Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ask The Green Miles: More Parking Fees in Arlington

A friend writes:
You're more politically plugged in than I am, do you support this? Arlington County Board is thinking about extending hours [with payment required] on parking meters and possibly garages. "The proposed Parking and Curb Space Management Element is scheduled to be reviewed by the Transportation Commission and the Planning Commission at their meetings on October 29, and November 2, 2009, respectively, prior to the County Board hearing on November 14, 2009."
Do I support charging a small amount for parking on nights and weekends? Sure. No reason a community should charge for something during the day, then give it away at night. I'd be more concerned with making sure that all meters take credit cards or allow you to pay by cell phone. I don't want to get a $30 ticket because I couldn't find any quarters at 3am.

My bigger question is this -- has anything that's less of a big deal generated more controversy than Arlington's various proposals to charge a buck or two for parking here and there? I mean, look at this breathless editorial from the Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey:
[F]orcing those in Clarendon or other commercial areas to pay for meters well into the evening, or on Sundays, is counterproductive and will place those areas at a severe competitive disadvantage. In the long run, it will reduce the county government’s revenue, not increase it.
There is only one problem with that argument: Logic. As I once asked at What's Up Arlington, would any husband really turn to his wife and say, "Honey, I was going to take you to Restaurant 3 for our anniversary tonight, but it's $2 for parking now, so we're having Hungry Man TV dinners instead. Hope you like salisbury steak"?

Say it costs $2 to park in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor for the evening. Does a free alternative really exist? Pay $2 in gas to drive to Alexandria? Pay $4 in gas to drive out to Fairfax? Drive into DC and pay $8 for parking or spend 30 minutes driving around hoping to find a free spot?

Let's face it -- this debate is less about economics than it is about psychology. People hate being asked to pay for something they used to get for free.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Major Shifts in Climate Politics, Science Fly Under Radar

Today's Washington Post takes a look at some polluter-funded front groups that have recently sprung up to fight clean energy & climate legislation. In a classic example of reporting to the controversy, the article tries to paint the debate as getting more and more heated ... but cites evidence that clean energy and climate action are actually getting more and more accepted.

Here's how one section starts:
The new [polluter front] groups join an increasingly fractious debate over climate legislation that has roiled corporate and environmental groups alike.
Yowza! Sounds like the gloves are off, right? Lay it on me! Tell me how this is just the latest battle in that classic war, uncaring businesses versus treehugging environmentalists!
Earlier this month, Duke Energy, Alcoa and Alstom all pulled out of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry group whose ads have asserted that the House climate bill would make energy unaffordable. "We thought [the bill] had evolved in ways to be affordable for our customers," said Duke spokesman Tom Williams.

This week, a group of large corporations -- including New Mexico utility PNM Resources, California utility PG&E, power generator Exelon and Nike -- denounced the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's opposition to climate legislation.
Huh. That's odd. So big businesses are actually joining forces with the environmentalists to stand up against denial and inaction?

Wow. That sounds like a pretty interesting story. But the Washington Post really likes having simple stereotypes -- makes articles so much easier to write! -- so they managed to shoehorn that square peg into the round hole anyway and claim it's all about biz vs. enviros. I'm sure Edward R. Murrow would be proud.

Also, buried on page A4 is something about how climate change is accelerating faster than anyone previously predicted and our continuing inaction is screwing our children, grandchildren, and anyone who manages to survive beyond that. But since it was further down in the paper than four stories about ACORN, two ladies underwear ads, and ran on the page just below "Marmaduke," I'm sure it wasn't important and no one should bother reading it.

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Friday, September 25, 2009

What's Going on with NYTimes' Enviro Reporter?

What's with the New York Times' environmental reporter approvingly posting links to a shadowy global warming denial group?

Andrew Revkin just tweeted a link to the Science and Public Policy Institute. The group has only existed for two years, refuses to disclose its funding sources, and has extensive ties to polluter-funded front groups like the Heartland Institute.

