Conservation Update - July 2015

Iowa Passes Another Tax Credit for Solar
The state of Iowa has signed into law another tax credit for solar energy, bringing the total amount to tax credits given to Iowa’s solar industry up to $5 million per year. The bill increases solar energy tax credits and adds production tax credits for utility solar projects, and was passed with unanimous bipartisan support. It is legislation like this that has allowed Iowa to become a nationwide leader in clean energy, while Nebraska’s lack of such policy is what is holding us back. LB423, which failed in the 2015 Nebraska Legislature, would have put in place a tax credit similar to this one just passed by Iowa. We hope to see LB423 resurface in the 2016 legislature. Read more here:
U.S. And Brazil Commit to Increasing Clean Energy
The U.S. and Brazil have made a commitment to bring their clean energy portfolios (excluding hydro) up to 20% by 2030. While it is good to see international partnerships being made to increase renewable energy and decrease reliance on fossil fuels, this isn’t a particularly ambitious goal and both the U.S. and Brazil should be able to easily reach it. Read more here:
BP Settles for $18.7bn, Share Prices Rise
BP will pay an environmental fine of $18.7bn for their Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010. This closes the last of the legal actions brought against BP, and is less than what many environmental groups had hoped for. BP’s share price rose on the news. Read more here:
Rethinking Water Management in the West
Climate change and western drought is forcing the Bureau of Reclamation to make some major decisions about how to manage water in the future. Both those in the Bureau and those on the ground in California recognize that the way the system works now is not sustainable, but that they are going to have to do more than just conserve to solve the problem. Already, water managers are looking at investing millions of dollars in new infrastructure that would essentially just be a stop gap for a more sustainable solution. A long term fix would cost billions, and there is already a strong contingency in Congress that are committed to cutting government spending, not increasing it, and some even want to abolish the Bureau of Reclamation all together. Read more here:
Solar Airplane Lands After Record Flight
After being in the air for nearly 5 days and nights and breaking multiple records, the Solar Impulse 2 landed safely in Hawaii. The plane was fueled solely on solar energy, and has been widely hailed as representing a new future in renewable energy. Read more here:
Scottsbluff Chosen as site for Community Solar Farm
Scottsbluff is the chosen site for a new community solar farm. No power purchase agreement has yet been signed, so the deal is not final, but the plan is for the solar farm to be connected to the local grid in order to make it easier for businesses and individuals to partake in clean solar energy. Read more here:
Range of the Bumblebee is Shrinking
A new study published in Science shows that the habitat of the bumblebee is being shrunk by climate change. The study notes that while many plants and animals have begun to adapt to climate change by expanding their ranges, the bumblebee has not done so. This leaves the bumblebee in a precarious situation in which they are failing to expand north, where temperatures once too cold are now amicable, while their southern border is rising steadily north as temperatures become too warm. Overall, they found that some bumblebees have retreated as many as 300 kilometers from the southern edge of their historic ranges since 1974. They are still searching for the reasons behind this failure to adapt, but note that it could be because the bee evolved in cooler climates than other insects that haven’t yet lost ground. Read more here:
Overwhelming Majority of Young People See a Broken Political System
In a recent survey by the Brookings Institute, an overwhelming majority of young people between the ages of 13 and 25 view the political system as “ineffective, broken, and downright nasty,” and 9 out of 10 will not consider running for office (this is a big problem in a country where we have more than half a million elective positions). Their responses included comments such as: “politicians are just liars,” “People in politics are two-faced,” and “It’s about lying, cheating, getting nothing done. That’s not how I want to spend my time.” We can probably blame our current political environment for their disgust. In the years that millennials have come to age, we have experienced seemingly unending gridlock, hyper-partisanship, and scandal. We need to reinvigorate political engagement in general, and in our youth particularly. That’s what the Nebraska League of Conservation Voters aspires to do through forming alliances that cross party lines, uniting people around the issue of conservation. Read more here:
Searching for Presidential Commitment to Act on Climate Change
In the field of Republican Presidential candidates, we see few who are willing to state that climate change is real. However, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, and John Kasich have all made comments to that effect, but for the most part think that we shouldn’t really do much about it. Kasich has joined a legal challenge against the Clean Power Plan and has rolled back Ohio’s clean energy goals during his time as Governor. Bush and Fiorina, meanwhile, have been delivering an “innovation not regulation” message, in which they argue that there’s “going to be a person in a garage somewhere that’s going to come up with a technology that’s going to solve these problems.” Recently, however, Bush has stated that he believes that humans play a role in climate change, and that the country has an obligation to work to stop it. We do not yet know what policies Bush would implement to stop climate change, but we hope to see stronger commitments to act on climate from the Republican field before the campaign cycle gets much further underway. Read more here and here:
DOD Submits Climate Change Report To Senate Appropriations Committee
The Department of Defense has submitted a report to the Senate Appropriations Committee that states it will “incorporate the changing climate into all major strategic decisions going forward.” The Pentagon has for years brought to attention the national security risks associated with climate change, and in this report note that “climate change is a security risk, because it degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations.” The report concludes by stating that “the Defense Department already is observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the United States, the Arctic, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America.” Read more here: