DOE Report: New Financing Mechanisms for Solar Industry Will Drive Costs Down Further

first_imgDOE Report: New Financing Mechanisms for Solar Industry Will Drive Costs Down Further FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享By  Michael Copley for SNL: Long a niche industry burdened by expensive financing, solar appears on the verge of unlocking cheaper sources of capital that could propel it further into the mainstream.From yieldcos to asset-backed securities and cash equity financing, solar companies have been trying to take advantage of declining costs and maturing technology to move toward alternatives to the relatively expensive tax-equity funding that historically drove industry growth.“Once solar is much less costly and less subsidized, it might receive the type of lower-cost financing received by mature assets today,” the U.S. Department of Energy said in a recent report titled “On the Path to SunShot: Emerging Opportunities and Challenges in Financing Solar.”Costs, at least in the utility-scale sector, may not have that much further to fall. At about $1.20 per watt, utility-scale solar plants could be financed in the same way developers fund construction of natural gas plants, the DOE said. GTM Research recently reported average turnkey costs as low as $1.25 per watt in the southeastern U.S., $1.27 per watt in the southwest and $1.32 per watt in California.Based on the DOE’s SunShot initiative price targets for 2020, which are based on cost reductions of 75% from 2010 levels, the government previously said solar could meet 27% of the country’s electricity demand by 2050. In the past five years, solar’s levelized cost of energy has dropped by as much as 65%, the DOE said.“[Utility]-scale solar in the U.S. is extraordinarily competitive,” GTM Research Senior Vice President Shayle Kann said May 11 at the firm’s solar summit in Arizona. “That creates an enormous potential for demand outside of renewable portfolio standards just out of pure need for new electricity generation capacity for utilities all over the country.”Full article $: read more

U.S. Proposal to Subsidize Fading Coal and Nuclear Plants Seen by Wall Street Analysts as Unlikely to Materialize

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享SNL:A U.S. Department of Energy proposal calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure full cost recovery for certain nuclear and coal-fired assets drew skepticism from Wall Street, which characterized the proposal as vague and at odds with the nature of competitive power markets.The DOE on Sept. 29 directed FERC to issue a final rule requiring grid operators to allow full cost recovery for generators with at least a 90-day fuel supply on site and not subject to cost-of-service regulation to fully recover their costs. While FERC does not have to comply with the DOE’s request, the agency has been taking a measured look at scenarios where baseload assets are compensated for reliability attributes.But Wall Street was largely dismissive of the likelihood carte blanche subsidization would be offered to certain coal and nuclear assets that have experienced weaker margins amid heightened politicization. More broadly, analysts characterized the DOE’s proposal as a referendum on wholesale markets with the potential to undermine market structures built in recent decades.“The DOE proposed rule, to provide deregulated coal & nuclear plants with ‘full recovery of costs,’ will in our view not be implemented by FERC because it would bring an end to competitive power markets, is not clearly needed to ensure grid reliability & resiliency, and would be very expensive,” Morgan Stanley analysts said Oct. 2.“Effectively re-regulating a major portion of the currently de-regulated organized markets via a cost-of-service system would presumably render any existing discernable market pricing mechanisms irrelevant,” J.P. Morgan Securities analysts said Sept. 29, noting the added uncertainty to state nuclear subsidies programs in New York and Illinois, for example.More: ($) Wall Street views DOE grid proposal as anti-competitive U.S. Proposal to Subsidize Fading Coal and Nuclear Plants Seen by Wall Street Analysts as Unlikely to Materializelast_img read more

Bike DuPont State Forest

first_imgWhen cold temperatures and Frankenstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in late October, many of us were anticipating the winter season to end all winter seasons. “We’ll be shredding in May with all the snow we’re going to get!” we yelled while high fiving strangers in the milk/water/canned food/candle aisle of the local grocery store. Ski slopes opened early, El Nino was in the air, and life was good. Unfortunately, we came back down to planet Earth over the next month, and here we are again in mid-December with mild temps and dirt, not snow, beneath our feet. Before we resign ourselves to a winter like last year, we must remember that this is fairly typical in the Southeast. Winter will make its official arrival soon enough, but in the meantime, take advantage by getting in one more weekend of warm weather activity.The best way to recreate outside and take in some nature while still scratching that adrenaline itch is to hop on the mountain bike and attack some flowy singletrack. The best place to do that is at DuPont State Forest outside Asheville, N.C. The extensive trail system in DuPont is more buffed out than in nearby Pisgah National Forest, providing buttery smooth downhill sections and manageable climbs. The scenery can’t be beat, with waterfall after waterfall along the trails and Lake Julia on site. Either way you ride it, linking up loops or trying the 35-mile IMBA Epic Ride, you can spend all day in DuPont and not cross your tracks.View Larger Maplast_img read more

