Update on 20 arrested at Hobet 45 coal mining complex

Many updates have been filtering in, mostly through email. We have been told that the 20 arrested for shutting down Hobet  mine in Lincoln County, West Virginia are still in jail and in the process of raising funds for a bail set at $25,000 each. Other information is trickling through, some very serious. For the moment such stories will not be passed along as they deserve more than “telephone style” reports.

Instead, I would encourage people to read Sue Sturgis’ brief article in Facing South (for The Institute of Southern Studies). She discusses a mounting body of research associating strip mining with cancer, birth defects, and other serious illnesses amongst those living in the area, and the recently introduced H.R. 5959 (the ACHE Act) that would place a legal moratorium on mountain top removal coal mining.

In the mean time organizers are trying to raise money for the 20 protesters being held.

Sturgis’ Article

To donate to the bail fund: http://rampscampaign.org/

Dorian Williams (in blue) with others protesting mountain top removal at Hobet 45

~ Nuevaspora


20 Arrested Protesting Mountain Top Removal

Dorian Williams, active in OB’s CASEJ working group, Students for a Just and Sustainable Future, 350.org, and now 350 MA, was arrested last night, along with about 19 others, after successfully shutting down a mountain top removal mine in West Virginia. The action was organized by RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival), a nonviolent organization centered in the coal fields of West Virginia, and dedicated to ending all strip mining in Appalachia. These 20 people stopped production by using lockboxes to attach themselves to a giant rock truck, as a means of calling attention to the harms of strip mining and the damage it does to local communities, local ecosystems, and the global atmosphere.

Knowing Dorian personally, I can say that she is a passionate and hard working person who puts great thought into how to be a more responsible member of a global community, and is quite bright in all senses of the word. She is an optimist who believes that dedicated people can mobilize to make the world a better place. It might be easiest to write her and her cohort off as kids seeking a thrill, but I can vouch that at least one is a deeply conscientious adult responding to a dire situation. It’s a reality that might leave one looking a little harder at herself.

There is now a collection going out for their bail, but I’d like to take the “ask” a step further. Tell everyone you can think of that this is happening. Tell them why.

RAMPS site (w/info on the action)

RAMPS twitter

News of their arrest

Donate towards their bail.

~ nuevaspora

Koch Funded Study: People Cause Global Warming

A study just came out with data showing that global warming is happening and that we are causing it with increased CO2 emissions. This is not the first time researchers have come to this conclusion (even before this study came out, consensus was over 90% among people in the field), however as Joe Romm points out, this project got a sizable portion of it’s funding from the Koch brothers. The author, a noted climate skeptic, says that the extensive data shows that people are responsible for essentially all of the warming that is occurring, which is one of the strongest statements yet about human involvement (and basically impossible to best). Other other studies have made very similar findings years ago. As one of the last holdouts, the significance of Dr. Muller’s contribution may be more political than scientific.

His analysis of his own results (described in a recent op ed), might be a little confusing to some. He says:

It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.

… Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. 

… the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.”

I think of the United States as being of the world and not apart from it. I suppose the discovery that a house is getting warmer and that a room in that house getting warming does not absolutely guarantee that the one is affecting the other. The room that we expect to warm along with the house might also be warming through some other unknown means. However, to a novice such speculation does not seem unreasonable.

He goes on to say:

As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.

As was noted in a comment on Joe Romm’s post, this may not only establish that we cause global warming, but may also frame the next phase of discussion over climate. We know it’s warming, we know we are causing it. Now the discussion will likely be over the rate, the effects, and what should be done politically.

Assuming there are potential problems with a sudden global change in environment. I think this is a critical time. Proponents of mitigation and responsible action need to frame the debate now, right now, before it is spun by a tightly run and well funded PR machine. To avoid this, my guess is that ordinary people will have to demand a discussion based on sound, existing, data and one which prioritizes the well being of the larger community. We need to be extremely vigilant so as not to get trapped in stall tactics that circumvent an immediate and well informed national discussion over what action should be taken now. We may not have the same options later.

Dr. Muller’s op ed:

Joe Romm’s response

~ Nuevaspora


[This post was revised on July 31st 2012.]

* I know that many involved in the Occupy Movement are anarchists, and while I don’t personally see great conflict between anarchism and changing legislation, respect that there are diverse views on this matter. The one’s stated above are simply my own.

