U.S. Shift Toward Renewables Is Most Evident in GOP States

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Michael Biesecker for the Associated Press:Wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation’s grid in 2015, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy. The remaining third was largely new power plants fueled by natural gas, which has become cheap and plentiful as a result of hydraulic fracturing.It was the second straight year U.S. investment in renewable energy projects has outpaced that of fossil fuels. Robust growth is once again predicted for this year.And while Republican lawmakers in Washington have fought to protect coal-fired power plants, opposing President Barack Obama’s efforts to curtail climate-warming carbon emissions, data show their home states are often the ones benefiting most from the nation’s accelerating shift to renewable energy.Leading the way in new wind projects are GOP strongholds Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, home to some of the leading critics of climate science and renewable energy incentives in Congress. Republican-dominated North Carolina trails only California in new solar farms, thanks largely to pro-renewables polices enacted years ago under a Democratic legislature.The most dramatic change has been seen in the plummeting cost of emissions-free wind energy, which has declined by two-thirds in the last six years thanks to the availability of cheaper, more efficient turbines. An annual analysis by the investment firm Lazard determined that wind energy is now the lowest-cost energy source, even before federal green-energy tax incentives are factored in.Billions of dollars in private equity are going to construct massive new renewables projects, especially in the Sun Belt and Great Plains. Thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines are also under construction to send power from the wind and sun from the sparsely populated areas where it is collected to the urban centers where it’s needed.Even with the surge in new projects, energy from such renewable sources as wind, solar and water accounted for only about a tenth of total U.S. power generation last year.Still, the U.S. leads the world in wind energy with about 48,800 utility-scale turbines operating across the country, generating enough electricity to power about 20 million homes. By 2030, the Energy Department estimates wind will provide a fifth of the nation’s electricity.“Wind energy is very low-cost and not subject to the fuel price risk that both natural gas and coal face,” said Michael Goggin, senior director of research at the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group. “Adding wind is cheaper than new gas or new coal. It is by far the lowest-cost resource.”Coal has dropped over the last decade from providing half of all U.S. electricity to about one-third.While new clean-air regulations and tax incentives for renewables are having a negative impact on coal, the plummeting cost of cleaner-burning natural gas made possible by fracking is largely driving the closure of many old coal-fired power plants. Exports of coal to foreign customers such as China also are down.“We didn’t see the decline coming this fast and this deep,” said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, an industry trade group.Meanwhile, the long-promised potential of Clean Coal technology has yet to be realized. A model power plant in Mississippi designed to capture the carbon dioxide generated from burning coal has encountered repeated delays and multibillion-dollar cost overruns.Closures mean America’s coal mines now employ about only about 56,700 people, down from a peak of more than 10 times that. By contrast, the fast-growing solar industry now employs more than 210,000 workers. Wind energy accounts for another 77,000 by federal estimates.Political giving by the big coal companies and their executives has declined, but the industry still spends heavily to protect its interests in Washington. Pro-coal interests spent at least $11 million to influence the 2014 Congressional midterm elections, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. More than 95 percent of that went to support Republican candidates.Among them is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who rarely misses an opportunity to blame Obama’s “War on Coal” for killing mining jobs. Nearly all of the 27 states that have sued to stop the administration’s carbon emissions-cutting Clean Power Plan have GOP governors.For Republicans from areas benefiting from renewable energy, the political calculus can be complicated. An increasing number of them try to balance criticizing Obama’s environmental efforts with quietly supporting the federal tax incentives helping drive investment in renewables.GOP leaders compromised with Democrats and a growing number of pro-renewables Republicans to include a five-year extension of tax breaks for wind and solar projects as part of a federal budget agreement approved in December.Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, among the earliest boosters of government support for wind power, points out that fossil fuels and nuclear plants have long benefited from tax credits. Last month, MidAmerican Energy announced plans to invest another $3.6 billion to add new turbines in Iowa, which already gets about a third of its electricity from the wind.“We’ve seen the economic success story behind renewables up close and personal,” Grassley said as the new project was announced. “There are more than 6,000 good wind jobs in Iowa.”Full article: GOP states benefiting from shift to wind and solar energy U.S. Shift Toward Renewables Is Most Evident in GOP Stateslast_img read more

