Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Making a Difference: President Obama, Marine Preserves and Monuments

Obama and  coral reefs

Obama Preserved Many Coral Reefs

“President Obama established the first national marine monument off the east coast of the United States.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

March 19, 2017—-President Obama joined an elite group of people that led to the establishment of our national parks and monuments. Two of those men were John Muir and  President Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act in 1906 under which many of our national parks and monuments were established. The Antiquities Act gives the president the authority to set aside sites that are historically or scientifically important.

The Antiquities Act of 1906

Since Roosevelt signed the act more than a thousand different marine protected areas have been created. President Obama used this act to further our federal park system 29 times during his eight years in office. Some of the area is on land and some is in the global ocean. President Obama set aside more ocean environments, as monuments and reserves,  than any other person in history. Altogether he added more than 850 thousand square miles (1.3+ million km2) of ocean for new reserves and additions to existing one.

Seamounts and ocean monuments

Seamounts preserved by President Obama

Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine Monument

Under American law oceans existing within 200 nautical miles of land can be included in protected reserves. On September 5, 2016 President Obama established the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. It is the first national marine monument off the east coast of the United States. It covers approximately 4,913 square miles (12,725 sq km) and includes two separate sections that are near each other. One includes three canyons cut into the continental shelf,  and the other includes four extinct volcanoes or seamounts that exist on the deep sea floor off the shelf.

Coral bleaching and reefs

Coral bleaching is happening along many reefs today.

Seamounts of the Oceans

Along much of the Atlantic coast of the United States there exists an underwater shelf that extends out to sea for a great distance. Scattered along the edge of this shelf are deep canyons cut into the edge. The canyons drop thousands of feet. The exact origin of these canyons is unclear. One section of the monument includes three of these canyons. The larger section of the monument includes four seamounts. A feature of this section is that approximately 50 species of deep sea coral reside nearby. Some at depths of more than 12,800 feet (3900 meters). Commercial fishing and the taking of any physical or organic material from the site is prohibited. Some crab and lobster harvesting will be allowed for several years but then terminated.

Marine monuments and Obams

President Obama set aside marine monuments.

Papahänaumokuäkea Marine National Monument includes the Hawaiian Islands and extends to the northwest to include Midway and other islands. This monument was first created by George W. Bush. In 2016 Obama quadrupled the size of the reserve. It now includes nearly 600,000 square miles (966,000km2) of ocean islands making it the largest marine reserve in the world. It is also the largest single area protected by the United States and is a United Nation Heritage Site. It contains thousands of marine species, half of them unique to the Hawaiian Islands.

Seamounts and the Tropical Oceans

One of the significant aspects of the marine monuments and preserves that Obama set aside is that they are north of the tropic of Cancer. Most coral reefs are in the tropical oceans. These reefs are being destroyed by bleaching due to warming water. The most severe damage to coral reefs is between the equator and 30 degrees either side of the equator. More than 30 countries in this region have reported bleaching to offshore reefs.

The establishment of the reserves and monuments in higher latitudes not only stops damage by fishing and collecting but promises to provide time to study the reef life before the seas have a chance to warm enough to destroy them. Thanks President Obama!


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The Trump Administration and the Clean Power Plan

Clean Power Plan

What kind of planet will we leave our children?

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs in the coal mines!”

By Linn Smith

March 9, 2017—-Mike Pence, now Vice President of the U.S. under the Trump administration, has had a long history of denying climate change. In 2001, Pence wrote in an article titled, Global Warming Disaster, “global warming is a myth, the earth is actually cooler today than it was 50 years ago,” and in 2009 he stated it was not clear whether our changing climate was due to human activity, saying there was a growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming.

Pence and the Clean Power Plan

In 2009 Pence led 27 states, along with Indiana, where he governed between 2013-2017, in a fight against Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which was a “commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, while maintaining an affordable, reliable energy system, which would cut pollution and protect our health and environment now and for future generations.” In a 2014 speech Pence stated that Indiana is a pro-coal state which will continue to fight “overreaching schemes” of the EPA until the war on coal comes to an end.

