Friday, December 25, 2009

Ask Senators Warner & Webb to Keep Christmas Cold

Merry Christmas! The Green Miles is in Holyoke, MA this morning, drinking organic coffee (Newman's Own Nell's Blend!) with my mom & cousins. And of course, celebrating the passage of the health insurance reform bill in the Senate. We all have friends & family members who'll be helped -- either through help paying for insurance or through new protections on pre-existing conditions.

With the health insurance reform debate in Congress now in its final stages, I had a party in Arlington this week to look ahead to the Senate's clean energy & climate debate. Just as with the health debate, industries making huge profits will be pressuring Virginia Senators Mark Warner & Jim Webb to kill reform & preserve the status quo. We talked about ways to let Warner & Webb know that Virginians are behind clean energy solutions.

We started by recording some YouTube clips asking for action, which my friend Chris posted to Repower America's Wall. I decided to add a little season to my greetings:

If you're on Twitter, you can ask Mark Warner to support clean energy & climate legislation by signing our petition to Keep Christmas Cold.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Recognizing Mortal Danger: Do Humans Suck At It?

I'm watching a special on the fifth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake & tsunami on TLC right now. The special is a mix of home video of the tsunami's impact and interviews with its survivors.

What's most amazing is how people stand on the beach watching the monster wave right offshore ... and do nothing.

In cases when an enormous, killer wave is bearing down on the beach, just a few hundred yards away ... people just stand there and remark about how strange the wave looks.

In cases when there wasn't a big wave but the water simply came up quickly like an overflowing bathtub, again, people just stand there as the water rises around their ankles.

The first couple of times it happens, you think, "What idiots! Not recognizing the disaster that's about to hit them!"

But then they show Banda Aceh. And Phuket. Everywhere, the same response. It's no wonder the death toll was so high -- an impossible-to-comprehend 230,000 people. Most people didn't react until it was too late.

Humans like to use the fable about the boiling frog to illustrate failing to recognize danger. You know how it goes -- a frog placed in a pot of water brought to a boil through gradual temperature increase won't try to escape (not actually true). OK, so the story would be more grotesque with a boiling human. But are we any better at recognizing a slowly rising mortal danger?

In other news, delegates in Copenhagen put off dealing with global warming and U.S. Senators haven't gotten around to working on clean energy & climate legislation.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

ACE Endorses Geothermal at New Wakefield

Big news in the debate about geothermal power at the new Wakefield High School. The Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment board has endorsed the plan:
Dear Ms. Baird:

On behalf of the board of directors of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE), we’re pleased to offer support for the School Board’s plan to adopt geothermal energy, solar hot water, and photovoltaic generation for energy at Wakefield High School. Your commitment to adopting a framework to evaluate school construction projects in both financial costs as well as environmental and educational value is commendable.

We specifically support your inclusion of these alternative energy features at Wakefield to:

* Reduce carbon emissions and pollution.
* Provide a world-class learning opportunity for students.
* Reduce dependence on fluctuating global energy markets.

With Arlington’s history as a community committed to sustainability, the integration of alternative energy features is the right decision for our students. Thank you for your continued leadership in providing outstanding learning environments and minimizing the footprint of our schools.

Elenor Hodges
Executive Director
The School Board will vote on the environmental options tonight (Thursday 12/17) at 7:30pm. If you can spare the time, please attend tonight's meeting (Education Center, 1426 North Quincy Street) and speak up in favor of the clean energy options. If you can't attend in person, please email the Arlington County School Board to tell them you're willing to put your money where your mouth is by investing our tax dollars in a sustainable future for our children.

UPDATE 3:13pm: The APS Advisory Council on Facilities & Capital Programs has also endorsed the clean energy options (including geothermal power):
Recommendation on Wakefield High School Environmental Alternatives
December 16, 2009

The Advisory Council on Facilities and Capital Programs (FAC) supports the inclusion of the recommended environmental alternatives for the design of Wakefield High School. These include a geothermal heating and cooling system, a solar hot water system, and photovoltaic generation of electricity sufficient to meet 2.5% of the building’s total energy needs. It is our belief that the inclusion of these items will allow Wakefield to control its long term energy costs as much as possible and to operate in an environmentally sensitive, efficient manner. Although there is an up front cost associated with all of these alternatives, when one evaluates the alternatives using a life cycle analysis, it is clear that over the life of the investment, the costs are minimal and the benefits are positive. Overall, the projected additional upfront costs represent less than 1% of the projected cost of the new building. Most importantly, APS needs to be sure that it implements LEED Enhanced Commissioning. The intent of this would be to begin the commissioning process early and allow time to execute verification and training activities after the systems’ performance verification is completed. Finally, these systems should be fully integrated into the overall design of the building.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Geothermal For New Wakefield On The Rocks?

Cost concerns have already killed two major sustainability features for Arlington's new Wakefield High School. Will the Arlington School Board now cut yet another one?