U.S. Solar ‘SunShot’ Program Achieves Utility-Scale Price Goal Three Years Ahead of Schedule

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Green Tech Media:The solar industry has met the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative — three years early.The DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released new research today that shows the average price of utility-scale solar is now under $1 per watt and below 6 cents per kilowatt-hour.That’s higher than the record-breaking project bids we’ve seen in the U.S. and abroad in recent years. But that’s because DOE calculations for levelized cost of energy (LCOE) do not include subsidies — such as the federal Investment Tax Credit — and are based on the average climate in Kansas City, Missouri. (Note: GTM documented the sub-$1 per watt milestone earlier this year, but the department is using its own metrics.)“Our mission is to make solar affordable for all Americans, and so our goals are defined for average U.S. climates. We use Kansas City as that example,” said Becca Jones-Albertus, acting deputy director of the SunShot Initiative. “Hitting a 6 cents per kilowatt-hour target for Kansas is a more significant metric than hitting 6 cents in sunnier parts of the country.”GTM Research reported that U.S. utility-scale fixed-tilt system pricing fell below $1.00 per watt earlier this year using a different methodology.Technology innovation has been a primary driver of the cost declines since 2011. Solar module costs have seen a particularly dramatic cost reduction in recent years. That’s due in part to efficiency improvements as a result of material quality and innovative cell and module designs, as well as the development of diamond wafer sawing, which dramatically reduces material loss in the making of silicon wafers. The NREL report found that module prices also declined substantially over the past year due to an oversupply. Going forward, the Suniva/SolarWorld trade case could have a significant impact on the economics of solar in the U.S. — and could put the SunShot goals beyond reach again. According to DOE researchers, the tariff requested on imported solar modules would have a 2-2.5 cent impact on the LCOE for solar. If module prices increase from roughly 35 cents today to 78 cents under a new tariff scenario, the cost of a utility-scale solar system would increase from roughly $1 per watt to $1.38 per watt. When the SunShot goals were set in 2011, they seemed aspirational. At that time, utility-scale solar prices were around 27 cents per kilowatt-hour. The U.S. solar industry has achieved a decrease in cost by a factor of four in less than seven years — beating the DOE’s 2020 goal. The DOE is now targeting to reach 3 cents per kilowatt-hour for utility-scale solar by 2030.Residential- and commercial-scale solar costs have not fallen as fast; however, the industry is more than 85 percent of the way toward achieving SunShot’s 2020 goals for those segments. NREL estimates that the total installed system cost has declined to $2.80 per watts (dc) for residential systems, $1.85 per watt (dc) for commercial. Ongoing reductions in soft costs will play a key role in driving these prices lower.Progress toward meeting the SunShot goals “is a reflection of the speed of change across the entire industry,” said Charlie Gay, director of the SunShot Initiative. “Not just solar, but all sorts of [technologies] are changing at a rapid speed, which makes it daunting to plan the energy system [and] the networks when so many moving parts are making such rapid progress.”Daniel Simmons, acting assistant secretary of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, added that the LCOE for solar doesn’t reflect the real-world cost of the technology because solar is not dispatchable. So comparing the LCOE for solar to the cost of a natural-gas plant “is not always apples to apples,” he said. The fact that solar and wind are not always available on demand “is a challenge we’re trying to solve with these new funding investments,” Simmons said.More: DOE Officially Marks SunShot’s $1 per Watt Goal for Utility-Scale Solar U.S. Solar ‘SunShot’ Program Achieves Utility-Scale Price Goal Three Years Ahead of Schedulelast_img read more