Letter to Pence from Scientists

Indiana scientists sent a letter to Governor Pence in 2015, pleading with him to call on their expertise, a letter which went unanswered. Part of the letter states:

“Dear Governor Pence, Our understanding of the Earth’s climate has come a long way in the past 100 yrs. and the role of greenhouse gases is now well documented. The Earth’s atmosphere contains greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that trap heat from the Sun that would otherwise be transmitted back out to space. Changes in the carbon dioxide concentration strongly influence Earth’s climate. In the past century, the carbon dioxide concentration of the atmosphere has increased by 30%. This increase, in large measure, is the result of human use of fossil fuels for energy. This carbon transfer has increased global temperatures in our lifetimes, with a set of secondary effects such as weather patterns that are more erratic and extreme. Like the overwhelming majority of scientists, we project that this human-produced effect will continue to grow into the foreseeable future…….Our challenge today is to explore opportunities to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies in Indiana that reflect our interests to protect energy and transportation infrastructure, the health of the public economic development. We would be privileged to help you in this effect……..” Again, this letter has remained unanswered.

clean power plan

Is Trump good for the environment?

Clean Power Plan and the Lawsuit

The Trump administration is currently attempting to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which was part of Obama’s effort to fight global warming. The lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan is currently in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, waiting a decision. The court decision could be made anytime between now and several years down the road.

The clean power plan

The Clean Power Plan for the health of our planet!

According to an article by Brad Plumer on http://www.Vox.com, the court process could take years as the EPA will have to write a new coal power plant rule, along with a legal explanation of why it’s changing its mind, followed by responses from the public. Because of regulations regarding the court battle, the Clean Power Plan is currently not in effect while the decision is being made. The court could rule: A) that the EPA does have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide from existing power plants under Section 111(d), B) It does not have the authority, or C) the law is ambiguous and its up for interpretation. Matt Pilon says in, “Clean Power Plan Repeal could have Mixed Impacts”, the short-term impact of a Clean Power Plan delay would be that utilities would be able to lower emissions more gradually, relieving them of some potential costs.

Clean Power Plan

Keeping our nation clean.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan will not bring back jobs in the coal mines! The jobs have been lost to natural gas, renewable resources, open pit mining and mountaintop mining, which is less expensive and requires less manpower—even though it is environmentally devastating. The answer? Retraining coal miners and rebuilding the infrastructure of coal mining country.

Retraining Coal Miners

Wind technician is one of the fastest growing fields in today’s job market. President Obama allotted $14.5 million in federal funding for programs to retrain out of work coal miners and to develop the economy of coal country.

Change must be accepted! It was also devastating for small farmers in the midwest to lose their family farms to large corporations. But all the Willie Nelson farm aide concerts that took place couldn’t save the small farmer. Change happens!

Clean Power Plan


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Our Throw-Away Culture

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

“We must act like responsible citizens, even if our government does not!”

Linn Smith

December 29, 2016—Well, Christmas is over and garbage cans and dumpsters are loaded with boxes, wrapping paper, bows and various discards from the holidays. “Take, Make, Waste” is what Annie Leonard calls it in “The Story of Stuff”.

I grew up in a rural farming community. Our yearly garden produced the vegetables we ate. Our trees produced the fruit we would enjoy until the following year’s vegetables and fruits were harvested. What our garden and fruit trees didn’t produce, my grandmother’s house did. Grapes were turned into jelly and so sweet, I have never tasted anything like it since! My parents canned…….and canned some more. The walls in the basement had shelves full of glass jars filled with the beautiful colors of vegetables and fruits. The taste……well, nothing you can buy in a grocery store today! After the fruits and vegetables were consumed the jars were washed and stored back on the shelves for next season’s crop.

Our milk came from our dairy herd, strained through a cheese cloth to get the black floaty things out…never pasteurized! Our meat came from pasture grazed cattle, raised either on our farm or my uncle’s farm and eggs were just a short walk to the hen house.

The Barefoot College

Gandhi’s Philosophy: The small villages must be empowered.

Family Farms Today

Today the family farms where I grew up have all but died, replaced by corporations raising corn for ethanol. Meat and poultry products are mass produced for the consumer in feed lots or small confined cages. How often I walk past fruit trees and the fruit is laying on the ground rotting. Is the art of preserving our food being lost for the next generation?

