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You've seen the panels. And now you know about solar's incredible potential. Which means you probably have some questions. So let's get to it.

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Cate Blanchett stands among the 1,906 solar panels powering the Sydney Theatre Company. Charles Brewer

Solar energy is cheaper and more efficient than ever. The price of utility-scale solar dropped 85 percent from 2009 to 2016, and newer panels can power up on even cloudy days. Rooftop solar is now cost-competitive with the traditional grid in much of the U.S. Heck, some cutting-edge companies see a market so ripe for the picking they're developing entire roofs made of solar panels to sell to homeowners.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Today we face a challenging political climate, but the climate crisis shouldn't be political. It is not only the greatest existential crisis we face: it is also causing a global health emergency, where the stakes are life and death.

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Pueblo, Colorado and Moab, Utah, this week became the 22nd and 23rd cities in the U.S. to commit to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. The Pueblo City Council approved Monday a measure committing to power the community entirely with renewable sources of energy like wind and solar by 2035. The vote was immediately followed on Tuesday by the Moab City Council approving a resolution committing Moab to 100 percent renewable energy by 2032.

"No matter who is in the White House, cities and towns across the country will continue leading the transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. "Pueblo and Moab join a growing movement of communities which are charting a course away from dirty fuels."

Cities like Pueblo and Moab have long suffered the consequences of dirty energy and utility reliance on fossil fuels. Pueblo, for example, has a sizable low-income population that has been suffering from the high cost of electricity due to the local utilities' decision to build new gas infrastructure and saddle the cost with ratepayers. More than 7,000 people in Pueblo have had their electricity shut off due to the high cost of electricity.

In Utah, Canyonlands National Park has been marred by haze pollution from two neighboring coal plants, which threatens the local Moab tourism industry—the economic lifeblood of the community. With this week's announcements, both communities are poised to confront these threats by transitioning away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.

"The climate crisis is a global challenge, but many of our strongest leaders are at the local level," Ken Berlin, CEO of The Climate Reality Project, said. "We have a lot of hard work ahead, but it is encouraging to see more and more communities, businesses and universities understand that renewable energy is not only the right moral choice, but also the right economic choice."

It's no secret—here in the U.S., there's an election coming up. It's soon. It's a big decision for American voters. And it's a big deal.

It's also not the only decision with global consequences this fall. Because at the same time the U.S. campaign season was getting into the business end of things, more and more leaders all around the world were deciding to stand up to climate change and sign on to the historic Paris Agreement. In fact, 86 parties (representing over 61 percent of global emissions) have already joined this landmark agreement—which will now go into effect on Nov. 4, four days before the U.S. votes. Interesting timing, don't you think?

Coincidence or not, the timing of the two events highlights what's at stake for our planet in these decisions and why—we've learned anything after months and months of way too many ads, speeches and debates, it's that politicians go where the voters tell them. So let's make the climate issue their issue, the one they can't afford to ignore. And not just this year, but in every year that follows.

Why now? Because with the Paris Agreement becoming official, we finally have the framework to fight climate change together as one planet in a way we never have before. And with all the incredible progress we're seeing in renewables and other areas of solutions, we finally have the tools and technology to make a global shift from fossil fuels to clean energy, affordably and effectively. Want proof? Here are seven reasons we're hopeful for the future, because the solutions are out there:

1. Renewables are growing and getting cheaper

Due to declining costs and improvements in renewable technologies, solar and wind projects are being built in more places around the globe more cheaply than any time in history. On top of that, if the price of photovoltaic cells continues to drop as rapidly as it has over the past 10 years, solar power could be as cheap as coal almost everywhere by as early as 2017!

According to some studies, almost 100 percent of the world's energy needs could be met with renewable sources by mid-century—as long as the right supportive public policies are put in place to help implement them. That's where our elected leaders come in— and where you come in too.

