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Clean Power Plan

Announced by President Obama on Monday, the Clean Power Plan aims to lower carbon emissions for the first time ever.

Power plants are responsible for one third of the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions. Power plants will be required to cut emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. States have until 2018 to devise a plan, which must be implemented in 2022 (although they get incentives to start earlier). The plan is part of the Clean Air Act which was implemented in 1963.

The plan was not released solely as a way to slow global warming, but also as a public health initiative. Asthma has more than doubled in the past thirty years, and other health risks and natural disasters can be linked to high carbon emissions. The plan will cost about $8.4 billion, but the plan will save much more. It is estimated that the average annual family electric bill will have decreased $85 by 2030.

While politicians such as Hillary Clinton approve of the plan, many do not. A group of attorney generals are preparing to file a lawsuit against the plan they feel will hurt the economy. The public face of the lawsuit is Patrick Morrisey, attorney general of West Virginia. Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush are all against the Clean Power Plan. Half a dozen states, including Texas and Oklahoma, are refusing to follow the plan.

However, other states are preparing to put plans in place. Many view this as a good measure to reduce our carbon footprint and to stand as a role model to other countries in our global fight against pollution and climate change.

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What’s Shell Doing in the Arctic?

The Arctic is believed to have 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13% of its oil. That makes it every oil company’s dream to drill into.

On July 22, the US Department of the Interior issued permits allowing Shell to begin preliminary drilling in the Chukchi Sea, 140 miles from Alaska’s shoreline. Currently, Shell is only allowed to drill to 1300 feet (400 meters). They will need to request permission for deeper drilling, but only when the ship with a capping stick is repaired. The capping stick is a safety device for preventing oil spills, but the Fennica, the only ship with this, is undergoing repairs for a 3-foot gash. Shell is also only allowed to drill in summer months; they are required to stop in late September.

Shell is taking certain safety precautions. They are working to reduce vibrations and noises from drilling so as not to disturb marine mammals sensitive to sound, and they aren’t drilling in deep, high-pressure areas. Other safety precautions have been enforced by the government. For example, Shell can’t drill anywhere within a four mile radius of a walrus, nor can they drill in 2 simultaneous locations less than 15 miles apart (to avoid impacting migration and foraging of marine life).

But will this be enough? The Arctic conditions make cleaning up an oil spill virtually impossible. Petroleum sticks to ice, and the Arctic Gyre would be able to pull ice, and the oil, all the way to Russia, Canada, and Norway. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has estimated that there is a 75% chance of a large spill if extensive drilling takes place in the Arctic.

The Arctic is home to vulnerable animals such as the walrus, polar bear, and whale. If there is an oil spill, what will happen to the endangered animals? The Chukchi Sea is home to half of the United States polar bears. Will they be able to survive?

Even if Shell is safer this time, they do not have a good track history. Shell was drilling in the Arctic in 2012, and 150,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled along the coastline of one of Alaska’s islands. And the Chukchi Sea is 1000 miles from a Coast Guard station with equipment for responding to oil spills.

Why are we focusing on oil? Oil companies are currently engaging in increasingly risky behaviors. Fracking has been destroying clean water supplies and may be increasing the risk of earthquakes. Now the Arctic Drilling poses as a danger. The only reason Arctic oil is so accessible is that so much of the ice has melted from global warming.

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What can you do? Sign Greenpeace’s petition to stop the drilling. Also, avoid all Shell gas stations; it won’t stop the drilling, but at least it will hurt the company. We should be standing for green energy to protect our seas and wildlife.

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Giving Without Wasting: Statistics on Wrapping Paper and Ideas for Alternatives

Statistics:

  • Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, waste in American households increases by 25%.
  • Americans use 40 million tons of paper products each year to wrap gifts.
  • Every year, 38,000 miles of ribbon is thrown away.
  • The lamination and dyes in wrapping paper, while making the wrapping pretty, make it very difficult to recycle.

Wrapping Sustainably:

  • Use reusable fabric bags. My mother made over fifty pillow-case shaped bags in different sizes with Christmas-decorated cloth. All we have to do to wrap a present is tie a ribbon around the bag, which makes wrapping quick and easy. Using reusable bags will reduce your trash and will save you money in the long run.
  • Save newspaper and magazine pages. Small gifts can be wrapped in the pages of magazines, and the rest can be wrapped in newspaper.
  • Buy recycled wrapping paper.
  • Upcycle containers to make gift boxes. Use cereal boxes, oatmeal canisters, aluminum cans, and whatever else you were planning on throwing out. Reusing is always better than recycling.

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Reducing waste does not have to ruin your Christmas. There are lots of alternatives that can be just as fun and just as beautiful.

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