Northwest Pa. needs to fight climate change

Posted on | April 8, 2013 | Comments Off on Northwest Pa. needs to fight climate change

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution and the advent of the fossil-fuel-based energy economy, mankind has dramatically changed the chemical composition of the atmosphere. Concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) increased from 270 parts per million pre-1800 to more than 393 parts per million in 2012, the hottest year ever recorded.

It should come as no surprise that tinkering with the atmosphere has consequences. Climate change is real, man-made, and will dramatically shape the lives of our children and grandchildren.

The devastation caused by storms like Hurricane Sandy and the existential threat posed by rising sea levels to low-lying countries like the Maldives and coastal cities like Miami are well known. The World Health Organization reports that climate change is responsible for 140,000 deaths per year as of 2004. As Tom Ridge and others have pointed out, there are significant national security risks associated with climate change (Erie Times-News editorial, “Threats from climate change broaden,” March 8). This is serious stuff.

While less dramatic in Erie, we are already experiencing the effects of a changing climate. Extreme weather events are becoming both more frequent and more intense. Extremes in temperature and precipitation have a variety of negative impacts. In particular, vulnerable populations (children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions) are at risk from protracted heat waves, such as the 1995 heat wave in Chicago that resulted in nearly 800 deaths.

Local farmers know the damage that early warmth followed by hard freezes can do, not to mention drought. Toxic algae blooms in the west basin of Lake Erie are linked to both warmer water temperatures and spikes in agricultural runoff associated with intense rainfall events. Ice cover on the lake is steadily declining, causing shoreline erosion and negatively impacting aquatic biology.

Problems like this don’t just go away — they require action by people, governments and businesses. We must take responsibility and act to reduce climate-changing pollution and to prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott has taken an important first step by signing the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Climate Protection Pledge. What is now needed is a concerted effort to develop and implement a climate action plan that details how Erie can reduce its contribution to carbon pollution and prepare its facilities and population to withstand the changes we know are coming.

As is often the case, our young people are leading the way. Driven in large part by students, energy use at a number of Erie schools was reduced more than 11 percent in 2012, saving the district more than $80,000. Surely the city and other local jurisdictions can do likewise.

PA Sea Grant is preparing to host a workshop later this year to highlight the benefits of adaptation planning as well as the many resources available to assist communities as they build their resilience to climate change. City and county officials should take advantage of this event to jump-start their efforts to plan for the local impacts that climate change will bring in the years to come.

Climate change is not just about doom and gloom. There are real opportunities if we are willing to seize them. Local businesses are already moving to take advantage of the opportunities created. Hero BX is producing alternative fuel, Green Lighting LED is offering highly efficient lighting solutions, and EPI is helping local businesses reduce energy and material costs through industrial plastics recycling, just to name a few.

One of our greatest opportunities to both address climate change and create local jobs is to harness the winds blowing across Lake Erie. Offshore wind in Pennsylvania waters has the potential to produce sufficient electricity to meet the total demand in Erie County. Our elected representatives in Harrisburg need to spearhead efforts to allow sensible development of offshore wind power in Pennsylvania waters by creating the appropriate legislative and regulatory framework. No other community in Pennsylvania has the offshore wind resource we do, and it will take action by our legislators to seize this opportunity.

Other states in the Great Lakes region are moving to develop offshore wind resources and reap the economic benefits of being first movers. Will we passively watch their efforts or move to be a part of this exciting frontier? Each wind turbine has more than 8,000 component parts, creating significant opportunities for local manufacturing.

The first offshore wind project in the Great Lakes is being undertaken by our neighbors in northeast Ohio. Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. estimates that 1,500 megawatts of wind power development over the next 15 to 20 years could produce 3,000 jobs, more than $2 billion in wages and $171 million in public revenues in northeast Ohio (see to learn more). With vision and leadership, Northwest Pennsylvania can be a part of this as well.

Climate change is not an abstract concept. It is here. It is now. And most of all, it requires action.

STEPHEN PORTER is co-chairman of the Northwest Pa. Green Economy Taskforce. He previously directed the Climate Change Program at the Center for International Environmental Law in Washington, D.C., where he participated in international climate change negotiations since 1998 ([email protected]).

