Trump Moves to Open 1.5 Million Acres of Alaskan Refuge for Oil Drilling By End of the Year
The Trump administration has initialized the final steps to open up nearly 1.6 million acres of the protected Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to allow oil and gas drilling.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued its final Environmental Impact Statement for the refuge and found that it was acceptable to lease 1.56 million acres on the Alaskan coastal plains. The lease sales will go forward by the end of the year, as The Hill reported.
Now that the Environmental Impact Statement has been written, BLM is constrained by a mandatory 30-day waiting period before it can accept bids from fossil fuel companies.
"After rigorous review, robust public comment, and a consideration of a range of alternatives, today's announcement is a big step to carry out the clear mandate we received from Congress to develop and implement a leasing program for the Coastal Plain, a program the people of Alaska have been seeking for over 40 years," said Interior Sec. David Bernhardt in a statement, as The Hill reported.
The Democratic controlled house passed a bill Thursday to stop the mandate, but it has little chance of making it through the Senate.
"There are some places too wild, too important, too unique to be spoiled by oil-and-gas development," said Rep. Jared Huffman, the California Democrat who wrote the bill, as the Wall Street Journal reported. "The Arctic Refuge's Coastal Plain is one of those special places."
Environmentalists were quick to pounce on the Interior Department announcement since the refuge is home to polar bear dens and it is where caribou visit for calving. Drilling operations will almost certainly displace indigenous populations, which rely on the wildlife for their sustenance through hunting and fishing, according to the Guardian.
"This sham 'review' unlawfully opens the entire coastal plain to leasing and fails to minimize damage to this unique environment," said Garett Rose, staff attorney for the Alaska Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in a statement, according to The Hill. "It violates what is sacred ground to, and a source of subsistence for, the Gwich'in people."
The Alaska Wilderness League's Executive Director Adam Kolton said to the Guardian "to no one's surprise, the administration chose the most aggressive leasing alternative, not even pretending that this is about restraint or meaningful protection."
"With an eye on developing the entirety of the fragile coastal plain, the administration has been riding roughshod over science, silencing dissent and shutting out entire Indigenous communities," said Kolton.
The NRDC plans to challenge the Environmental Impact Statement in court.
"We will indeed sue," the NRDC's Anne Hawke said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Environmental Impact Statement does seem, at times, divorced from reality, as it suggests that global heating is cyclical rather than a byproduct of human activity, which is the scientific consensus.
"Much attention in recent decades has focused on the potential climate change effects of GHGs [greenhouse gasses], especially carbon dioxide (CO2), which has been increasing in concentration in the global atmosphere since the end of the last ice age," the document reads, as the Guardian reported.
The BLM estimated that the oil and gas leases in the Alaskan refuge would emit the greenhouse gas equivalent of one million new cars on the road. However, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed a draft statement, it said that BLM drastically underestimated the environmental impact, as Scientific American reported.
"The majority of Americans want this sacred area protected," said Rose, as The Hill reported. "And within hours of Congress taking action, the Trump administration is moving with haste to destroy it."
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A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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