Beer Blog: Westbrook Brewing White Thai

first_imgI’m in the Mood for ThaiIt’s rare that my wife and I see eye to eye. I like science fiction television heavy on half-naked women. She likes documentaries. I like Chinese food, preferably eaten by the pound from a buffet, she likes $19 cheese plates.Never is our relationship more contentious than when it comes to choosing a beer. She likes beers you put slices of oranges in. I’m a strictly “hold the fruit” kind of guy. So I was shocked when we were visiting Charleston recently and I bought a six pack of Westbrook Brewing White Thai. Westbrook takes a Southeast Asian spin on the standard Belgian witbier style (haters of fusion cuisine beware: it’s about to get weird) that substitutes the standard coriander and orange spices in witbiers with ginger and Sorachi Ace hops, a lemony hop variety developed by Japanese brewers in the ‘80s. Yeah. Ginger and lemon. Sounds weird but Westbrook doesn’t play a heavy hand with the spicing, so White Thai comes off as just a little bit different than other witbiers on the market.My wife likes witbiers, I like different. Finally, something we can both agree on. Maybe I’m being hyperbolic, but finding a six pack of beer that we can both kick back and enjoy is better than marriage counseling. Well, it’s cheaper, anyway.Thanks Westbrook.Follow Graham Averill’s adventures in drinking and Dad-hood at daddy-drinks.comlast_img read more

Now Launching the 4th Annual Dog Photo Contest!

first_imgWe’re paying homage to those furry four-legged friends of yours this month with our 4th Annual Dog Photo Contest! Have a sweet shot of Fido leaping over a log on your morning ride or soaking in the view from one of your favorite overlooks? Share it with us here on our contest page and you could win a sweet doggie swag bag provided by Dublin Dog!Browse through our list of rules and regulations here before entering the contest, then share your photo and start rallying the troops! Votes are limited to one person per day, and the contest ends on April 30, 2015 at 11:59pm EST.Good luck!last_img

Quick Hits: October 2018

first_imgBy Jedd Ferris and Will HarlanUltrarunner smashes A.T. Speed Record by 4 DaysIn late August, Belgian ultrarunner Karel Sabbe completed the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail in 41 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes—smashing the previous speed record by over 4 days.Sabbe, a 28-year-old dentist, kissed the wooden sign atop Mount Katahdin at the end of his northbound journey on the A.T. Sabbe began at Georgia’s Springer Mountain on July 18. He averaged around 53 miles per day—over two full marathons per day—for 41 consecutive days. The average thru-hiker takes five to six months to complete the trail and averages around 14 miles per day.Sabbe announced his record on Instagram soon after summiting Katahdin: “In the year 60 B.C., Julius Caesar wrote: ‘Of all Gauls, the Belgians are the bravest.’ Over 2000 years later, there is still some truth in that sentence. We have set a new speed record on the epic Appalachian Trail! The Fastest Known Time is now 41 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes, which is over 4 days faster than the previous record, held by an incredibly strong and unsupported @thestring.bean.”The previous record was held by Joe “Stringbean” McConaghey, who completed the entire trail in 45 days without any crew or support. McConaghey’s unsupported speed record still stands. Unlike McConaghey, Sabbe’s record-setting run relied on a support crew.“Nobody had averaged more than 50 miles on the Appalachian Trail,” Sabbe continued. “More than proud, I feel privileged for having lived these incredible adventures. It was a blast from start to finish!”Sabbe becomes the first person to hold speed records for both the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. In 2016, Sabbe completed the Pacific Crest Trail—which runs 2,650 miles from Canada to Mexico through the mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington—in 52 days, 8 hours, and 25 minutes.600 Miles cycled in the annual Carolina Brotherhood Ride this summer.For the seventh straight year, a group of first responders—firefighters, police officers, and emergency personnel—completed the six-day ride to honor fellow workers who lost their lives in the line of duty. The effort raised thousands of dollars for the surviving families of the fallen responders, and along the route cyclists stopped to visit loved ones of those lost.Family of Eight from Kentucky Completes Appalachian TrailGetting a large family out the door to do anything is chore, so imagine organizing a clan of eight for a 2,200-mile hike. That’s just what Ben and Kami Crawford, who reside in northern Kentucky, did this past spring and summer, when they embarked on a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail with their six kids, who range in age from 2 to 17. The Crawfords left the trail’s southern terminus at Georgia’s Springer Mountain in March and reached the summit of Katahdin in Maine during the second week of August, along the way sharing responsibilities for cooking, setting up camp, and carrying the youngest family member, 2-year-old boy Rainier. The family documented the journey on YouTube with a quirky reality-TV-style video blog, which drew polarized commentary online about the hike’s merits and intentions.Big Bucks For TrailsIn August, longstanding outdoor retailer REI stroked a big check to help keep trails in tip-top shape, donating $643,000 to nonprofits that regularly maintain and restore the country’s 11 National Scenic Trails. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, and Potomac Appalachian Trail Club all received a portion of $48,100 earmarked for upkeep efforts on the Appalachian Trail.“Sometimes I do it to relax my mind. Other times I do it just to pump myself up, and other times I’ll be writing and I’ll have a roadblock.”—Comedian Michelle Wolf, when asked by Runner’s World why she runs. In the interview Wolf also revealed she often runs to and from work, about six miles a day, when filming her Netflix show, The Break with Michelle Wolf. Also, in May she completed her first ultramarathon, the Salt Flats Endurance Runs 50-miler in Utah.Bear Eats Pizza at Tennessee RestaurantAt Howard’s Steakhouse in Gatlinburg, Tenn., a bear climbed a tree, jumped on a table on the restaurant’s patio, and started munching on pizza. After being scared away by an employee, the bear had to be trapped and relocated.D.C. Artist Honors Fellow Cyclist with Bike SculptureStreet artist Matthew Sampson never met Jeffrey Hammond Long, but when he read that the 36-year-old had died after being hit by a truck while riding his bike on the streets of Washington, D.C., in July, he felt compelled to honor the fellow cyclist. He did so by placing a “Ghost Bike” in the spot where Long was killed. Now seen in cities around the world, the white-painted used bikes have become symbols to memorialize cyclists involved in fatal accidents and raise awareness for cycling safety. Sampson told “It’s made me angry because I should be safe biking around here, and I’m not.”Giant coral reef discovered off South Carolina coastAround 160 miles east of Charleston, South Carolina, a half mile below the ocean surface, scientists have discovered a dense forest of cold-water corals that runs for at least 85 miles. “It’s incredible that it stayed hidden off the U.S. East Coast for this long,” said expedition chief scientist Erik Cordes.Mountain downgraded to a hillFan y Big, a mountain in Wales, was relegated to hill status last month, thanks to new satellite mapping technology that more accurately measured its drop between adjacent peaks. At 2,351 feet, it is still high enough for mountain status, but its drop of 93 feet between adjacent peaks is five feet short of what is required for mountain status.If Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Tennessee were a country, they would be the 8th largest contributor to global warming in the world.—Southern Environmental Law Center August 2018 reportGonzo for the Green: Paddlers Saving Hemlocks Along Beloved RiverA crew of experienced whitewater paddlers have teamed up with MountainTrue and other area nonprofits for a unique mission: save the hemlock tree from the scourge of the hemlock woolly adelgid along the famed Green River. Hemlocks shade some of the most beloved rivers in the Southeast, including the Green—home to the Green Race and some of the toughest whitewater in Appalachia. An invasive adelgid is decimating hemlock trees, so regional whitewater kayakers are navigating the Green River’s class IV waters to reach hemlocks and bury pellets of a hydrophobic pesticide around the roots of hemlock trees, which is currently the only reliable remedy.last_img read more