And what about all the things we Americans tear down or throw away because we’re tired of it and it’s time for something new?

How to be a More Mindful Consumer

Annie Leonard states in “How to be a More than Mindful Consumer, “Let me say it clearly. I’m neither for nor against stuff. I like stuff if it’s well-made, honestly marketed, used for a long time, and at the end of its life, recycled in a way that doesn’t trash the planet, poison people, or exploit workers. Our stuff should not be artifacts of indulgence and disposability, like toys that are forgotten 15 minutes after the wrapping comes off, but things that are both practical and meaningful. British philosopher William Morris said it best: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Save Planet Earth

Sweden: Creating a Sustainable Community

Sweden is a leader in being an environmentally conscious country. In 2017, they will reduce the sales tax when citizens repair things like bicycles, shoes and cloths. And when people choose to fix white goods, such as washing machines and dishwashers instead of carting them off to the dump, they will receive tax refunds….a reward for being less wasteful. They believe that changing the economic incentives will change people’s thinking toward creating a healthier environment.

Colin Beavan: A Year of Deprivation?

Colin Beavan spent a year trying to live with the least impact on the environment. He tried creating no waste, eating no pre-processed meals, no t.v., no car, and bought no new stuff. Here’s what he had to say about that year, “”They assumed I just finished a year of deprivation,” Colin said. “But I realized that it was the prior 35 years that I had been deprived when I use to workaround the clock, rush home late and exhausted, eat take-out food, and plop down to watch TV until it was time to take out the trash, go to sleep, and start all over again. That was deprivation!”

Take Action

With a new administration entering power in the U.S. it’s time to take responsibility for leaving a healthy planet for future generations….because our government is not going to do it for us! The incoming administration does not support the scientific facts that state our planet is warming and our weather is changing. So it’s time to do what we can, when we can, where we can! We must act like responsible citizens, even if our government does not make a healthy planet a priority–or worse, works for the reversal of steps taken to reduce CO2 in our atmosphere. We are free to choose our actions, but we are not free from the consequence of those actions!

Take Action to Create a Sustainable Future


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International Action on Climate Change Surges in 2016

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

“In order to halt global warming, all countries need to participate including the U.S. under the new administration!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 7, 2016—–There have been a number of events this year which have both indicated the growing awareness of the extent of climate change and also a willingness for nations to work together to solve the problems of climate change. Among them are two of particular importance. They are the actions taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to reduce or eliminate the use of hydrofluorocarbons.

Implementing the Paris Agreement on Limiting Greenhouse Gases

In December of 2015, a conference was held in a suburb of Paris, France to discuss the effects of global warming and actions to take. Attending were more heads of state than had ever before attended a single conference in world history. The outcome was that nearly all of the countries presented plans to reduce greenhouse gases in the near future. But in order for this agreement to become a working document enough countries must sign up, sharing the responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions an additional 55%. The goal is to keep global temperatures from rising 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. The goal is to keep the level below 1.5ºC. Enacting this agreement would be a huge step forward in slowing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

The time table for implementing the agreement was the year 2020. In a surprising show of support for the agreement it took just 10 months for the requisite number of countries to sign on. This meant the participants wanted action now, not four years from now. So far more than 75 countries have signed on. If these countries meet their goals it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions more than the required 55% set out in the agreement.

There is, as one might expect, some opposition to the Paris agreement. Donald Trump, the president elect of the United States has said that he would cancel the U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. This is in spite of the fact that the U.S. is one of the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. If the U.S. pulls out of the agreement it will be more difficult to reach the goals of the plan. The president of the Philippines has also indicated that he would not honor the agreement. Politics in Brazil may result in that country pulling out as well. Only time will determine how dedicated the international community is in reducing greenhouse gases and global warming.

Cop 21

There is a lot of hard work to be done after the Cop21 agreement.

International Action on Hydroflourocarbons (HFC’s)

In 1974, scientists warned there was evidence to suggest that compounds known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have a depleting effect on stratospheric ozone layers. They first came into use in refrigerators in the 1930s. Since World War II, they have been used as propellants in deodorants and hair sprays, in producing plastic foams, and in cleaning electronic parts.

