January 27, 2012

6 coal plants shutting down

FirstEnergy Corp. said Thursday that new environmental regulations led to a decision to shut down six older, coal-fired power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
The plants, which are in Cleveland, Ashtabula, Oregon and Eastlake in Ohio, Adrian, Pa. and Williamsport, Md., will be retired by Sept. 1. 
Two other factors have made it easier for utilities to shut old coal plants in recent years. Power demand has been weakening in recent years because of the slow economy and energy efficiency programs. And natural gas prices, which have fallen to decade-low levels in recent weeks, have allowed utilities to switch from coal to natural gas without impacting customer bills. Meanwhile, demand from China and elsewhere has driven up the price of coal.

70 million people at risk of lung cancer

Currently, 70 million Americans live in areas that are in violation of the health standards set by EPA. That's 70 million people routinely exposed to fine particles at levels that the EPA deems unsafe.

What are the resulting health effects?

According to the EPA, PM 2.5 causes irritation of the airways, coughing, and difficulty breathing, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, chronic bronchitis, irregular heartbeat, nonfatal heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
Now we can add lung cancer to that terrible list of environmental effects of air pollution.

A study published last month in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine examined the relationship between long-term fine particle pollution and deaths from lung cancer in 188,000 Americans.

The researchers, led by Michelle Turner of the University of Ottawa, followed their study subjects for 26 years, from 1982 to 2008. They found that PM 2.5 exposure, as measured by air monitoring systems, was significantly correlated with deaths from lung cancer. Turner and her colleagues are fairly certain that these lung cancers were not caused by cigarette smoking, a potent carcinogen and a common confounder in cancer studies, because they studied only those people who had never smoked.

EPA said this week that it needed more time to finish drafting new standards for fine particles from power plants. The agency is required by the Clean Air Act to set science-based standards every five years. It missed its October 2011 deadline and indicated in a court filing last week that the new standards would not be finalized until June, 2013. It's a disappointing delay.

Here's what you can do to help reduce your family's exposure to fine particle pollution:

Know your air. Find out whether the air you breathe is persistently polluted with fine particles here. Also, you can find out what is the quality of the air you are breathing right now at AirNow, a government website that provides real time air quality mapping.

Avoid exercising outdoors in air that is high in fine particle pollution. Don't let your kids exercise outside on such days either. Vigorous exercise brings more of the fine particles deep into the lungs.

Use less electricity. Power plants are one of the largest pollution sources in the US.

Drive less. Cars increase air pollution, including fine particle pollution.

Don't burn wood or trash. Such fires are a large source of fine particle pollution.

Clean up your school system's school buses. Old diesel buses can be a significant source of particle pollution. Make sure your school system is retrofitting old buses and has a strong anti-idling policy.

Keystone XL Permit Denied

The State Department has recommended that President Obama deny the Keystone XL pipeline approval. 

After reviewing the State Department report President Obama agreed with their recommendations and denied the permit. 

Time to celebrate? Not so soon. 

President Obama made the following comments in a statement today. 

"This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people."

The State Department's statement concludes - "The Department's denial of the permit application does not preclude any subsequent permit application or applications for similar projects." 

And TransCanada seems undeterred by this setback. "TransCanada remains fully committed to the construction of Keystone XL," Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Plans are already underway on a number of fronts to largely maintain the construction schedule of the project."

So this fight will continue. 

Here is everything you need to know about Keystone XL. 
The Oil Goes to China, the Permanent Jobs Go to Canada, We Get the Spills, and the World Gets Warmer 

Energy Efficiency could save $16 Trillion!

Thinking Big on Efficiency Could Cut U.S. Energy Costs up to $16 Trillion & Create up to 1.9 Million Net Jobs by 2050 

America is thinking too small when it comes to energy efficiency … according to a major new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
The new report outlines three scenarios under which the U.S. could either continue on its current path or cut energy consumption by the year 2050 almost 60 percent, add nearly two million net jobs in 2050, and save energy consumers as much as $400 billion per year (the equivalent of $2600 per household annually).
Examples of potential large-scale energy efficiency savings identified by ACEEE include the following:
  • Electric Power. Our current system of generating and delivering electricity to U.S. homes and businesses is an anemic 31 percent energy efficient. That is, for every three units of coal or other fuel we use to generate the power, we manage to deliver less than one unit of electricity to our homes and businesses. What the U.S. wastes in the generation of electricity is more than Japan needs to power its entire economy. What is even more astonishing is that our current level of (in)efficiency is essentially unchanged in the half century since 1960, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower spent his last year in the White House.
  • Transportation.   The fuel economy of conventional petroleum-fueled vehicles continues to grow while hybrid, electric, and fuel cell vehicles gain large shares, totaling nearly three-quarters of all new light-duty vehicles in 2050 in the report's middle scenario. Aviation, rail, and shipping energy use declines substantially in this scenario through a combination of technological and operational improvements. In the most aggressive scenario, there is a shift toward more compact development patterns, and greater investment in alternative modes of travel and other measures that reduce both passenger and freight vehicle miles traveled. This scenario also phases out conventional light-duty gasoline vehicles entirely, increases hybrid and fuel cell penetration for heavy-duty vehicles, and reduces aviation energy use by 70 percent.
  • Buildings.   In residential and commercial buildings the evidence suggests potential reductions of space heating and cooling needs as the result of building shell improvements of up to 60 percent in existing buildings, and 70-90 percent in new buildings. The ACEEE scenarios also incorporate advanced heating and cooling systems (e.g., gas and ground-source air conditioners and heat pumps and condensing furnaces and boilers), decreased energy distribution losses, advanced solid-state lighting, and significantly more efficient appliances.
  • Industry. In the industrial sector, energy efficiency opportunities reduce 2050 energy use by up to half, coming less from equipment efficiency and more from optimization of complex systems. The ACEEE analysis focuses on process optimization in the middle scenario, but also anticipates even greater optimization of entire supply chains in the most aggressive scenario, allowing for more efficient use of feedstocks and elimination of wasted production.

Defending Climate Change at School

The National Center for Science Education has been defending the teaching of evolution since before Edwards vs. Aguillard, the 1987 Supreme Court decision that declared the teaching of creationism an unconstitutional promotion of religion.

With times changing, the NCSE is changing with them. Today, it's announcing that its support of students and educators will be broadened to include climate change.
"It's been a growing realization of ours that, just as teachers get hammered for teaching evolution, they also are getting hammered for teaching global warming and other climate change topics. They'll start talking about global warming and a student's hand will shoot up, 'teacher, my dad says global warming is a hoax.' We've had accounts where students would get up and walk out of the room."
The NCSE also heard about school boards that enacted policies that would dictate how things would be handled in the classrooms, and noticed the legislation we mentioned above. Scott said that all these events left the NCSE staff thinking "we really should look into this."
What they found were some clear parallels between evolution and climate science. Just as the controversy over evolution takes place within the public and not among scientists, Scott said, "There's not a debate going on within the science community about whether the climate is getting warm and whether people have a great deal to do with this." There were also parallels in terms of motivation. "The basis for antievolution is ideological," Scott said, pointing to its religious nature. "There's also an idealogical basis for anti-global warming, it just happens to be a political and economic ideology."
Eugenie C. Scott, the group's executive director, cited a rise in "creationist-like tactics being used in the attack on climate education."

Dr. Scott said national surveys of science teachers indicated that "one-third or more of their teachers have experienced some kind of push-back on the teaching of climate change" — everything from demands by education board members that climate change skeptics debate a climate scientist in class to objections by parents to the screening of "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary about global climate change.
She said she anticipated that more such incidents would become known now that teachers have a central place to report them.

Renewable Energy Standards

When your local utility buys more renewable energy to power your lights and computers, what more do you get besides the power?  You get cleaner air, fewer respiratory health problems, and lower health-care costs.

You get local jobs building and maintaining green power plants and a better foothold in the fast-growing, multi-billion dollar global renewable energy industry.

If you use the power to charge the new plug-in electric vehicles now available, you reduce our imports of foreign oil and increase our energy security.

And finally, you reduce the greenhouse gases that are leading to the severe, threatening weather events spurred by global climate change.

Business Council says "Keystone makes no sense for America"

"Keystone makes no economic sense for America," American Sustainable Business Council says Keystone pipeline benefits are embellished 

A coalition of businesses is the first such group to denounce the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline and is urging President Obama to reject the project and turn the nation's focus to alternative and renewable energy.
The American Sustainable Business Councidisputes Keystone's job numbers and energy security claims that most other business organizations tout when discussing the project.

"Once we take into account the true cost of oil including subsidies, environmental damage and military costs, oil is far more expensive than the alternatives. The best thing we can do for the American economy, and for American businesses as a whole, is to wean ourselves from oil as quickly as possible."

Thoughts from Martin Luther King, Jr.

"On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right."

- Martin Luther King, Jr. 

January 15, 2012

7 All-time heat records set in 2011

Here, then, are the most most notable extreme temperatures globally in 2011, courtesy of weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera:
  1. Hottest temperature in the world in 2011: 53.3°C (127.9°F) in Mitrabah, Kuwait, August 3
  2. Coldest temperature in the world in 2011: -80.2°C (-112.4°F) at Dome Fuji, Antarctica, September 18
  3. Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 49.4°C (120.9°F) at Roebourne, Australia, on December 21
  4. Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -67.2°C (-89°F) at Summit, Greenland, March 18. This is also the coldest March temperature ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere.
  5. Hottest undisputed 24-hour minimum temperature in world history: A minimum temperature of 41.7°C (107°F) measured at Khasab Airport in Oman on June 27

Germany installs solar at half US cost

Germany installed 4 times more solar than the US in 2011 at roughly half the price. 
Here's a chart showing solar installation costs in Germany. 

Interactive greenhouse gas emission map

The Environmental Protection Agency has released an interactive online tool for identifying major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The database and map allow residents and governments to learn about the biggest polluters in their neighborhoods and get the broad picture as well. 

Salazar protects Grand Canyon

Top 5 Winners and Losers of Secretary Salazar's Decision to Protect 1 Million Acres Around the Grand Canyon

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released a final determination to withdraw 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon from new mining claims for 20 years. Here are the top 5 winners and losers. 

