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[1THING] Blog: Archive for April, 2012

[ The Environment: A Long Term Investment Strategy? ]

Recently, Warren Buffet, often referred to as the “Oracle of Omaha” for his legendary investment strategies, offered a recipe for success in an annual report published by Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Buffet named three “key ingredients” for companies to remain profitable and competitive in the 21st century: invest in “people, communities and the environment,” advising that “taking shortcuts is not the pathway to achieving sustainable competitive advantage, nor is it an avenue toward satisfying customers.” 

Buffet also noted that “today our world is changing faster than ever before – economic, geo-political and environmental challenges abound.” Berkshire Hathaway has made significant forward looking investments in renewable technologies including solar. If we heed his words, a smart strategy would be to invest in infrastructure for the future—for example, to link remote areas of the west that contain many of the country’s most excellent renewable energy resources. As Warren Buffet prophesizes, gaining competitive advantage requires businesses to think long term about where people live, how to tread lightly on the land and technologies with a long shelf life.

Remarkably, Congress recognized the wisdom of protecting “people, communities and the environment” over 40 years before Buffet offered his multi-billion dollar advice. In 1969, Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with overwhelming, and now rare, bipartisan support. The law requires that before undertaking projects that may significantly affect the environment, including air and water resources, federal agencies must assess the impacts of proposals, solicit the input of all affected stakeholders and disclose their findings publicly.

Critically, NEPA recognizes that the public – which includes industry, landowners, local and state governments and business owners – can make important contributions by providing unique expertise. NEPA’s common sense axiom is simply “look before you leap,” which is exactly the type of smart investment strategy Warren Buffet prescribes.

If Buffet’s advice doesn’t win you over, heed the advice of the national security experts, which advocates that renewable energy project developers should consult with military bases at the initial “napkin planning stages” of project development, a practical step towards avoiding project delays due to conflicting uses of the land.

Nowhere are the benefits of public input and environmental analysis more evident than in the current solar development and planning efforts taking place across the west. Solar development has shown NEPA is working—the average time for environmental review for utility-scale solar projects on public lands in 2010 was 1.4 years, well within other permitting time frames for similarly sized projects, and remarkable given these projects’ are unique in scale and complexity.

To spur further responsible investment in large-scale solar , the Department of the Interior has nearly completed a six-state study of the best solar resources on public lands with the lowest environmental and other conflicts. This process—afforded under NEPA’s “programmatic” review, will lead investors and developers to low conflict project sites across the southwest, and result in better projects.  Using the NEPA process, the DOI has received invaluable input from industry groups, other agencies, environmental groups and concerned citizens.

Recently however, many in Congress have failed to recognize that long-term economic competitiveness requires both investment in sustainable technologies and robust environmental review.  In the past year alone, over forty pieces of legislation have been proposed which aim at weakening or waiving NEPA’s requirements for public participation and early environmental analysis.  In reality, circumventing environmental review has the potential to result in “real” costs to projects by ignoring potential alternatives, inviting litigation and delaying permits. And as Mr. Buffet’s advises “taking shortcuts is not the pathway to achieving sustainable competitive advantage” – what’s good for the environment is good for the bottom line. 

This piece was co-authored by Stephen Schima of the Partnership Project.



[ Green Quiz Challenge – Wind Power ]

Green Quiz – Wind Power

Rainbow windAlthough coal, nuclear and gas all supply more electricity to the U.S. grid than wind power, the future looks much different: wind capacity is blasting ahead of these other sources when it comes to the pace of growth and new installed capacity.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, “wind accounts for 35% of all new electricity generating capacity since 2007” and powers nearly 10 million homes in the U.S. Some states already get a sizable chunk of their energy supply from wind power. In this green quiz, we test your knowledge of wind power supply.

Which state gets nearly 20% of its electricity supply from wind power, a higher percentage than any other state?   

A. Texas    B. California   C. Maryland     D. Iowa

The correct answer is D. Iowa. Congratulations to our green quiz winners: Heather Epkins, Michael Glausser, and Clint Carney!

