Friday, August 28, 2009

The Green Miles on the Warming Web

I went to this year's Netroots Nation conference in Pittsburgh for my day job with the National Wildlife Federation. I got a last-minute surprise when a colleague had to cancel a panel appearance due to a family emergency and the moderator asked me to join in her place.

Here's the video of the panel, "A Warming Web: The Blogosphere and Climate Change" (I spoke first at one minute in, then last at 65 minutes in):

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

White House Flag Lowered for Sen. Kennedy

The Green Girlfriend and I got to take the White House tour tonight, walking through the East Wing. I spotted the White House flag at half staff to mark the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). He'll be laid to rest on Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery. You can read my thoughts on Kennedy's passing at Blue Virginia.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Barcroft Elementary's Track Goes Green

Via the Sun Gazette, Barcroft Elementary School plans to dedicate a new "green" track tomorrow:
Barcroft Elementary School will dedicate its new “Green” track on Tue, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. Barcroft is located at 625. S. Wakefield St. The Barcroft community will celebrate the new track with a book fair and ice cream social.

The track cost approximately $19,100 to build and was constructed using environmentally-friendly asphalt which is porous to minimize rainwater run-off.
Great job by Barcroft's students, parents and staff, who raised over $6,900 for the project!

Friday, August 21, 2009

They're Back: Fried Oreos at the Fair

Fried OreosDon't forget to check out the Arlington County Fair, going on now through Sunday! Look for The Green Miles volunteering at the Arlington Democrats booth on Saturday from 1-4pm.

The photo at right is of my favorite (definitely non-eco-friendly) treat: fried Oreos. They dip 'em in funnel cake batter and deep fry them. Best thing ever. Check out my full photo blog of last year's fair here!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Video: It's Hailing Energy

Very cool clip from German solar manufacturer Solon AG Fuer Solartechnik:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bunch of Clowns Defend Balloon Use

Here's the short version of my feeling on things like fireworks & helium balloons: Bad for the environment? Yes. Should we minimize their use? Yes. Worth picking a fight over? No. OK, onto the snark.

The Sun Gazette once again this year is obsessed with Arlington Democrats for RUINING THE
COUNTY FAIR by not giving away balloons at its booth, citing environmental concerns. Scott McCaffrey must love balloons more than this kid because he's already devoted two articles to it this year.

So in the face of this tiny, insignificant step to look out for our environment, who's willing to take a stand for weirdness and contrarianism? The Arlington Republican Party, of course:
The GOP Web site directs readers to information on latex balloons, arguing that the balloons biodegrade at about the same rate as “a leaf from an oak tree,” and pose little threat to people or animals.
The Sun Gazette (ever the journalistic paragon) fails to report that the "information" comes from a website that sells latex balloons. Clearly an objective source of data.

Here's the lingering question, one that the Sun Gazette (wait for it) fails to address: Might there be any, I don't know, state law that establishes what the common sense is on this issue? Hmmm. If only there was a way to quickly and easily search large amounts of online information.

What's that now? "Google"? What a funny name! I'll give it a shot:

§ 29.1-556.1. Release of certain balloons prohibited; civil penalty.

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly release or cause to be released into the atmosphere within a one-hour period fifty or more balloons ...
So while accidentally releasing a balloon or two isn't illegal, Virginia state law agrees that it's good idea to do your best to minimize balloon releases. (Note historical moment: The Green Miles and Virginia law agree on something.)

Look, I'm not going to go all OMG TEH REPUBLICANS WANT TO KILL AMINALS!!!!1! I just think it's yet another sad example of how out of touch Republicans are on just about everything.

Judge Sotomayor? Lie about her and vote against her despite majority support. Health insurance reform? Clean energy? Lie and do the opposite!

Arlingtonians love the environment and are probably indifferent about the balloons? Lie and do the opposite! I don't feel sorry for the Arlington Republican Party, which has a long record of buffoonery. I do feel sorry for their local candidates like Eric Brescia, who is apparently trying to run a real campaign while his party apparatus is clowning around with balloons.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Green Miles Meets Big Coal

The Green Miles Meets Big CoalWhile at Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh last weekend, we spotted several barges of coal being pushed up the Alleghany River. The barges belonged to Consol Energy, a coal company I'd never heard of until last weekend. But I see they're a prominent funder of an anti-clean energy front group.

Consol Energy, consider yourself On Notice!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Green Miles at Netroots Nation

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicThe Green Miles is in Pittsburgh this week for Netroots Nation. I just got done taking part in on the panel at right, an emergency pinch-hitter for one of our National Wildlife Federation scientists who had a last-minute family conflict.

I'll be doing many more posts from NN09, including my hotly anticipated 2nd Annual Netroots Nation Schwag Bag Review. For now, you can keep up with my updates on my Twitter feed!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Voters Like ACES, Judge Rules on Coal Plant

Busy day! First a new poll shows 71% of likely voters favor the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act. Then we learn a judge threw out the mercury permit for Dominion Virginia Power's controversial new coal-fired power plant in Wise County.