Endesa plans to close all coal capacity in Spain, Portugal

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Greentech Media:Coal power is no longer competitive in mainland Spain, according to Enel subsidiary Endesa, as the company plans to shut down all of its coal-fired generation capacity on the Iberian peninsula.Endesa operates 23 gigawatts of capacity in total in Spain and Portugal, including 7.5 gigawatts of “traditional thermal power.”In a statement to the Spanish stock exchange, Endesa was unequivocal on its view of coal’s near-term future, blaming market conditions and carbon pricing. “This structural situation has determined that mainland coal-fired thermal power plants are not competitive, and therefore their operation in the electricity generation market is not foreseeable in the future.”Endesa flagged a likely write-down of €1.3 billion ($1.4 billion) as a result of the shutdown, including decommissioning costs. It did not provide a timeline.In the first half of 2019, the company generated half as much power from its coal fleet as it did in the same period last year, without closing any capacity. That alone suggests the writing was very much on the wall.In November last year, Spain’s government said its last coal and nuclear power plants would be closed by 2030. It also revealed tax breaks for natural gas that were not extended to coal. Endesa’s CEO responded at the time by saying he expected the coal plants to remain in place for backup beyond 2030. A few months later he was quoted saying the shutdown could be complete by 2025.More: Enel subsidiary to close coal capacity in Spain Endesa plans to close all coal capacity in Spain, Portugallast_img read more

Indian state of Kerala moving forward with 125MW floating solar project

first_imgIndian state of Kerala moving forward with 125MW floating solar project FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享ETEnergyworld.com:The Idukki district could soon become a power hub in the state. The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) is setting up solar floating panels at the Idukki reservoir to produce 125MW of power.The 125MW panels will be placed in Anchuruli and Cheruthoni areas of the dam where direct sunlight is available, said officials. A large surface area of water at the Idukki reservoir where direct sunlight is available is conducive for floating solar panels, according to a feasibility study by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) at Idukki reservoir. The report has been submitted to KSEB.“The NTPC report found Idukki reservoir apt to install floating solar panels. As per the report, the first phase will generate 125MW and after two years, another 200MW project would be installed. In the first phase, the 100MW solar panels will be installed at Anchuruli area and 25MW will implemented at Cheruthoni area of the reservoir,” Rajan P, KSEB director (transmission, system operation and REES), told TOI.“We need a forest clearance to the project and KSEB will move the state forest minister-level to get the clearance. We plan to begin the project in December,” Rajan said. “As per the agreement, NTPC will implement the solar power project at Idukki reservoir and KSEB will purchase power from NTPC. The board will sign an agreement with NTPC to purchase the power. KSEB will set up a 220KV substation at Nirmalacity near Kattappana to transfer the solar power. KSEB is ready to fix underlying cables to transfer the power,” said the official.“This is an initiative that the Union government stressed on generation of green and renewable energy from non-conventional sources. KSEB has no other way to generate green energy,” he said.[Sandeep Thomas]More: Floating solar panels will be set up at the Idukki reservoir to produce 125 mwlast_img read more

Does Bigfoot exist?