Chlorofluorocarbons rise into the upper atmosphere where they break apart and end up reducing the ozone concentration. The most disturbing reduction in atmospheric ozone is that found over the Antarctic Continent and is referred to as the ozone hole. The ozone hole over Antarctica has occurred in September and October since the late 1970s. Scientists around the world soon realized the amount of damage the chlorofluorocarbons were doing to the environment. The U.N. Environment Program called for a conference in Montreal, Canada, in September 1987, which drafted a treaty restricting the production of CFCs. The agreement is officially termed the Montreal protocol. International support for the treaty led to a substantial reduction in CFC production. Evidence now indicates that the average extent of the Antarctic ozone hole is declining. In the Antarctic spring of 2015 (September and October) the extent of the hole was only about ½ of what the previous maximum area had been.

Save Planet Earth

In an extremely important event with implications for global warming took place in Vienna, Austria in July of 2016. Most countries that took part in the Paris conference attended the meeting. The participants in this conference reached agreement to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals used as refrigerants in place of the Chlorofluorocarbons that resulted in the Antarctic ozone hole. HFCs are not a large percentage of greenhouse gases, but they are perhaps the most effective in terms of absorbing earth radiation. Use of these chemicals has grown rapidly in the last decade due to the increasing use of air conditioning and refrigeration. It was hoped that an agreement would be reached before a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in October. The proposal would result in an amendment to the Montreal protocol that limited the use of CFCs. The main problem holding up the agreement was the date when the participating countries had to begin reducing the use of the HFCs.

The Kigali conference was major success, 170 countries sent representatives that worked for four days to negotiate the amendment. The result was a document that would eliminate 90% of the current usage of HFCs. A compromise was reached on when countries would start the reduction. The reduction efforts would begin for some of the wealthier countries in 2019. More than 100 countries, including China, have a beginning date of 2024. A few others, including India, committed to a 2028 start. Making the change is more difficult in developing countries which are tied to older technology. The reductions are based on changing corporate usage and in new alternate chemicals becoming available. There are already alternate chemicals available and new ones in development. If the countries met their goals it would reduce the forthcoming temperature rise by a half degree Celsius.

In order to halt global warming, all countries need to participate including the U.S. under the new administration!


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A Trump Presidency: Can Our Environment Survive?

Climate Change and Mass Extinction

Mass extinction could happen again-do we care?

“Utilities companies will buy from sources based on economics, not politics, and its difficult to see how utilities would suddenly start buying coal.”

By Linn Smith

November 18, 2016—The big question on my mind the past several weeks concerns the effects of a Trump presidency on our environment. Will the years of effort towards clean energy, both locally and globally, survive under the new administration? I must admit to feeling more than a little worried! Trump has no clean energy plan and appears to have very little knowledge or interest in the environment, denying scientific facts of our rapidly warming planet!

Clean Energy Speaks Loudest

According to an article in Computerworld, “Trump’s Coal Revival Plan Won’t Work”, analysts say clean energy will be difficult to reverse because, “clean energy has become so cheap it will continue to increase its domination of the energy industry.”—the pocketbook speaks the loudest!

Trump and Energy Plan

Will it remain?

But Trump still may undo the tax credit for solar, the Clean Energy Plan and our support for the Paris Agreement (see planetearth5.com, “The Historic Paris Climate Conference-Cop21”). Raj Prabhu, CEO for a clean energy firm, commented on the tax credit roll back that may happen under the Trump administration, “It could happen, but it’s unlikely, due to the bipartisan nature of how the bill was passed in Congress and the momentum solar has right now. Solar has gone mainstream with utilities companies, businesses, and home owners, not to mention that solar jobs exceed over 200,000.” Last year 31,000 new solar jobs were added to the industry, 20 times the national average for job creation. Plus, solar power systems prices are constantly declining–30% in 2016.

Prabhu also states “Contrary to election rhetoric, it’s not regulation or renewable subsidies that are killing coal; it’s actually natural gas, which is cheap and abundant. Utilities companies will buy from sources based on economics, not politics, and its difficult to see how utilities would suddenly start buying coal.” Added to this is the fact that, although environmentally devastating, many coal mining jobs have been lost due to table top mining, which requires less labor.

Earth Day

Clean Energy: Make It a Priority!

