October 31, 2012

Jill Stein arrested protesting Keystone XL

After more than two months of protests against construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas and Oklahoma, the arrest count has reached 33. 

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was the latest to get arrested after she brought supplies to activist treesitters attempting to block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas. Stein issued a statement criticizing both President Obama and Governor Romney for their policies on fossil fuels:
"I'm here to connect the dots between super storm Sandy and the record heat, drought, and fire we've seen this year – and this Tar Sands pipeline, which will make all of these problems much worse. And I'm here to connect the dots between climate devastation and pipeline politicians – both Obama and Romney – who are competing, as we saw in the debates, for the role of Puppet In Chief for the fossil fuel industry. Both deserve that title. Obama's record of 'drill baby drill' has gone beyond the harm done by George Bush. Mitt Romney promises more of the same."

Politics of Weather Forecasting Satellites

First of all, we should all take a moment to thank the brilliant and tireless forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Without their remarkably accurate and timely forecasting capabilities, the impact of Hurricane Sandy could have been so much worse. 

Unfortunately, if Congressional Republicans and Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan get their way, next time they will be worse.

Our nation's environmental satellites are aging, and replacements have been slow to come online. When Congress passed last year's spending bills, cutting more than $150 million from President Obama's request for the satellite program, the Government Accountability Office predicted that "there will likely be a gap in satellite data lasting 17 to 53 months" between the time the old satellite shuts down and when its replacement can come online.

In his proposed budget, GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan recommended further cuts to environmental programs—14.6 percent across the board. If these cuts were distributed equally, NOAA's satellite program would lose more than $250 million from its 2012 funded levels.

And according to multiple sources, including the Washington PostPalm Beach Sentinel, and the Center for American Progress' Senior Fellow Scott Lilly, the sequestration process looming over Congress' lame duck session would cost the program an additional $182 million.

So what does this gap in service mean for our prediction capabilities? NOAA ran an analysis in 2011 that found without data from the satellite closest to the end of its shelf life, the accuracy of its forecasts for major storms like blizzards and hurricanes would decrease by approximately 50 percent. This means more uncertainty about the storm's intensity and direction.

Unless we somehow decide that weather-monitoring satellites are no longer necessary, and that we should just forgo building them all together, we will have to replace them. And if we wait, they only get more expensive. Three to five times more expensive according to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco who a year ago called this decision "a disaster in the making," "an expression of dysfunction in our system," and "insanity."

In congressional Republicans' mindless crusade against all government spending, they have forgotten that there are some things the government actually does well and the private sector cannot provide. A few years ago, one GOP congressman famously asked then NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, "Why are we building meteorological satellites when we have The Weather Channel?" Where do you suppose the Weather Channel gets its data? That's right, kids! NOAA's meteorological satellites!

The GOP's push for budget austerity is as blunt, broad, and mindless as a hurricane bulling its way forward without regard for the health, value, or well-being of anything in its path. 

by Michael Conathan  - http://bit.ly/Rswu2w

Hurricane Sandy News

Hurricane Sandy's devastating intrusion into the final days of the presidential race would have at least one positive result if it inspired President Obama and Mitt Romney to finally address a huge issue they have ignored throughout the long campaign: climate change. [LA Times]

Superstorm Sandy will end up causing about $20 billion in property damages and $10 billion to $30 billion more in lost business, according to IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm. [Associated Press]

Monday's mammoth storm that caused severe flooding, damage and fatalities to the eastern U.S. will raise pressure on Congress and the next president to address the impacts of climate change as the price tag for extreme weather disasters escalates. [Chicago Tribune]

A few months ago, forecasters were predicting a "near-normal" hurricane season. Now, the East Coast is dealing with one of the most damaging storms to date. [ABC News]

The warnings came, again and again. For nearly a decade, scientists have told city and state officials that New York faces certain peril: rising sea levels, more frequent flooding and extreme weather patterns. [New York Times]

Raw sewage, industrial chemicals and floating debris filled flooded waterways around New York City on Tuesday. Left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the toxic stew may threaten the health of residents already dealing with more direct damages from the disaster. [Huffington Post]

