By Kimberly White
The City of Houston has committed to 100 percent renewable energy. Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that the city has teamed up with NRG Energy to power all municipal operations with renewable energy beginning in July.
<div id="aea44" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="45b3862780fc400f29290a319fcc2f63"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="902176734078017537" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Here are the #ClimateFacts about #HurricaneHarvey. https://t.co/lECmNlmbCh</div> — The YEARS Project (@The YEARS Project)<a href="https://twitter.com/YEARSofLIVING/statuses/902176734078017537">1503930669.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Johnny Wood
What does COVID-19 mean for the energy transition? While lockdowns have caused a temporary fall in CO2 emissions, the pandemic risks derailing recent progress in addressing the world's energy challenges.
Unprecedented Change<p>The past decade has seen rapid transformations as countries move towards clean energy generation, supply and consumption. Coal-fired power plants have been retired, as reliance on natural gas and emissions-free renewable energy sources increases. Incremental gains have been made from carbon pricing initiatives.</p><p>Since 2015, 94 of 115 countries have improved their combined score on the Energy Translation Index (ETI), which analyzes each country's readiness to adopt clean energy using three criteria: energy access and security; environmental sustainability; and economic development and growth.<br><br>But the degree of change and the timetable for reaching net-zero emissions differ greatly between countries, and taken as a whole, today's advances are insufficient to meet the climate targets set by the Paris Agreement.</p>
The 10 Countries Most Prepared for the Energy Transition<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzI3OTU4My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDQ0NjQ4MX0.SumXaqZnlWq6pBIoqAggmvg9LDqI_Vqn984i3YL1yhU/img.png?width=980" id="53351" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0d6767a8b912d7699fb087ecff33ce3f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Sweden is the nation most ready to transition to sustainable energy. WEF Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2020 edition
Powerful Shocks<p>Outside the top 10, progress has been modest in Germany. Ranked 20th, the country has committed to phasing out coal-fired power plants and moving industrial output to cleaner fuels such as hydrogen, but making energy services affordable remains a struggle.</p><p>China, ranked 78th, has made strong advances in controlling CO2 emissions by switching to electric vehicles and investing heavily in solar and wind energy - it currently has the world's largest solar PV and onshore wind capacity. Alongside China, countries including Argentina, India and Italy have shown consistent strong improvements every year. Gains over time have also been recorded by Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Kenya and Oman, among others.</p><p>But high energy-consuming countries including the US, Canada and Brazil show little, if any, progress towards an energy transition.</p><p>In the US (ranked 32nd), moves to establish a more sustainable energy sector have been hampered by policy decisions. Neighboring Canada grapples with the conflicting demands of a growing economy and the need to decarbonize the energy sector.</p><p>The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a reminder of the impact of external shocks on the global economy. As climate change increases the likelihood of weather extremes such as floods, droughts and violent storms, the need for more sustainable energy practices is intensified.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A solar and battery storage project large enough to power the residential population of Las Vegas received final approval from the Department of the Interior on Monday, despite concerns from some conservationists about the project's impact on the threatened Mojave desert tortoise.
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Last year, the EPA repealed the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era policy aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants.
Plants growing inside of a greenhouse nursery. pixinoo / Getty Images
Indoor farms can grow vegetables close to cities, where there are lots of people to feed.
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By Lynn Freehill-Maye
When Jackie Augustine opens a chicken coop door one brisk spring morning in upstate New York, the hens bolt out like windup toys. Still, as their faint barnyard scent testifies, they aren't battery-powered but very much alive.
These are "solar chickens." At this local community egg cooperative, Geneva Peeps, the birds live with solar power all around them. Their hen house is built under photovoltaic panels, and even outside, they'll spend time underneath them, protected from sun, rain, and hawks.
Finding the Right Pairing<p>Agrivoltaics doesn't just include chickens. Other livestock also can roam around solar panels, and some researchers are experimenting with planting crops, too. </p><p>Animals that graze around solar fields offer several benefits, proponents of agrivoltaics say. Not only does their manure enrich the soil, their munching keeps plants from growing too tall and shading the panels. Another win: They lower vegetation maintenance costs, reducing the need for lawn mowers or landscapers.</p><p>Pilot agrivoltaic programs have tried many grazers – with varying success. The chickens at Geneva Peeps, for example, aren't grazing powerhouses. Founder Jeff Henderson admits that he still has to fire up the lawn mower sometimes.</p><p>When solar panels are elevated for them to roam beneath, cows do better, as shown in a <a href="https://ag.umass.edu/clean-energy/current-initiatives/solar-pv-agriculture" target="_blank">University of Massachusetts pilot</a>. But the higher materials cost of raising panels has kept "solar cattle" from taking hold yet. Goats have been tried, too, but they sometimes jump on panels and chew wires.</p><p>The winner among livestock so far has been calm, eat-anything-and-everything sheep. In fact, most of the members of the American Solar Grazing Association, founded in 2017, are shepherds. (Honeybees can be part of the mix with sheep, too.)</p>
Seeking Common Ground<p>Still, tensions remain between solar and agriculture. Farmers who lease the land they grow crops on often worry about their landlords renting it out to someone else, including solar farms. And rural residents may want to see their area hold onto its farming heritage. A California developer, Cypress Creek Renewables, riled up rural New York in 2016 when it mass-mailed farmers seeking leases on 20-plus acre fields.</p><p>Lewis Fox, co-founder of the American Solar Grazing Association, has found that involving animals helps solar skeptics lower their defenses. He'll bring lambs to a project open house and find locals open up a bit more. Often, he says, they find it reassuring that local land can stay in agriculture, even if solar is added.</p><p>"Solar in general is unfamiliar to people, and if you hear there's a large development coming to your town, people naturally get defensive, a little suspicious," Mr. Fox says. "There's support, but also a lot of concern. Once people come out to a site and see it being grazed, it kind of clicks. A well-managed grazing program on a site is very productive. It's not just throwing a few sheep out and letting them go wherever for a season. We can raise a lot of meat on an acre of raised panels. It's a serious form of agriculture."</p>
First Came the Chickens<p>Mr. Henderson didn't know about agrivoltaics when he founded Geneva Peeps in 2015. His goal was simply to help local families raise chickens. Backyard coops aren't allowed in the Finger Lakes town of Geneva, New York, but he found industrial-zoned land where they'd be permitted. </p><p>Forty families now share weekly chicken-care shifts of 10 to 15 minutes. Ms. Augustine pedals over for her shift, and with her bike helmet still on, checks the hens' food and water. In return, she and fellow members get a dozen or more eggs at a time. </p><p>The year after launching, Mr. Henderson installed 44 kilowatts' worth of solar panels, both powering the operation and producing excess for the grid through net metering. There wasn't enough room on the chicken coops to install rooftop panels, but he did have more than an acre of land – more than 180 egg-layers really needed. Mr. Henderson wasn't aware of any similar farms combining solar and chickens, but he figured the project could be a local sustainability model. </p><p>"We knew they could all coexist together because there's no reason you can't have solar panels and chickens," Mr. Henderson says. "One of the hopes is this will give people an idea of a way you could do it."</p>
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By Irina Ivanova
The millions of Americans who are skipping their morning commute and working from home because of the coronavirus have drastically reduced smog over America's largest cities and otherwise benefited the environment. Yet the growing ranks of workers now plying their trade online using tools like Zoom and Slack are taking their own toll.
