March is fast approaching and the seasons are changing. Do you want to get a garden going? The I Love to Garden group here on Climate Crossroads is the place to be. Join the group, meet other gardeners, and check out some new photos like this one in the group's gallery. Another excellent group with a vibrant photo gallery is Fans of Farmers Markets.
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog worldThere's a long history of government clashing with science. The latest example is brought to you by the great state governments of Utah and South Dakota, which both recently passed resolutions denying climate change. The Bad Astronomy blogger slammed them (it's a great article!) and had this to say:
Contacting them probably won’t help; I suspect that if every last constituent they had contacted them, they would still cleave to their beliefs. But I urge people to write their congressional representatives anyway. And spread the word; if these two states deny reality this blatantly, then others will follow. Bet on it.
Bad Astronomy's coverage of NASA's front on the climate-change crisis is also worth reading.
Also in the blogosphere:
-- Dave Roberts asks over at Grist, "Does Facebook deserve the hell it's catching from Greenpeace?"
-- Experts weigh in on their preferred eco-friendly tea.
-- Streetsblog: "Want to foster walking, biking and transit? You need good parking policy."
-- And last but not least, is hazy-crazy cable news personality Glenn Beck a closet treehugger? Mother Jones's blog Blue Marble considers it.
courtesy Charlie Garlow
Charlie Garlow, a Sierra Club member from Silver Spring, Maryland owns a three-wheel electric motorcycle. Garlow is planning this summer to hitch a solar trailer to it and drive across the country with his dog Rex to raise awareness for EVs and renewable energy. His journey will probably launch after the EV drag race in June at the Mason Dixon Dragway in Hagerstown. Follow his progress on his website FunRunintheSun.org and his blog. This is the second of three interviews with EV owners. Read the first one here.
How did you get this electric motorcycle?
It’s a little tricky. There are not a lot of three-wheel electric motorcycles for sale. But there is a company out in Oregon that is now manufacturing the bodies -- or shells, frames -- so that you can put it together yourself and you can put into it your own electric motor that you buy from them or separately. I bought a separate motor because I wanted more power. Mine is considerably modified from the original BugE.
Can you describe this vehicle?
It’s got two direction wheels in the front and one drive wheel in the rear and a body structure that is aero-dynamically streamlined that makes it slick to the wind. It looks kind of interesting, frankly.
What’s the range?
If you have lead acid batteries in there, it’ll probably go about 30 or 40 miles on a charge. If you put in lithium ion batteries, as I’m attempting to do, it’ll have a 100-mile range or more.
And your adventure will be powered by solar?
My intention is to have a trailer to be pulled behind it with solar panels on top of it. It will also have extra lithium ion batteries underneath the panel to give it extra weight or ballast to hold this thing down. I have six 80 watt Sharp PV polycrystalline solar panels, but I am open to an upgrade!
Have you always been this passionate about EVs and renewable energy?
I’ve always been interested in reducing my carbon footprint. For the last 20 years I’ve been involved in electric vehicles. I’ve owned a series of EVs. One was a sedan -- a 1981 Dodge Neon. I had a 1997 Chevy pick-up truck made by General Motors at their factory. And now I’m working on this three wheel motorcycle. I feel a bit like Toad of Toad Hall -- that animated cartoon from years back who always wanted to buy the latest contraption that would take him around.
Let’s say I’m a typical middle-class American and I want an EV. What's your advice?
There are a number of second-hand, cheaper electric vehicles, whether they’re motorcycles or cars or trucks. They’re on sale on eBay or Craigslist and you can find them through various electric vehicle associations. There are electric vehicle clubs. If you have enough money to buy a new electric vehicle, Nissan is coming out with the Leaf all-electric vehicle sometime in 2011. The Volt is an electric hybrid, which is a pretty good idea. It’s pure electric for the first 40 miles, which then kicks in your gasoline engine. By that process you can go 100 or 150 miles per gallon. The Volt’s supposed to be sold this fall. And there are a lot of other companies that are getting on board.
What do you think about when you see gas prices?
Gas prices are way too low in this country. We need to tax gas so that it’s $5 a gallon like it is in Japan or $7 a gallon like it is in Europe. That would be more of an incentive for us to think about electric vehicles. I think a lot more people would look at it and say, “This is a great idea.” In fact, it’s already a great idea. If you get yourself an electric vehicle, your cost for fuel -- your electricity -- is one-quarter the cost of gasoline, presuming gas is about $2.50 a gallon. When we had $4 a gallon the summer before last, we had a lot more people asking about electric vehicles. And maintenance costs! There are no oil changes, there’s no muffler to be replaced....
