Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Toyota Washing Off Its Green?

You hear about plenty of greenwashing -- companies trying to look green with token environmental efforts. But rarely do you see a company actively trying to look less green.

That's apparently what Toyota has decided to do, aligning itself with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's climate denial and clean energy obstruction:

Officials from the US Chamber of Commerce told Politico today that in private conversations the car company had been supportive of its campaign against a proposed law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The comments look set to further anger hundreds of disgruntled Prius owners who have joined an online campaign demanding Toyota quit the chamber in protest at its opposition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The chamber has called the bill a "jobs killer", and its executives have questioned the science behind global warming.

Toyota had already lost some of its green cred when Ford put out a superior hybrid, the Fusion. Now the company risks destroying its environmental reputation entirely by casting its lot with the U.S. Chamber. Will the Prius go from a symbol of planetary protection to a symbol of ignorance and inaction?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tonight: ACE Sustainability Social in Ballston

Here are some details on an Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment event coming up tonight in Ballston:
Sustainability Social
Monday, October 26, 7:30 - 9:00 p.m.
Sangam Restaurant, 1211 N. Glebe Rd.

Learn more about living green, ACE volunteer opportunities, mingling, and delicious Indian food. ACE board member Takis Karantonis will be delivering a "Plastics Recycling 123" presentation, designed to answer all your questions about what those plastic recycling numbers mean. We'll have information about upcoming volunteer opportunities and ongoing volunteer positions. And everyone can meet fellow volunteers committed to protecting our local environment.

To RSVP, please email Lily or call 703-228-6406.
There's limited parking at Sangam (in the Comfort Inn lot) so Metro's the best bet to get there. Sangam (corner of Glebe & Washington) is only a 10 minute walk from Ballston Metro. You can find a full list of upcoming ACE events here!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

WaPo: Arlington's Delegates Should Fight for Loudoun!

When is an endorsement not an endorsement? When it calls the candidate great because he'd do the opposite of what his voters want.

That's the clear implication of the Post's endorsement of Aaron Ringel over Arlington incumbent Bob Brink:
Mr. Brink is a competent legislator but he has opposed widening Interstate 66. That wins points with some homeowners who'd be directly affected but does little for the tens of thousands of commuters who suffer that road daily. Mr. Ringel takes a broader regional view of that issue.
That Bob Brink! Always pandering to his constituents! Somehow I don't think Ringel will be changing his campaign slogan to: "Aaron Ringel: He Won't Look Out for Arlington Homeowners!"

Look, if delegates from the distant suburbs want to push to widen I-66, that's fine. It's their residents that chose a trade-off -- accepting a longer commutes in exchange for a less-expensive homes. And it's not their community that has to worry about the added pollution, noise and threats to local biking and walking trails, right? That's Arlington's concern. And that's why Arlington delegates like Bob Brink have taken the right stand against the expensive, inefficient widening of I-66.

But to say Arlington's delegate should give Arlington's concerns lower priority than those of other districts? That's just plain crazy.

As Lowell detailed at Blue Virginia, this is clearly the Post trying to look bipartisan by carefully endorsing a few Republicans with no chance of winning. I mean, we're really supposed to believe best candidate for Arlington is one who has nothing to say on his issues page about education, energy or the environment?

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tonight: "Climate Cover-Up" Author in DC

One more event, this one coming up tonight in DC:
Sierra Club D.C. Chapter General Membership Meeting - Cool Speaker!
Thursday, October 22, 8:30-10pm
Busboys & Poets
2021 14th St NW (14th & V)

Come hear what's going on in our Sierra Club Chapter, then listen to Canadian author James Hoggan discuss his provocative new book, CLIMATE COVER-UP: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming.

Climate activist and educator Hoggan is co-founder of DeSmogBlog.com, as well as an attorney, ski instructor, and cyclist.

Come eat, drink, learn, and discuss a cool topic at a cool venue!

Saturday: Virginia Power Shift 2009

Just a quick heads up that the Virginia Power Shift 2009 conference on clean energy & climate action will take place on Saturday at George Mason:
Young people from around Virginia will gather for the first ever Regional Power Shift October 23rd through 25th at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Join us as we converge for a weekend of training, networking, and action to help shift the political power in the Virginia and send a strong message to the nation and the world as we head into Copenhagen.
The Green Miles will be joining the Virginia Conservation Network's Nathan Lott on a panel on Virginia environmental politics. You can register for the conference here.

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shocking: Big Oil Front Groups Hate Clean Energy

If you're getting tired of reading headlines like that, imagine how tired The Green Miles is of typing them.

