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West Virginia’s Chemical Spill: The Cost of Coal Isn’t Cheap

My parents live only a couple miles upstream of the site of last month’s West Virginia chemical spill. Like many other local residents, they continue to drink bottled water amid ongoing confusion and uncertainty about the safety of the area’s water supply. Some people in the region have even resorted to melting snow to bathe their kids. Read More

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Wind Turbines and Property Values: More Information from a Massachusetts Study

More information has come from the authors of a recent wind-turbines-and-property-values study of Massachusetts via a webinar and related Q&A. The answers continue to point to room for additional studies, but reiterate the positive findings: “The results do not support the claim that wind turbines affect nearby home prices.” Read More

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Overreliance on Natural Gas: Risky for the Climate and the Economy

In last week’s State of the Union (SOTU) address, President Obama reiterated his support for climate science by unequivocally stating “The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” He also should be commended for highlighting the urgency of the problem as local communities are already experiencing damaging and costly climate impacts like drought, wildfires, heat waves, and coastal flooding.

But the President’s enthusiasm for increasing natural gas production and use as an important climate solution missed the mark. And like his climate action plan speech at Georgetown University last June, the President highlighted the economic benefits of increasing U.S. natural gas production, while failing to mention the economic risks of an overreliance on natural gas. Read More

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President Obama’s State of the Union: the Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Missing

President Obama covered a wide range of issues in last night’s State of the Union speech, with much of it focused on the need for more aggressive action on issues like economic inequality, unemployment, education and training. But he also addressed several of the issues that UCS works on directly, especially climate change and energy. Read More

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Powering California with 50% Renewable Energy by 2030: New Analysis Shows It Can Be Done

Last week, a new analysis was released that explored the technical, environmental, and economic implications of raising California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) from 33 percent by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030. I’m excited to report that although the study illuminates the challenges of installing unprecedented amounts of renewables on the grid, it is technically possible. Moreover, California has tools in hand today to scale up renewables, and is developing programs and policies that will continue to lower the cost and technical challenges of doing so. Read More

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President Obama’s State of the Union: Will Climate Change Get Left Out in the Cold?

As the president prepares to take the podium for the State of the Union speech, much of the country has just been released from the grip of the dreaded polar vortex, single digit temperatures, wind chills and snow, and shortages of home heating oil in the Midwest and Northeast. Does he dare remind Congress and the country of the Climate Action Plan he unveiled this past summer, delivered on a hot June day? Read More

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Frozen: The Cost of Electricity Soars as Wires and Pipelines Fail to Meet Demand

The cold weather has pushed demand for energy very high. In our energy markets, demand rising faster than supply translates into higher prices. Electricity prices in the Mid-Atlantic and natural gas in the Northeast are showing this today, and this isn’t new or unique.  Supplies to meet demand are limited by the capacity of the delivery systems. Read More

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Scientific Advice for the New EPA Carbon Emissions Standards: Let’s Clear the Air

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published proposed new standards limiting Greenhouse Gas Emissions from new electricity generating power plants using coal or natural gas. Allegations of secrecy and political interference in science began to surface even before the proposal was released. So do these allegations have any merit? Read More

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The Effect of Wind Turbines on Property Values: A New Study in Massachusetts Provides Some Answers

A new study looked at how well wind turbines and homes fit together in Massachusetts, and found no evidence that wind turbines affect property values. That finding is consistent with other recent work from a range of states across the country. And it’s good news for everybody wanting to get wind turbines sited responsibly, in the Bay State and beyond. Read More

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Even as Coal Use Declines, Most States Are Still Dependent on Coal Imports

The use of coal to produce electricity in the United States has been declining in recent years. Yet for most states still heavily dependent on coal-fired power, the cost of importing coal continues to be a drain on local economies. According to a new Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis, 37 states were net importers of coal in 2012, paying a total of $19.4 billion to import 433 million tons of coal from other states and even some foreign countries. Instead of sending billions of ratepayer dollars out of those states year after year, consumers would be better served by investing more in local renewable energy development and energy efficiency measures. Read More

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