More Americans Working in Solar Than in Coal

solar

The coal industry is failing and sustainable alternatives are on the rise. No matter what politicians do to try and “save” coal it’s clear that the dirty source of electricity is on its way out. A recent report revealed that in the USA more people are employed by the solar industry than in the coal industry. Solar only provides 1.3% of America’s electricity yet it is more of a job provider than coal is. If somebody (like the president) wants to create more jobs in the USA than maybe supporting solar is the way to do it.

To put this all in perspective: “Solar employs slightly more workers than natural gas, over twice as many as coal, over three times that of wind energy, and almost five times the number employed in nuclear energy,” the report notes. “Only oil/petroleum has more employment (by 38%) than solar.”

Now, mind you, comparing solar and coal is a bit unfair. Solar is growing fast from a tiny base, which means there’s a lot of installation work to be done right now, whereas no one is building new coal plants in the US anymore. (Quite the contrary: Many older coal plants have been closing in recent years, thanks to stricter air-pollution rules and cheap natural gas.) So solar is in a particularly labor-intensive phase at the moment. Still, it’s worth thinking through what these numbers mean.

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Over 100 Golf Courses Closing in China

golf
I make games for a living and I love seeing people have fun – but I really don’t like golf courses. Golf takes up a lot of land and consumes an inordinate amount of water for the amount of entertainment it provides. Essentially, I agree that golf ruins a perfectly good walk.

In China the environmental (and social) costs of golf courses have reached record heights. As a result, over 100 golf courses are being closed by the Chinese government. Ironically, these golf courses were classified as parks and were built since China banned the development of new golf courses in 2004.

China has launched a renewed crackdown on golf, closing 111 courses in an effort to conserve water and land, and telling members of the ruling Communist Party to stay off the links.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency said Sunday the courses were closed for improperly using groundwater, arable land or protected land within nature reserves. It said authorities have imposed restrictions on 65 more courses.

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Thanks to Delaney!

Reusing Renewable Power Pieces

Rotterdam

Despite being more efficient and better than other forms of generating electricity renewable power generation does cause waste. The waste isn’t in the form of smog or tailing ponds or even radioactive barrels. When it comes to wind power the waste generated is broken blades, and there are a lot of them!

Rotterdam has taken charge of their ‘wind waste’ by turning it into playground and park equipment. It turns out that the blades used in wind turbines are perfect for making interesting local parks!

In 2007, the Rotterdam municipality unveiled a playground for Kinderparadijs Meidoorn built out of rotor blades that were originally destined for landfills. Several rotor blades were cut up into parts to serve as tunnels, towers, bridges, hills, ramps and slides. The recycled blades were secured into the ground and painted white with brightly colored stripes.

The city also has public seating at the Willemsplein square where nine intact rotor blades were placed at various angles to create ergonomic public seating with a diversity of seating options. Similarly, in 2014, a durable bus shelter was created in the city of Almere, again from end-of-life turbine blades.

According to the GenVind Innovation Consortium, if only 5 percent of the Netherlands’ yearly production of urban furniture such as playgrounds, public seating and bus shelters were made using waste rotor blades, then the country could get rid of all of its estimated 400 waste rotor blades produced annually.

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Use of Coal Power to Shrink Regardless of Politics

Coal producers can’t keep up. Coal used to be the cheapest form of energy, but that was before cheap renewable technology and more efficient gas plants came along. What’s more is that there are social, health, and environmental costs to using coal that makes it hard to argue for.

The future of coal is not looking good, which means that the future health of our planet is looking good. Despite the subsidies coal industries get around the world the end of their profits is nigh. Renewable energy is here to stay and it’s only getting more competitive.

But even without the CPP, coal already can’t compete with other energy sources in most of the country when it comes to building new power plants, suggests a new computer model from researchers at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin.

The work is part of a broader initiative at the institute, aimed at tallying all the costs that come with keeping the lights on, from environmental impacts to building transmission lines or responding to regulations. Snazzy online calculators and mapping tools that accompany the new model enable users to tweak a number of variables, including gas prices and environmental costs, and see how the nation’s energy future might change, at the level of individual counties.

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Thanks to Stephanie!

Busting Urban Planning Myths

urban

There’s a lot of misconceptions about how to make cities a better place to live that need to be cleared up. A popular belief is that adding more lanes for cars will help curb traffic jams – when the opposite it true. Some backwards-looking individuals think that adding bike lanes is bad for business when multiple studies have proven otherwise. These myths have bothered a columnist over at Metro paper enough that they wrote an article focussed on busting these urban planning myths that hold back better cities.

A common political argument is that bike and transit riders should “pay their own way.” A study in Vancouver however suggested that for every dollar we individually spend on walking, society pays just 1 cent. For biking, it’s eight cents, and for bus-riding, $1.50. But for every personal dollar spent driving, society pays a whopping $9.20! Such math makes clear where the big subsidies are, without even starting to count the broader environmental, economic, spatial and quality-of-life consequences of our movement choices. The less people need to drive in our cities, the less we all pay, in more ways than one.

Want more examples? There’s math showing that replacing on-street parking with safe, separated bike-lanes is good for street-fronting businesses. That crime goes down as density goes up. That providing housing for the homeless actually saves public money. That you can move more people on a street when car lanes are replaced by well-designed space for walking, biking and transit.

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