Tag Archives: beyond oil

New Sierra Club Report Reveals Major Potential Sources of Climate Pollution; Highlights Need to Keep Dirty Fuels in the Ground

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, April 10, 2014
 
Contact: Virginia Cramer, 804-519-8449
 
 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures,a new report released today by the Sierra Club reveals four major potential sources of carbon pollution that, if developed, could dramatically alter the world’s climate. Data shows that the oil, gas and coal from these potential sources, including the Arctic Ocean, the Green River Formation, the Powder River Basin, and the Monterey, San Juan Basin and Marcellus shale plays, have the potential to release billions of tons of new carbon pollution into the atmosphere, more than negating positive climate actions taken by the Obama administration.

“We can’t keep burning fossil fuels and reduce climate pollution at the same time. It’s common sense.” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director. “As this report demonstrates, real progress to fight climate disruption requires that dirty fuels be kept in the ground.”

As the report details, developing just a fraction of the dirty energy in these major climate disrupters would cancel out the United States’ greatest accomplishments in the fight against climate disruption– efforts like the Obama administration’s new fuel economy standards. Developing just one of these climate disrupters, the Arctic Ocean, for example would result in two-and-a-half times more pollution than would be saved by the new fuel economy standards.

Already, through administrative actions and by doubling down on clean energy, the Obama administration has done more than any other to reduce carbon pollution. For the first time in 20 years, domestic carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing. An effective climate strategy however, requires that these steps be accompanied by efforts to leave dirty fuels in the ground. Several such pragmatic steps are outlined in the report.

The report calls on the Obama administration to consider climate pollution, like other dangerous air and water pollution, before dirty energy projects move forward. It asks the President to close loopholes that allow the fossil fuel industry to benefit at the cost of Americans’ health, environment and future; and it stresses that new energy projects and leasing should be focused on clean, not dirty, energy.

“Whether they are found beneath our public lands or next to our homes and schools, dirty fuels must be kept in the ground.” said Dan Chu, Senior Director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “We should be taking advantage of available clean energy options that will create jobs, protect public health and fight climate disruption.”

Read the full report here.

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About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.

 

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Humans vs. Earth’s Climate: Preparing for Battle

When I first heard the phrase “climate change”, I, like many others, was undecided on the matter and really didn’t have a clue what that phrase was supposed to mean. Should I be scared? I hope the daily climate would change all the time over here in Texas. This confusion led to a trip to the internet, where ignorance is optional, and over time I read a lot about it, trying to avoid opinionated rants while relying on credible sources of information to mold my perception of the truth. I found myself studying the carbon cycle, reading those really long and uninteresting scientific papers, and watching documentaries such as Chasing Ice, where a scientist captures glaciers in motion through time lapsed photography as they recede and disappear. I really dove in. The deeper I dove the more evidence came to support the notion that earth’s climate system is changing and our planet is slowly warming in a way that will likely be detrimental if not dealt with.

the blue marble

Home Sweet Home

What a massive and complex force to have to deal with. Trying to mitigate a change in the Earth’s climate seems like a pretty daunting feet. So, how do we solve this problem? I guess the default answer would be, “to find the solution.” However, I believe “the solution” needs to be rephrased with “many solutions, collaboratively recognized and implemented worldwide.” A major part of this solution needs to face one of the most influential causes of climate change, such as our current escalated contribution of greenhouse gases (GHG’s), namely carbon dioxide and methane, to the atmosphere.

Explanation of Green House Gases (GHG’s):

GHG’s, when in higher concentration in the atmosphere, cause the atmosphere to trap more and more of the sun’s energy, resulting in the warming of our planet.

Nasa's explanation of GHG's

Nasa’s explanation of GHG’s

This process becomes worrisome when you consider that the carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere has increased by more than 35% since 1975 and is at an 800,000 year high. Even more worrisome is the fact that, according to the National Research Council, “the average temperature of Earth’s surface increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit  over the past one hundred years with 1 degree of this warming occurring over just the past three decades.”

So if this is really happening, how do we stop it? Well, one could start with the major source of this greenhouse gas concentration increase, which can be attributed primarily to the growth in carbon dioxide emissions from rapid expansion of fossil fuel burning. Other attributing factors include deforestation and land use and land cover changes.

Explanation of fossil fuel burning’s role in the carbon cycle:

Previous plant and animal remains trapped within geological structures in places all over the world, along with millions of years of heat and pressure, have created reservoirs of natural gas, oil, and coal. These reservoirs, in the form of hydrocarbons (long chains of Hydrogen and Carbon), have been stored sources of Carbon for a great amount of time. When these reservoirs are extracted and undergo a combustion reaction, they produce energy in the form of heat with new chemical species being formed, such as carbon dioxide (a green house gas).

I’m fascinated by our capability to discover these remains of ancient life forms and even more so at our ability to use them to meet the present day needs of our energy-reliant society. However, with a global oil production of 83.6 million barrels a day in 2011, this Carbon which has been stored underground for an extremely long amount of time is now being released into our system at a rapid rate… so would the statement, “too much of a good thing, is a bad thing” apply here?

I understand that the burning of fossil fuels is integral to our way of life and energy needs. The intricacy and complications of making rapid emission cuts would have great impacts for our infrastructure and societies. However, the likely effects of climate change/global warming could have even greater, more damaging, impacts on our infrastructure and societies. This is why it is necessary to confront this issue now and progress towards a greater reliance on renewable energy for our present and future energy needs.

This progression is much easier said than done and will undoubtedly be met with great opposition, especially by those involved in fossil fuel energy production (people like my mom). However, I like to perceive it as simply as one of my favorite environmental quotes, “if you get to the cliff, you can take one step forward or turn 180 degrees and take a step forward”.

For one, we’ve already discovered, engineered, and implemented many new means of capturing energy (wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass), all of which are readily available in specific regions, produce nearly no emissions, and are, except for hydroelectric, far less water intensive. We already have a large part of the solution, all we need is implementation. More positive progression was initiated this week as President Obama, leader of a nation that ranks as a close second place behind China in GHG emissions and energy consumption, made a speech that presented some bold, progressive goals: using full authority of the clean air act of 1970 to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, accelerating the implementation of more renewable energy that will “power 6 million homes by 2020”, and reducing energy waste through new energy efficiency. He also is trying to push congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies to invest in  “the clean energy economies that will fuel our future” and is calling for initiatives to prepare for the inevitable future effects of climate change.

Implementation of these plans will take time, will require governmental initiatives to speed up the process, and will require specific measures to alleviate the negative impacts such change will have on certain individuals. An example of governmental measures to take would be to reduce the massive amount of money that is used to subsidize fossil fuel production and to allocate that money to renewable energy implementation. To alleviate this energy production shift on individuals, retiring fossil fuel companies will need to provide a just transition for its employees: examples include a large preliminary warning, new training, and good retirement packages.

It’s very exciting that the willingness and need to change has been stated by one of the world’s most influential people, but the battle has only yet to begin and many other solutions will need to be presented and implemented if we hope to come out on top. However, optimism is reborn from the depressing ashes of climate change talk as I reflect on how incredibly smart we are as a human race, how much we already know about the issue, and our amazing problem-solving abilities and can’t help but think, this is going to be a good fight.

Written by: Chase Cobb

Dump the Pump Day is Almost Here!

Ride the bus or train this Thursday to celebrate the 7th annual national Dump the Pump Day! On June 21st, the Sierra Club and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) are encouraging people to ditch their cars in favor of  modes of transportation which are friendlier to the environment – as well as their wallets.

According to the APTA Transit Savings Report, public transit saves 4.2 billion gallons of gas and $19 billion in reduced congestion costs in America each year. Transit is also a major contributor to our economy, supporting 400,000 jobs across the country. On the individual level, riding transit instead of a car saves the average American over $10,000 annually.

Several cities and towns across Texas this year are hosting local activities and contests to celebrate Dump the Pump Day.

Dallas/Forth Worth/North Texas: Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the T in Fort Worth, and the Denton County Transportation Authority are all encouraging people to try public transit by allowing commuters to swap a gas receipt for a week of free transit. Details are available on the DART website.

El Paso: Sun Metro is giving away seven annual bus passes and seven monthly passes randomly to passengers throughout the day. They will also give away 70 day passes to riders who park and ride at the Lower Valley, East Side, Northeast or West Side transfer centers. More info available at the Sun Metro website.

Longview/East Texas: Damiya Pentecost, Longview’s mobility manager, will be on Fox 51 at 8AM on June 21st to talk about the event. Longview Transit will be offering free bus passes all day as well as additional promotional items. Visit their website for more info.

Lubbock: Citibus rides will be free all day Thursday. Visit kfyo.com for more info.

San Antonio: VIA Metropolitan Transit is giving away free monthly bus passes via their Facebook page. Visit Viainfo.net for more info.

Have a happy Dump the Pump Day! Let us know if you rode transit this week!

-Masha Alaupovic, Transportation Policy Intern

Texas Mobilizing to Stop Oil Pipeline.

The Keystone XL pipeline, if allowed to be constructed, will bring the dirtiest oil (tar sands) from Alberta, Canada to Texas, allowing plenty of room for oil leaks and spills to leach across six states.  Nothing is as frightening as the possibility that the Ogallala Aquifer, a source of drinking water for millions and a major contributor to agricultural irrigation, may be contaminated in the future.  But nothing is more exciting than seeing many Americans band together to stand up to big oil, with hopes that we will finally start the transition to clean and renewable energy.

The Keystone XL pipeline has been in the spotlight, with thousands in Washington D.C. sending a clear message to President Obama; Americans don’t want Canada’s dirty oil to pollute and destroy the homeland. News coverage across the nation and state has shed a limelight on people who believe in a clean future.  Whether big oil likes it or not, there is a shift in American’s view of the industry.

In Houston, things are heating up.  A group of volunteers talked with people of the Manchester community, a neighborhood no more than a block away from several oil refineries.  If the pipeline is constructed, the residents of the area will have even higher levels of pollutants in the air.  They fear that their children will suffer major health complications, ranging from asthma to cancer. Many of the adults and seniors already do, and know that it’s from the smokestacks seen from their porch.

In a recent protest last Sunday, over 30 volunteers came together in a march around the neighborhood, complete with the local jazz group the Free Radicals.  For the young and old alike, it was a moment of solidarity in the struggle for clean energy.  There are hundred of thousands mobilizing all over the U.S. who share your fears, hopes, and dreams.  Leslie Fields, the Sierra Club’s environmental justice director, came all the way from Washington to lend her voice to the community.

Scarlett Russell, an environmentalist aiming to protect this community, is a source of hope for many and a voice given to the people of Manchester.  She organized a team of canvassers and a documentary film crew to spread the word and put a face to those who suffer most from the activities of big oil.  Many have joined her, such as Juan and Bryan Parras of T.E.J.A.S. Barrios, and volunteers from the Sierra Club’s Houston group.

It is vital to keep the pressure on big oil, and on Obama.  Now is the time to come and speak out, to volunteer, or to tell our state and national leaders that we simply have no room for the Keystone XL pipeline in America’s green future.  The hearings in Port Arthur and Austin are extremely important for all those who stand against Keystone XL to attend, and make comments:

Port Arthur – Monday September 26, 2011

4:30 – 10 p.m.

Bob Bowers Civic Center

3401 Cultural Center Drive, Port Arthur, TX, 77642

Austin – Wednesday September 28, 2011

12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

UT Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium

2313 Red River Street, Austin, TX, 78705

– Kat Herrera, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Intern, Houston.

Gulf CAR SPILL Update #1

I sold my 1999 Nissan Altima the week before taking off on a jumbo jet for a two week vacation – my virgin visit to the Pacific northwest.  I got a round trip ticket to Seattle for $150 using points from my credit card. 

Seattle Space Needle from the ferry coming in from Victoria

 Swinging such a good deal,  I felt icky about capitalism and happily grown up and clever at the same time. 

 The Altima was wrecked.  A danger to me and the environment.  That’s why I didn’t want to return from my trip to begin driving it again.  Thus the car spill.  I got rid of my car.  I spilled it. 

 You, too, can have a car spill if you’re ready to go there with alternative modes of transportation.  That’s what this Gulf Car Spill series is about!  We ask the question, “Can you really get out of a car in the Summer in Texas?” 

The front end of the wretched Altima – a generous gift from my mother — was hanging together by a thread.  I’d been hit twice in the rear, once by a huge truck.  I’d rear-ended a pleasant, forgiving Mexican immigrant in his work truck.  So the Altima was just plain ugly with scars and too many bumper stickers to be cool in No Longer Weird Austin.    I had to let it go. 

Thanks Clark Little for this awesome image

Beside the realistic fear of an imminent personal tragedy on the Ben White flyover, I also no longer wanted to be a part of the petroleum problem. ( If you’re patient with that website, you can see the Eva Mendes video all about that sticky wicket, the petroleum problem.) 

For me, the BP oil disaster put the final nail on my childhood fantasy of being a dolphin diving into pristine waves on the shore of my native north Padre. 

Tim sez -- Its fun to ride the train in Austin!

I grew up the child of oil and gas in the sparkling city by the sea, Corpus Christi.  My beloved Coastal Bend probably beats the Golden Triangle (Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange) for second largest petro-chemical economy on the Texas Gulf Coast – after Houston’s  number one position.  Because I cherish my memories of baking like a 1980’s rock lobster on the sand every weekend of my high school years, the oil spill and then that small problem of global warming have made it hard for me to put the pedal to the metal and let the juice flow anymore, without thinking twice.  And three times?  You’re out!  Of the car. 

Light Link from Seattle Seatac Airport to Bell Town downtown

 So I had a car spill.  During the hottest month of the year in central Texas, I sold the Altima to my beautiful Syrian friends at High Tech Auto on South Congress for $700.  Not bad for barely running. 

Then, I got a ticket to ride, to practice riding the ample public transportation in Seattle and Portland.  Now, I’m home, have no car, its hot outside, and I’m doing fine — sharing cars, taking the bus,walking, sweating, riding my bike.   

 Wanna know how to car spill?  Stay tuned for the next Gulf Car Spill Update with revelations of more smart transportation solutions… 

Molly at Portland's City Bikes Workers Cooperative

  • How you can participate in the TxDOT Sunset Review or We can change I35
  • Clean Electric Vehicles on a Solar-powered grid — my favorite way to go!
  • Alas!  I under bid  my dream NEV
  • The ins and outs of Austin’s car-sharing  experiment with those cute, cute Smart Cars
  •  Car sharing with friends and lovers
  • Walking to work at 100 degrees and looking fresh when you arrive to do b’ness.
  • How to ride the bus!!!
  • Scooting to lunch on the electric scooter
  • Bike lanes, Bike corridors, Bike fun 

I love the public art at this Portland Train Station

 Brrreeeeng!  Brrrreeeeeng! 

(That’s the alerting  sound of the cruiser brass bike bell.) 

Donna Hoffman, Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club