Tag Archives: Hawaii

How do you save clean energy? This company plans to pump it underground.

New York. California. Hawaii. Colorado. Maine. All of these states and a few others want to get their electric grids running mostly if not entirely on renewable energy in the next few decades. As they ramp up wind and solar farm projects, they’re also going to need ways to store surplus energy to use when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

Start-ups focused on energy storage are scrambling for the cash and opportunities to demonstrate that their system will hold more than a few hours worth of charge. Last week, Quidnet, a Houston, Texas-based company, announced that it lined up a contract with the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority to construct a pilot project for its “Geomechanical Pumped Storage” technology.

Quidnet’s system is a new take on pumped-hydro storage, an existing technology that takes excess energy from the grid during periods of low electricity demand and uses it to pump water up a hill from a lower reservoir to an upper reservoir. Later, when energy is needed, the water is released back down to spin a turbine and generate electricity. Pumped-hydro accounts for 95 percent of the existing energy storage used by utilities in the U.S., but most of these systems were built in the 1970s and 1980s. That’s because it’s expensive and politically difficult to set aside enough land in the mountains to build new pumped-hydropower reservoirs.

Joe Zhou, the CEO of Quidnet, said the company’s technology depends on the same supply chains and expertise used by existing pumped-hydro systems, but gets around those stickier land-use problems by pushing the water underground. To “charge” the battery, the system draws excess energy from the grid to suck water from a holding pond into an underground well, where it’s stored under pressure in the rock. When the energy is needed, the water is released and rushes back to the surface, spinning a turbine similar to those deployed in traditional pumped-hydro systems. The pilot project in New York aims to store 10 hours worth of energy.

Zhou said that Quidnet, which is backed by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, could deploy these systems in roughly 60 percent of U.S. power markets today, based on the type and structure of rock required for the wells. The conditions are especially ripe in New York. “There’s a tremendous, tremendous energy storage resource in New York. I think it can really help the state advance its clean energy goals,” Zhou told Grist.

Quidnet is one of several companies piloting new energy storage systems across the country. In Vermont, Highview Power plans to build the first liquid air storage project in the U.S that would store more than eight hours of energy, using power from the grid to liquify air and store it in tanks. One of the most anticipated projects is Form Energy’s “aqueous air battery system” in Minnesota, aimed at storing and delivering 150 hours of power to the grid, though how it works remains a bit of a mystery.

Today, with pilot projects that store just 8-10 hours, each of these storage solutions are in hot competition with cheap, efficient lithium-ion batteries, which average around 4 hours of storage. “The closer you play to lithium-ion’s durations, the more lithium-ion can compete,” said Dan Finn-Foley, head of energy storage at the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. “The reason that all these alternative technologies think that they can catch lithium-ion is due to how the different technologies scale.”

If you have a grid that depends on wind energy and the wind slows down for weeks at a time, you might need hundreds of hours of storage. Increasing the storage capacity of a lithium-ion system is costly; to double it, you need to install another battery, hence doubling the price. Quidnet’s technology, on the other hand, might be able to scale up more cost-efficiently by increasing the size of a surface pond or the volume of a well. That’s how technology like Quidnet’s could ultimately differentiate itself, Finn-Foley explained.

“The fact that they have a pilot program is encouraging,” Finn-Foley said. “You need to be able to show your price point and show your duration and show your efficiencies and demonstrate it. So that’s the next big step, you know, it puts them into the conversation.”

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How do you save clean energy? This company plans to pump it underground.

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Australians call their prime minister an ‘idiot’ for ignoring wildfire victims

The Land Down Under has been on fire for weeks. At least 17 people have been killed by wildfires in Australia this season to date. On Thursday, New South Wales declared a state of emergency — the third emergency prompted by uncontrollable wildfires since November. Australians have lost homes, land, and loved ones. And a lot of them are furious with their government.

While his country battled dozens of simultaneous infernos in late December, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was vacationing with his family in Hawaii. When he realized that his absence wasn’t going over well with his constituents, Morrison returned and tried to stage a photo op in wildfire-ravaged Cobargo, a tiny town between Sydney and Melbourne with a population under 1,000. As you can see, hell hath no fury like an Aussie scorned in the middle of a climate disaster.