first_imgIllustration by Wade MickleyAs interesting as it may be for such creatures to exist, there simply is no way that a specimen as large as a Bigfoot could have gone undetected until now. The United States is too populated, too technologically advanced, and too developed for any creature, other than microbes, to have escaped detection until now. There are also way too many gun owners who would have killed one by now. Sure, I would like to believe as much as anyone. However, common sense overrules my child-like wonder in this case.—Keith Koger, Charlotte, N.C.———-There is no way something like Bigfoot can exist in these days and times without us knowing about it. There is a much better chance of UFOs and aliens.—Ed McKeown,Roanoke, Va.———-P.T. Barnum once said, “A sucker is born every minute.” If you put on a show, people will come. Even the famous 8mm movie with the fuzzy picture of his buddy in a gorilla suit was admitted by the lone survivor to be a fraud.—Joseph Gracia, Silver Spring, Md.———-There are many local and faraway stories concerning Bigfoot. I’ve spent many hours reading various accounts, even some relating to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Although the tales are riveting at times, I am unconvinced, although I still believe an imagination is a wonderful thing to have.—Ed Staples, Waxhaw, N.C.———-I remember making Bigfoot tracks in the mud when I was a boy. Am I responsible for encouraging these Sasquatch hunters? If we can find dinosaur turds that are thousands of years old, we should be able to produce some more convincing evidence before we cry wolf—or giant skunk-ape.—James Gorman, Bluemont, Va.———-Bigfoot as envisioned probably does not exist, but there is likely some mutant life-form running around in the wilds.—Jim Cermenaro, Vienna, Va.———-People have been claiming to see Bigfoot for decades, yet there is still no hard proof of his existence. I just watched a show on National Geographic about how pranksters used to make their fake bigfoot prints. These old-timers were really good, but what they were doing was really no different than Hollywood special effects.—Travis Ratliff, Honaker, Va.———-One time while working in the Cascades, my wife noticed something standing near her out of the corner of her eye. There were no other people within miles. When she told her story to some of her fellow co-workers, some of them had witnessed a large hairy figure walking through a mountain prairie a little farther out in the backcountry. They did not want to say anything, afraid that people would assume they were on drugs or something. It was enough to make us believe. I have spent enough nights in the backcountry to know that we have not seen everything in the wild.—Bryan Freeborn, Asheville, N.C.———-The recent hoax aside, there have been so many amazing similarities in the sightings, footprints, and accounts by eyewitnesses across the years. When we humans think that we know about everything in the natural world, we’re being very egotistical. We should realize we have much yet to learn.—Joe McAlister, Greer, S.C.———-There is still a lot going on out in the woods that we don’t know of or understand just yet. Our capacity for openness should be as vast as the unknown. We’re enfolded by a realm of mystery in the natural world.—David Wooldridge, Lowesville, Va.———-Bigfoot DNA is only strand away from being a human being. A chimpanzee is 33 strands away from being human. Those attention-seeking boys in Georgia did a disservice to the real science and search for Bigfoot.—Patricia Locke, Lebanon, Tenn.———-It is extremely anthropocentric of humans to think that such a large creature could not exist without our having documented it. Nature has surprised us countless times in the past, and to think that there are creatures that we are unaware of is not the least bit unreasonable.—Will Lindsey, Charleston, S.C.———-Online poll results:51% say Yes | 49% say Nolast_img read more

