Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Tony Hayward's Step Down Doesn't Matter

Pulling Up Oiled Seaweed Off Pensacola
Tony Hayward is stepping down as BP's CEO to move to another role within the company, getting an $18 million golden parachute as he goes. BP is hoping Gulf coast residents will view his replacement, Bob Dudley, more favorably because he's an American who lived in Mississippi for a time.

Yet the very next day, BP is continuing to use Hayward's rhetoric. A researcher on BP's payroll predicts the BP oil disaster's impact will be "quite small." Hayward himself once infamously predicted the impact would be "relatively tiny."

Last night I was at happy hour at Gordon Biersch in DC talking with friends about the disaster. "This is what BP doesn't get: We don't hate Tony Hayward because he's British," one of my friends said. "We hate him because he fucked the Gulf Coast."

BP dumping its CEO but continuing its lies changes nothing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Next Thing You Know, EVERYONE'S Gonna Want Clean Air

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, on Monday reversed a ruling requiring the Tennessee Valley Authority to upgrade emission controls at three coal-fired power plants in Tennessee and one in Alabama. The ruling reverses a decision by Judge Lacy H. Thornburg of Federal District Court, who said emissions affecting air quality in North Carolina’s western mountains were a “public nuisance.” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the appeals court wrote that allowing the ruling to stand would undermine the nation’s regulatory scheme.
Come on, you can't give Tennessee, Alabama & North Carolina cleaner air while letting coal pollution cause respiratory problems, foul our air & water and kill our forests in the rest of the country! Give our lungs an inch, they'll take a mile!

Photo via Flickr's Roger Smith

Monday, July 26, 2010

Golden Ostrich Nominee: NYTimes Dodges Global Warming

Today's Oblivious Environmental Journalism Challenge: Can you write an article on this year's worldwide, record-shattering heat ... without using the words climate, global warming, carbon pollution, or man-made?

The New York Times' Erik Eckholm is up to the obfuscating task. His article on the summer heat wave here in the U.S. brilliantly walks a tightrope over the big picture without falling into the trap of connecting it to man-made emissions.

Watch has he even dares to stick his head in the mouth of the lion, mentioning the global records while still carefully avoiding giving his readers proper context:
The stifling heat blanketing the mid-Atlantic this summer seems to be part of a global trend. So far, 2010 is on track to overtake 2005 as the warmest year ever recorded for the planet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It's hardcore oblivious environmental journalism like this that keeps people thinking global warming is only about melting glaciers at some point in the distant future, not about Americans dying in heat waves right now.

Special Bonus Ostrich: Bloomberg News is always right, therefore anyone who thinks it might have screwed up reporting on oil drilling poll data is automatically wrong.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Today's Oblivious Environmental Journalism Challenge

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Write an article about how man-made carbon pollution could be having a detrimental effect on our upper atmosphere ... without using the phrases "climate change" or "global warming."

The news from NASA details how carbon pollution could be helping to shrink the thermosphere. But reporting on how carbon pollution is hurting our atmosphere without mentioning how it's also devastating our lower atmosphere through global warming ... well, that would be like reporting on a leaky roof without reporting the house is on fire ... right?

That's not stopping our contestants, because we have winners!, UPI & Discovery News all win the Golden Ostrich for reporting on one problem without mentioning a directly connected, even bigger problem.

And what about blogs, which are supposed to see through the mainstream media's inadequate coverage & bring you the straight dope? Sorry, but Treehugger, Planet Save and Sustainability Ninja get Golden Parrots for simply re-writing the mainstream coverage without connecting the dots to climate.

Considering I'm heading to Netroots Nation in Las Vegas today, why am I bashing so many traditional & online reporters now? I may be setting myself to re-enact the tollbooth scene from The Godfather.

In all seriousness, it's a reminder that, as mainstream media layoffs lead to overworked/underpaid/overstressed reporters cranking stuff out as fast as they can, overworked/underpaid/overstressed bloggers cranking stuff out as fast as they can doesn't necessarily upgrade the public's knowledge.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"My Oyster Distribution Business Is Done"

How is the BP oil disaster hurting Virginia's economy? A Virginia waterman explains:

Drowning in Oil

No, really. 400,000 gallons spilled & one person dead in China:

Time to get off humanity's addiction to oil? Sen. Webb? Hello?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

So Much for Byrd's Legacy

In the twilight years of his long Senate career, the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) became a strong supporter of climate science & the need to move to a new energy economy. Meanwhile, Gov. Joe Manchin is Big Coal's best friend, staunchly opposing clean energy & climate action. So which position do you think Manchin's appointee to Byrd's Senate seat, Carte Goodwin, will take?
"I'm a little reluctant to get into extensive policy discussion on any particular piece of legislation," Goodwin, 36, said at a press conference in Charleston, W.Va. "That being said, with regard to cap and trade, I will say this: From what I've seen of the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House of Representatives and other proposals pending in the Senate, they simply are not right for West Virginia."
Wouldn't want to start moving away from coal, even though coal employment is plummeting, now providing fewer than 30,000 jobs total in West Virginia, Virginia & Kentucky combined. But go ahead, make it seem like pledging allegiance to coal is somehow patriotic:
Goodwin's position appears to closely mirror Manchin, who has also been a vocal critic of cap and trade, and the governor said that while there was discussion of the policy, there was no "litmus test" to earn the Senate appointment.

"I know he's fiercely independent, but I also know the love of West Virginia," Machin said of the new senator. "So it wasn't like a litmus test had to be given."
Who needs some silly litmus test when you already know he'll serve as Big Coal's #1 man in the Senate?

So what will Goodwin support? Giving away more tax dollars to Big Coal to fund the search for imaginary technology!
Goodwin did say he was interested in backing a bill from Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) to develop carbon sequestration technology.
Pro-coal West Virginia politicians like to paint themselves as looking out for the little guy. I know who they're looking out for, and there's nothing little about him.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Small Earthquake Felt in Northern Virginia

If you're looking for the August 23, 2011 earthquake in Virginia, click here!

I just experienced my first earthquake, getting shaken awake at about 5:02am here in Falls Church. Not sure how long it lasted, but after waking up, it felt like my bedroom was inside a giant cell phone on the vibrate setting for about 15 seconds.

UPDATE 5:15am: US Geological Survey reporting a preliminary magnitude of 3.7, centered near Gaithersburg, MD.

UPDATE 5:26am: After being reviewed by seismologist, USGS puts quake at 3.6 centered a bit closer to Germantown, MD.

UPDATE 5:33am: I just glanced at my traffic stats and apparently thousands of people got shaken awake & rushed to Google to see what the hell that was. I'm sure plenty of people are rushing to their TVs & radios too, but it makes for an interesting media moment.

My first reaction was to go to USGS because I know from past quakes it's updated incredibly fast. It wasn't on there yet, so my second stop was Twitter. Sure enough, there were already tweets about it -- I think Van Jones' was the first I noticed.

UPDATE 5:45am: By the way, so much for this whole "animals as earthquake psychics" thing. I'd been blogging about the quake for 5 minutes when my cat stumbled out of my bedroom like "Hey! What are you doing up? Maybe it's because you were so eager to feed me, huh?"

UPDATE 5:58am: According to, no reports of any quake damage in Arlington. But what of Not Larry Sabato's damaged self-esteem?

UPDATE 6:06am: Not Larry Sabato says it looks like a lot of people got woken up by the quake & just decided to stay up, tweeting, "Hysterical- the #DCQuake really woke a lot of people up. Traffic already tied up for morning commute in #Rosslyn outside my window."

UPDATE 6:10am: From NBC's Jeff Rossen via Twitter: "USGS: The quake was largest recorded within 50 kilometers of Washington DC since a database was created to track activity in 1974."

UPDATE 9:08am: Twitter's @capitolization jokes: "OPM says The Federal Govt is open today but liberal leave."

UPDATE Saturday: Just noticed USGS is also reporting a 2.0 aftershock about 10 minutes after the first quake.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Maybe The Most Annoying Thing About SUV Drivers

OK, so there are plenty of things that are most annoying about SUVs & their drivers.

You could be annoyed that their vehicles use almost twice as much fuel as everyone else's. That drives up gas prices, weakens our economy by sending $1 billion dollars a day to other countries to buy their oil, hurts our national security by boosting the economies of countries like Iran, and pollutes our air and water.

You could be annoyed they've wasted their money on vehicles that are big and bad and a terrible value. Markups on SUVs are massive and profits are huge. You're much better off getting a smaller car that's much more controllable in an emergency situation, much less likely to roll over, and much less likely to maim or kill the driver of the other vehicle.

Lately, I've been most annoyed by another factor. These people dumped a massive chunk of their annual salary on way more vehicle than they'll ever need, providing hundreds of horsepower to putter to the grocery store & to soccer practice. And yet when they're making a right turn into a shopping center, they practically come to a full stop as they gently crawl up the driveway. Come on, Canyonero, you can handle that six-inch mountain:

I have my old '99 Saturn with 121,000 miles on it that gets 35mpg highway, driving it on short trips around town about once a week. It could go at any moment anyway, so might as well squeeze every last drop out of the ol' shocks, right? I don't take any driveway slower than 45 miles an hour.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How Much Will McDonnell's Petty Poke at Enviros Cost You?

UPDATE: The Washington Post is picking up the story, now asking if McDonnell lifted the ban on bottled water at the behest of the industry.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch details how Gov. Bob McDonnell is reversing Gov. Tim Kaine's ban on state agencies buying bottled water except in emergency cases. Republican bloggers giddly applauded the move -- that'll show them treehuggers!

