Nature Sings: New Protest Songs for the Climate Emergency

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The protest song is alive and well — and oh-so-necessary in an age when the musical sounds of nature are quickly vanishing.

Here are eight new projects, ranging from singles by environmentally conscious singers to massive benefit projects encompassing hundreds of artists — all celebrating the natural world and protesting its destruction.

“Eve of Destruction”

by 20Twenties

Eve of DestructionSouth African vocalist Anneli Kamfer brings new life — and more than a little bit of pain — to this stunning update to the classic 1960s protest song. Originally written by P.F. Sloan, the lyrics have been updated for the modern era by Daily Maverick climate journalists Branko Brkic and Tiara Walters. Read the backstory of the new production here and crank up the volume to watch the video below:

change without us

by Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir

Perhaps best known for their track “Monsanto Is the Devil,” the Stop Shopping Choir is back with eight new songs prepared in time for their protests this past spring at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow. Rev. Billy (a Revelator contributor) belts out preacher-style lyrics in many of these songs, while additional members of the environmental protest group take the lead on others. The album’s eight heavenly songs — like “Love With Extinction” and “The Great Outdoors” — will have you rising to your feet and ready to raise hell against ecosystem-destroying corporations.

Listen to the title track below:

Antarctica: Music From the Ice

by Cheryl E. Leonard

The first time you hear it, the soft music and gently running waters on this album’s eight tracks sound like something playing in the background while you get a massage or take a yoga class. That’s before you realize the water sounds have been recorded on melting glaciers and that some of the musical instruments have been assembled from ethically collected penguin bones. If that sounds macabre to you, you’re right — but it’s also hauntingly beautiful. Listening to a dying ecosystem has never been so moving.

Check out the track “Lullaby for E Seals” here:


by Midnight Oil

Frontman Peter Garrett knows his Earth-related issues. In addition to his decades of work with Midnight Oil, he served as Australia’s minister for the environment, heritage and the arts from 2007 to 2010 and logged many years of environmental activism on top of that. This new album, accompanied by the band’s farewell tour, carries the angry sense of urgency and rocking beats you might remember from songs like “Beds Are Burning” to new tracks like “Last Frontier,” “Reef” and “Rising Seas” — the video for which appears below:


by Brian Eno

Eno makes his first appearance on this list with an album dedicated to exploring feelings about the climate emergency. Unlike his ambient albums, Eno sings on this LP — and he does so with powerful, lyrical emotion.

Listen to a live recording of the song “There Were Bells” here:

EarthPercent x Earth Day Compilation Album

by 100 various artists

Sorry, you can’t listen to this one yet. EarthPercent — the Brian Eno-founded nonprofit dedicated to greening the music industry — has so far only made this 100-track album available during two separate 24-hour periods (one of which, you might guess from the title, was on Earth Day). If it becomes available for purchase again, you’ll find exclusive songs from Eno, Pater Gabriel, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, and many others, from a wide range of genres. Many of the songs, though far from all, cover environmental themes.

Although you can’t buy this specific album or sample any of its tracks, dozens of artists — including Anna Calvi, Death Cab for Cutie, Violet Skies and Wayne Snow — have other songs or albums available through EarthPercent’s Bandcamp page (which you can also follow for notifications of new releases). Proceeds from each download support organizations addressing the climate emergency.

Listen to Death Cab for Cutie’s song “Foxglove Through the Clearcut,” from their EarthPercent-benefitting album Asphalt Meadows:


by Julian Lennon

This single — commissioned by a conservation marketing company called Everland — wraps up existential climate dread and positive inspiration in just under four minutes. It’s a welcome return from an artist who’s devoted much of his career to protecting the environment and supporting Indigenous peoples.

Watch the video here:

For the Birds: The Birdsong Project

by 220+ artists

Produced by Grammy winner Randall Poster, this massive project of songs and spoken-word performances came out in 20 smaller collections over the past few months. The whole thing is now up on Spotify and other streaming platforms, and it will soon be available as a vinyl boxed set. Contributors include Esperanza Spalding, Elvis Costello, Jonathan Franzen, Jeff Goldblum, Mark Mothersbaugh, John Lithgow, Bette Midler and many others.

In addition to streaming, “Birdsong” tracks have migrated to YouTube. Here’s a great video of Yo-Yo Ma and Anna Clyne’s song “In the Gale,” which is accompanied by a flock of singing birds:

And for something completely different, check out Laurie Anderson’s fable/song “Before the World.”

