In Blow to Powder River Basin Ambitions, Bankrupt Arch Coal Abandons Otter Creek Project

first_imgIn Blow to Powder River Basin Ambitions, Bankrupt Arch Coal Abandons Otter Creek Project FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Matthew Brown for the Associated Press:Arch Coal suspended its application for a major mine in southeastern Montana on Thursday, two months after the mining giant filed for bankruptcy protection and amid broader struggles for the coal industry that have reversed its once-bright prospects in the state.The St. Louis-based company cited a weak coal market, a shortage of capital and an uncertain permitting outlook in announcing it was suspending the proposed Otter Creek mine.The move marks a major blow to longstanding efforts to expand mining in the Powder River Basin along the Montana-Wyoming border, the nation’s largest coal-producing region. Arch had invested at least $159 million to acquire coal leases in the area.“Arch can no longer devote the time, capital and resources required to develop a coal mine on the Otter Creek reserve,” the company said in a press release.The Otter Creek mine would have extracted up to 20 million tons of coal annually from state-owned and private leases south of Ashland near the Wyoming border. Fuel from the mine was to be sold domestically and in overseas markets.Plans to build a $400 million railroad to the mine site were put on hold indefinitely last year.The loss of the two projects sinks near-term hopes for a coal-fueled economic boom in southeastern Montana, a largely agriculture region that’s failed to attract mining on the scale of the massive strip mines just to the south in Wyoming.The Otter Creek leases hold an estimated 1.5 billion tons of coal.What will happen to those leases is uncertain. Arch spokeswoman Logan Bonacorsi did not immediately respond to questions from The Associated Press. The company boasts the second largest coal reserves in the U.S. but was driven into bankruptcy after amassing billions of dollars in debt.Otter Creek’s critics said the company’s permitting delays offered a convenient excuse for a project that no longer made economic sense. Demand for coal has plummeted in the past several years amid competition from cheap natural gas and increased reliance on renewable energies to generate electricity.“It’s the market. Period,” said Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center.Arch Coal suspends plans for Otter Creek mine in Montanalast_img read more

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Montana Governor Shops for New Owners to Keep Aged Colstrip Units Open

first_imgMontana Governor Shops for New Owners to Keep Aged Colstrip Units Open FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Tom Lutey for the Billings Gazette:Gov. Steve Bullock said he plans to form a working group to explore “alternative ownership” and management of Colstrip Units 1, 2 and 3. Current owners Puget Sound Energy and Talen Energy face increasing pressure to shut Units 1 and 2 down. Puget also has partial ownership in Unit 3.However, state ownership of the power plants is off the table, Bullock told The Gazette.But ownership discussion is bound to change as interested parties gather to plan a way forward for Units 1 and 2, said Ann Hedges of the Montana Environmental Information Center.“They’ll all sit down at the table, but nobody wants their money thrown down the drain,” Hedges said. “They want someone else’s money thrown down the drain and that’s the problem.”Hedges said the state should be working to come up with a post-coal future for Colstrip. There’s a wind farm in the works in the same county. Solar panels might be a possibility.“There are so many things we can do and instead they’re wasting time trying to prop up a dying economic business model,” Hedges said.Full article: Montana Gov. Bullock: State must keep vulnerable Colstrip units openlast_img read more

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Germany closes last underground coal mines

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Associated Press:Germany is closing its last black coal mines, ending an industry that laid the foundations for the country’s industrial revolution and its post-war economic recovery.On Friday, miners planned to hand German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier a symbolic last lump of coal hauled up from 1,200 meters (3,940 feet) below ground at the Prosper-Haniel mine in the western city of Bottrop. Along with another mine, in the town of Ibbenbueren about 100 kilometers (62 miles) to the north, it will be formally shuttered at the end of the year.Black coal mines once dominated the Ruhr region surrounding Bottrop, employing up to half a million people at their peak in the 1950s. But they have since been in steady decline, surviving only thanks to generous subsidies.The region has received more than 40 billion euros ($46 billion) in federal funds since 1998 and is slated to get another 2.7 billion euros through 2022, in part to deal with mine maintenance and environmental cleanup efforts. The figures don’t include money spent supporting economic redevelopment in the Ruhr region, which has seen a growth in universities, research facilities and IT start-ups in recent years.The end of the deep-shaft mines is seen as a test for the planned closure of open-cast lignite, or brown coal, mines still operating in Germany.The country generates almost two-fifths of its electricity from burning coal, a situation that scientists say can’t continue if Germany wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with international efforts to curb climate change. But some fear that other sources of energy — chiefly renewables — may not be sufficient, especially as Germany plans to shut down its nuclear plants by 2022.More: Germany closes last of black coal mines that shaped country Germany closes last underground coal mineslast_img read more

