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Rural America is on the frontlines of low-emissions electricity

Science Line | Posted on October 16, 2018

he 6,000 residents of Alaska’s Kodiak Island are used to being on their own, and paying for it. A 10-hour ferry ride separates them from the nearest mainland town, keeping grocery prices high and tourism low. But the one thing the fishing port doesn’t overpay for is electricity. While the typical Alaskan forks over 21 cents for each kilowatt-hour to power their home, the island’s isolated inhabitants get away with around 15. What’s more, Kodiak’s one-of-a-kind power grid now delivers that energy from a 98 percent renewable blend of hydro and wind power, ending a decades-long reliance on pricey and polluting diesel. Cutting-edge energy systems are increasingly finding their way into remote communities like Kodiak, where the harsh economics of seclusion make new strategies that replace costly fossil fuels especially appealing. Kauai, Hawaii, and Greensburg, Kansas, also overhauled their electricity infrastructure in favor of renewable sources. But even at the right price, transitioning to clean energy sources is far from a foregone conclusion. It often takes external pressure to push communities to embrace new energy systems.


Energy Companies In Alaska Fight Controversial Salmon Initiative

NPR | Posted on October 15, 2018

In Alaska, a ballot measure is cutting right to the heart of the state's identity. It's pitting Alaskans' love for salmon against another powerful force - the oil and mining industries. The ballot measure pits the state's love for salmon against its need for oil and mining revenue. The controversial measure has drawn more money than all three gubernatorial candidates combined.


Blown Away:WInd energy in the southern states

Southern Legislative Conference | Posted on October 11, 2018

Wind energy production in the United States continues to grow, heralding expanded transmission capacity, lower energy prices and job growth in several sectors. This SLC Special Series exploring the myriad impacts of wind energy expansion in SLC states has examined the benefits of wind energy in the region* and provided case studies from three SLC states.† However, a further understanding of the full impacts of this growing industry also necessitates a discussion of its challenges. To that end, this SLC Special Series Report, the third and final installment, assesses the industry’s obstacles, particularly as they relate to military operations, impacts to avian populations and cultural perceptions.


The narrative of renewal: If we can't mine coal, what are we going to do?

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 11, 2018

“EPA = Expanding Poverty in America.”  This statement is written in three-foot-high letters on a banner stretched over a bandstand in a public park in Pikeville, Kentucky. It is June 2012 and I am just starting production of the After Coal documentary. The crowd around me is dressed in the reflective stripes of mining uniforms or in T-shirts reading Friends of Coal and Walker Heavy Machinery. I am documenting a coal industry-sponsored pep rally before a public hearing on new water-quality regulations proposed for mountaintop-removal coal mines.   The speaker onstage is speaking proudly of his family’s heritage in the coal industry. He concludes his passionate statement with a question: “If we can’t mine coal, what are we going to do in eastern Kentucky?” Good question. As a filmmaker who has spent my career living and working in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky and documenting coal-mining issues, this is an important and difficult question to answer. My earlier documentaries Coal Bucket Outlaw (2002) and The Electricity Fairy (2010) were intended to start a civil conversation between workers in the coal industry and other community members about a shared vision for good jobs, clean air, clean water, and a safe working environment. However, the conversations almost always broke down as soon as someone pointed out the obvious: the coal industry had long been the only model of economic development in the central Appalachian region. More examples of what life after coal might look like were desperately needed to move the conversation forward.  


Oil industry, green groups join to oppose Trump’s ethanol plan

The Hill | Posted on October 11, 2018

President Trump is creating strange bedfellows with his proposal to expand ethanol sales, with some environmental groups and the oil industry opposing the new rule. The groups have different reasons for pushing back against Trump’s plan to remove a key barrier to selling gasoline with 15 percent ethanol (E15), but both say it’s a bad policy and are contemplating suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if it is finalized.Trump on Tuesday directed the EPA to craft a regulation that would allow for sales of E15 year-round. It’s currently prohibited during the summer months due to air pollution concerns.Oil companies and green groups say Trump’s proposal is a politically motivated move designed to shore up support for Republicans ahead of the November midterm elections. Farmers are hurting as a result of Trump’s trade policies, which have prompted foreign tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods.


NY to invest $40M in solar energy storage technology

Miami Herald | Posted on October 11, 2018

New York state is investing $40 million in technology that stores energy from solar power. The office of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the funding decision. The money will support solar power projects around the state that are designed to ensure energy derived from the sun can be stored for use when demand is greatest. That can reduce the need for other, less environmentally friendly forms of power.Cuomo has set a goal for the state to generate half of its power from renewable energy sources by 2030.


Blind focus on ‘energy dominance’ may cripple Endangered Species Act

The Hill | Posted on October 11, 2018

The bald eagle, sea otter, timber wolf — these iconic animals and more have been saved by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). But the Trump administration doesn't seem to care about our country's natural heritage. It's using questionable arguments about the popular law in an effort to gut protections and convert our public lands into private assets. The administration's destructive intent is apparent in the proposed revisions to the ESA by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries. These changes appear to be aimed at providing more opportunities for business interests to influence conservation decisions. Indeed, the administration has proposed to turn the law on its head by allowing consideration of economic impacts in listing decisions, restricting designation of unoccupied critical habitat, and eliminating default protections for threatened species. The motivations are even clearer when we look at the administration’s aggressive exploitation of public lands in favor of the oil and gas industry. The president's myopic fixation on achieving “energy dominance” is poised to undermine what former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell once referred to as an “unprecedented landscape-scale conservation effort” that demonstrated the ESA “is an effective and flexible tool and a critical catalyst for conservation.”


U.S. dairy experts cast doubts on Canadian trade deal ending deep slump for American farmers

Journal Sentinel | Posted on October 11, 2018

U.S. dairy farmers remain hopeful that a new trade deal with Canada could help lift them out of a deep slump, but some are casting doubt that it will make much of a difference in an American market flooded with milk. The deal, announced Monday by President Donald Trump, is “more of the same,” except it hurts Canadian farmers, said Jim Goodman, a Wisconsin dairy farmer and president of the National Family Farm Coalition.“Canadian family farms will go out of business, and Canadian dairy farmers will see their incomes fall due to increased U.S. imports. And while the slightly expanded market will offer small benefits to some U.S. farmers, it does nothing to reduce the overproduction at the heart of our dairy crisis,” Goodman said.  The new deal is called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Under the terms, still being finalized, Canada would open more of its dairy market to trade and has agreed to drop its quota and pricing system for “Class 7” milk powders  — a move that could help the struggling American dairy industry as it seeks export markets.But it opens only about 3.6 percent of Canada’s market for dairy, poultry and eggs to the U.S., and that’s not much for American farmers.“The impacts will be minimal. Canada’s entire dairy market is smaller than that of Wisconsin,” Goodman said.Tensions over the North American Free Trade Agreement were heightened last year when Canada raised tariffs on ultrafiltered milk used to make cheese and other dairy products.


Here’s what Trump’s ethanol plan means for farmers, refiners and motorists

Market Watch | Posted on October 10, 2018

President Donald Trump’s plans to allow the sale of a higher concentration of ethanol in gasoline throughout the year would appease U.S. corn farmers who have been stung by low corn prices as a result of the U.S.-China trade dispute and likely even lead to lower prices at the pump. Some refiners and older car engines, however, may pay the price. It would help to push corn prices higher and benefit farmers, and it may even help to lower prices for gasoline, but it would hurt refiners who don’t have the ability to blend ethanol—and there are also concerns about the impact of E15 in car engines, especially those made before 2001, he said.


USMCA Trade Deal Is A Win For Texas Energy Producers

Texas Standard | Posted on October 10, 2018

President Donald Trump’s new trade deal, the USMCA, appears be beneficial to big oil and gas companies. Canada recently signed onto the new deal, along with the U.S. And Mexico, in a deal that replaces NAFTA. The new deal also has broad implications for the Texas economy, particularly energy production. Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, says the new agreement includes provisions that help protect U.S. oil company investments abroad.“It also prohibits tariffs on oil and gas products, which is pretty handy for the U.S. because it’s including gasoline sold to Mexico by U.S. refiners,” Smith says.The new agreement includes an ISDS, or investor state dispute settlement, which is intended to resolve international trade disputes. NAFTA included ISDS provisions, and many of these were removed from USMCA. But the oil and gas sector will continue to use that mechanism. Smith says U.S.-based oil companies like Chevron and Exxon-Mobil now have a stronger legal footing in Mexico and are able to bid in oil auctions.


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