Benny Benassi, “Eco-Magnation” & Climate Reality

The three videos below, though seemingly unrelated, bear a bizarre connection to each other. Stranger still, our fate may depend upon our ability to understand this. They are presented here in the order of most to least viewed.

The first video may not be safe for work, but bears such a close resemblance to the next that it must be considered as a possible source of artistic, or at least marketing, inspiration. Take note of the shot of the woman with the drill about one minute in.

The second video is a GE add for clean coal set to 16 tons, and tells us that, “harnessing the power of coal is looking more beautiful everyday”. In contrast to Benny Benassi they use both shirtless male and female models to do this. (Readers interested in cultural studies or cinematography should take note of the parallel between the shots 20, 25 and 33 seconds in, and Benassi’s drilling woman.)

Without explicitly using the words “clean coal” they announce their achievement as “another product of pure eco-magination”. Since burning the “250 year” supply of coal will necessarily release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, I’m apt to agree.

This last video takes us out of the fantasy realm of Benassi and the imaginary realm of GE’s, to one much less made-up. It is physicist and climate expert Dr. Joseph Romm trying to inject some statements based on research into the house of representatives. The heat we have been under all summer is slated to soon become mild in comparison to future heat waves. More specifically, it has become clear that if we do not change the way we use energy now, we will rapidly lock ourselves into a future of record breaking wildfires, and droughts described as “multiple, mulit-decade Dust Bowls”.

Whether congress is ready to contend with this reality, given its mortal significance, or whether it will continue to operating under the fantasy that there is still time to safely increase concentrations of greenhouse gasses, remains unclear. However, this is; until Dr. Romm’s message reaches more people than Benassi’s, there will be little pressure on congress to do so, and the stakes are high.

For the full transcript of Dr. Romm’s statement, click here.

~ Nevaspora

Clean Energy Lobby Day: Putting Solar on the Grid?

Great Post from our own Susan R. Happy Independence Day!

The Clean Energy Lobby Day at the State House on June 14th, brought together activists that delivered an urgent message to Massachusetts legislators— Don’t Block Expansion of Critical Solar Programs! 

About 25 energy activists, solar industry employees, students and citizens from across the Greater Boston region lobbied their Representatives on Thursday to update policies in the Green Communities Act to increase renewable energy production.  Among the groups represented were Environment Massachusetts, Boston Climate Action, the Sierra Club, Mass Interfaith Power and Light, as well as students from Northeastern Law School.

We fanned out in small groups to speak directly with legislators, or their staff, about the importance of two bills in particular that address climate action, sustainability, and environmental justice (i.e., CASEJ’s key concerns).  We asked that they sign onto a letter to House Ways and Means Chairman Dempsey urging consideration of S.2214 already passed by the Senate that promotes greater renewable energy production by allowing more net-metering. *See explanation of net-metering below.

Increasing the cap on the net metering program will guarantee that consumers receive financial incentives for the solar energy they produce. S.2214 will restore financial certainty to the solar market and will allow more consumers to take on new and worthwhile solar projects.

Also, we explained the environmental justice merits of H.3897, the so-called “Oil Heating” bill that would require heating oil companies to offer energy efficiency programs to customers as do the electric and gas utilities.  The program would especially benefit lower income households on oil that are stuck with old systems.

(Note:  To follow any bill on line, go to http://www.malegislature.gov/ and use the search feature).

Array of solar panels at the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan
For more visit the Solar Energy at Boston Nature Center site!

In Massachusetts, 90 percent of our energy comes from dirty, dangerous sources… 

Here in Massachusetts, most of our energy comes from burning coal, oil and gas to heat and power our homes. Our environment and our health pay the price: these sources emit air pollution that causes smog and global warming, as well as mercury pollution that contaminates our waterways and makes our fish unsafe to eat.

Did you know that enough sun shines on Massachusetts everyday of the year to power the state multiple times over with clean solar energy?  Yet despite the state’s abundant solar potential, Massachusetts produces less than 1% of its electricity from the sun.  Environment Massachusetts, one of the event sponsors, believes at least 10 percent of energy use in this state could come from the sun by 2030.