Trail Mix | Lawrence Morrill Glass

first_imgYou are an obsession, you’re my obsession . . . I couldn’t help but hear the lyrics to 80’s synthpoppers Animotion run through my head when I came across “Tina Fey,” a song written by Austin, Texas, singer/songwriter Lawrence Morrill Glass.Being a big fan of Tina Fey’s work, I couldn’t blame Glass for his obsession. From her time at Second City and Saturday Night Live through 30 Rock and her motion picture stardom, I have long been a big fan of Tina Fey.So, I get Glass’s obsession. But, for the sake of propriety – and to keep any hints of stalkerism off Glass’s back – I have decided it would be better to refer to Fey as his muse. It just sounds nicer.“Tina Fey” is featured on the new EP that Glass recently released. The tracks therein offer a tantalizing – and too short – glimpse into the mind and songwriting craft of one of Austin’s burgeoning talents.I recently chatted with Glass about “Tina Fey,” which is included on this month’s Trail Mix, and he even indulged me enough to take a little quiz on his muse.BRO – Can we see this EP as a tease for the long player soon to come?LMG – Yes.  The full length, Neanderthal, will be released on February 14, 2017. It is made up of eleven songs that range in style from Americana to rock to bossa nova to ska.BRO – We are featuring “Tina Fey” on this month’s Trail Mix. What was your favorite Tina Fey character from Saturday Night Live?LMG – I liked her most back when she did the news.BRO – And let’s be honest. Do you think there is anyone out there who doesn’t love Tina Fey?LMG – I’m sure there are folks that find her tiresome. As Sly sang in “Everyday People” . . . . Different strokes for different folks.BRO – Any fear that Tina might hear the song and think you are a stalker?LMG – I doubt it. The bridge says it all . . .Better find yourself someone close to homea real live girl waiting all aloneno fantasy a million miles awayno, no, not another Saturday night with a TV screenwhat a lonely life, what an empty dreamI can’t go on this way, with nothing left to saybut I love Tina FeyTo test Lawrence’s expertise on all things Tina Fey, I threw this quiz at him. He was kind enough to oblige and have a little fun with me.1.  What was the name of Tina’s character on 30 Rock?A. Lisbette LimoneB. Betsy LymanC. Liz LemonD. Lizzie LeemondLMG – C2. Where did Tina attend college?A.  SUNY-OswegoB. Dartmouth CollegeC. Wellesley CollegeD. The University of VirginiaLMG – D3. Fey was half of the first all-female Weekend Update crew in Saturday Night Live history. Who was her co-anchor?A. Jane CurtinB. Amy PoehlerC. Kate McKinnonD. Maya RudolphLMG – B4.  Tina is actually not her real first name. What is?A. AllisonB. MadelineC. ElizabethD. StamatinaLMG – C5.  Fey provided the voice for Roxanne Ritchi, opposite Will Ferrell, in what animated motion picture?A. Toy StoryB. MegamindC. Finding NemoD. ShrekLMG – No ideaLawrence did pretty darn well on the quiz, going getting four of the five answers correct. Only one he missed was #5, which was, as those of us with small kids at home know, Megamind. Many thanks to Lawrence for running with this.For more information on Lawrence Morrill Glass, how you can grab a copy of the new EP, or when he might be coming to a stage near you, please check out his website.Also, be sure to check out “Tina Fey” on this month’s Trail Mix.last_img read more

