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5 Top Solar-Using Retailers

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5 Top Solar-Using Retailers

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The Gecko’s Foot – Peter Forbes

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The Gecko’s Foot

How Scientists are Taking a Leaf from Nature’s Book

Peter Forbes

Genre: Essays

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 7, 2010

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Seller: HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS


A cutting-edge science book in the style of ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem’ and ‘Chaos’ from an exciting and accessible voice in popular science writing. Bio-inspiration is a form of engineering but not in the conventional sense. Extending beyond our established and preconceived notions, scientists, architects and engineers are looking at imitating nature by manufacturing 'wet' materials such as spider silk or the surface of the gecko's foot. The amazing power of the gecko's foot has long been known – it can climb a vertical glass wall and even walk upside down on the ceiling – but no ideas could be harnessed from it because its mechanism could not be seen with the power of optical microscopes. Recently however the secret was solved by a team of scientists in Oregon who established that the mechanism really is dry, and that it does not involve suction, capillary action or anything else the lay person might imagine. Each foot has half a million bristles and each bristle ramifies into hundreds of finer spatula-shaped projections. The fine scale of the gecko's foot is beyond the capacity of conventional microengineering, but a team of nanotechnologists have already made a good initial approximation. The gecko's foot is just one of many examples of this new 'smart' science. We also discover, amongst other things, how George de Mestral's brush with the spiny fruits of the cocklebur inspired him to invent Velcro; how the shape of leaves opening from a bud has inspired the design of solar-powered satellites; and the parallels between cantilever bridges and the spines of large mammals such as the bison. The new 'smart' science of Bio-inspiration is going to produce a plethora of products over the next decades that will transform our lives, and force us to look at the world in a completely new way. It is science we will be reading about in our papers very soon; it is the science of tomorrow's world. Reviews ‘[Forbes has] An easy style and an innocence of jargon, and he treads softly on his scientists’ dreams. Forbes prefers the term “bio-inspiration” to “biomimetics”. The aim is not slavishly to imitate nature, but to learn from it to develop our own solutions to engineering problems. And he is surely right to pounce now, before inspiration turns to perspiration. He has succeeded splendidly.’ Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Independent ‘The book is a witty blend of anecdote and analysis.’ Rita Carter, Daily Mail ‘[Forbes] provides an illuminating discussion of the evolution of visual systems and the emergence of contemporary understandings of the nature of light.’ Dr Brendan Kelly, Sunday Business Post About the author Peter Forbes has written a series of articles Biomimetics for the Guardian and a chapter on the same subject for the Guardian’s book, ‘Frontiers 03’ (Atlantic Books). He was the editor of Poetry Review from 1986 to 2002 and his anthology ‘Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Verse’ was widely acclaimed. He translated Primo Levi’s personal anthology, ‘The Search for Roots’, (Penguin Press) in 2001 and Bloodaxe published his latest poetry anthology ‘We have come through’ in 2003.

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The Gecko’s Foot – Peter Forbes

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New evidence shows we’re still way too addicted to fossil fuels

It seems like there’s always some good news about clean energy: We are breaking records, building more solar panels and wind turbines every day!

Despite clean energy’s meteoric growth, a new global assessment from the International Energy Association shows that fossil fuel projects are growing even faster. The money going to fossil fuel projects accounted for 59 percent of all energy investments last year. Sorry to say but clean energy’s share is shrinking.

You can see what’s going on in the following charts. First, improving energy efficiency (orange) is now big business. That’s great! Investments in renewables along with new transmission lines and batteries (the blue rectangle labelled “networks”), now dominate the electricity sector. Great again! But then there’s that big honking red section, which swings things back in the other direction.

IEA

“Investment in all forms of clean power, as well as in networks, would need to rise substantially,” according to the IEA report, for the world to have a shot at keeping climate change below 2 degrees Celsius.

So what happened to all that good news about renewables? Well, it’s real. Investment in solar photovoltaics reached record levels in 2017, while the price of solar power was falling fast, which means those investments are getting more bang for the buck. Investment in offshore wind also hit a record last year, but investment in land-based wind turbines, hydropower, and nuclear fell. The world put nearly $300 billion into renewables, which is a lot, enough to dominate the electric power sector:

IEA

But that’s not as much as we spent on in oil and gas drilling and exploration (also known as “upstream” investment) — $450 billion. And that doesn’t count all the money that went into building new pipelines, refineries, and gas stations.

