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March 27, 2015 / franteplitz

2015 Proxy Season Set to Break Record

shareholderimage2015[1]According to the latest Proxy Preview  — the authoritative, annually-updated compendium of shareholder resolutions – the 2015 shareholder resolution season is set to break yet another record in terms of the number of resolutions filed on social and environmental issues. This means that corporate management, and shareholders, will face resolutions on some of the most pressing issues facing our society and global community. This form of corporate engagement plays an important role, alongside strategies such as consumer pressure, in urging companies to improve their practices and policies. Shareholder resolutions play a key role in pushing companies to be accountable for the diverse range of impacts that their operations create or exacerbate.

When the Proxy Preview went to press this month, 433 social and environmental resolutions had been filed; 417 were filed at this time in 2014. The highest number of resolutions were filed on environmental issues including climate change; corporate political activity; human and labor rights; and on a range of sustainability issues.

Green America’s 2015 shareholder resolution focus lists highlight dozens of resolutions that Green America addresses throughout the year: carbon pollution; renewable energy; human rights; GMOs; deforestation; sustainability; recycling; and more.

So if you own direct company stock (not mutual funds) – be sure to open your proxy materials and VOTE! Investors are part-owners in the companies in which they invest, and as such, have a responsibility to weigh-in on issues to improve the company. Not sure what to do with your proxy when it arrives in the mail? See Green America’s infographic on What is a Proxy Ballot and What Do I Do With It?

So if you own stock directly in companies like Abbott Laboratories, Bank of America, Chevron, Delta Airlines, ExxonMobil, Google, Hess, Lowe’s, PepsiCo, Walmart, or Western Union – check out Green America’s 2015 Shareholder Resolution Lists for votes to support!

March 21, 2015 / Todd Larsen

Obama: Taking on Fracking?

gas080929_3_560

The Obama Administration has taken its first federal action to regulate fracking.  Unfortunately, the new rule won’t do much to address the growing problems that fracking causes.

The Bureau of Land Management issued the rules on Friday, March 20th.  The new rules only apply to fracking on federal lands, and would institute the following:

  • New well-construction requirements to ensure the protection of groundwater supplies;
  • Increased transparency by requiring companies to promptly and publicly disclose chemicals used fracking operations to the BLM through the website FracFocus;
  • Higher standards for wastewater storage.

While each of the above provisions represents an improvement over the current status of little of no regulation at all, the reality is that fracking should not be taking place on public lands period.

The growing evidence demonstrates that fracking harms air and water quality, damages local infrastructure, and is even causing an increase in earthquakes.

In addition, fracked gas is increasingly sent overseas, so the American public is not even using the resources taken from public and private lands in the U.S.  Corporations are profiting, but the American people bear the environmental and social costs of these exports without getting much benefit in return.

The Obama Administration’s embrace of fracking (with some regulation), alongside its support for increased oil drilling off the East Coast is all part of a failed “all of the above” energy strategy that is designed to appeal to conservatives, but in reality, just opens the door to increased pollution and climate emissions, while impeding the progress of clean energy in the U.S.

As a country, we can’t seriously embrace ambitious goals to address climate change (which the President says he supports), while also supporting increased fossil fuel production.  The problem with the new rules on fracking are that they try to put a band aid on the harms of fossil fuel production, when it is increasingly clear that the only sustainable course of action is to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

Make sure to let the Administration know that you want a true clean energy future. Please join Green America in calling on the President to take real action on climate change by creating a real plan to address carbon emissions, the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking, and clean energy initiatives!

March 10, 2015 / Elizabeth

For just $12.38 per iPhone, Apple could pay its workers a livable wage. 

Today Apple’s shareowners will vote to approve the compensation packages of its top executives at its Annual Shareowner meeting in Cupertino, CA. The company broke records last quarter selling 74.5 million iPhones and earning $18 billion in profits.

Executives will be rewarded lavishly:
Tim Cook, CEO: $1.7 million salary, $9.2 million total compensation
Other senior VPs: $947,596 salary, $28 million average total compensation

What won’t be discussed at the meeting is the ongoing struggle of the workers who make Apple’s highly profitable products. While executives earn millions, workers make a little over $3/hour. In order to earn enough to cover living expenses workers rely on overtime, sometimes working as many as 64 hours per week at one Apple supplier, according to China Labor Watch.[1]

We’ve estimated that Apple could pay its 1.5 million workers a decent wage for only $12.38 more per device. That’s just 7% of its profits last quarter.[2]

Our latest infographic breaks this down.

