October 28, 2011

Money Talks

Money talks, but not loud enough for the 99%. By circulating dollar bills stamped with fact-based infographics, Occupy George informs the public of America’s daunting economic disparity one bill at a time. Because money knowledge is power.

October 24, 2011

The Keystone XL Movement is Growing

A ten-minute film capturing the grassroots movement against the Keystone XL, a 1700-mile pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Alberta, CA across the United States for refinement and export on the Gulf Coast. Join us at the White House on Nov. 6 to tell President Obama to say no to the pipeline. More information at tarsandsaction.org.

Occupy Wall Street

October 23, 2011

Americans Want the EPA

A new national poll demonstrates that some of the loudest voices are distinctly out of touch with the public's preference for strong regulations to protect the country's health. Voters aren't buying the specious "jobs versus clean air/water" argument. More importantly, they have a clear preference for the findings of Environmental Protection Agency scientists over the talking points of "corporate polluters."

The poll, conducted October 6-9, 2011 by Public Policy Polling, surveyed 1,249 registered voters across the country. It included voters in 2012 "battleground" states (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Florida, Colorado, Nevada).

The numbers show that a clear majority (70 percent) of those queried were in opposition to Obama's decision to block the ozone pollution standard. This is one of many examples evidencing that women and Latina women support regulations, and their disappointment with Obama's walk back skewed higher—79 percent and 71 percent, respectively.

Findings showed that:
  • 78 percent of Americans want the EPA to hold corporations responsible for toxins they release into the environment, with 83 percent of women and 80 percent Latina women agreeing.
  • 69 percent of Americans agree with health experts who support the reduction of air pollution from industrial sources, rather than those  who advocate overruling the EPA to protect jobs, with 75 percent of women and 73 percent of Latina women agreeing.
  • 70 percent of Americans support the EPA requiring stricter limits on the amount of toxic chemical industrial facilities can release, with 77 percent of women and 76 percent of Latina women agreeing.


Massachusetts leads on energy efficiency

Massachusetts edges out California for first place in the annual rankings from the Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. California ranks second, New York is third, and Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Rhode Island tie for fourth place. 

The council's State Energy Efficiency Scorecard showed Massachusetts in the top spot, edging out California with a score of 45.5 out of a possible 50 points. California had 44 points, then there was a drop to New York in third with a score of 38, followed by Oregon (37.5). Washington, Vermont and Rhode Island were next with identical scores of 34.


October 22, 2011

Net Zero Community at UC Davis

Noteworthy net-zero-energy homes, commercial buildings and government structures are regularly built. But none have matched the scale of West Village, a net-zero community at the University of California, Davis, that its developers describe as the largest project of its kind in the country.

Stretching over 130 acres on the campus, which is just west of Sacramento, the initial phase of this $280 million project officially opened last weekend with the completion of 315 apartments, 42,500 square feet of commercial space and a recreation center. Once it is completed in 2013, the development will be home to about 3,000 students, faculty and staff in apartments and single-family houses.

October 21, 2011

Republicans' assault on our environmental laws must be stopped

by Lisa Jackson

Americans must once again stand up for their right to clean air and clean water.

Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation's environmental laws. They have picked up the pace recently — just last week they voted to stop the EPA's efforts to limit mercury and other hazardous pollutants from cement plants, boilers and incinerators — and it appears their campaign will continue for the foreseeable future.

Using the economy as cover, and repeating unfounded claims that "regulations kill jobs," they have pushed through an unprecedented rollback of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and our nation's waste-disposal laws, all of which have successfully protected our families for decades. We all remember "too big to fail"; this pseudo jobs plan to protect polluters might well be called "too dirty to fail."

The House has voted on provisions that, if they became law, would give big polluters a pass in complying with the standards that more than half of the power plants across the country already meet. The measures would indefinitely delay sensible upgrades to reduce air pollution from industrial boilers located in highly populated areas. And they would remove vital federal water protections, exposing treasured resources such as the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Erie, the Chesapeake Bay and the Los Angeles River to pollution.

How we respond to this assault on our environmental and public health protections will mean the difference between sickness and health — in some cases, life and death — for hundreds of thousands of citizens.

This is not hyperbole. The link between health issues and pollution is irrefutable. Mercury is a neurotoxin that affects brain development in unborn children and young people. Lead has similar effects in our bodies. Soot, composed of particles smaller across than a human hair, is formed when fuels are burned and is a direct cause of premature death. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds contribute to the ozone alert days when seniors, asthmatics and others with respiratory problems are at serious risk if they do nothing more dangerous than step outside and breathe the air.

"Too dirty to fail" tries to convince Americans that they must choose between their health and the economy, a choice that's been proved wrong for the four decades that the EPA has been in existence. No credible economist links our current economic crisis — or any economic crisis — to tough clean-air and clean-water standards.

A better approach is the president's call for federal agencies to ensure that regulations don't overburden American businesses. The EPA has already put that into effect by repealing or revising several unnecessary rules, while ensuring that essential health protections remain intact.

We can put Americans to work retrofitting outdated, dirty plants with updated pollution control technology. There are about 1,100 coal-fired units at about 500 power plants in this country. About half of these units are more than 40 years old, and about three-quarters of them are more than 30 years old. Of these 1,100 units, 44% do not use pollution controls such as scrubbers or catalysts to limit emissions, and they pour unlimited amounts of mercury, lead, arsenic and acid gases into our air. Despite requirements in the bipartisan 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, these facilities have largely refused to control their emissions — creating an uneven playing field for companies who play by the rules and gaming the system at the expense of our health.

If these plants continue to operate without pollution limits, as a legislative wish list from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) would allow, there will be more cases of asthma, respiratory illness and premature deaths — with no clear path to new jobs.

By contrast, the nation's first-ever standards for mercury and other air toxic pollutants which the EPA will finalize this fall — and which the Republican leadership aims to block — are estimated to create 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term jobs in the utility sector through modernizing power plants. And the savings in health benefits are estimated to be up to $140 billion per year by 2016.

Contrary to industry lobbying, this overhaul can be accomplished without affecting the reliability of our power grid.

Our country has a long tradition of treating environmental and public health protections as nonpartisan matters. It was the case when President Nixon created the EPA and signed into law the historic Clean Air Act, when President Ford signed into law the Safe Drinking Water Act and when President George H.W. Bush oversaw important improvements to the Clean Air Act and enacted the trading program that dramatically reduced acid rain pollution.

Our environment affects red states and blue states alike. It is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water. Let's end "too dirty to fail."

Lisa P. Jackson is the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
LA Times Op-Ed

Is this my clean energy future?

October 19, 2011

Reinventing Fire

Here is Rocky Mountain Institute's vision for our energy future.

"We mean to speed the transformation from pervasive waste to elegant frugality, from causing scarcity by inattention to creating abundance by design, from liquidating energy capital to living better on energy income."

The Reinventing Fire project outlines a detailed plan showing how to transition to a mostly renewable energy-based country by 2050 — all while growing the economy by 158%. 

Speaking Truth to Power

Senator Whitehouse's Must-See Climate Speech:
“We Ignore the Laws of Nature of God’s Earth at Our Very Grave Peril”

Here’s the remarkably blunt opening:
Mr. President, I am here to speak about what is currently an unpopular topic in this town. It has become no longer politically correct in certain circles in Washington to speak about climate change or carbon pollution or how carbon pollution is causing our climate to change.
This is a peculiar condition of Washington. If you go out into, say, our military and intelligence communities, they understand and are planning for the effects of carbon pollution on climate change. They see it as a national security risk. If you go out into our nonpolluting business and financial communities, they see this as a real and important problem. And, of course, it goes without saying our scientific community is all over this concern. But as I said, Washington is a peculiar place, and here it is getting very little traction.
Here in Washington we feel the dark hand of the polluters tapping so many shoulders. And where there is power and money behind that dark hand, therefore, a lot of attention is paid to that little tap on the shoulder. What we overlook is that nature — God’s Earth — is also tapping us all on the shoulder, with messages we ignore at our peril. We ignore the messages of nature of God’s Earth and we ignore the laws of nature of God’s Earth at our very grave peril.
Read the rest of his outstanding speech here.