VIDEO: Phantom of the Pines—The Future of the Florida Panther

first_imgCan humans and the Florida panther co-exist? This exclusive video produced by Blue Ridge Outdoors highlights the courageous efforts to find common ground in the remaining wildlands of Florida where the last panthers reside.It’s a story that might sound familiar— similar versions have unfolded with only slightly different characters. The species that we now call the Florida Panther used to roam throughout the entirety of the southeastern United States, but due to conflict with humans and our penchant for development, by the 1970s it survived only in a single breeding population of about 30 individuals in Southwest Florida.In the 1980s, the state of Florida and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service initiated a research and monitoring program to determine the possibilities for a recovery of the species which would allow it to expand beyond South Florida. Recognizing inbreeding and a genetic bottleneck as the panther’s greatest threat, officials brought in eight female Texas Cougars, the closest living relative of the Florida panther and another sub-species of puma, which had historically bred with their Floridian counterparts. In 2003, after producing 20 kittens with the native Florida panthers, these Texas Cougars were removed from Florida and their kittens were left to refresh the genetic flow of the species.The combination of this new genetic diversity with the conservation of public land and the investment in coexistence programs enabled the Florida Panther population to continue on the road to recovery, climbing from its decimated population of 30 cats to an official estimate of 120-230 individuals.But the real boon came in 2016, when the first female Florida panther since 1973 was observed north of the Caloosahatchee River, which flows 67 miles from Lake Okeechobee out into the Gulf, effectively dividing Southwest Florida in half and marking an unofficial transition from the wilderness of the Everglades to the rest of the state.Male panthers have been known for years to cross the Caloosahatchee, but the movement of this first female was of incredible significance to those following the Florida panther’s story. It showed for the first time irrefutable evidence of the species’ northward expansion, and gave hope for its long-term survival. For a species whose individual male needs a 200 square mile home range, and whose numbers in South Florida have been steadily growing, the outlook has for some time been hopeful but uncertain: for the Florida panther to survive, it would need to expand north, across the river and beyond.While the Florida panther may not yet inhabit the hazy hills of the Blue Ridge, it would be short-sighted to dismiss this species as irrelevant to the region. This is an animal that is representative of our species’ attempt to restore an ecosystem to balance. The story of the Florida panther reveals the level of cooperation and understanding necessary to achieve equilibrium between humanity and the natural world.Carlton Ward Jr.Room to RoamThe world of the Florida panther grew in size when the first female crossed the river, casting out years of scientific uncertainty of when or if females would overcome this obstacle. Now, with two confirmed broods of kittens born north of the river, Panther expansion throughout the state is inevitable—although this brings with it its own unique challenges.Chief among these challenges is the mechanics of the expansion itself. “If there’s going to be a future for the Florida Panther, we need to save a wildlife corridor that keeps the Everglades connected to the rest of the state and the rest of the country,” says Carlton Ward, Jr.,  founder of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a non-profit organization that works with conservation organizations and private landowners to connect, protect, and restore an intact wildlife corridor through the length of the state.While about 9 million acres of the corridor are already protected, some of these connections are very tenuous. “There are places where the corridor is a half-mile or less in width, and it’s being squeezed off on all sides by development,” explains Lindsay Cross, former executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. “Road crossings, underpasses—fatalities from road collisions are one of the biggest threats to Florida panthers right now. Some of these places are really hanging in the balance.”Panthers Cross The CaloosahatcheeBlood on the RoadJen Korn was Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s first wildlife biologist north of the Caloosahatchee. Today, she works for a private engineering firm and coordinates the construction of wildlife crossings with the Florida Department of Transportation. Instead of attempting to build the crossings from the ground up, much of their work revolves around utilizing what’s already there.“We find places that already have a water-control structure like a bridge, a crossing that already may be being used, and just go in and make it a little safer—add ledges and fencing beneath it. It’s a lot cheaper.”Crossings like these are instrumental in preserving a functional wildlife corridor for panthers moving north. Death by road strike is arguably the greatest threat to individual panthers, with 30 panthers killed by vehicle strike in 2015 and close to 35 in 2016. But the crossing itself is only half of the solution—the land on either side still needs to be protected.Korn explains that for a wildlife crossing to be truly effective, it requires the cooperation of private landowners, who could hopefully put their land into conservation easements to protect it for the panther. But in order for this to happen, these landowners must be amenable to having panthers on their land at all—a situation that often proves difficult to accept.Can we Coexist?It’s an unfortunate fact of nature which would be disingenuous to brush aside: Florida panthers are wild animals, and when looking for a meal, will hardly discriminate between wild and domesticated prey. Liesa Priddy is a rancher in the heart of Panther country, and has lost calves to predation.“When my family started ranching on this property in the 1940s, there weren’t any panthers—they’d been extirpated from this area,” Priddy explains. “So it is new for us. I think people need to be very open-minded as to what the actual situation is. Panthers are beautiful animals, but you have to be realistic in this situation.”Nearly all conservationists in South Florida will agree that ranchers are incredible stewards of the land and provide ideal habitat for panthers. But their willingness to do this relies on their opinion of the species, which can be hurt by panthers who take a bite out of their living.