Friday, February 27, 2009

Which Virginia Companies Will Benefit from a Carbon Cap?

Less Carbon, More JobsPresident Obama has issued a clear call for climate action, saying on Tuesday night, "I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America."

Want to know which Virginia companies will benefit from a cap on carbon pollution? Check out this new interactive map of Virginia from the Environmental Defense Fund.

For just one example, the furthest southwest icon on the map belongs to Royal Mouldings in Marion. It makes cellular vinyl, a lumber substitute that insulates 70 percent better than wood for a substantial energy savings (plus, no chopping down trees).

Cross-posted from Article XI

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Campaign to Save Gulf Branch Nature Center Kicks Off

Arlington conservationists have formed a Facebook group to Save Gulf Branch Nature Center. In just a few days, the group has grown to 849 members (and I expect by the time you read this it'll be a lot higher than that).

You can also sign an online petition here.

UPDATE: Here's a video asking to keep the Nature Center open ...


Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Look at Proposed Cuts to Arlington's Environmental Services

Just got this email from Elenor Hodges, executive director of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment:
I am sure you know that the Arlington County Board is facing a lot of hard decisions, including budgetary constraints. Some of you may have received information that the County Manager's proposed budget includes closing Gulf Branch Nature Center and cuts to the County's invasive removal program.

Some people have asked for information on the budget timeline and how to comment:

- The February 21 meeting will include a presentation of the proposed budget by Ron Carlee (CountyManager@arlingtonva.us or telephone 703-228-3120).

- Interested members of the public may comment on the proposed budget at the Tuesday, March 24 County Board Public Budget Hearing or via email at countyboard@arlingtonva.us.

- The budget will be finalized at the April 29 County Board meeting.

Visit the Arlington County web site for additional information and updates on the FY 2010 County Budget process.
I'm watching Carlee unveil his budget right now on Comcast channel 74. Considering the overall cuts under discussion, including 100 staff positions, cutting services and eliminating Planet Arlington and the Neighborhood Day parade, it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask the environmental community to give something back as well. As long as Gulf Branch park remains open, closing a less-utilized nature center seems unfortunate but not draconian.

What do you think? Did Carlee's proposed budget do a good job of protecting important environmental programs? Any other cuts that you'd object to?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Eagles Soar in Virginia

Just heard about a new site called Show/USA that allows you to access some interesting data in visual form. It's fun to play around with. Here's one ranking states by breeding pairs of bald eagles. Virginia is 5th:


Obama Administration Sets Its Sights on Coal-Fired Power Plants

This week the Obama administration announced it'll take another look at regulating global warming pollution from coal-fired power plants. The New Republic's Bradford Plumer talks about what that means:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wash. Post Maintains Code of Silence on Bogus Will Column

Talking Points Memo has been trying to get to the bottom of how George Will's Saturday column made it to print with so much misinformation about climate change. So far, the Washington Post seems to be going into cover-up mode:
[H]ere's what happened when we tried to talk about all this yesterday morning with Will and [editorial page editor Fred] Hiatt:

Will's assistant told us that Will might get back to us later in the day to talk about the column. And Hiatt said he was too busy to talk about it just then, but that he'd try to respond to emailed questions. So we emailed him yesterday's post, with several questions about the editing process, then followed up with another email late yesterday afternoon.

But still nothing from either of them, over twenty-four hours after the first contact was made. Nor has the online version of Will's column been updated, even to reflect the fact that the ACRC has utterly disavowed the claim Will attributes to it.
If the target of a news story stonewalled a Post reporter to this extent, how much would Post editors be flipping out? You can't help but wonder.

Cross-posted from ArticleXI.com

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Same Global Warming Denial, Strange New Package

Global warming isn't happening because tungsten is surprisingly plentiful.

No, really. That's the argument put forth by George Will in today's column.

You see, back in 1980, an environmentalist said tungsten supplies would run low by 1990. Since they didn't, you can't believe anything anyone tells you about this "environment" nonsense.

I wish I could say today's column filled with bizarre analogies and misleading statements is the furthest Will has gone to deny global warming science or that we even have an energy problem. But that title goes to a column last year in which Will went so far as to concoct, then retract, a story about China drilling for oil off the Florida coast. And I wish I could say it George's kookiest screed attacking global warming, but this column still tops that particular list.

What's most disturbing about Will's virulent global warming denial is that he's considered to be among the most rational, intellectual conservatives out there. If he's pushing propaganda over the settled science, what hope do we have to get the rest of them on board with climate action?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Virginia GOP's New Bogeyman: Darwin

Via NLS, here's a video of Del. Jeff Frederick, chair of the Republican Party of Virginia, trashing Charles Darwin on the floor of the House of Delegates.