Arlington Public Schools staff, looking to balance cost and environmental impact, made a series of recommendations for the upcoming project:
Senior staff on Dec. 3 are expected to recommend to School Board members that the design for a new Wakefield include geothermal heating and cooling, solar hot water and photovoltaic generation of energy to meet about 2.5 percent of the building’s total energy needs.

But school officials rejected two other options, saying that a green roof and using photovoltaic generation to supply 7.5 percent of energy needs are not cost-effective in a tight budget environment.
You can watch the December 3rd discussion at the Arlington County School Board website. (A warning -- to watch it, you have to download the full 42-minute, 138MB video. Yes, really.)

School Board members focused in on the proposed geothermal heating & cooling system. While Sally Baird and Ed Fendley expressed strong support for all recommended environmental features, Abby Raphael and, to a lesser extent, Emma Violand-Sanchez, expressed concern about the cost. (Libby Garvey was absent from the meeting.)

"We have the potential here to make Wakefield High School the environmental learning center for this community, and I think for around the region, if we invest in these systems and take the opportunity to fully integrate them into the curriculum," said Fendley.

"To not do it now, we pass up the opportunity for 50 years," said Baird.

The geothermal system would cut the new Wakefield's carbon emissions by an estimated 100 tons a year. However, it requires an up-front investment that isn't projected to fully repay its cost. But as we've learned through recent spikes in gasoline & coal prices, projections can't tell you the whole story when you're dependent on fluctuating global energy markets.

Additionally, the projections don't take into account the likely effects of a new, national global warming policy on coal-dependent Virginia's electricity rates. And considering the devastation of mountaintop removal coal mining, along with coal-fired power's resulting air & water pollution, it's hard to put a simple dollar value on getting off the grid.

I asked several Arlington environmental leaders what they thought about the Wakefield debate. Arlington County Board Vice Chairman Jay Fisette told me:
Arlington needs to be smart about our energy future. The cost and availability of fossil fuels will become increasingly unpredictable. Accepting the Superintendent's recommendation for a sustainable geothermal system in the design for Wakefield High School would help the environment, provide great learning value to the students, and will remove the long-term cost risk for the schools.
While Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment has not taken a position on each of the individual proposed elements, ACE Executive Director Elenor Hodges said:
If we consider education of our children a long-term investment, we should also consider the construction of our buildings’ energy system a long-term investment. We should take a holistic approach where students are not only being taught about critical environmental issues and stewardship on paper, but they are learning in buildings that have incorporated best practices for stewardship of our resources.
Beyond energy & environmental concerns, it seems odd that board members would make decisions based on FY2010's economic conditions on spending that won't kick in until somewhere around FY2014. If our economy (and with it, tax revenue) hasn't long since come roaring back four years from now ... well, we're screwed in a lot more ways than this one.

The School Board will vote on the environmental options tomorrow (Thursday 12/17) at 7:30pm. If you can spare the time, please sign up to speak at the meeting (Education Center, 1426 North Quincy Street) in favor of the geothermal system. If you can't attend in person, please email the Arlington County School Board to tell them you're willing to put your money where your mouth is by investing our tax dollars in a sustainable future for our children.

UPDATE 12/17: ACE has endorsed the geothermal plan, along with solar hot water & solar power.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Mist: DC Edition

All that was missing were giant mosquitoes.

Weird weather in DC this morning. At F & 9th NW it was totally clear with blue skies overhead ... but looking down 9th, there was a solid wall of fog over the National Mall. Quite an eerie effect, like the world ended just past Bruegger's Bagels:

The Mist: DC

Friday, December 11, 2009

Copenhagen Coverage: A Brief Note on Bullshit

You may have heard several stories this week that indicate climate talks in Copenhagen are going off the rails.

When you see these stories, ask yourself several questions:
* Did the story involve a suspiciously leaked document?
* Was the story reported by a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper?
* Was a crime committed in the process of manufacturing the story?
* How big a role did the right wing noise machine play in getting the story out?
* Is one side's case being made mainly on someone's Facebook wall?
If so, your bullshit detector should be lighting up brighter than Clark Griswold's house.

Then take a deep breath and go to
Grist to get the best Copenhagen coverage around.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Flying Squirrels Finally Get Their Due

Arlington has a thriving population of flying squirrels, with an extremely popular meet the squirrels program at Long Branch Nature Center.

Now Richmond's new minor league baseball team is paying tribute to the local rodents, with the Flying Squirrels slated to begin play next season. Thanks to, here's the AA team's new logo:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sarah Palin Unclear on What Your Word "Denier" Means

Sarah Palin responds to Al Gore on her Facebook page:
However, he’s wrong in calling me a “denier.” As I noted in my op-ed above and in my original Facebook post on Climategate, I have never denied the existence of climate change. I just don’t think we can primarily blame man’s activities for the earth’s cyclical weather changes.
Why would anyone think Sarah Palin denies the existence of climate change? Just because she put "climate change impacts" in scare quotes in her op-ed in today's Washington Post?

OK, so let's give Sarah that. It doesn't make her sound less dumb -- it makes her sound more ignorant that she apparently doesn't even know what a global warming denier is. I mean, does Sarah think there's anyone out there who's denying that Alaskan winter temperatures have shot up six degrees in my lifetime alone? No one's gonna drip melting glaciers on your leg and tell you it's raining. We're 25 years past that.

