Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DC Meteorologist Ignores Climate's Influence on Warm November

WUSA-TV Chief Meteorologist Topper Shutt, last covered here giving a shout-out to climate science deniers, blogged recently about the DC region's warm November temperatures:
It was 73 on [November 14], just four shy of the record high and is still mild today but changes are on the way which is what November is all about. November typically features wide temperature fluctuations in the Metro Area. Temperature swings of highs 10 degrees above average one day can be followed by days with high temperatures 10 degrees below average all in the same week. Although rare, it has snowed in November in the Metro Area (we were reminded it can snow in October as well) while November has also seen temperatures in the mid 70s. There have been instances of both extremes that Washingtonians have experienced on this date in the not too distant past.
To use a local example, this would be like writing an article about the recent history development in Arlington's Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and saying, "Some buildings are short while others are tall." While that's true, it also would be completely ignoring the easily perceived upward trend.

Just look at the global temperature trend:

Or to get local as the Capital Weather Gang did, look at DC's Thanksgiving temperature trend:
*Reflects adjusted data to account for later occurring Thanksgiving prior to 1939.
Yes, there will always be day-to-day weather fluctuations, but over the long term, the trend is pointing up thanks to man-made carbon pollution. Even the cool-down that began yesterday only brought our temperatures down to what should be normal.

It's not controversial - it's climate scienceThe only thing hard to figure out is why Topper Shutt won't give the whole story about how global warming is impacting DC's weather.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Foods Are Worth Buying Organic?

Climate advocacy hasn't made me rich as fast as Rick Perry promised it would, so I need to shop green on a budget and practical advice is hugely valuable. What's worth buying the organic version of? What's not? (Answer: Kraft Organic Process Cheese Loaf.)

Wake Up World has a rundown of 7 foods worth spending a little extra on to get the most nutrition and avoid unwanted extras like pesticides, weed killers and artificial hormones. It's a good one to bookmark for future reference, along with the New York Times' 5 "strategic" organic foods. Two foods on both lists: Milk and potatoes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Organic, Carbon-Free Holiday Coffee Cheaper Than Starbucks

Why buy coffee grown with pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers when you can get organic, fair trade, shade-grown, carbon offset coffee for less money?

I was driving home from Thanksgiving when I stopped at a service area off I-95 in Maryland for coffee. Starbucks gives you a free cup of drip coffee with the purchase of a pound of coffee beans & I was nearly out of coffee at home, so I grabbed a bag of Christmas Blend without looking at the price. As the cashier handed my reusable mug back over the counter, I gulped at the price - $16 (with the suggested retail price of $15 covered by a $16 price tag - I guess the service area gouge).

When I got home, I figured it was past time for me to restock my cabinet with coffee from Grounds for Change. Turns out their Holiday Blend is only $13.95 a pound. Yes, shipping is extra, but if you order 5 pounds, including shipping it's just $12.78 a pound.

Not only does Grounds for Change work to reduce or offset its impact at each step of the coffee growing and production process, it's extremely delicious. While I haven't tried the Holiday yet, I know their Sumatra has a great taste without being over-roasted like Starbucks, which can be “burnt and bitter enough to make your eyes water instead of open" as Consumer Reports memorably put it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Problem We Should Gobble Up

Turkey crossing roadAt the same time turkey prices at the grocery store are going up, there are more wild turkeys than ever.

Considering we have both an economic crisis that's leaving millions of people unemployed, millions more families in need of food assistance and a dangerous overpopulation of delicious game species, one would think we could kill three birds with one stone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Jay Rosen on News Corp's "Culture of Denial"

Fresh off the latest study that Fox viewers are somehow even less informed about current events than people who don't watch the news at all, journalism professor & media critic Jay Rosen takes a closer look at why coverage is so biased at another of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp outlets, The Australian:
News Corp is a huge company, but it is not a normal company. However, it does not know that it's not a normal company. In fact, it denies this observation. In this sense denial is constitutive of the company and its culture. To work there, you have to share in this pervasive atmosphere of denial. [...]

For example: The Australian is a force for climate change denialism. But it does not know this about itself. Outsiders do know it, and they regularly point it out. The Australian reacts not by defending its actual stance on climate change but by trying to destroy those who accurately perceive it. The attempt at destruction is typically rhetorical but sometimes other methods are used, like threatening a lawsuit. The impression given is of a bully or thug. But that's really an after-effect of denial. Denial, I think, is the key to understanding the company.
Jay then offers his "brief theory of News Corp":
News Corp is not a news company at all but a global media empire that employs its newspapers - and in the United States, Fox News - as a lobbying arm and intimidation machine. The logic of holding these "press" properties is to wield influence on behalf of the (much bigger and more profitable) media business and also to satisfy Murdoch's own power urges or, in the case of Australia, his patrimonial legends.