2. Cost of rooftop solar is competitive

In many places across the U.S., not only is solar power becoming more affordable than ever before, it's actually becoming cost competitive with most utility rates for energy from fossil fuel. When solar power costs the same (or less!) as purchasing power from the grid, it's called solar grid parity, and it's an important milestone in demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of harnessing the power of the sun. The U.S. is well on the way to achieving the SunShot Initiative's 2020 goal of solar grid parity—with several major regions following suit.

3. Remarkable progress in energy storage

How we create energy with renewables is important. How we store this energy—so we can use it when needed—is just as critical. That's because the sun doesn't shine 24 hours a day every day, nor is it always windy. The good news is this: we're seeing incredible progress in energy storage. For example, a bill for California's energy storage mandate passed unanimously, instructing the state's investor-owned utilities to greatly expand electricity storage capacity. And since then, the state has expanded the mandate to allow even more energy storage. Similar policies in Japan and Germany are spurring similar growth in energy storage overseas.

4. The electric grid is evolving

Just like energy storage is important for renewable energy to thrive, a smarter and more flexible electric grid is critical too. Smart grids improve energy efficiency, save money, and can improve reliability—all great reasons to move away from fossil fuels towards cleaner sources of energy. And since the grid is evolving and more renewables are being introduced, there is huge potential to revolutionize the energy market—for the benefit of the environment and economy.

5. The electric vehicle market is booming

Sure, the news that Tesla was releasing its cheapest electric car yet threatened to break one corner of the internet, but that's not the only sign the electric vehicle industry and market are booming. Just look at China: the government has expanded incentives for electric vehicles, waiving or even cutting sales taxes. And plug-in cars are even changing the face of auto racing! Just last year, Miami hosted a Formula E race, where all the race cars were electric. How cool is that?

6. Transportation is more efficient and public transit is growing

A recent survey by Consumer Reports found that the overwhelming majority of Americans (84 percent, in fact) believe automakers should keep making cars and trucks more and more fuel efficient. And automakers are listening—and not just in the US. At the same time use of public and mass transportation is growing rapidly. Technical improvements for new vehicles could avoid about 1.4 gigatons of CO2 annually by 2030, several countries are implementing eco-driving programs, and emissions mandates on cars in the US and EU are saving drivers at the pump in a big way. Meanwhile, huge investments in public transportation in countries like India and Colombia are helping contribute to energy conservation, land preservation, reduced air pollution, and so much more.

7. Energy efficiency is improving and saving you money

The more efficient you are at a task, you're wasting less time to complete it, right? It works the same way with energy: the more efficient energy is, the less you'll waste. Listen to this: a study across certain countries showed in just five years, energy efficiency measures avoided the consumption of 570 million tons of dirty energy. In other words, without these measures, energy use across these countries would have actually increased by 5 percent.

Climate change hasn't gotten much air time during the 2016 presidential election, but that changed Tuesday afternoon in Florida when Hillary Clinton and Al Gore appeared together at Miami Dade College.

"Our next president will either step up to protect our planet, or we will be dragged backwards and our whole planet will be put at risk," said Clinton to an enthusiastic crowd of students and supporters.

On the heels of Hurricane Matthew, which set records as the longest-lived category 4-5 hurricane in the Eastern Caribbean and Western Atlantic, and the longest-lived major hurricane that formed after Sept 25, former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore said, "When it comes to the most urgent issue facing our country and the world, the choice in this election is extremely clear. Hillary Clinton will make solving our climate crisis a top priority. Her opponent will take us toward a climate catastrophe."

Gore, remembering Hurricane Andrew, which struck Florida in 1992 as he and the Clintons campaigned for office, noted that, since then, the sea level in the Florida waters has risen three inches. The rate of sea-level rise has tripled over the last 10 years. At the time, Hurricane Andrew was the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history. The category 5 hurricane killed 44 in Florida and was the costliest disaster in the state's history.

Miami Herald

Miami is highly vulnerable to climate change. With 441,000 people, it sits just six feet above sea level. Its highest elevation is only 42 feet. In the past 10 years, flooding in Miami Beach from high tides has quadrupled. On a regular basis, ocean waters invade streets, damage cars and disrupt business.