While Texas has more total wind capacity than any other state, Iowa gets the largest chunk of its energy supply from wind compared to other states. To learn more about the state of wind power in the U.S., check out the American Wind Energy Association factsheets.


[ Green Tips: Going Renewable is Easier Than You Think ]

Tips for Buying Renewable Electricity


Wind farm in Iowa by Billwhittaker at en.wikipedia

Even though renewable energy is getting less costly to install each year, the up-front costs for many families and companies is still difficult to bear. But putting solar panels on your roof isn't the only way to support renewable energy. A growing number of electric companies are offering green power, green pricing or renewable energy credits (RECs) to consumers. Here are some tips for making the switch to clean power and supporting the greening of our grid:

  • Find out how green your existing utility is with the EPA’s handy power profile report. Simply plug your zip code into the form and you’ll get a report on both the power mix in your area and the types of emissions produced by those sources.
  • Learn the lingo. Green Power is renewable electricity directly supplying the grid, large or small, that you draw power from. A Renewable Energy Credit (or REC) is proof of one megawatt-hour of renewable energy generation that you can buy separately and match with your home electricity use to make it green. Green Pricing allows you to add renewables to your power mix after paying a premium on your bill, though signing up for some green pricing programs could even cost less than your regular electric bill!
  • Howrecs

    How RECs Work (Image: Renewable Choice Energy)
  • Crowdfund a renewable project in your community. Think of it like a community garden: neighbors can buy “shares” in a solar project in their town to both make a bigger impact than a single project and save money. Colorado and Delaware have the most experience with such arrangements, but others are joining the fray. Visit Northwest Community Energy for more information.
  • Ask your utility to support green power. Email or call your power company and tell them that you want them to both switch to sustainable sources like wind and solar and offer their customers more green power options.
  • Make sure it’s certified. Green-e is the most widely-used certification system for renewable energy generation in the U.S. Check that your clean energy supplier meets Green-e standards.
  • Don’t forget about efficiency. Efficiency might not be as flashy as renewables, but it could make an even bigger impact on emissions reductions while reducing your electricity costs. Check out our article on weatherproofing your home or Going Green Today for helpful advice.
  • Compete with your friends. If you’re on Facebook, consider connecting to Opower social to easily compare your energy usage with your friends and get energy-saving tips.



Clean Energy Customers (Photo: Clean Currents)


Resources from our member organizations:

Buy Green Power, Union of Concerned Scientists

Bottom Line on Renewable Energy Certificates, World Resources Institute

Renewable Energy for America, Natural Resources Defense Council

Cool Citizens: Everyday Solutions to Climate Change: Household Solutions, Rocky Mountain Institute

Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge, Student Conservation Association


[ Gardening questions ANSWERED! ]

Whether you’ve got the greenest thumb on the block or you’re turning soil for the first time this year, you’ll find bushels of ideas for growing a great garden at UW Family Gardening Day, on Saturday, May 12 on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Experts from UW-Madison and UW-Extension, along with master gardeners and other volunteers, will be on hand from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the D.C. Smith Greenhouses and the Allen Centennial Gardens, hosting a wide variety demonstrations and displays, answering questions and offering advice and free samples. The event is free and open to the public.

This is a new location for this annual spring garden extravaganza-it’s been held at West Madison Agricultural Research Station in the past-so repeat visitors will find plenty of new things to see and do.

Visitors can visit the D.C. Smith Instructional Greenhouses to tour the university’s classrooms under glass, bask in the lush tropical conservatory and learn about the science behind the colors and flavors of cranberry.  A short block away, highlights at the Allen Centennial Gardens will include a trial of various mulches used to extend the growing season, and examples of different ways to grow vegetables in limited space, including containers and several types of raised beds.

There are plenty of activities for kids as well. They can build their own terrarium, extract DNA glop from wheat, and more. Since the event happens the day before Mothers Day, kids can take home the perfect gift-vegetable and flower transplants to plant at home so that mom can enjoy them all season long.

The D.C. Smith Greenhouse is located at 465 Babcock Drive, across the street from Babcock Hall.  Allen Centennial Gardens is a block north at 620 Babcock Drive. Free parking is available in Lot 40 behind Babcock Hall and in Lot 36 just west of Steenbock Library.

More information and directions to the gardens are available at http://www.science.wisc.edu.


[ Gulf Still Struggling Two Years After Deepwater Horizon Disaster ]

Two Years After Deepwater Horizon


Although it’s been two years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the people and wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico are still feeling the impacts of the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Many of EarthShare’s member charities have been working in the Gulf since the disaster, including scientists, doctors, policymakers and economists who are documenting the long-term effects of the spill. Here’s what they’re finding:

Deformed aquatic life: “Louisiana fishers have pulled up entire nets of eyeless shrimp… Fish and shrimp have tumors and lesions. Such deformities happened even before the spill, but the high number of diseased and deformed animals being found after the spill shock both fishers and scientists. In some areas after the spill, a startling 50% of fish have these lesions.” – Oceana

Sick dolphins: “Dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico are dying in unprecedented numbers. This month marks a record-shattering 26 consecutive months of above-average dolphin strandings. Only 5 percent of the stranded dolphins were recovered alive and their prognosis was usually poor.” – Restore the Mississippi River Delta

Health impacts on humans: “Fishermen, cleanup workers, and kids report strange rashes, coughing, breathing difficulty, eye irritation, and a host of other unexplained health problems that have persisted in the years since the disaster.” – Natural Resources Defense Council

Damaged coral reefs: “After months of laboratory work, scientists say they can definitively finger oil from BP’s blown-out well as the culprit for the slow death of a once brightly colored deep-sea coral community in the Gulf of Mexico that is now brown and dull.” – Associated Press

Declined fisheries: “Crabbers are harvesting 75 percent fewer crabs than in years before the spill, and the crabs they do catch are often dead, discolored, and riddled with holes or missing sections of their shells.” – Defenders of Wildlife

Contaminated zooplankton: “Contaminated zooplankton were actually chemically fingerprinted with certainty back to origins from the Deepwater Horizon blowout. And since zooplankton serve as food for baby fish and shrimp, they help move oil contamination and pollutants up the food chain.” – Defenders of Wildlife

Stagnant economy: “Seasonally-adjusted unemployment numbers for nineteen metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) adjacent to or on the Gulf of Mexico show that while some metro areas reported declines in unemployment between May 2010 and May 2011, most did not.” – Environmental Defense Fund

What can you do to help? Consider making an Earth Day gift to support the organizations committed to ongoing restoration in the Gulf, visit Restore the Mississippi River Delta, a collaborative effort from several of our member charities, and read these reports from our members on the lasting effects of the spill:

A Degraded Gulf Of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Two Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster – National Wildlife Federation

Offshore Drilling Reform Report Card – Oceana

The Chaos Of Clean-Up – Earthjustice

In Deep Water: Weak Governance and the Gulf Oil Spill, a 30-Year Timeline – World Resources Institute


[ EarthShare Staff Show How Easy it is to Go Renewable ]

EarthShare Staff Go Renewable

Aurora - solar panel
Aurora Oliva, Project Coordinator at EarthShare Oregon installed solar panels on her roof in 2010

“We’re buying some of the sun!” That was the proud proclamation Max Woodfin’s then 7-year-old son made when their family started purchasing solar power 20 years ago. Woodfin, Director of EarthShare Texas, lives in Austin and has been helping his utility, Austin Energy, integrate solar power into their local grid by paying an extra fee on his energy bill each month (in an arrangement known as green pricing).

Max Woodfin

Max Woodfin

Woodfin is only one of the many EarthShare staff members around the country who’ve made the switch to renewable energy. Their stories illustrate how easy it is to support the greening of the American grid and how diverse the options for clean energy purchasing are becoming.

Austin as a whole has been upping its commitment to renewable energy each year – Houston, TX is the only city in the country that purchases more green power. By this year, every Austin municipal building will run on 100% renewable energy. By 2030, at least 35% of the city’s energy must be generated by renewable sources.

The growing interest in renewables is reflected on the individual level too: Woodfin has noticed an uptick in the number of people taking part in Austin’s green energy programs and in conversations about the topic on community listservs. Although it costs a bit more to support renewable energy in his region, Woodfin says it’s worth it. “You’re putting your faith and your pocketbook in future generations,” he says.

Max Woodfin of EarthShare Texas buys solar power through his utility for his home in Austin

William Borden, Director of EarthShare Washington agrees. “You’ve got to believe that for people who know about climate change, especially if you have grandkids, renewables make sense.”  Borden’s household participates in Seattle City Light’s Green Up program which, like Austin Energy, charges consumers a monthly fee to integrate more renewables into the grid.

“Seattle is a city that prides itself on being sustainable,” Borden says, pointing to a recent mayoral race in which the two leading candidates tried to “out-green” each other for votes.


William Borden

Nearby Portland, OR is also renowned for its commitment to sustainability and EarthShare Oregon is no exception. Everyone at their office either purchases renewable energy or generates their own electricity from solar panels, with tax incentives and zero or low interest loans from the local utility, Portland General Electric.

“I think most of the west-coast utility companies push efficiency and renewables pretty hard, so it’s easy to be “green” out here,” says EarthShare Oregon Director Jan Wilson.  “Oregon has only one coal-fired power plant (which will be shut down in a couple years), no off-shore or on-land oil drilling, and our hydro-power dams are at capacity.  So it’s either wind and solar, or we have to pipe in more natural gas, and nobody’s up for that.”

EarthShare President and CEO Kalman Stein considered putting solar panels on his Maryland home last year, but he decided to purchase wind power from local renewable energy supplier Clean Currents instead when he discovered optimal sunlight would require cutting some of his trees down.


Jan Wilson

Stein learned about Clean Currents when he had an energy audit conducted on his home. In addition to suggesting weatherization work, the audit recommended he switch to Clean Currents’ wind power program.

Maryland’s electricity market is deregulated, so residential rate-payers can choose the company that supplies their home’s power. Now Stein’s home is supplied with wind power through Clean Currents. His electric bill still comes through the regional utility provider so there’s no extra paperwork to fill out. Several other EarthShare national staff, both in Maryland and DC, also purchase wind power from Clean Currents.

When customers in Washington DC and Maryland switch to wind power from companies like Clean Currents, they often find that their electricity bills are lower than or at least equal to what a regular utility might charge. In other words, renewable energy is competitive with sources like coal and nuclear, leaving no reason for people not to make the switch. A handful of other states have deregulated energy markets that make renewables not only the more environmentally-friendly option, but the more cost-effective one as well.


Kal Stein

The Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), which administers Green-e, the country’s leading certification system for renewable energy markets in the U.S., says that there is much more consumers could be doing to support green power. “When utilities offer these programs to their customers, the average subscription rate is 2%. That’s abysmal,” says Jeff Swenerton, Communications Director at CRS. Buying green power is easy and inexpensive and “it makes a difference,” he says.

EarthShare staff recognize that renewables are only one aspect of addressing energy and climate change concerns. Renewable energy, which tackles the supply side, won’t help the problems we face unless we drastically scale back demand for energy too in the form of more efficient buildings and cities. That’s why people like Woodfin, Wilson and Stein link their clean energy purchases to building retrofits and weatherization or point to efficiency measures enacted by local governments.

Ready to make the switch to clean energy yourself? Read our tips on buying renewable power to get started – you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. Then tell us about the status of renewables in your own region in the comments section!


[ Got green guilt? ]

Do you suffer from “green guilt?”

A new survey shows 29 percent of Americans admit they do.

“Green guilt” is defined as the knowledge that you could and should be doing more to help preserve the environment. The finding represents more than double the percentage (12 percent) who professed to feel guilty in 2009, according to a survey by Call2Recycle, which says it’s the only free rechargeable battery and cell phone collection program in North America.

According to the survey, more than half of Americans (57 percent) say they have old electronics that they need to dispose of or discard, including cell phones (46 percent), computers (33 percent) and TVs (25 percent), followed by cordless phones (19 percent) and rechargeable batteries (17 percent).

