It's a new year and a new chance to green your life. There isn't a better time to take a look at some of the things that you can do to be a friend of the planet. They can be small but effective things, like going vegetarian one day a week. Or they can be big, like buying a car that gets better than 40 mpg. Or how about a bike?
The Daily Green offers a list of 15 things you can do in your home for 2009. Some of their best suggestions include lowering the temperature to your fridge, which account for up to 15 percent of your energy bill. Another good idea is to quit bottled water, which is a money-wasting sham.
Here's Sigourney Weaver's resolution: "To green up how I live as much as possible. Either by trying to not use plastic or at least re-use the plastic I already have." Thanks, Sigourney! Be sure to join the Plastic Pledge here on Climate Crossroads.
You know what would be a great resolution for our world leaders? For them to get their act together in Copenhagen. Let's hope they do the right thing and really make 2009 the year of change.
1919 = baseball
1967 = music
2009 = climate change?
Or will it be a year of more of the same?
Joe Romm of ClimateProgress.org guest blogs on Grist where he comments on the best and worst eco-movies of 2008 with Wall-E as the unsurprising best of the best. The worst? Quantum of Solace, the latest Bond flick, gets that honor.
I had been somewhat hopeful upon learning the villain was a green-washing "eco-entrepreneur." But as a huge James Bond fan, I was quite disappointed. The writing and directing were dreadful, among the worst of the entire series.
In my opinion, nothing is worse than Live and Let Die. Anyway, The Green Life blog has a rundown of an eco-movie every Friday. Check it out.
So, did Scrooge believe in climate change?
Not likely. Scrooge had the right idea on coal, but probably for the wrong reasons. Here's dialogue from the 1984 televised version of the classic “A Christmas Carol." Scrooge is played by George C. Scott:
Scrooge: These are garments, Mr. Cratchit. Garments were invented by the human race as a protection against the cold. Once purchased, they may be used indefinitely for the purpose for which they are intended. Coal burns. Coal is momentary and coal is costly. There will be no more coal burned in this office today, is that quite clear, Mr. Cratchit?
Bob Cratchit: Yes, Sir.
Scrooge: Now please get back to work before I am forced to conclude that your services here are no longer required.
The world just got a wonderful winter solistice present: the Energy Information Agency (EIA), the official U.S. government scorekeeper on where our energy sector is headed, has dramatically lowered its "business as usual" projections for how much CO2 the US will emit in 2030. As the Sierra Club has been saying for some time, America is already beginning to move to a lower carbon future.
EIA now estimates that, by comparison with its projections a year ago, we will reduce our 2030 emissions by 9.4%. EIA attributes most of this decline to the fact that they now believe that there will be 100 fewer coal-fired power plants in 2030 than they projected just a year ago -- more than half of the new coal plants they expected a year ago have been stopped already! The Sierra Club's Move Beyond Coal campaign, which has been leading the fight against these facilities, had scored only 85 plants as blocked, but we expect to block far more in 2009. So EIA's estimates here are, perhaps, a bit generous, but only by a few months.
"[This] reflects the behavior of investors and regulators who, in their investment evaluation process, are implicitly (or explicitly) adding a cost to many proposed power plants that employ GHG-intensive technologies. Additions of new coal-fired power plants are significantly reduced from earlier projections."
The remaining reductions in the 2030 projections come from lower emissions from cars (the higher fuel economy standards Congress has passed) and buildings (the energy efficiency provisions of the 2007 energy bill). Again, EIA did not score the savings that will result once the Obama Administration and the Courts allow California and 18 other states to proceed with emission limits on CO2 from vehicles, nor did EIA take into account the recently passed 18-20% improvement in building codes. So here they are. Significantly conservative.
What this shows is that even with George Bush in the White House, providing no leadership, citizen action and pressure at the state, local, and Congressional levels were able to begin moving America away from the catastrophic high carbon pathway it has been on. Just imagine what we ought to set as our goals now that we have a partner in Washington!
Happy holidays, everyone!
Reduce global warming emissions quickly by making it possible for over a dozen states to implement their clean car requirements.
Require new and existing coal power plants to limit their global warming emissions.
End destructive mountaintop removal mining by stopping coal companies from being allowed to dump rock and waste into valleys and streams.
Restore America's international leadership in the fight to end global warming by publicly committing the U.S. to cut its CO2 emissions at least 35 percent by 2020.
Obama could make our clean-energy future a reality with the stroke of a pen. You can help make that happen by joining the tens of thousands of Americans who have signed on with the clean slate campaign here.
After a few rounds of eggnog, the conversation at the holiday dinner table can get a little passionate when the topic turns to things like the environment and climate change. If you're looking to hold your own but keep things civil, the Sierra Club has a Holiday Survival Guide, which will help you win an argument and possibly sway 'em. Check out how to best approach all of your family members -- everyone from your right-wing uncle to your super-duper liberal sister.
I know from my experience, I try to simply tell my counterpart that we should agree to disagree. And then I quickly shift the conversation to football. It's better than getting the f-bomb thrown at you.
But I'm also a firm believer in not letting people get away with wild claims that climate change is some kind of hoax concocted by Al Gore. As long as you know for sure that your conversation will remain respectful, you might want to arm yourself with the facts. Here's a guide on how to talk to a climate change skeptic.
On a related note, someone recently wrote into Miss Manners about dinner table talk.
Dear Miss Manners: I sometimes find myself in social gatherings where people are discussing some social or political issue with a single point of view clearly preferred by most or all other members of the group, when it is a point of view I cannot bring myself to share.
I am aware that sometimes (as in the case of climate change), this occurs because my scientific background and sometimes (as with discussions involving sports) has more to do with an inclination toward contrariness.
My personality traits aside, is it rude to respectfully share a fact that flies in the face of the apparent group consensus?
Or is it better to remain silent and allow the discussion to continue on its course with more and more agreement?
My wife is (possibly properly) horrified by my exchanges. Who's right?
Here's a clip from a few weeks ago of Massey Energy's CEO denying climate change and claiming that the Arctic is getting colder. I'm guessing he didn't read this article from yesterday.
The NRDC has more clips here of his argument of why coal is good for the environment. Ha!
Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar has been named to head the Interior. This is such an important post, considering the state of the economy and the pressing need to transition the country to green energy. If you happen to run into Salazar anytime soon, tell him to check out the Energy Independence section of Climate Crossroads.
The Sierra Club's official statement on the appointment is after the jump.
The tip-off has been the response to the auto bailout. Officially, the negotiations on a compromise broke down because the Democrats wouldn't agree to further wage cuts for autoworkers in 2009. Opponents of the bailout said they wanted these cuts so that Chrysler and GM could regain competitiveness. But it's been widely reported that the real reason was a desire to weaken the union movement overall. "This is the Democrats' first opportunity to pay off organized labor after the election," read an e-mail sent around to Senate Republicans. "This is a precursor to card check and other items. Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it." And an analysis done before the votes by CBS News showed that the actual wage differential between the unionized Big Three auto workers and their non-union Japanese and European competitors was only 22 cents an hour.
Even with benefits factored in, the labor differential is only a few dollars -- and the United Auto Workers members live in more-expensive cities. The only meaningful difference in the labor costs facing the Big Three and their competitors is that the Big Three, because they have been around so long and because they used to be much larger, are facing huge pension and healthcare costs for retired workers. They should have set aside this money while those workers were on their payrolls, but the U.S. government allowed them to underfund pensions. And if the auto companies go under, the federal government's pension-guarantee fund and Medicare will have to bear the costs.
So even though the wages of Big Three workers are at the same level as those of their competition, there's no way that the labor costs of American companies can be made equal to their competitors -- unless the federal government steps in to assume the legacy costs. So why did the Republicans in the Senate shoot down the auto bailout down over this bogus issue?
Quite simply because it was their first test of their new strategy for scoring cheap political points: First, find essential steps toward economic recovery that, if taken in isolation, might not poll well. (The auto bailout doesn't.) Use minority rule (aka the filibuster) to obstruct these measures. Leave the Obama (or in this case Bush) administration to find another way to keep the country running.
It's not looking pretty, unless the American people finally realize that this is obstructionist politics instead of the kind of healthy checks and balances that will lead to good outcomes.
Professors at Duke University sent a kind thank you note today for the Sierra Club's Compass and Green Life stories from earlier this year on why gallons per mile is better than miles per gallon. Here's the note:
Thank you for raising awareness about the problems with MPG. I wanted to let you know that we've created a web-based tool to help people convert MPG to "GPM". These calculators let people see the actual gas consumption (and savings) of different cars. One calculator can be used for a choice of MPG, distance, and gas price. Two other calculators allow consumers to examine new 2009 cars and evaluate them based on GPM (using MPG data from the EPA).
These calculations are critical to helping people see their true gas consumption (and carbon emissions) and not be tricked by MPG. I hope they'd be of interest to readers or could be posted with guides to car buying. I'm eager to see either the EPA or Consumer Reports adopt GPM, and am trying to provide the necessary tools in the meantime.
A few other links that might be of interest:
I'm maintaining a webpage here that explains the problems with MPG and argues for GPM.
And "gallons per mile"
was featured in the New York Times Magazine's Year in Ideas.
Thanks again for your interest earlier in the year.
It's getting cold out there. There's no better time than now to put in a programmable thermostat and save a few bucks on your utility bill. This is one of many How To's that you can check out here at Climate Crossroads.
-- Texas State Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco).
So why does Gov. Perry want to be a goober ?
This just in from the Sierra Club media team:
EPA Finalizes Midnight Rule Benefitting Factory FarmsNew Rule Grants Major Exemptions to Hazardous Substance Disclosure LawsWashington, D.C.--Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule exempting the livestock and poultry industries from the requirement to report releases of hazardous substances above health-based thresholds to the federal government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The rule also created a release reporting exemption to the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), which requires notification of state and local authorities, for smaller facilities. This is the first time the EPA has ever created an exemption from hazardous substance notification requirements for a specific industry.
Decomposing animal waste releases toxic chemicals, such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Exposure to these chemicals can cause respiratory problems, eye and nasal irritation, headaches, nausea and, in extreme concentrations, death. In recent years, as the size of livestock and poultry operations has increased and concentrated large quantities of animal waste, a considerable body of research suggests that the release of hazardous substances from the waste may present a public health risk.
In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope issued the following statement:
"This is one of the most egregious special interest giveaways in eight long years of special interest giveaways. The injury from ammonia or hydrogen sulfide is the same whether someone is exposed to ammonia from a factory or tank car or from a giant cesspit of manure. This loophole stinks of political favoritism. In EPA's warped view, deregulating factory farms is more important than protecting communities' health.
"Exempting factory farms from toxics reporting requirements is clear violation of longstanding law that leaves the neighbors of these operations at risk of serious illness. In September, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Minnesota Department of health found that hydrogen sulfide air pollution from a large dairy created a ‘public health hazard' for the community. The state government advised people living nearby to evacuate their homes. Only two months later, the EPA exempts these very types of facilities from having to report their toxic pollution under CERCLA, saying the reports are unnecessary.
"This is another example of EPA putting politics before science. In June, 2007, the EPA launched a two-year, $14 million monitoring study to gather more information about toxic air pollution from factory farms. Now, long before the end of the study but just before the Bush administration leaves office, the EPA decides it knows enough about the problem to exempt factory farms from reporting requirements. Why bother with the science?"
A recent New York Times article highlighted a very interesting point about CO2 measurements. There are all these ideas of a carbon credit system where companies can invest in carbon sinks like planting trees or what have you, but this article gives pause to that idea. Because it is difficult to know where CO2 is emitted and where it is absorbed, it is hard to verify credits for sequestering carbon. Are these credits actually reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere?
With the new administration and Congress coming back to work this January, it is important to know whether these techniques of carbon sequestration really offset what we are putting into the atmosphere. Lisa Dilling, an assistant professor of environmental science at the University of Colorado - Boulder says, “We need to make sure that carbon markets are affecting climate change, not just putting money in the hands of some companies and people.”
In a related story in the Washington Post, a new study has found essentially the same problems in programs already in effect in the European Union. The report said, “Congress may wish to consider…that the use of carbon offsets in a cap-and-trade system can undermine the system's integrity, given that it is not possible to ensure that every credit represents a real, measurable, and long-term reduction in emissions.” If a cap-and-trade system in the U.S. is to be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this issue has to be addressed.
A quick review of this past week's happenings in the blog world
According to the blogs, current climate change negotiations in Poznan, Poland are sputtering. Here's a look at the words being used to describe Poznan: "Slow." "Disgusted." "Press the panic button." "Fiddling while Rome burns."
Hmmm. This is not a good signal, considering that Poznan is supposed to segue into next year's crucial conference in Copenhagen, which hopefully will continue the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol.
Elsewhere in the blogosphere:
Has climate change claimed its first mammal extinction?
Some bloggers want GM's VP and "denier-in-chief" Bob Lutz to resign as a condition for the auto industry bailout. Lutz has called climate change a "crock of (expletive)" and a few months ago claimed on the Colbert show that 32,000 scientists out there say global warming is from sun spots. Here's why the warming is not from sun spots....
Let's end this post with something a little more fun. Here's some guidance on how to learn to love the ugly Christmas sweater.
By picking Steven Chu, a Nobel-winning physicist and fierce global warming researcher, to be the next energy secretary, Obama clearly is taking the White House in another direction by embracing science. Here's a video (hat tip HuffPost) of Chu at an energy summit earlier this year on why he has shifted his focus from quantum physics to climate change.
We have also gotten word that Obama has chosen Nancy Sutley to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality and former Clinton EPA head Carol Browner to be the administration's energy czar. And for the EPA's top spot, possibly former Jersey EPA commissioner Lisa Jackson.
Listen to Ms. Joplin here. Then, use her voice and cadence in your head as you read the following:
Oh lord won't you give me $15 billion?
I dumbly bought Hummer, I'm such a moron.
It's true we make garbage, we cannot go on.
So lord, won't you give me $15 billion?
Oh lord, won't you give me a new lease on life?
My cars cause pollution and that's not so nice.
Turns out for most people that's too high a price.
So lord, won't you give me a new lease on life?
Oh lord, won't you give me some new customers?
The ones I once did have say I'm a bummer.
Prove that you love me I'll dump that Hummer.
So oh lord, won't you give me some new customers?
The spacious, airy offices of the SunPower Corporation here in Richmond tell an interesting story of America's industrial evolution. The building was constructed as a Model A Ford assembly line. Then, during World War II, it became a tank factory where the legendary Rosie the Riveter worked. Now it houses both the corporate and manufacturing facilities of SunPower. And within a month, it will be powered entirely by photovoltaics.
Former Stanford President Donald Kennedy and I are here to lunch with Tom Dinwoodie, the head of SunPower, to help figure out how we can make sure that the forthcoming economic stimulus and reform agendas from the Obama administration are as effective as possible in revitalizing the renewable energy sector, which is currently stalling out because of the credit crunch and economic meltdown.
Dinwoodie identifies the key barrier -- interest rates have just soared, putting capital-intensive solar and wind projects on hold. The solution would appear to be tapping into government capital, which carries effectively zero interest rate, perhaps combining it with some of the money that the Treasury lent to the big banks but which, thus far, the banks have been unwilling to lend back out.
Wonderful as the space in this building is, it's a painful reminder that when we don't move quickly to do the right thing, we end up doing the wrong thing. Even as we're meeting, Congress is trying to figure out how to keep General Motors and Chrysler from failing -- and Ford, which originally built this, won't be far behind if an agreement isn't reached. But what's slowing it up today? Unbelievably, Republicans in the Congress are objecting to provisions in the bill that would preclude the companies getting bailed out from lobbying or litigating against improved fuel-efficiency standards:
"The Democrats' call to include the California waiver provision in the auto bailout bill would mean Detroit would gain next to nothing in terms of help from Washington," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
Has no one learned anything? Detroit's dedication to fighting technological innovations in fuel economy was the biggest factor in costing the Big Three so much market share that a recession could send them into bankruptcy. None of the innovative companies -- Toyota, Honda -- are in this kind of trouble, even though their sales, too, are down -- because they have been growing and profiting, not shrinking and bleeding red ink.
A recent story in the New York Times directly traced GM's travails to its consistent unwillingness to invest in innovation because the profits would come in the future. It's short-sighted, bottom-line greed that threatens to destroy the company -- and much of America with it.
Somehow, somehow, Congress and President Obama must find a way to rekindle the innovative spirit that created the Model A and won WWII -- perhaps from SunPower to the Big Three.
Gas is down to as low as $1.59 a gallon at stations in Stockton, Turlock and other cities in the Central Valley. The San Jose average is at $1.96 a gallon, while statewide the typical price is $1.92.
Kansas City motorists are paying all of $1.43 on average, and in some places as low as $1.29.
Never have we seen prices fall this far, this fast. The San Jose average is down $2.63 since the record high of $4.59 a gallon in June. And prices have fallen about $1 just in the past four weeks. Every day, drivers cruise by their favorite filling station and find a lower price than the day before.
The main reasons: the falling cost of crude oil and the horrible economy, which contributes to declining demand. Crude oil sold for under $47 a barrel Wednesday, down from $147 in July. Each $1 change in the price of oil translates into a 2.5-cent change at the pump.
Gas may drop further. Other factors have included the strengthening dollar and reduced speculation. Little discussed is how the gas price spike at the beginning of the year may have been a major factor in the downturn (even as the depth of the downturn is driven by the broader structural housing and credit crisis). The speed and depth of the fall are primarily a signal of how bad the economic downturn is.
But the truth is out there that this is a temporary condition. As a minister of the United Arab Emirates recently noted, "the age of easy oil is gone forever." This may sound contradictory but the reality is that the economic slowdown is masking the profound change we're undergoing in which the highest quality, most accessible and largest stores of petroleum have been depleted and we're now moving to less accessible, lower quality and more expensive stores.
The situation is creating contradictory signals. VC investment is continuing to soar in clean-tech because the structural problem is still there. Consumer behavior is mixed - probably more driving with domestic vacations but people don't have the money for new vehicles, especially expensive ones like the Hummer.
Fortunately, innovative initiatives like Better Place continue to move forward.
Obama and Biden will sit down with Al Gore today in Chicago to discuss energy, the climate crisis, and how best to completely reverse the White House's lukewarm efforts on these issues when Obama takes office.
While Obama said over the weekend on Meet the Press that a good chunk of his economic recovery plan will be to make buildings more energy efficient, he might not be able to go as far as Gore wants him to go -- given the current economic crisis.
Media insiders note that Gore in no way will take a place on Obama's cabinet. But a Secretary of Energy will be named soon. So, who should it be? RFK, Jr.? Steve Westley from Cali? Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius? Granholm from Mich.?
Whoop whoop! They're dancing in Poznan, Poland -- where international climate change talks are taking place -- after Bank of America announced late last week that they are no longer interested in doing business with Big Coal hell-bent on mountain top removal.
President Bush's administration has a little over a month left to further wreck the environment. Thanks to ProPublica.org, you can keep track on the details.
And this is just in from the Sierra Club's RAW:
The Bush administration has shifted into overdrive these past two weeks, ramming through dangerous midnight rules and rollbacks faster than Sarah Palin can say "drill, baby, drill!"
Yesterday brought news of a particularly troubling development that will affect one of our nation's most treasured national parks -- the Grand Canyon.
We liked this video so much, and the awesome music, we wanted to share it.
A quick review of this week's happenings in the blog world
Let's start with Joe Romm, who lists a bunch of possibilities of things that can happen that would trigger a rapid response in the same way Americans rose to the occasion after Pearl Harbor. The list includes: an ice-free Arctic, another mega-drought in Australia, a superstorm like Katrina, a heatwave as bad or worse than Europe's in '03, ect. The problem is, as Heliophage points out, a bunch of things on this list have already happened. And it didn't take two Pearl Harbors to get the U.S. to mobilize for WWII.
Elsewhere in the blogosphere:
Last Friday was Black Friday, a day we celebrate by getting up at 4 a.m. to find bargains. Rev. Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping argues why it's blasphemy. But if you're a shopper, here's a less eccentric perspective on how to make Black Friday eco-friendly.
In world news, the U.N. climate conference opened in Poland. Here's everything you need to know about what's happening in the Poznan talks.
Make no mistake, this is a big step from a big player. And it marks a turning point in the campaign to end the war on Appalachia being waged by the coal industry. NRDC is pleased to be working with both our grassroots allies and leading corporations like Bank of America to stop mountaintop mining.
Venice is under water and some think this is a sign of things to come.
If Obama decides to do this, climate change conservatives will go ape.
And finally, climate scientists from around the world beats up on an uninformed conservative SF Chronicle op-ed columnist.
The day before, the Administration approved new rules that would legalize the practice of dumping mining waste from coal mining into streams, eliminating the current, modest requirement of a 100-foot buffer zone. EPA Administrator Steve Johnson signed off on this proposal with the Orwellian comment that "Americans should not have to choose between clean coal or effective environmental protection; we can achieve both."
Now if Johnson actually believed that clean coal is clean, he would never have made this statement -- clean coal would automatically be part of environmental protection. But Johnson obviously knows better. Indeed, he let the cat out of the bag: If dumping mountaintops into streams is "clean coal," then it's hard to imagine what we are supposed to imagine is meant by "dirty coal."
This rule is so bad that the governors of two of the most-affected states, Kentucky's Steven Beshear and Tennessee's Phil Bredesen, opposed it, Beshear saying it would increase pollution of Kentucky's "beautiful natural resources."
But coal isn't the only industry that got carte blanche exemptions from the Clean Water Act. Factory feedlots will also benefit from a last-minute Bush rule -- 15,000 of them would be issued a get-out-jail-free pass saying they don't have to comply with the Clean Water Act as long as they promise they won't pollute. Collectively, these feedlots produce 500 million tons of animal manure each year -- about 3,500 pounds of s---t for every man, woman, and child in America.
The EPA assures the public that this rule will actually, somehow, reduce pollution by several billion pounds of sediment a year. Since this would be possible only if the facilities were already polluting our waterways by more than that, and since the EPA has always insisted that there was, really, no pollution problem from feedlots at all, the logic appears (I say "appears" because it's all pretty weird) to run like this: Some feedlots will admit they are polluting -- although it's not clear why -- and they will be required to pollute less than they currently do. We then won't need to worry about the overwhelming majority who will (I'd place a large bet) claim that they aren't going to pollute.
Follow that? This is actually worse than asking someone whether they've stopped beating their wife. It's like saying, "As long as you promise you won't, you legally can."
British writer George Monbiot summed up the logic of this and similar parting salvoes of the Bush administration's final days in his usual acerbic style, writing that "George Bush is behaving like a furious defaulter whose home is about to be repossessed. Smashing the porcelain, ripping the doors off their hinges, he is determined that there will be nothing worth owning by the time the bastards kick him out."
Monbiot is right about the underlying instinct behind these rules -- but he's wrong about how much harm Bush can irrevocably do in the next few weeks. In addition to the ability to suspend the worst of these regulations through the Congressional Review Act, the courts will almost certainly find many of them illegal, and the new Administration can undo the remainder through various combinations of executive action. It's leases, not regulations, that create the truly irreversible damage. America's waters are under assault for a few more weeks, but to paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt's campaign song ("Happy Days Are Here Again"), clearer streams are near again.
As we watch the ongoing bashing of the Big Three on Capitol Hill, let's remind ourselves how out of touch the leaders of the auto industry really are. Here's GM's VP Bob Lutz on Colbert back in September telling us that global warming from CO2 is a sham and that "about 32,000 of the world's leading scientists" believe climate change is caused by sun spots.
The following was written by Paul Scott of pluginamerica.org.
We were recently on the Big Island and while there we toured the state's only geothermal plant. It's located close to the town of Hilo on the island's east side and on the flank of Kilauea, the world's most active volcano.
This is the entire control room of the 30 megawatt facility. Two affable men explained how the whole plant worked inside of 10 minutes.
This is how it works. They drill a hole about 6,000 feet down where the magma has heated the surrounding area to about 400-500 degrees. An injection well is used to pump water into this hot layer where it is turned to steam. A second well is drilled close by and the steam is released into ten turbines that generate electricity. It's a little bit more complex than that, but not much.
Once the capital costs of setting up the facility are recouped, about ten years in this case, all they have are maintenance and operational costs since the energy source is essentially free forever.
There is no pollution to speak of with these plants.
This 30 mW represents 18% of the island's demand for power. Another 5% comes from wind and 5% from hydro. The rest of their electricity is generated by burning oil. Yes, tankers of dirty, expensive oil are brought in and boatloads of money are shipped back to the oil companies. The burning of this oil is one of the single biggest sources of pollution coming from the whole state.
Richard Dods, a consultant working with the Israeli company that owns the facility, Ormat Technologies, says there is more than enough geothermal capacity to power all of Hawaii from this one facility, if distribution wasn't an issue. Since getting the power from island to island is a significant task, more locations are being scouted to site additional geothermal plants close to where the electrical load is.
Geothermal is particularly attractive since it's a "forever" renewable power source much like wind and solar, but without the intermittency of those clean energy sources. This means it is a "base load" energy.
But here at the Crossroads, we want to revisit his wisdom on coal, which he displayed in a remark back in 2005: "We have enough coal to last for 250 years, yet coal also prevents an environmental challenge."
The news comes from the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species, where Mark Simmonds, scientific director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, presented the findings.
Between the increase in acidity carrying noise over greater distances, and the U.S. Navy conducting long-range sonar tests, we're turning the oceans' amplifiers up to 11. "Noisy activities are producing an acoustic fog that prevents whales from maintaining social groups, finding each other for breeding purposes, and so forth," Simmonds said.
Another expert added that ocean noise has been doubling every decade for the last 40 years, and that whales are almost completely losing their ability communicate effectively.
Additionally, the lower pH (higher acidity) is bleaching coral and killing off plankton.
But the whales probably don't need to eat or hear, right?
The Big Three CEOs are back in D.C. in search of a bailout, and they've learned since their PR disaster two weeks ago. This time, they drove instead of taking separate corporate jets. The three will appear before Congress tomorrow and Friday. So how was the drive from Detroit?
Here are the highlights of [Ford CEO Alan] Mulally's 10-hour, 520-mile trip:
-- He and three other Ford executives piled into one Ford Escape hybrid SUV.
-- They drove straight through in one day.
-- Mulally took his turn at the wheel.
-- They listened to Sirius satellite radio, but not to music -- only news.
-- In a move surely meant to underscore the grim prospects for the U.S. auto industry, the four Ford road-trippers didn't even stop to eat: They ate box lunches (sandwiches) they'd packed in Detroit.
-- The four took the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which passes through the famous Breezwood, Penn., known as the "Town of Motels," a tourist stop as familiar to East Coast road-trippers as Pedro's South of the Border. Mulally, a Westerner, had never heard of the charmingly garish Breezewood, which probably boasts more lighted signage per square foot than Las Vegas.
I wonder if they played any fun car games along the way.
The following was written by Paul Scott of pluginamerica.org.Talk about thinking outside the box, Dan Neil's call to nationalize GM is brilliant! Why waste our time attaching easily broken strings to the billions GM is demanding when we could flat out buy the company, kick out chairman, Lutz and CEO, Wagoner and dissolve the Board that made boneheaded decisions year after year ignoring the huge block letters on the wall foretelling the coming energy crises.
Hat-tip Slate. Lots of bailout cartoons there.
It's December and it's starting to get pretty chilly out there. Maybe now is a good time as any to wrap your water heater. This handy video is one of several in the How To section, where you will find helpful suggestions on a variety of things -- everything from composting to building a straw house. Check out the discussion forum to suggest your own How To.
For decades, countries around the globe have been importing more and more of the food they consume, even as they export much of what is raised domestically. Japan, the world's largest net food importer, produces only 40 percent of the food it consumes, the lowest among all "developed" nations.
To a large degree, this is because 70 pernect of Japan is mountainous and not easily farmed. But it is also due to a change in the Japanese diet, away from rice, fish, and vegetables in favor of more meat, fat, and oil. (It goes without saying that the new diet is far less healthy.) Large amounts of soy and cereal grains are needed to produce oil and feed for raising animals, and most are imported. Even traditional dishes, like tempura soba, are made with 80 percent imported ingredients.
The decline in demand for domestically-raised food has led to a commensurate decline in agricultural productivity, and farmland is being abandoned as the farm population ages. Japan gets the bulk of its food from a small number of countries, and concerns about global warming, rising energy costs, and environmental degradation in many food-producing nations are causing Japan to question the security of its food supply.
In response, the government is advising Japanese consumers, farmers, and the food industry to regard the global food situation as their own problem. Watch this 4-minute video produced by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, encouraging consumers to reexamine their lifestyles and food choices.
Hmm -- amazing what the incentive of avoiding bankruptcy will do.
If you live "out West," then the start of the holiday season also likely marks the start of ski season, if you're so inclined. Me? Not so much. But if I were to decide that hurtling down a snow-covered mountain was my idea of a good time, I would definitely be paying attention to the Ski Area Citizens' Coalition resort scorecard for 2008/2009.
The Durango, Colorado-based group has passed judgment on the environmental practices of 83 ski resorts in the western United States, based on everything from their use of renewable energy to their waste stream management. (You can view a detailed rubric on the org's website.)
At the top of this year's list: Aspen Mountain in Colorado, which won high marks for their renewable energy projects, purchasing renewable energy, and saving resources by avoiding new snowmaking, among other things. Check out the top ten list.
Bringing up the rear was another Colorado resort, Copper Mountain. Copper received zero points for safeguarding wildlife, with SACC citing a 2006 environmental impact statement that listed 19 species that may be impacted by proposed improvements. To its credit, Copper is also investing in renewables.
So how does your favorite resort rank? Will this change where you ski this winter?
We always enjoy Sierra Club Radio, but we wanted to point out in particular this past weekend's show that featured Katherine Mieszkowski of Salon.com, who chatted about the increase in public transit ridership.
While you're listening, take a look at her list of President Bush's "seven deadly environmental sins" and what the incoming president is going to do about them.
That's great news! No word yet as to whether it will be the Ford F-150 or something a little more efficient.
The following was written by Dashka Slater, a freelance writer from Oakland, Calif. and a frequent contributor to Sierra Magazine. Check out her website.The environmental version of the old paradox about an irresistible force meeting an immovable object played out recently in a Northern California suburb: What happens when a redwood tree shades a solar panel?