Climate Crossroads Blog
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 2:53PM PST on June 30, 2010
In the wake of the BP oil disaster, the U.S. Minerals Management Service--the agency that signed off on the Macondo well's ludicrous disaster plan--was disbanded. Bidding MMS adieu, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is auctioning off MMS paraphernalia, including MMS safety whistles, oil drop paperweights, and embossed lunch bags.
"These kitschy souvenirs exhibit a blithe cluelessness that helps explain the agency's mindset," noted PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "For example, what was the focus of the 2009 Safety Week at MMS? Well, if you guessed diet conscious snacks, you would be correct."
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered the breakup of the disgraced MMS into smaller units, the largest bearing the onerous title of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement. There is apparently some disagreement within the new agency as to how it should properly be referred. Initially new director Michael Bromwich suggested BOE, a directive that was countermanded days later by an urgent email insisting on the full acronym, BOEMRE. There is as of yet no official pronunciation guidance, but the new agency is inevitably already known as "Bummer."
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:02AM PST on June 30, 2010
Brian Williams of NBC News is broadcasting from the Gulf this week and producing compelling coverage of the BP oil disaster.
"The view out the window for most of the two hours was either the sheen of oil, looking for the next sheen of oil, or seeing the tritest of the clean-up of vessels, skimmers, shrimp boats that have been retrofitted with booms to lay out in the open water. [...] and we've seen where they have lost the battle."
Posted by: Heather M at 7:18AM PST on June 30, 2010
UPDATED - here are some more photos of the 10,000 flags on the Mall. And Getty Images took some great photos from above as well - Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3, Photo 4, Photo 5, and Photo 6. Scroll down to the original entry from this morning - these photos are from our Beyond Oil event where 10,000 flags spelling out "Freedom from Oil" were planted on the Mall in Washington, DC.
Above - Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune (left) and banner holders look back at President Obama's helicopter flies nearby during the press conference.
George Kohl, Senior Director of the Communications Workers of America, speaks at today's Beyond Oil rally.
Iraq War veteran and Truman Security Project CEO Jonathan Powers speaks at today's Beyond Oil rally.
All photos above by Javier Sierra. All photos below by Heather Moyer.
---End of Update - The original Post is Below --
It's not officially Flag Day (that was June 14th), but on the National Mall in Washington, DC, today is a sort of an unofficial flag day.
We've got our Beyond Oil action up and flowing in the wind on the Mall - 10,000 flags that spell out "Freedom from Oil," that volunteers worked late in the night on Tuesday to stake into the ground.
These 10,000 flags represent the more than 50,000 people who took action on our Beyond Oil website asking President Obama to move our country beyond oil.
Glen Besa of the Sierra Club in Virginia took a great video of the flag planting last night, so take a look. (Sorry, the humidity got to our flipcam)
Posted by: Heather M at 7:18AM PST on June 30, 2010
Tuesday was the last public hearing on the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline - which would carry toxic tar sands oil from Canada through the American Heartland to Houston.
In an effort to save money, TransCanada has applied for a safety waiver for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would allow the company to operate with thinner pipe and higher pressures than standard operating procedure; they also lack a public emergency plan in the event of a leak and have not demonstrated that emergency responders have been identified, contracted or trained.
So on Tuesday, a big crowd of clean energy advocates rallied before the hearing and then took it inside the U.S. State Department to let their opinions be heard on why this pipeline is a bad choice for our country's energy future and why the State Department's draft Environmental Impact State (DEIS) is flawed.
There were plenty of industry people at the hearing - they'd even signed up for the first 20 speaking spots, but thankfully the State Department rep who was running the hearing recognized that and did his best to alternate between the varying interests.
That means Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune (pictured below) got to speak second, and he did great.
"I am here to officially state for the record that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement grossly underestimates the negative impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline in three critical ways," said Brune.
"First the Draft EIS fails to adequately assess the air and health impacts of refining tar sands in the United States; second, it includes an improper analysis of the global warming pollution of tar sands oil; and third, it fails to assess this pipeline's ability to drive expansion of the environmental 'Armageddon' occurring in Canada."
If you're not familiar with how dirty tar sands are, then you should definitely check out www.DirtyOilSands.org
Tar sands oil contains more sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, lead, nickel, and arsenic than conventional crude oil. All of these pollutants are harmful to human health causing lung and respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, respiratory infections, and decreased lung function. Many of the metals released into the air such as mercury are neurotoxin; and some of the volatile organic compounds emitted by refineries are carcinogenic.
Not to mention that this proposed pipeline would cross the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the source of drinking water for millions of Americans in the Midwest.
In addition to that, both the tar sands industry and the scientific community agree that over its entire lifecycle tar sands oil emits 15 -20% more global warming pollution than the conventional oil we currently use.
Two speaker highlights for me during the hearing were a farmer from Montana and Marty Cobenais of the Indigineous Environmental Network (IEN).
The farmer, Tom Rudolph, said the pipeline will cross his land and he's worried about its safety - especially in regards to the thickness of the pipeline and the lack of emergency safety procedures should something go wrong. "BP's disaster is a warning, we should address the safety," said Rudolph, pictured above.
Then IEN's Cobenais spoke of his travels up and down the pipeline's route through middle America to speak with impacted Native American tribes. He said the majority of the tribes oppose the pipeline.
"Oil is not good for us anymore," he said. "We need to get off it."
Cobenais also brought up the national security issue. "We talk about the national security - well what's more important to us - agriculture or oil? They won't mix for long, especially if there's a spill out there."
Lena Moffitt, Sierra Club Washington Representative for our Dirty Fuels Campaign, said she thought the hearing went well despite the large pro-tar sands attendance.
"The community opposed to increasing our reliance on dirty fuels made a great showing today at the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline hearing," said Moffitt. "We had 13 dedicated activists give testimony in opposition to the pipeline, and one member of Congress submitted written comments for the record (Rep. Mike Quigley, IL-5 will be sending them in electronically).
"Considering how out-funded we are on this fight, and the fact that DC is the hub of industry lobbyists, our showing was great and demonstrated broad opposition to this project and the ecological disaster that is tar sands."
If you weren't able to make it to the hearing, you can still submit a comment opposing this pipeline by taking action right here.
All photos by Heather Moyer except the polar bear one, which was taken by Kelly Trout of Friends of the Earth.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:52PM PST on June 29, 2010
One thing climate-change deniers use is the weather. When meteorological conditions are seemingly contrary to warming on a given day, they harp about it. "Look at all the snow we got!" they say. Well, if you're going to read anything today, check out this handy five-question interview with NASA scientist Dr. Eric Fetzer about the distinctions between climate and weather.
We all know smokers who live into their eighties, and health nuts who drop dead in their forties, but these examples are not taken seriously in discussion of health issues. Most people understand and accept anomalies in fields like health care and economics, and we need to do the same with climate issues.When you're done reading, watch this informational video on how to handle (er, strangle) a climate-change denier.
Posted by: Jennifer Schwab at 2:31PM PST on June 28, 2010
Needless to say, I try lots of green products. Since we are still in the second inning of America going green, new products are just now entering the marketplace in slightly increasing numbers. I do my quarterly big box runs to examine just how close we are getting to green alternatives of everyday products. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have had the opportunity to test drive many new products and quite frankly the results are mixed.
I worry about this because when curious but non-green citizens are ready to try a green product, it had better live up to its billing. Otherwise, those folks won’t try going green again for many years, if ever.
While admittedly lots of the things I try are personal care products, here is an overview of what has worked well — and what hasn’t.
I tried Organic makeup, the Foundation product is just super, easy to apply, feels nice, right consistency. Other Organic makeup products, however, fell short. Especially the pressed powder packaging. While environmentally friendly, the paper containers virtually ripped apart after only two weeks, thus rendering the products useless. Cost is about on par with an average brand like L’oreal but longevity of the product and packaging did not match up.
Posted by: Tom V at 11:49AM PST on June 28, 2010
A landmark study by 12 leading ecologists, hydrologists, and engineers concludes that the damage done by mountaintop removal mining (MTR) goes far beyond the already-horrendous practice of blasting off entire mountaintops and burying nearby streams under the rubble, referred to by mining companies as "overburden."
The study, "Mountaintop Mining Consequences," represents "the first attempt to collect and assess the best available science on the potential ecological and human health impacts of mountaintop removal"
[All quotes and graphics that follow are taken from the article Mountains of Controversy by Tim Lucas, of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment.]
"The current regulatory framework treats mountaintop removal as if it was a local disturbance and ignores any impacts on downstream or downwind ecosystems," says Emily Bernhardt, an assistant professor of biogeochemistry at the Nicholas School, who co-authored the study.