But this fact, which is fairly obvious to outside observers ... is actually concealed from the company by its own culture. This, then, is the source of the river of denial that runs through News Corp. Fox News and newspapers like The Australian are understood by most who work there as "normal" news organisations. But they are not. What makes them different is not that they have a more conservative take on the world - that's the fiction in which opponents and supporters join - but rather: news is not their first business. Wielding influence and intimidating people is. Scaring politicians into going along. Building up an atmosphere of fear and paranoia, which then admits Rupert in through the back door of 10 Downing Street.
Or in the back door of the Bush-Cheney White House.

Read more of Jay Rosen at PressThink or follow him on Twitter.

Thanks a Lot, Global Warming: Milder Temps Mean Pests Feast Longer

As the Capital Weather Gang reports, climate change is bringing warmer Thanksgivings to the DC region:
Data from the last 30 years indicate that D.C.’s average high temperature on Thanksgiving has inched up to 53.2 degrees, with an average low of 37.3F and an overall average of 45.3 degrees. On each count, this represents an increase of about 1.6 to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the overall averages listed above.
*Reflects adjusted data to account for later occurring Thanksgiving prior to 1939.
At first glance, it might seem flawed to compare Thanksgiving temperatures from the 1981-2010 period to the historical average. Prior to 1939, Thanksgiving sometimes occurred as late as November 29 or 30, which would favor tilting the overall averages toward lower temperatures. Interestingly, however, when all outlier years are removed (i.e. the 21 years when Thanksgiving fell on dates other than the standard November 22-28 dates), the temperature averages remain identical to those in the complete 139-year record.

The implication is that even when we account for the later Thanksgiving dates in the past, Thanksgiving still appears to be trending slightly warmer, which is consistent with other temperature increases seen in D.C.’s new climate normals.
A small increase in temperature may be barely discernible to humans ... but it's great news for pests that can increase their range with less worry about winter frosts. As a recent National Wildlife Federation report detailed, warmer winter temperatures are great news for Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks, painful fire ants, and tree-killing bark beetles.

The GOP is Counting on You To Blame Gridlock on "Congress"

Roadblock Republicans
Republicans know how easy jokes about Congress are to make. It's even less popular than lawyers! Plus, Republicans know jokes about "Congress" go over better in mixed company - no better way to turn half a crowd against you than by pointing out that Congressional Republicans are obstructionist, am I right, Mark Warner?

That's why roadblock Republicanism works so well - the GOP can create gridlock, count on the media to falsely blame "both sides", then watch anger at "Washington" & "Congress" fuel its destructive, cynical political agenda (current top item: holding America's economy hostage in hopes of defeating President Obama in 2012).

The whole Republican brand is built around hatred for government. Not desire to improve it - desire to destroy it. As longtime GOP Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren said:
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner…. Undermining Americans’ belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy.
And look how well it's working - approval ratings for Congress sit around 12%, while Republicans are at 41% on the generic Congressional ballot.

Congressional Republicans are like The Emperor in Return of the Jedi. Hatred only makes them grow stronger.

Remember, Luke didn't do anything to destroy the second Death Star except keep The Emperor & Darth Vader occupied. It was the people he'd organized with who took down the shield generator & destroyed the main reactor.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reminder: Chevron Still Thinks You're Stupid

If Chevron took all the money it spent on greenwashing commercials and invested it renewable energy, how much progress might've been made by now?

Chevron spent less than $1 billion on renewable energy in 2006 & 2007, under 4 percent of its total capital and exploratory expenditures. Meanwhile, Chevron made nearly $8 billion in profit in just the months of July, August & September this year.

Meanwhile, Chevron has spent more than $50 million on lobbying in recent years to fight a clean energy & climate bill, attempt to gut the Clean Air Act, and strip laws that protect communities from the dangers of fracking. Chevron also created one of the worst environmental catastrophes in history, dumping 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste in Amazon rainforest streams. And Chevron is responsible for a new oil disaster off Brazil.

But Chevron's hoping you focus on its empty words, not its dirty deeds:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grocery Store Cashier Stunned by Normal-Looking Organic Red Pepper

"What is this?" the young Safeway cashier asked me as he pulled an item off the conveyor belt, held it up to eye level, and examined it carefully.

"It's an organic red pepper," I said. "The regular red peppers looked like frankenfood."