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German coal phase-out plan will shutter first 12.7GW of capacity by 2022

first_imgGerman coal phase-out plan will shutter first 12.7GW of capacity by 2022 FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Reuters:Germany should shut down all of its coal-fired power plants by 2038 at the latest, a government-appointed commission said on Saturday, proposing at least 40 billion euros ($45.7 billion) in aid to regions affected by the phase-out.The roadmap proposals, a hard-won compromise reached early on Saturday after more than 20 hours of talks, must now be implemented by the German government and 16 regional states. They embody Germany’s strategy to shift to renewables, which made up more than 40 percent of the energy mix last year — beating coal for the first time — and follow a 2011 decision to halt nuclear power.In a first step, plant operators including RWE, Uniper, EnBW and Vattenfall will be asked to shut down about 12.7 gigawatts (GW) of capacity by 2022, equivalent to about 24 large power station units, said the report, seen by Reuters.Under the proposed plans, coal power capacity in Germany would more than halve to 17 GW by 2030.In a blow to RWE, the commission said preserving the contested Hambach forest was “desirable”, hitting the group’s key source of lignite where mining operations have already been halted following a court order.While the 2038 date to exit coal was in line with expectations, the report said the phase out could be completed by 2035 — a decision that would be taken in 2032.More: Germany to phase out coal by 2038 in move away from fossil fuelslast_img read more

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SEIA: U.S. corporate demand for solar power now tops 8,350MW, and more growth is coming

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Renewables Now:The US topped 8,350 MW of commercial solar capacity after over 1,280 MW was added by corporate players in 2019, with Apple, Amazon and Walmart being the biggest consumers of solar electricity.The figures were published in a new report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) that highlights the major role of corporations in terms of investments as they work to achieve their clean energy commitments. According to the statistics, the newly-added capacity in the commercial sector last year made 2019 the second largest year on record. Of the total capacity that was hooked to the grid by corporates last year, some 845 MW came from onsite systems.SEIA’s annual report contains data for both on-site and off-site installations.“Businesses are choosing solar energy because it can significantly curb their energy costs and add predictability during these uncertain times,” said SEIA’s president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper. She went on to say that the corporate sector is expected to make even greater investments in solar as businesses look to address the climate crisis and reach clean energy goals.All corporate players are making strides towards their clean energy targets, some of them undertaking aggressive plans for the next decade. Among them are Google, which plans to run its data centres and corporate facilities on 100% carbon-free power by 2030 and Facebook, with its commitment to reaching net zero emissions across its value chain in 2030. The social media giant was one of the largest buyers of off-site solar in 2019 that helped it jump to the 9th spot in SEIA’s list from 27th before.SEIA anticipates that around 5 GW of off-site commercial solar capacity will be brought live over the next few years as corporations continue to be “walking the walk when it comes to their clean energy commitments.”[Veselina Petrova]More: US corporate solar market swells to 8.3 GW, Apple remains on top SEIA: U.S. corporate demand for solar power now tops 8,350MW, and more growth is cominglast_img read more

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Which parts of the U.S. will be hardest hit by global warming?