“You won’t be getting any votes down here buddy,” one man said. “You’re an idiot, mate,” another tactfully added. “You really are.” One resident, who arrived to greet the prime minister with what appeared to be a goat by her side, asked why Cobargo had only received four fire trucks to help battle the blazes.

Morrison promised help was on the way and asked for patience. “What we are saying is we cannot control the natural disaster but what we can do is control our response,” he said. But there are, in fact, a few things Morrison’s government could do to control the extent of the “natural disaster” — like rapidly phasing out fossil fuels.

Unlike a majority of Australians, Morrison has been slow to realize that climate change poses an immense threat to his nation’s health and safety. As recently as December 22, Morrison told journalists it’s “not credible” to suggest a link between climate change and any individual wildfire. (The science linking this year’s catastrophic wildfire season to rising temperatures is robust.). In November, as Aussies took to the streets to protest the government’s inaction on the climate crisis, Morrison vowed to stop climate activists who pressure companies not to do business with the coal-mining industry. “We are working to identify serious mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices that threaten the livelihoods of fellow Australians,” he told a group of miners.

But public outcry over the government’s handling of the fires has forced the prime minister to defend his controversial positions on the crisis. On Wednesday, Morrison called a national security meeting to assemble a response to the crisis, and he made sure to say that climate change is a factor in the wildfires. “Our emissions reductions policies will both protect our environment and seek to reduce the risk and hazard we are seeing today,” he said. There’s no telling whether the public outcry over the apocalyptic wildfires will prompt Morrison to revisit his emissions reduction policies. What’s clear, however, is that politicians around the world are going to have a hard time openly denying climate change when its effects are on full display.


Australians call their prime minister an ‘idiot’ for ignoring wildfire victims

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The fight is heating up over telescope construction on Hawaii’s largest volcano


The fight is heating up over telescope construction on Hawaii’s largest volcano

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Carbon dioxide levels just hit 415 ppm. Who saw this coming? Exxon Mobil.

Want to see something terrifying? Watch atmospheric carbon emissions climb to the new all-time high of 415 parts per million.

This emissions update comes from daily data collected via analyzer at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, since 1956. After breaking the 400 ppm threshold in 2013, data from 2019 puts emissions at 415 ppm. The “upward trajectory continues,” the video ends on an ominous note.

Who could have seen this coming? As Brian Kahn at Earther pointed out, leaked internal documents from Exxon Mobil reveal that the oil and gas giant has seen this emissions landmark coming since 1982. A graph shows their 2019 estimated carbon dioxide level was between about 385 ppm and 415 ppm, an impressively accurate guess for the time.

Exxon predicted 2019 would hit near 415 ppm.

Instead of using this knowledge to prevent it from becoming a reality, Exxon launched a series of climate denial efforts. It published anti-climate change ads in The New York Times, lobbied against government efforts to regulate emissions, and helped start the Global Climate Coalition to cast doubt on climate change.

After decades pushing climate denial, oil and gas companies are starting to face the consequences. Countless lawsuits are cropping up from states, cities, tribes, and fishermen that call for oil companies to finally own up to the self-serving role they’ve played in exacerbating the climate crisis.


Carbon dioxide levels just hit 415 ppm. Who saw this coming? Exxon Mobil.

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Washington and Nevada join the swelling list of states aiming for 100% clean power

The peer pressure to clean up the electric grid is gripping the country.

Recent weeks have brought a flurry of ambitious clean-energy pledges. On Earth Day, Nevada’s governor signed into law a measure banning fossil-fuel generated electricity by 2050. Washington’s legislature just sent a bill to Governor Jay Inslee (the presidential contender) that would have the Evergreen State running on purely carbon-free electricity by 2030. Last month, New Mexico committed to 100 percent clean electricity by 2045. California, Hawaii, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico, passed similar laws a bit further back. There are similar bills pending in Illinois, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, and Massachusetts. And don’t forget the 100-odd cities —  from Orlando, Florida to Pueblo, Colorado — that have vowed to kick their fossil-fuel addiction.

“Voters and state legislatures are being pretty darn clear that there’s widespread support for getting the electricity sector to 100 percent clean,” said Josh Freed, who runs the energy program at the Third Way think tank in Washington, D.C. “In our wildest expectations, we couldn’t have anticipated this much action this quickly.”

It’s a seismic shift from the 1990s and 2000s, when states made goals to get get a certain share of their electricity from renewable power. Those laws were designed to help the nascent renewables industry find its footing, Freed said. Now that the industry is up and running, “the next question is, how do we get carbon off the grid?”

That’s why everyone seems to be excited about the same goal. And this isn’t just the flavor of the month — there’s a good reason to focus on a carbon-free electric system. Though there are still hurdles to leap, states basically know how to eliminate emissions from the electrical grid, said Mike O’Boyle, head of electricity policy at the think tank Energy Innovation in San Francisco. You can’t say the same about eliminating emissions from air-travel or concrete production, at least not yet. So squeezing the greenhouse gases out of electricity is a clearly achievable goal. And there are beneficial knock-on effects: It paves the way to clean up transportation (by switching to electric vehicles) and buildings (by switching to electric heating and cooling).

“It think its a robust and meaningful trend,” O’Boyle said. “A lot of gubernatorial candidates, and presidential candidates, have campaigned on 100-percent clean electricity. It’s become part of the conventional wisdom that it’s a realistic and effective policy goal.”

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Washington and Nevada join the swelling list of states aiming for 100% clean power

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The Most (and Least) Eco-Friendly US Cities

You might try to live an eco-friendly lifestyle at home. But how green is your community?

According to a Pew Research Center survey, roughly 59 percent of U.S. adults say climate change is affecting their community in some way ? through weather, temperature changes, etc. And that point of view is even stronger in those who live near a coastline. Plus, according to another Pew survey, the majority of respondents think the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to protect the environment, including preventing water pollution, ensuring safe air quality and protecting animals and their habitats.

But not all communities are equal when it comes to being environmentally friendly. WalletHub recently released a study of the 100 largest U.S. cities, comparing 26 “green indicators” ? i.e., factors that made the city more or less eco-friendly. It broke these factors into four main categories: environment, transportation, energy sources and lifestyle/policy. And each city received an overall green score based on points applied to the green indicators.

These are the 10 cities WalletHub found to be the most environmentally friendly, the 10 that could use some green improvements and some tips to make your own community a little more eco-friendly.

The Most Environmentally-Friendly Cities

Here are the top 10 greenest cities in the U.S., according to WalletHub.

10. Portland, Oregon

Credit: RyanJLane/Getty Images

Portland cracked the top 10 with a solid performance in some categories and a mediocre showing in others. It ranked 18th in energy sources and 59th in the environment category ? which measured factors, such as air quality, green space, water quality and light pollution. But Portland boosted its overall green score with an eighth-place finish in the transportation category ? in which it received the fourth highest bike score. And it took third in lifestyle/policy, in which it also came in third for the most farmers markets per capita.

9. Sacramento, California

Sacramento fared a little better than Portland in the environment category, coming in 38th place. It also took 19th for energy sources and ninth for lifestyle/policy. But its best showing was its fourth-place finish in the transportation category. That category included factors, such as the share of commuters who drive alone, the average commute time, the city’s walk and bike scores and the accessibility of jobs by public transit.

8. Seattle, Washington

Seattle just edged out Sacramento’s green score for eighth place overall. The city ranked 25th in the environment category, 21st in energy sources and 12th in transportation. And it was near the top of the pack for lifestyle/policy, finishing fourth. Metrics in that category included farmers markets and community-supported agriculture per capita, community garden plots per capita, green job opportunities and the number of local programs that promote green energy.

7. Fremont, California

Fremont was fairly average in two of the categories and stellar in the other two. It came in 52nd for transportation and 32nd for lifestyle/policy. But it took second place for environment ? and within that category it came in first for the highest percentage of green space. Plus, it was No. 1 in the energy sources category ? which included metrics, such as electricity from renewable sources, solar installations per capita and amount of smart-energy initiatives.

