Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 5 Posts of 2013 & 3 Conservation Stories to Watch in 2014

The Green Miles & fiancee on top of Mt. Washington
As I head into my ninth year of writing here at The Green Miles, here were the top 5 posts of 2013 at The Green Miles:
  1. Cod Fishermen Are Even More Screwed Than You Thought
  2. Massachusetts Voters Keep Rejecting Wind Turbine Restrictions
  3. What If Your Street Belonged To Kids On Saturdays?
  4. Worcester Official Unleashes Epic Clean Water Whine
  5. Dominion Sale Shows Old Coal Power Plants Are Nearly Worthless
Both my number of posts and overall traffic were at historic lows. Some major life events (getting engaged, preparing to become a first-time dad, buying a home) distracted me from my usual laser-like focus on important things like green deodorant. But it's not just me who's seeing traffic decline - as I wrote this year, it's getting hard out here for a free-range blogger.

So what's on tap for 2014?
  • Will Obama say no to dirty energy? President Obama has shown signs of shaking his previous Yes Man persona by rolling out his climate action plan. But will his administration write strong industrial carbon pollution limits, or let big polluters off the hook? And will he say no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline? 
  • Can Congress do anything but cut on conservation? The December budget deal showed signs of promise by loosening the budgetary noose that Congress has put on programs that protect our wildlife, clean air and water and public lands.
  • Immigration reform. It doesn't seem like a conservation issue at first glance. But poll after poll shows Latinos are strong supporters of clean air and water, including climate action. The possibility of millions of undocumented immigrants becoming American citizens and gaining voting rights would nudge the electorate even further towards climate action than it already is. 
Thanks for reading and please keep in touch in the comments section, feedback looking back on 2013 or ahead to 2014 is always appreciated.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Who's Paying Marc Brown to Attack Cape Wind?

Who is Marc Brown, how did he create the "New England Ratepayers Association" out of thin air, and why is he attacking Cape Wind? Check out my new op-ed for the National Wildlife Federation in the Providence Journal.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Signs You Should Stop Thinking About Smart Growth & Enjoy Your Egg Nog

When you see your future mother-in-law's holiday village and think, "Needs more height & density near the train station."

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Real America's Salads Have Been Dead for Months

My fiancee & I got a gift card to Applebee's for Christmas, so I went to America's #1 casual dining restaurant for the first time. We're trying to watch what we eat between holiday gorge-fests, so we both got salads, which was of course a mistake because you don't go to Applebee's for salad, you go there for the cheese dip & pretzel sticks, which is both incredibly delicious and blow-your-hair-back salty.

It was amazing how Applebee's manages to assemble salads with no actual fresh vegetables - bagged greens, dried cranberries, canned red pepper, mandarin orange and corn. In Real America, even if you order a salad, you're getting meat, fried noodles and cheese in heavy sauce - and that meat spent just as long in the freezer as the vegetables were locked in the can.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hottest November Ever

Just in from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center: November was the hottest on record and January-November 2013 has been the fourth-hottest ever, more than a full degree above the 20th century average.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Seven Things Louder Than Our Nearby Wind Turbines

We recently bought a home in Fairhaven, MA about a half a mile away from the town's two wind turbines. There are homes that are closer to the Fairhaven turbines than ours and some of them have legitimate concerns. But "wind turbine syndrome" creator Nina Pierpont claimed symptoms from people who live more than twice as far away as I do, and many members of the anti-wind group "WindWise" live even further away than that.

Here's my list of Things That Are Louder Than Our Nearby Wind Turbines:
  1. Bugs. There's a conservation area next door and in warm weather the bugs are pretty loud from sunset until well into the night.
  2. Birds. They start up around sunrise.
  3. Planes. Lots of small ones heading to New Bedford Regional Airport, occasional big ones going overhead to Logan or TF Green, and the rare military plane out of bases on Cape Cod.
  4. Vehicles. Even though we're on a small side street, we can still hear the distant-but-steady hum of traffic from a nearby main road for 18 hours a day.
  5. Air conditioners. In the summer there's a steady hum of central units from neighboring homes.
  6. Recess. There's an elementary school about a thousand feet away.
  7. A foghorn. The foghorn on the New Bedford hurricane barrier can be heard from two miles away.
  8. The wind itself. If it blows more than 10 miles an hour, it's hard to hear anything else over the rustling trees & leaves.
But there was one night this summer ... when the wind was blowing just the right way ... when the bugs had quieted down ... I woke up in the middle of the night, and went over to the window and leaned in, and thought in the distance I heard a faint noise ... then suddenly I heard a much louder one.

"What the hell are you doing?" my fiancee said. "Come back to bed, weirdo."

I'm not trying to mock those with legitimate concerns - turbines should be sited using the best available science, like the American Wind Energy Association's Wind Energy Siting Handbook.

I'm trying to mock our elected officials in places like the State House, Plymouth and Fairhaven who tie themselves into pretzels trying to please every anti-wind activist - no matter how many miles those activists live from an actual turbine - even though Massachusetts voters know that in this life, there are some noises up with which you must put.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Graphic: Wind Turbine Syndrome is Bizarro Snake Oil

Ketan Joshi just shared this graphic of just 87 of the 216 symptoms that wind turbine opponents attribute to "wind turbine syndrome." Like bizarro snake oil, it's the cause of whatever ails you:

Via Grist via Donald Trump who cannot be bothered reading what he tweets

Northeast Climate Change Compact Keeps Proving Carbon Cap and Trade Works Really Well

Commitment to Clean EnergyThe U.S. Senate Republican minority used the filibuster to block the majority from passing a carbon cap and trade program in 2010, because FREEDOM, or something. So a group of Northeast states went ahead with it anyway and it continues to prove cap and trade works really, really well:
Massachusetts and eight other states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont – are part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is the nation’s first “cap-and-trade” program. Power plants in the RGGI states must purchase “allowances” that allow them to emit carbon dioxide. The states auction off these allowances and use the proceeds for public purposes, especially investments in energy efficiency, which create jobs and keep energy spending local.

The revisions to the Commonwealth’s RGGI program, as well as similar changes in the other eight states, will lower the existing “cap” on power plant emissions in the RGGI states from the current level of 165 million tons per year to 91 million tons per year starting in 2014. The cap will then be lowered by 2.5 percent each year thereafter until 2020. This reduction will ensure that in 2020, power plant emissions from these nine states will be half of what they were in 2005, when RGGI was initiated.

The lower cap is also expected to generate an estimated $350 million in additional revenue for the Commonwealth by 2020. These revenues will be invested primarily in programs to improve energy efficiency in Massachusetts’ municipalities, businesses and residences, which will, in turn, reduce energy costs and lower carbon dioxide emissions.
$350 million in revenue for Massachusetts alone? I wonder how much his state would be raking in if Gov. Chris Christie hadn't pulled New Jersey out of the program. What's the opposite of fiscal conservatism? Christie's pander to the Tea Party was that.

But cap and trade is supposed to bankrupt families and leave children shivering in the dark ... uh, right?
Before making these revisions, the RGGI states conducted extensive modeling on the impacts of these changes on consumers. The modeling shows that the impacts of the reduced emissions cap will be very modest, less than one percent in consumer bills. The average Massachusetts residential customer’s monthly electric bill of $72 will rise by 39 cents; the average commercial customer’s monthly bill of $455 will rise by $3.89; and the average industrial customer’s monthly bill of $6,659 will rise by $83.
A little over a penny a day to curb superstorms like Sandy and make sure we pass on a stable climate to our children and grandchildren? Seems like the biggest doorbuster bargain of the holiday season.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Philly's Free Parking Problem

Philadelphia only charges residents $35 a year for one unlimited on-street parking sticker - just 10 cents a day.

In a related story, Philadelphia has no money for schools.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Privatized Oil Profit and Socialized Risk, As Explained by Pipeline Safety Official

Arkansas Tar Sands SpillWant to know why oil companies can turn billion dollar profits and leave taxpayers at risk of oil spills? Listen to what Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) official Bill Lowery told DeSmogBlog's Julie Dermansky, keeping in mind he's supposed to be one of the good guys:
At a Public Safety Trust conference on Nov. 21, Lowery was asked, "Knowing what you know about the problems in the Keystone XL's construction, what would you do if your house was in its path?"

His answer: "Here is what I did when I bought my house — I looked on all the maps, I looked for all the well holes. I found there is nothing around me but dry holes and no pipelines. And it's not because I'm afraid of pipelines, it's not because I think something will happen. It's because something could happen. ... You're always better off, if you have a choice...."

He trailed off before finishing his sentence, but added that, "If I was building a house, I wouldn't build it on a refinery, ... I wouldn't build it on a pipeline, because they're all industrial facilities. That's just the reality."
Again, this is a federal pipeline safety official saying he wouldn't let his family live next to an industrial oil facility - yet the agency he works for permits those same facilities near residential areas like an over-eager third base coach waving runners home. This is how the deck gets stacked in favor of Big Oil and against the average citizen.

As I often ask, where's the Tea Party outrage? If the Tea Party is really about looking out for the little guy against Big Government Tyranny, shouldn't they be furious that pipeline safety agencies are letting oil companies build facilities in our communities that they wouldn't accept in their own backyard?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

If You Avoided The Mall Yesterday, You Won Black Friday

Black Friday shopping - Lemur style!Once again, a small but fanatical portion of the American population has gone nuts on Black Friday, and thanks to the internet we have a supercut video of all the most abhorrent capitalism gone wild. What's most insane: Black Friday isn't necessarily a good deal!

I wonder if stores are starting to ask themselves if hyping DOORBUSTER TRAMPLE YOUR KID'S THIRD GRADE TEACHER FOR A DIGITAL CAMERA THAT WILL BE OBSOLETE BY FEBRUARY RAGING BLOODBATH OF FURY DEALS is scaring off more customers than it's attracting. I actually had a few non-holiday items I needed to buy yesterday, but put it off until the weekend because I'd rather be forced to listen to Kanye West talk politics for an hour than go anywhere near a mall on Black Friday.

Call me a socialist for even raising the question, but ... maybe you'd enjoy the holidays a bit more by ordering a few key presents online & giving everybody else a bottle of local wine?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Judge Rules Falmouth Wind Turbines Cause "Dental Injuries"

Falmouth wind turbineBarnstable County Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse has declared wind turbines cause dental injuries:
Neil and Elizabeth Andersen, who live about a quarter of a mile from the turbines, said they caused "continuous insomnia, headaches, psychological disturbances, dental injuries, and other forms of malaise" they had not suffered prior to the turbines’ construction.

"The court finds the Andersens claims that they did not experience such symptoms prior to the construction and operation of the turbines, and that that each day of operation produces further injury, to be credible," the judge wrote.

Continued operation of the turbines at previous levels put residents at risk of "irreparable physical and psychological harm," he judge wrote.
Let's break down the ways Judge Muse is ignoring reality:
  • What exactly causes these problems? Wind turbine opponents don't have an answer - that's why they throw out dozens of discombobulated theories (sound! infrasound! air pressure! shadows! electromagnetism!) in hopes you might find one plausible. Meanwhile, a comprehensive independent assessment of all available research showed no basis for the litany of conditions blamed on "wind turbine syndrome."
  • Why are so many people immune from "wind turbine syndrome"? Why do a few people say they feel sick in so many different ways, while so many of their neighbors - and even children in the same household of "syndrome" sufferers - feel great? Judge Muse doesn't have an answer, but science does. Research shows it's a communicated disease: People who expect to feel sick do, while those who don't expect to get sick don't. Turning off the turbines won't cure that - turning off Fox will.
  • Why do wind turbines only make people sick at night? Why don't they make people sick during the day? Either Judge Muse is leaving people at great risk of illness during the day, or he's admitting his own logic doesn't hold water.
A judge willing to create his own reality is the last hope for Falmouth's wind turbine opponents, whose neighbors don't believe their increasingly absurd claims. In April, voters at a town meeting declined to have a referendum on tearing down the turbines. Town officials decided to have the referendum anyway, so in May voters rejected tearing down the turbines by a 2-to-1 margin.

If you live in Falmouth, join the hundreds of residents who support the wind turbines. And no matter where you live, like Friends of Falmouth Wind on Facebook.

Friday, November 22, 2013

John F. Kennedy & Our Environment: "We All Breathe the Same Air"

"For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal."
President John F. Kennedy, American University, June 10, 1963
Some suggested reading on the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why I Don't Go To Church, Doug Phillips Edition

Horsehead and Flame Nebulae

The more science learns about the universe, the more amazing it is. If gravity was a tiny bit stronger, the whole universe would've collapsed on itself, and if it was just a tiny bit weaker, the whole thing would've flown apart. And that was just the first day! Why does everything seem so perfectly tuned for us to be here today? Nobody knows! It's amazing!

But when I have kids, I'm supposed to drag them out of the house at 9am on a cold Sunday morning so some guy who's cheating on his wife can tell me gays are icky?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Climate Deniers, Super Typhoon Haiyan Is Looking At You

Typhoon Haiyan

One year after superstorm Sandy became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, Super Typhoon Haiyan just became the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone on record, hitting the Philippines with sustained winds of 190-195mph and gusts to 235mph. That's as strong as a top-of-the-scale EF-5 tornado ... except Haiyan's eye is eight miles wide.

Why is the storm so historically strong? NOAA blames warm deep water. When climate science deniers claim a global warming "pause," the heat isn't missing - it's right there lurking in the ocean, waiting to put super typhoons on steroids.

Better burn all the coal and oil while we still can.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Journalists Are Only Against Some Cancer

24/52 Air pollutionCountless "objective" journalists advocate for mammograms to stop breast cancer.

Katie Couric advocates for colonoscopies to stop colon cancer.

Air pollution from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil definitively & scientifically causes lung cancer. Where are the journalists advocating for Environmental Protection Agency limits on air pollution?

Why are the first two OK, but not the third? Or is advocacy for stopping cancer only OK if there's no big money starting the cancer?

UPDATE: A Facebook commenter points out that media's unwritten rules sometimes allow an advocacy exception when the journalist is personally affected, i.e. Megyn Kelly suddenly caring about maternity leave.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Watch Trailer for Showtime's Global Warming Series "Years of Living Dangerously"

Here's the trailer for Showtime's upcoming documentary series on the impacts of climate change, executive produced by James Cameron & Arnold Schwarzenegger, called Years of Living Dangerously:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October's Lesson for Climate Activists: Skate to Where the Puck is Going

Fake 1977-78 O-Pee-Chee Wayne GretzkyHere's what we've learned about Congressional Republicans in October:
It's not just that today's Republican Party rejects all available solutions to all available problems because they don't want President Obama to get any credit for solving any problems. They're willing to create entirely new crises solely in hopes of making President Obama look bad.

Congressional Republicans won't support any legislation that gives President Obama any credit for solving the climate crisis. In fact, if the climate crisis did not exist, the House GOP would be gleefully passing bills trying to create one.

The only hope is that either Democrats can re-take the House or that Congressional Republicans get more interested in problem-solving - as Wayne Gretzky once said, skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. Climate activists should be planning and power building now for that moment when it comes, hopefully in 2014 or 2016.

Yet I keep hearing arguments like this:
Carbon taxes will also encourage more private investment in renewables because investors are hesitant to invest while congressional action is uncertain. This should appeal to conservatives who dislike government investing in high-tech ventures that might fail. Private investors invest more successfully.

Also, conservatives hate EPA regulations that are expensive to implement and inefficiently only target one industry at a time. Carbon taxes fairly affect the whole economy's emissions simultaneously.

Conservatives also object to reducing U.S. emissions without international emissions reductions. Carbon taxes with border adjustments will impel nations exporting products to the U.S. to pay US carbon taxes or enact their own, thus impacting foreign emissions.
This is skating to where the puck was in 1992. As David Roberts detailed at Grist, since then sane Republicans have been driven from the party. There is no policy nuance that will satiate people willing to blow up DC to end the reign of the Socialist/Fascist Dictator/Weak-Kneed Muslim/Religion-Hating Obama.

Advocate for the policy we need and hope Congress catches up - skate to where the puck is going.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Massachusetts Voters Keep Rejecting Wind Turbine Restrictions

Turbine, river and wildlifeIt's happened again, this time in Plymouth. Once again, an effort to limit wind turbines was put before voters, citing hazy "health" concerns, and once again clean energy has won in a landslide.

The Plymouth Town Meeting on Saturday rejected a de facto ban on new wind turbines:
If approved, this article would have limited the construction of wind turbines to two overlay districts – one at the Camelot Industrial Park, the other along Commerce Way – and would have modified the required setbacks and the total height allowed. Opponents of the article suggested that if it were approved no additional wind turbines could be located in town.

Town Meeting Rep. Simon Thomas, part owner of the Camelot Wind turbine, said that Plymouth was already the toughest place in New England to try and get a permit for a new turbine.
The article would've required a two-thirds supermajority to pass, but didn't even come close to a simple majority, losing 49-68. The clear defeat for turbine opponents comes just weeks after the Plymouth Zoning Board rejected Stop & Shop's request to build a wind turbine, citing the dangers of an I think I might be able to hear it pandemic and don't forget deadly shadows.