Chemicals of Chinese Origin, Intended for Drugs, Are Seized in Mexico

first_img Mexican authorities announced the seizure of more than 120 tons of a chemical substance needed to manufacture synthetic drugs, in a shipment coming from China and destined for Guatemala. The seizure took place in the port of Lázaro Cárdenas in Michoacán (in western Mexico, on the Pacific), in eight containers with more than 120,000 kilograms of the substance known as “monomethylamine,” the Government specified in a statement. The substance is a chemical precursor that can be used in the manufacture of synthetic drugs. The shipment departed from the port of Shanghai in China and had the port of Quetzal in Guatemala as its final destination. In 2011, more than 1,200 tons of chemicals of this kind were seized in Mexico. Previously, a shipment of 21 tons of another chemical precursor that entered the Mexican port of Manzanillo (in western Mexico, on the Pacific), coming from Peru and destined for neighboring Guatemala, was seized, while another shipment of 229 tons that also came from China was seized in the same port of Lázaro Cárdenas the previous week By Dialogo January 04, 2012last_img read more

Chief of Colombian Drug Trafficking Organization Captured in Ecuador

first_img Domínguez, one of the leaders of ‘Los Rastrojos’, was arrested in the northeastern town of Manta, by counter-drug police, according to the official. Ecuadorean authorities did not give any further details about the arrest. “He is one of Colombia’s most wanted, and will be immediately extradited,” said the Minister of Interior, José Serrano, via Twitter. By Dialogo August 22, 2013 ‘Palustre’ has been identified as the former leader of the gunmen for a powerful drug trafficking gang known as the Comba brothers, whose main leaders surrendered to U.S. Justice. Jorge Domínguez (aka ‘Palustre’), leader of extreme-right wing criminal gang‘Los Rastrojos’, was captured, the Ecuadorean government announced on August 21. ‘Los Rastrojos’, originally a criminal gang, strengthened after the disarmament and demobilization of the United Self-Defenses of Colombia (AUC), and is now also dedicated to drug trafficking as well as the main extreme right wing armed organization in the South American nation. ‘Los Rastrojos’ operate in a vast area in south and southwest Colombia, and it is considered the main criminal gang in the country, along with ‘Los Urabeños’ fighting a bloody turf war over control of drug trafficking routes.last_img read more