A new poll released Monday shows Americans rank the presidential candidates' views on energy policy as more important to their 2012 vote than environmental policy. [The Hill]

Meghan McCain took to Twitter late on Monday night and said, "So are we still going to go with climate change not being real fellow republicans?" The remarks from the daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) came as superstorm Sandy rocked the East Coast. [Huffington Post]

We are all from New Orleans now

The presidential candidates decided not to speak about climate change, but climate change has decided to speak to them. And what is a thousand-mile-wide storm pushing eleven feet of water toward our country's biggest population center saying just days before the election? It is this: 

We are all from New Orleans now. 

After the Devastation, A Daunting Recovery

Here's a very powerful story from the NY Times on the effects of Superstorm Sandy

The New York region began the daunting process on Tuesday of rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that remade the landscape and rewrote the record books as it left behind a tableau of damage, destruction and grief.
The toll — in lives disrupted or lost and communities washed out — was staggering. A rampaging fire reduced more than 100 houses to ash in Breezy Point, Queens. Explosions and downed power lines left the lower part of Manhattan and 90 percent of Long Island in the dark. The New York City subway system — a lifeline for millions — was paralyzed by flooded tunnels and was expect to remain silent for days.
Accidents claimed more than 40 lives in the United States and Canada, including 22 in the city. Two boys — an 11-year-old Little League star and a 13-year-old friend — were killed when a 90-foot-tall tree smashed into the family room of a house in North Salem, N.Y. An off-duty police officer who led seven relatives, including a 15-month-old boy, to safety in the storm drowned when he went to check on the basement.
On Tuesday, the storm slogged toward the Midwest, vastly weaker than it was when it made landfall in New Jersey on Monday night. It delivered rain and high winds all the way to the Great Lakes, where freighters were at a standstill in waves two stories tall. It left snow in Appalachia, power failures in Maine and untreated sewage pouring into the Patuxent River in Maryland after a treatment plant lost power.
President Obama approved disaster declarations for New York and New Jersey, making them eligible for federal assistance for rebuilding. “All of us have been shocked by the force of mother nature,” said the president, who plans to visit New Jersey on Wednesday. He promised “all available resources” for recovery efforts.
“This is going to take some time,” he said. “It is not going to be easy for these communities to recover.”
There was no immediate estimate of the losses from the storm, but the scope of the damage — covering more than a half-dozen states — pointed to billions of dollars. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey called it “incalculable.”
Rescuers looked for survivors in the wet rubble in places like Atlantic City, and state and local officials surveyed wreckage. Utility crews began working their way through a wilderness of fallen trees and power lines. And from Virginia to Connecticut, there were stories of tragedy and survival — of people who lost everything when the water rushed in, of buildings that crumbled after being pounded hour after hour by rain and relentless wind, of hospitals that had to be evacuated when the storm knocked out the electricity.
The president spoke with 20 governors and mayors on a conference call, and the White House said the president would survey damage from the storm with Mr. Christie on Wednesday. Mr. Obama’s press secretary said the president would join Mr. Christie, who has been one of his harshest Republican critics, in talking with storm victims and thanking first responders.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Mr. Obama had also offered to visit the city, “but I think the thing for him to do is to go to New Jersey and represent the country.”
Connecticut, New Jersey and New York reopened many closed roads and bridges, and the New York Stock Exchange made plans to resume floor trading on Wednesday after a two-day shutdown, its first because of weather since a blizzard in 1888.
There were no traffic signals on the walk from Fifth Avenue to the East River. Police officers were directing traffic; here and there, bodegas were open, selling batteries and soft drinks. In Times Square, a few tourists walked around, though some hotels still had sandbags by the doors.
Mr. Bloomberg said 7,000 trees had been knocked down in city parks. “Stay away from city parks,” he said. “They are closed until further notice.”
The mayor also said that trick-or-treating was fine for Halloween, but the parade in Greenwich Village had been postponed. The organizers said it was the first time in the parade’s 39-year-history that it had been called off.
New York’s subway network, which suffered the worst damage in its 108-year-history, faced one of its longest shutdowns because the problems were so much worse than expected, said Joseph J. Lhota, the chairman and chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency that runs the subways and several commuter railroads.
Water climbed to the ceiling of the South Ferry subway station, the end of the No. 1 line in Lower Manhattan, and debris covered tracks in stations up and down other lines after the water rushed in and out. Mr. Lhota said that seven subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn were flooded.
He also said that the Metro-North Railroad had no power north of 59th Street on two of its three lines, and that a 40-foot boat had washed up on the tracks in Ossining, N.Y.
The Long Island Rail Road’s West Side Yards had to be evacuated, and two railroad tunnels beneath the East River were flooded in the storm. The railroad had not restored power on Tuesday and had no timetable for restoring service. The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, officially the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel also remained impassable, he said.
Airports, too, took a beating. More than 15,000 flights were canceled, and water poured onto the runways at Kennedy International Airport and La Guardia Airport, both in Queens. Officials made plans to reopen Kennedy, the larger of the two and a major departure point for international flights, on Wednesday. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said La Guardia would remain closed “because of extensive damage.”
The flooding in the tunnels in Lower Manhattan was so serious that the Federal Emergency Management Agency asked specialists from the Army Corps of Engineers to help. The “unwatering team,” as it is known — two hydrologists and two mechanical engineers from the corps with experience in draining flooded areas — flew to the airport in White Plains because it was one of the few in the area that was open.
Buses began running again on Tuesday afternoon, and the mayor ordered a ride-sharing program for taxis. He said more than 4,000 yellow cabs were on the streets by Tuesday afternoon.
From southern New Jersey to the East End of Long Island to the northern suburbs in Connecticut, power companies spent Tuesday trying to figure out just how much damage the storm had done to their wires, transformers and substations.
The work will take at least a week, possibly longer, because the damage was so extensive, and utility companies called in thousands of crews from all around the country to help out. Consolidated Edison reached to San Francisco to bring in 150 workers from Pacific Gas and Electric.
Even with the additional manpower, Con Edison said it could still take more than 10 days to complete the repairs. Con Edison had more than 285,000 customers in Manhattan who were in the dark on Tuesday, and more than 185,000 in Westchester.
Things were worse east of New York City, where nearly one million customers of the Long Island Power Authority did not have power on Tuesday and Mr. Cuomo made clear he wanted the authority to restore power faster than it had in the past. He said it was “not O.K.” for it to take two weeks to repair lines brought down by tree limbs.
In New Jersey, Public Service Electric and Gas said it had 1.3 million electric customers in the dark, including 500,000 without power because a surge in Newark Bay flooded substations and other equipment. Another New Jersey utility, Jersey Central Power and Light, whose territory covers many shore towns, said almost all of its customers had lost power in some counties, including Ocean and Monmouth. More than one-third of Connecticut Light and Power’s 1.2 million customers had no electricity, either.
The fire in Breezy Point, Queens, leveled scores of houses, among them one that belonged to Representative Bob Turner, who was riding out the storm at home despite the mayor’s order to evacuate low-lying areas. Mr. Turner’s spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, said he and his wife made it out safely after flames reached their house. Michael R. Long, the chairman of the state Conservative Party, had a home nearby that also burned down, she said.
Flooded streets in the area prevented firefighters from reaching the blaze, a Fire Department spokesman said, and the mayor, who toured the area on Tuesday afternoon, said the neighborhood was devastated.
“To describe it as looking like pictures we have seen at the end of World War II is not overstating it,” the mayor said.
The off-duty officer who drowned in his basement was identified as Artur Kasprzak, 28, who was assigned to the First Precinct in Manhattan. He had led seven relatives upstairs to the attic as the water rose in his house on Doty Avenue on Staten Island. He said he was going to check the basement and would be right back. About 20 minutes later, one of his relatives called 911 and said he was missing.
A rescue team with boats and motorized water scooters tried to answer the call but could not reach the house at first because power lines were in the water. His body was found shortly before sunrise.

US Coal Exports at all time high

U.S. 2012 coal exports, supported by rising steam coal exports, are expected to break their previous record level of almost 113 million tons, set in 1981. Exports for the first half of 2012 reached almost 67 million tons, surpassing most annual export volumes dating back to 1949. U.S. coal exports averaged 56 million tons per year in the decade preceding 2011. If exports continue at their current pace, the United States will export 133 million tons this year, although EIA forecasts exports of 125 million tons.


Naming Hurricanes

Suggestion from Bill McKibben: 

Why can't we name hurricanes for oil companies? "Exxon is coming ashore all along the Jersey coast at this hour..."

October 29, 2012

Clinton supports Michigan's Renewable Energy Initiative

President Bill Clinton is supporting the clean energy ballot initiative that would increase Michigan's renewable electricity targets to 25 percent by 2025. And a majority of Michiganders say they support new targets that would diversify the state's electricity mix — stimulating billions of dollars in renewable energy investments while only adding about 50 cents per month to the average residential utility bill.

Michigan gets 59 percent of its electricity from coal. That's one of the major reasons why Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, the state's largest utilities, are opposed to new targets. According to a recent economic analysis, the cost of delivering coal to power plants in the state has jumped by 71 percent since 2006. Consumers Energy has projected fuel cost increases to total around $530 million over the next four years. 

That is also the reason why contracts for renewable electricity are coming in lower than the cost of new coal. In February, the Michigan Public Service Commission issued a progress report of the state's current renewable electricity standard requiring 10 percent penetration by 2015, finding that the cost of wind, solar, and hydro "is cheaper than a new coal-fired generation" in the state.
In fact, on multiple occasions over the last four years, Consumers Energy reported that the cost of meeting Michigan's current renewable electricity targets has been far lower than expected. In May, the company reduced its renewable electricity surcharge by 13 cents. It also reduced the surcharge in May of 2011, citing the lower-than-expected cost of meeting targets.

7 Reasons to label Genetically Modified food

Seven simple arguments for labeling GM Foods, from Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe

1. GMOs have never undergone standard testing or regulation for human safety. And now that they're in 70 percent of processed foods, it's extremely difficult for scientists to isolate their health risks

2. But we know that GMOs have proven harmful in animal studies
. A 2009 review of 19 studies found mammals fed GM corn or soy developed "liver and kidney problems" that could mark the "onset of chronic diseases." Most were 90-day studies. In a new two-year study, rats fed GM corn developed two to three times more tumors -- some bigger than a quarter of their total body weight -- and these tumors appeared much earlier than in rats fed non-GM corn. Among scientists, the study has its defenders and critics, but even the critics underscore that we need more long-term studies.

3. And the most widely used GMOs are paired with an herbicide linked to serious reproductive problems and disease. 
GM crops -- Roundup Ready soy and corn -- are treated with the herbicide glyphosate, which in exposed humans has been associated with DNA damage. In the lab, it's proven toxic to human liver cells.
4. The consequences of GMO technology are inherently unpredictable. Inserting a single gene can result in multiple, unintended DNA changes and mutations. "Unintended effects are common in all cases where GE [genetic engineering] techniques are used," warn scientists. One such environmental consequence -- genetic contamination of other plants -- is already documented. Note that unlike food, once released into the environment, seeds can't be "recalled"!
5. GMO makers intimidate and silence farmers and scientists. GMO corporations use patents and intellectual property rights to sue farmersblock research, and threaten investigators. "For a decade," protested Scientific American editors in 2009, GMO companies "have explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research," so "it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised."
6. GMOs undermine our food security. Within the biotechnology market, Monsanto alone controls 90 percent of GE crops worldwide. And Monsanto is one of three GMO companies including DuPont and Syngenta that control 70 percent of the global seed market, reinforcing monopoly power over our food. GMO seeds are costly and must be purchased every year, so they worsen farmers' indebtedness, dependency, and vulnerability to hunger.
7. GMOs aren't needed in the first place, so why would we take on these risks and harms? Studies show that safe, sustainable farming practices applied worldwide could increase our food supply as much as 50 percent. And keep in mind that the world's already producing 2,800 calories for every person on earth every day -- more than enough. And that's just with what's left over after using half the world's grain for feed, fuel and other purposes, and wasting one-third of all food. So the urgent question isn't about "more" anyway. It is, How can all of the world's people gain the power to secure healthy food? And a good start is knowing what's in our food.
For a cool, just-released animated video devouring the myth that we need industrial ag, see foodmyths.org.  


Irene and Sandy - Side by Side

Side by Side comparison of Hurricane Irene and the Frankenstorm - Hurricane Sandy. 

Frankenstorm is the right name

What would you call an "unprecedented and bizarre" storm that is:
  • The "largest hurricane in Atlantic history measured by diameter of gale force winds (1,040mi)" [Capital Weather Gang]
  • "A Storm Like No Other" [National Weather Service via AP]. NWS"I cannot recall ever seeing model forecasts of such an expansive areal wind field with values so high for so long a time. We are breaking new ground here."
  • "Transitioning from a warm-core (ocean-powered) hurricane into an extra-tropical low pressure system, a classic Nor'easter, fed by powerful temperature extremes and swirling jet stream winds aloft to amplify and focus the storm's fury" [meteorologist Paul Douglas]
  • Being fueled in part by "ocean temperatures along the Northeast U.S. coast about 5°F above average," so "there will be an unusually large amount of water vapor available to make heavy rain" [former Hurricane Hunter Jeff Masters]
  • Also being driven by a high pressure blocking pattern near Greenland "forecast to be three standard deviations from the average" [Climate Central and CWG]
  • "Stitched together from some spooky combination of the natural and the unnatural." [Bill McKibben]
McKibben explains "Our relationship to the world around us is shifting as fast as that world is shifting.'Frankenstorm' is the right name for Sandy, and indeed for many other storms and droughts and heat waves now."
Humans are changing the climate in dangerous and unprecedented ways. 

Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained in a must-read 2012 review article in Climatic Change:
The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….

Fish Off Japan’s Coast Contain Elevated Levels of Cesium

Elevated levels of cesium still detected in fish off the Fukushima coast of Japan suggest that radioactive particles from last year's nuclear disaster have accumulated on the seafloor and could contaminate sea life for decades, according to new research. [NY Times]

The findings published in Friday's issue of the journal Science highlight the challenges facing Japan as it seeks to protect its food supply and rebuild the local fisheries industry.

40 percent of fish caught off Fukushima and tested by the government still have too much cesium to be safe to eat under regulatory limits set by the Japanese government last year, said the article's author, Ken O. Buesseler, a leading marine chemistry expert at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who analyzed test results from the 12 months following the March 2011 disaster.

"The fact that many fish are just as contaminated today with cesium 134 and cesium 137 as they were more than one year ago implies that cesium is still being released into the food chain," Mr. Buesseler wrote.

October 22, 2012

Grand Canyon in the Crosshairs

Arizona has become ground zero for the ideological fight against public lands and national parks during the 2012 election.  This is due to a combination of factors, including a Senate race featuring a former uranium industry lobbyist who has led the fight to mine around the Grand Canyon, a state ballot measure that would turn all federal public lands over to the state, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s energy plan that would make it easier to mine and drill on public lands.
First, the Grand Canyon has played an important role in the Arizona Senate race between Richard Carmona (D) and Jeff Flake (R).  Flake has led the fight in Congress to roll back a ban on new uranium mining around the canyon, and at one point his efforts were referred to as “the Flake earmark for the mining industry.”
Just this past Saturday, Flake — who was once a lobbyist for an African uranium mine with ties to Iran — continued to attack the Grand Canyon, and referred to the lands around it as “prime mining lands” when he gave the weekly Republican address.
Additionally, Proposition 120 will be on Arizona’s ballot on November 6th.  This measure would add language to the state constitution, giving Arizona “sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction” over natural resources within its boundaries including air, water, wildlife, and public lands (including the Grand Canyon).  It would also, according to legislative analysis, “repeal Arizona’s disclaimer of all right and title to public lands within the state,” an action which one legal expert says is “almost certainly unconstitutional.”
Lastly, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s energy plan could prove disastrous for the Grand Canyon and other public lands across America.  One of the key components of his plan is turning decisions about energy development on public lands over to the states.  This is problematic because, as the New York Times put it, “state, as a rule, tend to be interestedmainly in resource development.”
The Romney energy plan would mean that the state of Arizona would decide whether or not to permit uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.

Discussing energy without discussing climate...


Natural Gas Glut - Winners and Losers

A Chesapeake Energy drill rig. A natural gas glut and price plunge have hurt gas exploration companies and their investors. 

Fascinating article on the financing of the Natural Gas Glut - Winners and Losers [NY Times]

However, the only losers mentioned in this article are the investors and gas drilling companies. 

No mention of the environmental toll incurred by this glut or the impact on the clean energy industry. 

Not so shocking that Wall Street created another boom - bubble - bust cycle where the bankers profit while their customers lose their shirts. 

Why are we talking about gas prices?

Early on in Tuesday night's debate, the candidates faced off about gasoline prices. In the subsequent coverage, that discussion was very nearly ignored in favor of Mitt Romney's claim to have hired "binders full of women" as the governor of Massachusetts and the question of what, exactly, the President said about Benghazi in the Rose Garden. But the exchange deserves attention because it demonstrates why America has never had—and, at the rate things are going, never will have—an even remotely sane energy policy.

The gasoline question was posed by a Long Islander named Philip Tricolla, who wanted to know whether the President saw it as the job of the Department of Energy to lower prices at the pump. This is a question that, in one form or another, seems to be asked every four years, and every four years the candidates all know, or should know, what the answer is. Oil is a globally traded commodity whose price is set on a global market; no matter what the Energy Secretary does or doesn't do, it's not going to make much difference. The candidates also know that this is not what voters want to hear, and so they say something else.

President Barack Obama began by touting recent increases in domestic-energy production. He said that oil production is up in the U.S., which is true. The implication was that this was somehow going to translate into lower consumer costs, which is false. A recent analysis by the Associated Press showed that there is "no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump." Mitt Romney countered by arguing that oil production is down on federal lands, which is hokum, and went on to claim that if he were President, so much oil would come gushing from those lands that energy prices would plummet and manufacturing jobs would return to America and people would all soon be travelling by jetpack. (O.K., the jetpack part I made up.)

Obama deserves credit for at least mentioning the need to control energy demand—rather than just supply—something that Romney never even alluded to. The President should also be commended for stressing the need to develop alternative—which is to say carbon-free—energy sources, which he called key to "the jobs of the future." But aside from the potential for job creation, the President could never quite bring himself to discuss why it might not be a good idea to burn every gallon—or cubic foot—of fossil fuels we could conceivably bring to the earth's surface. In the midst of what will almost certainly be the warmest year on record, climate change has become to the Obama Administration the Great Unmentionable, or, as the blogger Joe Romm has put it, The-Threat-That-Must-Not-Be Named.

The problem with the sort of energy debate we saw on Tuesday is not just that it's fatuous, though it certainly is that. The problem is that you can't solve a problem if you don't even acknowledge it exists. The true challenge facing the next President is not how to bring down gas prices, which may or may not come down as a result of global trends. It's how to move beyond the tired arguments of the past and act as if the future matters.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/10/climate-change-the-debates-great-unmentionable.html#ixzz29sfvpAVT

Climate Change is a Foreign Policy Issue

Hillary Clinton calls attention to energy as a foreign policy priority, citing the oil riches of Iran and the South China Sea as issues where diplomacy and economics converge. [Bloomberg News Businessweek]