1. The 25 million people who get their drinking water from the Colorado River
The Colorado River is the lifeblood for residents of the southwest. It is one of the most important rivers in the nation, providing drinking water to 25 million Americans. Uranium mining could contaminate this precious water source, the legacy of which is in the water contamination across Arizona and the southwest and is felt most acutely by Native American tribes. Water authoritiesin Arizona, California, and Nevada have stated that "federal agencies with oversight over mineral exploration and mining operations in the Lower Colorado River Basin must use their authority to prevent any potential for deterioration of this critical water supply for millions of people."
2. American businesses
The outdoor recreation industry thrives on Americans' ability to get outside. In Arizona alone, the outdoor recreation economy annually supports 82,000 jobs, generates almost $350 million in state tax revenue, and stimulates about $5 billion in retail sales and services. Businesses like rafting companies, outfitters, and gear manufacturers all benefit tremendously from the Grand Canyon's unpolluted water, air, and landscapes. As Black Diamond Equipment CEO Peter Metcalf has stated, "The outdoor industry depends on public land so its consumers have a place to recreate using the products it sells."
3. Arizona workers
Tourists spending money in and around the Grand Canyon create jobs. Headwaters Economics found that Grand Canyon National Park supported over 6,000 jobs in 2009 and those tourists spent more than $400 million. Arizonans feel the direct, indirect, and induced impacts of this spending in places like Tusayan and Flagstaff, but also more broadly through hotels, flights, rental cars, and other expenditures. As Sherry Henry, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism said, "No other Arizona industry produces the same economic impact to the Grand Canyon State than our travel and tourism industry."
4. Sportsmen
Hunters and anglers have been some of the most outspoken proponents of protecting the Grand Canyon from the industrialization that mining would bring. A letter from nine sportsmen groups in July 2011 noted that "Uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park is wholly unacceptablegiven the best science available and the potential impacts." The Arizona Game and Fish Commission has endorsed the mineral withdrawal. With these 1 million acres protected from new mining claims, sportsmen will not lose access to this prime fish and wildlife habitat.
5. American families
The Grand Canyon is one of America's most popular destinations. Almost 5 million people visit every year to take part in camping, hiking below the rim, viewing the sights from the window of a lodge, or otherwise taking in the canyon's natural magnificence. By stopping excess uranium mining on 1 million acres, all Americans and future generations will have an opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon in its untarnished state.
1. International atomic interests
A number of different mining companies have expressed interest in the uranium deposits around the Grand Canyon, many of which are foreign or multinational. Examples are Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear agency; Denison Mining, partially owned by Korea's state-owned electric utility; and Vane Minerals, a British company.
2. Reps. Jeff Flake, Paul Gosar, Trent Franks
Reps. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Trent Franks (R-AZ) have taken the lead in relentlessly attempting to block Secretary Salazar's temporary withdrawals and forcing the administration to open the Grand Canyon area to industrial development. Flake's effort over the summer to attach a policy rider on a budget bill to tie the Interior Department's hands was dubbed "the Flake earmark." Flake has already received $12,000 in campaign contributions from mining interests for his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign.
3. National Mining Association
The National Mining Association is one of the largest natural resources trade and lobbying groups in the nation. In 2011 it spent $3,580,266 lobbying Congress on various issues, and its non-coal-focused PAC has already spent $78,000 in campaign contributions for the 2012 cycle ($70,500 of which went to Republicans). A spokesman from the group in June stated that Secretary Salazar's 6-month withdrawal "sets a troublesome precedent."
4. Scientist Karen Wenrich
Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee called a hearing in November 2011 tocontinue to push for uranium mining around the Grand Canyon. But it was revealed at the hearing by Grand Canyon champion Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) that the scientist whom they called to testify that there would be little impact from uranium mining on the Colorado River stood to make $225,000 from it. Securities and Exchange Commission filings show that Karen Wenrich, a retired United States Geological Survey scientist, entered into a deal to sell 61 uranium claims only if the mineral withdrawal did not go through.
5. Companies seeking to exploit the public's treasures for corporate profits
Under the 1872 Mining Law, mining companies are not required to pay royalties to the public for the mineral resources that they extract. Not only are taxpayers not properly compensated for their natural resources, but they are frequently left to foot the bill for environmental cleanup. Congress must pass legislation such as Rep. Ed Markey's H.R. 3446 to solve this problem. However, Secretary Salazar's withdrawal will stop additional companies from profiting off this antiquated system while endangering a national treasure.

Driest first week of January in U.S. recorded history.

Flowers are sprouting in January in New Hampshire, the Sierra Mountains in California are nearly snow-free, and lakes in much of Michigan still have not frozen.
It's 2012, and the new year is ringing in another ridiculously wacky winter for the U.S. In Fargo, North Dakota [Thursday], the mercury soared to 55°F, breaking a 1908 record for warmest January day in recorded history. More than 99% of North Dakota had no snow on the ground this morning, and over 95% of the country that normally has snow at this time of year had below-average snow cover.
High temperatures in Nebraska yesterday were in the 60s, more than 30° above average. Storm activity has been almost nil over the past week over the entire U.S., with the jet stream bottled up far to the north in Canada. It has been remarkable to look at the radar display day after day and see virtually no echoes, and it is very likely that this has been the driest first week of January in U.S. recorded history.
Portions of northern New England, the Upper Midwest, and the mountains of the Western U.S. that are normally under a foot of more of snow by now have no snow, or just a dusting of less than an inch. Approximately half of the U.S. had temperatures at least 5°F above average during the month of December, with portions of North Dakota and Minnesota seeing temperatures 9°F above average. The strangely warm and dry start to winter is not limited to the U.S–all of continental Europe experienced well above-average temperatures during December.

Electric Cars and Iran

With Iran threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, chokepoint for the passage of 17 percent of globally traded oil, this is a good time to introduce myself. This set of issues—oil addiction and the vehicle-centric, land-abusing society it engenders—has a lot to do with why I joined RMI as editorial director after a 30-year newspaper career.
This week, as an old headline about oil insecurity reappears, I feel mounting frustration about a newer storyline being adopted in my former industry: the supposedly faltering launch of mass-produced electric cars.
These stories, of course, are related, but the media, politicians and the public either don't see the connection or don't want to.
Let me step back for a moment to personal history.
Gasoline topped 40 cents a gallon in my hometown on the day I got my driver's license in January 1974, in the midst of the Arab oil embargo. Over the next few years, I saw a clear connection between U.S. oil dependency and my struggle to gain traction in the economy as oil price spikes drove inflation. The experience led me to study political science and journalism in college and to buy the most fuel-efficient vehicles I could afford.
As a student reporter, probably then driving a Ford Maverick, I first heard of the Strait of Hormuz in about 1979, when I covered a speech by Gerald Ford in which he warned that as Iran's stability quavered, we would soon learn about the strategic waterway and its vulnerability.
In the intervening decades, despite Amory Lovins changing the energy discussion, despite a range of uneven conservation and efficiency efforts and a loophole-filled set of rules that improved automotive fuel economy, quite obviously not enough has changed. We are again hearing about the Strait of Hormuz as a potential threat to our economic security as Iran reacts to sanctions imposed because of its nuclear program.
Our oil dependency gives erratic leaders money to do things like repress their people, finance terrorism and pursue nuclear weapons. It gives them outsized power to influence the U.S. economy and the very lives of Americans whom we keep sending to war in oil-rich hot spots.
Our national leaders are stuck and our narrative is stuck.
The entirely predictable response to Iran's threat will be calls for military action and increased domestic oil production.
These decades-old ideas, which have not yet made us secure and leave us to depend on the continued stability of Saudi Arabia, of course do nothing to address the environmental and economic risks of continued fossil fuel dependency. We urgently need a new storyline, such as the Reinventing Fire vision of freeing the U.S. from fossil fuels by 2050, with business leading the way.
Now, the U.S. burns 13 million barrels of oil a day at a cost of $2 billion. That oil dependence also incurs hidden costs totaling roughly $1.5 trillion a year, or 12 percent of GDP.
The only way to avoid these costs is to stop using oil, and RMI research shows a huge potential prize for doing so—the transportation sector alone holds a $3.8 trillion opportunity from oil not needed.
Key to this is the adoption of electric vehicles built with ultrastrong, ultralight materials that enable powertrain reductions and fuel efficiency of up to 240 mpg equivalent.
These approaches, while not easy, offer far lower risks to national security, the economy, the environment and public health.
The benefits transcend party lines—and get us unstuck.
Which brings us to one new story the media are telling that is counterproductive to solving our oil addiction: That the launch of the first mass-market electric cars, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, is fizzling. Under the headline "Are electric cars losing their spark?" USA Today this month focused on Chevy Volt fires that came only in tests and on Volt and Leaf sales falling below projections this year, reaching probably about 17,000 between the two. In naming the Volt one of the big product flops of the year, Yahoo Finance made much the same arguments.
This narrative simply lacks context. Gas-powered vehicles catch fire nearly 200,000 times a year—on the road, not in labs [chart here]. Toyota, which has now sold more than 1 million hybrids in the U.S., sold only about 5,800 of its Prius hybrid to U.S. customers in 2000, the first year it was offered here. Selling 17,000 EVs in the first year may not be so bad.
To be sure, pricy EVs face obstacles to consumer acceptance. So did the car. The Literary Digest (not to be confused with the USA Today of its time), proclaimed in 1899, "The ordinary 'horseless carriage' is at present a luxury for the wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future, it will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle."
I want to stop buying gas. The patriotic alternatives, with no loss of comfort, safety or convenience, are on the road.
So I see an EV in my future, just as I see EVs becoming as common as hybrids within a few years. But Iran's latest threat reminds us that we need to go further faster, for example while the Saudi royal family is able to maintain power without direct U.S. military intervention, even as repressive regimes around it collapse.
For my part, I have more faith in a U.S. energy future in which resources from above the ground power homes, industry and EVs than I do in the long-term stability of Saudi Arabia.
Randy Essex is Editorial Director of the Rocky Mountain Institute. This piece was originally published at RMI.