"It's become a daily reality here in Miami," said Clinton. "You have the streets flood at high tide, and the ocean is bubbling up through the sewer system."

The former Secretary of State also pointed to the need to address the challenges brought on by climate change, saying, "We need to invest in resilient infrastructure." Ironically, South Florida is moving forward on an aggressive plan that acknowledges climate change in a state where Florida officials are prohibited from even using the term under the administration of Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

"In this election, the future of Miami and cities up and down the east and west coast of Florida are on the ballot as well," Gore said. He stressed the importance of voting, taking from his personal experience in the state in 2000. "Your vote really, really, really counts," he said emphatically. The event today was the first time that Gore has publicly campaigned for Clinton in this election.

The Miami appearance yesterday comes just ahead of the now-extended voter registration deadline of 5 p.m. on Wednesday. A court order was required to provide additional time for Florida voters—many of whom evacuated or were displaced by Hurricane Matthew—to register, after Gov. Scott refused to extend the deadline. Florida is a key battleground state, with 29 electoral votes. Fivethirtyeight gives Hillary Clinton a 71 percent chance of carrying the state as of today.

And, according to 350 Action's Executive Director May Boeve, if "Clinton really wants to bring young voters to the polls, she'll need to keep adopting even more ambitious positions on climate, like stopping the destructive Dakota Access Pipeline or vocally endorsing fossil fuel divestment. Millennials want someone who will stand up to the fossil fuel industry and help protect our shared future. The louder she gets, the more we'll vote."

Clinton sketched out her plan for dealing with climate change during her remarks, "I want to see 500 million more solar panels installed across America by the end of my first term, and have enough renewable energy to power every home within 10 years," she said. She also noted that renewable energy is now the fastest growing source of new jobs in the U.S., and warned that if America doesn't step up, either Germany or China will become "the clean energy superpower of the 21st century."

Before the two embraced and walked off the stage, Gore concluded by saying, "We have the opportunity to look back on this year as the time when our nation chose to finally answer the alarm bells on the climate crisis."

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Standing on the sidelines during an election is never an option. That's why superstar musicians rarely hesitate when asked to step up to the mic to use their outsized influence to encourage all of us to speak out for the future that we want for our families, our communities and ourselves.

And who better to get us excited about voting?

After all, we tend to form strange, special relationships with our favorite performers. We invite them into our lives and ask them to provide the soundtrack. (Or is it the other way around?) Over the course of a few albums, something strikingly personal develops—through confessional, relatable lyrics you discover a kindred spirit or maybe a new best friend who understands the cathartic necessity of losing yourself and your worries to the pulse of the dance floor.

A very real connection is born, one that runs far deeper than with any other sort of celebrity. So it's no wonder we trust them when they offer up a very simple message: Your vote is your voice.

Since 1990, Rock the Vote has been working hard to draw attention to elections and turn out millions of voters. The campaign has always made great use of celebrity supporters—and pop stars in particular. When a cultural icon starts talking about the importance of voting, their millions of fans tend to pay attention.

From touring to ads and more, superstar singers have always played a pivotal role in the Rock the Vote campaign. Here are five of our favorites who have both lent their famous faces to the cause of inspiring millions to take action by voting and supported the green movement for a more sustainable future for all of us.

1. Madonna

Rock the Vote launched itself into the public consciousness in a very big way in 1990 with a controversial PSA featuring the Queen of Pop at the peak of her powers. Draped in an American flag, clad in lingerie and mouthing off in typical fashion, the pop star did what she does best: got plenty of attention.

In the years since, she's used her fame to bring awareness to a variety of causes, from world hunger at Live 8 to environmental awareness as the headliner at Live Earth, the global concert event held in 2007 and founded in partnership with The Climate Reality Project Founder and Chairman Al Gore. Her Madgesty has even appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair's annual Green Issue.

2. Pharrell Williams

Pharrell has a long history of asking his fans to Rock the Vote, going so far as to call voting "the only way to change things." He is also no stranger to green initiatives and even partnered with Climate Reality for 24 Hours of Reality and Live Earth: The World Is Watching to spread the word about climate solutions ahead of the historic UN climate negotiations in Paris.