IEA

We could kick our addiction to oil by switching to electric vehicles. And, indeed, the world is spending lots of money on EVs. People spent $43 billion on them last year, and more than one out of every 100 new cars sold is electric. Investors are also putting lots of money into build the lithium batteries powering Teslas and Chevy Bolts: Funding for lithium mining has increased by a factor of 10 since 2012.

IEA

It’s good news but not good enough. All our driving and shipping and air travel caused oil consumption to grow by “1.6 million barrels per day,” according to the IEA. All the electric cars on the road trimmed consumption by 30,000 barrels a day.

If there’s a true bright spot in this report, it’s found in the section on government research. Around the world, governments spent $27 billion on energy research in 2017, a record high. Most of the growth in government R&D went toward low-carbon technologies.

As the costs of renewables fall, and more wind and solar power surges onto the electric grid, it can start to seem as if the market is taking care of climate change on its own. This report is a bucket of cold water to dispel that fantasy. Yes, there’s good news, but fossil fuels are still growing faster than clean energy.

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New evidence shows we’re still way too addicted to fossil fuels

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The lessons FEMA says it learned from Hurricane Maria

It’s been nine months since Maria devastated Puerto Rico. After more than $90 billion in damage and an astronomical death toll, there are strong criticisms of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to the storm.

A planning document revealed that before Maria, FEMA underestimated the role that federal authorities would need to play if a catastrophic hurricane hit the island. As a result, the agency relied heavily on strapped local resources in a territory beset for years by an economic crisis.

“We must hold the federal government accountable for their response to the communities they are responsible to serve,” Hispanic Federation Senior Vice President Frankie Miranda said on a recent call hosted by the Power 4 Puerto Rico Coalition. “What we know from the groups working on the ground is that the federal response was uncoordinated, ineffective and, in many cases, even criminal.”

Now, as hurricane season kicks off again, there are deep fears about what will happen if another big one hits. And in an audio recording of a private meeting between President Trump and FEMA obtained by the Washington Post, the president’s conversation on everything from aircraft carriers to “clean coal” seemed to indicate that his priorities are far from Puerto Rico and how to protect Americans from this year’s hurricanes.

In an email to Grist, FEMA acknowledged that the agency can do better. The storms of 2017, a spokesperson wrote, illustrate that there’s much to be done “across the country at all levels of government” to prepare the U.S. for future hurricanes.

FEMA sent Grist some of its “lessons learned” from Hurricane Maria. We asked experts in emergency management and on Puerto Rico to weigh in on the priorities the agency outlined.

Engaging the community in public health

According to a death toll released by Harvard researchers last week, Hurricane Maria may have been one of the deadliest disasters in U.S. history — with up to 5,740 people perishing in the storm and its aftermath. The study found that one of the culprits behind such an astronomically high number of fatalities was lack of access to medical care — like breathing machines, which failed when electricity was lost.

So it’s no surprise that FEMA is reportedly focused on making sure people get the healthcare they need come the next storm. The agency says it’s reinforcing Puerto Rico’s healthcare systems, beefing up behavioral and mental health services, and working on plans for emergency oxygen backups.

The priorities FEMA outlined for Grist are broad, and the experts we spoke with emphasized that the devil will be in the details. “There’s a gap in terms of the stated goals and the specific measures within the public health system in Puerto Rico,” says Edwin Meléndez, director for the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. “How are the local authorities, the private hospitals, involved in this particular approach? How are they sharing goals and what is their implementation plan?”

Restoring power

Today, more than 60,000 people — nearly 5 percent of the island — are still without power. And in May, FEMA announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be turning the job of restoring downed power lines back over to the embattled and bankrupt Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

Experts agree that one of the biggest challenges is building back Puerto Rico’s ailing power grid to be more reliable than it was before. “Puerto Rico had experienced brownouts prior to the storm,” says Mike Sprayberry, president of the National Emergency Management Association. “The distribution lines were not well maintained, and then they get hit by this storm.”

So fixing Puerto Rico’s aging energy infrastructure will take more than just FEMA. But in the meantime, the agency is shoring up the number of backup generators it has available in the event of another catastrophic storm. The island was in seriously short supply of generators prior to Hurricane Maria.

