Slat has spoken before about the necessity to protect our oceans.
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By Meredith Rosenberg
In early October, the United Nations released a climate change report forewarning of global catastrophes (severe flooding, wildfires, droughts) that could begin by 2040 unless drastic changes are made to reduce greenhouse gases. It might seem like a daunting task, but here are five lifestyle changes you can make right now to start reducing your carbon footprint. If you really want to help the planet, follow the next-level suggestions to make the biggest impact.
The Solar Impulse 2 took off earlier this morning from New York City for its historic, sun-powered flight across the Atlantic Ocean. The multi-day odyssey will be the longest and perhaps the most difficult leg in the solar plane's journey around the world.
Solar Impulse 2 pilot Bertrand Piccard took off this morning from New York to attempt the first electric, solar and emission-free transatlantic flight. Photo credit: Solar Impulse
The aircraft left John F. Kennedy International Airport at 2:30 a.m. and is being piloted solo by Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard.
“It’s my first time taking off from JFK,” Piccard said over a live feed from the aircraft, according to the AFP.
The flight will last approximately 90 hours before landing at the Seville Airport in Spain. Weather conditions could force changes to the route and make the flight more difficult.
"Over the Atlantic Ocean, the weather can be rather unstable and unsettling so we can definitely expect to cross a cold front during the flight," the team wrote in a Q&A. "As many sailors have expressed before, the Atlantic Ocean holds the most difficult winds they have ever encountered."
Already several hours into his flight, Piccard tweeted that he's now past the point of no return.
You can take part in the transatlantic experience on solarimpulse.com's live feed. Upcoming Facebook live sessions will also feature Piccard from the Solar Impulse 2 cockpit and fellow pilot Andre Borschberg from the mission control center.
The Solar Impulse team plans to fly around the world using only the power of the sun to promote renewable energy and other environmental causes. The plane, which runs on 17,000 solar cells and batteries, began its round-the-world trip from Abu Dhabi in March 2015.
“We have demonstrated it is feasible to fly many days, many nights, that the technology works,” Borschberg told the Associated Press in April. Borschberg had piloted a grueling 4,000-mile, 118-hour flight between Nagoya, Japan and Hawaii that is officially the longest uninterrupted journey in aviation history.
To complete its circumnavigation around the globe, the plane still has to fly through Europe and the Middle East back to Abu Dhabi.
As Piccard flew above the Atlantic Ocean this morning, he took the time to tweet out a photo of his majestic view.
"What a beautiful sight of jumping whales. Just like the whales below me, #Si2 depends only on nature," he wrote.
Ever the ocean-enthusiast, in April, after making an epic 62-hour flight from Hawaii to California without a drop of fuel, Piccard observed the horrific amount of plastic that has accumulated in the Pacific ocean.
“I flew over plastic waste as big as a continent,” Piccard wrote. “We must continue to support projects like @BoyanSlat Ocean Cleanup,” referring to Slat’s ambitious project of ridding the world’s oceans of plastic trash.
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Solar Impulse 2, a sun-powered aircraft, took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City at 2:30 a.m. on June 20. The flight to Seville, Spain, took approximately 90 hours to complete—traveling at 140 km/h (about 87 mph). Bertrand Piccard, a Swiss adventurer, piloted the airplane.
“The Atlantic is the symbolic part of the flight," Piccard told The Guardian. “It is symbolic because all the means of transportation have always tried to cross the Atlantic, the first steamboats, the first aeroplane, the first balloons, the first airships and, today, it is the first solar-powered aeroplane."
Here are 10 best photos from Piccard's journey on the Solar Impulse 2:
The Solar Impulse 2 makes an historic flight over the Statue of Liberty before landing at New York's JFK airport on June 11. Photo credit: Jean Revillard, Solar Impulse
Solar Impulse 2 flies over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi as it prepares for take off for the first leg of its journey to Muscat, Oman. Photo credit: Reuters via The Guardian
After a pit stop in Oman, Solar Impulse 2 sets off for Ahmedabad, India, on March 10, 2015. Photo credit: Jean Revillard, Solar Impulse
strawberry moon. Photo credit: Solar Impulse
The Solar Impulse 2 landing in Mandalay, Myanmar, after the flight from Varanasi in India on March 19, 2015. Photo credit: Stefatou, Solar Impulse
The Solar Impulse 2 team completed a record-breaking longest solar flight across the pacific from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii—117 hours and 52 minutes. Photo credit: Solar Impulse
The Solar Impulse 2 lands in Muscat, Oman. Photo credit: Stefatou, Solar Impulse
Piccard and Borschberg celebrate after completing the first ever crossing of the Atlantic by a solar-powered aeroplane. Photo credit: Jose Manuel Vidal, EPA via The Guardian
Piccard chronicled his journey on Twitter:
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The Energy Observer, the world's first boat powered by solar, wind and self-generated hydrogen, is gearing up for its scheduled maiden journey in February.
The boat will sail for six years around the world as a floating exhibition and clean energy laboratory.Energy Observer
The €4.2m ($4.72 million) vessel—nicknamed the "Solar Impulse of the Seas"—aims to circumnavigate the globe using only clean power, a feat similar to Solar Impulse 2's historic, solar-powered flight around the world that was completed this past July.
The boat will sail for six years around the world as a floating exhibition and clean energy laboratory, with stops in 50 countries and 101 ports of call.
"For the first time, Energy Observer will allow us to explore the oceans without leaving any trace behind us," Jerome Delafosse, a director and co-captain of the expedition, said in the video.
The multi-hulled catamaran, a former racing vessel that won the 1994 Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest circumnavigation of the world, stands at 30 meters in length and 12.80 meters in width. Its green upgrade is currently in full swing at a shipyard in Saint Malo, France where it awaits installation of 130 square meters of solar panels, two vertical axis wind turbines, two reversible electric motors and electrolysis equipment—all to help produce and store hydrogen onboard.
"Hydrogen is not a fuel but a way of storing energy," Delafosse told Tribune de Genève. "Instead of batteries, we fill high-pressure hydrogen tanks and the hydrogen can power our fuel cell and generate electricity."
The ship will also be the first in the world to produce hydrogen on board through desalination of sea water, according to ENSTA Bretagne.
All this green technology onboard will allow the boat to power itself indefinitely with emission-free energy.
As Agence France-Presse writes:
“We are going to be the first boat with an autonomous means of producing hydrogen," says Frenchman Victorien Erussard, who is behind the project—confidential until now—with compatriot Jacques Delafosse, a documentary filmmaker and professional scuba diver.
The plan is for the boat's batteries, which will feed the electric motors, to be powered in good weather by solar and wind energy, explained the 37-year-old merchant navy officer.
“If there's no sun or wind, or if it's night, stored hydrogen—generated by electrolysis powered by the solar panels and two wind turbines—will take over," he said.
As a result, the vessel's trip will not use any carbon-emitting fossil fuels, as is the case for 96% of boats today.
The project was designed in partnership the research institute CEA-Liten in Grenoble.
"Energy Observer is emblematic of what will be the energy networks of tomorrow, with solutions that could even be used within five years," CEA-Liten director Florence Lambert said. "For example, the houses of tomorrow could incorporate a system of hydrogen storage, which is produced during the summer months and then used in the winter."
Erussard says in the video that the vessel stands out from others "in the fact that it will operate using a mix of renewable energy, wind, solar and water."
"The aim is actually to achieve energy self-sufficiency," he added. "This self-sufficiency can be transferred to land applications such as buildings, schools, hotels and so on."
Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered airplane, finished its historic trip around the world, which started back in March 2015. The plane landed in Abu Dhabi early Tuesday.
André Borschberg (left) and Bertrand Piccard (right) celebrate after Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi, completing an historic trip around the world.Photo credit: Solar Impulse, Flickr
Solar Impulse traveled around the world, breaking the journey down into 17 legs, spending a total of 23 days in the air. The plane, powered by 17,000 solar cells, traveled 42,000 kilometers (about 26,100 miles) in a little more than a year. Its trip across the Atlantic Ocean from New York City to Seville, Spain, alone took approximately 90 hours to complete, traveling at 140 km/h (about 87 mph). The plane's longest trip was from Japan to Hawaii, which lasted almost five days.
Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg alternated piloting the solar-powered plane. On the ground, they were helped by a team of 30 engineers, 25 technicians and 22 navigation controllers.
After landing in Abu Dhabi, Piccard called the journey not only an achievement for the history of aviation, but a success for the history of energy. The pilots hope their journey promotes investment in clean energy.
"If we want a good quality of life today, we have to turn to clean technology and renewable energies," Piccard said.
"If governments had the courage to promote clean technologies on a massive scale, our society could simultaneously reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, create jobs and stimulate sustainable growth."
Piccard and Borschberg never had a shortage of views during their trip. Solar Impulse 2 was subject to amazing views, clean energy innovations and some of the world's most challenging problems, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
It took 13 years to achieve Solar Impulse's historic journey, but now the group is moving on to other projects such as establishing the International Committee of Clean Technology (ICCT). Piccard and Borschberg created the ICCT to "continue the legacy Solar Impulse started, promoting concrete energy efficient solutions in order to solve many of the challenges facing society today."
Already 400 organizations have joined forces to help the ICCT achieve its goals. Notable patrons include H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Richard Branson and Kofi Annan, who have already dedicated their work to the environment and clean energy sources. Patrons will advise governments and corporations on how to use clean technology.
"The International Committee of Clean Technologies is a fantastic opportunity to bring together a group of experts, with diverse experiences and backgrounds, to speak in one voice and leverage the efforts needed to bring change and influence global decision makers in the areas of clean technologies and renewable energy," Borschberg said.
Solar Impulse successfully lands in Abu Dhabi with Bertrand Piccard at the controls.Photo credit: Solar Impulse, Flickr
On July 11, Borschberg also predicted the world will soon see solar drones in the stratosphere, inspired by Solar Impulse's achievements.
"Solar Impulse is of course very well positioned to contribute to the next generation of unmanned solar airplanes," he said. "When considering technological progress today, these unmanned aircrafts will be able to fly much higher than they can today, avoiding air traffic and bad weather. They will be able to fly in extremely low air density and remain in the air both day and night, essentially taking over the need for satellites in a cheaper and more sustainable way. Parallel to SpaceX and Blue Origin, they could be brought down from the stratosphere to perform repairs and upgrades."
Borschberg mentioned that Solar Impulse may take flight again in different parts of the world to spread its message about clean technology.
The Solar Impulse team in Abu Dhabi after a successful landing, ending an historic trip around the world.Photo credit: Solar Impulse, Flickr
But for now, the pilots can revel in their completion of an historic trip around the world.
After the plane's stop in Cairo, it will make its way back to Abu Dhabi to complete its trip around the world. André Borschberg is piloting this leg of the flight, which took off from Seville at 4:20 a.m. local time (11:30 p.m. on July 10 EDT).
The 20-megawatt plant is the world's first utility-scale solar power plant to produce reliable energy for 24 hours a day. The plant, Masdar said, contains molten salt storage technology enabling it to generate electricity for 15 hours without solar irradiance electricity.
"A key misconception about solar energy is that it is only viable during daylight hours," Masdar CEO Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi said. "Yet we have just witnessed a solar-powered aircraft capable of flying day and night soar directly over the first plant of its kind to produce reliable electricity day and night. This moment is a powerful symbol of the potential of solar energy and clean technologies to power a sustainable future, whether or not the sun is shining."
The Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant covers 185 hectares and generates 110 gigawatt hours per year. Energy produced by the plant is capable of powering 25,000 homes. The plant also offsets up to 30,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
Who says President Trump doesn't have a coherent foreign policy? Pundits and critics across the political spectrum have chided him for failing to articulate and implement a clear international agenda. Look closely at his overseas endeavors, though, and one all-too-consistent pattern emerges: Donald Trump will do whatever it takes to prolong the reign of fossil fuels by sabotaging efforts to curb carbon emissions and promoting the global consumption of U.S. oil, coal and natural gas. Whenever he meets with foreign leaders, it seems, his first impulse is to ply them with American fossil fuels.
The electric car company made the announcement Tuesday and explained the offer in a blog post:
Tesla’s mission has always been tied to sustainability. We seek to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transportation by offering increasingly affordable electric vehicles. And in March 2015, we launched Tesla Energy, which through the Powerwall and Powerpack allow homeowners, business owners and utilities to benefit from renewable energy storage.
It’s now time to complete the picture. Tesla customers can drive clean cars and they can use our battery packs to help consume energy more efficiently, but they still need access to the most sustainable energy source that’s available: the sun.
“The world does not look for another car company, the world looks for sustainable energy companies,” Musk told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday.
The prolific entrepreneur is the chairman of SolarCity, which was founded and is operated by his cousins, Lyndon Rive and Peter Rive. Musk is the largest individual shareholder of both companies, with 21.3 percent of Tesla and 22 percent of SolarCity, according to estimates.
SolarCity is the top residential solar installer in the country. Its customers pay for the panels with a monthly fee that's typically less than what they would pay to the power company. A marriage between the two companies would seamlessly tie SolarCity's panels with Tesla's Powerwall batteries. Having a solar-plus-storage system installed by a single company would allow an easier transition to customers to unhook themselves from a carbonized grid.
This morning, in a conference call to reporters and shareholders, Musk further discussed the rationale behind the offer. He said that the idea of consolidating Tesla and SolarCity "has been floated over the years" and it would be “extremely unwieldy” to operate as two companies.
In its blog post, Tesla listed off a number of "significant benefits to our shareholders, customers and employees" if the deal is completed:
- We would be the world’s only vertically integrated energy company offering end-to-end clean energy products to our customers. This would start with the car that you drive and the energy that you use to charge it, and would extend to how everything else in your home or business is powered. With your Model S, Model X, or Model 3, your solar panel system, and your Powerwall all in place, you would be able to deploy and consume energy in the most efficient and sustainable way possible, lowering your costs and minimizing your dependence on fossil fuels and the grid.
- We would be able to expand our addressable market further than either company could do separately. Because of the shared ideals of the companies and our customers, those who are interested in buying Tesla vehicles or Powerwalls are naturally interested in going solar, and the reverse is true as well. When brought together by the high foot traffic that is drawn to Tesla’s stores, everyone should benefit.
- We would be able to maximize and build on the core competencies of each company. Tesla’s experience in design, engineering, and manufacturing should help continue to advance solar panel technology, including by making solar panels add to the look of your home. Similarly, SolarCity’s wide network of sales and distribution channels and expertise in offering customer-friendly financing products would significantly benefit Tesla and its customers.
- We would be able to provide the best possible installation service for all of our clean energy products. SolarCity is the best at installing solar panel systems, and that expertise translates seamlessly to the installation of Powerwalls and charging systems for Tesla vehicles.
- Culturally, this is a great fit. Both companies are driven by a mission of sustainability, innovation, and overcoming any challenges that stand in the way of progress.
“This is what the world needs ... this is Earth’s solution,” Musk said of the merger this morning. Musk has long been a champion solar energy and highly critical of fossil fuels and the fossil fuel industry.
“We have to look back on gas engine cars like we look back on steam engines,” as well as power from fossil fuels, Musk added.
The fact that Musk has the biggest slice of both companies leaves Musk in a bit of an awkward situation, media reports have noted. Electrek explained that the offer to SolarCity "will be contingent on a vote from the shareholders and Musk will abstain from voting his shares due to his vested interest in the deal."
Analysts and investors do not appear happy with the plan. Reuters reported that Tesla’s stock price spiraled more than 13 percent to $189.99 following the announcement yesterday. At the same time however, shares of SolarCity soared about 18 percent to $25.02.
Electrek also observed that shareholders are "calling the deal a 'bailout' of SolarCity, especially after Musk bought another $10 million worth of shares last year—before the stock fell 60 percent in 2016."
SolarCity is also in an ongoing battle against regulators and utilities in states that are unfriendly to rooftop solar, aka the "solar wars" in Nevada over net metering, which allows homeowners to offset the cost of their panels by selling any electricity they don’t use back to the grid. Nevada's NV Energy has been fighting these policies tooth and nail.
Musk, however, shot down the idea of a “bailout” of SolarCity, calling it a “false description.”
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Sweden opened a stretch of electric highway, becoming the first country to test electric power for heavy transport.
Electric-powered trucks are expected to cut 80 to 90 percent of fossil fuel emissions in Sweden.
A 22 kilometer (or roughly 13 miles) stretch of the E16 road—which connects Oslo, Norway, to Gävle, Sweden—is fitted with power lines overhead, developed by Siemens, providing electricity to hybrid trucks. The system works like a tram system. A current collector on the trucks will transfer energy from the power lines to the trucks' hybrid electric motors, Sputnik News reported. The electric lines help trucks operate longer between recharges.
“Electric roads will bring us one step closer to fossil fuel-free transports, and has the potential to achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions," Lena Erixon, director general of transport authority Trafikverket, said. "This is one way of developing environmentally smart transports in the existing road network. It could be a good supplement to todays road and rail network."
When the trucks, provided by Scania, are not on the electric stretch of road, they will operate as hybrid vehicles running on biofuel. Electric-powered trucks are expected to cut 80 to 90 percent of fossil fuel emissions. The opening of this stretch of road is another step toward Sweden's goal of operating a fossil fuel-free fleet by 2030, Inhabitat reported.
“Electric roads are one more piece of the puzzle in the transport system of the future, especially for making the heavy transport section fossil fuel-free over the long term," Erik Brandsma, director general of the Swedish Energy Agency, said. "This project also shows the importance of all the actors in the field cooperating."
Road transport accounts for one third of Sweden's net carbon dioxide emissions, Sputnik News reported. In the U.S. in 2014, carbon dioxide emissions accounted for 80.9 percent of all human-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carbon dioxide emissions accounts for 65 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Siemens is planning to create another demonstration route, according to Sputnik News. The new stretch will be completed on public roads near Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. Siemens is working with Volvo Trucks on that project.
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The solar airplane as it approaches the California. Photo credit: Solar Impulse
"I flew over plastic waste as big as a continent," Piccard wrote. "We must continue to support projects like @BoyanSlat Ocean Cleanup," referring to Slat's ambitious project of ridding the world's oceans of plastic trash.
The Ocean Cleanup describes itself as the “world's first feasible concept to clean the oceans of plastic" and has garnered widespread public admiration and support especially for Slat, a former aerospace engineering student who proposed the concept when he was only 17.
Piccard and Slat also spoke on Friday as the solar-powered plane made its risky journey.
It's no surprise that the pilot and the young inventor linked up—both are using innovative technology to promote the greater good of the planet.
Piccard and the Solar Impulse team plan to fly around the world using only the power of the sun to promote clean transportation and other environmental causes.
"We have demonstrated it is feasible to fly many days, many nights, that the technology works," fellow pilot Andre Borschberg told the Associated Press.
"I think innovation and pioneering must continue," Piccard added. "It must continue for better quality of life, for clean technologies, for renewable energy. This is where the pioneers can really express themselves and be successful."
The Ocean Cleanup involves a massive static platform and V-shapped booms that passively corrals plastics with wind and ocean currents. If all goes to plan, the project will officially launch in 2020 and be the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean.
Similarly, both parties have experienced hiccups along the way. Before arriving in California, the plane, the Solar Impulse 2, had been grounded in Hawaii for nine months as it underwent repairs after its record-breaking five-day trip from Japan to Hawaii in July.
As for Ocean Cleanup project, despite a 530-page feasibility study, some critics and scientists have written off Slat's idea on mechanical design and ecological impacts. Dr. Marcus Eriksen, the co-founder of 5 Gyres, offered a number of constructive suggestions for the project.
Still, it's very clear that the environment needs whatever help it can get, from curbing our reliance on dirty energy to putting a stop to plastic waste. The world's oceans and marine life are suffering from a devastating plastic crisis, with 8 million metric tons of plastic waste dumped into our oceans every year. Plastic pollution is only getting worse as consumer use of plastic and plastic-intensive goods intensifies in emerging countries.
Not only that, an alarming new study by the University of Delaware physical oceanographer Tobias Kukulka reported that there might be much more plastic than what's estimated.
“My research has shown that ocean turbulence actually mixes plastics and other pollutants down into the water column despite their buoyancy," Kukulka said, according to UD Daily. “This means that surface measurements could be wildly off and the concentration of plastic in the marine environment may be significantly higher than we thought."
Marine debris that has accumulated in the Pacific Ocean. Photo credit: NOAA
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By Ada Carr
At least 24 people have died and a federal disaster has been declared in West Virginia after heavy rains flooded several towns, prompting search and rescue operations. Both Virginia and West Virginia have declared states of emergency due to the devastating event that has been described as "complete chaos."
