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Category : A Brighter Future

One State that’s Moving Forward

Yesterday, I was sitting in the office watching and listening to the 2013 Maryland Climate Change Summit feeling impressed and inspired. Maryland’s Governor, Martin O’Malley, gave a great speech about what his state intends to do to combat climate change; it was passionate, comprehensive, and informed.

He spoke, “We are here today because we understand deep in our hearts that we do have a moral obligation to our children and to our grandchildren to give to them a planet that is not on the trajectory that we currently find ourselves in.  A planet that is becoming increasingly more damaged, more polluted, more unhealthy.” (see full transcript here)

I have to believe that Governor O’Malley comes by his climate conscience at least partially through his faith as a Catholic. But he also knows that acting on climate is going to do great things for his state’s economy, his citizens’ quality of life, and the heath of the Chesapeake Bay. This, too, reflects Christian values.

We wish the state of Maryland the best with their upcoming action on climate, we are moved to do more good work for God's Creation, and we hope that more states follow suit.

Blessings,

Jessica Church, Field Director of the Good Steward Campaign

Win-Win

Over the past months we have been highlighting success stories in the green economy in our three target states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. We have exposed the thousands of jobs the renewable energy industry has created through projects such as solar farms, lithium battery factories, and clean rail public transportation projects.

A recent report on renewable energy throughout the United States in 2012 gave us some numbers that reveal the status of renewable energy in each state. In 2012, our three states had a total of 351,562 green jobs.

Click here for the full report

One of the most cited arguments against weaning ourselves off our fossil fuel addiction and transitioning to renewable energy is it will lead to economic calamity. While this transition won’t happen overnight, we can get the best of both worlds – a strong economy and a country fueled by renewable energy – with all the positive consequences that entails. This report reveals that this “win-win” scenario isn’t a pipedream. Rather, if we as a nation act intentionally with our resources and innovation we can realize a stronger, more sustainable, safer, cleaner world for future generations. These actions honor God by honoring His creation.

Are you a good steward?

Workin’ on the Railroad

In this post in our "A Brighter Future" series, we highlight the construction of a light rail project in Charlotte, NC. Investing in public transportation projects like this take cars off the road and increase energy efficiency. Not to mention, the construction of the projects creates thousands of jobs and is an economic stimulus to the areas affected.


Officials say light rail expansion project will bring jobs to Charlotte

By Sarah Rosario
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

More jobs, cleaner air and safer roads are just some the benefits city officials say the light rail expansion project will bring to the Queen City.

The city plans to expand the transportation system, backed by $580 million from the federal government. The new plan extends the Blue Line Extension 9.2 miles, from uptown to UNC Charlotte's campus.

Mayor Anthony Foxx spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News a day ahead of the big announcement. On Tuesday, city leaders went public with their new venture.

Foxx said he expects this to be the biggest public works project in the city's history. He said Charlotte is the only city in the country this year to be awarded $580 million in federal funds to expand its transit system. The new route will branch from uptown, through NoDa and University City, and end on UNC Charlotte's campus.

Business owners Eyewitness News spoke to see the new plans as an opportunity.

"It opens up a whole new market of people who can come uptown easily, but the other part of it is probably a third of our employees are students at UNCC," said Bryan Meredith, Queen City BBQ co-owner.

Meredith said Queen City BBQ is on the last stop of the Blue Line Extension. At first, Meredith said he didn't know what to expect, but said after almost a year of being at the location he's noticed an increase in business.

"We do have people who get on the light rail on the south part of town and come up here to see us," said Meredith.

On Tuesday, Foxx called it a turning point for the Queen City.

"We still have a need for transit, and today, we take a bold step forward," Foxx said.

The project is estimated to create 7,000 new jobs, $250 million in payroll and double ridership.

Foxx said when the Lynx Blue Line was built in south Charlotte, it created $1.4 billion for the private sector. Estimates for the project are expected to nearly double the revenue in years to come for the Queen City.