Upcoming Environmental Events at Jefferson This Month

Posted on | April 8, 2013 | Comments Off on Upcoming Environmental Events at Jefferson This Month

Jefferson Education Society
3207 State Street, Erie (459-8000)

NWPAGE/Clean Air Council Lecture Series (free and open to the public)

Monday, April 22 7:00 – 8:30
The Silent Epidemic: Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health—The coal life cycle, beginning with mining, continuing with transportation through air pollutants and coal ash disposal, and concluding with the role of coal combustion in global warming, is full of hidden health effects. This lecture will emphasize the contribution of coal-based pollutants to the four leading causes of death in the U.S. and touch on health effects on the horizon. Alan Lockwood, M.D.

Tuesday, April 23 7:00 – 8:30
PA Department of Environmental Protection: Educating for Sustainability—The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s mission is to protect Pennsylvania’s air, land and water from pollution and to provide for the health and safety of its citizens through a cleaner environment. DEP has long recognized the important role that education plays and recently an effort to develop an enduring curriculum and community based greening programs within schools, particularly in the City of Erie, has been the DEP’s focus. Guy McUmber, Sustainability Coordinator, PA DEP

Wednesday, April 24 11:30 – 1:30 Lunch is included (free but must register at 814-459-8000)
Towers of Power: Wind Energy in the Great Lakes Region— A summary of wind energy development trends across the Great Lakes region and work of the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative to ensure wind energy development occurs in a sustainable manner. Best practices and lessons learned from land-based wind farms will be shared; obstacles and opportunities for wind energy deployment on land and in the water will be explored. Victoria Pebbles, M.S., Great Lakes Commission

Carbon Tax Needed says

Posted on | March 25, 2013 | Comments Off on Carbon Tax Needed says

Why did Chris Christie support solar in NJ when PA won’t lend a hand?

Posted on | March 25, 2013 | Comments Off on Why did Chris Christie support solar in NJ when PA won’t lend a hand?

There was hope that New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie would alter the dialogue around global warming when in August 2011, more than a year before Hurricane Sandy devastated the New Jersey coast, he declared “Climate Change is real … [and] affecting our state.” Sadly, his actions have contradicted his rhetoric, as he has eliminated the Office of Climate Change and Energy within the Department of Environmental Protection, withdrawn New Jersey from the Northeast region’s cap and trade plan known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, weakened the state’s renewable energy standard, and taken $210 million from the state’s clean energy fund to balance the budget.

So why, last summer, did Christie sign legislation accelerating solar energy requirements for New Jersey utilities and take other steps to promote solar construction? According to the governor’s press release, it was all about jobs. “Renewable energy not only helps meet our goals of increasing sustainability and protecting the environment, but can be an engine for economic growth.” The law “will help us remain a national leader in the solar-energy industry.” As James Carville put it during the 1992 presidential campaign, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

In 2011, New Jersey was second to California in total installed solar capacity. This rapid growth produced a surplus of solar credits, known as SRECs, thereby driving down credit prices (the sale of SRECs finances solar project development). That’s why New Jersey took steps to restore equilibrium to its SREC market: to encourage job growth and save money for its residents on electric bills, an estimated $1.076 billion over the next 15 years.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry recently reported that our unemployment rate in January reached 8.2 percent, exceeding the national average and marking its highest point since October 2010. Trade organizations once reported that Pennsylvania had the fourth-highest amount of solar jobs in the nation but while Harrisburg has largely ignored the solar market, those jobs have gone elsewhere. These solar jobs are not disappearing, they are simply moving out of Pennsylvania as businesses and skilled labor move to states that support the solar industry.

Pennsylvania should follow the lead of New Jersey and tweak its portfolio standard to encourage the return and growth of jobs to Pennsylvania. The portfolio standard should be accelerated to encourage market equilibrium, and utilities should be required to purchase SRECS from in-state solar installations, thereby preserving, and increasing, Pennsylvania jobs.

At a time when unemployment in Pennsylvania exceeds the national average, it’s high time for Harrisburg to take a cue from its neighbor to the east and pay attention to a sector of the energy industry that not only creates jobs but also reduces energy costs for all Pennsylvanians.

PennFuture Facts is a biweekly publication available for reprint in newspapers and other publications.
Authors are available for print or broadcast interviews.
For more information, please contact us at 717-214-7920, or [email protected]

US Solar Installations Over Time – Pretty Cool

Posted on | March 22, 2013 | Comments Off on US Solar Installations Over Time – Pretty Cool

Posted on | January 24, 2013 | Comments Off on

Vol. 15, No. 1 — January 18, 2013
And the award goes to
It’s award season. The People’s Choice Awards, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit, all leading up to the biggie — the Oscars. People look forward to watching these competitions, often vote themselves, criticize how people are dressed, and are overjoyed when their nominees win. The rules are clear, and the results are televised to millions across the globe.

But there’s another award that is neither public, nor participatory, but it has a tremendous impact on people worldwide. It knows no season, and is given all the time. There’s no real competition involved, the dress code is business suits only, and there are no public announcements or celebrations. In fact, those who give this award constantly say that they are not in the business of picking winners and losers, even as they pick the winners.

The award is big — really big. And it pays off for years. What is it? Public money in energy subsidies and tax breaks. And nearly all of it goes to fossil fuels, leaving crumbs for renewable energy.

A little more than a year ago, the PennFuture Energy Center reported that Pennsylvania was subsidizing the fossil fuel industry to the tune of nearly $3 billion a year. In that report, we revealed that the state’s fossil fuel subsidies come primarily in the form of tax exemptions, with a handful of applicable tax credits and grant programs. There are exemptions for the use of fossil fuels, which make these fuels more attractive by lowering their costs to the consumer. There are also exemptions that benefit distributors of fossil fuels, such as exempting natural gas sales from the Gross Receipts Tax, thereby reducing the tax burden on distribution companies, and increasing their profitability. And even though some users of fossil fuels are required to reduce their dangerous and deadly air pollution, they aren’t on their own — Pennsylvania even subsidizes the purchase of pollution control equipment.

The people of Pennsylvania bear much of the human cost of fossil fuels, too. Our families and other businesses pay — in health care costs and lost wages and opportunities and personal tragedy — for the asthma, heart attacks, mercury impacting our children’s brains, loss of natural resources, and more.

Since that time, Pennsylvania has added more subsidies. Act 13, the new law on natural gas drilling and fracking which famously strips local municipalities of control over this industrial activity, restricted what impacts the industry must repair and pay for, and gave very few benefits to Pennsylvanians for their collective use of this precious natural resource. And our state is now offering nearly $2 billion in subsidies, as well as reduced environmental cleanup standards, to Shell for building a cracker plant — which will make gas drilling and fracking even more profitable.

It’s far from easy finding out who gets these awards and how much is given out, especially on the state level. But the more you dig, though, the more you find. Just recently, we discovered another batch of money awarded to the fossil fuel industry. By and large, they don’t have to pay the same sales and use tax that ordinary Pennsylvanians and other industries pay. Any equipment bought to be used for hydraulic fracturing (e.g. cementing, fracturing, acidizing services) is exempt from sales tax. Same with any materials (gases, sand, cement, etc.) predominantly used directly in fracturing services. The fracturing services themselves are exempt. And when they sell their property — you guessed it, that’s tax exempt, too. The only bright spot is that the drilling companies DO have to pay the motor vehicle registration for some of their vehicles.

The federal government has long subsidized the production and use of fossil fuels to the tune of billions of dollars per year, and to the considerable benefit of these extremely profitable and mature industries. These federal subsidies trickle down and reduce the amount of taxable income that fossil fuel companies are required to report to Pennsylvania for state taxes.

When the wind and solar industries — the new kids on the block — ask for much lower subsidies and tax treatment, the line is always the same: “Government isn’t in the business of picking winners and losers.” But that doesn’t even pass the laugh test. We all know who the winners are, and who is picking them, even if there’s no red carpet.

Report: Global Warming Changing Our Lives

Posted on | January 24, 2013 | Comments Off on Report: Global Warming Changing Our Lives

Report: Global Warming Changing Our Lives

Seth Borenstein Published: Jan 24, 2013, 7:26 AM EST Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Global warming is already changing America from sea to rising sea and is affecting how Americans live, a massive new federally commissioned report says.

A special panel of scientists convened by the government issued Friday a 1,146-page draft report that details in dozens of ways how climate change is already disrupting the health, homes and other facets of daily American life. It warns that those disruptions will increase in the future.