Frederick claims Darwin said some humans are "more evolved" than others. If you google Darwin and "some are more evolved" and you get nothing but right-wing blogs. This makes sense when you consider the charge was made up by right-wing blogs.

Darwin was not only against racism, he was against the concept that the races were biologically different, arguing against "ranking the so-called races of man as distinct species."




Contrary to what some people believe, I don't wake up in the morning looking for excuses to bash Republicans. In fact, growing up in New England, Republicans like Bill Weld, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Jeffords were my homeboys. But when the head of the Virginia Republican Party is bashing one of the pioneers of modern science on the floor of the General Assembly ... the Republican party has long since evolved far past moderation into a frightening new breed of extreme conservatism.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

But This One Goes to XI

A new Virginia conservation blog has launched, called Article XI. It's a unique partnership by Appalachian Voices, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environment Virginia, the Sierra Club, and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. The Green Miles was lucky enough to be invited as a regular contributor.

Here are links to a couple of posts I did yesterday:
Apparently Big Oil Money Doesn't Buy As Much As It Used To: A conservative group unveils (then pulls) global warming denial ads

Coal Fuels Global Warming, Stokes Australian Wildfires: Climate change hits the Outback
You can find the full archive of my Article XI posts here. Hope you bookmark the main site and check back often!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Contradiction or Consistency?

Last night, I was knocking on doors in Arlington's Lyon Park neighborhood talking to voters about my campaign for Virginia House of Delegates.

As I got to the last house on my list, I did a double-take at the foot of the driveway. I looked back and forth at the two vehicles and couldn't believe what I saw.

I rang the doorbell and had a great conversation with the voter who lived there, talking about everything from the economy to local military bases to cyber-security.

After I thanked him for his time, I said, "I just have to ask one thing. A Prius ... and a Hummer?"

He explained the Prius was for commuting, the Hummer for when he needed a break.

"I don't do anything halfway," he said with a broad smile.

Suddenly it seemed less like a contradiction and more like a man who enjoys having exactly the right tool for the job.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

House of Delegates Guts Already-Weakened Smoking Bill

The smoking ban compromise struck by Gov. Tim Kaine and House Speaker William Howell wasn't ideal, but it was a good start.

Unfortunately, the House of Delegates weakened the bill so severely last night, you can't even call it a smoking ban anymore:
Amendments would permit smoking in rooms separated by doors, even if there is no separate ventilation system. They carved out exceptions for smoking in outdoor patio areas; at restaurants during private functions when the function takes up the entire restaurant; and at clubs or bars at times when under-age patrons are not admitted.
As Del. Adam Ebbin twittered, "It seems more like a non-smoking SECTION bill than a non-smoking restaurant bill."

The Senate and Gov. Kaine need to work to strengthen the bill. If House Republicans won't support a stronger bill, then smoking ban supporters should let them go to the voters this fall and explain why they wouldn't protect our children from the effects of secondhand smoke. Even the Bush administration's own Surgeon General pointed out there's no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed the comments of Virginia's Republican Party chair, Del. Jeff Frederick, who said, "As much as I personally would love a smoking ban, it's not my job to tell small-business owners what they can and cannot allow in their small businesses."

Really? I look forward to Del. Frederick introducing legislation to roll back fire codes, food safety regulations, and the drinking age. Clearly we can't tell small businesses what to do, can we, Del. Frederick?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Have You Called Your Delegate on Smoking Ban Compromise?

The House of Delegates is scheduled to vote on the smoking ban compromise today. Call your delegate right now to urge them to support the bill!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Which Came First, the Chicken or the (R)Egg(ulated)?

Who do you blame for America’s inability to break its dependence on oil? It’s a question that didn’t have a clear answer as I walked through the Washington Auto Show this week.

Blame the auto industry?
At the auto show, an industry expert pointed out that GM sells plenty of fuel efficient cars in Europe, where gas is the equivalent of $6-7 per gallon. But that’s because European nations put a heavy tax on gas. Meanwhile, America
ns make their car-buying decisions knowing a gallon of gas is reliably cheaper than gallon of milk. If you want us to sell fuel-efficient cars, says the auto industry, give us and consumers the signals that fuel efficient cars are a long-term good buy.

Blame Washington?
Politicians relentlessly flog independence from oil on the campaign trail, then refuse to support any policies that might accomplish it. Raise fuel economy standards? You’ll cripple the auto industry! Raise the gas tax? You’re taking food off people’s tables! Promote smart growth and public transportation? It’s the American way to live in a McMansion and drive alone an hour to work!