"Roads destroyed, bridges out, homes burned down, washed off foundations," said Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill. "Multiple sections of highway just missing. Pavement just peeled off like a banana. I've never seen anything like that."
West Virginia climatologist Kevin Law told USA Today that this is the third-deadliest flooding event on record for the state. A November 1985 flood that killed 38 ranked second-worst, and the 1972 Buffalo Creek flood that killed 125 was the worst in state history, the report also said.
The news came one day after at least 12 confirmed tornadoes touched down in northern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, the National Weather Service said. Tens of thousands were left without power across the Midwest as a derecho swept through the region, leaving a trail of damage from Illinois all the way to Virginia.
Here are the latest impacts from these storms:
Flooding claimed at least 24 lives in West Virginia.
Sixteen people died in Greenbrier County, at least 15 of them in the town of Rainelle, according to the Associated Press. Greenbrier is the only county where people are believed to still be missing.
Six other deaths were reported in Kanawha, as well as one each in Jackson and Ohio counties.
Eight-year-old Emanual Williams died Thursday at a West Virginia hospital after he slipped into a creek in Ohio County and was swept away by raging waters, The Intelligencer reported. Williams is the only fatality to be identified by authorities so far.
Saturday a news release from Tomblin's office announced that a federal disaster declaration was approved for assistance in Kanawha, Greenbrier and Nicholas counties. The declaration provides people in those counties with individual assistance for emergency medical support, housing and a number of other immediate needs.
Sunday the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began accepting applications for aid from residents in the three hardest hit counties, AP reports.
With the help of 200 National Guardsmen, local crews in eight counties continue to perform swift water rescues, search and rescue efforts and health and welfare checks, AP also reports.
The governor said he planned to fly around the hardest-hit areas, but was unable to because all the state aircraft are being used for rescues.
Saturday officials announced the PGA Tour scheduled for July has been canceled due to the flooding. According to AP, the Old White TPC golf course at the Greenbrier Resort has suffered extensive damage and is "beyond reasonable repair to conduct the tournament."
In Sulphur Springs, Belinda Scott sustained burns over two-thirds of her body after her flooded home exploded. Before the incident, Scott called her husband to tell him their house was filling up with water. She had fled to the attic to wait when she smelled natural gas. Then, the house exploded.
Scott was able to break a vent and get out onto a porch and into a tree, which she clung to for hours before being rescued by state police.
Gov. Tomblin expanded a state of emergency to 44 counties as heavy rain continued into the evening, WSAZ.com reported. Tomblin also authorized the deployment of the West Virginia National Guard to assist local emergency responders.
Some areas of the state are "probably looking at flooding that's going to be the worst in 100 years," said the governor's communications director Chris Stadelman.
Hundreds of people became stranded at the Elkview Crossings Mall after the overpass bridge into the shopping annex was washed away by floodwaters. Some had to sleep in their cars or at businesses overnight.
One of the people rescued, Eric Blackshire, opted for a hotel room.
"It was kind of like a hurricane party," he told AP. "I guess you could call it a flood party. There were lots of beers being drank last night."
Blackshire and others were transported to safety Friday by Pinch Volunteer Fire Department firefighters. They used a rope to guide people down a hillside as crews worked to build a gravel road on the shopping plaza's backside.
The Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority says they are estimating about 500 people are stuck in the plaza. Tomblin said crews are working to build a gravel road to reach those who are trapped.
White Sulphur Springs residents were left reeling as heavy flooding encroached the city, West Virginia Metro News says. Significant flooding knocked a home off of its foundation and it caught on fire, WSAZ-TV reported. The burning house was seen floating down Howard's Creek.
One resident posted a heart-wrenching update to Facebook, saying, "Please pray for our neighbors. They are trapped in their attic with small children. Our other neighbors are on their kitchen counter..it has washed away the barn..cars..buildings. .flooded houses ... My sister has lost her pets … it is devestating … please pray for our small town..'
“We surely need your prayers, because there's a lot of people hurting right now," Jim Justice, owner of the Greenbrier Resort, said during an interview on The Weather Channel.
In the town of Richwood, where a flash flood emergency was declared, homes and buildings were evacuated as water levels rose quickly Thursday afternoon, according to the Associated Press. Mayor Robert Johnson said the damage will be extensive in the wake of the storms.
"We pretty much live in a bowl, and the bowl filled with water, certainly," he told the AP.
Several water rescues were underway Thursday near Jordan Creek, WSAZ reports. High water covering roads was reported in Marmet, Belle and Chesapeake.
The town of Clendenin also experienced severe flooding, and according to local reports, the town was only able to be reached by helicopter Thursday night.
Officials say three emergency workers were injured during a water rescue in Alleghany County.
Botetourt County Battalion Chief Andrew Moore said by telephone Friday that one worker fell in the water during a rescue in Alleghany County on Thursday night. He says the worker is in critical but stable condition. He says two other workers hurt while rescuing their colleague received minor injuries and were released from a hospital.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe tweeted Thursday night that a state of emergency has been declared, allowing state agencies to bypass some time-consuming procedures to quickly help local governments.
Residents of downtown Covington, as well as low-lying areas of the city, were evacuated Thursday night to established shelters, WDBJ reported. Evacuations were ordered as the Jackson River neared record levels.
Roads were closed and several house fires were sparked by lightning as the storms pushed through the Commonwealth.
According to the Roanoke Times, a handful of roads were closedby flooding in Covington and Alleghany County, and a few other roads were shut down in Botetourt County, the state Department of Transportation said.
House fires were blamed on lightning in Read Mountain, Goode and Thaxton, the report added. No injuries were reported in those incidents.
As many as 18 reports of tornadoes came in Wednesday night, and NWS survey crews conducted damage surveys along 3 separate supercell paths Thursday morning.
An EF2 tornado was spotted in Marseilles-Seneca Wednesday night, according to NWS. Two separate EF1 tornadoes were also reported that same night in West Brooklyn and Cissna Park.
Shortly before 10:30 p.m. CDT, a large tornado moved into the town of Pontiac, Illinois. The tornado, which the NWS has preliminarily rated an EF2, was left an 11-mile damage path.
The tornado ripped off the side of a Shell gas station, tossing mangled metal and wood around, ABC7 reports. Some pieces shattered the windows of parked cars. The glass hit one person, but the injuries were minor.
The driver of a semi parked at the gas station suffered a dislocated shoulder after the winds blew his truck over into its side, the station said.
Storm spotters reported seeing power flashes before much of the town of 12,000 lost power, and chasers who followed the storm into Pontiac saw destroyed mobile homes at a trailer park. According to the fire chief in Pontiac, two children inside a mobile home suffered minor injuries, WGN reports.
North of Ottawa, an EF0 tornado was confirmed by the NWS. The twister had maximum winds of 90 mph, measured 100 yards wide and stayed on the ground for 4.5 miles.
