Posted in clean renewable energy, decarbonization, electrify everything, EV, goals, policy, solutions, transport

Testimony on 10/2/19

Below is my testimony on 10/2/2019 at a meeting of PHL Council’s Environment Committee. Video available here.


Hello! I’m Meenal Raval, an active member of Philly’s Ready for 100! I also write an Energy column for GRID magazine and produce a weekly radio show Philly Talks Climate.

Today is October 2nd. Mahatma Gandhi was born 150 years ago today. Gandhi is known for satyagraha — sticking to the truth, and ahimsa — non-violence toward all living things. In the US, ahimsa, or non-violence has been used by many activists. I’d like to expand non-violence to the climate movement, to saving the ecosystem we all call home.

In light of this, I support bill 190600, also known as the building energy performance policy. Regularly checking on thermostats, motion sensors, HVAC systems and more could save the owners money, use less energy & water, and reduce emissions. They also make the space more comfortable. How many times have you complained about an auditorium, a library or an office space being too warm or too cold?

In reading this bill, it seems our Office of Sustainability would be reviewing the energy usage of 2000 or more large buildings. If you want this bill to succeed, this office may require additional staffing.

I’d like to remind this committee that the building energy performance policy is but one component of our bigger ask — to transition our entire city to renewable energy as soon as possible, that all of Council voted upon last week — bill 190728, AKA the Ready for 100 resolution.

A recent report titled Halfway There, shows how the US can reduce emissions by 50% by just being smart — by focusing on energy efficiency. We’ll be looking at the policy suggestions on this report, and plan to have a list ready for when this committee meets next with a new chair.

A hint of what those could be are…

Zero energy buildings could reduce emissions by 11%. This is for new buildings, whether residential or commercial, which can be built so that they don’t need much energy. How? Make ‘em tight, make ‘em electric, and what little energy they need would be electricity from rooftop solar panels. Policy-wise, this translates to all new construction being electric only, with no gas hookups and of course, rooftop solar.

Building improvements account for about 14% emissions reduction — whether tuneups like being discussed today, or smart buildings, or heating with electricity instead of gas.

About 30% emissions reduction can be had by encouraging more fuel efficient cars. The most fuel efficient cars are, of course — electric cars. Policy-wise, this means massive buildout of public EV charging stations at under-utilized parking lots — churches, schools, and of course, grocery stores and hospitals. Yesterday’s article in the Inquirer, with me showing off my electric car, was a start towards this policy.

We could have 16% emissions reductions by reducing our vehicle miles traveled and flying less. This means encouraging walking, cycling, using SEPTA, and… tele-commuting! It also calls for being smart about how we move our stuff around.

As we loop in other groups, we’re hearing that we need to move faster on this timeline.

So, though we’ve agreed on 2030, 2035, and 2050 as milestones, when we put our ear to the ground, we hear that we’ll need to move fast, with much sooner milestones, like 2030 — to do away with all emissions, and power only with clean renewable energy sources.

Are you ready? We sure are Ready for 100% !!

In closing, I’d like to thank Council and the entire behind the scene team, for running with us, for getting the Ready for 100 resolution introduced & passed in Council. I look forward to working with you all come January!


Wed Oct 2, 2019, Sierra Club press release: Philadelphia Commits to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy

 

Posted in clean renewable energy, decarbonization, geothermal, no fossil fuels, Refinery Advisory Group

How about a hemp-based regenerative industry?

On August 6th, 2019, I spoke at the 1st public meeting of the Refinery Advisory Group setup by the City of Philadelphia after a fire in June. That testimony has been shared to the refinery@phila.gov address, and can be found here… About that refinery that just closed

Since then, I realized that the myco-remediation, district geothermal and a solar farm would provide one-time jobs; first for remediation then for the two types of clean energy projects.

Some people in the community suggested we come up with a forestry-based regenerative industry. Later, someone else suggested using hemp for soil remediation. Some quick research helped me connect the two suggestions. 

Hemp is an annual crop, requiring planting, care and harvest each year. 

A fast growing plant, reaching 10-12 feet within one season, the planting would provide 2 services: absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and lift up heavy metals from the soil. 

Once harvested, the woody stalks could be the basis for local production of building materials like insulation and hemp-crete, a concrete substitute. Both needed in our urban region, and likely to foster local manufacturing. 

Over time, as the soil gets cleaner, and we increase the acreage planted, the same woody stalks could be the basis for local textile production — for rope, canvas, even clothing. 

When the soil is clean enough, safe enough, we could consider planting for food & body care products — hemp seed, hemp oil, CBD-products. 

