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Are the Dirtiest Polluters Near You? | Smart Charts, What Matters Today | BillMoyers.com

Are the Dirtiest Polluters Near You? | Smart Charts, What Matters Today | BillMoyers.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Our energy comes from 6,000 power plants which together produce about 40 percent of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions, the main greenhouse gas driving climate change. But a handful of very large, very dirty plants are responsible for a disproportionate share of the problem.


A new report from two think tanks — the Frontier Group and the Environment America Research & Policy Center — takes a look at this small group of heavy polluters. The researchers found that the 50 dirtiest power plants in the U.S. are responsible for 30 percent of the energy industry’s CO2 emissions, and a full two percent of all emissions worldwide — these 50 plants were responsible for more climate change than all but six countries in the world.


The top 100 dirtiest plants in America produce 3.2 percent of the world’s carbon emissions — or roughly the same amount as all passenger vehicles in the U.S.


Ninety-eight of the top 100 plants burn coal — the other two use natural gas — and currently there aren’t any standardized limits on the amount of emissions these plants spew out. But that looks likely to change. In 2012, the EPA issued standards for new power plants, and in his June climate speech, Obama directed the agency to update and reissue those standards and to develop standards for already operating plants. For large power plants, the EPA proposed a restriction of 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per megawatt-hour of electricity produced, a standard that natural gas power plants could meet, but that would require many coal plants to cut their emissions by half, and some by two-thirds.


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MA: Cape Wind dealt another blow Christine Legere | South Coast Today

MA: Cape Wind dealt another blow Christine Legere | South Coast Today | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Bad news continues to plague the $2.6 billion Cape Wind proposal to construct 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.

ISO New England confirmed Monday that it had suspended Cape Wind from participating in the New England wholesale markets. ISO New England can’t comment on a specific participant beyond confirming the suspension, spokeswoman Marcia Blomberg wrote in an email.

“But in general, suspensions are a result of a participant not maintaining a minimum amount of collateral and/or assurance policy,” Blomberg wrote.

ISO New England is an independent, not-for-profit company authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to coordinate and direct the flow of electricity throughout the New England region, overseeing the billion dollar markets where wholesale electricity is bought and sold.

Cape Wind’s spokesman Mark Rodgers called the suspension from participation in wholesale markets irrelevant, since the wind turbines have yet to be constructed.

“Cape Wind will be qualified well in advance of coming online and actually producing energy for sale,” Rodgers wrote in an email.

The proposed offshore wind farm's woes began Jan. 6, when NStar and National Grid announced the end of power purchase agreements with Cape Wind because the company had missed a Dec. 31 deadline for securing project financing and completing other significant milestones.


Without buyers for its energy, renewable energy experts say it will be nearly impossible for Cape Wind to secure the financing required for construction.


Cape Wind could have paid the utilities to extend the contracts, but company President James Gordon instead invoked a clause that allows for an extension of the agreements if there are unanticipated delays. Gordon cited years of litigation as the cause of the delays. 


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OK: Court Will Decide If Fracking Companies Can Be Held Responsible For Earthquakes | Emily Atkin | Think Progress

OK: Court Will Decide If Fracking Companies Can Be Held Responsible For Earthquakes | Emily Atkin | Think Progress | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Oklahoma’s highest court is about to make a decision that could really shake up the way fracking companies do business in the state.

In the coming months, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court will decide whether two oil companies should be held financially responsible for injuries suffered by a woman during a 2011 earthquake thought to have been caused by drilling activity. If the woman’s lawsuit is successful, it could set a legal precedent for future earthquake claims against oil and gas companies in Oklahoma.

In other words, oil and gas wells in Oklahoma would “become economic and legal-liability pariahs,” attorney Robert Gum said in comments reported by the Tulsa World.


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PA: Children given lifelong ban on talking about fracking | Suzanne Goldenberg | The Guardian

PA: Children given lifelong ban on talking about fracking | Suzanne Goldenberg | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Two young children in Pennsylvania were banned from talking about fracking for the rest of their lives under a gag order imposed under a settlement reached by their parents with a leading oil and gas company.

The sweeping gag order was imposed under a $750,000 settlement between the Hallowich family and Range Resources Corp, a leading oil and gas driller. It provoked outrage on Monday among environmental campaigners and free speech advocates.

The settlement, reached in 2011 but unsealed only last week, barred the Hallowichs' son and daughter, who were then aged 10 and seven, from ever discussing fracking or the Marcellus Shale, a leading producer in America's shale gas boom.