Would you pay $12.38 more per iPhone to ensure workers are earning decent wages?

Apple could, and Apple should.

Apple Wages Infographic

Download infographic as PDF (for printing).

 

 


[1] Analyzing Labor Conditions of Pegatron and Foxconn: Apple’s Low-Cost Reality, China Labor Watch

[2] Explanation of calculations:

This calculation is conservative and rough, as there are many variables in production. It is meant to show how much workers in the supply chain are squeezed.
China Labor Watch estimates Apple’s quarterly labor costs at $3.4 billion per quarter (20RMB/hour for 1.5 million workers for a 55-hour work week). Average overtime hours per week at one major Apple supplier during Q1 2015 was 24 hours. Including overtime pay, Apple’s quarterly labor costs increase to $4 billion. CLW estimates it would cost Apple $5.3 billion per quarter to bring worker base wages up to a level that would cover basic living costs for an urban resident in China at 55 hours per week. This is  $1.3 billion more. Apple sold 105 million devices in Q1 2015. This is just $12.38 per device. This is also 7% of last quarter’s profits. 

 

March 3, 2015 / Green America

Rally at the White House: Four million Americans demand saving bees from toxic pesticides

bee-on-flower-guardian-250wThe fight to save bees is at a critical moment, and we need you to join us on Wednesday, March 4th at 11:00am in front of the White House to demand Obama take action to save bees from toxic pesticides before it’s too late.

We are delivering 4 million petition signatures to President Obama from people across the country to protect bees from bee-killing pesticides. We’ll also have a rendition of “Ballet for the Bees”, speakers and signs. Come as you are or donned in your favorite bee costume.

What: A rally to demand President Obama save bees from toxic pesticides

When: Wednesday, March 4th at 11:00am

Where: Outside the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, in front of Lafayette Square

Who: Moms, babies, beekeepers, farmers, business leaders and bee lovers from Friends of the Earth, Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, Green America/GMO Inside/Green America Business Network, American Sustainable Business Council, Pesticide Action Network, Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity, Environment America, Green America, Earth Justice and Food and Water Watch.

Speakers include: Roger Williams, President of Central Maryland Beekeepers Association; Fran Teplitz, Executive Co-Director, Green America Business Network; Bryan McGannon, Policy Director of American Sustainable Business Council; and Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides.

Can you make the rally? RSVP here.

The administration is being lobbied hard by Bayer, Syngenta and other big chemical companies to not take action on pesticides, but we have the opportunity to stand together, fight back and show the administration there is a strong and powerful movement in this country that wants him to save the bees and our food system.

Thanks for all of your work to save the bees. Your presence on the 4th could help us win this.

February 12, 2015 / Todd Larsen

Green America Raises Concerns Around Natural Gas Export Facility

Today, Green America filed the following comments with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in regards to a proposed natural gas export facility in Oregon, Jordan Cove.  Like the many other gas export facilities proposed around the US, Jordan Cove will contribute to increased climate change and fracking, and will endanger the local community.

Natural gas is not a bridge fuel (its growth impedes the growth of true clean energy), and when we frack for natural gas and then export it abroad, we are damaging our communities and risking our future for energy that Americans are not even using.

February 12, 2015

Chairman Cheryl A. LaFleur, Commissioner Philip D. Moeller,

Commissioner Tony Clark, Commissioner Norman C. Bay,

Commissioner Colette D. Honorable

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

888 First Street, NE

Washington, DC 20426

Re: Jordan Cove Liquefaction and Pacific Connector Pipeline Projects (Docket Nos. CP13-483-000 and CP13-492-000)

Dear Commissioners:

Green America is a national non-profit organization with 180,000 individual members and 3,500 business members nationwide, and several thousand individual members and over 100 businesses in Oregon.  Our green business network is the largest network of certified green business in the United States.  Green America is also a member of the American Sustainable Business Council, which represents over 150,000 businesses nationwide.