first_imgDear EarthTalk: Which parts of the United States are or will be hardest hit by global warming?                                                                                                             — Aliza Perry, Burlington, VT It’s difficult to predict which areas of the U.S. will suffer the most from global warming, but it’s safe to say that no regions will be unaffected. Scientists already point to increased severity of hurricanes on the East Coast, major Midwest floods, and shrinking glaciers in the West as proof of global warming’s onset. Of course, America couldn’t have asked for a better poster child in the fight to stave off global warming than Alaska, which is undergoing dramatic landscape changes as a result of warming-induced temperature increases, glacial melting and sea level rise. Even Alaska’s conservative elected officials can no longer deny that human-induced warming is affecting their state. The picture isn’t looking too rosy in the western continental U.S. either, which is already facing some of the country’ largest temperature increases. The signature glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park may be all gone within just two decades. A recent report by two leading nonprofits, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the Natural Resources Defense Council, details how the 11 U.S. western states together have experienced an increase in average temperature during the last five years some 70 percent greater than the global average rise. The hottest part of the region has been drought-stricken Arizona, where average temperatures have risen some 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit—120 percent greater than the global rise—between 2003 and 2007. Researchers also found that the West has experienced more frequent and severe heat waves, with the number of extremely hot days increasing by up to four days per decade since 1950. In the Midwest, seemingly minor increases in temperature have already wrought major effects. In 2006 Lake Erie didn’t freeze for the first time in history, which led to “lake effect” snowfalls as more evaporating water was available for precipitation. Likewise, changes in the lake’s water temperature have begun to alter fish populations, which in turn affect birds and their migratory patterns. Despite localized heavier snowfalls, though, the region is generally suffering from a drying trend. Farmers worry that the result will be lower crop yields and thus more expensive food for American consumers. On the east coast, coral reef bleaching, heat waves and increased hurricane intensity are just some of the warming-related hazards Floridians have had to deal with in recent years. Washington, DC’s famous cherry trees are now blossoming earlier due to temperature increases. Further north, milder-than-typical winter temperatures have been linked to subtle changes in ocean currents. In New York City, the average temperature has increased about four degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, and could get 10 degrees hotter by 2100, according to a study commissioned by the federally funded U.S. Global Change Research Program. But the bigger problem for New York City, as well as other low-lying areas around the nation’s coasts, will be sea level rise: Climate models predict that sea level around the Northeast is expected to rise between ¾ inch and 3 ½ feet over the course of this century. CONTACTS: Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, www.rockymountainclimate.org; Natural Resources Defense Council, www.nrdc.org; U.S. Global Change Research Program, www.usgcrp.gov. GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek/, or e-mail: [email protected] Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.phplast_img read more