The Hallowich family had earlier accused oil and gas companies of destroying their 10-acre farm in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania and putting their children's health in danger. Their property was adjacent to major industrial operations: four gas wells, gas compressor stations, and a waste water pond, which the Hallowich family said contaminated their water supply and caused burning eyes, sore throats and headaches.

Gag orders – on adults – are typical in settlements reached between oil and gas operators and residents in the heart of shale gas boom in Pennsylvania. But the company lawyer's insistence on extending the lifetime gag order to the Hallowichs' children gave even the judge pause, according to the court documents.


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UK Lords kill attempt to sneak in new surveillance laws | David Meyer | GigaOM Tech News

UK Lords kill attempt to sneak in new surveillance laws | David Meyer | GigaOM Tech News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Members of the U.K. House of Lords who last week introduced amendments to an anti-terror bill that would have essentially brought back defeated surveillance legislation, have withdrawn the amendments after a spirited debate in the House.

The amendments had been added to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill and would have reintroduced key planks of the Communications Data Bill, popularly known as the Snooper’s Charter.

This included a new data retention regime and very broadly-phrased clauses that would have allowed security services to force communications service providers such as Facebook to install equipment in their facilities, so U.K. intelligence and law enforcement could search through Britons’ communications metadata.

Lord King, one of the four peers who introduced the amendments, withdrew them after hours of debate, on the basis that their contentiousness might sink the wider terror bill.

It was certainly a lively debate. The peers who submitted the amendments attacked the term “Snooper’s Charter” as “sanctimonious claptrap” (Lord Blair), “much emotive claptrap” (Lord West), and phrasing that incorrectly “presupposes malignancy” (Lord Carlile). Baroness Neville-Jones argued that the terrorist threat means Parliament cannot “do nothing”.

Lord Blencathra, who had chaired the joint committee that nixed the original Communications Data Bill, maintained that the term “Snooper’s Charter” was accurate, as it was so broadly termed that it could be used as just that. He argued that the sunset clause in the amendments – they would run out at the end of 2016 – wouldn’t reassure people outside Parliament and were likely to be constantly revised. Once these clauses were on the statute book “I have little confidence any government would remove them,” he said.

“If hundred of millions of pounds are spent after this bill passed, sunset is unlikely to have any impact,” added Baroness Ludford, who also pointed out that she was “not sure why we legislate” on surveillance when the spy agency is already carrying out sweeping secret programs such as Tempora.


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Facebook’s new Android app goes light on the data | Kif Leswing | GigaOM Tech News

Facebook’s new Android app goes light on the data | Kif Leswing | GigaOM Tech News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Facebook is serious about spreading its service to people in countries without fast cellular networks or cutting-edge smartphones. Its new Android app, Facebook Lite, which isn’t available in the United States or Europe, is targeted at people with poor internet service or who are limited to 2G networks.

Facebook Lite clocks in at a 252KB download — about one tenth the size of Facebook’s main Android app, which is around 25MB depending on your device. The app is based on the software that Facebook on feature phones uses, but it sports Android-specific features like push notifications and camera uploads. Unlike Facebook’s main app, Facebook Lite also includes Facebook Messenger.


This isn’t the first version of Facebook targeted at developing countries — Facebook previously used the “Facebook Lite” moniker in 2009 for a similarly stripped-down version of its website found on the web at lite.facebook.com. Facebook shut that site down in 2010.


In addition to lightweight versions of Facebook for Android, Facebook continues to adapt its service to feature phones without browsers as part of the Facebook Zero project. As part of the Facebook-led Internet.org program, Facebook and Facebook Messenger don’t count against users’ data caps in regions of Zambia. Plus, Facebook owns WhatsApp, which is the most popular messaging service in many developing nations.


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No prospect of relief from constant nuclear headache | Paul Brown | Climate News Network

No prospect of relief from constant nuclear headache | Paul Brown | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A private consortium formed to deal with Europe’s most difficult nuclear waste at a site in Britain’s beautiful Lake District has been sacked by the British government because not sufficient progress has been made in making it safe.

It is the latest setback for an industry that claims nuclear power is the low-carbon answer to climate change, but has not yet found a safe resting place for radioactive rubbish it creates when nuclear fuel and machinery reaches the end of its life.

Dealing with the waste stored at this one site at Sellafield − the largest of a dozen nuclear sites in Britain − already costs the UK taxpayer £2 billion a year, and it is expected to be at least as much as this every year for half a century.

