environment

Thailand’s Energy Consumption Reaches Alarming Levels — And Protesting It Can Be Deadly

New life
In Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, luxury shopping is a way of life. The city’s central Sukhumvit Road boasts more than half a dozen luxury retail centers in one short three-mile stretch. At EmQuartier, the district’s newest high-end mall which opened March 27, you can shop at Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Prada and likely any other high-fashion brand you can think of.

But all this luxury comes with a price.

According to a recent Quartz article, the air conditioning systems at Bangkok’s malls are consuming energy at an immense rate; keeping shoppers cool in one of the world’s hottest big cities isn’t easy. The Siam Paragon mall alone consumes more than twice the energy as Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province, which is home to 25,000 people. It is probably safe to say that this mall isn’t changing the filters on its air conditioners every 90 days, as recommended by professionals.

On April 21, Thailand’s power consumption hit a record level of 27,139 megawatts. Deputy Energy Permanent Secretary Tawarath Sutabutr said the new record is a result of both the country’s persistently brutal heat and the growth of its shopping malls, Thailand’s The Nation reported.

“Primarily, the power consumption increased due to air-conditioners,” Sutabutr said.

With natural gas in short supply, Thailand increasingly has to rely on electricity from environmentally-damaging dams along the Lower Mekong River, along with coal-fired power plants.

Yet in Thailand, becoming an activist to protest against these environmentally-harmful energy practices isn’t safe — in some cases, it can even cost you your life.

According to Al Jazeera, 16 Thai environmentalists have been murdered between 2002 and 2013, most likely by hit men linked to local business leaders keen on protecting their interests.

Jintana Kaewkao, a charismatic environmental activist who famously blocked the construction of major coal-fired power plant in the small fishing village of Ban Krut a decade ago, still has to be escorted by armed police officers wherever she goes. Armed assailants have shot at her house four times over the last 10 years.

“I’m lucky not to be dead,” Kaewkao told Al Jazeera.

Regardless of what environmentalist do, it seems the Thai government is showing no signs of pursuing alternate energy sources to fuel its grotesque appetite for electric power — which is why Kaewkao and her fellow activists remain vigilant for any efforts to re-introduce the abandoned Ban Krut power plant project.

“Despite environmental concerns or issues caused by coal-fired power, the [Thai energy authority] is considering increasing coal-fired generation as a means to reduce dependency on natural gas imports for electricity generation,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration wrote in a November analysis.

North Carolina Utility Authority Launches Cease the Grease Campaign

Oil lickign from pipe
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA), which serves the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County, NC, recently re-launched its ‘Cease the Grease’ campaign in an effort to keep grease, fats and oils out of its sewer system.

According to an April 6 Port City Daily article, the CFPUA will be handing out 15,000 plastic can lids to customers at its two customer service offices, located at 235 Government Center Drive and 305 Chestnut St., Wilmington.

Along with tree roots in sewer lines, grease, oils and fats produced during cooking are the most common causes of sewer line clogs and residential drainage problems. Many people mistakenly pour cooking grease down their kitchen sink, thinking the grease will stay in its liquid form; however, this grease eventually hardens and clings to other debris, creating a clog that often requires professional help to remove.

Rather than pour one’s cooking grease down the drain, it’s often suggested to pour the grease into an empty can, allow the grease to cool and harden, then throw the can in the trash once it’s full. The CFPUA’s plastic lids are intended to fit over cans used to hold this excess grease, preventing any spills.

CFPUA Spokesman Mike McGill said that if each of these 15,000 lids is used only once, they will keep more than 150,000 ounces of fats, oils and grease out of the local sewer system. These lids also help protect the environment by preventing sewage spills stemming from blockage, according to the Port City Daily.

“Sometimes the simplest ideas can have the greatest impact,” CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner said.

Shale Gas Drilling Company Ordered to Restore Two Streams After Landslide

wastewater
Extracting natural gas is a controversial process. However, even conservation groups have stated that with the proper technology, government regulations, and care, drilling for natural gas can be a safe, harmless act. Unfortunately, as one company and community just found out, mistakes do happen: Vantage Energy Appalachia LLC has been ordered to pay a $999,900 penalty after their operations caused a landslide that covered and diverted two small streams in Greene County, Pennsylvania.On January 16, 2014, a landslide occurred as a result of local drilling, which covered two streams near the Porter Street well pad in Franklin Township. In July, a Vantage subcontractor, Elite Well Services, then dumped two truckloads of drilling wastewater into the landslide area, where remediation work was underway. The company was cited for constructing an access road along the streams without the necessary permit, further disturbing the streams, which are tributaries of the nearby Grimes River.