Blame drivers? At some point, from housing to vehicles, Americans stopped buying based on need and started going for volume. Just a generation ago, people with big families would upgrade from a car to a station wagon. Today, every suburban couple demands a Canyonero to tote their 1.5 children to soccer practice. Several mammoth SUVs at the auto show were so big, they didn’t even have fuel economy ratings – they’re classified not as passenger vehicles but as trucks. Americans drive ever more inefficient vehicles on longer and longer commutes while simultaneously demanding a cheap, never-ending, consequence-free fuel supply. If there’s a way the consumption habits of Americans could be less in the national interest, it’s hard to imagine.

In the end, any attempt at finger-pointing ends up in a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” paradox. Americans don’t demand real change from their elected officials, who are content to pander to voters and accept excuses (and contributions) from the auto industry, which fights regulations and tries to misled us into thinking the status quo is the only equilibrium that wouldn’t bankrupt them and us.


So who to blame? To steal a theme from Time’s Person of the Year a few years back … I blame you.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

(Unclear on the) Concept Cars

The Green Miles got invited to check out the Washington Auto Show’s media day this week. Just off the main corridor at the Washington Convention Center was the Auto Show’s “green room.” It held dozens of cars ranging from concept solar cars to plug-in electrics.

The “green room” stood out, but not in the way they wanted. It was incredibly boring – while the main showrooms had colorful carpets, bright lights, and huge flat-screen TVs, the green room had beige walls, dull green carpet, and cardboard signs. Snark aside, it was good to see the auto industry rolling out new hybrids and electric cars – and even better that so many hybrids share space on the main floor with regular models.

But as I walked past the biodiesel SUVs, the propane-powered cars and the funky-looking solar racers, I wondered if the industry realized we don’t need futuristic new breakthroughs. We have the technology right now to cut our bills at the gas pump, slash America’s dependence on foreign oil, and reduce our greenhouse gas and air pollution. The question is, are we willing to pay a little more for cars now so we’re not vulnerable to price shocks every time a hurricane comes through the Gulf of Mexico?

We have the technology to build millions of plug-in electric hybrids that would need very little gas. We just need our elected officials to let consumers and automakers know we’re serious about demanding a sea change in the way we make vehicles. Instead of hybrids being the exception, they need to be the rule – starting now.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Will VA House Pass Smoking Ban Compromise?

There's an old saying that when it comes to passing legislation, a good compromise is one that both sides dislike equally. That seems to be true of the smoking ban compromise unveiled by Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) yesterday. The ban would take effect this July 1st and would see Virginia would join 23 states and the District of Columbia in banning smoking in bars and restaurants.

Both the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and apparent hardcore libertarian Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) are opposing the deal. While I agree it's far from perfect deal, to use another legislative catch-phrase, the perfect shouldn't be the enemy of the good. I've been fighting for a statewide smoking ban for years now, and after talking to a range of people on this, I'm comfortable supporting this bill.

Anti-tobacco activists certainly have a point that the ban doesn't go as far as it should. All Virginia workers deserve protection from the health effects of secondhand smoke, not just ones who work in bars and restaurants. And the enforcement provisions seem weak, with just a $25 fine for each violation. Some smoke-free advocates worry businesses will allow people to continue smoking and just pay the token fine, especially in parts of Virginia that might not be eager to enforce the ban. Those legitimate concerns should be addressed in future legislation.

Here's the most interesting part of the Washington Post article to me:

Howell restarted the negotiations after he grew worried about the looming November elections, GOP delegates say. Since Howell took over as speaker in 2003, Democrats have picked up 11 House seats. If Democrats pick up six more seats in the November election, they will gain the majority.

Howell denies that politics influenced his decision. But Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax), who has tried to broker past compromises on the issue, said the speaker is trying to reverse the perception that House Republicans are inflexible.
Fighting the good fight works. It may not work the first time, or the second time, or ... well, how many years have we been at this now? But if you have the will of the people on your side, eventually even Richmond's roadblock Republicans have to step aside and let you pass.

Let's hope Republicans in the General Assembly do just that on Monday and vote to pass this reasonable compromise.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Smaller Packaging: A Win-Win


Picked up some aluminum foil at Harris Teeter this week and noticed Reynolds has introduced a smaller package. For Reynolds, it saves them money both on cardboard and on shipping (allowing them to fit more rolls of aluminum foil in the same box). For Harris Teeter, it takes up less space on the shelf. And for me, it takes up less space in my drawer.

You'll often hear me say that the right economic move and the right environmental move are one and the same. This is just one of many concrete (metallic?) examples.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Video: Tired of Squirrels Invading Your Birdfeeder?

I don't know what's more awful/hilarious, the squirrel's-eye-view camera or the dizzy squirrel at the end ...