Countering the Trump Administration

William Yardley of the Los Angeles Times, states in his article, “Will Paris Climate Accord and Other Environmental Pacts Survive a Trump Presidency?” that Trump will be the only world leader to question whether climate change is real. ” Many activists have long argued that government cannot be counted on to lead on climate issues. Some say a blend of global market forces affecting fossil fuels, the declining cost of solar and wind energy, grass-roots activism, legal action in U.S. courts and international pressure could help counter whatever efforts a Trump administration might make to undo existing policies.”

Lack of Leadership Won’t Stop Transition To Clean Energy

And K.C. Golden chairman of 350.org, “This is obviously a setback, in part because we started so damn late and there’s already quite a bit of damage, but this transition (renewable energy) is underway and it’s driven by a whole lot of things–human will, local policy, state policy, international policy, and technology development. There will be more of a price to pay and more climate damage will accumulate and be inflicted on people, because we’ll go slower than we would go if we had concerted American leadership, but the lack of American leadership won’t stop the transition.”

Maybe I have searched for the more positive aspects concerning predictions about our future under a new administration with no clean energy plan, but that’s ok. Me, and maybe a few of you, needed it! We, as individuals, must embrace the responsibility to create a cleaner environment, while supporting local, state and international efforts towards saving our planet.

Clean Energy and the Trump Administration


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The Republican Plan to Eliminate the Clean Air Act

Smog  devastates the town

Donora, origination of the word “smog”.

“Why all the effort to eliminate the regulation of toxic emissions? Because pollution control costs money!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 30, 2016—Anyone who watches national or international news often sees videos of Beijing or other Chinese cities, where the air pollution becomes unsafe to breath. The air often contains carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and lead. In the worst cases the authorities recommend people stay indoors. This is not a new phenomenon. The same problem exists in other places.

Historic Urban Pollution Episodes

On October 27, 1945, a thick mixture of smoke and fog formed over the town of Donora, Pennsylvania in the United States. Donora was a town of about 14,000 people, with two large industrial mills in the town. One was a steel and wire company and the other was a zinc plant. The next day, after the cloud formed, people started getting sick and dying. The hospitals were soon full and a temporary morgue was established in the community building. People could not easily leave town because the cloud was too thick to drive. Thousands of the town’s population became sick and 20 perished. Four days after the poisonous cloud formed a storm broke up the cloud. In spite of the fatal event in Donora, the two plants continued to operate for years. The cloud was a mixture of smoke and industrial chemicals. It was this event which gave birth to the term smog. Just four years after the Donora, Pennsylvania event, a week long smog hit London, England. It was largely the result of burning coal and was estimated to have killed 4,000 people.

smog

Factories send chemicals into the atmosphere.

Encounters With Brown Clouds

Smog and brown clouds of pollutants became global and remain so today, if not quite as pronounced. I remember several decades ago when two personal experiences shocked me as to how extensive and serious the air pollution was in some American cities. I flew into Denver, Colorado one clear and sunny morning to attend a conference. As we approached Denver all I could see was a brown smudge. The only evidence there was a city was a revolving restaurant atop a tower, which rose above the brown cloud. The other experience was being on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater in east Africa and seeing a brown layer of pollution in the lower atmosphere that spanned the entire horizon.

Smog

Clean Air Act cleans up Manhattan.

Enactment of the Clean Air Act

In 1963, largely due to the events in Donora and London, the US Congress passed an initial piece of legislation to control air pollution. The Clean Air Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. This forced the closing of the plants in Donora several years later. President Richard Nixon signed a tougher version in 1970. The Clean Air Act put a limit on the concentration of sulfur dioxide in industrial emissions and power plants. In the Donora event, the concentration of sulfur dioxide in the air was more than 200 times the limit set by the law. As a result of the Clean Air Act, lead has been virtually eliminated from emissions and poisonous gases greatly reduced. Worldwide attention to air pollution and greenhouse gases resulted in the historic climate conference in Paris last year. It brought worldwide agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

Federal Efforts to Turn Back the Clean Air Act

In spite of the international response to harmful emissions, the Republican party is working to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act. They would return us all to breathing unhealthy air! Corporate lobbyists continually encourage legislation to attack the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to set emission standards. Both houses of congress have introduced bills to eliminate or reduce emission standards of harmful substances. Senator Imhofe introduced a bill that would eliminate regulation of mercury, lead, zinc and other toxic substances from power plants. These are some of the very substances that created the disaster in Donora!

