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A bill in Congress could get to the bottom of how coronavirus links air pollution and racism

It’s becoming clear that black and Latino communities in the U.S. suffer disproportionately from the novel coronavirus. The COVID-19 mortality rate for black New York City residents, for example, is twice that of white residents, and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report has suggested that black Americans in general are hospitalized for COVID-19 at much higher rates. Research is also emerging showing that exposure to air pollution likely makes COVID-19 deadlier. In other words, when it comes to COVID-19 outcomes, it’s clear that race matters and that pollution matters. What is not yet clear is how, exactly, these two troubling trends are related.

In hopes of finding concrete connections between air pollution in communities of color and COVID-19 outcomes, last month Democrats in Congress introduced the Environmental Justice COVID-19 Act, which would allocate an additional $50 million to existing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant programs and prioritize that funding for projects that “investigate or address the disproportionate impacts of the COVID–19 pandemic in environmental justice communities.”

The measure was included in the HEROES Act, the $3 trillion pandemic relief legislation that passed the House of Representatives last month with mostly Democratic support. The legislation’s future in a Republican-controlled Senate is shaky, but at a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on Tuesday, lawmakers and advocates continued to push for the bill funding the study of the relationship between pollution and racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated what we have known all along,” said California Representative Raul Ruiz, one of the bill’s cosponsors, during the hearing. “[At-risk communities are] disproportionately breathing polluted air and drinking dirty water due to neglect or decisions by others.”

Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program, discussed how black and Latino communities in the U.S. face more extensive exposure to pollutants, making them more susceptible to lower respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. More than 70 percent of black Americans “are living in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards,” she told the panel of lawmakers.

Patterson also criticized the Trump administration’s approach to environmental policy.

“Instead of strengthening regulations to reinforce protections for communities made vulnerable by poor air quality, we have an administration that has rolled back over 100 regulations in the context of COVID-19,” she said, referring to the Trump administration’s broad relaxation of environmental enforcement during the pandemic.

Patterson said that the funding provided by the Environmental Justice COVID-19 Act would help existing organizations, like local chapters of the NAACP, study the way environmental factors affect public health for communities of color. However, she isn’t sure that the $50 million allocated is enough to accomplish the bill’s aims.

“[The bill] is going to make a difference, but I think ‘enough’ is gonna be a hard bar to reach at this point because the needs are so great,” she told Grist. “Air pollution standards aren’t even stringent enough in the first place.”

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A bill in Congress could get to the bottom of how coronavirus links air pollution and racism

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In the middle of a pandemic, renewables are taking over the grid

The reduction in driving, flying, and industrial activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic has cleared the air in typically smog-choked cities all over the world, inspiring awe in residents who are seeing more blue skies and starry nights than ever before. While the drop in pollution doesn’t necessarily mean we’re making progress in mitigating climate change, it’s now proving to be a boon for solar energy generation.

Pollution blocks solar radiation, and the fine particles spat out during combustion can settle on the surface of solar panels, reducing their efficiency. Smog-free skies, along with a lucky combination of sunny days and cooler temperatures, which boost panel efficiency, have helped solar panels break records in the U.K., Germany, and Spain this spring. The trend points to the potential for a positive (and hopeful) feedback loop — as polluting energy sources are replaced by solar panels, those solar panels will be able to generate more energy.

In Germany, a record that was set in March was broken again on April 20, when solar generated 40 percent of the country’s electricity, while coal and nuclear power generated just 22 percent. It’s actually not unusual to see solar generation records this time of year, when new panels installed in the winter get their first time to shine in the spring weather. While the added capacity explains some of solar’s grid takeover, the drop in electricity demand right now due to the pandemic has also inflated its proportion in the total mix.

In the U.K., record solar power generation also helped coal plants set a major record, but the opposite kind. The entire U.K. energy system ran with zero coal-fired power plant generation for more than 18 days, the longest streak in more than a century. Britain has just four remaining coal plants, all of which are scheduled to close by 2025.

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched renewable energy in myriad ways, and not all good. In early March, it became clear that the virus was disrupting supply chains and financing, which will delay new solar and wind projects in the U.S. For the first time in decades, we probably won’t see increased growth in U.S. renewable energy capacity this year. But even if growth is slower, a new report from the International Energy Agency released Thursday predicts that renewables will likely be the only energy sector to see any growth in demand this year, and that coal is set for the largest decline in demand since World War II.