In the town of Seneca, fire crews were responding to reports of people trapped in a home, but nobody was believed to be injured inside the dwelling.
The night began when a tornado was observed briefly near Amboy by trained spotters at about 7:15 p.m. CDT Wednesday night. The second tornado was reportedly in progress just minutes later in Lee County, near the towns of Paw Paw and Compton. The NWS reported tree damage in Compton.
"I was thinking I was going to die. I was really thinking that something bad was going to happen. It was just bad. I was about to cry," Eason said. "The rain... I couldn't even see when I was driving, the road.
A home in the north Chicago suburb of Evanston is "uninhabitable" after a lightning strike sparked a fireWednesday evening, CBS Chicago reported. A neighbor called to report the two-story home had been struck by lightning and fire crews arrived to find smoke coming from the eaves with the attic on fire, the fire department said. No injuries were reported.
The storms then marched toward Chicago, and at Soldier Field, some 50,000 soccer fans attending the Copa America semifinal game between Chile and Colombia were asked to clear the stands and seek shelter Wednesday evening, according to the AP. The teams were allowed to play the first half, but storms moved in at halftime, forcing stadium officials to activate the storm safety plan.
Severe storms rolled eastward through Indiana late Wednesday evening, damaging several buildings, a radio tower and downing numerous trees across the state.
A tornado spotted 5 miles south-southeast of Huntington was rated EF1 by NWS. It was quickly followed by another tornado, rated an EF2, which traveled in the same area just minutes later. The second tornado crossed the path of the first, according to the damage survey.
A large outbuilding on a farm near Brookston containing several tractors, a combine and other farm equipment had its roof completely ripped off, WTHR reports.
The high winds during knocked over a radio tower in Russiavilleearly Thursday morning.
"Just all of a sudden it was raining sideways and blowing so hard, you couldn't see in front of your face," Russiaville Town Marshal Roger Waddell told Fox 59. "We heard tree limbs snapping and I heard some stuff blowing around."
The tower, which was mostly used for a broadband internet service, landed on some power lines and was resting on the roof of an RV business.
The Indianapolis Power & Light Company reported Thursday morning that more than 10,000 customers were without powerin the Indianapolis area.
The NWS has confirmed a pair of EF0 tornadoes hit the Buckeye State during the severe weather outbreak, with damage surveys ongoing. One tornado was confirmed in Fayette County, east of the Washington courthouse, while the other occurred in Clinton County, southwest of Wilmington.
No injuries have been reported, WLWT.com said, but photos and video from the area showed a variety of damage to trees, wires and some buildings between Waynesville and Wilmington. Trees were also reported down on houses in West College Corner, Madison Township and Hyde Park.
Around 34,000 Duke Energy customers were left without power at one point during the storm.
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From Noam Chomsky's epic post on his fears of the coming Trump Administration to Michael Moore's damnation of the Flint water crisis to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s first-hand account of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, 2016 was jam-packed with news once again showing our continued disregard for the health of people and the planet.
[Editor's note: Poor weather conditions are forcing Solar Impulse pilot André Borschberg to land in Nagoya, Japan at approximately 23:00 local time (14:00 GMT). Borschberg will wait for better weather conditions to continue his flight across the Pacific.]
Solar Impulse 2, the first solar airplane able to sustain flight at night with a pilot on board has been making its way around the world over the past few months. The plane took off today a little after 2 a.m. on Sunday in Nanjing, China. The flight from Nanjing to Honolulu, Hawaii is the seventh and longest leg of the first round-the-world solar flight. It will take an estimated six days to complete the roughly 5,000-mile journey. The first leg of the journey took place in early March, taking off from from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and landing in the Omani capital, Muscat.
— Bertrand PICCARD (@bertrandpiccard) May 30, 2015
If the flight is successful, it will be the longest ever flight on solar power, both in terms of distance and time.
"Flying across oceans without fuel means taking renewable energy to the ultimate level," says the Solar Impulse team. The plane, which has been piloted by both André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, has a wingspan bigger than that of a Boeing 747 but it weights only one percent of that—about the weight of a large passenger car. Built into the wing are 17,000 solar cells that feed four electric motors and recharge lithium batteries for night flight.
— SOLAR IMPULSE (@solarimpulse) May 30, 2015
The flight from Nanjing has been delayed for weeks due to weather conditions over the Pacific, which has made the build up to today's takeoff even more exciting. "A cold front over the ocean created 'a wall of clouds and thunderstorms stretching from Taiwan to above the east coast of Japan,'" the team told CNN. But when the team found a break in the weather, they decided to go for it. You can watch live coverage of the event here:
And you can even track the flight in real-time on their website. You can track the plane's altitude, its distance, its energy use, the air temperature and even what the pilot is doing at the current moment (piloting, interview, yoga, self-hypnosis, resting, eating or using the bathroom).
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At the beginning of last week, environmentalists celebrated when the largest energy infrastructure company in North America, Kinder Morgan, pulled the plug on its controversial natural gas pipeline which had been proposed through parts of Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, called NorthEast Energy Direct.
But the energy giant is pushing ahead with other contentious pipelines, not least its Trans Mountain pipeline that connects the dirty tar sands in Alberta to an oil terminal in Burnaby, in British Colombia.
From here the tar sands is transported by tanker via the ecologically sensitive Salish Sea, which is a crucial habitat for endangered killer whales.
And now a new report by Friends of the Earth, Tar Sands/Dilbit Crude Oil Movements Within the Salish Sea, focuses on these movements of tar sands, which have been diluted with lighter volatile products to enable it to be shipped as “dilbit” or diluted bitumen.
The report focuses on the poorly publicized proposal to triple the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would result in an increased capacity to ship dilbit crude from Burnaby in British Colombia via the Salish Sea from 300,000 bbls/day to 890,000 bbls/day.
In turn this would result in a 7-fold increase in tanker traffic transiting through the Salish Sea, which is not just an important habitat for endangered killer whales, but is also home to 37 species of mammals, 172 species of birds, 247 species of fish and more than 3,000 species of invertebrates—approximately 113 of which are either listed as threatened or endangered in Canada and the U.S.
The report concludes the number of dilbit carrying oil tankers would increase from approximately one per week to one per day, significantly increasing the amount of oil being transported through the sea.
Friends of the Earth northwest consultant Fred Felleman said: “Trans Mountain is the one of the biggest threats to U.S. waters that few people have ever heard of.”
He says the proposed dilbit shipments are “a recipe for disaster.”
Friends of the Earth is now calling for improvements to the region’s oil spill response regulations, warning against “the biggest underlying threat of an oil spill—complacency.”
According to Felleman: “The expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline poses the greatest risk of a catastrophic oil spill in the Salish Sea,” before adding: “This project would be the final harpoon in the population of endangered southern resident killer whales.”
And that is before you factor in how the dirty tar sands flowing down Trans Mountain will undermine Canada’s climate goals.
With the signing of the historic Paris agreement, Canada has committed to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees C and aspire to keep it to less than 1.5 degrees C.