Previously in The Revelator:

Rage Against the Anthropocene: The Extinction Crisis Gets an ‘Eco-slam’ Soundtrack

Creative Commons

The post Nature Sings: New Protest Songs for the Climate Emergency appeared first on The Revelator.

Read the full story here.
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Immediate action is needed to ensure ‘a livable future for all,’ UN climate panel says

World needs a “quantum leap” in climate ambition to stave off devastating consequences.

Current and future risks from climate change are far worse than previously estimated, but urgent action is still possible to “secure a liveable future for all.” That’s the message the world’s foremost authority on climate change delivered on Monday as it published the final part of its latest major assessment, a “synthesis” outlining the peril humanity faces from greenhouse gas emissions — and what we can do to avoid it. The release is from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, a United Nations body of leading climate experts from around the world. Every few years since its founding in 1988, the group has published a major assessment on the latest climate science — including how climate change is impacting people and nature and what the world can do to mitigate it. The newest publication is an attempt to distill everything the panel has said since August 2021, when it began releasing its sixth assessment of global warming. There’s no new research in this latest report, but it injects new urgency into scientists’ and activists’ calls for rapid, systemic action from global decision-makers. It comes ahead of the annual U.N. climate conference in November, where global leaders will complete a two-year evaluation of their climate commitments and determine what more is needed to keep global warming in check.  “The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years,” the report says. Drawing on the IPCC’s previous publications, the report says global temperatures have risen 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since preindustrial times, and that this warming has “unequivocally” been caused by human activities, primarily burning fossil fuels. Melting ice caps and ocean expansion have contributed to sea-level rise of nearly 8 inches, heat waves and flooding have become more prevalent, and damage to the natural world is worse and more widespread than ever before. Meanwhile, world leaders have lost precious time to keep things from getting worse. Without “rapid and deep” reductions in global emissions, the IPCC authors warn that the world will be unable to keep global warming below international temperature targets. Shortfalls in nature protections, infrastructure upgrades, and climate finance to the developing world mean disasters like wildfires and hurricanes will intensify across virtually every region of the world, outrunning nature and humanity’s capacity to adapt to them. These impacts will escalate with every fraction of a degree of warming, as will the likelihood of breaching so-called “tipping points” — thresholds beyond which lie irreversible changes to the planet, like the collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets or the the abrupt halt of climate-regulating ocean currents.  Smoke and flames rise from a fire in the Amazon rainforest. Carl de Souza / AFP via Getty Images Poor and vulnerable populations that have contributed the least to global warming are already facing its most severe impacts, including higher risks from heat-related mortality, food- and water-borne illness, and famine, according to the IPCC authors. The report holds out hope, however, reiterating previous messaging about a “rapidly closing window of opportunity to enable climate resilient development.” There is already enough global capital to foot the bill for necessary climate mitigation and adaptation, and the plummeting cost of renewables like solar and wind has made it easier than ever to pay for a transition away from fossil fuels. The IPCC authors say it’s still possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) — the target enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement and a touchstone for climate action around the world — even as some scientists say it is no longer attainable. Achieving 1.5 degrees C would require cutting global emissions 43 percent below 2019 levels by 2030; currently, they’re at record highs, and the world remains deeply dependent on fossil fuels. A U.N. report from October found that countries’ climate policies and planned fossil fuel projects would cause nearly 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) of warming by mid-century. Piers Foster, a professor of climate physics at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and an IPCC author, told journalists last week that even the most “optimistic” pathways for climate action will likely cause global temperatures to hit 1.5 degrees C. “If we don’t radically change,” he said, “we will go past 1.5 degrees in the early 2030s and we’ll also potentially go past 2 degrees.” Some of the IPCC’s temperature projections involve temporarily “overshooting” these temperature targets; although it’s possible temperatures could restabilize, the consequences of such an overshoot are poorly understood and extremely risky.  The synthesis report is expected to inform negotiations at this year’s U.N. climate conference, COP28, to be held in Dubai this fall. At the conference, world leaders will conclude the first “global stocktake,” a two-year process in which they evaluate and report their progress toward the goals of the Paris Agreement. These stocktakes are set to take place every five years, and this first one is supposed to help countries identify ways to up their climate commitments for 2035.  Countries’ currently planned fossil fuel projects would cause nearly 3 degrees C (5.4 degrees F) of warming by mid-century. Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images Environmental groups hope the IPCC’s synthesis report will guide countries toward climate actions that are in line with the latest science, including a new benchmark highlighted in the IPCC report saying that global emissions must fall 60 percent by 2035 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C. Peter Riggs, co-coordinator of the Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance — an international network of environmental organizations — said countries should prioritize “immediate, drastic, deep” emissions reductions above creative carbon accounting. “I’m most concerned about what feels like a willful misinterpretation of IPCC findings,” Riggs told Grist. Although the IPCC has made it clear that reaching key climate goals will require carbon removal — sucking carbon dioxide molecules out of the air and storing them permanently in rock formations — Riggs said some countries have interpreted this recommendation as permission to use carbon removal to offset ongoing emissions from fossil fuel burning and heavy industry. For example, a last-minute change to the agreement made at COP26 in 2021 called for a phasedown of “unabated” coal-fired power plants, implying that coal is OK as long as some of the greenhouse gas emissions from burning it are sequestered.  “Removals should be used for survival purposes, for hard-to-abate emissions,” Riggs said. “But we’re not even close to that point yet.”  Otherwise, the IPCC urges decision-makers to make dramatic changes to all sectors of society — including radically expanding access to clean energy technologies, low-carbon transportation, and healthy and sustainable foods, as well as conserving 30 to 50 percent of the planet’s land and water. Many of these interventions would pay for themselves — if not by reducing the likelihood of costly climate disasters, then by improving public health because of reduced pollution from fossil fuels. After decades of empty words and broken promises from world governments, the changes called for are massive in scale. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said they would require “a quantum leap in climate action.” He used the IPCC report’s launch to propose a “Climate Solidarity Pact” for the most polluting countries, including the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, and members of the European Union. Guterres said signatories of the pact should adopt a handful of commitments “in a common effort to keep 1.5 degrees alive”: absolutely no more coal use, no new or expanded oil and gas infrastructure, and a phaseout plan for existing fossil fuel reserves, among other goals. “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts,” Guterres said. “In short, our world needs climate action on all fronts — everything, everywhere, all at once.” This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Immediate action is needed to ensure ‘a livable future for all,’ UN climate panel says on Mar 20, 2023.