How Dirty Is the Cloud?<p>Indeed, the digital domain is hardly emissions-free. Manufacturing a smartphone, tablet or computer as well as the network that supports them consumes considerable resources — everything from <a href="https://cms.cbsnews.com/hub/cmsframework/reroute/content_article/56996486-e00f-41e8-ba81-aff54844d68e#link=%7B%22assetType%22:%22article%22,%22uuid%22:%2256996486-e00f-41e8-ba81-aff54844d68e%22,%22slug%22:%22how-clean-energy-demand-could-fuel-conflict-in-congo%22,%22linkText%22:%22mining%20rare%20minerals%22,%22href%22:%22https://cms.cbsnews.com/content/article/56996486-e00f-41e8-ba81-aff54844d68e/version/us%22,%22role%22:%22content_link%22,%22target%22:%22_blank%22,%22edition%22:%22us%22%7D" target="_blank">mining rare minerals</a> to laying undersea cables for high-speed internet. And of course it takes oodles of electricity to power the whole system. Electricity in the U.S. still comes <a href="https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3#link=%7B%22role%22:%22standard%22,%22href%22:%22https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3%22,%22target%22:%22_blank%22,%22absolute%22:%22%22,%22linkText%22:%22overwhelmingly%22%7D" target="_blank">overwhelmingly</a> from generators powered by fossil fuels, not wind or solar.</p><p>"When we're using our cars, we see that we're using gas … But when you use a computer or a smartphone, it is not so obvious that it's also responsible for greenhouse gas emissions," Hugues Ferreboeuf, project director at the Shift Project, a Paris-based think tank, recently told CBS News.</p><p>The Shift Project issued an alarming <a href="https://theshiftproject.org/en/article/lean-ict-our-new-report/#link=%7B%22role%22:%22standard%22,%22href%22:%22https://theshiftproject.org/en/article/lean-ict-our-new-report/%22,%22target%22:%22%22,%22absolute%22:%22%22,%22linkText%22:%22report%22%7D" target="_blank">report</a> last year that found digital technologies' energy demand was growing at an unsustainable rate. "The only chance to keep the [global] temperature increase to 2 degrees is to divide by two the greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 years," Ferreboeuf said. "If we want to change things, there is no alternative to us reviewing the way we use digital." </p>
Big Data Gets Bigger<p>The silver lining is that, at least for now, the energy impact of cloud computing remains relatively modest. Over the past decade, data centers — often called the "brains" of the digital world — have massively increased the amount of information they process while increasing energy use only a little. Since 2010, such data crunching has jumped more than fivefold, while energy use rose only about 6%, according to a <a href="https://datacenters.lbl.gov/sites/default/files/Masanet_et_al_Science_2020.full_.pdf#link=%7B%22role%22:%22standard%22,%22href%22:%22https://datacenters.lbl.gov/sites/default/files/Masanet_et_al_Science_2020.full_.pdf%22,%22target%22:%22_blank%22,%22absolute%22:%22%22,%22linkText%22:%22paper%22%7D" target="_blank">paper</a> published this year in Science.</p><p>"We're consuming much more data than we used to for not that much more energy," said Masanet, the paper's lead author. </p><p>Here's why: Data center operators have become much better at heating and cooling their massive buildings, essentially limiting or even eliminating a function that hogged more energy than running the servers themselves. The trend toward larger centers and better servers over the last decade, led by cloud-computing giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, has also helped lower the energy-to-data ratio.</p>
Who Pays for Digital?<p>So has the coronavirus lockdown in the U.S. decreased carbon emissions overall? Scientists are currently exploring that question, and it will likely be months before they can come up with a definitive answer. Yet Masanet has a strong hunch the answer is "yes" — even taking into account the rise in binge streaming.</p><p>"Of course there's more electricity use from being online more, but the savings we get from avoiding our commutes dwarf any increase in electricity," he said. "My instinct is that, yes, electricity use is going up, but the savings we get nationally from avoided travel is much greater."</p>
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By Andrea Thompson
Solar panels perched on the roofs of houses and other buildings are an increasingly common sight in the U.S., but rooftop wind systems have never caught on. Past efforts to scale down the towering turbines that generate wind power to something that might sit on a home have been plagued by too many technical problems to make such devices practical. Now, however, a new design could circumvent those issues by harnessing the same principle that creates lift for airplane wings.
You may think it would be pricey to rent an apartment in a sleek new complex with rooftop solar and ultra-efficient appliances. But Silver Star Apartments in L.A. houses formerly homeless and disabled veterans.
It's one of a small but growing number of affordable housing developments built to meet stringent green building standards.
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By Dave Cooke
So, they finally went and did it — the Trump administration just finalized a rule to undo requirements on manufacturers to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger cars and trucks. Even with the economy at the brink of a recession, they went forward with a policy they know is bad for consumers — their own analysis shows that American drivers are going to spend hundreds of dollars more in fuel as a result of this stupid policy — but they went ahead and did it anyway.
