Climate Crossroads Blog
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:30PM PST on July 31, 2009This Week's Blogosphere Soup
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:02PM PST on July 31, 2009
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
The consequences of climate change will be widespread, no doubt. If you missed it, I recently interviewed Bruce Hamilton, outdoor expert and Sierra Club's Deputy Executive Director. He details the changes that are already occurring to our wilderness here in America. Read the entire interview here.
Speaking of climate-change impacts, if you want to keep track of the science behind them, the blog you should read is Real Climate.
Another science-centric blog I enjoy is Ill Considered. The latest news on the blog concerns Arctic ice, which continues to trail 2008 levels.
Not so hard to predict is what the denial-o-sphere's reaction will be if the current track continues and the final melt comes in lower than last year. If you recall, last year was the second lowest extent on record and somehow the usual suspects managed to see this as sea ice recovering. This year, if last year's "trend reversal" is re-reversed it will be their silence that will be deafening, not their hysterics.
What will peak oil mean for world food supply? A guest writer at The Oil Drum takes a look.
Only about 10 percent of the world’s land surface is arable, whereas the other 90 percent is just rock, sand, or swamp, which can never be made to produce crops, whether we use “high” or “low” technology or something in the middle. In an age with diminishing supplies of oil and other fossil fuels, this 10:90 ratio may be creating two gigantic problems that have been largely ignored.
Elsewhere in the blogosphere:
-- We love the Lazy Organic Gardener here on this blog. But if that's not enough green-thumb blogging for you, try Garden Rant.
-- Also, the Low Impact Living blog has the beat on sustainable wineries.
-- The brainiacs at MIT have developed an electric car with a ten-minute charge time.
-- And finally, what's your take on this hybrid-electric bike? The Groovy Green blog is impressed: "Could it be possible to bike to work and not immediately have to take another shower?"
Posted by: Carl Pope at 1:59PM PST on July 31, 2009
Mumbai, India -- The 1,000 seats at the Ravindra Natya Mandir auditorium are jammed, mostly with college students wearing yellow Sierra Club Center for Green Livelihoods t-shirts. The essential heavy hitters are there -- the U.S. consul, a member of the Planning Commission, the leading environmentalist in India's business community. But the young audience comes alive when the gray-haired grassroots activists from Barefoot College and Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), and their younger counterpart from Ecosphere Spiti, tell their stories as they stand to receive the Sierra Club's first Green Energy/Green Livelihoods award and the $100,000 in prize money that goes along with it.
Three generations of Gandhi-inspired environmental activism are on the stage. They haven't forgotten the Mahatma's emphasis on empowering local people and developing India from the bottom up. But their methods might well puzzle and perplex the great advocate of handspun clothing. What our Green Livelihoods winners are doing is putting modern technology -- something Gandhi never trusted -- in the service of his ideals of self-sufficiency and dignity. Barefoot College, for example, has trained 6,000 village men and women, many illiterate, to be barefoot solar technicians -- installers and maintainers of high-tech, but simply-designed, village solar systems. The systems are also assembled in the villages, to make certain that they are both sufficiently rugged and sufficiently simple to be relied upon under the challenges of leaky roofs and dusty mud houses.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:11AM PST on July 31, 2009
UPDATE: Big surprise, coal is linked to this. We have copies of these forged letters and they say "Virginia gets 56% of its energy from coal."
More to come!---
Oh for shame, lobbyists. An investigation has found that a lobbying firm forged letters from the NAACP and a Hispanic community organization in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying that the organizations opposed the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The forged letters went to Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA 5th) and as expected, the community groups are incensed (as are the rest of us).
Neither of the groups oppose the bill.The guilty lobbying firm is Bonner & Associates, who is calling it a "mistake." Um, yeah. To say the least. We're all waiting to find out who paid the firm to do this.
If it's getting to the point where our opposition is forging letters opposing clean energy - what's next?
Posted by: Natalie Gaber at 9:50AM PST on July 31, 2009
The Public Policy Institute of California released its annual Statewide Survey: Californians and the Environment this week, and, according to the results, Californians are becoming complacent about climate change.
The survey, which focused on climate change, air pollution, and energy policy, is timely because implementation of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 is getting underway at the same time as national climate legislation is taking cues from California’s landmark law.
Although most California residents still support policies and regulations designed to reduce the state’s contribution to global warming, the majority are also in favor of opening up California’s coast to increased oil drilling. Furthermore, less Californians’ see addressing climate change as an urgent priority, and the partisan gap between supporters and resisters has widened.
The most likely explanation for this drop in support for climate change legislation is the dismal economic situation in California and the nation as a whole.
Amazingly, 1/3 of California Republicans reportedly believe that global warming will never happen, when just a year ago only ¼ felt this way. The record number of wildfires in California over the past 30 years, plus the state’s chronic water woes and loss of species, such as salmon, apparently do not qualify as side effects of global warming to many Californians.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:04PM PST on July 30, 2009
The new Cash for Clunkers government program is up and running. And we even designed a nifty calculator to help you figure potential savings. Take a look at our Cash for Clunkers group here on Crossroads.
But, alas, the program has its critics. And the good folks at 40MPG.org are miffed:
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:26PM PST on July 30, 2009
We like to check in every now and again with Mr. Green. Visit his blog to see how he answers this most recent letter-writer:
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 1:43PM PST on July 30, 2009
Yesterday, under a beautiful summer day in Lansing, Michigan, more than 500 activists from all corners of the state lent their voices to a call for a massive investment in clean energy and moving the state beyond coal.
Clean Energy Now, a coalition made up of over 40 environmentalist groups including Sierra Club, organized this Rally for Clean Energy Jobs to support Michigan’s clean energy future – and as a grassroots response to the proposal of new coal plants in Michigan.
The rally speakers and activists in particular took aim at plans in Michigan to build at least six more massive coal plants.
These plants would eliminate any market for clean energy and derail Governor Jennifer Granholm's bold vision to put Michiganders to works producing a clean energy manufacturing boom, not only to meet the state's energy needs as the state retires its old fleet of coal plants, but also to export around the world to help other states and other countries do their part to cut pollution, including dangerous emissions of carbon dioxide.
At the rally, citizens spoke out for a clean energy economy in Michigan, which will create jobs and bring money into the state, rather than the construction of new coal plants, which will continue to weaken our economy.
Michigan residents want Gov. Granholm to get that message loud and clear: No more coal – We want clean energy!
We also had a lot of fun – as people listened to great musicians, browsed informational tables from various clean energy industries, used our communications tent to send in comments and letters to Governor Granholm, signed our clean energy petition, and even threw a few baseballs at dunk tank where we had folks dressed up as various dirty energy villains.
But clearly the fight for clean energy won’t be over any time soon. For now, all eyes are on Michigan. Can it harness its legions of highly skilled workers and legendary manufacturing base into a clean energy power house, or will it go the route of 19th-century coal technology and export its dollars to line the coal barons' pockets in Appalachia?
Governor Granholm can help make this happen by choosing clean energy now instead of coal.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:56PM PST on July 30, 2009
On the heels of Big Coal's asinine boycott of Tennessee tourism because of Sen. Lamar Alexander's stance against mountaintop removal (MTR) comes Grist's critique of Alexander's record -- part of its ongoing series about U.S. senators and climate change.
From the article:
Sen. Lamar Alexander realizes that we need to do something about climate change and has tried to distance himself from the skeptics in his party. “I am one senator who thinks climate change is a problem, humans are causing it, and we need to deal with it,” he said at a recent hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
But he's pro-nuclear and doesn't support cap-and-trade legislation such as the Waxman-Markey bill. He does, however, support a carbon tax. And he's been outspoken about the dirty business of coal. Thus King Coal's boycott.
The robust Tennessee Rocks! group here on Crossroads has already surpassed 60 members. Join the group, thank Alexander for supporting an MTR ban, and share with us why you love the Volunteer State.
Posted by: Malia at 9:45AM PST on July 30, 2009
It seems that East and West super powers are all competing to win the clean energy race. With China, Japan and South Korea all shelling out billions more than the US, if things don’t change, the East may well triumph over the West.
China alone is reportedly investing between $440 and $660 billion in its clean energy industries over the next 10 years. Japan is currently doubling their incentives for solar energy, aiming for a 20-fold expansion in installed solar energy by the year 2020. South Korea is investing a full 2% of their GDP earnings in a Green New Deal. The United States on the other hand is falling quite short investing only about $1.2 billion annually un energy research and development and only about $10 billion in the clean energy sector as a whole (under the Waxman Markey Bill) which is less than 0.1% of the US GDP. Come on America!
Although the US is investing some money in clean energy technologies as well as clean energy research and development, the reported figures fall extremely short of what was previously promised by President Obama in his RE-ENERGYSE (Regaining our Energy Science and Engineering Edge) program. This program was “designed to fund new undergraduate and graduate energy curriculum and research opportunities to prepare up to 8,500 highly educated young scientists and engineers to enter clean energy fields by 2015 alone” (Norris and Jenkins, 2009). Unfortunately, this program is no where near coming to fruition. In fact, the senate recently rejected the proposal while the house appropriated only $7 million to the program from the proposed $115 million. Again, come on America!
In order to put the United States back where it belongs (on top), the US must respond to the Asian energy challenge. We must fight back as we did when the Russians launched Sputnik into the atmosphere. If the US ever wants to be considered and industry leader and super power again, we must support and implement clean energy programs NOW!
Read the Article Here: Will America Lose the Clean Energy Race?
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:43AM PST on July 30, 2009
The dichotomoy of a collapsing iceberg -- its sheer beauty and its reminder of our warming world.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:47AM PST on July 29, 2009
By Justin Guay, Sierra Club Global Warming and Energy Team Apprentice
In 2007, the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) laid out the Bali Road Map which hoped to resolve tension over several key issues stalling a post-Kyoto international agreement on climate change. The most contentious included:
• emission reduction targets for developed countries
The most sincere hope of the international community and environmental advocates everywhere, is that this road will end in agreement in December of this year (2009) in Copenhagen, Denmark. These hopes however, hinge on the United States seizing global leadership by acting domestically to ensure the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) act. If Copenhagen were a game of Texas hold-em poker, the United States can now go “all-in."
Most importantly, when energy efficiency measures as well as dedicated REDD funding are included, our emissions reductions commitments reach 23% by 2020. This exceeds what the E.U. is asking for (20% by 2020), which will trigger deeper emissions cuts on their part and enable a deal. The bill also contains a host of other needed provisions, including clean technology transfer, adaptation funding, as well as international offsets provisions dedicated to avoiding deforestation.
Of course even the high hopes engendered by a new administration and new legislation that place an agreement within grasp have been met with the brutal political reality of partisan politics in the United States. The recent Senate hearings on climate legislation - which have resembled childhood arguments at some points - have been filled with a “China and India won’t play so I won’t play either” mentality. This of course completely misses the fact that China is winning the clean energy race-with $12 billion invested in 2007 in renewable energy, second only to Germany-and that we still have senators who believe global warming is not a scientific fact **AHEM** The world is looking at you Senator Inhofe.
What’s more, these comments completely miss the fact that both China and India are much closer to reaching an agreement than many in the press are reporting. According to sources with Greenpeace China, there are very encouraging signs that the Chinese will propose some form of emissions reductions targets for Copenhagen. In addition, our own Carl Pope is reporting that India is closer to a climate deal than the overwhelming attention paid to their refusal of emissions reductions targets suggests. These reports make our own childish, finger pointing antics look all the more absurd.
These encouraging signs are supplemented by the recent agreement of the G8 and the Major Economies Forum (MEF) in L’aquila, Italy, to limit warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. In order to do so they agreed to 80% reduction targets by 2050. Additionally, the MEF accepted low carbon growth plans, which further demonstrates the shift both India and China have taken regarding emissions reductions.
Thankfully, President Obama, despite his pleas for bi-partisanship, has continued to act decisively in the international arena by requesting a report on the “green financing” proposals put forth by the Mexican and U.K. governments to be presented at the Pittsburgh G-20 Summit in September. Unveiling this “green financing” in Pittsburgh, where some of the domestic opposition to American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) act is being generated, would send a strong signal both domestically (to the climate denier lunatic fringe) and internationally that the U.S. is serious about reaching a deal in Copenhagen.
Ultimately however, these positive signs mean nothing if domestic legislation fails. The world waited eight long years for the US to take the lead on global warming. It finally has, but the forces that kept us from acting in the past, continue to threaten our future.
As we approach the Copenhagen talks, it is vital that people in the United States recognize the importance of ACES in a broader context. Now, more than ever, we must “think globally and act locally” in order to stop our country, and the globe, from being hi-jacked by obstructionist global warming deniers.
Posted by: Nithin Coca at 6:16AM PST on July 29, 2009
Posted by: EnviroChuck at 4:35PM PST on July 28, 2009
Do you hate Tennessee? Sure, The Volunteer State gave us Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus, but look at all of these great reasons you really should LOVE Tennessee -- besides a Republican U.S. Senator who stands up to Big Coal.
If you haven’t heard anything really stupid lately, you haven’t been checking back to the Skeptics Say Stupid Crap group on Climate Crossrads. Watch an expert tell coal industry tycoons that we don’t have ENOUGH CO2 in our atmosphere.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:23PM PST on July 28, 2009
We wrote about it here last week: Big Coal wants to boycott Tennessee tourism because Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) supports a ban on the destructive practice of mountaintop removal. Maybe this silly boycott shouldn't surprise anyone. Anti-mountain, pro-coal people have a history of being confrontational.
Mountain lovers are now rallying to support Tennessee tourism. From the WashPost:
We've created a Tennessee group here on Crossroads that you can join. Post pictures and share with others why you love the Volunteer State. Be sure to thank Sen. Alexander here. Tell him Big Coal has inspired you to visit the great state.
(photo via Coal Tattoo.)
Posted by: Nithin Coca at 11:56AM PST on July 28, 2009
Michigan - one of the main battlegrounds between Clean Energy and Dirty Coal, is the place to be tomorrow. Clean Energy advocates from all across the state are gathering to call for a new, Clean Energy Future for Michigan at a huge rally.
There's tons going on for the entire family - just take a peak at this schedule. Music, speakers (including our own Bruce Nilles), and activities for everyone.
Now I know, you might be like me, and not live anywhere near Michigan. Don't despair - you can follow along right from your computer. Tomorrow, right here, we'll be hosting a LiveBlog straight from the center of the rally in Michigan. For those of you on Twitter, you can participate using the hashtag #nocoal.
LiveBlog starts tomorrow at 9AM EST and continues until the end of the rally at 5PM!
Posted by: Heather M at 11:07AM PST on July 28, 2009
There's big news out of Tennessee today - the Inspector General of the Tennessee Valley Authority released a report saying the TVA could have prevented last December's devastating coal ash spill near Harriman.
From the report:
"Furthermore, had corrective measures been taken in a timely fashion, it is possible that TVA could have potentially prevented the occurrence of the failure."
Pretty damning news. If you remember, December's coal ash spill happened at the Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant (a coal-fired power plant) when a dam failed and released more than 540 million gallons of coal ash across 400 acres, destroying 26 homes, and contaminating nearby waterways - including a river that provides drinking water for communities downstream and popular fishing holes for many anglers.
UPDATE: Sorry I didn't include this before, but if you want to read the TVA Inspector General's testimony to the House Subcommittee on Water Resources to the Environment (which is where he outlines the TVA faults), click here for the PDF. The full 111-page report from the IG is available here (PDF).
Anyway, the real damning news here is that the IG points out a problem we've been trying to raise awareness around for some time now: Treating coal ash as toxic waste and not as simple "garbage." From the IG's testimony:
The TVA culture at fossil plants relegated ash to the status of garbage at a landfill rather than treating it as a potential hazard to the public and the environment. We believe this culture resulted in management failures which contributed to the Kingston Spill.
Coal ash contains some nasty toxic substances, including arsenic, mercury, lead, selenium and more. Want that in your drinking water? Or in your nearby fishing holes? I don't think so.
Back to the original post....
The report from the Inspector General adds that if TVA doesn't take care, this same tragedy could happen at its other coal ash waste ponds in the state.
This is all yet another reminder of not only why we need regulation of coal combustion waste (PDF fact sheet) (which is what coal ash is), but why we also need to transition away from coal and toward clean energy. Coal is dirty from the beginning to the end of its life cycle. We can do better.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:57AM PST on July 28, 2009
This is a guest post by Allison Forbes of the Sierra Club's Labor and Worker Rights Program.
Where in the U.S. are workers preparing for the new clean energy industries? I'm talking with our union partners about just that -- and how we build new models for delivering economic and environmental benefits to communities through job creation, training and career pathways.
Last week in Indianapolis, I met individuals from across the country working in weatherization -- or energy efficiency retrofit. I met two young women working as energy auditors for a non-profit agency in Mobile, Alabama, a young man from Yakima, Washington, and other young weatherizers from Chicago and Minneapolis.
Their organizations provide direct support for families in the lowest income bracket -- including weatherization upgrades for low-income homes. They upgrade home heating and cooling systems, appliances, and insulation to improve community health and safety, reduce energy costs, and slash global warming pollution. They shared lessons learned and best practices at a weatherization training conference.
Their non-profit organizations also provide direct support for families in the lowest income bracket -- including weatherization upgrades for low-income homes. They are funded through Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and an extra $5b that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act added to the WAP's annual budget of $250m this year.
Vernon Rodriguez is a plumber in Harlem working for Community Environmental Center, a non-profit energy conservation organization.
After working on a house, Rodriguez says: "seeing the smiles on the people's faces is most important. This is the way the U.S. is going to save energy. We have a great team at the Community Environmental Center."
Just a week or two ago, the Community Environmental Center agreed to work with the Laborers International Union of North American (LiUNA!) to provide first rate weatherization training to new members of the workforce. In addition to training for the immediate job, the Laborers union will also provide training for its members' career tracks, helping them reach higher-paying work.
On Tuesday, Van Jones, green jobs czar for the White House Council on Enviromental Quality and founder of Green For All, addressed an audience of weatherization installers. He said, "You are on the ground floor of the President's clean energy agenda. We believe the energy efficiency sector is going to be a multi-billion dollar sector."
In order for the green economy to succeed, we need a robust workforce that can capitalize on new opportunities. Labor unions do this by ensuring workers have access to comprehensive skills training, protections and training to blow the whistle on health and safety risks in the workplace.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:36AM PST on July 28, 2009
Here's a video about throwing an organic Mexican fiesta. There are some great pointers in there. They even have some organic tequila.
Hungry? Peruse through our awesome sustainable recipe section. And post your own if you have some recipes you'd like to share.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:31PM PST on July 27, 2009
You know the feeling. Your car is a piece of junk. Its once shiny hue has faded. It's a polluting machine. It makes funny noises. You thank God every time you complete your trip without breaking down.
Now's your chance. The newly-launched Cash for Clunkers program encourages owners of old gas guzzlers to trade in their vehicle for a $3,500-$4,500 voucher toward the purchase of new, more efficient vehicle.
Hey look! There's now a Cash for Clunkers group on Crossroads. The group has a nifty calculator posted that you can use to calculate your savings should you choose to take advantage of the program. Join the group and post a picture of your clunker!
Also for your benefit is this little graph, courtesy fueleconomy.gov.
Have questions about the program? Click here for more info.
Posted by: EnviroChuck at 4:20PM PST on July 27, 2009
The Cash for Clunkers federal program may get you a new car for $4,500 less than the asking price, if your old beater is a real gas guzzler. We want to see a photo of your clunker before you turn it in to be crushed and recycled. Post your ugliest shot, and use our calculator to see how much money your new fuel-efficient car will save you on gas costs.
The ability to purchase carbon offsets has gotten a few of our members thinking about the pros and cons. See what they have to say here.
A groovy song from Charlottesville, VA, band Trees On Fire, is available as a FREE download, from our music section. Check it out!
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:18PM PST on July 27, 2009
Are you a friend of the environment? Have you recorded a song that you'd like to see posted here? Send us an mp3 and we might post it.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:07AM PST on July 27, 2009
Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk, who is hanging out at the International Space Station, said yesterday that since his last orbit 12 years ago, the human-induced changes of the planet are easier to spot.
On a related note, I always enjoy NASA’s Image of the Day gallery.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:44PM PST on July 24, 2009
Have you seen this?
So let's get this straight. A Senator tries to stop the blowing up of mountaintops and Big Coal decides to boycott said Senator's state in retaliation?
Well, there's only one thing to do. Go to Tennessee! And tell Sen. Alexander that Big Coal's boycott has inspired you to go visit. Talk about why you love the Volunteer State here. And take a look at some Tennessee trails already posted on Sierra Club Trails.
Posted by: RAW at 12:16PM PST on July 24, 2009
From top to bottom this week, the right-wing was all atwitter (literally) when it came to energy and climate issues. All of the activity did nothing so much as to underscore just how truly out of touch many conservatives are on these critically important issues.
The Tea Party set turned it up to 11 and cold went bonkers when the House passed the American Clean Energy & Security Act. Stories of angry emails, phone calls, protests and angry encounters at town hall meetings steadily percolated back to Washington. Some stories seemed almost too outrageous to be believed.
Well, any remaining disbelief quickly evaporated when video from a town hall meeting held by Rep. Mike Castle (a moderate Delaware Republican endorsed by the Sierra Club) hit the tubes early this week. The most-widely disseminated clip featured a so-called "birther" shouting down Rep. Castle. But a longer version also showed numerous attendees spouting traditional right-wing nonsense questioning the science of global warming or the economic impacts of clean energy legislation. If you don't understand what the media means by "lunatic fringe," just take a looksee at this video:
And this, my friends, took place in a state that went nearly 62 percent for Obama. I can only imagine what goes on elsewhere. It just goes to show what happens when people are "fed a constant stream of misinformation and incitement from Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Prison Planet, Americans for Prosperity, and the rest of the right-wing machine," as our friends at ThinkProgress put it.
Unfortunately, rambling about bad ideas and failed policies is not an affliction limited to a few conspiracy theorists at a town hall meeting in Delaware. Indeed, one of the de facto leaders of the GOP, Sarah Palin, really managed to outdo herself on this front this week.
We reported last week on her spectacularly misguided debut as the right wing's foremost national advocate for the failed Bush-Big Oil-Dick Cheney energy policies of yesteryear. (Senators Kerry and Boxer published a nice retort of their own today in the Washington Post.)
In between dodging the latest allegations of ethical improprieties (this one being that setting up a legal defense to defend herself against ethics complaints may have itself, somewhat ironically, violated ethics laws), she took to Twitter, as is her wont.
If, following her half-baked opinion piece in the Post, we had any doubts about where her allegiances lay, they were dispelled by her tweets. In several 140-character brain farts, Palin espoused the same old dreck about drilling in the Arctic Refuge and offshore that we've come to expect from conservatives beholden to Big Oil. But she did manage to spice up even this rather tired line of argument by presenting it in her characteristically disjointed style. One news outlet even went so far as to compare them to the tweets emanating from Courtney Love, who is somewhat notorious for her, shall we say, stream of consciousness/auto-writing/monkeys at a typewriter-style of twittering.
(And lest this still be too boring for you, Palin also promised that one of the "side benefits" of her decision to step down this weekend is that "less politically correct twitters [will] fly frm my fingertps outside State site.")
Luckily for Palin, "drill, baby, drill" only takes up 18 characters, leaving a full 122 more to pay homage to Big Oil, dirty coal, and the nukes that she loves so much.
Now that's what I call politically incorrect.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:14PM PST on July 24, 2009
Have you witnessed the changes? There's a discussion forum for you here on Crossroads.
Posted by: Malia at 10:45AM PST on July 24, 2009
Media intern, Natalie Gaber informs us of yet another downside to the coal industry:
"Rest in peace" is a common wish bestowed upon the dearly departed, but for one West Virginia family's ancestors, this is proving to be a difficult task.
Despite a West Virginia state law requiring that "the owners of private land on which a cemetery or grave site are located have a duty to allow ingress and egress to the cemetery or graveyard by family members," earlier this week Horizon Resources LLC http://www.horizonresources.coop/index.shtml , a coal mining company, blocked access to multiple graveyards on Cook Mountain as part of a surface mining operation being conducted.
Cook Mountain, located in James Creek, West Virginia, is named after the Cook family, longtime James Creek residents. More than 6 generations of Cooks are buried in 3 different graveyards on the mountain. Members of the Cook family pay frequent visits to their ancestors' graves as a form of tribute and to remind themselves of their heritage. The most notable Cook buried on the mountain is Civil War veteran William Chapman "Chap" Cook, who was born in 1840 and served 3 years in the War. Chap's grave stands alone on the mountain, surrounded by a chain link fence that was erected to alert visitors to the presence of the grave so they wouldn't accidentally bulldoze the area.
Danny Cook, the great-great-great-great-great grandson of William Chap, found the Cook Mountain Road, the only access road to Chap's grave, blocked by a man-made berm when he attempted to drive to his ancestor's grave last weekend. Horizon Resources, which is operating an active mountain top removal site just a few hundred feet down the mountain from Chap's grave, is responsible for this barricade.
Technically, the law prohibits mining within 100 feet of family cemeteries, but Horizon's operation seems to be inching closer and closer to the Cook family graveyards, much to the dismay of the Cook family. The road blockage is the most egregious encroachment so far, and it is stirring up powerful emotions. "The mining operation is creeping ever closer, and now my access is blocked. The road needs to be reopened and well maintained," said Danny Cook.
Danny Cook's sister-in-law, Carmon Cook, added, "My husband and I visit this cemetery many times a year. We take our children to see where they come from. It is bad enough that the logging company destroyed the old family home place of their sixth great grandfather. I don't want to see the same thing happen to our family's cemetery. The mine company says they have to leave at least one road open, but now we have to walk in a mile on a terrain of rubble. I would like to see these roads reopened and any damages repaired to better than before condition."
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:31AM PST on July 24, 2009
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
The Waxman-Markey climate bill sits in the Senate awaiting a vote. Mother Jones bloggers have some good perspective this week. Read about those 11th-hour amendments made to the bill before it passed the House of Representatives last month. Kevin Drum addresses criticism that it's too cozy with Wall Street.
It's become popular lately to attack the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill as yet another giveaway to Wall Street. In his recent tongue-lashing of Goldman Sachs, for example, Matt Taibbi warned that trading in carbon credits would be the next subprime debacle. [...] As you know, I'm pretty skeptical of this. The market for carbon credits may be big, but it's nowhere near big enough to cause the kinds of systemic problems that abuse of subprime mortgages did; the derivatives in question are simple ones like options and futures, not CDOs and swaps; and Waxman-Markey has some pretty good language regulating them in any case.
Perhaps the real problem with cap-and-trade is that it's "confusing and boring."
Climate change is always an ongoing issue, internationally-speaking. Let's go global:
-- Meanwhile, Reuters' blog reports that the sinking island of Tuvalu is aiming to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.
-- New Zealand's climate-change minister has a few opinions about the direction the world needs to go on the crisis.
-- Some seem to think that the BBC "stifles" the climate-change issue.
What's your opinion?
Posted by: Natalie Gaber at 10:08AM PST on July 23, 2009
For the Navajo Nation, going green isn’t just the latest trend; it’s part of their most basic values and culture. However, in recent years, the Navajo people have found themselves forced to stray from this central tenet as jobs have become increasingly scarce, and most of the available jobs are related toharnessing and burning dirty energy, such as coal and uranium.
As of this past Tuesday, though, all of that is about to change. The 21st Navajo Nation Council voted 62-1 to create the Navajo Green Economy Commission, which will be charged with bringing hundreds of green jobs to the Navajo Nation. Specifically, the Commission will help the Navajo Nation get its hands on some of the Federal stimulus money allocated for green jobs, and this money will be used to stimulate the local economy and create jobs within the Navajo community.
Tuesday’s vote took place at the Council Chambers in Window Rock, Arizona after a 14-month effort to get the Commission established. The Navajo Green Economy Coalition developed the legislation and led the campaign to get the Commission established. Both organizations hope that the legislation will provide incentives for young, college-educated Navajos to come back to their communities to work rather than moving to different cities with better job prospects.
Navajo President Joe Shirley had supported the construction of a new coal plant on Navajo land earlier this year. Shirley was disappointed when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pulled the plug on the project due to air pollution concerns because he saw the coal plant as a large source of jobs for the Navajo people. With the passage of the Navajo Green Economy Commission, though, the Navajo people will be able to pursue clean energy jobs that support green livelihoods. For example, the Navajo Green Economy Coalition says that green jobs funding would support green manufacturing, such as wool mills, and local business ventures, such as green construction firms.
In the spirit of moving away from dependence on dirty energy sources and destructive mining practices, the Havasupai Tribe - neighbors of the Navajo and the only permanent inhabitants of the Grand Canyon-- is hosting an historic gathering to protest against uranium mining on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The event, which is supported by the Sierra Club, will be on July 25 and 26 at the Sacred Red Butte site in Supai, AZ. Saturday will feature a free public concert at 6pm, and Sunday’s events include a public form on uranium mining and protecting sacred lands. If you cannot make it in person, check out the webcast of the event.
Posted by: John Byrne Barry at 5:42PM PST on July 22, 2009
My friend Alex, a real gardener, read my post on morning glories, what I called the easiest of easy plants. We were on the phone, but I could see her shaking her head, almost in embarrassment for me.
"You might want to be more careful what you say."
Diplomatic, but clear enough.
Yes, I intentionally planted morning glories -- and for a good reason, to cover the cyclone fence on the eastern side of my yard. It looks beautiful, especially when it's blooming, which is all summer. But here in midsummer, with its lazy long evenings, morning glory is a weed, pretty or not. My biggest weed. More invasive than ivy. Nothing in the garden grows this fast. In four or five days, a strand of morning glory climbed to the top of one of my tomato cages, and was halfway up the tomato's main stalk.
I planted a weed. On purpose. And I water it, though not intentionally.
I guess I feel a little defensive about it. I planted a weed. And because I have drip irrigation, where some plants within a foot or so of the morning glory, you can be sure this weed is drinking some of California's precious water. That's laying out the welcome mat. Come on in.
One quick aside. I got home late tonight, but there was still time to sit in the back of the yard with a glass or wine. I walked for an hour earlier in the day, but otherwise, it wasn't an especially demanding day. I could But the default was to sit with the wine instead of put on the gardening gloves.
I got an email yesterday from Angelita Sanchez, from Pleasant Hill, California, not that far from where I live. She said she enjoyed the blog, that my lovely garden "almost sounds like pure luck."
I am a relatively clear-eyed assessor of myself, or so I think. I'm not truly lazy. The garden that I have today, which I am extremely happy with, has been twenty years in the making. And some very hard work. Going slow works with nature.
I was away for six days and other than unraveling a few of those morning glory strings and picking some squash, there wasn't much to do other than weeding. But weeding is not only never finished, not for me anyway, it's also something that can be postponed. So lazy is not the correct word. Undisciplined is more like it. But that doesn't have the same ring to it. The Undisciplined Organic Gardener. Too many syllables.
Back to weeds and easy plants.
While I may feel sheepish about my glorification of morning glories, that doesn't invalidate my premise that relying on easy plants is two-thirds the battle. (And the other two-thirds is at least a moderate level of vigilance. You can be lazy, but you can't disappear altogether.)
There are plenty of easy plants in my garden that are not invasive. There's ceanothus, a.k.a. California lilac, a native, which I have in my back and front yard. The top one below, is two to three years old. Under that is one in the front that gets less sun and has been there for more than a decade.
Its flowers, a fuzzy bluish purple bulb, are lovely, but infrequent. When I planted the two in the back, there was a manzanita in between, also a native that I see in the wildlands around here more than ceanothus. But the ceanothis smothered it.
I do have to cut it back, but it doesn't wind itself around other plants and strangle them like morning glory or ivy. They're drought tolerant and require no maintenance except maybe a light trim now and then.
Another super-easy one is red apple, which I have planted all over the place. I have taken cuttings, stuck them in the ground, and watered haphazardly, that have grown into new plants. Here it is climbing the lattice under my back deck.
And here growing through the deck planks.
Once established, it doesn't need water, but I do water some of them -- they look greener and more vibrant with a little water. Here's one that hasn't been watered at all.
Here's the licorice plant -- a native of arid South Africa -- that takes no care at all. More than a few times, I've cut off a few stalks, poked them into the ground, and grown new plants. They get leggy over the summer, but they're easy to pull up and not invasive.
And then there's jasmine. No maintenance. No water. Not as perky and full of flowers in midsummer as it was a month or two ago, but still looks, and smells, good.
There are more. But I'll save them for another time. Meanwhile, here's my second most invasive plant — ivy. (This wicker sofa was already far gone. Believe me, it looks better now.)
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 4:26PM PST on July 22, 2009
This is the weekly post from Bruce Nilles, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
Now that historic U.S. climate legislation – the American Clean Energy and Security Act – (ACES), has passed the House of Representatives and the Senate is debating its version of energy/climate legislation, let’s talk about what must be fixed before it gets to the President’s desk.
Big Coal has long sought and enjoyed loopholes for their dirty industry – anything to keep the money rolling in as they avoid cleaning up. And now, over objections of our clean energy champions, this bill gives them another massive loophole that the Senate must correct.
Although coal-fired power plants account for roughly a third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions (making them our single largest source of global warming pollution), the legislation gives them a free pass to continue business as usual — without making any serious reductions in heat-trapping CO2 for at least fifteen years, and bringing us increasingly closer to a climate crisis.
There is some modestly good news for new plants that don’t yet have their construction permit: no later than 2025, they will have to cut their carbon emissions in half. But the bad news is that the bill exempts a slug of plants permitted but not yet built, plus the huge fleet of America’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants, from any requirement to clean up and cut their CO2 emissions.
This is a disaster in the making, because it threatens to block the way for the U.S. to transition rapidly to a clean energy economy. These old dirty coal plants need to clean up or be retired. But the way the bill works right now, instead of encouraging investment in new industries and new plants that are subject to stringent standards, it leaves the door open to expand the old plants with no added safeguards.
By “grandfathering” existing coal-fired capacity, which accounts for 44 percent of U.S. electricity generation, the bill repeats the mistakes of the 1977 Clean Air Act — mistakes that we have been paying for in the form deadly air pollution ever since.
Three decades ago, Congress exempted older plants from soot and smog limits that applied to new units, on the assumption (and promise by the industry) that they would soon be retired. Instead, the industry took full advantage of this loophole to refurbish old plants and, in some cases, to expand their capacity and emit even more of the air pollution that causes tens of thousands of asthma attacks, hospitalizations, heart attacks, and premature deaths every year. We can’t repeat that mistake.
While ACES does make some good strides in reducing global warming pollution, Big Coal cannot be allowed to vent billions of tons of pollution without consequence.
To close this huge loophole and level the playing field between coal and clean energy, the Senate must insist that the oldest, dirtiest plants will retire by a date certain or meet the same pollution standards as new plants. And, until they retire or clean up, existing plants must be prohibited from expanding their capacity and increasing carbon pollution. These measures would create an incentive for industry to use cleaner technologies instead of continuing to lean on the dirty dinosaurs that generate too much of our electricity today. Finally, if Congress cannot muster the backbone to clean up the nation’s oldest and most dangerous coal plants, it ought to restore the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to do so.
The stakes could not be greater. We cannot let Big Coal get away with another massive loophole to continue polluting at the same level as today for 1-2 more decades. Congress must close the coal loophole and make the coal industry slash its pollution. Our future depends on it.
Posted by: EnviroChuck at 4:02PM PST on July 22, 2009
The talk of the day is trying to understand the psychology of global warming deniers, and at the same time understand why there is such a small voice from supporters of clean energy legislation.
Get YOUR voice heard, at least by your Senator. Check this out and sign the petition encouraging your leader's vote.
Posted by: Stephanie Reyes at 3:44PM PST on July 22, 2009
“You should do it!” the bright-eyed, eager 15-year-old urged me, “Go vegetarian!”
The year was 2002 and I was a 25-year-old interloper at the Deep Green Global Training environmental and social justice weekend tailored for teens. The young vegetarian evangelist and I were taking a class on environmentally friendly eating, taught by the renowned eco-friendly chef Laura Stec (now the author of “Cool Cuisine: Taking the Bite out of Global Warming”).
Up till now, my eating habits had pretty much mirrored my childhood – I rarely ate out, shopped at Safeway and cooked fairly healthy, traditional American meals: taco salads, chicken casseroles, pasta with tomato sauce. My family had always been environmentally conscious, but I had no idea that my eating habits had an effect on the environment until I took this class.
“Pop quiz,” Ms. Stec began. “What are the three most damaging things that we as individuals (not corporations or the government) do to the environment?”
“Driving!” we all chorused, and indeed that was #1. Imagine my surprise to find out that the second worst individual action is eating beef – it takes 16 times more energy and water to create a pound of beef than to grow a pound of grain. #3 was eating foods that are not organic.
Too embarrassed to ask, “Um, aren’t all foods organic?” I was relieved when Laura went on to explain that organic foods are grown without artificial fertilizers or pesticides. “So they’re better for your health as well as for the environment, she added. I was sold and immediately vowed to go organic.
“Where can I buy organic foods?” I wondered, and got several recommendations. Thus began my long, enduring love affair with Whole Foods Market. I switched the next week and have rarely returned to Safeway since.
Vegetarianism was a bit of a tougher sell – it would require a totally new repertoire of recipes, plus I was distraught at the prospect of giving up bacon. So I came up with a compromise: I would start shopping and cooking all vegetarian, but when I went out with a group of friends and we ordered a pizza together or shared Chinese dishes, I would eat meat so as to not be a bother to them, and to have an occasional treat.
Head to the recipe section to see two of the recipes that Laura gave us at this class (links below). She and I both still cook these amazing dishes to this day!
Next up: Part 2: The Honeymoon Period
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:50PM PST on July 22, 2009
The climate bill that passed through the House of Representatives is now patiently awaiting a vote in the Senate. We're approaching the late innings and we need a rally.
The Big Picture, which is the biggest Climate Crossroads group, has the latest updates on this important piece of legislation.
You can also join the Crossroads action here.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 1:49PM PST on July 22, 2009
I'm borrowing my title today from Raj Chengappa, managing editor of India's biggest newsmagazine, India Today. Chengappa was describing what he thought was needed when the world gathers in Copenhagen -- and certainly what I am seeing here in India is not business as usual. Since I was last here, eighteen months ago, a burgeoning youth climate movement has arrived on the scene, and they have invited Bill McKibben to come address them tomorrow. At their conference there's a new documentary, made by a couple of young filmmakers, called Why New Coal? (The answers didn't seem very convincing to either the filmmakers or the audience -- and the scenes of open-pit mining and underground fires in the Indian coal fields at Dhanbad show that, no matter where you mine it, coal is not clean!)
And in spite of the news headlines suggesting that conversations between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Environmental Secretary Jairam Ramesh were a "clash", I actually think that the outlines of a deal, either at Copenhagen or after, are emerging here -- if the U.S. will listen and if India will frame its concerns as an offer, not a rebuttal.
The Post is right when it says that Ramesh is saying, "India would not commit to a deal that would require it to meet targets to reduce emissions." But that doesn't mean that Ramesh was not also right in saying "It is not true that India is running away from mitigation." India has an approach, if not yet a commitment -- and I think it's worth our considering it -- and encouraging India to really develop this as a proposal. There are four ingredients:
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:36PM PST on July 22, 2009
With the House's passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act comes this letter from New Mexico.
I thought I’d share a great photo we took with Rep. Ben Ray Lujan during his July 2nd town hall on energy. From left to right: Molly Brook, Margaret Gray (Chapter staff), Michael Casaus, Rep. Lujan, Norma McCallan (Chapter vice-chair), and Shrayas Jatkar.
It's now the Senate's turn.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:52AM PST on July 21, 2009
Who doesn't love a story about robots that don't eat meat?
Thanks to Internet rumors of meat-eating robots in the works, Robotic Technology, Inc. (RTI), which is spearheading a project to build robots that feast on biomass, had to issue a statement that its creation in fact does not, I repeat, does not devour flesh.
Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone (Cyclone Power Technologies Inc.) has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips -- small, plant-based items for which RTI’s robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI.
If you're interested in becoming a vegetarian robot, you can start by joining the Meatless Mondays group here on Crossroads.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:22AM PST on July 21, 2009
Does India have a point? In terms of emissions, developed countries never restrained themselves during their growth. What do you think?
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:44AM PST on July 21, 2009
Go to our discussion forums to talk about what's on your mind.
Here's a new thread about the psychology of climate-change naysayers. Here's a snippet:
I think the naysayers on global warming have three different things going on: denial, cognitive dissonance and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD).
Also, someone today added a post to the discussion about zero waste.
TV ads tell kids it's so cool to have the newest "gadget",...."Cool" is a word used very loosely these days.
Lastly, in the food section, everyone seems to have an opinion about the best pizza toppings.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:18PM PST on July 20, 2009
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:09PM PST on July 20, 2009
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:42PM PST on July 20, 2009
We've talked about global warming and national security on this blog before. But this specific correspondence in Foreign Policy might finally sway all the Al Gore haters out there who rubbed their temples when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
Kashmir -- a source of extreme contention between India and Pakistan for 60-something years -- gets its water primarily from the Himilayas. Will climate be the straw for this rocky relationship between the two nuclear powers?
More analysis of this problem at Obsidian Wings.
Posted by: RAW at 11:28AM PST on July 20, 2009
She was for it before she was against it. (After she didn't believe in it.)
Aside from incessant twittering, we hadn't heard too much from Sarah Palin since her courageous decision to abandon her position as governor of Alaska. At the time, her spokesperson insisted that working on energy issues would be one of Palin's top priorities going forward.
Well, sure enough, Palin popped up on Tuesday with an op-ed in the Washington Post denouncing the President's clean energy and climate plan ("cap and tax" in tea bag speak). The piece continued the tradition of both Palin and the Post's opinion pages not letting the facts get in the way of re-hashing tired, discredited arguments about clean energy legislation. Here's a few tidbits.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that Palin only thinks of "energy" as meaning two things: fossil fuels and nukes. She decries job losses that would come in the "energy sector," as she defines it, yet also attacks the more than $4 billion to help certain workers transition into the clean energy economy.
This myopic viewpoint also ignores two important facts. Wind already employees more people than coal mining in this country. And the fact that the clean energy plan passed by the House is projected to create some 1.7 million jobs (net of any jobs lost in the old, dirty energy economy).
She also fundamentally (willfully?) misunderstands that addressing our energy challenges is not about making energy "scarcer," as she alleges the president's plan will do. What the plan is about is, first, making our energy cleaner -- which will slash carbon pollution, reduce our dependence on dirty fuels like coal and oil, and free us from the wild price spikes associated with fossil fuels. Second, it is about slashing the amount of energy we waste in our homes, offices, schools, and factories every day. This will also not only help make us more energy independent and slash emissions, it will save the average family over $1,000 a year.
While many, if not all, of her 691 words are spectacularly misguided, what's more telling are the words that you won't find in the piece. Those would be "wind," "solar," "geothermal," "climate change," and "global warming," among others. She does include the word "clean," but only insofar it relates to fossil fuels. Good thing Alaska isn't already feeling the effects of global warming and doesn't stand to be impacted more by rising temperatures, sea levels and other consequences of a changing climate than perhaps any other state.
Most curious of all, Palin's strident attacks on a plan to slash carbon pollution come after her emphatic, if newly discovered, support for such a plan during the 2008 campaign. Watch her here in the Vice-Presidential Debate:
(Palin's partner on the GOP ticket and longtime advocate of action on global warming, Senator John McCain, also seems to have largely abandoned his support for such measures in the name of partisan political opposition to the President's agenda.)
In cementing her relationship as Big Oil's bestie, it looks like Palin may have stumbled on the perfect recipe for Baked Alaska.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:21AM PST on July 20, 2009Breaking Up is Hard to Do
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:10AM PST on July 20, 2009
Posted by: Heather M at 11:49AM PST on July 17, 2009
Over at the 1Sky blog the co-founder of the Climate Ride wrote a post where you can read more about the 200 cyclists taking the 300 mile ride in September to raise awareness about global warming. And if you want to know even more, then check out the Climate Ride website and get involved if it's coming through your town!
Posted by: Paul Scott at 11:28AM PST on July 17, 2009
I'm probably going to seem a little Nissan-centric this month what with their imminent big announcement August 2nd, but also because I, along with a few other Plug In America members spent the better part of the past three days meeting with about ten of Nissan's advanced planning team. They invited us to come to their Los Angeles facility and participate in a wide ranging series of discussions, marketing seminars and even a drive over to Santa Monica to see what a normal day driving an EV was like. They were a delightful group, younger than all of us except for Chelsea. (Full disclosure, while we gave them many hours of our time, they did treat us to one dinner.)
Today was the last day, and for me, the most interesting. They had scheduled a tour of the Southern California Edison "Smart Garage" in Pomona with the dynamic Ed Kjaer as tour leader. Ed, you may remember, gave President Obama a tour of the same facility a couple of months ago, which may account for the strong support we're seeing from his administration for plug-in cars.
SoCal Edison's Electric Vehicle department is probably the most sophisticated of its kind anywhere, and Ed runs the place. Seeing him describe how plug-ins will be integrated into the newer grid, yet to come, is to fully comprehend what our future will be like. Quiet, clean and powerful cars running on renewable electricity....
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:16AM PST on July 17, 2009
Sierra Club Radio has a good show this weekend. Namely, Sierra Club's Jenny Coyle will talk about Sierra Club Trails, which is part of this online network. And Mary Anne Hitt will talk about coal ash spills, and how to find out if one of these at-risk sites is in your area.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:50AM PST on July 17, 2009
The EcoGeek explains why plugging a cell phone into a wall socket might become a thing of the past.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:23AM PST on July 17, 2009
This past week the outgoing Alaska governor and 2012 presidential hopeful Sarah Palin wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about cap-and-trade. Guess what? She opposes it. Shocker. But her flimsy column didn't just draw criticism. It was utterly annihilated by bloggers.
Palin argues against it by ignoring the entire question of carbon dioxide emissions and instead arguing that expensive energy is bad and cheap energy is good. I'd be tempted to suggest that this signals her total intellectual unsuitablity for office, but, sadly, this is par for the course on the right these days.
Palin wrote a 700-word takedown of cap-and-trade that did not include the words pollution, emissions, carbon, or global warming.
Lots of swipes at the Washington Post for printing it in the first place. For example, Art Brodsky:
Just when you think a Washington institution has hit rock bottom, the bottom drops out. No, we're not talking about the woeful Washington Nationals. I wish we were. No, this is about the Washington Post, and it's this morning's sad tale.
[W]hat’s so laughable about this piece is that Palin wouldn’t even be considered by the Post as a suitable candidate for an op-ed on the climate bill if it weren’t for the national media’s focus on personality-driven politics.
Let’s just observe that the Post’s habit of publishing this kind of material is part of the reason why, adverse consequences for a number of writers I like, I wouldn’t shed a tear if the Washington Post Company were to choose to shutter it’s money-losing newspaper and focus on its core competency in the field of standardized test preparation. After all, why does Sarah Palin have an op-ed on climate legislation in the Washington Post? Does she have scientific expertise? Economic expertise? Knowledge of the state of international climate negotiations?
There were lots of other things happening in the blogosphere this past week.
-- Is the answer to the climate-change crisis carbon-capture technology? Grist interviewed an expert in the field about its potential, the misconceptions, and whether Europe and China are ahead of the curve. The whole thing's worth a read.
-- $555 billion! That's how much it's going to cost for a massive solar project in North Africa's Sahara. The good news is it's getting monetary backers.
-- Eco-Chick interviews author Sarah Magid about organic baking and her new book Organic and Chic: Cakes, Cookies, and Other Sweets That Taste as Good as They Look.
-- And lastly, Greenhab -- a blog authored by a "wife, momma to three, tree-hugger, humanitarian, Martha Stewart wannabe, juke box hero" -- writes about an attempt to host a big eco-friendly birthday bash. It's a great blog!
Posted by: Natalie Gaber at 2:42PM PST on July 16, 2009
350 may just be the most important number of this century.
According to lead NASA scientist James Hansen, 350 parts per million is the most CO2 that can be in the atmosphere if humans want to continue living safely on earth. If the level stays higher than 350ppm for a prolonged period of time (it’s already at 390.18ppm), it will spell disaster for humanity as we know it, according to Hansen. I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to believe the guy—after all, he has impressive credentials, and he’s been sounding the alarm about climate change longer than pretty much anyone else. It’s taken almost 20 years, but people are finally starting to listen to him.
One group of individuals in particular is heeding Hansen’s warning: the founders of 350.org, or the 350 Campaign. On October 24, 2009, concerned citizens from around the world will come together in a massive grassroots effort to get out the word about 350 in an International Day of Climate Action, organized by the 350 Campaign. The goals of the event are to make sure the public, the media, and politicians are all on the same page about where we need to be, and to send a strong message to world leaders about what we want to happen at December’s UN climate treaty negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark.
So what exactly does an “international day of climate action” mean? Pretty much anything, as it turns out. In the official invitation to the event, Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, explains that “we need you to organize an action in the place where you live, something that will make that most important number  visible to everyone.” The only requirement is that each action coordinates some sort of visual representation of the number 350 and uploads that photo to 350.org. By day’s end on October 24, a “visual petition” to the media and leaders all over the world will exist.
As the big day draws nearer (it’s now less than 100 days away), the 350 Campaign is picking up speed. More than half the nations in the world have actions planned, and more are joining the movement each day. People have come up with some super creative ideas, such as planting flowers in the shape of 350, getting 350 kayaks to spell out 350, and having people spell out 350 along the potential tide line of a beach (where the new tide line could be as a result of rising sea levels; see the picture below).register one today. 350.org has made it easy to organize an event; check out the 9-Step Organizing Plan to find out how to get started, then peruse the Action Ideas page to get inspired. The next step is to recruit anyone and everyone: send an e-mail blast, post this awesome video on Facebook and Twitter, and buy a cool 350 T-shirt to wear around town. The more people who come out on October 24, the harder it will be for the world to ignore us.
Posted by: EnviroChuck at 2:36PM PST on July 16, 2009
Wondering which environmental tweets to listen to? A member has compiled a few so you don’t have to. But add some more if you know of any.
They say the market’s picking up, right? Here’s a group devoted to Green Investing. Should we put our money where our mouths are?
Have you made anything for yourself lately? Do you DIY? What’re you making right now? Let everyone know how easy it is!
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 1:42PM PST on July 16, 2009
Last week when we hit the 100th coal-fired plant abandoned or prevented in the U.S., someone asked me, “What’s next?”
My answer came quickly: “It’s time to stop the next 100.”
And so with that we’ve just launched a new campaign to persuade the Blackstone Group to invest in clean energy instead of dirty coal. One of the 10 largest private equity firms, Blackstone now has more proposed coal-fired power plants than any other company in the U.S. Joining us in the campaign are a coalition of community groups, tribal organizations and student groups.
Two of Blackstone's proposed coal plants, the Desert Rock project in NM and the Toquop plant in NV were intended to sell power to California. However new laws passed in California now prohibit imports of dirty coal power to the state. Locally the largest utilities in both Nevada and Arizona have said flatly that they don't see a future in coal and that efficiency and renewables now make more sense for their customers.Blackstone’s investment in a fleet of new coal-burning plants (three planned by Blackstone subsidiary Sithe Global) will do nothing for investors but create dead weight, while unnecessarily incurring huge health and environmental risks on the communities where they will be located, said the groups.
Communities where the company’s plants would be built are strongly opposed to the projects, and they also say the companies have ignored their concerns.
“Any new coal-plant here would have a dramatic impact on our quality of life, and they will cause problems our children will have to face,” said Mesquite Mayor Susan Holecheck, whose city sits less than 30 miles from the site of the proposed Toquop plant.
“We’ve tried talking to them about these issues, to tell them there’s a far better way for both them and us, but our pleas have largely fallen on deaf ears.”
She said the residents of Mesquite and surrounding areas would love to have the jobs and revenue, something that is achievable without sacrificing their quality of life.
“Why wouldn’t Blackstone invest in renewable technology in sun-baked Nevada?” Holecheck said. “They make their investors money, bring economic development to the region, and in the process protect our community for us and for our children.”
Navajo communities have also been already impacted by a ring of existing coal plants including the Four Corners, San Juan and Navajo plants. Desert Rock will add insult to injury and a better investment on the Navajo Nation requires good community consultation on renewable energy projects that would not harm air or water quality.
Regarding the financial side of building more coal plants, Blackstone is continuing the coal industry’s trend of looking for loopholes and handouts. In Pennsylvania, despite the state granting Blackstone $600 million in tax exempt bonds for its remaining proposed plant in Pennsylvania, the company is seeking additional federal loan guarantees after private investors refused to finance the risky project.
Add to this carbon regulations which are currently being debated on Capitol Hill and the wealth of economic reports highlighting the financial risks of coal, and Blackstone's decision to pursue a new fleet of coal-fired power plants quickly becomes unacceptably risky-both for investors and for the general public.
"All three of Blackstone's coal plants are expensive, unnecessary, and financially risky - just like every other proposed coal plant in the country," said Mark Kresowik, Corporate Accountability Representative for our Beyond Coal Campaign. "Blackstone should stop pouring money into developing projects that investors and communities don't want, and help create family-supporting jobs with clean energy instead of dirty coal."
You learn more about and get involved in the campaign by visiting www.noblackstonecoal.com
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:54AM PST on July 16, 2009
Grist reflects on the question that's on everyone's mind: How should you talk to your cranky cab driver about cap-and-trade?
He drives a cab for a living, and he sees this new legislation as a threat to that living. Maybe he thinks he’ll have to buy a new, more fuel-efficient cab or pay for the “privilege” to pollute. Maybe he believes the debunked but persistent right-wing talking points claiming that cap-and-trade would cost every American household $3,128 a year. Maybe he doesn’t believe climate change is happening. Or maybe he doesn’t quite understand how all this will affect him and the prospect of change is frightening.
Think Progress takes a stab at it.
Well, I’m not sure what the right answer is. But if you want to be very literal about it, ecological sustainability and the interests of cab drivers go hand in hand. [...]
Posted by: Heather M at 11:35AM PST on July 16, 2009
This is a guest post from Ann Mesnikoff, head of the Sierra Club Green Transportation Campaign.
Watchers of the auto industry (and of GM in particular) have been wondering why on earth Fritz Henderson, the head of NEW GM (fresh out of a whirlwind bankruptcy) recalled Bob Lutz out of his almost-retirement to head up creative products and customer relationships.
Why the bewilderment? Bob Lutz is infamously know for calling global warming a total "crock of SH-T!". Other bloggers have tracked “Lutzisms” attacking fuel economy and the ability of the industry to do better – "There is no technological bag of tricks that enable much better fuel economy than we have today," and "Despite what the alarmists may think, we don't have any magic 100-mpg carburetor that we're holding back because we're in bed with the oil companies."
Just last Friday Lutz noted “where we really messed it up and took our eye off the ball in terms of product was in ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s.” No wonder we tax payers have spent $40 billion to keep this company afloat. Lutz was quick to note that he wasn’t there during those many years – but his reputation as Mr. Muscle and Power may leave us – the taxpayer owners of NEW GM – wondering whether he is the right guy to put NEW GM’s eyes back on the ball. But the fact is that new greenhouse gas standards and accelerated fuel economy standards are a ball GM must keep its eyes on.
To his credit, Lutz has been the champion of the Chevrolet Volt, perhaps the most advertised vehicle that isn’t even for sale. The challenge for NEW GM and Mr. Lutz is to do more than talk up the 10s of thousands of Volts that will trickle into the market out of the nearly 10 million vehicles sold each year (even in this down market). These will be important but are not enough to the hide millions of gas guzzlers that dominate GM's fleet.
In the same press event in which he announced Lutz’s return to GM, Henderson noted the priorities for NEW GM – Customers, Cars, Culture. Perhaps a fourth “C” is needed – Compliance. The company we own much of should pledge to give the taxpayers true compliance with new standards, not compliance made possible with fuel economy credits for vehicles that can (but rarely do) run on E-85, or by borrowing, banking and trading credits that will continue to make it impossible to determine if the company we own is actually complying with the law in any given year. But, NEW GM, with compliance as a priority, and the products Mr. Lutz will create and market, should make a pledge to actually comply with the law each year.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:31AM PST on July 16, 2009
Hot off the presses:
For more on this visit The Fair Climate Project.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:38AM PST on July 16, 2009
Posted by: EnviroChuck at 4:37PM PST on July 15, 2009
L.A. says No to Coal. Result: new proposed coal plant is scrapped. What do you think of that?
Congratulate Josh on winning the big photography contest over on Trails. And check out his awesome photo!
Posted by: Don Knapp, ICLEI USA at 10:50AM PST on July 15, 2009
(From ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA's Local Action Blog.)
A complement to Los Angeles' "coal-free" vow is its rapid expansion of solar power, as shown in this map of the solar installations across the region.
The saying, "If you build it, they will come" doesn't necessarily apply to coal-fired power plants. City of Los Angeles is a case in point. Last week Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced that city officials would soon begin work to eliminate the city's reliance on coal (which provides 40 percent of the city's power) by 2020.
That groundbreaking goal just had a huge ripple effect this week. The Intermountain Power Agency--whose Delta, Utah power plants provide power to LA, its largest customer--just announced that it was scrapping its plans to build a new 900-megawatt coal-fired power plant on that site. If Los Angeles won't buy coal-fired power, then it doesn't make sense to sell it.
I can't think of a more compelling example of the power of cities to effect change. Local governments have major purchasing power, and when they decide to green their purchasing--of office supplies or energy--they can nudge an entire supply chain to reduce its carbon footprint.
For more on Los Angeles and the Utah power plant, read the Greenwire article on the New York Times.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:41AM PST on July 15, 2009
We recently ran into Dianne Farr, who has starred in several TV series, including Rescue Me, Numb3rs, and Californication. She's a friend of the Sierra Club (pdf.), so we gave her five quick questions about climate change.
What lifestyle changes have you made because of global warming?
"I had leased a brand new Landover the day before I saw An Inconvenient Truth. I seriously wanted to throw the truck in the trash. The day my lease expired I gave it back with a note saying "I'd rather have an earth with some resources left in it than a flashy car killing the place my kids will inhabit."
What do you think of our leadership's handling of global warming?
I think Teddy Roosevelt must be weeping in his grave. The Bush administration treated our country, as well as our world, like a business they were trying to liquidate. The sell off, of not only our land and air and seas but also our people and our future was so insulting to both democrats and republicans of the past.
Let's say you're a polar bear. What's going through your mind right now?
"How desperate are y'all gonna let this get? If I tread any longer, I'm gonna be thin enough to be on The Bachelor."
Complete this sentence: Building more coal power plants is as crazy as...
Believing a view of Russia is a foreign policy.
Imagine that you're Frosty the Snowman, how would you explain global warming to a child in order to alert them of your imminent danger?
"Do you see this puddle under me?"
Posted by: Heather M at 7:56AM PST on July 15, 2009
Perhaps one of the lesser thought about risks of increasing global warming is what it will do to the security of nations around the globe.
As water supplies dwindle, oceans rise, and more - people will be moving and border clashes could increase. Yesterday the Pew Environmental Group unveiled a new campaign about global warming and national security:
The Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate will bring together science and military policy experts to examine new strategies for combating climate change, protecting our national security, increasing our energy independence and preserving our nation’s natural resources.
What stories have you heard related to this issue?
Posted by: Heather M at 1:50PM PST on July 14, 2009
This is a guest post by Shannon Goggins, intern for the Sierra Club Global Warming & Energy Program.This morning, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee convened to discuss the opportunities to the agricultural sector opened up by new climate legislation. The conversation focused largely on the expected costs versus benefits of the program. After ignoring EPA predictions and calling the bill a “$100 billion job killing national energy tax,” Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander offered up his plan to build 100 new nuclear coal plants over the next 10 years.
Several times, Senator Alexander referred to this nuclear power plant blitz as “cheap and clean energy.” What he failed to mention is that the already high cost of nuclear power plants, to the tune of $700 billion to reach his target, does not include the cost of dealing with nuclear waste. There is currently no way to dispose of nuclear waste; the best they can do is store it in a “safe” place until they come up with a better plan. Unfortunately, there is no better plan.
The energy we need to fuel this country should be clean and renewable.
Not only is nuclear power historically unsafe, it is expensive, and leaves a trail of radioactive waste in its path. Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Boxer responded to Sen. Alexander by pointing out that we should not be picking a winner, but allowing the free market determine which sources of clean energy, and there are many, would succeed. It is also notable that in all the important discussions of the bill’s costs, the high costs of inaction were not explored.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:42PM PST on July 14, 2009
This is a guest post from Justin Guay, Apprentice for the Sierra Club Global Warming & Energy Program.The Senate Environment and Public Works committee held a hearing today covering the effects of an energy/climate bill on agriculture and forestry here in the United States. The hearing focused primarily on the potential cost/benefit relationship for farmers. While not surprising, the fear mongering regarding price hikes for “heartland” farmers was cranked up to a fever pitch by Senator Bond (R-MO) as his assistants held up poster boards with pictures of grain silos and the “heartland” containing his calculations of anywhere from $11,000-$30,000 that would be passed on to farmers as a result of cap and trade legislation.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stood her ground however, especially regarding the apparent ignorance on behalf of Senator Bond in regards to the nation’s agricultural production. Bond made a passing remark about “coastal areas not knowing about farming in the heartland” to which Boxer rightly pointed out that of the top four agricultural producing states, Missouri was not included, and that in fact her own “coastal area” was the number one producer in the nation. So it seems the Senator from California may know a thing or two about agriculture.
