Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Go Deep Inside the Shallow Mind of The Green Miles

I'm featured today over at Mr. Joe Blog's Blog! A few highlights of the interview ...
Why are you doing your blog?
Trying to lighten up the environmental debate. Most environmental blogs are serious to the point of being depressing. And that’s OK because many environmental issues, especially climate change, are serious to the point of being depressing. But if you can mix in a little humor and a few pictures of Barney from The Simpsons, I think the general public is more receptive to the message.

Are there any blogs, you enjoy reading?
Gristmill. AMERICAblog. DCist. Seth Mnookin. Rogan Kersh. What’s Up Arlington.

Climate change is caused by man. Myth or reality?
Dude, who’s even arguing this at this point? This is like asking, “Iraqi weapons of mass destruction: Myth or reality?” I can’t even discuss this rationally. Let’s move on.

And finally, what would you wish for with 3 wishes?
Reversing global warming is tempting, isn’t it? But that would mean mankind would just resume mucking it up from Square One. I’d rather solve that one more organically. I’ll go with time travel so I could go drinking with a young Albert Einstein, unlimited time to work for my favorite causes, and of course the ability to make a woman’s clothes fall off.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Washington Post's Gift to Tobacco Lobbyist: Free Space, Shielded Identity

The Washington Post publishes a guest editorial today from a man named Gio Batta Gori titled "The Bogus 'Science' of Secondhand Smoke" (bolding added by me):

It has been fashionable to ignore the weakness of "the science" on secondhand smoke, perhaps in the belief that claiming "the science is settled" will lead to policies and public attitudes that will reduce the prevalence of smoking. But such a Faustian bargain is an ominous precedent in public health and political ethics. Consider how minimally such policies as smoking bans in bars and restaurants really reduce the prevalence of smoking, and yet how odious and socially unfair such prohibitions are.

By any sensible account, the anachronism of tobacco use should eventually vanish in an advancing civilization. Why must we promote this process under the tyranny of deception?

Here's how the Post identified him:

Gio Batta Gori, an epidemiologist and toxicologists, is a fellow of the Health Policy Center in Bethesda. He is a former deputy director of the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention, and he received the U.S. Public Health Service Superior Service Award in 1976 for his efforts to define less hazardous cigarettes.
Here's what they left out, courtesy SourceWatch:

In 1980 Gori became Vice President of the Franklin Institute Policy Analysis Center (FIPAC), a consulting firm funded initially by a $400,000 grant from the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation (B&W). [2] Following its initial formation, FIPAC continued to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding annually from B&W. [3][4]. [5] Gori worked on R&D projects for B&W, such as analysis of the sensory perception of smoke and how to reduce the amount of tobacco in cigarettes. By 1989, Gori was a full time consultant on environmental tobacco smoke issue for the Tobacco Institute in the Institute's ETS/IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) Consultants Project. [6] In May 1993, Gori entered an exclusive consulting arrangement with B&W, reaping pay at the rate of $200/hour an day to $1,000/day for attending conferences. [7]

Activities in which Gori engaged on behalf of the tobacco industry included attending conferences, writing and publishing books and papers, and lobbying.
Are Gori's links to the tobacco industry new or obscure? Nope. They were detailed as far back as this 1978 TIME magazine article.

Deception, huh? Exactly who is doing the deceiving? Seems like it's the Post and Gori.

As for his arguments, they match exactly the strategy Jonathan Chait recently laid out in The New Republic when conservatives try to attack long-agreed-upon science -- "treat the question as a matter of dispute rather than a settled fact":

[W]hether the missing data would make inequality look worse or better is really beside the point. Reynolds's role is merely to point out that the data is imperfect. The skeptic challenging the expert consensus must be fluent enough in the language of the experts to nibble away at their data. (The evolution skeptic can find holes in the fossil record; the global-warming skeptic can find periods of global cooling.) But he need not--indeed, he must not--be fluent enough to assimilate all the data himself into a coherent alternative explanation. His point is that the truth is unknowable.

Action Alerts: Environmental Protection & Smoke-Free Virginia

I'm hoping to get another post up later today on that new global warming report. For now, wanted to pass along two more action alerts on legislation in Virginia. Why do I keep posting them here? Living in Arlington, I'm represented by Del. Al Eisenberg and Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, who already take the green point of view on most issues. While I'll contact them from time to time to let them know I support their efforts, I'm preaching to the choir. But if you're reading this blog from a more conservative district in another part of the state, your action could make a real difference in the outcome of the vote.

