3 more climate change reports urge action now

Posted on 20. May, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

News of three more major reports on global warming hit today from the US National Academy of Sciences. The reports call for immediate action by Congress to put a cost on carbon pollution.

A story in USA Today highlighted the breadth of political views endorsing the urgent call for action.

“The reports reinforce that we know enough, now, to take sensible actions to address climate change,” says James Connaughton, former environment council chief for the Bush administration. (…)

“This is a wake-up call from science telling Congress to get real,” says Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. “Wake up and smell the carbon.”

The numbers are sobering:

Echoing past reports such as those by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, researchers in the new reports expressed confidence that average global atmosphere temperatures were about 1.4 degrees warmer in this decade compared with a century ago and that future fossil-fuel emissions of greenhouse gases and related activities would increase temperatures anywhere from 2 to 11 additional degrees by 2100.

Price of oil, coal is high, worldwide

Posted on 19. May, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The news out of the Gulf of Mexico is sickening, but it is hardly the only environmental disaster associated with fossil fuels in recent news. Thirty coal miners are trapped in Turkey in an explosion that occurred May 17, following similar coal mine disasters in Russia, China and West Virginia.

A wire story in Sunday’s newspaper about environmental devastation from oil drilling put the overall cost in context. “Quest for oil leaves trail of damage across the globe” tells of impacts from Alberta to Newfoundland to Nigeria. The point of the story is America is driving the quest for more and more oil, but when the impacts are not felt inside our borders, Americans seem not to care.

Despite calls for more domestic drilling and new sources of energy, America’s reliance on foreign oil has climbed steadily over the years, from 44.5 percent of consumption in 1995 to 57 percent in 2008.

“Spills, leaks and deliberate discharges are happening in oil fields all over the world, and very few people seem to care,” said Judith Kimerling, a professor of law and policy at the City University of New York and the author of “Amazon Crude,” a book about oil development in Ecuador.

A particularly chilling quote was this one:

“We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the USA,” Bassey added. “In Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people’s livelihood and environments.”

The old adage “Think globally, act locally” may need some rethinking if we’re to be honest about our country’s energy policies and practices.

Glacier National Park centennial – a tough birthday

Posted on 13. May, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

Age has not been kind to Glacier National Park.The gorgeous million-acre park in northwestern Montana celebrated its 100th birthday today. But many of its glaciers have melted, and scientists predict the rest may not last another decade.

That’s how the story begins about the celebration of the first 100 years of Glacier National Park. The Associated Press story continues:

Many experts consider Glacier Park a harbinger of Earth’s future, a laboratory where changes in the environment will likely show up first.

“What national parks all give us is, in effect, a controlled landscape where we can see the natural and climatic processes at work,” said Steve Running, a University of Montana professor and co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in 2007 for his work on climate change.

Average temperatures have risen in the park 1.8 times faster than the global average, said Dan Fagre, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist.

The change is visible to the naked eye, with the vast moraines left behind as the giant glaciers melt away. Climate change is blamed for the increasing size and frequency of wildfires, and lower stream flows as summer progresses.

What this all means for the bears, wolves and other big predators in the park is unclear, Fagre said.

The article notes that there were 150 named glaciers in the Park 150 years ago, with just 25 glaciers today. It is possible they will all be gone as soon as 2020.

Yes, there is real urgency to our efforts to build the Greater Echanis wind projects. Oil spills, coal mine disasters and disappearing glaciers are signals to us all that we need to take urgent action to reverse our dependence on fossil fuels.

Oregonian editorial links oil spill, coal tragedies to cost of fossil energy

Posted on 30. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The lead editorial in today’s Oregonian, “Oil, Water & wind” connects the dots on some of the costs of fossil fuels and calls for increased focus on renewable energy.

The editorial notes:

It is fitting that the $2billion Cape Wind project, which would include 130 windmills built about five miles off Cape Cod, would take a big step forward just as crews raced to respond to one of the worst offshore oil drilling accidents in American history.

For while oil is today’s main offshore energy resource, the wind ought to be tomorrow’s.

