Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ignoring the Climate Crisis, Fixating on Phony Ones

Water DamageWhen our children are wondering why we didn't solve the climate crisis when we had the chance, I'm sure they'll be thankful we took the time to try to gut their retirement benefits.

This morning I watched +Meet The Press host David Gregory and his panel not only agree Social Security and Medicare must be cut, but to brainstorm aloud strategy for making it happen. This very same panel had just gotten done unanimously agreeing that objective journalists are not allowed to say that Republicans are the problem in Washington. But they were now designing their very own political campaign.

Despite massive public opposition to social safety net cuts, why did these champions of objectivity assume gutting the social safety net is as American as apple pie? Because people in the insular, wealthy world of Beltway politics will never need to put off a trip to the grocery store until their Social Security check arrives. The threat of going hungry could never compare to the alleged threat of the budget deficit.

Except the same people who push deficit hysteria in public tip their hand at the negotiating table. They don't care about deficits - what they're really after is tax cuts for the wealthy:
In a tremendous irony, Republican requests for lower tax rates, a high estate tax threshold, and a permanent AMT fix; combined with Democratic requests to delay the sequester, include a “doc fix” for Medicare physicians, and extend emergency unemployment benefits; have left the parties negotiating toward a plan that would result in no net deficit reduction over 10 years, according to Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.
Republicans know it's all a charade - Social Security is solvent through 2038 and Medicare is solvent through 2024. And even then - at least a decade from now - the programs face not crippling bankruptcy but the need for a bit more funding. Considering effective federal tax rates have never been lower, this is not an insurmountable problem.

Meanwhile, James Hansen warned of looming climate insolvency in 1988 and the crisis went full-blown ten years later when we shattered the record for Earth's hottest year. Congress did nothing. After 14 more years of unlimited carbon pollution, 2012 has seen what will likely be America's hottest year on record, record drought and wildfires, and a climate-fueled Superstorm Sandy.

Less than two months later, global warming is once again off the radar in DC - even though just as many Americans recognize global warming is a serious problem as oppose social safety net cuts. This actual crisis, battering America right now, is rarely mentioned on television news and wasn't mentioned in any of this year's presidential debates.

Instead, pundits focus on imaginary social safety net problems and addressing the fiscal cliff austerity crisis that Congress voluntarily created, while ignoring the climate cliff we're already tumbling down. When The Onion gets it and Meet the Press doesn't, we're in big trouble.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Most Viewed Posts of 2012 at The Green Miles

Sunset off Aruba's Eagle Beach
As the sun sets on 2012, here are the most viewed posts of the year at
  1. GOP VP Nominee Paul Ryan: Science Denier, Fiscal Fraud
  2. Arlington's Dumbest Attack Yet on Westover Beer Garden: Help People Drive More!
  3. Things Reporters Can't Say: Mitt Romney is Lying About the Environmental Protection Agency
And my top 3 posts of all time since I started blogging here in 2007:
  1. Ask The Green Miles: Recycling VHS Tapes
  2. Arlington Passes Strip Mall Preservation Act
  3. Small Earthquake Felt in Northern Virginia
If you just can't get enough of The Green Miles at The Green Miles, you can follow me on the Facebook, tweet me on the Twitter at @MilesGrant, and + me on the Google+ at +Miles Grant

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Promised Land: Can Hollywood Make America Care About Fracking?

The 2010 fracking documentary Gasland hit home with environmentalists, but took in less at the box office in its entire national run than The Hobbit did in six average theaters last weekend.

Now comes Promised Land, a new film starring Matt Damon, Frances McDormand and John Krasinski, which focuses on fracking and opens widely on January 4. Will it get Americans talking about the risks of America's barely regulated fracking industry?

Friday, December 14, 2012

What's The Minimum Length for a Sabbatical?

I've always wanted to be a big enough thinker to take one of those. Is a week enough to count?

I'm off to Aruba with my girlfriend and won't have internet access (and even if I found it, my girlfriend would club me to death with my laptop), so don't expect any posts over the next week. A high-carbon-footprint flight, I know, but we'll try to make up for it while we're there, won't even be renting a car. I hear the wildlife is mostly limited to iguanas & other lizards, but maybe we'll catch a migrating bird or two.

See you next week! Can't wait to hear all about the fiscal cliff deal they reached while I was gone when I get back ...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bill Nye Makes Talking Climate Science Simple

The best way you can advocate for climate action is to talk about climate science and the need for governments to cut carbon pollution. Talk about warmer temperatures, talk about extreme weather, talk about rising sea levels. Talk to your family, your neighbors, your elected officials.

David Roberts gave progressives a simple map for talking climate change and now Bill Nye and the Climate Reality Project are making it even simplerer with Climate 101:

You don't have to know all the answers to know we need to take climate action now. Don't be afraid to speak up.

If someone asks you something you don't know, tell them that's a good question and you want to find out the answer with them! The internet is never far away and it's loaded with really good climate answers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Climate Change Hurting New Hampshire Hunters

New Hampshire MooseWarmer temperatures and extreme weather fueled by global warming took their toll on New Hampshire's moose hunting season:
Warm weather was one of the factors that attributed to the decrease in the overall success rate, according to biologists. Because moose have already grown their heavy winter coats, they tend to bed down during the day during unseasonably warm weather and wait until nightfall to move about when temperatures drop. Some hunters also reportedly cut their hunts short to head home before the arrival of developing Hurricane Sandy.
It was easiest bag a moose in the north, toughest in the south:
Preliminary numbers show moose hunters having the highest success in the North region at 82 percent, with 73 percent in the Connecticut Lakes Region, 64 percent in the White Mountain Region, 51 percent in the Central Region, 45 percent in the Southwest Region and 35 percent in the Southeast Region.
It's part of a broader trend - temperatures in New Hampshire have risen about three degrees in the last 150 years. (Note that the Eastern Moose is far from endangered - with natural predators like wolves and cougars wiped out, hunting is actually needed to control the population.)

Polls show that even though sportsmen lean conservative politically, they firmly support cutting carbon pollution. Global warming isn't an abstract idea to them - they're already seeing the effects of climate change in the places they hunt and fish, whether it's overheated moose in New Hampshire, a tick explosion in Massachusetts, threatened fish breeding grounds in Florida, or duck habitat drying up in the Plains.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Exxon: Making a Fortune Destroying Your Kids' Future

Exxon Mobil knows that the carbon pollution from its oil causes climate change, fueling extreme weather and sea level rise, yet it continues to use the profits from its oil sales to fight climate action. What else can you conclude but that Exxon Hates Your Children?

Want to help get this message from Oil Change International and The Other 98% on TV? Donate at

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sen. Whitehouse Slams GOP's Generational Fraud on Climate Change

Sheldon Introduces National Endowment for the OceansClimate-fueled superstorm Sandy caused $14 million in damage to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's home state of Rhode Island, and apparently it's left him fed up with Congressional deniers of scientific reality.

"Our nation’s best and brightest minds accept the evidence of climate change, and are urging us to act," Whitehouse fumed on the Senate floor today. "Yet still for some in this body, the deniers carry the day."

Then Whitehouse lit into Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
When it’s the deficit, he's urged us “to make sure that we have the same kind of country for our children and our grandchildren that our parents left for us.” He’s even talked about, and I quote, “the Europeanization of America,” and as a result of that Europeanization of America “our children and grandchildren could no longer expect to have the same opportunities that we’ve had.”

On virtually every traditional anti-Obama Republican Tea Party bugbear – Medicare, Obamacare, the stimulus, the deficit – even this Europeanization of America – out come the children and grandchildren. Let’s assume they are sincere; let’s assume they have a sincere concern for what is left for our children and grandchildren.

So, when it comes to big corporate polluters of today leaving our children and grandchildren a damaged and more dangerous world, where then is the concern for those children and grandchildren? To have children and grandchildren pay for the care of their grandparents through Medicare and Social Security is a sin and an outrage. To force on them the untold costs and consequences of the harms done by today’s corporate polluters? For that, the future generations’ interests receive nothing from the Republicans but stony silence, or phony and calculated denial.

But the cost will be on them; and the shame will be on us.
McConnell's concern for our children's bottom line stops at his own - both the polluting oil & gas and coal mining industries give 90% of their political contributions to Republicans, both at all-time highs back to the start of records in 1990. Overall, the energy and natural resource drilling/mining industry gives 80% of contributions to Republicans, also an all-time high.

Wondering how to rebut common climate denier talking points? Check out this great guide from

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Nuclear Giant Exelon Back to Bullying Wind Energy

Corn field and wind turbinesNuclear power giant Exelon is once again complaining that wind power makes electricity prices too low. On page 21 of Exelon's new report slamming government support for wind energy:
[S]ubsidized wind generation also exacerbates artificially low electric prices, thus imposing economic harm.
on competitive generators that are needed to maintain system reliability.
Aw, poor little Exelon! Considering the company brought in $19 billion in revenue last year while dumping vast amounts of carbon pollution into the air at no charge, I bet that cheap wind power had Exelon executives crying in their Johnnie Walker Blue.

Exelon isn't poor or little - it's a big, powerful bully that has no problem putting its best interests ahead of your family's best interests. Exelon spent $9.2 million on lobbying last year, just one of many electric utilities fighting to protect our dirty, expensive energy status quo. The entire alternative energy industry - from wind to solar to biofuels - spent $28.6 million.

As Michael Hiltzik writes in the Los Angeles Times, for all the nuclear and fossil fuel complaining about wind energy incentives, you don't hear those same industries volunteering to give up their own breaks to level the playing field:
Fossil-fuel producers reap tax accounting breaks such as the depletion allowance, which is worth an estimated $1 billion a year, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, a Washington think tank created to advise Congress on energy policy. Tax-expensing options for drillers bring them $1.9 billion a year. Relief on royalty payments due to drillers on government property: $53 billion over the lifetime of the leases. Partially as a result, the U.S. government's take from its oil and gas leases is among the lowest in the world, the Government Accountability Office found in 2007.

Then there's coal, the owners of which get to classify royalty income as capital gains, therefore paying a preferential tax rate. This break was enacted in 1951 as relief from the high taxes levied to pay for the Korean War (paying for wars from tax revenue, not by borrowing, was a quaint practice of that era). Bizarrely, it never went away and today is worth as much as $170 million a year to the coal industry.

Finally, there's nuclear, which over its fledging years received subsidies that dwarf all others, while producing a small fraction of the energy per subsidy dollar of any other fuel source. To this day, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the nuclear power industry receives subsidies worth as much as 11.4 cents per generated kilowatt, or five times as much as the 2.2-cent wind tax credit. (The figure includes such breaks as the federal cap on the industry's liability for nuclear accidents and the government's shouldering of waste management costs.)

What gives away the game on the real goals of the lobbying against the wind credit is that for all their talk about letting "the market" dictate energy policy, Romney and the Koch types never seriously advocate ending the existing subsidies for oil, gas or nuclear. Those politically connected industries are the antithesis of market operators, and their real goal is to tilt the playing field back toward the past, not the future.
Again: I understand the reasons why the nuclear industry is so terrified of extending wind energy incentives, but they're the exact same reasons average Americans should be asking their members of Congress to extend them.