Being a denier is about blaming global warming on anything but us. Sunspots! Volcanoes! An interplanetary conspiracy! Whatever it takes to distract us for as long as possible from our addiction to the dirty fuels that deliver record profits to Big Oil & Big Coal.

The science is settled & scary -- manmade emissions are increasing temperatures, raising sea levels, and driving deeper droughts & stronger storms. We need climate action now -- both a global treaty in Copenhagen and a deal in the Senate -- to transition us away from expensive use of polluting fuels to efficient use of clean energy. Let's hope Sen. Mark Warner & Sen. Jim Webb take their cues from President Obama, not from science deniers like Sarah Palin.

Tonight: Sustainability Toolkit for Condos & Apts

Check out this Fresh AIRE event in Arlington tonight:
Please join us for the unveiling of Fresh AIRE’s sustainability toolkit for condos and apartments. It will include a demo of the new utility tracking software and comprehensive signage package.

: Multifamily Toolkit Unveiling

: Arlington’s Central Library (1015 North Quincy Street, near Ballston Metro)

: Wednesday December 7, 7:00-8:30pm

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Conundrum: Real Tree vs. Fake Tree?

Here's a re-post of a clip from last year:

Monday, December 7, 2009

CVS Launches New Reusable Bag Incentive

As DC prepares to implement its 5 cent disposable bag fee, CVS is offering an incentive that stretches across the Potomac:
CVS is also distributing “Green Bag Tag” cards that offer discounts to reusable bag customers. Gordon Howard, CVS area vice president, said in the city’s release that the company has “a long history of rewarding our customers with incentives that are both convenient and beneficial to their well-being. The District of Columbia’s initiative to clean up the Anacostia ties in with our ongoing green efforts, such as the Green Bag Tag program.”
Seems like a vastly better incentive than the usual 5 cents off. My friend Virginia Robinson reports, "My local CVS (Clarendon) tells me that there has been so much demand for them that they can't keep them in stock."

Photo via

Arlington Hosts White House Clean Energy Economy Forum

White House Clean Energy Economy ForumThe Green Miles was at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington this morning for the White House Clean Energy Economy Forum. I was part of an Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment contingent invited to attend. W-L served an ideal host –- a gold-level LEED-certified green school in one of the most climate-conscious counties in the country.

The forum featured Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA), former Sen. John Warner (R-VA), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Deputy Agriculture Sec. Kathleen Merrigan, and Assistant Energy Sec. Cathy Zoi.

I live-blogged the forum over at DailyKos. Check it out!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hazmat Release in Four Mile Run

Just got this from Arlington Alert:
Avoid all contact with Four Mile Run stream downstream of South Walter Reed Drive until further notice as precautionary measure following major automobile fire resulting in the release of auto fluids and fire fighting materials.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ikea: Chopping Down Forests = Sustainability!

The Green Miles was recently in the market for a new desk and coffee table, so I went searching for sustainable options. I ended up going with Legare Furniture, which is Forest Stewardship Council-certified and uses what it calls eco-friendly finishes.

I haven't found any independent sources that verify Legare's eco-friendliness. But in my brief furniture search, it was rare to find a company that even bothered to claim sustainability.

And then there were claims of sustainability that were laughable. Check out Ikea's note in a coffee table's description:

Chop down an old-growth forest to make cheap furniture? No sweat, it'll grow back ... eventually. Let's just hope "eventually" comes before the planet gets too warm for them to grow back.

Ikea has made some progress on sustainability, reducing energy use, setting goals to make more of its products from recycled material & sustainably-managed forests, and eliminating plastic bags. But it has a long way to go -- just look at the National Wildlife Federation's 2009 Garden Furniture Scorecard (PDF). Ikea received a measly one star.

Could I have saved a few dollars by shopping at Ikea? Sure. But I'd much rather spend a bit more for products that reflect my lifestyle -- and I'm not talking about square chairs.

Smart shopper footnote: You can get Legare products much cheaper (and in many cases with free shipping) through, or than you can through the Legare site.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tuesday: Celebrating a Smoke-Free Virginia

With Virginia's bar & restaurant smoking ban taking effect on December 1st, I thought I'd organize a happy hour to welcome Virginia's newly clean indoor air. You're invited to join us Tuesday from 6-8pm:
To celebrate, we're hosting a happy hour at one of Arlington's smoke-free pioneers -- Liberty Tavern in Clarendon. While many restaurants in Arlington have long been smoke-free, Liberty was among the pioneering bars who took a chance on clean air. Judging by how packed they are on weeknights and by how absolutely mobbed they are on weekends, it paid off.

Even if you can't make this event, be sure to stop by a local bar that went smoke-free long before it was the law (Eleventh in Clarendon, Union Jack's in Ballston, Cap City in Shirlington, etc.) and say thanks for their leadership. Hope to see you at Liberty on December 1st!
Read more details on Virginia's smoking ban from the Department of Health.