The latest effort from Big Oil front groups to derail clean energy & climate action? This time, it's Americans for Tax Reform and the Heritage Foundation leading the attack. Just one look at these front groups' funding and it's no surprise they're trying to keep America addicted to oil:
  • ATR is supported by two foundations funded by "reclusive billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, whose wealth was inherited from the Mellon industrial, oil, uranium and banking fortune."In addition, it's received funding from Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and the Tobacco Institute,
  • Heritage has received at least $530,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. It's also received funding from ChevronTexaco and the foundations of oil tycoons the Kochs. On Heritage's board? Richard Mellon Scaife.
If these are the people you think should be dictating our energy policies, by all means check out ATR's bizarre website, which features President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apparently as some sort of witches.

Fortunately, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) was on the floor of the House yesterday blasting Republicans for repeating Big Oil's lies about clean energy & climate action:

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia

Monday, October 19, 2009

Something I Hadn't Seen in a While

A sunset!

After four straight days of clouds and rain, the sun finally broke out last night ... just in time to set:

Sunset over I-66

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Heritage Hearts Dissent (Except at Its Own Events)

For some strange reason, someone decided to invite The Green Miles to tonight's "premiere" of Not Evil Just Wrong, a new global warming denial movie. I say "premiere" because the film has already been screened regularly this year at conservative political conferences.

So why stage a phony "premiere"? The Washington Independent reports, "Some conservative films like last year's An American Carol have been given mass releases that backfired when audiences failed to show up." Ah. Makes sense now.

Anyway, I come here not to slam the documentary, which richly deserves the complete indifference it's received from the non-teabagging world. I come to slam the hosts: The Heritage Foundation.

It's certainly not surprising that Heritage would host these filmmakers. After all, their last movie was a mining "documentary" funded by the mining industry. Now they're screening their pro-fossil fuels "documentary" at Heritage, which has received at least $530,000 from ExxonMobil in just the last decade.

But a line in the invitation caught my eye: "Terms and Conditions of Attendance are posted online at www.heritage.org/Press/Events/terms.cfm".

Here's an excerpt from that page:
This event is open to the public as part of The Heritage Foundation’s commitment to promote reasoned discussion and understanding of important public policy issues. In support of these goals, The Heritage Foundation expects that all attendees will conduct themselves with courtesy and respect for every speaker and those in the audience, regardless of agreement or disagreement with any speaker or member of the audience. Accordingly, The Heritage Foundation reserves the right to deny admission to, and to remove, anyone who, while our guest, does not conduct themselves with courtesy and respect for the speakers and the audience.
All that would be totally fine -- it fits most every public standard for decorum -- if not for one thing. The Heritage Foundation spent all summer defending that very behavior.

The Heritage Foundation blog defended teabaggers as "upset citizens" and decried any attempt to maintain decorum as an effort to "silence" protesters and "stage manage" events.

So if an elected official tries to maintain civility at a public event, it's cause for revolution. But if anyone tries to revolt at a Heritage Foundation event, they could be arrested.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Definitive Proof Big Oil Has No Sense of Humor

The Green Fiancee and I headed to the DC Improv recently to see the standup act of John Oliver, a correspondent for The Daily Show.

About halfway through his set, Oliver noticed a man in the front row of tables was texting. Oliver began giving him some good-natured ribbing. But rather than owning up to his faux pas and having a laugh about it, the man told Oliver to buzz off and continued texting.

If there's any way to earn yourself more insults from a comic, it's to act annoyed by his insults. Oliver had the audience in stitches as the man fumed.

Oliver moved on, but a few minutes later, Oliver stopped in the middle of a joke -- texting man was at it again. But this time, he wasn't having any of Oliver digs -- the man and the woman he was with got up and stormed out.

Texting man and his companion had been with another couple, and Oliver apologized to them if he'd caused any trouble. Oliver expressed amazement someone with absolutely no interest in his comedy would bother coming to the show. The couple said they'd bought the tickets and invited the other two.

"What does he do for a living?" Oliver asked.

"He's a lobbyist," the woman replied, "for the American Petroleum Institute."

It must've taken a solid two minutes for the audience's laughter to die down.

"Ninety-five percent of me enjoyed giving him a hard time, but five percent had felt a little guilty," Oliver said. "Not anymore."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Big Oil Front Group: Drilling Will CLEAN Beaches

The Green Miles isn't anti-coastal drilling as part of some treehugging doctrine. If allowing some drilling is the price of getting a clean energy & climate action bill passed, I probably wouldn't be screaming for a veto. I just think that until we've grabbed the lowest-hanging fruit of renewable energy and energy efficiency (and we've barely started picking), we shouldn't put our coastal economies at risk.

But this is what makes rational discussion of the issue so difficult: Big Oil's willingness to lie right in Virginians' faces about the realities of drilling. Here's what the Heartland Institute, which admitted to taking more than half a million dollars from ExxonMobil before it stopped revealing its funders, is telling Californians about coastal drilling:
Offshore oil drilling has a proven track record as a safe and effective means of acquiring energy. Oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico weathered hurricanes Katrina and Rita with little or no spillage, according to the National Ocean Industries Association.
The "National Ocean Industries Association" is yet another industry front group that joined ExxonMobil to fund one of the worst global warming denier groups ever. So one polluter front group is quoting a lie from another polluter front group that Katrina and Rita caused no spills.

What does the actual historical record tell us? Just check this actual headline from 2005: "Katrina oil spills may be among worst on record." Considering Virginia is right in the line of fire every hurricane season, this is a huge worry.

But that's far from the biggest doozy:
Drilling would help clean up the coastline. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 60 percent of the oil found in the North American marine environment comes from natural seepage through the ocean floor. Only 1 percent comes from offshore oil and gas development. Drilling and removal of oil allows for less natural seepage, hence cleaner beaches and a cleaner marine environment.
Here's the problem: natural seepage happens in tiny amounts over long periods of time, while man-made spills happen all at once and in large quantities.

Let's do a visual demonstration. Natural seepage:

Now the man-made version:

With absolutely outrageous lies like this, how can we believe anything Big Oil tells us about the dangers of offshore drilling or how much revenue we could expect from it? ExxonMobil will spill oil on your leg and tell you it's raining.

Unfortunately, neither Creigh Deeds nor Bob McDonnell sound willing to take the tough stand against Big Oil. Expect to hear more questionable forecasts of black rain for the next four years.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Virginia's Green Sales Tax Holiday

If you've been looking to buy a new energy-efficient or water-saving appliance, this is the weekend to do it. Virginia is holding an Energy Star and WaterSense sales tax holiday through Monday.

As I detailed a couple of years ago, while making energy-efficient and water-saving appliances more affordable up-front is a great idea, Virginia hasn't chosen the best way to go about it. Why not do it all year round? Also, the holiday continues to exclude furnaces, an appliance with some of the biggest potential for energy savings.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Businesses to US Chamber: It's Not You, It's ... No, Wait, It IS You

Learn more about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's opposition to clean energy & climate action at the NRDC Switchboard, then go sign the SEIU petition:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Put a (Greener) Ring On It

Brilliant Earth ring
The Green Girlfriend needs a new nickname.

We recently got engaged, and of course The Green Miles went with the greenest ring available. The most environmentally-friendly engagement ring option is to go with a family ring, or even a family diamond in a new setting. However, it's only a lucky few who have that option available.

So I went with Brilliant Earth, a sustainable jewelry company. Their diamonds are harvested using socially responsible practices. Brilliant Earth also donates 5 percent of its profits to help communities who have suffered from unethical practices in the jewelry industry. Even the ring boxes are made with sustainably-harvested wood.

Were the diamonds more expensive than other options? It depends on your perspective. Could I have gotten a cheaper stone online if I didn't care if it was a blood diamond from some war-torn African nation? Yeah, I probably could've saved five or ten percent. But The Green Girlfriend was at least ten percent happier with the ring knowing it was a diamond she could feel good about. And Brilliant Earth had just the setting she wanted.

Could I have paid a lot more for the same diamond? Absolutely. Try going to a jewelry store in DC, where you'll be paying at least an extra ten percent (if not more) just for the store's location.

And if you want a good laugh, try going to Tiffany and asking about their sustainability policy. The look on the clerk's face will be somewhere between "how do I explain this away" and "I'm about to lose any chance at this commission."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Little Ray of Sunshine at the Office

The Green Miles lives on the 9th floor, so I don't have a garden. I have a cat that likes to munch on leafy plants, so I don't have much of a chance to show off my green thumb with houseplants, either.

But my efforts at the office paid off last week -- two tiny blooms on my goldfish plant:

Goldfish Plant

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Green Miles vs. Virginia ABC

Every time I go to a Virginia ABC store to buy liquor, they insist on giving me a plastic bag. It's against Virginia law, they tell me, to have a bottle of alcohol in public that's not covered.

This offends me not just as an environmentalist, but as a non-Puritan. So I end up doing an odd little dance with the cashier every time I go.

"My car is parked right there," I say, turning and pointing to my car visible through the glass door not 30 feet from the cash register. "I'll take my chances on not getting arrested on the five feet of sidewalk between the door and my car."

"But I have to put it in a bag," the clerk insists with a yes-it's-stupid-but-I'll-get-in-trouble-if-I-don't look.

So I get a look of flinty Chicago toughness in my eye and tell the cashier, "Then you tell them coppers there ain't a jail been built yet that can hold The Green Miles." And we both laugh as I pull the bottle out of the plastic bag and carry it out to my car.

Photo via Yelp's Avenger R.

Friday, October 2, 2009