Sadly, facts don’t seem to matter much and were largely missing from the staunch republican opposition. Even Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) who, to his credit, admitted up front that he accepted that global warming is indeed occurring and that mankind is responsible, still offered up a typically shortsighted alternative to produce 100 new nuclear power plants as a centerpiece to his strategy. Considering the hearing was overwhelming focused on costs and cost reduction, it is amazing the senator has not done his homework on the very high costs and massive subsidies that the nuclear industry has used to get plants up and running in the past.
Perhaps the most telling moment of the hearing came when Senator Alexander made the remark that “cheap energy, and cheap food made this country strong”. Apparently he knows as little about the health care debate as he does about clean energy. I would refer him to a few helpful sources: Fast Food Nation, The Omnivore’s Dilemma or the new documentary Food Inc., all of which might serve to enlighten him about the integral connections between cheap energy, cheap food and the “strength” of America.
Considering the focus on cost and strength, it would be wise for the opposition to realize that what has appeared for decades, and even centuries, to be cheap, has in all actuality come with quite a high cost. One that America, and the world, can no longer afford. I applaud Senator Boxer for standing up to the fear mongering of Senator Bond and the ill-informed energy policy of Senator Alexander.
Their insistence on considering only certain costs, rather than all, places this bill and our planets future in jeopardy. I can only hope that while working in a spirit of bi-partisanship, Senator Boxer continues to deflect these attempts and focuses on moving our country towards a clean energy future. Without her leadership, the opposition’s obsession with the costs of this bill will end up creating far higher costs than we will be able to cope with.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:47AM PST on July 14, 2009
Near the end [of this video], a ridge forms as two floes collide close to the camera.
Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin coupled the video with an interview with authors of the latest Arctic study -- NASA's Ron Kwok and Jay Zwally. The study's results? Not good.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:13AM PST on July 14, 2009
From Slate's indispensable political cartoon collection.
Posted by: Food Dude at 6:34PM PST on July 13, 2009
For 23 years, the grassroots group Keeper of the Mountains has hosted a get-together on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia. Mountaintop removal mining has demolished more than 12,000 acres of Kayford Mountain over that time.
The Mountain Keepers Festival is now considered the premier music festival celebrating environmental justince in southern West Virginia. Celebrants camp out, learn about mountain culture and mountaintop removal mining, and share food, stories, music, and solidarity.
This year, a group of people dressed in T-shirts issued by the Massey Energy Company crashed the party, intimidating and verbally threatening festival-goers. They were apparently unarmed, but one half-naked man in their company rubbed meat all over his body and threatened to slip people's throats before Massey employees who were recognized as local residents led him away.
The incident was captured on video. [Viewers, note that this clip contains strong language and is not suitable for children.] State police were contacted, but by the time they arrived the intruders were long gone. The video has been forwarded to the West Virginia State Police and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Read more here.
Posted by: EnviroChuck at 3:46PM PST on July 13, 2009
Can electric cars and lazy gardening save the planet? That’s what has the community abuzz lately.
Check out the latest post from The Lazy Organic Gardener as well as some of the older ones. And there are some DIY gardening tipsters in the forums as well.
Nissan hopes to take the lead with mass-market electric cars, but people can’t stop talking about the up-market Tesla, soon available in the $57K Model S, a very roomy sedan that seats 7 and goes for 300 miles. Just watch this video.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:48PM PST on July 13, 2009
The legendary band U2 is getting hit in the press for its world tour's carbon footprint.
Worried about the eco-impacts of your music? The Green Life blog this week is focusing on green music. And Crossroads is compiling free downloadable music from eco-friendly artists. Keep checking back for new songs.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 11:09AM PST on July 13, 2009
We'll finally get to see the new Nissan August 2nd (Tokyo time; it'll still be the 1st here). I assume they'll have the name finalized by then, too. I'm kind of excited to see this car, having tested the drivetrain in the Nissan Cube. The drivability was similar to my RAV, but quicker. Since the Cube is 200 pounds heavier than the final body of the EV, it should be a bit quicker still.
The best thing about it is the expected price range of $25K-$34K. This is before the $7,500 federal tax credit.
Some think Nissan is taking a gamble by rapidly moving into mass marketing of EVs. They compare Toyota and Honda's approach of "wait and see how the market materializes for EVs, then jump in". I think it's Toyota and Honda that are gambling. They own the hybrid market and are doing quite well, thank you, so why adopt a whole new technology that's untried on a large scale? The gamble is that Nissan grabs the EV market and dominates it till BYD (China) enters the U.S. in 2012.
Those who make the decisions to forgo battery EVs in favor of plug-in hybrids only, ignore a sizable market. I can only assume they have not spent any appreciable time in a well made EV. The benefits overwhelm the perceived problem of range. Once several thousand people get the opportunity to buy a well made EV the likes of Nissan's, the demand from the early adopter's friends and family will expand exponentially. Of this I am certain.
Of course, we need millions of plug-in hybrids, too, so more power to everyone contributing to that market. It's interesting to speculate as to the relative market share the EV will have to the PHEV. I'm guessing close to 50/50. It'll be mostly driven by the cost of gas, that's a given.
All I can think is that Carlos Ghosn (Nissan CEO) has driven an EV -- maybe the RAV itself -- and this is why he's positioning his company to be the leader in EVs. He knows how good it feels to drive a quiet, powerful car that doesn't pollute. One that only uses domestic energy. He knows that if given the choice, millions of people would choose that over a car that poisons the air and uses mostly foreign energy.
Posted by: Nithin Coca at 9:46AM PST on July 13, 2009
This post is from Jesse Prentice-Dunn with Sierra Club's Green Transportation Program.
Thinking about cashing in on the recently passed Cash for Clunkers program? Take a couple of minutes to check out the Sierra Club’s new Cash for Clunkers website to learn how to make the most out of trading in your clunker.
The Department of Transportation is currently finalizing the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) Program, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama on June 23. The CARS program encourages owners of old gas guzzlers to trade in their vehicle for a $3,500-$4,500 voucher towards the purchase of a new, more efficient vehicle.
Unfortunately, the CARS program does little to encourage consumers to buy vehicles with the best fuel economy. Believe it or not, an owner of a 14 mpg gas guzzling truck could trade that vehicle in and get $3,500 taxpayer dollars toward the purchase of a 15 mpg gas guzzler! It’s now up to consumers to ensure that $1 billion taxpayer dollars actually go towards getting old, polluting cars off the road and replacing them with the most efficient vehicles that automakers have to offer.
If you’re participating in the CARS program, trade in your guzzler for a truly efficient vehicle. Not only will you help curb global warming, you’ll save money at the pump. Check out our 5 easy steps to get the most out of cash for clunkers and take a look at lists of the most fuel efficient cars, SUVs and hybrids on the market.
Posted by: RAW at 3:25PM PST on July 10, 2009
In the two weeks after the historic House vote on a comprehensive clean energy and climate plan, conservatives and the far-right tea bag set have nearly self-immolated over what they see as the latest socialist plot to destroy America, one wind turbine and energy efficient hot tub at a time. Yes, they really are afraid of JACUZZIs becoming more energy efficient!
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:16PM PST on July 10, 2009
It's climate-change activism, daft punk style. From The Wonk Room:
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:06AM PST on July 10, 2009
Bruce Hamilton -- the Sierra Club's Deputy Executive Director and an outdoors expert -- sat down with me to talk about the hidden impacts of global warming in our country's wild places and why we need to focus on creating Resilient Habitats. This is part two. Read part one.
Q. Global warming skeptics say that the wilderness will be fine. It will adapt. Climate change naturally happens. And if we are going to cut down our emissions, it will cost too much money. How do you respond to that?
A. The best thing to do is to bring it home to the local place with as much information as you have. If you live in New Jersey or Ohio or Indiana, you might say, “I don’t see it happening.”
We need to put it into terms that people understand. If you are in New England and you are used to living with the bright fall colors and sugar maples and maple syrup, you know what? Maple trees are slowly migrating north. They won’t be able to survive in New England. It’s basically going to turn into an oak hickory forest there. Similarly, the moose that you used to go out and hunt won’t be able to live in New England either. If you’re a fisherman and you used to go out and get trout, we need to turn around and say, “The projections from your own game and fish department is that bull trout populations will be reduced by 90 percent.” We’re already seeing the fishing season closing for half the summer because the streams are too hot and there’s too much stress on the species.
There will not be any Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park. That is the signature species. They’re all going to die out. There will still be Joshua trees farther north. But farther north is not a protected national park. So if going forward into the future we want to have a Joshua Tree National Park, we need to create a new one farther to the north to make sure that species is protected.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:01AM PST on July 10, 2009
Results are in for the poll on the Crossroads homepage. There's a new poll up.
What do you think of the White House's handling of global warming so far?
Off to a great start! 19 percent.
Good in some areas, but not in others. 66 percent.
The administration is seriously lagging. 15 percent.
By the way, join the White House group on Crossroads.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:02AM PST on July 10, 2009This Week's Blogosphere Soup
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:31AM PST on July 10, 2009
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
Drastic plastic! This past week scientists released a major report on the environmental impacts of plastic.
Luckily, The Green Life blog has provided tips on cutting down your reliance on plastic.
Not convinced plastic's a problem? Try Googling "pacific ocean garbage patch."
What else is happening in the blogosphere?
-- Sea lions on the California coast are starving. Is climate change the explanation?
-- T. Boone Pickens' grand idea for a massive wind farm in West Texas that promised a massive gust of new renewable energy now looks like it's going poof.
-- The 1Sky blog braces itself for a Senate vote on ACES.
-- Here's a look at the green energy economy in Europe versus the U.S.
-- Green L.A. Girl reviews the book The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget.
-- Take a look at this plug-in hybrid trike (that's right, trike) that gets 225 mpg. It looks like an eco-Batmobile!
-- And by the way, last Wednesday's Crossroads blog post about the Tesla has been getting a lot of comments. Join the conversation.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:21AM PST on July 10, 2009
Brought to you by students at the Toolik Field Station on the North Slope of Alaska. (Thank you, Trails.)
Posted by: Natalie Gaber at 4:37PM PST on July 9, 2009
The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign may be celebrating the defeat of the 100th coal plant since 2001, but the fight against coal is only just beginning. Never has this been clearer than in the new documentary Coal Country, which premieres on Saturday in Charleston, West Virginia.
The film, produced and directed by Appalachia natives Mari-Lynn Evans and Phylis Geller, is careful to present a balanced view of the debate over coal mining, and the destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining (MTR) in particular. Figures on both sides of the “war zone” (as activist Judy Bond calls the contested areas) are given a chance to tell their stories in the film. So why was Big Coal reportedly threatening to protest Saturday’s screening?
Big Coal is scared, and rightfully so. By allowing coal advocates to express their views in the film, the filmmakers got Big Coal to reveal their deepest, darkest secrets—the stuff they don’t want anyone to know, because if you did know, you’d probably jump on the next plane to West Virginia to put an end to this tragedy yourself.
So the cat is officially out of the bag, and Big Coal is suddenly extremely nervous about the ramifications of this film. It is so nervous, in fact, that the coal advocacy group Friends of Coal was reportedly trying to picket Saturday’s screening. Their scare tactics seemed to be working, as the South Charleston Museum, which was originally set to host the premiere, announced earlier this week that it was canceling the event due to concerns over “a potential security problem.”
Fortunately, the screening has been relocated to the Cultural Center at the Capitol Complex in Charleston, so the show will go on. But the real issue here is the coal industry using its might to bully the residents of coal country into keeping their mouths shut about the devastating reality of coal mining. West Virginia may be one of the poorest states in the nation in terms of dollars, but the state is also home to some of the world’s most beautiful and bio-diverse ecosystems, which are being promptly destroyed by MTR, and, most importantly, it is home to thousands of people who are being literally suffocated by the toxic byproducts of coal mining. The situation is a human rights violation, and the fact that the coal industry is trying so desperately to keep the truth under wraps only serves to further this point. If they didn’t have so much to hide, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to hide it.
