Energy & the Environment

How Solar Is Lighting the Way for Recovery in Nepal

Renewable energy companies have formed a coalition to repower the country after its massive earthquake. 

(Photo: Milap Dwa)
(Photo: Milap Dwa) Milap Dwa and Chij Kumar​, technicians from Gham Power​, installing a 120-watt solar PV system kit on top of one of the few houses in Barpak, Gorkha, that are still standing. I n the days following Nepal’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25, as massive power outages complicated relief efforts, Sandeep Giri and his coworkers were shaken but determined to help. Giri, who was born and raised in Nepal, is the CEO of Gham Power , a solar company that’s been operating in Nepal for the last five years. After the earthquake, Gham Power’s employees sprung into action to deploy solar power systems that could power lights and mobile charging stations for relief workers and the displaced. Besides basic needs like medical attention, food, water, and shelter, electricity is a major issue in the wake of a disaster, says Giri. “First, you don't want to be in the dark, as it's scary, you don't feel safe, and it is also very cumbersome to get or administer relief without light...

Little Magazine, Big Ideas: The American Prospect at 25

Reflecting on a quarter century of politics and change.

T he American Prospect began 25 years ago with a small circulation, a limited budget, and great ambitions. Our aim was to rethink ideas about public policy and politics and thereby to restore plausibility and persuasiveness to American liberalism. The first issue appeared in spring 1990, a moment when Democrats had lost three successive presidential elections, conservatives were pushing schemes for privatization, and liberals were in disarray. But in 1990, Congress was still in Democratic hands, the Cold War was coming to an end with the Soviet collapse, and the focus of politics was turning from foreign to domestic policy. Rising economic anxieties, it seemed, might spur political change just as a “peace dividend” could finance new initiatives. By historic good fortune, the Prospect had arrived at a time not only of global change but also of “liberal opportunity,” as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., called it in the first issue, which carried a cover image of an old world cracking open to...

A Test for Hillary Clinton: Obama's Trade Deals

(White House photo/ Public Domain via Flickr)
(Official White House Photo via Flickr) President Barack Obama delivers remarks with then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (left) at the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue reception at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 3, 2010. O pposition to the Obama administration's proposed major trade deals is getting firmer among Democrats in Congress. Both chambers must approve trade promotion authority, better known as fast-track, in order for the deals to move forward. One Democrat who has avoided taking a position is Hillary Clinton. In the past, she has supported deals like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but lately she has tried to give herself some wiggle room without opposing fast-track, saying last Tuesday that any agreement has to create jobs, as well as increase prosperity, and improve security. That's pretty amorphous. Clinton, of course, does not get to vote on the measure because she is no longer a senator. But pressure is increasing from...

Calls From Home

In a region dominated by coal companies and privatized prisons, activist Amelia Kirby charts a new path for her community. 

(AP Photo/David Goldman)
(AP Photo/David Goldman) In this Oct. 17, 2014 photo, an unreclaimed strip mine just across the state line from Kentucky's Harlan County stands in Virginia as seen from the Kentucky side of Black Mountain in Lynch, Ky. A melia Kirby was driving in a particularly beautiful part of her home county in the late 1990s when she noticed the construction. She thought it was yet another strip mine, taking off the tops of mountains to extract the coal beneath. But instead, it was the beginnings of a prison. Amelia’s double-take was indicative of a general shift in central Appalachia, an area roughly spanning eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, western Virginia, and southern West Virginia. As the coal industry has declined in an area long synonymous with it, states have turned to prisons as an alternative form of economic development. Since 1992, central Appalachia has seen the construction of four federal, three state, and one private prison, with another federal prison potentially on the way...

Why California's Drought Is the Nation's Problem

Rising food prices, unsafe drinking water—climate change will only make things worse unless stronger measures are taken.

(Photo: Governor's Press Office, California)
View image | gettyimages.com I t was the worst kind of photo op. California Governor Jerry Brown and other state employees assembled in the Sierra Nevada mountain community of Phillips Station two weeks ago for the annual snow survey. Every year since 1941, April 1 has been the day of reckoning—a time to take stock of the winter’s accumulation and plan for how much spring runoff may help fill the state’s reservoirs, feed its rivers and streams, and be available for irrigated agriculture. This year was grim. The area, at nearly 7,000 feet of elevation, usually has about five feet or more of snow at this time of year. But this year, there was no snow on the ground. Brown launched a press conference in the middle of a field of brown grass and announced mandatory drought restrictions for the state as part of an executive order that aims to restrict urban water use by 25 percent in the next year, spur the replacement of lawns with drought tolerant plants, and increase efficiency and...

