Tuesday, June 29, 2010

John Boehner Contradicts John Boehner on BP Oil Disaster

John Boehner is a formidable opponent. For John Boehner.

You see, John Boehner thinks President Obama is doing too little to respond to the BP oil disaster. But John Boehner, on the other hand, thinks President Obama is doing too much.

It depends on which John Boehner you're talking to. Is it the John Boehner trying to pander to voters? Or the John Boehner trying to suck up to Big Oil?

Pandering John Boehner appeared on Hugh Hewitt's show on May 27th to complain President Obama was doing too little:
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Administration is not fulfilling their responsibility to the people of the Gulf Coast area or the people of the United States.
But Friend of Big Oil John Boehner told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review today that President Obama is doing too much:
Boehner said Obama overreacted to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill might warrant a "pause" in deepwater drilling, but Obama's blanket ban on drilling in the gulf -- which a judge overturned last week -- could devastate the region's economy, he said. Louisiana State University scientists estimate the ban could have affected more than 10,000 jobs.
While every job is needed on the Gulf Coast, it's important to remember that even those 10,000 jobs pale in comparison to the estimated 16,000 jobs lost and $1.15 billion taken from the area’s gross domestic product by the BP oil disaster -- and that's in the best case scenario, according to Moody's.

If there's anything both John Boehners agree on, it's that the GOP won't be trying to make a comeback by delivering fresh ideas & solutions -- they're sticking with bashing President Obama, no matter how incoherent that turns out to be.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Some Crackpot Conspiracy Theories More Valid Than Others?

Just a question that's been nagging me.

Why does the media treat people who think NASA is conspiring to falsify temperature data with any more credibility than they treat people who think NASA conspired to falsify the moon landings? Why is one valid and the other crackpot?

Meanwhile, DC is on pace to shatter its June temperature record. June has been so hot, it's actually 0.3 degrees hotter than a typical July.

But hey, I suppose there are more important questions to consider. Like, what are Elena Kagan's views on porn? That'll be sure to get a lot more click-throughs than a stupid science story!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bob McDonnell: Aspiring Stand-Up Comic?

So I think I finally have this Gov. Bob McDonnell guy all figured out. 

When he talks about a "surplus," he really means Virginia is in debt

See? Bob McDonnell is using opposites as a source of humor. This is like pointing at President Obama and saying "He's fat!" Get it?

That must mean when he says he's not sure if carbon pollution causes global warming, he must really mean he he knows it does.

Therefore, as DC continues on pace to shatter the record for its hottest June on record, I expect lots of global cooling jokes today from Laughing Bob McDonnell! Clear those aisles, 'cause you're gonna be rollin' in 'em!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dave Matthews Calls Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining "Unforgivable"

Check out this NRDC video with Dave Matthews on mountaintop removal coal mining:

Learn more at MusicSavesMountains.org.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

One Month Later: How Has BP Oil Disaster Changed La.?

The Green Miles just returned to Arlington from a week on the Gulf Coast, traveling from Venice, LA to Pensacola, FL to view impacts of the BP oil disaster. Here's a clip talking about the differences I noticed in the Mississippi River Delta from my visit a month ago to now:

You can also see pictures I took on Flickr & learn more about the Gulf Telethon at CNN.com.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Freak Floods? Or the New Normal?

UPDATE 6/14: And now floods hit Oklahoma City. An OKC official tells CNN, "Areas are flooding that have never flooded before."

Just weeks after flooding in Tennessee, Kentucky & Mississippi killed at least 31 people, floods in Arkansas killed at least 16 people this week. 

Should we keep calling this "freak floods" or "extreme weather"? Or, given that these kinds of severe storms are exactly what climate scientists have been predicting, do we have to re-adjust what we consider "normal"?

As Brad Johnson tweeted, welcome to the Anthropocene.

Arlington County Board Doesn't Flake Out, Passes Snow Removal Rule

If you'd ever tried telling Grammy Grant she was too old & feeble to be expected to clear her driveway, you'd be risking getting beaten with a shovel.

The Arlington County Board deserves our thanks for passing a sidewalk snow removal ordinance over the ridiculous objections of its opponents, who shamelessly conjured up images of little old ladies with a cane in one hand & a shovel in the other to cover for their own laziness, miserliness, or Tea Party anti-government dogma.

It's not Arlington's older residents who were the biggest problems in the recent snowstorm. Seniors have enormous pride in maintaining their homes & just like Grammy Grant did, they work damn hard to make sure no whipper snapper's gonna try to turn them into a snowbird.

The biggest problems weren't on the side streets -- they were on the main streets & trails that commuters rely on, where businesses and local & state governments often did a lousy job of keeping a path clear:
Look, this snow removal ordinance is going to go down in history with Virginia's smoking ban in bars & restaurants as something that was debated endlessly with predictions of doom from opponents that, once implemented, turns out to be no big deal.

A job well done by the County Board led by Chris Zimmerman & supported by Barbara Favola, Mary Hynes & Walter Tejada.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Global Warming Killing Lobsters, Jobs From Massachusetts To Virginia

Global warming isn't just raising air temperatures; it's raising ocean temperatures as well. And if you're a lobster living in already-warm Gulf Stream waters, even a small increase in temperature can push you past a tipping point, make you more vulnerable to bacteria & disease.

Scientists say it looks like that's exactly what's happening right now, with lobsters populations declining by as much as 50% off southern Massachusetts. It's not just devastating for the crustaceans -- it's disastrous for the people whose jobs depend on lobsters:
Lobster populations in a large swath of the Atlantic Ocean have declined so much that biologists are recommending a five-year ban on catching lobsters south of Cape Cod down to Virginia to allow the stock to bounce back. [...]

Lobstermen, many who learned about the proposal in recent weeks, said they were being blamed for a problem that was not their doing. Bernie Feeney of the lobstermen’s association said regulators are suggesting the moratorium because, unlike warming sea waters, "it is the only variable they have control over. And fishermen take it on the chin every time."
It's not like lobsters are going extinct anytime soon. But to lobstermen, there may not be much practical difference between "extinct" and "not vibrant enough to support a lobstering industry."

But Bernie Feeney is right -- the people feeling the effects of global warming have been far too silent about its causes for far too long. Will more lobstermen now speak up about the need to end our addiction to polluting fuels & move to clean energy sources? We'll see.

Cross-posted from BlueVirginia.us

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sen. Webb Needs To Hear From You Today

UPDATE 6/10: Just heard from Sen. Webb's office that he'll be voting against Murkowski's amendment! Major thanks to everyone who called Sen. Webb.

Apologies for the infrequent blogging lately, but I'm working long days for the National Wildlife Federation covering the BP oil disaster. I'll be heading back down to the Gulf in a few days & will post updates as I can.

A quick request today -- please take one minute (that's all it takes) right now to call Sen. Jim Webb at 202-224-4024. Ask him to vote NO on the amendment from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-BigOilAlaska) to weaken the Clean Air Act. 

If you're not from Virginia, just call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your senator. Learn more about why Sen. Murkowski's amendment would be so disastrous at NoDirtyAirAct.com.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Is This What Gov. McDonnell Wants to Bring to Virginia?

Take a good, long look, Gov. McDonnell:
More horrifying pictures at Examiner.com.

Photo via Flickr's GreenpeaceUSA

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Virginia Newspaper Wants All the Benefits of Drilling, None of the Risks

It's not often you read an editorial that so perfectly encapsulates the complete fraud that is offshore drilling advocacy. Time for a quick fisking. Take it away, Staunton News Leader editorial board!

Of the three reactions concerning drilling for oil off the Virginia coast, we agree with the military's. 

OK, well, the military didn't really have a reaction so much as it issued a report on the facts, that offshore drilling off most of Virginia's shores would conflict with military operations & training. But yes, we get the gist. So far, so good.

The others, of course, are Gov. Bob McDonnell continuing his drive to begin drilling off Virginia's shore as soon as possible ...

Right, Bob McDonnell's clearly extreme position to, against the military's advice, let Big Oil drill right off Virginia's shores in even deeper waters than the Deepwater Horizon -- waters in which Big Oil just proved it can't stop a gusher.

... and President Barack Obama's outright cancellation of those plans.

And Barack Obama's apparently equally extremist ... cooling-off period delaying drilling until safety concerns can be addressed. STOP THE INSANITY!

Our governor and our president need to reach an agreement. On April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and causing an immeasurable amount of damage to the environment and fishing and tourism industries, it became crystal clear that yes, offshore drilling can create a disaster.

Right, offshore drilling is a very real, so-huge-it's-difficult-to-fathom risk. When it comes to offshore drilling, this is where I close my laptop, slide it into my backpack, get up, sling my bag over my shoulder, and stride calmly but briskly out the door.

With the Staunton News Leader, however, I'm sensing a but.

But ...

Thought so.

... the military already has said that only a narrow portion of the ocean floor off Virginia's coast would be suitable for offshore drilling, already limiting the impact here. 

Look, when it comes to massive, ecosystem-decimating oil spills, there's no such thing as "limiting the impact." Sure, there are more minor spills & leaks. But there's no "limiting the impact" of the Deepwater Horizon gusher. The Gulf is screwed and that's that. No "blowout preventers" or inflatable booms are stopping it.

And the process and industry bring much-needed jobs and fuel to the state and country.

So begins the unraveling of reality. Even the American Petroleum Institute admits drilling in the full range of Virginia's coast would only directly create 216 jobs -- and that's twenty years from now. But the Staunton News Leader is talking about going along with the military's plan to take much of the drilling territory off the table. How few jobs are we talking about now?

As for fulfilling our fuel needs, even under the most optimistic scenarios, drilling in all of the areas desired by Big Oil combined -- offshore, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky Mountain states -- would only mean a 4-5 cent reduction (PDF) in the price of a gallon of gasoline by 2025. Now consider JUST off Virginia. And only a small piece of that. How thin can you slice a penny?

What we want to see is a carefully regulated compromise that explores the possibilities for drilling off Virginia's coast and assures us the environmental impact would be limited and any damage done is repaired and punitive measures taken against those responsible.

So the Staunton News Leader wants to drill in water deeper than the Deepwater Horizon, whose gusher can't be stopped, with full assurances that any gusher could be stopped. And all that irreparable damage going on in the Gulf? Assure us it can be repaired. DON'T ASK QUESTIONS, JUST MAKE IT HAPPEN.

When Obama canceled the plans without apparent wiggle room, he did as much harm as going too quickly. 

Hear that? Holding off on drilling to address safety concerns is EXACTLY THE SAME as rushing into drilling and having a Deepwater Horizon disaster off Hampton Roads. Identical.

We need the fuel, and we need the jobs and other revenue offshore drilling can bring. We also need to take care of the environment and be assured that scientific research into alternatives will continue at an accelerated pace.

And there you have it -- the Staunton News Leader wants all of the benefits of drilling with guaranteed protection from all of the risks. I guess I finally understand what the GOP's "all of the above" energy plans is all about!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bad Day? At Least You're Not Tony Hayward's PR Person

No matter how much your job sucks, you have something to be thankful for this morning: At least you're not Tony Hayward's public relations person. Can you imagine coming into that job every morning? 

"He said WHAT? He wants his life back? For chrissake, can't that guy go one day without saying something stupid? Every day I think people can't possibly hate us any more, then Tony does something to prove me wrong." (Takes swig directly from flask, shudders)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

BP Has New Plan to Distract Us From How Screwed We Are

As I reluctantly predicted last week, BP's "top kill" effort to stop the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico didn't work. The inescapable conclusion is that offshore oil drilling technology is far more advanced than offshore oil spill stopping technology.

But wait! BP has a new plan to keep us from seeing this spill as an inevitable overdose of our ongoing addiction to oil! Put down that clean energy & climate legislation and check this out:
[BP Managing Director] Bob Dudley said there was a greater chance of success with this operation than with the "top kill" procedure that was tried last week.

"This is a better chance, definitely better. We're not working with those high pressures and pumping that we weren't sure we were able to even connect up. The guys that are running the robots, this is something that they know how to do. The cutting is probably the critical piece. We may have to try a couple of blades to do it. But from an engineering sense, this is much more straightforward. 
If this plan was really so much better than the "top kill" scheme, wouldn't BP have done this a lot sooner? Of course. Because this plan has one major drawback -- it inherently has to make the gusher a lot worse before it has any chance at all of making it better:
But a potential problem exists if the dome doesn’t work: A clean cut on the riser pipe would mean even more oil coming out than before.

"Well, there will be a little bit more oil, somewhere between zero and 20 percent more," said Dudley.

"Well, 20 percent is not insignificant, if thousands and thousands of barrels of oil are pouring out of there," said [CBS News Anchor Harry] Smith. 
Maybe it's time for our national debate to shift away from the gusher itself, which has very little chance of being stopped until a relief well is drilled months from now. Maybe it's time to talk about ways to ease our need for drilling in the first place -- more efficient cars, plug-in electric vehicles, and smart growth. Because maybe, just maybe, all these plans from BP are no more than parlor tricks to make it look like BP isn't powerless to stop this spill.