Photo via Flickr's Maryland Route 5

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This Thanksgiving, Do You Really Need That 4th Slice of Cheesecake?

The Green Miles is driving up to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving with my family. Don't worry, I'm carpooling in my re-used '99 Saturn (35mpg highway).

I'm sure I don't need to tell you to buy local and organic when you can. But let me give you one question to chew on: Do you really need to eat that much on Thursday and buy that much on Friday? Is the crazy level of consumption making you happy or do you just feel obligated?

At my family's Thanksgiving dinner, there will be approximately 20 cakes, pies and plates of cookies for the 20 people. Why? Because everyone brings a dessert. Why? Because that's just what everyone's done forever and now if you don't bring a dessert you get some sort of Catholic guilt. Then at the end of the night, everyone tries to get out of taking home 12,000 calories worth of cheesecake they don't really want but will feel obligated to try to eat before it all goes bad.

In this case (as in so many cases), going green isn't about depriving yourself -- it's about making everyone happier. This year, I'll be stopping by Cardoza's in Fairhaven to grab some organic wine and local beer. Mom will be happy we're making contributions to the feast, the guests will be happy to have some good drink options, and I'll be happy that the leftovers can be enjoyed at our hosts' leisure without going bad.

Then on Friday, everyone gets up at the crack of dawn to go shopping. While a few people like my cousin Bernadette have their purchases mapped out and expertly take full advantage of the bargains, many just wander out because buying lots of stuff on the day after Thanksgiving is The American Way. They return with shopping bags and unpack them in a daze, like they're honestly not sure what's in there.

Look, if gorging on 8,000 calories and blowing money on random junk you may or may not use really makes you happy, go for it. Spend your Saturday gorging on leftovers and going back for round 2 of shopping. But I can't help but think most people go overboard just because they think they're supposed to.

My little bit of challenging the conventional wisdom: Sipping instead of scarfing. What's yours?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Senate Clean Energy & Climate Bill: "Why It Matters"

On Tuesday, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee begins its mark-up of the Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act. Here's a video from Committee Chair Barbara Boxer on why it's so critical we act now:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Toyota Washing Off Its Green?

You hear about plenty of greenwashing -- companies trying to look green with token environmental efforts. But rarely do you see a company actively trying to look less green.

That's apparently what Toyota has decided to do, aligning itself with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's climate denial and clean energy obstruction:

Officials from the US Chamber of Commerce told Politico today that in private conversations the car company had been supportive of its campaign against a proposed law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The comments look set to further anger hundreds of disgruntled Prius owners who have joined an online campaign demanding Toyota quit the chamber in protest at its opposition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The chamber has called the bill a "jobs killer", and its executives have questioned the science behind global warming.

Toyota had already lost some of its green cred when Ford put out a superior hybrid, the Fusion. Now the company risks destroying its environmental reputation entirely by casting its lot with the U.S. Chamber. Will the Prius go from a symbol of planetary protection to a symbol of ignorance and inaction?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tonight: ACE Sustainability Social in Ballston

Here are some details on an Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment event coming up tonight in Ballston:
Sustainability Social
Monday, October 26, 7:30 - 9:00 p.m.
Sangam Restaurant, 1211 N. Glebe Rd.

Learn more about living green, ACE volunteer opportunities, mingling, and delicious Indian food. ACE board member Takis Karantonis will be delivering a "Plastics Recycling 123" presentation, designed to answer all your questions about what those plastic recycling numbers mean. We'll have information about upcoming volunteer opportunities and ongoing volunteer positions. And everyone can meet fellow volunteers committed to protecting our local environment.

To RSVP, please email Lily or call 703-228-6406.
There's limited parking at Sangam (in the Comfort Inn lot) so Metro's the best bet to get there. Sangam (corner of Glebe & Washington) is only a 10 minute walk from Ballston Metro. You can find a full list of upcoming ACE events here!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

WaPo: Arlington's Delegates Should Fight for Loudoun!

When is an endorsement not an endorsement? When it calls the candidate great because he'd do the opposite of what his voters want.

That's the clear implication of the Post's endorsement of Aaron Ringel over Arlington incumbent Bob Brink:
Mr. Brink is a competent legislator but he has opposed widening Interstate 66. That wins points with some homeowners who'd be directly affected but does little for the tens of thousands of commuters who suffer that road daily. Mr. Ringel takes a broader regional view of that issue.
That Bob Brink! Always pandering to his constituents! Somehow I don't think Ringel will be changing his campaign slogan to: "Aaron Ringel: He Won't Look Out for Arlington Homeowners!"

Look, if delegates from the distant suburbs want to push to widen I-66, that's fine. It's their residents that chose a trade-off -- accepting a longer commutes in exchange for a less-expensive homes. And it's not their community that has to worry about the added pollution, noise and threats to local biking and walking trails, right? That's Arlington's concern. And that's why Arlington delegates like Bob Brink have taken the right stand against the expensive, inefficient widening of I-66.

But to say Arlington's delegate should give Arlington's concerns lower priority than those of other districts? That's just plain crazy.

As Lowell detailed at Blue Virginia, this is clearly the Post trying to look bipartisan by carefully endorsing a few Republicans with no chance of winning. I mean, we're really supposed to believe best candidate for Arlington is one who has nothing to say on his issues page about education, energy or the environment?

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tonight: "Climate Cover-Up" Author in DC

One more event, this one coming up tonight in DC:
Sierra Club D.C. Chapter General Membership Meeting - Cool Speaker!
Thursday, October 22, 8:30-10pm
Busboys & Poets
2021 14th St NW (14th & V)

Come hear what's going on in our Sierra Club Chapter, then listen to Canadian author James Hoggan discuss his provocative new book, CLIMATE COVER-UP: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming.

Climate activist and educator Hoggan is co-founder of, as well as an attorney, ski instructor, and cyclist.

Come eat, drink, learn, and discuss a cool topic at a cool venue!

Saturday: Virginia Power Shift 2009

Just a quick heads up that the Virginia Power Shift 2009 conference on clean energy & climate action will take place on Saturday at George Mason:
Young people from around Virginia will gather for the first ever Regional Power Shift October 23rd through 25th at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Join us as we converge for a weekend of training, networking, and action to help shift the political power in the Virginia and send a strong message to the nation and the world as we head into Copenhagen.
The Green Miles will be joining the Virginia Conservation Network's Nathan Lott on a panel on Virginia environmental politics. You can register for the conference here.

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shocking: Big Oil Front Groups Hate Clean Energy

If you're getting tired of reading headlines like that, imagine how tired The Green Miles is of typing them.

The latest effort from Big Oil front groups to derail clean energy & climate action? This time, it's Americans for Tax Reform and the Heritage Foundation leading the attack. Just one look at these front groups' funding and it's no surprise they're trying to keep America addicted to oil:
  • ATR is supported by two foundations funded by "reclusive billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, whose wealth was inherited from the Mellon industrial, oil, uranium and banking fortune."In addition, it's received funding from Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and the Tobacco Institute,
  • Heritage has received at least $530,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. It's also received funding from ChevronTexaco and the foundations of oil tycoons the Kochs. On Heritage's board? Richard Mellon Scaife.
If these are the people you think should be dictating our energy policies, by all means check out ATR's bizarre website, which features President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apparently as some sort of witches.

Fortunately, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) was on the floor of the House yesterday blasting Republicans for repeating Big Oil's lies about clean energy & climate action:

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Monday, October 19, 2009

Something I Hadn't Seen in a While

A sunset!

After four straight days of clouds and rain, the sun finally broke out last night ... just in time to set:

Sunset over I-66

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Heritage Hearts Dissent (Except at Its Own Events)

For some strange reason, someone decided to invite The Green Miles to tonight's "premiere" of Not Evil Just Wrong, a new global warming denial movie. I say "premiere" because the film has already been screened regularly this year at conservative political conferences.

So why stage a phony "premiere"? The Washington Independent reports, "Some conservative films like last year's An American Carol have been given mass releases that backfired when audiences failed to show up." Ah. Makes sense now.

Anyway, I come here not to slam the documentary, which richly deserves the complete indifference it's received from the non-teabagging world. I come to slam the hosts: The Heritage Foundation.

It's certainly not surprising that Heritage would host these filmmakers. After all, their last movie was a mining "documentary" funded by the mining industry. Now they're screening their pro-fossil fuels "documentary" at Heritage, which has received at least $530,000 from ExxonMobil in just the last decade.

But a line in the invitation caught my eye: "Terms and Conditions of Attendance are posted online at".

Here's an excerpt from that page:
This event is open to the public as part of The Heritage Foundation’s commitment to promote reasoned discussion and understanding of important public policy issues. In support of these goals, The Heritage Foundation expects that all attendees will conduct themselves with courtesy and respect for every speaker and those in the audience, regardless of agreement or disagreement with any speaker or member of the audience. Accordingly, The Heritage Foundation reserves the right to deny admission to, and to remove, anyone who, while our guest, does not conduct themselves with courtesy and respect for the speakers and the audience.
All that would be totally fine -- it fits most every public standard for decorum -- if not for one thing. The Heritage Foundation spent all summer defending that very behavior.

The Heritage Foundation blog defended teabaggers as "upset citizens" and decried any attempt to maintain decorum as an effort to "silence" protesters and "stage manage" events.

So if an elected official tries to maintain civility at a public event, it's cause for revolution. But if anyone tries to revolt at a Heritage Foundation event, they could be arrested.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Definitive Proof Big Oil Has No Sense of Humor

The Green Fiancee and I headed to the DC Improv recently to see the standup act of John Oliver, a correspondent for The Daily Show.

About halfway through his set, Oliver noticed a man in the front row of tables was texting. Oliver began giving him some good-natured ribbing. But rather than owning up to his faux pas and having a laugh about it, the man told Oliver to buzz off and continued texting.

If there's any way to earn yourself more insults from a comic, it's to act annoyed by his insults. Oliver had the audience in stitches as the man fumed.