In either scenario, there is simply no room for tar sands expansion.
Alberta’s Premier Notley’s most recent plea for new pipelines to access more markets has been thoroughly debunked in a recent Oil Change International briefing note here.
New pipelines are about one thing only: locking in dangerous expansion of the world’s third largest oil reserve. This would also mean harnessing a fragile economy to decades’ more worth of boom and bust.
Alberta has massive potential to become a renewable energy superpower and new pipelines would do nothing but undermine this opportunity.
It looks like the opposition to this pipeline will only grow.
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Solar Impulse 2, the first solar airplane able to sustain flight at night with a pilot on board, took off today from Abu Dhabi, heading east to the Omani capital, Muscat. Over the next five months, if all goes to plan, the plane will go from continent to continent, crossing both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. The plane will stop to receive maintenance and, during that time, the project's backers, which include Richard Branson and Robert Swan, will spread awareness about renewable technologies.
The launch of the project was announced in November 2003, almost exactly a century after the Wright brothers’ historic flight. The team began work soon after that. The plane went on its first test flights in 2010, and in July of that year, it made the first night flight in the history of solar aviation, lasting more than 26 hours. It took progressively longer flights, including a trip across the U.S., leading up to this trip.
Before taking off, pilot Andre Borschberg told BBC News: "I am confident we have a very special aeroplane, and it will have to be to get us across the big oceans." Monday's leg to Oman will cover about 250 miles and take an estimated 12 hours, according to the BBC. Its average speed will only be about 43 miles per hour, hence the long flight time. It may not be breaking any records for speed, but it has already broken many records (basically, anytime it does anything it sets a record), and if it's successful, it will be the first solar powered plane to circumnavigate the globe.
It is not at all certain Solar Impulse will be a success. The plane's team is worried about ocean crossings, which will be very weather-dependent. The 21,747-mile trip, which is expected to take about four months, will be split into 12 legs. The trips across the ocean will take almost six days, putting quite a mental and physical strain on the pilots. The cockpit is only 3.8 cubic meters in size and the pilots are only allowed to take 20-minute naps.
Nevertheless, this is a very exciting moment for solar, which could be the largest source of electricity by 2050, according to a report from last fall by the International Energy Agency. It's a dream come true for the plane's other pilot, Bertrand Piccard, who will rotate with Borschberg. "I had this dream 16 years ago of flying around the world without fuel, just on solar power," Piccard told BBC News. "Now, we're about to do it. The passion is there and I look forward so much to being in the cockpit."
The Solar Impulse team hopes the projects can be "implemented in daily life, for cars or for heating systems or for the construction of houses," Piccard told National Geographic. "All the technology exists; we should use it much more in our daily life.”
Watch the plane take off in Abu Dhabi:
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At this year's Waterkeeper Alliance conference in Boulder, Colorado, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivered a provocative unscripted keynote that lambasted the carbon lobby for undermining democracy and subverting the common right to a healthy environment.
Speaking to a group of activists, including more than 200 Waterkeepers from 30 nations, Kennedy declared, “We are engaged, as Abraham Lincoln said, 'in a great Civil War.'" This time, he said, "the conflict involves all the Earth’s peoples. It’s not just a battle to protect our waterways, our livelihoods, our property and our backyards. It’s a struggle for our sovereignty, our values, our health and our lives. It’s a battle for dignified humane and wholesome communities. It’s a defensive war against toxic and economic aggression by Big Oil and King Coal. It’s a struggle to break free of the 'soft colonialism' of carbon’s corporate tyranny and create an economic and energy system that is fair, rooted in justice, economic independence and freedom.”
He started by talking about the disproportionate impact of pollution on the poor and minorities. “Polluters,” he explained, “assault soft targets first—and that means the poor.” He recounted how the majority of toxic industrial sites and noxious facilities are in lower income communities where residents lack political power or connections to protect themselves. He gave examples of these environmental injustices including, Emelle, Alabama, which is home to the largest toxic waste dump in America—one of the country's most impoverished regions where one-third of the residents live below the poverty line and more than 65 percent of the residents are black—Chicago’s south side, which has more toxic waste sites than any other American community and East Los Angeles, a primarily black and Hispanic community, which is the most contaminated zip code in America.
“In these communities,” he said, “Not just the land and water, but the people have been commoditized—and everything becomes expendable in the drive for corporate profits.”
But he added, “It’s not just the poor who are under assault. The corporate hunger for profit is threatening all people with loss of their natural world and the other assets of their patrimony."
Kennedy said that corporate efforts to privatize the commons are occurring in all parts of the world and that “environmental injury correlates almost perfectly with political tyranny.”
"In China, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, environmental destruction went hand in hand with political despotism and corruption," he continued. "Thanks to the Pinochet regime, the forests and waters of Chile are no longer owned by the Chilean people. Every single river in Chile is now owned by a Spanish company, Endessa which plans to dam all of them for private profit. So the people of that nation no longer own their rivers, they don’t own their forests. Even the highways, railroads, utilities, airports, stadiums and prisons—all the public spaces that once formed our civic lives are being occupied by private and corporate wealth."
Kennedy recalled that during the 1994 campaign to save the iconic BioBio river from Endesa’s dam builders, the Chilean human rights lawyer, Juan Pablo Ortega had lamented, "Supposedly we have a democracy after Pinochet left, but it’s folly to call a system a 'democracy' when the people have no control over their resources. We Chileans are no longer the sovereigns of our lands.”
Kennedy assured the crowd that "This is what the battle is about. It’s about losing control of the commons. The air, the water, the wildlife, the fisheries and public lands, the shared resources of our society: The commonwealth assets that provide the gravities around which communities coalesce.”
To give context to the history, Kennedy talked about the many environmental insults in the 1960’s that spurred the modern-day environmental movement, including the 1963 extinction of the Eastern Peregrine Falcon from DDT poisoning, the burning of the Cuyahoga River, the Santa Barbara oil spill and the declaration that Lake Erie was dead, which all occurred in 1969. The Santa Barbara spill held the record for the largest oil spill until Exxon Valdez and the BP Deepwater Horizon. In those three examples, polluters had effectively privatized a major American river, one of the Great Lakes and all the beaches in Southern California.
In response to such insults, in 1970, 20 million Americans, 10 percent of our population, came out on the streets for the first Earth Day in "a democratic reassertion of popular sovereignty over the common’s, those crowds demanded that our political leaders return to the American people the ancient environmental rights that had been stolen from our citizens since the Industrial Revolution,” Kennedy said.
In response to this massive public outpouring, Republicans and Democrats working together passed, over the next 10 years, 28 major environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, RCRA, TSCA, FIFRA, The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act and Superfund. All of these statutes were intended to restore our rights to the public commons. What happened next? "These new prohibitions against corporate pollution hurt the industry’s bottom line. So the polluters fought back," he declared.
