Monday, December 21, 2015

Opposing My Project Doesn't Make Yours Any More Likely

reservoir-dogs-standoffThe stupidest argument I hear on transit is this: "(Progressive idea A) isn't all that great - (progressive idea B) is what we should get behind!"

We should do both - in fact, we can only do both. Opposing A makes the success of B less likely, because losing drains political power.

If you lose on A, the money isn't any more likely to go to B - in fact, it's less likely to do so because you just lost, so GFY. It's a myth that project funding is zero-sum - budgets are made up by politicians, and if you have power there'll be more, and if you don't have power there'll always be less.

In contrast, winning on A makes B even more likely, because winning builds political power, and again, there's always exactly as much money as we're willing to fight for & have the power to deliver.

See:
What other examples did I miss?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December Warmth Breaking Records, But Media Largely Silent on Causes

An El Nino getting a boost from global warming is breaking winter warmth and lack of snowfall records across a huge swath of the country. As I write in a new post for Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, the media is talking about the warmth but is mostly ignoring its causes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Coal Causing Climate Change Was Settled Science In 1912

How did today's climate scientists travel back in time more than 100 years to implant the greenhouse effect hoax so that they could load up on lavish research grants in 2015? The conspiracy is truly dizzying in scope.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Don't Be Garbage People: Funny or Die Video on Climate Action

Watch this new Funny or Die video called "The Fixer" starring Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley, Jr., then sign the petition in support of President Obama's Clean Power plan at LCV.org/TheFixer:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Front Group Flips on Fracked Gas Pipeline

In 2013 and 2014, lobbyist Marc Brown's "New England Ratepayers Association" opposed Kinder Morgan's proposed fracked gas pipeline expansion plans through Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Then just this month, Brown flipped and suddenly supports more fracked gas pipelines.

As I asked in a recent letter to the editor in my local New Bedford Standard-Times, what changed, Marc? Or should I say, whose check cleared?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Green Miles Hosts Rhode Island Wind Energy Panel

I recently hosted a panel on wind energy for RenewableNow.Biz featuring Jeff Grybowski of Deepwater Wind, Hannah Morini of Wind Energy Development, West Warwick Town Manager Fred Presley, and Providence Journal columnist Robert Whitcomb, who's the co-author of Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound. Watch it here:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Volkswagen is a Scam

Volkswagen Factory Wolfsburg/Germany How can anyone buy a Volkswagen after this?
Volkswagen’s pollution problems took a costly new turn on Tuesday when the company said it had understated emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, for about 800,000 of its vehicles sold in Europe, and overstated the cars’ fuel economy. A limited number of gasoline-powered cars are affected, said Eric Felber, a company spokesman, expanding the focus of Volkswagen’s crisis beyond its diesel engines.

It is the latest in a series of emissions revelations shaking the company, raising questions about the quality of its internal corporate controls and its reputation for engineering prowess, and undermining a carefully crafted image as a maker of efficient and environmentally friendly cars. The latest problem will force the company to incur an estimated 2 billion euros, or about $2.2 billion, in possible financial penalties, a spokesman said, because of tax breaks granted in Europe on cars with low carbon dioxide emissions.

Those costs would be on top of the €6.7 billion the company has already set aside to address its central emissions crisis, revealed in September when Volkswagen admitted that it had installed deceptive software in 11 million diesel vehicles to make it appear as if they met air-quality standards for nitrogen oxide, which poses a threat to human health. Volkswagen’s troubles have led to lawsuits from investors and car owners that are likely to cost the company billions of dollars beyond the money already set aside.
Is there any aspect of its vehicles that Volkswagen hasn't been lying about? These problems go so far beyond "whoops, we screwed up one thing!" Its entire corporate culture has embraced systematically lying about a range of performance items, from polluting emissions to fuel efficiency. How do we know they haven't been cheating on safety tests, too?

One of the world's biggest corporations has been running as a scam, intentionally selling shoddy vehicles to its customers. It's hard for people to get their minds around something that big and that evil, but welcome to Griftopia.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Official Admits Iowa Needs to Go on a Road Diet

US Highway 218 - IowaThe first step to getting your highway budget back to a sane level is admitting you have a problem. As Charles Marohn reports at StrongTowns.org, Iowa Dept. of Transportation Director Paul Trombino recently did just that, pointing out Iowa can't afford to maintain all the roads & bridges it's built:
I said the numbers before. 114,000 lane miles, 25,000 bridges, 4,000 miles of rail. I said this a lot in my conversation when we were talking about fuel tax increases. It’s not affordable. Nobody’s going to pay.

We are. We’re the ones. Look in the mirror. We’re not going to pay to rebuild that entire system.

And my personal belief is that the entire system is unneeded. And so the reality is, the system is going to shrink.

There’s nothing I have to do. Bridges close themselves. Roads deteriorate and go away. That’s what happens.

And reality is, for us, let’s not let the system degrade and then we’re left with sorta whatever’s left. Let’s try to make a conscious choice – it’s not going to be perfect, I would agree it’s going to be complex and messy – but let’s figure out which ones we really want to keep.
As Congressional budget negotiators come up with increasingly bizarre tricks to try to pay for a transportation budget that's mostly spent on building new roads, the question remains: What if voters don't want to pay for it?

We should talking about building fewer new, unneeded highways and focusing our resources on maintaining what we have. We know urban roads can lose lanes, with Austin recently showing that many urban roads can be slimmed down while improving safety and cutting speeding.

What can we do about expensive and little-used rural highways? How many could lose a lane and no one would ever miss it?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tainted Halloween Candy is an Urban Legend: Annual Reminder Edition

Don't inspect your kids' Halloween candy - it scares them for no reason. This year's reminder comes from AboveAverage.com:

How To Spot Suspicious Halloween Treats

Be on the lookout this Halloween! Here's how to spot suspicious treats.Watch more here: http://bit.ly/1Fyoseh

Posted by Above Average on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Friday, October 9, 2015

NBD, Just a Tropical Storm Heading for Alaska

Just after South Carolina was hit with biblical flooding, breaking monthly rainfall records in a matter of days, post-Tropical Storm Oho is now heading for Alaska. You know things are bad when the media is openly talking about how climate change is influencing Oho.

