Sierra Club Compass Blog
On Tuesday, June 4, I attended my first public hearing at the Delaware City Fire House to discuss the renewal of the Delaware City Refinery's Title V Clean Air Act Permit, a motion that would allow the refinery to incorporate the permits for new units - units that were built to accommodate oil from tar sands - into the Title V permit.
Owned by PBF Energy, one of the country's largest petroleum refining companies, the Delaware City Refinery has recently begun processing heavy Canadian tar sands, the refining of which has been proven to emit higher levels of toxic pollution than that of conventional crude oil.
I grew up in a suburb above Philadelphia, not very far from the Delaware refinery, and I'm proud to call this area my home. We have more green space in this region than in many other areas of the Northeast. We get to enjoy all four seasons, as well as a vastly divergent collection of trees and wildlife. For this reason, it saddens me to know that the decision to process tar sands can only damage the area and the health of those who live in it.
The field in front of the firehouse was divided between those in support of the permit renewal and those against it. I could feel the hot stares of the "other side" as I passed the oil refinery workers, clad in their union t-shirts, and joined the Sierra Club members and environmental activists, dressed in blue to represent their dedication to clean skies. I felt frustrated that so many refinery supporters chose to carry small patriotic flags, implying that they were the only true Americans.
The debate between unregulated processing of tar sands and the utilization of cleaner fuel sources has nothing to do with patriotism. We are all American, and more importantly we are all breathing the same air and will suffer the same health effects if the practices of the Delaware Refinery become widespread throughout the East Coast.
Despite misconceptions spread by Delaware City Refinery that the Sierra Club's aim was to shut down the refinery, the goals of those against the Title V renewal mainly included better air monitoring, cooperation instead of intimidation, and an overall plan to reduce emissions instead of increasing them. To me, these sound like completely reasonable demands, especially in light of the fact that New Castle County, a neighboring town in Delaware, received an "F" in the American Lung Association's 2013 "State of the Air" report, indicating that air quality is already a pressing issue in the region.
At the actual hearing those in support of the permit said that hard-working citizens who don't deserve to have their jobs taken away. But those against the renewal framed themselves as concerned community members who don't want to live in an area where air is hazardous and oil companies are profiting from it. I wish those in support of the permit renewal had acknowledged that the goals of jobs and livable communities are not mutually exclusive.
If I choose to raise children in the area where I grew up, I want to be as comfortable letting them play outside as my parents were with me. The Delaware City residents who showed up to support clean skies on Tuesday exemplified the spirit that truly has the power to topple Big Oil by getting its community members involved, letting their voices be heard, and showing exactly what it means to engage in grassroots activism.
-- Jenna Overton, Beyond Oil intern
On Tuesday night, hundreds of Delaware residents near the Delaware City Refinery spoke out at a public hearing about the air permit for the facility as it plans to refine tar sands oil. Sierra Club Media Intern Kristen Elmore put together a great short video about the hearing.
This article originally appeared on Mosaic's blog.
Many colleges and universities have made the smart move to go solar. Solar arrays on California’s colleges and universities are saving millions of dollars in energy costs and preventing millions of tons of harmful greenhouse gases from entering our atmosphere. Solar projects also serve as valuable tools that can educate a new generation of clean energy leaders. Here are 15 California schools that are leading the charge.University of California, Davis
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 4,616
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: TBD (Image courtesy of UC Davis)
UC Davis recently completed development of their West Village community- the largest planned net zero community in the country. The West Village community includes a 4 megawatt Solar PV system that will power 2,000 of its 3,000 apartment residents. On earth day, the League of American Bicyclists named UC Davis as the first university or college to receive the league’s platinum Bicycle Friendly Business Award which strengthens its claim to the #1 spot in Sierra Club’s “Coolest Schools” ranking.Butte College
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 4,616
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 9,799,470
Cars off the road: 926 (Image Courtesy Greenbang)
When Butte College in Northern California finished the final phase of its solar project in 2011 it became the first grid-positive college in the United States. Butte creates more energy from its 25,000 on-campus solar panels than it consumes in energy use. Beyond its stellar energy creation, Butte also operates several LEED certified buildings and recycles 75 percent of waste materials.
University of San Diego
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 1,230
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 3,110,943
Cars off the road: 294 (Image courtesy University of San Diego)
In 2010, USD installed 5,000 solar PV panels across 11 campus buildings that generate 1.23 megawatts of energy. Holistically, the project can provide up to 15 percent of campus energy needs. Completion of the project raised USD to the second largest solar energy producing private college in the United States. In 2012, USD was named the “Outstanding Organization of the Year” by California Center for Sustainable Energy.California Institute of Technology
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 1,566
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 3,110,943
Cars off the road: 294 (Image courtesy Pasadena Star News)
In 2010, Caltech installed augmented its existing solar arrays with a 1.1 megawatt solar installation across 7 structures including the Braun Athletic Center and Baxter Hall. The new array brought the school to its 1.3 megawatt solar goal and generates 1,646,668kWh per year. Caltech also helped launch the Billion Dollar Green Challenge and was the first school to commit to a green revolving fund for improvements made to the its sustainability profile.Los Angeles Community College District
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 5,378
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 11,199,395
Cars off the road: 1,058 (Image courtesy Los Angeles Community College District)
The LACCD is trailblazing huge advances in campus solar energy projects with projects on their East LA and LA Southwest campuses. Their LA Southwest campus has 4 megawatts of solar PV panels, the second largest campus solar project in the country, shading a 5 acre care port. East Los Angeles College is home to another canopy system, this one 1.2 megawatts. With a large budget focused on sustainability and modernization, the district is also planning the development of dozens of LEED certified buildings.University of California, Irvine
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 895
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 2,292,765
Cars off the road: 217 (Image courtesy UC Irvine)
In 2009, UC Irvine installed an 895 kilowatt solar array that will offset 25.6 million pounds of CO2 over the next 20 years. Their new solar panels augmented their 5 LEED certified Gold buildings and dozen campus sustainability groups to grab the #9 spot in Sierra Club’s “Coolest Schools” ranking.Contra Costa College
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 3,200
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 6,221,886
Cars off the road: 629 (Image courtesy Solar Pro Jobs)
Making our list with the third biggest campus solar array in California, Contra Costa College in San Pablo has a 3.2 megawatt system mounted across 34 parking canopies in three of its colleges. This expansive system will produce energy equal to removing 629 cars from the road or planting 636 acres of trees every year.University of California, San Diego
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 1,185
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 2,986,505
Cars off the road: 282 (Image courtesy of Borrego Solar)
In 2010, UCSD installed 1.2 megawatts of clean energy that can fulfill up to 15 percent of campus energy needs. UCSD plans to expand its solar capacity to 2 megawatts in conjunction with an innovative fuel-cell system that will be the largest on any college campus. Their energy leadership helped UCSD grab the #17 spot on Sierra Club’s “Coolest Schools” ranking.Stanford University
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 480
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 983,058
Cars off the road: 93 (Image Courtesy National Geographic)
While Stanford doesn't have as much solar capacity as the other schools on our list, researchers at the school continue to make breakthroughs in solar technologies and the school has numerous renewable energy education programs. The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal named Stanford's new Knight Management Center its "Green Project of the Year" in 2010. The Center's new solar array tripled the school's solar capacity. Stanford was #3 on Sierra Club's Coolest Schools ranking.University of California, Merced
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 1,000
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 3,577,584
Cars off the road: 338 (Image Courtesy UC Merced)
Established in 2005, UC Merced is the newest school in the UC system. By 2009, they had already completed a 1 megawatt solar power system with 4,900 panels that can provide up to 66 percent of campus energy needs on sunny days. Beyond preventing 60 million pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere and saving the school $5 million over the next 20 years, the array will be utilized as a learning tool for students at the UC Merced Energy Research Institute. With its innovative focus on climate issues, UC Merced earned the #25 on Sierra Club’s “Coolest Schools” ranking.Santa Clara University
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 1,050
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 2,208,770
Cars off the road: 209 (Image Courtesy Santa Clara University)
In 2010, SCU cut the ribbon on their 1,000 kilowatt solar array covering the rooftops of the University’s Leavey Event Center and the Pat Malley Recreation Center. The projects will offset the equivalent of 2.3 million gallons of gasoline over their lifespans. Additionally, SCU’s Benson Memorial Center is home to one of the largest rooftop solar thermal installations in California which will offset 34 tons of CO2. Santa Clara University was #32 on Sierra Club’s “Coolest Schools” ranking.San Diego Community College District
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 2,800
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 6,967,915
Cars off the road: 658 (Image courtesy Borrego Solar)
SDCCD serves approximately 100,000 students every semester with nearly as many solar panels. Their solar energy systems are the fourth largest of any campus in California with over 2.8 megawatts in capacity. The arrays are installed on shade structures across 5 parking lots and will offset an enormous 132 million pounds of CO2 over the next 30 years.California State University, Fullerton
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 4,080
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 2,488,754
Cars off the road: 235 (Image courtesy California State University, Fullerton)
When CSU Fullerton flipped the switch on its three 1.16 megawatt solar energy system in 2012 it positioned itself to be two-thirds of the way toward independence from the energy grid. The system is installed on three parking garage rooftops across campus that will save the school $9 million over the next 25 years. The innovative system integrates charging stations for electric vehicles, allowing the solar panels to help power transportation.Napa Valley College
Total Solar Capacity (KW): 1158
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 1,322,774
Cars off the road: 125 (Image courtesy SunPower)
Napa Valley College’s 1.2 megawatt solar array covers 6.5 acres and provides up to 40% of the college’s electricity. The array’s innovative sun tracking system boosts energy production by 20%. The emissions reductions of this project are the equivalent of 46 million miles not driven on California’s highways each year.California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Total KW: 1263
Annual lbs of CO2 offset: 2,799,849
Cars off the road: 265 (Image courtesy California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)Cal Poly Pomona has 4,500 solar panels installed as canopies in a parking structure and on the roof of their Kellogg Gym. The system can produce up to 1.8 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year. An installation on the Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies has allowed the center to go carbon neutral. Interested in helping your school go solar? Nominate your school to be a part of Mosaic’s Solar Schools program.
There is big news out of Nevada that will echo around the nation. Late Monday night the Nevada Assembly passed a bill clearing the path to retire the polluting Reid Gardner coal plant. The bipartisan bill is now headed for an expected signature from Governor Brian Sandoval. For the Moapa Band of Paiutes and so many others in Nevada, today is a time for major celebration.
Under Senate Bill 123, which is called the "NVision" plan, the Reid Gardner coal plant will retire earlier than planned – closing units 1-3 in 2014 instead of 2020, and unit 4 in 2017 instead of 2023.
The Moapa Band of Paiutes and Sierra Club have fought for several years to retire the Reid Gardner coal plant, which sits immediately adjacent to the Moapa River reservation. Paiute families have been suffering for decades from high rates of asthma, heart and lung disease, and cancer they believe are related to the plant's air pollution. We recently featured their story on the cover of our "Cost of Coal" issue of Sierra magazine.
Reid Gardner's carbon pollution is also Nevada's biggest contributor to climate disruption.
And there's more. As part of this bill, Nevada will also end its use of coal power from Arizona’s dirty Navajo Generating Station (NGS) and will plan for 350 megawatts of new renewable energy. This comes on the heels of the recent announcement that Los Angeles will divest from NGS. These actions reflect shifting public perception across the region, delivering a major blow to the regional viability of coal use in the Southwest.
In fact, this bill was greatly strengthened by the involvement of local advocates and community leaders who sought to increase the amount of clean energy that would replace the retired coal power and remove the requirement that the bulk of the replacement, 550 megawatts, would need to be natural gas.
"This victory belongs to all of us who want a cleaner and better future for our families and community," said Vickie Simmons, member of the Health and Environment Committees of the Moapa Band of Paiutes.
The Moapa Band of Paiutes are national leaders in working for a transition to clean energy, both by working to retire Reid Gardner and in building their own large-scale solar project - the largest tribal solar plant in the nation. The City of Los Angeles will be purchasing 250 megawatts of solar power from the Moapa solar facility, built on their tribal lands northeast of Las Vegas.
The best news of all - community-based efforts like this one are springing up all over the nation. When communities are plagued with health and environmental problems caused by nearby coal plants, they are mobilizing for action. People are demanding change from their leaders, they're pushing to retire coal plants and replace them with clean energy, and they're winning big victories, like this one. They want an end to asthma attacks, polluted water, and bad air quality days - not to mention the climate disruption that threatens all our families.
Sierra Club is standing with them all. Together we are showing public officials that coal is dirty and expensive. We know clean energy is the answer, and it's ready today. It brings good, local jobs that don't pollute the air or water, don't cause asthma and threaten our health, and don't push our climate to the brink.
That's a victory for everyone.
-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Director
I've written extensively on the opportunities to leverage off-grid mobile phone penetration to support energy access for the poor (here, here, and here). Needless to say, I'm a big supporter and think it's a tactical maneuver that can help win the clean energy war. It turns out my bullish stance is shared by more than just my friends at GSMA. A new report from Saviva Research documents the emergence of a sector and just how close we are to achieving "Tower Power."
Let's start with a quick primer. Tower Power refers to the electricity supply (typically diesel generators) that cell phone towers need to relay mobile signals for wireless communication (our cellphones). These towers are everywhere and they are one of the few pieces of infrastructure in rural parts of the developing world. What excites me is the opportunity to turn Tower Power into "Community Power" by building excess renewable capacity into that system to power surrounding communities. This excess capacity can be sold to local communities via mini-grids, transportable batteries, or by directly charging applications on site. That means that converting Tower Power to clean energy is the necessary first step towards the community power vision. (Just in case you aren't clear what I'm talking about, here's a nifty image from GSMA demonstrating the concept.)
It turns out the stars are aligning to catalyze our first step and make clean Tower Power a reality. It's largely occurring because converting cell phone towers to clean energy (in the developing world at least) is all about saving money. But as the Saviva report makes clear, until that motivation was combined with favorable policy and structural changes in the telecom industry including the emergence of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), TowerCos, and Renewable Energy Service Companies (RESCOs), it simply wasn't happening. An irrational market actor and an imperfect market - imagine that!
So how did it happen? The first megatrend to drive conversions was the move in the global telecom industry to shed expenses. In an effort to free-up cash, they've spun off their tower infrastructure assets creating specialized infrastructure companies known as "TowerCos." These are third parties that provide a service for mobile operators - ensuring their network of towers functions properly without saddling them with debt.
It turns out the TowerCos are also hip to the outsourcing wave and decided to outsource their energy requirements. This provided a single decision-making entity with whom a RESCO could contract to provide clean energy to these towers. TowerCos are interested in the opportunity because diesel is the largest expense accounting for between 30 to 40 percent of total network costs. Combine that with rampant diesel theft that has pushed fuel costs up 20 to 25 percent and you have a strong incentive to reduce costs and increase certainty with clean energy.
That takes us to the most interesting part of the report - the fact that the near term Tower Power opportunity is basically India. This is because conditions are ripe: telecom towers are already 90 percent third-party owned TowerCos (highest in the world), these TowerCos have moved from power pass-through agreements to fixed power purchase agreements (PPAs), and a diverse number of RESCOs are competing to secure those PPAs and save them money.
And of course, policy never hurts. The telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) mandated last year that 50 percent of the towers in rural areas and 20 percent in urban areas be supplied by renewable hybrid generation sources and grid power by 2015. Following that announcement, the Reserve Bank of India made an announcement supporting the deregulation of diesel prices to contain trade deficits, which are now around $160 billion annually.
So just how big is this market? Today there are an estimated 400,000 towers managed by TowerCos in India. But only 20,000-25,000 towers are covered under PPAs. The rest simply pass through fuel costs and in the process burn cash. That means the race for this market is on. Already the number of RESCOs in India has grown from a handful to over two hundred. The GSMA reported that over 20 RESCOs won contracts with Indian TowerCos in 2011, accounting for 15,000 base stations.
Saviva's conclusion is that RESCOs are waging a two-front battle: one for cheap capital and one for TowerCo clients as long-term, large-volume customers. That battle will determine the future of Tower Power. But in my mind the battle is for the real market opportunity - the 300-400 million Indians in rural India who lack electricity. Tower Power is our necessary first step, the question is which RESCOs will have the vision to make Community Power reality and capture the far larger market opportunity.
-- Justin Guay, Sierra Club International
Earlier this month, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million (ppm), far exceeding what the scientific community deems permissible to minimize the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet’s climate.
The month of May brought good news too: we welcomed California's 150,000th rooftop solar installation. Demand-side management, including conservation, energy efficiency, and rooftop solar are increasingly cost-effective and accessible to Californians. Roughly two-thirds of all rooftop solar installations in 2011 were put in place in middle-income zip codes, and growing numbers of Californians from all walks of life are looking for ways to manage their energy use as a way to control costs and protect the environment.
Promoting individual participation and enabling customer choice is critical to reducing climate change emissions. When given the option, Californians vastly prefer clean energy to dirty and are pushing to go above and beyond the state’s current minimum clean energy mandates by installing rooftop solar, while slashing energy use inside their homes. The more that public policy can do to enable Californians take their energy use into their own hands, the faster we will eliminate fossil fuels.
One key tool for allowing greater participation in clean energy is utility rate design. The economic signals built into how an electric bill is calculated go a long way towards encouraging or dissuading millions of Californians from going solar or cutting their energy use.
Earlier this week, Sierra Club and a number of other stakeholders, including environmental groups, consumer organizations, and the utilities themselves, submitted proposals recommending how these incentives in the rate structure should be laid out. A comment period now begins, and ultimately the California Public Utilities Commission will weigh the merits and propose a new rate structure that will influence the future of energy in California.
Sierra Club’s proposal puts forward two principles to guide rate design:
2. It should also allocate costs to customers based on their impact on the grid, rather than assuming all that users have equal impact on peak generation capacity requirements and the costs of transmitting electricity long distances, since some customers use solar and energy efficiency on-site to ease their demand for electricity from their home or business.
Another big-picture improvement should be increasing the use of "time of use" pricing for electricity, which means pricing electricity according to the time of the day. At times when demand is low, like late at night or during the winter, prices will be lower, and at times when demand is high, like hot summer days when air conditioners are running full blast and fossil fuel plants have to come online to meet demand, prices are relatively higher.
Increasing "time of use" pricing will provide an economic incentive for developers of "smart" controls and energy efficient appliances, encourage the further use of solar panels meet demand on hot days, and generally create a more flexible and efficient energy grid that will offer lower prices and be more resilient to spikes in demand. Our proposal argues that "time of use" pricing can be combined with the current tiered system of charging high-demand customers more than those who use very little, resulting in a new rate structure that is both fair and flexible.
EcoShift Consulting, LLC, who assisted Sierra Club in developing its proposal, estimates that, as customers adjust to time of use pricing, we will see a 25 percent reduction in peak energy consumption and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 288,000 metric tons per year. That's good for our economy and good for the planet.
When it comes to a customer's energy use, it’s quite often the case that the smartest move for their wallet is also the best move for the environment, and the expanding use of rooftop solar and energy efficiency opportunities are the perfect example. As California determines its new rate structure, it's critical that we provide the right incentives for solar and energy efficiency so that more and more Californians keep our economy moving towards clean energy.
By Evan Gillespie, Campaign Director for Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign
Photo of a protester and police at Taksim Square from http://occupygezipics.tumblr.com/
Shocking photos and video continue to roll in from the heart of Istanbul, Turkey's Taksim Square. In the third day of protests against the government's plan to replace the square's Gezi Park with a shopping center, violence has again erupted. Today the police again attacked the protesters with tear gas and trashed or burnt the tents of nearly 1,000 people that slept there overnight.
"The attack seems to have backfired, triggering more participation in the demonstrations during the day," said Pinar Aksogan of Greenpeace in Turkey. "Gezi Park is a symbol of the resistance against the latest anti-environment currents occurring in the Turkish government. The government is completely disregarding the public's demands, freedom of speech, and the environment in all its projects and investments. The environmentalists condemn the massacre of trees in Gezi Park and the violent action undertaken against the activists who are camping to protect this area."
Here is some footage from Greenpeace in Turkey. You can see photos here.
Pinar says protests have grown larger, and so police are now responding with more tear gas and water cannons. Many have been injured, some seriously. She added that the Turkish government is also pushing a new law that will allow the zoning of any forest as a construction zone.
"The laws that ease the massacre of the environment and the violence taking place against those who would protest these crimes against nature are both illegal under the Turkish Constitution's 56th Amendment, which states the environment must be protected," says Pinar.
Photo of protesters and police at Taksim Square from http://occupygezipics.tumblr.com/
It's important to note that Turkey is also home to the world's fourth largest coal pipeline. Protests against this massive coal expansion were met with similar violence in the Black sea town of Gerze in April of last year.
From Gerze to Gezi, Greenpeace is calling for international solidarity against this environmental destruction and the violence against the activists protesting it. Offer your support today with a tweet: I stand in solidarity with environmental activists in #Turkey #occupygezi #DirenGeziParki
-- Justin Guay, Sierra Club International
Coal pollution contains all sorts of nasty, dangerous things, but one of the worst pollutants is sulfur dioxide. Just five minutes of exposure to sulfur dioxide can lead to respiratory problems, difficulty breathing, and contribute to lung disease.
So you can imagine the sigh of relief from Pennsylvanians with this major news: The Homer City Generating Station -- the largest source of sulfur dioxide pollution in the U.S. in 2010 - will now be subject to new, strong limits for this particularly dangerous pollutant. Up until now, only one of the coal plant's boilers had any ability to limit sulfur dioxide pollution!
According to the Clean Air Task force, pollution from Homer City causes 43 premature deaths every year.
This new agreement comes after a year of litigation from the Sierra Club and Earthjustice and sets a national precedent in the fight to secure the health and safety of families in coal-dependent Pennsylvania and beyond: These new conditions of the Homer City permit makes it among the first in the nation to set hourly limits on sulfur dioxide emissions.
What's more, these limits also apply to times when the coal plant is shut down and restarted, which facilities do from time to time (for maintenance, etc..) and frequently causes excessive pollution to be released.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expects these new standards will especially benefit children, the elderly, and people with asthma.
This victory sets an important standard for other clean air fights across the country. As we continue the fight to replace old dirty energy sources with clean renewable ones like wind and solar, we must make sure to limit the dangerous pollution from our remaining coal-fired power plants.
And the fight will continue against Homer City's coal plant, too. Local activists have long fought the big polluter, repeatedly noting that the facility is a filthy money-waster - one that repeatedly violates Clean Air Act standards.
Sierra Club Pennsylvania released monitoring and modeling last year showing that the plant wasn't even being monitored for its downwind pollution until 2010, which helped plant owners avoid being cited despite it repeatedly violating state air quality standards.
Meanwhile, plant-owner Edison International continues to sink money into the 43-year-old fossil. Just last year the state Department of Environmental Protection approved a $725 million pollution control unit for the coal plant. This money could be much better spent on clean energy investment for the community.
"Some of the best economic analysts in the region have repeatedly shown that this plant simply isn't economically viable...and it's certainly a bad investment for the people of Indiana County. Rather than let $725 million go up in smoke, it's time for this plant to retire," said Randy Francisco, of Sierra Club Pennsylvania.
"Pennsylvania has the opportunity to become a national leader in clean energy manufacturing and production, and Indiana County (where Homer City is located) is well-positioned to take advantage of this clean energy economy."
Also, did you see the brand new "Coal 101" video we released this week? It explains in two minutes what's wrong with coal and what's right with clean energy.
-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Director
It seems everywhere you look, the coal industry's 'supercycle' hype fails to match reality. Whether it's in the EU, Japan, or India, shameless propaganda about current and future prospects for rapid unabated growth fall painfully flat. But surely this couldn't also hold true for China, the world's largest consumer of coal? As it turns out, yes, it does. The truth is Chinese coal consumption is peaking, and its plan to build the world's largest coal pipeline is a bubble that may have already burst.
Before we get to the fun stuff, let's start with the scary part. China has nearly singlehandedly driven the dramatic increase in global coal consumption over the past decade. As a result, China now consumes 47 percent of the world's coal. The worst part it seems, at least on paper, is that this trend is only beginning, as the country is also home to the largest coal plant pipeline in the world. Scary stuff.
Let's start with the first bit of hot air to fill this bubble, the one I hear over and over again: Isn't China building a new coal plant (or two or three or four) every week? No, they aren't. While it's true China has been on a spree over the past decade, it also turns out that the industry is now running on fumes (no pun intended). In 2011 a full one-third of coal plants approved in China were stalled, and investments in new coal plants weren't even half the level they were in 2005. Even better, China actually closed down over 80 GW of coal plants between 2001-2010 and is planning to phase out another 20 GW. To put that in perspective -- that's roughly the size of ALL electricity sources in Spain, home of the world's 11th- largest electricity sector. So next time someone tells you China is building a new plant every week, you can pleasantly respond: bullS*%@!
Why has investment fallen off so dramatically? A big part of the reason is that coal plants are simply not making money. In fact, for most of the past five years, almost all of them lost money. That's because building new coal plants is far more expensive than you think, and the cost of the fuel to supply those plants (coal itself) is volatile and rising (for more on why this is happening check out the Sierra Club's report "Locked In: The Financial Risks of New Coal Fired Power Plants in Today’s Volatile International Market").
On top of all that, the coal producers, coal consumers, and railways in China are locked in mortal combat over who gets the lion's share of wealth generated by the industry. All therse factors have reduced investor confidence in the sector and hence investment flowing to the planned expansion of coal in China.
So where is investment going? Renewables, renewables, renewables. Since 2009, renewable energy investment has outpaced coal investment in China. Even better, the gap between each is growing. In fact, wind alone outpaced new coal plant investment in China in 2012. Money talks, and in China it's increasingly saying "renewables."
We could, of course, take this a step further and analyze all the factors that might hasten the fall in Chinese coal consumption in the near future. That would include catastrophic air pollution, a ban on low-quality coal imports, the notion of capping coal consumption altogether, severe water constraints, and perhaps even an absolute carbon cap in the near future. All in all, I'd use two words to describe coal's future in China: uncertain and risky (U.S. exporters take note).
But at the end of the day, we don't need to justify future projections -- we just need to point to what's already happening. The world's biggest coal consumer is losing its appetite because coal is becoming more expensive, investment is going down, and competitors are growing rapidly. It appears the Chinese 'supercycle' propaganda is just an industry myth -- meant to fuel a bubble that may have already burst.
-- Justin Guay, Sierra Club International
It's never too early to shut down coal.
Earlier this month, NRG Energy settled a lawsuit that will end coal use six months early at the Portland Generating Station in Portland, Pennsylvania. The company also announced plans to shutter its Titus Station coal-fired plant outside Philadelphia one-and-a-half years early.
The Portland coal site was key for grassroots organizers because sulfur dioxide pollution from the plant affects families in other states, such as New Jersey and Connecticut, in addition to nearby communities. The two states targeted the coal plant for pollution in a lawsuit, and the announcement of the early closure is a result of the legal settlement. NRG has also agreed to invest $1 million to benefit the environment in New Jersey and Connecticut, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"We're glad to hear that this plant, which is the biggest source of air pollution in Northwestern New Jersey, will end their use of dirty coal ahead of schedule," said Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey Chapter. "This is a victory for our lungs that will help us all breathe easier. We need to ensure that this plant is replaced with clean, renewable energy like wind and solar, not more harmful fossil fuels like natural gas that promotes fracking in our communities."How bad was sulfur pollution from the Portland plant? Really bad. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection traced the highest short-term sulfur dioxide levels in the state to the plant. It demonstrated that toxic coal pollution doesn't stop for state and country borders. Such pollution causes asthma and respiratory problems in communities, in addition to acid rain.
The next focus will be on making sure energy companies such as NRG invest in a transition to renewable energy.
"Our fight is not over yet," said Tom Schuster, the Sierra Club's Pennsylvania campaign representative. "We need to ensure coal is not replaced by more dirty fuels, and that NRG invests instead in clean energy in the region that will create jobs and clean up our air."
-- Brian Foley
The "new majority" that elected a president is also electing to hop on the bicycle as a transportation alternative.
Biking boomed in communities across the country, doubling from 1.7 billion trips in 2001 to more than four billion trips in 2009. That growth is being pedaled forward by youth, women, and people of color -- who are playing a key role in shifting transportation demand towards safe, accessible, and equitable bicycling infrastructure.
A first-of-its-kind report, "The New Majority: Pedaling Towards Equity," released today by the League of American Bicyclists and the Sierra Club, features data on demographic ridership, the effect of safe cycling infrastructure on ridership, new immigrant perceptions of bicycling, as well as the economic impact of transportation and health inequity.
According to the report, the fastest growth in bicycling over the last decade is among the Hispanic, African American and Asian American populations, which grew from 16 percent of all bike trips in 2001 to 23 percent in 2009.
According to a national poll, more than 85 percent of people of color (African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and mixed race) have a positive view of bicyclists and 71 percent say their community would be a better place to live if bicycling were safer and more comfortable.
That support is true among the next generation, as well: 89 percent of young adults -- aged 18-29 -- have a positive view of bicycling and 75 percent agree that their community would be a better place to live if biking and walking were safer and more comfortable.
These new riders, leaders and organizations are making biking accessible and inviting to all Americans, while making the case for a safer and more equitable transportation system in communities nationwide.
Not surprisingly, the interest and demand among many Americans appears to be thwarted by a lack of equitable distribution of bicycle facilities and culturally competent outreach. For instance, according to the report, 60 percent of people of color say they would ride more if they had access to bike lanes or trails. Better access to safe cycling infrastructure, including protected cycle tracks, bike lanes, bike sharing systems, and bike parking, can help more people take advantage of the significant health, economic, environmental, and community benefits of bicycling.
"The New Majority: Pedaling Towards Equity" uncovers stories and data that point to consistent disparities and inequities in the manner in which people of color, women and youth -- including groups that are bicycling at higher rates and have more to gain in terms of bike benefits -- are engaged in bicycling-related matters. For example, data gathered by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition revealed that neighborhoods with the highest percentage of people of color had a lower distribution of cycling facilities - and areas with the lowest median household income ($22,656 annually) were also the areas with the highest number of bicycle and pedestrian crashes.
The report also underlines stories of powerful local efforts of communities organizing to address these issues, opening up new lanes to cycling in communities often overlooked by traditional transportation planners and cycling advocates.
The US Department of Transportation, local and state transportation planners, and advocates at all levels have a responsibility to ensure that our transportation is safe, accessible, and equitable for everyone. This report shows that the future of transportation is changing, and in many ways is already here.
The challenge: Level the playing field by truly uniting the bicycle movement. The opportunity: A rapid rise in the number of bicyclists -- and better health, safety and economic benefits for all.
On Tuesday, City Council Member and Sierra Club endorsed candidate Eric Garcetti surprised many political observers by pulling out a victory against an establishment favorite to be elected the next mayor of Los Angeles. Garcetti won a sizable 8 point victory against Wendy Greuel, his opponent who received so much outside support that this became the most expensive race in L.A. history.
This win is great news for Sierra Club members and supporters for two reasons. First, in the face of massive political spending, we have people all across the country who will spend their time working hard to get clean energy and climate action champions elected – and we know that speaking to our friends and neighbors about an election makes a huge difference. That’s why the Sierra Club went to work for Garcetti as soon as we endorsed him in March. Executive Director Michael Brune met with Garcetti and announced our support at a press conference, and the Sierra Club set up-phone banks and online get out the vote efforts to ensure every voter who cares about clean energy voted for the clean energy candidate. With only 19% voter turnout, this election showed how important it is to mobilize our members.
The second reason Garcetti’s victory should be celebrated is because it is important not just for the city of Los Angeles, but for the whole country. It means that one of our country’s biggest, most populated cities will continue to have a mayor who will build on the momentum for a transition off coal to clean energy. The benefits that will provide by protecting our air, our water, our climate, and the health of our families far exceed the L.A. city limits.
Outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa did an exceptional job in creating the foundation for a clean energy future in Los Angeles, committing to get the city off coal for good. Sierra Club members fought hard for Garcetti because we know he is the person to build on that foundation and continue that clean energy legacy.
The reasons to be excited about Garcetti – a long-time Sierra Club member -- are numerous, as his record as a council member is unparalleled. He authored the nation’s most significant green building ordinance, one of the strongest local clean water initiatives, and a bill that would make L.A. the largest city in America investing in solar energy. He tripled the number of parks in his district, worked to ban plastic bags, and even drives an electric car.
That’s why the Sierra Club was fired up to get him in to office – and that’s why we are thrilled to work with Mayor-elect Garcetti in the years to come. Together, we have the opportunity to build on his strong record and guarantee Los Angeles is an integral part of a clean energy economy that will help create jobs while protecting our air, water, and climate.
--Melissa Williams, Sierra Club Political Director
After spending last weekend at the Heartland Coalfield Alliance's retreat in the Illinois coal basin region, I'm more inspired than ever. Listening to such amazing, committed people talk about their tireless work to move beyond coal was really exciting. These activists know the potential for clean energy in their region -- especially wind power. And there has been some blockbuster news about wind in recent days.
Wind power is growing like gangbusters across the country, and employs more than 75,000 workers across 43 states. Just last week, Warren Buffett's Mid-American Energy Co. announced it will make a $1.9 billion investment in Iowa wind power, which Governor Branstad called, "The largest economic development investment in the history of the state."
The project will lower energy bills, be built at no net cost to customers, generate millions of dollars for landowners, and "enhance economic development and provide in excess of $360 million in additional property tax revenues over the next 30 years," according to the Des Moines Register.
The clean energy stakes got even higher last week when Facebook announced it had chosen Iowa over Nebraska as the location for a $1.5 billion new facility. As state Senator Galen Hadley wrote in an op-ed:
State officials are seeing the economic boost that clean energy brings with it - a boost that doesn't come with the terrible health and environmental effects that dirty fuels have.
But the growth in wind power is an international trend as well. The World Wind Energy Association recently announced that Iceland's move into wind energy makes it the 100th country to utilize wind power.
If that doesn't seem appropriate for the upcoming "Global Wind Day" on June 15, I don't know what does!
The Sierra Club and our activists and allies across the Illinois coal basin, Appalachia, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond, are all proud to join in on the Global Wind Day celebration. Last year we celebrated with events across the country, including on the Jersey Shore, and this year's events are aimed at convincing our leaders to switch from dirty fuels to clean energy.
You can get involved by visiting the Global Wind Day Facebook page. From there, try out the G8 Wake Up Call where you can send a message to a world leader asking them to move towards clean energy.
There are Global Wind Day events all over the world where attendees can tour wind farms, take action, and much more. I encourage you to check out the website and find one near you. Together we can move beyond dirty fuels and secure a clean energy economy for the U.S. to fight climate disruption. Let's join the rest of the world in calling for clean energy that won't pollute our air and water.
-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Director
If you love this country, fight for it. This will be the biggest social movement this country has ever seen, and it will change this country forever.
That was the message from Drew Hutton, president of the Lock the Gate Alliance, to the nearly 300 attendees at the "Australian Our Land, Our Water, Our Future: Beyond Coal and Gas" conference -- and he would know. Through Lock the Gate, communities across the country are voting to "Lock the Gate" by barricading the way against gas companies attempting to enter their land for exploration. Without exploration, the companies cannot gather the necessary information or obtain the permits to begin drilling.
Through Lock the Gate, law-abiding farmers, who have never aligned with environmentalists, are finding allies against powerful industrialists, and are participating in the first civil disobedience actions of their lives. Activists from across the country are setting out with tents and sleeping bags, or sometimes Winnebagos, to rural areas to spread the word on the dangers of gas and ask the communities how they can help. The blockades can go on for years; the rallies involve thousands and thousands of people, and the victories are real. And of course, the Knitting Nannas are there to protest with their bright yellow yarn and commitment to provide a safe environment for their grandchildren.
But gas activists weren't the only folks present for the three days of conference meetings. Three generations of Australians were represented, and the mix of rural and urban activists was nearly even. There were people fighting massive coal export terminals, standing up against huge new coal mines in the country's interior, and working to protect the Great Barrier Reef from dredging and shipping channels for coal. They didn't come to be talked at, but rather to spend three days meeting and building solutions. To this end, the Change Agency facilitated and conducted the meetings as a series of open space sessions where the attendees set the agenda, allowing space for regional meetings, specific strategy and tactic discussions, sharing of knowledge, and much more.
And in the midst of this was the Sierra Club. Fresh off our amazing organizer training with over 30 Australian activists, we were there to discuss the amazing success of our domestic Beyond Coal campaign, share our organizing model and strategy, and be part of a larger discussion on the international coal market. Hint: it's not as promising as coal companies would lead you to believe.
As Ailun Young from World Resources Institute told the crowd on the last day, "we are all in this together." I can't wait for to see the next actions that come out of this historic gathering of Australian coal and gas campaigners, and I feel so privileged to be a partner in their work, and the worldwide fight by grassroots communities to transition beyond coal to clean energy.
-- Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club International
One of the first things we noticed when we arrived at the Glenrock Scout Camp in Newcastle was a plaque commemorating 1791 the discovery of coal in Australia. A hundred-and-twenty-two years later, we journeyed to this same spot to conduct the Sierra Club's first ever international organizing training with activists who are taking on the coal and gas industry across Australia
Like nearly everything in Australia, the scope of the fossil fuels fight is massive. But even before we landed, grassroots activism was challenging new coal and gas proposals -- and winning.
The Rio Tinto backed fourth terminal in Newcastle has been delayed, with officials acknowledging it could be shelved entirely, and on the day we started, Xtrata announced it was abandoning the Balaclava terminal in Queensland. Meanwhile, activists are going door to door, community to community, in rural Australia to discuss the danger of gas. Through this movement, communities are voting to Lock the Gate, refusing to allow gas companies on their land for exploration in acts of direct action to protect their land and water.
With all this impressive action going on, what were a bunch of Americans doing leading an organizing training? It all started with Australian activist Victoria McKenzie, who traveled to the U.S. to observe coal fights against mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia and exports in the Pacific Northwest. After witnessing our model and its effectiveness in stopping 177 proposed coal-fired power plants and securing the retirement of 55 GW of existing coal-fired production, she discussed the experience with her colleagues back home. We were then invited to come to Australia and share our training with a larger group of coal fighters.
To say we were humbled by the energy and creativity of the activists we met in Australia is an understatement. This was by no means a one-way exercise, and we have learned much about innovative approaches to taking on powerful industries. And the participants let us know how much they appreciated our strategic approach and long term planning.
But perhaps most exciting was finding the overwhelming similarities. As we discovered in India, organizing is organizing, and the principles are universal. This training was only a first step in building a deeper exchange with coal and gas fighters in Australia, and a global movement to move beyond coal to clean energy.-- Nicole Ghio, Sierra Club's International Campaign
Just like the two-way street, car innovators are focusing more than ever on the two-way plug that could revolutionize cars' relationship with the grid. The idea is to give plug-in cars the ability to feed energy back into the grid when parked. And part of the vision includes small payments to people whose vehicles become energy providers when the grid is in need of balancing during peak hours. This innovation will be particularly useful for backing up energy sources like wind and solar that can vary by time of day or weather.
Using 15 plug-in Mini E's donated by BMW, the idea is being explored by Prof. Willett Kepton of the University of Delaware. These days cars sit idle and unused for a large majority of their lives. Creating back-and-forth capabilities with the grid --
and the home -- would sharply increase the car's efficiency and role in our lives while challenging the traditional energy provider and consumer relationship.
Kempton estimates that in the high-value grid markets, an EV at a charging point with the capability to charge or discharge at 10kW can generate $2,000 or more each year. It's a very appealing proposition to go on vacation while leaving your car at home in the garage generating a paycheck for when you return. And, over a typical 5-10 year ownership period, it's enough to pay for the cost of the battery and still provide you the benefit of EV motoring at its spectacular two- to three-cents-per-mile operating cost.
In this world, the rules of car ownership change dramatically. Drivers can quit oil, provide clean energy to the grid, and get paid for it.
-- Brian Foley
Minnesota energy has begun a new chapter.
Minnesota has taken a first step in outlining the next big leap forward in the state's sustainable energy future. Pushed by more than 60 environmental, labor, business, youth, and faith groups, the jobs omnibus bill -- expected to be signed by Governor Mark Dayton -- includes a Clean Energy and Jobs package that sets a standard of 1.5 percent solar by 2020 with a broader goal of reaching 10 percent by 2030. This is a great start for a state that is in position to lead the Midwest into the clean-energy economy.
I remember seeing pictures earlier this month of people filling the halls of the Capitol in St. Paul to demand phasing out coal and bringing in clean energy jobs. Legislators, impressed by the turnout, stopped in the rotunda to express their support. The governor even put a picture of the rally on his Facebook page.
Retiring coal is key to solving climate disruption and investing in healthy communities. But just as important is the transition to clean energy. Minnesota's solar legislation will propel the state's investment in energy innovation, generate jobs, and build on the existing goal of reaching 25 percent renewables by 2025. This new standard includes:
- An estimated 450 megawatts of new solar by 2020 added to the existing 13 MW in the state.
- Community-shared solar. Utilities will offer solar "subscriptions" to anyone who wants to invest in an off-site project and receive credits on their energy bill. This is perfect for Minnesotans who rent or have shady roofs.
- A solar tariff. Minnesota will be one of the first states in the country to adopt a tariff that will pay homeowners who generate and pump clean energy back into the grid.
- The commission of a study to explore how Minnesota can achieve an energy system free of burning fossil fuels over the next several decades.
Critics have complained that this will increase rates. But they conveniently overlook the fact that the cost of Big Coal has sharply increased, while solar and other renewables have been steadily getting cheaper. This is one reason why the vast majority of Minnesotans support more wind and solar. They are tired of polluters calling the shots. That's why their representatives have taken action by paving the way for a bright energy future.
-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Director
By Deb Nardone, Beyond Natural Gas Campaign Director
Dear Secretary Moniz,
Congratulations on being confirmed as Secretary of Energy. You will play a vitally important role leading our country toward a clean-energy future.
As you begin to consider how natural gas will fit into our energy policy, the Sierra Club's 2.1 million members and supporters urge you and the Department of Energy (DOE) to seriously consider whether fracking for gas is really going to benefit Americans.
There are currently 25 proposals the DOE is considering to build terminals that could export up to 45 percent of total U.S. gas production as liquefied natural gas (LNG). We ask you to think through how exports will affect our public health, environment, climate, and economy, which we have detailed in
our report, Look Before the LNG Leap.
In December, NERA Consulting (which is known to have close ties with the fossil fuel industry) published an economic study on LNG exports that included a number of major flaws, such as using old data for its projections. Even more concerning is that NERA's report provides no economic assessment associated with risks to public health and the environment. If exporting natural gas has such potential to change the U.S. economic landscape, why would we think it would not also drastically change our environmental landscape?
The reality is that exporting natural gas will mean more fracking in our communities, which will affect not only our air, water, and land, but the health and safety of the public. Fracking is a dangerous and largely unregulated drilling process, which lacks adequate federal and state protections. Even the Environmental Protection Agency's Inspector General warned in its latest report that poor data on air emissions of toxic pollutants from oil and natural gas production make it difficult to predict the potential health effects fracking will have on the public.
Continued drilling and fracking is also going to wreak havoc on our climate by increasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Natural gas is made up mostly of methane, an extremely powerful climate-disrupting gas in its own right, which is actually seventy times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of trapping heat. According to studies by the International Energy Agency, using more natural gas will put the planet on track toward a 3.5°C global temperature increase, driving us closer to climate disaster.
As the new head of DOE, it is your public responsibility to complete a full environmental impact assessment for LNG export before our nation commits to any exports. The Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly advised DOE that a comprehensive environmental impact statement is essential to understanding the public health and environmental implications of increased domestic fracking.
In addition to public health and our climate, LNG exports will have significant negative effects on the U.S. economy, especially the middle class. Purdue University conducted an assessment of NERA's study and found, disturbingly, that exports would actually decrease GDP and transfer wealth from the middle class to the already-rich oil and natural gas investors. As stated in the NERA report, "impacts [from LNG exports] will not be positive for all groups in the economy. Households with income solely from wages or government transfers, in particular, might not participate in these benefits." And major job loss, especially in the manufacturing sector, is also expected to be an outcome of LNG exports. A recent report commissioned by Dow Chemical showed that exports could affect hundreds of thousands of planned new jobs in U.S. manufacturing.
In order to fully determine whether sending natural gas overseas is in the public's best interest, DOE must redo the flawed economic study and ensure that it includes costs associated with health and environmental risks. It must also be based on current climate science.
But the real game-changer for exporting LNG will be if the U.S. completes the free trade agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is currently under negotiation with 10 countries across the Pacific Rim. And Japan, the world's biggest LNG importer, is likely to join the talks in July. The TPP and another pact the U.S. is initiating with the European Union (EU) are likely to require DOE to approve all gas exports, of any amount and without delay, to nations in the agreement. The TPP could be finalized as early as October of this year, and the U.S.-EU trade pact in 2015.
To keep domestic control of our natural gas resources, the DOE must insist that the trade negotiations do not remove DOE's authority to examine the environmental and economic impacts of LNG exports, even to free-trade countries.
Gas exports will transform the U.S. energy landscape and affect communities across the country. They are already altering our climate. We urge the DOE to conduct a thorough scrutiny of the nation's energy policy and take a hard look at the economic and environmental consequences of gas exports. Until these steps have been taken, we must not move forward on extracting any more natural gas. Let's keep it in the ground and fully understand what's at stake before making any decisions that cannot be easily undone. The American public and our future generations deserve no less.
Energy company Kinder Morgan announced last week that it is ditching plans to export 30 million tons of coal through the Port of St. Helens, Oregon -- a move that further galvanizes the grassroots movement in the Pacific Northwest that is keeping Big Coal out.
"Three down, three to go!" exclaimed Sierra Club Organizer Laura Stevens. "This proposal would have meant a dozen mile-and-a-half-long, dirty, coal-dust spewing trains through the Columbia River Gorge and dozens of other communities every day."
The three remaining sites coal companies have their eye on to build coal-export terminals are in Boardman, Oregon, and Longview and Cherry Point in Washington.
"The announcement came just two days after we packed two hearing rooms in St. Helens to oppose a re-zone that would facilitate coal exports, and the nearby city of Scappoose, where the council voted unanimously to pass a resolution expressing their concerns about the project," Stevens said.
Communities through Washington and Oregon continue to face the prospect of dealing with miles-long trains carrying tens of millions of tons of coal each year -- and bringing its harmful coal dust pollution with them. The coal would then be burned in energy-hungry East Asia, emitting carbon that would rival the infamous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The nightmare scenario has solidified communities across the Pacific Northwest, bringing together a coalition that includes environmental groups, hunters and anglers, farmers, business leaders, mayors and state leaders, faith leaders, and the health community.
"All of us locally involved in this love the Columbia River and our environment here," Darrel Whipple, an organizer with the group Clean Columbia County, said in the Los Angeles Times. "We have concerns about coal dust polluting the river, coal dust polluting the land. We have children and asthma patients who are at risk."
Activists in the Pacific Northwest have already won several battles. Just two months ago, Ambre Energy licked its wounds after the Oregon Department of State Lands tabled a decision on a dredging project for a planned facility at Port of Morrow that would receive nearly 9 million tons of coal a year via train from the Powder River Basin. The state’s decision to delay came two days after hundreds gathered at the state Capitol to demand that Big Coal stay out.
Congratulations to everyone in the Pacific Northwest for this much-deserved victory!
-- Brian Foley
By Michael Marx, Beyond Oil Campaign Director
The Sierra Club has a long and successful history mobilizing our two million-plus members and supporters to push government leaders to protect our health, air, water, land, animals, and climate. Corporations have a tremendous impact on all of these.
With the launch of the Future Fleet campaign we intend to hold corporate leaders to the same high level of scrutiny and responsibility as government. We will push them to get off the fence on climate, stop being part of the problem, and start being part of the solution. Today, the Sierra Club, ForestEthics, and our millions of supporters, kick off our campaign to persuade the first three companies -- Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper -- to make the leap and join us as leaders in the effort to solve the climate crisis.
Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group own and operate some of the biggest vehicle fleets in the U.S. -- between them more than 100,000 vehicles moving soft drinks and snacks around the nation.
Oil use accounts for more than 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution, and the biggest customers for oil are large companies. By getting these three corporate fleets to start a corporate race to the top by prioritizing fuel efficiency and eliminating tar sands, we can significantly reduce the nation's demand for oil, curb emissions, increase transportation choices, and slow the development of extreme oil sources, like tar sands.
We are quickly running out of time to head off the climate crisis, so we're starting with some of the biggest oil consumers. As well-known worldwide brands, the decisions these beverage giants make about what they drive and what fuel they use will influence what vehicle and parts manufacturers build and the market for high-carbon extreme fuels like tar sands. Efficiency gains in those 100,000 vehicles will have a real and immediate effect on the amount of carbon pollution we produce as a nation.
These are companies that care deeply about consumer feedback, so when consumers ask them to be leaders on climate solutions, we know they will listen. Washington, D.C., remains gridlocked, and oil companies continue their multimillion dollar climate denial PR campaign, but these companies have three great reasons to act without delay. First, to protect and strengthen their brand by being climate leaders. Second, to reduce fuel usage and save money. And third, to do the right thing for their next generation of customers.
We are asking these companies to accelerate the switch to electric and more efficient vehicles, improve driving behavior, and change shipping practices to save fuel.
We are also asking them to reject the most dangerous and extreme sources of oil, starting with the worst of the worst: tar sands. While companies need eventually to move off oil altogether, they urgently need to start with the most egregious source. We know which oil refineries process tar sands, and ForestEthics has already convinced 19 companies to stop buying from them. The Sierra Club is joining and expanding this successful effort to convince even more companies to get on board and go even further to reduce their oil consumption altogether.
To date, the climate movement has largely given large corporate oil consumers a free pass. Those days are over. With the Future Fleet Campaign, we along with ForestEthics intend to shine a bright spotlight on the need for corporate leadership to head off a climate crisis, starting with their oil consumption. This has been a critical missing link in the climate movement, but no more. The future fleet will use no oil!