“I’m not going to underestimate the challenges,” says Elizabeth Fleming, the senior Florida representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “If that’s your livelihood, it can be expensive.”There do exist government programs for reimbursement in the case of confirmed depredation, but Priddy warns of the difficulty in trying to comply with all of the red tape in these circumstances. “It’s very easy for the federal government to say, ‘we have programs that are going to help you,’ but what they don’t tell you is how hard it is.”For their part, Defenders of Wildlife has provided landowners with cameras to document the level of calf predation, to help expedite this process. Furthermore, Defenders works in suburban areas with families to prevent depredations against pets and hobby livestock. In cases of confirmed panther attack, Defenders works with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to fund the construction of livestock pens, splitting the cost three ways among the conservation organizations and the family, and sometimes covering up to half the cost.This sort of outreach and support is crucial for the panther’s future as it moves north. As Priddy warns, “until people see that their lives are not going to be negatively impacted, you’re not going to see welcome mats put out for Florida panthers north of the river.” Actions on the part of Defenders of Wildlife and other conservation organizations can help landowners feel supported rather than abandoned, and can help them see the panther as an integral part of the environment, rather than an enemy or a nuisance.“I’m not happy that my goat’s been taken,” says Salem Philippi, whose family had one goat killed and another wounded by an interloping Panther. “But what am I going to do? Am I going to go out there and kill every one of them because they did something to me? I don’t see it that way. Every animal plays a part in the ecosystem. We support one another. We need each other to grow.”Salem PhillippiAnti-PantherAs the panther continues its northward migration, coexistence is essential. But in order for residents in its path to be open to the idea of coexistence, a full understanding of the species itself is necessary first. Misinformation has been rampant in recent years, spread by a small but vocal contingent of panther opponents, who more often than not are more anti-government-interference than they are anti-panther. The transformation of areas like Big Cypress has led to a backlash from a few local residents and Gladesmen over land that they feel the panther now has more rights to than they do themselves.Media has been a powerful tool for the spread of this misinformation through various anti-panther Facebook pages which characterize panthers as dangerous predators, and a threat to every Florida resident. In fact, there has not been a single confirmed instance of Florida panther attack on a human in over one hundred years.But media can also be a tool for fostering understanding. For Carlton Ward, this belief is at the heart of his current work with National Geographic. His forthcoming Path of the Panther project aims to utilize extensive camera-traps and storytelling to bring about a more powerful and personal connection with a species known for its elusiveness.“The panther is a symbol,” Ward says. “It captures people’s imaginations.”By combining the tools of biology and photography, Ward hopes to shine a light on the unseen corners of his home state, and display the value of wild Florida to those who have not experienced it for themselves.“These parts of Florida are hidden in plain sight,” Ward says. “Not everyone has a chance to get out on a cattle ranch or head out into a swamp. Through media, we can bring these stories to people in a way that helps them understand what these animals and these lands mean to them—so that they can have the profile they need in people’s hearts and minds, and have a place in our future.”Wildlife CrossingThe Future of the Florida PantherIt’s difficult to estimate the rate of the panther’s northward expansion. What we do know is that the Caloosahatchee has been crossed, and kittens have been born on the far bank. We know that male panthers expand their territory rapidly whenever they can, and that they have in the past been spotted deeper into Central and North Florida than they are currently confirmed to occupy. And we know that there does exist a Florida Wildlife Corridor stretching the length of the state, with biologists and conservationists working to ensure its continued existence.The Florida panther will move north as quickly as it is able to escape the congestion of South Florida. The future it will face is difficult to discern. Are we as a species and as communities ready for the panther’s return? Are we ready to practice what we preach, and live next door to these animals we claim to want back?There are clear preparations that need to be made—education and outreach are solid first steps, followed by coexistence plans that must be laid before the first panther leaves its print in fresh mud. But along with these concrete goals exists the foundation beneath them, which should by no means be neglected. And this foundation is the understanding that nature itself comes at a cost—but it’s a cost that we also must pay in order to survive ourselves.It’s easy to see our two species at opposite ends of a spectrum: competitors for the same resources in a limited space. But this is not a zero-sum game. What’s good for the panther is often good for the person. Setting aside wild land and clean water for the panther also safeguards our own future. Protecting ranch land—prime panther habitat—from development simultaneously preserves human heritage and vital food sources. Person and panther are linked closer than many might care to imagine, and what fate awaits the panther might likely await us as well. As the human race works tirelessly to transform the landscape to suit itself, the panther comes as a reminder for balance—our two species share the same needs for survival: clean air, fresh water, open spaces, and above all an understanding that we are in fact a part of nature, not apart from it.last_img read more