While it’s still hard to say how the industry will emerge from the rubble of a massive recession — especially as efforts to help it domestically have been a nonstarter in Congress — a new study by clean energy research firm BloombergNEF paints an optimistic picture that the renewable energy takeover will continue on a global scale. The financial research firm found that utility-scale solar farms and onshore wind farms now offer the cheapest source of electricity for about two-thirds of the world’s population.

The study finds that falling costs, more efficient technology, and government support in some parts of the world have fostered larger renewable power plants, with the average wind farm now double the size it was four years ago. The larger the plant, the lower the cost of generation. The price of electricity from onshore wind farms dropped 9 percent since mid-2019, and solar electricity prices likewise declined 4 percent.

The pandemic has depressed the price of coal and natural gas, so it remains to be seen whether and how quickly wind and solar will push them off the grid. But Tifenn Brandily, an analyst at BNEF, said in a statement that solar and wind prices haven’t hit the floor yet. “There are plenty of innovations in the pipeline that will drive down costs further,” he said.


In the middle of a pandemic, renewables are taking over the grid

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A jail built on a landfill is at the center of America’s coronavirus outbreak

New York City is the epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak — and perhaps nowhere is that outbreak more dangerous than in the city’s most notorious jail complex: Rikers Island.

As of Tuesday morning, across the city 287 inmates (most of them at Rikers) and 406 corrections department staff members had already tested positive for COVID-19. On Sunday, the New York Times reported the first coronavirus death of a Rikers Island inmate. Recent news reports have indicated that inmates at Rikers lack even the luxury of basic precautions such as hand-washing (due to reported shortages of soap) and social distancing, which advocates and former inmates say is impossible to practice in the cramped facility.

Rikers Island, built on a landfill and surrounded by polluting infrastructure, has long suffered hazardous environmental conditions like extreme summer heat, flooding, and noxious pollution. These hazards exemplify the facility’s unpreparedness for a public health crisis like the novel coronavirus — and may have primed its inmates and staff to be especially vulnerable to the most severe effects of COVID-19.

Vidal Guzman remembers these hazards well. He was arrested twice as a teenager and spent a combined three years incarcerated on Rikers Island, awaiting trial.

“Living in Rikers means understanding not to drink the water, understanding how to be careful when rats and rodents are running around,” Guzman told Grist. “Having a rule to stay six feet away from each other for protection against the coronavirus — that is impossible in Rikers.”

Guzman, now 28, ultimately served five years in a state prison before going on to become the outreach and engagement organizer for Just Leadership USA, an organization that advocates for criminal justice reform. He recalls the “crazy rotten egg smell” that lingered at Rikers. The foul odor came from the landfill buried underneath the facility, which releases methane as the garbage decomposes over time and degrades the island’s air quality. The Poletti power plant, which was known as the biggest polluter in the Empire State before it closed in 2010, sat within a mile of Rikers when Guzman arrived there.

“Being around people who were young and with asthma — I saw them having problems with their breathing,” Guzman said. “There were individuals on Rikers who were saying things like, ‘I got asthma, I can’t breathe.’ And the elders are saying, ‘Well, you can’t breathe because the ground we’re standing on is built on landfill.’”

“That’s when I started to put things together,” Guzman remembered.

Vidal Guzman pictured on Rikers Island during a land use review process in 2019. Courtesy of Vidal Guzman.

More than 10,000 people are normally incarcerated on the island at any given time. Roughly 90 percent of them are people of color, and 67 percent have not been convicted of a crime and are simply awaiting trial. Though the inmate population is currently around 5,000, the crowded shared spaces present unique challenges for social distancing. Guzman described beds that are only two to three feet apart in the dormitory housing units, an arrangement that appears to persist even as the facility faces down a pandemic. According to the New York City Department of Correction website, officials are attempting to ensure there is an empty bed in between inmates “where possible.”

“We are following the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene guidance to identify any individuals with whom patients had close contact,” the department told Grist in an email. “The health and well-being of our personnel and people in custody is our top priority.”

Public defenders and criminal justice reform advocates have been demanding the release of all inmates with preexisting medical conditions, anyone jailed for parole violations, and the elderly. The government response has been painstakingly slow, advocates say. Hundreds of inmates are now being held in isolation or in quarantined groups after being exposed to someone who tested positive. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently boasted that 900 inmates had been released from the city jail system, bringing the inmate population to the lowest it has been since 1949.

Last Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo quietly introduced changes to the state budget’s legislative text that would completely overhaul the Empire State’s recent criminal justice reform, which has only been in effect for three months. The new provisions, which the state legislature voted to pass days later, would expand pretrial detention powers. Advocates fear that the new changes could exacerbate the coronavirus outbreak.

“As someone who was incarcerated and had $25,000 bail at 16 years old, I am very disappointed,” Guzman told Grist. “The new reform would undermine the presumption of innocence, dramatically increase jail populations across the state, and exacerbate racial disparities.”

Governor Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

After seven years of incarceration, Guzman returned home at 24 and has been working and organizing with a campaign to close the Rikers Island facilities and improve conditions within the New York City jail system. In 2019, the New York City Council approved an ambitious $8 billion plan to shutter the jail complex by 2026. Queens Councilmember Costa Constantinides, who represents Rikers Island and is the chair of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, has long advocated to transform the 413-acre island into a renewable energy hub. To make that vision a reality, he introduced the Renewable Rikers Act alongside other lawmakers last June.

The Renewable Rikers Act would hand over control of the island from the Department of Correction to the Department of Environmental Protection. It would also invest in studies to determine if the island could be home to a wastewater treatment plant and explore the feasibility of building renewable energy sources such as solar panels and battery storage facilities on the island.

For now, however, advocates and medical professionals are focused on getting the city’s thousands of inmates and jail staff through the pandemic alive.

“The most important part, being in a pandemic right now, is staying in touch with our family members, especially the black and brown communities who are feeling the most of this,” Guzman said. “I’m gonna tell you straight up: I’m in fear of what’s next.”

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A jail built on a landfill is at the center of America’s coronavirus outbreak

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Solar power has been growing for decades. Then coronavirus rocked the market.

As the coronavirus outbreak rages on, renewable energy is taking a hit. Factory shutdowns in China have disrupted global supply chains for wind turbines and solar panels, with consequences for clean energy progress this year around the world.

The spread of COVID-19, now declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, is expected to slow solar energy’s rate of growth for the first time since the 1980s. On Monday, two major solar panel manufacturers that supply the U.S. utility market, JinkoSolar Holding Co. and Canadian Solar Inc., both saw their stock prices fall by double digits. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research firm, previously predicted that global solar energy capacity would grow by 121 to 152 gigawatts this year, but on Friday, the group issued a new report dialing back its prediction to just 108 to 143 Gigawatts.

Solar’s rate of growth has been increasing for decades. Clayton Aldern / Grist

Disruption in supply is only part of the equation. The new report predicts that as policymakers and businesses focus on short-term stimulus packages to help the economy, energy infrastructure investments and planning will temporarily go by the wayside. This has already happened in Germany, where a scheduled government meeting to resolve questions over the future of renewable energy on Thursday was used instead to plan for the coronavirus. According to the Bloomberg analysis, these trends will slow battery demand and result in lower-than-expected returns on investments in wind.

In the U.S., the utility-scale wind and solar markets are dealing with uncertainty in their supply chains. Utility-scale wind developers have received “force majeure” notices from wind turbine suppliers in Asia who cannot fulfill their contract obligations in time. The term refers to a common clause in contracts that gives companies some leeway in the case of extreme disruptions, like wars, natural disasters, and pandemics. The delay jeopardizes wind projects that were banking on taking advantage of the wind production tax credit, which expires at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, major U.S. solar developers that can’t get their hands on enough panels are issuing their own “force majeure” notices to utilities. Invenergy and NextEra Energy, the developers of the first two utility-scale solar farms in the state of Wisconsin, both cited the clause in late February and warned of delays to the projects. Now NextEra claims its 150 megawatt solar farm is back on track, while Invenergy’s 300 megawatt project is still up in the air.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of force majeure claims under the coronavirus, up and down the supply chain,” Sheldon Kimber, CEO and co-founder of utility-scale clean energy developer Intersect Power, told Greentech Media.

Factories in China are reportedly starting up operations again, but the ripple effects of the short-term disruption strengthen the case for local manufacturing of renewable energy equipment, according to the Bloomberg analysis. If there’s any silver lining in this story, it’s that governments may now have an opportunity to do just that. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, encouraged governments that are planning stimulus packages in the wake of the pandemic to prioritize green investments and capitalize on the downturn in oil prices to phase out fossil fuels.

“We have an important window of opportunity,” Birol told the Guardian. “We should not allow today’s crisis to compromise the clean energy transition.”

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Solar power has been growing for decades. Then coronavirus rocked the market.

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Somebody in Trump’s cabinet came out in favor of carbon pricing?

