Sunday, December 30, 2007

Quick Tips for a Green New Year's Eve

UPDATE: The Curious Grape tells me they have a few selections of champagne and sparkling wine grown with organic grapes.

Looking to go out for New Year's? Check out the
Party with a Purpose at Mexicali Blues in Clarendon. It's sponsored by Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment and to benefit EarthEcho International and

Staying home for New Year's? Pop the cork at midnight on a bottle of organic champagne!
Treehugger has reviews of eight different selections of champagne and sparkling wine. I couldn't find any organic champagne at Harris Teeter, but call The Curious Grape or Whole Foods to see what they have to offer.

Even the Times Square celebration is getting greener, switching to LED lights for the New Year's Eve ball. Despite being smaller and only using as much energy as 10 toasters, the new LEDs will be twice as bright as the old bulbs and can create more than 16 million colors.

Higher Temps, Weirder Weather: Welcome to Your New Climate

As the Associated Press reports, 2007 gave us our best taste yet of what climatologists say is coming as our planet warms:
When the calendar turned to 2007, the heat went on and the weather just got weirder. January was the warmest first month on record worldwide — 1.53 degrees above normal. It was the first time since record-keeping began in 1880 that the globe's average temperature has been so far above the norm for any month of the year. [...]

It wasn't just the temperature. There were other oddball weather events. A tornado struck New York City in August, inspiring the tabloid headline: "This ain't Kansas!"

In the Middle East, an equally rare cyclone spun up in June, hitting Oman and Iran. Major U.S. lakes shrank; Atlanta had to worry about its drinking water supply. South Africa got its first significant snowfall in 25 years. And on Reunion Island, 400 miles east of Africa, nearly 155 inches of rain fell in three days — a world record for the most rain in 72 hours.
A separate story paints a detailed and bleak picture of California's climate future.

All this reinforces several key points that seem to get overlooked in the climate change:
  1. Global warming is not an abstract future possibility. It's been already been happening for years. We've just chosen to pretend it's not happening or is not our fault.
  2. Global warming is not just about melting glaciers and threatened polar bears. Changes are affecting all of us. If you're talking with friends about the climate crisis, cite the impacts in your own backyard.
  3. Global warming does not mean it will never be cold anywhere again. Just because it was cold where you live yesterday doesn't mean the planet isn't warming, and just because OshKosh broke a record for most December snow doesn't mean the planet isn't warming (in fact, warmer air can hold more water vapor so if temperatures rise but remain below freezing, you can get higher snowfall).
For more tips on refuting global warming denial, read Grist's How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Gov. Kaine Reveals Appointments to VA Climate Commission

Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced his picks for the Virginia Commission on Climate Change on Friday. Some good names (Arlington County's Paul Ferguson) and some eyebrow-raising ones (David Heacock of Richmond, President of Dominion Virginia Power).

The commission is charged with, among other things, identifying actions to achieve the 30% cut in projected 2025 greenhouse gas emissions (or about 7% from current levels by Lowell's calculations) targeted by Gov. Kaine's Virginia Energy Plan, of which The Green Miles is not a big fan. I'm also not enamored with the way Gov. Kaine's own press release gets the target wrong, claiming the energy plan aims to "reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2025."

No one's answering the phone in the governor's press office today, so I'm holding back judgment until I can get some questions answered about the commission. Among them:
  • What if the Commission determines that we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30% from projected 2025 levels? Will it be allowed to make stronger recommendations, or are its hands tied?

  • Why isn't anyone from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network on the panel? Or for that matter, from Appalachian Voices, Sierra Club, Virginia Conservation Network, or Virginia League of Conservation Voters?

  • Why were the appointments revealed on the Friday before Christmas (typically that's when you release news you're trying to bury?
  • I'll let you know when I speak to the governor's office.

    Meantime, what do you think of the commission's members? Any names jump out at you?

    Tuesday, December 25, 2007

    Are We Just Keeping an Eye on the Place Until He Gets Back?

    Ever hear of the Creation Care movement? It started last year when a group of Evangelicals began calling on all Christians to push for federal legislation that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to stem global warming. Grist's "God and the Environment" series provides a detailed background of the movement and its history. Since then, other faiths have joined the cause. A quick Yahoo search even turns up a Mennonite Creation Care group.

    There's been a backlash among some Evangelicals. Some may be true skeptics; others may be so in lockstep with the GOP on social issues that they've decided to embrace its global warming denial as well.

    The public reason given for the creation care opposition makes me think it's the latter. Opposition Evangelicals said, "Global warming is not a consensus issue, and our love for the Creator and respect for His creation does not require us to take a position." Yes, since when does organized religion take a stance on anything that everyone doesn't agree on? That would be crazy.

    Whatever you celebrate, The Green Miles wishes you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a Happy Festivus! I just hope your Festivus pole is made out of recycled aluminum.

    Monday, December 24, 2007

    Genuine or Greenwashing: Water-Saving Hotels

    A quick post from Rhode Island's TF Green Airport ...

    The Green Girlfriend and I stayed in the
    Providence Biltmore Hotel this weekend. Cards in the bathroom trumpet the hotel's "Green Program," detailing efforts to change sheets and wash towels only when necessary.

    But like every hotel The Green Miles has ever stayed in, there was no recycling available in the hotel. Not in the room. Not anywhere else on the floor. Not even in the lobby.

    And all over the room? Incandescent light bulbs. Considering hotels nickel and dime you for internet service, movies and room service, why is the Biltmore passing up the chance to save $3 per bulb per year on light bulbs?

    I first saw the sheet/towel card nearly a decade ago. At this point, it's not eco-friendly, it's standard operating procedure. If a hotel can't bring anything more to the table than that by 2007 yet is still trying to get credit for being "green" ... sorry, Biltmore. The Green Miles' verdict? Greenwashing.