Ice Climbing: The Best Kept Secret in the South

first_imgThe best kept secret in the ShenandoahThe Shenandoah ice crags are spoken about in hushed tones, with only the most trusted climbers charged with keeping these rare locations a secret.“I think one of the fun things about ice climbing in this area is we kind of joke around that, yeah, we’re not going to tell you where it is,” said ice climber Grant Price. “It’s like hop in the car, the blindfolds are behind you.’”There are a few places in Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington National Forest, like Crabtree Falls, Overall Run Falls, and Whiteoak Canyon, which are known in the region as potential locations for ice climbing.But finding the really good stuff requires more legwork ahead of time, making climbers reluctant to spread that information around.“There’s just not much ice,” Price said. “The joke is that the only ice in Virginia is usually in sweet tea.”Without a definitive guidebook, Price said he spends a lot of time exploring different climbing areas during the warmer months for signs there might be ice in the winter. This might mean hiking for hours through the woods or looking for potential climbs on the side of the road.When Price was in college, he noticed a drip on a road cut that had frozen over. Knowing that good climbing ice is rare in Southwest Virginia, he and a group of friends decided to test it out.“We asked around before to see if anyone else had climbed it,” Price said. “Of course we wanted to claim that we’d done the first ascent.”A barricade between the road and the cliff offered them about ten feet of protection. A concerned citizen driving by yelled at them to get down, but the college students shrugged it off and kept by Kenton Steryous/ @kenton_steryous“Next thing I know, I look over towards the university and there are blue lights coming over the hillside,” Price said. “We ended up with probably five police cars and the road being blocked off. They were moving traffic around because they were freaking out that the ice climb was going to fall down and hit a car.”Price was mid-pitch and knew the ice screws he had placed in the fragile ice for protection would not hold his weight if he tried to lower off of them. In order to get down, he had to finish climbing all the way to the top of the cliff in order to rappel off a tree to the bottom.“There was probably a remark in there about, ‘What’s the problem, officer? I’ve got my helmet on,’” Price said.After making it safely to the bottom, Price and his friends got off easy with a warning. In the eight years Price has been ice climbing, he said opportunities like that are rare in the Mid-Atlantic but out there if you know what to look for.Now Price works as the head guide for Blue Ridge Mountain Guides. During the winter, they lead ice climbing trips on the Blue Ridge Parkway when the weather allows it. They also provide guided trips to New Hampshire where winter conditions are more consistent.“In Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, you’re going to get anywhere from a handful of days to maybe three weeks,” Price said. “During that time, it’s really just a matter of dropping everything and going. It’s not always going to be in on the weekends, you may have to go out mid-week.”Such is the life of an ice climber in this region. The ice may be gone by the time you get out there if you are caught unprepared. The rarity of good climbing days is one of the reasons why these ice climbers are so reluctant to reveal the good stuff.“Everyone really protects their ice in the Shenandoah because the Mid-Atlantic doesn’t get a lot of ice generally,” said climber Carol Clayton. “If we’re lucky enough to have something freeze enough to climb it, people keep their mouths shut.”Clayton took up rock climbing four years ago at the age of 61. She found she had more free time in her schedule and always thought rock climbing looked cool.“A lot of my friends were like, wait until you try ice climbing,” she said. “I’m like, oh, I’m not feeling that. But I was curious, and they were so enthusiastic.”A year later, Clayton went on her first ice climbing trip with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club- Mountaineering Section to the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. In the three years since she started ice climbing, most of Clayton’s trips have been to New York and Vermont where the ice is more reliable. The inconsistency of ice in the Mid-Atlantic makes it hard for her to get out more than once or twice a year.But she heard whispers of a secret place in Shenandoah from her friends in the climbing community and wanted to be let into the club.“Honestly, I just begged,” Clayton said. “I’m pretty sure there was pleading and probably a little bit of bribery.”During a cold freeze last winter, some of her friends took her out to the Unicorn crag.“I’m like, ‘What’s the Unicorn?’ They’re like, ‘I can’t tell you. And you can’t tell anyone,’” Clayon said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll never find this place again because once you pull off the road, there’s like an hour of hiking to get to it. So Shenandoah ice is a guarded secret.”But Clayton said that all of the work that is put into finding a place to climb is worth it for the chance to embrace the feeling of this winter sport.