"I'm hopeful for our future and proud of our world leaders for taking first steps toward working together for a healthier, happier planet," he said on Facebook of the Paris agreement.

3. Katy Perry

Perry's interest in the well-being of our planet stems from her role as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. The chart-topping pop princess has traveled the globe to speak with children and promote public health services in the developing world. This naturally extends to issues like drought, flooding, global temperature rise and the related spread of vector-borne diseases, which inspired Perry to star in a characteristically tongue-in-cheek clip, produced by UNICEF and styled as a local news-like weather report, about the dangers of extreme weather for the world's children.

Perry recently shot a Rock the Vote campaign commercial, telling The Los Angeles Times, "Younger people sometimes don't feel like their vote matters. They think it's all rigged, but it's not true—you have to physically go out and vote."

4. John Legend

Legend has been extremely vocal on Twitter with his feelings about environmental issues. And like Pharrell, Legend's commitment to the cause also is far from new—he performed during The Climate Rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC all the way back in April 2010 in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

The "All of Me" singer and 10-time Grammy winner has been involved with Rock the Vote for years, as well and was the face of the organization's Democracy Day initiative to educate young people about the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age in the U.S. from 21 to 18 in 1971.

5. Jason Mraz

Mraz went on tour with Rock the Vote in 2013 to get thousands of people registered ahead of the 2014 mid-term elections.

"Now that I have an opportunity to work with Rock the Vote, it's just a must," he said. "A lot of people don't know that they have to register; they think 'I'm always registered.' … Every single vote counts."

The "I Won't Give Up" crooner also is a well-known environmentalist. Part of the vision of his Jason Mraz Foundation is to "achieve a society … where the environment is preserved for generations to come." (Sounds familiar to us!) He's also been very active in Climate Reality's annual 24 Hours of Reality live global event over the years, discussing topics from what he is doing to be a better activist to why he is optimistic about the future of our planet.

Are our celebrity friends correct that voting is key to doing your part to assure a sustainable future? One thing is certain: expanding clean energy and creating more green jobs are goals Americans agree on—and we need our leaders to support.

Every U.S. election is important, but this year we have the power to shape not only the future of America, but the future of our entire planet and its citizens. In fewer than five minutes, you can register or pledge to #RockTheVote and proudly raise your voice on Election Day.

Thousands of Americans are speaking up to tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to raise the bar and set a higher standard for cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars in the U.S. Will you join them?

Before 2007, U.S. fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles hadn't changed all that much for more than two decades.

Because these standards play a big part in pushing automakers to innovate and make their vehicles more efficient, the net effect was that even as technology was improving by leaps and bounds, the average car rolling off the lot in 2005 still got pretty much the same miles per gallon (mpg) as the average car in 1975.

During that time, Americans also started driving more and buying more gas-guzzling SUVs, which meant a lot more carbon pollution going into the atmosphere, driving climate change.

A lot of good has been done in the more than a decade since, but we now have an opportunity to make things even better.

Until Sept. 26, Americans have the chance to speak up and demand stronger fuel economy standards, ensuring the cars of tomorrow are cleaner, greener and more efficient than ever.

Before we explain what you can do to show your continued support for solving the climate crisis, let's take a quick look at how we got here.

It all starts in 2007, when Congress passed a bill raising fuel economy standards for cars, light trucks and SUVs to an average of 35 mpg by 2020. The bill directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to come up with the details on achieving that standard.

In 2009, the Obama administration stepped up the game—the U.S. EPA and the NHTSA established an aggressive national program for fuel economy standards in two phases. Phase I covered 2012-2016, at which point new cars had to meet a standard of 34.1 mpg and Phase II covers 2017-2025 and advances the standard to 54.5 mpg. And due to a court case and agency findings, the EPA was also empowered to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

Since these new standards cover a time period twice as long as Phase I, the EPA made a commitment to conduct a midterm review to determine whether the standards should be strengthened, maintained or weakened for car model years 2022-2025.

As part of the review, the EPA is asking Americans to have their say on this next generation of fuel economy standards.

Here are four important things to know about the standards under review:

1. High Fuel Efficiency Standards Save You Money at the Pump

Transportation is the second-highest expense for most American households—right after housing itself. These stronger standards are projected to save Americans $1.7 trillion in fuel costs by 2025. It's no secret why: with cars using less gas, Americans will buy less gas to get around.

Talking about these savings in such a large-scale way might seem abstract. Americans overall will save a tremendous amount of cash and you might think, "That's great and all, but what does it mean for my family, specifically?"

Well, broken down, the stronger standards are projected to save families who buy a car in 2025 an estimated $8,200 over the lifetime of each new vehicle, relative to the model year 2010 standard. Just imagine what you'd do with the extra cash.

2. Americans Want More Fuel-Efficient Cars—and They Want the Government to Play a Role

A 2016 survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that 84 percent of Americans believe car makers should keep improving the efficiency of their vehicles. What's more, 70 percent believe the government should keep raising the bar with higher fuel economy standards.

More than half of Americans now expect their next car to be even more efficient than their current ride.

The benefits of improved fuel efficiency standards for the planet and bank accounts across the country are so apparent that just about everyone wants to continue down the right path—and we want the government to make sure we do.

3. Cleaner Cars Reduce Carbon Pollution and Save Lives

Stronger fuel efficiency standards on vehicles through model year 2025 will prevent about 6 billion metric tons of carbon pollution from entering our atmosphere. Another way to look at that figure: it's about what the Amazon rainforest absorbs in three years. That's a lot of carbon, people!

From a climate change perspective, this is excellent news. We all know that phasing down carbon emissions is integral to meeting the global temperature increase limits set by the Paris agreement. But it's important to consider the impact these higher standards will have right now in protecting public health by reducing smog and toxic carbon air pollution.

Air pollution is the fourth-leading risk factor for premature death worldwide and, according to the World Bank, it cost the global economy about $225 billion in lost labor income in 2013 (the most recent year for which complete information was available).

And while the efficiency standards we're talking about apply to U.S. vehicles only, it is imperative for us to lead by example to improve human health worldwide. (Of course, we also do not live in a vacuum; our emissions travel the globe, compounding air pollution problems elsewhere.) We're talking about some pretty harmful stuff here. The less of it in the air, the better.

4. Increased Fuel Efficiency Helps Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground

The standards under review require automakers' average fleet fuel economy to reach 54.5 mpg by 2025, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 163 grams per mile.

Improving from the current 35.5 mpg to 54.5 mpg is projected to save more than 2 million barrels of oil a day. That's more oil than the U.S. imports from any country other than its friendly neighbor to the north, Canada.

The EPA estimates that these savings will only increase as the vehicle fleet continues to turn over, with older vehicles being replaced by newer, more-efficient ones. Looking beyond 2025, if the under-review standards are maintained or (fingers crossed) strengthened, the oil savings could grow to more than 4 million barrels a day. That's almost as much as we import from all OPEC countries—combined.

But here's the thing: We can do even better and we must do better for a safe climate. The improved engines, transmissions and other materials necessary to build even more efficient vehicles than those mandated by the current standards are on-hand in factories around the world. But instead, automakers keep stalling, relying instead on outmoded, less expensive and far less efficient equipment. Which is a shame because the emissions standards program under review "can do more than any current measure to keep greenhouse gas pollution out of the atmosphere," according to a New York Times op-ed.

We've come a long way with fuel economy since 2007, but imagine what we could do if automakers were pressed further to realize the full climate-saving potential of building the most efficient vehicles their current technology allowed?

Together, we can save lives, money on gas and the planet we share from climate change, while reducing our dependence on dirty oil—all by doing something we already want. We think they call this a no-brainer.

Let's make sure the EPA gets the message and demand higher fuel-economy standards. Comments close Sept. 26.

Boulder, Colorado Mayor Suzanne Jones announced Wednesday that the city would commit to being powered by 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. Boulder now represents the 17th city in the U.S. to commit to be powered by clean, renewable energy like wind and solar, and is the second city in Colorado to make a 100 percent clean energy commitment along with Aspen.

Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones was joined by City of Denver's Thomas Herrod who announced that Denver would also undertake plans to examine how to move Denver to 100 percent clean energy.

The announcements were made Wednesday at an event hosted by Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter, Environment Colorado, Google Project Sunroof and the Climate Reality Project where more than 30 groups and organizations came together to urge cities in Colorado to commit to 100 percent clean energy like wind and solar. The event was part of the growing Ready for 100 campaign, which is working in communities across the country to get cities to commit to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2030.

"Boulder is committed to achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, as part of our strategy to achieve 80 percent greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2050. Climate change is the issue of our time, threatening to fundamentally change the way we live our lives. We are already experiencing increasingly intense and frequent wildfires, declining snow packs, droughts and more extreme weather events. Yet, it is increasingly clear that Congress is not going to address climate change; cities like Boulder need to take the lead. We can act as a model for cities across Colorado to craft a sustainable future by shifting our energy model from the dirty fossil fuels of the past to clean, renewable energy," said Suzanne Jones, mayor of Boulder.

"A world powered by 100 percent renewable electricity is getting closer and closer every day. In fact, leading cities across the U.S.—including Salt Lake City and as of today, Boulder, Colorado—are making widespread renewable energy a bold new reality," Ken Berlin, CEO and president of the Climate Reality Project, said.

" Local commitments to a renewable energy economy play a critical role in ensuring the U.S. meets the emissions targets created in Paris last year to address climate change. Just as important, they help create a healthy environment where citizens and businesses alike can thrive, as Salt Lake City and Boulder have proven. Like these outstanding communities, The Climate Reality Project's 100% Committed campaign is dedicated to building a brighter, cleaner and more prosperous future."

With Boulder's historic announcement, seventeen cities, including major cities like San Diego and Salt Lake City, have announced commitments to 100 percent clean energy and five cities in the U.S. have already achieved 100 percent clean energy and are powered today with entirely renewable sources. Boulder's pledge to 100 percent clean energy also includes a commitment to derive energy from local renewable energy resources. The Sierra Club and partners are currently campaigning in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Pueblo to urge leaders to commit to powering local communities with 100 percent clean energy.

"Denver recognizes that our goal of 80 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 will require big shifts in how we power our buildings, homes and transportation sector," Thomas Herrod, Climate & GHG Program administrator of the City and County of Denver, said.

"We are committed to exploring efforts like 100 percent renewable electricity as part of our 80x50 process and look forward to having our partners here today help us take on this challenge, immediately initiating that work with a draft of results by mid-2017."

Colorado has long been a leader on the advancement of clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. More than 300 solar companies currently employ almost 5,000 people in Colorado—nearly twice as many people as the coal mining industry. Prices for solar energy have fallen by 80 percent in recent years. In 2012, private investment for installing solar on Colorado homes and businesses totaled $187 million. Earlier this month, Xcel Energy entered into a landmark settlement with various clean energy and environmental advocacy groups that will provide Colorado consumers with greater energy choice and access to renewable energy like rooftop solar.

"The Colorado Sierra Club's Ready for 100 campaign is working to assure a just and equitable transition to a clean energy future city-by-city and town-by-town across the state," Jim Alexee, director of Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter, said.

"The cities of Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Aspen have all made bold progress and commitments towards that goal. It's critical that we come together in our hometowns as individuals, businesses and community leaders, to assure that this transition happens as quickly and equitably as possible,"

Ten years ago, when Susan Pacheco sat down to help her children with their homework, she wasn't thinking about changing the course of her life. She was thinking about getting them to finish their assignments, getting dinner ready and getting through a long list of patients at her university's clinic the next day.

As it happened, her oldest son, Gabriel, was learning about climate change in his science class. Dr. Pacheco, a pediatrician and professor in Houston, had never really thought about the issue. But there was this movie playing in theaters called An Inconvenient Truth getting people talking about the climate in a way she'd never seen before. So she packed up all three kids and her husband and they went to see it as a family.

What happened next will sound familiar to almost anyone who's seen the film. Sitting in the dark theater after the credits rolled, she recalls being thunderstruck.

"I watched in awe and at the end of the documentary I just sat there in shock, the theater empty, the kids pulling on me to go," she said. "It was like a storm in my mind. It wouldn't rest and couldn't calm down. I started reading and reading and applied to the training with Al Gore."

The training she applied to was the second-ever Climate Reality Leadership Corps event led by former Vice President Al Gore and held in Nashville, Tennessee in 2006. Gore's premise was simple. He'd been giving the slideshow presentation on climate change at the heart of An Inconvenient Truth for years. If a movie version could get millions talking about the issue while most politicians were simply ignoring it, why not train regular people eager to act to give the same presentation themselves and get their friends, family members, colleagues and everyone else talking too?

The idea certainly appealed to Dr. Pacheco. But what she did with her training went far beyond the slideshow. After all, the more she learned about climate change, the more she saw what it meant, right there in her clinic's waiting room every day. In the increasing numbers of anxious mothers' faces, worried about their child's asthma. In the hacking coughs of more and more kids fighting allergies. In the patients with heat intolerance forced to stay inside when the temperature climbs or wear cooling vests when venturing outdoors. And on and on.

With her medical and educational training, she knew she could teach her students how to treat these patients. And with her training as a Climate Reality Leader, she could talk to her peers throughout the medical community about what was happening. As an associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Dr. Pacheco specializes in pediatric asthma, allergies and immunology. And since training in Nashville, she's used that position to educate her students, the broader Houston community and medical professionals throughout the U.S. about the threats to human health associated with climate change.

How? For starters, Dr. Pacheco founded the Texas Coalition for Climate Change Awareness, a network of individuals from diverse backgrounds united around the common goal of educating themselves and their Texas communities about climate change in the state. She's been working with the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Environmental Health to publish a policy statement and technical report on the importance of climate change in pediatric health. She's published two op-eds in the Houston Chronicle and one in popular Hispanic paper La Opinion about the importance of the Clean Power Plan and the Environmental Protection Agency regulations for ozone. And perhaps most importantly, she's working to educate doctors just beginning their careers by bringing the impacts of climate change on public health into the medical school curriculum, starting with her own students at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School. And hopefully soon at medical schools throughout the country.

If it sounds like she's been not-so-quietly revolutionizing the health care field in Texas, it's because she has. It's not just her patients and peers who've noticed, either. In 2013, President Obama recognized Dr. Pacheco with the honor of being a White House Champion of Change for her work.

It hasn't always been easy, though. In fact, when she first began her crusade, her own father was skeptical.

"He said to me: you're a very passionate person, such a good pediatrician. This would be a waste to spend so much energy on climate change," said Pacheco. "But I said my planet is sick. If I'm committed to the health of my patients, I have to care about the health of my planet."

Luckily for all of us, she did. And when Vice President Gore visits Houston Aug. 16 - 18 to train the next generation of Climate Reality Leaders, Dr. Pacheco will be there too, sharing her story and mentoring a new group of regular people who decided to care about the health of our planet and helping them make a difference too.

Click here to learn how you can join Dr. Pacheco at the 33rd Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Houston.

Find out how the Lone Star state is leading the way when it comes to renewable energy.

In our recent blog post, we told you how climate change is impacting the Lone Star State—with drier air, more intense droughts, longer heatwaves and heavier downpours. But Texas hasn't just been on the receiving end of climate change—it's also become a national leader in clean energy solutions, thanks to an abundance of wind energy.

That's right. Many people don't realize how much of a powerhouse Texas is when it comes to wind energy. Between its wide open spaces and the flatlands of the Great Plains, Texas is perfectly situated for steady, sustained winds that then can be used for energy production.