October 18, 2011

Robert Redford: Stop the KeyStone XL Pipeline

Robert Redford urges President Obama to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver crude oil from Canada through the American heartland to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Massive Dust Storm Hits Lubbock

A fearsome dust storm whipped through the Panhandle and South Plains of Texas on Monday with wind gusts up to 75 miles an hour in some places….  the monstrous cloud wrapped the city of Lubbock in darkness shortly before 6 p.m.
Tim Oram, a meteorologist at the weather service, said that in Lubbock, the cloud of dust whisked from the ground stretched up to 8,000 feet high and caused zero visibility brown-outs in some places.

October 17, 2011

Occupy the Street You Live On

Get Engaged, in something REAL, that helps real actual people that you can reach out and touch, to resolve immediate problems in their lives that will make their lives better: to find useful work, to feed their families, to make the neighborhood clean and safe, get an education for themselves and their children.

Occupy the Street You Live On and work with your neighbors to make it a better place for all.

Kip Hansen made these excellent suggestions in a comment he posted in response to a NY Times article.

October 10, 2011

Japan Reopens Areas around Fukushima

Despite continued fears over radiation levels, Japan lifted evacuation advisories for an area spanning five towns and cities around a tsunami-ravaged nuclear power plant on Friday, the first such move since multiple fuel meltdowns at the site led to a substantial radiation leak and forced more than 100,000 surrounding residents to flee.

But radiation levels are far (5 to 6 times) above the annual limit of 1 millisievert for civilians that is recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

Weekly Roundup

Obama administration said it was moving forward with oil-drilling leases off the coast of Alaska 

Rick Perry's Texas leads the nation in emissions of mercury, heat-trapping CO2, and other dangerous pollutants. bit.ly/qxZrdl

Arctic Ozone Hole Is Largest Ever Recorded exposing populations to high levels of ultraviolet radiation 

EU says tar sands oil is 23% dirtier than conventional oil

New York City launches bike share program with 10,000 bikes

Electric airplane wins NASA prize by flying 200 miles on less than 1 gallon of gas or equivalent amount of electricity. bit.ly/psJYlq

Lester Brown says we don't need a new pipeline

GE to bring solar-powered carports to a parking lot near you

Obama overrules EPA Jackson's preferred ozone rule  

Cooling problems shut down Genkai nuclear plant in Japan. Currently 44 of 54 Japanese nuclear plants are shut down

Conflict of Interest: Obama and Clinton campaign officials now lobbyists for TransCanada / Keystone XL

Conflict of Interest - State Dept. Assigned Keystone XL Review to Company With Ties to TransCanada 

Bill McKibben's thoughts on Occupy Wall Street - the climate movement has your back 

Coal plants are responsible for more than one-fourth of GED [gross external damages] from the entire US economy bit.ly/oxSRsx

Green groups sue US to stop work on Keystone XL oil pipe TransCanada has already started work on Keystone XL pipeline

Koch Subsidiary Told Regulators It Has 'Direct and Substantial Interest' in Keystone XL 

Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales - Bloomberg 

NY Times - Says No to Keystone XL Will we give in to the politics of big oil — or address the reality of climate change? nyti.ms/qVzePQ

How climate change hurts Yellowstone

Summers that feel like those in Los Angeles are coming to America's favorite park. 

These warming temperatures will imperil everything from native cutthroat trout to aspen forests and the $700 million in annual economic activity that they and other gems in the park generate by attracting tourists, the report said.

The report, the first evaluation of how climate change will affect the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, is a joint project of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, a nonprofit that advocates for carbon emission reductions by drawing attention to the likely consequences of climate change, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, a conservation organization concerned with the park and the land around it.