Republican Controlled Legislatures Play Follow the Leader

Many state governments have followed the lead of the federal government. Beginning in 2011, after the election of the Governor McCrory, the state of North Carolina began passing legislation to protect polluters. In response to pressure by major companies, they rescinded previously enacted laws protecting the people from atmospheric pollutants. They also took the step to eliminate nearly half of the air quality monitors in the state. Along with these steps, they made it difficult to deny applications from corporations that would allow them to be exempt from emission regulations.

a vote for trump would devastate the Clean Air Act

Clinton supports renewable energy.

Profits Trump all Else

Why all the effort to eliminate regulation of toxic emissions? Because pollution control costs money! In the current congress, corporate profit trumps all else. Profits to them are more important than human health!


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When Fracking Takes Precedence Over People

Fracking, Earthquakes and Greenhouse gases

Fracking Contributes to Greenhouse Gases

“The essence of what the legislature and government have done is to give energy corporations a license to drill, wherever and whenever, they want!”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 12, 2016—Fracking, as a mining tool, continues to spread! It has long been known by geologists that shale deposits deep underground often contain natural gas. In recent decades there has been a growing fracking industry, based on mining oil and natural gas from these deposits.

The Process of Fracking

The process if fracking involves drilling vertically into a deep shale deposit. Once in the shale, the drill is turned to work horizontally. A variety of chemicals and other ingredients are sent down the well under high pressure. This breaks up the shale and releases the oil or natural gas. This form of well drilling is called hydraulic fracturing or fracking. There are thousands of such wells in the United States and the number is growing rapidly. In the U.S. most of these wells are concentrated in the Southwest.

Fracking Increases Methane Emissions

While fracking produces large amounts of natural gas, there are a number of problems which result from this technique. In the drilling stage, there is often a flow back up the well that sends a mixture of methane and drilling material to the earth’s surface and into the atmosphere.

Methane is 20 times more effective, weight to weight, in absorbing earth radiation than is carbon dioxide. It is second only to carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas emitted by industries in the U.S. The combination of carbon dioxide and methane combined account for 93% of greenhouse gas emissions at present! A survey of fracking sites in Pennsylvania revealed drilling operations emitting plumes of methane, up to 1000 times greater than the standards the EPA are in the process of finalizing.

Fracking is now the largest source of methane emission in the United States! It contributes to the concentration of methane in the atmosphere and, thus, to global warming. Fracking is associated with increasing earthquakes and a methane cloud above the earth. The concentration of these wells in some regions has also led to other problems. In the Great Plains, swarms of earthquakes have recently occurred which are associated with fracking. Earthquakes have always occurred in Oklahoma, but they have increased rapidly in the past few years. In September of this year, about 250 earthquakes were recorded and there have been more than 2500 in the past year.

Fracking and local water sources

Fracking can contaminate drinking water.

Fracking and Earthquakes

These earthquakes have been attributed to the injection of waste water which results from the drilling of wells based on fracking. The volume of waste water injection has increased nearly 80% in just the past six years. To reduce the hazard the government ordered several dozen waste water wells in one area shut down. In addition to the increasing number of earthquakes, a long lasting methane cloud has also appeared over parts of the great plains. The cloud covers more than 2500 square miles and is centered over New Mexico. At last report the cloud was still growing and adding to global warming problems.

In spite of the problems associated with fracking some states actively encourage the mining process. Among these is North Carolina. For years horizontal drilling for oil and gas was banned in order to protect the ground water supply upon which so many depended for fresh water. That protection was totally abandoned in 2012. In that year the Republicans controlled the legislature, passing a bill that legalized horizontal drilling and making fracking legal. The next year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offered North Carolina $500,000 in grants to fund water quality monitoring in areas most likely to be affected by fracking. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources rejected the grant. The state now protects the mining company’s right to drill.

Fracking and earthquakes

Fracking is contributing to earthquakes in the U.S.