Climate change is a foreign policy issue for humanitarian reasons.
Americans are blessed with a land that is rich in resources: abundant and fertile farmlands, oceans of plenty to feed us. Not every country has the luxuries we do; and not everyone in this country partakes of our bounty. We have a moral obligation, as good people, to care for one another. Far distant archipelagos may be underwater first, but our own shores will also be threatened. Already, Florida and other coastal areas are feeling the effects of climate change. Our love of people knows no national boundaries.
Climate change is a foreign policy issue for military reasons.
Our military leaders know this. They know that their soldiers–our husbands and wives, our children–are the ones whose lives are on the line when wars break out over the shrinking resources caused by water shortages and unproductive land. That's why our military leaders, never known for their radicalism, are pushing for innovative sustainable energies. They want to keep our soldiers out of harm's way.
Climate change is a foreign policy issue for economic reasons.
America has long been a global leader in engineering innovation and entrepreneurial ingenuity. That's what it takes to create solutions to large, seemingly impossible problems. We put people on the moon! We cannot lose our edge in technological innovation–the first time in our history that we will have done so. We need to reassert our leadership so that we can build solutions–global solutions–to climate chaos, together.
Climate change is a foreign policy issue. Because we are all in this together. All of us. All over the world.
Our Earth's atmosphere has been compromised by air pollution. And we all breathe the same air, when you get right down to it. We must demand that the candidates give us their plans to slow, and then reverse, the changing climate that is bringing us tragic and extreme storms, flooding, heat waves, and droughts.
Tell our candidates: Break Your Climate Silence.

Hottest September

Climate Change is happening now! 

Last month was tied for the warmest September ever recorded globally, according to new data from the National Climatic Data Center. 

In early September, the climate center reported that January through August of this year was the most extreme for weather ever recorded for the U.S.

October 17, 2012

Climate Silence of the Candidates

MSNBC contributor Chris Hayes criticizes President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney for debating energy policy without mentioning the consequences of climate change.

Chris Hayes says, "Having an energy conversation without talking about climate is like talking about smoking and not talking about cancer."

October 16, 2012

Military Base Goes Solar

Fort Hunter Liggett in Central California, now has the largest solar array on a military base in the U.S. – and soon to be a microgrid. Work is underway for Phase Two, which will add two more MW, and enough battery storage such that the only connection to the larger grid will be to enable the base to sell excess power to the local utility (Pacific Gas and Electric).

Because the PV canopy serves dual purposes (power generation and a "garage" for many hundreds of enormous pieces of equipment) it's 18 feet off the ground and built on piers that need to withstand the impact of a tank running into them. Those piers are a yard in diameter, and 10 feet into the ground – and we're talking about ground that is super-compacted to withstand the punishment that such equipment will inflict as it moves in and out over the years.

Environmental News

Protesters gather to block Keystone XL construction in Texas - [NY Times]

State and local officials along the Gulf Coast say that a newly discovered oil sheen linked to the 2010 BP spill demonstrates that the full impact of the accident is not yet clear. Federal officials and BP are still negotiating to determine the company's liability for the disaster. [The Wall Street Journal]

Native Americans add their voice in opposition to Northwest coal export terminals [NY Times]

The way that solar energy is sited and built on federal public lands just got a lot simpler.  [Climate Progress

Department of the Interior authorizes 10,000 megawatts of solar, wind, and geothermal energy on public lands. [Climate Progress

120 Florida county officials and scientists sent a letter to President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney today urging them to address how they will deal with sea level rise. 

A large and growing majority of Americans say global warming is affecting weather in the US [Climate Progress

October 10, 2012

Benefits of Bicycling

Click on the graphic if you want to see a larger version.
The League of American Bicyclists has updated its 2009 study The Economic Benefits of Bicycle Infrastructure Investments, and the news continues to impress. Bicycle manufacturing, infrastructure development, and bike-focused tourism are still strong bets in an economy still struggling to grow. 

One interesting result - a home's resale value increased by 11% by being within 1/2 mile of a bike trail. 


Romney's Energy Plan

MIT hosted a debate on energy policy on Friday October 5th, with surrogates from the Romney and Obama campaigns.  The transcript is here

The debaters were:

Joseph Aldy, Special Asst. to the President for Energy and Environment in 2009 and 2010, Currently Harvard Kennedy School Faculty
Oren Cass, Domestic Policy Director for the Romney Campaign 

In the opening statement during the MIT Energy Debate, Romney's spokesperson, Oren Cass, sets the tone for the Romney campaign by stating  "Energy Policy is Economic Policy".

He makes it clear that the Romney administration will focus first on economics and that for a Romney administration protecting our clean air, clean water, the health of our families, and the health of our environment will not be a priority. 

This became clear at several points in the debate. Cass was asked "Is reducing carbon emissions from coal a legitimate end of the U.S. government?" 

His answer - No. 

Cass says Romney would also cut support for energy efficiency programs claiming that energy efficiency "is a solution looking for a problem." 

The Romney campaign also took the position that the wind production tax credit (PTC) should be canceled. Amazingly they argue that the reason to cancel the PTC is because (he claims) the wind industry lost 10,000 jobs during the Obama administration while the PTC was in effect - when in fact the jobs are being cut in anticipation of the cancellation of the PTC. 

Here is a short summary of Romney's Plan as presented by Cass during the debate. 

No support for reducing CO2 emissions. 
Cancel government support for renewable energy. 
Cancel government support for improving energy efficiency (weatherization) in our homes. 
Cancel recent energy efficiency standards for our automobiles.
Revoke mercury and air toxics standard. 

Drill, Baby, Drill especially on public lands. 

Support R&D - worthy R&D is defined as that R&D which is unlikely to attract investment from private sector

On the other hand, Romney does not want the federal government to support energy companies that private sector investors do not want to invest in

So if I understand correctly, R&D is ok, but providing support for moving that new technology to market isn't.  It appears Romney will only apply this standard to renewable energy companies, not for nuclear power. Meanwhile China is providing massive support to companies commercializing renewable technologies. Romney seems to think US companies don't need any help when trying to compete with their subsidized Chinese competition. Should we allow China to control the market for renewable technologies?

Cass claims that jobs created in the wind (and solar) industry actually destroyed or eliminated significantly more jobs elsewhere in the economy when many, many studies show that wind and solar create far more jobs per MWh than fossil fuel sources of energy. In fact three times as many. 

Cass states he believes it is important to preserve our natural spaces but - he thinks his 1 month old daughter won't travel to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and if there are some oil rigs there she won't be disappointed. 

Cass says that clean coal should mean coal that does not emit conventional pollutants. Cass was then asked if the US government has a role in reducing CO2 emissions from coal.  His response - No.  

He claims that the costs of reducing mercury emissions outweigh the benefits. He called the Mercury and Air Toxics ruling protecting American's health "one of the most outrageously unjustified regulations this country has ever seen." The EPA estimates that for every dollar spent on the Mercury and Air Toxic reductions we will see between $3 and $9 in health benefits. 

On numerous occasions Cass argued against extending the wind power Production Tax Credit (PTC) claiming it would cost $12 billion a year. The NY Times reports that the PTC would cost $1 billion a year.  "Tax Credit in Doubt, Wind Power Industry is Withering" September 20, 2012. 

When asked about global warming - Cass said we can't do anything about a global problem by acting unilaterally, and if we attempt to do anything it will hurt our economy. His claim is wrong on so many levels (moral, health, environment, global politics, and yes economics) it boggles the mind. 

When Cass was asked what Romney would do about global warming - Cass talked for a while but did not answer the question - without saying anything beyond expressing Romney's faith in private sector innovation to solve the problem - he then asked what Obama would do.  

The moderator then asked again "What would Romney do?" - Cass said the Romney administration would focus on private sector innovation - and then tried to divert attention from his non-answer by asking again what Obama's position is. So the answer is clear - Romney would do nothing to address global warming. 

When asked about energy efficiency - Cass said that energy efficiency is "a solution in search of a problem". He stated that Romney's policy is to focus on oil and gas production rather than efficiency. 

When asked about reducing emissions - Cass said "Frankly, that is not where the Governor Romney would put his emphasis." He would like to eliminate federal regulation of oil and gas drilling and would pass that role to the states - who have been known to issue drilling permits with as little as "two weeks of review." 

The Obama spokesperson, Joseph Aldy, concluded the debate by suggesting that we should  "take a balanced approach, not a narrow approach that only focuses on fossil fuels, and that will actually be able to deliver a better planet, it'll deliver better jobs, more jobs, and it'll make us more robust and more resilient to any kind of shocks to our energy economy in the future."