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Papa is Back on His Bike

first_imgMy father just got back on his bike for the first time in 8 years. He’s 81.He commuted by bike around Chicago his whole life. The city has magnificent bike paths that are strictly enforced. Nobody “accidentally” rides in the bike lanes. Drivers don’t harass cyclists for being on the road because everybody actually has something better to do. People who aren’t used to it, actually LEARN how to get used to it, rather than get angry because it‘s not what THEY do. Novel, eh?He had to stop riding when he could no longer leave my mother alone. At first she got frightened when she couldn’t find him. It’s like he was her brain. She was able to communicate to him what she needed, and he would do it for her. She would never come right out and admit that she couldn’t do it herself. He would have to figure it out. She hid her Alzheimer’s well. She wrote herself yellow sticky reminder notes for things like the contents of a cabinet or things that she wanted to say to people. She probably never ran across the notes again in the pile of papers on the dining room table. The notes stopped once spelling didn’t make sense for her anymore. She painted a ceramic dish and in signing the back of her art, she misspelled her name.She got mad one day when papa left her in a gift shop to go back to their hotel room. She forgot he was leaving. Plus, the layout of the lodge was in short-term memory. She could find her way around the neighborhood she lived in for 45 years, but she had no idea what to do here. He finally came back for her and she yelled at him, telling him never to leave her again. That’s when he stopped riding his bike.He continued to work out at the gym, because he needed to keep his heart healthy. He was vigilant, but the stress of taking care of mom was beginning to show up in his body. A mystery prostate issue resulted in a body scan revealing a tumor on his pancreas. In removing it, the surgeon mucked up his intestines, resulting in two more surgeries in two weeks and a gastric bag for another 10 weeks. It was this drive between Asheville and Chicago that made me determined to get them to move here. They stayed with me for two months while papa healed and I helped them find a place to live. He had a year to downsize. Halfway through it he developed severe Achilles tendonitis and shuffled for an entire year. He shuffled up and down three flights of stairs and between two houses, 45 miles away, packing everything up.It took three doctors, exercises, stretching, shoe inserts, massages, and two different physical therapists to heal it, and by the time it was better he developed sciatica – no doubt caused by the shuffling. When the doctor recommended total knee replacement as well, he said, “Getting old isn’t easy.”They moved here just as mom was at the point where she wasn’t quite sure where she was anymore. They struggled for far too long because papa was scared to make her do anything she didn’t want to do. The new apartment was set up with all of their old furniture, so she thought she was still home. The problem is that she kept going to the basement, which was no longer where the washer, dryer, tools and crafts were, but now the main lobby. She would find her way down the elevator in her nightgown at 5 a.m. after papa had finally fallen asleep. The maintenance men would bring her back, knocking at the door. As much as he hated to, Papa stopped putting her in the cleavage-bearing nightgown.Although we found adult daycare for her, papa’s days were spent figuring out how to outsmart her, convince her to put on her coat, coax her to eat, shop for the household, and manage the finances. She kept falling on the floor or simply getting down to sit yet unable to get back up. I would drive across town to hook her under the armpits from a sitting position and hoist her to her feet amidst much yelling and slapping – from her, not me. He would cheer her with a kiss, and all would be forgotten. He was exhausted. We had to find a nursing home.He now thought that he could ride his bike over to her because it was ridiculous to drive one mile back and forth twice a day. He took out his bike, pumped the tires and took it for a dry run around the parking lot. He said he felt a little unstable, but then took it to the street. Chicago is flat. Asheville is not. Just the huge speed bumps out front of his condo were enough to shake him up. He climbed up to the stop sign and decided it was too hilly. I don’t think he really changed gears while living in Chicago. He only had five of them on his Raleigh. He said he didn’t need any more.He complained that he didn’t feel as stable any more. I feel like his injuries and lack of being on the bike have weakened his cycling muscles, but more than anything, every time I get back on the bike after a hiatus I feel clumsy. I think that if he just does it, it will come back. It’s just like riding a bike, right?!What he needed was a flat place with few obstacles. I took him to Carrier Park. We started down at the French Broad River Park where there would be few obstacles or hills. I brought my boys, Elijah on his bike and Wyatt on a tag-a-long behind me. I pulled the bikes out of the pickup and got everyone suited up. It took me a while to get the tag-a-long attached and the winter wind was howling at 43 degrees. I watched papa wheel up to a post and sit on his bike. “I’m afraid I’m going to tip over,” he says. “I just don’t have the balance any more.” I had thought about bringing training wheels, just to get him confident again, but didn’t want to embarrass him. “Let me get you started,” I say. “I’ll just run along beside you in case you fall.”He wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I thought about the blocks he had tied to my pedals when I was little. He would push, holding onto my seat, and as soon as he gave me the final shove I would careen into a tree. It took me a while to get it. He laughed when I nailed that maple, but he helped me back onto the bike. One day I sat staring out of the window at the sidewalk, imagining riding a bike and suddenly I realized that I could do it. “I want to ride my bike,” I told him, as he watered the plants. “No, not right now,” he said. “I’m busy.” But I pleaded, “No papa, I don’t need your help. Just get the bike up the steps for me.” So he did. He went back to the front windows with his watering can as I wheeled my bike around. I kept swallowing the lump of excitement down my throat. I got on, put my foot on the pedal and looked up at the second-story window and waved at him. I stepped down on the pedal and took off, relaxing my body into full stride. I grinned up at the window to see him laughing and continued down the street like I’d been doing it all summer.Now he wouldn’t let me run beside him. I knew better than to argue, but I was terrified that he would crash to the pavement and break something. What an idiot they would call me in the emergency room. “You took your 81-year-old father for a bike ride?!”I got Wyatt on the tag-a-long and pedaled over to him. “Go ahead Papa,” I will follow. “NOOOO!” he said as if I were stupid. “If I fall you’ll get all tangled up in me,” he says. Clearly he is not familiar with the type of riding that I do, which is really sweet. I guess there’s not much that I can do to save him if he falls, no matter where I am, so I don’t argue. I pull ahead and by the time I turn around he is riding. I’m so happy, but I don’t want to embarrass him, so I turn back around to hide my grin and tears. He careens a bit through the gate, but makes it fine and isn’t struggling at all. We ride around twice before I bring him onto the dirt path connecting toward Carrier Park and I worry again as he cranks up a small hill that is always challenging for the boys. We make it all the way to the racetrack where he sits on a bench looking exhausted. I’m a little worried that I’ve pushed him too far. He already worked out this morning.The kids run around the playground, but it is cold, so we head back after 20 minutes. We are all freezing and Wyatt cries almost all the way back to the truck. I want to race back, but I have to ride slow because I don’t want papa out of my sight. He is also cold and tired. Elijah races ahead and helps us into the truck, which I turn on and crank the heat, placing the baby in the driver’s seat. We are cold, tired and hungry, but inside I can’t believe I’ve gotten papa back on his bike. I drop him home and as I kiss him, I tell him how proud I am of him riding his bike. He laughs and limps up to his condo, pushing his bike along.A few hours later I call to see if he is ok. “Oh, yes!” he laughs, “I was just on my way out for a walk. Thank you for checking on me.”Mom is gone now, but papa is back on his bike.last_img read more