"The longer term benefits are the investments that will take place along this light rail line, the options it's going to open up for people. There's been about $3 billion of investment along the south corridor. That is largely related to the light rail that's there," said Charlotte Chamber of Commerce President Bob Morgan.

Construction is slated to begin in November 2013. Work is expected to be completed by 2017.

A New Moon Race

In the Vice Presidential Debate the GOP ticket again attacked the Obama administration’s investment in clean energy. Congressman Paul Ryan called the $90 billion in stimulus funding “green pork” that was given specifically to campaign contributors and special interest groups. The Romney camp isn’t too fond of fact checkers, but this statement is blatantly false on two accounts.

One, as the AP notes, much of that $90 billion was “given to people to make their homes more energy efficient, grants to public entities constructing high speed rail lines and tax credits to manufacturers to install equipment fostering cleaner energy.”

Vice President Biden also notably pointed out that Congressman Ryan asked for stimulus funding to create jobs in his own Wisconsin district. Indeed, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the stimulus saved or created 3 million jobs.

Two, despite in depth investigations, there has been no wrongdoing found of clean energy stimulus money being given unethically.

But all the facts are neither here nor there. If we look to the larger picture, $90 billion should be the least of our worries. If you look at the consequences of global warming – rising sea levels, increased extreme weather events such as hurricanes and droughts, and ocean acidification (to name a few), $90 billion looks like pennies. Increasingly, economists are saying climate change is a clear threat to America and the global economy. Meanwhile, for the first time since 1988, climate change was not discussed in any of the presidential debates.

As a 23-year old Evangelical Christian, I look at our irresponsible energy consumption as a moral issue. Global warming is not just about the polar bear – it’s about people. When there are extreme droughts, it makes it much harder, if not impossible, for the poor to have enough food. Similarly, the ocean warming is causing fish stocks to deplete, making it much more difficult for people, particularly in the developing world, to have a reliable source of protein. Ultimately, this is about human lives, with estimates that as many as 100 million people will die by 2030 from consequences of climate change.

So what are we to do? Despite all the climate change denier camps spreading misinformation like North Korea reporting invented sport scores, 97% of climate scientists agree that the earth is warming and we are the cause. And let’s be real – the other 3% are the scientists who on the whole are curiously receiving their funding from the fossil fuel industry and the Koch Brothers camp.

Call me naive, but I know as a nation we can come up with a solution to our energy problem. Frankly, $90 billion isn’t enough – not even close. What we need is a new moon race. John F. Kennedy declared in 1961 that by the end of the decade an American would be standing on the moon. During those years when we were racing to beat the Soviets to the moon, we witnessed a technology revolution. We came together as a nation, our economy prospered, and we achieved something that would have been thought as inconceivable only a few years prior.

We have the brains, power and ingenuity to create clean, renewable energy right here at home. This will create millions of jobs, jobs members of my generation want to have right here in the US. This race to clean energy will also make us a safer nation, and alleviate, if not eliminate completely, numerous diseases caused by fossil fuel pollution. Even if you don’t believe in climate change, you can’t deny that the positive ends sought here.

Undoubtedly the fossil fuel industry, the most profitable business mankind has ever seen, will put up a fight – they already are. But the consequences are just too great for us to accept the status quo. God gave us this planet and told us to be good stewards of it. We’re not doing such a good job.

Let’s stop playing games. Let’s come together as one people and set our eyes to a new future. Let’s compete with other nations to become the most sustainable, clean-energy run country in the world. Let’s win this race.

Drew Robinson is Director of the Good Steward Campaign, an initiative to mobilize Christians in the Millennial Generation to speak out for action to build a green economy and fight climate change.A wind farm in the Mojave Desert

Sunny Jobs

In another post in the "A Brighter Future" series, we are highlighting more solar farms being constructed in North Carolina.  Investing in renewable energy, like solar, will create millions of jobs when expanded to the macro scale.  It's also worth noting that the cost of solar energy from farms like these is falling rapidly.

