised the adoption of "the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party," Democracy Now reported.

While Clinton wasn't known as the first pick for many environmental activists, Sanders has helped the presumptive party nominee develop a more extensive climate policy.

Throughout the primaries, Sanders helped pull Clinton and the party to the left and take stronger climate action.

"Democratic voters have been fortunate to witness a vigorous and hard-fought campaign between two candidates with a clear and progressive vision for out country—which is exactly how it should be," Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, said in a statement.

"Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders made this campaign about ideas. Ideas on how to stop climate disruption while speeding our transition to clean, renewable energy and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Ides on the importance of rejecting dangerous trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership. And ideas on how best to help those whose homes and lives have been wrecked by pollution."

The Sierra Club formally endorsed Clinton in June.

Not everyone was as pleased with the endorsement announcement, though. Several people took to Twitter to show their dislike of the news:

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump weighed in on the endorsement, too:

The Democratic National Convention will be held July 25-28 in Philadelphia.

By Andy Rowell

According to a new analysis, the U.S. now holds more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, the first time this has happened. And more than half of the U.S.'s remaining oil reserves are in shale oil.

The analysis, by Rystad Energy, has concluded that recoverable oil in the U.S. from existing fields, discoveries and yet undiscovered areas is equivalent to 264 billion barrels, which easily beats Saudi Arabia's 212 billion barrels and just squeezes past Russia's 256 billion.

Photo credit: Paul Lowry

The crux though will be whether the U.S. shale industry can access the finance to carry on exploiting shale. And that remains to be seen.

The mini-revival in the oil price may be over. Having rallied since its low point earlier in the year of $27, oil had reached the $60 a mark, but has slipped back to below $50 a barrel on concerns about a slowdown in the global economy has increased.

And those looking for a rapid increase in the next few months look set to be disappointed. The CEO of the world's largest oil trader, Vitol, which trades about 6 million barrels a day, has told Bloomberg that oil prices will not rise much further over the coming months.

Vitol's boss, Ian Taylor said: "I cannot see the market really roaring ahead. We have a lot of oil in the system and it will take us considerable time to work that off."

The international benchmark will probably end the year "not too far away from where we are today" and rise to about $60 by the end of 2017, Taylor said.

According to Bloomberg: "The wild card for next year is U.S. shale supply, which appears to have reached a bottom, but it's too early to say whether growth will resume."

But shale growth is not looking certain, with the industry still struggling with a low oil price and access to financing. And one of the key way to access financing is via bond sales.

As the Financial Times reported: "Bond sales by U.S. independent oil and gas companies have fallen to their slowest rate for more than a decade, in a warning sign of financing constraints that could hold back the industry's recovery."

In the second quarter of this year, the U.S. shale sector sold a paltry $280m of bonds in the second quarter, making it a slower period than any since the financial crisis of 2008-09.

In contrast, the paper points out, the industry raised almost $860bn from bond sales and bank loans during the boom years of 2007-2014. It is an industry still sitting on a crumbling pile of debt.

And the bottom line is that the industry is still spending more than it is earning. According to the FT, the leading U.S. exploration and production companies cut their capital spending to $14.9 billion in the first quarter of this year, which is a whopping $10 billion more than they earned.

This is totally unsustainable and will constrict the smaller players from accessing bonds and finance. Gary Ross of Pira Energy told the FT: "It's not going to be easy to reconstruct this industry."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

The Future of Nuclear Power Is 'Challenging,' Says WNA Report

Public Lands Development Rigged in Favor of Oil and Gas

Free Trade, DNC Platform and the Climate Crisis

Kochs Dump Trump to Fund Climate-Denying Senators in Ohio and Nevada