The Rule, by the Numbers<p>The administration recognizes this is a bad deal for the country — even their own cooked books couldn't make this look like a good idea:</p><ul><li>American drivers will burn an additional 2 billion barrels of oil, resulting in 900 million metric tons of additional global warming emissions;</li><li>Vehicle prices could be reduced by $1,000, but consumers would pay more than $1,400 more in fuel, a net loss and obviously a terrible deal;</li><li>Accounting for miles traveled, the rule results in more premature deaths from air pollution (up to 1600), than offset by the agencies' (optimistic) estimate of less than 800 avoided traffic fatalities;</li><li>The rule cuts automotive revenue by $50 billion dollars, resulting in job losses in the auto sector of 10,000-20,000 in 2030, a number which excludes the <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/don-anair/auto-standards-rollback-oil-companies-win-everyone-else-loses" target="_blank">even worse macroeconomic job losses</a> which would accrue;</li><li>The net benefits of the rule are actually negative, resulting in $10-20 billion in net monetized harm to the country, which is actually a worse outcome than most of alternatives the agency considered!</li></ul><p>And on top of all this, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NSHTA) found time to incorporate special corporate giveaways to the fossil fuel industry, <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/don-anair/auto-standards-rollback-oil-companies-win-everyone-else-loses" target="_blank">the only industry slated to benefit from this rule</a> in the first place.</p>
The Final Rule Is Not Necessarily Better Than the Proposal<p>There will likely be a lot of reporting that says that this final rule is better for the environment than the proposal, but this is wrong. On paper, the Trump administration has replaced its proposal to halt required progress entirely after 2020 with a rule that requires 1.5 percent improvement per year, a rate which is of course <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-cooke/most-fuel-efficient-cars-a-win-for-consumers-pockets-the-economy-and-climate-but-whats-next" target="_blank">lower than the automakers have averaged now for more than a decade</a>. But paper targets don't matter — what matters is what happens in the real world. And all this rule is doing is maintaining the status quo.</p><p>While ostensibly increasing the requirements of the rule, the Trump administration has also increased flexibilities and credits granted to automakers compared to the proposal, credits which the industry requested and which we've shown <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-cooke/congress-is-pushing-back-on-the-trump-fuel-economy-rollback-why-arent-auto-companies" target="_blank">could be as bad as the rollback</a>. Incredibly, they've even granted credits that no automaker asked for, for natural gas vehicles that no one currently sells (of course, that was a handout to the oil industry, just like the rest of this rule). While they didn't grant all automaker requests, they did extend through 2026 the decision to ignore emissions from the electricity powering EVs and increased the number of technologies eligible for credits not captured by standards test procedures (so-called "off-cycle credits") while simultaneously reducing the public scrutiny on those emissions, even though recent data on some of these credits <a href="https://theicct.org/publications/US-2025-off-cycle" target="_blank">calls into question their value</a>.</p><p>Awarding automakers these flexibilities and loopholes makes the miniscule change in stringency completely toothless. Consumers will continue to be railroaded by this change in policy.</p>
The Economy Is in a Tenuous Position — This Rule Will Make It Worse<p>Right now, the economic outlook is uncertain — we are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/26/upshot/coronavirus-millions-unemployment-claims.html" target="_blank">shedding jobs by the millions</a>, and even after we come out of this pandemic, we will <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2020-03-17/coming-coronavirus-recession" target="_blank">likely be dealing with a recession</a>. The administration's policy just compounds that economic pain for consumers by ensuring they pay more at the pump. This is exactly the wrong policy at the worst time — what we need to be doing is helping consumers pay less in fuel so they can put those saving back to work in our local economies.</p><p>Consumers will pay thousands more for fuel as a result of this rule, which hurts the economy and <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/don-anair/auto-standards-rollback-oil-companies-win-everyone-else-loses" target="_blank">negatively impacts job growth</a>. The only people that benefit from the administration's finalized rule are the oil companies.</p>
The Safe Rule Is Unsafe<p>One of the biggest, dumbest points made in the original proposal was that this rule would save lives. But the administration admits now that such claims were total nonsense. Even by their own fuzzy math, the "tens of thousands of lives saved" from the proposal have been reduced to just a few hundred, and now that they've finally bothered to calculate the adverse health impacts, they've found that up to 1600 people would die prematurely thanks to the additional air pollution from this rule (a number that is <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/files/2019/05/FINALGHGREPORT.pdf" target="_blank">likely a significant underestimate</a>).</p><p>We are in the middle of a public health crisis that's devastating our economy, and the administration is finalizing a rule that will undermine both public health and the economy. If that isn't some of the most backwards nonsense ever, I don't know what is.</p>
Fighting It out in the Courts<p>As with <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/24/trump-has-lost-more-than-90-percent-of-deregulation-court-battles.html" target="_blank">so many of the administration's wrongheaded rollbacks</a>, this one will end up in the courts. There continue to be a mountain of errors in the policy and a number of corners cut to <a href="https://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/LookupWebProjectsCurrentBOARD/1FACEE5C03725F268525851F006319BB/$File/EPA-SAB-20-003+.pdf" target="_blank">avoid public scrutiny</a> and <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2020/02/an-inside-account-of-trumps-fuel-economy-debacle/606346/" target="_blank">sideline the administration's own experts</a>.</p><p>This policy is bad for consumers, bad for public health, and bad for the environment. And we will continue to fight it in the courts because this country deserves better.</p>
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Virginia, which now has a Democrat as governor and Democrats in control of the statehouse, has followed the lead of several other blue states and committed itself to transition away from fossil fuels to a clean, renewable, carbon-free energy, as Vox reported. It makes Virginia the first state in the South to commit to 100 percent clean energy.
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