Conservation Update - March 2015

“Researchers Link Syrian Conflict to a Drought Made Worse by Climate Change”
In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists laid the blame for Syria’s violent uprising beginning in 2011 to the extreme drought of 2006-2009, and say that the cause of that drought was climate change. The researchers cited studies that showed “the extreme dryness, combined with other factors, including misguided agricultural and water-use policies of the Syrian government, caused crop failures that led to the migration of as many as 1.5 million people from rural to urban areas. This in turn added to social stresses that eventually resulted in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011” Read more here:
Solar Energy’s Backers
“As solar energy becomes more affordable for more Americans, pushback from utility companies has also increased as they try to maintain their market share,” according to Barry Goldwater Jr. Goldwater and other well-known conservatives who are strong advocates for solar energy argue that some utilities and groups around the country are going against free-market principles by supporting policies that make it more challenging to install solar power. One of these advocates, Debbie Dooley, the founder of the Green Tea Coalition and Conservatives for Energy Freedom, says the front line of the United States’ green energy revolution is in red states. Dooley travels across the country to protect pro-solar growth from attack by well-funded, fossil fuel groups. Read more here:
Creighton Leading Education in Renewables
The Omaha World Herald highlights Creighton University as an “education leader in renewables.” The U.S. Department of Energy and Omaha Public Power District assisted Creighton in retrofitting its campus with renewables, and it has been “demonstrating the possibilities of renewable energy for its students and the community” ever since. It currently hosts the largest solar installation in the state, and allows students to compare different solar manufacturers and equipment styles. Creighton also offers a major in sustainable energy science, and recently “collaborated with A Renewable America on a report detailing the economic outlook for Nebraska’s renewable power industries…finding that Nebraska has enough renewables to provide 78 percent of the state’s electricity needs by 2030.”  Read more here:
Study Finds Wild Bees Now at Risk of Same Disease Affecting Managed Bees
A new study done in the UK finds that “a network of viruses that were previously associated with managed honeybees are spreading to wild bee populations, potentially posing widespread risk to the wild population.” Populations of wild bees across the UK, and the world, are falling due to other challenges, including pesticides use and habitat loss. These diseases could have a huge impact on the pollinators, which in turn would have a major impact on human food supplies and ecosystems. Insects, including bees, provide pollinating services worth $200 billion worldwide. Read more here:
Senate Fails to Override Obama’s KXL Veto
The Senate has failed to pass a bill that would override President Obama’s veto on the Keystone XL pipeline. The measure failed by 62 votes in favor and 37 against. Read more here:
New Wind Project Proposed for Nebraska
NextEra, one of the nation’s largest builder of wind farms, has proposed a project to be located in Butler County, Nebraska, and potentially stretch into Saunders County. The 200 MW project would occupy a 33,000 acre area, and produce enough electricity to power 40,000 homes. Read more here:
“Florida banned state workers from using term ‘climate change’”
According to a breaking report from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR), officials within the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued directives barring many thousands of employees from using the terms “climate change”, “global warming”, and even “sea level rise” when conducting their work. “According to the employees’ accounts, the ban left damaging holes in everything from educational material published by the agency to training programs to annual reports on the environment that could be used to set energy and business policy.” Read more here:
Building up transmission infrastructure in the Midwest
A 380 mile transmission line to be built across Missouri is an indicator of a larger trend: transmission developers are investing billions of dollars in the nation’s electricity grid. Many of these projects are concentrated in the Midwest in order to bring more renewable energy onto the grid. The Midwest has plenty of wind and solar energy, but too low of an electricity demand to take full advantage of the resources. Transmission lines can assist in getting the energy to where there is greater demand. There are other reasons for building up the grid, too. For three decades, the nation’s grid had been largely ignored, and the United States fell behind on its transmission infrastructure. Updating and expanding the grid will help reduce the threat of regional brownouts, and strengthen its resiliency. To assist in spurring this transmission development, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has put in place measures to increase competition in the market, as well as rate of return incentives for developers. Read more here:
Hunters and Birdwatchers Highly Committed to Conservation
A new study released in the Journal of Wildlife Management highlights the important role that outdoor recreationists play in conservation activities. In fact, the study finds that hunters and birdwatchers are far more likely to engage in more high level conservation activities, like joining an advocacy group, helping with habitat conservation, or donating money, than non-recreationists. Focusing on residents in rural, upstate New York, the study found that hunters and birdwatchers were about three times as likely as non-recreationists to enhance wildlife habitat on public or private lands, and about twice as likely as non-recreationists to donate money to conservation.
Trends for North American Clean Energy RFPs Show Great Interest in Solar and Energy Storage
A report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) outlines that when it comes to investment in clean energy nationwide, 2014 saw the West and solar leading the way. BNEF maintains a North American Clean Energy RFP (request for proposal) database, which keeps track of RFPs for utility-scale renewable energy projects, advanced energy storage projects, digital energy projects, transactions for renewable energy credits, and RFPs from state-funded green banks to support clean energy investments. Trends in these RFPs can serve as a leading indicator for the industry. In 2014, utilities and other offtakers in North America issued 52 RFPs for clean energy. Solar was the most sought-after sector in terms of both capacity and quantity, but a significant number of RPFs looking for storage demonstrate interest by utilities in these projects. In terms of region, the West sought the most capacity, and the Southeast came in second. But, Nebraska’s very own Lincoln Electric System made the list of top ten leading issuers of RFPs for clean energy. Read more here:
Corporate Investment in Renewables - Good For Business
The Dow Chemical Company has signed a long-term agreement with a new wind farm, which will supply Dow with 200 MW of wind power annually, equivalent to the amount of electricity needed to power over 55,000 homes. In a statement by Dow’s vice chairman of business operations, Dow made the purchase in order to “take a serious approach to future energy needs,” citing the opportunity presented by “cost-competitive wind.” “Adding large scale renewable energy to Dow's manufacturing process is just one smart move that we can make to secure a future of sustainability, growth, and long-term competitive advantage,” said Seth Roberts, global business director of the Energy and Climate Change portfolio at Dow. “This decision also serves as a systemic hedge against both energy and power price volatility, while improving our overall carbon footprint.” Read more here:
“Clean Energy Stocks in Focus for St. Patrick’s Day”
Zacks, an investment research company, has some advice for going green on St. Patrick’s Day: make your stock portfolio reflect “green power solutions.” Citing global concern for global warming and increasing development of renewable energies across the world, they argue for investing in quality renewable energy companies. Read more here:
“5 sneaky ways to harness clean energy”
From insoles that can power your smart phone to converting lost satellite transmission signals into electricity, there are many creative ideas for building a future where we are no longer dependent on fossil fuels for our energy. Other innovative ideas include Portland’s testing of generating power from water turbines in their municipal drainage system, and the Mall of America’s use of the body heat of thousands of shoppers to better regulate indoor climate. Read more here:
Texas City to go 100% Renewable
Georgetown, a city about 30 miles north of Austin, will be among the first U.S. cities to be completely powered by renewable energy. It will get about half of its energy from wind, and half from solar. In a statement to the press, Jim Briggs, general manager for the city’s utility said, “The calculus is, not only does it bring power prices down, but it sharply decreases our water usage and is not subject to environmental regulation on greenhouse gases. Read more here:
Clean Energy Transition Benefits Low Income and Fixed-Income Households
A new report by the Natural Resourced Defense Council finds that transitioning to more clean energy “provides major benefits to low-income and fixed-income households.”  According to their research, “a transition to a cleaner energy future can potentially save Americans an average of 8% off their utility bills,” which can be of great benefit to these families that spend a much higher percentage of their income on energy costs. Read more here:
Evidence that Regional Cooperation Works for Clean Power Plan
“Regional grid operator PJM, the regional transmission organization (RTO) with responsibility and authority to coordinate the efficient movement of electricity, has concluded that cooperation with other states is the cheapest and most beneficial way for states to meet their pollution reduction targets under the U.S. EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan.” PJM serves thirteen states in or near the Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern regions, as well as the District of Columbia. “The findings give PJM states hard evidence of the benefits of regional compliance planning: lower costs and more flexibility.” As PJM stated in its report, "State-by-state compliance options, compared to regional compliance options, likely would result in higher compliance costs for most PJM states. This is because there are fewer low-cost options available within state boundaries than across the entire region."  Read more here:
CO2 Emissions from Power Sector Leveled Off for the First Time in 40 Years
“The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced this month that 2014 carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector leveled off—the first time in 40 years this has happened without being linked to an economic downturn.” The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to changing patterns of energy consumption in China, Europe, and the United States. “China led in renewables last year with investments of $89.5 billion, accounting for almost one out of every three dollars spent on clean energy in the world.” In the U.S., one-third of new generating capacity came from solar. In fact, in 2014, electricity generated from renewable energy outgrew that of fossil fuels, with wind power growing faster than all other sources and solar power more than doubling. Read more here:
“Grassroots Firestorm” Over Fracking Wastewater Disposal Well Planned for Nebraska Panhandle
A hearing over the application of Terex Energy Corp. to convert an inactive oil well near Mitchell, NE to a fracking wastewater disposal well is to be held Tuesday, March 24. If built, the well would become home to wastewater from the fracking industry in Colorado. Proponents of the well argue that if oil and gas exploration is to happen in Nebraska, then we will be in need of the disposal well, too. Proponents also claim that the water will be safe, and that concern for this well is unwarranted given that hundreds of such wells already exist in Nebraska without incident. Opponents of the well cite that it is a danger to the water supply, and challenge the claims that it is safe. Opposition to the well is coming from landowners in the area who are concerned about the risks, and who identify that there is no benefit to taking in the wastewater from another state. Read more here:
Nebraska Farmer Demonstrates “Cleanliness” of Fracking Wastewater
At the hearing held by Nebraska’s Oil and Gas Commission over the fracking wastewater disposal well, “James Osbourne, a concerned farmer with ties to the oil industry, decided to appeal to the committee in a visual way. He brought in his own mixture of contaminated water caused by fracking, poured it into three glasses and simply asked, “Would you drink it?” The committee members looked at the murky water in silence before telling the man that they could not answer any questions.  Osbourne concluded his presentation by saying “There is no doubt there will be contamination. There will be spills.” Watch here: