Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hearing on Metro Budget Proposals in Arlington Tonight

As Metro officials face a $189 million budget gap for the 2011 fiscal year, this is their paradox:
  • If they propose service cuts, commuters will scream bloody murder.
  • If they propose fare increases, commuters will scream bloody murder.
  • If they ask for more funding, local politicians will scream bloody murder.
Metro officials are holding a public hearing tonight at 7pm at the Arlington County Board Office (2100 Clarendon Blvd, 3rd floor, above the Courthouse Metro). If you can't make the hearing, Metro has created an online survey to get public input about the budget options (note: the survey link didn't work for me just now, but I'm leaving it in the post in hopes it's a temporary glitch). The questionnaire only takes a few minutes & the results will be incorporated into the final staff report to the Metro Board later this month.

Both fare increases & service cuts are unfortunate options that will only discourage transit usage. So why is Metro even considering them? 

It certainly doesn't help that Metro has to ask three different jurisdictions for money, while most major transit systems are controlled by only one. That regularly leaves Metro short on cash, forcing them to squeeze resources from their riders & their budget (often cutting preventative maintenance funding). As today's Washington Post editorial points out, "Metro's ridership contributes about 55 percent of the system's $1.4 billion operating budget, more than the ridership of virtually any other major transit system in the nation. That contribution is set to rise as a result of stiff fare increases."

Looking at the big picture, local officials continually prioritize spending on new & existing roads over funding for Metro. Virginia officials have been practically begging Arlington to let them spend $75 million for "spot improvements" in hopes of improving traffic flow on I66, which carries only about 100,000 cars per day. But the Virginia General Assembly regularly balks at a dedicated funding source for Metro, which carries 1.2 million passenger trips per weekday at vastly lower costs to our public health & environment.

You get what you pay for. And if Virginia, Maryland & DC can't come together to give Metro the support it needs, the system will continue to struggle.

Photo via Flickr's ElvertBarnes

TV Weatherman Plays Politics with Science

The Green Miles used to work as a TV news producer. One night I was out for beers some coworkers when a weatherman with little formal scientific training started spouting global warming denier talking points -- solar cycles, etc. I wasn't all that surprised because it came in the middle of a rant about Big Government -- clearly his beliefs were based on his personal politics, not science.

So when I hear about local TV weathermen who are global warming deniers and are also prominent Republicans ... well, I'm not exactly shocked:
Tim Kelley, a meteorologist at New England Cable News who is married to Scituate Republican Town Committee Chair Janet Fogarty, told a crowd at a GOP St. Patrick’s Day breakfast this month “the forecasts that the alarmists have made are obviously not coming true.” Before a crowd of state officeholders and candidates, Kelley added, “We’re wasting so much time and so much money on that issue."
Two things here. First, Tim Kelley is flat wrong. As the World Meteorological Organization confirmed last week, the 2000s were the hottest decade on record as man-made global warming continues unabated. 

Tim Kelley is also not an expert on climate. He has no formal training in climatology and no advanced scientific degree. Kelley has a bachelor's degree in meteorology from Lyndon State College. He got his degree 23 years ago -- not just before climate science became so well understood, but even before Jim Hansen's landmark Congressional testimony that originally brought global warming into the public spotlight.

When TV weathermen publicly make false statements about science, they're putting their credibility on the line and they risk having their motivations called into question. In Kelley's case, his personal political motives are quite clear.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's Hard Out Here for a Global Warming Denier

Climate activists are media whores! They just want to grab a piece of the spotlight during this fleeting “green” trend, get invited to all the best parties & hang out with all the biggest names! Also, they all have personal economic agendas! And the media rewards these celebrities with fawning profiles! Like that Leonardo DiCaprio getting on the cover of Vanity Fair’s green issue! Poseur!

Global warming deniers, on the other hand, are only in search of the truth! And for their effort, they’re punished with skepticism from that liberal media! Deniers toil in obscurity with justice as their only reward! Adventure? Excitement? A DENIER CRAVES NOT THESE THINGS.

In other news, here’s a fawning profile of global warming denier Marc Morano that glosses over how much he & his friends rely on polluter funding for their existence. It details how science denial has made Morano rich & famous, reveling in his posh jet-setting lifestyle zipping up the Pacific Coast Highway & planning to buy a big new house. Morano brags about all the great, uncritical media coverage he gets & how he loves palling around with celebrities like Rush Limbaugh.

