Archive for Global Warming

Nov
10

The Spill

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Frontline, the PBS in-depth news documentary series, recently did a one hour program about the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf. Frontline has a knack for uncovering backgrounds of stories usually lost between the headline narratives. They have won numerous awards including Pulitzer, Peabody, and Emmy. The BP Oil Spill should have been the type of rich story where they could do some eye opening journalism. Alas, they didn’t.

Greg Palast explains why:

“Despite press release hoo-hahs that this Frontline investigation would break news from a deep-digging inquiry, what we got was ‘Investigation by Google,’ old stuff from old papers that PBS forgot to report the first time around.
[...]
What us viewers were handed was a tale that could have been written by the PR department at BP’s competitor Chevron. The entire hour told us again and again and again, the problem was one company, BP, and its ‘management culture.’ (They used the phrase management ‘culture’ seven times – I counted.)
[...]
PBS sponsor Chevron is desperate to resume drilling in the Gulf. Shell is drooling over its delayed offshore project in Alaska’s Arctic seas. If they can isolate BP, the horror show can go on.”

Having watched it myself, I found the program lacking. It spent considerable time developing BP’s recent appalling safety record and board room drama, but comparatively little time on the Gulf spill itself. Having made the argument that BP’s cost cutting culture led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it could not really connect the dots beyond the obvious fact that Deepwater Horizon happened after the other accidents. And it didn’t spend any time on what happened in the days and weeks after the well blew.

Important questions about regulatory capture, the world’s increasing appetite for oil in the face of dwindling supply, and the total lack of disaster response preparedness were laregely ignored. You wouldn’t even know Halliburton and Transocean were partners on the rig, having barely been mentioned. If this was Frontline’s big investigation of the biggest environmental disaster in US history, they failed by sticking too close to an already familiar thesis: BP is not interested in safety. D’ya think?

It might be tempting for everyone involved, including John Q. Public to let this disaster fall down the memory hole. Frontline’s puff piece only aids in the process. Joe Barton could become chair of the House Energy and Commerce committee. The other BP apologist, Rand Paul, won his Senate bid in Kentucky. Those of us concerned about Peak Oil and Climate Change or any of the number of other issues raised by this event need to keep workin’ it.

Read more about the current activities of the Oil Spill Commission here and here.

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Nov
08

Sustainability = Cost Savings

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On our agenda for Tuesday night is a report from the Sustainability Mgmt. Department about our municipal carbon footprint. It’s chock full of good news. We’ve reduced our carbon output by over 8% in the last three years, and there’s oodles of cost savings to go along with it. Whenever you hear someone incorrectly kvetching about Asheville not being fiscally responsible, feel free to point them in this direction. You can be especially smug about it if they’re global climate change deniers.

From the report:

Key Highlights from this Report:
• Tasked with a 6% reduction over 3 years the city delivered an 8.42% reduction

• The most significant reductions can be attributed to energy conservation in public buildings, streamlined efficiency in water distribution, and fuel/routing efficiency in transit

• The most significant opportunities for future reductions are in the fleet and streetlight sectors

FY 09-10 Financial Facts:
• Municipal energy spending totaled $5,349,610

• Carbon footprint reductions resulted in $336,216 avoided energy spending, which is a 5.91% spending reduction from the previous year

Carbon footprint reduction to date is 2,965 MT eCO2 which equals
• Annual emissions from 567 four door sedans

• Annual energy use of 252 homes

• Annual carbon sequestration of 76,026 trees

Check out the report for several very cool graphs broken down by department. After the jump find a graph that illustrates the trend we were on before 2007 and the trend we’re on now.

Read More→

Nov
06

Toy Trains

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Last month Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cancelled what was the largest public works project in America. Dubbed Access to the Region’s Core (or ARC), the project was to build a new tunnel under the Hudson River which would expand commuter rail service from the overcrowded trains in service now which use a 100 year old tunnel.

The project had been put on the drawing board about twenty years ago. In the last several years, cost estimates had been developed which had an unfortunate habit of increasing. The first estimate done in 2005, which was described as “ball-park” was $5 billion. The project started last year with an estimate of $7 billion which was increased by $1 billion for contingencies. The latest round of cost estimates conceded the possibility of the project going over that by another $4 billion. Still, the burden for funding the project was split between New Jersey, the New York Port Authority, and the Federal Government.

New Jersey is broke. Well, kinda. They are up to their ears in red ink, having accumulated $50 billion of debt in the two last decades. Christie is a Republican who is not entertaining any possibility of tax increases, instead he is using spending cuts to close a $10 billion deficit just last year. As soon as there was a hint that the ARC project might have cost overruns, he immediately sought to kill the project.

The project might have had a $4 billion overrun. But that might have happened over a ten year project timeline. New Jersey will have something on the order of $300 to $330 billion in tax revenue and $4.5 trillion GDP during that time. New Jersey’s Household Income is the second best in the nation. See? Kinda broke. This tunnel would have dramatically expanded rail service to the largest city in the country, had a positive impact on jobs and property values, while decreasing road congestion and gasoline consumption. But because the state “doesn’t have the money,” New Jerseyans will just have to suffer with congested trains and congested roads. Read More→

Oct
06

350 Ways to Sunday

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We won! Did you hear the news? The White House will install solar panels after all, it was announced today. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, seemed to get the talk to the hand treatment when he proposed the idea there, in person, a few weeks ago. Chronicled here, on ScruHoo, it seems only appropriate to follow up with this most fortuitous update.

Does the Rahmbo departure make more things like this possible? Or is this just how Obama does things? Wherever speculation may lead, it is great to see the Administration grasping the opportunity to send an important message, consistent with its aims and other actions, and seizing it. On the Energy Blog, Secretary Chu writes, “Around the world, the White House is a symbol of freedom and democracy. It should also be a symbol of America’s commitment to a clean energy future.”

Not that there nothing else happening on Sunday. In fact, 350.org is holding a Global Work Party. Labeled 10/10/10, the idea is to put some elbow grease into a meaningful project that can help reduce carbon emissions. Whether its installing those beloved solar panels, fixing up old bikes to provide an alternative to car transportation, planting trees or any number of things, get your back into it and get ‘er done!

It’s been a tough year for those dedicated to stemming global warming. The Climate Copenhagen Conference delivered a #fail in any meaningful reform. The US Senate gave us another #fail by stopping an energy bill aimed at reducing America’s carbon emissions. BP gave us the #epicfail by trashing the Gulf of Mexico with their Deepwater HuzzOIL! Oh so Beyond PetroleumTM, huh? The complete lack of oversight by the Interior Department, mostly a legacy of #epicfail Bush administration, of course did not help.

The point is we have to nudge our leaders while at the same time taking our own actions to make change happen. Sometime nudging is the action. The White House got at least one petition about the solar panels, with 50,000 signatures. I won’t urge everyone to go No Impact, as Colin Beavan did, wrote a book about and continues to educate about. But I will urge you to think about what started No Impact, a fundamental question. Are you just bitching about climate change or doing something to try to stop it?

There is a 10/10/10 Event in Asheville. But if you don’t go to that, then just create your own in the basement, living room or garage. Figure out a way to reduce carbon emissions that works for you. Then do it!

Categories : Action, Global Warming, Obama
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Change is hard. You see that most when people who can change and should change don’t change. We voted for change in 2008. There was no mistaking that. President Obama campaigned vigorously on this theme and seemed to personify it by his very being. So you can imagine how hard change is when people who are all about change don’t want to change.

Bill McKibben recenty visited the White House to be told: there will be no change to the roof of the White House, no solar panels will be installed there. Conservatives, I’m sure, will shower lavish praise on President Barack Hussein Obama for continuing this tradition first established by Ronald Reagan. Progressives on the other hand, well here’s McKibben…

And a confession. We’d walked past Obama’s official portrait on the way out, and despite the meeting we’d just had, I couldn’t help but smile at the thought that he was president. I could remember my own enthusiasm from two years ago that had me knocking on doors across New Hampshire. I admired his character and his smarts, and if I admire them a little less now, the residue’s still there.

And so I couldn’t help thinking — part of me at least — like this: The White House political team has decided that if they put solar panels on the roof, Fox News will use that as one more line of attack. Jimmy Carter comparisons aren’t what the administration is after.

