Top Kill Fails. Now What?
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:59PM PST on May 30, 2010
Obama Visits Gulf; Fingers Crossed on Top Kill
With the top kill idea toast, BP and government officials are looking at options. And it doesn't look good. Today officials speculated that this thing might spew oil into the Gulf in August
A top Obama administration official warned Sunday that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill might not be stopped until late summer after BP's latest attempt to plug the leak failed.
The "American people need to know" that it's "possible we will have oil leaking from this well until August, when the relief wells will be finished," said Carol Browner, the White House energy advisor.
Browner said on CBS that Energy Secretary Steven Chu and a team of scientists on Saturday essentially put a halt to BP's attempt to cap the spewing well through a process known as "top kill." The administration team worried that the increasing pressure from heavy drilling mud being forced into the well to seal it actually would make the leak worse.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:38PM PST on May 28, 2010
It's Friday, There's Still an Oil Disaster
Obama was in Grand Isle, Lousiana today to talk about BP's oil disaster. Here's some video from AP. "Right now we're still within the window where we don't know the outcome," he says.
We will probably find out this weekend whether BP's "top kill" idea is going to seal the gash for good. The procedure has never been tried this deep before. BP had to temporarily suspend the procedure for a second time in two days.
The suspension of the effort was not announced, and appeared to again contradict statements by company and government officials that suggested the top kill procedure was progressing Friday. Andrew Gowers, a BP spokesman, said he would not give “blow-by-blow commentaries.” He added: “The operation is by definition a series of phases of pumping mud and shooting bridging materials and junk and reading pressure gauges. It is going to keep going, perhaps 48 more hours.”
If the top kill and junk shots fail, BP officials planned to try again to place a containment vessel over the leak, which might allow them to capture the oil but would not stop the leak. A previous attempt failed.
Meanwhile, pundits are trying to calculate the political implications of this mess. Via Swampland:
It's tempting to judge situations like this on the daily ups and downs of politics, but real impact of the oil spill on Obama will only become clear in the weeks and months to come. If the spill is capped quickly, BP is made to pay the entire tab for cleanup and damages and new better regulations are put into place to prevent such a catastrophe in the future, the political damage could be minimized. But if the well continues to gush unabated, local and state officials lodge legitimate complaints about federal roadblocks or, even worse, there's a whiff of federal abandonment before the region's inhabitants are made whole again, Obama could suffer mightily.
If you want to get involved in the effort to never let this happen again, visit the Sierra Club's oil spill page to take action
. And join the BP Oil Disaster group
on Climate Crossroads for daily updates and pictures.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:22AM PST on May 28, 2010
All About Birds
U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen was on CBS
's Early Show
to talk about today's presidential visit and also the idea of building man-made barrier islands as a way to contain the oil disaster.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:07AM PST on May 28, 2010
This Week's Blogosphere Soup
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:53AM PST on May 28, 2010
Oil Disaster Deja-Vu
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
You might've read that the Nature Conservancy took a PR hit this week because of its special relationship
with oil-spill culprit BP. Read this interesting summary
of the Conservancy's pre-emptive damage-control campaign.
Speaking of damage control, BP's VP did a pretty weak job trying to explain the oil company's progress in recovering the oil. In fact it was downright misleading
Also in the blogosphere:
-- The NAACP examines the implications
of BP's oil disaster on civil rights.
-- Malaria + global warming = not good
-- Meanwhile, Greenland is losing ice
at "an accelerating rate. Satellite altimetry find glaciers are sliding faster downhill and dumping more ice into the ocean. Altimetry data also find the ice sheet is thinning."
-- The Green Life posted tips all week about greening your laundry habits
-- Go to your farmers' market, buy some carrots and try making a carrot salad
"with harissa, feta, and mint." Harissa and feta and mint, oh my!
-- And last but not least, the blogger who is picking up trash at Santa Monica Beach has now collected 488 pounds in 123 days
Posted by: Heather M at 6:47AM PST on May 28, 2010
Say a Little Bike-ku for Me
Here's a disturbing segment from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show last night - all about some Gulf of Mexico oil spill deja-vu. Turns out a very, very similar situation as this current BP tragedy happened just over 30 years ago. And we still don't know how to fix the problems all these years later.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:34PM PST on May 27, 2010
Denver in the Lead of U.S. City Bike Sharing Initiatives
The Climate Crossroads Bicycle haiku (bike-ku) contest ends Monday. It's easy to enter! All you have to do is join the Bicycle group, post a picture, and paste in a haiku. Since May is National Bike Month, the contest is all in good fun. But there are some serious prizes.
The top prize is a Breezer Uptown 8. And two runners-up will get a Nutcase helmet and a Kryptonite lock. Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, an avid bicyclist and author of H.R. 4722, the Active Community Transportation Act, will choose the grand prize winner. A panel of bike happy Sierra Club staffers will select the finalists next week.
Go ahead and enter our Bike-ku contest, but don't end up in court like these dudes on account of our contest. (It's pretty funny watching Judge Judy grapple with the price of this stolen bike -- check it out at the four-minute mark.)
Posted by: Don Knapp, ICLEI USA at 11:04AM PST on May 27, 2010
St. Francis to Norton
Photo credit: City and County of Denver website
(From the ICLEI USA Local Action blog; by Rena Ragimova)
On Earth Day. April 22, 2010 Denver, CO launched the first U.S. citywide B-cycle bike sharing program. The program has been popularized in over 50 cities Europe and Asia and has recently started making its way to North America. B-cycle members can pick up and return their bike at over 500 B-cycle stations around Denver and surrounding areas.
Bike-sharing could be part of the solution to traffic congestion, air pollution, and obesity. The Denver program has spurred others around the country to take up similar plans. Minneapolis is launching its Nice Ride Minnesota program as soon as June 10, 2010. Washington, DC and Arlington, VA plan to unveil a joint bike sharing program this Fall which will be the largest scale program in the U.S.
“Bike sharing is a viable transportation option to help improve the overall health of Americans and reduce our carbon footprint. Let’s start a two-wheel revolution. Let’s make every day Bike-to-Somewhere Day." said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper before leading a bike parade around Denver's City Center Park. With this program he also leads mayors in implementing similar programs around the country.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 11:00AM PST on May 27, 2010
Coal: Good News and An Opportunity for More
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, left the Bay Area on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here.]
Prime Kansas Prairie
After a horrible night of barking dogs, constant driving around by the neighbors, a almost skunk intruder and more wind, we hit the road with me feeling rather weak.
The winds started the day from the north and moved around rather quickly to the east. So not only was I feeling weak but we were battling headwinds all day. After 72 miles, we stopped but Sean wanted to ride so I gave him my bike and Catherine and I drove another 30 miles to Norton where we found a nice campground alongside a reservoir. The winds were dying down and we were feeling pretty good when we saw Sean ride in. As he got within about 100 feet of our site, he hit a pile of loose gravel and went down. There was plenty of gore and Catherine did her best to clean up the wounds. Sean was a real trooper and didn't cry at all!! Fortunately for my bicycle, SEan took most of the impact of the fall and my bike survived with only a couple of new scratches.
As the evening fell, a thunderstorm moved in along with huge winds that lasted all night. We did't get much rain but we did get a pretty good show of lightening and thunder.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:27AM PST on May 27, 2010
A Satellite's Eye View
Last week our Michigan Chapter and everyone who loves clean air and clean energy got some great news when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (MDNRE) denied a permit for the proposed Wolverine coal-fired power plant.
We're cheering the news - the DNRE decision states there is no need for the proposed power plant, in Rogers City, Michigan, and that alternative methods are available that would supply the customers of the four electric cooperatives that make up Wolverine with electricity at a much cheaper rate than the cost of building a new coal plant.
State officials estimated that the proposed plant would increase the electric rates charged by the cooperatives by at least 59.2% even after Wolverine suggested reducing the plant by half.
Residents had been fighting this plant and calling for clean energy options instead for almost three years now!
"The cost of Wolverine coal would have meant diminished health, diminished economy, and great injury to our environment which sustains our lives," said Jean Veselenak, a resident of Rogers City. "Wolverine must now put its head to the real thing; wind, solar; and new technology that already exists in Michigan. Our families deserve these jobs and their health after long promises."
We also saw good news from Ohio last week
when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA and Department of Justice announced a settlement with American Municipal Power that will shut down AMP's last coal plant in Ohio
by 2012: the Richard Gorsuch Station, located near Marietta, over its Clean Air Act violations.
This move will clean Ohio's air, reduce global warming pollution, and prevent destructive coal mining by AMP. The company will also spend $15 million on an energy efficiency program that will further reduce polluting emissions and save consumers money.
Now after that good news, we head to West Virginia, where we need your help bringing good news to the residents of Logan County. There is a very important deadline rapidly approaching - on June 1st EPA will stop taking public comments on its proposed veto of the permit that would allow devastating mountaintop removal coal mining at the massive Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, West Virginia.
Local residents have been actively challenging the approval of this permit at the Spruce No. 1 Mine
for more than twelve years. The proposed expansion of the mine would bury more than seven miles of headwater streams, directly impact 2,278 acres of forestland, and degrade water quality in nearby streams. This EPA veto would stop that expansion.
We urge you to join us in supporting EPA in its proposal to veto Spruce No. 1
, one of the largest proposed mountaintop removal coal mines ever authorized in Appalachia. Take action right now to block this mine's permit.
As with the Ohio AMP plant closure settlement, this is another example: EPA has a critical role in protecting our health, and the health of our environment.
We must not let this dirty coal mine move forward in Appalachia.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:48AM PST on May 27, 2010
Top Kill Comes With Top Risk
We showed you the view from inside the oil spill
. Now take a look at the disaster from space. NASA's put together this timelapse thanks to its Terra and Aqua satellites. The video begins on April 21 with a plume of smoke and concludes Monday with what looks like a giant dark stain in the ocean blue.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:07PM PST on May 26, 2010
Coalition Gathers to Call for Clean Energy, No Oil
BP's "top kill" procedure to plug up the gash is underway. Let's hope this works. The L.A. Times
's Greenspace blog
mentions that if it fails, it could exacerbate the situation.
If executed incorrectly, however, the top kill could blow the fail-safe systems, dramatically increasing the flow of oil.
Posted by: Heather M at 2:23PM PST on May 26, 2010
BP's Disaster Is Not Like an "Airplane Crash"
Clean Energy Works and a coalition of environmental and veterans groups (including the Sierra Club) gathered on Capitol Hill today for a press conference calling for some major action on ending the BP oil disaster and passing comprehensive clean energy legislation. The coalition's top five priorities are:
- Stop the gusher
- Now is not the time for new drilling
- Make the Gulf communities and environment whole
- Demand more accountability and transparency from government and industry
- End dependence on oil and move to a new clean energy economy
It was an impressive list of speakers:
- Margie Alt, Executive Director, Environment America
- Lt. General John Castellaw, US Marine Corps
- Gene Karpinski, President, League of Conservation Voters
- Mindy Lubber, President, Ceres
- Kevin Knoblach, President, Union of Concerned Scientists
The speakers all echoed this sentiment: We can do better than oil - there's no need for our country to be so addicted to it.
The words were dramatic when combined with the feed of the BP oil pipe gushing playing on a TV behind them - you can see that behind LCV head Gene Karpinski in this photo.
I also particularly enjoyed hearing from Lt. General John Castellaw (retired, and shown at the podium in the photo at the top of this post) of the Marine Corps, who spoke about the threat of our oil addiction to our national security.
Today's press conference also highlighted a letter to President Obama that 26 groups signed onto calling for those five points listed above to be met. Click here to read the letter (PDF).
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:10AM PST on May 26, 2010
Tesla & Toyota: Going Steady?
At about 2:50 of this clip, Sen. Alexander of Tennessee compares the BP disaster to an plane crash. "We can't stop flying just because we have a terrible airplane crash, but we can do everything we can to make sure we don't have another one," he says.
Does this analogy hold water (or oil)? I like Sierra Club's tweeted response: "Sen. Alexander, this BP oil disaster is more comparable to the Hindenberg -- when’s the last time you flew on a dirigible?"
The way to "make sure we don't have another" disaster is to end offshore drilling for good. Take action and let your elected representatives know that you mean business.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 8:54AM PST on May 26, 2010
Live Oil Spill Feed, We Hardly Knew Ye
Announced Thursday, the hooking up of Tesla with Toyota took everybody by surprise. As part of the deal, Tesla is buying the giant NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. This facility has an interesting history as told in this excellent piece from This American Life. Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, lusted after this plant early in the search for a manufacturing plant for their Model S, but the size of the plant at 5.3 million sq ft was too much for his needs. With Toyota's desire to build a low-cost EV using a Tesla designed drivetrain, all of a sudden, the numbers started to work.
According to GreenBeat, "Again, this is a pretty radical change of pace for Tesla — and it’s apparently come about very quickly. The company had been interested in the NUMMI facility for a while. It met with the plant’s representatives about three months ago with no results. About a month ago, Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of Toyota, approached Musk about a potential strategic partnership, and the two executives hit it off, Musk says".
Also from GreenBeat:
1. The joint development of a brand new,sub- $30,000 electric car, that will contain Tesla’s unique powertrain design, with everything else built by Toyota;
2. The purchase of the NUMMI plant, where Tesla plans to manufacture both its Model S sedan due out in 2012, a new $30,000 Tesla-designed vehicle, and the more affordable jointly designed “third-generation” vehicle;
3. A $50 million investment from Toyota into Tesla when the company goes public, probably later this year.
All in all, this is great news! We'll have more choices in the EV world in a few years. The Volts and Leafs will prime the market for late entries, and if we get a decent energy bill that assigns a price to carbon, then the cost of gas will rise making more and more people make the switch.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:05PM PST on May 25, 2010
Sierra Club Illinois Marches Against BP with Rev. Jesse Jackson
UPDATE (5/26): Amid pressure, BP has agreed to keep the camera rolling during its "top kill" attempt.
Click here to get a clear glimpse of BP's live shot of the leaking well before it goes dark. Yeah, that's right. BP plans to cut off the feed tomorrow before it moves forward with its so-called "top kill" procedure in which "heavy mud and cement are to be shot into the well to plug it up. The procedure has never been tried a mile beneath the sea, and company executives estimate its chances of success at 60 to 70 percent."
Posted by: Heather M at 11:54AM PST on May 25, 2010
What Would it Be Like to Dive into the Oil Spill?
Our Illinois Chapter
got a visit from a major icon. On Monday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson invited Illinois Chapter staffers Jack Darin, Jen Hensley and Sarah Gulezian to march with him and his Rainbow PUSH Coalition
at a Chicago BP Station. Check out this video from the event:
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:00AM PST on May 25, 2010
A Thousand Words Can't Describe
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:43PM PST on May 24, 2010
While Pundits Chat, Oil Hits Shore and Wildlife
Don't miss The Big Picture's gallery of the BP oil disaster. The oil has reached Louisiana's shore and the sights are tragic and stunning. Of the photos, the one pictured here of a dragonfly with splotches of oil on its wings really stands out. Other images include a saturated crab, a dying heron weighted down by thick oily filth, and the bare foot of an eight-year-old beachgoer with small specks of oil on it.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:39AM PST on May 24, 2010
Lesson Learned on Offshore Drilling?
In the world of politics and pundits, Sunday is the day to hit the airwaves. With BP's oil disaster a month old, many of them were chatting about it.
Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy
Did you watch the panel discussion of the BP oil disaster yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press"? If not, here it is. Thomas Friedman in particular had some strong thoughts on it: Obama's White House's philosophy has been, "Think small and carry a big stick."
On a related note, Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs sent a message to Sarah "Drill, Baby, Drill" Palin:
Meantime, BP's oil slick hit wildlife in a major way over the weekend:
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:52AM PST on May 24, 2010
A Different Call of the Wild
Here's the president's weekly address. "Even as we continue to hold BP accountable, we also need to hold Washington accountable," he says. Obama adds that we cannot let this kind of thing happen again. But today's New York Times reports on several other offshore drilling projects moving forward since BP's explosion last month.
In the days since President Obama announced a moratorium on permits for drilling new offshore oil wells and a halt to a controversial type of environmental waiver that was given to the Deepwater Horizon rig, at least seven new permits for various types of drilling and five environmental waivers have been granted, according to records.
What happened to that supposed moratorium?
These folks in Washington need to hear that we're serious. Click here
to take action.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:36AM PST on May 24, 2010
Latest BP Oil Disaster Videos
Let's start off the week on an upbeat note -- like, some auto-tuned wolves.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:22PM PST on May 21, 2010
Go Wind Yourself
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:38PM PST on May 21, 2010
Green Jobs and Oil Independence -- The Breaking Wave
Posted by: Carl Pope at 2:36PM PST on May 21, 2010
The Future (for getting off oil) Is So Bright...
A few months ago, I visited Tokyo for a few days to try to help persuade Toyota to keep open its Fremont NUMMI Plant and build green cars in California.
Although, the plant shut down as scheduled on April 1 -- last night Toyota announced a new joint venture with Tesla Motors
to build electric cars at the Fremont facility.
The initial proposal is for a limited production line that won't make full use of the plant's capacity, so it's important that Toyota commit to going beyond this first step by also making hybrid vehicles -- not just electric vehicles -- in Fremont until the customer demand for EVs has grown significantly.
Nevertheless, this is a tremendous victory for the partnership between environmentalists and labor, as well as a model for how to start building the green-jobs economy of the future while getting America off oil.
Another big break came today in the Rose Garden of the White House when President Obama announced that, for the first time, the federal government will establish fuel-efficiency and greenhouse-pollution standards for heavy-duty trucks as well as for passenger vehicles. In a relatively short time, such standards could reduce emissions from long-distance trucking by one third.
The president had another, equally important, announcement: The EPA, Department of Transportation, and California will collaborate to set emission and efficiency standards for cars and light-duty passenger vehicles on a much longer time horizon. That's an essential step for letting automakers know: "You've got 15 years here, but you have to get off oil." Although those standards weren't announced today, this is still a huge breakthrough in the reshaping of the American transportation sector so that it can free itself from the grip of oil.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:32PM PST on May 21, 2010
This Week's Blogosphere Soup
This post was written by Jesse Prentice-Dunn of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign. Be sure to join the Green Transportation Group.
Definitely should have worn sunglasses this morning – both for the early summer sun beaming down on the White House Rose Garden, but also for the bright future for ending our dependence on oil.
This morning in the Rose Garden, President Obama announced that his administration would issue the first ever standards for medium and heavy duty trucks
(think UPS delivery vehicles and tractor trailers). Freight trucks are only 4% of the vehicles on the road, but spew more than 21% of all global warming pollution from transportation. Amazingly, the heavy trucks on the road today average 6 mpg, barely more than they did in 1970.
Improvements to freight truck engines and trailer design, using technologies already on the shelf, can significantly increase efficiency. These improvements will save truckers money, lower costs for businesses, and reduce oil use and emissions from freight shipping. To seriously tackle emissions from freight shipping, we must begin to shift freight to rail and make freight trucks more efficient.
Also this morning, the President announced that the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would begin work on the next round of efficiency standards for our passenger cars and trucks for 2017 and beyond. Importantly, California will be at the table, as it is currently developing state greenhouse gas standards for cars from 2017-2025.
My take on this morning - it is clear that the years of inaction that have hooked us on oil are over
. This administration has set a path that will cut oil from our freight trucks for the first time ever and is moving aggressively to develop and deploy advanced technology vehicles that can provide a cleaner alternative to oil altogether. This is a wonderful first step, and we must continue to push for a future not dependent on oil.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:53AM PST on May 21, 2010
Brief Live-Tweeting from the White House
Posted by: Heather M at 6:57AM PST on May 21, 2010
Bland Bill Needs Bite
Sierra Club Executive Chairman Carl Pope and Green Transportation Campaign
Representative Jesse Prentice-Dunn are at the White House this morning at President Obama makes an important announcement on emissions and fuel economy standards for trucks. Jesse will be live-tweeting from @SierraClubLive
- so go check that out (unless White House officials block that fun capability!).
Here's our statement
on today's announcement:
Truck Emissions Standards a Strong Start
Will Decrease U.S. Global Warming Pollution, Oil Dependence
Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama is announcing today that
the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) are setting the first-ever emissions standards for medium
and heavy duty trucks starting in 2014 and will begin the next round of
standards for cars and light trucks for 2017 and beyond.
Statement of Carl Pope, Chairman of Sierra Club
With the oil disaster in the Gulf showing us of the true cost of our
oil dependence, we applaud President Obama for this
historic announcement to improve the fuel economy of trucks. We urge
the administration to set the strongest standards to drive us towards an
oil-free energy future.
We need to end our dependence on oil as quickly as possible and the
steps the President announced today will help us move us closer to that
goal while also cleaning the air we breathe.
After cars and light trucks, freight trucks are the second largest
consumers of oil – burning more than 2.4 million barrels per day and
growing. Right now these trucks only average 6 miles per gallon--a
number that has remained virtually unchanged since the 1970’s.
We are thrilled that the administration is moving forward with the
next round of standards for cars and light trucks. Setting standards
for vehicles for the longer term is needed to push old technology out
and bring in the new. We are pleased that California is joining with
EPA and NHTSA in looking at technology, continuing its critical
leadership in setting a high bar for reducing vehicle greenhouse gas
For heavy duty trucks, these standards are a great start, but it is
important to begin moving more freight by rail. This will yield the
greatest savings in both oil and global warming pollution.
As part of the plan to end our oil dependence, we are also calling on
President Obama to issue a presidential moratorium on offshore
drilling. We already have the technology to create a clean, 21st century
transportation system that will end our addiction to oil. We've been
talking about getting off oil for decades. The disaster in the Gulf is a
wake up call. It's time to get off oil and on to clean energy.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:18PM PST on May 20, 2010
"Durango Reactions'' and What the Ride's All About
The Peterson Institute for International Economics
yesterday released this analysis of the Senate's American Power Act climate bill that senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman released last week. I've been reading various reactions
about it, but The Vine
highlighted this graph in the report, which caught my eye. Notice the numbers for renewable energy:
Interestingly, the bill would make virtually no difference to the solar and wind industries. But that's not too surprising -- the Senate's renewable energy standard is woefully weak, and not likely to do much to improve on existing state standards.
This blurb illuminates why there are reasons to want to see this bill strengthened. Offshore drilling, nuclear, and coal are too prioritized in the bill. However, the American Power Act still sets an emissions standard that the U.S. has previously refused to adopt. The bill needs some bite. Click here
to get going on contacting your senators and spreading the word.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 12:30PM PST on May 20, 2010
So You Want to Be an Oil Baron (Video)
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, left the Bay Area on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here.]
From the road in Durango ... including "poppa wheelies" bike delivery service checking out the bikes.
Jeff Litton of ugena.org joined the Green Riders for the first couple of days of the ride and created this video which is a great introduction to what the Green Riders are doing and why. http://ugena.org/thegreenriders/
Posted by: John Byrne Barry at 11:23AM PST on May 20, 2010
BP's Oil Disaster Getting Loopy
Here's a short spoof from the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter on how pro-drilling governors can keep pushing for offshore drilling despite the BP disaster in the Gulf. Starring Roger Diedrich and Ivy Main.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:13PM PST on May 19, 2010
Gulf Aid Fundraiser -- Who Gets the Funds?
This image by European Space Agency shows the Gulf's loop current and its role in how it'll influence the oil slick's path. The picture was taken by ESA's Envisat satellite. (h/t Space Gizmo.)
While everyone waits and watches the slick, environmental groups are fighting back. The Sierra Club has joined other organizations in suing MMS for waiving required rig standards in the Gulf
In terms of recent media news -- in case you missed it -- radio clown Rush Limbaugh demanded to know when the Sierra Club will pay for the clean-up (yeah, he wasn't kidding) ; NYT's Thomas Friedman pondered why the White House hasn't toughened up on the country's oil addiction in light of BP's disaster; and we all marked our calendars for Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune's appearance tonight on MSNBC's "Hardball." We'll post it here when the segment becomes available.
Join the BP Oil Disaster group on Climate Crossroads for the latest news and pictures.
Posted by: jamie hansen at 1:06PM PST on May 19, 2010
Meatless Mondays Gaining Popularity
I just recently read a blog post by the nonprofit Bucket Brigade regarding Saturday's Gulf Aid concert
, which was designed to fundraise monies to assist those negatively affected by the oil disaster. The post, which you can read here
, explains that the Bucket Brigade was almost asked to leave the show (for rather vague reasons involving targeting British Petroleum through one of their signs and asking for donations). It also raises the concern that the recipients
of the Gulf Aid fundraiser have yet to be named. Eyebrows raised, I called to check in with local radio station WWOZ's general manager and even co-founder David Freedman to see what was up with the Gulf Aid monies.
Freedman verified that recipients of the Gulf Aid fundraiser haven't yet been chosen: "We're trying to get on the ground, visit these groups, and widen our pool so we consider all the possible groups [that are worthy]," he said.
Freedman is one of the three members of the Gulf Aid board, along with plumbing contractor Joe Jaeger and Sidney Torres of SDT Waste and Debris Services.
Freedman said the final tally of the funds raised through last Saturday's concert wasn't completed yet, and declined to give an estimate of what those funds might be. He did say that the amount -- and the names of the beneficiaries -- will likely be released Friday.
According to a Times-Picayune
article, the board is using the following criteria in selecting those beneficiaries:
The foundation's creators are hoping to support organizations that meet the foundation's three standards: Money must go as directly as possible to beneficiaries, not operating costs; it must help either wildlife or people whose livelihoods were directly affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill; and it must target needs not being addressed by government...
It sounds like the board could use some help finding the best -- and most legitimate -- groups to donate to. To encourage the Gulf Aid group to donate to an organization you think deserves it most, email David Freedman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The fundraiser seems like a wonderful idea: "The principle of this thing was based on the fact that when Katrina came, we were all waiting around for outside money and insurance to flow in," said Freedman. "This time, we didn't want to wait, we wanted to do something."
Hopefully, Gulf Aid will be transparent about its fundraising and decision making as it moves on from Saturday's concert.
Stay tuned as we continue to cover how much Gulf Aid raised and where the money will go.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:34AM PST on May 19, 2010
Three New Govt Reports Call for Action on Global Warming
The Washington Post has a very interesting article today on the increasing popularity of Meatless Mondays (We have a Meatless Monday action right here on Climate Crossroads, as well as two meatless groups, too)
The article, entitled "Meatless Mondays, A Movement That Has Legs," covers all the angles of why people are doing it, as well as the meat industry's paranoid response. An excerpt:
It's enough to make the meat industry nervous. Over the past year,
lobbying groups including the American Meat Institute, the National
Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Pork Board and the Farm
Bureau have launched a quiet campaign to try to reverse the momentum.
They have fired off missives to institutions that embrace the call to
reduce meat consumption, and they have posted talking points for meat
producers on the Internet. They are also making a final push to ensure
that the government recommendation of two servings of meat per day
remains enshrined in the new dietary guidelines that the Department of
Agriculture will release this fall....
In response, the meat industry has stressed science...To
environmentalists, they point to new research that challenges widely publicized statistics
that livestock production creates more greenhouse gases than forms
of automated transportation.
Nervous meat producers! Could be a good band name. Are you into Meatless Mondays?
Posted by: Heather M at 8:46AM PST on May 19, 2010
Fighting Oil With Hair
The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences today released three brand new reports on global warming
as part of the America's Climate Choices
project. This afternoon you'll be able to watch a webcast of the press conference for these reports right here
First up is the "Advancing the Science of Climate Change" report:
phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses (of global warming) have been examined
thoroughly and have stood firm in the face of serious debate and careful
evaluation of alternative explanations.
Climate change is
occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant
risks for - and in many cases is already affecting - a broad range of
human and natural systems... It calls for a new
era of climate change science where an emphasis is placed on
"fundamental, use-inspired" research, which not only improves
understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change but also
is useful to decision makers at the local, regional, national, and
international levels acting to limit and adapt to climate change....
recommends that a single federal entity or program be given the
authority and resources to coordinate a national, multidisciplinary
research effort aimed at improving both understanding and responses to
The second report is "Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change
," which calls for serious action on greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. This report concludes that:
- Strong U.S. actions to reduce emissions will help encourage other
countries to do the same.
- An inclusive national policy
framework is needed to ensure that all levels of government, the private
sector, and millions of households and individuals are contributing to
shared national goals.
- The U.S. should establish a
greenhouse gas emissions "budget" that sets a limit on total domestic
emissions over a set period of time and provides a clear, directly
- The longer the nation waits
to begin reducing emissions, the harder and more expensive it will
likely be to reach any given emissions target.
- A carbon-pricing system is the most cost-effective way to reduce
- Carbon pricing alone, however, is not enough to sufficiently reduce
Finally, the third report is "Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change,
" which "notes that policymakers need to anticipate a range of possible climate
conditions and that uncertainty about the exact timing and magnitude of
impacts is not a reason to wait to act...
adaptive capacity now can be viewed as 'an insurance policy against an
uncertain future,' while inaction could increase risks, especially if
the rate of climate change is particularly large."
Conclusions from this report include:
- Policymakers need to anticipate a range of possible climate conditions
and that uncertainty about the exact timing and magnitude of impacts is
not a reason to wait to act.
- A national adaptation strategy is needed to facilitate cooperation and
collaboration across all lines of government and between government and
other key parties, including the private sector, community
organizations, and nongovernmental organizations.
- We must identify vulnerabilities to climate change impacts and begin to examine
adaptation options that will improve resilience.
- Adaptation to climate change should not be seen as an alternative to
attempts to limit it.
These reports were requested by Congress and funded by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Academy of Sciences will release two more reports later this year as part of the America's Climate Choices series.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:57AM PST on May 18, 2010
Some Other Energy & Global Warming News
Lisa Gautier, who co-founded Matter of Trust, is partnering with other organizations in an ongoing drive to deliver tons of hair stuffed in pantyhose to the Gulf to soak up the oil. Yesterday I had the opportunity to chat with her on the phone. She's a pretty busy person these days. Matter of Trust began its hair collecting drive 10 years ago. The effort really took off after the Cosco Busan spill three years ago. But it was only after the BP disaster last month that the hair idea exploded.
"My phone is just ringing off the hook," Gautier told me.
She told me that May 20 will be the day hair by the truckloads will be heading to the Gulf. And we're not just talking about human hair.
"Because this is the shearing season, sheep farmers and alpaca farmers are just trucking it in," she told me. "It's coming in droves."
It sure seems like a better idea than lighting the slick on fire. Hair naturally takes in oil. That's why we shampoo it out.
Gautier's efforts have paid off with press coverage. The New York Times, CNN, and Reuters are among the dozens of outlets that have provided coverage. (Gawker summarizes all the weird clean-up ideas in addition to hair.)
Here's a pretty great demonstration of what we're talking about:
If you want to donate your hair to help clean up BP's catastrophic mess, click here for the details.
Posted by: Heather M at 9:37AM PST on May 18, 2010
Grim Oily Trajectory
There's still news happening out there related to other energy and global warming issues beyond the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
We'll start with a news hit that's slightly related to the BP drilling, though. Recently we lost our final appeal against Shell in its bid for oil drilling leases in the Arctic's Beaufort and Chukchi seas. One of our many arguments against allowing drilling in the Arctic waters is because an oil spill there would be even harder to clean up due to icy waters and how remote the region is
Well Shell is now attempting to respond to those concerns - see this LA Times article
Shell Oil Co. pledged Monday to deploy a prefabricated coffer dam ready for "immediate" use in the event of a blowout, with a full-scale oil spill response within an hour.
In a letter intended to reassure federal officials that offshore drilling can safely begin in the fragile Arctic in July despite the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell said it also would be ready to apply dispersant immediately underwater near the source of any oil flow and would have a remotely operated submersible and trained divers at the drilling site.
Sorry Shell, despite this move, we still think Arctic drilling is a bad idea. Learn more in this LA Times article from earlier this month
Moving on from oil drilling to another dirty energy source: Coal. Today in Richmond, Va., a coalition of unions, environmental and faith groups joined for a rally and march to remember the 29 coal miners who died in April at a Massey Energy coal mine in West Virginia
, as well as to call for safer mining conditions and for Massey CEO Don Blankenship to step down.
Why a rally in Richmond? Today is the Massey Energy shareholders' meeting. There was also a vigil last night. If you were there, please comment and let us know how it all went and share some photos.
Speaking of coal, looks like our corporate accountability pressure on one of the many banks that finances mountaintop removal coal mining is moving in a positive manner
. JPMorgan Chase announced a change in its policy this week
(PDF). I'll let Mark Kresowik, our Beyond Coal Campaign Corporate Accountability
Rep explain it:
After the Sierra Club and our partners began campaigning to end JPMorgan Chase's coal financing in September of 2008, JPMorgan Chase conducted an internal review of their environmental policies and financial support for coal companies engaged in mountaintop removal. Starting in 2009 JPMorgan Chase began an "enhanced due diligence" process for any potential financial transactions related to mountaintop removal coal mining, which means extra review of potential risks to their bottom line or their reputation. In global warming news
As a result of that process JPMorgan Chase decided not to conduct business in 2009 with any coal companies engaged in "significant" mountaintop removal operations, such as Massey. While Bank of America and Citigroup have similar policies in place, JPMorgan Chase still lags behind Credit Suisse and Wells Fargo which have policies that end or phase out any financial involvement with companies engaged in mountaintop removal, respectively.
, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced yesterday that
"The combined global land and ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for both April and for the period from January-April, according to NOAA. Additionally, last month's average ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for any April, and the global land surface temperature was the third warmest on record."
It's getting hot on earth! But who doesn't care? Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. After blocking an attempt last week to hold BP fully accountable for its oil disaster, Senator Murkowski is expected to introduce a resolution in the Senate this week that will block the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to enforce the Clean Air Act to reduce global warming pollution
. You can take action against this resolution today
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:58PM PST on May 17, 2010
"60 Minutes" on the Deepwater Horizon Explosion
Here is the most recent 72-hour trajectory map created by NOAA. Get a closer look here (pdf). Observers are worried the slick is going to head on over to the Florida Keys.
The loop current could carry oil from the spill east and spread it about 450 miles to the Florida Keys, while the Louisiana coastal current could move the oil as far west as central Texas.
The depth of the gushing leaks and the use of more than 580,000 gallons of chemicals to disperse the oil, including unprecedented injections deep in the sea, have helped keep the crude beneath the sea surface. Officials report that more than 390,000 gallons of chemicals are stockpiled. Marine scientists say diffusing and sinking the oil helps protect the surface species and the Gulf Coast shoreline but increases the chance of harming deep-sea reefs.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:56AM PST on May 17, 2010
BP CEO: Disaster is "Tiny" Compared to Total Water Volume
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:31AM PST on May 14, 2010
Do You Bike-Ku?
I'm not making this up, folks. Take it away, Tony Hayward, BP CEO:
"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume," he said.
Say that with a straight face to the people who live along the Gulf.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:11AM PST on May 14, 2010
Sierra Club Radio
The bike-ku contest here on Climate Crossroads is off to a great start. We've had more than 60 entries so far and there are still more than two weeks left for people to enter.
Remember, by entering you get the chance to win a brand new Breezer Uptown 8 bicycle. Runners-up will get a Kryptonite lock and a Nutcase helmet. A panel of bike-commuting Sierra Club staffers will pick the finalists and the winner will be selected by Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus.
All you have to do is join the Bicycle group; post a picture; write a haiku. Your deadline is May 31. For more details visit the Bicycle group.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:37AM PST on May 14, 2010
This Week's Blogosphere Soup
Appearing on Sierra Club Radio
tomorrow will be Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who will talk about his recent trip to the Gulf Coast and the damage he observed during his visit. Speaking of which, Michael Brune answered questions yesterday on DailyKos in a live Q&A about the Senate's climate legislation. Read it here
Also on tomorrow's show:
-- Chatham Olive on the success of the new light-rail system in Charlotte, North Carolina -- and how public transit solutions can help end our addiction to oil
-- Freecycling with Deron Beal, founder of Freecycle.org
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:59AM PST on May 14, 2010
Big Oil Keeps Its Bailout -- for Now
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
-- This is a must read
. "The oil is creeping toward my home in Alabama as I write this, and it is breaking my heart."
-- Russia had a major coal disaster
of its own this past week. Dozens are dead after an explosion tore through a mine in Siberia.
-- CNN's Larry King hosted Kerry and Lieberman on his program to discuss the American Power Act and failed to ask them what's actually in the bill.
-- You wouldn't know the economy is suffering if you looked at Better Place.
Back in January electric car infrastructure startup Better Place said it was in the process of raising a whopping $350 million to help it build out its network of charging and battery swap stations across nations like Israel and Denmark. Well, this morning, according to an SEC filing, it looks like the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company actually just closed that massive round.
That funding is one of the largest rounds for cleantech ever, and is similar in size to the huge fund-raising done by thin film solar company Solyndra. As of estimates in January, Better Place has raised about $750 million.
-- SolarCity, the largest solar provider in the U.S., has acquired Building Solutions,
a move that indicates SolarCity's expansion into the genre of home energy audits.
-- The Lazy Organic Gardener is a fan favorite here on Climate Crossroads. He had another post this week
, in case you missed it. Speaking of gardening, I came across this long essay about "getting intimate with my weeds
-- Carl Pope says that when it comes to cancer and its potential environmental causes, the American Cancer Society is misguided
Well the ACS has long been criticized for overemphasizing cancer screening and treatment instead of prevention, and it has long insisted that only a small percentage of cancers have environmental or chemical causes, even as it concedes that we really have almost no data on how many cancers are caused by such chemical exposures.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 3:01PM PST on May 13, 2010
Exposing the Financers of Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
But Murkowski, once again using the Senate's
"Polish rules" by which a
single senator can prevent the majority from legislating in a crisis,
blocked consideration of the bill. By objecting to proceeding with the
Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act, Murkowski did a huge favor for her
allies and financial supporters in the oil industry. That's because
Menendez's bill not only would have protected fishermen and communities
in the Gulf of Mexico from being stuck with the bill for Big Oil's
recklessness at Deepwater Horizon -- it would also have ensured that, as
the oil industry moves into even more-dangerous Arctic waters of the
Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, it would be held accountable for future
BP itself had earlier promised
not to hide
behind the $75 million liability shield, and claimed
that it would pay any legitimate claims.
Menendez's bill, Florida Senator Bill Nelson expressed his disbelief of
"BP says it'll pay for this mess. Baloney. They're
not going to want to pay any more than what the law says they have to,
which is why we can't let them off the hook."
And sure enough,
just a few hours before Murkowski bailed out Big Oil, Transocean, BP's
partner in Deepwater Horizon, filed a motion in federal court not only
to hide behind the
$75 million liability limit,
but to use an antiquated 1851 maritime
law to limit its liability to only $27 million. Maritime law was the
basis for Exxon's dodging most of its liability for the Valdez oil
spill, and now Transocean plans to use the same standards -- written for
merchant ships but now being applied to enormous oil platforms on the
reasoning that, if it floats, it must be a "vessel."
Polish veto won't be the end of this battle. Menendez will try to attach
his bill to other energy legislation as it comes to the Senate floor.
But her action today makes it clear that she is not just the Senior
Senator from Alaska -- she's also the Senator from Big Oil.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:31AM PST on May 13, 2010
Michael Brune's Live Chat Today on Kos
This post was co-written by Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director Bruce Nilles and Mark Kresowik, Corporate Accountability and Finance Representative for the Sierra Club.
The idea of corporate responsibility
has come up repeatedly in recent weeks following the coal mine and oil disasters. That responsibility extends beyond profits to the health and well-being of our communities. By continuing to finance mountaintop removal coal mining
these banks are throwing that responsibility aside.
Many of us talk about the harm that coal companies are doing to people and the environment with mountaintop removal coal mining, but the blame is not just at Big Coal's doorstep.
It takes billions of dollars to destroy communities, blow the tops off Appalachian mountains and bury thousands of miles of streams, as mountaintop removal coal mining does.
Today the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and BankTrack are grading the lending policies
of nine of the world’s largest banks that help finance the most destructive practices of the coal industry. See the report card here:
The report card reviews the financing practices of Bank of America, Citi, Credit Suisse, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, GE Capital, PNC and UBS, and found that since January 2008, these banks have provided more than $3.9 billion in loans and bonds to companies practicing mountaintop removal coal mining, including Massey Energy and Arch Coal.
So who are the biggest losers?
PNC, which finances almost half of all mountaintop removal coal mining, ranked worst of the worst. The bank earned an "F" for its total failure to take environmental risks into account in its lending practices. Also flunking this year's report card were UBS and JPMorgan Chase, which respectively finance about one-third of all the mountaintop removal coal mined in Appalachia, and GE Capital, which backs about one-quarter of all operations.
Credit Suisse topped the list this year, earning an "A-" for their efforts to promote responsible mining practices.
Credit Suisse has confirmed, although their policy isn't publicly available, that they do not finance the extraction of coal in a mountaintop removal setting. Wells Fargo received a solid "B+" for their commitment to phase out financing for mountaintop removal coal mining, including some deals the bank inherited from their purchase of Wachovia.
RAN and Sierra Club disclosed the findings of this report card to each of the nine banks in the report card and offered them the opportunity to clarify their policies in case we missed something. We were a bit surprised by what happened next. In response to initial report card findings, Morgan Stanley released a public mountaintop removal policy (on Tuesday, May 11th) that demonstrated significant progress and moved them from a failing grade to an average "C" grade.
Bank of America and Citi, two of the first banks to release mountaintop removal coal mining policies after years of pressure from RAN and other partners, also ended up in the "C" range. But perennial mountaintop removal coal mining laggard JPMorgan Chase has yet to make public changes to their mountaintop removal financing policies
, and even went so far as to omit a shareholder resolution on the topic from the ballot for the bank's annual meeting on Tuesday, May 18th.
The Sierra Club and our partners will continue calling for each of the nine banks reviewed in this report card to strengthen their policies and cease their financial support for mountaintop removal coal mining. Our recommended 'best practice' is a clear exclusion policy on commercial lending and investment banking services for all coal companies who practice mountaintop removal coal extraction.
It is time for JPMorgan Chase, UBS, PNC, and GE Capital to move up from the very bottom of their class.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:31AM PST on May 13, 2010
Gulf States' Tourism Teeters
Climate legislation on your mind? Oil in your ears? Visit DailyKos
today at noon PST/ 3 EST for a live chat with Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. He'll be there to answer all your questions. You need to be registered (which is free) to submit a question, but you don't have to be in order to view the Q&A.
Posted by: Brian F. at 7:11AM PST on May 13, 2010
This and That
BP accountants are taking extra headache medicine
Gov. Charlie Crist asked BP PLC on Wednesday to pay nearly $35 million for an emergency ad campaign to assure the world that Florida's beaches and coastal waters are untainted by the company's Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The spill off Louisiana so far has stayed well away from the Florida Panhandle shoreline but that hasn't stopped thousands of wary tourists from canceling or declining to make reservations.
Crist earlier Wednesday promised the panel that oversees state tourism promotion he would help find money for efforts to counteract those fears.
People in the Panhandle in particular are worried
Visit Florida currently has more than $2.5 million for an emergency promotions campaign, part of it cut from another campaign to battle the bad press and erroneous word-of-mouth claims that the spill has arrived on Florida shores. But it’s not enough, the tourism board members insisted. The constant news of the spill, including an erroneous Twitter message Wednesday about tar balls washing up on Destin’s shores, are discouraging visitors.
“As of yesterday, I can tell you, restaurant and hotel owners in the Panhandle, most of them hit the 911 button,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
Posted by: Brian F. at 7:01AM PST on May 13, 2010
Oil Disaster Doesn't Mean We Should Switch to Other Dirty Fuels
Visit the Wonk Room for a side-by-side comparison
of the Kerry-Lieberman Senate climate bill and the House's climate bill that passed last year.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:35AM PST on May 12, 2010
Senate Energy Bill: It's Alive! Alive!
This post was co-written by Kate Colarulli of the Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign.
As we've watched the Gulf Coast clean up from the massive BP oil disaster
, besides BP picking up its own PR mission to improve its image, we've also noticed another disturbing PR campaign: the coal industry and the tar sands industry are both starting to use this disaster to tout the supposed "cleanliness" of their respective energy sources.
There are more and more "clean" coal ads appearing alongside oil cleanup articles, and the tar sands (also known as oil sands) industry has already made the outrageous claim that they are
"safer" than offshore drilling. One executive said "that while there can be failures with conventional oil and oil sands projects, 'the damage would be much smaller and more modest' than with offshore spills.'"
This could not be farther from the truth, of course. One could compare the tar sands industry in Canada to a massive and permanent oil spill on land. When the tar sands industry destroys the environment from the get-go
, who needs a spill?
Here's a fact for you: The Canadian tar sands operations are intending to expand to the size of Florida (and have already destroyed 200 square miles
The mining and production of oil from tar sands creates three times the carbon emissions as that of conventional oil. As if its global warming pollution were not bad enough, tar sands mining also results in the destruction of the Canadian boreal forest, a vital carbon reservoir for 11% of the world's carbon and a global nesting ground for 166 million birds. In other words, not only does tar sands development create vast quantities of new carbon emissions, it destroys the Earth's natural ability to capture carbon through the forest.
And think BP's bad behavior only crops up in oil? Think again - BP is actively involved in the tar sands industry
and has recently been cited for cutting corners on a tar sands project that would have impacted the drinking water for the eight million people residing in the Chicago area.
In October, BP was caught trying to under-count the pollution that would result from a proposed expansion of its BP Whiting refinery in order to process tar sands.
The tar sands expansion would increase the refinery's discharges of ammonia into Lake Michigan by 54 percent and its discharges of suspended solids - the byproducts of making gasoline - by 35 percent. Surely the people of Chicago would thank BP for adding "byproducts of making gasoline" to their drinking water.
If that incident doesn't scare you, one of BP's tar sands operations, ironically named Sunrise, is situated above Canada's biggest freshwater aquifer. Rick Boucher, vice-president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region One, fears that "It's just a matter of time before an accident causes injury or death, and pollution of this massive underground freshwater system."
Instead of taking every precaution to protect this water resource, last month BP's management successfully beat down "a resolution that would have required the company to report on the environmental, financial and reputational risks of developing Canadian tar sands projects."
The tar sands have been called "the greatest environmental crime in history," yet BP is steadily increasing their involvement.
This BP oil disaster should be a turning point in our energy policy here in the U.S.
We should not keep relying on dirty energy sources like coal, oil and tar sands. We have available technologies such as electric vehicles, solar and wind power which would allow us to get off oil. It's time to make the switch.
There is no room in America's future for coal, oil and tar sands - don't let the BP oil disaster help chain our country to more dirty energy.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:52AM PST on May 12, 2010
Oil Disaster Protest Pics and More
Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman unveiled their anticipated climate legislation today. You can read Kerry's comments about it here. Guess what? He likes it! "Bottom line: it does what President Obama told the world we'd do -- it reduces greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 2005 levels at 2050."
Environmental groups are eager but a little tepid. "We regret that bitter opposition from the dirty energy sources of the past like coal, oil, and nuclear has watered down this proposal in order to unduly subsidize energy technologies which already receive an unfair public bailout."
The details of this major piece of legislation are still emerging today. You can read Politico's coverage here. But as we learn more, we'll have more to say here on Climate Crossroads. Meantime, you can comment over at our vibrant politics thread.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:41AM PST on May 11, 2010
And What of the Minerals Management Service?
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:38AM PST on May 11, 2010
The Mayor of Flagstaff and High Desert Cruizin'
The oil's not splitting up; but the Minerals Management Service might
An administration official who asked not to be identified because the plan is not yet public said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will urge that Congress approve splitting the Minerals Management Service in two. One agency would be charged with inspecting oil rigs, investigating oil companies and enforcing safety regulations, while the other would oversee leases for drilling and collection of billions of dollars in royalties.
Currently, the Minerals Management Service, an arm of the Interior Department, is responsible for collecting more than $10 billion a year from oil and gas drilling and with enforcing laws and regulations that apply to drilling operations.
Some critics have said the two roles are in conflict and are one reason the agency has long been accused of being too cozy with the oil and natural gas industry.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 10:30AM PST on May 11, 2010
Window Rock to Mesa Verde
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 10:25AM PST on May 11, 2010
Senate Hearings on Oil Disaster and Offshore Drilling
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, set off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
We woke to more wind and predictions of 50 mph + winds by the afternoon. Even though it's Mother's Day, we managed to get Derrick to ride with us for the day and we headed out after saying goodbye to Linda (Derrick's mother in law). She was so sweet to us and we basked in her hospitality.
We went to Mc Donalds to get "the best coffee in town", unload our bikes, use the bathroom, load up on water and head out of town.
The first 25 miles or so were up a wide valley with smooth, rounded red rock cliffs just on our right. It was some of the most spectacular scenery we have seen and our friendly tailwind kept us smiling. Derrick was a delight. He enjoyed every minute of the ride and added his knowledge and fun commentary to our day.
We turned east and headed up the pass that would drop us into New Mexico. Again, tailwinds helped us up a somewhat challenging pass and we stopped to picnic right below the summit where the rest of Derrick's family met us. It was great hanging out with them and Sean played in the snow with the three kids until his hands hurt from making and throwing snowballs.
At the top of the pass, Catherine turned over the reins of her steed to Sean to avoid the long steep windy downhill. And it was a long, very steep downhill. I used my brakes most of the way down and had trouble keeping myself below 40 mph.
Sean disappeared immediately and I won't say how fast he went. Almost at the bottom, I got my first flat tire and did a roadside repair with the help of Catherine who stayed behind us and was able to stop and help me fix the flat.
We reached our destination and it was obvious that our path forward was full blown sandstorm again. So, after a fond farewell to our new friends Derrick and his family, we loaded up all the bikes and detoured up to Mesa Verde where I am now sitting in a campground while Catherine cooks mutton stew and we are looking forward to spending most of the day tomorrow exploring Mesa Verde.
It's sad to be leaving Navajo Country. The limited services and lack of internet barely registered on our radar when compared to the warmth and beauty of the Navajo lands and people. I will need to come back and I will never forget the strength and warmth of the Navajo's we were so lucky to get to know.
Gearing up for the days ride at Mc Donalds
While rolling -- Pretty good huh?
Yet another roadside attraction
I-phoning the route
Green Riders in front of a green mountain
Sean and Logan playing
More snow play
Derrick wants an electric bicycle - And so does Jessie
Yet another dust storm
Posted by: Heather M at 9:08AM PST on May 11, 2010
Lazy Organic Gardener: Garden Beds, Part 3
The NY Times has a good live-blog covering this hearing right here
. They also had this photo up, showing a protester in the hearing. The photo is courtesy of NY Times photographer Luke Sharrett. The speaker in the foreground is Lamar McKay of BP.
Currently underway in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is a hearing on the BP oil disaster and current plants for more offshore drilling. The hearing, described as being for reviewing "current issues related to offshore gas and oil development
," started at 10am ET and features a good round of speakers:
Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones
- Dr. F.E. Beck - Associate Professor, Texas A&M University
- Mr. Danenberger - Former Chief, Offshore Regulatory Program, Minerals Management Service
- Mr. Lamar McKay - President and Chairman , BP America, Inc.
- Mr. Steven Newman - President and Chief Executive Officer, Transocean Limited
- Mr. Tim Probert - President, Global Business Lines; Chief Health, Safety and Environmental Officer, Halliburton
is at the hearing and live-tweeting, and she's also already written a good round-up of how the hearing's been going so far
- sounds like it's the blame game thus far. Follow her on twitter right here
. And you can read each speaker's submitted testimony by clicking on their names on the official hearing website
Posted by: John Byrne Barry at 1:37PM PST on May 10, 2010
Rallies Against Oil Drilling, for Clean Energy
I planted tomatoes in my new garden beds Saturday.
They look pretty puny compared to the jungle of vigorous fava beans they replaced. Here's a before and after. Not from the same angle, but close enough to get the picture.
Saturday morning, the beds were home to a veritable bumper crop of fava beans, most more than two feet tall and flowering. None had produced pods yet.
I cut them down in one bed. Yanked them out in the other.
When I finished building the beds
a few months ago, I planted a cover crop of favas, clover, veitch, and peas. A few weeks later I sowed another round of fava beans, these soaked, on the recommendation of a clerk at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, in Dr. Earth's SuperActive soil and seed inoculant, which is supposed to intensify the nitrogen-fixing potential of the favas.
If I understand my soil chemistry right, the clay soil that I have in my yard has plenty of phosphorus and potassium, the other two primary nutrients that vegetables need. But nitrogen gets used up more quickly by growing plants and is water soluble, so it needs to be replenished regularly. Enter the fava beans.
On the other hand, too much nitrogen can promote stem and leaf growth at the expense of fruit. Last summer, I had big leafy tomato plants that didn't produce the abundance of fruit that I hoped for. Hmmm.
As I'm writing this, I'm thinking, damn, I probably need to actually read up on this and test my soil to see what nutrient levels I actually have. This whole process of writing about gardening reminds me over and over again how little I actually know. (Back in college, one of our professors printed up a card that said, "The more you know, the more you don't know." We laughed, but it's truer than I knew then.)
The more I get into gardening the harder it is to be lazy.
I truly do want to learn more, and become a better gardener. I just don't want it to become too much like work. I want it to be a respite from work.
I would have liked to let the favas grow to seed, but I planted them late, and now that it's the second weekend in May, and the days are getting longer, it's time to get planting.
I rarely eat the beans anyway, though I have saved the seeds in past years for future planting. They're not bad tasting, but before eating them, you have to shell the beans from the pods, blanche them, then peel the husks, then cook them. Way too much work for the payoff, especially compared to crops like snow peas or raspberries or cherry tomatoes that you can pick off the vine and pop in your mouth. (You can eat the favas with the husk, but you can also eat the cardboard that your pizza is delivered on, and most people choose not to.)
After I cut, pulled, and dug out the favas, I covered each bed with a couple more bags of purchased garden soil. The beds aren't full to the brim with soil and amendments, but close enough. Close to two feet of loose soil. Lots of room for roots to grow.
I laid out the soaker hose in the bed in roughly parallel rows, anchoring it with u-shaped metal stakes. Then I turned on the water spigot and gave the drip system a test drive.
One shutoff valve connector flew off under the pressure, and I wriggled/jammed it back in. It seems secure now. I also found a heavy leak where the soaker hose screwed into an "L" connector (below). A little plumber's tape around the threads, and the leak was gone. If only every problem was that easy to fix.
I planted 12 tomatoes, all different kinds, inside cages or between them, as well as 8 peppers, some basil, strawberries, and zucchini. One garden bed is almost full, the other almost empty. This weekend, more peppers and squash, plus beans, eggplant, and maybe something new that I haven't planted before.
I'm counting on a more productive year, what with the new beds with loose, rich soil, and the new drip configuration. I'd like to do better than last year's disappointing harvest.
Wait. Let me qualify "disappointing." I would have liked a more bountiful harvest, but I love, love, love my garden. I relish in it. The flowers, the hummingbirds and butterflies and bees, the curving paths, the wildness. It's beautiful already this spring, even though the only flowers that have showed up are the poppies and a few Peruvian lilies. Many more are coming soon.
When I started gardening 30 years on the outskirts of Urbana, I didn't care for all this aesthetic stuff. It was all about the produce. Now I love the beauty. It's just that I also want enough tomatoes and peppers for a couple of salsa-making weekends around Labor Day.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:05PM PST on May 10, 2010
"Like Open-Heart Surgery in the Dark"
The Sierra Club has been holding a series of "Clean It Up!" events around the country calling on BP to clean up the disaster and demanding an end to new offshore drilling. Citizens have already turned out for rallies in Florida, Virginia, Seattle, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Houston.
On Saturday in New Orleans, the Sierra Club joined with fishing industry representatives, Gulf Coast leaders, and a crowd of more than 200 concerned citizens at a rally in support of Gulf Coast communities impacted by the BP Disaster.
"We are here to urge that President Obama dedicate every necessary resource his disposal to contain the well and stop the flow of oil," said Sierra Club president Allison Chin. "We need to clean up this disaster. The people who live in the Gulf Coast are looking at sweeping job losses and a destroyed ecosystem."
Last Thursday in Houston our Lone Star Chapter also held a brief presser and gathering outside an oil industry conference to call for more clean energy. They started the presser off with a fake speech from a fake oil industry spokesperson, "Oilivia Blackwater." Here's video of that:
Then the press conference got serious, as the group called for no more oil drilling, including a speech from a shrimper who spoke of the oil disaster's impact on her industry.
That message is present at all the "Clean It Up" rallies. "Offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous. This disaster could happen in Virginia, or California, or anywhere offshore oil rigs are allowed. We need an end to all new drilling off America's coasts. But that's not enough," said Chin at the New Orleans rally.
"We need our leaders to deliver a plan to get America off of oil and onto a clean, efficient, 21st century transportation system. We need to clean up the Gulf Coast, and we need to clean up America’s energy."
There are more clean energy rallies and events coming up to counter this terrible oil disaster - are you going to one? You can even sign up to host one!
New Orleans photos by David Graham-Caso. Houston photos by Zac Trahan.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 12:49PM PST on May 10, 2010
Reaction From the "Redneck Riviera"
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:49PM PST on May 10, 2010
Ditch Oil, Write Poetry, Win a Bike
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:09AM PST on May 10, 2010
"Endless Explosion of Toxic Muck"
Sick of oil? Do you bike instead? Do you haiku?
Enter our bike-ku contest for the chance to win a brand new Breezer Uptown 8 bicycle. Runners-up will get a Kryptonite lock and a Nutcase helmet. A panel of bike-commuting Sierra Club staffers will pick the finalists and the winner will be selected by Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus.
It's National Bike Month and with news of oil spills clogging up your ears, there's no better time to celebrate our beloved, emissions-free, two-wheeled pals.
All you have to do is join the Bicycle group; post a picture; write a haiku. Your deadline is May 31. For more details visit the Bicycle group.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:19AM PST on May 10, 2010
Other Energy and Global Warming News From the Week
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune penned an op-ed for Sunday's LA Times
. Read it here!
Here's a snippet:
What I saw flying over the gulf waters Wednesday, and what we've all been watching on television the last two weeks, is no spill. It's an endless explosion of toxic muck, a sickening creep of poisonous sludge that may soon blanket a national park, more than a dozen wildlife refuges and hundreds of miles of coastline, perhaps even oozing into the fragile Florida Keys and up the Eastern Seaboard.
This catastrophe may also prove to be one of those rare events that rivets attention, bolsters resolve and encourages pivotal change — in this case, a national commitment to stop the expansion of offshore drilling immediately and end our dependence on oil and the other dirty fuels that are fouling our planet in a slow-motion environmental disaster every day.
In western Canada, monstrous earthmoving machines rip up forests and pollute freshwater supplies to produce dirty oil from Alberta's "tar sands." In Ecuador, billions — with a "b" — of gallons of oil-contaminated waste were dumped into the Amazon watershed by Texaco, now owned by Chevron. And here in the U.S., 90 million Americans live near 150-plus oil refineries. These refineries release into the air and water millions of pounds of cancer-causing chemicals, such as benzene, butadiene and formaldehyde, along with nickel, lead and other pollutants linked to heart disease, asthma and other health threats.
Posted by: Heather M at 12:43PM PST on May 7, 2010
Widget Your Oil Disaster
The major oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is of course worthy of extensive news coverage, but perhaps you've missed these other big energy and global warming news articles from the week.
On Tuesday the Environmental Protection Agency announced plans to regulate coal ash
- only it proposed two options
. One to classify it as hazardous waste (which it should be)
, and the other to continue treating it the same as household garbage. As we've noted before, most of us don't usually have arsenic, selenium, chromium and numerous other toxins in our household trash, but that's exactly what's in coal ash
. Even investors are raising their eyebrows at coal ash disposal
This EPA announcement opens up a 90-day comment period and we'll soon have an action that will allow you to submit your own comments. Stay tuned.
In other toxic coal news, check out this sad story from Crawford, Nebraska, where runoff containing coal dust contaminated a family farm
where the vegetables were being given away to the elderly and low-income families for free. Don't let anyone tell you coal is clean
- this story is just about the impact of the DUST from train cars full of coal.
On the energy efficiency front, good news! The Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010
, a bipartisan home energy efficiency retrofit bill
, passed in the House of Representatives Thursday
. The bill will help create clean energy jobs by setting up a $6 billion program to retrofit millions of homes to make them more energy efficient and to lower consumers' energy bills.
On to global warming - here's some stunning news: U.S. energy-related global warming emissions are down nearly 10% since 200
5. Yeah, really! Learn more in this blog post
and in this USA Today article
And you may have seen the blog post on Climate Crossroads from Bruce Nilles about the University of North Carolina announcing that it will transition away from coal power on campus
, but we didn't have video of it then. Check this out:
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:49AM PST on May 7, 2010
Miss the LiveChat with Michael Brune on the Oil Disaster? Watch it Now!
PBS is providing a widget that displays a ticker meauring the amount of oil that BP's disaster has pumped into the Gulf. We've embedded it into the BP Oil Disaster group here on Climate Crossroads. So check it out. Join the group for more updates and correspondence from the ground.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:35AM PST on May 7, 2010
Video of Oil Spill, and Statement from Michael Brune
Posted by: Heather M at 10:28AM PST on May 6, 2010
On the Ground in the Gulf; Oil Press Conference
This is a guest post by Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who now has video footage up of him talking about the Gulf oil disaster on our BP Oil Disaster website - along with this new map of the spill area.
Last year, Americans were outraged when the government bailed out the same big banks that nearly ruined our economy. We had to do it, we were told, because these banks were "too big to fail." Now we're being asked for another bailout -- this time for BP, the company whose irresponsibility has brought ruin to the Gulf of Mexico
. Initial estimates for just the first few months of cleanup are in the billions.
Although President Obama has said that BP must pay the bill for its titanic oil disaster, the Oil Pollution Act currently on the books caps liability for economic damages at a paltry $75 million dollars. After that, an oil-tax trust fund kicks in another $1 billion. And after that, the bill will be delivered to the American taxpayer.
To make sure that BP's corporate hand stays out of your pockets, the Sierra Club is backing The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act,
cosponsored by senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Bill Nelson (D-FL). Also known as "Too Big to Spill," the act would retroactively raise the $75 million liability cap to $10 billion. (By the way, BP had $12 billion in cash on its balance sheets at the end of the last quarter.)
Of course, even that amount of money won't be enough to restore the fisheries and bayous of the Gulf Coast. I just had the opportunity -- "pleasure" is not the word -- to visit Louisiana
and fly over the affected area
. As far as 76 miles from the site of the explosion, you could clearly see the oil pollution -- ribbons of orange muck coursing through the water. Oil was already washing up on the outer islands.
You can't see this mess and not be angered by the impact BP has had on this entire region.
Like so many issues, this one ends up being about responsibility. Sierra Club members and supporters are doing their part. Already the Club has mobilized 2,000 volunteers in the Gulf States to aid in recovery efforts. We're also continuing our decades-long efforts to usher in clean-energy solutions, so we no longer have to sacrifice our beaches and wildlife to prolong our dependence on oil.
BP, on the other hand, is running an expensive public relations campaign in an attempt to mask the full extent of the damage in the Gulf and minimize their accountability. Anyone who is here in the Gulf, talking to residents and seeing the oil on the water, knows that the impacts of this disaster can't be minimized. BP needs to be accountable for every penny of the response effort and for every job lost.
Join Michael Brune for a livechat about the oil disaster today at 4:30 PT / 7:30 ET.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:37AM PST on May 6, 2010
Video of Most Recent BP Oil Disaster Developments
A heads up, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune was down in Louisiana yesterday to check out the oil disaster up close and personal. He spoke with some affected business people and then flew over the spill area. Check out his early remarks on this trip here
. We'll soon have some video of this trip and the oil slick as well. For now, we have these photos. The above photo is of Brune talking with reporters before boarding the plane. This below photo is the team about to board the plane.
This next photo is of Brune talking with Tulane University Professor and New Orleans Sierra Club Chapter Conservation Chair Barry Kohl.
On Tuesday, Brune took part in a press conference
back in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill with key coastal protection champions from the Senate to discuss the impact of the catastrophe on future coastline drilling policy and to recommend courses of action.
Brune was joined by Senator Bill Nelson
of Florida, and Senators Frank Lautenberg
and Robert Menendez
of New Jersey, as well as Environment America head Margie Alt and Andrew Sharpless of Oceana. (In the above photo, Senator Lautenberg is at the mic, and L to R are Brune, Senator Nelson and Senator Menendez). The press conference garnered great media attention, as you can see in this photo below.
Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are now getting attention for a bill they're introducing called the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act, which would "raise the economic damages liability cap for offshore oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion
," ensuring that BP pays the full amount to clean up this massive oil catastrophe. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid has already come out in favor of this bill as well
Stay tuned for more details on the recovery and response to BP's oil disaster. (Louisiana photos by David Graham-Caso, press conference photos by Javier Sierra)
Posted by: Brian F. at 7:35AM PST on May 6, 2010
There is No Safe Way to Drill for Oil
Posted by: Brian F. at 7:26AM PST on May 6, 2010
Join our Live Web Chat with Michael Brune at 4:30 PST, Thursday May 6
Check out Michael Brune's Bloomberg column today
Offshore Drilling After BP Oil Spill: Michael Brune
May 05, 2010,
9:30 PM EDT
May 6 (Bloomberg) -- The death of 11 oil workers and
of the Gulf Coast’s ecosystems and economy by the
toxic sludge gushing
from a BP Plc accident site is a tragedy that
may well change the
course of our nation.
Americans are horrified.
Leaders who had been willing to give offshore
drilling the benefit
of a doubt have abruptly changed their minds,
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said he no
longer supports a plan
to allow limited drilling for oil off his
right. There is no safe way to drill for oil in oceans. This
is an impetus to halt our dependence on oil completely and
move to a
clean energy future fast.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 6:56AM PST on May 6, 2010
Day 2 of the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference
Michael Brune, the Sierra Club's Executive Director, will be holding a live chat at 4:30 pacific
, Thursday May 6 to talk about his recent visit to the Gulf Coast. Tune in to find out what he saw, and what the Club is doing to end off-shore drilling and move the U.S. to a clean energy economy.
Posted by: Heather M at 2:49PM PST on May 5, 2010
No More Drilling
Phew, day 2 at the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference
was busy! It was another great day of speakers and workshops.
Today had a few highlights, and I'll started with hearing Senator John Kerry speak this morning. He greeted the huge, clean-energy-loving crowd with a "Welcome to the future!" Senator Kerry touched on many issues, including the fact that clean energy matters for our health, but mostly touching on the climate and energy bill he's been working tirelessly on with Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Lindsey Graham.
"We will roll out a bill very very soon, and we will have a unique coalition," said Kerry, which was greeted with cheers from the crowd.
I also enjoyed what I heard from Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. "When we plan for green jobs, we have to remember red, white, and blue," he said, referring to the oft-mentioned clean energy tech being manufactured overseas and not in the U.S.
In the afternoon session, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley spoke quite a bit about the importance of greening our transportation industry.
"It disturbs me that we spend $1 billion/day on oil," he said. "This is a tremendous part of our trade deficit."
Energy Secretary Steven Chu gave a great presentation complete with a very informative power point on the competition between China and the U.S. when it comes to switching to clean energy and manufacturing the components for doing just that.
The U.S. is making some strides, but we have a long way to go before we get equal with China. "The Recovery act is making a $80 billion down payment on the clean energy economy here," said Chu, adding that it's esimated to have created nearly 2.4 million jobs.
"Part of getting America into a clean energy economy is to encourage energy efficiency," added Chu. "We are open to all ideas on how to make energy and money savings a social norm."
Two workshops I particularly enjoyed were the "Youth in the Outdoors" one, about getting our youth outside and ready for green jobs, and the workshop entitled "Building a Greener Ark," which focused on the faith community's role in the green economy.
The youth workshop had a great youth attendance, as the Sierra Club's own Allison Chin talked up our youth programs
and the importance of getting kids outside at a young age so they see the importance and fun in the outdoor world.
The faith workshop showcased several faith community leaders taking strides in their own communities, be it through weatherization training and weatherizing community homes, to looking at national policy and making sure the faith community's voice is heard.
"We need to focus on how to create a new just green economy," said Josh Tolken of Jewish Funds for Justice
. "We have a big opportunity to change the narrative around this issue." I also learned about a new faith-based enviro group - Green Faith
. I look forward to hearing more about their work in the future.
Finally, UPS showed up to speak and show off two interesting vehicles. One was a UPS truck from the 1930s - that was electric powered.
They also showed off a brand new hybrid electric UPS truck. I like the innovation - too bad we had all those years between the 1930s and now that had no electric fleet, though.
All in all, I really enjoyed the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference. It was very inspiring and I look forward to next year's.
Did you attend the conference? If so, leave a comment telling us what you enjoyed and saw.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 2:13PM PST on May 5, 2010
Will BP Pay in Full?
In the coming week, thousands of Americans will be coming together at events across the country to call for the end of off-shore drilling. "This does serve as a wake-up call, to both the administration and Congress, to focus more effort on reducing the demand for oil," the Sierra Club's Executive Director Mike Brune told the Washington Post
. "There's increased enthusiasm for fighting it, and fighting it hard." While BP and other industry insiders are trying to portray the disaster as something that will never happen again, we know that when it comes to dirty energy, danger is always present.
in keeping the pressure on our elected representatives to end off-shore drilling and move to a clean-energy economy. Events are taking place throughout the country – you could even be a host. Get breaking news here
Posted by: Brian F. at 6:37AM PST on May 5, 2010
Grand Canyon to Flagstaff
Thanks to the Internet, you don't need a time machine to look back at what happened after the infamous Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. Exxon fought tooth and nail in the court system and basically got away with a slap on the wrist. After years and years of litigation, the Supreme Court two years ago sided with Exxon and reduced the previous ruling of $2.5 billion in punitive damages to a paltry $500 million. And these days, Exxon's pockets are blooming again.
Obama swears BP will pay for this one. But can we be so sure? Take action and tell your representatives that additional offshore drilling is no longer acceptable.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 6:33AM PST on May 5, 2010
Day 1 of the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, set off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
Woke to a really cold morning and dashed off to the lodge for breakfast. Sean wanted pancakes.
After doing the ritual computer work, we walked out to the rim for a morning look and farewell. It was a crystal clear morning and since it was still pretty early, there were almost no people out. There was a school group that we passed on the trail who were all walking with their eyes closed holding on to each others shoulders until they reached the rim and were allowed to open their eyes. A moment most of them will always remember.
We unloaded our bikes about 20 miles outside of Flagstaff and rode into town to make our 2 o'clock meeting with the folks at Southwest WindPower. On the way, we stopped by The Grand Canyon Trust where we met some of the kind staff people I have been talking with over the last several months. They invited us to stay in their beautiful office which is a converted homestead farmhouse with solar panels and all sorts of energy efficiency features incorporated into the remodel.
We learned that our contact Derrick Terry in Window Rock has been very busy putting together a big event for next Saturday where a lot of Navajo sustainability people will show up as well as some of the staff from here. We are completely flabbergasted by how motivated people are to help spread the sustainability message. As The Green Riders, I feel like we are unleashing an opportunity for local communities to stand up and shout about the good they are doing and how much more needs to be done.
We rode down to SouthWest WindPower and met with Miriam Robbins, the marketing director. She gave us a great tour and spoke passionately about the need for alternatives when it comes to energy production. It was refreshing to hear her talk about the renewables as a family and consumers get to pick the renewable sibling that best suits their resource. If sun is in your air, go with solar. If it's wind, choose a turbine.
Even though Paul Gipe doesn't think small scale solar and wind contribute enough, quickly enough, he also said we need it all. So small scale distributed energy has its place. The value it gives to the user as a doorway into becoming engaged in building a sustainable future can be way more significant than the actual watts being produced by their home renewable energy system.
Tonight we are settled into the very nice offices with lots of computer access, wonderful maps and posters and even a firehouse next door!
Tomorrow is a big day. Our first real event where we will set up our roadshow and see what happens!!
Coming into Flagstaff - Note the solar array on the house
Tony Skrelunas trying the wheels
Just about says it all
A beautiful site
Miriam Robbins gives us a hands on tour
Posted by: Heather M at 8:09PM PST on May 4, 2010
Oily Lies From the Right
I spent most of today at the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference
here in Washington, DC, and I have to say, what I saw was fantastic. If you're not familiar with the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference, this is its third year. It's organized by the Blue Green Alliance
(a great unified organization of environmental groups and unions), among other excellent groups.
They've lined up an incredible list of keynote speakers again this year, and today was a great group gathered to kick off the event.
I really enjoyed hearing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discuss how clean energy jobs and building a clean energy economy are part of President Obama's plans for our country. She and President Obama see the potential for clean energy.
"It is a big job creator," said Pelosi.
Terry O'Sullivan, General President, Laborers’ International Union of North America
, also had a great quote from when he introduced Speaker Pelosi. "This conference will help us continue our efforts to save our environment and improve our economy while protecting our workers."
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis gave a long and rousing speech as well, really rallying the crowd to the idea of green jobs for everyone. "These green jobs are not completely new jobs," said Solis. "These are jobs that many of you have skills that can transfer or upgrade to."
But man, Leo Girard (pictured below), International President of the United
, really got the crowd going, and even though it seemed as if he was just riffing to fill some time because another speaker was late. He's a great public speaker. Girard spoke about the long history of his work as a representative for the United Steelworkers with the Sierra Club. He said people used to laugh at it, but now they see how forward-thinking it was and how valuable and important the coalition of unions and environmentals groups can be.
"We believed then and we believe now that we're heading in the right direction," said Girard. "We've built a movement, not just an organization. And we're going to fight for sustainable policies, not just at home, but all over the world."
Girard also received a standing ovation when he spoke about the importance of manufacturing the components of clean energy here in the U.S. "What's the difference between relying on Chinese wind turbines and relying on foreign oil?"
Finally, I really enjoyed hearing from Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (pictured above). His state has made some many big strides toward clean energy, including a recent increase in the state's Renewable Electricity Standard. Colorado is a great example of what states can do for clean energy.
So overall, today was fantastic. I even got to check out a press conference discussing a new report about how increased freight rail is a huge source of green jobs
I'm headed back to the conference again Wednesday, so another post is coming after hearing some more great speeches!
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:27PM PST on May 4, 2010
UNC Decides to Move Beyond Coal; Plus Bonus Coal Ash News
It's no mystery that the right-wing echo chamber sometimes resorts to lies when smearing the president. Take for example the falsehood that the Sierra Club described Obama's response to the BP oil disaster as "worse than Katrina." It's all part of the echo chamber's parallel reality and "Obama's Katrina" mantra. Comparing BP's disaster to Hurricane Katrina is more like apples and oranges. But if you want to pin this on one individual, Dick Cheney is better suited to fit the bill:
After the Bush administration took office, the MMS became a cesspool of corruption and conflicts of interest. In September 2008, Earl Devaney, Interior’s Inspector General, delivered a report to Secretary Dirk Kempthorne that has to be read to be believed. One section, headlined “A Culture of Ethical Failure,” documented the belief among numerous MMS staff that they were “exempt from the rules that govern all other employees of the Federal Government.” They adopted a “private sector approach to essentially everything they did.” This included “opting themselves out of the Ethics in Government Act.” On at least 135 occasions, they accepted gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies with whom they worked. One of the employees even had a lucrative consulting arrangement with a firm doing business with the government. And in a laconic sentence that speaks volumes, the IG reported: “When confronted by our investigators, none of the employees involved displayed remorse.”
So here’s my question: what is responsible for MMS’s change of heart between 2000 and 2003 on the crucial issue of requiring a remote control switch for offshore rigs? What we do know is that unfettered oil drilling was to Dick Cheney’s domestic concerns what the invasion of Iraq was to his foreign policy—a core objective, implacably pursued regardless of the risks. Is there a connection between his infamous secret energy task force and the corrupt mindset that came to dominate a key program within MMS? Would $500,000 per rig have been regarded as an unacceptably expensive insurance policy if a drill-baby-drill administration hadn’t placed its thumb so heavily on the scale?
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:21AM PST on May 4, 2010
Great news out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Today the University of North Carolina (UNC) announced that burning coal has no place in our clean energy future
and is transitioning away from using pollution-rich coal power to power this nationally-ranked university.
I attended the press with UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp as he outlined how they were going to start testing alternative fuels and phasing in alternatives as fast as possible, and end coal use altogether no later than 2020
I was also joined at the press conference by Stewart Boss, one of the student leaders of the Coal-Free UNC Campaign. It was Stewart and his fellow students who began a campaign a year ago to get UNC to walk the talk, and credit to Chancellor Thorp for hearing and responding to their concerns. A huge amount of the credit also goes to Tim Toben, the chair of the UNC taskforce that the Chancellor charged with making recommendations about coal's future role on campus.
"Universities must be on the leading edge of the transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy
. Today UNC takes another major step in that direction," Thorp said during today’s press conference. "The University of North Carolina has been a national leader in campus sustainability. Our systems for energy efficiency, cogeneration of electricity and steam, waste recycling, green building, mass transit and water conservation are models. Our commitment to end the use of coal will also be a model for other campuses."
UNC is now leading by example. College campuses cannot responsibly teach about the dangers of air pollution, the science of climate change and leadership in sustainability in classrooms powered by coal. We applaud UNC for agreeing to a firm deadline and we will continue to work with the University to end its coal use as soon as possible, i.e. well before 2020.
Best of all this shows the power and effectiveness of students who want clean energy. The Sierra Club's Coal-Free Campus Campaign
is focusing on the last 60 U.S. college campuses that are still burning coal, including UNC and its coal-burning facility on Cameron Avenue. UNC students led an intensive campaign, coming together on numerous occasions to rally and call for an end to coal and to use more clean energy on campus.
Together with all these amazing students, we are urging these campuses to lead by example, cut their pollution, and end burning coal as soon as possible. Chancellor Thorp has responded by appointing 10 students, faculty and community members
(including our own Molly Diggins, the state director of the Sierra Club) to a task force to make recommendations before year's end to reduce Carolina's carbon footprint.
This great news from UNC comes on the heels of last Friday's announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency, when the agency proposed strong new rules to limit hazardous air pollution
from industrial boilers, which includes most campus coal plants.
The new EPA rules are designed to protect residents who live near and downwind from these coal plants. Specifically the rules will substantially reduce emissions of toxic air pollution, like mercury, arsenic and cadmium, which can cause cancer, reproductive disorders and other serious health problems.
These decisions are great moves for clean energy and cleaning up coal.
"My hope is that today’s announcement will serve as encouragement for the thousands of students who have been engaged in similar efforts on college campuses nationwide
," said Stewart Boss, coordinator for the Coal-Free UNC Campaign and co-chair for the UNC chapter of the Sierra Student Coalition.
"The fight to stop burning dirty coal is absolutely necessary to protect our communities, our country, and our planet. Our universities can and should be at the forefront of developing clean energy technologies and preparing students to be clean energy leaders. I urge other universities to follow UNC’s lead in moving beyond coal."
Congratulations to UNC's students, staff and community. This is the kind of progress we need on our nation's college campuses, in our cities and nationwide in all of our communities. Together, we can build a clean energy economy in the U.S.
