Archive for Policy

Windians: Gone with the Wind

WinddddddThe stimulus bill passed through Congress had many alternative energy incentives attached including wind energy. The major fault though, was the production tax credit’s (PTC) lack of language including Native Americans. Reservations are said to contain the most wind potential, but the resources are not being used because Natives receive no benefit in creating wind energy. Luckily, by making the PTC a tradable tax credit, Native populations can slowly wean off of gambling casinos and into a prospering economy. Current populations are considered impoverished because the only source of income coming in are through gambling casinos and uranium mining projects. Unfortunately these industries lead to alcoholism and lung cancer. Poverty stricken reservations are treated as a global underclass and a change in language for the PTC can make drastic changes. By making the PTC tradable, Native populations are able to develop wind farms and receive tax credits, but since Natives do not pay taxes the credits are deemed useless. However, Joint Reservation Projects are willing to trade money for the tax credits, this frees up money in the Congressional treasury and develops powerful wind energy. Including Native Americans in the gradual shift to renewable and alternative energy sources is key to the driving force behind saving the environment and curbing greenhouse gases.

-Nicholas Chan

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Now, Switch!

grasssssFrom fossil fuels to corn ethanol, Americans need to switch over to brighter and greener forms of energy. Switchgrass, a fast growing plant is looking quite promising, but is overlooked among citizens. The Department of Energy truly believes that biofuels are the keystone transition from dependence to independence. The native crop can easily reduce reliance on foreign oil, curb greenhouse gas emissions, and strengthen the agricultural sector. The major problem with corn ethanol is the price fluctuation and the fast paced transition instead of a gradual switch over.  Switchgrass, however provides many benefits such as the cost competitiveness, the push in biodiversity, and the lack of a need for pesticides. It is one of the fastest growing crops that can be processed into a biofuel, but with corn ethanol and oil overshadowing the true potential of the grass, switchgrass is still stuck in the research and development phase. It is also empirically proven that switchgrass actuall adds organic nutrients to the soil ensuring a long lasting harvest. With its strong roots, the cash crop can last through the winter and prevent soil erosion. The air produced from the plant reduces carbon dioxide and it slows the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Naturally, since we don’t eat grass, price spikes won’t occur as with corn ethanol. Only with determination and public knowledge can society bring this promising grass to the forefront, so American, now, switch!

-Nicholas Chan

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In A Nutshell

All of us each peanuts or sum sort of peanut product (actually all of us who aren’t allergic). One thing that we may not have know is that peanut shells release carbon as they decompose. But one thing that you could do to deter from emitting carbon into the atmosphere is to create biochar. Biochar is basically “green coal”. This sort of charcoal is created form the any form of biomass waste that is burned, in a kiln AKA  industrial oven, with an airless burning technique also known as pyrolysis. Then you take the coal and dig it into the ground that way the carbon is locked into the soil. By doing this you could anchor soil nutrients extremely well at a time when the planet’s soils have lost half of their carbon thanks to industrialized agriculture. In May 2009, the Biochar Fund received a grant from the Congo Basin Forest Fund to implement its concept in Central Africa. The Observer gives it a light bulb rating of 5 out of 5 which translated basically means this will mostly be one thing that steps in a will most likely save the planet and possibly humanity. One thing that should be noted though is that biochar is not limited to just peanut shells, but can be used for any type of biomass.

– Funmilayo Amubieya

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Trick or Trees

Many of us know that trees are beneficial, but a large percentage of those do not understand why. We constantly cut down forests and plants around us in order to satisfy our own need, yet we do not know that when we wipe out these trees, slowly it will begin to hurt us.

When we trash the land around us, it will continue to be there unless we get rid of it. This can be applied to the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Trees not only serve as the beauty that nature exhibits, but it also filters our air. When we breathe out carbon dioxide, trees intake it and release out oxygen. If this is true, why would we allow deforestation to happen? Our population is growing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should go on an environmental rampage just so that we can have large houses and big backyards. Not only should we stop killing mass amount of trees, but we should grow more. For the immense amount of carbon dioxide we emit, it wouldn’t hurt to reduce the CO2 in the air to mitigate temperature change and to reduce the unhealthy substances in the air that we breathe.

~Christine Umeh

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Putting the ‘Change’ in ‘Climate Change’

Global Climate ChangeDebate over the most effective means of transitioning to a “greener” world has been recently opened. Current governmental policy on reducing emissions leans toward an upstream cap-and-trade system, in which a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) cap is placed upon companies which limits the amount of GHGs that can be emitted. The trade part becomes a disincentive to pollute and an incentive to reduce emissions because companies are given GHG credits to “spend.” If a company produces less GHGs than the limit is placed at, they have the ability to sell those credits to companies who produce more emissions and in turn, need more GHG credits. Quintessentially, this is a “polluters pay” type of policy that discourages excessive GHG emission at a national level.

In addition to reducing emissions, President-elect Barack Obama looks at creating a new energy infrastructure as a method of picking up the fallen economy by introducing 5 million green-collar jobs, decreasing foreign oil dependence and ultimately, providing relief to American families.

Fundamentally, governmental policy has the power to influence and even spark new climate change movements and use the market as a tool to venture into new alternative energy in technology as an integrated approach to help delay, halt or reverse the disastruous impacts of climate change like environmental degradation, animal habitat destruction, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions. The government could be an active player in the frontline defense against global climate change.

~Christine Umeh

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Financial Drains, Environmental Gains

If developed countries implement adaptation strategies now, how will we reduce the financial costs of climate change down the line?

Every single one of us share mother Earth, but those that are economically advantaged barely give back. Developed countries working under the Organization of Economic Cooperation (OECD) consist of 30 democratic governments all over the world ranging from Australia to United States; have been making long strides and efforts in attempts to adapt to climate change. From financial aid to material based aid, developed countries have made attempts to slow climate change and its effects, but more needs to be done. If more developed countries contribute then adaptation strategies can be implemented faster, which will inevitable slow the effects of climate change.

Now once more developed countries meet their obligations seeing as how they’re one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, then the financial costs will be reduced. Not directly reduced, but we can see how drought in Ethiopia, flooding in Bangladesh, more frequent storms in Philippines, sea levels rising in Maldives, and food shortages in Malawi are all prime examples of the drastic effects of global warming. The amount of damage done and the financial drain on, most commonly, those undeveloped countries paves a path for developed countries to take charge not only to rebuild nations around the world that need assistance, but attack the root cause of the problem by adapting to climate change. If policies are enacted to adapt to climate change and are continuously successful, then we’ll see how those financial costs will radically reduce while environmental gains will become more and more apparent in society. Although we can’t sew up the hole in the ozone layer, we can at least patch things up to prevent further devastation. No action is too small or insignificant as long as it contributes to the overall picture of adapting to environmental problems. Not only will undeveloped countries get back on their feet with the help of developed countries because they’re not incessantly spending funds from environmental disaster damage. This allows even undeveloped countries to build up their economies, create global partnerships with other leaders around the world, and make global efforts in attempts to acknowledge our past mistakes towards our treatment of mother Earth and finally take a step in the right direction.

-Nicholas Chan

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The Tide is High…

hyturbineThe tides are rising and so is the demand for Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. OTEC is a new alternative energy source that generates electricity from water as a heat engine. The temperature difference from our oceans actually creates efficient energy. Currently, the problem with OTEC is that it doesn’t generate a lot of energy, so it’s up to Congress to determine if the costs outweigh the benefits, but changes in heat exchange show promise. 70% of the Earth is currently covered with water and the sun is heating the waters to generated electricity. With a combination of solar energy and hydropower a new alternative energy source and actually dominate the wind energy markets. Recent attempts at implementing OTEC failed because of costs and low efficiency rates, but if thermal efficiency were to increase in magnitude, electrical sources might be changed altogether. In a cost-benefit analysis, the sum of money Congress has to put out may gut the economy, but the overall benefits from saving our natural resources will greatly outweigh.

-Nicholas Chan

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The Man on the Moon

coperWith the rising consumption of fossil fuels, a gas from the moon is becoming a promising potential source. Mineral samples known as Helium-3 (H3) are similar to the natural gas sources we use at home. Unfortunately, the amount of H3 on Earth doesn’t come close to the almost infinite resource on the moon. When H3 fuses with deuterium the reaction produces energy that we can use on Earth. Just 25 tons alone can power the United States for almost a year. The process of H3 extraction involves collecting various samples of moon soil and rocks. Once collected, a high temperature of almost 800 degrees Celsius is able to produce a tone of helium. The moon has about one million tons of helium 3 enough to last us a lifetime. Compared to fossil fuels, the moon contains 10 time more energy from H3 sources. One major setback to the project is the reactor technology that will take time, money, and effort to develop. It is noted that the process and test trials will take almost another 30 years. Scientists say that by 2050, the Earth will run out of fossil fuel sources, so determined development and funding for the experimental reactor might be risky, but it might be the only solution to our huge problem that might end all life on Earth.

-Nicholas Chan

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More of the Moratorium?


The current moratorium on deep-water offshore drilling that was enacted May 30th is set to expire in November due to the recent oil spill, but the public questions whether it should be lifted sooner or extended. The oil spill definitely hurt marine life which is an integral part of our ecosystem. If we continue to allow deep water offshore drilling then accidents could continue to happen. Cleaning up the spill also hurt the economy by taking funds in attempts to resolve the problem and it also hurt the political image of President Obama and BP. It is noted that Obama was unable to lobby and pass climate legislation because of his lack of credibility on environmental issues. However on the contrary, extending the moratorium could also hurt the United States. Many were put out of work because the offshore drilling industry contained thousands of jobs for Americans. In Louisiana alone, 260,000 oil related jobs are at risk of being cut off because of the delay in activity. Also currently, only 2% of offshore drilling is actually considered deep-water meaning the likelihood of another oil spill is highly unlikely. Both sides of the spectrum are debating over the issue as to whether 6 months was enough to resolve the issue and set a universal stance on environmental policies.

-Nicholas Chan

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2010 TPS Global Debate – A Review

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