power plants

Empowering the World

ONE OF THE most destabilizing facts of the last five years is this: The price of a solar panel has fallen 75 percent. The engineers have done their job, and that offers many possibilities.

We usually look at what the developed countries are doing with renewable energy, such as the fact that there were days during summer 2014 when Germany was generating three quarters of its power from solar panels (Germany!). But the most amazing miracles—and it doesn’t really stretch the word “miracle”—are happening in the poorest places, where for the very first time lights are blazing on.

Take rural Bangladesh, where fossil fuel has barely penetrated  in the 200 years of its ascendancy in the West. There’s no grid—at night it just goes dark. Until the last few years, when low-cost solar panels and innovative financing arranged by groups such as the Grameen Bank have allowed the very rapid spread of solar panels. How rapid? As many as 80,000 new connections a month, which is far more than in the United States. Fifteen million Bangladeshis live in solar-powered houses already, and the government is hoping to have the entire nation hooked up by 2020.

That means that kids can study at night. It also means that families don’t have to waste as much as 30 percent of their income on kerosene. It also means that they don’t have to breathe those kerosene fumes, and that the black soot the lamps throw off won’t be melting glaciers. It also means that everyone can charge their cell phones, which are ubiquitous in Bangladesh. In fact, places like Bangladesh leapfrogged the whole telephone pole thing and went straight to mobile; now they’re leapfrogging coal and gas and going straight to solar.

Darn It!

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Faith Leaders Speak; the EPA Listens

Joey Longley/Sojourners

EPA staff listening to faith leaders on carbon emission standards. Joey Longley/Sojourners

The Environmental Protection Agency held listening sessions Thursday to hear from the public about a forthcoming rule about carbon emissions from existing power plants. More than 20 faith leaders spoke on behalf of those Jesus called “the least of these.” In addition to such faith leaders as Rev. Dottie Yunger and Interfaith Power & Light’s Joelle Novey, other parties, from pro-coal Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and coal lobbyist Mike Carey to the Sierra Club’s Leslie Fields and League of Conservation Voters’ Gene Karpinski, were on hand to testify.  Those testifying had three minutes apiece to voice their views on what the new rule on emissions should look like. 

Prior to the testimonies, more than 20 faith leaders assembled outside of the EPA to pray that God’s creation would be restored. Organized by Creation Justice Ministries and Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, the vigil featured songs of hallelujah and peace. Novey read a Jewish prayer for travelers, asking God to lead us into safety.

After the worship service, the faith leaders joined a diverse audience to testify to the EPA about the importance of battling climate change. I saw five faith leaders speak, reminding the agency that they not only have a technocratic responsibility to create a stringent rule limiting carbon emissions, but also a moral responsibility to do so. 

Climate Change Report: Weather, Rising Seas Imperil Power Plants

In a report obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the Energy Department said Thursday that power plants are at risk of being shut down due to the effects of climate change. With the rise of temperatures and sea levels and decreased water resources, the Energy Department advises officials to become more environmentally aware of their natural disaster plans as their ideas could permanently affect the future of Earth's climate. The Los Angeles Times reports:  

The report calls on federal, state and local governments to more urgently prepare crucial infrastructure - particularly coal, natural gas and nuclear plants - for the compounded risks posed by floods, storms, wildfires and droughts.

"All of our science goes in one direction: The damages are going to get worse,” Assistant Energy Secretary Jonathan Pershing said. “It will take dozens of actors from government and private sectors planning what to do and how to make it cost-effective.”

Read more here.

 

EPA’s New Mercury and Air Toxics Standards = Breath of Fresh Air

Fisk Generating Station in Chicago. Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/uc2Axj

Fisk Generating Station in Chicago. Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/uc2Axj

After years of opposition from coal industry lobbyists, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued the first national standards for mercury and air toxin pollution.

The standards will slash emissions of these dangerous pollutants by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

The EPA estimates that the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks each year. The standards also will help America’s children grow up healthier — preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year.

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