The Obscure Maritime Law That Ruins Your Commute

“Ship American” might sound nice in theory. This is what it looks like in practice: not shipping much of anything in America at all.

What with everything going on in the world, stewing over an obscure, century-old maritime law might seem odd. But the Jones Act really does warrant such consternation. It’s not just a terrible law that hurts you, me, and everyone we know—especially if they live in Puerto Rico or drive to work on the East Coast. It’s also a cautionary tale against government industrial policies, which can have unintended consequences far beyond higher prices or budget overrun.The Jones Act, formally known as Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was ostensibly intended to ensure adequate domestic shipbuilding capacity and a ready supply of merchant mariners and ships in times of war or other national emergencies. Today, it requires that any domestic waterborne shipping of goods be conducted on vessels that are built, owned, flagged, and crewed by Americans. As a result, the U.S. has one of the most (if not the most) restrictive shipping systems in the world.By effectively barring foreign competitors from transporting goods between U.S. ports, the Jones Act has predictably inflated the cost of shipping and shipbuilding in the United States. That’s the law’s seen cost, which many of its supporters acknowledge but claim is necessary for ensuring a thriving industrial base and sufficient supply of ships and mariners. But the unseen costs do the most notable damage and thus swamp any alleged benefits.[From the April 2023 issue: The age of American naval dominance is over]First, let me put the direct costs in perspective: We’re not just talking about a few extra bucks here and there. Building a container ship in the United States costs up to five times as much as it does abroad, and transporting crude oil on a Jones Act tanker can cost three times as much—an ever-expanding price differential driven by decades of insulation from foreign competition.Because ships and shipping are so expensive, few companies use this method outside routes that offer no other alternatives, such as between the continental United States and Puerto Rico or Hawaii. Instead, they use land-based transport—mainly trucks and trains—to deliver goods that could have traveled by sea between the approximately 360 U.S. ports to service the 130 million people that live near our 95,000-plus miles of coasts. (Many other countries do this kind of “short-sea shipping.”)  In fact, the Congressional Research Service reports that only about 2 percent of all U.S. freight is carried by ships, and that—despite the massive growth in coastal U.S. cities since the 1960s—coastwise shipping tonnage has actually declined by roughly 44 percent over the same period. All other modes of freight transport, including international shipping, have either increased or remained steady.“Ship American” might sound nice in theory. This is what it looks like in practice: not shipping much of anything in America at all.Heightened use of trucks and freight trains means more wear on aging U.S. infrastructure and more traffic, especially on roads running parallel to U.S. sea lanes. It means a higher risk of accidents involving dangerous materials in or around urban centers, such as the recent propane-car derailment near Sarasota, Florida. And it means increased environmental harms, because surface transportation emits more carbon and uses more energy than ocean ships and barges. The law thus forces unwitting northeasterners to be stuck on I-95 surrounded by smog-producing 18-wheelers hauling trailers that could have been traveling between the Ports of New York and Boston on compact, low-emission ships that the Jones Act has made cost-prohibitive.The expense of U.S. shipping and shipbuilding thus forces us to waste finite resources—work or leisure time, tax dollars, environmental efforts—that could be better used elsewhere.It also denies us many other types of ships. For example, the U.S. has a grand total of zero Jones Act–compliant liquefied natural gas tankers, because producing these massive, complex vessels here would be so expensive as to defy any economic sense. Consequently, transporting LNG in bulk to New England and Puerto Rico is impossible, and these U.S. regions suffer from diminished energy security. Last fall, several New England governors, alarmed by Ukraine-related depletion of local energy inventories, begged the Biden administration for a winter-long Jones Act waiver, and local utilities warned that an unseasonably cold winter could produce rolling blackouts across the region. (The waiver was never issued.) A lack of LNG, propane, and oil tankers also forces these areas to import energy from Nigeria, Oman, Spain, (pre-sanctions) Russia, and other faraway places, even as U.S. energy is exported from Texas to China and dozens of other countries. Not only is that economically nonsensical, but it also means higher shipping emissions.The environmental damage doesn’t stop there. The United States lacks specialized wind-turbine-installation vessels, used to build offshore wind projects, that meet Jones Act requirements. This means higher project and taxpayer costs, slower