“This has been the largest disaster generator mission in U.S. history with 1,667 generators installed to support the weakened power grids,” FEMA writes to Grist.

And relying too much on generators creates new challenges. “Having the generators in place is great, but what is the access to reliable and consistent fuel going to be? That’s going to be fundamental for the hospitals,” says Martha Thompson, Oxfam America’s program coordinator for disaster response in Puerto Rico.

Ivis Garcia Zambrana, a professor at the University of Utah, argues for more solar power instead of the expensive, and polluting, generators. “Generators are not good for people that are lower-income,” she says. “There must be ways of working towards more sustainability.”

Working on smarter aid distribution

With only one warehouse in the Caribbean prior to Hurricane Maria, FEMA struggled to distribute supplies across the territory in the wake of Hurricane Irma (which hit just weeks earlier).

FEMA now says that its warehouse capacity in Puerto Rico has increased from 84,295 to 315,000 square feet. It plans to stock six times as much water and generators this year compared to 2017, seven times as many meals, and eight times as many tarps.

So next time, the agency will just have to get those supplies to people in rural areas. “Whether they have taken measures to have preparedness across the regions — specifically in more isolated areas on the inside of the island — is something we haven’t seen data for yet,” says Meléndez with the Center for Puerto Rican Studies.

Beefing up communications and trainings

The storm crippled communications on the island, making it nearly impossible for residents to communicate with loved ones or authorities. It hampered recovery efforts, too, as emergency responders struggled to coordinate with one another due to downed cellphone towers.

Now, FEMA tells Grist it’s working with Puerto Rican agencies to create and test better emergency alert systems. And it’s developing a public outreach plan to ensure communication lines stay open.

“If you don’t have communications, you don’t know what people need,” says Sprayberry with the National Emergency Management Association. “You can really mismanage commodities.”

What FEMA’s not talking about

Puerto Rico’s struggling economy and global warming’s contributions to extreme weather phenomena, like Maria, are two elements FEMA doesn’t appear to be factoring in to future emergencies. When it released its strategic plan this spring, FEMA managed to omit any mention of climate change — which the agency openly addressed during the Obama administration.

But former FEMA administrator, Craig Fugate, assures us that career officials in the agency are still taking this into mind, albeit surreptitiously. “Apparently, it got cut out,” he says. “But if you look at what they’re doing, they’re in effect addressing climate change without saying it.”

Fugate, along with all the experts Grist spoke with, stresses the importance of building back a more resilient Puerto Rico.

“The problem is, if you’re just responding to disasters, they’re getting bigger and bigger,” Fugate explains. “And if you’re really going to change the outcome, it isn’t focusing on improving the response — that’s important, but it kind of misses the point.

“Why are we not doing more to reduce the impacts of disaster?”

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The lessons FEMA says it learned from Hurricane Maria

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Are Electric Cars Really Greener?

Electric cars are kind of a divisive issue. Those who drive electric vehicles often wax poetic about how much better they are for the environment while others, like the author of this Politico piece, like to point out all the ways that electric cars aren’t as green as they are made out to be.

What’s the truth about electric cars? It’s complicated.

Let’s talk about batteries.

On the one hand, the battery for electric cars is an environmental issue in its own right.

The rare, lightweight metals used in the batteries and throughout the cars often come from?not so eco mines?that are hugely environmentally polluting. Plus, as few as 5 percent of the lithium batteries used in electric vehicles actually get recycled (in the EU), which means they just sit in landfills and leach toxins into the environment. However,?Tesla claims to have a battery recycling plan that is actually cost-effective for both manufacturers and?recycling plants, which could improve the battery issue.

And while the manufacturing of electric cars produces more carbon emissions than manufacturing a gas-powered car, one look at Musk’s solar-powered Gigafactory puts that argument to rest.

Electric vehicle production may be secretly more dirty than you’d expect, it’s something that innovative companies like Tesla are working?to?tackle. When it comes to?of fueling electric vehicles, though, they’re as green as you make them.

The way you charge your electric car matters.

According to the author of Politico?s recent piece, increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road will actually increase pollution. The idea is that new models of internal combustion vehicles are actually extraordinarily efficient, which is true.

?Today?s vehicles emit only about 1% of the pollution than they did in the 1960s, and new innovations continue to improve those engines? efficiency and cleanliness,? according to author Jonathan Lesser.