Fracking and Lack of Regulation

In 2014 the legislature of North Carolina passed legislation which hastened the prospects for fracking in North Carolina. The legislation prohibits any local government, such as cities or counties, from attempting to regulate fracking in any manner. It also protects energy companies from any legal actions taken by individuals. The legislation permits mining companies to keep secret the chemicals it uses in the fracking process. It makes it a crime for any citizen to reveal the contents of the fracking chemicals under any circumstances.

The essence of what the legislature and governor have done is to give energy corporations a license to drill, wherever and whenever, they want!


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Replacing EVAs with Algae Products: The Environmental Impact

Bloom Biofoam

Turn Algae into Biofoam

“Most of the footwear industry’s response to this increasing problem of end-of-life shoe waste has been negligible.”

By Linn Smith

October 7, 2016—Ever thought about what your athletic shoes are made of? Or where they end up when they’re discarded and no longer on your feet? Most likely the landfill. Over 20 billion pairs of shoes are produced yearly and over 300 million pairs are thrown away in the same year. And all of these shoes are still laying somewhere in our landfills, year after year, for up to 1,000 years!

Athletic Shoes and EVA’s

Most shoe midsoles, from the major running shoe companies, are derivatives of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate foam), with additives, such as polyurethane, to create the desired results of the individual shoe brand. What’s the down side of using EVA in today’s shoes? EVAs release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air when decomposing.

VOCs contribute to the formation of tropospheric ozone which is harmful to humans and plants, and can pollute groundwater and rivers when decomposing. According to Wikipedea, “Although there are some companies that are taking initiatives to produce environmentally friendly athletic footwear, most of the footwear industry’s response to this increasing problem of end-of-life shoe waste has been negligible.”

Turning algae into sustainable products.

Replacing nonsustainable products with biodegradables

Today several companies are working to create biodegradable footwear using materials that will compost when your shoes are tossed into the landfill. One such company is Bloom Holdings LLC, a new company which started production in early 2016, manufacturing a foam product from algae found in freshwater lakes and rivers. The company uses a mobile vacuum to harvest problematic algae from around the world.

Harvesting Problematic Algae

Problematic algae are often called red tides, which are algae blooms that have become so numerous they can discolor the water, depleting oxygen and often releasing toxins. Algae can also cause human illnesses via consumption of seafood contaminated by the toxins.

There has been a rise in problematic algae for several reasons including global warming, which is causing an increase in water temperatures encouraging algae to flourish. Nitrogenous fertilizers and detergents can also cause problematic algae bloom, making their way into freshwater rivers and lakes, killing many fish. And finally, overpopulation can lead to overfishing of predator fish which results in a massive increase in small fish and large blooms of algae.

Bloom algae

Creating Sustainable Products

Bloom Biofoam

Of about 5,000 plus species of marine phytoplankton that exist on earth, only about 2% are toxic or have harmful effects. BLOOM harvests these algae, making them into pellets, then turning the pellets into a flexible, biodegradable foam which can replace the harmful, non-biodegradable EVAs. The products are competitively priced, hypoallergenic and naturally antimicrobial. Bloom biofoam can be molded, made into sheet foam, or compressed.

The first product made from algae blooms is a surfboard material in collaboration with pro-surfer Kelly Slater. The surfboard pad contains 25% algae foam. Most products will have a minimum of 25% algae bloom. Bloom Company estimates that making the surfboard pad will return 28 gallons of clean filtered water back into the habitat, per pad. And it will prevent 22 helium-balloon sized equivalent of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere–per pad.

“We try to incorporate sustainability and practicality into everything we do. We want to help make more sustainable product options an accessible and easy choice,” says Mike Van Drunen, co-founder and CEO. BLOOM offers a sustainable answer to conventional flexible foams, with less environmental impact.

What we do today effects tomorrow!

.


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The World Solar Challenge: Developing Cars for our Future

Solar Car

The World Solar Challenge: Designing cars for our future/

“The World Solar Challenge contest is primarily designed to find the world’s most efficient solar car and to inspire some of the brightest young people on the planet to address the imperatives of sustainable transport!”