Two solar farms, jobs coming to Catawba County


By: Sharon McBrayer | Hickory Daily Record


HICKORY --If you have experience in construction and you are looking for a job, a solar energy company is looking for you.Strata Solar, based in Chapel Hill, will hold a job fair Aug. 22 and 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the east campus of Catawba Valley Community College, according to information from the company. The company also will hold a job fair from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday at Urban League of Central Carolinas in Charlotte.The company needs about 200 people for electrical and construction jobs, said John Morrison, chief operating officer for the company.

According to information from Strata Solar, the company needs solar installers who can build and mount solar modules; electrical helper who can install conduit and pull cables; and equipment operators who can work with excavators, forklifts and graders.

Wages vary from $9 to $18 per hour depending on skill and experience, company information says.

Strata Solar, which will sell the electricity it generates to Duke Energy, plans to build a solar farm in Catawba County and one in Mocksville, Morrison said. The company is building the solar farm in Catawba County at 2355 NC 16 North in Claremont.

Chris Timberlake, planner for Catawba County, said Strata Solar has a 20-year lease on 100 acres at the site.

Morrison said the company is developing about 40 acres of the property and have a capacity of 5 megawatts, which would power, on average, about 600 homes in a year. Construction on the solar farm in Catawba County has started, he said.

About 130 workers are needed for the construction that is expected to take about three months, Morrison said. The jobs are expected to start in late August and last through the end of the year, according to information from the company. Additional work is possible as the company builds more farms.

Strata Solar plans to develop five clusters throughout the state where it will build solar farms. The Catawba County and Mocksville farms are in the western cluster. The company tries to keep workers in their home area, Morrison said.

The company has plans for another four solar farms in the western cluster next year.

The solar farm has received approval from the county board of adjustment and requires a special use permit, Timberlake said.

Strata Solar isn’t the only solar farm planned for Catawba County.

Timberlake said another renewable energy company, Birdseye Renewable Energy, plans to build a solar farm at the west side of the intersection of NC 16 North and Oxford School Road. He said the solar farm will cover about three-fourths of the 58-acre property.

The Birdseye project also has received approval of the county board of adjustment. Both solar farms require special use permits that will likely increase setbacks and require screening, Timberlake said.

For more information on Strata Solar, visit www.stratasolar.com

For more information on Birdseye Renewable Energy, visit www.birdseyeenergy.com

A No-Brainer

In this entry in our "A Brighter Future" series we highlight how the renewable energy industry provides good, American jobs in areas that might not immediately come to mind.

A No-Brainer

You might not think of Duluth, MN as a haven of wind energy jobs, but the truth is that workers at the port in that city understand how important wind energy is to them when they’re shipping blades and components through the Great Lakes. Yesterday I was in Duluth, on the shore of Lake Superior on a beautiful summer day, with local environmental and labor leaders from the Sierra Club, United Steelworkers and other unions to call on Congressmen Chip Cravaack from Minnesota and Sean Duffy from Wisconsin to push for and support an immediate extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind power. If this 2.2-cent per kilowatt hour tax credit isn’t extended, America could lose half the jobs in its wind industry and part of the reason the Duluth port has been so bustling will be a distant memory.

Workers at the event focused not just on the local job impact, but on the larger impact to Minnesota, Wisconsin and the rest of America. Ray Pierce, Jr., a member of United Steelworkers Local 6115 said, “Every one of these wind turbines consists of 8,000 parts and 200 tons of steel. And, when you consider that since 2005 the domestic content in American wind turbines has grown from less than 25 percent domestic content to 60 percent in 2011, that’s a lot of jobs for workers from Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as workers throughout the U.S.”

The impact won’t just be felt economically, it will be felt environmentally, according to John Doberstein, an Executive Committee member of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. “The wind power installed in Minnesota will avoid 5.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. In Wisconsin, wind avoids 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. For Congressmen Cravaack and Duffy, this should be a no-brainer.”