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Trail Mix | A 2015 Twelve Pack

first_imgLooking back at the hundreds of tunes that ran on Trail Mix in 2015, it is virtually impossible to come up with a list of what I consider the “best” tunes of the lot. There are simply too many great tunes from which to pick.So, as I looked back over the year in Trail Mix, I considered what records from each month spent the most time in my player. From that, I have put together this 2015 Trail Mix Twelve Pack, which highlights my favorite tracks from each month of the last year,January – Sam Lewis/Waiting On Yousam lewisSam already had scheduled the release of his newest record for the spring. In the meantime, he put together a collection of acoustic recordings taken while he was on tour. What started out as merely demos ended up as The Hotel Sessions, just Sam and his guitar in hotel rooms across two continents.February – Hey Rosetta!/Soft Offering (For the Oft Suffering)I am not sure how many rock bands come out of Newfoundland, but Hey Rosetta! have to be at the top of the list. Piano, cello, brass, and synth beats combine in “Soft Offering” in a rousing singalong fashion.March – Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield/Somebody That I Used To KnowPrior to hearing this song, all I knew of Elliot Smith was his tragic story. After digging in to Seth and Jessica’s interpretations of his songs, I became a fan.April – Andrew Combs/Foolin’andrew_combs-759x500Andrew is at the forefront of the reimagination of country music. Take one listen to all of those “oooooooooooooohs” in the chorus of this tune and try not to sing along. A fantastic take on introspection in the social media age.May – John Moreland/You Don’t Care For Me Enough To Cryjohn morelandThis might very well be my favorite tune of the year. John, in heart crushing fashion, harnesses all of the anxiety and doubt that comes along as love’s baggage. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship – particularly one that has gone south – should be able to relate to this tune.June – Amos Lee/Violinamos leeIt’s hard to imagine anything that can make Amos Lee’s songs sound even better. On the short list would be recording them at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony. This song is just enchanting.July – Anderson East/Satisfy Meanderson eastVintage soul is on the rebound, and Anderson East is poised to be a front runner. Anderson combines hipster chic with vintage 60s soul sensibilities and a gravelly baritone that allows him to pull it off.August – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats/S.O.B.Nathaniel_Rateliff_and_the_Night_Sweats_PhotoCredit_Malia_James_GeneralPress1An overnight sensation over a decade in the making, Nathaniel Rateliff truly arrived with his latest record. Long known as a stellar songwriter, Nathaniel tapped into gospel tinged soul for his latest project, and the result was instant acclaim.September – John Mark Nelson/Dream Last Nightjohn mark neslonThis song was a bit like time travel. It took me right back to the 1980s and my high school years. Imagine my shock when I realized the songwriter was younger, at the age of 22, than many of the songs this tune reminded me of.October – Holly Bowling/The Squirming Coilholly bowlingClassically trained pianist takes on classic Phish tunes. Genius! That Holly even went so far as to transcribe a 36 minute long “Tweezer” was icing on the cake. If you have ever wanted to hear Phish reinterpreted on solo piano, this is the record for you.November – Annabelle’s Curse/Lovedrunk DesperadoesannabelleThis tune holds the singular distinction of being the one song to have made Trail Mix twice this year. That it comes from one of my favorite regional bands makes that oversight on my part absolutely okay. I have truly enjoyed watching this band develop over the last number of years, and their latest release is their strongest to date.December – Wild Child/Break BonesI did my best trying to not get this track on to a Trail Mix. Not because it doesn’t kick ass – because it absolutely does – but because I kept missing it. And what a shame, because it is awesome. But good things come to those who keep screwing up, and “Break Bones” was a highlight on the final mix of the year.As you can imagine, these twelve tracks merely scratch the surface of the year that was in Trail Mix. Many thanks to all of the great artists who shared their music with us and who took the time to sit down for a blog post. Here’s to a great year that has passed and another great year to come in 2016.last_img read more