Ecuador and Colombia cooperate in fight against organized crime

Exchange of sports jerseys Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos discussed Colombia’s ongoing peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), during a binational meeting held on Nov. 25, 2013. The two leaders met in the border region which divides the two countries, in the Colombian city of Ipiales. Correa, Santos, the foreign ministers of both countries and several Ecuadorean and Colombian Cabinet ministers met for about four hours to discuss progress on agreements that were reached during the First Binational Cabinet meeting between the two countries. That meeting was held in December 2012 in the Ecuadorean city of Tulcán. Following the Nov. 25 meeting, Correa and Santos signed eight agreements regarding issues such as security, transportation, education, tourism, and the oil industry. In recent years, about 57,000 Colombians have crossed into Ecuador to flee the violence generated by FARC, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Ecuador has welcomed the refugees, Correa said, adding that they “did not leave by will, they were driven out by violence.” Because of the violence caused by FARC, Colombia is the country with the highest number of internally displaced people in the world, according to a report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). Colombia has 4.9 million displaced people, according to the IDMC report. Violent organized crime groups are responsible for most of the displacement, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). There were 137 mass displacements in Colombia in 2012, which displaced more than 9,000 Colombians, according to the UNHCR. Violence caused by fighting between rival organized crime groups, including street gangs and transnational drug trafficking organizations, is responsible for much of the displacement, according to the UNHCR. Thousands of people have fled their Colombian communities to escape threats by the FARC and other organized crime groups. Criminal groups pressure teenagers and young men to join their organizations and engage in illegal enterprises, such as illicit gold mining. Organized crime violence has created displacement in every region of Colombia. The departments most affected by displacement include Narino, Cauca, Valle del Cauca, Cordoba, and Antioquia, the UNHCR found. Presidents Santos and Correa exchanged gifts from their native countries at the end of the binational conference. The two presidents exchanged jerseys from their respective national futbol teams, which will be competing in the 2014 World Cup, which will be held in Brazil. “Good luck in the World Cup, you have a great team, good luck, except when you play with Ecuador of course,” Correa said with a laugh as he presented an Ecuadorean team jersey to Santos. Treaty to fight border crime Because they share a border and face many of the same security issues, cooperation between Ecuador and Colombia is crucial in the battle against organized crime, a security analyst said. “Colombia and Ecuador have many important common topics they need to tackle together, so binational cabinets are a great step towards achieving these common goals,” explained Hector Chavez, a security analyst at the University of Guayaquil. “We must keep in mind that because of the challenges the FARC poses to Colombia and the region, safety should always be one of the main topics to be discussed between the two nations.” Colombian President Santos thanked Ecuadorean President Correa for the support has given the process of peace talks with the FARC. Colombian officials have been meeting with representatives of the FARC in Havana. The discussions began in 2012. Colombian security forces have been fighting the FARC for more than 50 years. Santos said he appreciated the support Correa has voiced for the peace talks. “I want to reiterate my thanks for (Correa’s) continued support for the peace process. Since the beginning he has been aware and has indicated his willingness to support this process, which he defines as important not only for Colombia but for the entire region,” Santos said . Officials inaugurated the Rumichaca International Bridge during the binational meeting. The bridge was completed in eight months. Very detailed, really chock-full of information. It was important for my in my research. The importance of cooperation Santos thanks Correa A week before Correa and Santos met, the top federal prosecutors of Ecuador and Colombia signed an agreement to improve the exchange of information when it comes to battling weapons smuggling, human trafficking, and other crime along the border shared by the two countries. The agreement was signed during the XXI Assembly of the American Association of Public Prosecutors. The assembly was held in Quito, Ecuador. During the meeting, officials from Colombia and Ecuador discussed what legal tools they could share to fight transnational criminal organizations. Ecuador is proposing to create a Criminal Court of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to expedite the investigation and punishment of crimes committed by organized groups which cross international borders. The idea is supported by Colombian officials. Such a court would specialize in taking cases involving defendants who are affiliated with organized crime groups, said Colombian Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre. FARC violence For example, in August 2013, Ecuadorean security forces captured Jorge Dominguez, an alleged gang leader who is wanted in Colombia. He is known as “Palustre” and is suspected of being the leader of Los Rastrojos, a violent Colombian drug trafficking organization. Los Rastrojos trafficks cocaine, marijuana, and heroin, and engages in illegal gold mining. Los Rastrojos was formed in the mid-2000s by Wilber Varela, who was a leader of the Norte del Valle drug trafficking organization. Varela formed Los Rastrojos when he broke away from Diego Leon Montoya, who had been his co-leader with Norte del Valle. Montoya is known as “Don Diego.” In September, 2007, Colombian security forces captured Don Diego. Through cooperation with the United States, in December 2008 Colombian authorities extradited Don Diego to the U.S. to face federal drug trafficking charges. Varela, who was known as “Jabon,” was killed in January 2008. Authorities suspect he was killed by fellow organized crime members. Palustre was deported to Colombia, according to José Serrano, Ecuador’s Interior Minister. Cooperating to fight organized crime Violence and threats By Dialogo November 28, 2013 The two countries reached positive agreements that will strengthen cooperation in the fight against drug cartels and other organized crime groups, Correa said. “Where we have met most of our objectives is in security. We have to give transnational crime a collective response between the two countries,” Correa said during the meeting with Colombian officials. Ecuador and Colombia share a border that is 730 kilometers long. The FARC and other organized crime groups, as well as common criminals, are active in the region. Organized crime operatives and common criminals smuggle drugs and weapons, engage in human trafficking, and commit other crimes in the border region. Ecuador and Colombia have been cooperating closely on security in recent years. The capture of ‘Palustre’ read more

