India’s new energy minister Piyush Goyal says the country will become a “renewables superpower” as it attempts to bring electricity to 300 million of its citizens currently living without power. The catch is that it plans to rapidly expand coal-fired electricity in order to meet that goal.
Goyal told the Guardian that he expected $100 billion (U.S.) to be invested in India’s renewable energy sector over the next five years. After being elected in May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s has made a number of energy-related promises, with solar power playing a major role.
Goyal has doubled the tax on coal to pay for clean energy development, but he was adamant in his interview with the Guardian that coal-fired power plants would be necessary to meet India’s power needs and to grow the economy as quickly as possible.
In other news, a coal-fired power plant near Estevan, Saskatchewan, aims to show that it is possible to burn fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions at the same time. The Boundary Dam, owned by SaskPower International Inc., opened Canada’s first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility today.
The 1.3 billion-dollar project will trap CO2 underground before it reaches the atmosphere, promising to cut emissions by 90 per cent, which is about 1 million tons of carbon per year or the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road.
While some see this as a solution to keep coal as a viable option in one of Canada’s fossil-fuel dependent regions, environmental campaigners have not embraced the technology. Some coal companies in the U.S. are also suspicious of the technology, choosing to focus instead on blocking new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules.
The EPA is also being pressured to get serious about protecting pollinators, such as bees. The head of the EPA, Gina McCarthy, received a letter on Tuesday from 60 members of the House of Representatives in Washington asking her to consider banning or restricting neonicotinoid pesticides, citing scientific evidence that they affect the health of bees, butterflies and birds. The letter follows the decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service to phase out the use of neonicotinoids in its National Wildlife Refuges by 2016. Corporate Knights wrote about Home Depot’s decision to ban the pesticide in its stores in July.
When it comes to neonicotinoid use, the European Union is one step ahead of the U.S., having put a moratorium on the pesticides last year. But that also means that farmers in the United Kingdom are the first to see the effects of the ban on their crops.
A plague of flea beetles has attacked rapeoil seed crops, also known as canola, after the driest September on record. The crops are usually coated in neonicotinoids that are absorbed by the entire plant, including its flowers, which later come into contact with bees and other pollinators. This is the first year that the ban has affected farmers who say they are struggling. The former president of the National Farmers Union told the Guardian that he expects his crop be 30 per cent smaller, and for U.K. crops to be down by one quarter, costing farmers millions.