Bernhardt joined eight other Duke faculty members in a 2-year, $1.5 million project to map the extent of mountaintop removal mining in southern West Virginia, and assess its impacts on ecological and human health. Below, Bernhardt (at center) collects water samples with Duke chemist Helen Hsu-Kim and professor of earth and ocean sciences Avner Vengosh.
One example of ecosystem damage the study uncovered was a 2009 fish kill in Dunkard Creek, in the Monongahela Mountains, that extended more than 30 miles downstream of the MTR site. West Virginia state biologists determined it was caused by toxins released by a species of algae normally found only in salt or brackish water. The algae were able to live in a freshwater stream due to significant amounts of mining salts from the MTR operation upstream.
"There's a saying: 'Dilution is the solution to pollution,'" says Bernhardt. "But the more mines we build, especially in the same watershed or on the same headwaters, the less dilution we have."
The Science study cites studies showing that chronic exposure to pollution in mining-contaminated air and water is associated with learning disabilities and lower birth weights in children, and kidney disease, breast cancers, and lung disease in adults. Compare map of mine sites in southern West Virginia, above, with chart showing cancer rates by county, below.
"There are a whole suite of contaminants that are elevated in the water and air," Bernhardt says. "It could be that none of them are over the legal limit, but individually or collectively these contaminants are generating significant chemical stress for organisms living in, or drinking, contaminated water or breathing contaminated air."
Posted by: John Byrne Barry at 11:33AM PST on June 28, 2010
Saturday was not a beach day. Foggy and cold, though not windy. No blue sky in sight.
That didn’t stop about 200 people from gathering at Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands for Hands Across the Sand, a worldwide gathering to oppose offshore oil drilling and promote clean, renewable energy.
While we held hands, facing the Pacific, an Exxon oil tanker appeared on the horizon. Empty, as someone near me noted, riding high in the water, most likely after having unloaded at Chevron or one of the other refineries along San Pablo Bay.
A few people gave the tanker the finger, but the woman to my right said she didn’t feel that was appropriate, given that she had driven her car to the beach.
We got a short hike in too, and wildflowers were everywhere.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 10:29AM PST on June 28, 2010
With the passing of West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, many are recalling his courageous and eloquent speeches over the years--opposing the Vietnam war, recanting his segregationist past, warning of the march to war in Iraq. Byrd is also remembered as a masterful deliverer of political pork to his constituents, and a solid supporter of his state's powerful coal industry.
As Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) said this morning. "He never stopped growing as a public official, and was a man who learned from his mistakes." That quality enabled him, last December 3, to deliver the blunt, hard truth to his state's largest industry in an opinion piece titled "Coal Must Embrace the Future." As recounted in Jeff Biggers "Close to Home" in the current issue of Sierra,
Byrd declared it was time for "an open and honest dialogue about coal's future." Jobs were going away, he said—not because of the EPA, but because of mechanization and declining energy demand. As for mountaintop removal, Byrd said, "most members of Congress, like most Americans, oppose the practice, and we may not yet fully understand the effects of mountaintop-removal mining on the health of our citizens." Big Coal's greatest threats, Byrd said, "do not come from possible constraints on mountaintop- removal mining or other environmental regulations, but rather from rigid mindsets, depleting coal reserves, and the declining demand for coal as more power plants begin shifting to biomass and natural gas as a way to reduce emissions."
"Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry," Byrd concluded. "West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear. The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose."
The piece is well worth reading in full; you can find it here.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 4:44PM PST on June 25, 2010
It's kind of embarassing to be writing about Sarah Palin's tweets--Call it the "ick factor." On the other hand, you can't really ignore a major political figure recommending to her legions of followers an article by Hoover Institution fellow Thomas Sowell that compares President Barack Obama to Adolph Hitler because he got BP to put $20 billion in an escrow account to pay damages from its oil spill. Obama did that--not Hitler, in case you're confused. What Hitler did was get his followers to pass the Enabling Act, which gave him dictatorial powers. See, they're practically the same! Sowell concludes that that puts the United States on "the slippery slope to tyranny." You kind of expect that sort of thing from Hoover fellows--but politicans with millions of followers? I'd say that puts us on the slippery slope to something, but I don't think it's tyranny.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:06AM PST on June 25, 2010
This entry is by Sarah Hodgdon, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club. It was cross-posted on the Treehugger blog. Be sure to join the Say No to Tar Sands group here on Climate Crossroads.
If we could go back in time before the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, what would we learn? What steps would have helped avert what is now the nation's worst environmental disaster? Could this hindsight help us prevent similar catastrophes in the future? Would our political leaders have the moral compass to "get it right" this time around?
A ready-made test case for such an exercise exists in the form of TransCanada's push for a pipeline to transport toxic tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, through the American Heartland down to Houston.
In an effort to cut costs, the company is requesting a special safety waiver to use thinner pipes and pump oil at pressures that exceed the normal limits allowed by current pipeline safety regulations. They lack a public emergency plan in the event of a leak and have not demonstrated that emergency responders have been identified, contracted or trained.
These are the same type of cost-cutting and corner-cutting methods that got us into the BP mess. It's hard to believe that, knowing what we know today, we would tolerate another rubber stamp approval for the oil industry whose safety assurances have rung hollow and wreaked havoc.
Not heard much about the reckless expansion of tar sands? Our new report "Tar Sands Invasion" (PDF) is a good primer on tar sands, and the National Wildlife Federation also just released a report on the subject.
It's actually an ongoing disaster coupled with a series of potential disasters, with different risks and concerns as the landscape is annihilated during extraction and the pipelines and refineries wind 2,000 miles across six states.
But the best way to wrap your head around the tar sands issue is to hear from the people who have been and would be impacted in Canada and across the U.S.
In Nebraska, residents are worried about the threats to the Ogallala aquifer. David Kromm, an expert on groundwater management, has written, "the future economy of the High Plains depends heavily on the Ogallala Aquifer, the main source of water for all uses. The Ogallala will continue to be the lifeblood of the region only if it is managed properly to limit both depletion and contamination."
In Kansas, where TransCanada has already been involved with tar sands construction, landowners like Harry Bennett have borne witness to the "pennywise and pound foolish" approach of the company. In his eyes the Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety is in the same class as the much-maligned Minerals Management Service—the cozy relationship with the oil industry and propensity to cut corners is "the same song, second verse" of what we've seen unfold in the Gulf. When it comes to the tar sands pipeline, which will skirt his property, "these pipelines go together with very little oversight."
In Detroit, the Marathon oil refinery would have to be expanded to process the heavy tar sands oil. It's heartbreaking to hear Theresa Landrum talk about their situation:
"When we found out Marathon was bringing in nasty tar sands from Canada, with more emissions at an expanded refinery, we started doing research into what kinds of chemicals would be emitted into the air. We found terrible things like benzene, which affects the nervous system, carbon monoxide, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, which is hazardous to human health at any level, and other carcinogens.
"My mom had four different cancers and passed away from the last one. My dad died of lung cancer, and I was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. On my block alone, ten people have died of cancer over the last decade. These companies put dollars above human life. Are we not what we eat, drink, and breathe? What are we to do? Where can we go? We're an economically stressed community without resources for health care, or for people to move out. Are we just sitting here waiting to die?"
Oil spills have moved beyond mere threat in Minnesota, according to Elizabeth Sherman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe:
"The Enbridge pipeline runs through the Leech Lake Reservation, and there have been several spills right outside our town that Enbridge hasn't been able to clean up. We're close to Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and the oil from these spills has gotten down into one of our two aquifers and contaminated the water in the top aquifer. The oil is still there, the water is still contaminated, and the damage is still being done. Tribal residents' wells are being contaminated, and now there's a restriction on how much fish we can eat per week because of mercury pollution."
Despite all of these concerns, tar sands oil is poised to blaze a toxic path through America's pipelines and refineries and into our cars and air. The final public hearing on the Keystone XL toxic tar sands pipeline is set for Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and the comment period gives everyone an opportunity to weigh in until July 2.
Make your voice heard by filing a comment and, if you live in the area, joining us at the DC hearing.
Let the Obama Administration know that you heard loud and clear these words from his Oval Office speech:
For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we've talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires...We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 1:18PM PST on June 23, 2010
You could be forgiven for being confused. Take a slurp of coffee and try to follow along:
1. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) apologizes to BP that President Obama extracted a $20 billion escrow fund for damages to the Gulf Coast, calling it a "shakedown."
2. Faced with outrage from nearly everyone--including the leadership of the GOP--Barton retracts his apology: "“I apologize for using the term ‘shakedown’ with regard to yesterday’s actions at the White House in my opening statement this morning, and I retract my apology to BP.”
3.The right-wing American Spectator publishes an article entitled "Joe Barton Was Right" (and they weren't talking about his un-apology).
4. Barton tweets his followers "Joe Barton was right," directing them to the American Spectator story.
5. Barton untweets his unapology for his apology.
I apologize if you find this hard to follow.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:29AM PST on June 23, 2010
Two reports released this week reveal that when it comes to the bottom line of state budgets, the coal industry costs Tennessee and West Virginia more than it provides.
These reports are among the first to examine actual revenues and expenditures related to coal industry employment, taxes and subsidies in Tennessee and West Virginia. Downstream Strategies produced the reports.
For Tennessee (PDF), the report found that the coal industry contributed just over $1 million to the state budget - less than one-tenth of one percent of the state's total revenue in 2009. That benefit was overwhelmed by the costs imposed by the industry, including state subsidies, regulation, road repair and mine reclamation costs. The bottom line was an approximate net economic loss of $3 million for the people of Tennessee in 2009.
Though coal brings in a bigger percentage of state revenues in West Virginia (PDF), the end result matches that of Tennessee; the $600.7 million in total revenues coal brought to West Virginia was about $97.5 million less than it cost the state to support the industry.
"It should be no surprise - coal is not king in the West Virginia economy, even though our decision makers act as if it is," said Jim Sconyers, chair of the West Virginia Sierra Club. "It is a total outrage that the long-suffering West Virginia taxpayer is forced to pay millions of dollars so the filthy rich coal companies can destroy our roads, mountains and communities."
And so we learn that even beyond the human and environmental health damage the coal industry does, the economic damage is there as well. More reports like these are coming, and one has already been done on Kentucky. (PDF)
We know Tennessee and West Virginia, and all the other states where Big Coal is trying to be king, can do better with clean energy. We don't need to sacrifice our health, our economy and our environment to power our nation.
Be sure to join the Beyond Coal Group on Climate Crossroads.
Posted by: Cyrus Reed at 10:40AM PST on June 23, 2010
Another day in South Africa, another exciting soccer game or two, with the U.S. brilliantly scoring in the last few minutes against Algeria to send them into the round of 16. Earlier my family and I got to visit lions and cheetahs at a nearby park.
South Africa 2010 World Cup has been a resounding success two weeks in, with record crowds, brand new stadiums, a shared sense of excitement (or as they say, AYOBA -- party) for a country with a tortured history of hate and discrimination with some parallels to our own country.
Visiting Constitution Hill and the old prisons -- closed in the 1980s -- serve as stark reminders of those times when those with darker skins could be thrown and tortured in prisons for simply not carrying a pass allowing them to move into the city.
But driving from one city to another - or from one soccer stadium to another - it doesn't take an energy expert to realize this growing country is entirely dependent upon the coal it mines and burns to produce electricity in dozens of old-style coal burning plants.
There are dozens of them, with huge piles of coal in wait, and huge piles of coal ash on the other end. Even in Kruger National Park - a giant national park where tourists and locals drive the roads in search of an elusive leapord or to gaze at lions, giraffes and zebras -- one can see coal plants in the distance.
Recently, as coal mines get scarcer and energy prices increase, the government - which controls electricity -- had to raise prices some 30 percent, even as miners threaten to strike due to low salaries and no health benefits.
But the alternatives here are years away. With some 80% of its electricity from coal, and the rest mainly from hydropower, natural gas, solar, wind and other alternatives seem a dream.
A few homes sport new solar panels, but that is still for the small fraction of the population that is well to do, such as in US-style subdivisions that sprout up about Pretoria and Johannesburg in the city center.
Natural gas is imported mainly from Mozambique and is used in some homes for cooking and heating but not for electricity.
There are permits recently granted by the governmental agency in charge for shale gas to companies like Royal Dutch Shell and US-based Falcon Oil to explore along the Eastern Cape and southern coast. Such exploration - while it might eventually lead to some alternative to coal -- is not without its own perils, and local environmental groups like groundWork are already complaining the government is to quick to grant permits to multi-international corporations without the requisite environmental studies and proper regulation. South Africans would do well to look at recent events in the US and our own problems with oil and gas drilling along our shores and for shale gas on our land.
The climate, however, is perfect according to some for solar and wind, with its high cliffs and mountains, brilliant sun and savannah-landscape. If any nation in Africa might have a chance to chart a new path -- slowly, with planning -- away from coal-burning and toward alternatives, it might just be South Africa. But it will take a citizenry fed up with high energy prices, high pollution and a lack of jobs in the energy sector to push the government to chart a new course.
Given the highly controversial World Bank loans to South Africa to build a behometh of a coal plant in Limpopo Province in the North of the country --loans the Obama Administration ultimately failed to block -- that new course is still a long way off however.
Coming up: a view from the East Coast -- Durban..
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 4:09PM PST on June 22, 2010
Talk about your judicial activism! This morning U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman in Louisiana struck down the Obama administration's moratorium on deepwater oil drilling. As reported in the Los Angeles Times,
Problem is that when the CEOs of the five largest oil companies were hauled before the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee on June 15, it was revealed that all of them relied on "cookie cutter" versions of BP's emergency-response plan--including its assessment of the probable effects of a spill in the Gulf of Mexico on walruses. As Ed Markey (D-Mass.) quipped, 'The only technology you seem to be relying on is the Xerox machine." The Obama administration has announced it will appeal Feldman's ruling; the Sierra Club is joining the appeal.
Meanwhile, here's what the sorry scene looked like from a NASA satellite as of Saturday:For a larger version, see here.
Posted by: Reed McManus at 3:35PM PST on June 22, 2010
Earlier, we noted that “renewable energy” was up there with Snoop Dogg, Marisa Tomei, and Farrah Fawcett in Americans’ minds, according to Yahoo’s “Trending Now” search topics. If you prefer data that’s a bit more scientific, a recent CBS News/New York Times poll finds that nine in 10 Americans think that U.S. energy policy needs fundamental changes or to be completely rebuilt; two out of three support President Obama’s six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling; and 59 percent consider it “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that the U.S. will develop an alternative to oil as a major source of energy within the next 25 years. Still, the Green Revolution may not be upon us quite yet: 51 percent of Americans would oppose an increase in the gasoline tax in order to promote research in renewable energy sources.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:42AM PST on June 22, 2010
Time again to update folks on other news that is not BP oil disaster related.
Let's start with coal. On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally published its proposed coal ash rules in the Federal Register (PDF), meaning they're now taking public comments on the rules. Coal ash is the toxic by-product of burning coal for power, and right now it's not subject to any federal safeguards. Sounds pretty crazy to me to not have safeguards for a substance that contains mercury, selenium, arsenic, lead and many more heavy metals that can harm humans and the environment.
Here's the Little Blue Run Coal Ash Pond that sprawls across the border of West Virginia and Pennsylvania near the Ohio River. Oh yeah, that looks real normal right there. (Photo is courtesy of Google Maps satellite).
So, let us help you send in your public comments to EPA telling them to enact strong federal safeguards on coal ash - take action right here.
Meanwhile, also related to coal, last week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it was suspending nationwide permits for mountaintop removal coal mining:
This announcement comes more than a year after a March 2009 U.S. District Court decision ruled these permits illegal.Duke University just published some of its research on mountaintop removal coal mining that came from its January 2010 study that showed mountaintop removal site reclamation barely makes a difference. It's pretty eye-opening, so take a look.
And if you like important energy-related research, the U.S. Green Building Council just teamed up with Harvard University to release the 2010 "State of the Nation's Housing." (PDF) The report "studied the affordability, energy and location efficiency within the existing U.S. housing stock."
Next up, related to our post yesterday talking up the new documentary "Gasland" about natural gas "fracking," EPA announced a series of four public meetings on this controversial process:
In environmental justice news, we just had two of our fantastic EJ organizers get major news hits. In Detroit, our own Rhonda Anderson got this very nice spread in the Detroit Free-Press about impact of excessive industrial pollution on certain neighborhoods in Detroit: Article 1, article 2, and video here.
Our EJ organizer in Texas, Mariana Chew, was profiled in this Latino Magazine piece on the EJ issues in her community.
Finally, in global warming news, we've got two hits for you. First is the news out on the latest study about whether there is a scientific consensus on human-caused global warming - of course there is! Read about this latest study in the NY Times' Green Blog.