Throughout the next three decades, polluters funded politicians including Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan, their appointed judges and various Republican Congresses chipped away at the new environmental laws. But then, according to Kennedy, the industry achieved its most brazen and stunning victory. Kennedy said, "In the year of the millennium, the most corporate friendly Supreme Court since 1933 stopped the 2000 election vote count in Florida and stole the presidency from Senator Al Gore, the greenest presidential candidate in our history. That decision turned the White House over to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, two Texas oilmen."
Seventeen of the top 21 people in the new administration were from the oil or allied industries. Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney, was the CEO of oil service company Halliburton and the owner of millions of dollars of Halliburton stock, which would appreciate enormously during Cheney’s administration. Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was on the board of Chevron, which named an oil tanker after her. Cheney immediately convened 90 days of secret meetings with carbon and nuclear industry CEO’s.
“For the first three months of the Bush administration, Cheney presided over clandestine convocations during which he invited the nation’s worst polluters to rewrite environmental laws to make it easy to drill, to burn, to extract, to ship, to distribute carbon fuel," said Kennedy. "It was an all-out victory for the carbon industry and an unconditional defeat for humanity.”
The 2005 Bush/Cheney Energy Bill was the product of those secret meetings, including the “Halliburton Loophole” to the Safe Drinking Water Act, which exempted natural gas companies from disclosing the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. This change in the law allowed a new industry known as shale gas fracking to grow without regard to its widespread environmental costs, including drinking water contamination, a cascade of global warming fugitive methane emissions, earthquakes, road destruction and human health impacts.
Even as they dismantled America’s environmental laws by statute, Bush and Cheney stocked the regulatory agencies with industry lackeys and profiteering cronies who weakened and auctioned off America’s public lands and forests to the campaign contributors at fire sale prices, according to Kennedy.
But George W. Bush wasn’t done. He next appointed two ultra-corporatist U.S. Supreme Court Justices—John G. Roberts in 2005 and Samuel Alito in 2006. Kennedy said that it is wrong to think of these judges as traditional conservatives. “They are not. They are corporatists. If you analyze their decisions, there is no coherent conservative political philosophy. They have taken the 'conserve' out of conservatism. The only predictable outcome of their rulings is that 'the corporation always wins.'"
The apogee of their unctuous worship of unsheathed corporate power was the Supreme Court’s 2010 5 to 4 decision in favor of Citizens United, which, as Kennedy proclaimed, “turned American democracy over to large corporations.”
The so called “Citizens United” decision is the "most sweeping expansion of corporate power this century. In an acrimonious split decision, the five 'conservative' justices declared that, in the eyes of the Constitution, corporations were people and money is speech," continued Kennedy.
Corporate campaign donations, in other words, are protected by the First Amendment making most restrictions on corporate donations to political candidates unconstitutional. That case effectively overruled a century of corporate campaign finance restrictions that limited a corporation's ability to purchase political candidates.
The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission unleashed a tsunami of corporate cash in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. It helped create super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from corporate and union treasuries, as well as from individuals, and it triggered a boom in political activity by tax-exempt "dark money" organizations that don't have to disclose their donors.
“And today it’s hard to argue that we still have a democracy in this country when you have the Koch brothers, the two richest people in America, who have pledged already to put nearly $900 million into this presidential election, which is comparable to the amount spent by either political party," said Kennedy. "This year’s presidential election is going to cost $10 billion with half of that coming from 100 wealthy families. Nearly $1 billion is coming from two brothers."
And, said Kennedy, “You will hear no criticism from the press, the supposed guardians of our democracy. And that’s because most of that money will go to media advertising—the 4th estate has been bought off.”
And the data shows that 91 percent of the time, the candidate with the most money wins the election. "So democracy is for sale and the Congress that we have today is the best one that money can buy, which by definition, is oligarchy not democracy," said Kennedy. "Predictably, the rich are now buying themselves politicians and then deploying to reduce taxes on their class and to rid themselves of pesky regulations that protect public health. Our politicians are no longer public servants. They are indentured servants of the Koch brothers and their ilk. They are no longer engaged in public service, but in the mercenary enterprise of ransacking on behalf of Big Oil."
So Kennedy asks, "What happens to a country when moneyed interests run its political system?" First, he says, “The political character of a nation tends to reflect its economic organization. As the economy slides towards monopoly in leading sectors like energy, agriculture and media, the political system will lean toward oligarchy.” In addition, he says, “Oil and coal by nature are autocratic and authoritarian. Nations controlled by those industries customarily list toward autocracy and away from democracy. It’s a phenomenon known as the 'resource curse.' So with democracy for sale and the carbon cronies winning the auction, we have the perfect storm for corporate tyranny."
Then Kennedy asks, “What do you think accounts for the Koch Brothers’ generosity to our political system?” He answers his question with a battery of new questions. “Do you think that Charles and David Koch are putting nearly $900 million into the election because of some patriotic impulse? Do you think they are putting nearly $900 million into this election because they love America? Do you think that they are putting nearly $900 million into the election because they love humanity? Our environment? Or our purple mountain’s majesty? Our democracy? Or free market capitalism?”
To each question, the crowd enthusiastically said, "No."
“Do you think they have a moral compass?" Kennedy replied, and when the crowd answered “No” he corrected them. "Well they do have a moral compass. It’s pointed straight at Hell.”
The crowd roared. But Kennedy wasn't finished yet.
"These are the apocalyptical forces of ignorance and greed. These are the four horsemen from the book of Revelations herding humanity toward a dystopian nightmare of their creation. Koch Industries is not a benign corporation. It’s a suicide pact for creation. It’s the archetype of 'disaster capitalism.' It’s the command center of an organized scheme to undermine democracy and impose a corporate kleptocracy that will allow these greedy men to cash in on mass extinction and the end of civilization."
Kennedy went on to explain, "These men claim in their rhetoric to embrace a theology of free market capitalism. But if you look at their feet instead of listening to the seductive noises that issue from their mouths and their phony think tanks, the truth is clear. These men hate free markets. They want a system of cushy socialism for the rich and a savage, merciless capitalism for the poor. The real purpose of their 'think tanks' they created and fund—like the Heritage Foundation and the CATO Institute—is not to promote free market capitalism, but to gin up the philosophical underpinnings for a scheme of uncontrolled corporate profit taking. And the press, consolidated as it is into private monopolies, and relieved of social obligation are on the carbon and pharma pay role and in full cahoots with the scheme. They don’t love markets—they despise them. The Koch Brothers’ purpose in purchasing our political system is to engineer monumental subsidies and market failure, which are their formulae for profit. And the winds, the storms, the floods, the heatwaves, the fires and the melting continents that they cause, the cities that they drown, the refugees they drive from their lands all provide new opportunities for profit and authoritarian control."
Kennedy shared a story about the commercial fisheries on the Hudson River, among the oldest commercial fisheries in North America. He began his career as an environmental lawyer representing these fishing families. He explained how the fisheries regulated themselves as a sustainable industry for more than three centuries.
