Friday, November 30, 2012

New Progress for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy

London Array Phase 1 Offshore wind Farm is seen under Construction at Frinton On Sea (1209) Saturday 14th April 2012The Obama administration today announced plans to sell leases for preliminary offshore wind energy development activities in two areas of federal waters recently identified and reviewed off the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Virginia. The leases will be sold through a competitive auction in 2013:
“Wind energy along the Atlantic holds enormous potential, and today we are moving closer to tapping into this massive domestic energy resource to create jobs, increase our energy security and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness in this new energy frontier,” said [Interior Secretary Ken] Salazar. [...]

The lease sales, which will be held next year, will be the first-ever competitive sales on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for wind energy, and are major milestones in the Administration’s “Smart from the Start” wind energy program to facilitate the siting, leasing and construction of new projects. These lease sales cover two WEAs along the Atlantic coast that have high wind resource potential.
"Properly-sited clean energy like offshore wind is critical for protecting wildlife from the dangers of climate change, and we applaud the Obama Administration for taking action to advance an important new clean energy source for America," said the National Wildlife Federation's Catherine Bowes.

But like anything that's good for America's air, climate & wildlife these days, wind energy faces a threat from Congressional Republican leadership. A key incentive for wind energy investment is set to expire unless Congress acts soon. Please take a moment to email your member of Congress to keep wind incentives alive.

Possible Autism Link Yet Another Reason to Limit Air Pollution

Soot RemainsSix in ten Americans support stronger limits on soot pollution from industrial facilities, according to a new poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the American Lung Association. And the support from the core constituencies that swung the 2012 election to Democrats - young, women, black & Latino voters - is even stronger.

As is the case with lead and mercury pollution, the more we research air pollution, the more we find out it has much great impacts than we first thought:
Researchers from the University of California Keck School of Medicine examined traffic-related air pollution levels in two groups of children: 279 with autism and 245 without. The study found that autistic children and their mothers were twice as likely to live in high-pollution areas during pregnancy and the first year of life.

One in 88 children in the U.S. is affected by autism.

Researchers have been looking at a potential link between air pollution and the enigmatic developmental disorder for three years. Fine particle pollution and nitrogen dioxide — two of the leading pollutants emitted by internal combustion vehicles — affect the behavior of certain genes in the early stages of development. One of these genes is known to be less active in children with autism, according to a report on the study published on WebMD.
Tell President Obama you support tougher limits on soot pollution.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Think We're Saving Money by Driving a Little Less?

red oil barrelsNope - Big Oil is just raising the price of gasoline to make sure your money keeps flowing in. Even though Americans are driving less than we have since 2001, oil companies are on pace for a record revenue year.

It doesn't matter where we drill, or how much we drill, and it may not even matter if we just use a little less. As long as we're dependent on oil companies, we're over a barrel. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

All Downhill for Skiing Industry in Warming World

Ski School at NashobaThe skiing industry will be extinct in Massachusetts before a child born today turns 30, according to a new study on the effects of global warming:
Of 103 ski resorts operating in the Northeast, less than half could be economically viable in 30 years if winter temperatures rise by between 2.5 and 4 degrees over the next several decades as expected, according to a study by Scott that will be published early next year. The report says that if society continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels, causing emissions from heat-trapping gases to rise, no Massachusetts ski areas would survive the next 30 years, and only seven of 18 New Hampshire resorts and eight of 14 Maine mountains would remain open.
Check out this graphic the Boston Globe created using data from Daniel Scott, director of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change at the University of Waterloo in Ontario:

Money quote from Katie Johnston's Globe story: "Ski area officials prefer not to dwell on such dire predictions." Politicians, too!

But ignoring global warming has a decades-long track record of failing to solve the problem. With carbon emissions rising faster than worst-case scenarios, the climate crisis is accelerating faster than worst-case predictions.