And then we've got this Discover magazine blog piece on a melting glacier that may not be melting because of global warming. Science!
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 4:31PM PST on June 21, 2010
On "Meet the Press" yesterday, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R) suggested that the big problem in the Gulf of Mexico is the temporary moratorium the Obama administration has placed on offshore drilling there:
Best YouTube comment: "None of the companies has a disaster plan any different from BP's that calls for phoning a dead guy." William K. Reilly isn't very impressed either. He's chair of the bipartisan commission appointed by Obama to study the BP disaster (as well as head of the EPA under the first President Bush). Today, however, the New York Times quoted him saying that the panel is unlikely to lift the moratorium until it issues its report next year. “I would be very wary of encouraging more deepwater development until I was confident that the response plans were more realistic,” Reilly said. “They are not realistic at this time.”
Where are all these deepwater sites? Today the World Resources Institute released this map of the oil patch otherwise known as the Gulf of Mexico:
For a larger version click here.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:05PM PST on June 21, 2010Watch "Gasland" Tonight, Take Action for Clean Water Now
Posted by: Heather M at 11:28AM PST on June 21, 2010
If you've got HBO, check out the debut of the new documentary "Gasland" tonight at 9pm ET. The documentary - which won awards at the Sundance Film Festival - is about the environmental hazards of natural gas drilling, including a process known as hydraulic fracturing ("fracking.")
Check out the trailer:
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:22AM PST on June 21, 2010Green and Tipsy on Video
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:28AM PST on June 21, 2010
Summer's here and the time is right for green tips. The Green Life is where I go for daily ideas I can apply to my daily routine. Speaking of tips, YouTube is a place that's full of them. Last week I got an email from Igor K., who pointed me to his nifty green tips video:
Backyard gardening is something I'm yearning to get into. How great would it be to grow your own food? I stumbled upon these two helpful videos full of gardening tips:
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:40PM PST on June 18, 2010
Ask yourself, what would John Muir do? He wouldn’t sit on his duff, that’s for sure. Some of those politicians in Washington, D.C., have an insular view of the world. And they don’t necessarily correlate the BP oil disaster with the need to shift to clean energy and move beyond oil in the next two decades.
Help them connect the dots! Visit the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil action center, where you can send a message to the president, find information on hosting a Gulf action house party, and get involved locally. On July 4th, you can have the Sierra Club plant a flag in your name for freedom from oil. On Independence Day, the Sierra Club will plant flags at the Washington Monument to represent the demand to end our oil dependency. The Club needs at least 50,000 sign-ups to make it happen. Click here and be one of them.
In addition to thinking nationally, consider what you can do in your area. Write letters to the editorial pages of your local newspapers. Watch what city and county planners are up to. Grist has a great list of ten things that cities can do, for instance, such as building dense housing near public transit, phasing out parking lots, and setting up bike corrals and safe pedestrian spaces.
The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was caused by BP and its reckless negligence. Ultimately, though, the real long-term solution is up to the American people. Until we demand and get a plan from our leaders for getting off of oil, we shall remain at the mercy of those who extract, refine, and sell it.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:01AM PST on June 18, 2010
Check out Michael Brune talking to Don Lemon about the BP oil disaster on yesterday's Rick Sanchez show on CNN.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:51AM PST on June 18, 2010
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
Here's some of the stuff I was reading this week: Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope is thankful it's British, and not Canadian, Petroleum. NAFTA would've allowed a Canadian or Mexican oil powerhouse a lot more leeway.
-- Roger Ebert has a thoughtful piece on the frustrating political implications of the spill.
-- Meanwhile, across the pond, the Brits are growing impatient with Americans' pointed rhetoric. I kind of don't understand this though. Our beef is with BP, not the U.K.
-- This book author writes about the ongoing disaster that is mountaintop removal. But this issue isn't receiving the same urgency:
I can’t imagine the president doing a flyover of a mountaintop removal site, or holding a press conference about it. And I’ve certainly never seen a mountain blown up on national television—not even once, much less every morning on the Today show. Yet I would venture to say that mountaintop removal (MTR) is as devastating as the oil spill in the Gulf.-- This great blog, Old Guy on Two Wheels, says we all need to take a hard, long look in the mirror.
BP wasn’t punching holes in the earth’s crust just for the thrill of doing something hard. They were drilling there because we asked them to. They were drilling there because we have this voracious appetite for all things petroleum. An appetite that doesn’t seem to be waning. The next time you’re filling up that ridiculously inefficient internal combustion vehicle, take a few minutes to look at all the oil you are consuming. It’s not just the gasoline. There are also the plastics, the synthetic rubber of your tires, the lubricants and all the electricity that was used to manufacture all this crap. Even the act of pumping the gas uses electricity probably generated using petroleum. Think about that real hard the next time you shoot off your mouth about the people at BP or in the government. Think about that real hard the next time you lament the poor birds and fish in the Gulf.
-- And lastly, scavenging for food is trendy.
Posted by: Reed McManus at 4:14PM PST on June 17, 2010
A random snapshot of Yahoo.com’s top “Trending Now” search topics on Thursday, June 17, shows that thanks to an ongoing oil disaster and a sobering presidential address from the Oval Office, renewable energy seems to have finally captured Americans’ attention. Wonky but critical energy issues may never push actors and entertainers from Yahoo’s #1 spot (after all, Farrah Fawcett is on top because reality-TV personality Tori Spelling claims the dead actress’s spirit spoke to her), but it’s an encouraging sign from the here and now that clean energy is ready for a starring role.
1. Farrah Fawcett
2. Marisa Tomei
3. Snoop Dogg
4. Renewable Energy
5. Nicollette Sheridan
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 2:49PM PST on June 17, 2010
There are many good reasons for pursuing energy efficiency, but--except where transportation is involved--getting off oil is not one of them. Most people who don't have solar panels on their roofs are pretty vague about where their energy comes from, and many assume that it comes from burning oil. Wrong! As the cool graphic below (courtesy of the University of California, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Department of Energy) shows, only a tiny amount of petroleum goes to electrical generation. Most goes to transportation, so if you want to get off oil you've got to do something about cars and trucks.
Of course, if your aim is to do something about global warming, it would be preferable is your electric car didn't run on juice derived from burning coal. At present, however, you have to look very closely to see the tiny amount of coal-fired power going to cars. But we can worry about that problem after we get beyond oil.
(For a larger version click here.)
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:17PM PST on June 17, 2010
"The average household spends 18 cents of every dollar on transportation, and 94% of this goes to buying, maintaining, and operating cars, the largest expenditure after housing," according to the American Public Transportation Association.
In addition to bicycling, taking public transit is one of the cheapest and easiest things you can do to lower your oil intake. In the U.S., it saves 37 million metric tons (pdf) in carbon emissions every year. And it save you a lot of money in gas, car maintenance, and insurance.
If you need help and you're wondering where to turn, start with Google Maps, which provides directions that include public-transit information. If buses or trains aren't your cup of carbon-cutting tea, see what's out there in terms of car-sharing services -- like Zipcar or CarSharing.net.
Read Part V of "Quitting Oil."
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:07AM PST on June 17, 2010
The Daily Show's video archivist worked overtime yesterday to deliver this worthwhile segment that reminds us that presidential pledges of "energy independence" goes all the way back to when the 8-track was still around.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:01AM PST on June 17, 2010
No surprise here, on the heels of President Obama's Tuesday night speech, the coal industry front group -- American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity -- released a statement saying they agree with his call for a clean energy future:
"The president also renewed his call for bolder action to create a clean energy future. We share the President's commitment, and recognize the steps we take as a nation must balance America's environmental, economic, and energy goals."As we said in a post a few weeks ago, the coal industry is working harder to convince you that to address our oil problem, we should mine and burn more coal.
Wrong. 19th Century energy sources have no place in a clean energy economy. Coal belongs in the same category as oil - too dirty and dangerous and energy sources we must phase out as soon as possible.
The President got it right when he said, "The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic."
We must restore the Gulf and push President Obama to put the weight of his office behind treating the cause of the epidemic, our reliance on oil. We must end our dependence on oil and coal.
So leading up to July 4th, we want you to join us for one the largest visual displays in Sierra Club's history as we call for Freedom From Oil this Independence Day.
Head to our Beyond Oil website to plant a flag and demand our freedom from our oil addiction and a commitment to a clean energy economy.
Plant a 'virtual flag' on our website and, if we get 50,000 people to do so, we'll recreate the scene in real life in front of the Washington Monument right before July 4th where Congress and the White House are sure to notice.
If we don't want to repeat the BP Oil Disaster, we must do better than using coal and oil to power our country. Let's stand up to these powerful interests and build a clean energy future.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:11AM PST on June 17, 2010
BP CEO Tony Heyward is on Capitol Hill today to testify before the House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment at the "The Role of BP in the Deepwater Horizon Explosion and Oil Spill" hearing.
You can watch the hearing live at that link above - as of 10am ET, it was underway.
UPDATE: Two quotes of note from this morning's hearing thus far. First up, the big one - Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the government making them create a $20 billion liability fund to pay for the impact of the disaster on Gulf residents.
Yes, you read that right. Barton pretty much said, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" Or as a Twitterer Delrayser paraphrased, "We're sorry we got all that seawater in your oil, Mr. Hayward." Here's video of that apology:
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:36PM PST on June 16, 2010
Wouldn’t it be nice to work in your pajamas from home? Americans spend about 100 hours a year commuting. That's a lot of time, money, and oil. If you have a job that allows you to telecommute one or two days a week, jump on it. If your boss is flying you around the country, look into alternatives such as web seminars and phone conferencing from home.
Spending more time at home for work can have its drawbacks, namely with your energy bill. That’s why it’s a good idea to consider your home's energy usage. Turning to programmable thermostats and putting on layers during the winter months are good starts. Here are tips on minimizing your need for an air conditioner during the summer months. And lastly, look into Google’s PowerMeter, a free energy monitoring tool for your home. Along those same lines, consider a home energy audit here and here.
Read Part IV of "Quitting Oil."
Posted by: Reed McManus at 12:06PM PST on June 16, 2010
First unveiled at the Gulf Aid benefit concert in New Orleans on May 16, a scathingly current version of the Mardi Gras classic “It Ain’t My Fault” has just been released for sale on iTunes. Performed by the Gulf Aid All-Stars (the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Mos Def, Lenny Kravitz, and Trombone Shorty, along with actor Tim Robbins), all proceeds go to the Gulf Relief Foundation, which supports organizations focused on wetlands issues and fishing families affected by the continuing spill. Don’t miss the backstory on what led to the song’s (re)creation and an all-night jam session reported by New Orleans’ Times Picayune.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:41AM PST on June 16, 2010When You Think You've Hit Bottom There's a Bottom Below
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 9:38AM PST on June 16, 2010
In my last post I noted that the estimated size of the BP oil disaster had been revised upward, so that it was believed to be spewing the equivalent to the oil from the Exxon Valdez every 5 to 13 days. That was so yesterday! In the meanwhile the government panel judging the spill rate upped its estimate once again, this time to 60,000 barrels a day, or an Exxon Valdez's worth every 4 days. As noted by the New York Times, "It continues a pattern in which every new estimate of the flow rate has been dramatically higher than the one before."
Posted by: Heather M at 8:22AM PST on June 16, 2010
We're guessing that you all are just like us here at the Sierra Club - you feel frustrated and helpless looking at all these terrible BP oil disaster photos.Well tomorrow, June 17th, is an event that can be a good start in getting our country to end our oil dependence. It's "Dump the Pump" day, sponsored by the American Public Transit Association (APTA) and heartily backed by the Sierra Club, on which you should leave your car at home and take public transportation whenever you can.
Here's more from the APTA press release:
The 5th Annual National Dump the Pump Day on Thursday, June 17, will give people the chance to make a statement in support of public transit and its ability to help our country reduce its reliance on oil...(T)he National Dump the Pump Day is a public awareness day that highlights the benefits of public transportation.So how about you, will you be taking public transportation tomorrow?
Cross-posted on the Climate Crossroads Green Transportation Group.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:06PM PST on June 15, 2010
Americans burn 378 million gallons of gasoline a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Oil is the lifeblood of the automobile, and there's no better place to start cutting down your oil usage than that metal box sitting in your driveway.
We're not saying you have to sell your car. But if you can make your trips to the pump less frequent, it'll add up. Start by inflating your tires, clearing your trunk (Carting around an extra 100 pounds can reduce your mileage by 2 percent), driving more slowly (or at least not over the speed limit), and biking or walking short trips.
Just how much better is bicycling compared to driving? Mr. Green had fun with some arithmetic by comparing gas usage of a car to that of a bicyclist who eats cornmeal for his or her fuel. Let's say it takes two gallons of gas to drive 48 miles. A typical cyclist would need about 1.25 pounds of cornmeal for the energy to bike 48 miles. "It takes a gallon or so of fossil fuel to produce 50 pounds of corn, so the amount of fossil-fuel energy needed to grow enough corn for the 48-mile ride is a meager .025 gallons," says Mr. Green. Imagine every American walking or bicycling short trips. Do you think BP (and other oil companies) would take notice?
Do you want to start cycling to work and nearby locations and don't know how to get started? The Crossroads blog has some excellent starting tips by Canyon Kyle here, here, and here. Also, check out Commutebybike.com's Commuting 101.
Have you got other ideas about oil and cars? Share them in the comments.
Read Part III of "Quitting Oil."
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 1:10PM PST on June 15, 2010
The Sierra Club ran this ad in the New York Times in 1989 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. "Who should pay for this mess? Exxon. And not just for the short term cleanup. And not just through advertisements and PR." Sound familiar? Note that at this point, the BP oil disaster is now estimated to be dumping an Exxon Valdez sized amount of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every 5 to 13 days.
For more oil-spill deja vu see here.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 12:44PM PST on June 15, 2010
There's a whole new class of small, highway capable electric cars preparing to enter the American auto market. These "City Cars", exemplified by the Mitsubishi iMiEV and Mercedes' Smart car, are designed for commuters who are in need of good, inexpensive vehicles that do the job of transporting to and from work while using a minimal amount of energy.
Eight Plug in America members were recently asked to come to the Orange County offices of Think to test drive the latest version of this highly efficient EV. Linda Nicholes, past president of Plug In America, has written a great blog on the test drive, so I won't go into too much detail, but I will say that the Think impressed me with its overall performance and handling. It's very similar to the iMiEV in most all respects, and if both are priced appropriately, i.e., a few thousand lower than the Nissan Leaf, they'll sell very well.
(Like what you read? Visit my blog EVs & Energy.)
Posted by: Jennifer Schwab at 12:40PM PST on June 15, 2010
(Read more at Sierra Club Green Home.)
When offered a chance to chat with Kathy Ireland, we thought, "why would Sierra Club Green Home want to talk to a Sports Illustrated cover girl?" To our surprise, Ms. Ireland has quietly become a clothing and furniture designer and built a $1.4 billion a year business. And that sustainability is a core value of her vast enterprise.
Those of you over 40 surely have seen Ireland's willowy, shapely physique on at least one of the three covers -- including the bestselling 25th anniversary edition -- of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She appeared in the SI cheesecake magazine for 13 consecutive years, which must be some kind of record. Ireland began modeling while attending high school in Santa Barbara, and says it was "good money for not a lot of work."
She prefers to be thought of as a designer and businesswoman first, an author second (she has written three bestselling children's books and two self-help books, most recently Real Solutions for Busy Moms: Your Guide to Success and Sanity) with acting and modeling a distant third. Ireland is also a wife since 1988 and mother of three. In 2004, Inc. Magazine named her one of the top five celebrity entrepreneurs, mentioned in the same breath with Paul Newman, Magic Johnson, Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and Francis Ford Coppola. She believes in giving back, and has numerous philanthropic credentials including pro bono work for March of Dimes, PTA, Feed the Children and City of Hope.
Ireland does not just lend her name to products for a fee. She is a real designer and is intimately involved with products that bear her name, from raw materials through distribution. Her first big success was a line of socks (yes, socks) for K-Mart which ended up selling over 100 million pairs. That led to a series of other apparel and furniture lines, all of which are closely supervised by Ireland and must be produced using sustainable materials and processes.
Ireland's customers are basically the moms of America. She encourages them to think sustainably. Her furniture products are recyclable, and she uses only faux furs and skins to respect the animal kingdom. One of her furniture lines is made from sustainably harvested woods from Africa. A genuine outdoorsy type, Ireland was a long-time Sierra Club member and used to go on club hikes with her parents as a teenager.
Ireland faced obstacles on her way to mogul-dom. "Rejection is a gift, it gives you perseverance," she says. "Modeling was good training that way because rejection is part of the job." Not surprisingly, she had more than one instance of not being taken seriously as a designer or businesswoman because of the stereotype associated with modeling.
With more than 15,000 products including furniture, clothing, linens, candles and more, Ireland's company is one of the few highly-profitable sustainable companies in America (it is rumored that Ireland personally hauls in over $10 million a year). Plus, she has scandal-free record as wife, mother, philanthropist and corporate do-gooder.
Not bad for a cover girl, eh?
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:14PM PST on June 14, 2010
One reason the BP oil disaster makes us sick is the flood of heartbreaking images of dead or dying wildlife and despoiled wetlands coupled with an infuriating sense of helplessness. BP's “handling” the crisis, so there's nothing we can do -- right?
Read Part II of "Quitting Oil."
Posted by: Heather M at 12:30PM PST on June 14, 2010
Tomorrow and Thursday there are two big oil industry hearings in the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.
Tuesday's hearing starts at 9:30am and features reps from five major oil companies:
Then on Thursday we get to see BP CEO Tony Heyward alone in front of the same committee in a hearing titled "The Role of BP in the Deepwater Horizon Explosion and Oil Spill." The committee's members will grill Heyward on "what caused the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the oil spill that continues to spread across the Gulf of Mexico."
We'll be paying close attention to both of these hearings and give you details on what went down.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 3:59PM PST on June 11, 2010
If BP hadn't screwed up its Macondo well (and when is Gabriel Garcia Márquez going to complain about the name?), all those hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil would be flowing to refineries on the Gulf Coast. And after that? Charles Komanoff, author of Ending the Age of Oil, searched the datasets from the Energy Information Administration to come up with the chart below. The data is from 2000 but today's usage is believed to be very similar. Matthew Yglesias posted the chart today by way of making fun of an op-ed by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) in the Wall Street Journal in which he pooh-poohs wind power:
"Stop pretending wind power has anything to do with reducing America's dependence on oil. Windmills generate electricity-not transportation fuel."
Yglesias and others helpfully point out that there are such things as electric cars, and that Alexander himself calls for electrifying half of our transportation fleet. That would save a lot of oil!
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:51AM PST on June 11, 2010
The government says the BP oil disaster is twice as bad as previously thought:
The new estimate is 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day. That range, still preliminary, is far above the previous estimate of 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day.Frustrated with nowhere to turn? Visit the Sierra Club's new Beyond Oil site to take action, watch video, and keep updated with an oil-spill Twitter feed.
Posted by: Don Knapp, ICLEI USA at 11:30AM PST on June 11, 2010
ICLEI has released two new case studies to help local governments learn from two of the early pioneers on climate adaptation planning: Keene, NH, and Homer, AK. Download them now:
Homer, Alaska’s Climate Adaptation Progress Despite Uncertainties (pdf)
Keene, New Hampshire Leading on Climate Preparedness (pdf)
Is your community prepared for climate impacts? Learn more about climate adaptation and ICLEI's Climate Resilient Communities Program.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:17AM PST on June 11, 2010
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
-- Great article in The Awl about oil and helplessness.
As is the case with these things, it was the pictures of the oily birds -- the one that looked like some gurgling monster; the one that lay on its back like a human, dying -- that yielded the most authentic reactions to the oil spill I've yet seen. Showing the photos to three friends, I watched the anger over the oil spill subside in their faces, the frustration drift from their voices as they scrolled down the page, lingering on each new frame. Unprompted, all three eventually said the same thing: "It makes me feel helpless."
-- Do workers in the trenches need respirators?
What needs to be happening in the Gulf is a large-scale exposure assessment of the individuals involved in the hazardous material clean-up efforts. Exposure assessments identify the chemical, biological, and physical agents present in a work environment and evaluate the extent to which workers in that environment are exposed to those agents.
-- ProPublica's blog has been an excellent source of muckraking. Read about the non-response from government officials and BP related to data on sick clean-up workers.
-- For all you food connoisseurs out there, BP's spill has shut down the country's oldest oyster-shucking company.
-- And last but not least, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) has abandoned his own climate bill for good. But this might say more about Democrats' strategy to pass legislation than Sen. Graham's wavering commitment to climate change.
It's further evidence that the "lone Republican" strategy doesn't work. Time and again, Democrats have ended up in a room with a single Republican who seemed willing to cut a deal. It was Olympia Snowe on health care, Bob Corker on financial regulation and Lindsey Graham on climate change. In every case, the final bill looked a lot like what that Republican helped negotiate. And in every single case, the Republican realized that he or she couldn't get more support from their party and so they eventually bolted the effort.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 9:51AM PST on June 10, 2010
How dare BP spill all that oil into the Gulf of Mexico before we can burn it in our cars? Google's Public Data Explorer (it's well worth exploring) provides a sobering interactive gadget that allows you to compare U.S. per capita energy use with most any other country on the planet. BP wasn't drilling that oil to export to Togo, you know.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 6:57AM PST on June 10, 2010
Today will see a major vote in the U.S. Senate - one that could hugely benefit Big Oil and Big Coal if it passes.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will introduce her disapproval resolution that would block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from taking action to limit global warming pollution - even from the biggest polluters like coal plants and oil refineries.
This resolution has been waiting for a vote for a while - I even wrote about back in March. But we still need your help in stopping it!
Senator Murkowski's amendment would block EPA from implementing existing and new rules designed to cut pollution and reduce our dependence on oil and coal in favor of clean wind and solar. It is nothing short of a huge bail out for dirty energy companies.
With oil continuing to soak the Gulf and air pollution blanketing most of our urban areas, we need EPA to move forward and cut our use of oil and coal. As long as we are dependent on dirty forms of energy there will be problems. At every stage of its life-cycle, from the production to the refining to the burning, oil is filthy and harming our communities and our environment.
Major industrial facilities, including the nation's more than 500 existing coal plants, are responsible for almost 70% of our country's global warming pollution. Addressing the pollution from these sources is a key part of the big picture solution to global warming and energy independence.
So please join us right now in calling your Senators and telling them to vote against the Murkowski disapproval resolution. EPA has a critical role in protecting our health, and the health of our environment. We can't let Big Coal and Big Oil continue to push for and receive loopholes while they pollute our planet.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:25PM PST on June 9, 2010
I had the pleasure of attending a National Press Club luncheon today that featured Ashley Judd speaking about the sad, horrible, and grim realities of mountaintop removal coal mining.
If you're not familiar with the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining, you should be. It's when mining companies blow the tops off mountains to reach a thin seam of coal and then, to minimize waste disposal costs, dump millions of tons of waste rock into the valleys below, causing permanent damage to the ecosystem and landscape.
Mountaintop removal coal mining, has damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 miles of streams and threatens to destroy 1.4 million acres of land by 2020. The mining poisons drinking water, lays waste to wildlife habitat, increases the risk of flooding and wipes out entire communities.
Let me tell you, I never thought Ashley Judd would be a slouch on this topic, but she still really surprised me and just nailed her speech. She clearly knows the topic extensively - everything from the history of the destructive process, to what actions must be taken right now to help stop it, and much more. Judd also brought it home because the topic is very personal to her: She grew up in eastern Kentucky, an area home to many mountaintop removal coal mining sites.
Judd started off her speech by stating that she's very proud of her Kentucky heritage, even exclaiming, "I'm proud to be a hillbilly!" and then choking up when talking about family memories from growing up.
"There is no better home than Kentucky," she said. Really, that's what helped make it very powerful to me, her descriptions of the effects of the endless destruction mountaintop removal has on Appalachian families and the environment were fairly breath-taking and frequently caused her to tear up.
Judd pushed clean energy as an alternative, and admitted that while she does not have all the answers, she does know that mountaintop removal coal mining is wrong and unjust, and she would be more than happy to sit down with coal supporters to have a conversation with dignity and respect about the future of it, why it must end, and why clean energy will help Appalachia.
The Sierra Club even got a shout-out during her speech. Not only was Sierra Club Conservation Director Sarah Hodgdon invited to sit at the head table with Judd (she is seated at the right in photo at the top of this post, and below you'll see her smiling next to Ashley Judd), but Judd also recommended to the audience, "If you want to know more about how bad coal is, then read the 'Dirty Truth About Coal' report from the Sierra Club." Not bad!
Judd also had two good quips when asked about the coal industry. When asked her thoughts on "clean coal," she responded with, "Oxymoron." And then asked about what role carbon capture and sequestration played in making coal clean, she responded, "CCS exists, it's called a tree."
I got a lucky seat out in the audience - I was at the same table as Mari-Lynn Evans and Phyllis Geller (pictured L and R in the above photo), the amazing filmmakers behind the phenomenal documentary "Coal Country." They are fascinating women, and Mari-Lynn had one great quote when our table was chatting before the speech started: "After making that film, I don't ever turn on the lights without thinking of mountaintop removal coal mining anymore."
Finally, Judd closed her speech with something really amazing. She read from a letter one of her aunts wrote to another in 1975. The excerpt was about the aunt's fear of a local coal company taking over their land for strip-mining, and the aunt said she wished someone would stip strip-mining before the whole area was gone. Very poignant.
So if you ever get a chance to hear Ashley Judd speak, go for it. We can at least offer you a small example here in this 2009 video of her speaking at a rally about coal in Kentucky.
Want to take action against mountaintop removal coal mining? Learn more here.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 10:25AM PST on June 9, 2010
There's a lot about BP not to like. But they do produce really cool graphics! The company just released its annual Statistical Review of World Energy, with no end of eye-opening statistics about the world's production and consumption of petroleum products. This graphic shows which countries are sitting on how much oil; check out an interactive version here:
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:20PM PST on June 8, 2010
Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope debated energy Monday on CNBC with a Big Oil apologist. "We are dependent on these fossil fuels that were great technologies in the early 20th century, but they are not great technologies today," he says. Carl Pope makes some great points about the carbon tax and dirty energy. Bottom line: dirty energy kills people and ruins habitat. Clean energy doesn't. This is a great clip if you can tolerate Larry Kudlow's voice.
Posted by: Heather M at 12:58PM PST on June 8, 2010
To again take a break from the BP oil disaster news, let's talk about some other global warming and energy news out there.
First, there is a very important vote in the Senate scheduled for Thursday - on Senator Lisa Murkowski's (R - Oil) disapproval resolution that would block Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act.
This move is a total sham - the Supreme Court ordered EPA to regulate carbon dioxide after EPA ruled it as harmful to humans. EPA Administration Lisa Jackson is speaking out in opposition to Murkowski's resolution as well.
Looks like Senator Murkowski just wants to protect Big Oil and Big Coal from cleaning themselves up. Have you asked your Senator to vote against this resolution yet?Speaking of Senate action, Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana released his version of a climate bill on Monday. Here's our statement on it.
In coal news, Duke Energy is taking a long hard look at buying coal from mountaintop removal coal mining operations....really? Ah, because they're estimating how much it would cost to stop buying MTR coal, I see. In any case, here's another interesting fact from that article:
North Carolina is one of the nation's top users of mountaintop coal. About half the electricity used in this state comes from coal-burning power plants, and about half the coal for those plants comes from mountaintop blasting.
You can do better than that, North Carolina.
Meanwhile, Massey Energy (owner of the mine that blew up and killed 29 coal miners in early April) is now blaming the Mine Safety and Health Administration for making them install a ventilation system that's unsafe. And it just happens to be the same system that was in place at the mine that exploded.
If you're in Houston this Thursday night, then check out the Houston Sierra Club Chapter's Air Quality forum, where they'll talk about plans for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. That pipeline would bring Canada's dirty tar sands (see the photo) into the U.S., and you can send in your comment right now opposing that plan.
We just released a major report on tar sands with several other organizations, too. Go read "Tar Sands Invasion" and educate yourself on why this dirty energy source is not a wise choice for the U.S. Here is a good column on this issue, too.
Finally, today Yale University and George Mason University co-released a poll on public opinion about global warming. The results?
The polling also includes numbers on specific policy points to stop global warming. Check it out.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:07AM PST on June 8, 2010
Let's take a quick break from the BP calamity to point to something fun.
Our panel of judges has picked from 330 entries the finalists for the bike-ku contest here on Climate Crossroads! These three entries have been sent to Rep. Earl Blumenauer's office, where the congressman will select the grand-prize winner. The grand prize is a Breezer Uptown 8 bicycle. The other two finalists will get a Kryptonite lock and a Nutcase helmet.
Take a look at the finalists and leave a comment if you want to voice your opinion.
Fenders From Heaven
Rhythmic and soothing
One Tweet Ride
I don't know why i
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:04PM PST on June 7, 2010
Gabrielle Burton, Sierra Club member who runs fivesistersproductions.com, sends us these shots from a BP pump station. Thanks, Gabrielle!
Take a closer look at that red warning sticker:
A lot of people are noticing these warning signs and taking pictures. There are more at Think Progress. If you have pictures related to the oil mess, post them at the BP Oil Disaster group's gallery here on Climate Crossroads.
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:51PM PST on June 7, 2010
While professional photographers are capturing horrifying images from the Gulf (BP's doing more to contain press coverage than its own oil disaster), Web sites that are good with numbers are putting together eye popping graphs that really put BP's conduct into perspective.
Take this graph, for example. Between June 2007 and February 2010, BP received 760 "egregious citations" across its six U.S. refineries. FlowingData.com illustrated that fact to create this bar graph of citations per million barrels processed per day. BP is in green while all other refineries are in grey. Click here to get a closer look.
InformationIsBeautiful.com is another site that I often visit to find graphs on current events. Here's their latest on the BP oil disaster:
BP has engaged in some graph making of its own -- albeit the making of misleading graphs.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 11:21AM PST on June 7, 2010
It takes a lot of money to blow mountaintops to smithereens to get at the coal below. The largest funder of such projects -- up to now -- has been banking giant JPMorgan Chase. According to Mother Jones, Chase has underwritten bond or loan deals worth $8.5 trillion dollars over the past 17 years for the major players in the MTR world--the biggest being Massey Energy, now famous as operator of the Big Branch coal mine where 29 miners died on April 5.
In May, the Sierra Club and Rainforest Action Network put out a report card on banks and mountaintop removal [pdf] wherein JPMorgan received an F. Its environmental policy, the report noted, did not even mention MTR.
But last month, in a little-noticed move just prior to its annual shareholder meeting, the bank promised to review “all proposed banking transactions for companies engaged in MTR . . . . include[ing] considerations of a company’s regulatory compliance history [take that Massey Energy!], as well as exposure to future regulatory changes and litigation risks, particularly as they relate to valley fills and water quality issues.”
While short of the total phase-out of MTR financing that environmentalists would like to see, JPMorgan’s move is, according to Rainforest Action Network’s Nell Greenberg, “a huge first step.” Also jazzed by the news is Reverend Billy of New York City’s “Life After Shopping Church,” whose followers have been leaving little piles of West Virginia mud in front of Chase ATMs, along with flyers describing the impact of MTR. They’ve also been personally divesting:
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 11:04AM PST on June 7, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day, Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, left the Bay Area on electric bicycles on a cross-country adventure. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We are posting some of his writings here.]
Posted by: Reed McManus at 3:43PM PST on June 4, 2010
The Gulf of Mexico spill has been pretty abstract, despite GusherCam images from the sea floor. Louisiana has many marshes and few beaches, so access to assess the spill’s onshore toll is difficult. That has benefited BP, which has been accused of restricting media coverage and barring contract workers from sharing images of what they’ve witnessed.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 11:20AM PST on June 4, 2010
The 2010 hurricane season has officially begun, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting it to be a wild one. “This season could be one of the more active on record,” said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco. Her agency project 14 to 23 named storms, 8 to 14 hurricanes, and 3 to 7 major hurricanes--all in an area increasingly contaminated with oil.
One of the major reasons for NOAA’s high projection is what the National Weather Service calls “exceptionally warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.” While those high temperatures can not be conclusively linked to global warming, they are predicted by it. Here’s the satellite view from NASA’s Earth Observatory.
Posted by: Reed McManus at 9:53AM PST on June 4, 2010
The best antidote to polished corporate public relations and the random-brain-dump phenomenon known as Twitter is to make fun of both, preferably at the same time. So head to the Twitter page of “BPGlobalPR,” which promises you “short, timely messages from BP Public Relations.” What you get is some slick humor, including:
Created on May 19 by an anonymous wag, the fake BP Twitter account had nearly 77,000 followers at the end of May. The real BP account, BP_America, had 7,800.
Posted by: Reed McManus at 9:30AM PST on June 4, 2010
BP has moved from top-hat to top-kill to cut-and-cap. (Is cut-and-run next?) Since the company has literally thrown the kitchen sink at its hemorrhaging Gulf of Mexico well -- the “junk shot” at the end of May included golf balls and rubber scraps that failed to stop the flow -- no proposed solution seems beyond consideration.
Okay, at least two are pretty much off the table: detonating a nuclear device (radioactive uncontrolled oil, anyone?) and inserting a giant tampon, as proposed by the Today show’s Hoda Kotb.