On behalf of our members, we are expressing concerns about the possible environmental impacts of the proposed Jordon Cove Liquefaction and Pacific Connector Pipeline Projects. We are also concerned that FERC’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) underestimates the impacts and risks associated with this project.

In particular, we have concerns about the following:

Climate Change Impacts. The Draft EIS fails to take account of the climate change impacts of Jordan Cove and the Pacific Connector Pipeline Project. Jordan Cove would likely become the largest greenhouse gas emitting project in Oregon within the next decade. The project would release an estimated 2.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and equivalents. Oregon has set aggressive goals for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and Jordan Cove would work to undermine them.

The power plants used to liquefy natural gas would operate with a capacity of 420 megawatts, which is enough energy to power 400,000 homes. In addition, the venting of natural gas will also significantly increase emissions, and there will be methane leaks from the pipeline and at the plant. Methane has heat trapping properties 87 times as great as carbon dioxide.

Green America requests that FERC more fully research the greenhouse gas emissions of the projects and their impacts on Oregon and its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Increased Fracking. Jordan Cove and other LNG shipping facilities are accelerating US exploration of natural gas, much of it through fracking. Research is increasingly highlighting the negative environmental impacts of fracking on local communities. Fracking is tied to water and air pollution, significantly increased seismic activity, and degraded infrastructure. Jordan Cove would work to increase these impacts in order to ship natural gas overseas. Thus, the natural gas in question would not even benefit US communities, and shipping natural gas overseas could also contribute to an increase in the price of natural gas for US consumers.

Green America requests that FERC better account for the impact of the Jordan Cove project on communities impacted by fracking.

The danger to the community surrounding Jordan Cove. In FERC’s draft EIS, the agency states that it believes “the facility design proposed by Jordan Cove includes acceptable layers of protection or safeguards which would reduce the risk of a potentially hazardous scenario from developing into an even that could impact the off-site public.” However, two well-recognized scientific experts, Jerry Havens, of the University of Arkansas, and James Venart, emeritus professor at the University of New Brunswick, have called FERC’s assessment into question. The two scientists point out that the use of propane and ethylene, two highly flammable gases, create a risk for explosion and that the 40 foot impermeable barriers around the proposed plant could actually retain vapor leaks contributing to an increased hazard in the event of an explosion.

The risks are not theoretical. Explosions in the last decade in Algeria and more recently in Washington State have left environmentalists, emergency responders, and citizens living near proposed LNG facilities in the U.S. understandably concerned.

LNG can vaporize and form highly explosive clouds in pipelines and other parts of the facility if its container leaks. In a phenomenon called rapid phase transition, the heat transfer from spilling enough water at room temperature on the subzero LNG can cause a tremendous “cold explosion.”

FERC should more thoroughly evaluate the risk of explosion at Jordan Cove and the potentially catastrophic impact on local communities.

Based on the known climate change impacts and increased fracking impacts, combined with the potential for catastrophic explosions, Green America believes that a complete and rigorous assessment of the costs versus benefits of Jordan Cove would result in a recommendation that the project be terminated.

We would be happy to discuss any of the above concerns with FERC Commissioners and we thank you in advance for your attention to these comments.

Sincerely,

Todd Larsen

Corporate Responsibility Division Director

Green America

February 4, 2015 / Sam Catherman

EPA Speaks Out on Keystone Pipeline  

The Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry roughly 830,000 barrels of tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast in the US, has been one of the most polarizing issues in American politics over the past few years. Environmentalists recognize that the pipeline will do little more than encourage continued tar sands extraction, one of the most carbon-intensive oil production methods on the planet. Supporters of heavy industry see the pipeline as a crucial piece of infrastructure that will create a more robust economy including jobs and increased energy security (although the Keystone would produce very few permanent jobs). President Obama has stated that the future of the pipeline project depends on whether or not it will contribute further to climate change.