Time to acknowledge reality - and do something about it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Green Monster: Red Sox Cash In With Car-Focused Spring Training Park

Remember how the otherwise-green-conscious Red Sox moved to a new spring training facility called JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL that virtually forces you to drive there? Turns out there's plenty of green motivation behind the lack of transit and bike parking - the cash kind:
Fort Myers’ coffers retained parking fees collected from Red Sox games under the terms of the city’s 1991 contract.

Today, the teams keep all the money generated from game day parking, tickets sales, concessions and advertising, while the county pays for expansions that increased the teams’ ability to sell those items.
As the article details, Lee County is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in ballpark costs while the Red Sox and nearby Twins owe only a small fraction of that in lease payments - and that doesn't cover the cost for road expansion & maintenance to bring all those cars to JetBlue Park.

But even with the driving mandate and JetBlue Park's total lack of solar energy despite the park's Sunshine State location, the Red Sox still got a baseline LEED green building certification, because the U.S. Green Building Council apparently is now giving them away to anyone who recycles.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We Love Our Children Enough to Put Them on the Shittiest Buses Possible

Day 11 - Highway 180, CA - IMG_1257.jpgTwo blocks up the hill - that's how far a New Bedford school bus was, yet a cloud of diesel exhaust still hung on my street in its wake, leaving the air smelling like a tire fire as I went out to get the morning paper.

All across America each morning, parents who won't let their children out of the house unsupervised because it's "not safe" are happy to put them on some of the most polluting vehicles in America:
According to a study carried out in the Los Angeles area, the levels of diesel exhaust on a bus can be four times as high as those found in passenger cars driving just ahead of the bus. And the concentration of diesel fumes found inside the buses were more than eight times that of the average amount found in California’s outdoor air.
And this:
Children on diesel buses breathe in more soot than everyone else in the surrounding metropolitan area combined, and up to 70 percent more soot than the average commuter. … Kids not only face this increased risk from exposure; they are also more vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health showed that young children’s lungs will get two and half times the dose of soot particles as an adult’s lungs.
Check out the above link from Get Energy Smart Now's Adam Siegel to learn much more about why investing in hybrid school buses would make our children healthier, save taxpayers money in the long run, and curb climate pollution. And make oil executives and Saudi oil barons angry! Good kids win, bad guys lose.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Fishing Lobby's Paradox

Worthy of the SeaThe two most frequent themes from local advocates for the Massachusetts fishing industry: The contradiction seems to be rarely noticed locally, never mind discussed. (I don't know nearly enough about the fishing industry or fisheries science to judge which concerns are actually valid.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stephen Colbert Blows Away "Wind Turbine Syndrome"

The New Bedford Standard-Times splashed a study on its front page this weekend claiming to find evidence of health effects from wind turbines ... from as far as 4,500 feet away! Wind turbines are barely audible at 900 feet and at 1,500 feet they fall below the background noise of a populated area. But somehow people three times that distance are blaming a variety of hard-to-disprove problems - trouble sleeping, general anxiety - on wind turbines.

The study itself compares wind turbine noise to "road, rail & aircraft noise," all of which we all agree can be annoying, but no one is blaming trains for making them sick or talking about tearing up all roads near houses. When the study leads off with the mind-blowing statement, "Environmental noise is emerging as one of the major public health concerns of the twenty-first century" ... well, you have to wonder if the authors might not be completely objective.

A Massachusetts effort to look at all available studies found no evidence for so-called "Wind Turbine Syndrome," while other studies have noted that giving cash to its alleged victims seems to be a miracle cure. As Stephen Colbert points out, one study that did claim to find evidence for this "syndrome" not only blamed wind turbines for weight loss and weight gain but ... herpes:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Climate Change Fueling Tick Invasion in Western Massachusetts

Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis) Catching up on some posts that got lost in the shuttle before the election. Got this email from friend in western Massachusetts in late October:
I was bow hunting yesterday afternoon for the first time this year. At the end of the hunt, I picked 14 deer ticks off of me. I have never seen this kind of infestation as bad as this. It makes you not want to wonder out into the woods. In the 31 years that I have been hunting this area, I don't think I've pulled 14 ticks off me total. Very discouraging.
Deer ticks are one of the nasty creatures that are thriving thanks to climate change. Massachusetts officials expanded the allowed take for deer hunters on Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket this year due to extremely high deer populations.

People freak out at sightings of black bears, which very rarely attack people. But we let 30 million tick-carrying, car-smashing deer wander around without a worry, because Bambi.

Friday, November 9, 2012

If You Don't Want People Parking in Your Driveway, Why Have a Driveway?

Seen while knocking on doors in New Bedford:

 Why would you give up a chunk of your yard and pay someone to pave it over if not to encourage your home's visitors to park there? Do people deliberately park in a stranger's driveway, then just walk off to go shopping? Considering a company mass-produces these signs, is this a widespread problem?

Makes you wonder if every house has a driveway in most communities because residents demand one, or if every house has a driveway because that's just what you're supposed to do in car-centric America.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Avalanche on Bullshit Mountain"

After years of denying the science on everything from cigarettes to climate change, conservative media turned its denial to political polls this year. And as The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf writes, it meant Republicans were we the last to know things were going wrong:
Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense -- not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there's no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it's often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption. [...]

It ought to be an eye-opening moment. But I expect that it'll be quickly forgotten, that none of the conservatives who touted a polling conspiracy will be discredited, and that the right will continue to operate at an information disadvantage. After all, it's not like they'll trust the analysis of a non-conservative like me more than the numerous fellow conservatives who constantly tell them things that turn out not to be true.
Meanwhile, Jon Stewart watched the right-wing media's fantasy land crumble with delight:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A True Change Election

US-VOTE-2012-ELECTION-OBAMAIf Republicans can't get enough old white dudes to support their extremist policies, they have to cheat by trying to prevent young & brown people from voting - and even that doesn't work anymore.

That's what I'll remember most about the 2012 election. Yes, I'll remember Mitt Romney making class warfare explicit with his 47% comment, Paul Ryan making generational warfare explicit in the vice presidential debate, Rick Santorum explaining that he's against welfare for blah people, George Allen running a campaign that made Fred Thompson look passionate & energetic, and Scott Brown begging Elizabeth Warren to stop bringing his party into their campaign. Oh, and Mitt wanting to fire Big Bird.

The 2012 elections have revealed just how much the GOP's exclusionary extremism - against brown people, against women's rights,  against LGBT equal rights, against young people, against low-income families, against conservation, against cities - have narrowed Republican path to victory. It was breathtaking (and little admitted in a media that ate up Romney's claims of a Secret Plan to Win the Rust Belt) how much the GOP has narrowed its field of play, as Buzzfeed visually explained.

When you hear that Mitt Romney barely scraped out a win in North Carolina while losing Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa and likely Florida ... and that a Senate that was supposed to be primed for GOP takeover is now a Democratic gain ... if I was a Republican, I'd be wondering how Karl Rove's plan for a permanent conservative majority has suddenly flipped into a minimum of eight years of playing defense.

As Duncan Black put it at Atrios, "For awhile it was 'the heartland' and 'the South' and now it's simply 'white dudes in the heartland and the South.'" And with that core constituency, the plan still worked! They not only won big percentages of white men, they turned them out in high numbers. The GOP's percentage of the white vote was the highest it's been since George H.W. Bush clobbered Mike Dukakis in 1988.

But in 2012, that's not enough to win a national election - or even a statewide election in much of America. Look at Jon Tester pulling out a surprise win in Montana, or Bill Nelson destroying Connie Mack in Florida.

I wish I could say that I was confident today that Republicans across America are blinking their eyes, wondering how they could've fallen under the spell of Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh & David Koch as they lined their own pockets and marginalized the entire party. In an ideal world, a Republican Party interested in broadening its base could return to that pragmatic past and play a critical role in hammering out solutions to some of our biggest problems - from immigration reform to climate action to easing skyrocketing student loan debt burden.