All of those costs to maintaining a gas engine, which is basically an explosion going on in your car -- no wonder the thing falls apart -- don’t happen. Think about your power drill you keep down in the basement. When was the last time you had to overhaul its engine, or change the oil, or flush the radiator? Never!
courtesy Colin Summers
In 1998, Colin Summers, an architect who lives in Santa Monica, convinced his wife that they should get an electric car. They got one and never looked back. Today, they are the proud owners of a four-door Toyota RAV 4. While his wife primarily uses the car for her commute, Summers drives a Prius. They also have solar panels on their home. This is the first of three interviews with EV owners. For more info on becoming an EV owner, visit PlugInAmerica.org.
So we are wasting huge quantities of the cleanest fossil fuel -- natural gas -- and what will be the world's scarcest natural resource -- clean water -- to produce very expensive gasoline, while simultaneously dumping huge quantities of carbon into the atmosphere not only from burning the gas and tar sands oil but also from destroying the forests and peat soils. Basic economics suggests that this cannot make sense. But it appears to. Investors make money (sometimes). Why?
The fundamental reality that creates a market for tar sands is that global demand for oil is very inelastic. As the price goes up, those who need gasoline, jet fuel, or diesel have no realistic substitutes, so they must pay whatever the market demand. Economically marginal sources such as tar sands become profitable, while low-cost producers like the Saudis make enormous margins. Meanwhile, the economies of nations that import oil are devastated.
Why is demand inelastic? The answer is surprisingly simple. To use less oil requires either more-efficient transportation systems or different fuels. Both of those require major, long-term investments of capital -- in, say, vehicles powered with either natural gas or electricity. Whenever such investments have begun, a slump in the world price of oil has dried up their potential market and scared off investors. Tar sands production can be ramped up or slowed down much more quickly than new auto or truck fleets can be designed, built, and sold.
Last week I momentarily forgot that I was a vegetarian. You see, my wife fell ill last weekend. And whenever that happens her mom delivers a giant pot of her excellent chicken soup. "Sounds delicious. Are you going to share or is that exclusive to you?" I asked my wife. There was a pause. "It's chicken soup. There's chicken in it," she said. D'oh!
A few days later, I developed my own cold. While I was blowing my nose this morning, I was thinking of some of the vegetarian dishes out there that help allay sickiness. We have a good number of soups posted here on Crossroads. You can post your own recipes here.
Do you have a planet friendly dish that you throw together when you're feeling under the weather?
(I quit meat for 2010 and I'm writing about it. Click here to join our Green Cuisine group here on Climate Crossroads.)
Last Friday, Chelsea Sexton dropped off the cute little Mitsubishi iMiEV (pronounced I-meev) test car. She and her husband, Bob, had been driving it for a week, and now it was our turn.
This version is a right-hand drive built for the Japanese market. Driving from the right side of a car isn't that hard to get used to, but remembering the turn signal vs. windshield wiper switch took concentration.
According to Mitsubishi, this Smart-sized EV will be aimed at the commuter market which, given the sub-80 mile range, is a perfect fit. The 16 kWh LiIon pack, located under the passenger compartment, keeps the center of gravity low. One of the benefits of having a smaller battery pack is that the overall weight of the car is just a bit north of 2300 lbs.
The driving experience was very good. Acceleration was comparable to our RAV, which is to say, it's not going to beat a Tesla Roadster, but it had no problem accelerating up to speed on the freeway. I particularly liked its cornering ability, and the small size makes it very easy to park just about anywhere. Their engineers must have been listening to us since they incorporated a creep mode into the software. This mimics how a gas car will roll forward when you take your foot off the brake. It's helpful when you're on a hill so you don't roll backward, and it's something you expect, so the experience is very close to what you're used to. The iMiEV is also very quiet, much like the RAV.
The federal government is the largest single consumer of energy in the country. Taxpayers ensure that federal vehicles' gas tanks are full and the lights and heat stay on in government buildings.
President Obama hopes to save money and lead the country to a cleaner energy future by making the federal government a model. In October, he signed an executive order requiring that the government reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 28 percent over the next decade.