The editorial points to the fact that offshore wind development is unlikely in Oregon’s deep coastal waters, which makes the embrace of Cape Wind seem a touch less convincing.

You’re still not going to see offshore wind turbines coming to the Oregon coast anytime soon. The ocean off the Oregon shore quickly deepens to more than 1,000 feet, too deep for anything but floating wind turbines anchored to the sea floor.

But the editors are no doubt correct to connect the dots:

But unless we miss our guess, history will show that this was a significant week in the evolution of the nation’s energy systems. At the very time it struggled to contain the oil cascading from a shattered offshore well, the federal government recognized the enormous power of mixing water and wind.

The urgency of developing all high quality wind resources is indeed compelling, not just in light of the offshore oil spill. In the last month, more than 30 people have died in coal mining tragedies in the US alone. Coal is still the largest source of electric generation in the country. Of course, the impacts to health from burning coal extend far beyond the victims of tragic mining accidents.

Hopefully, these awful accidents will help galvanize opinion that decisions about these critical projects need to take much more than NIMBYism into account as we wrestle with slowing global climate change and rebuilding our economy based on green jobs.

NYTimes – strong support for Cape Wind

Posted on 26. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The long-awaited decision on the Cape Wind project is due this week. The off-shore wind project has pitted renewable energy advocates against neighbors and others in a battle that has raged for years.

The New York Times has taken a strong position in favor of the project. Today’s editorial concludes as follows:

The criticisms of the project do not come close to outweighing its enormous promise. Cape Wind would be located in what may be the most propitious offshore site in America: shallow water protected from heavy waves; strong, steady winds; and close proximity to thousands of consumers and industries that would benefit from clean power. The secretary’s choice is clear.

Read the editorial in its entirety here.

Washington Sierra Club celebrates Earth Day: shut Centralia coal plant

Posted on 25. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

A story in the Sunday April 25th Columbian newspaper highlighted efforts by the Washington State chapter of the Sierra Club to close the Centralia coal-burning power plant.  A link to the full story is here.

The story begins: “The Sierra Club brought its “Beyond Coal” campaign to Vancouver last week on the eve of Earth Day, urging an audience of 60 to pressure Gov. Chris Gregoire to close the state’s only coal-fired plant sooner rather than later.

“As a first step, Doug Howell, who directs the club’s Coal-Free Washington Campaign, asked members of the audience to write to the governor and ask her to set a time and place for public hearings she had promised 11 months ago on the future of the Centralia plant…”

Nationally, the Sierra Club has made reducing emissions from coal fired power plants a focus of their efforts. According to the American Wind Energy Association, generating electricity from fossil fuels creates 6 billion tons of CO2 per year. A study suggests that number will rise to 6.75 billion tons per year by 2030.

Poll: US voters overwhelmingly support increased use of wind power and national energy standard

Posted on 25. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General, Renewable Energy News

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released results of a national poll last week that shows strong support for increased use of renewable energy – especially wind power – to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and rebuild the nation’s economy.

“The poll’s bottom line is clear:  An overwhelming majority of American voters, on a bipartisan basis, want more wind power and support a national RES (renewable energy standard) to increase its use,” said Anna Bennett and Neil Newhouse, partners respectively with Bennett, Petts & Normington and Public Opinion Strategies, the firms that conducted the poll.

“Wind works for America and that is why voters want Congress to pass a strong national RES” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “Americans understand that an RES will mean new manufacturing jobs, less dependence on imported energy, and more pure, clean, affordable energy for our country.”

Poll highlights include:

–An overwhelming, bipartisan majority — 89% — of American voters (including 84% of Republicans, 88% of Independents and 93% of Democrats) — believe increasing the amount of energy the nation gets from wind is a good idea.

–A majority of Americans — 56% — disapprove of the job Congress is doing on renewable energy and 67% believe Congress is not doing enough to increase renewable energy sources such as wind.

–A majority of Americans — 82% — believe the nation’s economy would be stronger (52%) or the same (30%) if we used more renewable energy sources like wind.

–A majority of Americans — 77% — support a national Renewable Electricity Standard.  This support extends across party lines and includes 65% of Republicans, 69% of Independents, 92% of Democrats.

