Friday, January 29, 2010

If Obstruction Reigns in Senate, Will Obama Tell EPA to Act?

Following his State of the Union address, President Obama will be taking follow-up questions from citizens on Monday during a live online chat. You can submit a video question at the White House's CitizenTube channel -- all you need is a cell phone that takes videos & a free YouTube account. You can also vote for the questions you'd most like to see President Obama answer.

Here's the question I submitted:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Video: How Cap & Trade Works

Clean Energy Works has put together a short video with Nat Keohane, Environmental Defense Fund environmental & economic policy expert. It explains how a carbon cap & trade system to curb global warming pollution would work. Watch the video & learn more at

The Facts of Cap-and-Trade from Clean Energy Works on Vimeo.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More Denial from Virginia's Coal Country

Coal will be king forever! Mining jobs aren't vanishing! Global warming isn't happening!

In the face of economic, energy & climate crises, that's what passes for "leadership" from Virginia's coal country. From Glen Besa on ArticleXI:
On the same day that the Washington Post reported that a NASA study found this past decade was the warmest on record and that 2009 was the second warmest year, Virginia freshman Delegate James Morefield introduced legislation that would prohibit the director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality from enforcing any federal law restricting the emissions of carbon dioxide. Despite a United States Supreme Court case that upheld the authority of the U.S. EPA to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act the bill goes on to say "carbon dioxide shall not be considered air pollution." [...]

The Virginia General Assembly that prides itself as the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere has in more recent times gained national notoriety for considering "droopy drawers" legislation requiring young men to pull up their pants. One of the sharper wits in the Assembly once quipped that they ought to have a standing committee just for the unconstitutional bills the legislators serve up for their constituents.
Imagine how many new jobs could be created if Virginia charted a new energy course? Imagine how much cleaner Virginia's air & water could be? Imagine how much more secure we'd be if we weren't paying unstable countries billions for their oil?

But instead of envisioning a new, clean energy future, Virginia politicians like James Morefield think they can cling to our dirty energy past. He'd have the same luck raising a hand to the sunset and yelling stop.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

WaPo Can't Be Bothered to Read Things Like "Polls"

As Lowell details at Blue Virginia, there are many many many things wrong with today's Washington Post article on Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA). But I'll focus on just one:
By all rights, Tom Perriello should have almost no chance to win reelection to Congress. He's a stimulus-backing, health-care-reform-loving, cap-and-trade-supporting liberal Democrat who represents a conservative central Virginia district where antipathy to the president and all things Washington runs high.
So according to the Washington Post, whatever the GOP says must be true. There's just one problem: Rep. Perriello's constituents disagree with the Republican talking points. The Washington Post could have found this out for itself with a simple Google search. From September:
Politico has just published the results of a new poll indicating that - in spite of the teabaggers - citizens of Rep. Tom Perriello's district (the 5th) support cap and trade legislation by a 17-point (42%-25%) margin.
But these days, the Washington Post doesn't seem to have any interest in challenging Republican talking points on clean energy & climate legislation -- or on anything else for that matter.

In a related story, check out The New Republic's must-read article,
Post Apocalypse: Inside the messy collapse of a great newspaper.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How Dare You Accuse Me of Being a Heartland Institute Member!

I'm not usually one to laugh at the misfortune of others. But when it comes to the Heartland Institute ...

Doug Southgate, Ohio State University professor of environmental economics, felt the plaintiff’s wrath after testifying for Chevron, based on his experience in Ecuador, dating back to the late 1970s. The plaintiffs attacked him for being a member of the Heartland Institute, which does not believe in global warming. He says he is not a member and only made one presentation to the Institute. It is remarkable, he says, how easy it is to spread anything on the internet.
How dare you smear me by repeating those vicious internet rumors that I'm a member of the Heartland Institute!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Monday: Conservation Lobby Day in Richmond

I've attended this Virginia Conservation Network event before and it's a lot of fun. Legislators & their staff are so often lobbied on divisive issues like taxes, guns & abortion, they're usually thrilled to get a chance to talk about conservation issues:

Make Conservation Count

When: January 18, 2010 (9 am - 2 pm)
Where: Centenary Methodist Church, Richmond VA (411 E. Grace Street)
Onsite registration is avaiable: $15.00 Registration
$15 adults, $10 students; includes lunch and materials.

MLK Day is your day to tell legislators what you expect from them this General Assembly session. Join Virginia Conservation Network, the Garden Club of Virginia, and countless volunteers as we take our conservation priorities to the Capitol on January 18, 2010 at 9:30 a.m.

Whether you discuss energy efficiency, green building, natural resource protection, or other important conservation issues your legislators need to hear from you. Every year General Assembly members learn important information about how to do the right thing for the environment from citizens like you. Not to mention that by taking the time to discuss your position on specific legislation you hold them accountable for their vote.

If you go, please make sure to strongly emphasize clean energy & climate issues. Our legislators can't hear enough that Virginia is at risk of falling behind the push towards a clean energy future.