* The Virginia League of Conservation Voters is asking you to contact your senator or delegate to oppose legislation that would deprive Virginians of their voice in environmental permitting decisions.

* A bill to ban smoking in workplaces (including bars & restaurants) is up for a vote in the Virginia Senate tomorrow, and the American Lung Association of Virginia has posted an action alert urging you to call or email your state senators to make sure they support the legislation.

Monday, January 29, 2007

My Guest Post at Fresh AIRE on the Green Living Challenge

Arlington County invited me to post at its new Fresh AIRE climate change blog! Check it out and leave some comments.

UPDATE (1/30/07): Nice little writeup of the blog over at!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Up Next, Pigs to Fly: The Green Miles & Charles Krauthammer Agree on Something

Thanks to both of the people who donated to Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment using the charity badge on the right side of my blog! I'm thrilled to have been proven wrong on that one. It only takes a few minutes, and a $20 donation will get you a Friends of ACE membership, or you can make contributions as small as $10. Please donate now!

* What's this world coming to that Charles Krauthammer and I agree on anything? Today's column, "
Energy Nonsense," is right on the money in saying that President Bush's energy plan is about pleasing constituencies, not sound policy. I'd disagree with him on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and it's farm corporations and Midwestern politicians who are pushing corn-based ethanol, not environmentalists. But we do need hard measures like higher gas taxes to lower fuel consumption, and we need to talk about nuclear power. Lowell agrees over at Raising Kaine, and adds a push for green buildings.

* New blogger Jonathan Krall points out the
comedy of errors that passes for transportation planning along the I66 corridor.

* Politicians have always been happy to pose for pictures by the Chesapeake Bay and pledge their commitment to clean it up, but they've usually been reluctant to take the tough stands against business, development, and farming interests needed to make a real difference. As a result, the Washington Post reports, "A Revitalized Chesapeake May Be Decades Away."

* Interesting article on green construction in E/The Environmental Magazine.

* I appreciate his strong advocacy on environmental issues, but I absolutely do not get former Green Party County Board candidate Josh Ruebner's recent
letter to the editor in the Sun Gazette. He equates Arlington's Metro-centered smart growth with suburban sprawl. Exactly where does Josh think new development should go? Should we put up a fence along the Beltway and refuse to let any new people in? A former Arlington resident named Lisa Nisenson wrote a nice rebuttal.

* After the recent the demise of
Backfence, What's Up Eric recommends checking out

UPDATE (1/29/07): More reactions to Josh Ruebner's letter, including a thoughtful response from an Arlington resident and a nutty rant from a Manassas resident.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

SOTU: Bush Fiddles While Globe Warms

In the days leading up to President Bush's State of the Union address, the White House leaked word that the president would be making new announcements on climate change and energy policy. Unfortunately, his proposals seem carefully crafted to appease the most interest groups while having the lowest actual impact on global warming. (And really, the most compelling story of the day was over his left shoulder, as Rep. Nancy Pelosi became the first woman to preside over a State of the Union address as House Speaker.)

In an era where denying climate change is a national outrage, I'm amazed the Bush administration thinks this plan would make even a ripple in the debate. If not for the serious setting of the SOTU, the Bush plan would be dismissed as completely inadequate even as a starting point. The Washington Post reports on how "each of [President Bush's] proposals immediately prompted questions about its ultimate effectiveness."

As the Post detailed today, the President is only now even admitting that climate change exists, never mind acting properly to address it:

"America's on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change."
- Jan. 23, 2007

"We must also act in a serious and responsible way, given the scientific uncertainties. While these uncertainties remain, we can begin now to address the human factors that contribute to climate change. Wise action now is an insurance policy against future risks."
- Feb. 14, 2002

"Global warming needs to be taken very seriously, and I take it seriously. But science, there's a lot -- there's differing opinions. And before we react, I think it's best to have the full accounting, full understanding of what's taking place."
- Oct. 11, 2000
Once Republicans and corporations were lumped together in the global warming deniers, but today, even corporations are tackling climate change as a looming threat to their financial health, and calling on President Bush to do more.