Protestors oppose the Keystone Pipeline at a Rally

Protestors oppose the Keystone Pipeline at a Rally in Washington, DC

This week, the EPA weighed in on the State Department’s environmental impact statement, using authority granted by the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The letter sent to the State Department from the EPA outlines their findings that the pipeline would indeed contribute to climate change. The production, transport, and refining processes, and the burning of the final product would result in an additional 1.3 -27.4 million metric tons of CO2 each year. On the high end, that’s equivalent to the GHG emissions from 5.7 million passenger vehicles or 7.8 coal-fired power plants. With oil prices currently lower than most economists expected, construction of the pipeline would make it cheaper to transport tar sands oil than the current method of shipping it by rail, and would most likely result in increased tar sands production.

Although Congress has voted many times in attempt to pass the pipeline without presidential authority, the project remains to be approved. The President has vowed to veto any attempt to force the pipeline into construction before environmental assessments were turned in and considered. The EPA’s comments all but confirm that the pipeline will contribute to climate change, in the face of massive skepticism and denial from supporters of the project. The letter may give the president the confidence he needs to stand up to fossil fuel interests and knock down further attempts at its passage. To learn more about the effort to block the construction of the pipeline, click here, here, and here. You can also take action with Green America, urging President Obama to veto the pipeline

February 3, 2015 / Elizabeth

Apple soars. Workers suffer.

The world’s most popular product relies on poverty wages, as low at $0.27 per iPhone.

Apple made headlines last week when it announced record-setting profits from its most recent business quarter (Oct-Dec 2014, Apple’s fiscal Q1).

$74.6 billion revenue

$18 billion in pure profit

$142 billion net cash reserves

74.5 million iPhones sold
Apple fiscal Q1 numbers, as reported by BBC

These figures blew past many analysts’ predictions and Apple’s previous records for the same quarter last year.

On the micro level, there are also some important numbers to pay attention to:

Number of workers in “final assembly” plants: 500,000

Hours worked per week: 72 – 105
Hours are higher during peak production seasons. The following calculations are based on 84 hour work weeks. (12 hour days, 7 days per week).

Monthly base wage: $244 (1530 yuan)

Overall monthly wage (including overtime): $582 (3650 yuan)
Hourly wage: $1.62 per hour (10.13 yuan/hour)

Labor cost per iPhone assembled: $0.27

Recommended living wage: $725 (4537 yuan)
Calculated by Asia Floor Wage for a 48 hour work week.
Recommended Hourly Wage: $3.77 (23.6 yuan)

Recommended labor cost per iPhone assembled: $0.63

Cost difference for assembly labor per iPhone: $0.36
Exchange rate used: $1 = 6.26 yuan

Explanation of Calculations:

iphone-assembly-lines sacom

Young workers assembling iPhones. Credit: SACOM

According to Apple, 1.5 million people work in their supply chain, a third of which work in “final assembly” mega-factories. This means that during the same three months Apple set these financial records, 1 million Apple workers made the parts for these phones and 500,000 put them together.

Workers at one assembly factory make base wages of 1530 yuan ($244) per month (This is the minimum wage in Suzhou, China). With lots overtime, workers can increase these earnings to roughly 3650 yuan ($582) per month, according to a 2014 investigation by Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM). This was at Pegatron, one of Apple’s main suppliers in China, which handles the final assembly of Apple’s iPhones. Other final assembly plants include Foxconn and Quanta.[1]

The living wage in China, as calculated by the Asia Floor Wage in 2013, is approximately 4537 yuan ($725 USD, PPP). This is based on working 48 hours per week at a rate of about $3.77 per hour.

However, workers in Apple’s supplier factories, do not work 48 hours per week, especially during peak production times.  SACOM’s investigation found that some workers at Pegatron worked for 10 weeks without a rest day and often for 12-15 hours a day, sometimes up to 17-18 hours a day. This means that during peak production time, workers at Pegatron were working between 84 and 105 hours per week. This is more than double a typical workweek around the world.

Taking a conservative estimate of (12 hours/day, 30 days per month) workers earn approximately 10.13 yuan/hour, or roughly $1.62 per hour. This is less than half the recommended living wage of about 3.77 per hour.

According to a 2008 study published by MIT’s Sloan school of Business, which looked at the value chain of iPods, the assembly time required for one device was 10 minutes, or six iPods per hour. Which means, if comparable, the cost of labor per iPhone assembled is roughly 27 cents.[2]

Apple’s profit margin, or the money in pure profit it makes on every iPhone sold, is 39.9%, according to BBC. The industry average for consumer electronics is below 10%, according to Standard & Poor’s. The iPhone 6 costs between $199 and $749 at Apple’s online store, which means that depending on which phone you buy and the amount of storage you elect, Apple could be pocketing somewhere between $79 and $299 in profit. Apple’s margins are high for any sector, let alone a sector that requires the work of millions of human beings to make a product.  The per piece labor of just $0.27 (for assembly) helps explain how Apple is able to achieve these remarkable margins.

Labor is one of the highest costs that any business will incur in any sector. One of the reasons, and usually the primary reason, a business may choose to manufacture in one particular country is the relative “cheapness” of labor costs there—meaning low wages. But at what point does the pursuit of lower wages move from a “savvy business scheme” to full-on exploitation?

In China, where Apple’s iPhones are made, wages are relatively low. So low in fact that workers must rely on overtime pay to get by. Electronics brands argue that workers like to work overtime so they can save for their future, but if workers base wages were raised to provide a living wage to begin with, would they elect to work such exhausting hours?

In these mega-electronics factories, there are typically 2 shifts, day and night. Workers either work 12 hours during the day, or 12 hours straight through the night. This often does not include time that workers may need to dress/undress, pass through security, or attend pre- or post-shift meetings. With either shift, little time is left over for recreation, personal development, or even rest.

bbc sleeping workers 2

Exhausted from long shift, many workers fall asleep on the job. Credit: BBC Panorama

In fact, in a recent BBC expose of Pegatron, one of the most apparent problems was the amount of workers falling asleep on the job, some while operating or working near dangerous equipment.

A recent letter written by nine non-profit and workers organizations called on brands to address the poverty wages in the manufacturing sector by paying “living wages, according to a credible benchmark, throughout their operations and supply chains… and structur[ing] their business relationships with suppliers, both in terms of price and volume, in such a way that living wages can feasibly be paid.” For electronics in China, this would mean paying the living wage for 48 hours of work–not poverty wages that rely on excessive overtime to get even close to this figure.

$1.62 per hour, or less, is just too little to compensate someone who works six+ days a week, for 12+ hours a day, in exhausting and often dangerous conditions. As documented by Green America and allies, toxins are prevalent in Apple supplier factories (many of which are suppliers for Apple’s competitors as well), and workers are developing cancer and other devastating diseases as a result.  Apple announced in 2014 that it would ban two harmful chemicals in its final assembly plants to protect workers, however, there are hundreds of hazardous chemicals used in electronics manufacturing, particularly at parts and semiconductor manufacturers.

36 cents

36 cents, the amount it would cost Apple per iPhone to pay final assembly workers a living wage

The trade-off workers in these factories must make for these meager wages is one that arguably no worker in the United States would willingly accept.

So when does the pursuit of lower wages move from a “savvy business scheme” to full-on exploitation? In the case of Apple, who made $18 billion in profit last quarter and who could spend just 36 cents more per iPhone to ensure living wages, it’s painfully clear it has crossed this line. And what better company to fix this error than the most profitable company in the history of the world?

[1] In 2012, the New York Times did a thorough job analyzing workers hourly wages at Foxconn, another final assembly factory.

[2] This estimation is imperfect. It does not include the cost of labor further down the supply chain, at parts manufacturing plants. (Though the MIT study estimates these workers earn even less than assembly workers, due to greater competition among parts manufacturers). It also bases the assembly time required on iPods, not iPhones. Finally, it relies on exchanging yuan to US dollars, a rate that is not constant. ($1=6.26 yuan was the exchange rate at the time of writing.)

February 2, 2015 / andrefloyd

Cheap Green Dates

Love is patient, love is kind, love is…EXPENSIVE. But it doesn’t have to be. We’ve been slightly brainwashed into a default belief that building a memorable life together means spending on entertainment—forgetting that memories are free. So here are a few date ideas that inspire closeness and allow you to create vivid memories, all while remaining financially and environmentally responsible.

 

Cooking (veggiescrop)Cook TogetherKristin Bower, development manager

Depending on the culinary skills of both you and your partner, you can try a tried and true simple recipe, or branch out and learn a new style of cuisine. Preface this with shopping together for organic, local ingredients to create a full experience. And the best thing about making food is that you get to eat it afterward.

 

Hiking (mecrop)Go On a HikeUSU Extension Sustainability, Green America member/reader

We’ve managed to encase the majority of our existence between asphalt and concrete. Escaping the concrete jungle with a significant other will be immensely refreshing for you both. Pack a lunch and enjoy it while listening to living things rather than machinery. Nature was Earth’s first masterpiece, go see it.

 

Volunteering (puppies!crop)Volunteer TogetherCaroline Chen, executive assistant

Volunteering is so rewarding on a personal level that volunteering together can’t help but magnify the feeling. Find a cause you share a soft spot for and get involved! Animal shelters, soup kitchens, and nursing homes are always looking for volunteers. The experience will be incredible and who knows, you may come home with a puppy.

 

Photo Walk (couplecrop)Take a Photo-WalkAndré Floyd, associate editor

Have a digital camera that doesn’t get much use? Of course you do, even if it’s your smartphone. Uncover each other’s artistic eye by taking photos of one another in candid moments, or posed next to something you both find interesting. The two of you will build a network of meaningful places that, when passed, will bring a memory and a smile.

 

Museum (artcrop)Visit a Museum or Art GalleryNicole McCann, director of food campaigns

Experiencing art and/or learning together helps create a heightened connection. The humdrum of daily life can become boringly predictable. Seeing art through the eyes of another, experiencing history, or learning about nature together allows you to see a side of your partner you don’t often see. Art openings and museums are often free!

 

Bike Tour (couplecrop)Go On a Bike TourKathy Harget, development director

Whether you use your own bikes or rent, there’s no shame in getting tourist-y where you live. Chances are you zoom by interesting things daily. Whether it’s a waterfront, park, monument, or cafe—explore! A bike ride with a significant other will help you both stop and be mindful of the beauty around you, and each other. Added bonus: exercise.

 

Home Massage (tv remotecrop)At-Home MassageCarmen, Green America member/reader

“Let’s stay in, watch a movie, and I’ll give you a back massage.”—there is no evidence in recorded human history that this has ever ended badly.

 

 

 

In a world that has desperately tried to turn dating into an online survey, you can set your relationship apart by remembering to connect as humans. Money saved creating these more thoughtful moments can lead to better, more frequent vacations, a home remodel, or unique socially responsible investing opportunity.

January 29, 2015 / Sam Catherman

Solar Industry Continues to Grow Faster than Anyone Imagined

Growth in the solar industry continues to surprise even the most optimistic supporters of the technology. In a world still dominated by fossil fuels, clean energy advocates have had a hard time describing the litany of benefits of a power source that doesn’t involve the combustion of hydrocarbons and the release of greenhouse gases. But now, according to a new report from Deutsche Bank, getting your electricity from the sun seems to be catching on across the world. The bank predicts that solar will reach grid parity with other sources of electricity in all 50 states by 2050.

What is grid parity, you might ask? It occurs when the price of an alternative source of power is equal to or less than the price of electricity from the traditional utility grid. In 10 states, the price of powering your home with rooftop solar panels is already lower than the price of grid electricity. With the 30% investment tax credit (see below) currently in place, it is estimated that 47 states will reach grid parity by 2016. Even if the tax credit were reduced to a level of 10%, Bloomberg predicts that by 2016, at least 36 states will have reached grid parity for solar.

(Credit: EIA, GWEC, Deutsche Bank Estimates)

(Credit: EIA, GWEC, Deutsche Bank Estimates) Click to Enlarge.

The investment tax credit for solar (ITC) plays a large roll in the plummeting costs of acquiring customers, financing and installing residential and commercial solar systems. The government offers a 30% credit for residential and commercial solar systems. Since the credit began in 2006, annual solar installation has grown by over 1,600%. The ITC is slated to drop to 10% in 2016, and is an important driver of the growth and cost reductions solar has enjoyed over the past decade. Though the clock is ticking for the ITC, Deutsche posits that the cost of financing will fall from 7-9% to 5.4% in 2015. It is unclear whether or not an expiration of the ITC will lead to a reversal of the recent growth observed. A ten-year extension of the credit at 30% would all but guarantee that the solar industry will continue its upward trend.

As fossil energy becomes more expensive relative to alternative sources and more people turn to the possibility of producing energy from the sun, new sources of mainstream funding should begin to find the solar industry. The fragmented, latticed network of installers, financiers and producers will begin to consolidate and drive growth even further. According to the International Energy Agency, more than half of the electricity generated in 2050 will likely come from solar. China represents the largest market for the growing solar industry, with the US coming in second. Other emerging markets such as India are stepping up with plans to invest heavily in solar energy in the coming years as well.

Falling oil prices are stirring concern that clean energy advancement is at risk, but oil is not a major generator of electricity and does not directly compete with solar power. Recent growth in the solar industry is unprecedented and does not appear to be at risk of slowing down in the near-term.

The transition to a solar-dominant electricity landscape is good news for the climate-minded. There are obvious emissions involved with the production, transport, and installation of panels, but the fact remains that solar represents a technology and not a fuel. Once in operation, a rooftop equipped with solar panels will produce emission-free electricity for its entire lifetime. The climate benefits of solar energy can only go as far as the industry can, and now is the right time to show your support. The Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act, sponsored in part by Green America, seeks to extend the ITC, along with several other key tax credits for renewable energy sources and energy efficiency updates for a ten-year period so that clean technologies can continue to compete and grow in the global energy marketplace. To learn more, please visit. www.cleanenergyvictorybonds.org.

January 23, 2015 / Tracy Fernandez Rysavy

BPA Substitute May Be Toxic to the Human Brain

BPA-free labels may indicate the presence of BPS. Ask the manufacturer if you're unsure

BPA-free labels may indicate the presence of BPS. Ask the manufacturer if you’re unsure

Bisphenol-A (BPA) gained notoriety in the 1990s as scientists studies began to draw lines between its use in many types of consumer plastics and hormone disruption, which can lead to problems with brain and nervous system development, obesity, and cancer. Today, manufacturers often turn to bisphenol-S (BPS) as a substitute that’s intended to be less toxic. However, researchers at the University of Calgary have found that BPS may also be toxic to the human brain.

In a study published in January in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Calgary research scientist Dr. Deborah Kurrasch and her team found evidence that BPS “caused alterations in brain development leading to hyperactivity in zebrafish.”

“I was actually very surprised at our results. This was a very, very, very low dose, so I didn’t think using a dose this low could have any effect,” said Kurrasch in a press statement.

Kurrasch and her team exposed zebrafish embryos to the low levels of BPS found in Alberta’s Bow and Oldman Rivers.

“In the second trimester, brain cells become the specialized neurons that make up our brain. What we show is that the zebrafish exposed to BPA or BPS were getting twice as many neurons born too soon and about half as many neurons born later, so that will lead to problems in how the neurons connect and form circuits,” said Kurrasch.

Although Kurrasch and her team say that more research is needed to prove the link between BPA and BPS exposure and brain damage in humans, they advise pregnant women to limit exposure to BPA and BPS. These bisphenols can be found in #7 plastics, coatings on receipt paper, and food-can and beverage bottle linings, among other places. If an item says “BPA-free,” the researchers recommend contacting the manufacturer to ask if the item contains BPS.
Meanwhile, Green America is monitoring legislative developments to see if a bill worth supporting—one that offers meaningful protections against BPS and other toxic chemicals in consumer products—is introduced in 2015.

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act, introduced in 2014 by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), failed to provide the measures needed to safeguard human and environmental. Fran Teplitz, Green America’s co-executive and policy director, says that while the weak and outdated 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) desperately needs to be replaced, its replacement must be effective.

“Our eyes are on the Senate to see what progress may be possible this year to protect people and the planet from toxic chemicals,” she says. “We hope this is the year we see strong legislation that will protect our most vulnerable communities, allow states to pass their own strong laws on toxic chemicals, empower the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate chemicals as needed, as well as promote the further development of green chemistry. With troubling new research findings, like those on BPS, it is clear that toxic chemical reform must be a national priority.”

Stay informed about Green America’s work on safer chemical policy by subscribing to our e-mail newsletter.

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