Hundreds of people are employed to prevent the radioactivity leaking or overheating to cause a nuclear disaster, and the cost of dealing with the waste at this site alone has already risen to £70 billion.


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Crippling and 'potentially historic' blizzard to slam Northeast | Andrew Mach | PBS News Hour

Crippling and 'potentially historic' blizzard to slam Northeast | Andrew Mach | PBS News Hour | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A crippling and potentially historic winter storm was approaching a large swath of the northeastern United States on Sunday, which officials and forecasters warned could dump up to three feet of snow, produce high winds and cause power outages and flight cancellations between Monday and Wednesday.

Blizzard warnings and watches went in effect on Sunday morning for more than 29 million people in areas along the coast from central New Jersey to the Canadian border.

The National Weather Service predicted the storm could be responsible for life-threatening conditions and extremely dangerous travel due to heavy snowfall and strong winds that could down power lines and tree limbs late Monday through Tuesday.


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Even plutocrats can see profound inequality isn’t in their interests | Chrystia Freeland | The Guardian

Even plutocrats can see profound inequality isn’t in their interests | Chrystia Freeland | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Not so long ago, inequality was a dirty word. The experience of my friend Branko Milanovic, the world’s foremost expert on global income inequality, was typical. “I was once told by the head of a prestigious thinktank in Washington DC that the thinktank’s board was unlikely to fund any work that had income or wealth inequality in its title,” Milanovic recalled in his 2011 book on the subject.

These were the days when Mitt Romney said discussions of income inequality should be conducted only in quiet rooms and when an American private equity tycoon compared an effort to raise taxes on his industry to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. To mention the increasing concentration of wealth at the very top was to court accusations of class envy – indeed, in his 2011 book, even Bill Clinton admonished Barack Obama for his tone in talking to and about America’s super-rich. After my book, Plutocrats, was published in 2012, I was even – and I know this will shock you – disinvited to a Davos dinner party!

Just three years later, inequality hasn’t merely become a subject fit for polite company, it has become de rigueur. It was a central preoccupation at a conference on inclusive capitalism at the Mansion House and Guildhall last May. The event was organised by Lady Lynn de Rothschild and the opening speaker was Prince Charles. And at Davos, income inequality has gone from taboo to top of the agenda.

There’s a good reason for this pivot. Rising inequality is becoming so pronounced it is impossible to ignore. The latest jaw-dropping statistic is Oxfam’s calculation that by next year, the top 1% will own more of the world’s wealth than the bottom 99%. What is less apparent is how those of us who have been worried about income inequality for a long time should respond to the embrace of this issue by the plutocrats themselves.

It is easy to be sceptical. But we should welcome the plutocratic critique of plutocracy. Here’s why. Surging income inequality is a symptom of a broader transformation in how capitalism is working in the 21st century. This change has brought tremendous benefits – it has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the emerging markets and provided cheaper goods and services, and many brand new ones, for us in the industrialised world. But it is also hollowing out the incomes and wealth of the western middle class, even as it enriches those at the very top.

This distributional shift is the great economic and political challenge of our time. It will tear some societies apart. The successful ones will be those that figure out how to solve it together.

The technology revolution, which has been turbo-charged by globalisation, is an economic upheaval comparable in its scale and scope to the Industrial Revolution. Just as the Industrial Revolution did not bring the end of farming, the technology revolution won’t bring the end of manufacturing. But just as the agricultural sector shrank as a share of the overall economy, particularly in terms of employment, the relative size of the industrial sector will decline, too.

Mike Moffatt, an economist at the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario, likes to use the example of Gary Works, in Indiana, to illustrate what is going on. It was once the world’s largest steel mill and remains the largest integrated steel mill in North America. At its postwar peak, Gary Works employed 30,000 people and could produce 6m tons of steel a year. Today, Gary can produce more than 7m tons of steel working at full capacity, but it takes just 5,000 workers to do that.

The same forces that have transformed Gary Works are changing every sphere of human activity. This isn’t just about the assembly line any more – 99% of us are, metaphorically, Gary steel workers.

The lucky 0.1% own a Gary Works or have invented the technologies that transformed them, and the rest of the top 1% work for them. Until now, these winners in our winner-take-all economy have backed a set of political measures – weaker unions, deregulation, lower taxes – which have exacerbated the distributional impact of the new economy.

As even Davos Man has realised, that is not sustainable.


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Social conscience is key to cutting household energy | Tim Radford | Climate News Network

Social conscience is key to cutting household energy | Tim Radford | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Altruism is alive and well and living in California. An extended experiment involving more than 100 households suggests that people are more likely to reduce energy use if they believe it is good for the environment rather than good for their pockets.