More generally speaking, the most common reaction I've heard to Tuesday night's addresses is that Sen. Jim Webb's response blew the doors off of Bush's SOTU. Six months ago I was taking bets from people who didn't think Webb would come within 10 points of then-Sen. (and then-presidential candidate) George Allen. Now Webb is the one being talked about as a potential presidential candidate! Life just wouldn't be as fun without unbelievable comebacks, would it?

Fresh AIRE Blog Goes Live

Arlington Co. has created a blog for Fresh AIRE! Board Chair Paul Ferguson has the first post talking about the inspiration for the initiative. Post some comments if you like what the county is doing!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Blogs as Fundraisers?

I saw on CNN today that Kevin Bacon has launched a new fundraising site for charities, called, in partnership with The name and theme of the site, of course, plays off the infamous Kevin Bacon game. He's signed up some pretty big names, including Bradley Whitford, Nicole Kidman and Ricky Gervais. After only a few minutes of clicking around the site, I made my own "charity badge" for Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment and put it up on the right side of this page.

So now the question is, will anyone give money to an organization just because they like the blog that recommends it?

Personally, much as I'd love to add a new revenue stream for ACE as we try to offer improved health benefits for our employees (both of them) ... I'm skeptical. But it's an interesting experiment, and it's free, so I thought I'd give it a try. I'd love to be proven wrong!

Coming tomorrow ... my State of the Union review.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union: Watching the World Pass Us By On Climate Change

Just as President Bush is preparing to deliver his State of the Union address, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is delivering a devastating report, what one top climate scientist calls "the smoking gun" of the human causes of global warming.

Bush and Vice President Cheney declared their stance on environmental issues in their very first year in the White House, when Cheney
dismissed conservation as nothing more than "a personal virtue." Since then, Bush has repeatedly downplayed global warming as a "theory," even hosting a secret meeting with one of climate change's leading deniers.

The Bush administration's lack of leadership has been crippling to America's competitiveness on everything from carbon trading to alternative fuels. As the Washington Post details today, American automakers are now
playing catch-up with the rest of the world on hybrids and other energy-saving cars:

"As soon as George Bush got elected, the U.S. car companies walked away from the partnership and didn't continue developing hybrids," [Clinton administration Energy Dept. official Joseph] Romm said. "And the Japanese did. As a result, they ended up the leaders."
Sebastian Mallaby had a great column yesterday detailing how far behind Bush is in the debate and how much things have changed in just the last year:
Eight months ago, when Gore's climate documentary was released, this state of affairs was inconceivable. Not only was Bush still a player, the case for climate change was widely doubted. Chortling climate-deniers, expecting an easy propaganda victory over the man whose energy-tax proposal they killed in 1993, greeted Gore's movie with glee. A group called the Competitive Enterprise Institute put out two TV commercials asserting that climate science is inconclusive. A House Republican hearing ridiculed a graph that features prominently in Gore's movie showing the world's temperature puttering along in a steady state before shooting upward like the handle of a hockey stick.

But this time around, Gore has proved a tougher adversary. His movie has grossed an astonishing $24 million, not counting foreign sales; the accompanying book has spent 29 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. His Republican opponents have lost control of Congress. And the Competitive Enterprise Institute has lost the patronage of Exxon Mobil, which decided to stop financing climate lies and start discussing carbon regulation.

Today's Post article on the corporate environmental initiative Mallaby mentions in his column here, more details at Raising Kaine, and my review of an Inconvenient Truth is here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Take Action to Support Clean Indoor Air in Virginia

The American Lung Association's Virginia chapter has posted an e-action campaign to urge your representatives in Richmond to support smokefree air legislation. It only takes a minute, so please voice your support for this important legislation!

I've mentioned my support for a smoking ban in Arlington bars & restaurants. I'd rather the issue be left up to localities, but thanks to the Dillon Rule, action has to be taken on a statewide level.

This debate is falsely portrayed by tobacco lobbyists as an issue of choice. It's true that chewing tobacco is an issue of choice -- your disgusting habit doesn't affect my health. And I fully own up to my own destructive habits. I'm sure my liver is none too appreciative of my drinking. But if I got into my car in a drunken state and started mowing down pedestrians, then I think we'd all agree that my personal habits would become a public issue.

