Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Green Miles Talks SOTU On The Green Front

I joined "On The Green Front" with Betsy Rosenberg and D.R. Tucker yesterday to talk about the climate & energy themes in President Obama's 2014 State of the Union address, listen to it here or search On The Green Front in iTunes podcast store.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

State of the Union Excerpt on Climate Change

The advance copy of President Obama's State of the Union address focuses much too heavily on fracked gas for my liking, but this section is the key:
Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.

But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods. That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.

The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.
UPDATE 9:52pm: Just wanted to highlight this shift in President Obama's tone on climate science.

I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.
Climate change is a fact.

Northern Virginia Sierra Club Endorses Alan Howze for Arlington County Board

Campaign finance laws may let the Koch brothers spend as much as they want on elections, but they make it much harder for local conservation groups to get involved in local elections. Tax-exempt non-profits known as a 501c3s can't get involved in elections and it costs something like $10,000 to set up a 501c4 political wing, so if your group only has a budget of, say, $75,000 for the entire year, having a say in local politics can be prohibitively expensive.

The Sierra Club makes campaign endorsements a priority on the national, state and local levels, and it's desperately needed to elevate conservation and transit-oriented growth in races like this:
The Sierra Club is pleased to announce its endorsement of Alan Howze in the Democratic Caucus on January 30 and February 1 for the the Arlington County Board.

Running in a strong field, we are endorsing Mr. Howze given his depth of knowledge and understanding of the key environmental issues facing the County, including his support of the Columbia Pike streetcar, which the Sierra Club supports as vital to the future of the growing community along Columbia Pike. In endorsing Mr. Howze, we recognize that such a significant investment in transit will require close monitoring by the County Board and its staff. We applaud Mr. Howze all the more for so clearly outlining the long-term benefits of the streetcar, which the Sierra Club views as the defining transit investment in Arlington – perhaps as significant to the County in promoting smart growth as Metrorail was to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor a few decades ago.
When I ran for Virginia House of Delegates in 2009, Alan was one of my Democratic primary opponents and I told campaign volunteers at the time that if I hadn't been running, I'd have voted for Alan. Considering the winner of that primary, Patrick Hope, has been a great delegate and one of Virginia's most progressive state legislators, that's saying something.

Since then, Alan has worked as a certified home energy auditor providing residential energy audits & efficiency improvements, served as president of the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls Civic Association, and has been active in local Democratic politics. Plus - and TOTALLY MOST IMPORTANTLY YOU GUYS - he was a supporter of Westover Beer Garden in its battle to protect fun from overzealous county regulators.

The proposed Columbia Pike Streetcar has become a key issue in this race and Alan understands that this issue isn't just about whether the project can pass some economist's dry cost-benefit analysis - Columbia Pike needs and deserves this investment. Throwing some new buses the Pike's way would save money, but it wouldn't provide the redevelopment spark of a permanent investment in streetcars, sending a clear message to prospective residents and businesses that pinching pennies mattered more than making life on the Pike better. Also, it's odd that one urban streetcar project would get such scrutiny when suburban road projects get truckloads of money dumped into them without the austerity crowd blinking an eye.

So if you're in Arlington, go vote for Alan in this weekend's Democratic caucus and in the special election in early April (date TBD). And even if you're not in Arlington, go like Alan's Facebook page, because conservation candidates everywhere deserve your support.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What Used to be Normal Now Feels Too Cold

Brilliant comic on climate change from xkcd:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Bipartisan Win for Wind Energy in Virginia

DSC_8731.jpgVirginia's insane General Assembly schedule just produced an absurdly heart-warming outcome: Two smart Republicans blocked a bill that would've put up an unnecessary new hurdle for wind energy.

When it comes to clean wind power, Virginia remains a black hole. Republican State Sen. Tom Garrett thinks the problem is that it's not being regulated heavily enough:
A proposal by Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Louisa, to protect birds and bats from wind turbines passed a committee vote Thursday and was referred to the full Senate.

Garrett said some advocates for wind-generated electricity had criticized the bill.