Revkin's suspect tweet comes just three days after what Joe Romm of Climate Progress called "arguably the worst article of [Revkin's] career" -- a one-sided parroting of the latest in global warming denial.

Reporters who are on Twitter will often say, "Oh, just because I tweet a link doesn't mean I agree with what it says." But pushing out a link from a group that actively lies to fight science in the name of protecting polluter profits with no mention of the group's agenda?

At best, I'd call that sloppy. At worst, I'd call it the second example of terrible environmental journalism this week from what's supposed to be the best newspaper in the country.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ian Malcolm Responds to Sen. Inhofe's Office

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, I've been out of town on business. The fun resumes tomorrow with a great story about John Oliver.

One quick note though. Not really a note. More a piece of advice.

It's to Matt Dempsey, an aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). And much as I disagree with Sen. Inhofe on the need to act on global warming and move to clean energy, this is more of advice from one writer to another.

Josh Nelson, Enviroknow friend of The Green Miles, asked Matt about Sen. Inhofe's repeated lies about the costs and benefits of transitioning to clean energy and cutting global warming pollution. Matt took over 1,700 words to answer.

If you take over 1,700 words to answer a relatively simple question, it seems like ... hmm, how to say this? Ian Malcolm, your assessment?

Right as always, Ian.

You see, Matt, on a blog, more isn't more. It can make you seem like you're trying way too hard to cover the smell of what you're selling. Especially after Politifact already called out Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) for shoveling the same lies.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Poll: Plurality of Perriello Constituents Want Climate Action Now

The Beltway conventional wisdom is wrong. I know, shocking, right?

From Greg Sargent at The Plumline:
I’ve obtained a new poll done for the Environmental Defense Fund which found that in three conserva-Dem districts, backing cap and trade vote may not be a huge risk, after all. [...]

“We went into three districts where conventional wisdom held that Demorats took a tough vote on cap and trade,” Allan Rivlin, a partner with Garin Hart Yang, told me. “The poll shows that it didn’t hurt these members in these districts. It actually helps them. Even in districts that are represented by moderate or conservative Democrats, supporting action on climate change is the popular position to take.”
Environmental Defense Fund specifically polled Rep. Tom Perriello’s 5th Congressional district. Even in that district, seen as center-right, cap and trade is supported by 42% of voters. Only 25% oppose it. You can see the full results at EnviroKnow.

For Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb, the message is clear. The political risk isn't supporting clean energy & climate action -- it's in continuing our energy status quo.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Deeds Slams Obama's Clean Energy Plan

The lowlight of today's Virginia gubernatorial debate -- Creigh Deeds attacking President Obama's clean energy plan:

Clearly, Creigh Deeds is trying to pander to environmentalists by claiming he supports climate action as a concept, while slamming the only existing plan to address climate change. Shameful.

We Can't Afford Clean Energy, We Spent All Our Money on Coal!

Life in coal country is hard. Jobs aren't easy to come by. People have been told for generations now that the only way they'll get by, the only way their very way of life can survive, is to hitch their wagons to Big Coal.

Coal & PovertyBut coal's always been a losing bet. Maps of mountaintop removal overlap almost perfectly with poverty rates. In the face of that hard evidence, people in coal country who can start to sound like they're stuck in a dead-end relationship. No one else can ever love us but Big Coal! I know it's wrong, but it's all we have! And politicians of both parties have been convinced to look the other way by the coal money lining their pockets.

People trapped in dead-end relationships tend to rationalize it with statements that don't make any sense. Like this editorial from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph:
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the federal cap-and-trade legislation will eventually cost the average household an extra $175 per year. Sadly, folks in our region — who have been bombarded with one rate increase after another in recent years — simply can’t afford to pay another nickel, dime or penny for electricity.
How can we possibly afford to leave coal -- we're getting soaked by coal! It's like a friend saying, "I can't possibly afford a new car -- it takes every dollar I have to keep my clunker on the road!"

It's not clean energy that's a risky financial bet -- it's staying hooked on increasingly expensive coal-fired power. And here in Virginia, we know what a lousy partner coal can be. We felt the pinch of coal's rising rates three times in the last year:
  • An 18% rate hike last year, primarily to cover higher coal costs
  • An average fee of $1.84 per customer in January to pay for the new coal-fired power plant in Wise County
  • A 6.1% hike in September to pay for the Wise County plant and new transmission lines to carry coal-fired power from the Midwest to East Coast cities
Look, Coal Country. We're not saying you didn't love Big Coal with all your heart. But maybe they're just not the ones for you.

In fact, maybe you can find someone better. A shift to clean energy would create millions more jobs than staying addicted to coal.

And admit it -- wouldn't it feel good to finally kick that no-good, dirty Big Coal to the curb?

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Sure Sign of Fall Drops In

I was out at National Wildlife Federation office in Reston on Monday and heard one of the early signs of fall -- big, fat acorns falling off trees, tearing through the canopy and crashing to the forest floor.

It was an encouraging sound in the wake of last year's odd acorn shortage. NWF naturalist David Mizejewski explains why acorns are so important to a wide range of animals:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Beer Summit Needed for Metro & Google

I ran the Arlington 9/11 5K a couple of weekends ago. Posted my worst time ever, but given the late summer heat, satisfied to have managed to run the whole thing.

Given Metro's track work, I was looking for an alternative way to get to the Pentagon. I went to Google and looked at the driving route, then changed the method of travel to "public transit." Google told me my search "appears to be outside our current coverage area."

When I looked at their map of participating public transit agencies, I noticed that the DC area looks like it has a spotlight on it. But the light is actually a blackout -- an area that isn't covered by Google's public transit search (and it does include the District).

Over at GreaterGreaterWashington.org, Michael Perkins has been tracking a prolonged back-and-forth between Google and Metro on this issue. At last check, Metro claimed to be studying the issue while claiming wmata.com is just as good as Google Maps, which is like claiming Hardee's is just as good as Ray's Hell Burger.

Yes, I know Metro is trying to get revenue anywhere it can. And yes, I know profit margins for online businesses like Google can be razor-thin.

But from what I've seen so far, this seems like a classic case of the public interest coming in last. Can't someone lock Metro and Google in a room and not let them out until they solve this?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Global Warming Opens Fabled Northeast Passage

Global warming continues to revolutionize the Arctic, allowing two German ships to travel from South Korea along Russia's coast to Siberia:
Niels Stolberg, the president of Beluga, which is based in the German city of Bremen, called it the first time a Western shipping company successfully transited the Northeast Passage. [...]

"We are seeing an expression of climate change here," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. "The Arctic is warming; we're losing the sea ice cover. The more frequent opening of that Northeast Passage is part of the process we're seeing."

"The Arctic is becoming a blue ocean," Serreze told The Associated Press.
That blue ocean is part of global warming's self-reinforcing feedback loop. As the ice melts, the darker-colored blue water soaks up more of the sun's rays, warming the planet even further.

So as the Senate debates, global warming is accelerating at an even faster pace. Please take a moment to tell Senators Warner and Webb it's time to act.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Map of Global Warming Impact in Virginia

Anyone else find this terrifying?

It's from the Nature Conservancy's new Climate Wizard. The map shows the change in annual temperatures over the lifetime of a child born today. It uses the high-emissions scenario, also known as "our current path."

And if temperatures rise this much, how much will coastal water temperatures rise? And if coastal waters are that warm, how much stronger will hurricanes be when they come ashore?

Message to Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Jim Webb: Global warming isn't just about glaciers and polar bears. It's about Virginia. Let's get health care passed, then let's tackle clean energy & climate legislation. We've waited long enough.

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rally Crowd Comes for Music, Tunes Out Pro-Polluter Politics

So Massey coal company CEO Don Blankenship blew more than a million of his own dollars on a rally in West Virginia. How'd it turn out? From the Charleston Daily Mail:
As conservative pundit Sean Hannity continued to attack the Obama administration on one stage, hundreds if not thousands of people at a Labor Day rally here shifted their attention to the main stage, where country rocker Hank Williams Jr.'s band was getting ready to play.

For all the talk that Monday's Friends of America Rally marked a new day for the conservative movement, a lot of people seemed to have come to this small Mingo County community just to hear some good music. [...]

But the commercial vendors who had come prepared to sell to 100,000 people saw lower than anticipated sales by mid-afternoon.
This was all completely unsurprising to The Green Miles, who went to Live Earth. Most of the attendees were there for the music, as well.

The low attendance has to be a disappointment to Verizon Wireless, which took a huge public relations hit in standing by its local affiliate's sponsorship of the event. Now it doesn't even get full value for its sponsorship.

This photo from the Charleston Daily Mail tells you all you need to know about the site on which the event was held. The paper refers to it in coal industry jargon as a "reclaimed mountaintop removal site." It's actually what we real Americans would call "a barren lunar landscape":

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nothing Ruins Baseball Like Astroturf

Ladies and gentlemen, I have seen many awesome videos from polluter-funded Astroturf groups. But this may be the most awesomest of all.

First, there's your host, who seems as excited to be attending a baseball game as I would be attending a Jonas Brothers concert. Now the video:
Premise: What if you combined confusion about sports salary caps with confusion about how a global warming pollution cap-and-trade system works?

Result: Two minutes of people babbling so incoherently it seems like they'd just finished a kegstand (specifically the poor woman at 1:10)

OK, so a major problem leaps off the page with this video. It asks "What do baseball salary caps have in common with cap and trade?" But baseball doesn't have a salary cap. And most baseball fans want one. It would help up-and-coming teams compete with the established heavyweights.

The analogy actually does a much better job of explaining both why baseball doesn't have a cap and why America hasn't started the transition to clean energy through cap-and-trade. The organizations that already have the most money and power are blocking progress for the rest of us. Yes, I just compared the Yankees to Big Oil. That just happened.

To learn more about the polluter front group that produced the video, check out DailyFinance.com.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What If They'd Used a Green Bus in "Speed"?

It might have looked something like this:

Ballston Bus Crash 2
An Arlington Rapid Transit (ART) bus plowed through a low brick wall last night in front of The Green Miles' apartment building at the corner of Washington & Glebe in Ballston. The bus was traveling east on Washington across from the Sunoco station. Our front desk attendant overheard the driver tell a police officer that he swerved to avoid something.

If he'd swerved just 10 feet earlier or later, the bus would've just rolled over some shrubs. But instead it slammed into the brick wall, sending some bricks flying as far as 70 feet across the cul-de-sac.

Ballston Bus Crash 1The attendant said he heard a "thump," then ran out to see what had happened. All the passengers appeared to be OK, though he laughed that may change today when they talk to their lawyers. He said one woman got off the bus ... and never even slowed down, last seen heading south on Glebe towards Ballston. As I took these cell phone pics, a tow truck was being brought in to lift the natural gas-powered bus off the wall and tow it away.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Big Oil Creates Phony Climate Denial Site, Lies About It

A friend just alerted me to the website PlantsNeedCO2.org, which is running ads on NYTimes.com. From the site's "about us" page:
Our mission is to educate the public on the positive effects of additional atmospheric CO2 and help prevent the inadvertent negative impact to human, plant and animal life if we reduce CO2. Plants Need CO2 is a 501 (c)(3) non profit corporation.
How do I say this? False.

I know you're never gonna believe who really owns the website ... Big Oil.

It's registered to Quintana Minerals Corporation:
Quintana Minerals Corporation provides oil and gas exploration services to the energy sector. The company also offers crude oil and natural gas production services. Quintana Minerals Corporation was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Houston, Texas.
The site's "spokesman," H. Leighton Steward, is actually an honorary director at the American Petroleum Institute. He's also a director at EOG Resources, an oil and gas company, a position in which he earned a whopping $617,151 last year. Steward is formerly head of Burlington Resources, now a part of ConocoPhillips) and former Chairman of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association and the Natural Gas Supply Association. Not a word about any of that in his bio on the site.

Yet more lies by Big Oil in an effort protect their record profits by derailing clean energy legislation. Don't let them get away with it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What If There Were Personal Injury Lawyers for Polluter Fraud?

The Hill has a full report on the new polluter fraud hotline.

Verizon's Coal Rally Sponsorship: What It Means

Over at ItsGettingHotInHere.org, Scott Parkin points out:
  • Verizon Wireless sees nothing wrong with participating in overtly anti-environmentalist event. Don Blankenship has said the purpose of the rally is to show "how environmental extremists and corporate America are both trying to destroy your jobs."
  • Verizon Wireless sees nothing wrong with doing business with Massey Energy, the worst mountaintop removal coal mining company in the country.
  • Verizon Wireless sees nothing wrong with supporting an event featuring Ted Nugent, who famously remarked: "Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun … Hey Hillary [Clinton] you might want to ride one of these [machine guns] into the sunset, you worthless bitch."
  • Verizon Wireless sees nothing wrong with doing business with Massey’s CEO Don Blankenship, who said that his critics are "crazy" "greeniacs" who are his "enemies" comparable to Osama bin Laden.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Verizon to Conservationists: Drop Dead

Via West Virginia Blue, CREDO Action has gotten a response from Verizon on its sponsorship of a pro-polluter rally:
Before we launched our campaign, CREDO Action reached out to Verizon Wireless to confirm its sponsorship of the pro-coal "Friends of America" rally. Becky Bond, our Political Director, then sent a cordial follow-up to give Verizon Wireless a heads-up that our campaign had launched. Verizon replied as follows:
"This is how our response is going over with the activists. Becky once lived in a tree for a while. At least now I know where the emails are coming from."
- James Gerace, VP of Corporate Communications at Verizon Wireless
You got that?

If you don't think that Verizon Wireless should support global warming deniers and practitioners of mountaintop removal mining, then Verizon Wireless thinks it's okay to dismiss your concerns because you must have "lived in a tree for a while."
Really stunning that Verizon has taken such a brazen stance against its conservationist customers. Until now, I hadn't given much thought to CREDO Mobile, a cell phone provider that gives a portion of its proceeds to progressive causes (CREDO was formerly known as Working Assets). But Verizon is making an awfully good case to get me to switch. And I've heard from plenty of friends in the last couple of days who are thinking the same thing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why is Verizon Sponsoring a Pro-Polluter Rally?

A group of businesses in West Virginia is sponsoring an event on Monday called the Friends of America Rally. It's not exactly clear why this group of mostly West Virginia-based businesses is sponsoring the rally, but with a little detective work, we can quickly figure out what it's all about.

With Sean Hannity and Ted Nugent headlining the event, you can tell who'll be blamed for any and all of America's problems: Them. Immigrants. Liberals. Gays. Really, anyone who might deflect the role polluters have played in our interconnected economic, energy and climate crises. I can practically hear the screams of dey took er jobs!

Right now, there's only one clear policy ask on the event's website: "If you would like to sign a petition against the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill, click here." The event's location reinforces the message. "The Rally is going to be held on a previous surface mine, just south of Logan, West Virginia."

"Surface mine" of course being coal industry jargon for "mountaintop removal." Thanks to Google Maps, you can see how badly the landscape has been scarred in that area:

View Larger Map

I'm not surprised West Virginia businesses would be trying to buy their way into the hearts of the local citizens. After all, these are tough times for polluters. People in places like West Virginia are starting to wake up to the reality that polluters have been stealing their natural resources, destroying their communities, and hurting their health for generations. And for what? A map of poverty in Appalachia matches almost exactly with mountaintop removal sites.

But there's one major outlier on the current list of sponsors: Verizon Wireless. I don't see any other national companies on sponsor list. Why is Verizon, with over 13,000 employees here in Virginia, sponsoring a pro-polluter, global warming denial rally? I'm currently a Verizon Wireless subscriber, but Verizon's sponsorship of this event makes me question whether I want to give another penny to them.

Please take a moment right now to ask Verizon to pull its sponsorship. There's still time for Verizon to do the right thing.