That's where a personal choice becomes a public threat -- the cigarette smoking of others directly impacts my health. As a devastating report from the Bush administration's own Surgeon General pointed out, there's no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

States like California and Massachusetts have already banned smoking to mild grumbling but no widespread chaos. As for the "a smoking ban will devastate bars & restaurants" argument, it's proven to hold no water, because even individual cities like DC and NYC have banned smoking without seeing a mass exodus. Strangely, it seems the Village and Dupont Circle are still hipper than the Applebees and Ponderosas of Paramus and Centreville. Who knew?

While we're on the subject of bans, I haven't formed an opinion on the spreading wave of trans fat bans. Using the logic above, seems to fall more under personal choice than public threat, though if we can ban red dye #2, trans fats are fair game. What do you think?

UPDATE: Here's the response I got from Sen. Whipple's office ...
Thank you for expressing to us your interest in advancing the cause of a smoke-free Virginia. You will be pleased to know that Senator Whipple has cosponsored smoke-free legislation in the past and is supportive of smoke-free workplaces in Virginia. Thanks again for your input; it is greatly appreciated.

Alex Jakubow
Legislative Intern
District 31
Senate of Virginia

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ask The Green Miles: Proving Myself Wrong About Urban Heat Islands

Not quite a question, but worthy of a response nonetheless. Comment from Citizen Tom ...

It seems to me you worry too much. The fact we think we have global warming is obviously due at least in part to the heat island effect.

Check out this web site.

As someone who spent nearly 4 hours chewing on a Nerf football during last Sunday's Patriots-Chargers thriller, I'm in no position to address my anxiety. (Irrelevant Google-induced sidebar of the week: Nerf balls are apparently a must for sailing.)

The Urban Heat Island effect is popular because it makes sense. I know I've never questioned it. It's hotter on the pavement than on the grass. There's lots of pavement in the city. The weather people on TV are always saying it's a few degrees warmer at Reagan than it is in, say, Frederick. And there are lots of cartoons like this one that make a colorful (if not quite scientifically rigorous) case.

But after reading up on Urban Heat Islands, there seems to be only one thing everyone agrees on: It's really hard to objectively measure the temperature in a given place. If you take a temperature two feet off the pavement on a summer day, it's going to be much hotter than a temperature reading taken 100 feet above the pavement. Which is accurate? Unfortunately from a scientific standpoint, urban weather stations tend to be in/on/near buildings, while rural weather stations tend to be in/on/near dirt, so it's hard to make an accurate comparison. For details, scroll down to "Disadvantages of Surface and Air Temperature Measurements" at this site.

Because of all that disparity, there's some skepticism about whether the Urban Heat Island effect even exists, nevermind its effect on global warming. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states, "Extensive tests have shown that the urban heat island effects are no more than about 0.05°C up to 1990 in the global temperature records used in this chapter to depict climate change."

So it looks like the conventional wisdom about the effect of Urban Heat Islands is wrong on the global level, and a little shaky even on the local level. In fact, the very EPA website that Tom refers to discourages any direct connection between urban heat islands and global warming, and says that if anything, it's the byproducts of the heat island effect that could contribute to global warming ...

Heat islands describe local-scale temperature differences, generally between urban and rural areas. In contrast, global warming refers to a gradual rise of the earth's surface temperature.

While they are distinct phenomena, summertime heat islands may contribute to global warming by increasing demand for air conditioning, which results in additional power plant emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Strategies to reduce heat islands, therefore, can also reduce the emissions that contribute to global warming.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Temperatures Rising, Climate Knowledge Dropping

And the records just keep falling -- 2006 was the warmest year ever recorded in the United States.

That news comes as the Bush administration's scientifically dubious missions to the Moon and Mars force NASA to slash its earth sciences budget, as another agency struggles in its climate analysis. According to the Washington Post, "As a result, the [National Academy of Sciences] panel said, the United States will not have the scientific information it needs in the years ahead to analyze severe storms and changes in Earth's climate unless programs are restored and funding made available."

But there's good news from California, where Gov. Schwarzenegger continues to show some of the strongest (no pun intended) leadership in the country on climate change issues, telling gas producers to cut their product's carbon emissions by 10 percent. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers defended its inaction by saying, "Currently there are more than nine million alternative-fuel automobiles on the road." Yes, since roughly three perfect of the cars on America's roads are flexfuel cars that are capable of using alternative fuels (but usually don't), that absolves the car & fuel industries of any additional need for change. Right.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Rich Little: Too Hot for DC

Thanks to everyone who came out for CRM's Beers with the Board Chair last night! Always fun to have an excuse to hang out at Jay's. On to the news ...

