– May 3, 2023 –
Peat, a climate hero
What’s soggy, brown and essential to climate stability? It’s peat, the unsung hero of carbon storage. This thick layer of partially decomposed ferns, sedges and water lilies has been accumulating beneath the Okefenokee Swamp for the last five or six millennia, making it a valuable resource right here in Georgia. The Current’s Mary Landers brings peat up close and personal on a recent tour of the Okefenokee. Plans to mine near the swamp could alter the flow of water into the swamp, ultimately increasing the frequency of drought and fire, which can lead to the release of large amounts of that stored carbon, researchers say.
Peatlands like the Okefenokee cover about 3% of the earth’s surface but store more than 30% of the land-based carbon. But it’s only been within the last decade that efforts to preserve and restore peatlands have garnered international support.
Georgia Power hearings
State regulators at the Georgia Public Service Commission are scheduled today to hold the second of two days of hearings on Georgia Power’s request to recover $2.1 billion in excess fuel expenses after inflation drove natural gas prices soaring in the past year, Stanley Dunlap of the Georgia Recorder reports.
At a sometimes contentious hearing on Tuesday, Commissioner Bubba McDonald blamed higher natural gas prices on the Biden Administration, specifically its efforts to address climate change. Dozens of citizens pleaded for lower rates, including at least six coastal residents who travelled to the hearing in Atlanta from Savannah. Among them was Chassidy Malloy, of Georgia Conservation Voters who told the PSC, “It’s time for Georgia Power to diversify its portfolio in terms of its energy sources because the cost of fuel is going to continue to go up. It’s going to continue to go up, period. Let’s do something about that now.”
Today’s hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. A link to a livestream video is available from the PSC web site. The PSC is scheduled to vote on the fuel recovery plan, which will likely increase the average bill by about $17 – $23 a month.
And this 98% male occupation is ripe for an influx of women. The job typically pays well, especially considering no college degree is required. In Georgia, the estimated average pay is more than $56,000 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The article quotes author and climate activist Bill McKibben from an interview with the New York Times: “If you know a young person who wants to do something that’s going to help the world and wants to make a good living at the same time, tell them to go become an electrician.”
• Fewer April showers. Savannah was much warmer than normal and drier than normal in April, the nonprofit Climate Central reports. The average temperature of 68.5°F was 1.8° above normal, and the 3.23 inches of precipitation was 95% of the normal amount relative to the 1991-2020 National Centers for Environmental Information’s climate normal. April in Savannah is getting hotter, adding up to an increase of 1.5°F since 1970.
• Vogtle update. More than seven years late and more than $16 billion over budget, the completion of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle on the Savannah River in Waynesboro is finally approaching. Unit 3 is in the final stages of startup testing and Unit 4 is making progress towards safely loading fuel, Kim Greene, chairman, president and CEO of Georgia Power announced Monday in a press release.
• Bluebird view. The University of Georgia Aquarium has set up a live bluebird nest box camera outside the facility on Skidaway Island. Check out the baby birds before they fledge. Nests are monitored and data is collected by volunteers as part of a nationwide citizen science initiative.
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Carbon stored within the Okefenokee’s peat is a powerful hedge against climate change, as long as it’s undisturbed.
The Southern Environmental Law Center estimates that household utility bills will average about $45 more in 2025 over six incremental increases: $16 for electric base rates, $13 for Plant Vogtle, and $16 for fuel recovery.
With solar installations and EVs booming, America needs more electricians.
A series of delays put the project years behind schedule and drove up the price tag to more than double the $14 billion forecast when the Georgia Public Service Commission approved the expansion in 2009.
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