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[1THING] Blog: Archive for February, 2016

[ When Coal Companies Fail, Who Pays For The Cleanup? ]

The U.S. coal industry is fading. As more companies declare bankruptcy, they may not be able to pay for land restoration projects — and taxpayers could be left with the cleanup bill.

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[ Minnesota’s utilities commission approves cross-border hydroelectric power transmission line ]

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission gave its unanimous approval for the proposed Great Northern Transmission Line last week, largely clearing the way for the 500 kV connector that will allow for the import of Canadian hydroelectric power into the United States.

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[ Wind Power Will Soon Surpass Hydro as the Largest Source of Clean Energy in the US ]

Hydropower has always been the largest renewable energy in terms of overall percentage of installed capacity but by 2018, it may no long hold that title.

In 2015 about 153 MW of hydropower capacity was installed in the United States according to the Office of Energy Projects Energy Infrastructure Update released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). During the same timeframe there were 7,977 MW of wind capacity added to the U.S. grid.  Of all the energy sources, wind installed the most MW of capacity in 2015, beating the 5,942 MW of gas and the 2,157 MW of solar that came online last year according to FERC data.

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[ Invasive Species Aren’t Always Unwanted ]

A growing number of scientists argue that not all non-native species are bad, and some may actually be beneficial.


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[ Denmark’s New Grocer Is Selling Expired Food, And It’s A Hit ]

Shoppers are flocking to a Copenhagen supermarket hawking perfectly edible but unsalable food items at a steep discount to the general public. It’s the country’s latest effort to fight food waste.

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[ A Conversation With: In ‘Half Earth,’ E.O. Wilson Calls for a Grand Retreat ]

In a new book, the renowned biologist argues that it is time for humans to abandon much of the planet to other species.


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[ Hartek Power Connects 28 MW of Solar Projects to Grid in Punjab ]

Chandigarh, India-based EPC provider Hartek Power said on Feb. 26 that it has commissioned new substations required to connect 28 MW of solar power to the grid in Punjab, India.

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[ A Solution for Plastic Pollution in NYC ]

A Solution for Plastic Pollution in NYC

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polandeze/Flickr

 

Guest post by Will von Geldern of EarthShare of New York member charity New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (NYLCVEF)

Since their creation in the 1960s, plastic bags have plagued cities. Despite their supposed usefulness, their proliferation has interfered with the wellbeing of ecosystems and municipal functioning – so much so, in fact, that the United Nations has called for an effort to stop producing them. Because the damage done by plastic bags greatly outweighs the benefits, some cities have sought to either tax their usage or ban them altogether. Can New York City follow suit?

A Nuisance for Animals and Humans Alike

Plastic bags first arrived on the scene in the 1960s when petrochemical companies sought a use for the by-products of natural gas. Swedish inventor Sten Thulin first filed a patent for bag material in 1962, and though the public remained reticent to accept the new product, by the 1980s they became a cheap alternative to paper bags. At the time, many saw the use of plastic bags as a means of avoiding the destruction of trees that paper bags entailed.

In the decades since, plastic bags have had an obvious, detrimental effect on the environment. Because they do not biodegrade, plastic bags have immense longevity, taking as long as a millennium to break down in landfills. They can choke animals, and waterborne bags have carried invasive species to new areas. Because animals cannot digest plastic bags, an ingested bag can kill or interfere with their bodies’ functioning.

In cities, sanitation departments struggle to pick up all the bags that flutter in the wind, and even if properly discarded, plastic bags can follow air currents, spreading them across large areas. Although in theory people can reuse plastic bags, the world goes through more than a trillion annually. In New York City, so many plastic bags get disposed of improperly that it interferes with regular recycling.

What Have Other Cities Done?

With New York currently weighing the options of banning or taxing the use of plastic bags, policymakers have looked to other parts of the country for guidance.

Most notably, California moved to ban the bags statewide until a petition by trade groups forced the measure to go to a vote in 2016. In Chicago, an attempted ban ended in disappointment when retailers utilized a loophole in the law to continue using bags. The Village of Hastings-on-Hudson in New York, meanwhile, faced a lawsuit in response to its attempt at a ban.

In Washington D.C., by contrast, the implementation of a five-cent tax per bag cut the number of single-use bags from 22.5 million monthly to just three million, and all while raising $2.5 million for other environmental efforts. For this reason, some have argued that fees have a better chance of success than outright bans.

To Fee or Not to Fee

The question of whether to ban bags completely, or simply tax them, has remained a contentious discussion. The sweeping nature of a complete ban, as evidenced by the current controversy in California, makes it a somewhat impractical option.

By contrast, a 10-cent bag fee would cut down on their use immensely without running afoul of industry advocates. Further, as seen in Washington, D.C., the revenues accrued from the endeavor would help to fund other environmental initiatives.

Attempts on the other side of the Atlantic have shown similar successes for the tax model. In both Wales and Ireland, fees for plastic bag use cut their prevalence down by 96 percent and 90 percent, respectively. For this reason, NYLCVEF has advocated for a fee in New York City and will continue to do so in communities across the state.

Learn more:

Cities Winning Against Plastic Bag Pollution, EarthShare

Plastic Bag Bans and Fees, Surfrider Foundation

The DC Bag Fee Is Cleaning Up the Anacostia River, Anacostia Watershed Society

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[ Sumitomo to Acquire Up to 20 Percent Stake in Cosan’s Biomass Unit ]

Sumitomo Corp. will acquire as much as 20 percent of Cosan Biomassa SA, a subsidiary of the world’s largest sugar company Cosan SA Industria e Comercio, Sumitomo said in a statement Friday.

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[ Brazil State Shelves Auction for 200 MW of Solar Power ]

The Brazilian state of Minas Gerais has put a planned auction for solar power on hold indefinitely because the region lacks enough transmission lines.

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