“When I climb and follow someone, I literally put my life in their hands,” she said. “And I do that every single time I climb. And, they put their life in my hands. So that alone makes it different from almost any sport I can think of.”Most ice climbing in the Mid-Atlantic is water ice, a liquid flow like a frozen waterfall. The difficulty of the grade depends on the steepness of the pitch and the continuousness of the ice throughout the climb.With water ice climbing, there are two main forms of ascensions, top rope and lead climbing. Top rope climbers are secured to an anchor, like a tree, at the top of the route with a belayer picking up the slack below.In lead climbing, the first person up the route places ice screws as he or she ascends, climbing above his or her protection before placing the next screw.Since she is still a beginner, Clayton does not expect to ever lead ice.“Leading ice, you really have to know what you are doing,” Clayton said. “You have to be able to read the ice, you have to be able to read the weather because what you’re doing is putting ice screws into the ice, which is exactly what it sounds like. You’re screwing the thing into whatever ice you’re climbing and you’re clipping your rope to that. You’re hoping that you don’t fall and that the ice doesn’t break off. There’s a whole different set of problems with ice. That said, it’s also absolutely exhilarating.”The small community of ice climbers in the Mid-Atlantic communicates through online groups about weather patterns and ice conditions in the area. Although multiple climbers brought up these mysterious crags and described these magical places, they refused to reveal the exact location.“There are some well-known places, but there’s a lot more beyond that,” said Dustin Sanderson. “It’s not that we’re trying to be selfish, but sometimes it’s just nice to be productive. I’ll happily take someone there but I’m not going to blast it all over the Internet.”Sanderson started rock climbing on and off when he was six and now runs Capital Climbing Guides out of D.C. His first ice climb was on a roadside cut in the mountains of North Georgia. He made his first ascent as the cars were whizzing by on the road below.“The first time that I swung a tool into the ice, I was hooked,” Sanderson said. “We set up top ropes and ran laps all day and had a great time. After that, I was 100 percent hooked.”He said there is something that draws him in about the quieter nature that winter brings out and “Not only the feel of the ice when you are swinging tools into it, but the way that you feel moving over the ice on an exceptionally cold day when the wind is really cranking and you can barely keep your fingers warm.”If this does not sound like a pleasant way to spend your time, ice climbing probably is not the sport for you.At one point, Sanderson offered ice climbing clinics in the winter but had to stop scheduling them because the conditions were never right and he usually had to cancel. He still offers to lead private climbs when there is ice.“Really and truly, if you want to get into ice climbing, don’t try to learn it on your own,” Sanderson said. “Hire somebody that can teach you. Your experience is going to be that much better if you do that.”When planning his trips, Sanderson watches the weather closely, looking for trends in the freeze/thaw cycle. The temperature, the wind, and where the sun is located in relation to the flow can change the properties of the climb.“In the Mid Atlantic, it’s like a game,” Sanderson said. “It’s the thrill of the hunt, the thrill of the chase, especially over the past couple of years as I spent seeking out these areas that we suspect have potential flows. It’s a gamble. You go out and you might spend a whole day walking through the woods and you don’t find anything. But then there’s other days where you come around the side of the hill and you just see this area that opens up and it’s 100 meters wide of these beautiful pillars of ice that are just hanging down, waiting to be climbed.”Frozen Falls: ice climbers ascend linville falls, one of the top ice climbing spots in the southeast. Photo by Halley BurlesonWaiting on Colder WeatherGerardo Martinez learned to rock climb while stationed with the Marine Corps in sunny San Diego, Calif. When he moved to Maryland three years ago, he decided to try ice climbing as a way to stay active outside.He started making trips to Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York, embracing the thrill of the colder weather. A long way from the crags out west, Martinez got used to climbing the towering waterfalls and the below freezing temperatures that kept the flowing water unmoving. But he hasn’t tried ice climbing in the Mid-Atlantic yet.“It honestly kind of sketches me out to go in such a warm climate,” he said.While Martinez has heard of people who have ice climbed in the Mid-Atlantic the last few years, he is waiting for another storm like the blizzard that brought so much inclement weather over a decade ago.“It’s been a lot warmer in the Mid-Atlantic than it has previously,” he said. “Around 2006, there was a giant snow dump and that was the year of ice climbing in the Mid-Atlantic just because there was so much ice and snow. If you look on Youtube, there’s a lot of videos of people ice climbing in the Shenandoah but they’re all from that year.”Martinez owns and operates Triple Direct Leadership, using the outdoors to develop leadership and communication skills among individuals and groups. He typically organizes group outings like rock climbing and hiking.“I have not had any clients that want to go out ice climbing,” Martinez said. “It’s a very unique sport because it is freezing. Generally, it takes a certain type of person.”If he ever did lead an ice climbing trip, he would take them up north where the ice is a little more guaranteed and less dynamic. All of Martinez’s climbing partners are still up north, although he is looking for some adventurous souls in the Mid-Atlantic should the temperatures drop this winter.“Not only are rock climbers rare, but ice climbers are even more rare.”last_img read more

Colombia and Panama Hunt FARC Chief for Drug Trafficking on Border

first_imgBy Dialogo June 16, 2009 BOGOTA, June 15, 2009 (AFP) – Colombian and Panamanian authorities are working hard to capture the leader of Front 57 of the FARC guerrillas, Gilberto Torres, a.k.a. ” El Becerro,” (“The Calf”) who is in charge of drug and weapon trafficking on the border, according to the newspaper El Tiempo in Bogota on Monday. ‘El Becerro’ is a priority for the authorities of both countries because he has become “one of the key men for the FARC finances, as the area has become a strategic corridor for drug, weapon, and explosive trafficking, and the abduction of civilians,” according to the newspaper. Torres is accused in Panama of being responsible for the kidnapping of the Cuban-American businessman Cecilio Cubas, for whose release $60 million was demanded. Once released, Cubas said that during his captivity he was confined in a jungle area on the border of Colombia. The report stated that “at least a dozen towns and mobility corridors, including rivers, are controlled by ‘El Becerro’ on the border with Panama.” One Police Intelligence source, quoted by the newspaper, said that “the Perancho, Salaqui, and Jampayadó rivers are the main corridors used for drug trafficking.” The source also states that Front 57 of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas has a network of partners in neighboring towns such as Zapzurro, Pinigana, El Naranjal, Manana, Guayabo, Unguía, Paya, and Riosucio. Finally, the source noted that ‘El Becerro’ has links with gangs in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. However, his main contact is in Panama and it would be the man known as ‘Boa,’ who coordinates the transport of drug cargos through two points: Turbo, in Colombia, and Jaqué, in Panama.last_img read more

