Politics
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Last month, Poland president Bronisław Komorowski signed into law the Renewable Energy Act, which promises support for renewable energy “microinstallations.” Owners of small-scale renewable energy systems will be reimbursed for feeding in as much as 10kW into the grid.

“The implementation of the new Renewable Energy Act will allow for developing about 200 000 small scale renewable domestic installations in Poland until 2020.” says Tobiasz Adamczewski of WWF Poland. “This means that around one million Poles will profit from the Act as they will be able to produce electricity from renewables. Banks should soon prepare special conditions for financing these installations for those who are interested.”

The ruling Civic Platform party opposed the feed-in tariffs for renewable energy, but in the end was outvoted. The amendment to the original text was passed in the Polish Parliament in February.

“Politicians were persuaded to support the idea of giving regular citizens the ability to produce their own power on an economically sound basis, thanks to the engagement of thousands of people” said Anna Ogniewska, A renewable energy expert with Greenpeace. “We are happy that the members of parliament, above any party divisions, took the side of Polish citizens and made it possible for at least 200 thousand families across Poland to invest in domestic power generation.”

Currently, Poland’s energy mix primarily consists of coal and crude oil, which makes up 80% of the nation’s energy demand. Poland has among the largest coal reserves in Europe that are heavily mined, as the nation’s four largest energy companies, all co-owned by the government, vie for a monopoly on energy production. This act is a huge step forward in a nation where coal is king.

Not only is this better for the environment and sustainability overall, but this law also seeks to stimulate new technology development and build a more resilient energy grid. Large majorities in Poland support the move.

At present, the Ministry of Economy, which was vocal about its opposition to the feed-in tariffs from the start, is making a case that the proposed .75 PLN/kWh for PV installations up to 3kW is too high. High ranking government officials claim that the European Commission will likely question the validity of the scheme due to “over-subsidization.”

Image credit: CoCreatr, Flickr

 

 

 

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Last week, California governor Jerry Brown ordered the first ever statewide mandatory water restrictions, issuing the directive that utilities across the nation will cut their consumption by 25%. Immediately, many environmentalists noted that it excluded the oil industry entirely. It doesn’t cut their usage nor implement even a temporary halt on water intensive practices like hydraulic fracturing.

2 million gallons of fresh water is used daily by California’s oil and gas industry, according to estimates. The state will release official numbers on their consumption in the near future.

“Governor Brown is forcing ordinary Californians to shoulder the burden of the drought by cutting their personal water use while giving the oil industry a continuing license to break the law and poison our water,” said Zack Malitz of Credo. “Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest uses of water in California, but they are undoubtedly some of the stupidest.”

Big oil has been scrutinized heavily for how it uses and disposes of the water produced during oil drinking. In March of 2015, 12 wells were ordered to halt injections out of the fear that the contaminated water would ruin fresh drinking water.

The oil industry shot back at environmentalists, saying that drilling in the state produces more water than it uses and that it is still used.

“In many instances, that water is provided to agriculture to grow crops or is recycled to produce additional energy supplies,” said Western State Petroleum Association representative Tupper Hull.

He went on to note that Chevron Corp and the California Resources Corporation provides 68 million barrels of water a year for agricultural use in Kern County.

“That’s more than 8,700 acre feet of water, 30 times more than all of the water used in hydraulic fracture by all oil companies per year,” he said.

 

Brown said in an interview with PBS Newshour that curbing oil industry water use wouldn’t help the state, given that the state is still dependent upon oil produces like gasoline.

“If we don’t take it out of our ground, we’ll take it out of someone else’s,” Brown said.

 

Image credit: Clinton Steeds, Flickr

 

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Looking around us these days, it’s pretty clear to see that the Earth has been going through some changes, and not for the better. This is as clear as ever to the Inuits.

The Inuits are the indigenous people that inhabit the arctic regions of Canada and the United States, as well as Greenland. Throughout history, their survival has been predicated upon being able to predict the cycle of the weather. These days though, the Inuits have not been able to predict the arrival of extreme weather and other events.

Inuit elders believe that the Earth has shifted, tilted, or in their words, “wobbled.” In either case, Inuit elders near-universally believe that the sky has changed and that it’s becoming impossible to predict the weather, which is a must for their survival.

According to the elders, the Sun doesn’t rise where it used to, they no longer have enough daylight to hunt, and it’s warming up faster than it used to. Elders interviewed all across their territory noted that the sky has changed. The stars, Sun, and Moon have all changed their positions, and they believe it is effecting local temperatures. Which may be true.

Something that can certainly be said is that our actions are having a profound impact on the planet, wobble or not. The Inuits live closely with the Earth, that much is clear. They’re noticing the changes. So what are we going to do to stop these changes?

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Last Sunday, four former employees of Florida’s state Department of Environmental Protection created outrage with the revelation that the words “global warming” and “climate change” had been banned from any official state communications. But did you know that practice isn’t unusual? Two other states have been accused of implementing the same practice with their environmental agencies.

In September 2014, a former emoployee of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources told the Allegheny Front that she was ordered to scrub any references to climate change from the agency’s website. The order came from members of then-Governor Tom Corbett’s administration. Corbett is a Republican.

Just a few months before that, WRAL News reported that the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources was removing links to documents about climate change from its website.

None of those allegations have been confirmed by their respective governors, but those governors do all have something in common: they do not accept the science of human-caused climate change. Additionally, they have each pushed policies that seek to silence the debate on the matter completely, pushing it out of the minds of the voter.

The entire planet is vulnerable to climate change, there’s no doubt about it. What’s so reprehensible about Rick Scott’s climate change gag policy is how devastating even a small amount of sea level rise would be to his low-lying state. Miami faces the most risk. The city is built on top of porous limestone that is already allowing the rising seas to soak the city’s foundation and damage infrastructure, according to a report by The New York Times.

The simple fact that these climate denying governors won’t even let climate change be talked about is telling.

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I’ll admit, I’m always pleasantly surprised when a Republican lawmaker is a yes vote on an environmental initiative. In Colorado, House Bill 15-144 would ban the use of tiny plastic “microbeads” in personal care products due to the fact that they’re terrible. Colorado Republican Senator Larry Crowder, who voted yes on the bill did so for bizarre reasons.

CROWDER: Thank you Mister Chair, I wrestled with this bill harder than any bill I’ve had to date. The very idea of our facial cream, if the ladies had to give that, that, the beads up, would that affect the beauty of the ladies in which we deal with on a daily basis? I say, my fellow Americans, I was assured that it does, it would not, so therefore I will be a yes vote on this. I do believe the industry came forward in droves and indicated that they would like to quit making this, but the beauty of the ladies in which we deal with is a real factor to me, and I struggled with this, but I am gonna be a yes vote. And I hope this is the right vote, because I want the ladies to stay pretty.

Not going to lie, I’m a little creeped out, Senator.