How Schumer's Iran Gamble Threatens Democrats' Chances in 2016

If enough senators in the minority party follow the lead of their next likely leader, the minority may be where they stay.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images) Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, left, has pledged support to Republican Senator Bob Corker, right, for a bill designed to scuttle the Obama administration's agreement with Iran over the development of nuclear technology. Here, the two are pictured in the House chamber before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to a joint meeting of Congress, March 3, 2015. A week and a half ago, Chuck Schumer, currently third in the leadership of the minority party in the U.S. Senate, moved quickly to solidify his position as the next leader of Democrats, securing the support of his caucus. This week he endorsed Republican Senator Bob Corker’s bill, which, on paper, gives Congress the right to approve the nuclear agreement hammered out with Iran by the U.S. and its allies (collectively known as the P5+1). In reality, this bill is yet another carefully crafted attempt to thwart a negotiated end to this nuclear...

Brewing Human Rights Crisis in Baltimore as City Threatens Mass Water Shutoffs

Residents warn move is part of global trend towards the 'commodification of our basic needs.'

Davide Restivo
Davide Restivo/Wikimedia Commons This article originally appeared at Common Dreams . I n what residents warn is a mounting human rights crisis, the city of Baltimore has commenced sending 25,000 notices, the vast majority to city and county residents, threatening to shut off water if delinquent bills are not paid within ten days. The organization Food & Water Watch estimates that 75,000 residents are under immediate threat of having their taps turned off, in a city beset with rising water rates and housing costs, where nearly one out of four people live below the federal poverty line. Jessica Lewis, co-founder of the Right to Housing Alliance, a human rights organization led by people most affected by the affordable housing crisis in Baltimore, told Common Dreams that local communities are in the process of assessing the impact and getting organized. "A lot of renters we work with are angry but also tired, because they see more and more of the costs of having a place to live...

U.S. Pipeline Industry Quietly Building Network That 'Dwarfs Keystone'

One pipeline is nothing compare to what's in store.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik) Kelly Kelly of Omaha waves signs with others opposing the Keystone XL oil pipeline during a demonstration outside the office of Representative Brad Ashford, Democrat from Nebraska, in Omaha, Tuesday, January 13, 2015. Democrats plan to use Senate consideration of the Keystone XL oil pipeline to get Republicans on the record about climate change and to resurrect parts of a bipartisan energy efficiency bill doomed by pipeline politics last year. This article originally appeared at Common Dreams . D espite public opposition that has so far blocked the building of the Keystone XL pipeline, the fossil fuels industry has successfully—and quietly—expanded the nation's domestic oil network by installing thousands of miles of pipeline across the country, according to new reporting by the Associated Press. "Overall, the network has increased by almost a quarter in the last decade," the AP reports. "And the work dwarfs Keystone. About 3.3 million barrels per day of...

Sharing the Wealth

Why can’t we broadly distribute the wealth produced from America’s common resource pool? Conservative Alaska manages to do it.

(AP Photo/The Juneau Empire, Klas Stolpe)
(AP Photo/The Juneau Empire, Klas Stolpe) Governor Sean Parnell announces the 2010 dividend check amount that all Alaskans receive through the state's popular Permanent Fund. Looking on is Department of Revenue Commissioner Pat Galvin, a trustee on the Alaska Permanent Fund Board. This book review appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay Enough By Peter Barnes 174 pp. Berrett-Koehler Publishers $19.95 I n the mid-17th century, Gerrard Winstanley led a series of protests in England against “enclosure,” the practice of landlords privatizing public lands. Nonviolent, with a utopian communist agenda, Winstanley’s followers, the Diggers, published pamphlets and, more quixotically, sang their hopes and fears. A stanza from one of their songs: “Your houses they pull down, stand up now, stand up now Your houses they pull down, stand up now. Your houses they pull...

Markets, States, and the Green Transition

To get renewable energy technologies into broad use, government needs to promote both supply and demand. Markets are too risk-averse.

(AP Photo/U.S. Army)
(AP Photo/U.S. Army) This solar array at White Sands, New Mexico, is the largest of the U.S. Army's solar photovoltaic systems. The $16.8 million project includes nearly 15,500 sun-tracking solar panels spread across 42 acres. This article appears as part of a special report, "What the Free Market Can't Do," in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . I f you believe in the perfect efficiency of free markets, then any government intervention, by definition, has to make things worse. Evidence is of no consequence. I once participated in a debate on innovation with two panelists from two of Washington’s most market-oriented think tanks. When I pointed out that a government program—the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—had created the Internet, my opponent was hardly fazed. He responded, in effect, by saying we don’t know whether the private sector might have done it faster and better had the government not been interfering...

How to Sabotage Iran Negotiations in the Name of Avoiding War

Israel and AIPAC are using Congress to push their own agenda of increasing sanctions on Iran and reducing presidential authority.

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen) Stage hands prepare the stage for the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Monday, March 2, 2015. A s multilateral talks over Iran’s nuclear program continue with the U.S. leading the negotiations, Congress seems to be doing its best to complicate things. And both Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are doing their part to help. Earlier this week, as 16,000 people convened in Washington, D.C., to attend AIPAC’s annual conference, the powerful pro-Israel lobby made it clear that the organization would push not only for increased sanctions on Iran—through the passage of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act —but also for the ability to make it more difficult to lift sanctions later, via a new bill, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act . This latest bill, introduced on Friday by Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, would give Congress a 60-day period to...

Saving Obama from a Bad Trade Deal

Republican intransigence may have saved the president's legacy—from himself.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) In this June 11, 2013, photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, prior to a trip to Europe for a Group of Eight summit of major Western democracies, where the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe was be a top item. The deal is touted as a means of boosting growth and jobs by eliminating tariffs and other barriers, but those expectations are unlikely to be fulfilled in the deal, which would benefit corporations far more than governments or citizens, which would likely be hurt. P lans to rush fast-track authority for two trade deals for a quick House and Senate vote abruptly broke down on Tuesday. The White House was hoping to put the vote to Congress as early as this week. But Republicans wanted to see more details of one of the deals, which addresses trade with Pacific nations—before agreeing to a fast-track vote. Democrats who favored the deal were seeking some concessions to...

Why Markets Can't Price the Priceless

It takes government planning to promote the rational conservation and use of water.

(AP Photo/Wichita Falls Times Record News, Torin Halsey)
(AP Photo/Wichita Falls Times Record News, Torin Halsey) A public works wastewater reuse project accounts for approximately half of the water used daily by Wichita Falls, Texas. This article appears as part of a special report, "What the Free Market Can't Do," in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . W ater sources for many Southwestern cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix are drying up. Meanwhile, most Eastern cities have ample supplies but decaying infrastructure that can’t handle the more frequent and severe flooding brought on by climate change. The Cato Institute and Reason Foundation are part of a libertarian movement arguing that market pricing of water could solve both problems. But water, as a public good, can’t just be left to private markets, or we will have billionaires watering lush lawns while other citizens have dry taps. Privatizers are also notorious for underinvesting in the infrastructure needed both to supply fresh water and to...

Did Koch Brothers Just Doom America to a Future of Crumbling Roads and Tunnels?

First, their minions called for Chris Christie to cancel a much-needed rail project, and he did. Now they've set their sights on Congress to do much the same.

A.M. Stan
It was never going to be easy for the Republican-controlled Congress to pass an increase to the federal gas tax—a tax that finances the Highway Trust Fund and pays for roads and bridges around the country. Last raised in 1993 to 18.4 cents per gallon, the tax has since lost much of its value , especially with the rise of fuel-efficient cars. With the Highway Trust Fund running huge annual deficits, plans for many infrastructure projects and repairs have been left hanging out to dry. But there were signs that raising the federal gas tax was possible, as when Republican Senators John Thune of South Dakota and chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in early January that a gas tax increase couldn’t be ruled out , and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, later agreed with him. Well, forget it. Because last week more than 50 conservative groups, a number of them funded through the Koch brothers’ network, sent a...

Chris Christie Counts on Public Amnesia

With his newfound support for expanding New Jersey's rail capacity, the governor hopes no one remembers that he killed an earlier federally subsidized project that would have done exactly that.

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez) New Jersey Governor Chris Christie endorsed a plan to expand his state's rail capacity with a federally subsidized project when he ran for office, and then opposed it when he took office. Now he's endorsed a rail-expansion plan once again. Here, Christie delivers his State of the State address on January 13, 2015. I n 2010, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took over $3 billion in revenue earmarked for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River and used it to plug a hole in his budget—leaving the people of his state and the region with no tunnel, and no money left for one in the future. Now Christie has endorsed a new report that includes a recommendation for expanding rail capacity between New Jersey and New York, as if no one would remember that he killed an earlier federally subsidized project that would have accomplished that purpose. In the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect , I report the story of Christie’s 2010 decision and its disastrous...

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