December 5, 2014

Massive oil spill oozes through Israeli desert

Nearly 2.3 million litres of oil have spilled from a pipeline in southern Israel in what is being called one of the worst environmental accidents in the country’s history, ThinkProgress reports. The breach occurred near the tourist town of Eilat in a part of the 250-kilometre Trans-Israel pipeline that happens to pass through a nature reserve. The operator of the pipeline reports that the leaking has been stopped, but the river of black that resulted is flowing toward the Jordanian border. Fumes have reportedly led to dozens of hospitalizations. “We are still having trouble gauging the full extent of the contamination,” said Guy Samet, a spokesman with the Israel Environmental Protection Ministry, who said the spill could take months – possibly years – to fully clean up.


New venture to sell green “infrastructure as a service”

As SolarCity has proven, the concept of solar-as-a-service is well established: a company funds, installs and operates a solar energy system for an organization or homeowner, which in return pays the company for the energy received. Both sides win. Over the term of the contract the company providing the “service” makes its money back along with a healthy profit and the receiver of the service gets emission-free energy at a reasonable, predictable price. Jigar Shah, who pioneered the approach as founder and chief executive of SunEdison, is now applying that model to a variety of energy, water and food infrastructure projects. As journalist Katie Fehrenbacher writes at Gigaom, Shah has co-founded a company called Generate Capital that exists to fund green projects that are too small for traditional banks to consider. Example projects might include an LED street-lighting project for a small municipality or a university that wants to install a geothermal heat pump system under a sports field. “One of Generate Capital’s advantages could be that hardly anyone else is doing this, so it could potentially tap into a vast unmet need,” Fehrenbacher writes.


White House pushes climate literacy in the classroom

In what is certain to ruffle Republican feathers, the White House announced plans to distribute science-based literature in an effort educate students, teachers and the public broadly about climate change and its various, often severe effects. The move, reports U.S. News and World Report, is in line with the administration’s – and U.S. President Barack Obama’s – position on climate change, and reflects recent efforts to tackle the problem, from a U.S.-China emissions reduction deal to the crack down on coal plant emissions. “The White House initiative pulls together more than two dozen advocacy and education groups from more than 30 states,” according to the report. “The groups will provide fellowship programs, teacher training opportunities and increased attention to public education on climate change through museums, aquariums, botanic gardens and zoos. The combined efforts are expected to reach millions of students, teachers, federal employees and visitors to national parks and public nature facilities.”


Hillary Clinton vows to protect Obama’s climate moves

The 2016 U.S. presidential election isn’t that far away, so it’s no surprise that Hillary Clinton is increasingly talking more like a candidate, even though she has yet to declare that she’s running. But what if, two years from now, President Clinton is elected to replace President Obama? Clinton made clear in a speech to the League of Conservation Voters this week that she fully supports Obama’s regulatory actions to deal with climate change and plans to keep it that way. “The unprecedented action that President Obama has taken must be protected at all cost,” she said. “From the administration’s announcement last month of a $3 billion commitment to the global green climate fund, to that new joint announcement with China, to new rules under consideration for ozone, we continue to push forward. But that is just the beginning of what is needed.” Greg Sargent at the Washington Post writes that Clinton’s comment holds huge significance. Obama, by talking about climate change as much as possible, is making it a real issue in 2016. “And on this issue, in rhetorical terms, at least, Clinton is laying down her marker.”


Workers protest Toronto hotel’s “green” policy

Business travellers will be quite familiar with hotels increasingly giving visitors the option to forgo room-cleaning service in the name of the environment. All those freshly laundered sheets and towels consume a tremendous amount of energy, while cleaning chemicals get flushed down the drain. Multiply that by millions of rooms around the world being cleaned 365 days a year and it all adds up. Obviously, it’s a great deal for hotels, too, considering the energy and labour savings.

Unions, however, are beginning to notice the impact. At Toronto’s Sheraton Centre this week, about 200 hospitality workers protested the reduced hours they are getting because of these “green programs,” which they want cancelled. When they are working, they say they must work harder because visitors that forgo housecleaning tend to have messier rooms that take longer to clean. “The protest was part of a global week of action by the international federation of unions representing hospitality workers,” according to a report in the Toronto Star. “Demonstrations are expected in 30 countries, and aim to draw attention to hotel room attendants’ deteriorating work conditions.” Legitimate concern or ridiculous demand?

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