Oliver moved on, but a few minutes later, Oliver stopped in the middle of a joke -- texting man was at it again. But this time, he wasn't having any of Oliver digs -- the man and the woman he was with got up and stormed out.

Texting man and his companion had been with another couple, and Oliver apologized to them if he'd caused any trouble. Oliver expressed amazement someone with absolutely no interest in his comedy would bother coming to the show. The couple said they'd bought the tickets and invited the other two.

"What does he do for a living?" Oliver asked.

"He's a lobbyist," the woman replied, "for the American Petroleum Institute."

It must've taken a solid two minutes for the audience's laughter to die down.

"Ninety-five percent of me enjoyed giving him a hard time, but five percent had felt a little guilty," Oliver said. "Not anymore."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Big Oil Front Group: Drilling Will CLEAN Beaches

The Green Miles isn't anti-coastal drilling as part of some treehugging doctrine. If allowing some drilling is the price of getting a clean energy & climate action bill passed, I probably wouldn't be screaming for a veto. I just think that until we've grabbed the lowest-hanging fruit of renewable energy and energy efficiency (and we've barely started picking), we shouldn't put our coastal economies at risk.

But this is what makes rational discussion of the issue so difficult: Big Oil's willingness to lie right in Virginians' faces about the realities of drilling. Here's what the Heartland Institute, which admitted to taking more than half a million dollars from ExxonMobil before it stopped revealing its funders, is telling Californians about coastal drilling:
Offshore oil drilling has a proven track record as a safe and effective means of acquiring energy. Oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico weathered hurricanes Katrina and Rita with little or no spillage, according to the National Ocean Industries Association.
The "National Ocean Industries Association" is yet another industry front group that joined ExxonMobil to fund one of the worst global warming denier groups ever. So one polluter front group is quoting a lie from another polluter front group that Katrina and Rita caused no spills.

What does the actual historical record tell us? Just check this actual headline from 2005: "Katrina oil spills may be among worst on record." Considering Virginia is right in the line of fire every hurricane season, this is a huge worry.

But that's far from the biggest doozy:
Drilling would help clean up the coastline. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 60 percent of the oil found in the North American marine environment comes from natural seepage through the ocean floor. Only 1 percent comes from offshore oil and gas development. Drilling and removal of oil allows for less natural seepage, hence cleaner beaches and a cleaner marine environment.
Here's the problem: natural seepage happens in tiny amounts over long periods of time, while man-made spills happen all at once and in large quantities.

Let's do a visual demonstration. Natural seepage:

Now the man-made version:

With absolutely outrageous lies like this, how can we believe anything Big Oil tells us about the dangers of offshore drilling or how much revenue we could expect from it? ExxonMobil will spill oil on your leg and tell you it's raining.

Unfortunately, neither Creigh Deeds nor Bob McDonnell sound willing to take the tough stand against Big Oil. Expect to hear more questionable forecasts of black rain for the next four years.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Virginia's Green Sales Tax Holiday

If you've been looking to buy a new energy-efficient or water-saving appliance, this is the weekend to do it. Virginia is holding an Energy Star and WaterSense sales tax holiday through Monday.

As I detailed a couple of years ago, while making energy-efficient and water-saving appliances more affordable up-front is a great idea, Virginia hasn't chosen the best way to go about it. Why not do it all year round? Also, the holiday continues to exclude furnaces, an appliance with some of the biggest potential for energy savings.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Businesses to US Chamber: It's Not You, It's ... No, Wait, It IS You

Learn more about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's opposition to clean energy & climate action at the NRDC Switchboard, then go sign the SEIU petition:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Put a (Greener) Ring On It

Brilliant Earth ring
The Green Girlfriend needs a new nickname.

We recently got engaged, and of course The Green Miles went with the greenest ring available. The most environmentally-friendly engagement ring option is to go with a family ring, or even a family diamond in a new setting. However, it's only a lucky few who have that option available.

So I went with Brilliant Earth, a sustainable jewelry company. Their diamonds are harvested using socially responsible practices. Brilliant Earth also donates 5 percent of its profits to help communities who have suffered from unethical practices in the jewelry industry. Even the ring boxes are made with sustainably-harvested wood.

Were the diamonds more expensive than other options? It depends on your perspective. Could I have gotten a cheaper stone online if I didn't care if it was a blood diamond from some war-torn African nation? Yeah, I probably could've saved five or ten percent. But The Green Girlfriend was at least ten percent happier with the ring knowing it was a diamond she could feel good about. And Brilliant Earth had just the setting she wanted.

Could I have paid a lot more for the same diamond? Absolutely. Try going to a jewelry store in DC, where you'll be paying at least an extra ten percent (if not more) just for the store's location.

And if you want a good laugh, try going to Tiffany and asking about their sustainability policy. The look on the clerk's face will be somewhere between "how do I explain this away" and "I'm about to lose any chance at this commission."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Little Ray of Sunshine at the Office

The Green Miles lives on the 9th floor, so I don't have a garden. I have a cat that likes to munch on leafy plants, so I don't have much of a chance to show off my green thumb with houseplants, either.