(More: Dangerous Smog Situation)

“Climate change affects everything that you do,” said report co-author Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. “It affects where you live, where you work and where you play and the infrastructure that you need to do all these things. It’s more than just the polar bears.”

The blunt report takes a global environmental issue and explains what it means for different U.S. regions, for various sectors of the economy and for future generations.
Play Video
More Snow and Ice Into Weekend

The National Climate Assessment doesn’t say what should be done about global warming. White House science adviser John Holdren writes that it will help leaders, regulators, city planners and even farmers figure out what to do to cope with coming changes.

And climate change is more than hotter temperatures, the report said.

“Human-induced climate change means much more than just hotter weather,” the report says, listing rising-seas, downpours, melting glaciers and permafrost, and worsening storms. “These changes and other climatic changes have affected and will continue to affect human health, water supply, agriculture, transportation, energy, and many other aspects of society.”

The report uses the word “threat” or variations of it 198 times and versions of the word “disrupt” another 120 times.

If someone were to list every aspect of life changed or likely to be altered from global warming, it would easily be more than 100, said two of the report’s authors.

The report, written by team of 240 scientists, is required every four years by law. The first report was written in 2000. No report was issued while George W. Bush was president. The next one came out in 2009. This report, paid for by the federal government, is still a draft and not officially a government report yet. Officials are seeking public comments for the next three months.
“This is no longer a future issue. It’s an issue that is staring us in the face today.”
Katharine Hayhoe, Climate Science Center, TTU

“There is so much that is already happening today,” said study co-author Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. “This is no longer a future issue. It’s an issue that is staring us in the face today.”

This version of the report is far more blunt and confident in its assessments than previous ones, Hayhoe said: “The bluntness reflects the increasing confidence we have” in the science and day-to-day realities of climate change.

The report emphasizes that man-made global warming is doing more than just altering the environment we live in, it’s a threat to our bodies, homes, offices, roads, airports, power plants, water systems and farms.

“Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food and water, and threats to mental health,” the report said.

“Climate change and its impacts threaten the well-being of urban residents in all 13 regions of the U.S.,” the report said. “Essential local and regional infrastructure systems such as water, energy supply, and transportation will increasingly be compromised by interrelated climate change impacts.”

For example, the report details 13 airports that have runways that could be inundated by rising sea level. It mentions that thawing Alaskan ground means 50 percent less time to drill for oil. And overall it says up to $6.1 billion in repairs need to be made to Alaskan roads, pipelines, sewer systems, buildings and airports to keep up with global warming.

Sewer systems across America may overflow more, causing damages and fouling lakes and waterways because of climate change, the report said. The sewer overflows into Lake Michigan alone will more than double by the year 2100, the report said.

While warmer weather may help some crops, others will be hurt because of “weeds, diseases, insect pests and other climate change-induced stresses,” the report said. It said weeds like kudzu do better with warmer weather and are far more likely to spread north.

“Several populations – including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, tribes and other indigenous people – are especially vulnerable to one or more aspects of climate change,” the report said.

More stories on China Smog a Health Problem

Solar PV Becoming Cheaper than Gas in California? | Renewable Energy News Article

Posted on | February 14, 2011 | Comments Off on Solar PV Becoming Cheaper than Gas in California? | Renewable Energy News Article

Solar PV Becoming Cheaper than Gas in California? | Renewable Energy News Article.

Solar Revolution on WQLN Radio

Posted on | February 14, 2011 | Comments Off on Solar Revolution on WQLN Radio

Our president, John Purvis, recently gave an interview to Tom Pysz of WQLN FM 91.3 Erie Radio’s “We Question and Learn” program, discussing photo voltaics, solar thermal water systems, and “sunshine rebate” programs.

To download and listen to John’s full interview on the January 2nd episode of “We Question We Learn”, click the link below.

Solar Revolution featured in Meadville Tribune

Posted on | July 24, 2010 | Comments Off on Solar Revolution featured in Meadville Tribune

The Meadville Tribune recently published a full-page advertisement for Erie Federal Credit Union’s business solutions which featured, among other local businesses, Solar Revolution. Click here to view the feature (~1 MB PDF).


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