The authors used two warming scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one based on a medium-to-high-range level of carbon emissions in the future and another one based on a lower set of carbon emissions.

Already Yellowstone, which sits at a relatively high average elevation of 8,000 feet above sea level in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, is warming faster than the rest of the globe, the report found. It has warmed 1.4 degrees on average over the last decade, compared to the one-degree global average increase.

The results of even this relatively small change have been noticeable in all aspects of the park, the report said, from glacial ice to reductions in the birthrates of at least one migratory elk herd, whose main food source, meadow grasslands, is drying out too quickly in the summer season.

Most notably, warmer temperatures have allowed infestations of tree-killing beetles that previously had been held in check by the frostiest nights of the year.

But that 1.4-degree increase is just a precursor of what is to come, the report found. Taking the average of 16 computer models of climate future that were fed data from five different local weather stations, the report predicted that summer temperatures in Yellowstone could be expected to rise as much as 9.7 degrees by the end of the century. The authors considered summer particularly significant because it is the peak season for visits to the park.

"What we humans are doing to the climate isn't just melting polar ice caps, it's disrupting the places that are nearest and dearest to us," said Stephen Saunders, R.M.C.O.'s president and lead author of the report. "Already, threads are being pulled out of the tapestries of Yellowstone and other special places, and they are losing some of their luster."


Arctic Shelves Have Lost Half Their Size in Six Years

Canada's Arctic ice shelves, formations that date back thousands of years, have been almost halved in size over the last six years, Canadian researchers said on Tuesday.
Researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa, who regularly analyze satellite images from the region, also found that a major portion of the ice shelves split in half this summer and other pieces covering an area roughly one and a half times that of Manhattan have broken off since the end of July.
Consistently higher temperatures in Canada's Arctic, the researchers said, were the main cause of the dramatic decline.
"It's fascinating to bear witness to this as a scientist but it also saddens me as a general citizen of the planet to see this happen," said Derek Mueller, a professor at the university's school of geography and environmental studies. "We've seen this on timescale of six years yet these ice shelves are thought to have been in place for thousands of years."

Solar Jobs - Brightening our Future

The solar industry continues to brighten the American economy . . .
The National Solar Jobs census data shows that 100,237 Americans are now working in the U.S. solar industry. That's more than U.S. coal mining. That's more than U.S. steel and iron production. That's way more than U.S. crude oil and natural gas pipeline transportation. That's real.

Solar jobs grew 6.8% between August 2010 and August 2011 – leaps and bounds better than job growth in the overall economy (up 0.7%) or the fossil fuel electric generation (down 2%).
As with last week's news of record solar cost reductions, this American solar jobs success did not happen by accident. It's the direct result of federal and state policies that have built new solar power markets in communities nationwide. Mind you, actual federal investment in solar has lagged far behind spending on conventional energy resources. A recent report from DBL Investors indicated that federal subsidies going to the oil & gas industry have averaged $4.86 billion annually for 100 years. Meanwhile annual support for all renewables including solar has received less than 1/10th of that – $370 million – for just the past 15 years. Yet as data point after data point shows, solar has successfully delivered high returns on its relatively small share of government investment.
Amid the increasingly politicized fallout from last month's Solyndra closure, it's important to remember that our nation's solar power industry is strong and getting stronger by the day. In fact, it's the fastest growing industry in the U.S. It's also worth remembering that critical policy support for solar has come from both sides of the aisle and all corners of the country. As well it should for this homegrown, job creating, safe, reliable and plentiful energy resource. Now's no time to be backing down our commitment to this rare bright spot in our nation's economy.
The Solar Foundation conducted the Solar Jobs Census with Green LMI (a division of BW Research Partnership) and technical assistance from Cornell University. 

October 3, 2011

Fracking Graphics

Here's one view on fracking from Wellhome, a home improvement company focusing on residential energy efficiency.