Cruise Ships - Dinosaur of the Year

According to NABU, cruise ships emit particle pollution that equals the amount released by five million cars driving the same distance as the cruise ship tears through the ocean. The organization said the luxury cruise ship industry has made no investments to move away from heavy fossil fuel oil or to install filters to reduce the pollution they dump into the oceans. It added that the 15 largest cruise ships emit as much sulfur dioxide pollution annually as all 760 million cars in the world. Not much glamour or luxury in that, is there?

Keystone XL Whistleblower - We shouldn't build this pipeline

A whistleblower is claiming that the company overseeing the development of the proposed Keystone XL project, TransCanada, also has a track record of undercutting quality at the expense of the environment — further calling into question the decision by Congress to prevent a new federal environmental impact study for Keystone XL.

Mike Klink is a former inspector for Bechtel, one of the major contractors working on TransCanada's original Keystone pipeline, completed in 2010. Klink says he raised numerous concerns about shoddy materials and poor craftsmanship during construction of the pipeline, which brings tar sands crude from Canada to Midwestern refineries in the U.S. Instead of actually addressing the problems, Klink claims he was fired by Bechtel in retaliation. He filed a complaint with the Department of Labor in March of 2010, and made his story public last fall.

Klink, who says he's speaking as an engineer and not an environmentalist, has just published a scathing op-ed in the Lincoln Journal Star criticizing Keystone XL, a proposed extension of the current tar sands pipeline network that would bring crude down to refineries in the Gulf Coast, crossing a major aquifer along the way:
As an inspector, my job was to monitor the construction of the first Keystone pipeline. I oversaw construction at the pump stations that have been such a problem on that line, which has already spilled more than a dozen times. I am coming forward because my kids encouraged me to tell the truth about what was done and covered up.
When I last raised concerns about corners being cut, I lost my job — but people along the Keystone XL pathway have a lot more to lose if this project moves forward with the same shoddy work.
A recent environmental impact statement — outsourced by the State Department to another major TransCanada contractor — found that there would be "limited adverse environmental impacts" associated with the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline. Opponents of the pipeline cried foul, saying it was yet another major conflict of interest between the State Department and TransCanada.
Klink's assertions about poor management of the first Keystone pipeline provide yet more ammunition for critics of the pipeline:
What did I see? Cheap foreign steel that cracked when workers tried to weld it, foundations for pump stations that you would never consider using in your own home, fudged safety tests, Bechtel staffers explaining away leaks during pressure tests as "not too bad," shortcuts on the steel and rebar that are essential for safe pipeline operation and siting of facilities on completely inappropriate spots like wetlands.
I shared these concerns with my bosses, who communicated them to the bigwigs at TransCanada, but nothing changed. TransCanada didn't appear to care. That is why I was not surprised to hear about the big spill in Ludden, N.D., where a 60-foot plume of crude spewed tens of thousands of gallons of toxic tar sands oil and fouled neighboring fields.
TransCanada says that the performance has been OK. Fourteen spills is not so bad. And that the pump stations don't really count. That is all bunk. This thing shouldn't be leaking like a sieve in its first year — what do you think happens decades from now after moving billions of barrels of the most corrosive oil on the planet?
Let's be clear — I am an engineer; I am not telling you we shouldn't build pipelines. We just should not build this one.

Tar Sands Expansion

Extraction of Alberta's energy-intensive tar sands has expanded steadily in recent years, with about 232 square miles now exposed by mining operations at the Athabasca River site. Tar sands production is expected to double over the next decade, which could mean the destruction of 740,000 acres of boreal forest and a 30% increase in carbon emissions from Canada's oil and gas sector.
New satellite images show the dramatic expansion that has taken place from 2001 through 2011.(Photos by Robert Simmon, NASA/Landsat/USGS.)
So what's the actual impact on the ground? Here's what happens when you turn a carbon sink like the Boreal Forest into a carbon-spewing pit of tar sands. (Photos from VisionShare and Co-op Financial Services via Flickr. Note: These are not the same patch of land.)