By Linn Smith

September 12, 2016—-The World Solar Challenge (worldsolarchallenge.org) is a solar car race that takes place in Australia every two years. Teams from universities, corporations and even high schools from around the world participate to promote research on solar-powered cars. The solar car race began in 1987 and in 2015 there were 43 teams from 23 different countries entering the race. The 30th anniversary of the race will be October 8-15, 2017.

The Solar Challenge

The Solar Car of the Future

Hans Tholstrup and the Solar Car

The idea for the contest came from Hans Tholstrup who was the first to navigate a solar car coast to coast across a country–Australia. In 1982 Hans Tholstrup, along with Larry Perkins, drove their solar car across Australia in 20 days. (See article, “The First solar Car to Cross a Continent”, Planet Earth Weekly, August 24, 2016.) The contestants in the World Solar Race are allowed 5kw hours of stored energy, which is about 10% of the necessary energy to make the trip across Australia, a total of 1900 miles. All other energy must come from the sun, or the kinetic energy generated from the motion of the vehicle.

The Solar Achiever

The solar car traveled 2500 miles in 20 days.

The Solar Car Race

Every two years the race starts in Darwin, Northern Territory in Australia and ends in Adelaide, South Australia. According to worldsolarchallenge.org, “Once the teams have left Darwin they must travel as far as they can until 5pm in the afternoon, where they make camp in the desert wherever they happen to be. All teams must be fully self-sufficient and for all concerned it is a great adventure – many say the adventure of a lifetime!” During the journey there are 7 mandatory check points where team managers may update themselves with the latest information on the weather and their own position in the field and perform the most basic of maintenance only, checking and maintenance of tire pressure and cleaning of debris from the vehicle.

Solar race across Australia.

Building cars for our future!

The Solar Car Categories

There are 3 categories of solar cars. The Challenger class makes the trip in a single stage from Darwin to Adelaide. The Cruiser Class is conducted as a regularity trial and the Adventure Class is a non-competitive class which consists of cars built for previous events.

Solar cars for our future

Driving Across Australia

The World Solar Challenge contest is primarily designed to find the world’s most efficient solar car and to inspire some of the brightest young people on the planet to address the imperatives of sustainable transport! You can find the entry forms online on the Solar Challenge website. A chance of a lifetime!

The solar Car race

Entry in the solar car race.


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The First Solar Car to Cross a Continent

The Solar Achiever, 1984

The first solar car to cross a continent.

“Although solar power has been used in less spectacular ways, this was the first trans-continental crossing in a vehicle deriving its energy from the sun.”

By Linn Smith

August 24, 2016—-“Maybe one day we’ll all be driving around in solar-powered cars. And, if that happens, the names of Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins will have a place in history. Without men like these, this would be a duller place. The spirit of adventure is not yet dead.”—Melbourne Herald News

The Solar Achiever

The solar car took only 8 months to build.

The Quiet Achiever

In Australia in 1982, Perkins and Tholstrup, wanting to popularize solar, built the first solar-manned car to cross a continent. With an attitude of, “There’s nothing that can’t be done,” they built the solar vehicle for about $50,000. The car, known as the Quiet Achiever, was designed in only 8 months. It was piloted by Perkins and Tholstrup who only stopped along the route at night to camp. In less than 20 days, the solar powered car made its trek from Perth to Sydney, traveling 2,500 miles from coast to coast across Australia.

The Solar Achiever

The solar car traveled 2500 miles in 20 days.

Using Only the Sun’s Power

The body of the solar car was made of fiberglass and the frame of steel tubing. It had a 1 kilowatt photovoltaic power system mounted on the roof that allowed it to travel approximately 14 miles per hour. Using only the sun for power, the two 12 volt batteries stored enough power to give the car about 90 minutes of energy without the sun. But on this trip there was enough sun to keep the car fully charged at all times. The solar car met with very few problems and was periodically monitored to assure that only solar power was being used.

The Melbourne Age newspaper stated at the time, “The journey of Hans Tholstrup and Larry Perkins from Perth to Sydney in The Quiet Achiever will go down as one of the pioneering feats in history. Although solar power has been used in less spectacular ways, this was the first trans-continental crossing in a vehicle deriving its energy from the sun. It constitutes the fastest chapter in man’s learning how to co-operate with powers beyond his own–the sun!”

The Solar Achiever