When comparing that sort of low?emissions pollution with the pollution caused by traditionally-powered electric vehicles, yes. A new gas-powered car is probably greener than a new, grid-powered electric car right now. But that only factors in electric vehicles charged through the grid.

Solar power, one of the cleanest and most independent forms of renewable electricity, needs to be taken into?serious consideration. The author relies on a projection regarding?the increase of renewables pumped into the grid, which may hit 30 percent by 2030–not enough to keep things clean for electric cars. But that bleak outlook only takes into account our existing infrastructure.

We need to ditch fossil fuels.

When considering the environmental cleanliness of new gas cars versus electric cars, one big factor that needs to be taken into consideration is the importance of getting our planet off of a dependence on fossil fuels.

While less-polluting gas cars are wonderful, they are still gas cars. They will always only be powered by oil and gas. An electric car, on the other hand, can be powered just as easily by?wind or solar as by fossil fuels, if the infrastructure were?there to support it.

And that’s why we need more electric cars. Sure, as they currently exist?they may not be as pristine and clean as we like to believe, depending on how you fuel them. But the renewable energy infrastructure will not grow around them unless there is a demand.

We need people driving clean electric cars to push towns, cities, and states to enact widespread projects to provide clean sustainable energy for the surge in electrically powered vehicles. That’s how we will begin to cut off our dependence on polluting fossil fuels.

Solar is the future (and the present) for electric charging.

I have always associated electric cars with solar charging. The vast majority of electric car charging stations I see?are solar powered. Even?certain grocery stores?have implemented free solar charging stations to reward?environmentally-conscious customers while they shop.

While I?can’t speak for the whole country, buying an expensive electric vehicle like a Tesla only makes financial sense if the electricity is very affordable–as it is at many?solar charging stations, including long term use of a personal solar station at home.

Granted, not everyone will exclusively use solar to power their cars. With the rise in popularity of luxury electric vehicles, it is natural that those who are less eco-minded but desire to indulge?their wealth will?buy a fancy electric car and not discriminate between renewable charging stations and fossil fuels. But that?doesn?t mean electric cars are actually worse for the environment. It means we need to make it easier for the indiscriminate to cleanly charge them.

Our infrastructure needs to grow and evolve in tandem with our vehicles. An electric car is a move towards cleaner energy. It should be charged that way, too.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Are Electric Cars Really Greener?

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California is shattering renewable records. So why are greenhouse emissions creeping up?

The green beacon that is the state of California is making clean-energy strides, according to new stats out this week. It’s harnessing a record amount of solar power, building more turbines to capture wind power records, and closing in on the moment when the grid goes 100 percent carbon free.

And yet it’s also starting to generate more greenhouse gases. WTF?

Every month California’s electricity managers put out a report showing what that climate-conscious state is up to. And this one brings sunny signs of progress, unheralded achievements, and fun factoids. Earlier this month, for instance, California set a new record for solar power generated.

And on April 28, at precisely 1:25 p.m., renewables provided 72.7 percent of California’s electricity needs. That’s also a record, but not an aberration. It’s consistent with a longstanding trend as California’s policies connect more solar panels and wind turbines to the grid. As you can see in the next graph, California keeps hitting new records — usually around noon — when renewables provide the majority of the electricity for a few hours.

California Independent System Operator

Since 2015, renewables have helped California decrease the amount of greenhouse gases its power plants released into the atmosphere. But this past February, the state’s electricity was more carbon intensive than it was in 2017, and in March it was even worse:

California Independent System Operator

What’s that all about? There’s a hint in the report. California had to dump about 95,000 megawatt hours of renewable power in April, because all that power would otherwise have flooded onto the grid when people didn’t need it — blowing fuses, igniting fires, and melting every computer without a surge protector. That’s a lot of energy, enough to provide all of Guatemala’s electricity for the month.

Transporting electricity and storing it is expensive, so the people managing the electrical system ask power companies to stop putting power on the grid, to curtail their production. It’s called “curtailment” in electric-system jargon. As the number of solar panels feeding the grid increases, so do curtailments.

The thing is, every new panel sending electricity to the grid is still displacing fossil fuel electricity. So that can’t explain why California is burning more fossil fuels than in the last couple of years.

What’s the real problem, then? It’s almost certainly the lack of water. When wind and sun stop generating electrons, we’d like to have other low-carbon source of electricity that we could turn to — what some energy wonks call a “flexible base” of power generation.