Trump’s agriculture secretary managed to alarm lots of rural conservatives and White House staffers when he broke with the administration last week to say that farmers would make money if the government did what economists, think tanks, and some old-school Republicans have been clamoring for — putting a price on carbon.

“If it is a social goal and social priority there, then let’s put a price over carbon emissions,” Sonny Perdue told reporters. “And I think you can really see farmers show out in their carbon sequestration efforts.”

The biggest farm-lobbying group, the Farm Bureau, has long opposed any carbon-pricing plans. But it has warmed a bit to the idea that farmers might benefit: In January the conservative lobbying group voted to support research on carbon-storing soils, and “unbiased science-based research on climate change.”

Perdue’s apparent break with White House orthodoxy had the executive-branch’s flaks scrambling to spin the story. Perdue couldn’t possibly have proposed that the government put a price on carbon emissions, they said, because President Donald Trump opposes that. Instead, he was simply pointing out that farmers could win: “If the free market puts a value on carbon,” an Agriculture Department spokesperson told the Washington Examiner.

Oh, okaaaaay. It’s unclear how the free market would impose a price on carbon pollution, but sure. Putting aside the spin, was Perdue right? Would farmers benefit if we put a price on carbon? It’s a worthwhile question with agriculture responsible for about 9 percent of the greenhouse gasses emitted in the United States.

Back in 2009, when Congress came close to passing a climate bill, scholars were asking these same questions. One of the people to do the math was economist Bruce Babcock, then at Iowa State, and now a professor at the University of California at Riverside. Babcock calculated that a carbon price would drive up the cost of propane farmers use to dry their corn the diesel that fuels their tractors, and the nitrogen fertilizer spread on their fields. But all those costs could be wiped out if farmers were paid for storing carbon in soil.

A price of $20 per ton of carbon dioxide would increase an Iowa farmer’s costs by about $4.50 an acre, while no-till farming could earn that farmer $8.00 per acre, Babcock calculated. So farmers wind up netting $3.50 thanks to a carbon tax.

The basic math still applies today, but a couple dollars an acre probably wouldn’t convince farmers to make major changes, Babcock said. “A more productive way would be to convince them they have a private benefit from better soil health. Improving soil is the best investment they can do, and carbon is an indicator of healthy soil.”

It always depends on the individual farm, but most would be able to adapt to a price on carbon emissions. But adapting to climate change is a different story. “Given how much irrigated agriculture in the West relies on consistent mountain snowfall and Corn Belt agriculture relies on warm summers with abundant rainfall, any disruptive change in climate will have a far greater impact on livelihoods than will the price of carbon,” Babcock wrote.

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Somebody in Trump’s cabinet came out in favor of carbon pricing?

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Going Green Shouldn’t Cost Green: 5 Business-Savvy Strategies

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No longer is climate change a fringe issue. These days, it’s a business one. Worldwide, eight in 10 consumers say it’s “extremely” or “very” important that companies implement programs to help the environment. Like it or not, today’s consumers expect businesses to lead the charge on environmental causes.

Fortunately, your company doesn’t have to choose between saving money and saving the Earth. In addition to the marketing boost that environmental action might net you, many of the best ways to protect the planet also benefit your user experience, your recruiting game, and your operations budget.

Simple Business-Savvy Sustainability

1. Digitize to make consumer data more accessible.

With respect to sustainability and your user experience, digital account access is the table stakes. Whether you’re a hospital, bank, or retail brand, there’s no reason you should prefer paper billing. Not only does online management minimize printing and disposal costs, it reduces waste and the CO2 impact of mail delivery.

What’s the step-up strategy? Strengthen your user experience by turning write-in information into online tools.

Until recently, for example, consumers who wanted to know their auto insurance score had to request mailed copies from researchers like Lexis Nexis. By letting consumers look up their score for free online auto insurance, companies are differentiating themselves while doing good for the environment.

2. Incentivize working from home.

If you’re looking for another way to differentiate yourself, this time with workers, turn to remote work. Not only is the benefit free to offer, but it’s in high demand: Eighty-five percent of millennials say they’d prefer to telecommute all the time. Given that reducing the number of miles driven is one of the best things an individual can do to reduce their carbon footprint, why not take the win-win?

What if your company requires physical work? Consider investing in a small fleet of loaner bikes that employees can use to commute, go out to lunch, or run a quick errand. If several employees have electric cars, it could also be worthwhile to invest in an electric vehicle charging station. Alternatively, some companies give workers a monetary incentive for leaving their cars at home. For example, Clif Bar offers a reward program that pays employees when they commute by walking, biking, taking public transit, and other eco-friendly alternatives to driving their car alone.