Of course, we should still plan for some geothermal and solar farms, allow for some marshland and wildlife preserve, and certainly, public access to the riverfront.

We have found this article about a town in Italy using hemp to decontaminate their land.

My understanding is that the Rodale Institute has a team researching hemp for industrial applications. How can we develop this idea together? I’m certain we can get public buy-in. 


Posted in clean renewable energy, electrify everything, home heating, no fossil fuels, Refinery Advisory Group, transport

It’s time to rethink what’s possible…

On June 21, 2019 the PES refinery in South Philly had an explosion and fire. This incident has received much media coverage. We covered it on a radio episode of Philly Talks Climate on June 28, 2019, see Pay up, PES! …and please clean up on your way out.

On August 21, 2019, at the third public meeting of our City’s Refinery Advisory Group, notably the labor sub-committee, I was moved to speak briefly, something like this…


Hello! My name is Meenal Raval. 

I’ve gotten laid off in the past. And remember how it felt to have the rug pulled out from beneath me. So I feel for you all here today. 

Tonight, I’ve heard people say that we need heating oil. That we need gasoline. 

I say we don’t. 

I drive an electric car. Heat my home with electric. And have my row home roof packed with solar panels, powering all this. 

I’m living proof we don’t need fossil fuels. 

It’s time to rethink what’s possible. 

Posted in clean renewable energy, geothermal, Refinery Advisory Group, remediation, solar

About that refinery that just closed…

On June 21, 2019 the PES refinery in South Philly had an explosion and fire. This incident has received much media coverage. We covered it on a radio episode of Philly Talks Climate on June 28, 2019, see Pay up, PES! …and please clean up on your way out.

On August 6, 2019, at the first public meeting of our City’s Refinery Advisory Group, this is the picture I painted…


Hello, my name is Meenal Raval. I live in Mt Airy, about 10 miles north of here. 

We’re thankful there were no casualties from the 6/21 incident at the refinery. We’re also thankful this refinery has closed. We need to ensure that it remains closed. And focus on the task at hand — to reclaim the land for other applications, ones that don’t involve fossil fuels, in line with our City’s climate action goals. Because we all have a Right to Breathe!

Remembering our City’s Zero Waste by 2035 goal, and knowing there’s no “away” to take the contaminated soil to, we need to clean the soil in place. 

When we look at flood maps, for instance choices.climatecentral.com, most of the refinery land could be submerged given the rate and direction we’re headed with the climate crisis. We recommend cleaning it up as best as we can before this happens, to recreate the marshland and green space we’ve lost where the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers meet. Most people would not hesitate to support a complete Schuylkill River Trail.

How? In one word — myco-remediation, or remediating using the mycelium network of mushrooms. Myco-remediation works in two ways — pulling up elementals and breaking down compounds.

Elementals like lead are pulled up and into the mushroom fruit, which can be harvested, dehydrated and incinerated, with the resultant ash treated as hazardous waste.

Compounds (like petro-chemicals formed from hydro-carbons) actually feed the mycelium, which break the hydro-carbons down into innocuous elements like hydrogen, carbon and oxygen and help the mushroom fruit thrive! If no heavy metals are found in the soil, the mushrooms from a petro-chemical site can be harvested and added to the compost pile, for future soil enhancement.

Our understanding is that multiple crops and harvests can pull up the heavy metals, break down the hydro-carbons, and leave us with living, fertile soil. I was told that about 3 growing cycles, all of which could take place in just one year, would be enough to remediate the soil. I’ve also learned that myco-remediation is best done with mycelium from spent substrate from a mushroom farm! And.. that myco-remediation is cheaper than any other form of remediation. 

Most people I’ve spoken with suggest some form of renewable energy at this site, such as geothermal fields and solar farms. After soil reclamation, I sense that a pollinator friendly solar farm would be very popular, allowing for local food production in this area also. 

With our region being the mushroom capital of the US, this could be a great Philadelphia story — land reclamation, green space, clean energy and local food. These are the type of jobs people would clamor over. 

Thank you!! 


Some easy reading references on myco-remediation

 

Posted in clean renewable energy, decarbonization, electrify everything, energy efficiency, pipelines, water heating

Getting into hot water

As we gutted a Philadelphia row home, we also planned for it to become a frack-free house. This translates to: No gas appliances delivering fracked gas from Western Pennsylvania into our home. Everything that once used gas would be replaced with electric options.

So far, we’ve happily removed the gas oven / range and the associated gas pipes out of the kitchen. For cooking, we’ve picked out an electric stove. And already own other electric appliances to supplement this: toaster oven, microwave, induction cooktop and crockpot.

