Monthly Archives: December 2016

No drilling in sensitive waters.

The decision by President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau to forbid oil and gas drilling in the Arctic is one great gift for Christmas. These areas are simply too vulnerable to an oil spill and would be very hard to clean up after the fact. We all remember the Exxon Valdez in Alaska.

Some in the oil industry have decried these moves by both leaders but people who know about this subject know very well that the oil industry has no appetite to spend money in these frigid Arctic waters. First, oil prices are still very low, too low to contemplate more exploration in these waters. Secondly, why go to the Arctic when new discoveries of oil are being made in less demanding environments. The oil lobby is objecting to this more for political reasons than anything else.

The good news is that even with a President Trump bent on reversing these decisions the odds of that happeneing are low as his lawyers would be tied up in courts for many years to come. Reversing what President Obama has done will be near impossible and that is a good thing.

I want to wish to all my subscribers Happy Holidays!


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First American wind farm offshore.

For the first time a wind farm has been established in the United States offshore instead of on land. A small community off Rhode Island is now the beneficiary of this clean energy generated by the ocean breeze.

This wind farm is small, making up only five turbines powering 17,000 homes, but this will set the example for more offshore winds projects along the American coast. Up to 90% of this community’s needs will be met by this wind-generated power and about 1% will go back to the state’s electricity grid. It is estimated that this wind farm will reduce carbon dioxide by about 40,000 tons per year.

It is true that opposition to offshore wind farms have always existed. Among the reasons are the high costs, rules about where to build on the seafloor and of course complaints from people on aesthetic reasons.

It is possible that this new optimism for offshore wind turbines may in fact be short-lived. The new Trump administration has already expressed its disdain for this technology. As subsidies are needed for the development of green technology the new administration might simply starve them from new money. The President-elect has been accused in the past of exaggerating the harmful effect of wind turbines on bird populations and his transition team has said that wind energy will face more scrutiny from the federal government. Too bad that the oil industry does not suffer the same scrutiny. This is a worrying sign of things to come perhaps but somehow I am not surprised by this.

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No turning back!

Despite what Trump might let people believe, the movement towards a greener economy and a cleaner earth is pretty much irreversible. Despite the choice of a climate-change denier and a fossil-fuel advocate as head of the EPA market forces are now driving the change to a greener economy, not federal regulations. And that is a good thing.

Nevertheless, the impact of a climate-change denier will have consequences, not only for the United States but also for the whole planet. It will put the push to a greener economy on a slower pace, thus slowing down any progress that countries should make to achieve the targets of the Paris accords.

The idea that with less regulations the coal industry will make a comeback is absurd. The coal industry is in decline because it is simply not economical to operate those mines. Nothing Mr.Trump does will change that, even with less regulations.

The use of no-carbon industries like solar energy and wind is booming right now simply because the economics is in their favor, finally. The future is clean energy and the market knows that and will reward those visionaries that invest right now in these technologies. No wonder that the Chinese are heavily investing in them. We should too and continue to do so, throughout the world. Our future may depend on it.

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The red-tail hawk in the rain.

I arrived late in the botanical garden. It was a very cloudy day but I had thought that it would be a dry day but in the end it was anything but. I had purposely waited until 09:00 to take the bus but still had to contend with bad weather.

Here I was, walking with my camera and looking for a subject to photograph. With no snow on the ground and few birds, I was left with the prospect of trying to find mushrooms. Add to that low light and a small drizzle and one can see that I was less than enthusiastic about my prospects. It is the time of the year when a photographer has to be creative.

I had been walking for well over an hour and I still had nothing to show for except two pictures of some lowly mushrooms growing by the side of a dead tree. Nothing to crow about I would say.

I thought finally that swinging by the bird feeding stations would be a good idea. I was still hoping to see some birds so I began walking in the direction of one station that was near a small wooded area, at the junction of two small roads. A stream was also flowing nearby. Generally it is not the best feeding station as foot traffic can be intense at times.

I was walking along the trail when all of a sudden my eye caught something whitish on a branch high besides the feeding station. I approached cautiously and using the zoom on my camera began to examine this. As I looked I realized that it was a hawk, a red-tail hawk. I was besides myself.

This hawk does often frequent the garden but it is hard to see and harder to photograph as it tend to be quite high, looking on the ground for small rodents and birds. Not knowing if it was very skittish I approached slowly, taking a series of pictures in case it flew away, but luckily it did not.

I continued my approach until I was facing it. I then extended my monopod to the ground and began taking some more pictures. By then it was still drizzling but harder. I had my plastic bag protecting my camera as well as my lens, but not completely.

The bird was very much looking in the direction of the feeding station. It often would look at me as well, probably wary of what I was doing. It flew several times around the area, going from one branch to another. I could distinctly see its red tail sticking out. It is a massive bird much bigger than a Cooper’s hawk. I am always amazed how it can fly so silently and not uttering a cry.

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