For more your-guess is-as-good-as-mine proposals, go here, here, and here. You can submit your own idea to the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command or directly to BP. The befuddled oil empire’s “Do you have ideas to help us?” phone number is 281-366-5511.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:05AM PST on June 4, 2010
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
Even though it was a short week, there was a lot happening. Here's some of the stuff I stumbled upon this first week of June:
-- BP CEO Tony Hayward says he's sorry for saying he wants his life back. "Speculation, especially in the British press, is rampant as to whether Hayward will be forced to resign in the wake of the London-based company's inability to stop the leak and revelations about technical problems leading up to the blowout."
-- Anti-government Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann wants to know why the government isn't doing enough to contain the oil spill.
-- Sports gambling is analogous to BP's deep-ocean, high-risk drilling.
-- The North American continent had a remarkably low snow pack this past April, according to the NOAA.
-- Why is India the poster child for the population problem?
-- Read about a massive greenwashing campaign to turn meat byproducts into biofuel.
-- And lastly, yesterday I blogged about solar power collected from man-made satellites. Now read about ideas of a solar power plant on our own satellite -- the Moon.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:29PM PST on June 3, 2010
A catastrophic event like the oil spill really brings out the creativity in people with computers and keyboards. Visit BuzzFeed for a compilation of images from around the Internet of BP's disaster. This one of Mario in particular takes me back. Ah, those innocent days of 8-bit Nintendo excellence...
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:40AM PST on June 3, 2010
This post was co-written by Nachy Kanfer, Associate Field Organizer for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign in Ohio.
We regularly dispute Big Coal when they say coal is not bad for the environment - now we have another example of how this dirty, outdated power source is costing jobs and damaging the economy in one state.
The Sierra Club just co-released a report showing that the Bay Shore coal-fired power plant in Oregon, Ohio, causes nearly $30 million in damages to the state's economy every year.
The report, produced by Genter Consulting and co-released by the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association, Ohio Citizen Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, and the Ohio Division of the Izaak Walton League of America, shows that this massive economic damage is caused by the plant's antiquated cooling system.
The Bay Shore facility lacks cooling towers, which means that every day it has to draw over 650 million gallons of fresh water. In the summertime, that requires the plant to suck in the entire Maumee River! The water is then spit back into Lake Erie, 5-12 degrees Fahrenheit warmer, and with 126,000 fewer fish every day. This destroys fish populations in Lake Erie that would otherwise be used by Ohioans for recreation or commercial sale.
The conservative $29.7 million estimate was for damage to fish only, and did not include estimates of damage from other uses such as hunting or bird-watching, both of which contribute to the state's economy as well. The study used FirstEnergy's (operator of the Bay Shore plant) own numbers for how many fish are killed.
The report methodically demonstrates a central necessity: the installation of cooling towers at the Bay Shore plant, which would reduce fish kills by 95 percent.
"We now know that the estimated $100 million cost of installing cooling towers is economically justified by the annual $29.7 million economic loss from the fish kills," said Sandy Bihn, a member of the Oregon City Council and Executive Director of the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association.
"Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to require Bay Shore to install cooling towers to reduce the millions of fish - and billions of larval fish - killed each year."
This report also comes as the Ohio EPA reviews its draft of a wastewater discharge renewal permit for the Bay Shore facility - which we are urging them to reject.
Commercial fishermen, sport anglers, and recreational boaters in the Toledo area are taking the lead on this issue, saying the coal plant's destruction of fish populations for cooling purposes robs them of their livelihoods.
"I have lived and worked within one half mile of the Bay Shore plant starting 17 years before it was built in 1951, and ever since," said Frank Reynolds, a local resident and commercial fisherman. "The Bay Shore power plant has killed fish and degraded the Maumee Bay waters, spawning grounds, nursery and general food supply."
Ultimately, of course, the best way to preserve the livelihoods of those who rely on fishing in Lake Erie - and the best way to clean the lake and strengthen the economy of northwest Ohio - is to stop burning coal at the Bay Shore plant.
It's not just a problem of fish - though that would be bad enough. The Bay Shore plant, along with three other FirstEnergy-owned plants along the shore of Lake Erie, is also under a Notice of Violation from the United States Environmental Protection Agency for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act. Bay Shore has no modern pollution controls and contributes to Ohio's chronic conditions of poor air quality, through heavy emissions of dangerous soot, smog and mercury.
Coal has no place in Ohio's energy future. In recent weeks, as the BP oil disaster unfolds off the Gulf Coast, we have all felt a keen sense of solidarity with those whose livelihoods - and lives - have been ruined by our nation's addiction to oil. The problem, in a nutshell, is dirty energy. Whether it's oil on the Gulf Coast or coal in Ohio, we have learned that dirty energy is simply incompatible with clean water, our nation's crucial fishing and tourism industries, and a strong, robust economy.
BONUS NEWS: We'll end with some good news that just came down from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Today EPA announced a new strong standard for sulfur dioxide, one of the major pollutants that burning coal spews forth into our air. This new EPA standard will reduce acid rain, soot and smog pollution.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:07AM PST on June 3, 2010From White Cloud to Hamburg, Iowa
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 9:22AM PST on June 3, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day, Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, left the Bay Area on electric bicycles on a cross-country adventure. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We are posting some of his writings here.]
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:16AM PST on June 3, 2010
The Space Solar Power Systems is exactly what it sounds like -- solar energy collected from space. Check out this nifty video for details. The Japanese Space Agency hopes to have such a system in orbit by 2030. (h/t Space Gizmo)
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:37PM PST on June 2, 2010
In case you needed another reason to take action on offshore drilling:
Today, the Minerals Management Service approved a new drilling permit for an offshore well in the Gulf of Mexico. Last week, the president extended his ban on deepwater drilling for an additional 6 months, but lifted the ban on shallow water drilling, allowing this project to move forward.It sounds like the folks in Washington aren't getting the message. Click here to find out what you can do.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 3:36PM PST on June 2, 2010
If you think the politics of poisoning and ravaging America ended with George Bush's administration, here's some sobering counterevidence that a big part of our political elite wants to prove you wrong.
In Washington, a couple of weeks ago, Republican senators raked John McConnell, Jr. over the coals. McConnell is one of President Obama's nominees for the federal bench -- for a district judge seat from Rhode Island. What concerned Senators Jon Kyl and Jeff Sessions was that McConnell, as a public-interest lawyer, might have been, well, too zealous, in his efforts to protect children from lead poisoning. McConnell was the lead attorney for the State of Rhode Island in a case against manufacturers of lead paint. In the case, he argued that since the manufacturers of lead paint knew their product was toxic, and sold it anyway, they were legally liable for damages under the common-law doctrine of nuisance.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:18AM PST on June 2, 2010
Over on the blog of the "People of Faith for the Environment" group here on Climate Crossroads, I've been posting news hits covering how various faith groups are responding to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Whether the groups are there in person, like Mennonite Disaster Service or the United Church of Christ (their work is here, here and here), or there are various religious groups - from Christians to Jews to Buddhists and more - all talking about a faithful response and the morality of our oil dependence, there's been an article about it and I've posted it on the blog in that group. Here are links to those blog posts: June 2nd post, May 14th post, May 11th post, and the May 7th post.
If you know of any other faith groups talking about and/or responding along the Gulf, let us know in the comments section.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:55AM PST on June 2, 2010
The following comment isn't from The Bizarro World. It's from Sarah Palin's Twitter account. Via TPM: "Extreme Greenies:see now why we push"drill,baby,drill"of known reserves&promising finds in safe onshore places like ANWR? Now do you get it?"
Oh I get it alright: Twitter is not the best venue for a politician to CYA. I think it makes more sense to frame the BP oil disaster as an "act of God," which is what Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma did yesterday.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:13PM PST on June 1, 2010
Click here, punch in your zip code, and find out how much area BP's oil disaster would cover if it happened in your backyard.
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:10PM PST on June 1, 2010
Today, President Obama pledged to consider criminal charges.
Let's hope he's serious. (Update: AG Holder has opened a criminal probe. Read about it here.) If you're looking for some good articles today about BP's mess, try Kate Sheppard's take on how BP and MMS ignored the warning signs.
[O]n June 22, 2009, BP engineers noted concerns that the metal casing the company wanted to use on the well could collapse under high pressure. BP used the casing anyway, after overriding its own design and safety standards. Other documents released this week reveal that the company knew that there was 'unlikely to be a successful cement job" on the site and that the casing would be "unable to fulfill M.M.S. regulations."Another great read comes from Leslie Fields, who is the National Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships Director for the Sierra Club. Here's a snippet of the article:
This is part of an unbroken chain of disproportionate impacts. It’s as if the Gulf Coast is the one of our country’s major sacrifice zones.For all the latest news and photos, join the BP Oil Disaster group here on Climate Crossroads.
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