Obama also asked federal employees to participate in the GreenGov Challenge, through which they can submit practical ideas about improving sustainability and energy efficiency at government facilities. Yesterday, in a video posted on the White House's blog, Obama describes how successful the project has been thus far and calls on employees to put their ideas into action. The public is allowed to view the site (but not contribute), so even if you’re not a federal employee, head over to get some ideas for greening your own workplace. While you're at it, also check out the Green Life's tips for an eco-friendlier office.
The Big Picture -- our biggest group here on Climate Crossroads -- is doing some awesome things. Read the group's latest bulletin and get involved:
Earlier this month we asked Big Picture supporters to write a personal letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to counter the intense pressure the coal industry is putting on the White House to weaken or halt draft EPA regulations that would protect at risk communities from coal ash disasters like the 2008 spill in Tennessee, as well as gradual but dangerous water contamination as coal ash toxins, such as arsenic, selenium, mercury, and cadmium seep into drinking water. Over 2,000 people submitted a letter for us to take to a meeting with OMB or deliver in person to the office! You can keep the momentum growing by taking the movement on to Facebook.
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
With health-care legislation in cardiac arrest, climate-change legislation is looking equally grim, according to political observers. One indicator is the U.S. Climate Action Partnership -- the group of corporations that includes Shell, BP, and DuPont -- that has been taking proactive steps on the issue of climate change. But now that the political shoe has dropped, some of its members have gone to Splitsville.
The beauty of USCAP was its inherent compromises, but if a climate bill is no longer a nascent reality, then companies like BP and Conoco have an obligation to shareholders to pursue their own best interests. It's a shame Congress wasn't able to act while it had them scared.
Also in the blogosphere:
-- Cars are over-engineered.
Every weekday, tens of millions of Americans get into vehicles that are full of passenger space which won’t be used, with engines capable of horsepower and speeds that won’t be attained, holding fuel tanks that could power the car for distances that won’t be traveled.
-- Speaking of cars, from Autobloggreen: "Detroit News columnist calls electric cars 'inferior in every way,' which gets a response."
-- Via Earth2Tech, in terms of climate-change skeptics, count utility executives as a part of them:
In a survey of over 300 utility industry participants, in response to the question: 'Do you personally believe that fundamental, long-term global warming is taking place, or are we simply in a cyclical period of warming that is the result of the earth’s natural cycles?' — 39 percent of utility respondents said that they believe the earth is on a fundamental long-term warming trend."
-- And last but not least, the blogger who is picking up trash at Santa Monica Beach over the course of a year has now collected .... drum roll .... nearly 400 pounds of garbage in 98 days. Check out the pictures.
The panel at the National Electricity Forum here is focused on the future: How do we get a clean-energy economy going, and what role should the state utility regulators (whose annual conference overlaps with this conference) play in making it happen? But my own underlying concern is that the regulatory system for electricity in this country is so deeply rooted in a very different past that, during the next few years, rather than unlock a new clean-energy economy, we might instead lock in major portions of the old, carbon-intensive model.
Our electrical regulatory system was designed between 1910 and 1935, when the Federal Power Act put the final major capstone in place. In those years carbon-based fuels were abundant, cheap, and shippable. When oil and gas producers drilled into formations, the fuel actually gushed into the sky -- a far cry from today's technically challenging, deep underground fracking techniques. Pollution was not a factor in the cost of electricity -- society simply accepted that the Monongahela and other rivers were orange and that the air in New York so sooty that shirts were gray by noon. And data about the electrical system was scarce. Even in the 1950s, when I grew up in Maryland, our utility, Pepco, had no idea how much electricity my family was using until it sent a meter reader out to look at the dials.
As a result, the system that we designed and that we charged state regulators with implementing wasted fuel, was oblivious to pollution, and relied little on data. It was, in fact, designed to resist change and innovation, to be stable at all costs. It still is.
Compare the innovation rate of the electrical utilities to the telecommunications industry, where a new generation of smartphones seems to appear every six months. In contrast, electrons generated from Khrushchev-era nuclear power plants stream through Truman-administration mechanical switches to be largely wasted in Edison-designed incandescent light bulbs.
The Green Office Challenge, a program created by City of Chicago and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA, is being adopted by four new local governments: City of Charleston, SC; Nashville, TN; City of San Diego/Port of San Diego, CA; and Arlington County, VA.
ICLEI selected these pilot communities to develop the Challenge, a program that engages property managers and office tenants in a friendly competition to save money and reduce energy use in their buildings, as well as reduce waste, save water, and reach other environmental goals.
(Like what you read? Visit my blog EVs & Energy.)
The line for a new plug-in vehicle from a major OEM is now forming with Nissan's announcement that you can register for a first come - first served place in line to get their Leaf.
You can reserve your place in line starting in April for a refundable $100, and confirm the purchase as early as August for a delivery probably in December, or shortly thereafter.
Of interest is that they are confirming you can either buy the car, or lease it. No confirmation on whether you can buy the car and lease the battery. They're still working on how that would work, if at all.
Some might not feel it's important to get one of the first of any particular car, especially since brand new vehicles tend to have some shakeout issues that get fixed in subsequent iterations. However, there are those who like being in the vanguard and want to be the first on their block with exciting new technology.
Well, if you fit that description, you'll definitely want to get on Nissan's list. And GM's for that matter when it starts.
I wasn't that type of guy for most of my life, but I stumbled into the most incredible opportunity in 2002 that literally changed my life forever. My wife and I bought an electric car.
From that point on, we haven't emitted a whiff of pollution while driving.
We stopped going to gas stations entirely.
We never, ever wondered if our car would start and run. It's operated perfectly 100% of the time for over 7 years and 78,589 miles.
All of our energy money stays in our country. Most of it in our own pockets.
We can run our car with energy generated from the sunlight falling on our house.
All of these things making driving a complete and utter joy.
This is why I think Nissan and GM, not to mention BMW, Mitsubishi, Volvo, Mercedes, Ford and all the rest, are going to have a hard time keeping their cars in stock. There will be a strong initial demand followed by huge word of mouth.
"The hope is that the dark ash will absorb the sun's energy and help 'rot' the ice so it breaks up into smaller chunks and washes downstream, Berndt said."Coal ash contains heavy metals like lead, mercury, arsenic and more – all of which are linked to increased rates of cancer, learning disabilities and reproductive problems. The metals can be ingested through the dust or when dissolved in water.
If you love the Winter Olympics, then you'll hate the fact that Canadian oil sands -- the dirtiest of the dirty -- pose a threat to our planet. Visit lovewinter.org to learn more about this destructive process.
Fuel from the oil sands is the dirtiest in the world, producing three times the global warming pollution as conventional oil. The oil sands extraction and production process requires clear-cutting giant swaths of ancient forest and leaving behind toxic lakes so large they can be seen from space—lakes that kill birds and other wildlife and threaten to poison drinking water in neighboring communities.Join the Say No to Tar Sands group here on Climate Crossroads.
Here is a glimpse of the new food widget here on Climate Crossroads. The neat display is provided by our good friends at GoodGuide, who are experts in safe, healthy purchasing and eating. Keep visiting our awesome food section for sustainable recipes and tips.
Mahatma Gandhi brought the
Gandhi’s aura endures at the Ashoka-Lemelson Tech4Society conference. This initiative aims to provide technologies for the benefit of society at the “bottom of the pyramid” (BOP) – the most vulnerable segment of humanity, that currently lives below the poverty line of $1.25 a day.
The Ashoka fellows have put together impressive initiatives of socially-minded, development-focused technologies for providing the rural and urban poor with the services they desperately lack. From health care to micro credit to job creation, Ashoka fellows are stepping in where society has failed – and are doing a remarkable job.
One of the most interesting applications of their social entrepreneurship, and the one that is so reminiscent of Gandhi’s Salt March, relates to renewable energy. Today the BOP pay an enormous tax related to a lack of development, particularly from clean and reliable energy. Whether it is indoor air pollution that kills children, or a lack of reliable lighting that halts educational advancement, this hidden tax overwhelmingly adds to the constant grind of poverty.
Ashoka-Lemelson fellows Sergio Losana from Yansa, and Harish Hande from SELCO-India revealed in their presentations how the centralization of renewable energy is replicating the power structure that has kept fossil fuel industries rich, while blocking the poor from achieving development. From the familiar power of entrenched interests, to the overwhelming struggle to develop targeted renewable energy options, these fellows are determined that renewable energy will transcend the bifurcated world of the have’s and have not’s by democratizating energy and empowering the poor.
Hanish and Sergio, in the true spirit of social entrepreneurship, gave the gripping account of a world where renewable energy accomplishes the task of placing power in the hands of the people – where it ought to rightfully be. This task accomplishes a myriad of development benefits, while reducing black carbon and the misguided calls for coal fired power plants in the name of poverty alleviation. Environmental protection, clean energy, and development are after all, inextricably linked.
Gandhi empowered a nation by making salt. Sixty years later these fellows are empowering the nation by generating and distributing clean, renewable energy for the BOP. Today it is not about making salt, it is about making light - and along with it opportunity.
Regional energy planners say improved efficiency, conservation, wind power and gas will help the Pacific Northwest meet electricity demand over the next 20 years without adding an extra lump of coal.Join the Beyond Coal group here on Climate Crossroads and be a part of the solution.
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council unanimously adopted a regional energy plan Wednesday that avoids any new coal-fired plants for Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana through 2030.
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
It's Valentine's Day, a day when we spend some quality time with the people we love. And for some members of Congress, loved ones include dirty-energy polluters and lobbyists. That's the point behind PolluterHarmony.com. Can you smell the love in the air? Or, is that sulfur?
More doings from around the blogosphere:
-- Check out these eye-popping pics of mudslides in L.A.
-- This guy traveled through Antarctica for three months and blogged about it.
-- In China, stimulus funds go toward a bullet train. In the U.S., stimulus funds go toward a wine train in Napa.
-- Virgin's head honcho Richard Branson thinks we'll hit peak oil in five years.
-- Here's an interesting bike blog: An Old Guy on Two Wheels.
-- And last but not least, "If we were two trees, I would totally tree-date you."
The ignoramuses of Fox News thought it'd be cute to bury Al Gore's book in a patch of snow for their audience. How creative! Yes, all that snow in the East is playing well into the hands of skeptics whose only tactic is to distort the issue. Never mind the fact that Vancouver, home of the upcoming Winter Olympics has had barely any snow -- to the point that they've had to truck it in for the big event.
Jon Stewart here doesn't really get going until the third minute, but this whole segment is pretty funny.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Unusually Large Snowstorm|
A nice (snowy) day for a ride.
"Industry by and large gets it. Not because of climate change. But because they need to export and getting the environment right makes you a more interesting company. You almost have to do it." That comment, by Indian industrialist and WWF-India president Jamshyd N. Godrej, captures a key difference between India and the U.S.
Here in India, when you sit down with the Chamber Commerce, you talk about how to solve the mismatch between the need of industry for a work force that can green their businesses and the skills that students actually bring to their interviews. Here, when a journalist writes about how India does not have adequate coal reserves even to maintain its existing fleet of power plants, and imported coal is likely to become more expensive and difficult to obtain in the future, it's presented as a straight factual story. The media here feel no need to find the one coal-reserves expert who is a dissenter and can give him equal space.
My wife and I visited my Grandma's town this past weekend -- a weekend that happened to include the annual crab feed put on by the local American Legion post, which got me thinking about vegetarianism and seafood. For some reason, people seem to think seafood is not meat. "But you still eat crab, don't you?" my grandma asked. I shook my head. "What about white meat?" Uhhh.
My wife and I attended the event anyway just to be with Grandma and her friends -- and because proceeds go toward a good cause. In this town, crab feeds are among the most exciting things that happen.
Nearly 400 people packed the Legion's auditorium. Each table was waited on by Girl Scouts while some Cub Scouts bussed. Fresh Dungeness crab was served in blue buckets while the leftover shells were tossed in white buckets and carried back to the kitchen. There were a lot of buckets. I later found out that 1,200 pounds of crab total were trucked in for the feast.
About five years ago, I attended and happily participated. But now that I'm a vegetarian, my wife and I had to prepare. Pasta was also on the menu. But my instincts were proven right when it was served with meat sauce already plopped on top.
That's why my wife made our own pasta to bring. And some great sauce to boot -- regular tomato, basil sauce with cooked artichoke hearts. And she made tasty garlic bread using a sweet baguette. It was divine!
I learned from this experience that vegetarians have to be mindful of what's available when they attend events that provide prepared food. I also learned that vegetarians are expected to conform to what other people are doing, especially at something like a crab feed. Luckily we didn't get very many confused looks from people wondering what we were doing bringing our own food. Why go to a crab feed when you're not going to eat crab? Well, we don't get to see Grandma all that often!
And lastly, there are ways to eat seafood while keeping the planet in mind. Our oceans, rivers, and lakes are among the most vulnerable ecosystems out there. I recommend reading Julie Packard's (of the Monterey Bay Aquarium) recent article on sustainable seafood and taking the Sierra Club's excellent and educational "How Green is My Seafood" quiz.
New York City and the Urban Green Council have made a tall case for building codes as a key driver of urban environmental goals. The NYC Green Codes Task Force Report, presented last week to Mayor Bloomberg and City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn, included 111 recommendations – some innovative, some common sense – to amend and update existing building codes in the City to incorporate environmental protection as a fundamental principle. If implemented, the code changes would drastically slash energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, reduce costs for building owners, and make buildings safer and healthier places in which to live and work. And one more: begin building-by-building adaptations for unavoidable climate impacts like sea-level rise and stifling summers.
The report brims with ideas and insight for other local government staff to consider. Take for example, the environmental strategy of manipulating building codes, rather than mandating LEED certification, as many other local governments have done. From the report’s executive summary:
New York chose not to mandate LEED for private construction (LEED is already a requirement for public construction in New York). Rather, LEED is intended as a leadership standard (after all, the “L” in LEED stands for Leadership), not a baseline; New York City leaders want to raise the baseline to achieve large-scale change.
Greening the codes has significant advantages over mandating LEED for the private sector. Codes create economies of scale in both expertise and materials, thereby lowering costs. Codes are also enforceable, and they build on existing institutions and industry practices. They can be tuned to the priorities and conditions of a particular jurisdiction. In addition, codes allow the city to correct market failures, such as split incentives; these include landlords who do not want to pay for improvements because the benefits would go to their tenants. Finally, codes help the City achieve social equity and environmental justice. By modifying codes and driving down costs, green buildings can be available to all.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Jonathan Safran Foer|
I happened upon this LA times article and corresponding blog post about Long Beach, California’s intent to become "the most bicycle friendly city in America." This is a noble goal, and it’s refreshing to see city governments working to increase cyclists’ safety. The article lists other cities that “have made safe passage for bikes a priority,” and they’re the usual suspects: Portland, San Francisco, and New York City. These places are cycling bubbles (especially the Bay Area), and I know transportation by bike is not an option in many more rural areas.
The article piqued my interest because I’m going to Long Beach next weekend to visit friends. Maybe I should take my bike along to see what all the fuss is about! Long Beach is taking a page out of Vancouver’s book by creating “bike boulevards,” or “preferred routes for cyclists.” The city is also investing in programs to educate both cyclists and drivers about safety and sharing the road. After all, it’s scary being just a soft body on a bike surrounded by giant, speeding metal boxes, especially if you’re out there all alone (like I am most days on my ride to the train station). The best ways for me to feel safe on my bike are to wear a helmet, signal, ride with a light when it’s even the slightest bit dark, and actually follow all traffic laws – a novel concept for some cyclists.
Perhaps Long Beach can serve as a model for other city governments to invest in bicycle infrastructure. I’m holding out hope that, slowly, cyclists and drivers everywhere will learn to coexist.
The third and final revelation from this brutal economic storm is that we remain overly reliant on yesterday's energy production models.It's nice to see cities taking a stand on clean energy and global warming.
Unsustainable fossil fuels power too much of our quality of life. In Portland, that also means coal: 43% of all the energy we consume in Portland comes from the bowels of Wyoming - railroaded to Boardman (an Oregon coal plant) and beyond and burned into the blue skies of Eastern Oregon and the Rocky Mountains, and outside the reach of the Clean Air Act.
Folks, we do such a good job at home — from bicycling to recycling and more. But we need to kick our coal habit. Portland General Electric, Portland's principal energy provider and owner of the Boardman plant, is headed in that direction. I applaud their plans to phase out the Boardman coal plant.
But remember it's about a lot more than just the right thing to do. The so-called 'right thing to do' tends to resonate more with those who have the luxury of alternatives that are often more expensive. Mike, who's concerned about his next tamale sale, shouldn't be expected to think about clean energy power. Mike needs a living-wage job.
So, here's the best part about our approach: Because we have growing wind and solar industries right here; kicking our coal habit means growing jobs right here at home. There's no way I'm going to let us miss this opportunity.
Any of you old enough to remember the classic rock tune "My City Was Gone" by the Pretenders? Like singer Chrissie Hynde, I go back to Ohio, but my city (Akron, aka The Rubber City) is not gone. Can you imagine my surprise to find a great organic restaurant, VegiTERRANEAN, by none other than Chrissie Hynde herself, on my last visit?
While other little girls were into Barbie, I was idolizing Chrissie as the world's coolest rock chick. I think of her as a true pioneer, back in the day when MTV actually played videos. "Back on The Chain Gang" and "Middle of the Road" may have been bigger hits, but the anti-development anthem "My City Was Gone" has a blues rock riff that still inspires me.
My mother told me about VegiTERRANEAN and I was immediately on board. I must admit that despite my green leanings, kicking the meat habit has not been easy. Nevertheless, onward we went for our vegan meal.
Surprisingly, VegiTERRANEAN is not a tribute to Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders. There are a select few bits of memorabilia, a guitar on the wall type of thing, but Hard Rock Café it is not. The room is loft-style, swank by most city standards, with concrete floors, curved chain link walls and subdued blue lighting. It is dominated by a long bar serving a great selection of local microbrews and some organic wines. A little bit of SoHo in Akron.
The interior of VegiTERRANEAN.
Intrigued by my outstanding meal of garbanzo beans and tomatoes, I set up an interview with Chrissie. I wanted to get the scope on the little veggie haunt in Akron. She is a real rock star, so I have, well, edited her comments a bit to clean up the language, lots of F-bombs. Hynde is not your typical celebrity turned restauranteur, however. She made it clear: "I am not in this to make money." Her cause celeb is to reduce meat eating and its negative impact on humans and the environment.
According to this blog and this blog and this blog, Avatar, a Best Picture nominee, got it all wrong about tar-sands extraction -- and oil advocates think there should be a clarification. The movie uses an outdated mining machine! They use -- gasp a bucket wheel excavator.
How outrageous! I'm at a loss for words about the portrayal of the bucket wheel excavator!!! James Cameron must answer!!!!! There are not enough exclamation marks....!!!!
It’s sad actually. The movie is such an accurate portrayal of tar sands mining that all the industry can do is protest the type of equipment used. What the movie doesn't get wrong -- and what dirty-energy business folks can't really complain about -- is that tar-sands mining obliterates the environment, impacts the health of everyone living around it, and often includes under-the-table, behind-closed-doors political maneuvering.
It's a dirty business and it doesn't matter if it takes place on Pandora or Earth.
Deniers often use the weather to throw the debate. Let's all breathe and remember that one weather event in one part of the world doesn't really have to do with the overall warming trend that's ocurring globally.
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog worldEzra Klein asks: Why is the Obama administration supporting nuclear energy rather than bargaining with it?
Elsewhere in the blogosphere:
Republicans have, in recent years, become full-throated promoters of nuclear energy. At the same time, many Democrats have softened their stance against the technology. This would suggest an obvious compromise: The Obama administration embraces nuclear energy in return for Republican support on the broader energy agenda. Makes sense, right? Then why, Dan Weiss asks, did the White House offer up the nuclear energy guarantees in return for nothing?
A new material developed by researchers at Princeton and Caltech is capable of harvesting energy from the simplest of movements like walking or breathing. This new rubber chip made of PZT (lead zirconate titanate) nanoribbons could eventually power small portable electronic devices like cell phones.-- Some fecal with your lettuce?
"I've been hospitalized many times with asthma attacks. It's scary when you can't catch your breath. When I was young, going to the hospital with asthma was a monthly thing. Now I'm on an adult dose of asthma medicine and the only other way to manage the asthma is to limit my outdoor activities. That's hard to do at 14. My doctor's even talking to me about moving away from Houston's pollution when I go to college."Those are the words of 14-year old asthma patient Aaron Smith, who attended the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing on its proposed ozone rule in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday with his mother Rosa Smith. The Smith family lives near the Houston refineries.
That's certainly telling! Read the whole column for more details.
Have you ever been to the Ecological Farming Associations annual conference called EcoFarm?
Because it was "ecofarm," my presentation focused on the area in our book that describes ways and benefits of carbon sequestration in the soil. Being a chef and not a soil scientist -- I approach the subject from a culinary perspective. "We should think of the soil as a fine bordelaise sauce and know that as we put great ingredients into the soil, it will deliciously season all the things we take out."
Here's a good chart from our presentation that shows agricultural GHG emissions and how they can be offset.
Did you know that for every 10 carbons that are sequestered in the soil - one nitrogen is also sequestered? This chart from UC Davis (also in the book) shows the good results they have documented in this area:
Obama was talking to senate Democrats today. His message: don't give up on climate-change legislation. Watch the video here.
Here's the full transcript.
In case you've been living in a bunker or on vacation for the past three weeks, you should know that the Sierra Club has a new executive director in Michael Brune. (That's him on the right.) He was on CNBC recently. Watch the video here. Join the Welcome Michael Brune group and wish him well!
(Thanks for the pic, Marcy!)
The Green Investing group here on Climate Crossroads is one that is worth joining. I just got this note from the folks who run the group. Check it out!
We have posted new entries to our Green Investing blog. This week, you'll read about a new ESG index for North African and Middle Eastern companies, the importance of unity in carbon markets regulations, a new index on the greenest property companies, and the important new SEC guideline requiring environmental disclosure from publicly traded companies.
Looking forward to your comments and suggestions!
Last week we highlighted YouTube's CitizenTube campaign, which rounded up questions from American for Obama about all the adversities facing the country -- including energy and the environment. This week, the president sat down and answered a bunch of them. Watch the video.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
No one is. But it seems appropriate to quote them now, because some Shadow is creating a chasm between the vision of a clean-energy future for America, the reality that such a future is both urgently needed and already being born, and the depressing, almost despairing, inability of our politics to grasp and empower that future.
I don't know what the Shadow is, but I can see the chasm.
Begin with the Idea. President Obama once again articulated it in his State of the Union Message, as he often has before:
"I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy. I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But here's the thing -- even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean-energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation. "
The upside of clean energy is looking brighter and brighter. The consulting firm McKinsey has produced yet another detailed road map for reforming America's energy sector (and making tons of money). They calculate that each year that we don't adopt cost-saving, economically lucrative energy efficiency and performance reforms, it costs our economy $130 billion dollars.
Things are not always as they appear.
I quit meat for 2010 to reduce my carbon footprint. But this past week I've come to realize that vegetarianism is not a be-all, end-all. For example, the other day I noticed after the fact that the grapes I bought were from Chile. Whoops. And then I read Mr. Green's articles here and here about why purchasing meat from small farmers might be better than eating no meat at all. He makes a very persuasive "eat less meat" argument.
Meanwhile, I am in the middle of The Omnivore's Dilemma by food guru Michael Pollan. I was struck by the chapter about Big Organic and the industry's steady morph into something that resembles the conventional. I'm always leery of "organic" microwable dinners that I periodically see at my grocery store. But what Pollan writes here (p.182) really stuck out:
[P]erhaps most discouraging of all, my industrial organic meal is nearly as drenched in fossil fuel as its conventional counterpart. Asparagus traveling in a 747 from Argentina; blackberries trucked up from Mexico; a salad chilled to thirty-six degrees from the moment it was picked in Arizona [...] to the moment I walk it out the doors of my Whole Foods.[...] Today it takes between seven and ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate. And while it is true that organic farmers don't spread fertilizers made from natural gas or spray pesticides made from petroleum, industrial organic farmers often wind up burning more diesel fuel than their conventional counterparts: in trucking bulky loads of compost across the countryside and weeding their fields, a particularly energy-intensive process involving extra irrigation and extra cultivation.
I guess there are a few lessons here: eat local; eat seasonal; and while quitting meat probably does wonders to one's carbon footprint, it's not the whole enchilada, so to speak. And last but not least, food labels (i.e. "organic", "cage-free") are not always what they insinuate. There's vegetarianism and then there's smart vegetarianism.
The Sierra Club hung out with Reverb during the Grammys weekend. Read about it and check out some great pics at our Green Music group here on Climate Crossroads!
The 2009 United Nations World Economic and Social Survey clearly showed the world must lay the foundations for a clean energy future or face the repercussions of its failure in the form of runaway climate change. Nowhere is the necessity of these actions more urgent than in rapidly industrializing countries. If the renewable energy technology of the future is not quickly used to satisfy the ever increasing thirst for energy in these countries, they have no choice but to turn to the artificially cheap and dirty fuel sources of the past.
One of the key countries deciding the fate of the planet is
developments, however, with the news coming from
While it seems that the sources of obstructionism