Swapping business trips for video conferences saves your business time and money — and reduces your environmental impact. Image: Adobe Stock


3. Think twice about business trips.

Commuting isn’t the only type of travel associated with work, and it certainly isn’t the one that company leaders have the most control over. Although some types of business travel, such as site surveys and investor meetings, are non-negotiable, most are optional. Not only is online conferencing more environmentally friendly, but it also saves companies hundreds to thousands of dollars per eliminated trip.

Always ask before you book travel: would a video conference work just as well?

If travel isn’t necessary, take a mitigation approach. Swap short flights for car trips. Greenhouse gas emissions from flying have increased more than 80 percent just since 1990. Better yet, take a bus or train.

To understand just how much your company’s transportation habits cost the environment, check out the University of California-Berkeley’s carbon emissions calculator.

4. Minimize disposable office products.

Whatever your workplace’s carbon footprint, it could almost certainly be less. Swap paper towels for washable fabric ones. Encourage employees to use reusable mugs and water bottles by eliminating disposable cups. Buy a set of cheap silverware in place of plastic cutlery. None of these changes will make or break your budget, but the environmental benefits increase as more employees participate.

Remember that your office can be the place employees, partners, and customers learn to think of the planet first. That’s a reputation win, too.

On average, Americans produce 4.4 pounds of trash every day. Much of that waste happens at home, but the office environment matters as well. Full-time team members spend half their waking hours at work, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have sustainable options to choose from when eating lunch, deciding to print or not, or using the restroom. Small changes add up to big differences in CO2 emissions.

5. Make utility money go further.

Every time someone turns up your office’s air conditioning or flips on a light, it costs money. You don’t have to sweat in the heat (or work in the dark), but you also don’t have to settle for steep utility bills.

If you’re not ready to put solar panels on the roof, start small. As they burn out, switch your incandescent light bulbs to energy-efficient LEDs. Use expanding foam sealant to fill cracks. Invest in a smart, programmable thermostat. Even asking employees to unplug their devices before they leave can put a dent in your utility expenses: Keeping electronics plugged in when they’re asleep costs consumers upwards of $19 billion per year.

Consumers have made it clear: Creating a healthier, cleaner world should be every company’s charge. Encourage your employees to reduce their emissions, but don’t use that as an excuse to avoid making company-level changes. We all live on the same planet; it’s up to all of us to protect it.

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Going Green Shouldn’t Cost Green: 5 Business-Savvy Strategies

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The climate legislation this Congress could realistically pass

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The climate legislation this Congress could realistically pass

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Berkeley triggered a chain of anti-gas laws

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Berkeley triggered a chain of anti-gas laws

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Companies don’t want Trump’s ‘business-friendly’ methane rollbacks

The Environmental Protection Agency announced plans late last week to eliminate an Obama-era rule that required oil and gas companies to monitor and control the release of the potent greenhouse gas methane during their operations.

The proposed standards would no longer require new natural gas wells, pipelines, and storage facilities to detect and limit leaking methane, the primary component of natural gas which packs at least 25 times the atmosphere-warming power of carbon dioxide.

A number of parties have spoken out against the regulatory change, including Democratic politicians, public health experts, environmental activists, and of course, scientists. But perhaps the most surprising opponents are those it ostensibly benefits: major oil and gas companies like BP, ExxonMobil, and Shell. It seems counterintuitive for big businesses to oppose regulatory cuts, especially since Trump has touted his rollbacks as business-friendly. Why would large oil companies would actually want to be regulated?

There are two main reasons. The first has to do with public relations. Many fossil fuel companies are trying to revamp their image as the public learns about how much and how early the fossil fuel industry knew about climate change (spoiler: a lot, and the 1970s, respectively). Part of their PR push is positioning themselves as part of the solution, by pushing natural gas as a “cleaner” fossil fuel that can be used alongside alternatives like wind and solar.

Gretchen Watkins, president of Shell’s U.S. division, which has fracking and refining operations in more than 70 countries, has said that methane leaks are “a big part of the climate problem, and frankly we can do more.” A study last year estimated that 13 million metric tons of natural gas is lost through leaks each year, about 2 percent of all natural gas produced in the U.S. On Thursday, Watkins announced Shell’s plans to reduce methane leaks from its own global operations to less than 0.2 percent by 2025. And Shell isn’t the only fossil fuel company going full-steam ahead with the “we’re part of the solution” message. More than 60 companies have already pledged to curb methane emissions independent of government regulations.