The poll was conducted March 27-28 by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Anna Bennett of Bennett, Petts & Normington.  The poll sampled a national survey of 600 likely voters. The margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points. Poll details are available here on the AWEA web site.

Tornado in Harney County keeping friends busy

Posted on 21. Apr, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

On Tuesday afternoon, April 20, a tornado touched down in the vicinity of Highway 78 near Crane. Reports from friends say the local Coop lost a mile of power lines and customers were without power for several hours. Thankfully, we have not heard of any injuries or other serious damage. Here is a link to photos of the storm from KGW’s web site.

Our thoughts and best wishes go out to our friends in Harney County!

Harold Otley – age 92

Posted on 02. Mar, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

We learned that one of our friends and landowners in Diamond, Oregon, passed away last month. Harold Otley would have been 93 in May. He was out working that morning, as he did every day, on his ranch.

In many ways, Harold is typical not just of his generation in Harney County, but of the men and women who make up the back bone of that very special region. Harold worked until he died.  He had a small hoist installed on the back of his truck so that even in his nineties he could lift things in and out of it. He started a new venture within the last few years to grow potatoes. He didn’t hear well but he didn’t miss much, either.

Harold served on the Board of the Harney Electric Cooperative for decades and missed a small handful of meetings in that time. He was conscientious and committed to his family and the community.

One could not help but be impressed by Harold’s energy and presence. He will be missed by us. We extend our condolences to the Otley family and the Diamond community at his passing.

Obituary from the Burns Times Herald.

Baker City Herald: “Steens Mountain: A backyard with room for wind turbines.”

Posted on 19. Feb, 2010 by crowley in Blog, General

There’s an editorial in the Baker City Herald today: “Steens Mountain: A backyard with room for wind turbines.

In it, Jayson Jacoby offers the perspective of someone who travels to the Steens “as often as I can manage” and obviously loves the place. But he can imagine wind turbines there, too, because What we need, I believe, is the courage to concede that compromises are necessary.”

Mr. Jacoby also sees the project in perspective:

“But set against a scene like the Steens they (turbines) are rendered mere playthings, steel toys in a gigantic playground of basalt and sage and sky.”

He has obviously looked at maps and thought about how the project will impact the landscape:

“I’d be incensed too if anybody proposed lining the Steens Loop Road with turbines, or stringing a picket line of towers across the alpine tundra of the summit rim or through the Alvord Desert.

“But no one has suggested doing that.

“So far the wind farm sites are all north of the Loop Road, which also means they’re north of the highest — and in my estimation the prettiest — part of the 50-mile-long fault-block mountain.

“Which is not to say the wind farms will be invisible, or even inconspicuous.

“It’s pretty difficult to hide dozens of 415-foot towers, even in country that sprawls as magnificently as the Steens.

“Trouble is, it’s also a challenge to make electricity from wind in a place that’s not, you know, windy.”

He adds a welcome note:

“I doubt, at any rate, that Columbia Energy Partners chose the north slopes of the Steens because they wanted to annoy as many people as possible.”

Mr. Jacoby writes about compromises and the need to realistically consider what it takes to make renewable energy work.

“If weaning ourselves from petroleum and coal requires that we build wind turbines — and I think we must — then we ought to build them where the wind blows hard and long.

“I go to the Steens country as often as I can manage, and I intend to keep doing so.

“Someday, perhaps, I’ll climb the gentle western slopes toward the distinctive notch in Kiger Gorge’s glacial headwall, driving a rig that burns electrons instead of unleaded.

“That will be a fine day, and a fine feeling to know I’m doing nothing to foul the pure air of the high places.

“I will look to the north and maybe I will see the vanes of a turbine, turning lazily, doing their good work.

“Wind farms are important, in that way.

“But set against a scene like the Steens they are rendered mere playthings, steel toys in a gigantic playground of basalt and sage and sky.

“A place that is no one’s backyard.

“And everyone’s.

Although no one at Columbia Energy Partners has ever spoken with Mr. Jacoby, we share his love of the Steens, and his belief that responsibly developed renewable energy projects have a place there.