“I want to make this abundantly clear — and I’ll speak really slowly — this bill is in no way, shape or form designed to be an anti-wind bill,” he said. “We will, I hope, generate a greater and greater percentage of our power in the coming years via renewable energy resources whether it be solar, etc. That doesn’t mean we should do so irresponsibly.”
Wind energy is already heavily regulated by a range of officials and agencies charged with making sure its siting is as friendly to communities and wildlife as possible. Is it more likely Sen. Garrett was standing up for wildlife, or using anti-wind talking points pushed by polluter front groups to try to kill wind before it even gets off the ground?

Also, I have three reallys:
  • Really, Virginia is now solely concerned with how energy impacts wildlife? Virginia has already lost 156,000 acres on 67 mountains to mountaintop removal coal mining, but now that people want to build wind turbines to compete with coal energy, suddenly protecting birds and bats is the top priority? Really?
  • Really, Sen. Garrett's commitment to advancing our energy future? Really? The same Sen. Garrett who last year sponsored a bill to put onerous new regulations on energy-saving smart meters? Really?
  • Really, Sen. Garrett is completely dedicated to the health & well being of Virginia's wildlife? Really? His only other wildlife-related bill is to allow the hunting of coyotes on Sunday.
And last year the General Assembly passed and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Federal Court) signed a bill that Sen. Garrett introduced to spend taxpayer dollars promoting nuclear power. Remember this when Republicans try to tell you they're pro-business or anti-regulation. In reality, they're pro-their preferred industries.

The bill actually passed out of committee with the support of some of the most progressive Democrats in the Virginia Senate. I'm hoping they didn't fully understand it - that they just saw a bill that claimed to be good for wildlife and voted yes. Virginia's horribly dysfunctional General Assembly session is just 6 weeks long, requiring legislators to file, consider and vote on bills in less than a month. Again: Insane.

But fortunately it was saved on the Senate floor by two Republicans who know wind power means jobs in their district:
Sens. Frank Wagner and Tom Cosgrove, both Republicans from Virginia Beach, opposed the bill on the Senate floor.

Wagner said a wind-turbine park off the Virginia coast is awaiting a decision by federal agencies, bird-flight patterns already were considered, and adding new regulations would harm the project.
Here's hoping yesterday's vote is one of many that bring together clean energy jobs-loving Republicans with climate change-fighting Democrats.

All Those Times I Watched "Kingdom of the Spiders" Didn't Go To Waste

I managed to make the world's first joke connecting William Shatner and global warming in this Daily Beast story. You're welcome.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Take All the Crazy Oil Drilling Risks You Want

If you do trigger an oil disaster, no problem - just direct your staff to destroy the evidence. As long as you work for Halliburton, you'll only get a tap on the wrist from the judge, who’ll then praise you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Polar Vortex II: Arctic Boogaloo?

It looks like the polar vortex may make another drunken run at the East Coast later this month. I am sure Fox will have an explanation for why the swing from 50 to -5 and back again is totally normal.

So why is the polar vortex suddenly showing up on our doorstep so often? Does climate change play a role? Here's the explanation from White House science adviser and physicist John Holdren:


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why Congress Will Miss Rep. Jim Moran

I'm sorry to hear Rep. Jim Moran is retiring, a hard-working, underrated fighter for progressive values, especially for our environment & public health.

My favorite Jim Moran moment: I was leading one of my first Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment stream cleanups at Four Mile Run and was told to expect Rep. Moran to attend. I expected him to show up in a suit, make some brief remarks, hold up a few pieces of pre-collected trash for the camera, and be off to his next event.

Instead, Rep. Moran showed up in hip waders, grabbed a trash bag, and took off down the rocks into the stream. Within minutes he was downstream & out of sight around a bend. Moran didn't return until he'd filled the bag with trash & was dragging a bigger piece of junk that wouldn't fit in. As he left, he apologized profusely that he had to leave before others had finished.

The more you work with members of Congress, the more you respect politicians who genuinely care passionately about solving problems, as opposed to those who just know what they're supposed to say. (Bizarrely, it's the latter who are more hailed as "moderate" heroes by the Beltway media.) Rep. Moran has a fire for the solutions he truly believes will improve the lives of average citizens, and that's sorely lacking in Congress these days.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Inhofe Admits He Only Denies Climate Science Because He Doesn't Like the Solutions

Capitol Hill's Denier in Chief, Sen. Jim Inhofe, slipped up and admitted the real reason why he pretends climate change doesn't exist:
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told WABC-AM that he was initially intrigued when former Vice President Al Gore began warning about human-induced climate change but became skeptical after discovering that environmental regulations might prove costly to business.
Climate science deniers don't like the solutions, so they attack the science. The reasons why they don't like the solutions may vary - they most often represent an oil or coal state like Sen. Inhofe does, or it may simply conflict with their anti-regulatory ideology in general as in the case of someone like Sean Hannity or Scott Brown.