NY Times Only Sees Bright Side of Global Warming Deniers

The New York Times has an article out Tuesday talking about how some TV weather presenters are global warming deniers. Reporter Leslie Kaufman goes out of her way to avoid taking the shine off some of the denial universe's biggest stars.

First, there's Anthony Watts, whose two primary occupations are denying global warming and peddling small weather gauges. As Joe Romm explains on ClimateProgress:
Watts uses his blogs to try to convince people that government weather sites are faulty, that their data can’t be trusted, enlisting the unpaid help of countless people — and he makes money selling weather stations?
Kaufman also cites the Heartland Institute, one of The Green Miles' favorite front groups -- and by "favorite" I mean "most comically inept." Heartland has received $676,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998. While Heartland stopped disclosing its funding after 2006, SourceWatch reports Heartland received around $260,000 in 2007 from energy companies -- "coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear." But Kaufman doesn't report any of that, merely calling Heartland "a free-market research organization."

And there's former weatherman John Coleman. A Columbia Journalism Review article on this same topic cast Coleman's denial not as scientific disagreement -- but as ignorance:
For the many Americans who don’t understand the difference between weather—the short-term behavior of the atmosphere—and climate—the broader system in which weather happens—Coleman’s professional background made him a genuine authority on global warming. It was an impression that Coleman encouraged. Global warming “is not something you ‘believe in,’” he wrote in his essay. “It is science; the science of meteorology. This is my field of life-long expertise.”

Except that it wasn’t. Coleman had spent half a century in the trenches of TV weathercasting; he had once been an accredited meteorologist, and remained a virtuoso forecaster. But his work was more a highly technical art than a science. His degree, received fifty years earlier at the University of Illinois, was in journalism. And then there was the fact that the research that Coleman was rejecting wasn’t “the science of meteorology” at all—it was the science of climatology, a field in which Coleman had spent no time whatsoever.
NYT's Kaufman touches on the same issue -- but where the CJR article boldly confronts it head-on, Kaufman merely tiptoes around the edges:
Resentment may also play a role in the divide. Climatologists are almost always affiliated with universities or research institutions where a doctoral degree is required. Most meteorologists, however, can get jobs as weather forecasters with a college degree.

“There is a little bit of elitist-versus-populist tensions,” Mr. Henson said. “There are meteorologists who feel, ‘Just because I have a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on.’”
Those snooty climatologists! Thinking they know more about climate just because they've "studied it more" and "work in the field" and are "actual experts on the topic"! Weather presenters who aren't meteorologists but listen to Rush Limbaugh should be allowed to spout ignorance with just the same credibility!

UPDATE: Joe Romm responds to Kaufman's article, blogging NY Times once again equates non-scientists with climate scientists.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Mudflats Previews Palin's New Show

Via Andrew Sullian, Alaska politics blog The Mudflats takes a sarcastic sneak peek at Sarah Palin's new show:
Look! It’s a polar bear. I sued the federal government to keep that guy and his ilk from getting an endangered species listing.

Check it out! It’s a moose. Chili anyone?

Wow! It’s a beluga whale! I sued the feds over that one too. There’s only 300 left, but they look like the other kind, so what’s the big dill? [...]

Check it out! This is the village of Shishmaref. Let’s set up a time lapse sequence and watch it fall off into the sea because of global warming snake oil science.
But hey, who needs Sarah Palin jokes here in Virginia? We have the McDonnell-Bolling-Cuccinelli era to provide plenty of material.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Miles vs. Dirty

I work for the National Wildlife Federation. While The Green Miles is my personal blog, I do like to share some of the fun things I get to work on ... and getting to debate a global warming-denying sock puppet definitely qualifies:

You can see all the weekly videos & subscribe at the Climate Capsule archive.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saturday: ACE Green Living Expo

Ready for some spring greening? Here's a great event coming up on Saturday:
ACE Green Living Expo
Saturday, March 20, 2010
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
4301 Wilson Blvd. in Ballston

On March 20, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE) will be sponsoring a Green Living Expo. The Expo will feature green suppliers, products from local and national businesses, exhibits and seminars from government agencies and nonprofits, and a free Going Green Guide for Apartment Renters! [...]

The Expo will also include seminars, a raffle, and plenty of activities for children. It will provide an important venue to showcase new technology and products available that can help soften our carbon footprints in Arlington. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), is located near the Ballston metro and several bus routes. The Green Living Expo is family-friendly and free and open to the general public.

Children's activities will include:

  • Native seedling planting
  • Crafts
  • Nature games
  • Naturalists with animals to meet
Wait, children's activities? What if certain adults are wildly excited to meet the wildlife?

GOP's Leading Voice on Energy & Environment is Incomprehensibly Crazy

Via the Consequence Campaign, here's Congress' top-ranking Republican on energy & environment issues, Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Ranking Member Jim Inhofe (R-OK):
It reminds me of the two boy ostriches chasing the two girl ostriches. They’re chasing them, the one girl ostrich said, ‘What do we do? They said, let’s hide so each girl ostrich stuck their head in the hole and the boy ostriches gallop up to the clearing and one of them said, ‘Where did the girls go?’ This is what we’re looking at here. They’re hiding their head in the sand and Gore’s writing this op-ed.
I will leave it to you to psychoanalyze how Sen. Inhofe's brain managed to twist a simple head-in-sand analogy into some kind of horrifying teen ostrich orgy.

Image via

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Quick Green Beer Guide for St. Patrick's Day

The Green Miles will be at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Clarendon tonight. But what to drink? Here are a few quick tips for enjoying the holiday sustainably no matter where you are:
Drink Sustainably. Choose a beer from a Brooklyn Brewing & New Belgium Brewing get 100% of their power from renewable energy. California-based Anderson Valley Brewing & Sierra Nevada get significant chunks of their energy from solar power. Bison Brewing, Peak Organic & Wolaver brew organic beer. Among the heavyweights, Anheuser-Busch InBev got the top score in the most recent assessment, making Bud & Bud Light the top big brand choices. Local Options: You can't go wrong at Restaurant Nora, America's first certified organic restaurant. Busboys & Poets, with two locations in DC & one in Shirlington, has Peak Organic on draft.

Drink Locally. Look for beers that were brewed in your area instead of trucked or shipped over long distances requiring large amounts of fossil fuel. Local Options: Dogfish Head, Yuengling, Old Dominion.

Drink Where It's Brewed. Cut your beer's carbon footprint even further by drinking at places that brew their own beer on-site. Local Options: Shenandoah Brewing, Capitol City Brewing, Rock Bottom.

Drink Draft: If all else fails, go with what's on tap. Most bars & restaurants don't recycle, so if you're drinking out of a bottle, it will likely end up in a landfill. But kegs & pint glasses can be reused hundreds or thousands of times.  
For a more detailed rundown, check out my 2009 St. Patrick's Day post. And as always, read Chris O'Brien's Beer Activist blog.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Snow Removal Rule Melts Memories, Makes Meteorologists

The Arlington County Board took action on sidewalk snow removal yesterday, passing a 60-day ordinance until a permanent can be considered this spring:
“With today’s action, Arlington for the first time formally establishes the expectation that sidewalks are to be cleared following snowfall,” said County Board Vice Chairman Christopher Zimmerman, who presented the motion. “This is fully consistent with our commitment to be a walkable, transit-oriented community.”

The emergency ordinance applies to areas zoned for commercial use throughout the County. It requires the owner, occupant or other person in charge of properties in such districts to remove more than two inches of snow from their sidewalks within 24 hours after the snow ceases to fall. The ordinance also applies to commercial rental properties with more than four units and condominiums with more than four units.

Persons more than 65 years old, or who are disabled or otherwise determined to be physically incapable of meeting the requirements are exempt. Violators shall be assessed a civil penalty of $50 for sidewalks less than 200 linear feet long and $100 for sidewalks longer than 200 linear feet.

The Board acted after noting that historic snowfalls this winter resulted in sidewalks in some areas remaining impassable for days or even weeks, making it difficult or even impossible for persons to walk safely to transit, schools or shops.

The emergency ordinance does not apply to residential areas. The vote was 3 to 2.
Major thanks to Chris Zimmerman, Mary Hynes & Walter Tejada for voting to pass the temporary ordinance, and I look forward to the Board passing a permanent law in the months ahead.  

Barbara Favola said the temporary rule wasn't needed because we won't get any significant snow in the next 60 days. But that's a roll of the dice -- for just one recent example, Arlington got about 9" of snow on March 9, 1999. And as a friend commented on my Facebook page, "If it doesn't snow, then this ordinance isn't used. Nothing gained, nothing lost. But if it does snow, then everyone will be really glad they enacted it. Everyone except for lazy business owners, that is."

Business opposition to the ordinance was led by Arlington Chamber of Commerce:
The Chamber also took issue with Zimmerman’s assertion that many owners of commercial property failed to adequately clear their sidewalks of snow and ice.

“The vast majority of Arlington business and commercial property owners performed exceptionally well,” the letter to Fisette said.
It's ridiculous to claim the "vast majority" of commercial property owners cleared their sidewalks. Why do they think citizens are pushing for an ordinance in the first place? Did any Chamber members attempt to walk Wilson Boulevard or Columbia Pike in the wake of this winter's storms? Do they think people were walking in the street just for fun?

One question for you as we look ahead to the permanent ordinance: Should it apply to residential properties? I understand sidewalk snow removal isn't as much of a concern on back streets (some of which may not even have sidewalks to begin with). 

But then again, there are plenty of single-family homes on busy pedestrian streets like Washington Boulevard. Shouldn't they have to clear their sidewalks? Let me know what you think in comments.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Thank You Note to My Neighbors for the Gift of Free Heat

catI woke up the other morning and thought, "It's too warm in here, better lower the heat." When I went to the thermostat, it turned out I'd forgotten to turn it on the night before. Even though it had been in the 40s that night, my apartment was still too warm for comfort.

The Green Miles lives in an apartment building in Ballston. A great deal of the apartment's efficiency comes from the building's design -- 10-story, densely-packed, concrete & brick, double-paned windows & doors, lots of natural light & bonus heat from the sun. That design gives it a great deal of temperature inertia -- it stays warm in the winter & cool in the summer.

But this afternoon it's 55 degrees & cloudy -- and with the heat off, my apartment is 73 degrees. Clearly, I'm getting a major boost from neighbors whose love of paying to keep their apartment extra toasty is spilling over into my unit. My apartment gets a similar boost of cool air in the summer from their ravenous air conditioning consumption.

I could complain about how much money they're wasting. And I could brag about how keeping an eye on the thermostat in this efficient apartment has kept my heating bill at a ridiculously low $20-30 per month this winter. But instead, I'll just say thanks for helping me save a few dollars that I can then spend on something I enjoy.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Appalachia Activists Ask Webb to Help End Mountaintop Removal

Dozens of activists with the Alliance for Appalachia visited Sen. Jim Webb's office this week, asking him to join their efforts to end mountaintop removal coal mining. The Virginians pictured here were part of a much larger group from across America that was lobbying for change this week on Capitol Hill (more details in the great video at the bottom of this post).

As investigative journalist Jeff Biggers writes at Huffington Post:
Webb's state of Virginia stands on the frontlines of the clean energy and climate debate--and Webb, born fighting for progressive causes in Appalachia and America, now must decide whether he will come to the forefront of the battle for clean energy and an end to deadly coal mining and burning, or quietly watch the fate of his state decided by outside interests.

Every Virginian--and American--needs to call Sen. Webb today to not only support desperately needed clean energy and climate legislation, but to sign on as a co-sponsor with Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of the Appalachian Restoration Act to end mountaintop removal at Virginia's climate ground zero.
Biggers then quotes from Webb's book, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America:
The ever hungry industrialists had discovered that West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia sat atop one huge vein of coal. And so the rape began. The people from the outside showed up with complicated contracts that the small-scale cattle raisers and tobacco farmers could not fully understand, asking for "rights" to mineral deposits they could not see, and soon they were treated to a sundering of their own earth as the mining companies ripped apart their way of life, so that after a time the only option was to go down into the hole and bring the Man his coal, or starve. The Man got his coal, and the profits it brought when he shipped it out. They got their wages, black lung, and the desecration of their land.
You can reach Sen. Webb's DC office at (202)-224-4024.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tom Brady for Earth Hour

Let's hope ol' Tommy Boy doesn't go into acting when his NFL career is over ...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Ad Airing in Virginia Connects Oil Addiction & America's Enemies

From Huffington Post's Sam Stein:
A progressive veterans group is making a fiery push to get comprehensive energy reform passed into law, going up on air with a new ad tying oil consumption to Iranian-backed attacks against U.S. troops.

In a spot set to air in eight key states, the group, (with an assistance from the energy independence group Operation Free) splices footage of highly developed improvised explosive devices being used against U.S. soldiers alongside Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Narrated by Iraq War veteran Christopher Miller, who earned a Purple Heart as the result of an IED explosion six years ago, the ad makes the case that passing energy legislation is a national security imperative.
You can be sure organizers are hoping the ad moves Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), who voted with 2008's Climate Security Act but since then has expressed discomfort -- if not outright hostility -- at efforts to promote clean energy & curb climate pollution.

Here's the ad:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Will Robert Hurt Say Anything To Cover For His Donors?

