November 30, 2010

A Sputnik Moment in Clean Energy

"When it comes to innovation, Americans don’t take a back seat to anyone – and we certainly won’t start now. From wind power to nuclear reactors to high speed rail, China and other countries are moving aggressively to capture the lead.

Given that challenge, and given the enormous economic opportunities in clean energy, it’s time for America to do what we do best: innovate. As President Obama has said, we should not, cannot, and will not play for second place."

That’s Secretary of Energy Steven Chu in speech Monday on how China’s bid for world leadership in clean energy should be our “Sputnik moment.”

November 24, 2010

Solar Furnace Melts Anything

In this clip from BBC One’s “Bang Goes the Theory,” a high-performance solar furnace focuses normal sunshine into a heat-ray that reaches 3,500C, hot enough to melt rocks.

Salazar promotes Wind Power

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a broad-based initiative aimed at accelerating the development of offshore wind power projects on the Outer Continental Shelf along the nation's Atlantic coast.
The initiative is intended to shave years off an uncertain permitting process that developers say can drag on for the better part of a decade, discouraging potential investors.
The announcement comes a day after state regulators in Massachusetts approved a plan by National Grid, a regional utility, to buy part of the power to be generated by the Cape Wind offshore wind farm planned for Nantucket Sound. That project has been hampered by legal wrangling, federal reviews and other roadblocks for nearly a decade.
The Interior Department finalized a lease with developers of Cape Wind last month.
"The Cape Wind lease is an historic milestone in America's renewable energy future," Mr. Salazar said in a statement. "But to fully harness the economic and energy benefits of our nation's vast Atlantic wind potential we need to implement a smart permitting process that is efficient, thorough and unburdened by needless red tape."
The new program, called the "Smart From the Start" wind energy initiative, is modeled after a similar scheme meant to accelerate the adoption of solar power in the West, Mr. Salazar said.

National heat records

National heat records set in 2010
The year 2010 now has the most national extreme heat records for a single year--nineteen. 

National cold records set in 2010
No nations set records for their coldest temperature in history in 2010.

November 22, 2010

Coal Powered Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg is the CEO of Facebook. His Facebook profile doesn’t list his relationship status, but if it did, it might say “in a relationship with Coal”.

Everyone has had a friend in a destructive relationship — a relationship that you just know is going to hurt your friend in the long run, and which also hurts others around him. Mark Zuckerberg and his company certainly have an electric relationship with coal power, but we can see that it just isn’t sustainable.

The affair began in January, when Zuckerberg announced that he would build a data center in Prineville, Oregon, choosing coal to power it. Then he announced that he would double the size of the storage facility, also doubling his dependence on coal despite its well earned dirty reputation.

It was Zuckerberg’s decision to take the plunge with coal, rather than weigh other attractive options like wind or solar, that drove us to begin an intervention. In a letter to Zuckerberg on September 1st, Greenpeace’s Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, expressed his concern:

No global business leader, particularly not one who reaches so many people daily, could deny that in this time it is both a threat to a company’s reputation and financial health risk to ignore their company’s environmental impacts.
Half-a-million Facebook friends also tried to steer Zuckerberg in a healthier direction, suggesting he seek some renewable energy and look for places that have an abundance of fresh, sustainable options. Coal may be a cheap date right now, but over time it will pose a financial risk to his company and create a terrible environment for the rest of us.

Unfortunately, Facebook’s response indicates that Zuckerberg is still afraid of commitment.

We want to see Facebook thrive. And we want to make sure that the rest of us don’t suffer from the company’s bad choices. This video is another attempt to help Facebook face reality: coal is going to cause us all pain. It’s time to end the relationship.

If you want Facebook to have a healthy, sustainable relationship with renewable energy, pass the video around to others. With your help, we can get Facebook to change its relationship status with coal.

This is a reprinted post from Daniel Kessler, Communications Manager of Greenpeace International

Coal Plant canceled in Kentucky

When the East Kentucky Power Cooperative proposed building a new 278 megawatt coal-fired power plant, a coalition of local environmental groups and concerned members of the cooperative became determined to stop this dirty energy and emissions project. For the past few years groups like Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the Sierra Club, and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation have been fighting the Smith Coal Plant, taking on the powerful coal industry in the heart of coal country. Today these groups have announced their hard-fought battle for clean energy is finally won.
East Kentucky Power Cooperative has agreed to cancel its plans for the coal plant and expand investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. In return environmental groups will dismiss several lawsuits against the cooperative, and will not oppose the cooperative raising rates to recover costs already invested in the now-dead coal plant. According to Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, "This is a new day for Kentucky's rural energy co-ops, and a great step toward new power for Kentucky."
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth helped launch the "New Power" movement which pitted a vision of Kentucky's clean energy future against dirty, outdated coal energy and emissions. Today's New Power movement victory suggests once again that when people are given a clear choice between the clean power of the future and the dirty energy of the past, they tend to choose the former—even in one of the most coal-dependent regions in the country. Home to 56 existing coal-fired units already, Kentucky still has a long way to go before severing ties with coal energy and emissions. But the defeat of one of the last new coal plant proposals in the country means clean energy advocates and climate hawks have a bit less work ahead of them.
It has been approximately two years since any new coal plant broke ground in the United States, thanks largely to the work of clean energy activists. Yet though the defeat of the Smith Coal Plant was part of a national movement, opposition to the proposal came from within the East Kentucky Power Cooperative as well as from environmental groups. Members of the co-op voiced serious concerns about the impact of coal energy and emissions, and some even ran for the co-op's board of directors as part of an effort to defeat the Smith Plant. Nationally renowned author Wendell Berry, who is a member of the co-op, firmly opposed the coal plant as well.
So what does the defeat of one more coal plant really mean for energy and emissions policy in the United States? While media pundits bemoan the death of sweeping federal climate legislation for at least the next couple of years, climate hawks and clean energy activists are going quietly about the work of transforming the US energy future. Whether by defeating the oil company-backed Proposition 23 in California, convincing banks to pull out of the coal business, or stopping new coal plants andretiring existing ones, grassroots organizations are winning the fight for a clean energy future. Today's defeat of the Smith Coal Plant marks just one more victory along the way.
Article by Nick Engelfried, appearing courtesy Justmeans.

Storm upon Storm - Extreme is normal

Even in an agricultural state that has always prided itself on stoically accepting the offerings of unpredictable skies here at the heart of the continent, South Dakota is nearing the end of an unusually punishing year of weather.

In a recent storm, hail shattered windows, punched holes in roofs and mangled cars. The clumps of ice were left to melt, but one, an unusual spiked orb the size of a cantaloupe, was preserved in the freezer of an old ranch hand. Locals later claimed that it was not even the largest hailstone to fall that day, and added that it had shrunk a bit while in the freezer before electricity was restored. But when the official measurements were made — a record-setting 1.93 pounds and 8 inches in diameter — the results confirmed what the still-visible trail of damage had already made painfully apparent: that was some storm.

"The flooding is increasingly getting worse," said Mr. Knock, who lost 160 acres of corn to the river that parallels his property. "People are getting disgusted with it. Because it's not just some years and it's not just once a year. It's three times or four times a year. Extreme is normal — that sounds crazy, but that is how it is."

The seven presidential disaster declarations issued here — part of a record 78 nationwide so far this year — more than doubled the number in any previous year, naming all but 10 of the 66 counties as a disaster area; some many times over. 

Dire Warnings Can Backfire

Dire or emotionally charged warnings about the consequences of global warming can backfire if presented too negatively, making people less amenable to reducing their carbon footprint, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley.
"Our study indicates that the potentially devastating consequences of global warming threaten people's fundamental tendency to see the world as safe, stable and fair. As a result, people may respond by discounting evidence for global warming," said Robb Willer, UC Berkeley social psychologist and coauthor of a study to be published in the January issue of the journal Psychological Science.
"The scarier the message, the more people who are committed to viewing the world as fundamentally stable and fair are motivated to deny it," agreed Matthew Feinberg, a doctoral student in psychology and coauthor of the study.

But if scientists and advocates can communicate their findings in less apocalyptic ways, and present solutions to global warming, Willer said, most people can get past their skepticism.

Overall, the study concludes, "Fear-based appeals, especially when not coupled with a clear solution, can backfire and undermine the intended effects of messages."

Auto Mileage improves in 2009

The NY Times reports that gas mileage for 2009 model cars and trucks showed the largest increase since the oil crisis of nearly three decades ago, according to an annual report by the EPA released on Wednesday.
The report found that the average fuel economy in 2009 model cars, vans, pickups and S.U.V.'s was 22.4 miles per gallon — an increase of 7 percent, or 1.4 miles per gallon, over 2008 figures.
The balance between cars and trucks also shifted, with the light truck segment — including vans, pickups and S.U.V.'s — slipping to 40 percent in 2009 models, a decrease of 7 percent from 2008 and 12 percent from the peak year of 2004, when the "average" car was a light truck. The truck share is now at its lowest level since 1995, the agency said.

November 18, 2010

High Speed Rail

The U.S. government awarded $2.4 billion to 54 rail projects in 23 states a couple weeks ago. This is in addition to the $8 billion awarded by the Obama administration at the beginning of the year. Projects in Florida, California, Michigan, and Iowa received the funds this time. While both U.S. and foreign companies are eligible to get high-speed rail contracts paid for with this funds, all companies “hired to build America’s next generation high-speed rail lines” have to “establish or expand their base of operations in the United States.” As a result, hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs are expected to come from these projects.

Florida looks like it is likely to have the first high-speed rail line in the U.S. The Siemens Velaro trains it is looking to get travel up to 403 km/h (250 miles per hour), comparable to almost any high-speed train in the world. These trains already run in Germany, Spain, China, Russia, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Austria, but they have not touched American rails yet.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority recently released a video on the details of its proposed project and visualizations of its trains. A few key points mentioned in the video are that high-speed trains will take people from downtown L.A. to downtown San Francisco in under 2.5 hours, these trains will go up to 354 km/h (220 mph), this will be the largest public works project in California in 50 years, and 600 construction jobs plus an additional 450 thousand permanent jobs will be created from the project (which is likely to keep moving ahead steadily with Democrat Jerry Brown recently elected there). Watch the video below for more details.

China continuously sets high-speed rail records. It recently opened a 220-km high-speed rail line between Shanghai and Hangzhou, extending the largest high-speed rail network in the world to 7431 kilometers (4617 miles). Running on this line is (by some standards) the fastest train in the world. While the “absolute world record holder” is a Japanese maglev train that went 581 km/h (361 mph) in 2003 and a French train set the record in 2007 for a train running on conventional rails at 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph), a train running on this new line in China went 416.6 km/h (258.9 mph), setting the world record for “unmodified commercial trainset,” in October. Watch the video below.

November 15, 2010

In the middle

TVA Closing Coal Plants

As part of its new ten-year plan, the Tennessee Valley Authority plans to retire at least 1,000 megawatts of coal energy (and emissions that come with burning coal) by the year 2015. This amounts to about 7% of TVA's total coal fired capacity, and represents a good first step for this federally owned energy supplier that controls a sizable fraction of the eastern US coal fleet.

TVA's actions should call into question why other power suppliers like the Northwest's Portland General Electric keep insisting they can't get their own dirty and outdated coal plants offline on a similar timeframe. In explaining the government corporation's move to cut out a chunk of its coal power, TVA President Tom Kilgore cited a desire for TVA to lead the way on sources of energy that come with far fewer carbon emissions than coal. It seems TVA is coming to recognize an inevitability which utilities across the country should take note of: coal power, associated with high levels of carbon emissions and other pollutants, is on its way to becoming a thing of the past.

TopTen Energy Efficiency Ratings

Ever wonder what the most energy efficient products are when you are making that big purchase decision?

Well now there is a website designed to help.

I found out that my recent dishwasher and laptop purchases were both in the top ten. 

From their website - 

TopTen USA is a nonprofit organization that identifies and publicizes the most energy-efficient products on the market. We make it easy for consumers to find the most energy- and money-saving models, which in turn encourages manufacturing innovations that will make products in the United States even more energy-efficient.  

Modeled after organizations located in 16 different European countries, TopTen USA intends to transform the American market from the one of excessive energy use to one that actively sustains products with the highest practical energy-efficiency.  

Mountaintop Removal Reprieve

PNC Bank, the top funder of Mountain Top Removal (MTR), has announced an end to its support for the ecologically devastating practice.

Before this decision, PNC provided financing for six of the biggest MTR coal mining companies — Massey, Arch Coal, Patriot Coal, Alpha, International Coal Group, and CONSOL — who were responsible for nearly half of all mountaintop removal mining in 2009.

"This move makes PNC bank number seven to issue a position on MTR," the Rainforest Action Network's Amanda Starbuck writes, "following in the footsteps of Bank of America, Citi, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Credit Suisse." PNC's decision leaves UBS and GE Capital the only major banks that support mountaintop removal. After the Bush administration rewrote rules to encourage the blowing up of mountains for their coal, the Appalachians were rapidly reshaped by rapacious coal companies. 

This year, the Obama administration once again began enforcing laws against the total destruction of public waters and land, after scientists revealed the full extent of the immoral practice. Now, PNC Bank will neither fund MTR projects nor make loans to companies like Massey Energy that specialize in MTR.

Polls Show Voters Want Clean Economy

Reuters reports that  "There was no mandate on turning back the clock on environmental protection," said Heather Taylor-Miesle, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund. "Polls galore show continued and strong public support for making continued progress to protect our health and boost our economy."

When voters who chose the Republican candidate were asked to name their biggest concern about the Democrat, only 1 percent cited an answer related to energy or cap and trade. When offered a list of six arguments that Republicans made against Democrats, 7 percent selected what the GOP mislabeled a "cap and tax." 

55 percent of those polled supported a comprehensive energy bill that charges energy companies for carbon emissions but also would limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to develop clean energy. Some 38 percent opposed that reform.

By a 22 percent margin, battleground voters supported the idea of the Environmental Protection Agency tackling global warming by regulating carbon emissions from power plants, vehicles, factories and other sources. The poll showed 58 percent supported the EPA taking such initiative and 36 opposed the idea.

Finally, by a 41 percent margin, voters said that corporations should be held accountable for their pollution. Some 68 agreed, while 27 percent said new regulations that will hurt businesses should not be imposed.

Coral Dying in the Gulf

Dying coral with attached brittle starfish photographed this week by a research team.

The NY Times reports that "Scientists piloted a submersible robot to the seafloor seven miles southwest of the well and found dozens of recently dead and dying coral communities. The site was in the direct vicinity of where large plumes of dispersed oil were discovered drifting through the deep ocean last spring in the early weeks after the spill.
Charles Fisher, a marine biologist from Penn State who is the chief scientist on the gulf expedition, told me he had expected to see some subtle effects from the oil. Instead, he found an ecosystem in collapse.
"I have seen many individual dead coral colonies over the years, but I've never seen a site full of dead and dying coral colonies," he said.
Roughly 90 percent of corals at one site he surveyed were dead or dying and covered in a brown substance that he suspects was not oil but "gooey, rotting coral tissue."

Intl Energy codes catching up with Lexington

Members of the International Code Council (ICC) have approved changes to building energy codes – the CAFE standards of the buildings world – that will require new and renovated homes and commercial buildings to use 30 percent less energy than those built to current standards.

The votes are truly historic. Never in the history of the ICC have such enormous gains in energy efficiency been made in such a short time. The ICC used the Massachusetts Stretch Energy code as the model for the energy provisions of the IECC 2012 building energy code. That means that the rest of the country will soon be building to the same standards that we've recently adopted in Lexington.  

The changes, which will occur in the 2012 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), leverage sensible and cost-effective strategies to reduce energy, such as increasing insulation levels and lighting efficiency, improving the air-tightness of buildings and ductwork, and requiring check-ups known as commissioning in new commercial buildings, where mechanical systems are prone to underperform. The energy efficiency proposals that were approved were endorsed by a diverse coalition of government officials, business associations and product manufacturers, including the U.S. Energy Department, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the American Institute of Architects, the Consumer Federation of America, Cardinal Glass and the National Housing Institute.

Homes and buildings account for over 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption and 75% of U.S. electricity usage. American consumers spend more than $200 billion each year paying for energy. 
An average new construction home will be 30 percent more energy-efficient than the IECC 2006 code and about 20 percent more efficient than the IECC 2009 code.  That's money in the pockets of homeowners and significant reduction in our energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. About 10 billion square feet of commercial and residential space is built or renovated every year in the United States and will soon be subject to the new codes. The IECC is the basis for the energy code in 47 states and the District of Columbia. 

New Mexico adopts strong greenhouse gas rules

On the same day Californians went to the polls and overwhelmingly affirmed their commitment to a clean energy future, New Mexico's pioneering climate and energy legislation regulators approved a set of comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions reduction regulations that are more aggressive than any other such rules in the country.

In yet another positive indication that working at the state level can yield excellent results, New Mexico has adopted rules that will require about 63 facilities, primarily fossil fuel-fired power plants and oil and gas operations that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, to start cutting emissions by 2 percent per year below 2010 levels, beginning in 2012.

In a 4-3 vote, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) approved two sets of proposed global warming regulations:  the first establishes rules for Greenhouse Gas Reporting and Verification and the other deals more specifically with Greenhouse Gas Cap-and-Trade regulations.

Environmental Victories

California voters upheld the state's global warming law on two fronts, rejecting a Republican candidate for governor who wanted to delay it while turning aside a referendum funded by oil companies that would have dismantled the measure for years to come. Democrat Jerry Brown is the projected winner over Republican Meg Whitman in the gubernatorial race.

Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund, said the Prop 23 defeat sends "a big signal" to the rest of the country and the world that Californians stand firmly behind the law, which would cut greenhouse gas emissions in the state to 1990 levels by 2020. He called the level of cooperation between the fledgling clean-tech sector and environmental groups unprecedented, giving the "No on 23" campaign the street muscle and the money it needed to prevail.
"This is the largest referendum anywhere on the planet where people have directly voted on clean energy and climate policy," Krupp said in an interview. "It's the largest state in the country sending a clear message that they want a clean energy economy and clean energy jobs."
In Massachusetts Deval Patrick certainly ran on his environmental record, his support for Cape Wind, his support for RGGI, passing the Green Communities Act, the Global Warming Solutions Act, working aggressively to bring clean energy jobs to Massachusetts and his support for energy efficiency and solar power. 
By voting for Patrick, Massachusetts voters also demonstrated their desire for a clean energy future. 

20 States Defend the EPA!

A coalition of 20 states (including Massachusetts) and 13 environmental groups have pledged their support for the EPA, saying that despite "extravagant claims of harm" from industry, the new greenhouse gas regulations would hardly hurt them.
Those states, led by New York, are lined up against 17 states that are challenging the agency's plan to begin regulating greenhouse gases from large power plants, factories and other major emissions sources.

The brief states - 
"The stay motions should be denied in all respects. Despite hundreds of pages of briefing, thousands of pages of exhibits, scattershot assertions of illegality, and extravagant claims of harm, the stay motions are, in the end, insubstantial. "
"Movants' central claims on the merits are foreclosed by the Clean Air Act's text and by judicial precedent, ... their allegations of irreparable harm are vague, often unconnected to the actual decisions under review, and unsubstantiated; and Movants simply ignore significant harms that a stay would cause other parties and the public interest."
"Even a one-year stay would result in the release of many millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise have been avoided under the rules," the brief says. "Furthermore, the damage from these emissions would persist for well over a century, given the long atmospheric lifetime of greenhouse gas pollutants, contributing to climate change for many years."

Comparing Nissan Versa and Nissan Leaf

I recently read a comment that compared Nissan's Versa with an internal combustion engine to Nissan's all electric Leaf.  The cars are similar except for the difference in engine. The commenter did an economic analysis to compare the two cars. He looked at cost of vehicles and cost per mile. 

If you work out the numbers you find that a Nissan Leaf costs much less per mile because it uses so much less energy per mile. 

If you are driving 50 miles a day, then it will cost $1.50 to charge the Leaf's battery each night. 365 days x $1.50 = $547 per year
The Versa actually gets about 26 mpg according to Consumer Guide. Driving 50 miles a day at 26 mpg means you'll use 692 gallons of gas a year. At $2.75 per gallon, that works out to $1904 per year.
So driving a Leaf will save you $1357 a year – assuming gas prices stay at $2.75 for the next 6 years…

But that's really not the most important point, is it? – Because we're not counting the true cost of driving a gas powered car with these calculations. Those costs include keeping troops overseas to maintain our oil supply, breathing dirtier air, and climate change.
The payback is immediate for driving an electric car, because it is using so much less energy. Treehugger reports getting 5.1 miles per kWh in their test drive of the Leaf. 
If you convert the Versa's mileage of 26 miles per gallon into the same units it would be the equivalent of 1.4 miles per kWh. That means that a Leaf drives 3.6 times the distance of a Versa on the same amount of energy or the equivalent of 94 miles on a gallon of gas. 
That's priceless.

GE to buy thousands of electric vehicles

It makes sense that a company called General Electric would be bullish on electric cars. But even by that standard the company is diving into the deep end, with what it says will be the biggest order ever placed for electric vehicles. CEO Jeffrey Immelt said GE will order 25,000 electric vehicles including 12,000 Chevy Volts, a move that is sure to jump-start the nascent EV market as automakers like Nissan and General Motors bring the cars to showrooms later this year.
GE and Better Place recently announced a "technology and financing partnership" to develop public charging infrastructure and accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, especially by corporate fleets. Better Place, a Silicon Valley startup founded by Shai Agassi, plans to roll out charging infrastructure and battery-swap stations in Israel and elsewhere — and Renault is its partner in that endeavor.
Better Place and Renault signed a deal last year to put 100,000 EVs on the road in Israel and Denmark by 2016. Better Place also has been using converted Nissan Rogues to show off its battery-swap technology in Tokyo.
It's worth noting that GE's partnership with Better Place includes a plan to develop a mechanism for financing batteries — beginning with a pilot program to finance 10,000 batteries in Israel and Denmark. Who's currently building the only car with a swappable battery? You guessed it — Renault. That car, the Fluence Z.E., is being tested in Israel. General Electric and Nissan also are working together to develop so-called "smart charging."
What's more, Renault-Nissan is, at this point, the only company that looks like it could have the capacity to fill GE's order. Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has made it clear he believes electrics are the future, and he is positioning the two automakers to lead the market.

Coalition to protect our environment

By Van Jones
Californians rejected Proposition 23, a November ballot initiative — funded by Texas oil companies — that would have effectively repealed the state's landmark clean energy and environmental protection laws.

What few news outlets are covering, is the striking diversity of voices that are demanding clean energy, and rejecting the false notion that protecting the planet and our public health will hurt the economy.

This coalition includes social justice organizations of all creeds and colors, whose missions are to empower the voices of the working class and communities of color — including immigrants. These groups understand that less smog means less asthma, fewer trips to the emergency room, and healthier neighborhoods for their children.

The coalition also includes a group of investors who represent more than $421 billion in assets, much of it in the clean tech sector. They make the case that clean energy technology is the next wave of the industrial revolution, and California is poised to become a leader in innovation, job creation, and commercialization of these technologies. However, they also warn that reversing course on policy — precisely what Prop 23 aims to achieve — will cause investment to flow elsewhere (mainly to places like China and parts of Europe), and doom California and the rest of the nation to be left behind during the biggest revolution of the new global economy.
These groups represent just the tip of iceberg in a movement that includes environmentalists, politicians from both parties, students, public health organizations, big and small businesses, labor groups, consumer groups, senior citizens, and public safety organizations.
A vision for the future of green growth
What's happening in California is truly amazing. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of voices, from literally every political, ethnic, faith, and socio-economic spectrum, all pulling for the same cause. This beautiful coalition gives us a glimpse of the green path forward toward clean energy, a prosperous sustainable economy, and a healthier planet.
In 2008, I wrote a book called The Green Collar Economy, and in it I outlined a vision for a "Green Growth Alliance." This coalition, I argued, should include labor, social justice activists, environmentalists, students, and faith organizations — along with green business interests. Such an alliance could, in my opinion, "change the face of politics in this country."
A lot has happened since early 2008 — and the face of politics has begun to change, slowly.
The green movement has suffered setbacks, most notably the failure of comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in Congress. The deep pockets of the dirty energy lobby, which spent more than $500 million to buy influence among (mostly Republican) lawmakers, along with the rise of Tea Partiers, climate deniers, and conservative TV and radio pundits, turned the protection and preservation of the planet and public health into a political malaise.
But what we see happening in California gives the green movement a reason for continued optimism. This time we are on the defensive, protecting our climate laws already on the books. The fight has unmasked the opponents of clean energy, as well as vetted their arguments — the same tired talking points they have been using for the last four decades.
But more importantly than unmasking our enemies, this fight has revealed our friends and allies. It turns out that given the opportunity, huge swaths of Californians, from all walks of life, can find common value in supporting cleaner air and a commitment to growing the clean technology sector.
The fight is far from over, and with Election Day approaching in less than a week, the stakes are higher than ever. But victory in California can give us a model for the coalition that is needed to achieve a green growth victory in Washington, D.C. and the rest of the nation.
- Van Jones is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and is a co-founder the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and Green For All.

Exceptional Year

2010 has been an "exceptional" year for weather disasters with the highest number of weather-related events since records began being kept, German reinsurance company Munich Re said.

"This year really has been a year of weather records," Peter Hoeppe, an expert from Munich Re's Geo Risks Research department, told AFP. "The first nine months of the year have seen the highest number of weather-related events since Munich Re started keeping records," he added.

Hoeppe said the continuing pattern of global warming was contributing to the natural disasters. This year has been the warmest on record as well since measurements began 130 years ago. Temperature records were set in Russia, with the mercury tipping 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time.

This diagram shows the number of weather catastrophes from 1980 - 2009. Storms are shown in green. Floods and hydrologic events are shown in blue. Climate events - extreme temperatures, droughts are shown in yellow.