McDonnell's move reveals he puts petty politics over small government or conservatism. His move will waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

Corporate Accountability International, citing Virginia government's state spending tracking database, reports that in FY09 cash payments from Virginia agencies to at least several bottled water vendors were estimated to be at least $158,677. And whaddya know -- bottled water companies are thrilled McDonnell is going back to shoveling taxpayer dollars their way:
Chris Saxman, a former member of the House of Delegates, works for his family business, Shenandoah Valley Water Co., which distributes beverages, including water. He says they encourage recycling and balks at Kaine's singling out of water bottles over soda bottles.
According to Corporate Accountability International, Virginia taxpayers paid Shenandoah Valley Water Co. over $100,000 for bottled water in FY09. Somehow, Olympia Meola of the Times-Dispatch didn't see fit to mention that. Seems relevant, no?

If state agencies have a choice between using tap water & bottled water, every dollar spent on bottled water is taxpayer money wasted. Even though Americans spend $15 billion a year on bottled water, there's no evidence it's better for you than tap water (in fact, it could be worse). 

The petroleum needed to make the plastic bottles hurts our energy security -- the 1.5 million barrels of petroleum used to make water bottles each year could fuel 100,000 cars. The gas needed to fuel trucks to deliver bottled water wastes energy and pollutes our air & water. And on & on. You can learn more at

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Green Miles Leaves Arlington

OK, so I'm only going two blocks outside Arlington into Falls Church. And I hope to put the savings that come from the move towards a condo in Arlington someday soon. But I couldn't pass up the vastly better deal that comes from moving literally 500 feet away from Arlington:
  • In Arlington, I could've had a good quality apartment with a balcony in a high-rise with a pool & gym that was a 10 minute walk from Metro but not right next to anything for about $1600.
  • In East Falls Church, I'm getting a good quality apartment with a patio area in a high-rise with a pool & gym that's a 15 minute walk from Metro but not right next to anything for about $1100.
I priced apartments in different areas, but to get to my target price range in Arlington, I'd have had to leave the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, give up proximity to Metro, or lose quality of apartment. Basically, an older apartment off the Pike with a longer commute would've been the same price as the nice place a short walk from Metro in EFC. And my new places is walking distance from some places I love in Arlington, like Upton Hill Regional Park & Westover.

And, much as I hate to admit it as a shameless Arlington homer ... my time in East Falls Church so far has been pretty nice. My apartment features this view of big old trees & I'm becoming reacquainted with how loud blue jays can be when they put their minds to it. My walk to Metro crosses Four Mile Run & I've now seen rabbits hopping past twice, making the 15 minute walk seem almost shorter than my previous 10 minute walk through the generic concrete office canyons of Ballston. And my building is much more pleasantly diverse than the filing cabinet for young professionals I'd been living in.

My friends have been reacting with mock horror when I tell them I'm leaving Arlington, especially after having run for Virginia House of Delegates here. To which I say, I don't know how to break this to you, but ... I lost. About the only fringe benefit of that is that I get to be a normal person & not be constrained by political boundaries. But it's also a statement about the guy who won -- Patrick Hope has been a great delegate in the 47th & I hope he continues to be for years to come.

So yes, I'd like to have stayed in Arlington, but I wasn't willing to spend an extra $6,000 annually just to keep "Arlington" in my mailing address for the next couple of years. I'll still be active in Arlington issues & politics (I'll be volunteering with Arlington Young Democrats this weekend), and am eager to learn where a mouthy treehugger might be able to help out on progressive issues in Falls Church. And maybe by the time I'm ready to move again, the bright line dividing affordable apartments in Falls Church from single-family homes on the Arlington side of the line will have been softened by the long-overdue EFC redevelopment plan.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Should We Feel Bad For Long-Haul Commuters?

It seems like every week, there's a new article telling us we should feel bad for long-drive commuters. Take, for example, this new Reuters article is titled Hate your commute? Then pity workers in Beijing, Mexico City. It reports on the results of the IBM Commuter Pain Study, saying traffic's getting worse, people hate it, and it's affecting their professional performance & personal health.

However, it closes with this:
But despite the frustrations and the economic downturn, few commuters had changed the way they go to work with 84 percent saying the financial crisis had not stopped them driving to work.

"Even though commuters say the traffic is getting worse, for some reason people seem fond of their cars," said Lamba who hoped the information from the survey could be used by transport officials to better understand and manage traffic flow.
So basically, long-drive commuters hate their commute so much, they aren't changing a thing. And that would be fine, except we're constantly being told by elected officials how we have to spend more tax dollars to ease the commutes of people who are doing nothing to ease their own commuting pain.

Should we help people who won't help themselves? I know there are few transit options in the far-out suburbs, but if there was public outcry, the options would be there. This study seems to indicate people would rather sit in their cars & complain than carpool or lobby for new a bus route.