Earlier this week, the California Assembly passed a bill that would force utilities in that state to get a third of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, setting one of the most aggressive standards in the world.

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill despite the fact that it give utilities just nine years to meet the standard.

How big a deal is it? asks the San Francisco Chronicle. “Well, according to Peter Miller, a senior scientist at NRDC, ‘As a result of the RPS program, renewable energy generation in California in 2020 will be roughly equal to total current U.S. renewable generation, and supply enough clean energy to power nearly 9 million homes’ or, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, drive 3 million cars.”

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With precious metal prices at or near all-time highs, it’s not surprising that many shuttered mines are being reassessed to determine if it’s worthwhile to take another shot at sifting through tailings or extracting minerals previously too expensive to go after.

One old mine that’s being re-examined is the Haile Gold Mine in Lancaster County. Romarco Minerals, headquartered in Toronto, is talking about hiring up to 800 people and creating the largest gold mining operation east of the Mississippi River at the site, according to a story in The State.

The Haile mine is near Kershaw, about 20 miles north of Camden. Established in 1837 by Col. Benjamin Haile, it later furnished gold to the Confederacy before being destroyed by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman during his devastation of South Carolina.

The mine languished until the 1880s, when it was revived by new techniques introduced by the legendary German mining engineer Adolf Thies.

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With all the current emphasis on “going green,” one wonders who should be credited with being the patron saint of environmentalism, the individual who over history has done the most to reclaim the earth from the effects of mankind.

How about Genghis Khan? Yes, the same Mongol warrior whose invasions of the west were often accompanied by wholesale massacres of civilian populations.

A new study by the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology has branded Genghis as the greenest invader in history. His murderous conquests killed so many people that huge swathes of cultivated land returned to forest.

Genghis, who established a vast empire between the 12th and 13th centuries, helped remove nearly 700 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere, the study claims.

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santeecooper

Lucky South Carolina! We could shortly have a “clean coal energy campus” right here in the Palmetto State.

At least, that’s what a guest columnist called the coal power plant that’s been proposed for the state’s Pee Dee region.

Hogan Gridley, the executive director of an organization called South Carolina Action for Jobs, authored the “Coal campus would bring needed jobs” op-ed that appeared in The State Wednesday, and termed the coal-fired plant that utility Santee Cooper wants to build a “clean coal energy campus.”

The piece is a non-too-transparent attempt to generate some positive PR for the proposed plant, which has drawn the ire of environmentalists.

Santee Cooper, which wants to build the 600-megawatt plant near the town of Kingsburg in Florence County, said it needs the plant by 2012 or its customers could face brownouts and blackouts.

Regardless of whether the plant is good for South Carolina or not - and one suspects that given the state’s surging population and ever-increasing energy demands, it’s a necessary project - to call it a “clean coal energy campus” is ridiculous.

It’s a coal plant. Its purpose is to burn coal in order to produce energy, plain and simple.

Presenting an issue or cause in a positive light is all part of the public relations game, but when someone trots out an elaborate euphenism like “clean coal energy campus” it makes one wonder what’s really going on.

earth-hour2

In case you missed it – or were smart enough to avoid it – the second annual Earth Hour took place Saturday.

Earth Hour, for ignorant troglodytes too wrapped up in working, raising families or generally going about their lives, asks people to turn off their lights on the last Saturday of March between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. and seeks to spread darkness around the world as a symbol of humanity’s desire to affect climate change.

According to the movement’s website Earth Hour “is a global call to action for every individual, every business, and every community. A call to stand up and take control over the future of our planet.”

Of course, Earth Hour is really nothing more than a style over substance because, as Jason King explains, “turning off light bulbs will almost certainly both increase energy usage and spend more money in the process.”

In fact, Earth Hour may actually damage the environment because of one of the most critical laws of economics: the law of unintended consequences, according to King:

“Let’s first consider what a family is saving by turning their “nonessential” lights off. To do this we’ll do some very simple math: being generous, one 100-watt light bulb costs around a penny per hour to operate and generates around 1 tenth of a pound of carbon. If one therefore ran 10 light bulbs, then, a little over 1 pound of carbon would not be emitted and a dime would be saved by Earth Hour.

“The question all individuals should ask themselves is, since this decision doesn’t occur in a vacuum, what alternatives are present to sitting in a dark, lightless house. What is this family going to do in the dark? They might burn candles — and if they’re paraffin, they are based in fossil fuels and will provide a dubious savings in either carbon or monetary cost. If they were to use flashlights instead of light bulbs the result would be an increase in carbon because candles and light bulbs are less energy efficient.

“What if that family drove for 15 minutes, went and watched the stars, and drove back home? That trip would cost whatever a half-hour’s worth of driving costs. If this trip took a gallon of gas, that would create around 20 pounds of carbon dioxide and would cost over $2 … for a dramatically increased cost in cash and carbon.

“One can wonder further about the ramifications on safety and efficiency of turning off “nonessential” lights  and conclude that no meaningful savings can be had. Because households are responsible for only 25% of the total electric lighting, we must also consider the commercial and industrial sectors. Instead of being at home, in darkness, will shopkeepers have to return to their stores to guard them for an hour? Will adults turn on lights in dark rooms when they need to move around the house? Will candles generate more fires? Obviously none of these unforeseen circumstances — all of which seem plausible — will improve our carbon footprint.”

Yes, as with so much else involving the environmental movement, Earth Hour isn’t about real change, it’s about symbolism and empty rhetoric, along with healthy doses of class envy and anti-capitalism. 

Going along with Earth Hour is a sucker’s bet, one the environmental movement is counting on a majority of people to buy into.