In the end, the truth will come out, and it will spell the end of the coal industry. The question is, how much longer will Big Coal be able to stifle the voices of the people? From the looks of Coal Country, it appears the answer is not much longer. Props to Evans and Geller and all the brave individuals who testified in the film—it’s high time your story is heard.
Posted by: John Byrne Barry at 4:10PM PST on July 9, 2009
One of the keys to being a successful lazy gardener -- by that I mean having a pretty good garden without doing too much work -- is feeling comfortable always being behind. There's always more work to do, and for some people, that adds stress to their already stressful lives.
I'm not sure if it's a virtue or a flaw, but I'm pretty good at sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, seeing tasks that need to be done, and not doing them.
Feeling comfortable being behind is a useful coping mechanism outside the garden as well. I try to do that at work, to stay sane, and it works to a point. I do have real deadlines where other people are expecting something from me, or maybe I'm the one who imposed the deadline. Either way, that's why they call it work.
Not so the garden. No bosses in the garden except nature and, in my sunny backyard in temperate Berkeley, nature is awfully kind. I need to add water and pull weeds, but you're definitely working with nature, not against it. Plants want to grow, after all, so I let it happen.
I got home on Sunday night after five days at Echo Lake in the central Sierra, one sunny day in paradise after another, and it did not escape my notice how gorgeous it was up there in the meadows and mountains where there's no one tending the garden. When the trees fall, they stay where they've fallen and then eventually decay. When the wildflowers have peaked, no one cuts off the deadheads, they just fall off naturally.
But a garden is different. I'm trying to grow some vegetables. There aren't any wild tomatoes sprouting in the Sierra.
I put in an hour before dark on Sunday evening, mostly weeding. A little harvesting. I noticed the raspberries have stopped producing, though there are new blossoms, so there will be another batch later this summer. After almost a month of picking dozens of berries a day, I went away for five days and came back to only four or five ripe berries.
There's basil and squash to harvest -- here's what I picked for dinner.
But the weeds. Well, hand me a fork. I've got some humble pie to wolf down. Over the past few months, I've been saying that easy plants are essential to being a lazy gardener. But here in midsummer, when the living is easy and there's not a whole heck of a lot of work to do in the garden, some of these so-called easy plants are turning into weeds. The morning glory especially can send out tendrils that grow a foot a week and twist like a snake around steps, hoses, whatever. Now they're easy to yank out, but left unchecked they'd probably smother most of the garden. You can see the morning glory and ivy attacking the hose bib below.
Meanwhile, my lime tree is bearing fruit. I had a key lime tree for six years that never bore a single lime, so I dug it out and got a new one, a bear's lime, which I was told by the guy at Spiral Gardens just a few blocks from my house, should produce well in this climate. So far, so good.
And the sunburst squash are not only good to eat, but beautiful to watch grow. I hear you can eat the blossom as well, but I haven't tried it.
And lastly, a couple weeks ago, I wrote about my two tomato experiments, one of which was planting them in a raised bed made from shrubs and sticks and rotten logs with dirt and compost piled on top. You can't tell the height of these tomato plants from the photo below, but they're about seven feet high — they've outgrown the tomato cages. So I have to assume the roots like the loose soil created by piling up the brush. There plants are twice the height of any of the others in the yard, some of which are planted in excellent soil that I've been adding amendments to for years.
Only small green tomatoes so far. In a few weeks, before the end of July, I'm guessing I'll have my first ripe one.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:40PM PST on July 9, 2009
While the media continue to focus on the melting Arctic, few notice the changes that are already happening in our own backyards. Bruce Hamilton -- the Sierra Club's Deputy Executive Director and an outdoors expert -- sat down with me to talk about the hidden impacts of global warming in our country's wild places and why we need to focus on creating Resilient Habitats. This is part one of a two-part interview.
[Update: Here's part two.]
Q: In terms of parks and open spaces, in what ways is global warming already having an effect?
A: We’re already seeing changes in ecosystems, and we’re already seeing extinctions. So this is not just a hypothetical problem, and it’s something that’s projected to accelerate dramatically.
Right now we're mainly seeing this at the poles and the tropics. That is where the vast majority of extinctions are projected to happen. But you see shifts in range already taking place here in the United States. For example, a researcher has found that while you’d ordinarily find the Edith’s checkerspot butterfly in Baja California, because of temperature increases it can no longer live there, so it's steadily migrating north. But just north of Baja, you get into Tijuana and San Diego and the Southern California metropolis, and that’s not good butterfly habitat. As a result, you’re seeing a crash in the population as it tries to move north.
You’re also seeing situations where species are changing their phenology. That is, plants are blooming earlier. Insects are emerging or hatching earlier in the spring. Birds are migrating later in the fall and coming back earlier in the spring or sometimes not migrating at all.
Q. And these changes are supposed to accelerate in the decades to come. What will that mean?
A. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that even if we were to dramatically cut emissions and reach the goal that we need to reach -- an 80 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2050 -- we’re still going to see 20 to 30 percent of species that they have studied to date at an increased risk of extinction. It would be a more significant extinction than when the dinosaurs were lost.
(The interview continues after the jump.)
Posted by: Don Knapp, ICLEI USA at 3:32PM PST on July 9, 2009
(From ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA's Local Action Blog.)
Yesterday ICLEI USA and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) released a major report on the Cities Pilot Project 2008, in which 18 U.S. cities voluntarily disclosed their greenhouse gas emissions and other information related to climate change. The results are in, and they underscore a key message: Cities have the potential to drive major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and their continuing leadership is essential to combating climate change.
The report found that aggregated emissions for the 18 participating city governments' operations (as opposed to emissions from the entire city's residents and businesses) amounts to nearly 6.5 million metric tons of CO2e, equivalent in scale to the emissions of a large multi-site corporation.
Why is it important to report these amounts? Because taking an inventory of emissions sources is always the first step in addressing climate change, and lays the groundwork for a local government to set reduction targets and craft a climate action plan. And equally important, these 18 cities have demonstrated their commitment to transparency and to taking meaningful actions.
It's worth noting that the report goes far beyond just stating the emissions from the participating cities, and offers a wealth of information about their progress. A few of the notable findings:
The 18 participating cities were Annapolis, MD; Arlington, VA; Atlanta, GA; Burlington, VT; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Edina, MN; Fairfield, IA; Haverford, PA; Las Vegas, NV; New Orleans, LA; New York, NY; North Little Rock, AR; Park City, UT; Portland, OR; Rohnert Park, CA; Washougal, WA; and West Palm Beach, FL.
Posted by: EnviroChuck at 2:40PM PST on July 9, 2009
What’s the hot topic on global warming today?
There’s a lot of agreement in this discussion about the importance of reducing carbon emissions ASAP. Maybe too much. Anyone care to disagree?
Like to get out on the water to relax and enjoy nature? Make a tack for this paddling discussion and let folks know what floats your boat.
Interested in how your representative in the House voted on the American Clean Energy and Security Act? Find out, then shoot ‘em an email thanking or chastising them.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:32AM PST on July 9, 2009
As of today, 100 coal plants have been defeated or abandoned since the beginning of the coal rush. Late yesterday, news came down that Utah-based Intermountain Power Agency is abandoning plans for a third coal-fired generator in the state.
This news comes as President Obama is at the G8 summit in Italy discussing action on global warming. As other countries like China say they will not act until the U.S. does, these 100 stopped plants are a sign from Americans. We are taking action against global warming, and it's time to join us.
This also comes just a week after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the city would end coal use by 2020, and was announced the same day as a decision by Basin Electric Power in South Dakota to pull plans for a new coal-fired power plant. The decision marks a significant milestone in the shift to clean energy.
Since the first coal-fired power plant started operation in the U.S. more than 100 years ago our country has been wedded to dirty coal power. Despite the availability of affordable, cleaner energy alternatives, there were still plans on the drawing board for more than 150 new coal-fired power plants as recently as last year.
We are seeing a movement. That movement has kept well over 400 million tons of harmful global warming pollution out of the air, making significant progress in the fight against global warming. Stopping 100 new coal plants has also kept thousands of tons of asthma causing soot and smog pollution, as well as toxins like mercury out of our air and water.
This milestone also marks a significant shift in the way Americans are looking at our energy choices. Cities, states, businesses and electric utilities are all moving away from the polluting coal power of the past.
At the beginning of the coal rush, which came out of the Bush-Cheney energy plan of 2001, it seemed inevitable that most of the 150 new proposed coal plants would get built. Since then we’ve seen an incredible change in the way people, businesses and governments are thinking about energy--figuring out how to generate and use it more cleanly and efficiently. Coal is no longer the only option. We can and are creating jobs and electricity through clean energy technology made in America.
Tremendous grassroots pressure by the Sierra Club and others, rising costs, and upcoming federal carbon regulations all contributed to the demise of the 100 plants. Volunteers with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign worked on the ground in almost every state to fight local coal plant proposals, turning out to public hearings, holding rallies and meeting with officials to push for cleaner energy options for their area.
Instead of being locking into new coal plants we now have an opportunity to develop the clean energy technologies, like wind, that will help repower, rebuild and refuel America.
In many places a shift to wind energy is now well underway. Numbers out from the American Wind Energy Association show that last year over 8,000 MW of new generating capacity was added—that’s 42% of all the new power producing capacity in the U.S., and the equivalent of seven new large coal plants. Employing over 85,000 people, up from 50,000 a year ago, the wind industry for the first time created more jobs than coal mining, proving that new coal plants are not the only option for job creation, economic stimulus and power production.
We are also seeing a sea-change at the federal level. President Obama and his administration are clearly making strides for a clean energy economy. The Environmental Protection Agency has declared global warming pollution a threat to public health and welfare, the Interior Department is pushing for renewable energy development, and more. Even Congress is moving forward with a clean energy bill.
Obstacles still remain, though. The coal industry continues to push forward plans for dozens of new plants and is still pouring money into slick advertising campaigns and lobbying efforts to weaken the energy bill in Congress. Even in some of the top wind producing states, like Texas, coal companies are pushing for new plants, insisting that coal is the only viable option despite obvious evidence to the contrary.
This must stop. Coal is not part of our country’s clean energy future. Big Coal deserves no more free rides and loopholes. Their greed has gone too far. They store toxic coal ash waste in unsafe facilities. They push for weaker pollution regulations at all levels, claiming the opposite will bankrupt their industry.
The 100 dead coal-fired power plants are a message from Americans. We don’t want dirty power from a greedy industry looking to skirt the rules. We want clean energy that will boost the economy, create jobs and reduce our global warming pollution. Let’s keep up the fight!
Posted by: EnviroChuck at 3:51PM PST on July 8, 2009
Here’s where the action is today on Climate Crossroads:
People love it or hate it, but Tesla keeps people thinking about and lusting for electric cars. Zip over and give your spin!
Skeptics are raising big questions in the comments following the Senate Climate Hearings. Do you believe?
And our most popular discussion reveals that our community is probably a lot more diverse than you thought! Fire off your thoughts about the new gun laws affecting our National Parks.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:50PM PST on July 8, 2009
The Bicycle Film Festival in Minneapolis is underway. You like bikes? Join the Bicycle group here on Crossroads.
(hat tip BoingBoing.)
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:28PM PST on July 8, 2009
Posted by: Rafael Reyes at 8:51AM PST on July 8, 2009
While maybe not the cat's meow, both tools are kinda cool. You put in information about your home and get recommendations for saving energy. If they've partnered with your local utility then you can get more detailed energy use data to better see where you can save.
But why would the two biggest behemoths of high-tech get into a seemly small thing, especially when there are other similar things out there? Well, both companies see prospects for a new market – integrating "smart meters" and "internet aware" appliances - and want to get in it early.
Eventually, every home will have this be a standard feature. We'll be able to not only see how we are using power but we'll be able to control our appliances with sophisticated central timers. And we'll have two-way power control of our electric cars and ability to track the power production of our thin-film solar cells directly integrated into our roof to boot. Then after that, it will all happen automatically without us even having to do anything with the software. Now that would make anyone purr.
Seems far away, but it's not. By the way, more on that at Sierra Club Green Home.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:33AM PST on July 8, 2009
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:00PM PST on July 7, 2009
Still unconvinced that there's a scientific consensus? DISCOVER recently sat down with four experts for a very informative and enlightening conversation about the science behind our climate. The four interviewees were Ken Caldeira, a Stanford professor, Bill Easterling, Dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at PSU, Stephen Schneider, senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford, and Robin Bell of Columbia.
The whole thing's worth a read. Here's Caldeira during the roundtable:
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:35PM PST on July 7, 2009
We love it when Mr. Green answers his letters. Here's his latest:
Read his answer here.
Never fear! Take a look at this handy video of how to install a programmable thermostat.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 12:33PM PST on July 7, 2009
As Congress considers clean-energy and climate legislation, most of the fuss has been about whether (and how) to use price signals to encourage clean energy and reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels. Should we have a cap-and-auction system (as President Obama prefers), a carbon tax (as many economists have argued), or cap and trade (as the House recently voted)? Or, should we just pretend that energy markets work just fine without price signals, as the Republican leadership and the Chamber of Commerce seem to prefer? Markets where you don't have to pay for what you use (in this case, the planet's limited carbon sinks) used to be associated with communism. Now they're the heart of a weird cult that calls itself conservatism.
But the argument has begun to shift a bit. Now the question is, if we have a market price on dumping carbon pollution into the atmosphere, does that mean we don't need any other reforms of our energy sector in order to create a clean-energy future, cut our dependence on imported oil, and stabilize the climate?
Posted by: Nithin Coca at 6:53AM PST on July 7, 2009
It's time! Follow the action below, or by following #brokenrecord on Twitter.
Why Broken Record? Because some folks who are testifying tomorrow will most likely be spouting off the same old climate change denying and dirty energy supporting rhetoric that's long been debunked.
Posted by: Food Dude at 6:25PM PST on July 6, 2009
Stepping out of the Charlotte, North Carolina, airport feels like walking into a blast furnace. It's 98 degrees, clingingly humid, and I'm dripping sweat by the time the van swings by to take me to the rental car lot.
I'm on my way to Wise County, Virginia, in the southwestern corner of the state, to meet locals who've banded together to form Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards--SAMS for short. The organization came into being three years ago for one over-arching reason: to help slow the onslaught of mountaintop removal mining that is decimating northern Wise County.
Breaking free of Charlotte traffic, I roll across the North Carolina Piedmont before exiting the interstate and beginning the ascent of the eastern wall of the Appalachian Mountains. No matter how many times I drive this route (my in-laws live in these mountains, on a farm that's been in the family for five generations), I'm always struck by how abruptly the mountains rise from the lowlands.
The road climbs in tight switchbacks, and I pull off at a vista point most of the way up that feels like the edge of the world. Far below, farms form a patchwork atop the rich Piedmont topsoil, and Pilot Mountain rises in isolation in the middle distance above the town of Mt. Airy--known to most people, if at all, as the hometown of Andy Griffith, and the model for the fictional community of Mayberry.
Quickly I'm over the ridge and crossing the Eastern Continental Divide, separating waters bound for the Atlantic from those flowing toward the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. I'm now in a forest of mixed deciduous hardwoods and pine trees that is among the most biologically diverse areas in the world outside the tropics. The temperate deciduous forests of the southern Appalachians contain more tree species than the entire continent of Europe.
Entering Virginia, I cross and re-cross the New River, a designated American Heritage River which despite its name is widely thought by scientists to be among the oldest rivers on earth. Local folklore holds it to be second only to the Nile, and the oldest river in North America.
I stop at my in-laws for dinner, then push on in gathering darkness over the shoulder of Mt. Rogers, Virginia's highest peak and the only place in the state that preserves evidence of ancient glaciation. From the summit of Mt. Rogers and neighboring Whitetop Mountain, you can see five states on a clear day. Thankfully, the coal belt doesn't extend this far south, and these peaks are protected in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
It's fully dark by the time I reach Abingdon on I-81, but it's smooth sailing on secondary 4-lane highways all the way to the town of Norton in Wise County, where I'm staying. But just over the Wise County line, still a ways shy of Norton, I see a bright glow in the sky ahead, and rounding a corner I come upon a massive construction site. Its centerpiece is a colossal smokestack, hundreds of feet high, and several construction cranes swivel like giant mantises about a rising steel-framed structure.
I learn the next day that this is Dominion Power's $1.8 billion, 585-megawatt coal-fired Wise County power plant. The Sierra Club, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Southern Environmental Law Center, and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards have filed legal challenges to halt the plant's construction and operating permit, but the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued a draft air permit for the project, and the State Corporation Commission (SCC) has approved construction of the facility.
Three Virginia counties have passed resolutions opposing the plant, newspapers throughout the state have condemned it, and local residents have spoken out against it at public hearings. Nevertheless, the Virginia state Air Pollution Control Board voted unanimously to approve the final permits to begin construction on the plant, which will release more than 9,000 tons of pollutants and 5.3 million tons of carbon dioxide into the environment every year under the approved permits.
In May 2008, activists delivered a petition to block the power plant to Dominion's annual shareholder meeting. The document contained 42,400 signatures and stretched a mile long. That fall, some 50 protesters entered the construction site in Wise County. Many of them locked their bodies to large steel drums with operational solar panels affixed to the top that illuminated a banner reading, "renewable jobs to renew Appalachia."
On January 1, 2009, Dominion implemented an unannounced rate increase for its Virginia customers to subsidize $83 million in financing costs for the plant during 2009. The plant is slated to commence operating in 2012.
Posted by: Heather M at 12:38PM PST on July 6, 2009
Tomorrow (Tuesday) will be a busy day for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as they hold a hearing entitled "Moving America Toward a Clean Energy Economy and Reducing Global Warming Pollution: Legislative Tools." What that long name really means is they'll be discussing climate and energy legislation, all directly related to the U.S. House's recently passed American Clean Energy and Security Act.
To keep you up to date on the hearing and who says what, we'll be live-blogging and twittering the hearing all day. Just point your your browser over to our energy blog Compass, or you can also follow along using the #brokenrecord hashtag on Twitter. Why Broken Record? Because some folks who are testifying tomorrow will most likely be spouting off the same old climate change denying and dirty energy supporting rhetoric that's long been debunked.
The list of speakers for tomorrow's hearing is a good one. We have the EPA head Lisa Jackson, Dept. of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Dept. of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. That's not to mention a Pennsylvania mayor, an enviro, the vice president of Dow Chemical's Energy Division, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (who used to be an energy lobbyist).
So, go to Compass tomorrow at 10am when the live-blogging begins!
Posted by: Natalie Gaber at 2:32PM PST on July 2, 2009
By Natalie Gaber, Media Intern
I’m not gonna lie: if I was Alaska right now, I’d be a little concerned.
A slew of newly-revealed research spells nothing but imminent and irreversible destruction for the northernmost state, as well as its Nordic brethren, including Russia and Canada. In fact, the reports paint so daunting a picture that I can practically hear The Robot from Lost in Space chanting, “Danger, Will Robinson!”
Essentially, these studies have determined that the situation is even worse than previously thought. The U.N. scientists studying climate change have had their wildest nightmares exceeded, which is a major bummer considering their nightmares already involve rapid melting of Arctic sea ice, rising sea levels, mass extinction, and a whole slew of other doom-and-gloom scenarios. New archival research has determined that the current levels of sea ice are the lowest they have been in the past 800 years. Yikes. And to make matters worse, another hot-off-the-press study says that scientists were also wrong about how much carbon is stored in the fast-disappearing permafrost of Alaska, Russia, Canada, etc. It turns out that there is twice as much carbon stored in the frozen ground than initially thought, which spells nothing but bad news for our poor, feverish planet. As temperatures continue to rise, more of the permafrost (perhaps tempofrost would be a more apt name?) melts, which causes more carbon to be released in the form of carbon dioxide and methane, which causes the planet to get warmer, which causes more melting, which releases more carbon, and on and on. You get the picture.
With news like this, it’s hard to remain optimistic about our fate as a species. But before you become hopelessly depressed, check out my top three reasons to turn your frown upside down this weekend:
Reason #1: The House of Representatives passed the first-ever climate bill last week. ACES (The American Clean Energy and Security Act), also known as Waxman-Markey, marks the first time that Congress has taken on climate change, which is kind of a big deal. Granted, the bill is far from perfect, and it still has a long way to go before it’s signed into law, but it’s a HUGE step forward in the fight against climate change, and it should provide Alaska with at least a smidgen of optimism.
Reason #2: Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced in his 2nd inaugural address on Wednesday that he wants the Department of Water and Power to “eliminate the use of coal by 2020.” Yes, you read that correctly. The mayor of the nation’s most polluted city is making a promise to permanently cut ties with the coal industry within the next decade. Can you say “hallelujah!”? I know Alaska is.
Reason #3: Our wonderful country is turning 233 on Saturday. Birthdays are always a cause for celebration, and the birth of a nation is certainly no exception. The best part about this particular birthday is that it falls on a Saturday, which means a 3-day weekend for many of us, or, at the very least, a good excuse to stay up late watching fireworks. I’m all about BBQs and pyrotechnic spectaculars, but I feel obligated to remind you to observe the holiday by exercising your freedom to celebrate in a sustainable fashion that will cause the least amount of damage as possible to poor Alaska. Check out greenzer.com’s Guide to Green Independence Day and the Sierra Club's resources for celebrating greater energy independece for some excellent suggestions on how to reduce the carbon footprint of your 4th of July shindig from a carbon stomp to a carbon tip-toe.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 1:21PM PST on July 2, 2009
The public's right-to-know scored a victory this week when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally released the list of the 44 coal ash sites deemed "high hazard." This comes two weeks after a coalition of organizations including the Sierra Club filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding the release of the list.
Since then we've been crunching some numbers to learn more this list of coal ash storage sites. First of all, we've put the 44 sites onto Google Maps so you can see just how close you are to one.
Here's an example of one of the sites.
For some perspective, more than 12% of Americans nationwide live below the poverty line.
Another example is the coal ash site located at Allegheny Power's Pleasants Power Station near Willow Island, West Virginia. There, more than 20% of the community lives below the poverty line. Yet another example comes from the site with the most coal ash storage ponds in one location: Cochise, Arizona, with its eight storage ponds at the Apache Station operated by Arizona Electric Power Corporation. In Cochise, more than 19% of residents live below the poverty line. (All our city data comes from the 2000 Census)
Coal ash impoundments were placed on this EPA list based on the potential for harm to surrounding communities in the event of an accident, but at the request of the Department of Homeland Security and the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency had previously refused to release the information.
It's important to point out that these sites are listed as hazardous due to the location and condition of the dams, NOT because of the pollution stored behind them and whether or not it is seeping out into local drinking water. These 44 sites are places where a dam failure would likely result in a loss of life. We still don't know just how many of the hundreds of coal ash sites nationwide are leaking toxic pollution into local drinking water supplies, but evidence is mounting that dozens of communities are living with that nightmare every day.
The TVA dam breach disaster from last December
The next step is to clean these sites up expeditiously, so that they no longer present a hazard to downstream communities. At the same time, EPA must move forward to close the regulatory loopholes that the coal industry has enjoyed for far too long. It is time to require the coal industry to treat coal ash as the hazardous waste that it is.
Tell your Senator to push for coal ash regulations.
Announcing these high hazard coal ash storage sites also underscores the need to move beyond the dirty energy sources of the past. It's time to get America running on clean energy. Instead of the toxic legacy of America's dirty energy past, the clean energy future promises millions of new jobs, healthier communities, and a safer climate for future generations.
Posted by: Adam Kapp at 2:51PM PST on July 1, 2009
When I envisioned an electric car, I always pictured some vaguely boxy auto, designed for efficiency with style as something of an afterthought. Something not unlike the world's current best-selling electric car, the REVA.
That was until yesterday afternoon when I had a chance to take a ride in a Tesla Roadster. The Tesla does 0-60mph in under four seconds, and can go almost 250 miles between charges. For those with the means, that alone may be worth the $100,000 price tag. But the enthusiastic comments on the car's design we got from neighboring drivers at every red light, accompanied with their subsequent disbelief upon finding out the car didn't have a gas tank? Priceless.
Now just imagine recharging your Tesla with solar panels on the roof of your garage....
Waiting for your Tesla to be delivered? Or waiting for City CarShare to start offering the Model S? Join our unofficial Tesla Motors fan club!
Posted by: Heather M at 7:54AM PST on July 1, 2009
So of course you're heard by now that the American Clean Energy & Security Act (ACES) passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last week. We were thrilled with the news. It's a great step forward for a clean energy future in the U.S., but the bill still needs strengthened before it hits the President's desk.
That of course means our target now is the Senate. Take a look at our updated video on ACES to learn more.
That link again to check how your Representative voted and write her/him is
Stay tuned for the hard work in the Senate!
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