6. Honolulu, Hawaii

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Who doesn’t love the environment of a Hawaiian island? Honolulu’s worst category rank was its 24th-place finish in energy sources. But it made up for that by taking fifth in environment, fifth in lifestyle/police and second in transportation. Within the categories, the city had the fifth lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Plus, it tied for first (with Fremont and Alaska) for the highest percentage of green space. And it also tied for first for the most farmers markets per capita.

5. San Jose, California

San Jose’s overall green score just barely put it in front of Honolulu for its fifth-place finish. The city did fairly well in the transportation and lifestyle/policy categories, coming in 24th and 21st respectively. It took 13th for energy sources. And San Jose’s best category rank was its 10th-place finish in environment.

4. Irvine, California

Continuing California’s domination of the top 10 greenest cities, Irvine’s overall score was just a few tenths of a point better than San Jose’s ? landing it in fourth place. The city’s only category rank out of the top 10 was its 27th-place finish in transportation. It took seventh in both the environment and lifestyle/policy categories. And it came in at No. 1 for energy sources.

3. Washington, D.C.

Even though many people wish the government would do more to combat climate change (or even admit it exists), the nation’s capital still is one of the greenest cities in the U.S. Washington, D.C., ranked 35th for environment and 17th for energy sources. It took sixth in the transportation category, in which it had the third lowest percentage of commuters who drive. (Not everyone gets a motorcade to stop D.C. traffic.) And, somewhat ironically, D.C. took No. 1 for lifestyle/policy ? despite the ongoing political arguments on policies that would help the environment.

2. San Francisco, California

Credit: Nirian/Getty Images

We head back to the West Coast for the top two greenest cities. San Francisco took 20th for energy sources, ninth for transportation and sixth for environment. Within the transportation category, the city had the fourth lowest percentage of commuters who drive, and it received the second highest bike score, only behind Minneapolis. Plus, San Francisco ranked second for lifestyle/policy ? tying for first (with Honolulu) for the most farmers markets per capita.

1. San Diego, California

San Diego took home the title for 2019′s greenest city in the United States ? and underscored California’s dominance on the list. It ranked 19th in both the transportation and lifestyle/policy categories. And within lifestyle/policy, it came in fourth for the most farmers markets per capita. Plus, San Diego’s best category rank was its fourth-place finish in environment.

The Least Environmentally-Friendly Cities

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These 10 cities ranked at the bottom of WalletHub’s list.

10. Gilbert, Arizona
9. Cleveland, Ohio
8. Mesa, Arizona
7. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky
6. Detroit, Michigan
5. Memphis, Tennessee
4. Toledo, Ohio
3. St. Louis, Missouri
2. Corpus Christi, Texas
1. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Of those cities, Corpus Christi ? along with Houston; Denver; Oklahoma City; Louisville, Kentucky; and Tulsa, Oklahoma ? had some of the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita.

Plus, Baton Rouge and Lexington ? along with Fresno, California; Laredo, Texas; and Hialeah, Florida ? had very little green space compared to the other cities.

How to Be a Greener Member of Your Community

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Regardless of where your city falls on this list (or whether it’s even on here at all), there are still several ways you can help to make your home a more eco-friendly place. Here are some tips to go green in your community.

Support local establishments

Instead of shopping at big box stores, support your community’s establishments that sell products made from local materials. A prime example of this: Eat at restaurants that source food from the area, and shop at farmers markets whenever possible.


You know carpooling (and using public transit) is eco-friendly, but do you practice what you preach? Start a carpool group for school, work or even trips to the store. Even better, choose more sustainable methods of transportation whenever possible, such as walking and biking. Lobby your city for bike lanes and walking paths if you don’t already have them.

Organize Recycling Drives

Some communities have very accessible recycling and donation drives. But others make it difficult to sustainably get rid of items you no longer want. If your community falls into the latter camp, step up as an organizer. Learn what’s necessary to hold donation drives ? as well as recycling events for items, such as toxic waste and electronics. Your community will thank you.

Connect with Community Members

A strong team can get things done more efficiently than a lone person. Find other members of your community who also care about building a more eco-friendly environment. Learn from each other, and band together to organize events, such as area cleanups, a community garden or even a Food Not Lawns initiative.

Bring issues to Local Government

You and your other eco-friendly community members will likely have to work with local government on many green initiatives. Do your homework, so you’re prepared to lobby for your causes. Ask your government about issues, such as reducing pesticide use, enacting greener building practices, expanding the recycling program or implementing a community solar project. Progress might be slow, but don’t let that discourage you from putting your voice out there.

Main image credit: Ron_Thomas/Getty Images

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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The Most (and Least) Eco-Friendly US Cities

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Democrats might have put a roadblock on the path to a Green New Deal

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Thursday was a big day in the U.S. House of Representatives: Democrats took control, Nancy Pelosi regained the gavel as House Speaker, the 116th class of freshman representatives was sworn in, and the new-look legislative body voted on a bill that will fund most government agencies through the 2019 fiscal year and potentially end a two-week government shutdown.

In her first speech as newly elected House Speaker on Thursday, Pelosi singled out climate change as a moral, health, and national security issue. “The American people understand the urgency,” she said. “The people are ahead of the Congress. The Congress must join them.”

But that new budget the House just voted to approve, engineered by Pelosi herself, includes a pay-as-you-go provision that some progressive critics say could hinder attempts at creating sweeping climate legislation. “PayGo,” as it’s known, is a rule that requires any new proposed spending to be balanced out with more taxes or budget cuts before it can come to a vote.

Progressives, environmental groups, and others are displeased with the potential effects of this provision; they say it will stifle the House’s ability to pass big-ticket items like “Medicare-for-all,” tuition-free public college, and, yes, a massive climate-targeted package like a Green New Deal. (Nevermind that such legislation would likely fare poorly in a Republican-controlled Senate.)

On Wednesday, high-profile progressives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ro Khanna of California said they would vote against Pelosi’s package, arguing it kneecaps the liberal agenda they’ve been championing. “We shouldn’t hinder ourselves from the start,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Wednesday. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders agreed: “I’m concerned that the concept of PAYGO will make it harder for Congress to address the many crises facing our working families,” he tweeted.

Democratic leaders pushed back, arguing PayGo will decrease the deficit — which is set to balloon over the next decade thanks to the passage of 2017’s GOP-championed tax bill — and restore fiscal responsibility to Congress. They also promised members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who were on the fence about the bill that PayGo wouldn’t stand in the way of major progressive priorities. Pelosi’s chief of staff, Drew Hammill, argued that a vote against the rules package would result in the Republican-controlled Office of Management and Budget defunding any Democratic initiatives that increased government spending.

Despite dissent from a vocal minority on the left, the Democratic rules package passed 234-197 on Thursday evening. Only three Democratic members, Ocasio-Cortez, Khanna, and Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard voted against — a fraction of the 18 votes needed to sink it.

So, does PayGo’s passage mean the end of the Green New Deal and other large-scale progressive legislation?

Not necessarily, according to Justin Talbot-Zorn, senior adviser at the progressive think tank the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “There is a procedural vote through which Congress can suspend the rules and pass legislation,” he said.

The rule could make it more difficult, however, to get people on board with big, expensive agenda items. “It does deter us from being able to do legislation at a scale necessary to do Green New Deal-type legislation,” Talbot-Zorn says. “It emboldens opponents of a Green New Deal; it gives them another argument against it.”

In other words, if progressive Democrats want to push for a large infrastructure investment in, say, green jobs, at some point in the future, they will have to expend more effort to bypass a rule package proposed and approved by their own party.

Or as Talbot-Zorn put it: “If the Green New Deal and major green infrastructure investment is going to be a central plank of the Democratic platform in the House — which it really needs to be — why would we adopt a rules package that would inhibit the passage of that central plank?”

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Democrats might have put a roadblock on the path to a Green New Deal

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California wants all of its electricity carbon-free. How’s that possible?

If you want to get electricity generated by fossil fuels in California you’re soon going to be out of luck. A bill that just made it through the legislature requires the state’s electricity to come entirely from zero-carbon sources by 2045.

Environmentalists campaigned hard for the bill. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, called its passage, “a pivotal moment for California, for the country and the world.”

That’s assuming Governor Jerry Brown signs it into law. Brown reportedly said he won’t sign unless the legislature also passes a bill to expand the energy grid to cover several states.

There’s a key term of art in this clean-energy bill that’s easy to miss if you aren’t clued in. Activists and like-minded politicians often campaign for “100 percent renewable,” but this bill mandates 100 percent carbon-free sources of electricity. Catch that? It means California is likely to replace fossil fuels with more electricity from large hydroelectric dams (not considered renewable under California rules), nuclear reactors, and any new technologies, like fusion, that become viable in the next 30 years.

There’s a big debate among greens over how much wind and solar an electric grid can handle.

Right now, California gets about a third of its electricity from renewables. Another third comes from natural gas. The rest comes from large hydroelectric dams, nuclear, and a little coal.

Most experts say that California — and the United States as a whole — could eventually get 80 percent of its electricity from renewables, but it’s really hard to fill that last 20 percent (see explanations here and here). A few academics, most famously Stanford’s Mark Jacobson (a 2016 Grist 50 member), think 100 percent renewable energy is within our grasp.

The new bill says that California will have to get half its electricity from renewables by 2027 and 60 percent by 2030. That seems within reach because the state expects to produce 50 percent renewable electricity by 2020.

Where will the other half come from? California’s network of dams provides as much as a fifth of its electricity in some years, but that depends on the weather. In the middle of the drought in 2015, California hydropower was less than half of what it is in an average year.

California Energy Commission

In-state nuclear looks like a long shot. It provides 10 percent of the state’s electricity, but the state’s only nuclear plant, near San Luis Obispo, is slated to shut down in 2025.

And then there’s conservation: If people turn off their lights and air conditioners, the state won’t need to generate as much electricity.

Finally, there’s generation from outside the state, which is the most likely way that California will compensate for any shortfall. Californians already buy hydropower from Washington and Oregon, along with some nuclear electricity from Arizona. If Brown signs the mandate into law, they’re likely to get more.

Of course, climate action is a planetary problem, not a local problem, so there’s only so much one state can do. It doesn’t help the climate if California buys Arizona’s low-carbon electricity while Arizona buys the fossil-fuel power that California shunned. But California could prove to other states that switching to clean electricity isn’t so hard. Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C are considering bills to make the switch. Hawaii already has a carbon-free law — not just for electricity, but for all forms of energy.

Brown is holding out for another bill that would allow California’s electric grid to bring in renewable resources from say, windy Wyoming, to big coastal cities like Los Angeles. The larger the grid, the greater the likelihood that it contains a spot where the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. But many labor and environmental justice groups are fighting against that bill on the grounds that it would give away local control. The Sierra Club and Earthjustice oppose it; the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists back it.

In the meantime, it seems like every environmental group is cheering the passage of the zero carbon bill.

By shooting for 100 percent carbon free, instead of 100-percent renewable, California is shifting from the true north of activists’ demands. Yet activists appear exultant. It’s like what New York’s Governor Mario Cuomo said back in 1985, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”

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Hawaii’s Hurricane Lane is already a flooding catastrophe

A rare hurricane is dousing Hawaii, producing flooding, power outages, and washing away roads — damage the National Weather Service is calling “catastrophic.” It’s increasingly clear that the Aloha state is already feeling the effects of a changing climate.

As of Friday morning, Hurricane Lane is at Category 2 strength and continues to move towards Oahu, home to Honolulu and Hawaii’s most densely populated island. Though the latest projections showed Lane’s center remaining offshore, the most powerful side of the storm will still wash over nearly all of Hawaii’s main islands, bringing torrential rainfall for more than 24 hours to a million people.

As Lane approached Thursday evening, civil defense sirens pierced the cloudy Honolulu skies and federal officials pre-staged plane-loads of supplies in the country’s most isolated state, hoping to prevent a repeat of the government’s bungled response to Hurricane Maria’s in Puerto Rico. The Big Island has been hardest hit so far with rainfall exceeding 30 inches, transforming normally tranquil waterfalls into violent torrents.