California’s big source of reliable low-carbon electricity has been hydropower. But the state is bracing for a drought after a warm, dry winter. So California is hoarding water behind dams, rather than letting the water run through turbines to generate electricity. As a result, hydropower generation is down. And the state’s nuclear, geothermal and biomass plants are already running at capacity. As a result California is replacing the missing waterpower with fossil-fuel generation, namely natural gas.

All this serves as a good reminder that renewables can’t provide us with all of our electricity needs alone. We’ve also got to create bigger and better batteries, string up international transmission lines and build more low-carbon power plants that we can ramp up and down to complement those renewables. If California gets that done, its power grid will be cleaner and more energizing than a $5 shot of wheatgrass juice sold from a food truck by a man with a well-conditioned beard.

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California is shattering renewable records. So why are greenhouse emissions creeping up?

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The U.S. forced Bikini Islanders to deal with nuclear tests and climate change. Now, it’s walking away.

Anderson Jibas, the mayor of Bikini Atoll, has for years wanted to assert his nation’s financial independence from the United States. And late last year, he found an unlikely ally in his battle: the Trump administration.

At the end of last year, the Department of the Interior released $59 million to the Bikini government to spend on whatever it wants, whenever it wants. The decision ended almost three decades of what Jibas has branded a colonialist system.

Bikini Atoll is part of the Marshall Islands, a widespread chain of more than 1,000 islands. In 1946, the U.S. evacuated its 167 residents and spent the next 12 years testing nuclear bombs in the area. To this day, Bikini is uninhabitable, and its natives’ descendants remain in exile — mainly on the previously uninhabited Kili and Ejit islands, roughly 500 miles to the southeast.

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Today, Kili and Ejit, as well as the entire Marshall Islands, face a grave threat from sea-level rise spurred by climate change. In fact, a new report funded by the U.S. military, which appeared in the journal Science Advances, argues that previous estimates of many tropical atolls being uninhabitable by the 22nd century were too conservative. The recent research suggests that rather than the sea swallowing these islands, titanic waves crashing over them will ruin freshwater supplies for residents closer to 2050.

The U.S. set up a trust fund to help the Bikinians settle on these unfamiliar islands, doling out a yearly allowance to local officials. The Bikini Resettlement Trust Fund, as it is known, has become the subject of an acrimonious battle and ideological debate over the future of Bikini. For the Kili-Bikini-Ejit (KBE) government, Interior’s decision to hand over control of the fund represents a move towards self-determination. It sees control over the funds as crucial to being able to fortify Kili and Ejit from climate change-related hazards. But others — including Lisa Murkowski, the Republican Senator from Alaska, which also faces threats due to a warming world — wonder if the U.S. has essentially washed its hands of the islanders, leaving atoll officials to face the future without any support.

In December 2017, Murkowski introduced legislation to re-establish U.S. oversight of the Bikini trust fund. In February, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss the bill.

“We need the opportunity to move ahead and not just sit back and get slapped in the face with old colonialist and paternalistic systems that demean our honor and our integrity and treat us like children who do not know what they are doing,” Mayor Jibas said during his testimony.

According to his government, its limited annual budgets are almost depleted by funding food, fuel, housing, and education on Kili Island, leaving little for climate mitigation. With the newly released money, the council is making plans to place riprap along most of the seashore, plant vegetation that will prevent sea water from pouring inland, replace the current housing stock with buildings three to four feet above ground, and install solar-powered pumps to redirect rising water.

If all this fails, the spectre of another relocation looms, and Bikinians will likely require a bail out from the world’s richer nations.

Jack Niedenthal is skeptical of the council’s sudden windfall. An American citizen who lives on the islands and managed the Resettlement Trust Fund for 30 years, he — like Murkowski — believes the U.S. is simply abdicating its responsibility to the islanders.

“Think about it: Here’s this embarrassing event that’s been a thorn in your side for decades; and now, in a congressional hearing, you have a Bikinian saying ‘We’re never coming back to the U.S. again for anything,’” Niedenthal says. “If I’m the U.S., I’m doing cartwheels.”

Gordon Benjamin, the Marshallese lawyer representing the Bikini government in its negotiations with Interior, says he’s pleased at the faith Department officials are placing in the council. “I don’t like Trump, I’ll say that right now,” he explains, before noting that the move is “very Republican: Basically, they love to see communities taking charge of themselves.”