I grew up in a New England that was filled with reasonable Republicans, people like Lincoln Chafee, Bill Weld and Jim Jeffords. Having strong, sensible Republican candidates on the ballot kept Democrats honest & on their toes. (And unlike Christine O'Donnell, Richard Mourdock & Todd Akin, they actually won statewide elections.) But you know how this story ends: Chafee, Weld & Jeffords were all subsequently cast out of the GOP.

But today those same hucksters are telling Republicans that they didn't go far right enough. It was Sandy! And the media! And the blahs! And Mitt was never one of us in the first place! And if you'll just write a check to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or Karl Rove's Super PAC, next time it'll all be different. They promise.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Conventional Wisdom Fortune-Tellers Act Blindsided by Data

Terps ACC Title Hopes Dashed As Seminoles Defeat Maryland 37-3Until Hurricane Sandy, the political media derided anyone who said global warming was fueling extreme weather as an environmental activist who was overstating science to make his case. Then Sandy came, and the media acted like no one could have seen it coming.

Today, the pundits all insist the presidential race is a toss-up and Nate Silver is a moron for saying otherwise. Tuesday night, they'll all insist no one could possibly have predicted Barack Obama would decisively win the Electoral College.

In fortune-telling business, it's important to insist that only you are allowed to look into the magic crystal ball and see the future. Otherwise the rube forking over $5 for a phony fortune might be able to tell you're a huckster with a glass toy and maybe they'd be better off controlling their own destiny.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bill Koch Lashes Out at Massachusetts: Why Won't You Sacrifice Your Health to Protect My View?

Koch ProsperityBill Koch is finally speaking out about his opposition to Cape Wind, and he has a question Massachusetts residents: Why do you jerks keep prioritizing clean air, clean water, and a stable climate over the luxurious views of a handful of extraordinarily wealthy Cape residents?

The reclusive oil, gas and coal baron has been posing as an environmentalist to try to stop Cape Wind, spending millions of his personal fortune to delay the clean energy project. But he finally sat down for an interview with Patrick Cassidy of the Cape Cod Times, and wouldn't you know it, it turns out protecting wildlife isn't exactly at the top of his list:
"Cape Wind to me is somewhat of an irritant," said Osterville property owner and billionaire William Koch, who has contributed $4 million to Romney's campaign.

Koch said he views Cape Wind in two ways: "No, 1, it's visual pollution. For some reason in Massachusetts that doesn't count for much."

The second problem: Cape Wind's power costs too much, he said. "Cape Wind has to get a price that is 2.5 times the current market price," he said.
To recap, Bill Koch's reasons for opposing Cape Wind are: Protecting his views (him); and keeping us hooked on low-priced but high-pollution energy sources (him again). Gee, I wonder why this guy is having so much trouble getting other people on board with his quixotic campaign to stop Cape Wind?

But let's look at his points one at a time. Here's what Cape Wind will look like from shore:

And here's what the Brayton Point coal-fired power plant in Somerset looks like from Fall River's Kennedy Park:

Cooling Towers, Brayton Point Power Station

Which one is the eyesore?

As for the cost, those bleeding heart liberals over at NStar say Cape Wind would increase a typical monthly residential electric bill by $1.08, with electric bill increases for all types of customers within their Massachusetts service area in the 1.3% to 1.7% range. A September 2010 Suffolk / 7 News poll found 76% willing to pay at least that much, compared to only 18% not willing to pay more. A MassINC survey found 80% willing to pay at least that much, to just 17% unwilling.

The bottom line, as always, is that wind turbine opponents have a terrible case, and know it. You never hear the Koch-funded "Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound" front group talking about protecting Bill Koch's view.

Clean energy projects like Cape Wind can cut our dependence on dirty fossil fuels that emit the pollution that causes global warming and asthma and puts mercury in our waterways and fish and pregnant women. They can also create jobs and make our energy supply more dependable and secure, benefiting everyone at a tiny cost.

But clean air, healthy kids and energy security are the last thing that a selfish, polluting extremist like Bill Koch wants to talk about. Want to stand up to him? Pledge to stand with Cape Wind right now.

Business Week: It's Global Warming, Stupid

It's Global Warming, Stupid