"I know, those things are huge!" he replied. "I was just surprised to see a normal-looking red pepper."

How awful did the regular red peppers look? So giant and sickly that I'd already snapped a cell phone picture of them:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bob McDonnell's Transportation Plans Serve Developers, Not Commuters

US 460 in Rural Dinwiddie County 2The Coalition for Smarter Growth warns Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation plans will only add more cars from sprawling new developments to Virginia's existing traffic problems:
The state is borrowing $3 billion in state and federal funds on top of their normal annual spending for transportation, and we'll be paying this back for years. We should be setting smart priorities, but instead, VDOT is:
  • Reviving the controversial Outer Beltway through historic landscapes at Manassas Battlefield -- the first ten miles of which could cost $250 million to $475 million -- instead of focusing on fixing existing commuter routes in Northern Virginia.
  • Shifting $200 million in statewide money to a bypass in Charlottesville that won't fix major local traffic problems.
  • Giving $750 million of our tax dollars to subsidize a private toll road (Route 460) through empty farmland southeast of Richmond.
Meanwhile, when asked to help fund critical Tysons Corner transportation needs, the Examiner reports that "Virginia's Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton warned Fairfax to look elsewhere for cash."
It's not surprising Bob McDonnell's pandering to developers - he's gotten more than $5 million in campaign cash from developers, real estate & construction, by a wide margin his biggest source of private sector contributions. The Coalition for Smarter Growth has a 10-step transportation agenda for Northern Virginia - really radical stuff, like "Bring our local elected officials back to the table in transportation decision making."

Tell Gov. McDonnell to put our transportation dollars towards real solutions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nationals Park Falling Behind in Green Rankings

I have to say ... The Green Miles was a little disappointed in this video. I mean, no one loves the Washington Nationals' green diamond more than me ... but this video could've been made the day the park opened four seasons ago. The Nats have seriously upgraded their team since 2008 - why not their green efforts as well?

When Nationals Park opened in 2008, it was the first U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified ballpark in Major League Baseball, achieving the "silver" standard. But since then, the Minnesota Twins have opened Target Field, also LEED silver-certified (and a much better place to watch a game, arguably the best in baseball). And the Pittsburgh Penguins opened a LEED gold-certified arena.

And all of those stadiums have been passed by a college facility. The University of Florida's Heavener Football Complex is LEED platinum-certified, the highest possible rating.

So how can the Nats get back on top?
  • Renewable energy. If the Boston Red Sox can put solar panels on Fenway Park, there's no reason why the Nats can't have some as well. Even the Washington Redskins, whose owner is no friend of the environment and who manage to screw up almost everything else, have installed a sizable solar array at FedEx Field.
  • Put the players out front. Nationals pitcher Collin Balester is part of Players for the Planet, speaking out on the need for recycling & climate action. Why not include him in these clips along with the front office staff?
  • Tear down the awful parking garages. Not only are they eyesores that block views of the Capitol, not only do they sit empty most of the time, but they encourage driving to a park that's next to one Metro stop and a 15 minute walk from several others. Imagine how much revenue the Nats could recapture from The Bullpen across the street by turning the garage space into an inviting area to eat, drink, shop and socialize. Yes, I know DC paid tens of millions of dollars to build the garages. But letting the mistake stand won't get that money back.
  • Stop selling ads on everything to polluters. It's not quite in the same league as Pittsburgh's "green" arena selling its naming rights to a polluting coal company. But the Exxon Mobil-sponsored left field wall billboard, Exxon Mobil-sponsored 7th inning stretch, Exxon Mobil-sponsored organic cotton hat, and Exxon Mobil-sponsored stadium replica really distract from the Nats' efforts to show they care about the environment & public health.
Finally, how's this for a headline: Nationals Sign Local Environmental Blogger as Left-Handed Reliever! Think about it, Mike Rizzo.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Boosting Benevolent Backyard Bees

You know what bugs me most about bee stereotypes? How people treat honey bees (calm, rarely sting) and wasps (often aggressive, can sting repeatedly) the same way. People screaming and swatting wildly at honey bees is like trying to chase away a skunk - if you're in any trouble, it's because you went looking for it.

The simple rule of thumb - if it's got little hairs on it, it's probably friendly (and helping pollinate your neighborhood's flowers & region's crops). Bees are hairy, wasps aren't. Wikipedia has a handy chart to help tell them apart.