But hot water? As with most homes in our city, ours had a tank of hot water, kept piping hot using the fracked gas pipeline coming right into our basement. It didn’t make sense to have gallons of hot water waiting for us, night and day. As I explained to my nephew, it’s like having a tea kettle ready 24 hours a day, for whenever we might want our 2 cups of tea.

So we began looking at on-demand hot water systems, also known as tankless hot water systems. There are gas models available, but of course, we only considered the electric models. All tankless models are certainly more efficient since there’s no energy loss during storage, but the recurring question seemed to be…

Could the on-demand water heater keep up with our demand?

We learned that the average ground water temperature in Pennsylvania ranges between 45 and 50 degrees F. And that we like our showers at 112 degrees F in the winter, cooler in the summer. This means the water needed to be heated 67 degrees (112 – 45).

We also learned that 1 kW of electricity can raise the water temperature by 7 degrees F at a rate of 1 gallon per minute (gpm). This translates to needing 9.5 kW (67 /7) for a 1 gpm flow.

The average faucet flow is 2 gpm. The efficient shower head we’ve installed at every home we’ve been in for the past 30+ years has a flow of 1.5 gpm. We agreed that we both kept it at mid-flow, rarely at the full flow of 1.5 gpm. And so decided that our demand (in the shower stall) could be rounded down to 1 gpm.

The tankless system we decided on is the EcoSmart 11, suitable for 1 shower at a rate of 1.5 gpm for incoming water at 47 degrees F, ideal for our one bathroom apartment! We also agreed that we could coordinate sink and laundry use based on shower use. The shower use would take precedence.  If this proved inadequate, our alternate plan was to install a point-of-use model under the kitchen sink. The clothes washer we had selected could heat water on it’s own, if needed.

We’ve used this water heater daily for over 16 months and have no regrets. The installation is in the basement, just beneath the bathroom, about the shortest run for the hot water.

How much electricity used during a shower?

We concurred that most of our showers lasted about 10 minutes, or 0.16 hour (10/60).

Per the specs, the tankless system we decided on was rated for 54A and 220 V, or 11,880 W (54 x 220).

For the 10 minute shower, the electricity used would be 2 kWh (11,880 W x 0.16 hour / 1000), about 26 cents at our current utility rate.

The newer packaging now has a yellow EnergyGuide sticker, showing that it uses about 622 kWh annually. I’m reminded of the electric water heater at another house we lived in. It had a 40 gallon tank and used about 4700 kWh annually, over 7 times as much! Talk about an efficient way to get into hot water, with more space in the basement…


Other posts about living fossil free!

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, solar

Testimony at Environment Committee in support of a Solar Incentive Bill

On Tuesday June 11, 2019, bill 190378 to establish a Solar Panel Incentive Program was  discussed at Committee on the Environment.

Current members of this Committee — Reynolds-Brown, Bass, Blackwell, Gym, Taubenberger, Green, Parker

Prior to this hearing, there was this related post on the Philadelphia Energy Authority site: Councilwoman Reynolds Brown Introduces Legislation to Establish a Solar Rebate Program for the City of Philadelphia.

Many people spoke, all in support of this bill, notably: Christine Knapp, Laura Rigell, Spencer Wright, Joseph Kiss, Juan Sanabria, Laila Riley, Edward Robinson, Matt Walker, Mitch Chanin, Meenal Raval.

Many also wrote letters of support, notably: Chris Spahr, Dan Dillon, Barry Moore, Frank Foley, Samuel Park, Mark Bortman, Micah Gold-Markel, Douglas Davis, Julia Hillengas.

Below is my testimony.


Hello, My name is Meenal Raval. I’m a resident of Mt Airy and am active with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 team. I’m here today to speak on bill# 190378, to establish a solar panel incentive program.

We need a rapid transition to renewable energy, so of course we support this bill. A bill that would offer residents a 20c per watt rebate for rooftop solar projects installed for the next 6 years. The bill would also offer a 10c per watt rebate for commercial rooftop solar projects installed within the same time frame.

What is unclear is how this rebate program will be funded. While we wondered where we were getting the $2.5 million — we hear that it’s already cut to 1/5th the fund! Why are we limiting this program before it’s seen the light of day?

In addition to a rebate incentivizing rooftop solar, we would like to have a comprehensive conversation about something we’ve asked this Committee for months — the Ready for 100 resolution.

A resolution with the goal of transitioning all of Philadelphia’s energy uses, both public and private, to 100% clean and renewable electricity by 2035, and to 100% clean and renewable heating and transportation by 2050.