Those who tuned into the messages about public good saved, on average, 8% on their fuel bills, while households with children reduced their energy use by 19%. But people who were repeatedly reminded that they were using more power than an economy-conscious neighbour altered their consumption hardly at all.

Environmental economist Magali Delmas and research fellow Omar Asensio, of the University of California Los Angeles, report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they were investigating behaviour-altering messages that might encourage energy savings, as Americans could potentially save 20% a year − or 123 million tonnes of carbon.


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‘We Are Going to Destroy the Greek Oligarchy System’ | Alexander Reed Kelly | Truthdig.com

‘We Are Going to Destroy the Greek Oligarchy System’ | Alexander Reed Kelly | Truthdig.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Yanis Varoufakis is tipped to become finance minister of what may become Greece’s leading party after legislative elections Sunday. He tells Britain’s Channel 4 what Syriza will do if it takes power.

Channel 4 economics editor Paul Mason asks Varoufakis, who teaches economics at the University of Athens, “what will you do to [Greece’s] oligarchy, concretely?”

Varoufakis responds, “We are going to destroy the basis upon which they have built, for decade after decade, a system, a network that viciously sucks of the energy and economic power from everybody else in society.”

When Mason notes Varoufakis knows what happened the “last time somebody tried to take power from the Greek oligarchy,” Varoufakis replies that “the good fight has to be fought independently of costs.”


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Based on the Exit Polls, Syriza has a 12 point lead as the polls close.

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U.S. Trade Agreement with Asia-Pacific Countries Must Have Strong Environmental Provisions | Jake Schmidt's Blog | NRDC.org

U.S. Trade Agreement with Asia-Pacific Countries Must Have Strong Environmental Provisions | Jake Schmidt's Blog | NRDC.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The U.S. and eleven other countries are in the final stages of a trade agreement - the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - that would, if completed, be the biggest trade agreement in recent history. It would cover countries accounting for over forty percent of the world's trade and economic output.


It will have far reaching implications for public health, environmental and conservation protection in the U.S. and around the world. If it is to truly reflect a "21st Century Trade Agreement" as President Obama has outlined, it will need to include meaningful, binding, and enforceable environmental provisions and not include back-door mechanisms that undercut bedrock protections for people's health and the planet. That was the message in a letter that leading environmental and conservation groups recently sent to the U.S.

This trade agreement is being negotiated with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, U.S., and Vietnam. These countries are major actors on key environmental and conservation issues facing the world.


TPP countries account for over a third of the global fisheries catch and deploy a number of unsustainable fishing practices; are significant exporters and importers of a wide range of wildlife products (such as rhino horn and other parts from critical endangered species); are key timber producer, processing, and consumer countries, including several associated with illegal logging and trade; and account for around one-quarter of the world's global warming pollution that is driving climate change.

As a result, any trade agreement with these countries must address the key environmental and conservation challenges facing us in the 21st century, such as destruction of our oceans, wildlife, forests, public health, and climate. The U.S. has pushed for a minimum set of conservation protections in the TPP Environment Chapter - just one of 29 TPP chapters. But the devil is in the details and there are a number of aspects that the U.S. has resisted including in the agreement and provisions that could undermine key environmental safeguards.


Unfortunately due to arcane rules pushed by the U.S., we have no idea what is in this agreement and won't know until the final deal is reached as the documents are kept secret. But we do have some insights into a couple of aspects, including the Environment Chapter, thanks to leaks of earlier versions of the negotiating documents. And the signs from those leaks were troubling enough that NRDC, Sierra Club, and WWF raised serious concerns back in January about the reported language in the Environment Chapter.


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Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process | Dahr Jamail | Truth-Out.org

Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process | Dahr Jamail | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

I have been researching and writing about anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) for Truthout for the past year, because I have long been deeply troubled by how fast the planet has been emitting its obvious distress signals.

On a nearly daily basis, I've sought out the most recent scientific studies, interviewed the top researchers and scientists penning those studies, and connected the dots to give readers as clear a picture as possible about the magnitude of the emergency we are in.

This work has emotional consequences: I've struggled with depression, anger, and fear. I've watched myself shift through some of the five stages of grief proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance I've grieved for the planet and all the species who live here, and continue to do so as I work today.

I have been vacillating between depression and acceptance of where we are, both as victims - fragile human beings – and as perpetrators: We are the species responsible for altering the climate system of the planet we inhabit to the point of possibly driving ourselves extinct, in addition to the 150-200 species we are already driving extinct.

Can you relate to this grieving process?

If so, you might find solace in the fact that you are not alone: Climate science researchers, scientists, journalists and activists have all been struggling with grief around what we are witnessing.


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WA: Oso Landslide Research Paves Way for Future Hazard Evaluations | USGS.gov

WA: Oso Landslide Research Paves Way for Future Hazard Evaluations | USGS.gov | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The large landslide that occurred on March 22, 2014 near Oso, Washington was unusually mobile and destructive. The first published study from U.S. Geological Survey investigations of the Oso landslide (named the “SR530 Landslide” by Washington State) reveals that the potential for landslide liquefaction and high mobility are influenced by several factors, and the landslide process at Oso could have unfolded very differently (with much less destruction) if initial conditions had been only subtly different.

A major focus of the research reported this week is to understand the causes and effects of the landslide’s high mobility. High “mobility” implies high speeds and large areas of impact, which can be far from the landslide source area. Because high-mobility landslides overrun areas that are larger than normal, they present a significant challenge for landslide hazard evaluation. Understanding of the Oso event adds to the knowledge base that can be used to improve future hazard evaluations.

Computer reconstructions of the landslide source-area geometry make use of high-resolution digital topographic (lidar) data, and they indicate that the Oso landslide involved about 8 million cubic meters (about 18 million tons, or almost 3 times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza) of material. The material consisted of sediments deposited by ancient glaciers and in streams and lakes near the margins of those glaciers. The landslide occurred after a long period of unusually wet weather. Prolonged wet weather increases groundwater pressures, which act to destabilize slopes by reducing frictional resistance between sediment particles.

The slope that failed at Oso on March 22, 2014 had a long history of prior historical landslides at the site, but these had not exhibited exceptional mobility.


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U.S. And India Announce ‘Cooperation’ On Climate Change | Emily Atkin | Think Progress

U.S. And India Announce ‘Cooperation’ On Climate Change | Emily Atkin | Think Progress | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday that the two countries will work together to fight global climate change, laying out a set of goals that the two countries hope “will expand policy dialogues and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies.”

While not a concrete emissions reductions agreement like the one Obama reached with China this past November, the deal includes efforts to cooperate on reducing emissions of fluorinated gases, invigorate India’s promotion of clean energy investment, and partner to reduce the debilitating air pollution that has plagued many of India’s cities.

The agreement also emphasized that the countries would “cooperate closely” for a “successful and ambitious” agreement at the Paris climate talks at the end of the year. During that conference, 196 nations are expected to meet and tentatively agree a course of action to respond to climate change. It is widely considered the last chance for a global agreement that could feasibly keep the rise in global average temperatures under 2°C.


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An increasingly rare type of solar farm goes online in California | Katie Fehrenbacher | GigaOM Clean Tech News

An increasingly rare type of solar farm goes online in California | Katie Fehrenbacher | GigaOM Clean Tech News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

When the huge solar farm just outside of Las Vegas called Ivanpah opened up in early 2014, many lamented that this type of solar plant, called solar thermal, could soon become a dinosaur. Late last week another of these large solar thermal farms was officially turned on, and it truly could be one of the last of this size built in the U.S., thanks to a one-two punch of changing incentives and economics.


Large utility-scale solar panel farms use rows and rows of solar panels to directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Solar thermal farms, on the other hand, uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight to heat liquid that produces steam and makes electricity from a turbine. These sites are essentially using the heat of the sun to produce electricity.


Spanish power giant Abengoa celebrated the opening last Friday of a huge 280 MW solar thermal farm called Mojave Solar, built just outside of Barstow, California. The project can provide enough solar power for 90,000 homes in California, and was built across 2 square miles.


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Keystone vote fails in Senate | Elana Schor | POLITICO.com

Keystone vote fails in Senate | Elana Schor | POLITICO.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The Senate’s first vote to cut off debate on its Keystone XL pipeline legislation failed Monday night on a 53-39 vote, as Democrats mounted their first successful filibuster of the new Congress.

That means Republicans who had hoped to pass a Keystone bill this week are now preparing for even longer debate over the pipeline. Republicans immediately continued their series of votes on the pipeline Monday night.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had moved to end debate on a bill yanking President Barack Obama’s authority over Keystone around midnight Thursday, sparking the ire of Democrats who accused him of prematurely cutting off debate.

“That’s politics,” one Senate GOP aide said in an interview of Democrats’ insistence on more votes before agreeing to end the Keystone debate. “At what point are these amendments no longer a sincere effort to improve the bill and just an effort to kill it by delay — that’s a determination Leader McConnell is going to have to make at some point.”

The Keystone bill’s backers initially eyed an end to pipeline votes this week. But legislation once viewed as an easy layup for the new GOP Senate is now starting to become mired in partisan resistance from as the Democratic minority digs in its heels on McConnell’s vow for freewheeling debate.


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China tightens Internet control by blocking VPN services | Martyn Williams | NetworkWorld.com

China tightens Internet control by blocking VPN services | Martyn Williams | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

China is clamping down on unrestricted access to the Internet by blocking services that allow users to get around government censorship.

Several foreign-based operators of virtual private network (VPN) services said Friday that access to their services in China had been disrupted as a result of the crackdown and users are facing a harder time getting to some foreign websites.

Virtual private networks work by establishing an encrypted pipe between a computer or smartphone and a server in a foreign country. All communications are sent inside the pipe, effectively shielding Internet traffic from government filters that determine whether a site can be accessed. VPNs are used by Chinese citizens to get to external news sources and by resident foreigners and businesses for day-to-day communications.

StrongVPN, a commercial provider that operates a network of servers around the world, said users in China had recently begun experiencing connection problems to some of its sites. Comments alongside a company blog post indicate the list of sites affected is changing and sites that might work one day are failing the following day.

Another VPN provider, Golden Frog, told customers they might have more success connecting to services in Hong Kong or The Netherlands than those in the United States or Australia.

The problems have been caused by an upgrade to China’s censorship system, reported the English-language Global Times newspaper. The state-run paper quoted unnamed Chinese analysts as urging Internet users to abide by the government’s Internet censorship system “for safety.”


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Malaysia Airlines attacked, big data dump threatened | John Ribeiro | NetworkWorld.com

Malaysia Airlines attacked, big data dump threatened | John Ribeiro | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The Malaysia Airlines website has been attacked and the Lizard Squad, one of the groups that claimed responsibility on Monday, threatened to soon “dump some loot” found on the airline’s servers.

The airline said in a statement on its Facebook page that its Domain Name System (DNS) was compromised and as a result users trying to access the URL www.malaysiaairlines.com were being redirected to a hacker website.

At this stage, Malaysia Airlines’ Web servers are intact, it added. The airlines assured customers that it had not been hacked and “this temporary glitch does not affect their bookings and that user data remains secured.”

The Lizard Squad countered the claim of the airlines and released what appeared to be a travel itinerary receipt as proof that it had hacked into user data.

Users were initially redirected to a page with a picture of a Malaysia Airlines plane with the message “404-Plane Not Found. Hacked by Cyber Caliphate,” a reference to the disappearance of the airline’s Flight MH370 when on a flight in March between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. The page was subsequently modified to have the logo of the Lizard Squad. At the bottom of the image was another message “Hacked by LIZARD SQUAD -OFFICIAL CYBER CALIPHATE.”

Malaysia Airlines said it had resolved the issue with its service provider and the system is expected to be fully recovered within 22 hours. “The matter has also been immediately reported to CyberSecurity Malaysia and the Ministry of Transport.” It was directing passengers who wanted to book fares to a page on its site.


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Roger Smith's curator insight, January 26, 4:57 PM

Another worry for Malaysia Airlines!

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California tries to make strawberry patches safer by limiting one nasty pesticide | Susan Cosier | onEarth.org

California tries to make strawberry patches safer by limiting one nasty pesticide | Susan Cosier | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Plump, juicy, and delicious, strawberries are everywhere nowadays. The red berries, which bring splashes of color to cereal, ice cream, and salads, are available in stores all year long. In fact, we eat twice as many strawberries as we did in 2002, thanks largely to pesticides (insects and weeds love the fruit, too).

Those chemicals, however, can make people living near strawberry farms sick, so the state of California, where the vast majority of strawberries are grown, is restricting how farmers use one pesticide in particular.

Chloropicrin is a potent fumigant applied to the soil before crops are planted. It kills microbes, fungi, weeds, insects, worms—you name it. During World War I, armies used it as an agent of chemical warfare; it would penetrate gas masks and make soldiers vomit, forcing them to remove their masks, which would then leave them vulnerable to other, even more harmful gases.