But there's a problem - honey bees are disappearing in a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. So some people keep bees in their backyard to both help this critical species and reap the delicious reward of honey - like my friend Aaron Lavallee, who lives in Northeast DC:

A wildlife biologist friend says backyard bees are perfectly safe:
Honey bee behavior makes them unlikely to sting you. When they leave the hive they fly up and then out to wherever they are collecting nectar and pollen, meaning that even near a hive (except in front of it), you are not likely to run into them. Second, they sting only if provoked into it, as they can sting only once, which rips the stinger off their abdomen and they die. So, they don't sting unless necessary because of the big down side.

On the other hand, wasps and hornets can and do sting multiple times, and they hurt more! Also, usually you know where bee hives are, but hornet and wasp nests you don't usually see until too late, and they really like nesting on porches.
Learn more at

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thank You, President Obama: Tar Sands Pipeline Decision Delayed

The State Department announced today that it's delaying a decision on TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline pending further study of its route and impacts. It's a major victory for the coalition of hundreds of thousands of climate activists, wildlife lovers and landowners and from Montana to Texas to DC who've asked the Obama administration to do the right thing. Thank you, President Obama!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What I'll Remember Most About the 2011 Virginia Elections

This morning, Virginia Democrats do not hold a single Virginia executive office, they're a small minority in the House of Delegates, and now they have (barring recount) lost control of the State Senate. Former Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Peter Rousselot has written a devastating postmortem at Blue Virginia that I can't recommend enough and encourage you to read in full.

As for me, what I'll remember most about the 2011 election cycle is this ad from House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong trashing everything Democrats believe in. The leader of House Democrats - as chosen by his fellow House Democrats - distances himself from President Obama, a woman's right to choose, reasonable gun safety regulations, and limits on air pollution - all in one ad.

I understand the need to emphasize different issues and rely on different messaging in different parts of the state. But if you try to run away from the leader of your party and everything your party believes in, not only are you hurting your own team, voters don't buy it.

That's right - Ward Armstrong lost anyway. Just as former Rep. Glenn Nye did last year, Armstrong managed to not just lose, but hurt the party he was supposed to be leading in the process, making Democrats look like a bunch of gutless phonies who'd throw a friend under the bus in a second if a consultant told them it might help their chances of getting re-elected.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

House Dem to Cuccinelli: Produce Evidence or Correct Your Testimony

Prince William Committee of 100 Attorney General DebateDid Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli cherry-pick politicized data in his Congressional testimony attacking clean air regulations last week? After Cuccinelli went beyond even the most fire-and-brimstone industry predictions, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee is pressing for answers:
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the panel, blasted Cuccinelli in a letter Tuesday for not including in his testimony citations that explain where he got his figures.

Your claims appear to contradict reputable studies and analyses that predict only minor increases in electricity prices and net job gains,” Cummings wrote in the letter. “Even more peculiar is that your claims also appear to exaggerate even the potential negative impacts predicted by industry studies on which you presumably rely.”

Cummings called on Cuccinelli to correct his testimony if he is unable to back up his figures with reputable studies.
Cuccinelli has only himself to blame for the heightened scrutiny of his testimony, admitting to Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) that he's never bothered to study the economic impacts of the Clean Air Act. Given Cuccinelli's history of quoting the discredited "studies" of Edward Wegman, it will be extremely interesting to see where he got his information in this case.

Will Virginia Uranium Succeed in Buying the Virginia Senate Today?

Massive risk for millions of Virginians while huge profits concentrate in the hands of a few - that's what would happen if the Virginia General Assembly cast aside Virginia's moratorium on inherently risky uranium mining.

But that's not stopping the few from spending huge amounts of cash to try to swing today's ultra-tight elections for control of the Virginia Senate! From today's E&E News (subscription required):
Virginia Uranium Inc., which wants the General Assembly to lift a moratorium on uranium mining, has contributed almost $100,000 this year to groups and candidates, according to disclosure records complied by the Virginia Public Access Project. Most of those donations, $68,000 so far, have gone to Republicans. [...]

Virginia Uranium has been lobbying for years on the issue, hiring several firms to promote its cause, including well-known McGuire Woods LLP. The latest disclosure report shows Virginia Uranium spent more than $50,000 on lobbying efforts between May 2009 and April 2010.

In late September, the company took interested residents and lawmakers to a mine in Canada to show how uranium mining can be done safely. Earlier this year, Virginia Uranium also took a group to France to see a former mine site, in an effort to show how the process can occur in a climate like Virginia's. The move proved controversial, with critics saying the company wanted to buy lawmaker votes with trips to Europe (Greenwire, July 7).

