Southern States Need to Divest From Coal and Invest in Renewable Energy
By Angela Garrone
Alabama relies heavily on coal-fired power, with 40 percent of the state’s energy in 2013 coming from coal. Despite many misconceptions, however, most of the coal burned in Alabama came from outside the state and cost a significant amount of money. In 2012, Alabama imported 18.5 million tons of coal from six U.S. states and Colombia, which accounted for 75 percent of the coal burned in Alabama coal plants. Due to this significant amount of imported coal, Alabama ranked eighth nationally for money spent on net coal imports and first in the nation for expenditures on international coal imports. The state’s largest power provider, Alabama Power, sent $710 million out of state to purchase coal and Alabama Power’s parent company, Southern Company, ranks first among all U.S. power providers for coal import dependency.
Energy efficiency is one of the quickest and most affordable ways to cut coal-fired power while boosting the local economy. Yet Alabama’s energy efficiency potential remains largely untapped. The state budgeted just $2.09 per person on ratepayer-funded electricity efficiency programs—101 times less than Alabama utilities spent on imported coal. Thanks to reductions in wind costs and recent advances in low-wind speed technology, several wind projects are underway in Alabama. Alabama Power purchased 404 megawatts (MW) of wind power from Kansas and Oklahoma in 2012. We are hopeful that Alabama Power will continue to increase investments in wind and solar power and decrease its reliance on dirty, coal-fired energy.
Although Tennessee has reduced its reliance on coal, it continued to rely on coal to provide almost half of its energy in 2013. More than 99 percent of the coal burned in Tennessee is imported from eight other states across the country. In 2012, the state spent a net total of $905 million to import 18.4 million tons of coal—making Tennessee the ninth highest state nationally in terms of coal import dependency. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which produces electricity for the vast majority Tennesseans, ranks third among U.S. power providers for coal import dependency, spending nearly $1.4 billion in 2012 on out-of-state coal across its holdings in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.
In a recent TVA Board meeting, CEO Bill Johnson laid out an aspirational goal of moving to a more balanced resource portfolio that would include only 20 percent reliance on coal-fired power. Tennessee’s energy efficiency resources are largely untapped—ranking thirty-first nationally for state achieved energy efficiency savings. As TVA continues its 2015 IRP planning process, we are hopeful that TVA will continue to reduce its reliance on coal-fired energy and increase its in-state renewable and energy efficiency resources.
Georgia relied on coal to provide around 39 percent of its energy in 2013. Power producers in Georgia paid nearly $1.7 billion to import 23.4 million tons of coal—primarily from Kentucky and Wyoming. Georgia ranks third highest in the nation for money spent on net coal imports. This high ranking is not surprising considering that Georgia Power, Georgia’s largest power provider, is also a subsidiary of the top-ranking importer, Southern Company.
Georgia is not in the top ranks, however, among states with significant energy efficiency savings—coming in forty-second in the nation with 0.11 percent savings in 2011. Although Georgia has a wealth of renewable energy resources like solar and wind, unfortunately only 2.3 percent of Georgia’s energy was generated by renewable resources in 2012. In its most recent Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), Georgia Power set out a plan to procure 735 MW of solar energy by 2016. We support Georgia Power’s recent commitments to retire coal plants as well as its investments in the clean energy economy; we look forward to the growth of renewable energy across the state.
Florida relied on coal-fired power for around 20 percent of its total energy in 2013. Like many Southern states, Florida has no in-state coal supplies. Although the tonnage of imported coal declined by 35 percent between 2008 and 2012, total coal expenditures only dropped 19 percent. This discrepancy is due to the fact that the average price paid for coal in Florida increased from $70.04 per ton to $88.16 per ton, which are among some of the highest prices in the U.S.
Power producers in Florida paid nearly $1.3 billion to import 14.5 million tons of coal from as far away as Colombia. Florida ranks fifth nationally for money spent on net coal imports and second for expenditures on international imports. Seminole Electric Cooperative sent $282 million out of Florida to purchase coal in 2012, more than any other electricity provider in the state. Four additional Florida utilities—JEA, TECO Energy, Gulf Power and Duke Energy—spent more than $100 million on out-of-state imports in 2012.
Florida’s major utilities are required to implement cost effective efficiency programs, but the annual goals last set in 2009 are not being fully achieved. The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) is currently working with utilities to set new efficiency goals for 2015 and beyond. It is important that the PSC establish meaningful efficiency goals and ensure utilities develop and carry out strong plans for achieving them. Florida is beginning to develop its solar resources, with more 200 MW already installed, including Florida Power and Light’s 25-MW solar photovoltaic facility in DeSoto County. Still, Florida lags behind other leading solar states and lacks sufficient state-wide policies to catch up.
North Carolina is another state without its own coal supplies, and yet it relied on coal for around 41 percent of its in-state electricity generation in 2013. Power producers paid nearly $1.8 billion to import 18.7 million tons of coal to burn in their coal plants, which ranks North Carolina second in the nation for net coal import expenditures. Duke Energy, North Carolina’s largest utility, sent $1.7 billion out of state to purchase coal in 2012 and ranks second among all U.S. power providers for coal import dependency, spending more than $2.2 billion on out-of-state coal across its holdings in six states. Although the total tonnage of imported coal declined by 36 percent since 2008, total coal expenditures dropped only 25 percent as the average price for coal in North Carolina increased from $79.85 per ton to $93.74 per ton.
In 2011, Duke Energy agreed to adopt an annual efficiency savings target of 1 percent starting in 2015. Savings from energy efficiency measures can also count toward a portion of the state’s renewable energy and efficiency resource standard. North Carolina has a wealth of renewable energy resources like sustainable bioenergy, solar and wind; yet these resources supplied just 2.1 percent of the state’s power in 2012. However, utilities are making progress toward meeting a requirement to produce 12.5 percent of the state’s power needs from renewable energy by 2021.
Not only does coal cost our Southeastern states a lot of money, burning coal for electricity also threatens our health on a daily basis. Most recently, a toxic chemical used to process coal leaked from a tank at a Charleston, WV coal plant into the Elk River—resulting in a water ban in nine counties that affects 300,000 residents and causing the governor to declare a state of emergency. This is just the most recent example of one of the myriad dangers communities are exposed to by reliance on coal-fired power. It is time for Southeastern utilities to divest from coal and invest in a clean energy economy.
Visit EcoWatch’s COAL page for more related news on this topic.
OlgaMiltsova / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
JasonOndreicka / iStock / Getty Images
Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
- Climate Crisis: What We Can Learn From Indigenous Traditions ... ›
- 10 Organizations Honoring Native People on Thanksgiving ... ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.