But my efforts at the office paid off last week -- two tiny blooms on my goldfish plant:

Goldfish Plant

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Green Miles vs. Virginia ABC

Every time I go to a Virginia ABC store to buy liquor, they insist on giving me a plastic bag. It's against Virginia law, they tell me, to have a bottle of alcohol in public that's not covered.

This offends me not just as an environmentalist, but as a non-Puritan. So I end up doing an odd little dance with the cashier every time I go.

"My car is parked right there," I say, turning and pointing to my car visible through the glass door not 30 feet from the cash register. "I'll take my chances on not getting arrested on the five feet of sidewalk between the door and my car."

"But I have to put it in a bag," the clerk insists with a yes-it's-stupid-but-I'll-get-in-trouble-if-I-don't look.

So I get a look of flinty Chicago toughness in my eye and tell the cashier, "Then you tell them coppers there ain't a jail been built yet that can hold The Green Miles." And we both laugh as I pull the bottle out of the plastic bag and carry it out to my car.

Photo via Yelp's Avenger R.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ask The Green Miles: More Parking Fees in Arlington

A friend writes:
You're more politically plugged in than I am, do you support this? Arlington County Board is thinking about extending hours [with payment required] on parking meters and possibly garages. "The proposed Parking and Curb Space Management Element is scheduled to be reviewed by the Transportation Commission and the Planning Commission at their meetings on October 29, and November 2, 2009, respectively, prior to the County Board hearing on November 14, 2009."
Do I support charging a small amount for parking on nights and weekends? Sure. No reason a community should charge for something during the day, then give it away at night. I'd be more concerned with making sure that all meters take credit cards or allow you to pay by cell phone. I don't want to get a $30 ticket because I couldn't find any quarters at 3am.

My bigger question is this -- has anything that's less of a big deal generated more controversy than Arlington's various proposals to charge a buck or two for parking here and there? I mean, look at this breathless editorial from the Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey:
[F]orcing those in Clarendon or other commercial areas to pay for meters well into the evening, or on Sundays, is counterproductive and will place those areas at a severe competitive disadvantage. In the long run, it will reduce the county government’s revenue, not increase it.
There is only one problem with that argument: Logic. As I once asked at What's Up Arlington, would any husband really turn to his wife and say, "Honey, I was going to take you to Restaurant 3 for our anniversary tonight, but it's $2 for parking now, so we're having Hungry Man TV dinners instead. Hope you like salisbury steak"?

Say it costs $2 to park in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor for the evening. Does a free alternative really exist? Pay $2 in gas to drive to Alexandria? Pay $4 in gas to drive out to Fairfax? Drive into DC and pay $8 for parking or spend 30 minutes driving around hoping to find a free spot?

Let's face it -- this debate is less about economics than it is about psychology. People hate being asked to pay for something they used to get for free.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Major Shifts in Climate Politics, Science Fly Under Radar

Today's Washington Post takes a look at some polluter-funded front groups that have recently sprung up to fight clean energy & climate legislation. In a classic example of reporting to the controversy, the article tries to paint the debate as getting more and more heated ... but cites evidence that clean energy and climate action are actually getting more and more accepted.

Here's how one section starts:
The new [polluter front] groups join an increasingly fractious debate over climate legislation that has roiled corporate and environmental groups alike.
Yowza! Sounds like the gloves are off, right? Lay it on me! Tell me how this is just the latest battle in that classic war, uncaring businesses versus treehugging environmentalists!
Earlier this month, Duke Energy, Alcoa and Alstom all pulled out of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry group whose ads have asserted that the House climate bill would make energy unaffordable. "We thought [the bill] had evolved in ways to be affordable for our customers," said Duke spokesman Tom Williams.

This week, a group of large corporations -- including New Mexico utility PNM Resources, California utility PG&E, power generator Exelon and Nike -- denounced the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's opposition to climate legislation.
Huh. That's odd. So big businesses are actually joining forces with the environmentalists to stand up against denial and inaction?

Wow. That sounds like a pretty interesting story. But the Washington Post really likes having simple stereotypes -- makes articles so much easier to write! -- so they managed to shoehorn that square peg into the round hole anyway and claim it's all about biz vs. enviros. I'm sure Edward R. Murrow would be proud.

Also, buried on page A4 is something about how climate change is accelerating faster than anyone previously predicted and our continuing inaction is screwing our children, grandchildren, and anyone who manages to survive beyond that. But since it was further down in the paper than four stories about ACORN, two ladies underwear ads, and ran on the page just below "Marmaduke," I'm sure it wasn't important and no one should bother reading it.

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Friday, September 25, 2009

What's Going on with NYTimes' Enviro Reporter?

What's with the New York Times' environmental reporter approvingly posting links to a shadowy global warming denial group?

Andrew Revkin just tweeted a link to the Science and Public Policy Institute. The group has only existed for two years, refuses to disclose its funding sources, and has extensive ties to polluter-funded front groups like the Heartland Institute.