The survey also shows that many Americans have good intentions. Eighty-four percent say they have recycled in the past year to help the environment; as well as turned out lights/unplugged rechargers (68 percent); and purchased “green” products (53 percent).

When asked what barriers to recycling exist, 44 percent say not knowing how or where to recycle old technology.

Have they ever tried google?

If you’ve got some junk you’re looking to recycle, here’s a good place to start. Click here.

If you live in the city of Madison, you can find another great resource here.


[ Natural Gas for Cars ]

Does it make climate sense to drive cars with natural gas?

Our nation appears to be rapidly moving to a natural gas-powered economy. Advances in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling have made huge deposits of natural gas in shale and tight sands commercially viable. (See “Hydrofracturing: An Energy Revolution.”) Suddenly the United States is awash with a cheap form of domestic energy. Cheap enough to compete successfully against coal for generating electricity and climate friendly enough to make it the Environmental Protection Agency’s electricity-generating choice as well.

But there are some troubling questions, some related to the environmental damage that fracking might cause to local communities and others related to the climate benefits of natural gas itself.

Because the major ingredient of natural gas is methane, a powerful greenhouse gas many times more effective a global warmer than CO2, any leakage of natural gas during the extraction (production), transport or storage stage can offset or even overwhelm the climate benefits of burning natural gas instead of coal.

Where you end up coming down on the argument about climate benefits largely depends upon what you assume about the leakage rate for natural gas. Assuming a large leakage of as much as eight percent of the total production might lead you, as it did Cornell’s Robert Howarth et al, to conclude that sticking with “dirty” coal is more beneficial from a climate perspective. Assuming a more modest leakage of up to three percent, as EPA estimates, might result in the conclusion that switching to natural gas provides a climate benefit (although, because it is a fossil fuel, not a carbon-free one without carbon capture and storage).

Don’t count on that debate being resolved until the scientific community and gas industry team up to comprehensively determine just how much gas is actually leaking.

But while the debate roils over the climate benefit of substituting natural gas for coal in electricity generation, there has not been a similar assessment of whether it makes climate sense to substitute natural gas (actually compressed natural gas or CNG) for petroleum to power our cars and trucks. That is, until now, with the publication of a new paper by Ramon Alvarez of the Environmental Defense Fund and co-authors (including yours truly) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Why Natural Gas-Powered Cars and Trucks?

At current prices, switching to compressed natural gas as a fuel for your car or truck would seem a no-brainer, as on an energy basis, natural gas costs about half as much as gasoline. And because natural gas is a domestic fuel, it makes great sense from a national security point of view. There are downsides:

Still it is an alternative, and one that some municipal transportation systems have opted for.So, does the switch make sense from a climate perspective?

An Estimate of Climate Impacts of Vehicles Powered by Compressed Natural Gas

When it comes to fossil fuels and carbon emissions, coal is the dirty fuel and natural gas the clean one with petroleum in the middle. Because coal is so “dirty,” it is relatively easy for natural gas to beat out coal in the climate-benefit contest for producing electricity. But the case is not that clear when it comes to natural gas and gasoline.

To assess the relative benefits, Alvarez et al used a metric we called the technology warming potential (TWP), which calculates the relative warming of a given fuel or technology choice over the lifetime of its use. The results were not encouraging for compressed natural gas-powered cars.

Even when adopting EPA’s modest leakage rates, we found that a full-scale U.S. move from gasoline to natural gas would initially lead to more warming than if we just stuck with gasoline.

Because methane is removed from the atmosphere more rapidly than CO2, the extra climate warming from natural gas leakage doesn’t last forever but eventually disappears. But that happens very slowly.

The break-even point between warming and cooling doesn’t happen in the Alvarez et al calculations until 80 years after the initial switch. And a 10 percent climate benefit compared to sticking with gasoline doesn’t accrue for 150 years. And that 10 percent benefit is approximately equivalent to improving a vehicle fleet that gets 30 miles per gallon by a mere three miles per gallon. Switching from diesel to compressed natural gas would take almost 300 years before seeing a climate benefit.

If we’re serious about cutting greenhouse gases in the coming decades, that, my friends, is simply not going to, as the phrase goes, cut it.*

Leakage the Key

Of course the wildcard in our study and all the related ones is the uncertainty surrounding the natural gas leakage rate. A colleague of mine commented on this subject saying, and I paraphrase, the more one learns about natural gas leakage, the more one realizes we don’t know much about it. It is conceivable that leakage rates are actually less than EPA’s estimate, in which case compressed natural gas might be a climate winner. And of course the opposite may also be the case.

And so the debate rages on, with claims and counterclaims (see here, here, and here). Of course one way to resolve the issue is for the scientific community and gas industry to team up and comprehensively determine just how much gas is actually leaking. (Here’s a study looking at methane leakage rates in Colorado.)

But there’s an easier way out that would make the whole debate over leakage moot: simply close up the leaks in the supply network and capture the natural gas before it escapes. In fact, in our paper we estimated that if leakage rates were cut to 1.6 percent (as opposed to the three percent estimate used in the paper) “CNG cars would result in climate benefits immediately and improve over time.”

You know what they say: a cubic foot of natural gas saved is a climate benefit earned.


End Note

* On the other hand, it should be noted that Alvarez et al did find an
immediate climate benefit in switching from coal to natural gas for
electricity generation when using EPA’s modest leakage rates.


[ DotGreen and EarthShare ]

DotGreen & EarthShare

DotGreen & EarthShare Partner on Initiatives to Benefit Global Sustainability

EarthShare, a non-profit federation that raises and distributes funds to environmental initiatives, and The DotGreen Community, Inc., the registry applicant for the .green top-level domain (TLD), will collaborate to distribute grants from sales of registrations in the .green TLD to organizations and programs globally that focus on sustainability.

DotGreen is a Partner of EarthShare

The DotGreen Community, Inc. has applied to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the domain name industry’s governing authority. ICANN will review this and applications for other TLDs over the coming months, with the first of the newly granted extensions projected for availability early 2013.

The .green TLD, conceived in 2007, was the first environmental new TLD initiative proposed to international environmental groups and the Internet community. DotGreen’s founders have made philanthropy an essential component of the organization’s mission.

“We developed the .green Top-Level Domain to advance the green movement,” said Annalisa Roger, Founder and CEO of The DotGreen Community. “EarthShare is a respected leader in environmental giving, and with its 23 years of experience, is the perfect partner to help us give to important green initiatives and organizations globally, effectively and efficiently.”

EarthShare is a longstanding supporter of DotGreen’s project and has communicated to ICANN its support for the organization’s application. EarthShare has raised more than $260 million for environmental causes, and applauds the potential contributions of the new TLD.

“We’re thrilled to be working with DotGreen,” said EarthShare CEO Kal Stein. “Our members and partners are always looking for ways to expand their reach in environmental and social programs. A TLD that focuses on sustainability and environmentalism will be an outstanding opportunity to do so.”

DotGreen seeks to foster common ground for the green movement, allowing the .green namespace to become the unifying online space for sustainability efforts. DotGreen also embeds routine green philanthropy into the existing domain name and other industries relying on the Internet, allowing a portion of proceeds from every .green web address to contribute to environmental good via the Non-profit Public Benefit Charity organization, The DotGreen Foundation. EarthShare will manage the distribution of these grants to environmental charities.

“The already flourishing green movement will benefit by having a dedicated namespace where information can be easily found and identified,” Roger said. “We intend to use registration revenue to fund efforts to establish sustainable action in everyday life. Our organizations share an approach that focuses on accessibility and inclusivity. We recognize the necessity and importance of collaboration between all global citizens.”

Roger projects registrations in .green—and the resulting funding of environmental projects—will be available in 2013.

About the New .green TLD: Initiated in 2007 by the DotGreen Foundation as a Non-profit for Public Benefit Charity Organization. ICANN’s delegation of the .green TLD for management to The DotGreen Community, Inc. will allow an online green namespace, launching .green in 2013 as a tool for people and businesses making green choices. Registrants of .green domain names will be supporting The DotGreen Foundation, spreading awareness, boosting the green movement, and growing the green economy online. A .green Internet will invite Internet users all over the world to do their part, one step at a time, until collectively, we make the timely shift to greener lifestyle and business practices on a global scale. http://www.dotgreen.org //http://www.facebook.com/dotgreencommunity

About EarthShare: EarthShare helps strengthen corporations and organizations by connecting hundreds of thousands of individuals, companies and public agencies with environmental and conservation groups through employee engagement and giving campaigns at workplaces across the United States. In the past 20 years EarthShare has raised $300 million for more than 500 national and local member charities. Connect – Contribute – Volunteer

About ICANN: The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers mission is to ensure a stable, secure and unified global Internet. Formed in 1998, ICANN is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers. Through its role coordinating the Internet’s naming system, it has an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet. For more information please visit: http://www.icann.org




[ Straightening out mixed messages on solar ]


Some are telling a story that says we cannot protect fragile wildlands in the California desert if we are also working to address climate change.  That is simply not true.  The reality is that we can and must do both, but it must be done carefully.

Climate change, caused by polluting types of energy such as coal, oil and natural gas, threatens to harm our nation’s special lands, from the Mojave Desert to the woodlands of Maine. Guarding our wildlands includes taking action to advance the full range of clean energy alternatives to address the root cause of climate change, from energy efficiency and rooftop solar to the large-scale energy projects. Finding a solution is a promise we need to keep with future generations.

States and communities are recognizing the need to take swift action to move away from coal, natural gas and other fossil-produced electricity. California, in particular, has made the strongest commitment in the nation with a commitment to generate 33% of the state’s power from renewable energy by 2020.  This leadership, and the public’s strong support for renewable energy, is resulting in renewable energy projects being built in the state. Our involvement will help ensure that the places we care about most are protected from the unavoidable impacts of these big projects.

One thing is very clear—there are some lands that are unsuitable for development. For that reason, we have worked closely with regional conservation partners, biologists, land planning specialists, sportsmen and others to identify lands that should not be considered for development while identifying more appropriate places to develop instead.

We also continue to advocate for energy efficiency measures, regulatory advancements needed to accommodate more distributed solar panels, development on abandoned farm land, and redevelopment of contaminated lands as we work to ensure large scale projects are sited in appropriate places.

These experiences are being built into policies aimed at shaping solar development on public lands—to help avoid the problems we have come to expect with oil and gas development. Through the Bureau of Land Management’s solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, we are working across six southwestern states to focus future development in zones prescreened to minimize sensitive resources. 

And a similar effort is being led by our partners, working with the State of California, counties, the general public, and other stakeholders to develop an overarching renewable energy and land/wildlife conservation plan for the California desert called the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). Partnerships like these will continue to be the most effective means to find an appropriate balance between meeting some of our energy needs in the California desert while ensuring key resources are preserved.

As we work to advance “smart from the start” solar development policies we also continue to advocate for the protection of key wildlands in the California desert.  With our partners, we strongly support Senator Dianne Feinstein’s California Desert Protection Act of 2011, which will protect over 1.5 million acres of national monuments and wilderness.  This legislation builds on the Senator’s successful 1994 desert legislation that protected over 7 million acres of national parks and wilderness, which The Wilderness Society played a key role in getting passed.  Our efforts on solar energy siting have helped guide projects away from the conservation areas in this important legislation. 

Safeguarding our public lands includes permanent protections such as wilderness and other designations, but also taking action to advance the full range of clean energy alternatives.  If we fail to act, and act quickly, the irreversible impacts of climate change on the Mojave Desert—and all of our nation’s ecosystems—will be disastrous.   

As is often the case with hotly contested public lands policy, the solutions to these thorny issues are not black or white but varying shades of grey.  It will take all of us – national and local environmental groups, counties and citizens – working together to find solutions that preserve the vibrant California desert of today that we know and love for the generations that follow.