Interview with Belize Chief of Defense: Brigadier General Dario Oscar Tapia

first_imgBy Díalogo March 23, 2011 The most important topic discussed during the Caribbean Nations Security Conference, hosted by the United States Southern Command and Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain, from February 23-24, was countering illicit trafficking, a trans-national challenge which requires trans-national cooperation and partnerships. Diálogo spoke more in depth about this and other subjects with the Chief of Defense of Belize, Brigadier General Dario Oscar Tapia, one of the presenters at the event.Diálogo: In your opinion, what are the main concerns when it comes to national security for Belize currently?Gen. Tapia: Certainly many would argue that border security is of prime importance to our nation, and it’s supposed to be the prime responsibility for defense, but while that remains true, for us the times require focus on counternarcotics. We assess that in Belize criminal violence emanates from drug trafficking. Corruption of public officials is also of concern because if we have corruption, our public offices tend to weaken our governments. So in short, border security is an overall concern, but locally we have high criminal violence, drug trafficking, corruption and money laundering. I think those would take over as the main concerns to our nation because of what it tends to do, and that is to undermine our system.Diálogo: How does the tri-border security initiative with Guatemala and Mexico work?Gen. Tapia: We had an initial meeting at U.S. Southern Command in January of this year, where we met with Mexican and Guatemalan officials to see how we can advance in tri-border security initiatives that we want to achieve. Whilst it was discussed initially at the U.S. Southern Command, there are going to be subsequent meetings in Guatemala and in Mexico to be able to lay out exactly what we want to achieve. It’s a brand new initiative that has not been put at work as of yet.Diálogo: Do you believe that the three countries will agree on a combined surveillance system or something similar to that?Gen. Tapia: We are hoping that it will be information sharing, combined surveillance and other partnership actions. It would be great to also have joint operations. What we want is to develop those particles and see where we can better communicate. So we’re hoping that whatever is laid out in the next meetings, that then we move ahead in implementing them and not have the bureaucratic process take over and prevent us from putting forward the doables.Diálogo: What do you think is lacking in the Defense Force in Belize?Gen. Tapia: Resources. Human resources and also equipment because without those we can’t move forward in anything that we are in, with what we have we can’t do anything more than what we are already doing. We have been working hard with the U.S. Southern Command, with the U.S. MLO in Belize in getting a lot of equipment support for the Belize Defense Force, but I think there’s much more to be done and much more can be done. And if you’re going to take this tri-border initiative forward, certainly there will be the need to have the allocation of additional resources, because what we don’t want is for there to be a weak link within the three countries. Because some, like Mexico, will probably have more equipment than us, so we’ll probably either have to rely on them or we’ll (have) to seek to be on par with them. Certainly the communication equipment has to be compatible. Otherwise it is pointless that we have the initiative if we can’t take it forward because of lack of the same equipment compatibility.Diálogo: How about the U.S.? What is the participation of the U.S. in this initiative or others?Gen. Tapia: Well, they’re aware the countries are within two different commands, Mexico being in the Northern Command and Belize and Guatemala being part of the Southern Command. So it is a challenge, but I am sure that where there’s a will, there’s a way. So I’m confident that once we can remove that (issue of territoriality) then we can achieve many things, but if we still draw those lines and think that those lines are not able to move, then we’ll have big problems. I think that there is a resolve between both commands to be able to –within themselves- work it out and be able to take forward this initiative.I can tell you that even before this initiative, we have been in communication with the Mexicans, we have what is called the Border Commanders Meeting, where we were recently hosted by the Mexicans in Mexico at the Border Commander level to deal with the issue of narcotrafficking and other illicit activities that go from Belize to Mexico and vice-versa. We do have that at the same level with Guatemala as well.Diálogo: What is Belize doing to try to curb the intra-gang killings and to reduce the number of weapons that stay in the country due to illicit trafficking?Gen. Tapia: What we have developed is a strategy to combat things of that dimension, and (we want to) bring all of our security forces on land together. And the intent is to have a joint operating center where we can jointly plan with all our security forces, including customs and immigration and the Coast Guard, and be able to plan operations and execute them jointly. In addition to that, the intention is also to be able to have an intelligence agency center where we also have liaison officers from all the law enforcement and security forces there to bring intelligence to this regional center, and then execute intelligence-led operation from all joint operating centers. Certainly there is a human dimension to this, the government has launched what is called the Restore Belize initiative, where it intends to address poverty, intends to address the youth’s problems, intends to see what are the means of providing additional jobs for the young fellows that are all involved in committing crime. There is also the intent of making sure that kids that belong in school are in school. This is the big picture and so eventually all of this will come together and we’re hoping that we’re able to bring down crime to a manageable level. That’s key; we won’t be able to eliminate it, but at least try to bring it down to a manageable level.Diálogo: How about Operation Jaguar? Is there a plan to extend it or have an Operation Jaguar II?Gen. Tapia: What occurred in May of last year, because the murder and violent crime was getting out of hand in Belize City, is that the National Security Congress authorized us to deploy additional soldiers in Belize City in support of the Belize Police Department, and we called that Operation Jaguar. It reduced a little bit the violent crimes, however it wasn’t doing enough, and so we launched what we called the Expanded Operation Jaguar, where we brought in additional troops in October. I don’t know if we will have another operation like that implemented soon.Diálogo: Any future operations in mind?Gen. Tapia: We want the Police to take the lead because it’s their job and we want them to be able to do their job, so we as the Military don’t want to take over their job. Unless we are authorized by the National Security Congress, we will not be going in there.last_img read more