If that’s their thinking, I doubt they’re on the mark. As far as I can tell, the right has a far better understanding of the power of symbols. Witness the furor they’ve kicked up over “the mosque at ground zero.” My feeling is that we should use the symbols we’ve got, and few are better than a solar panel.

To be fair, if I were in the West Wing, THERE IS NO WAY I would accept Jimmy Carter’s solar panels, other than to donate to the Smithsonian. Instead, I would put up the latest and greatest photovoltaics money could buy. As McKibben says, a few solar panels are symbolic, but we need symbols in order to get the rest of the country to think about changing its habits. And we need capitols around the world to do the same thing.

The right wing and the main stream media parrot chamber might want to obsess over White House solar panels like they did the Ground Zero Mosque, or any of the other concocted scandals pointed out by Tom. These are just opportunities (now missing) for the administration to segue into all the positive things they are doing about clean energy. There is no reason to worry about linking solar panels to Jimmy Carter anymore. It is far better to link them to the BP disaster. It’s about clean energy versus dirty energy. Carter’s dilemma was about energy austerity versus prosperity. This administration’s dilemma is be about choosing the right kind of energy. [Note how austerity is bad energy policy but great fiscal policy!]

Change is hard when you let your fears run wild and imagine only negative outcomes. But change can be easier when you grasp the positive outcomes the change will bring, and have the confidence to forge ahead and make the arguments to convince fellow citizens. The West Wing lackeys are playing from an outdated political playbook. 2008 happened. It is time for the White House to be the change it wants to see.

Aug
23

Pedestrian Bridge

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Go over to Ashvegas to learn more about the pedestrian bridge issue that is on tomorrow’s agenda at City Council.

Jul
29

Sustainable Asheville

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David Forbes takes a look at the movement on an important ordinance that will alter the way we build in Asheville. Go give it a read and join the conversation at Mtn. X.

Jul
29

Fiddling

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I’ve been hearing for months that the Senate wasn’t going to pass any meaningful legislation regarding energy and the environment. Never mind that the House passed it ages ago and that even our own Heath Shuler was on board for addressing the single most important issue facing our nation and our world, Harry Reid’s Senate is planning to pass a gutted bill that doesn’t acknowledge the urgency of the problem and that leaves out any controls on carbon emissions. May our children forgive us.

NOAA released a report yesterday that underscores the massive failure at work:

The 2009 State of the Climate report released today draws on data for 10 key climate indicators that all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report, which confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years.
[...]
More and more, Americans are witnessing the impacts of climate change in their own backyards, including sea-level rise, longer growing seasons, changes in river flows, increases in heavy downpours, earlier snowmelt and extended ice-free seasons in our waters.

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Jun
17

Is Conservation the Cure?

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toyota_prius008It seems so obvious. If everyone uses less oil, via sexy hybrid cars, or on the dole public transport, we’ll actually burn less gas, drill fewer seabeds, spill less lube and spew less carbon into the atmosphere. But if you said that, you’ve never met a man named Jevons. For he would tell you one thing: efficiency improvemnts only create more demand for the very fuel you’re trying to conserve.

If conservation is not the answer, what about generating new sources of fuel from crops? The 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard mandates greater biofuel usage over time and provides tax credits for biofuel producers. That ain’t no unfunded mandate. Problem solved. Just one thing. For biodiesel, the Renewable Fuel Standard never gets biodiesel beyond 5% of diesel fuel supply. So now all the sexy new diesels coming on the market (which are about 25% more efficient than their gasoline siblings) won’t accommodate anything more than B5 (5% biodiesel, 95% regular diesel). Never mind that my 1976 diesel Mercedes runs B100 without a problem (though 35 year old cars do encounter problems.) In that sense diesel engine technology has gone backwards, with Congressional approval.
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May
31

A Blowout Protest Sign

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From the NOLA Times-Picayune:

Shana Taylor, left, and Lawrence Lamandre who both live and work in New Orleans show their displeasure of British Petroleum in Jackson Square during a protest against the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans Sunday May 30, 2010. A majority of the protesters identified themselves as being from New Orleans or neighboring communities.

Shana Taylor is an old friend of David Castro, whom a few of you know. She created the image. Thanks to David for the link.

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