wind-energy deployment, and diminished progress on climate change. (The first Jones Act–compliant wind-turbine-installation vessel is supposed to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2023 at a substantial cost, but we’ll still need four or five more to meet U.S. offshore wind goals. No other such vessels are in the pipeline.)Thanks to the Jones Act and another antiquated law (the Foreign Dredge Act of 1906), the U.S. fleet also suffers from a dearth of top-notch dredging vessels, which excavate seabed material for port expansions and other projects. (In fact, the largest hopper dredge in the United States wouldn’t crack Europe’s top 30.) Dredging U.S. ports and waterways is therefore costly and slow, imperiling much-needed projects that would boost supply-chain efficiency, job numbers, and economic growth.The general lack of Jones Act vessels also inhibits emergency-response efforts for Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, and other U.S. regions without easy land-based access. When Hurricanes Maria and Fiona devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 and 2022, respectively, more than 99 percent of the world’s cargo ships couldn’t immediately participate in the relief efforts, because they didn’t comply with the Jones Act’s restrictions. At one point last year, a tanker moving diesel from Texas to Europe rerouted to Puerto Rico to boost the island’s depleted fuel supply, but the Jones Act blocked it from offloading this much-needed cargo. The ship finally docked days later, but only after massive public outcry prodded the Biden administration to issue a legally dubious Jones Act waiver.  Bureaucratic delays and bottlenecks are costly annoyances in normal times, but they become life-threatening problems following a natural disaster, when every second counts.High costs mean not only fewer ships but also older ones, because they’re so expensive to replace. The average age of a Jones Act ship in 2019 was 20 years—more than seven years older than ships that don’t meet the law’s requirements. And the previous 15 Jones Act ships that were scrapped had an average age of 43. Having decrepit rust buckets cruising right off U.S. coasts raises more safety and environmental concerns.The Jones Act’s unintended harms even extend to the U.S. shippers and shipbuilders it’s supposed to protect. The law encourages American shipyards to turn away from the competitive international market and toward a captive, but much smaller, domestic one. Their reduced output (averaging just three oceangoing ships a year), in turn, means that high fixed costs are spread across fewer vessels, and that economies of scale, volume discounts from suppliers, and specialization are extremely limited. The result is a vicious cycle where prices go up and the quantity demanded goes down, placing further upward pressure on prices. Rinse and repeat until you have the zombie industry we see today.The Philly Shipyard offers a troubling example of this cost death spiral. In 2013, the shipping company Matson ordered two container ships from the shipyard for $209 million each; last year, Matson ordered three of the same ships from the same company for roughly $333 million each. Even accounting for inflation and some technological upgrades, this deterioration in competitiveness was so notable that it prompted a Danish maritime magazine to wonder whether the ships were going to be built with gold plates.[Derek Thompson: Don’t ‘buy American’]Supporters claim that reforming or repealing the Jones Act would destroy the domestic industry and imperil national security, but these doomsday scenarios are far-fetched. For starters, government orders account for almost all U.S. shipbuilding output and revenue, and repealing the law wouldn’t touch these transactions. The availability of cheaper and better vessels, moreover, would boost domestic demand for coastwise shipping, improving the industry’s financial prospects. A recent OECD study estimates, in fact, that nixing the Jones Act would increase domestic shipbuilding output and final value ​added by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.And it’s not like current law is doing a bang-up job protecting the industry. The Jones Act fleet has dropped from around 250 ships in the 1980s to just 91 today. No use protecting something that’s already dead.Industrial policy is once again hot in the United States. Federal subsidies and trade restrictions—fueled by pandemic- and China-related security risks and intended to boost strategic commercial industries such as semiconductors and batteries—have proliferated dramatically since 2020. Collectively, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act will funnel hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to favored companies in the United States, marking one of the biggest U.S. industrial-policy pushes since the ’80s.The ribbon-cutting ceremonies and golden shovels that will accompany commercial projects supported by these laws will make for great photo ops and generate lots of political excitement. But the cameras won’t catch the invisible knock-on effects and unintended harms. And if the Jones Act is any guide—which, really, it should be—they’re going to be worth stewing over.

‘Ukraine is a false justification’: America’s destructive new rush for natural gas

As the war in Ukraine sent natural gas prices skyrocketing, liquid natural gas (LNG) plants are springing up all along the fragile Gulf Coast – seriously harming not just local communities but the world’s ability to keep the entire climate crisis at bayAbout 30 miles south of New Orleans, a construction site visible from space is rising. Sandwiched between the Mississippi River and disappearing wetlands, the 256-hectare (632-acre) site is visited by a stream of tipper trucks and concrete mixers that stir up dust on Louisiana 23, the state highway that goes down to Venice, the last spot of land before the river’s water flows into the Gulf of Mexico.The wetlands protect the area from hurricane surge and provide critical habitat for fisheries. But when completed in 2025, the construction site here will host a series of tanks and pipes designed for one purpose: to supercool natural gas into liquid form, so it can be transported on giant tankers to sell around the world to the highest bidder. Continue reading...

As the war in Ukraine sent natural gas prices skyrocketing, liquid natural gas (LNG) plants are springing up all along the fragile Gulf Coast – seriously harming not just local communities but the world’s ability to keep the entire climate crisis at bayAbout 30 miles south of New Orleans, a construction site visible from space is rising. Sandwiched between the Mississippi River and disappearing wetlands, the 256-hectare (632-acre) site is visited by a stream of tipper trucks and concrete mixers that stir up dust on Louisiana 23, the state highway that goes down to Venice, the last spot of land before the river’s water flows into the Gulf of Mexico.The wetlands protect the area from hurricane surge and provide critical habitat for fisheries. But when completed in 2025, the construction site here will host a series of tanks and pipes designed for one purpose: to supercool natural gas into liquid form, so it can be transported on giant tankers to sell around the world to the highest bidder. Continue reading...

These Small States Punch Above Their Weight on Clean Energy

This story was originally published by Inside Climate News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. It’s not surprising that gigantic states like Texas and California are among the heaviest hitters in generating electricity from wind and solar. But what if we look at generation per square mile of land? Then, the leader is Iowa. Iowa […]