The company sponsored a similar trip in 2010, paying roughly $9,000 for at least three lawmakers to attend, according to Virginia Public Access Project records.
To learn more about why the Virginia General Assembly and Gov. Bob McDonnell should fight to protect Virginia's ban on uranium mining, visit

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hug Trees With Your Bumper

As reports, a group is making a push for a license plate to raise awareness and funds for urban tree planting & maintenance programs:
Arlington’s Urban Forestry Division encourages residents to apply for the plate. It should become available if 450 pre-paid applications are received and the General Assembly approves it next year. It will then be submitted to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

If the idea is accepted, the specialty plate will carry an additional yearly cost of $25. The revenue sharing plates allow Virginia Loves Trees to collect funds from each additional plate sold or renewed after the first 1,000 are issued. $15 from each sale will go toward urban forestry programs.
You can apply at and get updates on Twitter by following @VALovesTrees.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

This is What Media Selling Out to Big Oil Looks Like

Gee, you don't think the U.S. News Debate Club has left itself open to accusations bias on the topic of Arctic drilling, do you?

Note that I had to close the full-screen Shell Oil pop-up ad just to take the screen shot of the U.S. News Debate Club sponsored by Shell Oil featuring additional sidebar ads for Shell Oil.

Royal Dutch Shell just received rights from the Obama administration to drill in the Arctic Sea (with a comically bad oil disaster response plan.)

When you talk to journalists about this stuff, they get REALLY defensive. Of course I don't let the sponsors who support my salary influence my coverage!

But a referee would tell you home crowds don't influence calls, either - and studies show they do.

"We Can't Quit Dirty Fuels Today": Enabling America's Oil Gluttony

Let's say you had an overweight coworker. One who repeatedly professed to be desperate to lose lots of weight. But you walked into the break room day after day to find him chowing down on Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing. Finally, you decide you have to say something. "Hey, Sam. If you really want to lose weight, why don't you ease off on the cheese fries?"

"What, you expect me to lose 100 pounds today?" your coworker scoffs between greasy bites. "It's going to take years to lose all that - I can't possibly stop eating right now."

Now as President Obama considers whether to green light a ranch dressing tar sands pipeline, some are warning against putting America on an oil crash diet:
[Third Way's Josh] Freed says you can't just pull the bottle out of the baby's mouth.

"Because the baby still needs to eat, and right now virtually every car and most of the trucking fleet in the United States relies on either gasoline or diesel fuel, and you can't switch over in one year or five years or 10 years," he says. "It's going to take a long time."
America: A helpless baby suckling at Big Oil's teat. Somehow I don't see that becoming the new slogan for TransCanada, the company behind the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

But who's arguing we should get off oil "in one year"? Reminds me of Tim Kaine's line that Virginia can't stop using coal today - a treehugging straw man set up to make the speaker look "centrist." It's a strategy David Roberts calls hippie punching:
Ever since the perceived successes of Bill Clinton's triangulation and the ascendency of the New Dems, the road to acceptance on the left has been paved with hippie punching. To be legit, one must signal to one's peers that one is not like those liberals, the old-fashioned, soft-headed, bleeding-hearted, slogan-shouting kind. One is a Pragmatist, not a Partisan, a traveler on the Third Way, not on the old, boring Left Way, a hard-headed, practical sort, not some kind of dippy dreamer. This pose is incredibly attractive to people whom I've called (clumsily, I grant you) "characterological centrists" -- folks who want to be, and be seen as, free-thinking and reasonable. What better way to demonstrate one's transcendence of mere partisanship than by rejecting the partisans with which one is most naturally associated?
Forget cold turkey. Aside from President Obama's moderate strengthening of fuel economy standards, what are we doing to even reduce our incredibly costly oil addiction? America's oil trade deficit was $265 billion in 2010, meaning we sent a net of $2,400 for each American household to other countries to buy their oil. And that doesn't event begin to consider the hundreds of billions we spend on the military to protect oil interests, the cost of oil disasters, or the cost of air pollution. How many people go around complaining about how we're burdening our children with the national debt without talking about how little we're doing to ease our oil addictions and the trillions in long-term cost that go along with it?

A sensible first step to reducing our oil addiction would be to stop putting new needles in our veins. I hope you'll join me & thousands of other Americans at the White House on Sunday November 6th at 2pm to ask President Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Image via LeMay Gallery

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ken Cuccinelli Unfamiliar With Impacts Of Clean Air Act

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who's used your tax dollars to fight new clean air protections under his presumption that they would destroy our economy, testified before Congress yesterday that he's never bothered to look at the economic impacts of the sweeping 1990 update to the Clean Air Act: