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Solar powerThe good people at Environment North Carolina have released a new report on the state of solar power (“Lighting the Way: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2013″) and the news is both good and bad for North Carolina.

First, the good — North Carolina is in the Top 10. As the Environment NC folks note:

North Carolina’s solar capacity more than doubled in in 2014, bringing the total capacity to 557 megawatts. Growth in the number of large scale “solar farms” built across the state is mostly responsible for the increase. “Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option here in North Carolina which exciting,” said Dave Rogers, field director with Environment North Carolina.

Now the bad news: The state’s current solar capacity represents just a small fragment of what’s possible and North Carolina public officials could be doing a heck of a lot more to help — especially with respect to residential installation. To this end, the report touts several policies already at work in other leading solar states that would help, but that are, unfortunately, under constant assault from big fossil fuel interests and the conservative advocacy groups they help fund: Read More

Frack-7If you want to understand why the potential for fracking to be a success in North Carolina (either for our economy or our environment) is very, very small, be sure to check out Professor Rob Jackson’s op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. His prediction: A very low economic impact driven my marginal exploration companies with little incentive to clean up the messes they make. As the essay notes:

“The shale gas business is similar to Las Vegas, where the casinos know if enough people gamble they’ll make money because the odds are in their favor. Companies work to set the best odds possible in terms of rules and incentives and then drill a lot of wells knowing that most of them will lose money. They’re banking on the quarter or third that strike it rich. It’s an economy of scale.

In North Carolina, we don’t have an economy of scale. It’s true that we’re still learning about our resource here. We don’t know exactly how thick the shale deposits are. We don’t know whether we’ll have 2 percent organic carbon content or 10 percent, or how much propane, butane and even oil we’ll have.

We do know one thing for certain: The total area of shales in our state is tiny compared with other areas in the U.S. and other countries in the world. Nothing is going to change that fact. It’s also the reason big companies aren’t paying attention to North Carolina.

Read More

Electric carWho says there’s no good news out there? A new, fascinating and encouraging report from the good people at Environment North Carolina extols the benefits of the growing movement toward electric-powered cars. This is from a release that accompanied the report:

“The report, “Driving Cleaner: More Electric Vehicles Mean Less Pollution,” shows that electric vehicles could prevent more than 401,000 metric tons of climate-changing carbon pollution annually in North Carolina by 2025. That’s the equivalent of saving more than 45,122,000 gallons of gasoline per year, or eliminating tailpipe pollution from 84,000 of today’s cars and trucks.

Electric cars are cleaner than vehicles that run on oil, even when charged with coal-fired power, according to the Environment North Carolina report. That’s because electric motors are much more efficient than the internal combustion engine. And as our electricity system incorporates more wind, solar and other forms of zero-emission energy, electric cars will only get cleaner. Ultimately, an electric vehicle charged completely with wind or solar power can operate with little to no impact on public health or contribution to global warming.

With new advanced cars – whether a plug-in hybrid model like the Chevy Volt, or a fully electric model like the Nissan Leaf, or the Tesla Model-S – Americans can travel increasingly longer distances on electricity alone.”

The report goes on to make several specific policy recommendations for North Carolina that could abet the shift, including: Read More

Dean BakerEconomist extraordinaire Dean Baker has a great post on The Guardian this morning about conservative ideologues and their stubborn (but gradually failing) defense of “climate denialism.”

As Baker notes, the right likes to pretend that it’s all about rugged individualism and curbing “entitlements” but a closer look at the facts often reveals a different reality. The Cliven Bundy case was a classic example as is the recent hullabaloo over President Obama’s new carbon reduction standards:

“The argument against taking steps to reduce carbon emissions is an argument that we have the right to impose the costs and risks on others without taking responsibility. It is essentially like arguing that I have the right to throw sewage on my neighbor’s lawn because I would find it inconvenient to build a proper sewage disposal system…. Read More

Climate change - droughtFrom the good people at Environment NC:

“Raleigh, NC – Today, a broad cross section of community and elected leaders joined Environment North Carolina to praise the newly announced federal carbon pollution limits for power plants, the leading cause of climate change. Members from the medical, faith, and business communities all the lauded public health and other benefits the new rule will have for North Carolinians.

‘This announcement is a huge win for the health of our families, our environment, and our clean energy economy,’ said state representative Pricey Harrison. ‘It gives North Carolina a chance to increase jobs generating wind and solar power, and improved energy efficiency; jobs that cannot be outsourced. We are already a leader in the South, and I look forward to helping our state become a national leader in the clean energy economy.’ Read More