In late 2017, the Clean Air Task Force and NAACP released results of a study that examined how oil and gas facilities affected air quality in African American predominant communities. There was overwhelming data to support that people in these areas are significantly more affected by airborne pollutants because of their proximity to oil refineries, power plants, hazardous waste facilities, and other major polluters.
Environmental injustices such as this typically do affect other minorities as well, such as women and those living in poverty. In addition, inequalities have a tendency of stacking as pollution can cause health issues that cannot be properly cared for due to lack of finances and healthcare.
In the US, pollution from the natural gas industry causes 750,000 childhood asthma attacks, 500,000 missed school days, 2,000 adult asthma related emergency room visits, and 600 hospital admittance’s. Every year, the oil industry creates over 9 million tons of methane and other chemicals. Minorities do make up the bulk of these numbers as they are typically in most direct contact with the pollutants. These statistics only reflect the harm caused by air pollution, the numbers rise even more when we factor in water and soil contamination.
Major social change is needed to fight these environmental injustices. If these topics are important to you, it is imperative that you take action. Speaking with your government representatives, standing up against new oil and gas facilities, and reducing your own pollution output are all simple steps that can make a big difference.
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As the need to distance ourselves from fossil fuels becomes more urgent due to climate change and pollution in general, solar power is emerging as a leading alternative. It can be scaled to be used by individuals or large utilities; and best of all- it’s renewable. However, large scale solar farms require large tracts of land that have long and regular periods of sunlight. Suitable areas can usually be found in many rural settings and deserts, but transferring that energy over lengthy power lines to more populated areas can be expensive and inefficient.
A new trend is emerging that seems like a promising answer to this inconvenience – building on retired landfills! When a landfill is full it is covered with a polyethylene cap, a thin layer of soil, and finally grass. Despite it’s more pleasing aesthetics, this brownfield ground is still mostly unusable as it is unstable and not suitable for building large structures. Because of the gasses and toxins emitted by the covered landfill the growing of crops is also not a viable option. However, this acreage is perfect for large scale solar farms. Ballasted anchors are used to stabilize the solar array to avoid penetrating the landfill cap. This specialized racking system allows for thousands of solar panels to be installed on this otherwise unusable land; producing a lot of clean, renewable energy.
Landfills are typically built outside of, but close to, city limits and already have access to the power grid. This makes transporting energy for use in more densely populated areas much easier. Right now, there is an estimated 10,000 capped landfills in the US alone, and that number is only growing. The construction of large solar farms would not only positively impact the environment, it would create thousands of well-paying and sustainable jobs on land that is otherwise sitting unused.
Craft brewers love to sell themselves as environmental activists. How can you tell a sincerely sustainable business from those looking for a selling point? One answer, solar.
The Relationship Between Brewers and Environmentalism
Millennials love craft brewers, and craft brewers are very aware of what the Pew Research Center found in 2014. Millennials look for socially and environmentally responsible businesses and are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
As Millennials are the biggest generation, marketing to them is important. Having a green (or green-washed) business brings in customers excited to support an environmentally-friendly organization.
Craft brewers also must combat the fact that they are a water-intensive industry; a gallon of beer from an average brewery requires seven gallons of water. While most customers would still drink their favorite brew despite the water consumption, water availability and quality are growing environmental concerns directly affecting and affected by breweries. An organization marketing to an environmentally-conscious generation needs to balance environmental cons with environmental pros.
Follow the Money
While craft brewers modify their businesses and processes in a variety of ways to become more sustainable, a customer dedicated to finding the most sustainable beer needs only to follow the money. Businesses who make investments in environmentally-conscious practices are using part of their profits for a greater cause.
A great way to invest in the environment is installing solar arrays. Of the 6,000 American craft breweries, only 100-150 have solar arrays, and ten of those call North Carolina home.
Check out some local breweries going beyond greenwashing
In a competitive market, coal is more expensive than both solar and wind.
In 2001, Texas created a competitive electricity market in that the least expensive resources go on the grid first. At that time, wind supplied less than one percent of Texas’ energy. As of 2018, 20 percent of the market is wind power. With technology and increased production lowering the cost of renewables, there are less arguments, than ever before, for the steady destruction of mountainous landscapes created by America’s need for coal.
Due to the competitive market, Texas has retired coal-fired plants, replacing them with natural gas which is significantly less expensive. By the end of next year, wind is expected to generate more electricity for Texans than coal as more plants are retired. However, these retired plants are largely being replaced by more efficient and less expensive natural gas plants. While natural gas beats coal in an environmentally-friendly competition, it is still a fossil fuel.
Texas’ competitive electricity market creates a fairer fight between renewables and fossil fuels when compared to other state and federal energy policies. Still, fossil fuels have an advantage. The hidden costs related to fossil fuel use like the consequences of climate change, explosions during drilling, transportation, spills and leaks, or burning process, and the pollution of land surrounding gas wells, is not included in the price comparisons of natural gas and renewables.
However, there is still hope. As we continue to burn the finite source of natural gas, it will face the same, inevitable dilemma of oil and coal. The low hanging fruit will be harvested, and the remaining sources will be difficult, dangerous, and expensive to gather while the cost of renewable energy continues to plummet. Someday, the market will favor it.
Will the invisible hand of the free market move soon enough? Don’t wait to see. Ease America’s dependency on fossil fuels by making a personal change in your energy source. Contact SolFarm Solar Co to see what you can do to save the planet.
An organization based in Oregon called Our Children’s Trust supports minors using judicial and legislative systems to stop climate change. One such teen lives in North Carolina.
Hallie Turner, along with NC teens Emily Liu and Arya Pontula, is in the midst of her second petition to the NC Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Management Commission. The petition consists of a rule requiring a decrease in greenhouse gases in the next 30 years until the state is producing no carbon dioxide emissions.
Four years ago, Turner attempted to petition the Commission to create a rule requiring NC to decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 4% each year. She went to court over it when the Commission rejected the petition. Unfortunately, she lost the case.
The Bigger Picture
Our Children’s Trust is involved in a federal case called Juliana v. U.S. where several youths are suing the federal government about the violation of the rights to life, liberty, and property through legislation leading to climate change. A magistrate judge and a district judge have agreed that the case should be tried after the federal government made a motion to dismiss the case. In February 2018, the trial will begin.
Slow But Steady Wins the Race
Such a process is a slow one. The teens involved in the Juliana v. U.S. case began their lawsuit in 2015. Turner’s 2015 case against the Commission lasted almost a year just to determine if the Commission rightly rejected Turner’s petition. However, Turner’s second petition illustrates the minors involved in Our Children’s Trust are more than willing to use the judicial process to create change.
Turner’s petition is more extreme this time around. Perhaps the feelings of the Environmental Management Commission changed in two years. If not, these plucky teens generate publicity about environmental issues affecting their future.