The possibilities of renewable energy are on display as El Hierro, the smallest of Spain’s Canary Islands, is set to become the world’s first land mass to be fully energy self-sufficient, when an 11.5 megawatt wind farm goes online late next month.
El Hierro, with a population of a little over 10,000, already has a water turbine that generates electricity, so it will be the first island to secure a steady supply of electricity by combining wind and water power, according to an article in the U.K.’s Daily Mail. The island has no connection to any outside electricity network.
Great, why not have some radioactivity in wastewater with your fracking?
The list of perils and impacts from the hydraulic fracturing method of extracting natural gas is mounting, and the latest is that radioactivity is showing up in wastewater from gas field landfills in West Virginia that serve as disposal sites for Marcellus Shale cuttings, Public News Service reports.
Bill Hughes, chair of the Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, is quoted in the report as saying tests on water leaching from the Meadowfill landfill near Bridgeport show “widely varying levels of radioactivity, sometimes spiking to 40 times the clean drinking water standard.” The radioactivity occurs naturally in the drill cuttings and brine that come from Marcellus gas wells, he said, so it is in the waste dumped in Meadowfill and other landfills.
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety has completed inspections at more than 50 percent of the nearly 700 factories from which members of the alliance source.
The alliance, formed last year in the wake of the February 2013 garment factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers, has a five-year mission to address garment-worker conditions in Bangladesh. The incident also exposed unconscionable conditions there, including child labor, staff beatings, ignoring fire safety rules and threatening trade union members with murder, recent investigations have revealed.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources this month released its first report that describes efforts to “track, detect and report” on the impacts of gas development on the state’s forest lands.
The 265-page “Shale-Gas Monitoring Report” is just that: a comprehensive and carefully worded document about the results of the monitoring that the state has conducted since 2011, while avoiding the use of the term hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” almost entirely. It’s “shale-gas development,” not fracking here, and there’s a raft of “key findings and points,” but no conclusions.
“People may have different perspectives on how monitoring is defined, but they want to know that staff is on the ground observing and managing gas development activity that is occurring in our state forests,” explained Ellen Ferretti, secretary of DCNR.
All-electric satellite propulsion is becoming a big deal, and Boeing says it is “on track” to deliver the world’s first all-electric xenon-ion propulsion satellites in late 2014 or early 2015 after meeting key production milestones on its initial 702SP (small platform) satellites.
Boeing announced that it has completed static qualification testing, verification and assembly of the primary structures for 702SP inaugural customers ABS and Eutelsat, meaning the satellites are well on their way to launch. The initial contract for the satellite was signed in 2012 between Boeing and Satmex. Eutelsat acquired Satmex in January 2014.
The four 702SP communications satellites will launch in pairs, and once in orbit, they will be entirely powered and propelled by electricity, rather than relying on rockets.
A new Environmental Protection Agency initiative will recognize U.S. ports that act to improve their environmental performance.
It’s a good idea because port areas generate some of the worst diesel emission problems in the nation, whether it’s from the cargo ships that dock at terminals without powering down their engines, the terminal equipment that services the ships, or the hundreds of trucks moving to and from terminals to load and unload the cargo.
UPS is rescinding its move to fire 250 Queens, N.Y. Teamsters Local 804 drivers, who took part in a 90-minute walk-out on Feb. 26, after city and state officials urged the company to negotiate with the drivers’ union or face the prospect of canceled contracts.
Teamsters Local 804 announced on its website last week that UPS agreed to abandon plans to pink slip drivers who had walked off the job to protest the firing of an employee, Jairo Reyes. Reyes was let go over an hours dispute, a UPS spokesman told Business Insider, but the union said he was terminated without a hearing he was contractually entitled to. It also described the mass firings as “arbitrary discipline.” But UPS maintains that the February walkout jeopardized its ability to serve customers and that the Teamsters’ contract includes a no-strike clause, a company spokesperson told the Huffington Post.
The 84-page report released this month, “Clicking Clean: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet,” notes that AWS “provides the infrastructure for a significant part of the Internet.” But it is “among the dirtiest and least transparent companies in the sector, far behind its major competitors, with zero reporting of its energy or environmental footprint to any source or stakeholder.” Twitter is also a culprit in many of the same areas, the report continues.
Amazon gets failing grades from Greenpeace on energy transparency; renewable energy commitment and siting policy; and renewable energy deployment and advocacy. The company also received a “D” on energy efficiency and mitigation. Amazon Web Services relies heavily on nuclear and coal energy to run data-guzzling services like Netflix, Spotify, Tumblr and Yelp, the report states.
Twitter weighs in with three “fails” and a “D” – the latter in renewable energy commitment and siting policy.
In a demonstration of the power of corporations over workers, unionized or not, UPS began firing 250 Teamster drivers in Queens, N.Y. last week after they dared to stage a 90-minute protest of the firing of long-time employee and union activist Jairo Reeves.
According to news reports from Business Insider and the New York Daily News, which broke the story, the unionized drivers at UPS’s Maspeth facility got their walking papers because they walked off the job briefly on Feb. 26.
Alaska Air Group, which operates Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, has committed to reduce aircraft fuel consumption by 20 percent and use a sustainable aviation biofuel at one or more airports by 2020.
The Seattle-based group’s 93-page sustainability report for 2013, “Innovating for Our Future”—only its second such report—said that since the last report in 2011 fuel efficiency improvements have saved more than 10 million gallons of fuel. The two airlines also cut waste by 50 percent per passenger, saving nearly 2,900 tons of recyclables. Alaska and Horizon are the only airlines that recycle on every domestic flight.
The two airlines have also reduced greenhouse gases by 30.4 percent per revenue mile since the 2004 baseline year.
Not that long ago worker rights were a given, labor unions were strong and powerful, as was the American middle class where a large part of the work and the need to enhance and protect workplace rights, benefits and progress was most in evidence.
Sure, it was a simpler time. Today’s globalized economy and its extended supply chains, rising income inequality, and stagnant economic and trade conditions makes the preservation of worker rights more problematic and difficult. This is especially true for supply chains in manufacturing and retail apparel sectors.
Today, worker rights might even be considered an oxymoron. But it’s a struggle well worth engaging as both a holding action and in efforts to bring workers across the globe living wages, safe working conditions and better standards of living.
Driven by globalization, supply chains are rapidly evolving across every industry sector, and the vendors in those supply chains are often a moving target as multinational corporations search for the lowest cost suppliers. Another unfortunate result of globalization is a race to the bottom by resource-poor, developing nations that are eager to secure sourcing contracts from wealthier countries. Concerns also center on how labor standards can best be monitored and enforced throughout these evolving organizational structures.
Finally, ExxonMobil is agreeing to publicize the risks that stricter carbon emissions rules and limits will have on its business.
In doing so, the largest publicly traded international oil and gas corporation in the world became the first such company to do this.
It seems like a huge deal for a several reasons: The oil major is publicly acknowledging the potential impact of carbon emissions limits on its business model and revealing how it assesses the “risk of stranded assets” from climate change, and it did so at the behest of two shareholder groups.
The landmark agreement with shareholders was disclosed—without comment from ExxonMobil—in a PR Newswire release from Arjuna Capital and As You Sow. Arjuna is the sustainable wealth management platform of Baldwin Brothers Inc., and As You Sow is a nonprofit that promotes environmental corporate responsibility.
Evidence is mounting that there is a connection between the hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—method for extracting natural gas and earthquakes.
Consider this item from EcoWatch this week: “On Monday, Northeast Ohio experienced at least four earthquakes in Mahoning County, just south of Youngstown. Can anyone guess what was nearby? – A fracking site with seven drilling wells. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered the Texas based energy company, Hilcorp, to halt all fracking operations in the area.”
Also on Monday, a ClimateProgress article explored the idea that as fracking operations grow in Ohio, “so do earthquakes.”
Coincidence? It’s possible, but quite possibly not. Ohio is merely the latest place to make this connection: Other sightings on the fracking-earthquake circuit have occurred in the U.K., the Netherlands, British Columbia, East Texas, Oklahoma and even California.
Yes, everyone values solar power—except maybe Big Oil—but how much is it actually worth in terms of dollars and cents? At least the start of an answer came last week from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
Minnesota is the first state in the nation to craft a “value-of-solar” formula for calculating the value of solar power generated by consumers. The big deal is that the methodology is not just about how much solar power is worth to the utility company and its customers, but to society and the environment, according to a ThinkProgress article.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a way to make those ubiquitous plastic shopping bags that litter both land and seascapes useful — by converting them into diesel, natural gas and other petroleum products.
According to a ScienceDaily article, the conversion “produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels — diesel, for example — that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels.” Other products, such as natural gas, naphtha (a solvent), gasoline, waxes and lubricating oils such as engine oil and hydraulic oil also can be obtained from shopping bags, researchers said.