    I wish I could link you to a site to help you find green hotels, but it doesn't look like there's a great one. Grist's Ask Umbra can give you a good rundown of what to look for in a truly eco-conscious hotel.

    Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Sit! Stay! Save the Planet!

    I was in Harris Teeter tonight and saw these:

    Newman's Own Organic Dog Treats and Lassie Natural Way Jerky Strips. So which treats endorsed by a washed up actor would your dog prefer?

    I shouldn't make fun of them too much. While I don't know how many health benefits there could be in avoiding the buildup of pesticides and other chemicals in a relatively short-lived animal like a dog, there are definitely environmental benefits to be had.

    sheer volume of pet food produced in the U.S. each year is staggering:
    In the U.S. about 300 manufacturers produce more than 7 million tons of pet food each year, one of the largest categories of any packaged food. Pet owners can choose from more than 3,000 different pet food products, including the dry, canned, and semi-moist types, as well as snacks such as biscuits, kibbles, and treats. In the 1990s, this $8-billion industry feeds America's 52 million dogs and 63 million cats.
    Organic pet food may seem frivolous at first glance. But wouldn't producing that 7 million tons of food organically without chemicals or pesticides help the environment just as much as organic human food?

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Arlington County Board Condemns Proposed Coal-Fired Power Plant

    The Arlington County Board has joined Blacksburg and Charlottesville in passing a resolution opposing plans for a new coal-fired power plant in Wise County. It's a bold stand and one that makes me proud to be an Arlingtonian. As I've said before, this plant is a bad idea on so many levels, both economic and environmental.

    And who can you count on to provide unbalanced coverage of such a rational move? Why, the Sun Gazette, of course. I wouldn't even call their write-up an "article". So many facts are left out and so many opinions are left in, it's a lot closer to an editorial than anything resembling journalism. It managed to leave out all this:

    • According to the Roanoke Times, the plant will be allowed to release more than 12,500 tons of pollution each year, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, the latter a cause of serious breathing problems for people with respiratory illnesses
    • Each year, the plant would emit 5.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas causing global warming
    • The plant would keep Virginia addicted to mountaintop-removed coal
    The movement against the plant is really picking up steam across the state, with the Bristol Herald Courier becoming the latest newspaper to editorialize against the plant.

    Please email the County Board right now to congratulate them for taking a strong stand on such a critical issue!

    Coal: The Future is Later

    Monday, December 17, 2007

    Tuesday: Living in a Disposable World

    The Green Girlfriend alerted me to this event at the National Building Museum:
    Living in a Disposable World
    Recycling the Future

    National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW
    Tuesday, December 18
    6:30 – 8:00 PM
    $12 for members, $20 for nonmembers, free for students

    A discussion with:
    * Julie Bargmann, D.I.R.T. Studio
    * Chris Jordan, Artist
    * Tim S. Kraft, AIA, LEED AP, PSA-Dewberry Inc.
    * Susan S. Szenasy, Metropolis Magazine

    About the Series
    For the Greener Good is a public series that affirms the National Building Museum’s commitment to environmental sustainability. It calls on experts from diverse backgrounds to investigate links between environmental sustainability and design, public health, energy policy, bioscience, infrastructure, education, and even popular culture. The series features topics ranging from nuclear power to consumerism and urban slums to carbon storage. Participants will discuss ideas, experiences, and potential solutions in a public exchange at the Museum.
    You can buy tickets online here!

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    Ask The Green Miles: Avoiding Recycling Faux Pas

    My friend and fellow CRMer Brendan, who recently launched his own blog on the 2008 elections, was recently wracked with recycling interrogatories:
    What say you, is it cool to recycle stuff that still has some residual food on it, like a peanut butter jar? I threw some soap and water in it and soaked the bastard for a while, but still had junk along the top.
    Containers don't need to be perfectly clean before recycling, a rinse is usually fine and a soak in the case of peanut butter is good. They just need to be clean enough that they won't attract bears or George Costanza.

    Peanut butter jars make the cut, but keep in mind the county only accepts narrow-necked plastic #1 or #2 containers like milk jugs, soda bottles, and laundry detergent containers. Yogurt containers, margarine tubs, etc. go in the trash. According to Stonyfield's excellent recyclable packaging explainer page, "Bottles and wide-mouth containers such as yogurt containers have different melting points, thus rendering them undesirable for recycling together. Many communities accept all HDPE plastics to avoid consumer confusion, then they landfill or incinerate all but the bottles."

    A couple of days later Brendan had another question:
    So on the Arlington site it says drop-off recycling centers accept the following in the way of "mixed paper," among other things:

    "paperboard (such as cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, shoe boxes, beverage cartons, gift boxes, and any other single-layered paperboard not coated with wax)"

    SO, the question I'm wondering if you may know is, any idea how you can tell if something's covered with wax? It seems like some Trader Joe's OJ i have is, but am not sure, thought I'd see if you'd come across this. Cereal boxes even seem like they could be, but it seems like the OJ carton's a bit waxier...
    I think the county website's reference to "beverage cartons" is misleading here. The paper case that a 12-pack of Pepsi comes in is recyclable as mixed paper. A waxed carton of milk or juice is not. Basically, if it's a paper container meant to hold liquid (milk cartons, juice boxes, paper cups, some frozen food packages, etc.) it's not recyclable.

    Got a question about the environment, sustainability, or livin' la vida verde? Ask The Green Miles! You can check out the question and answer archive here.

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Action Needed: Help Stop the Wise County Coal Power Plant!

    The Blacksburg Town Council last night passed a resolution opposing the proposed coal-fired power plant Dominion Virginia Power wants to build in Wise County. Councils in Alexandria, Charlottesville, and Arlington are expected to vote on similar resolutions in the next few days.

    But time is running out for you to have your say in the matter. The Virginia State Corporation Commission's (SCC) public comment period expires tomorrow night (Dec. 14) on both the Wise County power plant proposal and Dominion's request to build a huge new transmission line through Virginia. Tell the SCC right now to say no to both!