Is there anything State Sen. Robert Hurt (R-Chatham) won't do for his donors at Appalachian Power? How about blaming their high rates on laws that don't actually exist? Yup, Robert Hurt is happy to do that:
Appalachian Power had implemented a 12.8-percent rate increase on Dec. 12, an adjustment that was pending before the State Corporation Commission. Virginia law had allowed utility providers to raise rates that were pending approval before the SCC.

However, Gov. Bob McDonnell signed House and Senate bills Wednesday forcing APCo to suspend the pending increase to provide relief for power customers in the commonwealth. The bills were sponsored by Del. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson County, and Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell County. [...]

Sen. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, said state and federal environmental regulations have played a role in rising energy rates. The federal “cap-and-trade” passed by the House of Representatives last year is an example of the “devastating policies” that affect people’s lives, forcing companies to raise rates to revamp their facilities to follow environmental rules.
For some reason, reporter John Crane of the Danville Register Bee doesn't make this clear, so I will: Carbon regulations do not actually exist yet. Just because something passes the House doesn't make it a law, and so far, the Senate has failed to act on clean energy & climate legislation. This is like blaming your high medical bills on the health insurance reform that hasn't passed yet.

But it's not surprising that Robert Hurt is willing to say anything to cover for Appalachian Power. The polluting power company has contributed $3,250 to Hurt's campaigns since 2001. That's just a fraction of the $64,717 Hurt has received from energy companies over that period, including $20,750 from electric utilities.

Whether you agree with Rep. Tom Perriello's policy positions or not, at least you know what he stands for. Can anyone claim they really know what Robert Hurt stands for -- or do we just know what he'll say to please his donors in hopes of getting elected?

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Monday, March 1, 2010

New Documents Reveal Top Climate Skeptic Well Funded by Polluters

Few climate skeptics get as much attention as Patrick Michaels. Virtually all climate scientists agree our climate is in crisis & we need to reduce our carbon emissions as quickly as possible -- so opponents of climate action treat Michaels, who thinks the crisis is overblown & carbon pollution isn't so bad, as a conquering hero.

But it turns out Michaels hasn't just sold out politically as a senior fellow at the ExxonMobil-funded Cato Institute. Newly uncovered documents reveal Michaels' research has been directly & lavishly funded by polluters:
Greenpeace recently obtained an older copy of Michaels' curriculum vitae via a Freedom of Information Act request that shows that the Western Fuels Association, a coal and fuel-transportation business group, gave him a $63,000 grant in the early 1990s for "research on global climatic change." He also received $25,000 from the Edison Electric Institute, an association of electric utilities, from 1992-95 for "literature review of climate change and updates." And a 2006 leaked industry memo revealed that he received $100,000 in funding from the Intermountain Rural Electric Association to fund climate denial campaigning around the time of the release of An Inconvenient Truth. Reporter Ross Gelbspan wrote in his 1998 book The Heat is On, one of the earliest works documenting industry funding for climate change skepticism, that Michaels also received $49,000 from the German Coal Mining Association and $40,000 from the western mining company Cyprus Minerals.
Makes you wonder who Patrick Michaels was really working for all those years he was going around claiming to be "Virginia's official state climatologist."

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Hurt Puts Dirty Energy Donors Ahead of 5th District Voters

Republicans have a long history of doing battle with science, from evolution to tobacco to stem cells. The latest to step up to the plate to claim science is a sham? State Sen. Robert Hurt (R-VA), who's running for the GOP nomination to challenge Rep. Tom Perriello in Virginia's 5th district. Hurt is running against a large field of teabaggers in the GOP primary, so he's desperate to out-crazy them:
A question about “Climategate” produced agreement among the three candidates who answered it.

Hurt said Climategate is “scientists who have given us something that is not true. It is faulty information and it has real consequences in the 5th District, in the loss of jobs and in power bills from Appalachian Power Co.”
How convenient that Hurt is standing up for Appalachian Power, which has contributed $3,250 to his campaigns since 2001. That's just a fraction of the $64,717 he's received from energy companies over that period, including $20,750 from electric utilities.

Hurt's climate position puts him clearly out of step with the 5th district. Only 25% of voters there oppose a cap & trade system to regulate global warming pollution. While Hurt is cozying up to Appalachian Power, Virginians say they're getting screwed by our energy status quo:
"I'm tired of my head being buried in the sand and my butt up in the air," says Montgomery Co. resident Margie Hatcher. "That's what we've all been doing, much too long."
Look, the science of climate change is settled. The only thing that seems to be unsettled is Robert Hurt's opinions and even his biography, which can change from moment to moment. 

As for Rep. Tom Perriello? Even his opponents call him "a man of principle."