Colombia closer to reaching peace with the FARC: Juan Carlos Pinzón

first_img The agenda for the peace talks now underway in Havana focus on six broad categories, Villegas said: rural development, political participation, demobilization, the fight against drug trafficking and illegal crops, victims’ compensation and ratification of the agreement by the people. The first two points have already been agreed to by both parties, the ambassador said. “We have agreed with FARC to build a new opposition statute. The unarmed FARC as a political party has to be at the table with other parties and shape a new opposition. That’s obvious,” he said. “But it hasn’t been done in Colombia in the last 40 years.” When it comes to drug trafficking, Villegas said may someday be possible to remove Colombia from the cocaine equation completely. “It sounds like a simple subject, but imagine the consequences for the world if Colombia had a zero drug crop,” the ambassador explained. “We’ve moved from 200,000 hectares of coca to 40,000 hectares. We are no longer the biggest producer of coca leaf, and we could move to zero with FARC’s help in eradicating illicit crops. Yet the balloon effect is something we have to take care of. If markets still exist, someone else will produce that coca. Hopefully it won’t be us.” Hopefully the peace talks in Havana finalize favorably for Colombia. That would be an accomplishment for the security forces and the people. They’re not telling the people the truth just economic and social interests. They mock the victims, they don’t talk about turning in weapons they evade justice if justice exists. They don’t publish what has been agreed upon. They don’t broadcast it. If it’s transparent, why don’t they publish and broadcast it The vast majority of Colombians have confidence in the short-term and long-term security of the country, Pinzón said. “Around 90 percent of Colombians, when they talk about security problems, they are not talking any more about the country falling to an illegal organization or to a terrorist organization,” Pinzón said, referring to the FARC. “After technically defeating those enemies of the Colombian people, what we’re telling them is, maybe it’s time for you to get out of this situation. We will continue to pressure them every day, everywhere, so they understand that they have only one exit with dignity: to agree for an option of peace and getting into the political system which in the end is part of what our democracy conceives.” \ Pinzón added: “There are challenges, but I think we are moving forward with strength. We will keep moving the bar as far as we can so these criminals understand that the Colombian people do not want this type of violence anymore. My frank opinion is that Colombia will reach peace.” Pinzón’s speech was sponsored by Brookings’ Latin America Initiative and the Center for 21st Century Security. It came the day before President Obama received Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the Oval Office and congratulated the visiting 62-year-old head of state “on his bold and brave efforts to bring about a lasting and just peace inside of Colombia in his negotiations with the FARC.” Pinzón said the two countries have been military allies for years, and that in 2000, when Plan Colombia began, U.S. funding as a percentage of Colombia’s total defense budget was nearly 20 percent. Today, it’s less than 1 percent, Pinzón said. “This shows first the will of the Colombian people to pay our own bills, particularly to recover our nation, to recover our security,” he said. “We certainly appreciate what we get from the U.S., and what we still we need to get, but showing that these only go to quality capabilities … exceptional in technology and knowledge that can really give a certain push.” Progress in the fight against drug trafficking and production By Dialogo December 25, 2013 The Colombian economy is improving The Colombian government is likely to reach a peace accord soon with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), even though the two sides are continuing to skirmish on the battlefield, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said recently. The Colombian Armed Forces is now the most widely respected institution in the country — even more than the church and the government itself, Pinzón said in a wide-ranging speech at the Brookings Institution on Dec. 2, 2013. His comments came as peace talks continue in Havana between FARC negotiators and representatives of the Colombian government to end what has become Latin America’s longest-running rebel insurgency. Colombia-U.S. cooperation should continue: analyst Six-point agenda for peace talks in Havana center_img Economic progress While Colombian authorities are negotiating a peace accord with FARC leaders, the country’s economy is booming, Pinzón said. The government’s efforts to reduce poverty are having a positive impact. “What we care most about these days is reducing poverty. Just five years ago, we had a poverty rate of 52 percent, and extreme poverty was 40 percent. Now our unemployment rate is only 9 percent after more than a decade in double digits,” he said. Pinzón: Colombians want to ‘pay their own way’ Going forward with strength Luís Carlos Villegas, Colombia’s newly appointed ambassador to the United States, touted the health of Colombia’s economy during a speech at CSIS on Dec. 6, 2013. Ten years ago, the size of Colombia’s economy was less than $100 billion, ranking seventh in Latin America. Today, its GDP is nearly $400 billion, ranking Colombia third in the region, Villegas said. “Back then, foreign trade was $25 billion a year. Now it’s $120 billion. I don’t think there’s another emerging market that has seen such dramatic positive change,” said Villegas. “When we first started negotiating with FARC in 1998, about 60 percent of Colombians were living under the poverty line. Today, it’s three in 10, and extreme poverty is in the single digits. For the first time in 200 years, the majority of our people are middle-class.” With Colombia’s GDP likely to grow at five percent in 2014 and a public budget next year of $115 billion — up from $30 billion 10 years ago — the government can now afford to build roads, improve infrastructure and expand health and education networks like never before, he said. “Ten years ago, our society had a lack of hope in the future,” Villegas explained. “These days, we are hopeful, but the conflict — even if it’s small and very localized — is an obstacle to faster economic development. So in order to become a developed country in the next generation, we need to remove the conflict. Every victim we can save from this conflict, every terrorist attempt we prevent is a gain for Colombian society.” Colombian security forces have made important inroads against organized crime groups which produce and traffic cocaine. Colombian security forces seized about 600 tons of cocaine from January 2013 through mid-December, authorities said. Colombia is no longer the world’s largest producer of cocaine, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Colombian security forces must continue to be vigilant, Pinzón said. The country’s mountainous terrain and ungoverned spaces still present problems for the Armed Forces, Pinzón said, noting that “when you don’t have control, someone else will fill that absence. We are putting pressure in their own bases at the same time, for the first time ever.” A peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC would dramatically open economic opportunities for the country’s 46 million residents, participants at the Brookings event said. Cooperation between Colombia and the United States should continue, said Carl Meacham, director of the Americas program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank. “The success of Plan Colombia does not mean the [U.S.-Colombia] bilateral relationship should stop evolving. It needs to be adapting and moving forward. So many things are possible now that weren’t possible before,” Meacham said. last_img read more