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Après Ski

first_imgAprès ski. There’s no way to say it without sounding like a complete douche, and yet no two words in any language get me as excited. Roughly translated from the original French, après ski means, “I drank too much champagne and fell in the hot tub while still wearing my ski boots.”I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.Sadly, there are no champagne/hot tub accidents where I ski. Because, you see children, my local ski hill is in a dry county. There are no shot skis. No Jager luges. No bar with cougars trolling for ski bums. When the lifts shut down, our only après ski option is to head to the nearest Steak n’ Shake for burgers. N’ shakes. The struggle is real.I’m not a wise man, but I’ve learned a few things in my 39 years on this planet. For instance, I know that making peace with your own limitations is the key to happiness. Well, it’s one of the keys to happiness. There are probably 12 keys to happiness in total. I don’t know, like I said, I’m not a wise man. But 12 seems like the right number.A couple of other keys to happiness I figured out along the way: marry someone who’s out of your league. Conventional wisdom says you should stick to your own classifications for attractiveness when finding a life partner. If you’re a seven, marry a seven. But trust me, waking up to someone who’s significantly hotter than you will make you happy.Also, listen to a lot of Beastie Boys.But back to accepting your own limitations. What I’m really taking about here is the Southern Appalachians during ski season. We have a lot of really great ski resorts to choose from in the South, and during a banner year, there is even some cross country and backcountry turns to be had. But you simply can’t compare the Southern Apps to the Rockies, or even the Northern Appalachians for that matter. We just don’t have the snow. It’s a matter of math. The South has a lot of fine qualities that make up for the lack of snow (boiled peanuts, bourbon), but you can’t argue with math.It took me a while to come to terms with the Southern Appalachians’ geographical limitations, but as soon as I accepted those limitations, and made peace with a winter that was less snowy, I started enjoying the ski season more. I’ve accepted a winter full of man-made snow and the occasional dusting of God-given powder. I can accept a ski resort that only gets 60 inches of natural snow a year, but I cannot accept a resort that has no bar in the lodge, or anywhere within a 10-mile radius, for that matter. You have to drive 20 minutes across the county line to get a beer. And that beer is in an Ingles. You gotta drive all the way back to Asheville to hit a legitimate bar, and then you’re the only one wearing ski boots and still sporting goggles. That’s not après ski. That’s just drinking.Our lack of snow is a matter of geography. The lack of booze at my hill is human error. Fortunately, it’s an isolated situation; there are plenty of great après ski options in the South. Beech has a killer bar on top of the mountain. They even have their own brewery. Whitegrass Café, at the base of Whitegrass ski touring center, is a veritable party after a good powder day. In fact, the resort where I hold my season pass might be the only dry ski resort below the Mason Dixon.The lack of a bar at my local hill is frustrating, mostly because I don’t want to ski anywhere else. I like the terrain. The ski patrol lets me skin up the hill during the week. The lifties wear denim and blast classic rock from mid-station. Why can’t this mountain have a damn bar? And more snow, but we already talked about that, so I’m gonna let it go. But the bar…the lack of a bar is a tough thing to let go.Alas, when the world gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Then spike that lemonade with vodka.So in lieu of a legitimate bar, we tailgate. We pop the trunk on our SUV, brandish a cooler full of quality local beer and crank the Phil Collins, right there in the middle of the parking lot. You’ll see a few other people doing the same, particularly during that hour between the day session and the night session when the mountain is closed for grooming. Dudes retreat to their trunks and sit, nursing a few beers, tired but ready to hit the hill again after dark. We talk about how the mountain needs a bar. How the food could be better. And how much we like the mountain anyway, in spite of all of its flaws. Or maybe because of them, it’s hard to tell. And really, who needs a snooty après ski bar with overpriced Bud Light, when you can après ski in your own trunk. SEC football style.last_img read more