Chloropicrin’s military days are over, but farmers in California used more than nine million pounds of it in 2012, 70 percent on strawberry fields, to increase yields. In recent years, the amount applied to crops has been increasing because an alternative, methyl bromide, is being phased out under international restrictions on ozone-depleting chemicals. This month the California Department of Pesticide Regulation set limits on chloropicrin use to help protect those who work, live, and go to school near the fields.


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New England’s energy threatened by natural gas line capacity | Luther Trumelle | New Haven Register

New England’s energy threatened by natural gas line capacity | Luther Trumelle | New Haven Register | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The president and chief executive officer of the organization that runs New England’s electric grid said Wednesday that the energy system in the region “is in a period of transition.”

ISO-New England’s Gordon van Welie said the region is facing at least three or four more winters in which a lack of transmission line capacity for natural gas — the predominant fuel used in running power plants in the six states — could create volatility in the pricing of electricity and “serious reliability challenges.” But van Welie stopped short of predicting the region could face brown-outs — reductions in power levels — or blackouts.

“We will continue to see volatility (in electric prices),” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a mild winter thus far. But that’s not something that we can count on in the future.”

A combination of factors has led to the volatility of electric prices, van Welie said.

Prior to 2013, New England had a surplus of power plants available to generate electricity. But since then, he said operators of power plants have begun shutting down some of the older generation units, actions that will reduce the region’s generation capacity by 3,500 megawatts through 2017.

New Jersey-based NRG Energy shut down its Norwalk Harbor power plant in June 2013, taking 342 megawatts of generating capacity with it. At the end of 2014, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was shutdown, which reduced the region’s generation capacity by another 604 megawatts.

Even before the older power plants started to be retired, new power plants were being brought on line, with generating units capable of producing 15,000 megawatts being added. The majority of those power plants run on natural gas, which has increased the usage of natural gas for generation from 15 percent in 2000 to 44 percent in 2014.

But van Welie said construction of natural gas pipelines has not kept pace with the construction of the power plants that run on the fuel.


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Boom: North America's Explosive Oil-By-Rail Problem | The Weather Channel & Inside Climate News

On July 6, 2013, a train hauling two million gallons of crude oil exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people. It took two days to put out the fire and devastated the small community.

That catastrophe had its origin in America. For five years, a boom in oil production has been taking place in the Bakkan Shale region of North Dakota. Oil from the Bakkan is transported across the U.S. and Canada by rail to refineries on the coasts – it was one of these trains that derailed in Lac-Megantic.


The sharp increase in domestic oil production has created jobs, decreased economic vulnerability to turmoil in the Middle East, and lowered prices of gasoline and home heating oil.


But there's another side to this story.


In "Boom," a joint investigation by The Weather Channel and InsideClimate News, we explore how the boom in oil has resulted in highly volatile crude oil being sent over aging, often defective rails in vulnerable railcars.


Rail accidents involving oil trains have been on the rise. But industry and regulators have been slow react. Will it take another Lac-Megantic to make America's towns and cities safer?


Read the full report here: stories.weather.com/boom


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Henry A. Giroux: Searching for Radical Democracy in the Ruins of Capitalism's Economic Depravity | Chuck Mertz | Truth-Out.org

Henry A. Giroux: Searching for Radical Democracy in the Ruins of Capitalism's Economic Depravity | Chuck Mertz | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The future demands a new political consciousness. We can't just wait for neoliberal economics to tear apart society and then build from scratch.


In this interview, Giroux both condemns the scourge of neoliberalism and its poisonous cynicism and attack on the critical imagination and argues for a radical democracy that has to be truly participatory and willing to give power to all people so that they can intervene in and shape values, policies, the practices that shape their lives.


For Giroux, resistance is impossible without education and a critical formative culture that addresses both the creation of new historical and political agents as well as the possibility of a new society. He also argues that resistance if it's to be successful, it needs to go beyond the fragmentation, sectarianism, and political purity that has plagued the left.


In pointing to a politics of hope, he argues that now is the time to develop systemic reforms, develop alternative public spheres, and a social movement that embraces a comprehensive view of politics and change.


Cultural critic Henry Giroux published his thoughts in the Truthout analysis article Authoritarianism, Class Warfare and the Advance of Neoliberal Austerity Policies. Author and cultural critic Henry Giroux holds the Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies.


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Eighty People Control Half of the World's Wealth and All of the Elected Officials | Crystal Shepeard | Truth-Out.org

Eighty People Control Half of the World's Wealth and All of the Elected Officials | Crystal Shepeard | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting began in Davos, Switzerland. The meeting convenes “global leaders from across business, government, international organizations, academia and civil society for strategic dialogues which map the key transformations reshaping the world.” The hope is that the dialogue will lead to action on the part of the participating nations to improve conditions in their own communities, with an understanding that we are all globally connected. The idea is that the actions in one community can affect another anywhere in the world.