The decision to hand the KBE government control over the nearly $60 million fund is a substantial change to an arrangement where Interior would essentially set a yearly allowance for the council, which would then decide how to spend these funds. Interior officials would occasionally inquire about proposed expenditures, but they largely approved whatever the islanders wanted.

But on August 2017, the KBE government passed a motion rejecting U.S. oversight of the fund. The trust was not supposed to last forever, it argued, and the current annual allowance was too meager to allow the islanders to make long-term investments. To the Bikini council’s surprise, the U.S. didn’t push back. In a letter sent this past November, Doug Domenech, assistant secretary for insular areas at Interior, told Jibas that the department would no longer ration the fund.

Lisa Murkowski, the U.S. senator from Alaska who has a history of standing against the Trump administration, argues the decision runs counter to a U.S vow made in 1946, which stated that, “No matter where the Bikinian people found themselves, even if they were adrift on a raft at sea or on a sandbar, they would be taken care of as if they were American’s children.” She has suggested that Interior is abandoning its responsibility to the people of Bikini.

The move represents an awkward deviation from her usual ideology, as she herself acknowledged during February’s hearing. “I need you all to know that I am very sensitive to the notion that Washington, D.C., should not dictate local government decisions,” she said. “Alaskans have dealt with that mentality since we were a territory.”

But Murkowski has always had a reputation as an independent-minded politician — she won her 2010 Senate election as a write-in candidate — and has a history of engaging closely with issues relating to the Marshall Islands. She visited the country in person in April, meeting with ministers and chiefs. As an Alaskan, she also sees common ground with the Marshallese. Amchitka Island, part of the Aleutian Island chain in western Alaska, was the site of three underground nuclear detonations between 1965 and 1971. She found that, there too, residents weren’t given the continuous support they needed to recover in the aftermath of the bombing.

But this debate could all be moot if Murkowski’s bill dies before it reaches the Senate, as Jack Niedenthal thinks it might. Recalling the hearing in February, he says that there was only one senator left in the room by the time the Bikinians had finished testifying.

As the legislation languishes in Congress, the KBE government is making big plans for its newfound millions. In addition to its climate-adaptation plans, it intends to lease an airplane, revive its diving industry, and develop an informational tour around the atoll, which UNESCO listed as a World Heritage site in 2010.

“These are things we wanted to explore,” Benjamin says. “And we couldn’t do that with $2.5 million a year.”

Niedenthal, however, is unconvinced of the council’s claims it will put significant amounts of the added money toward climate change. He fears the islanders could be left destitute, without money to run their power plant, make housing repairs, pay for health insurance, fund scholarships, or even hold council meetings. And, once the Trump administration is out of office, it could be a challenge to hold the U.S. accountable, even as the descendants of the people it once bombed sink into poverty.

“If they had put together a proposal, for example, and said, ‘Look, we need extra money out of the trust fund to spend on these walls,’ I think [Interior] would have said yes, if it was specifically going to be spent on climate change activities,” he explains. “I think what’s happening now is you use whatever excuses, and it’s just spending money.

“They can talk about investments,” Niedenthal adds. “But I don’t see any investing yet.”

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The U.S. forced Bikini Islanders to deal with nuclear tests and climate change. Now, it’s walking away.

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California Mandates Solar Panels on New Homes

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In a groundbreaking decision, the California Energy Commission voted today to require the installation of solar panels on most newly built single-family homes and multifamily buildings of three stories or fewer. The decision, which does not require the approval of the Legislature, will go into effect in 2020.

California Leads the Way

California becomes the first state to mandate solar panels, an approach in keeping with California’s efforts to slash carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The Energy Commission expects the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.4 million metric tons over three years. It is also likely to give a tremendous boost to the solar installation industry. Reflecting on the requirement, Kelly Knutsen of the trade group California Solar and Storage Association said, “This is going to be a significant increase in the solar market in California. We are also sending a national message that … we are a leader in the clean energy economy.”

Increased Costs Offset by Energy Savings

The decision has its detractors among some business associations that have focused on the estimated $9,500 cost per building the requirement will add, in part to cover the Trump administration’s tariff on solar panels. But the California Building Industry Association, which supports the initiative, acknowledged that while the installation costs will be passed on to consumers as part of a home purchase, the cost will be offset by lowered energy costs over the term of a mortgage. They estimate that for every $40 in monthly payments the energy standards increase, consumers will save $80 in energy costs.