* Progress on transportation as Virginia Republicans have finally agreed to compromise on funding. Let's hope Metro gets its fair share.

* Speaking of Metro, the Express takes a look into the crystal ball and predicts the Orange and Blue lines will have to stop sharing the Rosslyn tunnel down the road, using last weekend's construction map as a jumping-off point for what the new map could look like. It would be great to ease congestion in the Rosslyn tunnel, especially since it seems silly that 8-car trains on the Orange Line have to wait for 4-car Blue Line trains to pass by, a congestion problem that will only get worse as the Orange Line expands west. And I suppose the new Silver Line (or whatever it gets called) to Tysons/Dulles could run out to Largo to take over the Blue Line's eastern stops. What happens to the Arlington National Cemetary stop? I guess the tourists could just take the bus there.

* How fragile have Washington's egos become that Rich Little has to be warned to tone down his act for President Bush & the White House Correspondents Association? I guess they're still smarting from Stephen Colbert's routine last year.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Google Was Right

I'll be at Jay's tonight from 7-8pm for CRM's Beers with the Board Chair. Hope to see you there!

Apparently Google Thinks I Love Something More Than the Environment

The Green Miles ... your #1 search return for "virginia bars last call."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Post Profiles Arlington's Leading Green

In the wake of his Fresh AIRE proposal, the Washington Post profiles County Board Chair Paul Ferguson today. Arguably the best part of the article -- the attached photo, which in my limited experience with Paul's kids perfectly captures their energy and its contrast to their dad's laid-back style. As Paul was delivering his New Year's Day address, his boys were hovering over the compact fluorescent display in the lobby, their mere interest menacing its survival. Ah, to be young and maniacal.

I got to talk to Paul during last year's ACE Hike & Happy Hour, and I was struck by many of the same things the Post reporter was -- very unassuming guy, easy to talk to, never preachy.

The profile raises an interesting question for all environmentalists. What's the best way to advance green causes? Are you better off gently pushing on the macro level for slow, sustainable change as Paul has? Or is it more effective to attack wasteful habits on the micro level, even calling out friends & family who drive gas guzzlers or don't recycle?

I don't think the two are mutually exclusive, and fortunately it doesn't seem like Arlington County does either. It's working on both broad initiatives like Fresh AIRE, and trying to push individual apartment/condo complexes and businesses to recycle at the same high rate single-family homes currently recycle.

On a personal level, I'm both a member of ACE working to back Fresh AIRE, and willing to urge my friends & family to be more environmentally conscious. Just yesterday, a college friend told me she drove an SUV, but by the tone she used, you'd think she was telling me she'd accidentally flushed my winning lottery ticket. I don't wave my environmentalism in people's faces, but I guess if you know The Green Miles, you feel the guilt!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Gore's 'Truth' restricted at schools

I can't decide what my favorite part of this news item is ...

* "Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore." So if Al Gore brings condoms to school, they'll REALLY be pissed?

* Citing John Stossel as a scientific expert to counter the opinion of the entire National Academy of Sciences.

* "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."

* "None has seen the movie."

Just go read it and you'll know why I don't know whether to laugh or head to Federal Way, WA with a thermometer and a baseball bat.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

One-Click Tree Planting

It takes a lot to get me to post twice in one day (OK, sometimes it takes a lot to get me to post twice in one week), but I just got an email from Citibank and wanted to pass it along.

They've been trying to get me to convert from paper statements to electronic statements for a while, but haven't offered much incentive, so I haven't bothered. But they've launched a new program -- for every person who converts to electronic statements, they'll plant one tree. (If you care about the details, they'll actually make a donation to the National Arbor Day Foundation towards the planting of one tree.)

If you're interested, there are also organizations like Green Dimes that say they'll cut down on your junkmail, helping avert wasted paper.

Next Interior Secretary Nominee: Oil Can Harry

Gale Norton worked for the mining industry before becoming Secretary of the Interior in 2001. So now that she's left the Bush administration, where is she going? Right back to industry, this time taking a job with Shell Oil. Talk about a revolving door.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has issued a detailed report on what the environmental community has been whispering about for years -- that ExxonMobil pays scientists to back their corporate position.