New LCV Ad in MA Senate Race

Friday, January 15, 2010

Will Webb Join Effort to Gut Clean Air Act?

Could Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) join the efforts of polluter lobbyists & Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to gut the Clean Air Act's protections against carbon pollution? It's possible, according to Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard:
Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski has gained co-sponsorship for her effort to block the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide from at least one Democrat, her office confirmed Friday evening.

Spokesman Robert Dillon said that one Democrat has signed on, though he was not able to confirm the identity of the Democrat. There are, however, plenty of ideas about who this Democratic cosponsor may be. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Jim Webb (D-Va.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), all previously on record voicing concerns about carbon regulation, have all been floated as possible sign-ons. We've put in inquiries at all those offices and will update as more information becomes available.
Webb has already declared his discomfort with comprehensive clean energy & climate legislation. But would he really go one step further and gut the Clean Air Act's Congressionally-approved, Supreme Court-validated protections? Such a move would be a free license to massive emitters to pollute as much as they want.

While we've had an unusually cold winter so far in the U.S., other parts of the world have been unusually warm. Temperatures have been a startling 10-15 degrees above normal in the Artic.

Webb wrote in "What It Means To Be A Leader" that "you and your grandchildren will be the inheritors of both our successes and flaws." Unless Sen. Webb wakes up soon, future generations could be paying for his apparent indifference to our climate crisis.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No One Plugs a Lamp Into a Windmill.

Virginia tourism is very unreliable. Summer & weekends? Extremely busy! Winter & weekdays? Extremely slow!

A ridiculous premise? Of course! But that's the argument you often hear people make against wind power. When it's not windy, it doesn't produce as much power! You are correct, Mr. Wizard. I can't wait to hear your analysis of how much power solar produces on cloudy winter days. (Spoiler alert: Not as much!)

Here's the thing -- just as no one plugs their television directly into a nuclear reactor, no one plugs their television directly into a windmill. It's just one element of a massive electric grid.

But that doesn't stop people from acting like they've cracked some major conspiracy every time they point that out. Just look at a recent public hearing on the proposal by Dominion Power & BP Wind Energy to install wind turbines on top of East River Mountain in Tazewell County:
“It produces very little energy and it’s very unreliable,” said Charlie Stacy.
A power plant produces very little power? Really? I made many arguments against Dominion's Wise County coal fired power plants in the last few years, but "it produces very little energy" is one that never crossed my mind. Probably because it's beyond batty. Why bother building a reservoir? It produces very little water!

As for reliability, just as with tourism, you have to look at the big picture. A wind farm is part of a grid, which includes a mix of energy from an array of sources like coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydroelectric, solar & other sources.

Good day for wind? A nuclear plant can throttle back for the day. Bad day for wind? If demand's low on a given day, the grid may not miss it. If demand is high, a natura
l gas plant could work closer to capacity to make up the difference. (There's a misconception that all existing coal/gas/nuke plants work at 100% day & night. Not true except on a few of the hottest summer days.)

Or better yet, a smart grid could manage it. On good days, it could direct the excess electricity to other parts of the country where it was in demand. On bad days, it could pull more power from a part of the country where the wind was blowing strong. The bottom line is, customers wouldn't notice a thing.

If you've found all this energy nitty gritty fascinating, buy Al Gore's new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis.

Photo courtesy Flickr's floyduk

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Man vs. Wild vs. Plastic

The Green Miles loves those reality shows where they drop some poor bastard in the middle of nowhere and expect him to survive. I think this is in large part because if you dropped me in the middle of nowhere, I couldn't survive more than 20 minutes before starving to death, being eaten by a lion, going into shock from lack of internet access, etc. So Man vs. Wild, Survivorman, whatever -- if there's a haggard dude looking at a bug and wondering how it tastes, COUNT ME IN.

I was watching Man vs. Wild the other day and they tossed Bear Grylls out of a helicopter somewhere near Panama. He swam to an island and immediately went looking not for food or water, but for plastic. "No matter where you go in the world, you can always find plastic washed up on shore," Grylls told viewers. He then used the plastic to collect water.

Out in the Pacific, currents collect the plastic in one area of ocean now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation talked about it on an episode of The Colbert Report last week:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Charles Moore

Via Twitter's Kajjajja

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Clean Energy Champion for Senate: Martha Coakley

The Green Miles is in Boston for the weekend. Was just driving down the Southeast Expressway and spotted this new ad on a long-standing windmill. It's for Senate candidate Martha Coakley (D-MA). Here's an image from her primary campaign ad (since updated to Coakley 2010 for the January 19th general election):
Coakley has been endorsed by the Sierra Club & League of Conservation Voters. The ad is especially appropriate since Coakley is a vigorous supporter of wind power, including the Cape Wind project, opposed by wealthy landowners & dirty energy interests. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy was one of my political heroes, but his opposition to Cape Wind wasn't his finest moment.