    You can comment on the Wise County plant through the Chesapeake Climate Action Network's website. CCAN provides talking points for you, however you're also welcome to lift from my letter to the SCC:
    I'm writing today to comment on case number PUE-2007-00066. I strongly urge you to deny Dominion Virginia Power's request to build a new coal-fired power plant in Wise County on both economic and environmental grounds.

    As a Dominion ratepayer, I don't want them investing $1.6 billion in coal at a time when Congress is considering carbon constraint legislation, including one bill sponsored by our very own Sen. John Warner, that would make it much more expensive to burn fossil fuels. If we're locked into coal, my bill is going to go up.

    In addition, Virginia is last in the nation in spending on efficiency and conservation. If we were spending wisely, we'd be investing in improving our usage, not expanding our capacity. And when we do need new facilities, we must look to clean, renewable energy.

    The environmental impacts of the proposed plant are nothing short of staggering. At a time when scientists say we need to cut global carbon dioxide emissions 80% by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of global warming, this plant would annually spew 5.4 million tons of new carbon dioxide emissions into the air. While Dominion is holding out hope for a future technological breakthrough on capturing and storing carbon, even then the cost of doing so may exceed $100 million each year.

    The list of environmental impacts goes on and on. The plant would also emit more than 12,500 annually of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, the latter a cause of serious breathing problems for people with respiratory illnesses. The forest manager for North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest says the plant's 3,300 tons per year in sulfur dioxide emissions would violate the clean air act, which gives special protections to the adjacent 12,000-acre Linville Gorge Wilderness.

    The proposed Wise County coal-fired power plant would be an economic and environmental disaster for the state of Virginia. I urge you to do everything in your power to block it.
    As for the transmission line, you can submit comment quickly and easily through Virginia's Commitment. Please take the time right now to act on these critical issues!

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Recycling Your Christmas Tree

    Make plans now to recycle your Christmas tree after the holidays! Arlington County makes it easy for residents of single-family homes. Unfortunately residents of townhouses, apartments, and condos are in for a schlep:
    Christmas Tree Collection will be from January 7 - 18, 2008 on your regular refuse day. Since trees will be ground into wood mulch, please remove the tree stand, lights, and decorations. Please do not place the tree in a plastic bag. [...]

    Residents that do not have curbside recycling service, such as those living in townhouses, apartments, or condominiums, may also bring their Christmas trees to the Solid Waste Bureau during the Christmas tree collection season. Please call 703-228-6570 to schedule an appointment between 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Solid Waste Bureau is located at the Arlington Trades Center, 4300 S. 29th St. Residents will need to show proof of residence in Arlington, such as a driver's license. Trees may also be dropped off the first Saturday of each month at the Trades Center without an appointment. Please call 703-228-6570 to make an appointment or for additional information.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    How Many Countries Does It Take to Equal VA's Emissions?

    From the National Environmental Trust's "Taking Responsibility: Why the United States Must Lead the World in Reducing Global Warming Pollution" report:
    Virginia, with its population of 7,769,233, emits more greenhouse gases than that of 83 developing countries, with combined populations totaling over half a billion people.
    What does that mean for us? Not just rising temperatures, but rising insecurity:
    “Even small increments in further warming will make the difference between severe climate change and catastrophic climate change, the difference between 200 million or a billion people displaced from their homes worldwide,” said Joe Bouchard, delegate-elect from Norfolk, and former Commander of the Norfolk Naval Station. “Unfortunately, these displacements are likely to make unstable parts of the world much more unstable, threatening global and national security. Here in Virginia, even a modest rise in sea levels can have a severe impact on all of our coastal military installations.”
    You can read the news release here or download the full report here.

    Sunday: Gaia - Our Living Earth

    Here's an event coming up on Sunday:
    Wisdom of the Elders; Gaia – Our Living Earth
    Sunday, Dec. 16, 2PM
    Potomac Overlook Regional Park, Arlington, VA

    Take a break from the hectic holiday season and join us at this annual winter solstice event exploring the wisdom of people, communities and the Earth itself. This year, we explore the Gaia Theory – the scientific idea of Earth as a living system. The program will include a multimedia celebration of life on Earth as well as perspectives from people, past and present, on the metaphor of our living planet.

    This program is open to adults and children (10 years old+). Refreshments will be served. Call 703/528-5406 to RSVP and for directions.

    Sunday, December 9, 2007

    Making Your Holidays Low-Stuff and Low-Stress

    In pulling together my tips for a green holiday season, I'm trying to keep in mind something that tempers my usual environmental fervor: Between traveling and shopping, the holidays are a pain to begin with. No one wants to be told they have to bend over backwards to be green on top of everything else.

    That's why you'll find disagreement among environmentalists on how far to push people over the holidays. Some seek gradual change, others want a complete redefinition of our consumerist Christmas.

    The one thing we all agree on is that you should try to give less stuff. Does anyone out there feel the burning desire for more stuff? Too much room in your closets? Not nearly enough junk lying around?

    Here's just one example. Lumping sweaters, sweatshirts, and pullovers together, The Green Miles has 34 sweaters. 34! I could wear a different one every day for a month and still not wear them all. 27 of them were gifts. That collection has built up despite donating at least five perfectly good ones to the needy every year. Yet what can I expect to get 8 more of this year?

    My family hasn't done very well at finding a happy medium. My dad and his friends have gone to one extreme, forgoing exchanging gifts altogether. I tried to get my mom's side of the family to not get me stuff but instead give me something I would appreciate and enjoy even more -- cookies. It worked for one year (also known as My Favorite Christmas ever) but the next year my mom chastised me for being so bossy about what my relatives could give me and it's been back to sweaters ever since.

    It's with those experiences in mind that I'm a little skeptical when websites like Grist advise you to give carbon offsets as gifts. And when it comes to green gifts like the nice green box from, I wonder if there's much of an audience for that. If the recipients are greenies, wouldn't they already have a reusable grocery bag? And if they're not greenies, might they feel it's a little unfestive and borderline preachy for you to give them a CFL?

    So I'll start my green holiday advice with ...

    Think about alternatives to giving stuff -- experiences, like a gift certificate to a local restaurant or theater, or consumables, like organic wine. If you know someone wants stuff, think about how to make the gift greener -- clothing made with organic cotton, or adding rechargeable batteries to that gift of a digital camera. Treehugger offers the best, most comprehensive, easiest-to-read green holiday gift guide.

    If you have options on how to get to your destination, you'll have the lowest carbon footprint if you take the train. The next best options would be to take the bus, ride-share or drive. The worst option for the environment is to fly -- even worse than driving alone. Flying not only burns the most fuel, it delivers the emissions directly to higher levels of the atmosphere where they can do more damage.

    Buy a locally-grown tree, cutting it down yourself if you can. It will make even the most metrosexual man or Carrie Bradshaw clone feel like a lumberjack. offers a list of Virginia tree farms. This year I looked into getting a living tree and re-planting it after Christmas, but from what I've read, it's not only a major hassle, the tree doesn't stand much of a chance of survival after re-planting.

    Buy LED lights. They're about the same price as standard lights and will use 80-90% less electricity, saving you the cost of the lights their first year alone. For outdoor lighting, you can get solar-powered LEDs that don't even need to be plugged in.

    Use and reuse gift bags when you can. Look for wrapping paper make from 100% recycled content. You have my admiration and respect if you're one of those people who can carefully unwrap a present and reuse the paper on another gift, but as long as you make sure the used paper gets recycled, you're safely in the green.

    Again, try to buy cards made with 100% recycled paper. As you receive cards, be sure the envelopes go into recycling; after the holidays, recycle the cards.

    Go local and/or organic whenever you can. Avoid disposables whenever you can. If you know you won't have enough dishware for all your guests, ask a friend or neighbor if you can borrow some for the night.

    ... is almost over, but next year, you could consider organic Matzah.

    Thursday, December 6, 2007

    Top US Climate Negotiator on Lieberman-Warner: "I don't know the details"

    We know the Bush administration has fallen behind the rest of America and the world on climate change. How far? The Associated Press has the embarrassing details:

    First, newly installed Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reversed his country's long-standing policy by signing the Kyoto pact Monday, leaving the United States as the only major industrialized country to reject the agreement. Rudd called on the U.S. to follow his lead, and the Australian delegation basked in applause and accolades at the opening of the conference in Bali.

    The next blow came from a domestic source: Congress. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a bill Wednesday to cut U.S. emissions by 70 percent by 2050 from electric power plants, manufacturing and transportation, defying the administration's opposition to mandatory caps. [...]

    On Thursday, Watson was adamant the Bush administration would stick to its guns, no matter what Australia or the Senate did.

    "In our process, a vote for movement of a bill out of committee does not ensure its ultimate passage," he told reporters. "I don't know the details, but we will not alter our posture here."

    That last line had me doing a Scooby Doo-style "Wha-huh?" Dr. Harlan L. Watson doesn't know the details of the Climate Security Act, also known as Lieberman-Warner? The Bush administration's senior climate negotiator doesn't feel the need to keep himself appraised of such things?

    Wednesday, December 5, 2007

    Two Critical Votes on Capitol Hill This Week

    The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today has taken up the Climate Security Act, sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. John Warner (R-VA). While the mark-up could take days, early indications are it will pass and head to the full Senate for a vote as soon as February. There it will face a filibuster from Republicans. It's uncertain if there will be the 60 votes needed to override that veto, but it should be a good test to see if senators like Lamar Alexander, Lindsay Graham, and Gordon Smith are more loyal to their party or their planet.

    Over on the House side, it looks like there's finally movement on the long-stalled energy bill. Somehow, it looks like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will manage to shepherd through legislation with both stronger corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards and a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 15%. In other words, we can look forward to more fuel-efficient cars in our driveway and cleaner energy powering our homes. As Grist puts it, Nancy Pelosi is kicking ass!

    Want to make sure your representative votes for a strong energy bill? Email your representative right now!

    Why the Cold Weather Makes It Harder to Blog

    It's getting harder to blog as the weather gets colder. Why? Because I can't sit down at my laptop without this happening:
    It doesn't matter how many times I try to show her to the couch -- it's cold and gray outside and my lap is a heated mattress. I suppose if she could talk like Get Fuzzy's Bucky, she'd be making the case that it's an energy efficient arrangement.

    Tuesday, December 4, 2007

    Why is "Meet the Press" Ignoring Global Warming?

    Anyone who's watched Meet the Press this year knows Tim Russert has been so focused on Iraq and Iran, there hasn't been much time left for other issues. Obviously national security comes first, but until I did some digging, I didn't realize just how infrequently global warming has come up.

    How rarely? Tim Russert has asked his guests substantive questions about it a total of twice this year - and not once in his interviews with presidential candidates or elected officials.

    I first started thinking about it as I watched Russert grill Barack Obama on the really pressing issues of the day - gay marriage, the whereabouts of Obama's state senate day planner, whether he likes Hillary Clinton. Obama mentioned climate change twice in passing, but that was it.
    It got me curious - has global warming come up in Russert's questioning of any of the other candidates about global warming? Or his questioning of anyone at all?