As a result of these violations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ruled that the Englewood, Colorado-based gas drilling company will pay a penalty to fully restore the impacted area, including remediation of the surface and groundwater. All remediation work must be completed by the end of 2015.

Pennsylvania is one of the most prized areas for shale drilling in the northeastern United States. As a result, the accident is being used by numerous industry members as a reminder to procure the proper paperwork, invest in the proper equipment and vendors, and consider the impact their work will have on the area.

“Using sever-duty engineered drilling equipment to exacting standards is a critical part of any shale drilling project,” shares Mandy Raps, Marketing Lead with Dragon Products, a 50+ year-old U.S based oilfield equipment manufacturer. “With the recent boom in the oilfield, there are more players in the market. Only a few, however, have the expertise, experience, and service after the sale that is necessary to help insure that the appropriate equipment is being utilized . The bottom-line is be thorough, ask the right questions of vendors, and do your homework researching the track record of manufacturers and partners.”

Vantage has two shale gas wells drilled and producing on the area’s well pad, but seven additional wells previously planned will now not be drilled until the remediation and restoration work is completed. In a statement issued after the penalty was decided, the company reported that it regrets the incident and is taking proactive steps to demonstrate their commitment to operational excellence, transparency and environmental compliance. A representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has commented that these steps will include hiring an independent consultant to conduct an environmental audit of its drilling sites, as well as other steps to better manage its operations in the area.

Utah State University Moab Campus Receives Wildlife Habitat Certification

Summertime garden
The permaculture garden found on Utah State University-Moab’s campus was recently officially certified by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as a wildlife habitat.

The self-sustaining campus garden is also one of many “bee-inspired gardens” found throughout Moab. These gardens combine pollinator and edible landscaping alongside water conservation.

“Sustainable landscaping includes designing and installing drought resistant and native plants; permeable paver surfaces for patios, driveways, and walkways; and drainage that keeps water on the property; and irrigation that utilizes the existing rain water to support the plant life on the property,” says Matt Johnson, owner of Johnsons Landscaping. “We are seeing more and more homeowners request this type of landscape design and more and more jurisdictions requiring this type of design and installation. It is no longer the wave of the future. It is the present day reality, and it is here to stay.”

By closely imitating nature with integrative permaculture techniques such as native plants, and water harvesting and conservation, the garden provides an environment that is conducive to wildlife use, according to Roslynn Brain, USU assistant professor in sustainable communities. Brain is hopeful that garden’s new NWF certification will raise sustainability awareness in the Moab community.

“Sometimes behaviors like composting, recycling and recreating new wildlife habitat aren’t very visible for the community. What’s great about the NWF certification is that it brings more of a public view to what we’re doing and why it’s important,” Brain said. “It can get the message out that this is a way to create beautiful landscapes that are beneficial to wildlife in addition to humans.”

In a recent news release announcing the certification, The NWF praised the USU’s permaculture garden’s incorporation of perennial edible and pollinator plants, as well as its rainwater harvesting techniques.

David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the NWF, feels it’s important to provide a home for wildlife in developed communities, and that doing so is a reflective of a healthy, active, and balanced ecosystem.

The campus garden was able to link the wildlife habitat across the lesser-developed areas of Moab by increasing the river bank areas of Pack Creek. Aside from the obvious human element, the purpose of the project was to connect both areas in order to create an environment that would encourage life to flourish.

Though deer are often spotted, the garden has encouraged less visible — yet equally important — wildlife such as pollinators and insects to thrive, which is especially significant considering future development of the area threatens their current habitats, according to USU sustainability intern Jeremy Lynch.

“The important thing about certification is creating habitat and food for birds and insects and pollinators like bees, bats, and hummingbirds,” said Lynch. “You draw these less noticeable species to have a place to extend into if something happens near the creek like a new development. So we’re countering that impact through these spaces.”

As the garden continues to grow, Brain expects it to attract even more wildlife, and has already seen an increase since its installation.