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Climate Change: Present Tense

first_imgLet’s stop talking about climate change in the future tense. Climate change is happening here and now, right in our Blue Ridge backyard. “You can’t get away, and yet you can’t solve it by yourself either,” said Jennifer Marlon, a research scientist at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies whose work includes studying climate change. “We’re seeing more flooding. We’re seeing more intense precipitation. When we do get rainfall, we’re getting more of it and in a shorter time period. But that’s really only happening in eastern U.S. and the Midwest and the north. The opposite is happening in Texas and the Southwest; it’s becoming hotter and drier there.” Rural communities also face steep challenges from climate change, especially in the agricultural and forest products industries. Those economic blows could compound the demographic and poverty challenges that already plague much of the rural South.  Freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and progressive Democrats are rallying for the Green New Deal, a policy package that aims to shift all electricity generation to renewable sources, provide job training, and support those transitioning from coal and other fossil fuels. The idea already has proven popular enough to spawn a state-level spinoff in Virginia. I’d call it the new normal, but there’s no normal anymore. And while we already see the growing effects of climate change happening now, the Fourth National Climate Assessment reports that it’s only going to get worse: “While some climate change impacts, such as sea level rise and extreme downpours, are being acutely felt now, others, like increasing exposure to dangerously high temperatures—often accompanied by high humidity—and new local diseases, are expected to become more significant in the coming decades.” Auto- and industrial-generated air pollution combines with high humidity and temperatures to create major air quality problems. In addition to more extreme weather events, the South has become increasingly urbanized. Cities create a heat island effect, which compounds the effects of warming temperatures and more frequent heat waves.  But there is no escape—not from climate change nor from the geopolitical chaos that it brings. Its effects can be seen throughout the region—flooding in the mountains, hurricane damage and red algal tides on the coast, and wildfire everywhere.  Scientists tell us that extreme weather events like this will only become more common as the climate continues to change. Climate change is no longer a future consideration. It’s happening now, and its effects are being felt everywhere. Floyd County, where I live, was a destination for the back-to-the-land movement of the ’60s and ’70s. People moved there to seek personal freedom and lay the groundwork for the alternative culture for which Floyd is known today. Some deliberately moved to Floyd—and to other communities in the Blue Ridge and Appalachia—to retreat from an expected environmental and societal collapse. As global temperatures have warmed and Earth’s polar regions have become warmer, the changing temperature gradient between the poles and equator have affected the jet stream, which has resulted in more erratic weather around the world.  Hurricanes are striking the South in greater numbers and intensity. Algal blooms created a toxic “red tide” that plagued Florida through the fall. Virginia’s Tangier Island, which gave the world soft shell crab, is disappearing beneath the rising Chesapeake Bay. And communities at the urban-wildland interface also are at risk from wildfires, which have become more severe as a result of drought and decades of fire suppression. Add in the growing number of high-density residential structures, and we can expect more events like the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains wildfires, which killed 14 people, injured 134, destroyed more than 2,000 buildings in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and burned more than 16,000 acres. Massive storms and flooding are creating refugee crises that directly affect international geopolitics. Military officials have identified climate change as a threat to national security, not just from the direct impacts of weather but also from the chaos and political instability it creates. The Fourth National Climate Assessment, a report compiled from 13 federal agencies and released earlier this year, said that the South and the Midwest are the regions likely to suffer the largest losses from climate change, which threatens both urban and rural areas.  The floods caught everyone by surprise, including me. In the days just before the winter solstice, western Virginia again saw heavy rain, compounded by a foot-and-a-half of melting snow. The event was not nearly as chaotic as Hurricane Michael, but roads again flooded in places I’d seen closed a couple of months before. This is going to be a regular thing, I reckon. Construction of interstate gas pipelines along steep mountain slopes has resulted in widespread erosion and runoff during heavy rainstorms.  As weather grows more chaotic, elected officials are slowly coming around. Republicans representing southern states see the effects on their constituents, and Democrats are increasingly elevating climate change as a priority.  The costs of wind and solar projects have dramatically fallen in recent years and are economically competitive with fossil fuels. When building new facilities, large tech companies like Amazon and Google are requiring that most or all of their electricity come from renewable sources. These developments in the private sector are making it possible for some progressive state governments to pursue a larger shift to clean energy.  I left Blacksburg early after my wife called to warn about rising waters. The river hadn’t flooded onto the road yet, but it was getting close. A passing driver flashed his lights—never a good sign. As I topped the next hill, I saw a small river running across the road. When people think about the effects of climate change, they often envision melting icebergs or rising sea levels along the coast line. I live in the mountains, where we’re not downstream from anyone. And yet Hurricane Michael flooded dozens of roads in Floyd County, destroyed driveways, carved up dirt roads and brought transportation to a dead halt.  All of this is reason for hope, but it’s still just a small step toward the global action that’s needed. Marlon said that we can take individual action, too: by shifting our eating habits, more closely considering what we’re buying, engaging with community and elected leaders on the issue.last_img read more

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