BONUS COAL NEWS:
Today EPA announced it is "proposing the first-ever national rules to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants
Included in the Agency’s plan are two options: one includes strong, federally enforceable safeguards to protect the public from toxic coal ash, and the other treats toxic coal ash (which contains potentially dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals) less stringent than household garbage. Both the science and past failures of the patchwork of state-based regulations call for the stronger, federal protections. There will be a 90-day public comment period during which Sierra Club will be working hard to call on EPA to adopt the most protective safeguards.
We're still digging into this announcement to figure out all the details of the rules, and we'll update this post or post a new column once we know more. You can at least learn a little more on the official EPA rule website
Posted by: Carl Pope at 9:36AM PST on May 4, 2010
Fortune Brainstorm Green 2010: A Conference for the Environment
As the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe worsens by the minute, and as BP desperately tries to tame an underwater gusher, one thing is overwhelmingly clear:
The intellectual foundation of the offshore-drilling enterprise -- that oil companies know how to handle ever-deeper drilling "horizons" -- is false. BP doesn't know what it is doing -- and neither do any of the other oil companies. Our technology for dealing with oil spills turns out to be almost useless -- once you dump millions of gallons of oil in the ocean, you really can't do much to stop the damage. Prevention, not rapid response, is the key.
Still, after every disaster, the oil industry promises that it could never happen again.
Let's learn the right lesson: Oil and water don't mix. A major explosion on land is a tragedy, but it's not a region-wide catastrophe on the scale we see here. Oddly enough, Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the more thoughtful offshore drilling advocates, seems tone deaf on this one. Senator Graham is arguing that after the Challenger disaster America went back into space, so after Deepwater Horizon we should keep opening up new areas to oil drilling.
That analogy is simply wrong. Imagine that the Challenger tragedy, in addition to causing the deaths of astronauts, had put at risk the economic base of a significant part of the United States. Suppose thousands of businesses were ruined, and hundreds of thousands of workers lost their livelihoods. Would we have continued launching Space Shuttles?
I don't think so. It's time to start phasing out offshore oil production now, as a first step to making America genuinely independent of oil.
Posted by: Jennifer Schwab at 9:01AM PST on May 4, 2010
Jon Stewart Critiques Oil Disaster
Billions of dollars are at stake. Not to mention reputations of leaders in
business, academia and government. Even the public image of our country on the
world stage is hanging in the balance.
Despite differing viewpoints on nuclear energy, coal-fired power plants,
wind energy and a variety of important subjects in the world of green, one
consistent theme emerged at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference, held
earlier this month at the sumptuous Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Resort in
Southern California. And that is: we need an official, approved and legislated
policy on carbon reduction and we need it now. Not only careers, but also many
thousands of jobs and potentially the future of our planet (not to mention
Sierra Club Green Home.com) are all seemingly on "hold" until Washington can
cobble together a bill on carbon reduction that will pass in the Senate.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:49AM PST on May 4, 2010
Watch: Sierra Club Mississippi Director on MSNBC
Jon Stewart uses "West Side Story" numbers to go after everyone from the media to pro-oil politicians. Watch BP's COO try to answer who's to blame for all this about five minutes into the clip.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:29AM PST on May 4, 2010
Oil Disaster Triples in Size
Louie Miller, the Sierra Club's Mississippi State Director, was on The Ed Show on MSNBC yesterday. Some are calling the disaster "America's Chernobyl."
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:03PM PST on May 3, 2010
BP Offering Waivers to Avoid Lawsuits
The oil slick has tripled and the ecological fallout is becoming more widespread.
Near Gulfport, Mississippi, 19 sea turtles were found dead and necropsies were being done by experts at the National Marine Fisheries Services. But they had no external oil soiling and it was not clear if the deaths were linked to the slick.
U.S. energy output from the Gulf has not been not strongly affected and shipping operations at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port were normal, a port spokeswoman said.
Many of the coastal communities in the path of the oil slick, including Venice on the west bank of the Mississippi River, were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"It's just like Katrina, catastrophic," said Frances Lacross, a local resident.
Meanwhile, BP is reeling from the political fallout
Three House committees, including Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources and Oversight have scheduled hearings. A special House subcommittee that deals with global warming has called on executives from five major oil companies to testify. And three Democratic senators introduced legislation which would raise liability caps on oil companies from $75 million to $10 billion. Republicans, meanwhile, want to turn the focus back on the federal government, with one top House Republican calling for an investigation of the Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:22PM PST on May 3, 2010
Wind Turbine Breaks, Spills Wind Everywhere
Reports are surfacing that BP is offering folks along the Gulf $5,000 in exchange for giving up their right to sue. BP spokespeople have since said they are no longer asking people to sign waivers. Read the article at Talking Points Memo:
Sid Jackson, a Mobile-based lawyer representing a shrimper who last week filed suit against BP, claiming that the spill had already taken a financial toll on his business, told TPMmuckraker that he believed BP would be wise to back down. "I think they kind of drop-kicked that [waiver] clause into the fine print," Jackson said. But, "I think it would backfire" if BP tried to enforce it.
"This is the same company that told the coast guard there was no leak," Jackson added.
Join the Gulf Oil Disaster group
here on Climate Crossroads for all the latest developments.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:49AM PST on May 3, 2010
It's Monday. Here's Your Oil Slick News
I like snark. That's why I recommend this DailyKos diary
about a "massive windspill" at the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm that is leaving wind everywhere:
How are animals going to survive when their natural habitat has been contaminated by all this 02?!
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:47AM PST on May 3, 2010
Lazy Organic Gardener: Garden Beds, Part 2
Posted by: John Byrne Barry at 9:38AM PST on May 3, 2010
This Spill is a Game Changer
The primary reason I built garden beds
this past winter was to create a more defined boundary between my cultivation space and the wildness around it. A border wall, if you will.
Running a close second was to simplify my drip irrigation system.
Last year, my drip system was a spaghetti-like mess, with as many tentacles as a school of octopuses.
I had a jumble of half- and quarter-inch tubes snaking all over the vegetable patch, dozens of drip emitters, two kinds of soaker houses, and a mini-sprinkler. My drip system was as wild as the ivy encroaching on the vegetable beds, and was in fact watering that ivy. (Ivy does just fine without the help, thank you.)
Here's one of the less egregious examples, with half-inch tubes. The biggest messes were with the more flexible quarter-inch tubes, but I can't find any photos of them.
The most precise way to get the water to a plant is to place a drip emitter, like the one in at the bottom of the photo above, which can deliver from a half-gallon per hour to two gallons per hour. (You can go higher than that, but that's the range I have.)
If all your plants are in a nice even row, you can extend a half-inch tube down that row, punch holes in the tubing where needed and push the emitters in the holes. But because I was going for that curved line and wild-and-wooly look, I didn't have nice even rows. (In the photo above, those half-inch tubes are the ones curving under the lettuce leaves.)
So getting all the plants the water they needed was a challenge. Because I took some long vacations last summer, I had to be sure that every plant got water, and I succeeded at that. However, some seeds never came up, or the plants didn't take, and then as summer wore on, some plants died off early — like the zucchini that got powdery mildew after producing only a few squash. I ended up watering weeds. Mostly crabgrass and ivy.
I'll have more even rows this year — the rectangular shape of the beds will help dictate that — and my plan is to use the less precise soaker hoses in the beds. That's a half-inch soaker above
the lettuce leaves in the photo above.
If I spread the hose like a flat "S" along the length of the beds, so there are three or four lines, that should spread water relatively evenly over the entire bed.
I'll cram the plants close together to keep the weeds at bay and to encourage the roots to grow deep into the loose soil.
This past weekend, I bought the connectors I needed, drilled a few holes, and sent a one-half inch tube into each bed.
Below you can see the hole into the bed, then in, the lower photo, the "T" connector, where the tube comes up to go through the hole. There's an "L" connector you can't see just under the ledge.
The other important change I'm making is to put in off-on valves in various places, so once I've got my drip going on a timer, I can shut off areas I don't want watered.
If, for example, I get one bed planted before the other, I can turn that valve on, the other off.
I can't believe that with all this deep, loose soil, which has a lot of manure and compost in it, and a better watering system, I won't get a bumper crop. We'll see.
You may be thinking that all this sounds like a lot of work for someone purporting to be lazy.
I like to think of myself as strategically lazy. I'm doing this work now so I will have less to do during the summer. If all goes according to plan — and of course, it often doesn't — my main task in midsummer will be to harvest the bounty of the beds, pull a random weed here and there, and sit in the shade with a glass of iced tea.
At least that's the idea. Stay tuned.
Next time, part 3. Planting.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:50AM PST on May 3, 2010
Sierra Club India Environment Post: The Adaptation Myth
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune's column on CNN was front and center all weekend. Take a read. Here's a little snippet:
We are pleased that the White House is now saying it will suspend any new offshore drilling while the explosion and spill are investigated, but there should be no doubt left that drilling will only harm our coasts and the people who live there.
Taking a temporary break from offshore drilling is an important step, but it's not enough. We need to stop new offshore drilling for good, now. And then we need an aggressive plan to wean America from dirty fossil fuels in the next two decades.
This BP offshore rig that exploded was supposed to be state-of-the-art. We've also been assured again and again that the hundreds of offshore drilling rigs along our beaches are completely safe. Now, we've seen workers tragically killed. We've seen our ocean lit on fire, and now we're watching hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic oil seep toward wetlands and wildlife habitat.
Posted by: Guay at 8:41AM PST on May 3, 2010
Driving through the remnants of the Sambhar Salt Lake
in central Rajasthan provides a glimpse into what a changed climate holds for our future. The surface of the sea has not only dried up entirely, the salty ground water that accompanies it has spread to neighboring fields. This is due in part to the damning of streams that feed the lake; the unsustainable use of ground water for salt production, and also largely because of the progressive failure over the past decade of the annual monsoon. These factors have conspired to drastically cut fresh water supplies, allowing the salty ground water to expand. The cumulative result is that locals now “grow” salt in fields where they once grew wheat.
The struggle of the surrounding community to deal with a lack of fresh water supplies for food production and daily drinking needs has created an enormous strain on community ties and family structures. A lack of water for basic necessities has driven the more well-off villagers to nearby cities and towns where water scarcity is not as much of a drastic issue. A factor in migration that many fail to realize is that the relatively rich migrate, not the poor.
While the specter of millions of climate change refugees haunts international negotiations, the aforementioned case shows that the gradual process of climate-induced migration is already occurring. Although many cite catastrophic figures of hundreds of millions of climate change refugees, Oli Brown of the International Institute for Sustainable Development speculates that climate stabilization at the lower bounds of IPCC scenarios (2 degrees) would result in a 5-10% increase along existing migration routes - an optimistic, yet achievable goal.
In order to stem the migratory tide, Manthan has attracted government funds to create a 1,000 KW solar array that powers a reverse osmosis water purifying plant. The plant provides water to fulfill the basic daily needs of over 100,000 villagers near Sambhar Salt Lake
. However, it remains a drop in the proverbial bucket as villagers still lack water to irrigate their fields due to the inexorable encroachment of brackish salt water.
As communities on the front lines of climate change struggle with overwhelming odds, we in the West struggle to reduce our emissions and control the growing problem. It could be argued this failure stems largely because we are insulated from many of these initial effects. However, the West is more vulnerable than many think. In fact, the United States
has already witnessed its own cases of climate change migration, epitomized by the relocation of Shishmaref Alaska
. This vulnerability has only been reinforced by our failure to safeguard many of our most vulnerable citizens during disasters like Hurricane Katrina. While we stumble along in our attempts to pass climate change legislation in the US
, we may be able to protect ourselves from the initial challenges climate change poses. But Shismaref and Katrina are telling reminders that our own ability to adapt is likely no more than a myth.