Solar panels are popular with California consumers for their effect on energy costs and already found on about 5 percent of homes.

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In a groundbreaking decision, the California Energy Commission voted today …Vic BondiMay 9, 2018

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California Mandates Solar Panels on New Homes

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5 Reasons Why You Need to Give Up Plastic this Earth Day

With Earth Day on all of our minds, it?s a good time to start taking some tangible, quantifiable steps to reducing our environmental impact. Driving more eco-friendly cars, investing in solar power and shopping local are all fashionable (and of course, great steps!), but our favorite Earth Day resolution?this year is reducing your plastic consumption.

When you think about it, plastic is pretty much everywhere these days, from shipping materials to health food products. Here are five reasons you should give up (or at least greatly reduce) your plastic consumption:

It?s Accumulating in the Ocean

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been common knowledge among environmentalists for years, but recently, we collectively learned that this patch of plastic is even worse than we?d feared. The ?patch? is now estimated to be 4 to 16 times larger than originally thought, according to NPR.

In addition to recognizable items like water bottles, fishing supplies, plastic bags and buoys, the garbage patch is cluttered with tiny, nearly invisible plastic particles called microplastics, which are essentially the remnants of trash that?s already been broken down. Plastic is not a material that quickly and easily breaks down, so its memory remains in the ecosystem long after its usually short-lived human use has expired.

Related: What Happens to a Plastic Bag After You Throw It Away

It?s Killing Wildlife

Speaking of the garbage patch, plastic that collects in forests and waterways is slowly killing countless animals. Turtles and birds have long been known to get trapped in plastic bags, soda rings and other plastic items, but that?s only the beginning. According to National Geographic, seabirds around the world are regularly consuming plastic ? and it?s slowly killing them.

It?s Responsible for a Huge Number of Carbon Emissions

About 6 percent of global oil consumption can be attributed to plastic use, according to Time for Change. And as we all know by now, oil production comes at a major price to the environment. Time for Change also points out that the production of plastic bags and bottles generates 6 kg CO2 per kg of plastic.

It Could Be Impacting Your Health

Most scientists agree that too much exposure to plastics can cause major health issues. The question is usually ?how much is too much??, but when you consider the risks, you may decide that you want to avoid plastic at all costs.

Plastics contain chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body, an activity called ?estrogenic activity.? The presence of synthetic estrogens has been linked to a number of different health concerns, including developmental and hormonal issues as well as many cancers.

It Could Impact the Health of Your Children and Grandchildren

Finally, those synthetic chemicals can wind up in the bodies of future generations. A huge study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group and Commonweal found an average of 200 industrial chemicals, a number of which are transferred from plastics, in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. If that isn?t enough to scare you away from plastics, I don?t know what is!

Related Articles:

3 Ways a Zero Waste Lifestyle Can Improve Your Health
Finally Some Good News on Plastic Bags in Our Oceans
9 Ways to Cut Out Plastic That Will Help the Environment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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5 Reasons Why You Need to Give Up Plastic this Earth Day

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Scott Pruitt’s got 99 problems but Trump ain’t one.

Rick Scott, who has served as Florida’s governor since 2011, hasn’t done much to protect his state against the effects of climate change — even though it’s being threatened by sea-level rise.

On Monday, eight youth filed a lawsuit against Scott, a slew of state agencies, and the state of Florida itself. The kids, ages 10 to 19, are trying to get their elected officials to recognize the threat climate change poses to their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

18-year-old Delaney Reynolds, a member of this year’s Grist 50 list, helped launch the lawsuit. She’s been a climate activist since the age of 14, when she started a youth-oriented activism nonprofit called The Sink or Swim Project. “No matter how young you are, even if you don’t have a vote, you have a voice in your government,” she says.

Reynolds and the other seven plaintiffs are asking for a “court-ordered, science-based Climate Recovery Plan” — one that transitions Florida away from a fossil fuel energy system.

This lawsuit is the latest in a wave of youth-led legal actions across the United States. Juliana v. United States, which was filed by 21 young plaintiffs in Oregon in 2015, just got confirmed for a trial date in October this year.

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Scott Pruitt’s got 99 problems but Trump ain’t one.

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