The second reason the biggest oil and gas firms oppose the rollback has to do with competition among oil and gas companies. Multinational companies like BP and Shell could easily afford to comply with the Obama-era methane rule. (The EPA has said the regulatory rollback will save the oil and natural gas industry $17 million to $19 million per year, a drop in the oil barrel for a $388 billion company like Shell.) The regulation basically just forced big companies to capture natural gas more efficiently, which is good for their bottom lines. But softening the methane rule will actually help smaller oil and gas companies, which have smaller profit margins and can’t as easily comply with regulations. So, from the perspective of fossil fuel behemoths, cutting the methane rule gives a leg up to the little guys.

This isn’t the first time President Trump’s “pro-business” plans have met a tepid response from the industry he was trying to boost. Some electric utility companies have opposed weakening Obama-era limits on toxic mercury pollution — many have already spent billions to comply with the Obama-era rule, so eliminating it does little to help them now. And automakers have continued to balk at the administration’s plans to roll back fuel efficiency standards. With California maintaining higher standards, automakers are caught in the middle and are increasingly siding with the Golden State (as is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), for the simple reason that they don’t want to produce different cars for different states. Just last week, the President furiously tweeted that Henry Ford was “‘rolling over’ at the weakness of current car company executives.”

Though the auto industry is protesting the regulation changes for different reasons from the oil industry, both are related to the fact that the Trump administration is woefully behind the times. The established regulations, along with consumers who are increasingly concerned about the climate, have set the market on a different path. New technologies are being implemented, and time and money have been invested in products that will meet new green demand. As a result, many fossil fuel, car, and energy companies would rather stick to the old plan than accept a regulatory gift from the Trump administration that’s more trouble than it’s worth.


Companies don’t want Trump’s ‘business-friendly’ methane rollbacks

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Green Websites and Online Games for Kids

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Young people are spending more and more time on devices. Kids between the ages of eight and 12 spend nearly six hours online daily on average. Although this statistic seems quite high, it is important to consider what children are doing online.

There are many educational websites and online games that teach children about nature, the climate crisis, or how to recycle. Unfortunately, some of these are not all that engaging, judging from my kid’s responses to them. Others teach about the natural world but don’t specifically teach young people about living greener lives.

Let’s explore some of the best green websites for young people.

Super Sorter

Super Sorter is an engaging game that takes children to a materials recovery facility to sort mixed recyclables. Plastic bottles, glass containers, and cardboard boxes appear on a conveyor belt where they must be sorted by one of four different technologies. Each sorter specializes in capturing different types of materials so players purchase and place the sorters strategically to have the highest recovery rate.

After watching kids play this game, it does seem to genuinely teach the concept that specific infrastructure is needed to have high recovery rates for single-stream recycling. It is ideal for late elementary age students and older.

PBS Nature Games

The PBS Kids website has a collection of nature games for elementary school-aged kids with a variety of themes. Gamers learn about ecosystems, bird species, constellations, soil health, geography, and more while playing. The object of the games is sometimes being a steward of nature or the environment, like managing renewable energy production, feeding winter birds, and creating wildlife habitat.

Much of the information is offered as a narrative during the game, which some kids might tune out. If nothing else, kids will gain exposure to certain vocabulary that could be helpful later on. These games are ideal for elementary-age children and often don’t require the ability to read.

National Geographic Kids

The National Geographic Kids website has a variety of resources that teach children about different animal species, planets, and special places. Kids can take a pledge to cut back on the use of disposable plastic, learn about amazing animals, or test their knowledge on a given topic with a quiz.

Rich graphics help keep this site interesting to kids, but aside from the videos, many activities require an ability to read. This website is ideal for late-elementary-age students and older. Most early-elementary-age children will need some help from an adult but will likely find the content interesting.

Ranger Rick

Ranger Rick is an interactive website that teaches children about different animals, provides instruction on craft projects, and has some jokes and games. Like National Geographic Kids, the website has excellent graphics and is well organized for young users.

Although Ranger Rick teaches children about the natural world, the website doesn’t necessarily teach children much about more sustainable lifestyle choices and conservation. One year of full access is $10. Because many activities require an ability to read, most early-elementary-age kids will need some assistance from an adult.

Have you found other educational green websites and online games that your children like? Share them with the Earth911 community in the Earthling Forum.


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Green Websites and Online Games for Kids

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