Katie Gulley is a Regional Program Manager for the BlueGreen Alliance

Wash Cycle Laundry

At the Good Steward Campaign, we're advocating for big changes on big issues.  Sometimes though, the smallest, simplest ideas can make a world of difference for hundreds, thousands, and even millions of lives.  Below is a profile of someone who had a simple idea to not only create a more sustainable world, but to help others as well.

 

Wash Cycle Laundry: A Small Company Making a Big Difference

Gabriel Mandujano never thought he would be in the laundry business. The 29-year-old’s passion lies in economic justice and sustainability. He started his career working to revitalize neighborhoods like West Philadelphia, and as an advocate for sustainable transportation in Mexico City.

Mandujano wanted to change the world—not the sheets. But when one of his friends suggested he start an environmentally-friendly diaper service, he got curious. His research led him to disturbing facts that most people don’t think about when they head to the Laundromat. The laundry industry is responsible for massive water and electricity waste, and lags far behind in sustainability.

But Mandujano also saw great possibilities. The laundry industry could serve as a perfect gateway into the workforce for people who typically struggled to find work—like the folks he’d worked with in West Philly. The industry had lots of entry-level service jobs—and lots of opportunity for growth.

Something clicked. For someone who had spent years working to bring economic development to low-income communities, it seemed like an opportunity that was too good to pass by.

Mandujano founded Wash Cycle Laundry on a shoestring budget in 2010. Today, the company hauls more than 6,000 pounds of laundry a week—by bicycle. The staff then washes the laundry with local, non-toxic detergent, using high-efficiency machines that slash water and energy use by 30 percent.

Most importantly, Wash Cycle Laundry creates pathways out of poverty. Mandujano worked with Philadelphia’s Workforce Development Corporation to hire people directly out of the public assistance system. Today, half of his full-time employees are former welfare recipients who, he says, are thriving in their jobs.

But his efforts go beyond just hiring workers. At Wash Cycle, the goal is to help people build careers. As a student of workforce development, Mandujano recognized that getting people into jobs was only the first hurdle.

“If you go from welfare to a minimum-wage job, it’s often easier to got back to welfare than up to the next rung on the career ladder,” he observes. Low-wage service jobs too often fail to encourage career development. That’s something Mandujano wants to change.

At Wash Cycle, he does it by encouraging workers to become problem solvers, and by helping them build skills that will take them to the next level.

“We spend our time building our workers’ assets instead of addressing their deficits,” he explains.  “Our supervisors take the time to find out about the career goals of each employee and then we offer them ‘stretch’ assignments to help them build those skills.”

For Tracey Martin, a 45-year-old mother of three, Wash Cycle gave her the chance she needed to get back into the workforce and thrive. Martin came to Wash Cycle through Philadelphia’s workforce development center. She’d spent four years fruitlessly looking for a job while she raised her youngest daughter, now nine. Martin went to nearly 200 job interviews but still couldn’t find work.

When Mandujano hired her as an entry-level laundry operator, she expressed interest in taking on a leadership role—so he put her in charge of researching the possibility of opening a new facility site. Today, she manages that site.

“I’d never managed a store before in my life,” Martin says. “My boss trusts me to be in charge. He believes in me and he pushes me. I’m so proud of myself.

Investing in his employees certainly hasn’t hurt Mandujano’s bottom line. The company is thriving—it has doubled its staff since it opened in 2010 and Mandujano has plans for further expansion in 2012.

“It’s great to save a gallon of water,” says Mandujano. “It’s even cooler to see people grow into management roles and leadership positions they haven’t taken on before.”

Single Mom Finds Second Chance in Energy Efficiency

In this new post for "A Brighter Future", we bring to you a more personal story of how there is a future in an economy not dependent on the fossil fuel industry.

 

Single Mom Finds Second Chance in Energy Efficiency

“My only barrier to employment was being a single mom in a bad economy. And there are a lot of other people out there just like me.”

When Sary Dobhran graduated from the University of Oregon in 2003, she had bright hopes for the future. Armed with a degree in environmental studies, she planned to dedicate her career to making the planet healthier.

She never thought she would find herself on welfare. But late in 2007, when she was pregnant, her son’s father died. She suddenly found herself a single mom fighting to find a job—just as the economy bottomed out.  She moved to Portland, Oregon, where she and her son shared a small bedroom in a friend’s apartment. She relied on public assistance while she scoured the city for work.

“I was applying for everything I could find,” she says. “Until that time in my life, I’d never had trouble finding a job.” But she went from interview to interview with no luck. Suddenly, she’d found herself just another face in the growing throng of jobless Americans.  “It really affected me,” she says. “All people saw when they looked at me was a single mom with no money. I wanted them to know what I was capable of.”

Then she heard aboutan apprenticeship program offered by Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. The organization uses grants to provide 6-8 week training courses for women who want to work in industries likegreen building and energy efficiency.  It was just the chance Dobhran needed. She seized the opportunity and worked hard to develop skills that would make her marketable.“I treated it like a job,” she says. “It was hard physical work but I loved every minute of it.”

Through the apprenticeship, she discovered that there was a growing demand for workers who could weatherize homes to save energy.She decided that weatherizing homes was what she wanted to do. Once she honed in on the energy efficiency field, the world began to open up.

Clean Energy Works Oregon had just begunupgrading buildings in Portland. As part of the program, contractors doing energy efficiency work agreed to focus on hiring women, people of color, and others who too often face barriers to employment. When one of the program’s contractors, Verde Energy, approached Oregon Tradeswomen looking for skilled female workers, the group immediately recommended one of their star apprentices—Dobhran.

Landing the job with Verde Energy was exactly what she needed to get back on her feet. When they called to offer her the job, she was thrilled.  “It just felt good to know I’d be able to find a place for us to live. Now I couldbuy my kid some clothes that fit and put some money into my 22-year-old Subaru,” she says.

But it was more than just the money. Dobhran’s job in energy efficiency allowed her to pursue her dream of protecting the planet—and it gave her a chance to help improve other people’s lives in the process.  By upgrading buildings, she not only helps cut pollution from power plants, but she also has a chance to make homes healthier for the families living in them. The buildings she works on are often plagued by hidden health threats. In the process of checking a home’s insulation, she often discovers dangerous mold and carbon monoxide poisoning that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

Her son, now four-and-a-half, knows that his mom’s job helps keep the air clean. “He’s proud of me,” she says.

Though the work can be grueling, Dobhran loves her job. And she’s thriving. She’s now certified as a professional energy analyst with the Building Performance Institute, and leads inspections of homes.  She sees limitless opportunity—and job security—in her future. “There’s a lifetime of work for me in this area,” she says. “I’m not surprised that I’m succeeding. I just needed some tools to help me get here. I just had some hard times.”

Dobhran is acutely aware that things could have taken a different turn had it not been for grants and programs like Clean Energy Works Oregon, which opened a door and allowed her a fresh start.

“I wouldn’t be here today without programs that were put in place in hopes that someone like me would take advantage of them,” she says. “I’m not dumb. I’m college-educated. I’m a hard worker,” she explains.“My only barrier to employment was being a single mom in a bad economy. And there are a lot of other people out there just like me.”

Construction Begins on PA’s Largest Solar Farm

In another post for "A Brighter Future," we're highlighting a new solar energy farm being constructed in Lancaster, PA.

Community Energy Under Construction on Largest Solar Project in Pennsylvania

RADNOR, Pa., Jul 18, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Community Energy Solar (Community Energy) today announced that it has closed financing and commenced construction of its six megawatt (dc) Keystone Solar Project in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.


Exelon Generation and Community Energy's retail marketing division committed to buy the output and back the financing for the project, which will supply the highest-quality green electricity - local solar power - to customers who sign up for a share of the generation. Several early high-profile customers have already signed up for a share of the output, including Franklin & Marshall College, Eastern University, Clean Air Council, and most recently, the Philadelphia Phillies and Millersville University.


