Climate Change

Portugal Powered For Four Days Straight Entirely By Renewable Energy

Portugal Powered For Four Days Straight Entirely By Renewable Energy

Just a few days after it was found that Germany was producing so much energy from renewables that they effectivelyhad to pay consumers to use it, yet another country has hit another renewable milestone. Portugal managed to keep its lights on for four consecutive days,powered only by renewables.

Data analysis of the countrys national energy network figures reveal that all electricity consumption was covered by solar, wind, and hydro power from 6.45 a.m UTC on Saturday,May 7 until 5.45 p.m UTCWednesday,May 11. This impressive feat is just one of a number to have come out of Europe over the last year or so, from Germany last week, to Denmark last year breaking its own record by generating 42 percent of its electricity in 2015 by wind power alone.

This is a significant achievement for a European country, but what seems extraordinary today will be commonplace in Europe in just a few years, explains James Watson, the CEO of SolarPower Europe, to The Guardian. The energy transition process is gathering momentum and records such as this will continue to be set and broken across Europe.

The country has come a long way in itscommitments to reducingitsreliance on fossil fuels and switching to more sustainable energy sources. With the milestone being hit in the spring, the energy companies hope that summer will be equally as successful. And all this from a country thatonly three years ago generated half of its energy from burning fuel, and almost a third from nuclear. By last year, however, they managed to turn things around, so that now renewables on average account for just under half of all electricity generation.

These data show that Portugal can be more ambitious in a transition to a net consumption of electricity from 100% renewable, with huge reductions inemissions of greenhouse gasses, which cause global warming and consequently climate change, said the Portuguese sustainability NGO, Zero, in a statement. The recent 107-hour stretch has been put down not just to favorable weather conditions, but also better management of the energy grid.

Portugal just goes to show that it is entirely possible to rapidly shift from a nation heavily reliant on fossil fuels, to one which can be powered in large parts by renewables, despite what many opponents say. This milestone is another marker, of which many more will come over the following months and years, as more and more nations not just in Europe but around the world embrace clean energy.

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Watch A River Full Of Methane Get Set On Fire

Watch A River Full Of Methane Get Set On Fire

Water doesn’t tend to be flammable. A river in Queensland, however, has dramatically eschewed this stereotype. As demonstrated by an adventurous boat-dwelling occupant, this particular body of water bursts into flames when you introduce it to the business end of a barbecue lighter.

As reported by the Washington Post, the Condamine River is full of methane, which explains the unexpected pyrotechnics. There are only two ways a river like this could be filled with enough of methane to cause such a remarkable display: either its a natural process, or its been artificially deposited there.

The man who is seen igniting the water is named Jeremy Buckingham; he belongs to the New South Wales parliaments upper house, and is a member of the Greens, a political party that aims to create an ecologically sustainable society rooted in environmentalism.



Jeremy Buckingham ignites a section of the Condamine River

The lighting of the river was an attempt to link it to the Australian governments profligate use of fracking, a controversial natural gas extraction process that some say is causing huge environmental damage. In particular, the process which involves using explosions at depth to force the gas up to the surface has been said to cause dangerous methane gases to filter into the water table.

Videos taken in the United States, where fracking is also taking place, have previously shown tap water being shockingly flammable. This new video, coming out of the northeastern Australian province, is another attempt to link the potentially risky fossil fuel retrieval method to environmental damage.

However, several studies have come out in the last few years concluding that fracking is not causing methane to filter into various water sources; the links between the two are currently tenuous at best. Methane can also naturally escape to the surface via preexisting fissures, and bacterial processes known to produce methane may suddenly lead to pockets of the gas rushing up through a river or lake environment.

In the case of the Condamine River, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the federal government agency for scientific research in Australia, has said that this case is also driven by natural processes. Although the river is within a few kilometers of several gas fields that are being explored and mined by extraction companies, the CSIRO notes that four major fissures have long been present underneath the river, and methane gas escape is a common occurrence there.

Fracking is becoming a common practice in many Western nations, including the U.K., Australia and the U.S. Calin Tatu/Shutterstock

The presence of the industry there has not caused that crack to occur or that fault to occur, its been there for aeons,ProfessorDamian Barrett, the research director of CSIROs onshore gas program, told the Guardian. We dont see a direct connection, a direct relationship, between whats happening on the gas fields up to this point in time and whats happening in the river.

The recent increase in methane escape, captured so strikingly on camera by Buckingham, could be due to a localized shift in sediment or increase in water flow, which would allow the gas to escape more easily. Either way, Barrett points out that igniting the river is not necessarily an advisable thing to do.

In any case, Buckinghams convictions remain steadfast. It is a remarkable correlation that within 12 months [of] the marked expansion of that gas field, the river closest to that gas field starts bubbling, he said. The jury, as they say, is still out.

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How do Clinton and Trump stack up on environmental issues?

How do Clinton and Trump stack up on environmental issues?

A 2015 Gallup poll shows that the percentage of Americans who are very concerned about the environment is dropping, but environmental issues remain a key window into what a politician values as importantand the issues aren’t going away.

So, where do the two most likely presidential candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton,stand on environmental issues?

In sizing up Clinton andTrump, it’s easy to see the two candidates’ positions as largely representative of their respective parties. Clinton is generally in favor of pushing an environmental agenda, although it hasn’t been at the forefront of her efforts in Washington. While Trump may differ from GOP orthodoxy in some areas, most notably free trade, his environmental positions are generally consistent with the anti-regulatory rhetoric the Republican Party has pushed for generations about environmental regulations hampering the ability of businesses earn profits, which takes precedent over protecting the natural environment.

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Trump on climate change

In an interviewwith the Washington Post editorial board earlier this year, Trump asserted that he’s “not a big believer in man-made climate change,” while admitting that there has been “a change in the weather.”

Instead, he said that focusing on climate change distracts from more important issues like nuclear proliferation.

“I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons,” he said. “The biggest risk to the world, to meI know President Obama thought it was climate changeto me the biggest risk is nuclear weapons. That is climate change. That is a disaster, and we dont even know where the nuclear weapons are right now. We dont know who has them. We dont know whos trying to get them. The biggest risk for this world and this country is nuclear weapons, the power of nuclear weapons.”

OnTwitter, Trump has repeatedly labeled anthropogenicmeaning caused by human activityclimate change a hoax and used individual examples of cold weather as evidence that man-made climate change is a fraud.

Speaking before an assembled crowd at the Trump National Golf Course in Winchester, New York, in 2013, Trump said that year’s particularly frigid winter should haveinspired the revocation of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s Nobel Prize for promoting awareness of climate change.

While he later backed off the statement, calling it a joke, Trump tweeted in 2012 that he believed the concept of climate change is part of a conspiracy to destabilize the American economy.

Trump on the EPA and alternative energy

Trump is broadly against environmental regulations across the board, arguing that such rules largely serve to hamper the economy. In aninterviewwith Fox News host Chris Wallace last year, Trump said he would cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency. “What is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations. They’re making it impossible.”

“We’ll be fine with the environment,” Trump continued. “We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”

As far as Trump’s larger energy policy, there’s a reason former Alaska Gov.Sarah Palin, who ran for vice president on the “Drill Baby, Drill” platform, has been angling for the job ofEnergy Secretary in a Trump administrationeven though the Department of the Interior is actually far more involved in deciding where energy production occurs in the United States.

Trump has been a strong supporter of fossil fuel extraction, especially oil and natural gas deposits unlocked by recent advances in fracking technology.

He also also been critical of alternative energy sources, especially wind power.

The core of the billionaire’s antipathy to wind energy may be more personal than ideological. Last year, Trump lost a protracted legal battle to prevent the construction of a wind farm off the cost of Aberdeen, Scotland, that he argues wouldruin the ocean views from a luxury golf course he owns in the area.

This opposition doesn’t mean Trump has been, at the very least, open to wind energy when it benefits him. He holds an investment inNextEra Energy, one of the world’s largest producers of renewable power, and, when pressed on the issue by a voter in Iowa, Trump said he would be comfortableproviding government subsidies to wind energy firmsa major industry in the state.

Clinton on climate change

Clinton may not be the most stringent environmental crusader in Washington, but her record in government is decidedly greener than Trump’s rhetoric.

Whereas Trump denies climate change, the former secretary of state and New York senator called it “anurgent threat and a defining challenge of our time,” and she has pledged to build on Obama’s plan to bring U.S. carbon emissions 17 percent below their 2005 level by 2020. But environmentalism hasn’t been one of the hallmarks of her political campaigns or decades of public service.

During her tenure in the Senate, Clinton received an82 percent score from the League of Conservation Voters, which hasendorsed her presidential aspirations. She voted in favor of the Climate Security Act, which would have reduced pollution that contributes to climate change and incentivized clean energy development. She voted against an amendment to the National Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act that would have lifted the federal moratorium on oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, she was also in favor of a bill ending the moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Where Clinton falters on the environment

Aposton Clinton’s campaign website outlines a series of environmental programs she would undertake if election president, including upping fuel efficiency standards on automobiles and appliances, launching a $60 billion “Clean Energy Challenge” to push cities to curb pollution, and pushing renewable energy development to decrease the need for drilling for fossil flues in certain environmentally sensitive areas.

Even so, many environmentalists remain skeptical of Clinton’s commitment to the cause. Prominent author and green activist Bill McKibben penned an open letter to the candidate last year entitled “5 Reasons Environmentalists Distrust Hillary Clinton.”

In the piece, which largely focuses on her time as secretary of state during the first term of theObamaadministration, McKibben praised Clinton’s rhetoric but slammed her enthusiasm for fracking (both at home andabroad). He also criticized her inability to provide effective leadership at the 2009 United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, which failed to produce a meaningful international agreement.

The biggest environmental issue Clinton faced while at the helm of the State Department was the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Running from the fracking hub in eastern Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf coast near Houston, the pipeline was a massive endeavor by the Calgary-based energy giant TransCanada that required the approval of the State Department because it crossed an international boundary.

In 2010, Clinton said she was “inclined” to give the green-light to the $8 billion project. This statement drew the ire of environmentalists, who worried that the construction of the pipeline would increase drilling in the Canadian tar sands, which would release an extremely large quantity of greenhouse gases. Clinton left office well before a decision was made and an inspector general report investigating conflicts of interest in the review process under her tenurefound no wrongdoing. Even so, she remained mum on whether or not she believed Keystone XL should be approved until finallycoming out against it last year,long after the issue became a major sticking point for green activists within the Democratic party. Obamaformally rejected the Keystone XL proposal a few months later.

“Had you known it would become a hornets nest, you would doubtless have proceeded more carefullyand in fairness it wasnt until the process was underway that climate scientists raised their most forceful concerns,” wrote McKibbon. “Still, ugh.”

America’s most pressing environmental issue

The 2015 Gallup poll asked respondents what environmental issues they were most concerned about. The single most pressing issue, the only one that cracked 50 percent of people saying they worried about the problem “a great deal,” was the pollution of drinking water. Those fears were brought to a head when news broke about the wholesale contamination of Flint, Michigan’s, drinking water supply.

The Clinton campaign has made a big issue of the situation in Flint, highlighting how cost-cutting by government officials led to a public health crisis in the predominantly African-American city, even going as far aspushing to hold a Democratic presidential debate there. She urged Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder toask for federal assistance safety restoring Flint’s water supply.

When asked about Flint during a campaign event in Iowa earlier this year, Trump said hedidn’t want to talk about it.

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