As a result of Lane’s slow motion, the National Weather Service in Honolulu has boosted its maximum rainfall prediction to 40 inches in some parts of the islands — months worth of rain, even for Hawaii’s lushest locations. In an update late Thursday Hawaii time, the NWS said Lane is “expected to lead to major, life-threatening flash flooding and landslides over all Hawaiian Islands.”

There has never been a hurricane landfall in Maui or Oahu in recorded history. Even if Lane doesn’t achieve that feat, it’s already the closest a storm has ever approached central Hawaii. Water temperatures near Hawaii are as much as 4.5 degrees F warmer than normal this week, supporting Lane’s high winds and heavy rains.

As the waters of the Pacific warm, heavy rainfall has become an increasingly dangerous problem for Hawaii. Lane is Hawaii’s second major flooding disaster this year, after torrential rainfall on Kauai in April produced nearly 50 inches in 24 hours, a new U.S. record. Our warmer atmosphere can now hold more water vapor, resulting in heavier rainfall during both regular thunderstorms and hurricanes. Since the 1950s, the amount of rain falling in the worst storms in Hawaii has increased by about 12 percent, according to a University of Hawaii study.

As the the country’s only ocean state, Hawaii is on the front lines of climate change. Hurricane Lane is the latest example that Hawaii’s warmer, wetter reality is already here.

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Bigger, stronger, rainier: Is Hawaii’s Hurricane Lane a sign of what’s to come?

Hurricane Lane, one of the strongest hurricanes ever measured in the Central Pacific Ocean, is on a crash course with paradise.

At the peak of its intensity late Tuesday and early Wednesday, Lane had sustained winds of 160 mph and gusts up to nearly 200 mph — making it the most powerful hurricane to threaten Hawaii on record. The storm, now downgraded from Category 5 to 4, poses a colossal threat to the islands: The National Weather Service says that “life-threatening impacts are likely.”

On Lane’s current track, Hawaii could see torrential downpours, mudslides, and 20-foot waves. The desert-like parts of the tropical islands could witness a year’s worth of rain, up to 2 feet, in mere hours. Lane should weaken as it approaches, but it could still bring tropical-storm-force winds to almost every part of every island — winds strong enough to tear roofs off homes and cause widespread power outages that could last weeks or months.

Hawaii’s governor, David Ige, declared a state of emergency in advance of the hurricane, which is expected to arrive as soon as late Wednesday night. On Twitter, President Donald Trump urged those in its path to prepare. Hawaiians have taken those words to heart, clearing out grocery store shelves and filling up their gas tanks.

The vast majority of people in the state have never seen a storm like this. Since 1950, just two hurricanes have made official landfall in Hawaii, both hitting the island of Kauai. As of Wednesday afternoon, the most heavily populated islands were either under a hurricane watch or warning.

As the waters of the Central Pacific warm, hurricanes like Lane are expected to become more common — and indeed, the Pacific has seen a flurry of hurricanes near Hawaii in recent years. While the hurricane threat to Hawaii tends to peak during El Niño years, recent research shows that long-term ocean warming, not El Niño, is likely the dominant cause of Hawaii’s growing hurricane threat. And Hawaiian scientists have found these new hurricanes tend to be larger, stronger, and rainier.

A disaster response effort in Hawaii could be hindered by the Jones Act, as Puerto Rico experienced during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The act restricts foreign ships from delivering supplies from the mainland to the islands — meaning that Hawaiians pay inflated prices for basic supplies, which could make restocking shelves and rebuilding homes especially difficult.

In addition to sea-level rise and coral bleaching, hurricanes are increasingly part of Hawaii’s reality. For his part, the governor is putting Hawaii on a path to reduce its contribution to climate change. In 2015, Ige signed legislation making the state the first in the nation to mandate 100 percent renewable energy — a goal it plans to reach by 2045.

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Bigger, stronger, rainier: Is Hawaii’s Hurricane Lane a sign of what’s to come?

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