Revkin's suspect tweet comes just three days after what Joe Romm of Climate Progress called "arguably the worst article of [Revkin's] career" -- a one-sided parroting of the latest in global warming denial.

Reporters who are on Twitter will often say, "Oh, just because I tweet a link doesn't mean I agree with what it says." But pushing out a link from a group that actively lies to fight science in the name of protecting polluter profits with no mention of the group's agenda?

At best, I'd call that sloppy. At worst, I'd call it the second example of terrible environmental journalism this week from what's supposed to be the best newspaper in the country.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ian Malcolm Responds to Sen. Inhofe's Office

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, I've been out of town on business. The fun resumes tomorrow with a great story about John Oliver.

One quick note though. Not really a note. More a piece of advice.

It's to Matt Dempsey, an aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). And much as I disagree with Sen. Inhofe on the need to act on global warming and move to clean energy, this is more of advice from one writer to another.

Josh Nelson, Enviroknow friend of The Green Miles, asked Matt about Sen. Inhofe's repeated lies about the costs and benefits of transitioning to clean energy and cutting global warming pollution. Matt took over 1,700 words to answer.

If you take over 1,700 words to answer a relatively simple question, it seems like ... hmm, how to say this? Ian Malcolm, your assessment?

Right as always, Ian.

You see, Matt, on a blog, more isn't more. It can make you seem like you're trying way too hard to cover the smell of what you're selling. Especially after Politifact already called out Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) for shoveling the same lies.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Poll: Plurality of Perriello Constituents Want Climate Action Now

The Beltway conventional wisdom is wrong. I know, shocking, right?

From Greg Sargent at The Plumline:
I’ve obtained a new poll done for the Environmental Defense Fund which found that in three conserva-Dem districts, backing cap and trade vote may not be a huge risk, after all. [...]

“We went into three districts where conventional wisdom held that Demorats took a tough vote on cap and trade,” Allan Rivlin, a partner with Garin Hart Yang, told me. “The poll shows that it didn’t hurt these members in these districts. It actually helps them. Even in districts that are represented by moderate or conservative Democrats, supporting action on climate change is the popular position to take.”
Environmental Defense Fund specifically polled Rep. Tom Perriello’s 5th Congressional district. Even in that district, seen as center-right, cap and trade is supported by 42% of voters. Only 25% oppose it. You can see the full results at EnviroKnow.

For Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, the message is clear. The political risk isn't supporting clean energy & climate action -- it's in continuing our energy status quo.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Deeds Slams Obama's Clean Energy Plan

The lowlight of today's Virginia gubernatorial debate -- Creigh Deeds attacking President Obama's clean energy plan:

Clearly, Creigh Deeds is trying to pander to environmentalists by claiming he supports climate action as a concept, while slamming the only existing plan to address climate change. Shameful.

We Can't Afford Clean Energy, We Spent All Our Money on Coal!

Life in coal country is hard. Jobs aren't easy to come by. People have been told for generations now that the only way they'll get by, the only way their very way of life can survive, is to hitch their wagons to Big Coal.

Coal & PovertyBut coal's always been a losing bet. Maps of mountaintop removal overlap almost perfectly with poverty rates. In the face of that hard evidence, people in coal country who can start to sound like they're stuck in a dead-end relationship. No one else can ever love us but Big Coal! I know it's wrong, but it's all we have! And politicians of both parties have been convinced to look the other way by the coal money lining their pockets.

People trapped in dead-end relationships tend to rationalize it with statements that don't make any sense. Like this editorial from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph:
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the federal cap-and-trade legislation will eventually cost the average household an extra $175 per year. Sadly, folks in our region — who have been bombarded with one rate increase after another in recent years — simply can’t afford to pay another nickel, dime or penny for electricity.
How can we possibly afford to leave coal -- we're getting soaked by coal! It's like a friend saying, "I can't possibly afford a new car -- it takes every dollar I have to keep my clunker on the road!"

It's not clean energy that's a risky financial bet -- it's staying hooked on increasingly expensive coal-fired power. And here in Virginia, we know what a lousy partner coal can be. We felt the pinch of coal's rising rates three times in the last year:
  • An 18% rate hike last year, primarily to cover higher coal costs
  • An average fee of $1.84 per customer in January to pay for the new coal-fired power plant in Wise County
  • A 6.1% hike in September to pay for the Wise County plant and new transmission lines to carry coal-fired power from the Midwest to East Coast cities
Look, Coal Country. We're not saying you didn't love Big Coal with all your heart. But maybe they're just not the ones for you.

In fact, maybe you can find someone better. A shift to clean energy would create millions more jobs than staying addicted to coal.

And admit it -- wouldn't it feel good to finally kick that no-good, dirty Big Coal to the curb?

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Sure Sign of Fall Drops In

I was out at National Wildlife Federation office in Reston on Monday and heard one of the early signs of fall -- big, fat acorns falling off trees, tearing through the canopy and crashing to the forest floor.

It was an encouraging sound in the wake of last year's odd acorn shortage. NWF naturalist David Mizejewski explains why acorns are so important to a wide range of animals: