Wednesday, April 15, 2015

America's Worst-Named Wildlife: Fisher Cats

MyNameIsPrice...It’s always driven me crazy that fisher cats don't catch fish and aren't cats. If I had $1 billion I’d start a campaign to switch the casual reference to one of their Native American names:
The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a small carnivorous mammal native to North America. It is a member of the mustelid family, commonly referred to as the weasel family. The fisher is closely related to but larger than the American Marten (Martes americana). The fisher is a forest-dwelling creature whose range covers much of the boreal forest in Canada to the northern United States. Names derived from aboriginal languages include pekan, pequam, and wejack. It is also sometimes referred to as a fisher cat, although it is not a feline.
Wejack! Sounds like a ‘70s movie cop who doesn’t play by the rules. Let's go with that. Who's with me?

As bonus evidence of fisher's awesomeness, I present this random high school film project I found on YouTube:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Everyone Hates Coal. Pandering To It Is Stupid Politics.

Political reporters paint investments in clean energy as a pander to a narrow segment of the Democratic base, while pledges to continue investment in coal are framed as smart plays to shoring up the moderate middle. And of course you have to support corn ethanol or you'll lose the entire center of the country!

But take a look at this new poll of homeowners by Zogby Analytics for Clean Edge and Solar City:

It's solar and wind that are broadly popular, while coal and biofuels have only fringe support - and keep in mind this question allowed people to name their top three.

Meanwhile, for all the talk of the popularity of fracked gas, it finished a distant third to clean energy.

Warmth Records Continued to Fall Out West in March 2015

These cities had their hottest March on record:
It was also the 2nd-warmest March in Billings, Montana and both Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.

And not one of the articles mentioned climate change.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Comcast's New "Power Save" X1 Boxes Still Waste Tons of Energy

Energy-wasting cable boxes cost families an extra $100 a year each, so when Comcast sent me a new X1 box, I was eager to learn more about its new "Power Save" feature.

The first disappointment: "Power Save" arrived turned off. I had to go into the power settings to tell it to go to Power Save after a certain number of hours. How many customers will ever do that? 10 percent?

But what's even more confusing is figuring out what Power Save actually does. From Comcast's Power Save FAQ:
Your energy saving depends on the specific X1 set-top box type (DVR or non-DVR), how much time the device is in Power Save mode and what power-saving activities are going on behind the scenes (such as scheduled recordings). Because of these variables, we can't say exactly how much energy your set-top box saves in Power Save mode, but to maximize your energy savings, you should always put your set-top box in Power Save mode as soon as you are done watching TV.
Notice how Comcast carefully avoids making factual claims about how much energy is actually saved - if any. 

OK, time to put it to the test. My old Comcast box registered 86 degrees in a 75 degree room. How does the new X1 box do when in use?

82 degrees in a 67 degree room. Not much better. And after it had been in Power Save mode all night (with no DVR recordings or any reason to be active):

Even though the room was down to 62 degrees and it had been in "Power Save" mode for several hours, the Comcast box still registered 78 degrees, not much different than when in use.

Comcast's "new" boxes don't seem any better than the old ones at sucking tons of vampire power, turning lots of your money into waste heat. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kansas Finally Admits It Has a Fracking Earthquake Problem

How deep in Big Oil's pocket are Oklahoma legislators when even Sam Brownback's Conservative Utopia of Kansas (A Subsidiary of Koch Industries) will admit it has a fracking earthquake problem, but Oklahoma is still in denial?

As E&E's Mike Soraghan reports, Kansas is facing up to its frackquake problem and taking action:
Regulators in Kansas have imposed sharp restrictions on oil and gas activity in two southern counties in response to increased earthquakes in the area.

The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) cited an "immediate danger" to public safety as the reason for limiting the pressure that can be used to inject wastewater into disposal wells and the volumes that can be injected.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma's denial sounds a lot like Florida's state-ordered climate science denial. We can't talk about the cause because that would be a distraction from trying to deal with the effects, or something!
The Oklahoma commission has also avoided explicitly linking earthquakes to disposal wells, saying getting embroiled in such a debate could bog down its response. But Kansas officials made a direct correlation.

"The increased number of recorded earthquakes in Kansas coincides with an increase in the number of injection wells and the amounts of injected saltwater in Harper and Sumner counties," the order states.

Kansas had 127 earthquakes last year, according to the commission order, and more than 50 this year by mid-March. From 1981 to 2010, Kansas had 31 quakes.
This is an issue that states far from America's new FrackQuake Alley need to face up to. Here in Massachusetts, new fracked gas pipelines are being sold as the solution to all our problems. But in addition to the question of whether we even need new enormously expensive pipelines, do we really want to be supporting this kind of destructive drilling that also threatens public health in fracked communities?

Monday, March 30, 2015

LA Asks Inhofe for Emergency Snowball Shipment

As DC asks if global warming is happening because it snowed last winter, Los Angeles just doubled the old record for 90 degree days in March.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rarely-Seen Neighborhood Coyotes Say Hello

Coyotes are common but rarely seen in Massachusetts, preferring to avoid any contact with people. In my neighborhood of Sconticut Neck in Fairhaven, coyotes made news a few years ago when a series of cats went missing, but I'd only spotted one briefly dashing through the snow during a storm.

Then last night just after sunset, some nearby coyotes decided to yip & howl it up:

A video posted by Miles Grant (@thegreenmilesgrant) on

Impossible to say exactly how close they were as howls can be clearly heard over a surprising distance, up to a few miles. As intimidating as coyote sounds can be, their message could've been as simple as, "We're claiming this spot to build our den & have our pups in a few weeks."

How many were there? Adirondack Almanack says it could be fewer than you'd think:
When people hear coyote howls, they often mistakenly assume that they’re hearing a large pack of animals, all raising their voices at once. But this is an auditory illusion called the “beau geste” effect. Because of the variety of sounds produced by each coyote, and the way sound is distorted as it passes through the environment, two of these tricksters can sound like seven or eight animals.
Coyotes thrive in suburban and even urban areas, just as their prey do. Rodents, rabbits, deer, frogs, fish, insects - if it moves, they'll probably eat it. When I worked odd hours in Arlington, VA, I'd very rarely spot one among the high-rise apartment buildings just across the Potomac from DC. You'd never know they were there unless you had your headlights on at the right time in the early morning hours (and cars are coyotes' main enemy). By the time most people start waking up, coyotes are back in their wooded homes.

By far the number one conflict between coyotes and people is over pets. Cats and dogs should never be left outside alone, especially at night. Coyotes almost always steer well clear of humans, but a small dog let out alone before bedtime can be easy pickings for a hungry coyote.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife has more tips for living with coyotes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Can't Imagine Why California's Down To One Year of Water Left

Parched earthUnder California's new "restrictions," everyone can still have giant lawns, golf courses, etc., and they can still give them unlimited water, but they can only do it about every other day. And there's little or no punishment for breaking the rules. Golly, I can't imagine why they're down to one year of water left.

Meanwhile, the corporate farms that use most of the state's water remain completely unregulated as they race to steal the last drops from California's underground aquifers, which would take decades to refill even if everyone stopped siphoning them tomorrow. Wildlife that don't have water pumped to their doorstep are dropping like flies. And climate change is making the problem worse, faster.

Gizmodo's Alissa Walker lists some water restrictions with teeth that would help make sure California is still inhabitable in 2017. But until California politicians are willing to force its farms to sip instead of gulp, the state will continue down the road to disaster.

60 Minutes took a look at California's looming water crisis late last year. It's a good story with one big short coming - it never mentions climate change.