"The fishermen had a business model that worked," he said. But then General Electric "used its political clout to cheat the free market and to arrange vast subsidies for itself by externalizing its costs and dumping its toxins into the river. In this way, GE privatized the fish in the Hudson River. New York’s constitution says that we, the people of New York State, own the waterways of the state and we own the fish in the Hudson. But we don't own them anymore. The General Electric Company owns every fish in the river because they privatized them. They put their toxins in our fish and our cash in their pockets.
"While we own to fish legally, we can’t use them. GE has liquidated a public asset for cash and profit. All those men and women who made their living on the river and lived decent lives—they are all out of work and out of luck and General Electric has liquidated their assets and their livelihoods for corporate profit."
He went on to explain; “Now the coal industry has done the exact same thing to every freshwater fish in America.” The National Academy of Science found dangerous levels of mercury in every American freshwater fish. The mercury is mainly coming from coal fired power plants. Since there is no known safe level for mercury consumption, the fish are no longer suitable for public consumption and are effectively privatized. “King Coal has privatized every fish in America by putting toxic mercury in every filet," he said.
"Whether we recognize it or not, we are all locked in a life and death struggle with these corporations over control of our landscapes and political sovereignty," Kennedy said. “If a foreign nation did to our country what the coal and oil barons do every day, we would consider it an act of war! They poison our rivers and aquifers, steal our fish, flood our cities and trample our democracy. They are pilfering our values, robbing our culture, impoverishing our lives, sickening our children and stupefying our minds with pollution. They subvert our heritage by privatizing our patrimony. They are turning America into a colonial economy.
"Under the colonial model multinational corporations exploit weak political systems to commoditize and privatize a nation’s resources. A robust democracy would never allow a foreign company to plunder the nation’s natural resources, poison her landscapes and subjugate her people. So colonialism requires the multinationals to weaken and capture the indigenous political system of the target nation. They do so by making alliances with local oligarchs with military and intelligence apparatus and conservative religious organizations and buying off the media. All these indigenous elites get a share of the profits in exchange for allowing the theft of their country’s resources. Pollution is not just theft—it is treason. The Koch brothers are not just America’s biggest polluters—they are thieves and they are traitors to our country and their crimes against America and humanity have made them the richest men on Earth.
"The colonial model results in the evolution of an upper class with massive wealth and political power, the elimination of the middle class and the exponential increase of an impoverished class who eke a declining meagre living from the barren polluted moonscapes left behind by greed and pollution. And, when you have a wealthy class and a poor class and no middle class, you get extreme political division. The role of one political party devolves into a single minded mission of protecting the perks and power of the wealthy class and the rights of corporations to rape the land and enslave the people."
This is why, as Kennedy explained, we have another precedented divide between Democratic and Republican parties in this country. Since tax breaks for billionaires and unregulated pollution are not potent vessels for populism, the corporate kleptocracy must steal elections, eliminate poor voters from the rolls, lie about the issues and employ propaganda and all the lowest alchemies of demagoguery, including appeals to religious and patriotic symbols and dividing the electorate using bigotry, greed, and racial and religious prejudices—the “wedge” or “cultural war issue," according to Kennedy.
Even using these techniques, as Kennedy says, the policies they advocate are so viscerally unpopular that their hold on the voting public is always remaining tenuous. “Politics,” Kennedy explained “Is driven by both money and political intensity. Since they don’t have reliable ground troops, they must overwhelm the system with their money.” For this reason, “The hostile takeover of our democracy by polluting corporations and our country’s transition into a colonial economy is completely reliant on the financial floodgates opened by Citizens United."
To further make his point, Kennedy said, "So you have the Koch's who have deployed their front group ALEC—American Legislative Exchange Council—in every state working with local legislators in the anti-American enterprise of impeding the transition to new energy by bribing and blackmailing politicians to weaken support for wind and solar and foster a hostile environment toward renewables.
"The Koch brothers understand that renewables are good for the economy, good for our security and good for democracy. They create high paying jobs, promote small businesses, create wealth, democratize our energy sector, give us local, resilient power and reduce dependence on foreign carbon that makes them for the country, but bad for the Koch brothers.
"Renewables fill the Koch brothers with fear. In order to compete, they have to rig the rules that govern energy in this country to favor the dirtiest, filthiest, most destructive, most poisonous and addictive fuels from hell over the cheap, clean, green, local and patriotic fuels from heaven. But even with market and utility rules against them, new renewable technologies are so efficient that the allow wind and solar to beat the carbon industry even in their rigged markets and slanted playing fields—the only way for carbon to survive is by massive subsidies. The Koch brothers cannot compete against renewables in a free market without their subsidies."
A recent report by the International Monetary Fund said, global energy subsidies amounts to $5 trillion annually, with the U.S. providing $700 billion in subsidizes to big oil "the richest industry in the history of the planet," remarks Kennedy.
"Why would we be doing that?" he asks. "The only reason we'd give subsidies to a century old industry with the biggest profits in human history is because the oil barons own our government. There is no economic reason. Carbon’s economic model is looking at the same bleak future as the horse and buggy industry faced in 1903. So what do you do when your profits rely on a fading economic model? You use your money and use the campaign finance system that consists of legalized bribery to get your hooks into a public official who allows you to privatize the commons, dismantle the market place and rig the rules to give you monopoly control," Kennedy explained.
Free market capitalism is the most powerful economic engine ever devised. But, according to Kennedy, it must be harnessed to a social purpose, as it will drag us down the path of political oligarchy and environmental destruction. Free market rules should allow people to make themselves rich by doing good things for humanity. But under the Koch’s scheme, oilmen get rich by dong bad things to humanity, he said.
Corporations are a useful economic tool. However, "corporations should not be running our government because they don't want the same thing for America as Americans want," he continued. "They don't want democracy. They want profits. They want no competition. They are corrupting our democracy. They are stealing everything that we care about in this country.
"I believe in a true free market where you can't make yourself rich without making your neighbors rich and without enriching your community, where we properly value our national resources and where we reward efficiency. But polluters make themselves rich by making everybody else poor. They raise standards of living for themselves while lowering quality of life for everybody else. They undervalue natural resources or take them for free. And they do it all by escaping the discipline of the free market. Polluters externalize their costs to artificially lower the price of their product. The 28 environmental laws that we passed after the first Earth Day in 1970 were intended to restore true free market capitalism by forcing actors in the marketplace to pay the true cost to bring their product to market. There is a huge difference between true free market capitalism—which makes a nation more efficient, more prosperous and more democratic—and the kind of corporate crony capitalism which we have today."
After 45-minutes of some of the most powerful comments about the reality of the world today, Kennedy finished by telling the crowd, “But we are not going quietly. We’ve heard the summons to the barricades and we are filling the streets. We are the soldiers in a revolution against carbon. And this is an industry that no longer has a justifiable economic model.”
Pointing at the roaring crowd, he said, “Every single person here is willing to die with their boots on. That commitment is what brought you the Waterkeeper movement. We are going to keep fighting for these landscapes, for these rights, for these rivers and for all the values that we care for as a people and as a society."
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