"Although tropical systems do, on occasion, move to the northeast in the central Pacific, since 1949, no late season (October or later) system has formed south of Hawaii and moved to the northeast," reports Weather.com's Chris Dolce.

Not only has Alaska been baking in record-shattering heat, but as the AP's Becky Bohrer reports, it's flooding and burning as well:
Eight of the 10 wettest summers in Juneau have occurred since 2000, he said. Records for the site date to the early 1940s. The frequency of wildfire seasons where at least a million acres have been burned has roughly doubled since the early 1990s, he said.
Better drill the last of the oil out of there before it becomes completely uninhabitable.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Climate Tell Hidden in Rush Limbaugh Politicizing Water on Mars

Lots of folks are LOLing today at Rush Limbaugh politicizing water on Mars, accusing NASA and the Obama administration of plotting to use it to "advance the leftist agenda," as first reported by Media Matters. But within Rush's rant is a tip-off about how and why extreme conservatives reject science on other issues such as climate change:
OK so there's flowing water on Mars. Yip yip yip yahoo. You know me, I'm science 101, big time guy, tech advance it, you know it, I'm all in. But, NASA has been corrupted by the current regime. I want to find out what they're going to tell us.

OK, flowing water on Mars. If we're even to believe that, what are they going to tell us that means? That's what I'm going to wait for. Because I guarantee, let's just wait and see, this is September 28, let's just wait and see. Don't know how long it's going to take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow going to find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda. I don't know what it is, I would assume it would be something to do with global warming and you can -- maybe there was once an advanced civilization. If they say they found flowing water, next they're going to find a graveyard.
Rush is explicitly telling us his acceptance or rejection of this science will be entirely based around what it means for his political world view. Do the implications of that science threaten Rush's pre-existing political beliefs? If not, then fine, it's legitimate science. But if that science undermines Rush's ideology, whether that happens tomorrow or a year from now, it will then retroactively become leftist junk science.

Climate science deniers like Sen. Jim Inhofe admit this all the time: They only reject the climate science because the carbon-cutting government policy it prescribes is incompatible with their political ideology.

But as David Roberts writes at Vox, the Associated Press and other news organizations continue to bend over backwards to frame the climate debate around science rather than around identity protection and motivated reasoning - which is what Limbaugh himself is saying here it's really all about.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Internet is a Puppy Mill

On the job My wife and I recently tried to answer a question: Is it possible to find a reputable dog breeder via the internet? In short, no.

Adopting a dog is usually preferable to a breeder and the Internet helps put you in touch with far more dogs and shelters than just your local one. Petfinder.com is a particularly useful site. But if you have a young child (as we do) or if you're picky on what type of dog would be the best fit for your home, a local puppy may be hard to find or rescues may not be willing to place with you. In that case, you may find yourself searching for a breeder.

At best, the Internet can help you identify breeder in your area. Then you can do the work to verify and get to know the breeder just as you would've in the pre-Internet era.

But at its worst, the Internet provides a new, gleaming facade and marked-up prices for the same old puppy mills. Websites often charge broker fees of 100% or more, then offer to wash off that puppy mill smell and ship the dog right to your doorstep so you never have to see where it came from.

Here's where the Internet can add value: If you're at all suspicious, google the breeder or site name and "puppy mill." If you see anything negative, run the other way. If you don't, that's not an endorsement, but you can then do your usual due diligence.

Make sure the dogs are raised in the house (not in the basement, garage, etc.) with constant interaction with a wide range of adults, children and typical household activity and noise. Ask about mom & dad, history of genetic diseases, and have your vet give the puppy a clean bill of health.

More on what to avoid: And what to do instead:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Exxon Has Known It's Warming Our Climate Since Before I Was Born

And I'm not that young anymore! As InsideClimateNews.org reports, Exxon was aware of the looming climate crisis and its own role in fomenting it as far back as July 1977.

But in 2015, it's a real mystery why climate change is happening! Wait, I mean, WHETHER it's happening!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Local Medical Center Has Infrastructure For Smoking, But Not Biking

The other day I rode my bike to my local medical facility, Southcoast Health in Fairhaven, to get blood drawn for my annual physical. While it has a massive parking lot for somewhere around 500 vehicles, Southcoast Health in Fairhaven doesn't have even one bicycle rack.

 But it does have a picnic table outside of its back door for smoke breaks.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Otis Voters Give Wind Its Latest Win

Tiny bit of turbine
VIEW RUINED
Why do local reporters keep calling wind turbines "controversial" when voters approve them time after time by huge numbers when they get a chance to weigh in? The latest win for wind comes in the western Massachusetts town of Otis, just south of the Mass Pike, as Mary Serreze reports for the Springfield Republican:
Voters in this Berkshire County town have approved borrowing $6.4 million to build a 1.7 megawatt municipally-owned wind turbine.

Tuesday's 189-96 vote came as the project, four years in the making, faced a last-minute opposition campaign from an anonymous OtisWind website, flyers posted around town, and letters to the editor of the Berkshire Eagle, including one from from the president of Massachusetts Wind Wise, a group dedicated to opposing wind projects.

The turbine will provide electricity for local government buildings and facilities. The rest will be sold to Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative, which represents dozens of Western Massachusetts school districts, said town administrator Chris Morris.

The project is also expected to generate revenue for the town in the amount of $250,000 to $300,000 in the first year of operation, Morris added.
It's funny that the article also mentions "so-called 'wind turbine syndrome,' reportedly caused by a strobe-light effect produced by the turning blades." Wait, I thought wind turbine syndrome was supposed to be caused by "infrasound"? The causes and symptoms may change, but the only thing that remains consistent is that wind turbine opponents are willing to sacrifice our health, our climate & our economy so they don't have to look at windmills. Which are actually pretty. No wonder they keep losing.

Monday, August 31, 2015

New England Coalition for Affordable Energy: The Latest Fracked Gas Pipeline Front Group

For the second time in a year, the oil and gas industry is launching a new front group in Massachusetts to try to trick voters into supporting new fracked gas pipelines. Strangely, Big Oil is being much more up front than usual about creating the "New England Coalition for Affordable Energy."

I'm not sure why you'd create a front group claiming to represent "business and labor groups," then put "Sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute and America's Natural Gas Alliance" right at the bottom of the website, but there it is:


The stock photos of "supporters" are fantastic. Obviously they're just models dressed up like different key demographics, but it's fun to imagine why you'd need, say, a doctor and a chef standing next to each other. And with the guy in the tank top and headphones - showing that the key bro demographic endorses fracked gas pipelines? 

Who's actually in this "coalition"? A handful of industrial groups, a Koch-backed national lobbying group, the Independent Oil Marketers Association of New England, and the one and only union they could find to sell out every other thing unions believe in the name of a handful of pipeline-building jobs. 

Last fall, fracked gas pipeline giant Kinder Morgan tried to hide behind a front group called the "Coalition to Lower Energy Costs," though seeing through that isn't very hard either: The Coalition's spokesman, Tony Buxton, is a lawyer for Kinder Morgan.

If more fracked gas would lower energy costs as these polluter front groups claim, why have electricity prices spiked in Pennsylvania, ground zero of the fracking boom? New England is already alarmingly dependant on fracked gas, which today is providing 57% of the region's electricity.

Fracked gas is scientifically shown to destabilize our climate, pollute our drinking water, and trigger earthquakes. Instead of doubling down on our dangerous fossil fuel dependence, our leaders should continue moving Massachusetts to new sources of clean energy like home and utility-scale solar as well as onshore and offshore wind.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Big Government for Me, Not for Thee

Libertarians in practice are people who support government programs that directly benefit them but oppose the ones that don't.

So basically, they're just selfish. Which is fine, but lay off the FREEEEDOM shtick.

They say every small-government, anti-tax Tea Party Libertarian is only one disaster away from being a socialist. #morefreedom Source: http://bit.ly/1JklQVo Photo: Elaine Thompson, AP
Posted by Red State Dems on Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Nothing Natural About Fracked Gas

Another Fireball shot from the San Bruno Fire.We don't call it "natural oil" or "natural coal." So why do we refer to methane gas - especially the gas that's been fracked - as "natural"?
Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. [...]

The extensive use of fracking in the US, where it has revolutionised the energy industry, has prompted environmental concerns.

The first is that fracking uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost. The second is the worry that potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site.
If all that isn't enough, fracked gas also destabilizes our climate and causes earthquakes. Fracking now produces half of the oil and a majority of the gas produced in the United States.

This isn't a semantic debate - it has a real impact in moving public opinion. Ask voters if they want more natural gas and most say yes. Ask if they support fracking and a plurality oppose it.

If you're trying to convince voters to oppose fracked gas pipelines or power plants, call it fracked gas. It's accurate, it communicates the damage caused by fossil fuels, and it's politically effective.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hottest Month Ever: Time to Stop Leaving Climate Action to the Politicians?

July was the hottest month in recorded human history, with 2015 on track to be the hottest year ever, which would break the record set just last year.

While climate activists and science deniers get most of the attention, the vast majority of Americans remain on the sideline. That's enabled by media coverage that either ignores the latest science or paints it as a horse-race political issue. But you have to wonder: How bad will things have to get before more Americans start moving from disengaged to concerned and from cautious to alarmed?

If you do want to get involved, find your local 350.org group here. Deniers of climate science need to feel constant pressure, and supporters of climate science need to know you support doing even more.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How Big Coal Gave Us The Clean Power Plan

As polluters and their political allies decry President Obama's Clean Power Plan, it's understandable they're ignoring the reality that they created it. As Kate Sheppard recounts at Huffington Post, friends of the coal industry, namely the minority of Republican and coal state Democrat senators, filibustered the 2010 clean energy & climate bill, which contained the ungodly sum of $177 billion to subsidize carbon capture & storage at coal-fired power plants.

Despite that massive giveaway offer negotiated by coal ally Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), despite President Obama making clear that if the bill died he'd use the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution, coal allies blockaded the bill anyway. And then they voted their powerful Democratic ally Boucher out of office, replacing him with an inept, back-bench Tea Party Republican.

Coal and its allies were gambling they could kill the climate bill and block the Clean Power Plan. Here in 2015, it's breathtaking to look at just how spectacularly that plan blew up in Big Coal's face.

Even at the time, it was clear the climate bill's death also killed any hope coal could ever be clean. But just five years later, even the old-fashioned coal-fired power that's allowed to dump carbon pollution into the atmosphere for free is now in a death spiral - well before the Clean Power Plan takes effect.

I talked about the Clean Power Plan with Bruce DePuyt on News Channel 8's Newstalk:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bike Manual's Top Safety Tip: Avoid Getting Run Over

My wife and I recently bought new Electra Townie bicycles and the manual is basically 54 pages of "if you get hit by a negligent driver, you're done for, so avoid that."

I don't blame Electra, it's just an interesting window into how we take it for granted that the vast majority of our roads aren't designed to be safe for people on bikes. (Wearing a bike helmet does much less to keep you safe than proper bike infrastructure like protected bike lanes.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

CNN Ignores Climate Science, Embraces Science Denier Meme

CNN almost completely ignored last year's landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, but this week CNN.com extensively covered a discredited climate science denier theory that was mentioned in a non-peer-reviewed study.

If "objective" news outlets were proactively trying to get people to not care about the climate crisis, how would it look different than what we have now?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

GOP: I'm Not a Scientist, and I Don't Listen to Them Either

But More People Don't Bike Because #AmericasLoveAffairWithCars!

Mailbox post in trash can filled with cement
in middle of sidewalk in Mattapoisett, MA
We're constantly told Americans drive everywhere because of our mythical love affair with cars, but trying to bike in car-dependent areas feels a lot more like we're trapped in a bad relationship.

Obstacles encountered on the sidewalk of Route 6 in Mattapoisett recently while trying to bike home:
  • Utility poles
  • Trash carts left by pickup crews in the middle of the sidewalk
  • Abandoned traffic cones
  • Abandoned utility pole support posts now supporting nothing
  • Mailbox posts
  • Shards of old mailbox posts sticking up out of the sidewalk
  • Mailbox posts built into trash cans filled with cement in the middle of the sidewalk, because mailbox safety clearly trumps people on bicycle safety 
  • Untrimmed tree branches hanging down
  • Untrimmed bushes pushing out from the side
  • Deep driveway curb cuts, because the last thing we'd want to do is make cars slow down while driving across the sidewalk
There's no bike lane on Route 6 and the speed limits range up to 45 miles an hour, which means people drive around 50 miles an hour. For casual bicyclists, the sidewalk is your only option (and there's only sidewalk on one side of the road).

Considering Route 6 is lightly traveled and I-195 parallels it just one mile to the north, it would be easy to add a bike lane, or at least an adequately wide sidewalk.

But that would mean slightly reducing vehicle speeds! How much of our freedom are we really willing to give up for complete streets? As a neighbor asked in nearby Wareham, won't someone think of the children?
"You want them to make room for all these bikers? It'll be a narrower road for ambulances heading to Tobey Hospital and school kids traveling home. There is limited space down there."
Clearly bike paths are death traps that eat the young & sick. The only way to make things safe is to give cars even more room to drive even faster!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Parking Lot Historic, Solar Farm Not

NextSun Energy wants to build a small solar farm not far from me in Rochester, MA. While I don't know if this is the right place for the project, some of the opposition is ... not exactly honest. From the Sippican Week:
“I know there are four abutters or more. It’s an island of commercial in a residential area,” Monteiro said.

The historic district is an area that encompasses three square miles in the center of town. Buildings such as Plumb Library, the First Congregational Church and Town Hall are all located in the area.
Such a historic area, clearly undisturbed since colonial times!

Except it's right across the street from a shopping plaza with a huge parking lot:



The New Bedford Standard-Times doesn't mention the disconnect either.

And what kind of bucolic-character-destroying development are we talking about? Here's another NextSun project:


Looks exactly like lower Manhattan to me!

People can oppose whatever they want & that's certainly their right. But let's be honest: Historic preservation is often used as a shield for personal preference. At a time when we need to be building clean energy as quickly as possible to slow the climate crisis, is that enough justification to use government authority to block projects like this?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Alberta's Carbon Tax is Pocket Change to Big Oil

Calgary Nightlife
Alberta! Apparently lots of people live there? Who knew!
Alberta is raising its carbon tax to $30 a ton by 2017, but that's projected to only cut carbon emissions two percent. So basically, it’s pocket change for the oil industry because it will barely change their behavior, and the government gets millions in revenue. 

There's plenty of evidence in the states that putting a price on carbon pollution is great for state budgets without hurting state economies. California's carbon cap and trade system raised $850 million last year. Business Insider recently ranked California's economic growth second-fastest in the US, so cap and trade is not exactly crippling its economy.

In the Northeast, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative just raised $85 million in its second auction of 2015. It raised $82 million in the first auction, meaning it's on pace to raise in the neighborhood of $330 million for the year, and continuing to prove that carbon cap and trade works really, really well.

Note that Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) pulled New Jersey out of RGGI, and now the state is having to raise taxes to make ends meet. I bet New Jersey could use those millions in easy money right about now.

Imagine how much in revenue Congress and other states are leaving on the table? It’s crazy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More Evidence of Air Pollution's Impact on Health, This Time Our Brains

photo by secret squirrelNew research links air pollution from fossil fuels like coal and oil - particularly from diesel engines - to dementia, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, as Aaron Reuben reports for Mother Jones:
Controlling for things like ethnicity, gender, income, education, and other possible environmental exposures (including cigarette smoke), elderly individuals living in areas with polluted air appear to lose their mental abilities faster, show more predementia symptoms (also known as mild cognitive impairment), and develop Alzheimer's disease at greater rates. Six years ago, researchers in Germany assessed the cognitive abilities of 399 elderly women who lived in the same place for more than 20 years. Regardless of her socioeconomic status, the closer a woman lived to a busy road, the authors reported, the greater the chance that she would have mild cognitive impairment.

Four years ago, researchers from Harvard linked estimates of higher daily exposure to black carbon, a solid type of fine particulate matter, to lower cognitive ability in older men in Boston. In a larger, national study tracking the mental status of more than 19,000 retired nurses over several years, researchers connected the rate of mental decline in women 70 and older to their exposure to coarse- and fine-particle pollution and found that those exposed to more particles lost their mental abilities at a faster rate. In a group of 95,690 elderly Taiwanese, researchers this year found that a slight increase in fine-particle exposure over 10 years led to a 138 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. A smaller, more recent study published in the Annals of Neurology followed 1,403 elderly women without dementia. Scientists found that exposure to air pollution over time to led to a major decrease in the subjects' white matter, a part of the brain essential for cognition. [...]

And there is growing evidence that particle pollution's assault on the mind is not limited to elderly brains. Researchers in Mexico City, which still has some of the worst urban air on the planet, have found signs of advanced brain damage in children as young as six and seven years old: overactive immune cells, degraded white matter, and damaged vasculature typically seen only in older brains. In one autopsy study comparing children raised in Mexico City with their counterparts in less polluted parts of the country, half the Mexico City children had notable aggregations of a protein called amyloid beta—which is strongly associated with Alzheimer's—grouped in clumps across their brains. In the children from less polluted areas, there were none.
If all costs remained the same, and global warming were not occuring, it would still be worth it strictly from a public health perspective to end our use of fossil fuels. From lead damaging our children's brains to air pollution's link to autism to mercury's link to ADHD, the toll of coal and oil pollution is incalculably immense.

But the climate crisis is already well underway and the costs of inaction are staggering, which makes the decision a complete slam dunk. That our elected officials aren't moving us away from polluting energy as quickly as possible shows that there are truly enormous amounts of money to be made from keeping us hooked on fossil fuels and maintaining our energy status quo.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Fraud of Climate Science Deniers Telling the Pope to Shut up

With Pope Francis issuing an encyclical this week declaring that we have "a moral and religious imperative" to cut carbon pollution, climate science deniers are scrambling to explain how their continued obstruction isn't immoral. Their new version of "I'm not a scientist" is "the Pope shouldn't mix religion and politics."

That's beyond hypocritical. As Steve Benen writes at MSNBC, for many of these same conservatives, mixing religion and politics is their bread and butter:
In culture-war debates over gay rights and reproductive rights, for example, the right routinely argues that policymakers should heed the appeals from religious leaders. More generally, conservatives express alarm about the left trying to push voices from the faith community “out of the public square.” It’s these religious leaders, the GOP argues, that should help guide public debate.

Except when the climate is on fire, at which point the pope is apparently supposed to keep his mouth shut?
A related fraud: When polluter front groups like the Heartland Institute, which believes we should have no minimum wage whatsoever, claim to be better advocates for the poor than Pope Francis.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Read These Two Stories, Then Tell Me We Can Separate Environmental Problems From Inequality

Hillary Clinton delivered her first major campaign speech over the weekend, painting climate science denial as part of the same elite obstruction that keeps wages down and public infrastructure shoddy.

It's a powerful case that brings together seemingly unrelated issues. And it's one that's more believable the more you know about how many of the ultra-wealthy simply don't care about solving America's problems:
  • After California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered water restrictions in the face of crippling drought, Rob Kuznia reports in today's Washington Post that the ultra-wealthy community of Rancho Santa Fe has actually increased its water use 9 percent:
    People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” [Steve] Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”
  • The Russell Sage Foundation polled the 1% (average income of $1 million or more a year) and found they're 37% more likely than the average American to say we should cut environmental protections than expand them.
As David Roberts writes at Vox, there's growing evidence that, as a group, rich people are selfish jerks.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why Else Would You Want to Build a Fracked Gas Pipeline to the Coast?

There's tons of news coverage about proposed fracked gas pipelines in New England, but almost never mentioned is that they're clearly export pipelines. We're really supposed to believe they want to build these pipelines to lower our energy costs? Why would they do that even if the pipelines are built?

Fracked gas companies are just exploiting high prices to get customers to pay for new pipelines to get their gas to the export market. It's a huge scam.

They're never going to volunteer to stop gouging us. Until we force them to bargain by shifting our energy supplies into utility-scale wind and solar, we're negotiating with the people holding us hostage.

Robert Reich on How to Save the Planet AND Our Economy

Watch this new video from Robert Reich & MoveOn, then read more here:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Jeb Bush's Allegiance to Big Polluters Must Never Be Discussed

Reporters wonder why Jeb Bush is so hard to pin down on climate change.

Then days later, it's revealed Jeb is desperately courting coal money.

It's a real mystery!

Best to present this as some inscrutably brilliant political strategy that only he understands. Surely can't point out his painfully transparent true motivations.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cruz: We Mustn't Ask If Climate Polluters Made Texas Floods Worse

CNN reports the unprecedented floods in Texas - exactly the kind climate scientists have been saying we'll see more of in a warming world - are really harshing the science denial of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX):
The Republican presidential contender has held two press conferences over the past two days to address the flooding and the government's response. At each one, he was asked about the impact of climate change on natural disasters like the Texas flooding, and at each one, he dodged the question.

"In a time of tragedy, I think it's wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster -- and so there's plenty of time to talk about other issues," he said in response to a question on his views on climate change during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Yes, the last thing we should be doing is using science to figure out if carbon pollution from fossil fuels made the never-before-seen flooding worse. Remind me again how it's "libertarian" to let polluters make deadly disasters worse without having to pay for it?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Do Voters Really Want to Spend More on Roads?

Spring in New EnglandFollowing in the footsteps of Massachusetts voters last fall, Michigan voters recently rejected a gas tax increase. This reaction from Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI), who pushed the tax hike referendum, caught my eye:
"While voters didn't support this particular proposal, we know they want action taken to maintain and improve our roads and bridges," Snyder said.
We hear that from politicians and political commentators all the time, but is that really true? And what if it's not?

Raising the gas tax is a very good idea, yet it's also extremely unpopular. This is always interpreted as anti-tax fervor, or that there's something unique about the gas tax that voters don't want that raised but they'd be more tolerant of some other tax hike to fund roads, because voters are dumb, I guess?

As Gov. Snyder said, it's always taken on faith that voters want to spend more on roads and bridges, but don't want to have to pay for it. Most polling isn't helpful in that it just asks if voters want to raise the gas tax to fund transportation projects, but doesn't ask whether funding more transportation projects is itself a worthy goal.

Here's what some polling can tell us:
  • A 2014 YouGov/Huffington Post poll found fewer voters wanted to spend more (45%) on roads and bridges than wanted to spend the same (31%) or less (15%). That's not exactly a mandate for saying "we know they want action taken," is it?
  • A Smart Growth America poll back in 2007 found voters supportive of spending more on road repair, but strongly opposed to spending more on new roads. This is a key point because states spend most of their transportation money on building new roads.
  • poll ahead of the Michigan referendum showed the biggest chunk of voters didn't want their taxes raised and others didn't like the complex referendum proposal. But at least 1 in 5 voters didn't want to spend the money spent at all, calling it wasteful government spending. 
What would it look like if we stopped increasing spending on roads and bridges? In the short term, we'd build fewer brand new or expansion projects, and focus on repairing existing ones. If those polls are right, that's actually much more in line with public sentiment than our Big New Project status quo.
Would it be a traffic nightmare if we stopped expanding roads? Transportation researchers say no:
The Surface Transportation Policy Project and other researchers have found that for every increase in our highway network, half of the new capacity is taken up by "induced demand" -that is, traffic drawn to the road because it's there. Building new roads and adding more lanes draws people who otherwise would not have driven onto the roads. Combined with the delays created by construction and the time it takes to complete a major project, roadbuilding provides almost no relief from traffic delays. And it's incredibly expensive.
Maybe instead of spending more money on roads and bridges whether voters like it or not, politicians and pundits should try listening to them instead?

UPDATE 5/31/15: I joined the BradCast to discuss this topic, you can listen here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ignoring Climate Change Fails to Make It Go Away, 2015 Edition

With a few outliers like Germany, nations aren't taking aggressive action on climate change. President Obama is taking a two steps forward, one step back approach. Congress is doing absolutely nothing. For every governor like Washington's Jay Inslee pushing for aggressive action, there's one like Massachusetts' Charlie Baker, who won't lift a finger to help clean energy.

So what are we left with?

"The obvious truth about global warming is this: barring miracles, humanity is in for some awful shit," writes David Roberts in a must-read at Vox.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Stop Drinking Poison

the new eyepatchNot sure what's more shocking - that we eat 46.2 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per person every year in the United States, up 3,903% in the last 40 years, or that our consumption is down from a high of 63 pounds a year in 1999, according to Danielle Kurtzleben at Vox. Fueling the trend: Our consumption of soda is up 78%.

In related news:
Over the past 35 years, obesity rates have more than doubled. From 2009 to 2010 to 2011 to 2012, rates remained the same. The average American is more than 24 pounds heavier today than in 1960.

Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1980.
Why did we ban Joe Camel because he was marketing poison to kids, but not Coca Cola's polar bears, Ronald McDonald, and Twinkie the Kid?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Grumpy Old Columnist Tells Kids to Give Up on Divestment

Hey, you kids! Pull up your pants and turn down that loud music! An old lawyer is here to condescendingly tell you how to stop with your popular, effective actions against climate change, and instead take up his ineffective, wildly unpopular niche solution that won't at all solve global warming! 

The fossil fuel divestment movement has gotten hundreds of colleges, communities, religious institutions and foundations to commit to selling off stocks, bonds or funds that invest in climate-disrupting fuels. But Boston Globe columnist Tom Keane is here to tell you divestment is stupid and all those kids are stupid too:
It’s easy to question the students’ tactics. For one, there’s a whiff of hypocrisy. The same students doubtless drive cars, ride the bus, and fly in airplanes, all powered by petrochemicals. Demanding divestment gives the illusion of clean hands without actually having to wash up. Of course, almost all of us who worry about climate change are hypocrites as well. Fossil fuels are ubiquitous and necessary. Yes, Al Gore would jet from country to country telling folks, basically, not to fly in jets. But how else could he get there?
If you go anywhere you're killing the planet! But we have to go places to get anywhere! I have no idea what Keane's point is here. College kids are ruining the planet by taking public transportation?
In any event, occupying presidents’ offices won’t do much to help the environment.
What did protesting ever solve, anyway?
What could? Conservation.
"Mookie Betts won't win the World Series for the Red Sox. What could? A well-constructed 25-man roster and a deep farm system." Is that really a fair standard for judging Betts' effectiveness?

Clearly Keane doesn't understand divestment and hasn't asked anyone to explain it to him. What do you expect, a Boston Globe columnist to leave his office and talk to people who don't agree with him? To understand divestment, go read David Roberts at Vox:
Nobody thinks the divestment movement can hurt fossil fuel companies in any direct financial way, but that's not what it seeks to do. Rather, it seeks to put mainstream institutions on record defining climate mitigation as a moral imperative, to create social consensus that inaction is not neutral — it is immoral.
Green technocrats have tried to sell Washington on solutions like cap & trade and carbon taxes using economic framings like green jobs, investment and risk management. They've lost to every time to polluters using their big money advantage to win the partisan political game. Divestment is an attempt to re-take the moral high ground - to change the game.

But folks like Keane act like all we need is an even wonkier, less popular fix:
The obvious answer is to artificially raise the price of gas by imposing taxes.

It’s an old idea. Europe does it, which is why the price of gas there is upwards of $10 gallon (and why Europeans have smaller cars and drive less). It’s resisted in the United State by both the right and left: Higher taxes are seen as just more fuel for a bigger public sector and they also disproportionately hurt those of more modest means. There is a way around those problems however. Collect the taxes, but then rebate them back. People’s pocketbooks wouldn’t be any lighter, but they would still become much more frugal in their use of gasoline.

It’s a good solution — maybe the only solution. Rather than spending their time in sit-ins, it’s an idea college students might want to rally around.
Look, I'm all for increasing the gas tax - it would raise needed revenue while adding some pain to burning a fossil fuel. But the federal and Massachusetts gas tax combined are a pathetic 44 cents a gallon. Gas is at $2.58 now. Even if you doubled the tax, gas would still be about $3 a gallon. How would that reduce gas use? Gas at $4 a gallon barely made a dent in driving. The truth is that we still subsidize driving in a hundred other ways, from untolled highways to free or low-cost on-street parking to housing policies that encourage sprawl.

Raising the gas tax is an unpopular idea that won't solve the problem, especially since it completely ignores the majority of carbon emissions that come from electricity, industrial, agricultural and other sources.

With Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's administration pushing new & expanded fracked gas pipelines that will make global warming even worse, we need bigger-picture ideas that get to the urgency of ending our fossil fuel dependence entirely. That's where divestment comes in.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cooper's Hawk Eating Grackle

Spotted in my backyard the other day:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Most Awkward Climate #LeaveItThere Ever?

I'm used to stories about the impacts of climate change that leave out the cause altogether. But a recent CNN story on a huge blob of overheated water off America's Pacific Coast set a new standard for brushing past climate science while still giving it the cold shoulder.

First, Slate's Eric Holthaus explains the blob's connection to global warming:
Besides El NiƱo, a more worrying, longer-term trend is also taking shape. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a decades-long periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean that tends to favor bursts of accelerated global warming. As I wrote last October, the Pacific appears to be in the midst of a shift into a new warm phase that could last 20 years or so.

The PDO—or, “the blob” as it’s been referred to recently—is starting to freak out some scientists. There are emerging signs of a major shift in the Pacific Ocean’s food chain, including a dearth of plankton, tropical fish sightings near Alaska, and thousands of starving sea lion pups stranded on the California coast. As Earth’s largest ocean, what happens in the Pacific affects the weather virtually planet-wide, and that means an “imminent” jump in global warming may have already begun—spurred on by the PDO.

The PDO has skyrocketed to record-high monthly levels over the past four months. In fact, there have only been four other similarly warm four-month bursts of the PDO in the last 115 years (in 1940, 1941, 1993, and 1997). A quick look at the historical record (for both 15 years prior to and 15 years after the bursts) shows that global temperatures rose at twice the rate of the 20th century average immediately after these bursts.

Combined with the overall long-term warming trend from climate change, the emergence of the PDO warm phase means the current state of the world’s oceans has little precedent.
CNN's story never mentions global warming - in fact, just when it feels like they're about to, the story abruptly ends. "But other scientists are saying it's more than that," says Jennifer Gray - then it cuts to black. No explanation, CNN just leaves it there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

America's Worst-Named Wildlife: Fisher Cats

MyNameIsPrice...It’s always driven me crazy that fisher cats don't catch fish and aren't cats. If I had $1 billion I’d start a campaign to switch the casual reference to one of their Native American names:
The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a small carnivorous mammal native to North America. It is a member of the mustelid family, commonly referred to as the weasel family. The fisher is closely related to but larger than the American Marten (Martes americana). The fisher is a forest-dwelling creature whose range covers much of the boreal forest in Canada to the northern United States. Names derived from aboriginal languages include pekan, pequam, and wejack. It is also sometimes referred to as a fisher cat, although it is not a feline.
Wejack! Sounds like a ‘70s movie cop who doesn’t play by the rules. Let's go with that. Who's with me?

As bonus evidence of fisher's awesomeness, I present this random high school film project I found on YouTube:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Everyone Hates Coal. Pandering To It Is Stupid Politics.

Political reporters paint investments in clean energy as a pander to a narrow segment of the Democratic base, while pledges to continue investment in coal are framed as smart plays to shoring up the moderate middle. And of course you have to support corn ethanol or you'll lose the entire center of the country!

But take a look at this new poll of homeowners by Zogby Analytics for Clean Edge and Solar City:

It's solar and wind that are broadly popular, while coal and biofuels have only fringe support - and keep in mind this question allowed people to name their top three.

Meanwhile, for all the talk of the popularity of fracked gas, it finished a distant third to clean energy.

Warmth Records Continued to Fall Out West in March 2015

These cities had their hottest March on record:
It was also the 2nd-warmest March in Billings, Montana and both Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.

And not one of the articles mentioned climate change.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Comcast's New "Power Save" X1 Boxes Still Waste Tons of Energy

Energy-wasting cable boxes cost families an extra $100 a year each, so when Comcast sent me a new X1 box, I was eager to learn more about its new "Power Save" feature.

The first disappointment: "Power Save" arrived turned off. I had to go into the power settings to tell it to go to Power Save after a certain number of hours. How many customers will ever do that? 10 percent?

But what's even more confusing is figuring out what Power Save actually does. From Comcast's Power Save FAQ:
Your energy saving depends on the specific X1 set-top box type (DVR or non-DVR), how much time the device is in Power Save mode and what power-saving activities are going on behind the scenes (such as scheduled recordings). Because of these variables, we can't say exactly how much energy your set-top box saves in Power Save mode, but to maximize your energy savings, you should always put your set-top box in Power Save mode as soon as you are done watching TV.
Notice how Comcast carefully avoids making factual claims about how much energy is actually saved - if any. 

OK, time to put it to the test. My old Comcast box registered 86 degrees in a 75 degree room. How does the new X1 box do when in use?

82 degrees in a 67 degree room. Not much better. And after it had been in Power Save mode all night (with no DVR recordings or any reason to be active):

Even though the room was down to 62 degrees and it had been in "Power Save" mode for several hours, the Comcast box still registered 78 degrees, not much different than when in use.

Comcast's "new" boxes don't seem any better than the old ones at sucking tons of vampire power, turning lots of your money into waste heat.

UPDATE 8/6/15: One other thing that's bugged me after several months of use. To save money & energy, I have the box and my TV plugged into a power strip that I can turn off. But the Comcast X1 box takes several minutes to start back up - even longer than my computer. And that long wait isn't because of fantastic performance - the box is painfully slow to respond to the remote and move between menu screens.

The bottom line is that while this box delivers flashier graphics, in terms wasting energy and slow performance, it's no better than the old boxes it replaced.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Kansas Finally Admits It Has a Fracking Earthquake Problem

How deep in Big Oil's pocket are Oklahoma legislators when even Sam Brownback's Conservative Utopia of Kansas (A Subsidiary of Koch Industries) will admit it has a fracking earthquake problem, but Oklahoma is still in denial?

As E&E's Mike Soraghan reports, Kansas is facing up to its frackquake problem and taking action:
Regulators in Kansas have imposed sharp restrictions on oil and gas activity in two southern counties in response to increased earthquakes in the area.

The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) cited an "immediate danger" to public safety as the reason for limiting the pressure that can be used to inject wastewater into disposal wells and the volumes that can be injected.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma's denial sounds a lot like Florida's state-ordered climate science denial. We can't talk about the cause because that would be a distraction from trying to deal with the effects, or something!
The Oklahoma commission has also avoided explicitly linking earthquakes to disposal wells, saying getting embroiled in such a debate could bog down its response. But Kansas officials made a direct correlation.

"The increased number of recorded earthquakes in Kansas coincides with an increase in the number of injection wells and the amounts of injected saltwater in Harper and Sumner counties," the order states.

Kansas had 127 earthquakes last year, according to the commission order, and more than 50 this year by mid-March. From 1981 to 2010, Kansas had 31 quakes.
This is an issue that states far from America's new FrackQuake Alley need to face up to. Here in Massachusetts, new fracked gas pipelines are being sold as the solution to all our problems. But in addition to the question of whether we even need new enormously expensive pipelines, do we really want to be supporting this kind of destructive drilling that also threatens public health in fracked communities?

UPDATE 4/22/15: Oklahoma has ended its frackquake denial.

Monday, March 30, 2015

LA Asks Inhofe for Emergency Snowball Shipment

As DC asks if global warming is happening because it snowed last winter, Los Angeles just doubled the old record for 90 degree days in March.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rarely-Seen Neighborhood Coyotes Say Hello

Coyotes are common but rarely seen in Massachusetts, preferring to avoid any contact with people. In my neighborhood of Sconticut Neck in Fairhaven, coyotes made news a few years ago when a series of cats went missing, but I'd only spotted one briefly dashing through the snow during a storm.

Then last night just after sunset, some nearby coyotes decided to yip & howl it up:

A video posted by Miles Grant (@thegreenmilesgrant) on


Impossible to say exactly how close they were as howls can be clearly heard over a surprising distance, up to a few miles. As intimidating as coyote sounds can be, their message could've been as simple as, "We're claiming this spot to build our den & have our pups in a few weeks."

How many were there? Adirondack Almanack says it could be fewer than you'd think:
When people hear coyote howls, they often mistakenly assume that they’re hearing a large pack of animals, all raising their voices at once. But this is an auditory illusion called the “beau geste” effect. Because of the variety of sounds produced by each coyote, and the way sound is distorted as it passes through the environment, two of these tricksters can sound like seven or eight animals.
Coyotes thrive in suburban and even urban areas, just as their prey do. Rodents, rabbits, deer, frogs, fish, insects - if it moves, they'll probably eat it. When I worked odd hours in Arlington, VA, I'd very rarely spot one among the high-rise apartment buildings just across the Potomac from DC. You'd never know they were there unless you had your headlights on at the right time in the early morning hours (and cars are coyotes' main enemy). By the time most people start waking up, coyotes are back in their wooded homes.

By far the number one conflict between coyotes and people is over pets. Cats and dogs should never be left outside alone, especially at night. Coyotes almost always steer well clear of humans, but a small dog let out alone before bedtime can be easy pickings for a hungry coyote.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife has more tips for living with coyotes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Can't Imagine Why California's Down To One Year of Water Left

Parched earthUnder California's new "restrictions," everyone can still have giant lawns, golf courses, etc., and they can still give them unlimited water, but they can only do it about every other day. And there's little or no punishment for breaking the rules. Golly, I can't imagine why they're down to one year of water left.

Meanwhile, the corporate farms that use most of the state's water remain completely unregulated as they race to steal the last drops from California's underground aquifers, which would take decades to refill even if everyone stopped siphoning them tomorrow. Wildlife that don't have water pumped to their doorstep are dropping like flies. And climate change is making the problem worse, faster.

Gizmodo's Alissa Walker lists some water restrictions with teeth that would help make sure California is still inhabitable in 2017. But until California politicians are willing to force its farms to sip instead of gulp, the state will continue down the road to disaster.

60 Minutes took a look at California's looming water crisis late last year. It's a good story with one big short coming - it never mentions climate change.

Monday, March 16, 2015

This Week in Heat Records Not Being Tied to Climate Change

2015 LA Marathon-137
The 2015 Los Angeles Marathon was run in record
heat, sending 30 runners to hospital
Winter warmth records fell across the West, but reporters didn't connect the dots to climate change. So how are we doing in March?

Heat records have fallen in the last week (or are forecast to be shattered today) from San Francisco to south Florida:
And how many of those articles mention global warming? Not one.

Look, I don't expect every local forecast to launch into an in-depth scientific explanation of the greenhouse effect. But at the end of a long piece on a heat wave, couldn't you drop in, "Scientists say these trends are exactly what we can expect more of in a warming world"?

UPDATE 3/17: Josephine Marcotty of Minneapolis Star Tribune gets it right. “There is a lot of scientific evidence saying that climate change is causing more extremes,” says William Glesener of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Friday, March 13, 2015

Won't Someone Think of the Drunk Assholes

Some San Diego Chargers fans are threatening to cancel their season tickets if the city builds a downtown, transit-friendly stadium because the lack of a large surface parking lot would mean they can't tailgate before the game.

As a huge football fan who rarely goes to games due to both the trouble of parking and huge numbers of shitfaced assholes (also, the expensive tickets), I wonder if the Chargers would be gaining a lot more fans than they lose.