This story was originally published by Inside Climate News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. It’s not surprising that gigantic states like Texas and California are among the heaviest hitters in generating electricity from wind and solar. But what if we look at generation per square mile of land? Then, the leader is Iowa. Iowa generated 807 megawatt-hours per square mile in 2022 from wind and solar, most of which was from wind, based on data from the Energy Information Administration. Rhode Island was next with 627 mwh per square mile, most of which was from solar. Disclosure: I’m an Iowa native and will jump at any opportunity to talk about the virtues of the state. One of my first reporting jobs was covering Iowa politics in the early 2000s. The main reason for Iowa’s success is a resource that was a nuisance before it turned into a moneymaker. I got in touch with Josh Mandelbaum, an attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center and a member of the Des Moines City Council, to get a better idea of why the state has been so successful at developing wind energy. He credits a 2001 law signed by then-Gov. Tom Vilsack that encouraged utilities to build new power plants by making it easier to obtain regulatory approval to pass the plants’ costs on to customers. The law helped to set off a construction boom for wind farms, many of them developed by the state’s largest utility, MidAmerican Energy, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. “Gov. Vilsack really made a push on renewable energy, and so did Gov. (Chet) Culver after him,” said Mendelbaum, who joined Vilsack’s policy staff after the law passed in 2001. The state’s support for renewable energy was bipartisan and continued even after Vilsack and Culver, both Democrats, left office. Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, was governor from 1983 to 1999 and then had a second stint from 2011 to 2017, and he encouraged wind energy development, as did his successor, current Gov. Kim Reynolds, also a Republican. “Iowa touts its role as an energy provider,” Mandelbaum said. Just look at the state’s license plate, which includes a silhouette of a wind turbine. Renewable energy has been an economic boon for Iowa, with lease payments that provide additional income for rural land owners and property taxes for local governments. Companies have spent $22 billion to develop wind energy in the state, according to a fact sheet from the Iowa Environmental Council. But policy support isn’t the main reason for Iowa’s success in wind energy. The main reason is a natural resource—steady wind—that was a nuisance before it turned into a moneymaker. Iowa is part of a band of states extending from North Dakota and Minnesota in the north to Texas in the south that have some of the best wind resources in the country, as can be seen in maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Last year, Iowa’s 44,664 gigawatt-hours of generation from wind farms in 2022 ranked second only to Texas, which was way ahead with 113,880 gwh. (If we look at wind plus solar, Iowa had 45,058 gwh and Texas had 136,118 gwh.) I wrote last week about how Texas is the country’s leader in renewable and carbon-free electricity generation. And yet, Texas ranks fourth in generation per square mile, behind Iowa, Rhode Island and Oklahoma. (Texas has 4.6 times more land area than Iowa, 253 times more than Rhode Island, and 3.8 times more than Oklahoma.) Texas also trails in the percentage of its electricity generation that comes from wind and solar, ranking 12th with 26 percent. Rural communities have pushed back in recent years, claiming wind and solar projects harm property values. Who was number one? It was Iowa, with 63 percent. Next was South Dakota, the only other state to get half of its electricity from wind and solar, with 55 percent, essentially all of it coming from wind. Not all of that wind energy is getting used in Iowa and South Dakota. The electricity goes into a regional grid that covers much of the Midwest, and gets used wherever it’s needed, which is often in metro areas like Minneapolis-St. Paul. In recent years, rural communities across the country have been pushing back against renewable energy development, saying that wind and solar are ugly and harm property values. This is happening in Iowa too. And since the state leads the country in wind plus solar generation per square mile, it’s a good place to look at land use concerns. When I drive on I-80 through the state, there are several stretches in which the horizon is filled with wind turbines, and solar farms are an increasingly familiar part of the landscape. Several Iowa counties have passed moratoria or other limits on new wind or solar development. State lawmakers have introduced bills that would make it more difficult to get approval to build the projects, but so far none of the measures have passed. Mandelbaum said the state’s support for renewable energy remains bipartisan, but it’s not as overwhelmingly bipartisan as it was before, with some Republicans wanting to slow development. But he thinks concerns about the amount of wind and solar are at odds with the reality of how much open space the state has. The main caveat when looking at renewable energy relative to land area is that some states are not well-suited to building wind, solar or both, even if they have a lot of land. For example, California has weak winds across much of its land, while Maine has a combination of rugged terrain and a relative lack of sunshine. At the same time, Rhode Island ranks high in terms of renewables per square mile, even with very little developable land. The state doesn’t have any solar or wind projects that exceed 50 megawatts of capacity, but that’s about to change. This week, the wind developer Ørsted and the utility Eversource said they have jointly submitted a proposal to build an 884-megawatt offshore wind farm off of the Rhode Island coast, in addition to their existing plan to build a 704-megawatt project in the same area. “We’re ready to deliver even more good-paying jobs and affordable clean energy to the Ocean State,” said David Hardy, group executive vice president and CEO Americas at Ørsted, in a statement. “And we’re confident that our new proposal will advance Rhode Island’s climate goals while delivering on the promise of a sustainable economic engine rooted in thriving port facilities and powered by local union labor.” The lower end of first chart also tells a story. It’s not a surprise to see Alaska at the bottom, considering its vast land area. The others are a tour of underachievement in the South, as Kentucky and Louisiana sit just above Alaska. Kentucky and Louisiana both have some big solar projects that will be coming online, so their renewable energy generation is set to increase—but they have a lot of catching up to do to even get close to average. Meanwhile, Iowa continues to be a leader.

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