The truth is, wind energy has grown faster in Texas than any other U.S. state in recent years. But it doesn't stop there. Let's look at five other wind energy wins in Texas.

1. Texas Holds the Record for All-Time Wind Energy Production

On February 18, Texas surpassed its own all-time record for wind energy production—which was also the national record—providing 45 percent of the state's total electricity needs on multiple occasions throughout the evening. At one point, wind energy production provided more than 14 gigawatts of power, or enough electricity to power roughly 234 million conventional light bulbs. What's more incredible about Texas' new record is that wind power production was fairly constant throughout the day, allowing it to consistently meet around 40 percent of demand on the Texas grid.

2. The Benefits of Wind are Estimated at $3.3 Billion Annually

From savings relating to health and pollution to competition against other energy sources, the financial benefits from wind energy are not insignificant. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the $3.3 billion in annual savings includes a few key elements:

  • Less sulfur dioxide and nitrogen pollution ($723 million).
  • Fewer carbon dioxide emissions (more than $1 billion).
  • Savings against possible fuel price volatilities (almost $61 million).
  • Savings against expected increases in other energy sources (estimated at over $491 million).

3. Texas was the First U.S. State to Reach 10,000 Megawatts of Wind Power Generating Capacity

Not only has wind energy grown much faster in Texas than anywhere else in the U.S., it was also the first state to reach 10,000 megawatts of installed generating capacity in 2011. The majority of this wind energy was generated in western Texas and while there was demand for this power across the state, wind energy growth was so rapid that the infrastructure to transmit it across the state was unable to keep pace. So to ensure wind energy reached the more populated eastern areas of Texas, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) studied the areas with the most wind energy projects and potential and established a series of Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs). PUCT then used these zones to plan a highly efficient series of more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines to reliably transfer renewable energy generated in western Texas to help power eastern markets. By December 2013, the project was largely completed, reducing the need to limit the amount of wind energy entering the grid. The bottom line: clean energy is now accessible to the entire state.

4. Texas was One of the First U.S. States to Require a Certain Amount of Electricity Come from Renewable Energy Sources

When you think of Texas, you might not automatically think of an abundance of clean energy. But despite its reputation as a pro-fossil-fuel state, Texas was at the forefront of passing a renewable energy portfolio standard. In 1999, the PUCT created a rule to install 5,000 megawatts of new renewables by 2015 and set a target of 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2025. Remarkably, the state surpassed the 2025 target in 2009, further showing how ahead of the game Texans are with renewable energy.

5. Texas Wind Power is Cheaper than Fossil Fuels

This factoid received a lot of attention when President Obama included it in his State of the Union speech this year. An analysis by Lazard, LLC found that the cost of wind production in Texas averages between $36–51 per megawatt-hour (MWh), not including government subsidies.

Coal costs, on the other hand, range from $65–150 per MWh and gas from $52–218 per MWh. Bloomberg New Energy also reported that wind energy is cheaper than fossil fuels, citing the levelized cost of energy from wind in Iowa and Texas is lower than the levelized cost of coal at $59 per MWh—again, without subsidies.

Wind energy makes sense—and cents—which adds up to savings on consumers' electric bills. On an average day, wind energy makes up 10 percent—or 14,000 megawatts—of Texas' total electricity, saving consumers more than $950 million each year.

6. The Texas Wind Industry Employs more than 24,000 Workers

Texas leads the nation in employing the most workers in the wind industry, too. This isn't surprising given that Texas has received the most wind capital investment of any state over the past decade—$32.7 billion—nearly 25 percent of the entire nation's capital investment in wind.

How You Can Help

It's clear Texas is already a wind energy leader, but the Lone Star state has even more potential to fight climate change and reduce the devastating impacts Texans are experiencing—and you can help make a difference.

This August, we'll be holding our next Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Houston. Join us and you'll work with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and renowned climate scientists and communicators to learn about what's happening to our planet and how you can use social media, powerful storytelling and personal outreach to inspire audiences to take action.

Ready to get started? Apply now to join us at our next Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Houston.

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