Adopting such a resolution, with an agreed upon time frame, would lead to an action plan and help put things like today’s bill in the context of a larger plan. We have a draft copy of an Action Plan to offer this Committee.  An Action Plan would help prioritize, even triage, our work ahead, so we could focus on reducing the most emissions, and improving air quality for the most people.

A Ready For 100 resolution would put the Citywide Energy Vision and the Municipal Energy Master Plan developed by the Office of Sustainability; Council’s pledge to uphold the Paris Accord plus the 70 megawatt solar project in Adams County — yup, all of these — in the context of an aggressive, but achievable, goal.

A Ready for 100 resolution would, of course, have to include education – what each resident and business could do to shift their energy needs.

Adopting this resolution would provide an important guiding principle for all future decisions about the energy we use, how we invest City funds, which projects to choose, and where necessary — find new solutions.

A Ready for 100 resolution would also require that we review and revise our policies in light of this resolution and action plan. For example… If new vehicles are being considered, this resolution would remind us that they need to be zero emission vehicles. If roofs are being replaced, this resolution would remind us that we need to consider the viability of rooftop solar – for both public and private projects. If a road is being repaved, this resolution would require that we consider pedestrian and cyclist use for this same roadway.  If we’re buying leaf blowers and street sweeping trucks, this resolution would have us consider low-carbon options such as investing in people and brooms.

This bill offering a rebate to those installing rooftop solar is one we support whole heartedly.

When we consider the climate crisis in every decision we make, when we consider future generations in every decision we make, it becomes obvious that we can no longer encourage new fossil-fuel projects that have recently been the focus of our climate action – the SEPTA gas power plant, the PGW LNG facility and the soon to be voted on trash & recycling program that would continue to incinerate our trash.

The Ready for 100 resolution has been adopted by cities and towns across the US, including Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Orlando, LA and 18 townships in the Philadelphia suburbs. The Ready for 100 resolution is is very much needed for Philadelphia.


Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels

Testimony at April 11, 2019 session of City Council

One lone person spoke this week against our own municipal utility’s desires to extend their customer base for fracked gas by developing an LNG facility. You can learn more at 350philly.org/NoLNG.

Watch, and/or ready testimony offered by Meenal Raval.


Watch Meenal at 1:37

Hello. My name is Meenal Raval. Here today speaking on bill number 181063, known as PGW’s public private partnership for an LNG project.

I’m here to remind you that many many groups are still opposed to this project. We remain opposed to this project from a public health perspective — people unable to breathe the air in their neighborhoods, air fouled by fossil fuel emissions. We also remain opposed to this project from a climate perspective — that physics demands that we must not invest in any new fossil fuel projects. We remain opposed to this project from a financial perspective as well. It does not appear that we will be making as much money as advertised.

Just a reminder that this project is not needed to heat our homes. This project is NOT needed.

We therefore recommend that we cancel this project, and ask that each of you vote No on bill number 181063.

I ask that we focus all our energy on transitioning PGW to a more sustainable entity — one that does not require it to sell more and more gas to remain viable.

I also want to share with Councilmember Reynolds Brown that Chicago passed a Ready for 100 resolution. What is keeping you from introducing a similar resolution for Philadelphia? When can we meet with you about this?

Thank you!


 

Posted in clean renewable energy, climate, decarbonization, electrify everything, no fossil fuels, solutions, transit

Understanding the climate crisis — with Al Gore

Late last August, I traveled to Los Angeles for a 3 day training with The Climate Reality Project. Many may not have heard of this non-profit anchored by Vice-President Al Gore. The training is free, but one needs to apply and get accepted to participate. We are also expected to pay for our travel and lodging expenses. 

la-training
Climate Reality Training, Los Angeles, August 2019. Photo credit: Meenal Raval

We were told this was the largest Climate Reality training to date, with over 2,200 people from all over the world. About 25% came from Southern California, another 25% came from the State of California, the remaining 49 states brought in 25%. The rest were from outside the US. Tweets from the training have the hashtag #LeadOnClimate. An example: 

  • 25% from LA, 25% from CA, 25% from rest of US, 25% from rest of world, all 2000 trainees ready to #LeadOnClimate

We were grouped by geographic proximity so I mostly interacted with people from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I ran into people I already knew plus some new ones, notably Tim Mahony (a science professor at Millersville University), Shweta Arya (an environmental educator from Delaware County), Dave Walbert (a grad student at Drexel) and Ankit Agarwal (a Center City Philadelphia resident). 

The 3 days with Mr Gore was interspersed with many notables, some very new to me.