According to people in our group from wind and solar companies, lifting the cap on net metering is urgent.  Because the current allowable limit for net-metering by small businesses and households has been reached, private financing for new production is unlikely or unavailable to owners and developers of solar and wind.  The renewables industry argues that incentives are needed to level the playing field with the fossil fuel energy corporations that receive subsidies.  Greater economic activity in the renewables industry will eventually bring down the cost per watt of using renewable energy technologies.  Hank Werlin (hwerlin@solardesign.com) related a cautionary tale about New Jersey’s renewables program that failed to continue support, with the result of a crash in renewables economic activity in that state.

Ben Wright of Environment Massachusetts stated, “We can’t let politics get in the way of important net-metering reforms that have strong support among the Commonwealth’s citizens, industry, and our Senators, as well.”  According to the Environment Massachusetts website, some Massachusetts power companies and their fossil fuel allies are attempting to prevent homeowners and businesses from getting easy access to solar. Industry lobbyists want to protect their profits by keeping us dependent on the polluting fuels of the past.

Environment Massachusetts has a goal for the state of getting 10 percent of our energy from the sun by 2030.  To achieve these goals, urges groups to build massive public support for solar and convince legislators to:

  • Expand access to rooftop and onsite solar energy by expanding Massachusetts’ most successful solar program;
  • Establish programs to promote solar hot water;
  • Make all new buildings zero net-energy by maximizing energy efficiency and promoting rooftop solar; and
  • Work with local communities, utilities, developers and large building owners to make solar a centerpiece of Massachusetts’ plan to meet our energy and environmental challenges.

*What is net metering?  *Net-Metering is one of the most effective ways to generate more local, renewable energy in Massachusetts.  Essentially, net-metering allows consumers (residential, commercial or municipal) of electricity to generate renewable electricity on site and sell it back to utility companies.  Since the net-metering program was first enacted (as part of the Green Communities Act in 2008), solar installations in the Commonwealth have increased 24-fold.  Currently, only 3% of all of Massachusetts’ electricity is permitted to be net-metered (1% of all private electricity and 2% of all public).  The bill would raise the cap to 3% for public and 3% of private generating systems).

Here’s an example  of net metering from the Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs website:

Imagine that a residential customer installs a rooftop photovoltaic (PV) system (also known as a solar-electric system) to her home, on her side of the retail meter. Before daylight, her retail meter spins forward as she consumes electricity from the distribution company to power appliances like a refrigerator or computer. During the day, the solar panels generate electricity. If they provide more power than the customer can use, her retail meter will spin in reverse as the excess electricity is sent to the electric grid. At night, when the solar panels are not generating electricity, the retail meter will spin forward again as the customer consumes more electricity than her system generates. At the end of the billing period (around one month), the customer only pays for the net consumption of electricity. 

~ Susan R.

Fire, Floods & Fury

Apologies for the long delay while we were getting organized. Some of the regular writers will be quite busy the next couple of months so longer posts will be somewhat disparate. Still, we’re redoubling our efforts to put up more frequent short posts throughout the week. There’s just too much going on not to.

Last Friday, as Colorado continued to burn, a derecho swept past the mid Atlantic coast. It followed a day of record breaking heat. It was 104F in Washington D.C.,our nation’s capitol. The temperature high broke 142 years of records. My family lives in the area, and so I first found out first from them. Trees were down everywhere, over a million in the area were left without electricity, and, I was told, for 45 minutes it was as though there was an electrical storm in the sky. They filled me in while I was visiting Toronto, where the heatwave was only hitting the 90’s. Heat feeds storms, it gives them energy. It also feeds fire. It may be hard to say that the changes in climate are causing any specific weather event, because is very hard to say that a given weather event wouldn’t otherwise occur- even it would be incredibly unlikely. Much of that has to do with cautious nature of “science speak” which is far more conservative than todays “news speak”.

The message that is not debated even in academic circles, but often lost, is this: The climate is getting hotter. We are experiencing an increase in the extreme wether events one would expect with a hotter climate. The way we burn energy plays a key role in adding heat to the atmosphere. We have the technology to change that now.

Again, there is sound and copious research to back each of these statements.
(In fact, I’ll link a reputable reference to each word, in another post, when I have a little more time.)

So, is this a fluke, is it a still rare phenomenon foreshadowing what will someday be common, or is this the new normal?

~ Nuevaspora