Coakley's opponent, Scott Brown, doesn't have much going for him, other than his cozy relationship with the teabagging crowd. I'd slam him for having absolutely no plan to address our energy & environmental problems, but it's nothing personal -- Brown's website lists no specific plans at all for any issue. In fact, his "issues page" could be summed up by "whatever solution the Democrats propose, I'll try to stop them!"

Here's hoping Coakley cruises to victory on the January 19th!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Warning to Webb: We'll Play the Plaid Till You Vote Yes

Remember how, during its invasion of Panama, the U.S. military bombarded General Manuel Noriega with loud rock music in hopes of speeding his surrender?

Repower America has come up with a similar tactic to get Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) to help pass a clean energy & climate bill -- they'll show me wearing this horrific plaid flannel shirt outside his office until he pledges to vote yes:

OK, not really. Repower America brought this video truck to Sen. Webb's Virginia Beach office this week, displaying videos from constituents across Virginia. The Green Miles' video was just one of many asking Sen. Webb to support a comprehensive clean energy & climate bill. You can submit your video at the Repower America Wall.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Is Wikipedia Being Overrun by Conservative Trolls?

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has an entire "Criminal Record" section, with two separate subsections, for the heinous crimes of ... possessing less than gram of heroin 27 years ago and protesting military operations in Puerto Rico.

Lord Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, repeatedly called American climate activists "Hitler Youth" ... but any reference to the incidents has been scrubbed from his Wikipedia page.

Is Wikipedia developing a conservative slant?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Even in Olden Days, Scientists Warned of Global Warming

Every once in a while, you'll hear global warming deniers like George Will regurgitating the myth that climate scientists haven't been able to get their stories straight about whether the Earth is warming or not.

In reality, global warming theory dates back to 1824. Here's a video from 1958 with a scientist expressing concerns about global warming that have only been reinforced in 52 years of research since then:


Monday, January 4, 2010

Tuesday in Ballston: Cafe Scientifique on Climate Policy

Climate talk? Happy hour specials like half-priced burgers? I'm in:
Cafe Scientifique: Climate Change Policy at Home and Abroad
Sponsored by The Ballston Science and Technology Alliance
Date: January 5, 2010
Time: 6:15 pm to 8:15 pm
Location: The Front Page Restaurant, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA
Free - Open to the public

President Obama, Governors of both parties around the country, and key international allies have made addressing climate change a top priority. This cafe will discuss the state-of-play in the development of U.S. and international climate change policy. The speaker will be Nikki Roy, Vice President of Federal Government Outreach for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
Register for the event at

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Chris Mooney: "Scientists Need to Speak Up"

Chris Mooney, the author of The Republican War on Science, has a must-read op-ed in today's Washington Post calling on scientists to more effectively influence the public debate:

Scientific training continues to turn out researchers who speak in careful nuances and with many caveats, in a language aimed at their peers, not at the media or the public. Many scientists can scarcely contemplate framing a simple media message for maximum impact; the very idea sounds unbecoming. And many of them don't trust the public or the press: According to a recent Pew study, 85 percent of U.S. scientists say it's a "major problem" that the public doesn't know much about science, and 76 percent say the same about what they see as the media's inability to distinguish between well-supported science and less-than-scientific claims. Rather than spurring greater efforts at communication, such mistrust and resignation have further motivated some scientists to avoid talking to reporters and going on television.

They no longer have that luxury. After all, global-warming skeptics suffer no such compunctions. What's more, amid the current upheaval in the media industry, the traditional science journalists who have long sought to bridge the gap between scientists and the public are losing their jobs en masse. As New York Times science writer Natalie Angier recently observed, her profession is "basically going out of existence." If scientists don't take a central communications role, nobody else with the same expertise and credibility will do it for them.

You can read more from Chris at his Discover Magazine blog, The Intersection.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Fun With Unnecessary Attribution

At right now:

You needed the official to tell you the volcano was erupting? Really? Otherwise you wouldn't have known what was going on? "What appears to be red-hot molten rock is spewing out of the top of this mountain. We think it's a volcanic eruption, but that's just speculation right now -- we're still waiting for an official to return our voicemail."

Obviously I'm nitpicking in this instance. But If An Official Didn't Say It, It Didn't Happen syndrome remains rampant in the media. Just look at the's refusal to place a gun at the scene of the recent U Street snowball fight -- even though one of its own editorial staffers had witnessed the incident.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Arlington Creates Community Energy & Sustainability Task Force

Arlington County Board 2010 New Year's Day meeting on TwitpicI'm live-blogging the Arlington County Board's traditional New Year's Day meeting over at Wanted to give you a heads up about something just announced:
11:37am -- Jay Fisette says 2010 will be about sustainability -- specifically, fiscal and environmental sustainability. Says that we must maintain our social safety net even in tough budget times. Announces the creation of a "green ribbon task force" -- the Community Energy & Sustainability Task Force, building off the Fresh AIRE effort. Announces the task force members, which include an impressive range of leaders from businesses, community organizations & utilities, along with State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple. Was a little surprised not to hear anyone from ACE on the panel, but there are other environmentalists involved like "Solar Scott" Sklar.
Read more at the live blog!