Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who Benefits from Expanded Drilling & High Gas Prices?

Expanded offshore drilling means more risk of spills. And just as the economy begins to recover, families are losing more of their disposable income to rising gas prices. But hey, not everyone's complaining!:
Exxon Mobil said Thursday its quarterly profit increased 38 percent as oil prices rose in the first three months of the year.

The company reported a profit of $6.3 billion, or $1.33 a share, in the first three months of the year. [...]

Exxon’s profit relied heavily on its exploration and production operation. Oil prices surged over the last 12 months, jumping from a low of $33 a barrel in the first quarter of 2009 to more than $80 a barrel this year.
It's about time Exxon Mobil's profits got back on track. After all, it's been a whole 16 months since it posted the biggest profit of the history of the planet. Good to see them back on their feet!

UPDATE: As my friend Teddy Goodson reminds me, Exxon's 2009 federal income tax bill was $0.

Cross-posted from

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What Would Gulf Coast Oil Spill Look Like Off Virginia's Coast?

Thanks to the magic of Photoshop, we can cut the Gulf Coast spill & paste it, scaled to size, off the Virginia coast in the area where drilling is planned. Via Twitter's Brad Johnson, here's what it looks like proportionately:

Obviously this is not exactly what a Virginia oil spill would look like. There are many variables -- wind direction & speed, water current patterns. This is not a forecast, it simply shows relative sizes.

What would all that oil do? Would it head out to sea? Towards the Chesapeake Bay & Virginia Beach? Up to Ocean City? Who knows.

But hey, at least oil spills come with a darkly comic side. Sen. Mark Warner, a relentless cheerleader for oil & gas drilling off Virginia's shores, is now being listed among coastal-state senators who've "expressed concerns about the safety & environmental impacts of offshore drilling." Who says you can't try to have it both ways?

Cross-posted from

The Daily Show on Cape Wind

UPDATE: Cape Wind has been approved! Congratulations to the clean energy activists who've been working for years to make this happen & to the Obama administration for making the right call.

I first posted this when it aired waaaay back in 2007. Doesn't seem like that long ago, but it was before The Daily Show had its own fancy-schmancy video site. The YouTube version of this clip has since been removed, but considering we're expecting a final decision on Cape Wind today, I thought I'd dig up the fancy-schmancied archive clip from The Daily Show's site & re-post it.

As Jason Jones reports, there's only one reason Cape Wind wasn't approved long ago -- because the people who live nearby are really, really rich:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jason Jones 180 - Nantucket
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If We Don't Tackle Climate, Who Celebrates?

What I just said, in video form:

Tell Warner & Webb: Tackle Clean Energy & Climate Next

Who's happiest about the delay in the rollout of the Senate clean energy & climate bill?
C'mon, Mahmoud. No need to be shy.
See? Told you. Every day we don't put a price on carbon pollution is another day Iran can rake in $100 million thanks to our continuing addiction to oil.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is flirting with postponing debate on the clean energy & climate bill so the Senate can take up immigration reform first. As today's Washington Post editorializes, Sen. Reid's effort to flip the bills may kill them both:
Painstaking negotiations on the substance of a compromise climate bill are nearly complete. Mr. Graham, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lieberman have gone to extraordinary lengths to attract a coalition of supporters, including environmental groups, electric utilities, businesses, the Christian Coalition and even oil companies. Fence-sitting senators concerned about the bill's effects on manufacturing and American competitiveness seem to be coming around to the idea of pricing carbon. This emerging coalition, backers claim, is still behind the bill.

In contrast, there is no comparable groundwork that would lead to an immigration bill's passage. But at least some Democrats say they believe the politics of immigration reform are more favorable to them than the politics of climate legislation. House Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) faces a tough reelection battle, where a sizable Hispanic population wants to see him make an effort to achieve reform. We understand the politics, and we support immigration reform. If it's possible to accomplish something this year, great. But Mr. Reid and the White House should not allow immigration to push climate change so far down the calendar that it becomes impossible for the Senate to take up. And all parties -- including Mr. Graham -- should keep in mind that the politics of climate change are likely to be harder next year, when Democratic majorities will probably be slimmer. Defeat or postponement now could fracture the coalition behind the effort.
Immigration needs reform & legislation deserves a full debate. But while the House passed the American Clean Energy & Security Act 10 months ago, it hasn't even taken up immigration reform yet. Clean energy & climate is at the goal line, while immigration hasn't even kicked off yet. Let's get clean energy & climate done before moving on to the next issue.

I just called Senators Mark Warner & Jim Webb with a dual message:
Thank you for voting to break the Republican filibuster of Wall Street reform. I know you'll win the fight. Once we've won that battle, it's time to get the job done on clean energy & climate action.
You can reach Sen. Warner's DC office at 202-224-2023 (or call his local office). For Sen. Webb's DC office, call 202-224-4024 (or call his local office).

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day's 40th Anniversary: Get Active

To sum up:

America's air, especially in & around its cities, is less polluted than it was in 1970. Many of America's waterways are cleaner. Thanks to the ban on the pesticide DDT & species support programs, iconic birds like the bald eagle & California condor have been brought back from the brink of extinction. Others, like the gray wolf, have been successfully returned to previous homes, bringing ecosystems back into balance. Later, updates to the Clean Air Act greatly reduced acid rain pollution. And all of the above has been achieved with very little cost to consumers or businesses.

But we've yet to address global warming, with global temperatures up a full degree F since 1970. We import more than twice as much polluting oil as we did in the 70s. One by one, mountaintop removal coal mining continues to destroy the Appalachians. The Chesapeake Bay is in as rough shape today as it's ever been.

So what can you do this year to help make sure the next four decades show even more environmental progress than the previous 40 years?
Finally, I give you Biz Markie's Earth Day remix of You Got What I Need ... which is shockingly not bad:

Oil Drilling: Virginia Gets All the Risk, But Has to Share the Rewards?

UPDATE: Accuweather forecasters are now warning of a possible oil spill on Gulf Coast beaches.

As Not Larry Sabato points out, this is what the McDonnell/Bolling/Cuccinelli administration is working so hard to bring to Virginia:
Survivors of a thunderous blast aboard an oil platform off the Louisiana coast were being reunited with their families at a suburban New Orleans hotel early Thursday as the search for 11 missing workers continued.
But there's more! Via The Deadrise, if some senators get their way, Virginians would get no more of the revenue from drilling off our shores than would go to Iowans:
Three key Senate Democrats are urging their colleagues to reject a proposal in the emerging climate bill that would give a cut of oil and gas production royalties to states that allow offshore drilling.

Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia called "revenue sharing" an ill-advised "giveaway" of money that belongs to all U.S. citizens.
All the risk, only a fraction of the rewards. I bet you didn't realize that when Bob McDonnell promised drilling revenue would fund transportation, he was referring to an expanded Route 20 to Sioux City, did you?

Cross-posted from

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Virginians: McDonnell/Bolling/Cuccinelli Wrong on Climate & Energy

How else to read this new poll (PDF) from Christopher Newport University?

First, let's establish one thing: Virginia's government is doing nothing to address global warming. That's not me talking -- that's what a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality spokesman told the Newport News Daily Press. No, wait -- that's not quite right. Virginia is actively trying to obstruct action on global warming thanks to the war on science led by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli & supported by Gov. Bob McDonnell & Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.
Projected Virginia Temperature Rise
Meanwhile, last month was the hottest March on record globally & broke a record for lack of cold locally. That's after 2009 was the 2nd-hottest year on record & the 2000s were the hottest decade on record. Oh, and remember the "oil crisis" in the 1970s? We import twice as much oil today as we did then.

The poll shows Virginians explicitly reject the McDonnell/Bolling/Cuccinelli clean energy & climate obstruction in three key areas:
  • Virginians want state government to act, not obstruct. 78% agree "Virginia’s government has to create policies that could address the issue of climate change and improve the state’s environment."
  • It doesn't matter if they don't buy the science. 91% agree "regardless of whether there is or isn’t climate change, it is still in Virginia’s best interest to develop new sources of energy that are cleaner, reliable, affordable, and safer."
  • Virginians are willing to pay a little more for clean energy. 81% agree "slightly higher energy costs today are worth the investment if they lead to energy that is cleaner, reliable, affordable, and safer down the road."
Oh, and the winter snowstorms that the Virginia GOP & Ken Cuccinelli said were proof global warming isn't happening? Only 5% of Virginia voters agree. Instead, 28% say the freakishly strong storms made them more concerned about climate change.

Overall? Only 38% give Virginia's environment an A or a B. That's down sharply from 45% just last year.

I'd say there was a huge opportunity for Virginia Democrats to go after McDonnell/Bolling/Cuccinelli & establish clear contrast in the eyes of voters. But from state-level candidates like Tim Kaine, Creigh Deeds & Jody Wagner to Senators Mark Warner & Jim Webb, Virginia Democrats seem to prefer instead to listen to Republican positions promoting polluting fuels & say "me, too!"

To get clear contrast, you have to go to the regional level -- House members like Tom Perriello, Jim Moran & Gerry Connolly, State Senators like Chap Peterson & Donald McEachin, or Delegates like Albert Pollard, Scott Surovell, Adam Ebbin & David Englin.

As Virginia Democrats plot strategy for 2010, 2011 & beyond, can they develop a statewide strategy for taking advantage of this opening -- the gaping canyon between voters' support for a new direction on clean energy & climate action and GOP candidates' obstruction to progress & shilling for polluting fuels? 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nationals Earth Day Surprisingly Not Sponsored by ExxonMobil

Am I too cynical? Should that not be my reaction to this? Just because Exxon Mobil sponsors the 7th innning stretch, Nats giveaways, and even pays to put their logo on Nats Park miniature stadiums?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tea Partying with a Climate Denier Birther British Lord

It's unbelievable, isn't it? A movement named after the Tea Party rebellion against the British aristocracy has joined forces with a British aristocrat.

Lord Christopher Monckton, the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, spoke at a Freedomworks Tea Party event on Thursday in DC. But as David Weigel reports, he wasn't exactly on message, first making a birther "joke," then confirming he's a birther:
"I have no idea where he was born," said Monckton, who was working the crowd and signing autographs. "What I do find strange is that the public records of his Hawaiian birth have been sealed, and can not be obtained by the public. His lawyers have spent a lot of money trying to seal the records of his public life. All of those records should be open to the public, as they always were for previous presidents."

I pointed out to Monckton that the state of Hawaii released Obama's certification of live birth nearly two years and ago, and that the persistent challenges to his citizenship have inspired some members of the military to refuse to serve under Obama. "The effective classification of all of these documents of his early life is surely contrary to the spirit of freedom and openness in the Democratic west," said Monckton. "It's bound to raise questions in some peoples' minds. However! I have no idea where he's born, but it made a nice joke."
Monckton has made a career out of denying climate science, going so far as to call American youth climate activists "Hitler Youth." At the event, Monckton also reiterated his stance that all people with HIV should be quarantined.

Republicans try to paint birthers as being on the fringe of conservatism. But when a birther-spouting, global warming-denying, HIV-quarantiner is invited to speak at an event organized by Freedomworks, chaired by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the lines between the GOP & the Crazy get increasingly blurry.

Cross-posted from; photo via Flickr's Matthew McDermott; story via Grist

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hurt's Shilling for Big Polluter Pays Off

Last month, The Green Miles asked "Is there anything State Sen. Robert Hurt (R-Chatham) won't do for his donors at [American Electric Power subsidiary] Appalachian Power?" Today, we're learning more about what's in it for Hurt as he tries to win the GOP nomination to challenge Rep. Tom Perriello (D-5th).

Hurt's shilling came into the spotlight as he made outlandish excuses to defend Appalachian Power's massive rate hike in December. When 5th district voters expressed outrage at the huge price spike in the middle of a recession, Hurt claimed Appalachian Power had no choice but to raise rates because of carbon pollution regulations. Just one problem -- those regulations don't actually exist yet. (Will Hurt next blame AEP's recent minor stock slip on financial reform that has not yet passed?) Hurt has also vigorously rejected mainstream climate science, sounding an awful lot like Tea Party favorite Ken Cuccinelli.

Hurt's first quarter fundraising report shows his efforts paid off handsomely, with AEP delivering a $1,000 donation. That's on top of the $3,250 Appalachian Power has contributed to Hurt's campaigns since 2001, just a fraction of the $64,717 Hurt has received from energy companies over that period, including $20,750 from electric utilities.

And if Hurt plays his cards right, there's a lot more where that came from! Don't believe me? Just ask Virgil Goode!

AEP gave then-Rep. Goode $10,000 in 2008 alone & $25,850 over his Congressional career, making AEP one of his top donors ever (just ahead of Altria/Philip Morris & RJ Reynolds Tobacco).

It's all part of a massive expansion of AEP's political contributions. As recently as the 1998 cycle, AEP's political action committee spent "only" $139,950. But AEP has already spent $875,048 this time around -- and the 2010 cycle's only half over.

Why is AEP suddenly so interested in politics? It may have something to do with those pesky Democrats (like Rep. Perriello) trying to hold polluters accountable for their pollution. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst named AEP to the Toxic 100 list, identifying AEP as the 35th-largest corporate producer of air pollution in the United States, releasing roughly 88 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air every single year.

So the bottom line is, I guess not every customer in Virginia's 5th district is so upset about all that extra money flowing into AEP's coffers & all that pollution going into our air, huh? For Robert Hurt, it just paid off.

Cross-posted from

Thursday, April 15, 2010 Defangs the Deniers

On Wednesday night's edition of "The O'Reilly Factor," Bill played a new ad for guest Dennis Miller. The ad points out that the money we pay to import polluting oil ends up in the hands of terrorists who targets our troops in Iraq & Afghanistan. It closes with a call for clean energy & climate legislation. 

Watch as Miller, a hardcore conservative & self-described global warming denier, refuses to say one bad word about it:

Foil vs. Wrap? How About Neither?

The Washington Post's The Green Lantern had a post this week comparing the environmental footprint of aluminum foil & plastic wrap. But nowhere in the article is mentioned that most mysterious of treehugger tools:

I store all my leftovers in Tupperware. Don't have to worry about leaks, spills or smells. And once the leftovers are gone, it gets washed & reused instead of thrown away.

As is so often the case, the environmental decision is also the best economic one. A few dollars worth of Tupperware has lasted me more than five years. (My previous set of Tupperware was lost in an unfortunate incident where my last roommate thought the broiler was a storage drawer. No, really. Kitchen smelled like melted plastic for about two weeks.)

I go through about one roll of aluminum foil every two years as liner for baking dishes. And I don't buy plastic wrap at all, partly because it's wasteful, but mostly because it's a pain. Even if you can somehow manage to get a sheet off the roll, then transfer it to the top of the container, it's a tossup on whether it'll actually stick to it. There's about a 75% chance you end up feeling like an idiot.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Virginia Attorney General Predicts All Americans to Die

The government will tax every building at $125,000 per year until no one has any money to buy food, at which point everyone will die out and there will be no people left.

I'm pretty sure that's what Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is saying here, although it's really hard to sort it all out -- and I say that as someone who works on environment & energy issues every day:

I think Cuccinelli starts with new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on mountaintop removal coal mining, confuses that with lies about a clean energy & climate bill that would actually create 1.7 million jobs & smushes it all together with lying about EPA global warming regulations under the Clean Air Act to say they'll apply not to industrial polluters emitting at least 25,000 tons of CO2 a year but instead to any building Ken Cuccinelli points to. I have no idea where he got $125,000 -- I think he made up a big scary number on the spot.

In other words, Ken Cuccinelli lies so much, even Ken Cuccinelli can't keep straight what Ken Cuccinelli is lying about at any given moment.

Cross-posted from

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Coal Has Not Been Good for West Virginia."

West Virginia blogger Debra Dean Murphy has an op-ed in today's Charleston Gazette taking on the myth that her state owes whatever prosperity it has to coal:
Lest I be misunderstood, let me say, as clearly as I can, that I don't in any way denigrate the risky work that coal miners do, nor the sense of accomplishment they rightly feel in their vocation.

But here's the thing: I worry, at least a little, when generations of West Virginians - whether they're connected to coal mining or not - absorb this notion that they are beleaguered and put-upon, the most-derided in our culture, and then turn that woundedness into a kind of guarded bravado that refuses to reckon with some hard, uncomfortable truths.

To say we're proud of coal miners without acknowledging that for decades miners have been given the shaft - literally - by greedy coal companies does not serve the long-term well-being of those who do this dirty, dangerous work. And, sure, we should pray for the victims of this most recent tragedy, but we should also do the holy, pressing work of challenging an industry that enriches absentee corporate shareholders while sucking the life out of the people and places it needs for its pursuit of profit at any cost.

This latest disaster should not be one more occasion for West Virginians to turn their latent defensiveness into full-blown denial of what's really going on. Here's the truth: Coal has not been good for West Virginia. Coal has been good for corporations. After more than a century of extracting this valuable resource from the earth, the considerable profits it has generated have gone elsewhere.
Takes a lot of guts for someone to stand up to their state's status quo and call it like it is. Read more from Debra at her blog.

Cross-posted from

A Harry Caray Moment in the Dairy Aisle

HEY! Why do the free-range eggs cost more than the cage-free eggs at the grocery store? If you were a chicken, wouldn't you rather be free-range? I know I would.

Actually, both "cage-free" & "free-range" seem to be a bit meaningless. The term "free farmed" seems to have some real standards. 

But as is so often the case, if you're really concerned about how the chicken was treated before it begat the egg, you're best off going to your local farmers market, where they'll be happy to chat your ear off about the chickens & how there's been too much rain this spring & here, try a piece of our cheese, it's the best & if you're ever up in Buckeystown you should stop by!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Progress on Virginia's First Wind Farm

Plans call for 19 turbines that will produce enough electricity to power 12,000 homes.

Site preparation began in August, but work was delayed while 12 feet of snow accumulated over the winter. The work will pick up as soon as the remaining snow melts, [Highland New Wind Development's Tal] McBride said.

The 38-megawatt project, including a substation to connect with a nearby power line, should be operating by the fall, he said.
Virginia's wind resources have gone untapped for too long. Great to see this project nearing completion!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why Can't Virginia's Attorney General Talk About Global Warming Without Lying?

You really have to wonder -- if Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's legal case against climate action is really as watertight as he claims, why can't he talk about it without lying repeatedly?

In an interview with the Roanoke Free Press, Cuccinelli repeats an old Republican lie about the results of an MIT study on the costs of clean energy & climate legislation. Strangely, Cuccinelli repeats the lie even though the MIT professor behind the study asked Republicans to stop lying about his research over a year ago.

How much would a bill like the American Clean Energy & Security Act that passed the House last year cost the average family? According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, about a postage stamp a day -- $175 a year. And low-income families would actually save $40 a year thanks to energy rebates. Pretty cheap for a bill that would create 1.7 million new jobs & curb the worst effects of global warming.

Showing that he must get his climate news from Rush Limbaugh, Cuccinelli also cites illegally hacked climate scientist emails as proof the Environmental Protection Agency should throw out decades of scientific research. Does Cuccinelli know the Associated Press had a team of 5 reporters comb through every word of those emails & found "none of the emails" changed the fact that "global warming is man-made and a threat"? Or is he happy to keep ignoring reality & instead live in a science-denying bubble?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

ExxonMobil's Favorite Day of the Year: April 15

Why? Because ExxonMobil paid $0 in federal income taxes in 2009:
The most hilarious part is ExxonMobil still finds a way to bitch about its lot in life. The corporation's website includes an issues page on "industry taxes," which threatens that energy innovation is already on the ropes because of excessive taxes, and it will be forever consigned to the dustbin by any new taxes on windfall profits (or, we'd assume, plans like President Obama's to close the offshore earnings loopholes that saved ExxonMobil from the IRS this year). "While our worldwide profits have grown, our worldwide income taxes have grown even more. From 2004 to 2008 our earnings grew by 79 percent, but our income taxes grew by 130 percent," ExxonMobil's flacks wrote, presumably while playing the world's smallest—and most expensive—violin.
But I'm sure this should give us no reason to doubt Gov. Bob McDonnell's promises about how much revenue will be delivered by handing over our coastlines to Big Oil for drilling ... um, right?

Friday, April 2, 2010

DC's Mildest March Ever?

Given our heavy rains & strong winds last month, it's hard to think of March as "mild." But by one measure, DC broke a record:
Not once during March did the temperature fall below 33 degrees at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

This is the first time the area has had such a mild March in nearly 140 years of keeping records. 
And as Lowell reports over at Blue Virginia:
It turned out that this past heating season turned out warmer than normal. Today's Washington Post reports that "heating degree days"  ("an index of fuel consumption indicating how many degrees the average temperature fell below 65 for the day") this season are 3,622, compared to a normal of 3,711 and last season's 3,874.  Fewer degree days, of course, mean it's been warmer than normal this heating season.
As a result of the warm temperatures, DC's cherry blossoms are blooming earlier than usual. But what's "usual" for the cherry blossoms is changing thanks to global warming. According to a study by Smithsonian scientists, they're blooming about a week earlier than they once did.