3p Contributor: Andrew Burger

An independent journalist, writer and researcher, my work roams across the nexus where technology, political economy, sociology and ecology intersect and overlap. The apparently lifelong quest for self-knowledge and self-realization, a bit of wisdom and some grace -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and across the Americas. Twitter: @mightysparrow LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email: Huginn.Muginn@gmail.com

Recent Articles

Coastal Ecosystem Restoration Yields Remarkable Economic Returns

| Thursday April 17th, 2014 | 1 Comment

coastecorestorCAPCvr In an increasingly urbanized, technologically complex and consumption-driven society, it’s easy to lose sight of the advantages and benefits to be realized, as well as our fundamental reliance on, ecosystems and the services they provide.

Yet even as our preoccupation with jobs, economic growth and development has continued to intensify, we’ve been gaining greater understanding, and appreciation, of the value of ecosystems and ecosystem services — not just in terms of environmental health and safety, but for their economic and broader social value as well.

On April 9, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Oxfam America released, “The Economic Case for Restoring Coastal Ecosystems,” a report that highlights the remarkable economic value and benefits realized by coastal ecosystem restoration projects carried out right here in the U.S.

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Global Renewable Energy Investment Drops, But Installed Capacity Rises

| Wednesday April 16th, 2014 | 0 Comments

offshorewindFSUNEPRenewable energy investment fell year-over-year in 2013, down 14 percent, but the drop belies some heartening news for market participants and clean energy supporters. In short: Renewable energy’s share of overall power generation continues to grow, and more renewable energy generation capacity is being brought online at much lower cost, solar energy generation capacity in particular.

According to the latest global renewable energy annual report from the Frankfurt School-United Nations Environment Programme Collaborating Centre (FS-UNEP) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, global renewable energy investment totaled $214 billion in 2013, a second consecutive year of decline and 23 percent below a 2011 peak. Even so, renewable energy accounted for 43.6 percent of new power capacity, while renewable energy’s share of worldwide electricity generation rose to 8.5 percent from 7.8 percent in 2012.

There were several other reasons for optimism regarding the outlook for renewable energy, according to FS-UNEP-BNEF’s, “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014.” For one thing, some 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were avoided as a result of renewable power generation last year. But that’s not all.

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Transmission for Renewables: Cheaper and Greener Than Natural Gas Pipelines

| Tuesday April 15th, 2014 | 1 Comment

3ÒÀReducing carbon emissions, boosting energy and water resource efficiency, creating green jobs and boosting local economies, and reducing waste and the potential for conflicts – numerous studies, and actual results – have shown the substantial triple bottom line benefits of bringing renewable energy systems and power transmission infrastructure online.

When it comes to energy, the U.S. has thrived on fossil fuels, however. Expanding to become the largest, most profitable multinational businesses in history, U.S. oil and gas companies have conveyed dependence on, as well as the costs and benefits of, these fossil fuels globally. Along the way, securing steady, affordable supplies of oil and natural gas became the central pillar of U.S. national security, as well as energy, policy.

Our ongoing dependence on, and affinity for, oil and natural gas shows through clearly in numerous instances, one of the most controversial of which is the proposed construction of Keystone XL, as well as numerous other natural gas pipelines. According to recent industry-unaffiliated studies, however, investing in renewable energy transmission infrastructure would not only be better from environmental and social perspectives, but it would also be a lot cheaper and give the U.S. a much bigger bang for its energy buck.

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Rio Tinto Pulls Out Of Pebble Mine, Gifts Shares to Nonprofits

| Monday April 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

copperDealing another major setback to Northern Dynasty Minerals’ plans to develop the world’s largest known undeveloped copper ore deposit, multinational mining giant Rio Tinto, the project’s sole remaining major mining company backer, announced it is divesting its 19.1 percent equity stake in the junior Canadian mining company.

Rio Tinto is taking an extraordinary step in the way of divestment: Rather than trying to find a buyer for its Northern Dynasty shares, management announced it is gifting them to two local nonprofit organizations, dividing them equally between the Alaska Community Foundation and the Bristol Bay Native Corp. Education Foundation.

Situated on state land in southwest Alaska at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, Northern Dynasty aims to build North America’s largest open-pit copper mine at the Pebble Mine site. The Bristol Bay area is also home to one of the world’s richest remaining wild salmon habitat and Alaska’s richest fisheries, however.

IHS Global Insight projects the extraction and processing of copper, gold and molybdenum ore from the Pebble Mine site will create 15,000 jobs and provide a more than $2.5-billion boost to U.S. GDP over at least a 20-year period. Set on the scales against the project is the the value of the Bristol Bay fishery and watershed, which opponents contend would be threatened and significantly degraded, if not destroyed, were the Pebble Mine project to be developed — taking local communities and ways of life along with it.

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McDonald’s Recognizes 51 Suppliers With 2014 ‘Best of Sustainable Supply’ Awards

| Monday April 14th, 2014 | 0 Comments

McD2014SustainableSupplyAwardsAs one of the world’s widest ranging multinational corporations, McDonald’s, has received its fair share of criticism — whether the issues are social, environmental or economic. That’s certainly the case when it comes to the overall sustainability of McDonald’s far-flung network of fast-food restaurants and suppliers. The company has also garnered negative attention for its influence and impact on people’s eating habits and nutrition, as well as the wages and benefits it offers employees.

Yet McDonald’s, as is true of a growing number of multinationals, has been dedicating an increasing amount of resources, time and effort to develop a strategic vision and implement sustainable business methods and practices that improve and enhance the social and environmental, as well as economic, impacts of its operations.

Aiming to spur sustainable business methods and practices throughout its vast network of suppliers, McDonald’s on April 1 announced the winners of its 2014 “Best of Sustainable Supply” awards.

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Clean Solar Initiative II To Add 100 MW of Solar Power on Long Island

| Friday April 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

lipa-logoResidents of New York’s Long Island (2010 estimated population 7.568 million) will be getting more of their electricity from clean, renewable solar energy as the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and PSEG Long Island move forward with the second-round Clean Solar Initiative (CSI-2). Following a four-month application period that ended Jan. 31, the Long Island electric utility on April 2 announced that it had chosen 76 projects out of a prospective 178 CSI-2 proposals in a bid to bring an additional 100 megawatts (MW) of solar power online — enough to power some 13,000 homes.

PSEG Long Island conducted a clearing auction to determine a final bid price of $0.1688 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for the second-round solar energy feed-in tariff (FiT). That’s the fixed rate the utility will pay to project developers over the life of their 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with the utility.

CSI-2′s final bid price is almost 25 percent lower than the prices being paid for solar energy generation via CSI-1, LIPA and PSEG Long Island’s first solar feed-in tariff (FiT) — an annual savings of $8.1 million, PSEG Long Island director of Energy Efficiency and Renewables stated in a press release.

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Water-Energy Nexus: Utah Approves Largest Solar Power Park

| Friday April 11th, 2014 | 0 Comments

UnivUtahSolarScatec Solar on April 1 received final approvals from the Utah Public Service Commission and Iron County Community Development and Renewal Agency to start building what will be Utah’s largest solar energy facility.

Under the terms of a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with PacifiCorp, the 80-megawatt (MW) AC Utah Red Hills Renewable Energy Park will supply clean, renewable electricity to residents in far-off Idaho and Wyoming, as well as Utah, through Rocky Mountain Power.

The project highlights the social and environmental, as well as economic, benefits and advantages to deploying solar and other renewable energy sources as opposed to conventional fossil fuels. Those aren’t limited to green job creation and reducing carbon emissions, but extend to the conservation of increasingly precious freshwater resources.

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Volkswagen Biodiversity Initiative To Establish Nature Corridor in Mexico

| Thursday April 10th, 2014 | 1 Comment

VWThinkBlueOn April 8 Volkswagen (VW), the owner-operator of the largest auto manufacturing plant in North America in Puebla, Mexico, launched an ambitious, pioneering biodiversity and ecological sustainability initiative to help establish a protected biological corridor that will assure local wildlife has the habitat and migratory paths required for their survival. The program also aims to instill a healthy environmental ethic in Mexico’s youth and communities.

With its “Think Blue” strategy, VW has sought to firmly ingrain and establish ecological, as well as economic and social, sustainability principles in its core organizational values, operating policies and procedures. The results of this effort are evident in the company’s “green” manufacturing facility outside Chattanooga, Tenn.

VW is taking that a step further with the “Think Blue. Nature.” program. The world’s third-largest auto manufacturer, VW, is allocating an initial €260,000 (~$358,800) as the first private sponsor of the Corredor Ecologico Sierra Madre Oriental (CESMO) (Eastern Sierra Madre Ecological Corridor), a 4 million-hectare area spanning five Mexican states that provides habitat for some 650 endangered species.

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German Renewable Electricity Consumption Hits Record High 25.4 Percent in 2013

| Wednesday April 9th, 2014 | 0 Comments

germanyoffshoreturbineEuropean economic and fiscal woes, push-back from utilities and the influx of cheap imports from China have created stiff headwinds for Germany’s homegrown renewable energy sector in recent years. Nonetheless, renewable energy reached a record 25.4 percent of Germany’s total electricity consumption in 2014, according to the latest annual statistics from the Working Group on Renewable Energy Statistics (AGEE-Stat), an increase of nearly 2 percent from 2012.

Totaling 53,400 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) and up 5.1 percent year-over-year, onshore and offshore wind energy, at 34.4 percent, accounted for the greatest percentage of renewable electricity consumption in Germany. Despite a sharp scaling down in feed-in tariff (FiT) rates for residential solar photovoltaic (PV) installations, a total 30 million kWh of solar PV was consumed, up 13.7 percent from 26.38 million kWh in 2012.

As the German Embassy noted in a recent news item, “Solar energy implementation has been extremely successful in Germany over the past decade. Solar farms in the south broke records in 2013 for energy production and have continued to produce high levels over the winter.”

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Southeastern Cities Look to Max Out the Triple Bottom Line Returns of Recycling

| Tuesday April 8th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is the second post in a two-part series examining the recycling industry and job creation. In case you missed it, you can check out Part I here

recycling symbolRecycling is a growth industry in the U.S. and around the world, with resource scarcity, cost reduction, and the basic human need and desire for clean, healthy air, land and waters all driving growth.

As was pointed out in Part I of this two-part series, the economic, as well as social and environmental, benefits of recycling are underappreciated and undervalued here in the U.S., where recycling rates lag those of other industrialized nations, however.

Under the aegis of the Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC), manufacturers with operations spanning 11 Southeast U.S. states have joined together to raise awareness and boost recycling rates. They’re not the only ones who see significant benefits and advantages from increasing recycling rates in the U.S.

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Wind Power Is Reducing Electricity Rates; Pays Back Tax Credit 17 Times Over

| Monday April 7th, 2014 | 10 Comments

USWindTurbMtnsACORE Higher performance turbines, lower manufacturing costs and lower prices for consumers drove new U.S. wind energy construction to record heights in early 2014 — despite the U.S. Congress still debating whether or not to renew the federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC), which expired Dec. 31. In many parts of the U.S., wind energy is now the cheapest form of electricity generation – cheaper than natural gas and even coal, NextEra chief financial office Moray P. Dewhurst recently stated on an earnings call.

The federal wind energy PTC has been instrumental in the U.S. wind energy industry achieving that milestone. Yet, Congress has been playing “now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t” with the U.S. wind energy industry for two decades now. Every time the PTC expires, wind energy investment and new capacity tumbles; when it’s in place, wind energy booms. It’s just bad policy, emblematic of the divisive partisanship, cronyism, lack of foresight and political leadership that has come to characterize U.S. politics.

In its “Outlook for Renewable Energy 2014,” the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), working in conjunction with U.S. renewable energy industry trade associations, presents facts and figures that clearly illustrate the triple-bottom-line benefits and advantages the U.S. wind energy industry brings to American society, and how the renewable energy PTC has played a seminal role in spurring them on to realization.

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Southeast Manufacturers Join to Spur Job Creation Through Recycling

| Monday April 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment

plasticwasteFrom local to global, conservation of natural resources and ecosystems — and the quality of our air, land and waters — have become increasingly public, and pressing, issues in recent decades. Pressures on fundamental ecosystems and services are increasing along with the costs and risks associated with climate change. At the same time, local communities across the U.S. are struggling to cope with changing demographics, rapid and profound technological change, sluggish job creation, and widening gaps in income, wealth and political representation.

The numerous and varied benefits to be gained by doing more with less — by reducing waste, reusing, and recycling materials, water and energy — are widely acknowledged. Doing so creates cleaner, healthier communities and helps minimize destructive environmental impacts. Yet, in the face of all this, Americans continue to lag compared to their industrialized peers when it comes to recycling. Furthermore, the positive economic impacts recycling is having in terms of boosting local and regional economies are underappreciated, undervalued or largely unnoticed.

The shortfall of domestic U.S. supply and the demand for recycled materials hits home in the Southeast, where manufacturers make use of more recycled materials than in any other region of the nation. Recycling is a growth industry, one that continued to expand through the depths of the last recession. Why? “Because there’s value there,” Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC) executive director Will Sagar highlighted in a 3p interview.

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Sustainable Cities: Vision of Solar-Powered Skyscrapers Nearer Reality

| Friday April 4th, 2014 | 0 Comments

SolarWindowthubmbIAs urbanization, and urban populations, continue to spread, finding ways to enhance the quality of urban life and make urban living socially, ecologically and economically more sustainable has become a critical issue in our times. Much attention is being focused on reducing waste and pollution and making buildings more energy, water and waste-efficient, as well as powering them with clean, renewable energy.

Lined with high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, designing economically viable distributed renewable energy systems for the densely-packed built environment of cities presents a stiff challenge for architects, builders, urban planners, and renewable energy technology and project developers.

At least a couple of innovative startups are making strides toward developing a product that could go a long way toward realizing this goal, however, by creating transparent organic solar photovoltaic (PV) films that can be applied to commercial glass plates.

Last week, 3p’s Mary Mazzoni noted the progress being made by German solar company Heliatek, which unveiled a 40 percent transparent organic solar cell that’s ideal for generating energy from windows, façades and glass car roofs. There’s at least one other entrant in the field. If remaining hurdles can be overcome, solar-glass developers at New Energy Technologies envision SolarWindow arrays being installed on and producing clean, renewable electricity for high-rise buildings, apartment and office towers in cities around the world.

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Tropical Pacific Ocean Acidification Occuring Much Faster Than Expected, NOAA Finds

| Thursday April 3rd, 2014 | 9 Comments

pmel-oceanCO2uptakeChange is taking place in the tropical Pacific Ocean, where NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) researchers have found that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have increased as much as 65 percent faster than atmospheric CO2 since 1998. Rising CO2 concentrations of this magnitude indicate that tropical Pacific waters are acidifying as fast as ocean waters in the polar regions, which may have grave repercussions for marine food webs, biodiversity, fisheries and tourism.

NOAA researchers collected data from CO2 sensors that NOAA Research Pacific Marine Environmental Lab Carbon Group scientists and engineers installed on moored buoys within the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Array, a network of buoys stretching across the Pacific. The data stretches from 1997-2011, NOAA explains in a press release.

“We have a 30-year record of CO2 collected from instruments on ships, but this new data tell us the tropical Pacific has changed more rapidly in the past 14 years than observed previously,” coauthor and NOAA Senior Scientist Richard Feely was quoted as saying.

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‘Negawatts’ Yield Juicy Returns, Possibility of Net Zero Emissions for California

| Monday March 31st, 2014 | 0 Comments

greenstationsavings Spurred by a state government mandate and surprisingly attractive rates of return, interest in intelligent energy storage systems looks to be surging in California. Aiming to scale installations of its GreenStation demand management-smart battery storage system, Green Charge Networks (GCN) reports that California municipalities, including the cities of Lancaster and Redwood City, are joining national retail chains and industrial businesses in signing GCN Power Efficiency Agreements (PEAs) and deploying the solution.

California is at the leading, some would say bleeding, edge of developing a new energy infrastructure centered on a diversified mix of clean, renewable and distributed energy resources. Boosting energy efficiency figures to play a big role in reducing energy use and carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.

Turning traditional energy economics on its head, companies such as GCN are taking advantage of technological innovation, government incentives and existing utility rate structures and finding ways of boosting energy efficiency by paying people and businesses to use less energy – so-called “negawatt” pricing – hence reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.

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