    I went over the Meet the Press transcripts of Russert's interviews with each of the candidates. Here's what I found:
    Did Russert bring mention climate change? Russert listed "investment in energy and climate change research" among Biden's goals but never followed up
    Did the candidate mention climate change? No
    What DID Tim find time to ask about? Gay marriage (again)

    Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
    Did the candidate mention climate change? No
    What DID Tim find time to ask about? Fundraiser Norman Hsu

    Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
    Did the candidate mention climate change? No
    What DID Tim find time to ask about? Questioned Dodd's "reluctance to hike taxes on hedge fund profits"

    Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
    Did the candidate mention climate change? Brought it up three times within lists of problems this country faces; didn't detail solutions
    What DID Tim find time to ask about? Edwards' work for a hedge fund (what is it with Tim and hedge funds?)

    Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
    Did the candidate mention climate change? Mentioned it within his answers to questions about ethanol and fuel efficiency
    What DID Tim find time to ask about? Grilled McCain on his age, apparently hoping to force him into a confession that he plans to die before the end of his first term as president

    Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
    Did the candidate mention climate change? Mentioned it in passing twice
    What DID Tim find time to ask about? Obama's purchase of part of lobbyist Tony Rezko's backyard; though no one has alleged wrongdoing, Russert implied it was an example of Rezko being "very helpful" to Obama

    Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
    Did the candidate mention climate change? Richardson framed answer to question about fuel economy in the context of climate change
    What DID Tim find time to ask about? Grilled Richardson on controversy about whether, as a young baseball player, Richardson had been drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent

    Did Russert bring mention climate change? No
    Did the candidate mention climate change? No
    What DID Tim find time to ask about? Thompson adviser's drug conviction more than 25 years ago

    Note: Giuliani and Romney have yet to appear
    In fact, reviewing every transcript of every episode of "Meet the Press", Russert has only mentioned global warming three times. Even when Sen. John Warner appeared on August 26th, Russert didn't ask him about the America's Climate Security Act legislation (also known as Lieberman-Warner) then in development. Russert first mentioned climate change on his June 3rd show. Despite polls showing two-thirds of Americans support climate action, Russert's question to Bob Shrum implied the issue was politically untouchable:
    [I]n your book, Bob Shrum, you have a scene involving Al Gore and consultants and advice. And here it is: “Gore was determined to give a blunt speech on global warming and to do it in Michigan. Just before a rally, Gore told me” “we all were against it. He was right. Gore announced to me that he didn’t care, he was going to say his piece anyway. He ordered me to confer with his chief environmental adviser. When I reached her on the cell phone, she said was Al out of his mind? This was the nuttiest thing she’d ever heard; he’d lose Michigan. She’d rather have a president that did something about global warming than a defeated candidate who’d given some” GD damned “‘noble speech’ about it. When I reported her verdict to a disbelieving candidate, he phoned her, listened for a couple of minutes, and then he did budge. He said to me with resignation, ‘Well, I guess that’s that.’”

    That was Al Gore in 2000. His signature issue of global warming, he decided not to give that speech because, politically, he was advised it would hurt him in Michigan. In 2008, what would he do?

    MR. SHRUM: Oh, he’d talk about global warming all the time. Look, what really happened in 2000 was he wanted to give that speech very early. And it is true that people kept pushing back against it because the issue wasn’t the same as it is today, and there was a fear that we would lose Michigan. But when he announced, I think, sort of to tell us, send us a message that he was very frustrated by what we’d done, that he was going to give that speech and he was going to give that speech in Michigan. It wasn’t just his environmental adviser. I mean, Chuck Campion, the Boston pol we’d sent in to help save Michigan, called me and said, “I might as well get back on the plane. I did want to win the election. I confess to that.”

    MR. RUSSERT: But you think in 2008 it’d be...

    MR. SHRUM: The speech would be given early. You’d never even get to...

    MR. RUSSERT: In Michigan?

    MR. SHRUM: Well, no, he’d be going—actually, that speech could be given today in Michigan.
    On his August 5th show, Russert mentioned the issue while framing a broader question, saying, "On global warming, the Democrats plus 39 points. People overwhelmingly believe the Democrats would be better on global warming." However, he never asked a direct question about climate change. Then on September 30th, climate change came up in Russert's interivew with Bill Clinton:
    MR. RUSSERT: Global warming. Many of folks in China will say, “You know, United States, you had your chance. You became this great industrial democracy. That’s what we’re going through now, and you want to clamp these standards on us. Don’t do that to us.”

    MR. CLINTON: Well, you know, I’ve actually changed my view on this a little bit. Because even though Al Gore and I did help to develop the Kyoto Protocol, and I strongly supported it, I said at the time I thought India and China should be a part of it at a more graduated level. I still think they should do it, and they should do it for themselves. If you look at the air quality in Beijing, you look at the challenge they’re facing with the Olympics coming up. If you look at the horrible health problems afflicting India, where they—in the capital, New Delhi, we had a kid fall into the river south of New Delhi in the last 12 months, and they got him out in time to avoid drowning, but he ingested so much poison stuff that he die, four-year-old child.

    So the truth is that, if you develop in the old-fashioned way, there are enormous costs. And while I don’t—I believe that America should go on and adopt a cap and trade system and join with the Europeans and Japanese—because I think it’s a big economic boon to America—I think that if we don’t get the Chinese and the Indians in the system, we can’t stop global warming. And I think what we have to do is to prove to them by our example that they can make money and develop without putting as many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, without burning as much coal that’s not clean, and doing all the things we did. We have to show them and then work with them to have an economical way for them to be responsible citizens without giving up growth.

    Can it be done? I’m convinced it can be done, but I think we’re going to have to demonstrate it. We can’t just tell them, you know, as if they’re in the same position we are, “We’ll jump off this cliff together.” That’s not the way it works. We got to do it for our own benefit, and then show them it’ll benefit them.
    So why should you care that Tim Russert isn't talking to his guests about global warming? Because when the host of the number one Sunday morning talk show in America is ignoring an issue, it tends to be reflected in the polls. But not unlike opposition to the Iraq war, support for climate action is building outside the Beltway (just look at the Step It Up rallies). And just like the Iraq War, Washington insiders have been slow to catch on. It's up to us to bring Big Russ along on the issue. Email Meet the Press and let the staff know if they won't talk about global warming, you'll vote with your remote and change your viewing habits!

    Cross-posted from Daily Kos

    Saturday, December 1, 2007

    CBS Seeks Enviro Reporter. Brainy, Unhip Al Gore-Types Need Not Apply.

    CBS News seeks reporter/host for eco beat.

    Required: Funny, irreverent and hip, oozing enthusiasm and creative energy.

    Not required: Environmental knowledge.

    Apparently they think we'd rather get our environmental news from Jenny McCarthy than from Rachel Carson.

    Yes, top green sites like Grist and Treehugger succeed by combining wit and wisdom. But it's the hard news, expert analysis and good advice that keep us coming back. The humor is just the chocolate coating that makes it go down easier. That CBS thinks they can copy the style without the substance is insulting.

    Via Business & Media Institute

    Friday, November 30, 2007

    Tell Virginia Regulators: No New Coal!

    Just got this from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network:

    By now you've heard that Dominion Virginia Power is planning to build a new coal-fired power plant in Wise County, Va. The Richmond Times Dispatch projects that this plant will be "one of the biggest air polluters in Virginia." It will cost $1.6 billion, and will emit more than 5 million tons of carbon dioxide annually (the equivalent of adding 200 million cars to the road!). And best of all, Virginia ratepayers will foot the entire bill.

    It is absolutely critical that the State Corporation Committee (SCC) hears from you. Let them know that Virginians DO NOT WANT NEW COAL PLANTS! Click here to submit written comments to the SCC!

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike this power plant plan even if you're not an environmentalist. Virginia is last in the nation in spending on energy efficiency and conservation, so even minimal efforts to save energy will result in big savings. Why wouldn't we invest in conservation before blowing $1.6 billion on a new plant?

    There's also the question of the future price of coal power. With legislation increasing the price of carbon emissions coming down the pike, other states are trying to reduce their reliance on coal now to avoid feeling the pinch from high coal power prices down the road. Virginia, on the other hand, is moving us towards more reliance on coal.

    In fact, Google is gambling that it can make renewables cheaper than coal even without carbon pricing.

    So to recap, building a new coal-fired power plant will cost us a lot now, cost us a lot later, and hurt our environment. Why is this even a close call? Please take a few minutes to contact the SCC right now!

    Thursday, November 29, 2007

    Can a Steakhouse be Green?

    Can you be an environmentalist and have a cheeseburger every now and then? It's a debate that recently caught fire over at Gristmill, as well as on AOL Instant Messenger between myself and a friend after I told him about Ted's Montana Grill, a steakhouse with some eco-friendly practices.

    I won't get into the Gristmill debate because I think it was yet another example of PETA doing whatever it takes to get publicity. But I have a lot of respect for this friend, so when he said a steakhouse can never be "green" because it serves so much meat, it got me to doing some thinking (and fortunately for you, blogging).

    My friend is an
    environmental vegetarian, choosing not to eat meat because of its production's detrimental effects on the planet. Because of the intensive amounts of energy it takes to raise cattle, and to a lesser extent pigs and poultry, some environmental vegetarians will make the case that you can do more to lower your carbon footprint by not eating meat than you could by switching your car to a Prius. Fish isn't necessarily much better unless you're eating sustainable seafood.

    The Green Miles, on the other hand, is an omnivore. We don't ask people to stop driving altogether. Why should we ask them to stop eating meat? I recognize the detrimental effects of beef production, and just like I try to avoid driving when I can, I avoid red meat when I can, recently
    switching to vegetarian lunches.

    So if I'm going to eat a cheeseburger anyway, why not get a bison burger? It's
    better for the planet than beef:

    Bison are leaner than cattle because they are still wild animals who range and eat grass; they do not tolerate confinement well, and so they cannot be fattened the way we do cattle, which we have bred to eat rich corn mixtures their entire adult lives. Growing corn to feed cattle costs the nation dearly in terms of pesticide and fertilizer runoff. The pollution and inhumanity of the confinement-feedlot beef system make it one of postwar America's biggest ecological blunders.

    Bison, on the other hand, eat grass that grows freely, and the manure they produce is a natural fertilizer. True, some bison ranchers are irresponsibly corralling and then "finishing" their animals with a fattier diet of grain just before slaughter. This makes the meat richer, more like beef. Ted's Montana Grill serves grain-finished bison, for instance, although CEO George McKerrow Jr. says the chain is testing grass-finished meat for consistency and quality.

    That last line is definitely a black eye for Ted's. But they do try to make up for it in other ways:
    * Menus and tablecloths are printed on 100% recycled paper
    * Paper straws (hadn't been produced in the U.S. since 1970)
    * To-go cups are made of biodegradable cornstarch
    * To-go ware is made of aluminum so we can recycle it
    * Soft drinks are served in recyclable glass bottles
    * Organic beer on the menu
    * The entire chain is non-smoking
    Will Ted's save the planet? No. But they don't claim they will. I didn't even know about their eco-friendly features until I went in search of a tasty low-fat burger. And considering how few Arlington bars and restaurants have any green features at all, it's nice to see an establishment going after some of the low-hanging fruit on sustainability. Why don't other places do more? It's a good question for the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    Ask The Green Miles: Most Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise?

    A question from The Green Miles' dad:
    Is there a place that would show a rising ocean first and most dramatically? Would it be Florida, Holland, Venice, Bangladesh, some Pacific Island group, or where? Or is it too soon for that kind of extrapolation?
    Too soon? The impacts are already right here in my backyard. No fewer than 13 islands in the Chesapeake Bay have already been swallowed up by rising sea level. According to a recent National Wildlife Federation report, over the last century air temperatures in the Bay region have risen 1.4 degrees, water temperatures are up two degrees, and sea levels have risen two feet. That's due mostly to thermal expansion (warmer water takes up more space than cooler water), not melting glaciers or ice caps as commonly though.

    But back to the question. Obviously I am not a scientist, so my answer will be more subjective based on what I've seen and read, but this is a blog and you should know this already. In the US, the these are the areas that are most screwed when it comes to rising sea levels:
    - New Orleans (I know, you're shocked). It's below sea level already and still sinking due to subsidence, the natural compression of land composed of flood deposits. Why hasn't this been a problem until now? Because before people came along, the land would sink, then Mississippi would flood and retreat, leaving a layer of sand and silt to build it back up. Then we decided to put levees up and build on the floodplain. Now there's just sinking, no silting.
    - Hampton Roads, VA (Hampton/Norfolk/Newport News/Virginia Beach), just a few feet above sea level and home to major naval installations.

    - Miami, three feet above sea level.
    - Lower Manhattan and its hundreds of miles of subway tunnels.
    All of the above are not only below or right at sea level but are in prime hurricane landfall zones. But let's be honest - as the richest country in the world, America can afford to build flood barriers or even relocate key populations without a devastating economic impact. Globally, it's the poor nations that can't afford to adapt that will be hit the hardest.

    Island nations just a few meters above sea level like The Maldives face grave threats, but for total number of people threatened, I'd have to go with Bangladesh. Not like they're so safe and sound to begin with - a recent cyclone killed 3,400 people, about twice as many people as killed by Hurricane Katrina. One estimate says just a 1.5 meter rise in sea level could affect 17 million people in Bangladesh.

    The most frightening part about sea level rise is that no one can truly say how fast it will occur. The human brain tends to think of everything as rational and directly related - a 1% rise in temperature will result in a 1% rise in sea level. But as anyone who has ever, say, made ice knows, at the margin a one degree difference is all it takes to go from solid ice to water.

    How will we know if and when we're approaching a similar tipping point? The United Nations International Panel on Climate Change has more or less punted on the issue, focusing on sea level rise probability due to known factors like thermal expansion. Now Arctic Sea ice is retreating faster
    than even the most pessimistic projections. Can anyone say definitively that Greenland's ice sheet, with its potential to raise sea levels 20 feet, won't beat expectations as well?

    Wikipedia can tell you
    much more about sea level rise. And if you have a question about the environment, ask The Green Miles!

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Vote for NWF for Nonprofit of the Year!

    Please vote for the National Wildlife Federation for MySpace Nonprofit of the Year! You'll make Ranger Rick very happy.

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Alexandria Climate Action Rally: Eyeing the Rising Tide

    I spent a recent Saturday morning a climate action rally at Alexandria's Waterfront Park. It was great to see a strong showing from Alexandria's elected officials, including (left to right) Councilman Rob Krupicka, Councilman Paul Smedberg, Vice Mayor Del Pepper, and Del. Adam Ebbin. The National Environmental Trust organized the event to take place on the morning the IPCC released its latest report on global warming:
    Global warming is destroying species, raising sea levels and threatening millions of poor people, the United Nations' top scientific panel will say today in a report that U.N. officials hope will help mobilize the world into taking tougher actions on climate change.

    The report argues that only firm action, including putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions, will avoid more catastrophic events. Those actions will take a small part of the world's economic growth but will be substantially less than the costs of doing nothing, the report will say.
    Your humble blogger was asked to open the event. I detailed both the threats to the very waterfront we were standing on and the vast, so far untapped possibilities that could slash our carbon emissions.

    Relative sea levels have risen a foot in the Chesapeake Bay over the last century, a combination of higher water and subsidence, the same phenomenon that left Lousiana so vulnerable to Katrina. Already, the Bay has lost 13 islands to the rising tide, and according to the National Wildlife Federation, relative sea levels are expected to rise another 22 inches over the next 93 years, as I'm demonstrating here. Oh, this would also be a good time to mention the NET had us wear life preservers to emphasize the threat of rising water.

    But there's reason to believe we can curb the worst effects of global warming by dramatically reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. How? A combination of renewable energy, higher efficiency, and better technology. And a surprise boost has come from Hillary Clinton's strong words on renewable energy on the presidential campaign trail:
    "We are now more dependent on foreign oil than we were on 9/11," Clinton said. "We are basically at the mercy of all these oil-producing regimes ... that all too often use that money against us.

    "We have all this empty federal land in Nevada. It should be packed with wind turbines and solar panels," she said.
    There's no silver bullet to solve the climate change problem, but there is, as we say in the NWF's hunter and angler outreach, silver buckshot - a series of solutions that can add up to get us to cutting carbon emissions 80% by 2050, the minimum scientists say is needed to curb the worst effects of global warming. It was fantastic to see the Democratic Party's presidential frontrunner recognize that we've left such obvious low-hanging fruit unpicked.

    The Chesapeake Climate Action Network's Paul Burman (seen at right in the orange vest) closed the event detailing CCAN's efforts to block Dominion Virginia Power's planned coal-fired power plant in Wise County. If you believe some sort of levy on carbon emissions is coming, as virtually everyone does, then why would you invest $1.6 billion ratepayer dollars in a form of energy that's currently low-cost but is certain to get much more expensive in the future? Regardless of your feelings about the environment, it makes no economic sense.

    You can check out a clip of my talk on YouTube and a full photo gallery of the event over on Flickr!

    Cross-posted from
    Raising Kaine

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Monday: Arlington Green Living Gala

    Coming up on Monday:

    The Arlington Green Living Gala!
    Monday, Nov. 26th, 7–8:30pm

    Join Arlington County leaders for an environmentally friendly celebration to premier the documentary Upclose: FreshAIRE and present the Green Living Challenge Awards to Arlington’s greenest residents and neighborhoods. The festivities will celebrate Arlington’s efforts to reduce emissions and honor Arlingtonians committed to protecting our environment. Meet and learn from your neighbors who are leading the way in greening their homes and lifestyles. Special guests will include Paul Ferguson, Arlington County Board Chairman, the Green Living Challenge winners and Professor Rob Farr, the rakish and affable star of the Fresh AIRE Tips Free. Refreshments will be served.

    Courthouse Plaza County Administrative Building
    2100 Clarendon Blvd., 3rd Floor, Arlington, VA

    Hope to see you there!

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    Pain at the Pump: A Thanksgiving Tall Tale?

    Gas prices are nearing record highs. So people are driving less, right?
    Almost six in 10 people surveyed for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association of Bethesda, Md., said they have modified their behavior since pump prices began rising. [...]

    Of those who said they had changed their behavior, 90 percent said they were driving less, and 75 percent said they were better maintaining their vehicles.
    There's only one problem with that ... drivers are telling pollsters a little Thanksgiving holiday fable. They're actually planning to drive more:
    Some 31.2 million vacationers will travel by car, up 1.3 percent from last year, AAA said. Another 4.7 million will go by air, up 2.2 percent. The rest will take trains, buses or other modes of transportation. [...]

    "This is the first time that we have seen gas prices tipping over $3.00 a gallon in November," said AAA's Darbelnet. "A year ago, prices were in the range of $2.20 a gallon, so this year travelers are really feeling the pinch."
    Ah, there's another hiccup. Are drivers really "feeling the pinch"? Obviously drivers are allocating more of their budget to paying for gas. And the media certainly loves to play to populist themes to convince their audience they're clearly not highly-educated McMansion-dwelling SUV-driving elitists but rather Average Joes like them.

    But if high gas prices were causing a such a painful "pinch," wouldn't people, like, y'know, drive less? Nope. Gas consumption hasn't posted year-to-year decline in more than 15 years.

    Well then Americans must be demanding more fuel-efficient vehicles, right? Nope. Fuel economy hasn't increased significantly in 25 years. In fact, it's not a whole lot different than it was 57 years ago.

    OK, OK, so aren't Americans demanding changes from their elected officials? Eh. The energy bill is stuck in Congress and tighter fuel economy standards face an uncertain future.

    And as Marc Fisher points out in his "Pretend Primary" series, politicians don't have much incentive to show leadership on problems like sprawl and long drives on the national level:

    In Iowa and New Hampshire, there's not much reason for presidential candidates to talk about any of this: In those relatively thinly populated states, people think a 20-minute back-up on the Interstate is bad traffic.
    There are plenty of ways we could reduce our national gas bill -- more carpooling and public transportation, higher fuel economy standards, plug-in hybrids, biofuels -- but it seems like both the majority of Americans and the majority of elected officials would rather rail against those dastardly oil barons than embrace real solutions. And as Stuart Smalley once said ... every time you point a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007

    There's a New Sheriff in My Backyard

    I was tossing some old bread out into my backyard in Ballston today (my first-floor apartment has a back door) to my usual customers of sparrows, starlings, and squirrels. As soon as the weather turns colder business picks up considerably, so this afternoon dozens of them had gathered.

    All of the sudden every single one of them scattered. Not just their usual, "A person's coming, let's hang back for a minute, but I still got dibs on that piece of crust." They took off like their lives depended on it.

    Then I saw why. The tall bushes across the parking lot shook and out flew a hawk.

    We'll call him Mordecai. He landed on a utility line above the parking lot. Not particularly large for a hawk, but he still had a wingspan of close to four feet. If Mordecai had been in a better and less noisy position, I'm sure any of the birds or squirrels that had been in my backyard would've made a tasty dinner.

    I've spotted several hawks in Arlington, usually in Rosslyn where the local parks make a good habitat, the tall buildings provide places to perch, and the urban setting serves up plenty of prey. My closest encounter came on Roosevelt Island during the 2006 ACE Hike & Happy Hour, though it wasn't as close as the meetup vividly described by Herb of DC.

    I'd like to think the sighting isn't completely unrelated to Arlington's ongoing environmental efforts and its certification as a Community Wildlife Habitat, wouldn't you?

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    More Bogus Climate "Uncertainty"

    The Bush administration's war on science continues. Today's Washington Post, "Scientists Fault Climate Exhibit Changes":
    Some government scientists have complained that officials at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History took steps to downplay global warming in a 2006 exhibit on the Arctic to avoid a political backlash, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

    The museum's director, Cristián Samper, ordered last-minute changes to the exhibit's script to add "scientific uncertainty" about climate change, according to internal documents and correspondence. [...]

    In the interview, Samper said "one of his main concerns" was that the exhibit was indicating a level of certainty that he thought went beyond the contemporary science. "I think as scientists we present the information, but we let the people draw their own conclusions," said Samper, who was promoted earlier this year to serve as acting secretary of the Smithsonian.
    I wonder what Mr. Samper thinks of Newton's Laws? Should we stick with "what goes up must come down" or should we just present the information and let people draw their own conclusions?

    It's phony uncertainties like this that have given the public a skewed perception of the science of global warming. It's not just Bush and his cronies - the media is also to blame. If you want the straight, unadulterated science on global warming, go to

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    What's Your Connection to Mountaintop Removal?

    Appalachain Voices' site has unveiled a new feature that allows you to directly tie the electricity that comes out of your power socket to the source it likely comes from:
    Mountaintop removal is a radical form of coal mining where entire mountains are literally blown up -- devastating communities throughout Appalachia, polluting drinking water and destroying rivers. And the worst part is, you're paying for it.

    If your home or business is on the electric grid, chances are you are connected to mountaintop removal in the Appalachian Mountains. Find out how -- and then find out what you can do about it.
    The Green Miles is most closely tied to Cogentrix's Birchwood Power plant in Virginia's King George County. According to the site, "This power plant purchases coal directly from Central Appalachian strip mines. Of the Appalachian communities featured on this site, the one most closely connected to this power plant is Bob White, West Virginia."