Climate Crossroads Blog
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:21PM PST on July 30, 2010
It's late. It's Friday. August is almost here. But wait ... there's some news! This just in:
Sierra Club Applauds House Passage of BP Disaster Response LegislationToday the House voted to remove the $75 million liability cap. And companies "with significant workplace safety or environmental violations over the preceding seven years would be banned from new offshore drilling permits." Considering the year Big Oil has had -- in the Gulf, in China, and in Michigan -- this is a sign of common sense prevailing.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:46AM PST on July 30, 2010
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
-- For all you non-sports fans out there, when a football head coach makes a decision that ends up biting the team in the butt, the ensuing second guessing is called "Monday morning quarterbacking." Suffice to say, climate advocates were doing a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking all week after the Senate failed to get climate legislation off the launching pad.
For example, NYT's Lee Wasserman says there was a failure of messaging: "At a meeting in April 2009 led by Carol Browner, the White House coordinator of energy and climate policy, administration message mavens told climate bill advocates that, given the polling, they should avoid talking about climate change and focus on green jobs and energy independence."
Grist's Dave Roberts focuses more on the politics of what played out. You want to blame something? Okay. Try the supermajority requirement of the Senate, Republican obstructionism, Obama's passivity, the tenuous economy, and the so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats from coal states. This Harvard professor prays for cap-and-trade's survival, mostly because it's a market based solution. He comments on "the irony that the attack on cap-and-trade – and carbon-pricing, more broadly – has been led by conservatives, who should take pride as the creators of these cost-effective policy innovations in three Republican administrations."
-- The do-nothing senators might want to take a look at this: water shortages are in store for much of the country.
-- And the do-nothing senators might want to take a look at this example of a carbon tax that is showing signs of success.
-- Everyone talks about polar bears. But where's the love for phytoplankton?
-- Take your house plant to the museum.-- And lastly, India is a hot place. Read how they air conditioned 400 years ago.
Posted by: John Byrne Barry at 12:02PM PST on July 29, 2010
Ooops. Haven't written a Lazy Organic
Gardener post for more than a
There is no such thing as a truly lazy gardener. if you're lazy with a capital L, gardening is not going to be on your to-do list. At its best, it's meditative, absorbing, a feast for the senses. Sometimes there's a feeling of connecting with the sublime or a superior being.
But it is work. There are
deadlines, busy periods. Certainly times when I wish I was done so I
could sit down and enjoy it.
There are zucchini and strawberries to
harvest, but not much else. Lots of green tomatoes yet to ripen. (The
cold foggy days don't help.)
One of these days, I'd better spread some fertilizer in the vegetable beds.
For now, though, I'm taking photos instead of working.
Here are two views from the deck.
The corn is taller
than I am now. The photos below are
from three weeks ago.
You can't tell from this photo, but there are two plastic chaise lounges behind this thriving lavatera in the back of my yard. (Fortunately, there are plenty of other places to sit.)
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:21AM PST on July 29, 2010
Photo by Mary Anne Hitt
Perhaps the aesthetics of blown-up mountains are in the eye of the beholder? Last summer, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) drew ire from coal industry execs because he expressed support for a federal ban on the destructive practice. Big Coal even attempted to launch a boycott of Tennessee.
These days coal execs have found a friend in Kentucky's Republican nominee for Senate, Rand Paul. Paul seems to think mountaintop removal is great!
"The top ends up flatter, but we're not talking about Mount Everest. We're talking about these little knobby hills that are everywhere out here. And I've seen the reclaimed lands. One of them is 800 acres, with a sports complex on it, elk roaming, covered in grass." Most people, he continues, "would say the land is of enhanced value, because now you can build on it."Makes sense. That's why I visit ilovemountains.org -- to admire pictures of enhanced plots of land.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:02AM PST on July 29, 2010
Mr. Green answers questions. And his latest questioner wants to know the difference between a dishwasher versus the hand washing method. Read his answer here. It's a timely piece considering the report released earlier this week that said by 2050 a majority of the country will face drought.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:42PM PST on July 28, 2010
Tired of prolonged, exhaustive conversations with climate deniers? School them in 140 characters or less! Skepticscience.com -- with its handy spreadsheet of every argument climate deniers fall back on -- now has a list of handy tweets for all the denial rhetoric. And if that doesn't quench your tweeting urges, follow @Sierra_Club's feed for the day's news and info.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:25PM PST on July 28, 2010The Solar Streets of Philadelphia
Posted by: Don Knapp, ICLEI USA at 11:29AM PST on July 28, 2010
(Written by Rena Ragimova. Cross-posted from ICLEI USA's Local Action blog.)
In July 2009, the Department of Energy released a guide for local governments on solar powering their communities. Less than a year later, the City of Philadelphia, which was selected as a Solar America City in 2008, is passing on that knowledge on to Philly residents and businesses with the release of the Guidebook for Solar Photovoltaic Projects.
Funded by DOE, this guidebook takes a straightforward approach to photovoltaic systems, with the goal of engaging and encouraging the most homes and businesses to add them. The guidebook is designed for Philadelphia residents considering solar installation, and covers most aspects in great detail -- from design and implementation to city codes, permitting and available incentives, all of which are essential knowledge for anyone considering solar for their home or business.
With specific information about Philadelphia planning codes, permits and incentives, the guidebook is geared specifically toward Philadelphia residents. Despite this fact, many other local governments, especially ones in large urban areas, can benefit from the general information included, and especially use it as a model for similar guides in their community.
By providing a clear, easy-to-read guidebook, Philadelphia has made solar installation a doable undertaking, and is likely to encourage more consumers to take the important step toward more greener, lower-carbon buildings, and a more sustainable Philadelphia.
Posted by: Heather M at 9:09AM PST on July 28, 2010
On the heels of yesterday's second oil accident off Louisiana's coast, emergency workers in Michigan are responding to another major slick caused by a ruptured pipe. This oil spill of more than 800,000 gallons of crude (so far) is affecting some 16 miles of the Kalamazoo River (again, so far). Here's a photo of that mess, from Brandy Baker of the Detroit News.
This quote from the Detroit News article sticks out to me:
"We have negatively impacted your lives and made a mess of your properties and waterways," said Patrick Daniel, Enbridge president and CEO. "We're now working around the clock to minimize the impact of that and clean up the area."And yet the oil industry says spills and accidents are few and far between, huh?
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:11PM PST on July 27, 2010
As clean solar energy proliferates, nuclear continues to prove itself outdated, risky, and expensive. We already knew this. But now we have more proof. A new study has found that the costs of solar "have declined to the point where they are lower than the rising projected costs of new nuclear plants..."
But current politics do not reflect this development. Why are politicians so smitten about nuclear? In 2008, both presidential candidates mentioned nuclear as a piece of the climate puzzle. And the climate bill that failed in the Senate last week had loads of goodies for new nuclear. Jon Chait theorizes, "Conservative supporters of climate change, like the old John McCain, harp on nuclear power because it's a good way to allay the suspicions of the conservative base -- climate legislation will build more nuclear plants, and hippies hate nuclear plants, therefore conservatives should support it."
If politicians were truly concerned with the cost of energy (including the human toll of dirty energy), nuclear, offshore oil, and "clean" coal wouldn't be a part of the equation.
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:41PM PST on July 27, 2010
I just read this on Sierra Club's Twitter stream:
Golly, I wish I had their accountants.
By the way, there's a new oil disaster in the Gulf. Early this morning, a tow boat slammed into an abandoned well. A plume of oil is shooting about 100 feet into the air. Watch:
Posted by: Carl Pope at 1:35PM PST on July 27, 2010
Gillette, Wyoming -- You might be pardoned if you thought that the Powder River Basin, in northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana, was a coal-producing region. After all, the third line of the Wikipedia entry mentions that the basin "supplies about 40 percent of coal in the United States." Most of the Google images for the basin are of coal-mining operations, or maps of coal deposits. This town lies next to the biggest coal mine in the country, the Black Thunder Mine. John McPhee devoted a major part of a book to the coal trains that snake out of the Black Thunder to Georgia Power's Plant Scherer, 1,800 miles away, just north of Macon, Georgia.But in the eyes of the U.S. Government, the Powder River Basin just doesn't qualify as a coal-producing region. Although it used to be designated as one, it was decertified by the Bureau of Land management in 1990. Evidently, the PRB lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. "Who cares?" you might wonder. The coal comes out, regardless. The land is stripped and destroyed. The mercury in the Black Thunder coal ends up in Georgia's fisheries. And the climate is being dangerously disrupted.
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:21PM PST on July 27, 2010
Ansel Adams. Photo by Cedric Wright; courtesy Colby Library, Sierra Club.
Talk about a gold mine. A California man recently discovered he possessed a treasure trove of Ansel Adams negatives that an art appraiser valued at more than $200 million, according to CNN. The negatives were believed to have been destroyed in a 1937 darkroom fire. But 10 years ago, they were purchased by Rick Norsigian of Fresno at a garage sale for $45. Experts and historians seem to corroborate his claim. However, there are those who doubt the authenticity, including Adams's own grandson.
"Mr. Norsigian has been claiming these negatives were made by Ansel Adams for many years," he said. "I am unaware of anyone knowledgeable agreeing with him."Whether the negatives are authentic or not, such arguments reflect the photographer's lasting legacy. After first visiting Yosemite as a teenager, he became intimately involved with the Sierra Club for much of his life. Read more about him by clicking here.
Posted by: Gabriel Derita at 1:11PM PST on July 27, 2010
The high plains are the breadbasket of America, and the Ogallala aquifer beneath them supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton, and cattle produced in the United States. The Ogallala is the single most important source of water in the High Plains region, providing nearly all the water for residential, industrial, and agricultural use.
Enter the Keystone XL pipeline, the latest proposed expansion of the largest industrial project on earth- the Alberta tar sands.
The Keystone XL will consist of 1,700 miles of pipe, cutting through farms and communities across the high plains from Alberta to refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast regions. The proposed route of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline traverses the deepest sections of the Ogallala Aquifer- the largest aquifer in the United States.
About 27 percent of the irrigated land in the US lies above this aquifer system. The total water storage is akin to the volume of Lake Huron.
The future economy of the High Plains depends heavily on the Ogallala Aquifer, the main source of water for all uses. The Ogallala is literally the lifeblood of the region, and must be carefully safeguarded against depletion and contamination.
Yet the State Department is considering granting permits to TransCanada, the pipeline owner, to operate the proposed pipeline at higher pressure and with thinner steel than industry standards allow.
This high-pressure pipeline would carry the world’s dirtiest oil four feet underground, when the Ogallala aquifer is already visible at depths of three feet or less. This pipeline will clearly put the entire high plains water resources at risk.
Pipelines already in place leaked 126,000 gallons in one incident alone- and more recently spewed over 800,000 gallons into a Michigan river. These pipes operate at lower volumes and pressure than the proposed Keystone XL expansion.
Local residents are expressing concern over the pipeline, and an ongoing poll in the Rapid City Journal shows strong opposition to the project.
Many are rightly wondering why we should invest in a risky, dirty source of energy when the potential exists for clean energy across the prairie states. Many states along the pipeline route, including the Dakotas, Montana and Nebraska, have some of the highest wind energy potential in the United States.
This $12 billion dollar pipeline project will lock us into reliance on the dirtiest oil in the world, when we could be investing in creating self-sufficient, clean sources of energy in the US that will never run out- like wind and solar.
The tragic gulf oil spill provides a fresh reminder of the risks inherent in our oil addiction. Piping more dirty tar sands oil through our largest freshwater aquifer is not the solution.
If we choose today to invest in self-sufficiency and clean energy to provide for the future of American prosperity, we can make oil spills an inky page in the history books.
Read more on the Ogallala aquifer and how you can help protect this vital resource.
Posted by: Heather M at 9:00AM PST on July 27, 2010
Here's another round-up of stories you may not have heard about just yet. Most of it is about coal - but not all.
First up, in timely coal news - we need you to call your U.S. rep right now to urge them to not weaken coal ash standards (The photo to the left is of the massive coal ash spill in Harriman, Tenn., from December 2008. Photo by Lyndsay Moseley). From our friends at EarthJustice:
We need you to call your Congressional Representative immediately!! Please take two minutes this morning to help stop our opponents from gaining ground in the House. You can call the House switchboard and ask to be transferred to your member's office, (202) 224-3121----
Next up is more coal news. If you're in California, you might just be knee-deep in election news. The latest is that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina received campaign money from Murray Energy, a major coal company whose CEO is a climate denier, along with other major coal companies in Appalachia.
Now for some good coal news: A legal challenge has proved successful in Georgia, where a state administrative court ruled against two state water permits for the proposed 850-megawatt Plant Washington coal-fired power plant in Sandersville, GA. The court has ruled that the water withdrawal and water pollution discharge permits issued by Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) for the proposed power plant are both legally flawed. More details here.
And coal's not just bad for the water, as some residents in Illinois discovered this past weekend on a tour of a longwall mining site. The Illinois Sierra Club Mining Issues Committee took folks on a tour in Hillsboro, where the new Deer Run longwall mine is under contruction next to town, within a few hundred feet of the local hospital. If you're unfamiliar with how damaging longwall mining can be, watch this video to learn more.
They also traveled to Macoupin County to see longwall mined areas still not "reclaimed" after a decade after mining - not to mention the Shay 1 mine coal waste impoundment, which features millions of gallons of toxic coal slurry. Check out pictures from the tour on Flickr.
Also this past weekend, hundreds of Texans gathered for the Great Texas Cleanup Event in Houston, which was co-organized by the Texas Sierra Club - especially by our Texas Beyond Coal and Texas Sierra Student Coalition teams (seen in the photo to the right). The event was an outdoor music and arts festival mixed with community organizing for clean energy and clean air. This website has a great write-up and more fantastic pictures.
Finally, in more good clean energy news, got this tip via email: "Atlantic Green Power (AGP) announced (July 20th) it received final approval to build a 14.4 megawatt (MW) solar farm in Upper Pittsgrove, N.J. This approval makes the pending project the largest solar energy generation facility to receive final site plan approval in New Jersey to date, and one of the largest on the East Coast."
Posted by: Guay at 11:56AM PST on July 26, 2010
Last week leaders from over 20 of the world’s most developed
nations met at the clean
energy ministerial in
Impressive efforts at generating negawatts through lighting
efficiency projects have recently been pioneered by South Asian countries
In order to achieve this ambitious goal
Perhaps even more impressive is the speed with which
These programs effectively cut through the false narrative that dramatically ramping up coal production is the only way to satisfy the world’s insatiable demand for electricity. What’s more important is that they have shown that even countries confronting a host of developmental dilemmas can effectively implement them at scale. With federal action on climate change dead in the US perhaps we can relearn an important lesson from our South Asian friends - change moves from the bottom up.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:53PM PST on July 23, 2010
With a comprehensive climate bill now six feet under, the new political battlefield has shifted to the EPA. Although the Senate bill failed, the EPA will eventually be in a position to start regulating carbon under the Clean Air Act.
Sen. Murkowski tried and failed earlier this summer to disarm the agency. Now Sen. Rockefeller is going to give it another go with a proposal to suspend the EPA's regulatory ability for two years. Suffice it say this would be a bad thing. Visit the Sierra Club Action Center to get involved and keep coming back here for the latest news and political developments.And if you're looking for more perspective, consider these Tweeted obituaries after it was announced that climate legislation was no more.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:30AM PST on July 23, 2010
This week I came across a few videos about chickens, which you can watch down below. Urban chickening is a fascinating topic. If you want to cross that road (pun intended), read Grist's recent guide to getting started. And visit UrbanChickens.org.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:45AM PST on July 23, 2010This Week's Blogosphere Soup: Photoshop, the Himalayas, and Cow Washing
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:13AM PST on July 23, 2010
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
Here's what I've been reading this week:
-- BP was trying to Photoshop its way out of the mess.
-- The NYT's Lens blog has recent pics from the Himalayas and compares them to pics taken in 1921.
-- Need a smile on your face? Watch this video of the so-called cow wash that increases milk production and provides soothing massages: "The cow wash is a free-swinging brush that starts rotating when a cow rubs up against it. The cow can move around the brush as it pleases, getting rubbed wherever it wants - along its sides, back, and head."
-- Litigious coal industry execs puts EPA on the defense over Obama administration’s crackdown on mountaintop removal.
--McDonald's launches a nefarious ad campaign attacking local food purchasing.-- And last but not least, the woman who is picking up trash at Santa Monica beach and blogging about it has now collected more than 500 pounds (!) in 130+ days. It's a great blog with striking pictures of carelessly discarded garbage.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:19PM PST on July 22, 2010
Score one today for coal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the wacky world of Senate rules that requires 60 votes to get anything done. Congressional members will enjoy the August recess without moving forward on green jobs, carbon emissions, and oil dependency.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 8:29AM PST on July 22, 2010
This post was co-written by Lena Moffitt, Washington Representative for the Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign.
This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blasted the State Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline - asserting that the EIS is "woefully deficient" because "the Draft EIS does not provide the scope or detail of analysis necessary to fully inform decision makers and the public, and we recommend that additional information and analysis be provided."
The Keystone XL is a massive pipeline designed to carry tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S., and we've long called its EIS inadequate. Now our nation's environmental watchdog is putting its weight and expertise behind that assessment.
EPA is charged with protecting Americans' health and safety, and its concerns about this pipeline underscore and validate what Americans are saying across the country.
EPA is demanding more than 30 additional pieces of information needed based on grave concerns such as "the Draft EIS does not fully identify and address the potential for disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects on minority, low-income and Tribal populations."
EPA also raises serious concerns about the threats tar sands pose to the health and safety of American communities, which underscores the need to proceed with caution when it comes to making a decision of this magnitude about the country's energy future.
And given what we've witnessed in the Gulf of Mexico, where rubbers stamps for the oil industry were all too common, we welcome this call for a more thorough and rigorous approach to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Here's just a partial list of what EPA is asking of the State Department, given the woefully deficient consideration of these environmental and human impacts:
- A broader assessment of the need for this pipeline, including a "robust analysis of options for meeting national energy and climate policy objectives";That list alone underscores the high risk and hefty cost of pursuing toxic tar sands oil at the expense of America’s clean energy future.
We applaud EPA's scrutiny.
All of the additional analysis requested by EPA must be prepared to allow for a robust consideration of the impacts of this pipeline, and whether or not is it in our nation's interest.
And because of an executive order, these requests from EPA mean that the Keystone XL plan cannot go through until the Department of State can deliver completed analysis addressing all of these points.
We have said all along, an open and honest dialogue about our energy future leads to the conclusion that we should say no to this filthy project. Instead, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should say yes to clean energy, yes to clean air, and yes to an oil-free future.
Posted by: Heather M at 7:19AM PST on July 22, 2010
This is a guest post from Chip Gaul, Intern for the Sierra Club Good Jobs Retrofit Campaign.
In April, twenty-five cities and states received “Retrofit Ramp-up”awards from the U.S. Department of Energy’s stimulus funds (a competitive grant under the Energy Efficiency and Community Block Grant Program). These grants are beefing up existing programs and new initiatives set to launch this fall and winter that allow households and building owners to improve the energy efficiency performance of their homes and businesses.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 3:09PM PST on July 21, 2010
So how come we've just had the largest environmental disaster in decades on top of record hot temperatures in much of the country and we still can get a decent climate bill past Congress? According to Jason Zengerle in New York magazine, it's because environmentalists are too nice:
Given that the facts are on our side, there's no reason that rational arguments for action on climate change can't also be direct and emotional. For example, take this new study from our colleagues at the Natural Resources Defense Council showing the 1,100 U.S. counties that could be at dire risk of water shortages in the next 50 years because of global warming.
That's a lot of thirsty children and grandchildren. If we can make the climate debate about them, we win.
Posted by: Heather M at 12:51PM PST on July 21, 2010
This post was written by Edward Hill, intern for the Sierra Club Global Warming & Energy Team.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) must be jealous of Sierra Club; they have to be! In the past few years the Sierra Club, in union with a number of other grassroots organizations, has shifted the debate over climate change from one of skepticism to one where politicians are working to introduce new climate and energy bills.
Now, in the wake of the BP oil disaster, API is ramping up its defenses to dissuade Congress from tightening regulation and tax loopholes on the oil-industry. In recent weeks API has sought to advance its interests by launching its own "grassroots" campaign, titled "Energy Citizens." Needless to say they have a lot to learn.
In response to the public backlash over the BP disaster, API has launched the Energy Citizen's campaign to protect its beloved loopholes, government handouts and lax oversight. The campaign has been pumping ads that use average-looking Americans to advance their cause.
This isn't API's first run at "grassroots" campaigning, as cited by Mother Jones. In 2009, API's Energy Citizen Campaign organized a series of citizen rallies against cap-and-trade legislation. While it was obvious that API was sponsoring the events, it turned out that the rallies were also being organized by oil-industry lobbyists.
From its launch, the Energy Citizens campaign has been catching flak for being a fake citizen's activist movement. When opposition and opinions have to be bought to preserve the status quo, it's clear that it is time for change. It is time for a clean energy revolution and Sierra Club's grassroots movement is going to take us there. We are ready to end our addiction to oil, and we know we will win.
Posted by: Jennifer Schwab at 10:44AM PST on July 21, 2010
I had a chance to drive the fascinating Tesla Roadster this past weekend. In a word, it was, well, electrifying. The power and performance of a Lotus Exige, without the noise and pollution. More on this in a moment.
We were at a special "Bastille Day" event held by L.A.'s Petersen Automotive Museum in Malibu. Everybody dressed in white, great cars were everywhere, and Tesla was offering demo drives to this select group of automotive opinion leaders. In case you've not heard of Tesla, it is a Bay Area startup run by CEO Elon Musk, who made a couple hundred million by selling his previous Big Idea, PayPal. Tesla plans to build an electric car that will be affordable, but the initial product really is not. It sells for about $125K, plus extras such as the deluxe charging station, sport package upgrade, etc.
Let's evaluate the car first, not the price. It is based on the Lotus Esprit chassis, or platform as the car industry calls it. I have always loved the Lotus and confess to taking a special Lotus driving school in my previous life. As fast cars go, it is very lightweight, gets close to 30 mpg, corners like a mother, runs zero to 60 in less than five seconds and does this running a four cylinder Toyota engine. It is also very hard to get in and out of, has little storage space, poor visibility and is not very practical as a daily driver.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:13AM PST on July 21, 2010
Yesterday I tripped over this announcement from Google that through a 20-year contract it will be purchasing clean power from 114 MW of wind energy from a wind farm in Iowa. Google will then sell the power back into the grid in exchange for RECs, or renewable energy certificates. This is one more piece of the puzzle of Google's quest for carbon neutrality.
By contracting to purchase so much energy for so long, we’re giving the developer of the wind farm financial certainty to build additional clean energy projects. The inability of renewable energy developers to obtain financing has been a significant inhibitor to the expansion of renewable energy.How much is 114 megawatts of wind energy? Well, homes and businesses run on kilo-watt hours. According to this helpful fact sheet from the American Wind Energy Association, one megawatt of wind energy takes care of up to 3 million kilowatt-hours a year, or between 225 and 300 homes annually. In other words, 114 MW of clean power would cover a lot of homes and businesses that might otherwise rely on coal-based plants.
Google has a love affair with wind. In May, Google invested nearly $40 million into 169.5 MW worth of wind projects (h/t Earth2Tech). That's a lot of averted CO2. In a world of discouraging political news, this is a breath of fresh, clean air.
Speaking of wind, I had a great conversation a few months back with a wind expert on how typical homeowners can establish small wind in their yards. If wind power is something you want to bring home to the family, click here to read about it.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 1:56PM PST on July 20, 2010
Poor Joe Barton! First the Texas Representative had to apologize for his apology, then he loses $154,000 on investments on his campaign funds--because they were invested in plummeting energy company stocks, including BP. According to CQMoneyline,
Barton saw his bottom line fall in part because of losses in broad-based funds that invested in companies linked to the recent Gulf Coast oil spill. His campaign reported losing more than $13,000 in the Fidelity Select Energy Service, which lists Halliburton and Transocean Inc. among the fund’s largest four holdings. Transocean is down more than 36 percent for the year, while Halliburton is down nearly 6 percent so far in 2010.CQ says that Barton was aware he was investing in energy stocks, but was not aware that they included the biggest perps in the Gulf oil disaster.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 1:07PM PST on July 20, 2010
The Holy Grail of the dirty-energy crowd is dirty energy that isn't quite so dirty. If only we could take the carbon dioxide out of coal, they reason, problem solved! We could keep on burning coal for the next 240 years and put all those wind turbines into storage until then.
In search of this happy solution, in 2009 alone the Department of Energy budgeted $681 million toward development of "Carbon Capture and Storage" (CCS) technology, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. the stimulus bill) kicked in another $3.4 billion.
So how's the investment turning out? Turns out that no one really knew--so Congress asked the Government Accountability Office to check it out. Their recently released conclusion: CCS is "less mature" than readily available technologies to improve coal-plant efficiency, costs a ton to install and operate, and reduces the amount of energy a plant can produce by 15 to 32%. Short story: "Without a national carbon policy to reduce CO2 emissions, nearly all stakeholders said CCS would not be widely deployed." Yet coal-state senators have been among the most adamant opposed to including carbon pricing in the energy legislation now inching through the Senate.
If the Treasury filled helicopters with $100 bills and showered them over the nation's cities, at least it would stimulate the economy. But spending billions on CCS in the absence of putting a price on carbon is just pouring it down the coal hole.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 10:22AM PST on July 20, 2010
There was a rumor recently that Telsa had converted a new model of Toyota's popular RAV4 into an EV. Toyota announced Friday that Tesla will supply the drive train for a resurrected RAV4 EV, possibly to be built at the recently purchased NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. This is the giant 5 million sq. ft. plant that was the subject of a fascinating story on This American Life in March.
Here we are taking possession of our brand new RAV on winter solstice, 2002.
Posted by: Reed McManus at 4:51PM PST on July 19, 2010
Climatologist Stephen Schneider, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with fellow members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (and Al Gore) and authored Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth's Climate (National Geographic, 2009) died today of an apparent heart attack while traveling in Europe.
"Science is never-ending refinements of truth," Schneider told Sierra in a recent interview. Fully aware that his elegantly simple explanation of the scientific process is nerve-wrackingly unmanageable for media outlets driven by ideology or a desire to reduce complicated climate issues to sound bites, Schneider relished his ability to cut through the complexity, confusion, and obfuscation with metaphor. (“I never lose to these guys,” he said.) Schneider taught fellow scientists and students how to prevail in the communication wars. (To his colleagues too deep to be “debating with the Hannities,” he suggested: “You don’t have to be on the front lines in a bayonet fight. You can pass the ammunition.”)
It’s no surprise that the feisty Schneider also authored a book about his battle with lymphoma titled The Patient from Hell: How I Worked with My Doctors to Get the Best of Modern Medicine and How You Can Too (Da Capo Press, 2005). His recent climate book might as well have been titled The Scientist from Hell: How I Fought the Media to Get the Word Out on Climate Change and How You Can Too.
Two recent interview with Schneider are here and here.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:23PM PST on July 19, 2010
On Earth Day, Sierra Club member Oliver Bock and acquaintances left Woodside, Calif. on electric bikes on a cross-country trip to Washington, D.C., where they met their congressional representative. Along the way they engaged with environmentalists, bicyclists, clean-energy activists, politicians, and media members to talk clean energy and transportation. They also blogged about the journey and posted pictures -- which you can view here. Mr. Bock took a few minutes for a Q&A. (Photos courtesy Oliver Bock.)
How long did you travel and when did you get there?
Over 3,000 miles. We got there June 20.
What did you talk about with your congressional representative?
Anna Eshoo is very concerned about green issues and sustainability. She's frustrated with trying to get what they passed last June passed in the Senate. She talked about trying to green Washington and the Mall area. And we talked about bike trails. D.C. has made strong commitments to bikes, but they don’t allow electric bicycles on bike paths. She said she would talk to (Department of Transportation head Ray) LaHood about possibly getting that changed.
Talk about electric bikes for those who don’t know about them.
There are two categories. There are ready-made bikes that typically have a torque sensor and axle that activates itself when you pedal. The motor doesn’t work if you don’t work. The other category, which is what we did, is a kit where you can buy a hub motor and wire it up. Those have throttles on them. And you pedal assist. Anytime we'd talk to anybody about electric bicycles they'd asked, "Do you charge the battery when you pedal?" It’s a legitimate question because you’re generating power with your legs. But the answer is not really. The pedaling makes the battery last longer. We were getting about 85 to 90 miles on a charge, which really surprised us. If we didn’t pedal at all, we’d get about half that. So our pedaling was enough to ease the burden on the battery.
We brought a solar panel on a support vehicle with us. But this wasn’t an off-the-grid project. I don’t think it was possible to do that. We charged using the grid. We camped a lot and found places that had power. We figured we used about 1/20th of the amount of electricity used for an electric car, just based on the weight difference. And then with pedal power it adds even more efficiency. It’s really insignificant how much energy we used.
The most surprising part of the ride was how much fun it was to ride an electric bicycle. You’re in a really comfortable position. There’s no stress on your back or neck. You’re sitting up looking around. It’s a wonderful way to see the world.
One thing I noticed is, when you drive across the country, you see a lot of wind farms. But you don’t see any signage about what they’re doing. When you drive across Kansas, there’s nothing to look at. And suddenly there are 100 2-MW turbines gracefully sweeping through the air. And I want to know some real information. Give me a sign with some numbers. So we’re going to look at what it’d require to get signage, kind of like what you see on freeways, similar to those signs you see that say, "This section of highway is cleaned by the Kiwanis Club."Where was it the toughest to ride?
As any biker would agree, the biggest challenge is headwinds. Even with the motor, we had to work pretty hard. We hit some major dust storms. From Flagstaff to Window Rock (in Arizona) there was a dust storm that closed the interstate. The dust gets into everything. That was a day we portaged about 30 miles. It was too insane. Northwest New Mexico was even worse. Talking to people who live there, they said the wind and dust were never that bad. There’s desertification. It’s blowing over cropland that’s pretty marginal to start with. When you combine that with coal companies extracting water from the aquifer to make their coal slurries -- it’s amazing how everything’s interconnected with what’s going on.
Besides Rep. Eshoo, who were some of the people you met along the way?
Well, we attended events that ranged from showing up to bike shops and talking to them and customers about electric bikes to more sophisticated events. In Window Rock we had some exhibitors. It was elaborate. We had four or five newspaper articles. We had a couple of radio interviews that increased the curiosity. We met with a couple of mayors. The mayor of Flagstaff, Sara Presler, was completely delightful. She got on the electric bike. She was tentative at first. She ended up riding it for about 45 minutes. We also met the governor of Colorado. There was a group in Denver honoring Lester Brown and the governor was speaking there. Colorado is shooting for 30 percent renewable.
How was your message received? Any critics or unexpected responses?Early on there were two older guys we were talking to. I started about global warming and immediately it turned from friendly into, "Oh, we don’t believe in that!"
Using the language of climate change has become political. So anyone critical of politics is going to look at the whole conversation as a political one and not science-based. So after that we chose to stay away from that language. What resonated was talking about green jobs, especially with the oil spill. We'd talk about the potential of wind and solar.
What did you take away from the trip?
Gratitude for the people we met who are really committed to this stuff. Some of these people could be making huge salaries. They’re very talented and bright. But for them that’s not what it’s about. They don’t have money. They just really care about what they do. One guy we met in Champaign -- his wife is pissed off because he took out a loan to get an electric vehicle and everything he does is focused on trying to move sustainability forward. He’s an IT guy who works on the campus there. He was just very gracious. But he hosted us and showed us around and was really wonderful. That was the positive.
On a negative note, it was disappointing to see the health of the American population. Physical and mental. So many people are living on corn and sugar, a highly processed food diet. It’s hard to feel hopeful about where we’re going. Seeing a lot of that was a little discouraging.
Our next steps are doing some kind of publication and researching the stops we did on the way and flush out what these people are actually doing. We’re interested in connecting some of the people we met with each other. They don’t know each other but there is some sort of synergy going on out there and it’d be great to get some networking going.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:35AM PST on July 19, 2010
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 3:14PM PST on July 16, 2010
Brian Foley mentions below the case of Senator Claire McCaskill, who was quoted in Politico as one of the "Brown Dog" Democrats who are shying away from an energy and climate bill that would put a price on carbon.
“I think it’s still a work in progress,” said Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who worries that a cap would be a loser for Democrats in November. “You know, it took 50 years on health care.”
Posted by: Gabriel Derita at 2:36PM PST on July 16, 2010
Drilling safety is not a BP problem, it is an industry problem- Ken Salazar and the Department of the Interior agree.
A Louisiana federal Judge threw out the first ban on offshore drilling last week, but citing concerns over industry-wide use of the same blowout preventers that failed BP, the Interior Department issued a new moratorium Monday.
The extreme engineering and technical lengths companies go to extract oil from miles underwater highlights the severity of our oil addiction- and we can take steps to end it today. But establishing new, rigorous standards for drilling safely in complex and dangerous situations needs to be priority number one for the drilling industry and those who regulate it.
BP is one of the richest, most technologically advanced companies in the world- and 13 weeks after the spill, oil continues to gush nearly uninhibited from the sea floor. Can we assume that any other company would do a better job?
The reality is, we can not. The American Petroleum institute has spent millions in public relations to save their image while throwing BP under the bus, but a government review of spill response documents of all five major drilling companies found nothing but boiler-plate, cookie cutter plans- in some cases using the exact same words.
Like BP, three other companies include references to protecting walruses, which have not called the Gulf of Mexico home for 3 million years.
Two other plans are such dead ringers for BP's that they list a phone number for the same long-dead expert.
ExxonMobil’s response report has 40 pages on its media response strategy, yet its plans for resources protection is only 5 pages long and its plan for oil removal is just 9 pages long. Clearly they are more concerned with the safety of their brand than the safety of their equipment.
Every response plan document claims the companies can handle between 150,000 and 250,000 barrels per day. The BP spill is currently leaking between 11,000 to 25,000 barrels per day- with almost no ability to contain it.
What this disaster has demonstrated more than anything is that these companies cannot be taken at their word- not a single number BP has released relating to the scope of the disaster or its response capabilities has held up to facts.
The offshore drilling industry needs to seriously raise the bar on integrity and transparency, and forcing a moratorium until this occurs is mandatory to holding these companies accountable.
Our tolerance for risk needs to be at an all-time low as we struggle to contain this disaster, and that means an end to risky deepwater drilling until new safety controls are demonstrably in place.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:24PM PST on July 16, 2010
Climate-change legislation looks like it will get its day in the sun during the week of July 26. According to media coverage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be pushing a bill that comprises several components, including an oil spill response, provisions to boost clean-energy jobs, and a section that addresses climate-change emissions. This report -- which compares Sen. Reid's approach to the children's folk story "Stone Soup" -- by Center for American Progress is the best thing I've read today:
No villager alone had the ingredients to make a hearty meal for soldiers passing through their town, but each brought an ingredient and together they created a community soup. By the same token, no existing Senate energy bill has all of the needed components, but it is possible to craft a comprehensive clean energy and global warming bill that would actually achieve Reid’s four goals by combining the most effective provisions from a number of existing bills.Some observers feel that concessions to utilities will be one of the few ways to get a bill through the Senate. Dave Roberts at Grist does not like the look of the tea leaves: "A deal to exempt utilities from new Clean Air Act rules in exchange for their support for a utility-only cap-and-trade system would be a terrible deal. Terrible." (Emphasis, his.)
Meanwhile, senators are already offering curious sound bites. Sen. Claire McCaskill, in her reticence, said health care reform took 50 years to pass, so who knows how long climate legislation will take. Ugh.I wonder how that "Stone Soup" story ends.
The villagers in “Stone Soup” were initially too selfish to provide the visitors with anything to eat. So the soldiers boiled a giant pot of water and added stones to it. One by one, the villagers added vegetables and other ingredients. When it was ready, the soldiers removed the stones and they joined the villagers in a feast.
It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:52AM PST on July 16, 2010This Week's Blogosphere Soup: Energy, Prius Plugs, and Parking
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:49AM PST on July 16, 2010
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world-- The major FinReg bill passed through Congress this week. So is energy and climate on deck? Politically, the Democrats appear to want to pass an energy bill. But in terms of policy, are they considering something that's actually worth passing? Read The Vine for a good update on what the lawmakers are considering.
-- Stuck with a Prius with no plug? Click here.
-- Converting parking spaces into bicycle parking spaces in Toronto.
-- Great video on cycling Copenhagen from an American perspective.-- You want to can your food without the can-cer.
-- Remember that boat made of plastic bottles that left San Francisco to raise awareness for the enormous plastic patches that are clogging up the oceans? That happened waaay back in March. Well, the plastic boat is finally arriving in Sydney.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:01AM PST on July 16, 2010
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 4:41PM PST on July 15, 2010
Photography is now a mature enough medium to allow it to look backward--hence the modern trend toward "rephotography," in which classic scenes are snapped again from the exact same spot. (Sorry, to see the rephotographs of Yosemite you need to dust off your print copy.) The new genre turns out to be perfectly suited to conveying the longterm enormity of climate change, especially as regards the disappearance of the world's glaciers (slideshow here).
No glaciers outside of the poles and Greenland holds as much stored water as those atop the mighty Himalaya mountains, sometimes known as "the third pole." In the latest edition of the indispensible Yale Environment 360, mountaineer and photographer David Breashears turns his lens on glaciers from the Himalayan and Tibetan plateaus, comparing them to archival photos dating back more than a century. Read it and weep.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:47PM PST on July 15, 2010
That's what the Washington Post is reporting - "Oil Leak Stopped for First Time Since April." If the well stays capped, this is fantastic news!
Related to the BP oil disaster, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson was testifying again on Capitol Hill about the disaster. Her testimony is here.
The Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act will set into law the goal of achieving independence from overseas oil in the next 20 years and a specific plan for achieving it. By committing America to developing a robust clean energy economy, the legislation would create new jobs while eliminating the national security vulnerability posed by dependence on oil from overseas to run the economy.To us, this is a great start. From a statement by Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune:
Senators Merkley, Carper, Udall and Bennet are putting us on the right track. This bill to reduce oil dependence is absolutely the right place to start and will focus action where it is most needed. Calling on the President to use all existing authority to reduce the amount of oil we use by at least 8 million barrels a day by 2030 sets an appropriate floor for what together we can achieve. Taking these early steps in the wake of an immediate disaster is also vital to the success of our ultimate goal--an oil-free economy that works for America's middle class.Let's end our addiction to oil! And don't forget about the BP Oil Disaster Group here on Climate Crossroads.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 10:43AM PST on July 15, 2010
Today I'll focus on yet another community suffering from coal's pollution - but this community is a little bit larger, and it's on the front end of an emerging trend. The city is Chicago and it's starting what could be a national movement to clean up dirty energy in the inner city.
Some of our oldest and dirtiest coal plants are located in major cities across the U.S.; and they are often located in areas with other major pollution sources, exposing residents of these densely populated areas to higher levels of harmful pollution than their neighbors.
What's happening now in Chicago is just the beginning as residents of these communities organize and rise up against these environmental injustices, finding ways to clean up their air and water.
In Chicago, more people live near the city's two old coal plants than any other coal plant in the nation. The plants, located on the southwest side of Chicago, cause 40 pre-mature deaths, 500 emergency room visits and 2,800 asthma attacks every year. Chicago also has one of the highest asthma rates in the country, and the city's asthma hospitalization rate is nearly double the national average. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, on average, one out of seven school-aged children has asthma; in a number of Chicago-area neighbors, upwards to one out of three children suffer from asthma.
As such, community groups are working to clean up the two coal-fired power plants: Fisk and Crawford - both owned by Midwest Generation. And it goes beyond their asthma-causing air pollution. The Fisk plant produces more than 1.78 million tons of CO2 annually. The Crawford plant produces more than 3.18 million tons of CO2 annually.
Today in the Windy City, more than 50 local and national organizations, joined by local community members and elected leaders kicked off a ward by ward effort.
"Like many working-class communities of color around the country, Pilsen (a Chicago neighborhood) is inundated with multiple pollution sources, the worst of which is the Fisk plant," said Jerry Mead-Lucero, member of Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), "Your race or class should not determine whether or not you have a healthy environment in which to live."
For years, local organizations such as Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and PERRO have been champions for cleaning the Crawford and Fisk coal plants. Then the Chicago Clean Power Coalition was formed early this year, and support for the groups has grown as more families living in the affected communities get sick of the coal plants' pollution.
The groups are working to pass the Clean Power Ordinance introduced by Chicago Alderman Joe Moore in April. The ordinance will require the coal plant operators to reduce particulate matter pollution (soot) from the coal plants by 90% and global warming pollution (CO2) pollution by 50%, resulting in significant health benefits for neighboring communities. The ordinance currently has nine cosponsors and the coalition has collected close to 1,000 signatures and letters from citizens asking their aldermen to support the ordinance.
"We are looking to the City Council and Mayor Daley to not only to protect the health of its citizens, but also lead the country towards a clean energy future," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who was at the kick off event.
This Chicago event is just another example of action against coal and for clean energy. All over the U.S. we've seen local residents uniting to protect public and environmental health from the massive pollution spewed out from coal-fired power plants. Together we can make these changes.
Posted by: Heather M at 10:31AM PST on July 14, 2010
Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill obtained a new draft of a climate bill from Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, although the two senators aren't "confirming its validity." This is on top of another utility-only bill that's been circulating since Tuesday.
From E&E Daily:
Reid’s pledge, however, left major questions about the scope of the utility plan and steered clear of any details. He declined even to use the words "carbon" or "greenhouse gases," vowing instead to target "pollution."
It's getting tense on Capitol Hill with all this climate and energy legislation wrangling. Stay tuned!
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 2:47PM PST on July 13, 2010
The "Last Words" feature in the May/June Sierra features a picture of Alaska's Taku glacier and a striking boast from ExxonMobil forbearer Humble/Esso from 1962: "Each day Humble supplies enough energy to melt 7 million tons of glacier!" Reader Susan Sielke wonders what the glacier looks like today, 48 years later. "I suspect I am not alone in wondering how much melt has been experienced by just that one glacier alone."
The surprising answer: Not that much. A long-term study by the Juneau Icefield Research Program has tracked the "terminus behavior" of the many glaciers flowing off that vast icefield, using maps from 1948, aerial photos from 1964, and Google Earth images from 2005. "Of the 17 glaciers discussed 5 have retreated more than 500 m since 1948, 11 more than 1000 m, and one glacier, the Taku, has advanced." The Taku grew greatly from 1946 to 1988, at which point its "mass balance" became slightly negative. (All the details you could ever wish for are here.) In the past the glacier has occasionally advanced so far as to entirely block the Taku River. However, notes the JIRP, "[In the] current climate the glacier will not be able to repeat this advance."
Posted by: Don Knapp, ICLEI USA at 1:04PM PST on July 13, 2010
(This was cross-posted from ICLEI USA's Local Action blog. This is a guest post by Samantha Hughes, ICLEI South Central.)
Some of the most exciting and forward-thinking climate and sustainability initiatives are being implemented by local governments in the Southwestern and South Central United States. We've gotten on the phone with staff from many of our ICLEI local government members in this region -- Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas -- and have a compiled the progress report below. Read on to learn about Austin, TX's new renewable energy goal to Fort Collins, CO's solar belly trash compactors, and more.
If your local government has a success story to share, don't hesitate to e-mail us so we can repost on the ICLEI USA website.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:04PM PST on July 12, 2010
Nearly 200 people by my estimate gathered today in San Francisco for a daylong discussion on “feed-in tariffs” -- an economic mechanism designed to stimulate the growth of renewable energy, guarantee fair rates for clean-energy providers, and lower carbon emissions.
The event -- hosted by Pacific Environment, the World Future Council, and others -- featured speakers from around the world, including Hans-Josef Fell of the German Green Party, whose country is running away with solar energy thanks to these tariffs. The day's emphasis was analyzing the tariff system that is catalyzing Europe’s rapid renewable-energy growth and its potential in California and the country.
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune gave the opening keynote address. In his talk, he shared an opinion on “feed-in tariffs” that people nodding: “It needs a new name. ‘Feed-in tariffs’ is not going to get my mom, my sister, and my dad excited,” he said to the chuckling audience. “I don’t know if this is on the agenda but it should be.” Rory Cox of Pacific Environment later quipped that the term can be debated during happy hour at the cocktail reception.
A "tariff" refers to the price paid for electricity per kilowatt-hour. Feed-in tariffs set a competitive rate that benefits all renewable providers who pump clean energy back into the grid. When implemented, jobs, tax revenue, private investment, and a proliferation of clean energy follow.
U.S. policy is way behind Europe. Such a system doesn't seem to be on the horizon in the states. Instead, the environment is on the defensive in California. Out-of-state dirty-energy execs are pumping millions of dollars into a November state proposition that would cripple the state's emissions goals.
Policy experts said the feed-in tariff system is key to widespread and rapid growth of renewable energy. “It helps small, medium, and large projects and can deliver the gigawatts,” said Randy Hayes, World Future Council. And while they’re great catalysts for renewables, they also generate jobs in the short-term, raise tax revenue, and increase private investment.
Brune detailed one of the Sierra Club’s highest priorities: retiring the biggest U.S. coal plants that warm the planet, and replace them with large-scale renewable sources and jumpstart a clean energy economy. “To do that we have to aim high,” he said. Unfortunately, policymakers in Washington, D.C. aren’t thinking that big.
“It’s amazing how the political debate is awfully safe and careful,” he said. “Even proposals by national environmental organizations are tinkering around the edges.”
Brune, who has been to the Gulf several times since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, described his latest visit in which he witnessed BP workers literally leaning over boats to blot the water surface.
“The richest industry in the history of the world creating the worst environmental disaster in the history of our country and they are setting the ocean on fire to try and contain it. They are using golf balls and shredded tires to try and contain it. They’re literally blotting it out. The most technologically advanced thing they can do it blot is out," he said.
“Let’s design an entire clean energy economy as though our life depended on it, as though our economy depended on it, as though our national security depended on it, and as though our health depended on it.”
Posted by: Heather M at 1:14PM PST on July 9, 2010
This is a guest post from Sierra Club Conservation Director Sarah Hodgdon.
Actress Ashley Judd has recently been the target of some very harsh criticism and language from the coal industry in Appalachia. This is not surprising behavior from the coal industry, since Big Coal often resorts to personal attacks when they feel like their dirty, dangerous, expensive way of life is threatened.
This harsh language and attacks are coming in response to Judd's June speech at the National Press Club where she railed against mountaintop removal coal mining as "the rape of Appalachia." We blogged about that speech right here. I was at that speech and found it very compelling - Judd has been a longtime critic of mountaintop removal coal mining.
Judd is a native of eastern Kentucky, so the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining hits close to home for her. Her June speech discussed in detail the harsh realities that this form of mining and coal in general is having on Appalachia - including massive environmental degradation and the economics showing that the coal industry is hurting the region far more than it is helping.
The real statement behind these coal industry attacks is that when it comes down to the issues, the coal industry can only respond with personal attacks because they know that Judd - and everyone else speaking out against coal - is correct.
We've see the coal industry intimidate activists and spend huge amounts of money of lobbying and smearing good people, but we don't hear about solutions.
Jobs, the environment, health - coal and mountaintop removal coal mining are destroying them all in Appalachia. Visit the Sierra Club webpage on mountaintop removal, or I Love Mountains' website , or check out this post defending Judd from Jeff Biggers.
As we've said before, Judd is no slouch on this issue. Not only did she grow up in the impacted areas, but she’s also done extensive research during her graduate school time at Harvard University.
Ashley Judd knows what she's talking about, she is absolutely correct, and we applaud her for using her celebrity to help bring attention to such a devastating issue. We must end mountaintop removal coal mining. We don't have time for personal attacks.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:47AM PST on July 9, 2010
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
The Congressional Budget Office determined that the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill would reduce the country's deficit. Did the deficit hawks fill the streets in jubilation? Is it time to pop the champagne? No and no.
-- An investigation confirms what we already knew about the so-called "Climategate" scientists.
-- Hydrofracking -- the newest natural gas craze -- has fracked up drinking water sources for a family in Texas. Two words: orange hair.
-- "How Many Poor American Cities Will Be Underwater in 190 Years?"
A lot of Oakland is really low ground and the entire San Jose region is hugely threatened. You can kiss Miami and Galveston goodbye, and those low-lying areas around Houston. All the Gulf cities. New Orleans, of course, is among the most endangered. I think by 2200 each of those will be in the throes of being abandoned, if not already abandoned.-- Electric vehicles have come a looooooooooooooong way since 2002.
-- The next time you're at this Waffle House in Georgia, check out its solar hot water collectors. Waffle-licious!-- Speaking of edibles, here are 10 tips to reduce your food waste.
-- And speaking of tips, if you like to camp, click here.
-- Heat waves abound! Is it hot in your neck of the woods? Try this dish with a margarita: a grilled watermelon and tomato salad!
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:47PM PST on July 8, 2010Clean Energy Advocates Rally Against Tar Sands Nationwide
Posted by: Heather M at 12:50PM PST on July 8, 2010
The momentum against bringing Canada's dirty tar sands oil into the U.S. via the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline continues.
Today across the nation are a series of rallies and public events bringing attention to this dirty and dangerous option, and the need for the U.S. State Department to not approve TransCanada's permit for this pipeline. The events are organized by Corporate Ethics International, Friends of the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
The background on this dirty tar sands pipeline: In an effort to save money, TransCanada has applied for a safety waiver for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would allow the company to operate with thinner pipe and higher pressures than standard operating procedure; they also lack a public emergency plan in the event of a leak and have not demonstrated that emergency responders have been identified, contracted or trained.
These rallies come on the heels of last Tuesday's final public hearing on the pipeline (which I blogged about here)
I attended the rally today in Washington, D.C., outside the Canadian Embassy, where many gathered wearing orange shirts that said, "Oil Spill Prevention Team" on the front and "We Want Clean Energy Now!" on the back.
One of the rally speakers was Paul Siemens (pictured below), a rancher from Draper, South Dakota, whose own land would be crossed by this pipeline if it's built.
"Is South Dakota a state of no consequence? The State Department and TransCanada want you to think so," said Draper, noting that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the State Department acted as if a spill in rural areas would be no big deal.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) brought in a celebrity, too - former "ER" star actress Gloria Reuben - who was born in Canada but is now an American citizen.
"These mine pits (where they get the tar sands) are so massive you can see them from space," said Reuben (pictured below), who serves on the NWF board of directors.
"Enough is enough - Secretary Clinton, we do not want any more fast-tracking for these industries," she added, pointing to the BP oil disaster and the Massey coal mine tragedy.
The ralliers then marched from the Canadian Embassy (seen below in the background, where employees gathered on the steps to see what we were up to) over to the White House, carrying signs and chanting for clean energy and against tar sands oil.
You can learn more about the fight against tar sands on our Dirty Fuels page and on our coalition website. And be sure to join the "Say No to Tar Sands" Group here on Climate Crossroads.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 11:14AM PST on July 8, 2010
How's this for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fulfilling its role to protect environmental and public health: On Tuesday, EPA proposed a rule that would prevent between 14,000 and 36,000 premature deaths annually.
The Transport Rule would set stronger emissions standards for the dangerous air pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants in the eastern United States. This new rule would replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which had been struck down by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2008.
While a thorough review and comment period remains to be completed, this is a positive step forward for people who want clean air.
The harmful pollution coal-fired power plants emit into the air does not just endanger people in the immediate vicinity of the plant. Pollution from coal plants is carried downwind, endangering people throughout the entire eastern United States.
This rule addresses the reality that dangerous pollution doesn’t recognize state borders. Just as the oil gusher has now hit every Gulf state, the pollution from coal-fired power plants drifts downwind into people's lungs throughout a region - hence why another way of talking about this rule is as a 'Good Neighbor' rule.
Coupled with other EPA rules, the Transport Rule will achieve a 71% reduction in sulfur dioxide and a 52% reduction in nitrogen oxide from 2005 levels in the states the rule applies to.
These pollutants covered by this rule are precursors to ozone, which is incredibly dangerous to human health. Pollutants like ozone and particulate matter (better known as smog and soot) from coal-fired pollution have been found to cause respiratory illness (including asthma and bronchitis), as well as aggravation of existing cardiovascular disease. It is absolutely essential that EPA do everything in its power to limit the damage these pollutants do to millions of people throughout the United States.
The statistics published with the rule make a very compelling case. According to EPA, the Transport Rule would yield up to $290 billion in annual health benefits, 'including avoiding an estimated 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths, 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.9 million days when people miss school or work due to ozone- and particle pollution-related symptoms.'
This is a great step from EPA to clean up the air. We will stay engaged throughout this process to ensure people's health and welfare are protected.
Posted by: Jennifer Schwab at 9:04AM PST on July 8, 2010
(Visit Sierra Club Green Home.)
BOULDER, CO -- When's the last time you attended a conference and one of the keynote speakers was only 16 years old? This was but one of the thought-provoking subject matter experts we were treated to at the 14th annual LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) Conference, held at the super green St. Julien Hotel here.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 3:30PM PST on July 7, 2010
Is the EPA's romance with coal ash over? For years the agency has partnered with the coal industry to promote coal ash--the toxic leftover from coal-fired power plants--as an ingredient in a variety of industrial, agricultural, and consumer products. (In 2008, the American Coal Ash Association celebrated the stuff's use in everything from "toothpaste to railroad ties.")
Today, however, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) reports that the EPA's Web site page on its "Coal Combustion Products Partnership" has gone dark, the only explanation being a notice that the program "is being re-evaluated." As PEER points out, given that EPA has finally undertaken to possibly regulate coal ash as hazardous waste, it doesn't look right for them to also be promoting its use. But industry doesn't want coal ash declared to be hazardous waste, because then how could they put it in your toothpaste?
You can help the EPA make the right decision by making an official public comment here.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:48PM PST on July 7, 2010
Photo courtesy Envision Solar
If you're going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot ... do it with a bunch of solar panels on it. That's the message behind this excellent interview with Envision Solar CEO Robert Noble in the NYT's Green blog. For the past four years, Envision Solar has focused on the concrete deserts that are parking lots -- prime real estate and urban heat islands to boot. So far the juice generated by these 1,000-square-foot solar canopies flow into adjacent commercial buildings. (View pics of UC San Diego's solar lots here.)
But with the rise of EVs the company is working on modifying the design to function as vehicle charging stations. That would potentially create a harmonious renewable system (like this one) of PVs and EVs, independent of crude oil and coal power plants. And it would add a purposeful element to these empty, destitute masses of land.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:16AM PST on July 7, 2010
YouTube sensation and climate advocate Peter Sinclair has a few more great videos to add to the arsenal. His videos are factual, informative, and at times highly entertaining. This first video is about the national security implications in a changing world.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:49AM PST on July 7, 2010
Get your BP lies by the numbers by clicking here:
BP's plan has been to throw numbers against the wall to see what sticks. But when all is said and done, it seems like no one knows the number or even what the heck is going on. Take this AP segment for example:
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 2:41PM PST on July 6, 2010
Back in the 1970s. the search for offshore oil was so exciting that BP put out a board game on "the thrills of drilling." Better hope you don't draw a "hazard card," though: "Blow-out! Rig damaged. Oil slick clean-up costs. Pay $1 million." Present day BP wishes it could get off so cheaply; the latest estimate of its costs thus far in controlling its Macondo gusher is $3 billion. (h/t to Metro.co.uk)
In a very similar optimistic mood, the Washington Post reports that in March, BP promised federal regulators that in the event of a major spill it could skim 491,721 barrels of oil each day. In practice, skimming since the disaster began has captured only 67,143 barrels total, or 1/500th part of what BP promised for the period.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 10:03AM PST on July 6, 2010
I was going through some old papers and came across the letter above that Zan and I wrote to the NY Times back in December of 2002, just days after taking possession of our brand new Toyota RAV4 EV. We had responded to an article about hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars that were all the rage during the early Bush administration. We were so new to the EV world that we didn't know a fight had been brewing for some years over the controversial Zero Emission Vehicle mandate that had forced the auto companies to build electric vehicles, a fight in which fuel cell cars played a pivotal role.
To the Editor:
Within two weeks of this letter, we organized our first event drawing some 50 EV drivers to our quiet street in Santa Monica. That's when we started meeting all these other activists, some of whom had been working on the issue for a few years. In our naivete, we thought a few protests and a concerted letter writing campaign would suffice to save the EVs from destruction. Boy, were we wrong!
Just this week, Tesla held a very successful IPO becoming the first electric vehicle company to do so. And on Wednesday, Zan and I were invited to see the gorgeous Fisker Karma at the local Santa Monica Fisker dealer. In this picture, newly minted Phd., Shannon Arvizu ("Miss Electric"), joins us in celebrating the moment.
Posted by: Heather M at 8:21AM PST on July 6, 2010
If you missed our huge Beyond Oil flag event on the Mall in Washington, DC, last week, we've got some video for you right here.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:06PM PST on July 2, 2010
With no end to BP's oil disaster in sight and July 4 around the corner, the Sierra Club on Wednesday planted 10,000 flags by the Washington Monument to demand independence -- from oil. For the past two weeks we've been posting some helpful hints here to lessen your own dirty energy usage -- which will be particularly appropriate this holiday weekend when we celebrate our country's break from the British. So let's review!
-- Drive less or not at all! Americans burn 378 million gallons of gasoline a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. BP and other oil companies do not want to see that number to go down. Show them who's in charge. Take public transit. And dust off your bike and/or increase your car's mileage.
-- Purchase local produce and eat less meat. Challenge yourself to one meatless day a week. It'd vastly improve your personal carbon footprint. The meat industry is a major consumer of petroleum. Are you planning to barbecue this weekend? Click here.
-- Consider a "staycation." And for those of you who are hitting the road, there are probably plenty of lovely destinations within a 100-mile radius of your home. Visit a park and hike a trail!
You might notice that these suggestions are not anything new. But walking the talk a little at a time will go a long way. And if you're frustrated by the slow political process in Washington, click here to take action. Have a happy and safe long weekend!
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:16AM PST on July 2, 2010
We are big fans of Sierra Club Radio. Check out the guests on tomorrow's program:
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:49AM PST on July 2, 2010
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
Here are a few glances of what I've been reading this past week. Have a great, long weekend!
-- What would London look like if it flooded in 2030? "[T]his strategy for creating a self sufficient floating city by reusing ships and marine structures can also be applied to island nations such as the Maldives. Over 80% of its 1,200 islands are around 1 m above sea level. With sea levels rising around 0.9 cm a year, the Maldives could become uninhabitable within 100 years. Its 360,000 citizens would be forced to adapt and they could become the first floating nation."
-- Science and the public -- a relationship of misunderstandings:
The argument is that although people often seem to resist science and argue back against it, they’re frequently motivated by nonscientific considerations at the core -- nonscientific considerations that scientists themselves often don’t really understand. But alas, this means that arguing with them scientifically often doesn’t yield the desired result.
-- I'm sure you were as shocked as I was when you read this:
Takeru Kobayashi, a six-time winner of Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, will not compete in this year’s iconic event at Coney Island. Kobayashi, perhaps the most recognizable figure in the world of competitive eating, is currently ranked No. 3 in the world by Major League Eating, the organization that oversees the Nathan’s Famous event and dozens of other contests around the globe.
-- Speaking of food, this New Orleans chef is hitting back at BP:
Susan Spicer did not intend to be the face of the restaurant rebellion against BP over its role in the Gulf oil spill. But that’s what can happen when you file a lawsuit.-- And on lighter note, guerrilla gardening has just gotten easier! "Check out this great little green idea. Greenaid takes old gumball machines, rehabs them and turns them into 'seedbomb' dispensers. The seedbombs are made from clay, compost and seeds and are perfect for the cracks, crevices and empty spaces found in daily life."
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 2:59PM PST on July 1, 2010
Suburbia ain't what it used to be--or what it could be: fun, attractive, and sustainable. That's the message from Atlanta architect Ellen Dunham-Jones in this engaging TED talk (h/t to Ezra Klein). (It runs almost 20 mintues.)
"The big design and devlopment project of the next 50 years is going to be retrofitting suburbia. Whether it's redeveloping dying malls, reinhabiting dead big-box stores, or reconstructing wetlands out of parking lots, the growing number of empty and underperforming retail sites throughout suburbia give us a tremendous opportunity to take our least sustainable landscapes right now and convert them into more sustainable places."
One big challenge: "underperforming asphalt"--the huge parking lots around defunct malls. Dunham-Jones cites an example in Minnesota where a lot was torn up and restored to the wetland it once was. The result? People wanted to live nearby, sparking private investment in homes. "It restored the local ecology and the local economy at the same time."
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:27PM PST on July 1, 2010
In April, President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a new effort to preserve parks and open areas, conserve natural resources, and promote outdoor reaction amid a changing climate. On July 8, federal agencies will hold a “listening session” in Los Angeles and continue to hold sessions throughout the country to collect public feedback for the initiative. Athan Manuel, the Sierra Club’s Director of Lands Protection, answered some of our questions about the initiative and the Sierra Club's Resilient Habitats program.
Q: What are these listening sessions?
A: They are excellent opportunities to tell the Department of Interior what a 21st century land-management plan should be and to push these agencies to keep climate change in mind. When you look at policy in the past, it was always in reaction to railroads, sprawl, oil and gas drilling, and logging. But now we have a more profound threat and that’s climate change.
The listening session is like a public hearing. These agencies really want to hear from the public and make it as much of a grass roots policy as possible.
There are going to be seven or eight sessions across the country after next week's hearing in L.A.: Florida, New York, Colorado, Nebraska, North Carolina, for example. They’ll probably run one or two a week till the end of August. The Interior, the EPA, and the Forest Service will look at the public feedback, put together a report, and base recommendations on what the public has to say. We want to augment that and put forth our vision for Resilient Habitats.
Q: Explain the Sierra Club’s Resilient Habitats program.
A: It’s mainly designed to protect public lands, habitats, species, and resources that are being impacted by climate change. We think this should be prioritized above all other stressers. We need the federal government to recognize that climate change is changing our public lands more than anything in the last 100 years.
The first thing we need to do is reduce our emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Then we need to complement that by funding adaptation programs to climate change’s impacts. Animals are starting to change their migratory patterns. Migration corridors are shifting. So we need to shift or expand the boundaries of these lands accordingly. Animals are moving further and into higher elevations to get away from rising temperatures. There are a lot of changes happening to habitat and species that we need to catch up to and start funding via a cap-and-trade system.
Q: Obama’s initiative is in coordination with other government agencies, like the Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, among others. Why?
A: They’re all legitimate and one of the largest managers of public lands is the Department of Defense. These military bases are islands of natural habitat. A lot of animals and plant species have migrated to these places because of sprawl, road building, mining, and oil drilling. They are a huge manager of land and in terms of endangered species -- from the red cockheaded woodpecker to the desert tortoise -- they’ve been very good stewards. They take it seriously. So there’s a lot of overlap between them and what the Department of Interior does. Right now we’re pushing Resilient Habitats with the Department of Interior but we’d love to do more with the DOD.
Q: EPA head Lisa P. Jackson in talking about the initiative has specifically called for more outdoor access, especially for inner city kids and minorities. Can you elaborate?
A: This is one of their three priorities -- getting kids outside and connecting them with hiking and biking. They want to get inner city kids out there who don’t get to leave the city often. And this effort complements the First Lady’s Let's Move initiative to fighting childhood obesity.
The Sierra Club of all the environmental groups is probably best positioned for these efforts because of our Building Bridges to the Outdoors program and getting youth outside, and our Military Families Outdoors program. The Department of Interior in particular is very eager to work with us because they see it as part of their own campaign for the Obama Administration to pursue.
Q: What end result are we hoping for?
A: Some of it's legislative, but mainly we need different land management plans. Current plans don’t talk about climate change at all. Some agencies are ahead of the curve. For example, Fish and Wildlife is recognizing that migratory corridors are changing. So the first step is recommendations for these agencies. And then the next step is probably legislation to fund the work they want to do. Or in the case of one issue like migratory changes -- such as mule deer that are starting to wander on private lands like ranches or farms -- we might have to do some conservation easements and rezoning so that we can adjust the corridors to where the animals are going. The first step is making recommendations and climate-smart management plans.
Q. If you don’t live in L.A. or nearby other cities that these agencies will be visiting to collect public feedback, how do you get yourself heard?
A: The Sierra Club can always make your voice heard. But there is also a public comment page on the web. But the Sierra Club is the best way to do it. That’s my unbiased opinion.
Posted by: Bruce Nilles at 9:27AM PST on July 1, 2010
This post was co-written by Mary Anne Hitt of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, who is also a native West Virginian.
On September 21, 2006, grandfather and former coal miner Ed Wiley took the final steps of a 455-mile walk that began in the coalfields of West Virginia and ended in Washington, DC, at the office of Senator Robert Byrd. Ed had made his two-month, one-man pilgrimage to ask Senator Byrd to build a new school for the students of Marsh Fork Elementary, which is located immediately beneath an earthen dam holding back 2.8 billion gallons of coal sludge, next to a dust-spewing coal processing plant, and adjacent to a massive mountaintop removal mining operation.
Senator Byrd, one of the most powerful men in America, personally received Ed at his office. They prayed together, and tears were shed by all. Senator Byrd told Ed that he would do what he could to help, though it meant challenging Massey Energy, the now-notorious coal company that ran the coal operation and insisted the school was perfectly safe. In 2009, Byrd announced his support for moving the school. When Massey initially balked at contributing money for a new school, Byrd blasted the company, stating “This is about companies that blatantly disregard human life and safety because of greed.” He continued,
Such arrogance suggests a blatant disregard for the impact of [Massey's] mining practices on our communities, residents and particularly our children. These are children's lives we are talking about.After Senator Byrd made his statement, most WV leaders quickly followed by announcing their support for a new school. Just a few days ago, the last of the funding was finally secured to build a new school in a safe location for the students of Marsh Fork.
While many may remember Senator Byrd as a supporter of coal at any cost, that view became more nuanced in recent years. As we remember the legacy of Senator Robert Byrd this week, we wanted to note his amazing change of opinion on the issue of burning coal for power. Senator Byrd was one of the coal industry's most strident defenders for most of his long tenure in the Senate, but during his final years he tempered that support and signaled that West Virginia must begin to look at a future beyond coal.
Senator Byrd surprised many - including those of us here at the Sierra Club - with his December 2009 commentary entitled "Coal Must Embrace the Future." While he did continue to tout the importance of coal, he also discussed how the coal industry must wake up and face the new reality facing West Virginia: the majority of Americans and Members of Congress oppose mountaintop removal mining, and the transition to clean energy is not something this coal mining state can afford to ignore. He wrote:
Change has been a constant throughout the history of our coal industry. West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it. One thing is clear. The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose.Senator Byrd also defended action on global warming - from this quote in his December 2009 piece:
To be part of any solution, one must first acknowledge a problem. To deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say "deal me out." West Virginia would be much smarter to stay at the table.Byrd also refused to support Senate efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from addressing global warming. In commenting on one such proposal by Senator Lisa Murkowski to overturn EPA's finding that global warming pollution endangers public health and welfare, Byrd wrote:
The Murkowski "Disapproval Resolution" overturns the "endangerment finding." This in essence is like voting to assert that there is no climate change or global warming going on, and to dismiss scientific facts that already exist.While Senator Byrd continued to support coal until the end, he also recognized that change was inevitable, and that fear-mongering and reactionary politics would only hurt the people of West Virginia.
Following his 2006 meeting with Ed Wiley, Senator Byrd issued this statement:
I admire the determination and dedication that Ed and Debbie Wiley have shown. The Bible teaches that if we have faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. I believe that the Wileys have that faith.Since Ed Wiley's walk, countless coalfield residents have traveled to Washington to meet with Senator Byrd, his staff, and other decision makers. As a result, proposals to end mountaintop removal are gaining ground in Congress and in the White House. As we mourn the passing of Senator Byrd, let us remember that heroic acts by ordinary people can move those at the heights of power, and let us continue to demand decision makers work to move us beyond coal and toward a clean energy future.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 9:14AM PST on July 1, 2010
The tide of public response to BP's Maconda oil catastrophe continues to rise. On Saturday, the world witnessed almost 1,000 rallies, with hundreds of thousands of people holding "Hands Across the Sand" to protest of off-shore oil drilling.
And today the Sierra Club planted 10,000 flags on the National Mall here in Washington, a literal representation of the tens of thousands of "virtual" flags that our online supporters have planted in the cause of moving Beyond Oil. The Club was joined in planting the flags by the Truman National Security Project and the Communications Workers of America. The flags spell out these words: "Freedom From Oil." But as you might imagine, reading them from ground level is not easy -- so we wondered whether anyone other than the tourists looking down from the Washington Monument would get the message on-site.
But as Club Executive Director Mike Brune stood up to begin the ceremony, Marine 1, the helicopter that carries the President of the United States, flew overhead. So, thanks to the folks who asked to bear witness with us today, at least one very important part of the audience for America's national demand that we get off oil saw the message right there on the Mall.
To see for yourself how the flags looked from the air, check out the Sierra Club's homepage.
And if you haven't already added your flag online, you can still join the crowd -- and you won't have to go through airport security to be a part of it.
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