SCC Votes More Cash for Virginia's Clunker of an Energy System

Last week, Virginia's State Corporation Commission issued a ruling on Appalachian Power's request to raise rates. It granted a partial rate increase to "recover fuel costs" (translation: higher cost of dirty coal), but rejected a rate increase for renewable energy:
The SCC also denied recovery at this time of the costs to purchase power from two wind projects that were not included in APCo's renewable energy program, which the SCC approved last year, because of the high cost of the purchased power.
According to the Roanoke Times, the recession played a major role for the commission:
The SCC attributed the fuel rate reduction to "several legal and factual findings" related to Appalachian's application and associated testimony. But it also referenced economic struggles of the utility's customers.
America's energy policies are a seesaw:
  • We can't get off fossil fuels when the economy is bad, because even though energy prices tend to be low, we're told already-stressed consumers can't possibly bear even another cent of short-term transition cost to clean energy.
  • But when the economy is good, we're told we can't get off fossil fuels because energy prices are so high, already-stressed consumers can't possibly bear any risk of even another cent of short-term transition cost to clean energy.
Of course, we don't stay on the seesaw by accident. It's a choice. As the Roanoke Times reports, there's a subjective decision here from the SCC commissioners, two of whom were appointed by Gov. Tim Kaine:
By Virginia law, Appalachian, a subsidiary of Ohio-based American Electric Power, is entitled to recover, dollar for dollar, "prudently incurred fuel costs." Coal is Appalachian's primary fuel. The fuel factor formula also includes costs for purchasing power from other utilities.
So even though the price of coal keeps spiking, even though coal employment keeps plummeting, even though burning coal pollutes our air and is one of the main drivers of global warming, even though mountaintop removal is literally changing the face of southwest Virginia forever, the costs of coal-fired power are "prudent." And even though the price of wind power keeps dropping, even though wind power promises sustainable jobs, even though wind power is pollution-free and protects Virginia's natural resources, wind power is apparently of limited prudence in the eyes of Virginia's SCC.

Are there going to be some transition costs to clean energy? Of course. If you have a broken-down car, there are going to be transition costs to buy a new one. At some point, you have to stop throwing good money after bad in repairing your old car and decide to make a fresh start. If we don't, we'll be handing our kids the keys to what's basically the same jalopy we've been driving since the 19th century. But instead of investing in a new direction, Virginia's SCC has voted to give more cash to our clunker of an energy system.

I asked an Appalachian Power spokesman about the decision:
The SCC denied recovery "at this time" of the costs to purchase power from our wind projects in the current fuel factor that will be in place through August 2010. This does not preclude Appalachian from seeking recovery of these projects through other means in the future.

The wind projects were Beech Ridge, in West Virginia, and Grand Ridge Illinois. A portion of the wind from Camp Grove in Illinois and Fowler Ridge in Indiana are being recovered.
Let's hope Appalachian Power continues their push for more wind power projects. They certainly didn't get any encouragement in their effort this month from Gov. Kaine's SCC.

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Lazy Man's Case for a Plastic Bag Ban

Over at Deadspin, Drew Magary has a post up titled The Bizarre World Of American Grocery Bagging. Basically, he admits he won't use reusable bags unless forced to, but that once it happens, he won't really care because he's fully aware of how lazy he is.

I won't edit out the curse words because A) I don't think many small children are reading my thoughts about nuclear power and B) it's silly to edit out the curse words when we all know what they are anyway:
Every time I hit the store, my wife reminds me to bring cloth bags with me. These are the bags you buy for a buck each and reuse so you don't have to use plastic bags and kill all the penguins in Antarctica, or something like that. I never remember to bring these things, and subconsciously, it's because I don't really want to. I know plastic bags will kill the world for future generations. But I don't REALLY give a shit. Fuck ‘em. I won't be around. Sink or swim, children.

If they really don't want you to use plastic bags in the grocery store, they should get rid of them. Or they should charge you for them, like Bloomberg wanted to do in New York. Fucking fascist.

I'm the kind of person who never changes unless forced to.
Magary closes with, "And that's why this planet is utterly fucking doomed."

What do you say, Virginia General Assembly? Will you ban plastic bags to save Drew's children from their lazy dad?

UPDATE 8/7: The Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot editorializes for a ban today from the non-lazy person's perspective.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tonight in Ballston: Cafe Scientifique on Climate Change

I've never been to one of these, but I've heard good things:
Aug 4, 2009 Cafe Scientifique: Weather and Climate

Short presentation starts at 6:30 p.m. The current location is at the atrium in the National Science Foundation (NSF) building in cooperation with The Front Page Restaurant, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington between Wilson Boulevard and Fairfax Drive, and one block south of the Ballston-Marymount University Metro stop on the Orange Line.
Some added incentive to check it out -- according to Arlington's Twitter feed, there are also half-priced burgers starting at 5:30pm.