The current state of global economic inequality shows just how tenuous that connection is.

In what has now become tradition, Oxfam International, a confederation of organizations dedicated to fighting poverty, issued a report on the current state of economic inequality. Last year’s report sent shockwaves through the world by announcing that just 85 people controlled the same amount of wealth as the bottom 3 billion people combined. That was even more dramatic than 2010 when it took 388 people to control that much wealth.

Today, the bulk of the wealth is in the hands of just 80 people.

The reasons for the dramatic change are much as they have always been. The global recession had disproportionate negative effects on those in the middle and bottom of the economic scale. As most of the population slid down the scale, the recovery went quickly upwards. While the majority of the population relied on income, which decreased or disappeared, the rich had assets. Those assets grew in value just as the returns on investments began to bounce back. The rich got richer simply because with assets, it’s difficult to not remain wealthy.


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Message to the UK: The Fracking Bridge is Already Burning | Naomi Klein | Common Dreams

Message to the UK: The Fracking Bridge is Already Burning | Naomi Klein | Common Dreams | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

On a week-long trip to the UK last fall, I was struck by how quickly the push to open up the country to fracking has been escalating. Thankfully, activists are mounting a vigorous and creative response, and are more than up to the task of galvanizing the public to put a stop to this mad dash to extract.

That is not to say it will be easy. In rushing to exploit the UK’s shale gas reserves, the industry has spent millions on public relations and brazenly overridden the democratic will of British citizens by overturning laws that had prevented drilling under homes. The coalition government, meanwhile, has done the sector’s bidding at every turn.

We’ve seen all of this before. Indeed what is happening in the UK is modeled so closely on the U.S. experience that an October 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal spoke of “Plotting an American-Style Fracking Revolution in Britain.”

So it’s worth playing close attention to how that earlier plot played out, both in the United States and in my own country, Canada. The U.S. is not only where the gas companies honed various technologies used in fracking, but also where they honed their branding—like their pitch, originating in the early 1980s, that natural gas was a “bridge” to a clean energy future.

As opposition has grown, they have cleverly funded studies stamped by big green organizations that understate fracking’s huge greenhouse gas impact; touted over-optimistic production forecasts; and in true shock doctrine style, tried to take advantage of geo-political crisis, like the gas cut-offs in Ukraine, to push through massive export plans that in any other circumstance could never gain legislative or public approval.

And when all else fails, government and industry have turned to criminalizing peaceful activism. They’ve dispatched heavily armed police against Indigenous communities blockading shale gas exploration in New Brunswick, Canada; gagged families impacted by drilling from criticizing the industry for an entire lifetime; and tried to charge as “terrorists” protesters in Oklahoma who unfurled a banner and dropped glitter at an oil and gas company’s office.


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"I'll Pretend I Can't Read." Colbert (and others) on Denier's Increasing Climate Confusion | Peter Sinclair | Climate Crocks

"I'll Pretend I Can't Read." Colbert (and others) on Denier's Increasing Climate Confusion | Peter Sinclair | Climate Crocks | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Above, Steven Colbert on the “I’m not a scientist” approach to climate denial. This kind of ridicule of an obviously dopey dodge has made climate denying politicians increasingly uncomfortable and looking for pathways to thread a difficult path between a Fox News addled base, and the increasingly obvious reality of climate change.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times:

It’s now official: 2014 was the warmest year on record. You might expect this to be a politically important milestone. After all, climate change deniers have long used the blip of 1998 — an unusually hot year, mainly due to an upwelling of warm water in the Pacific — to claim that the planet has stopped warming. This claim involves a complete misunderstanding of how one goes about identifying underlying trends. (Hint: Don’t cherry-pick your observations.) But now even that bogus argument has collapsed. So will the deniers now concede that climate change is real?

Of course not. Evidence doesn’t matter for the “debate” over climate policy, where I put scare quotes around “debate” because, given the obvious irrelevance of logic and evidence, it’s not really a debate in any normal sense. And this situation is by no means unique. Indeed, at this point it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board. And the real question is why.

Below, President Obama has fun with it. “I’ll just pretend I can’t read.” The President’s mockery of the “I’m not a scientist” dodge stung so deeply that Speaker John Boehner excised that portion of the State of the Union address from the “official” Republican version posted on line, as has been noted here and elsewhere.


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