Some positive environmental news from a power company ...

Energy firm buys into wind turbine project
By The Associated Press
Tuesday December 19, 2006

A Virginia energy giant has bought a 50 percent stake in a Grant County wind turbine project that is the subject of a case before the state Supreme Court.

Dominion, one of the nation's largest energy producers, announced Monday it plans to develop the first phase of a 200-turbine wind farm near Mount Storm, a project that some residents are trying to block.

In a news release, Dominion said the $300 million project gives the Virginia company an opportunity to increase its renewable energy portfolio.
State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple is sponsoring a bill this year to require a portion of electric power in Virginia come from renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro-power and bio mass products. It would be a major step forward, considering green energy is difficult (if not impossible) for Virginia customers to buy right now. Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment has worked on this issue and found Dominion eager to study the issue but reluctant to change.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Will Virginia Bars Go Smoke-Free Voluntarily?

You hear the argument from opponents of smoking bans all the time: It should be up to the bars to decide whether they're smoke-free or not. The market will accomodate the needs of customers.

And it turns out the biggest voice against that argument comes from ... the bars themselves.

Even the DC smoking ban that took effect last week hasn't prompted even one bar to change its policy. Showing about as much spine as Smithers shows Mr. Burns, Virginia bars have proudly stood up to say, "We'll keep refusing to change and thumbing our noses at the needs of non-smokers. If you want us to change, you'll have to pass a law forcing us to."

While dozens of Arlington restaurants have gone smoke-free, only one nightspot has gone even partially smoke-free, and that's Clarendon Ballroom.

I emailed eight Arlington bars last week to see if they'd be willing to go smoke-free. Bars are notoriously bad at responding to email, but I did get responses from Eleventh and Whitlow's. The reply from Eleventh was especially encouraging. Both responses are below:

Eleventh: "The basement is smoke free and chances are the main floor will go that route soon."

Whitlows: "Thank you for your kind words about Whitlow’s. Our smoking / non-smoking policy is ever evolving. While we don’t have any immediate plans on changing the policy, we continually review this issue. In light of this trend Whitlow’s will continue to meet the demands of our patrons. Thank you, Jonathan Williams, General Manager."

Friday, January 5, 2007

Raw Fisher's Half-Baked Attack

You know the world's gone topsy-turvy when The Green Miles is coming to the defense of Wal-Mart. Maybe I'm still in the Christmas spirit because I'm wearing the nice green shirt The Green Mom got me for Christmas?

Marc Fisher is one of my favorite columnists (next to fellow Fall River, MA native and fellow bleeding heart EJ Dionne), but his blog post today couldn't be more off-base:

Wal-Mart, the company that lefties, urbanites and greens love to hate, is repositioning itself as a friend of the environment: The retail behemoth has announced its intention to sell 100 million of those compact fluorescent light bulbs that cost an arm and a leg to buy, but save lots of energy (and therefore cut your electric bill.)

This will not work, for one simple reason: The bulbs provide only the illusion of light. We shelled out the big bucks--the things cost upwards of ten times the price of cheap but energy-hogging incandescent bulbs--for a bunch of different so-called swirl bulbs and actually lived with the things for a couple of months before, finally, we all realized that we were straining to read, straining to do anything that required what a good old 60-watt Sylvania provides with total reliability.

propagandists behind the compact fluorescents claim that the new swirl bulbs are every bit as bright, warm and user-friendly as the cheap bulbs that have served Americans for the better part of a century. These folks are--how to put this--wrong.
I don't "love to hate" Wal-Mart. (For the record, I love to hate Paris Hilton.) I support their compact fluorescent effort, and I wish Wal-Mart would take more simple, low-cost steps to minimize its environmental impact. In an age when even the Pentagon is going green, Wal-Mart remains years behind.

I also love to hate critics who make six figures complaining about paying $3 for light bulbs.

And how can a light bulb not be user-friendly? How many Post columnists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Fisher is already getting
ripped in his comments section. Please join in!

UPDATE: Of the 37 comments filed right now, I only count three that support Fisher's position on this. Go, greens, go!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Recapping Reaction to Fresh AIRE

Here's a quick recap of the reaction Paul Ferguson's Fresh AIRE plan has received in DC-area media ...

* The most impressive coverage came from the Sun Gazette, which had two articles up within minutes of the meeting's close.

* Apparently trying to prove true the criticism that the Washington Post's Virginia coverage is shoddy, the Post's recap of Ferguson's proposal quotes only one person outside the County Board ... Takoma Park, MD resident Mike Tidwell, who wasn't even at the New Year's Day meeting. Mike's a great guy and as head of CCAN he's one of our region's leading environmental voices ... but there were dozens of people who actually live in Arlington who were actually at the meeting the Post reporter could've talked to.

So they'd have to correct the mistake in the follow-up article, right? Nope. Wednesday's article on the cost of the program quotes ... another Takoma Park resident! Two articles on an Arlington environmental initiative, zero quotes from Arlington residents not on the County Board.

Today the Post editorializes in favor of Ferguson's proposals, saying, "We hope that more cities, counties and states take note while the federal government fails to lead."

* The DC Examiner mentioned the plan within an article on the County Board's first meeting.

* The Washington Times, not surprisingly, ignored the County Board's New Year's Day meeting altogether. And you wonder why they're giving them out free at Metro stops.

* The Arlington Connection previews Fresh AIRE within a broader profile of Ferguson and look ahead at his year as chair.

* Lowell at Raising Kaine praises Arlington for taking the environmental lead among Virginia communities, and several commenters question why Fairfax County is so far behind.

* Jim at Bacon's Rebellion offers cautious praise for Fresh AIRE, correctly pointing out the proposal is still short on specifics when it comes to financing.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Protesting with My Wallet

With DC's smoking ban taking effect this week, I thought it would be a good time to email some of my favorite Arlington bars to let them know that unless they voluntarily ban smoking, they'll be losing some of my business to DC. Here's the list of contacts if you're interested in doing the same:

Carpool --
Bailey's (Ballston) --
Whitlow's --
Dr. Dremo's --
O'Sullivan's --
Continental --
Eleventh --
Mister Days --
Clarendon Grill & Front Page -- no email

If I get any responses, I'll post them here. You can also comment on the ban (and Virginia's lack of a ban) at Backfence and DCist.

Here's a list of restaurants in Arlington that have already voluntarily gone smoke-free! Thanks to the Arlington Civic Federation for maintaining it.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Arlington Co. Board Begins 2007 with a Breath of Fresh AIRE

Just got back from the Arlington County Board's traditional New Year's Day session. It was loaded with red meat for the tree-hugging crowd (and yes, I'm aware of the irony of connecting those two political phrases).

Just how green was it? Three different board members referenced An Inconvenient Truth (official site, my review, buy the DVD).

My biggest bone of contention with the County Board -- and I don't have many -- has been that in a green-and-getting-greener community like Arlington, there's no reason it shouldn't be pushing the envelope of environmentally-friendly policy. Yet DC gets the headlines for requiring green buildings and innovating on things like rubber sidewalks.

But today's meeting marked the start of a new era for Arlington's environmental policies, with new Board Chair Paul Ferguson kicking off his Fresh AIRE (Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions) program. Arlington County has already reduced its emissions 2% since 2000, and Fresh AIRE aims to cut emissions another 10% by 2012 from that 2000 baseline.

Ferguson pointed out several ways Arlington residents could quickly, easily, and affordably contribute to the effort, though he was careful to avoid nannyism, citing Jimmy Carter's sweater speech (not to be confused with Weezer's Sweater Song). The county will be providing some incentives for people to get started:

* Giving out 2,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs at county events over the next year
* Exploring personal property tax (car tax) discounts for drivers of hybrid vehicles
* The county and Dominion Virginia Power will pay for dozens of homes to get energy audits

You can watch video from the board meeting on the County website, or read the text of Ferguson's address.

The elephant in the room, as always, is funding. The dichotomy is visible in the Sun Gazette's coverage of the meeting -- separate articles detailing Ferguson's initiative and the possibility of a tight budget ahead, without mentioning how either might be affected by the other. Obviously I'm not the one writing the budget, but I'd certainly be willing to pay more (in my case, through higher property taxes via higher rent) to make sure the environmental initiatives have the money they need.

Please email board members to let them know you support all the new environmental initiatives and want to make sure they're fully funded!