There was Amanda Gorman, a young poet laureate, who was amazing. Her poem Earthrise brought us all to tears, find her @amandascgorman, see some quotes below. 

So I tell you this not to scare you,
But to prepare you, to dare you
To dream a different reality

And while this is a training,
in sustaining the future of our planet,
There is no rehearsal. The time is
Now
Now
Now,
Because the reversal of harm,
And protection of a future so universal
Should be anything but controversial.

So, earth, pale blue dot
We will fail you not.

Because an environmental movement of this size
Is simply another form of an earthrise.


Mr Gore led a question and answer session about “The Climate Crisis & It’s Solutions” with Dr Veerabhadran Ramanathan. Some tidbits from that session:

  • The climate crisis is inter-generational, thus the realm of religion and morals. It’s something he can’t bring to scientific discussions
  • He sees the cliff, and the shift in colleagues, all wanting to talk about shifting to solutions – working with 25 university collaboration – with demo projects – then bringing in community partners – He’s got no pushback when presenting because all scientists concur that this is an existential threat. This phrase was repeated by many of the presenters.
  • no massive public support
  • most important message from Dr Ramafor the climate crisis: It’s happening now, there’s an urgency, and we know how to solve it
  • Foreign Affairs magazine article referenced here
    • The climate crisis will affect the rich as much as the poor
    • The climate crisis will get worse if we do nothing
    • He is one of the advisors to the Vatican, which included best health experts
    • He doesn’t see how CA ag could survive 30 years out
    • Future generations don’t deserve what we’re doing to them
    • Referred to a climate solutions course at undergrad level, for all UC students – then at community college, to replicate across US, and also at K-12 level, working with DiCaprio Fdn, to build environmental literacy.
    • This 73 year old man says… we won’t solve this in his lifetime, but wants to leave by offering solutions to those in their 20s
    • The climate crisis is a human tragedy
    • Sees 2 degree warming in 7-8 years due to oceans warming
    • Reduced oxygen in oceans – due to GHG absorption, also fertilizer runoff – causing dead zone – sustainable ag imp to protect oceans
    • transpo sector has BIGGEST emissions
    • 40% of food thrown away – bio-digestor – regenerative ag to sequester more carbon in soil (also plants) – put a price, reward farmers – upcoming soil carbon conference in TN
    • V. Ramanathan shares $1.33M sustainable development prize with fellow climate science pioneer
  • black carbon from diesel – more potent than CO2 – the panel discussion on transportation repeated this message; see below. Must stop diesel combustion, esp in urban areas.
  • We must take CO2 out of the air

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Mr Gore for a discussion on “Inspiring Global Action thru Local Leadership”. 

  • how to lobby our mayor? – quote from movie ‘lost city of Z’ on Amazon – “reach should always be greater than grasp” – beyond what we think is possible – confront the reality
  • ask 4 questions of  local leaders
    • How do you and stuff get around? how do consumables get to you?
    • How do you stay comfortable? physical built environment? heat, cool and power buildings
    • How do you turn on the lights? What is the source of electricity? Then push people like him to get it done.
  • And then:
    • Be ready: Know your stuff better than people sitting with;
    • Be specific – green building ordinance;
    • Be flexible – get victory, bang it, and move forward. Learn to tie victories, one at a time
    • Be inclusive – desegregate, all engaged, labor, women, hunting, too important to get divided
    • Be proactive – stop playing defense – the power that you hold – exercise it
  • Layout a plan, desegregate sustainability – each of the 37 departments he manages, all have a sustainability component – eg police dept reports on reduced crime, as well as reduced paper usage
  • He has a 100 page plan – read it – replicate it – I think this is THE PLAN that he’s referring to. 
  • LA reduced emissions 11% in a year
  • Brother is Mayor of nearby Long Beach, a major port. Their emissions reduction at the ports is 5 years ahead of schedule – clean air standards
  • Mayor Garcetti co-founded Climate Mayors w Houston & Philadelphia Mayors when Trump pulled out of Paris, which brought in 100 cities, now 400 cities. If he’s out, we’re in!
  • Global network of Mayors – C40 – the mega cities – playbook includes bus electrification – local communities setting agenda for big countries!
  • Cannot be paralyzed by magnitude we face – we’re in the post NOW era – the post carbon era is now – the post ICE (internal combustion engine) is now – picture this – will realize the power we have – truth wins out
  • I wish I were a mirror – so you could see what I see – your power – we’re the writers of history – let us make history together! Really revved us up!! (and I rarely use double exclamation points)

Though we were excited, energized and exhausted, Mr Gore kept going. Next up was a conversation with Hal Harvey on “Getting Real about Rapid Decarbonization”. This is Hal Harvey of energyinnovation.org – has an upcoming book  – see Climate: How to Win – spoke of the 4 zeros for rapid decarbonization: 

  • Zero-carbon grid
  • Zero-emission vehicles
  • Zero-net energy buildings
  • Zero-waste manufacturing

Zero-carbon grid – electric utilities are biggest emitters on planet – 80% of our problem is from energy sys – solar and wind cheaper than operating capital of plant – who chooses whether we get brown or green electricity? small number of policies and small number of people – In the US, the PUC decides – 50 states x 5 commissioners = 250 people. If we exclude smaller states, and 3-2 vote is enough, only need to convince 90 people. We were promised an analysis of all 50 PUCs so we could pressure ours. Was told Advanced Energy Economy has research on each PUC, that we need to work with multi local corps (versus multi—national corps) – to show util how to make money, and they’ll come along – 2/3 of all wind and solar in US is in red states – TX, WY, IA – story about NV flipped PUC

Zero-carbon vehicles – zero grid enables others – Americans keep cars for 14 years – keep pressure on both clean cars and EVs

Zero-net energy buildings – Santa Monica zoning – insulated well, almost zero – CA has best building code – CA split to 16 weather zones – if tech pays for itself within 7 years, it’s in the code – written by Governor Brown in 1978. We expect seat belts to work, we expect air bags to work, why don’t we expect buildings to work? utils don’t make money selling electricity – they make money building power plants, then passing the cost to base rates – change incentive – performance based regulation – people want affordable, safe, reliable, clean electricity – give util 5 years, thy’ll get…?

Zero-waste manufacturing – China 70% of emissions from industry – substitute design for material – example of 3D printing to reduce concrete used in new construction – lets unleash our minds – hi value jobs – rethinking materials – SOlivia – carbon? DOE 90% of budget for nuclear – list 5 to 10 most energy intensive industries – study them – circular economy – bottle bill on steroids – manufacturer buy back

Mr Harvey’s advice? Be precise when we speak; we can’t afford to be fuzzy. He ended with a sermon on our levels of consumption. The we need to triage – ethos, pathos, logos – the ethics, the stories, the logic. 

There was a California specific discussion titled “California’s Roadmap for Climate Leadership“. Again, with Mr Gore moderating.

  • Al Gore’s quotes from this session
    • We must electrify the transportation sector
    • 100% committed campaigns, re-educators (an organized effort) leads to advocacy
    • Kept asking – Must we? Can we? Will we change?
  • We learned of monthly coordination amongst the many agencies within California. A collaboration on people working on air quality, electricity generation, with the Community Choice Aggregation team working together with the Investor Owned Utility.

A discussion titled “Fighting for Healthy Communities” was led by groups local to Los Angeles. The PSR-LA (Physicians for Social Responsibility chapter in Los Angeles) team spoke of capturing vapor and VOC (volatile organic compounds) when tankers were unloaded. The California Environmental Justice Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment wanted to get 1 million EV’s on the road. They spoke of SB350, a bill to get to 50% renewables by 2040. They brought young people in yellow shirts, saying these urban youth were the canaries in our current coal mines — the drilling within the City of Los Angeles. Their demand – Stop Drilling Where We’re Living, and asked why their human rights were not valued. These groups together asked that the city’s land use policy must be tied to proximity to fossil fuel infrastructure.

Dr Ramanathan was brought back for a discussion on “The Climate Crisis & It’s Solution” with with Al Gore and Don Henry. Some notes:

  • We need to wake people up, and also give them hope. 
  • There’s been noisy denial. During the last 3 presidential campaigns, there was not one  question about the climate crisis.
  • We need to develop innovative partnerships
  • Mr Gore working in collaboration with William Barber.
  • Most effective messengers are us – willingness to shoulder the burden – topic complicated – communicate to neighbors – once we reveal what’s right and wrong – there’s the opportunity to do right – massive GOTV (get out the vote) effort. 
  • Legacy businesses want to extend their business  plans & manipulating the system, tamping down concerns. 
  • For climate justice, we need to move from transactional to transitional movement. I remember Judy Wicks saying much the same thing years ago when talking about building the local living economy. 
  • We need to be multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and cross religions
  • University of California intends to be carbon neutral in 10-15 years
  • Mr Gore spoke of the necessity for a Sustainable Revolution, one with the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution and the speed of the Digital Revolution.
  • An example of speed – Google has largest server farm in world; leading artificial intelligence company (Deep Mind’s Mustafa Saleyman) analyze and within 30 minutes had a recommendation for 40% electricity reduction; with a reiteration of the algorithm, they achieved a 56% reduction. Just with smarter management. Stories like this are our Call to Arms!
  • There was a question about CCS (carbon capture and sequestration), nuclear, and methane (also known as natural gas) in helping solve the climate crisis. The advice?
    • NO CCS – It’s expensive, 30% of current generation would be needed to run CCS.
    • NO nuclear – no engineering firm in US would even design a nuclear plant now.
    • NO methane –
      • It’s 86 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide over 20 years
      • 34 times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide over 100 years
      • and has 50% less CO2 emissions than coal
      • It’s NOT our bridge to the  future

Since wildfires were raging throughout California last summer, Mr Gore brought local experts to talk about “Facing Reality: Firefighters on the Climate Frontlines“. Some notes:

  • Ken Pimlot, Director of CA Dept of Forestry & Fire Protection said
    • things are different now
      • they’ve never seen a fire last as long as 13 days.
      • 100,000 acre fire was rare, now common
      • They’re experiencing fires of 2700 degrees F!
      • They’re experiencing a year-round fire season, even in December with weeks and months of deployment, away from home. The life of firefighters is much like soldiers, facing greater risk than they ever stepped up for.
    • Asked us to talk to the politicians!
  • Martha Karsten of Chief Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade said
    • The whole state of CA is a tinderbox
    • Their fire station used to run 6 months, now 9 months
  • Ken Thompson, Former Deputy Fire Chief, New South Wale in Australia said
    • It’s exactly the same in Australia.
    • In Melbourne, 1st responders to fire – gonna be 1st responders to global warming!
    • new level of fire code: catastrophic
    • it really is a tinderbox out there
  • Each of them said – Name them – call out the politicians

On a session on “Clean Transportation: Moving Beyond Carbon”, Mr Gore led discussions with people from LA Clean Tech Incubator, CARB (the California Air Resources Board), Proterra and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

We learned from Ryan Popple of Proterra Buses that a diesel bus uses 10,000 gallons annually. This is our tax dollars.

The NRDC speaker shared that diesel accounts for more than 70% of  carcinogenic effect of emissions. That diesel for transportation is like coal for electricity generation. We need community based policy. There was a belief that consumers will do the right thing when given options. One out of 12 Americans live in Southern California. Don’t underestimate the purchasing power of a City or County. Not a dollar more for fossil fuels. 

In a discussion about the Paris agreement, there was an excited discussion about we are still in, even if President Trump has walked away.

Being in Los Angeles and proximity to Hollywood, there was a discussion about “Climate Crisis on camera” with Alan Horn. We learned that Alan is also on the NRDC board, with wife Cindy Horn on the Climate Reality board. This one couple paid for the venue for over 2200 people.

In closing, some take-away quotes from Mr Gore: 

  • Climate change is not a political issue, it’s a personal issue
  • “95% of time spent persuading people to do something when they damn well knew they should do it in their own self interest” – Al Gore quoting President Harry Truman
  • We’re an army of activists that won’t go away
  • Each month less than 1 American hears about climate change from a trusted source. We need to present to family, schools, civics
  • Policy doesn’t match public opinion – amplify voices of others
  • 65% population get urgent need to act on climate, yet the climate crisis doesn’t make list of top 10 issues in US. In Germany, the climate crisis is #1, terrorism is #2.
  • important to change light bulbs, more important to change the laws and policy
  • we’re working with 3 budgets
    • time budget – complete presentation in allotted time
    • complexity budget – don’t overtax people
    • hope budget – this is a problem from hell, leave the audience with hope
  • Politicians see uncertainly as an opportunity to delay.
  • CA decision by cities and towns to go 100% RE – things change when you make commitment – yeah!
  • Georgetown TX example – red state, mayor was CPA and numbers made sense  
  • Colorado State – student pressure
  • GDP up, population up, emissions down – Both CA and Sweden show that economy can be decoupled from fossil fuel emissions
  • In response to a question about energy storage other than Lithium Ion, there’s compressed gas storage, flywheels, flo batteries (?), and… 90% of storage in world is pumped hydro. 
  • Paris agreement agreed not only on voluntary targets, but also transparency on the info. Our governments are obligated to review and ratchet commitments. My translation – we can demand more transparency from PHL.
my-pin
Pin awarded to each person completing the Climate Reality training. Photo: Meenal Raval

The Climate Reality Project has focused on training presenters. In 2017, they tried forming chapters, many across the globe. Of note is that the Pittsburgh chapter has 500 members. And a Mayor who is on-board with the transition. The Southeastern PA chapter, which would include Philadelphia, is gearing up. 

See this post from another attendee: THREE MOVING MOMENTS FROM CLIMATE REALITY’S TRAINING IN LOS ANGELES.

I’m now a member of the Climate Reality Corps, able to give presentations on climate science, and able to customize for audience and geography.

 

Posted in clean renewable energy

A suburban oasis

Today I visited the home of Ed & Priscilla in Hatfield PA. As part of the national solar home tour, they showcased their brick ranch home built in 1960, modernized with solar hot water, solar electric, an electric car in the garage, and day lighting.

Years ago, Ed teamed up with Alan Rushforth and learned about the installation of large scale solar hot water systems. And about 8 years ago, he installed 2 solar hot water panels above their porch roof. The generated hot water is piped into a 400 gallon tank that he custom-made from his experience with Alan. This non-pressurized drain-back system needs no antifreeze because all the water drains back when the pump shuts off. The panels are US-made by Soleen.

 

Two years ago, Ed decided to install a rooftop solar electric system, also known as PV (photo-voltaic). The 16 panels, each rated for 345 Watts, results in a 5,520 Watt system, generating about 6,600 kWh, enough for this household.  The panels are Canadian-made by Silfab Solar; the inverter is a Sunny Boy 5000.

In the garage, they’ve got an electric car, a Nissan Leaf. They need never go to the gas station with it, since the car is powered by a rechargeable battery and electric motor. The amount of electric required to keep the car charged is covered by the amount generated by the solar panels. So one could say the car is powered by the homegrown electricity.

In the kitchen, they brought in more daylighting with Solatubes fitted into the roof.

Being avid gardeners, we also got to see their rain barrel, their vegetable garden, and their composting area. In addition, we were surprised to see their bee-keeping operation along the back fence, complete with fish pond providing water for the bees, and a pollinator garden supplying food for the bees. I returned home to savor some of their scrumptious honey.

 

 

Posted in banking, clean renewable energy, divest, no fossil fuels, pipelines, solar, transition

Marcellus Shale – A Blessing or a Curse?

Our state has been blessed, some say. Possibly cursed, say some others. I’m talking about the abundant gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale. Cursed because of issues during Extraction, Transportation & Consumption.

Extraction is also known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. When chemicals are forced into the ground, they contaminate the water table, affecting the well water of rural townships. As the gas is forced out & captured, there are leaks. Leaks that affect the local air quality and detrimental to the health & property values. The same methane leaks are an important contributor to climate change, worse even than carbon dioxide. 

Transportation of fracked gas is typically by pipelines. Pipelines that are known to leak or explode, with cleanup expenses left to the taxpayers. Rights for these pipelines, going thru wetlands, woodlands and private property, are gained via eminent domain in the name of public utility.  but are really for private gain by fossil fuel companies. Permit applications are shoddy, and fragmented construction begins in communities with the least resistance. Communities are not compensated for the devastation, nor the liability.

There are several pipeline developments, all headed to or through the greater Philadelphia area – the Mariner East 2 pipeline slated to carry fracked gas liquids from west to east, ending up in nearby Delaware County, and destined for export, to be made into plastic bags in Europe. How does this qualify the pipeline builders to claim in the courts that they’re a public utility? 

Then there’s the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline destined to travel north to south, going through farmland in Lancaster County. And the PennEast pipeline thru Bucks County into New Jersey. And smaller segments across the Delaware River (which supplies the drinking water for 15M people), and into the Pinelands in South Jersey.

gas burning from a kitchen gas stove

Which leads us to …Consumption. The pipeline going thru the Pinelands is headed to a gas power plant, where the fracked gas will be burned to generate electricity. Much like the SEPTA gas plant locally in Nicetown that 350 Philly and others are fighting. Advertised as clean burning at point of ignition, the industry ignores the devastation left in its wake. 

Once you realize that natural gas is the same as methane, and that methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide (86 times), you’ll agree, it’s no longer clean burning.

Who’s doing this extraction, transportation & building up the large scale demand for fracked gas? The same companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline:  

Sunoco Logistics, Williams Company, Energy Transfer Partners

Who’s funding these companies?

Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank, Citizens Bank, HBSC Bank, TD Bank

And many of us thru our personal accounts, our investments and our retirement plans.

It’s time to #divest and #reinvest all of our funds into clean energy from #solar and #wind, and leave the Marcellus Shale reserves resting safely underground.


Initially presented at Indivisible NW Philly meeting on March 12 2017.