"This is the greenest of the green--local jobs building fuel-free power that will last for decades," said Brent Beerley, Executive Vice President of Community Energy. "Forward-thinking retail electric customers, backed by Exelon Generation on wholesale, and leadership from East Drumore township, the State of Pennsylvania, and the PA Sustainable Energy Fund were all part of making this happen, and we're under construction with an experienced team led by contractor groSolar using Canadian Solar modules. We couldn't be happier with the team," he said.


The Keystone Project site is located along Lancaster Pike south of the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Community Energy worked closely with the fabled Lancaster County farming community and township officials in designing the project to support both farmland preservation and agricultural soil restoration. "Community Energy was good to work with," said Township Supervisor Chair, Scott Kreider. "They designed the project so that the land can be used for agriculture again when the project is complete."


The solar panels are being installed on driven posts (see accompanying photo of the site) without concrete to avoid soil disturbance, such that the site will be maintained with selected cover vegetation to preserve and improve organic soil content.


About 20,000 Canadian Solar 290 watt modules are being installed on fixed tilt, ground-mounted aluminum racking provided by Schletter, and will be interconnected to the PPL Electric grid at 12 kilovolts with AE inverters and platforms. The Project will supply about 7.5 million kilowatt hours per year of solar generated electricity under a fifteen-year power purchase agreement with Exelon. The annual environmental benefit equals that of about 3,000 zero-emission passenger vehicles or 285,000 newly planted trees growing for ten years. The solar project received financing and funding from the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership, the Sustainable Energy Fund and the State of Pennsylvania. groSolar, a commercial solar contractor, is serving as general contractor to complete construction, targeted for this Fall. About 50 construction, electrical, and other jobs are being created at the site this summer.


For another article on the farm, click here

New Lithium Facility Produces 100 Jobs

In another edition of "A Brighter Future," we bring you the story of a lithium facility in Kings Mountain, NC that is bringing 100 new jobs to the community.  Stories like these set a great precedent for the future.

 

Expanded N.C. Lithium Facility Opens


U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu recognized the opening of Rockwood Lithium’s expanded manufacturing facility in Kings Mountain, NC. Rockwood is leveraging a $28.4 million investment from the Recovery Act to expand its NC lithium production facility as well as its production operations in Silver Peak, NV. This project will create 100 new jobs and dramatically increase the United States’ capacity to produce lithium, which is a key material in a number of growing industries, including advanced vehicle batteries and consumer electronics.

“The Kings Mountain facility expansion exemplifies American manufacturing leadership and technical expertise in clean energy technologies – helping to strengthen our nation’s energy security and create new jobs,” says Secretary Chu. “With support from the Energy Department, this project will make America more competitive in a range of new technologies and will help ensure the United States leads once again in manufacturing the next generation of clean energy and advanced vehicle technologies.”

As the market for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and other advanced clean energy technologies grows worldwide, rare earth elements and other critical materials, including lithium, are facing increasing global demand. The Kings Mountain and Silver Peak plants will produce lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate, which are both used to produce lithium-ion batteries, dramatically increasing U.S. domestic production of raw and processed lithium materials.

"The expansion of Rockwood will not only allow the company to upgrade the production of lithium materials but it will put talented scientists, engineers, and production personnel to work here in North Carolina. Thanks in part to a Department of Energy grant, this expansion puts Rockwood and the state of North Carolina at the forefront of advanced battery technology. This is an investment in a clean energy future that I will continue to urge my colleagues in the U.S. Senate to support," says U.S. Senator Kay Hagan.

As more clean energy technologies are manufactured and sold around the world, the demand for critical materials has grown substantially, outpacing the demand for major metals such as steel. Between 1980 and 2009, the demand for lithium has tripled. After holding world leadership in lithium production in the early 1990s, the U.S. now imports the majority of its lithium materials and compounds from South America.

Lithium-ion batteries are a key component in electric vehicles and other rechargeable batteries for consumer electronics, and are used in the production of plug-in electric vehicles on the market today. These batteries can also have a major impact on energy storage infrastructure, helping to integrate renewable energy sources into the electricity grid.

View a related story here