It's no different than when cigarette companies rejected science connecting smoking with cancer: Their real objection was to the implications, not to the methodsScience denial almost always has nothing to do with science.

Because once you accept the science and admit there's a problem, you then have to discuss to how to solve it. Frank Luntz and his fellow Republicans recognized this years ago and planted their heels in the ground on debating the science on an endless loop.

More than a decade later, the US media is still allowing deniers to play that same ignorant game, pretending the actual truth can never be discerned. Reporters even go to great lengths to portray deniers as interested in science, even when those same deniers say otherwise.

Reporters then pretend they don't understand why trust in the media has plummeted.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Why Do Climate Science Deniers STILL Hate Al Gore So Much?

Leonardo DiCaprio & Al Gore @ Live Earth, Giant StadiumI can't understand the ongoing hatred of Al Gore by climate science deniers. It made some sense when An Inconvenient Truthcame out, but that was seven years ago. Gore stepped back from a leadership role in the climate action movement around the time of his divorce in 2010 and is now semi-retired, rarely making public appearances.

But far-right conservatives apparently still hate Gore with the fury of a thousand global warming-fueled wildfires. What's weird is they simultaneously try to portray Gore as this big fat pathetic loser AND as this wealthy jet-setting holier-than-thou asshole.

Are they still trying to prove he didn't win that election that he would've won via a full recount if the Republican-controlled Supreme Court hadn't ordered it shut down? Or that while George W. Bush's disastrous presidency destroyed the Republican brand, Gore is in many ways MORE respected than he was in 2000?

Gore went through something that would've left most people angry at the world. Just look at how much John McCain hates Barack Obama and opposes everything they once agreed on from climate action to immigration reform - and McCain lost fair & square.

Yet Gore went on Saturday Night Live to laugh about the experience and never stopped fighting for what he believes in. Is that what grates Fox News types the most - that they haven't been able to break Gore's spirit and make him shut up & go away?

I Survived the 2014 SouthCoast Earthquake. Where's My Commemorative T-Shirt?

I happened to be doing some work in our ground-level utility room here in Fairhaven, MA and felt the 1.9 magnitude earthquake that rumbled through the greater New Bedford area today. It wasn't nearly as strong as the 2010 DC area quake that woke me up or the 2011 Virginia quake that swayed the chandelier over my head in Vermont, but I definitely felt a brief rumble.

What's weird is that I'd never experienced an earthquake in my first 33 years. Now I've felt three in the last three years.

HGTV: Always Choose Sprawl

Every show on HGTV has the same advice: If you can't afford your dream home, just move further out!

Realtors are all about the instant gratification of finding your dream house. Sure, they hope you're happy long term, but let's be honest: Whether you end up with a nightmare commute or sleepy social life doesn't impact their commission.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Republicans Attack George W. Bush's Only Environmental Legacy

If Congressional Republicans succeed in repealing light bulb efficiency standards, George W. Bush's only remaining environmental legacy will be pardoning the turkeys.

Tell your members of Congress to leave light bulb efficiency standards in place and maybe find something more productive to do.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Day After Tomorrow: Thunderstorms with Chance of Polar Vortex

It was -6 this morning here in Fairhaven, MA but it's forecast to rise through the day ... then through the night, hitting the high at midnight. Then up to 50 with possible thunderstorms Monday. Then down to 16 Monday night, but it will be even colder 400 miles south in Washington, DC thanks to a huge chunk if the polar vortex going rogue and making a break for the US.

All totally normal, according to Fox.

Friday, January 3, 2014

"Climate Scientists Have a Technical Term for This Phenomenon: It's Called Winter"

Watch climate scientist Michael Mann talk to MSNBC's Chris Hayes on "All In" about how snow at Fox headquarters doesn't mean climate change isn't happening:

Does TV Station Employee’s Anti-Wind Activism Cross the Line?

Anti-wind energy activists like to complain that the liberal media is out to get them. But one Fairhaven anti-wind activist not only works for a TV station, his video footage has repeatedly been used on air, raising questions about whether journalistic lines have been crossed.

By day, John Methia is director of broadcast operations at WLNE-TV in Providence. By night, he's an activist with the Fairhaven group "WindWise" that promotes wind energy hypochondria, trying to convince people that wind turbines cause just about every malady known to man or beast.

As Dean Starkman writes at, those lines have blurred when Methia's footage trying to discredit the turbines has aired on WLNE newscasts:
When Methia is shooting footage, he starts to put on a journalist’s hat. He is gathering news. I don’t see much distinction between taking photos, or video, and taking notes in a reporter’s notebook. Each act requires a process of selection. Some images or facts are included; some are left out. It shouldn’t come as a huge shock, for instance, that the Methia video that made it on the air would tend to be material that the anti-turbine people would want to see.

But wait: shouldn’t Methia’s video be considered like any other video coming over the transom – something to be evaluated by news personnel?In theory, there’s no difference. But in practice, what’s happening here is that a news organization employee – and with some clout, after all, even if he’s not on the news side -- is gathering material for broadcast, and lo, it gets on the air.

Here, the pro-turbine people would seem to have a beef. Indeed, it’s a lot for ABC6 to ask viewers to trust some theoretical Chinese Wall between the business side and news, especially on such a hot-button issue. This is a bridge too far.
Methia is clearly trying to have it both ways - he wants to be a political activist by night, while being able to stroll across the TV station and place footage into the news director's hands by day. "If Methia wants to stay active, and there’s no real reason he shouldn’t, he should avoid news-gathering," Starkman concludes. "If he wants to gather news, he should be held to journalists’ standards."

Underhanded tactics like this are why anti-wind activists keep losing public support. No one believes their absurd health claims, so they're left to sneaking their propaganda videos into newscasts, dragging out dead-end legal battles, and using bullying and intimidation to try to get their way.

Years from now, the generation that's grown up with wind turbines will find them just as unremarkable as previous generations found radio towers and cell phone towers, and they'll wonder why anyone ever listened to anti-wind activists.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

How Climate Science Deniers Exploit Corporate Newspaper Shrinkage

How are the gatekeepers of truth in public discourse supposed to function when they're being laid off by the hundreds in the name of higher profits? While a few newspapers like the Los Angeles Times are taking a stand against opinion pieces that get the facts wrong on climate science, smaller newspapers across the country are getting overrun by climate science deniers.

This week's example: Steve DiMarzo Jr.'s climate science-denying op-ed in the New Bedford Standard-Times. It's not just that it's filled with easily-disproved lies. It's filled with quotes that aren't attributed to any source at all. Who said them? Is DiMarzo just making up quotes as he goes? Readers are left hanging.

That's such an egregious miss, I can't believe an editor even read the piece before printing it. The Standard-Times has been hammered by round after round of layoffs with the latest hitting just two months ago. Nationwide, a Pew Research Center report shows newspaper editorial employment has fallen by a third in just the last 15 years.

But here's the thing: The Standard-Times isn't losing money - it's profitable. It just wasn't making enough money for its corporate owners, so the layoff ax swung. Remaining staffers are being asked to do the jobs of several people and subscribers are being asked to pay the same price for a product of lesser quality. No wonder ranked newspaper reporter last out of 200 career fields, below dishwasher, oil rig worker and lumberjack.

A similar story is playing out at the nearby Providence Journal. As Dean Starkman has documented, the paper's corporate owners have been laying off newsroom staff to fund huge executive bonuses. Its op-ed page has turned into a haven of climate science denial and I've heard the editorial page editor tells people that's by design, that playing to the lowest common controversy makes for good reading.

Declining newspaper readership rates are often covered as proof of the declining literacy among the American public. But readers know when they're being sold an inferior product. Why spend $20 a month to read climate science denial in the local paper when it's already available for free on Drudge Report or Rush Limbaugh?

Just check the reader comments on the DiMarzo op-ed. When your customers are openly asking the equivalent of "what is this shit?" maybe it's time to reinvest in the product.