The Plymouth vote comes on the heels of similar election results over the last few months in the nearby towns of Fairhaven and Falmouth. Falmouth elected officials put a plan to tear down the town's wind turbines before voters, who rejected it by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. And in Fairhaven, voters chose a pro-reality candidate for Board of Health over an turbine hysteria candidate, also by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

While elected officials keep trying to pander to the vocal handful of wind hypochondriacs who show up to complain at meetings, Massachusetts voters continue to strongly support local wind energy projects. How many times to do they have to send that message at the ballot box before it sinks in?

Friday, October 18, 2013

As WHO Declares Air Pollution Causes Cancer, Some MA Towns Fight Clean Energy

Massachusetts Maritime Academy (660 kW)As the World Health Organization declares definitively that air pollution causes cancer, the Massachusetts town of Shelburne has declared the real threat to the public is looking at wind turbines.

Shelburne is just a few miles up the road from the infamous Mount Tom coal-fired power plant, one of just three coal plants left running in the state that still kill an estimated total of 22 people a year. Among the town's recommended anti-wind turbine measures:
  • "Maximum electricity capacity should be limited to 10 kilowatts for homes and up to 30 kilowatts for farms or businesses." Capping capacity is the tell that these rules aren't serious. If someone designs a more efficient turbine that can generate more than that at the same height, it's banned, because everyone knows efficient wind turbines give off INVISIBLE DEATH RAYS.
  • "Noise is not to exceed 5 decibels above ambient noise levels." Planes, trucks and motorcycles can rattle your windows all they want, but if a wind turbine makes so much as a whisper, it's HOLD YOUR BREATH KIDS TIME TO FIRE UP THE COAL PLANT.
  • "The setback recommendation from any roadway, structure or property line is to be twice the height of the turbine." Because god forbid a car should have to see a wind turbine as it goes by at 45 miles an hour, amirite?
Meanwhile, Kingston is spending $22,000, enough to hire a new teacher or cop or fireman for the rest of the year, on a consultant to study the insidious effect of deadly shadows. That amount is on top of the taxpayer money being spent on acoustical consulting to study the poisonous near-silence.

As Michael Novinson reported in the Worcester Business Journal this week, small distributed wind energy projects are taking off in Massachusetts. But added up, these NIMBY battles can have a big negative impact. Even with wind energy being so economical and so healthy, the added red tape and expense may serve as a deterrent to those considering proposing new wind projects.

Want to show your support for wind energy? Go like the Better Future Project and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center on Facebook.

Bored Boston Cops Taunt Bicyclist

north station 9A friend who lives in Brookline bikes to work every day and reports he got hassled by some apparently-bored Boston cops recently:
After cresting the hill and crossing Washington street in Brighton, I began pedaling to build up speed for my mile descent to a steep climb over a bridge before leaving the main roads for the bike path along the Charles. I had noticed the Boston Police Department paddy wagon turning behind me on Washington street.

As I cruised slightly behind the pace of traffic I was cut off half way down by a driver who exited a side street without stopping. She was talking on her cell phone, her hand blocking her view of me. Moments after the cut-off, the police siren chirped several times behind me. I instinctively slowed as the street signs reflected the the flashing blue lights. I felt a sense of happiness thinking that maybe the officers had seen the woman pull into traffic while engaged in probably a very important call.

I was astounded when a voice over the loudspeaker summoned "Cyclist on the blue bike please stop!" I did as I was told as the paddy wagon pulled along side me. Still talking through the loudspeaker the driver and his smiling partner admonished me publicly for exceeding the speed limit by 6 miles an hour. He continued "You are required to abide by all the laws of the road just like an automobile. "Don't shake your head when someone pulls out in front of you when you are exceeding the speed limit!"

I felt the heat in my face and I imagine my mouth was open from the shock. The smiling officer rolled down his window and took a drink from his standard issue large Dunkin regular. The driver turned off the loudspeaker and asked if I understood. I didn't answer immediately because I thought it was a joke and my brain was short circuiting. "We don't have a problem do we?" he asked. I quickly responded "absolutely not".

They pulled away with the smiling officer never removing his gaze from me. I watched the light turn green and began the climb up the hill that I had hoped momentum would make vanish.
As Casey Neistat demonstrated in New York City, police often seem more concerned with the needs of the big polluting metal boxes than keeping the humans on the bicycles safe:

Friday, October 4, 2013

America Chooses to Make Bicycling Dangerous (Video)

A lot of the public discussion about bicycling gets caught up on a circular debate: Do we have little bike safety infrastructure because relatively few people bike, or do relatively few people bike because we have such unsafe bike safety infrastructure?

It's distracted us from a much more important question: Do the people in the giant metal polluting boxes need the extra safety measures, or do the people on the bicycles? As this video details, bicyclists are 30 times more likely to be injured while riding in the United States than in the Netherlands:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Massport Won't Say Climate Change, Then Won't Say Why

Boston Skyline from Logan Airport 波士顿洛港机场Massport took another step forward in its long-term plan to confront the impacts of climate change last week ... but there was something missing from its news release:
As the Massachusetts Port Authority develops its long range strategic plan over the next year, a key component of that effort will be how to protect Boston Logan International Airport, the Port of Boston and waterfront real estate against long-term sea level rise, storm surges and intense weather events like superstorm Sandy.

The first part of the study, currently underway, is to assess both the expected number and intensity of future storms and assess the vulnerability of Massport facilities. Both elements are required to understand the issue better in order to develop appropriate resolutions.

“Good work on looking at rising sea levels is already being done and we want to work collaboratively with federal, state and local officials on this pressing issue," said Thomas P. Glynn, Massport CEO. “Resiliency planning will be critical for Massport and the region to reduce the likelihood of damage from an event and will accelerate the recovery process when an event occurs."
There's no link to the release, but Morgan Rousseau of Metro.us has a report that includes most of the information from the release (and also doesn't make the bridge to climate change).

I asked a Massport spokesman why the agency wouldn't use the words climate change. He never wrote back. It's not like Massport's in denial here - they're quite obviously talking about climate impacts and they absolutely deserve credit for that.

But this is Massachusetts - exactly who is Massport afraid of? Gov. Deval Patrick is a strong advocate for climate action. The Massachusetts legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions Act. The entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation supports climate action. Massachusetts is one of America's leading states for clean energy jobs and is home to several groups like Ceres that organize business leadership on climate change. The Boston Harbor Association's report on sea level rise mentioned climate change in its very first sentence.

Does Massport think it would be defenseless against criticism from the few climate science deniers in Massachusetts? Or that those deniers will be thrown off the trail if they don't see the words climate change? Weird.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Breaking: Big New England Wind Contract Much Cheaper Than Coal, Nuclear

Turbines at Fall 8What if the debate about Environmental Protection Agency limits on climate-disrupting carbon pollution was all hot air? What if the falling cost of clean energy has already planted a stake in coal's polluting heart?

As Erin Ailsworth of the Boston Globe reports, a new onshore wind contract just signed in New England is a game-changer for how we talk about energy:
The state’s biggest utilities, in a milestone for New England’s wind power industry, have signed long-term contracts to buy wind-generated electricity at prices below the costs of most conventional sources, such as coal and nuclear plants.

The contracts, filed jointly Friday with the Department of Public Utilities, represent the largest renewable energy purchase to be considered by state regulators at one time. If approved, the contracts would eventually save customers between 75 cents and $1 a month, utilities estimated. [...]

John Howat, senior energy analyst at the Boston-based National Consumer Law Center, said he needed to review the details before he could provide a thorough assessment of the contracts. But his initial reaction to the price — on average, less than 8 cents per kilowatt hour? “Wow.”
For a comparison, in the same time frame gas is projected to cost 7 cents/KWH, coal 10 cents/KWH and nuclear 11 cents/KWH.

A dollar a month may not seem like a lot. But if wind is cheaper than coal, why would you ever build a new coal-fired power plant? And that's not even starting to account for all the climate change, public health and wildlife benefits that come with switching from coal to wind. When the cost of pollution is factored in, both wind and solar power blow the doors off of coal and are competitive with gas.

Why should we go all-in on wind when gas is projected to be slightly cheaper? Because New England is already dangerously dependent on gas, leaving us vulnerable to price spikes like we saw last winter. And since gas can fire up much faster than coal plants, gas and wind actually go very well together. (No, that was not a fart joke. Let's keep moving.)

In this context, the hot air being spewed in Washington over carbon regulations seems quaint at best. At worst, it's a war on consumers as polluters and their allies try to force us to keep buying expensive, dirty energy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Remember When the Coal Industry Loved "Clean Coal"?

The Environmental Protection Agency is unveiling carbon pollution limits for new power plants today. The coal industry is screaming bloody murder that no one could possibly expect new coal-fired power plants to implement carbon pollution-cutting technology, but it was only a few years ago that Big Coal was promising Americans it could do exactly that.

The rules will require that coal-fired power plants stop treating our skies like an open carbon sewer. While the rules are only being made public today, the coal industry has spent all week promising to send an army of corporate lawyers to fight the pollution restrictions:
Utility companies with large coal fleets already are preparing to challenge the rule, if it is finalized, on the grounds that the agency is requiring pollution controls that have not yet been “adequately demonstrated” in the marketplace. Joseph Stanko, head of government relations for the law firm Hunton & Williams, said the EPA’s reliance on “federally funded demonstration projects” as the base for its new standard “is illegal, it doesn’t ‘adequately demonstrate’ technology for normal use.”
Remember the coal industry was buying billboards promising us coal could be "clean and green with new technologies"?

Ah, but that was before the coal industry blocked a clean energy and climate bill that would've provided billions in taxpayer subsidies for "clean coal." Without taxpayers footing the bill, suddenly the idea of "clean coal" seems crazy to coal lobbyists:
Hal Quinn, president and chief executive of the National Mining Association, said the new standard “effectively bans coal from America’s power portfolio, leaving new power plants equipped with even the most efficient and environmentally advanced technologies out in the cold.” He accused the EPA of “recklessly gambling with the nation’s energy and economic future.”
The last time you heard from the National Mining Association here at The Green Miles, the NMA was suing the Bush administration to strip polar bears of endangered species protection.

Back to that reckless gambling with our energy and economic future. Remember when the coal industry bought millions of dollars worth of ads promising "clean coal" would bring "energy security" AND "affordability"?

Big Coal always puts its own profits above a safe climate and America's public health, and will gladly lie to us to protect them. It's a lesson to remember as the EPA carbon pollution limits move forward.

Tell the EPA you support strong carbon pollution standards for power plants.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

5 Years Later, Still No Compelling Case for Keystone XL

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was proposed 5 years ago today. Since then, US oil production's up 44%, gas prices are down 14% and oil consumption's down 1.6%. We've had 3 major pipeline disasters (Kalamazoo River, Arkansas, Yellowstone River). 2012 was America's hottest year ever and 2001-2010 was the world's hottest decade ever. 

But hey, Congress must know some reason it's good for the little guy or they wouldn't be pushing so hard for it, amirite?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wind Turbines Raised My Cholesterol!

Yes, a Falmouth resident actually said that:
Ford said his cholesterol has “gone wild” since Wind I started operating, and he was prescribed blood pressure medication for the first time.
Again, I'm sure he truly believes that. But it's not a basis for creating sound public policy.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Plymouth Zoning Board Ignores Law, Blocks Wind Turbine

If you're going to deny a local business the right to do what it wants on its own property, shouldn't you have an actual reason? Not according to the Plymouth Zoning Board, which rejected a local Stop & Shop's request to build a wind turbine strictly based on personal preference, reports Wicked Local's Emily Clark:
After three hours of listening to protracted and sometimes confusing arguments for and against a proposal to site a wind turbine behind Stop & Shop off Exit 6, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted Wednesday night to deny the special permit request.

While ZBA Chairman Peter Conner and ZBA member Bill Keohan said the project meets the town's bylaw requirements, the rest of the board expressed concerns of its proximity to residential areas and other issues.
Now, according to WATD's Charles Mathewson, the turbine would be 600 feet from an apartment complex, which would be awfully close. A GE report recommended wind turbines be placed no closer than 900 feet to residential areas.

The answer to that is to pass a law that says wind turbines should be placed no closer than 900 feet to residential areas. That's how we do things in this country - we make laws and we follow them.

Instead, the Zoning Board rejected the turbines based not on any law, but on "conflicting evidence of health effects of large turbines," which is basically like saying you're worried the wind turbines will give people herpes. Meanwhile, Plymouth will continue relying on a rickety old nuclear power plant that threatens local wildlife.

Zoning Boards are the worst.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tipping Point for Home Rooftop Solar?

sunlight shadow and reflection (7)My fiancee and I are in the process of buying a home, which means I'm constantly worried about what amenities that are popular now will still be popular when we're thinking about selling the place. Granite countertops are the big thing now, but will they still be popular 10 years down the road, or will something else be the next big thing?

I'd never have guessed that the next big thing is rooftop solar:
Solar panels are the next granite countertops: an amenity for new homes that’s becoming a standard option for buyers in U.S. markets. At least six of 10 largest U.S. homebuilders led by KB Home include the photovoltaic devices in new construction, according to supplier SunPower Corp. (SPWR) Two California towns are mandating installations, and demand for the systems that generate electricity at home will jump 56 percent nationwide this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

In the next six months, homebuilders in California and the expensive-energy states will be going solar as a standard, and just incorporating it into the cost of the house like any other feature,” Jim Petersen, chief executive officer of the PetersenDean Inc., the largest closely held U.S. roofing and solar contractor, said in an interview.

Lashing panels to roofs during construction is about 20 percent cheaper than after a house is built. Homeowners who can afford the extra $10,000 to $20,000 cost in return for free power threaten the business of traditional utilities such as Edison International of California or Kansas’ Westar Energy Inc. Power companies are losing business because they can’t cut their rates in line with the tumbling prices of residential solar systems. Those cost about $4.93 a watt in the first quarter, down 16 percent from a year earlier, according to the Washington-based solar association.
It makes sense to promote home solar even if you don't own a system - every home powered by solar is one less home that needs to be powered by a multi-billion-dollar central power plant.

If you're interested in home solar, check out Sungevity - you get a discount and the National Wildlife Federation (my day job) gets a donation. Oh, and the planet gets a tiny bit saved. Everybody wins!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Another Big Win for Wind in Massachusetts Local Elections

Fairhaven WindmillsFor the third time in the last six months, southeastern Massachusetts voters delivered a major victory for clean energy yesterday. Wind turbine supporter Peter DeTerra won in a landslide over wind opponent John Wethington in the Fairhaven Board of health election:
The tally was DeTerra, 1,269, and Wethington, 717. With a 31 percent turnout (compared to 23 percent in April), Monday night's results provide DeTerra with a far more decisive victory than his one-vote win in April, which was subsequently ruled a tie by Superior Court Judge Robert Kane, who questioned one of the ballots. [...]

DeTerra swept all six Fairhaven precincts, including Precinct 5, where the town's two wind turbines — a focus of this election — are located. There, he beat Wethington by 169 votes.
As New Bedford Standard Times reporter Ariel Wittenberg points out, DeTerra avoided talking about the turbines in the April election. Judging by yesterday's result, that was a big mistake:
In April, the candidates shied away from discussing the town's controversial wind turbines, which some opponents say cause sleep deprivation and other health effects. This time around, the race seemed to be squarely centered on the turbines, with pro- and anti-turbine groups forming political action committees over the summer. Wethington attributed his loss to the success of the pro-turbine Friends of Fairhaven Wind, saying that in this re-match "the machine stepped in and got the vote out."
Lesson for candidates: If you like clean energy, say so! It's incredibly popular and not even people who live near turbines are falling for claims about "wind turbine syndrome."

The Fairhaven win for wind comes in the wake of not one but two victories in Falmouth. In April, voters at a town meeting passed on a chance to have a referendum on tearing down the turbines. Town officials decided to have the referendum anyway, so in May voters rejected tearing down the turbines by a 2-to-1 margin.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pleasing NIMBYs Means Less Affordable Housing

IMG_9961Construction isn't even finished yet, but already Arlington, VA has seen 3,600 people apply for 122 new units of affordable housing, according to a Washington Post report by Patricia Sullivan.

But there's one thing the article doesn't say: Arlington shrank the size of the affordable housing complex to please neighbors:
In preparation for its proposal, [Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing] staff met with many stakeholders in the Arlington Mill community to hear concerns and ideas. From these meetings, it reduced the number of units to address concerns of the Park Glen community that the complex was too large for the space, adjacent  to the Park Glen condos; and some of the concerns about the density of the project with resulting traffic and crowd-control issues.
From an APAH presentation on the project:
Responds to community issues and County goals: The building height was lowered and the unit count was reduced from 192 (256 bedrooms) units to 122 (245 bedrooms) units.
Note that this building is only about four stories. I've literally heard some people who live on Columbia Pike say allowing a building like this to be eight stories would turn Columbia Pike into lower Manhattan.

Artificially limiting the amount of housing a developer can build comes with real-life consequences. By limiting height, restricting the number of units, or in the case of suburbs, mandating each unit be built on a certain lot size, you're telling a certain number of people they're not allowed to live there and will have to look elsewhere for housing.

When at least 3,600 people are in such urgent need of affordable housing, every unit counts. As Slate's Matt Yglesias has detailed, limits on building size in urban cores have devastating effects.

Fortunately, the tide is slowly turning in favor of allowing taller buildings and denser developments in urban centers. Boston Mayor Tom Menino's newly-unveiled affordable housing plan does just that.

Fracking and Earthquakes Come to Timpson, Texas

main street, timpson, texasUntil fracking for natural gas came along, Timpson, TX had never experienced an earthquake. Now it's home to 27 active fracking and fracking wastewater disposal wells, and it's had three earthquakes of at least magnitude 4, including two in the last week. One Timpson earthquake in May registered 4.8, the largest quake in East Texas history.

It's a reminder that, like all other fossil fuels that produce "cheap" energy, someone's paying the price, whether it's up the line in Timpson, or down the line on climate change.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Best Time of Year at Farmers Market

Got all this for just $13 at the downtown New Bedford farmers market. This time of year, they're practically giving away things like salad greens & eggplants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a great online tool to find a farmers market near you:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Wind Turbines Have No Impact on Nearby Home Values, New Study Confirms

Fairhaven, MA Wind TurbinesWind turbine opponents do not like looking at wind turbines. But in the face of strong public support for non-polluting, locally-produced clean energy, that's not an effective argument, so they make outrageous claims about health impacts and property values.

Study after study has proven claims about health impacts are false, and now a new study confirms nearby wind turbines have no impact on property values:
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) analyzed more than 50,000 home sales near 67 wind facilities in 27 counties across nine U.S. states, yet was unable to uncover any impacts to nearby home property values.

“This is the second of two major studies we have conducted on this topic and in both studies [using two different datasets] we find no statistical evidence that operating wind turbines have had any measureable impact on home sales prices,” says Ben Hoen, the lead author of the new report. [...]

“Although there have been claims of significant property value impacts near operating wind turbines that regularly surface in the press or in local communities, strong evidence to support those claims has failed to materialize in all of the major U.S. studies conducted thus far”, says Hoen. “Moreover, our findings comport with the large set of studies that have investigated other potentially similar disamenities, such as high voltage transmission lines, land fills, and noisy roads, which suggest that widespread impacts from wind turbines would be either relatively small or non-existent.”
Distant wind turbines are at most a minor inconvenience, something you might not pick as part of your new home in a perfect world, but one that wouldn't deter you from buying a home in the real world.

Look at Falmouth, Fox's favorite example of the WIND MENACE - home prices are up in the last year. And they're flat in other places with wind turbines like Fairhaven, Hull, Kingston and Scituate, a far cry from the outrageous claims of home price decimation made by clean energy opponents.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hope Lady Liberty Can Swim

Just got the latest National Geographic. Makes climate change-fueled sea level rise a lot easier to understand than the IPCC's percentages & certainties, don't you think?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Not One But Two Oil Spills Fouled New Bedford Harbor Today

I've covered oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and in Arkansas, but today the oil came to me.

This morning a local journalist alerted me to reports of an oil spill right down the street from me in New Bedford Harbor. I headed down and found hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel (dyed red for tax purposes) coating the water off Pier 3. Some television crews were filming the spill, so I talked to WJAR and WLNE generally about the potential impacts of oil spills - concern for the people who make their living off the water, the fish who swim in it, and the seabirds who land in it.

As soon as I finished, a Coast Guard staffer angrily told me, "You shouldn't be talking to the press. We should be presenting a united front."

"I work for the National Wildlife Federation, not a federal agency," I said. "I'd be happy to work together on this - just tell me what's going on."

She stared at me and said nothing.

"OK, well so much for a united front," I shrugged.

Coincidentally, the Energy Exodus march was passing through New Bedford at the exact same time as the oil spill. The climate activists are marching all the way from Somerset's Brayton Point coal-fired power plant to Hyannis in support of Cape Wind.

In less of a coincidence, the moment the Coast Guard staffers saw the dozens of Energy Exodus folks arriving, they threw up yellow caution tape and ordered all civilians away from the oil spill.

As it turns out, this was the first of two oil spills in New Bedford Harbor today. I understand tracking down the culprits is hard, but do the local authorities have to sound so fatalistic already? Welp, lotsa boats, they all look alike, whaddya gonna do?

Southeastern New England faces a choice - move aggressively towards a clean energy future, or face more oil spills.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cabbie Teaches Taxi To Fly, Lives To Tell About It

I woke up early this morning and, being a red-blooded New Englander, decided to go for a Dunkin Donuts run. At 5:30am, the only other customers were New Bedford EMTs killing time.

Just as I turned up Maxfield Street from Purchase Street on the walk home, I heard an engine rev, tires squeal, and a huge crash from around the corner. I ran back and ... nothing. Empty street. Was I crazy?

But there was a guy across the street holding his bicycle and staring. I said, "Did something happen?" He pointed across the street towards a walkway under the arch of the New Bedford Health Department building. Still, I saw nothing.

I kept walking closer and saw the heavy handrail bent over. I looked down the walkway and it took my brain a second to register what I was seeing. A cab had hit the handrail, gone airborne, and was now resting on its side:

I started dialing 911 and ran up to the back windshield of the cab. I could see the driver curled up against the driver's side door. "Are you OK?" I yelled. "I don't know. I think so," he said.

"I'm calling 911. Stay there," I said and went out in the street to flag down the ambulance. As I was waiting, two other cab drivers pulled over and offered to help.

About two minutes later, the ambulance arrived and the EMTs jumped out ... the same ones I'd seen 10 minutes earlier at Dunkin Donuts. They talked to the cabbie and it seemed like other than a bump on his head, he was OK. He said he'd just picked up his cab for his morning shift when the engine suddenly revved and he lost control. He seemed pretty embarrassed, so I got out of the EMT's way as they figured out the best way to help him out of the cab.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Green Miles on The Green Front

I joined the Progressive Radio Network's On The Green Front with Betsy Rosenberg yesterday to talk about solutions to climate change, how climate change is covered in the media, conservatives facing climate reality. Listen to the segment here.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

David Roberts' Sabbatical and the Decline of the Free-Range Blogger

Grist's David Roberts, who blogs on the best policies to solve our climate & energy challenges and the politics that perpetuate our problems, has announced he's taking a one-year sabbatical from blogging, reporting & tweeting. I'll miss his work while he's gone but understand his motives - what's more disappointing is the void he leaves behind.

When I first started blogging here at The Green Miles, David's writing challenged me to improve. It's easy to make fun of climate science deniers, but it's much harder to figure out why they reject it. When I later got to meet him at Netroots Nation, I was struck by his work-life balance (he calls it The Medium Chill) and ability to keep his eye on the climate prize - to maintain his passion without becoming too embittered by small setbacks & petty disputes.

Knowing he values that balance, I wasn't surprised by his decision to step away. If you spend a lot of time working on the climate crisis OR interacting online OR reporting, burnout is a major problem. David does all three. With President Obama having already rolled out his plan to act on climate and Congress in gridlock, now's the best time in years for a climate activist to take some time off.

But what bugs me is that in David's absence, there are few great climate bloggers to fill his shoes. It's a reflection of how much of blogging has evolved from free-range to factory farming:
  • Blogging as career. While pioneering bloggers like Markos "DailyKos" Moulitsas, Duncan "Atrios" Black, and Heather "Digby" Parton still blog independently, many of the next generation of bloggers have been hired by emerging progressive news websites (i.e. Huffington Post & TPM), by mainstream media blogs (i.e. the Washington Post's WonkBlog) or by organizations in need of online help (I got hired by the National Wildlife Federation). Which is understandable because ...
  • Blogging for free sucks. It's a lot of work for very little reward. I can understand why many first-generation bloggers gave it up and why younger folks choose to use Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr instead. But combine these first two points and now we have ...
  • The blanding of blogging. Many of those who do blog spend less time trying to break the mold and more time trying to impress the Beltway establishment that might hire them. What Dave Grohl said about American Idol destroying the next generation of musicians applies here - they spend less time trying to find their own voice than trying to make their voice sound like everyone else's. I read lots of nibbling around the edges and "smart takes," but who'll stand up when necessary to say shit is fucked up and bullshit? And their middle manager editor at a newspaper website - they're going to run that?
So who are the climate must-reads? Here's my list (add any that I overlooked in comments):
Enjoy the break, Dave. And don't worry - unless a secret alien wizard breaks the spell of climate denial currently hanging over Congressional Republican leadership, shit will still be fucked up and bullshit when you get back.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Can You Support Local Fishermen AND Conservation?

Entangled Humpback calfI love local seafood AND local fish & wildlife. It's frustrating to hear local fishermen constantly oppose any and all regulations geared towards conserving natural resources for future generations.

This week's example: As federal regulators seek to protect endangered whales from entanglement in lobster trap lines, Cape Cod lobstermen have come up with a laundry list of reasons to oppose the rules, but (at least according to the article) not a single alternative solution or possible compromise. As someone who doesn't think we have to choose between a thriving seafood industry and a healthy environment, it's frustrating when fishermen come to meetings with nothing to say but NO.

Fishermen have been open-minded when it comes to offshore wind development. It would be nice if they sought a similar role in regulating their own industry.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Short Books Under $10 You Should Read

I've read a few really good, really short, really cheap books lately that shed new light on some of America's thorniest problems. You should read them too!
Get them on your Kindle or iPad. Or if you're like me, get the used paperback, read it yourself, then give it to a friend or family member who you think would appreciate it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Block Island Wind Would Cut Climate Pollution and Power Bills

I have an op-ed in this month's issue of WindCheck Magazine on a proposed wind farm off Rhode Island's Block Island:
Block Island has some of America’s best breezes, a natural resource that's lured sailors for generations. Now the community is on the verge of harnessing that resource in a new way with offshore wind energy.

One of those unique New England treasures, Block Island hits a perfect balance – close enough to the mainland to warrant a daysail, while its pace and landscape assure you that you’re on vacation. Yet somewhere along those 13 miles the price of your Mudslide, and everything else, managed to skyrocket. No one would expect bargain basement prices in a vacation paradise adjacent to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, but then you get to your hotel room and realize there’s no air conditioner. “If we put an air conditioner in your room, we’d have to double your rate,” the desk clerk tells me. “We pay some of the highest electricity prices anywhere in the country.”

While offshore wind energy is usually talked about as a higher-priced electricity source, on Block Island the five-turbine, 30 megawatt project proposed by Providence, RI-based Deepwater Wind will be a huge money saver. Americans pay an average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour for their electricity and 15 cents per kilowatt hour in Rhode Island, but out on Block Island, thanks to the community’s antiquated and highly polluting diesel electricity generator, electricity averages an incredible 47 cents per kilowatt hour. Some hotels pay as much as $50,000 per month in electricity bills. Offshore wind is projected to save Block Island residents and businesses 42 percent on their electricity bills – even more when demand is high.
Read the whole thing at WindCheck Magazine.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Are More Gas Pipelines the Answer?

A natural gas pipeline explosion in Iowa provides more evidence that more natural gas dependence isn't the answer for Massachusetts.

The Case for More Dogs in More Pubs

dog in dingleWith rare exceptions in outdoor seating, regulations effectively prohibit dogs in U.S. bars & restaurants, citing hazily-defined health concerns.

But as one look at DogsInPubs.com will tell you, we're missing out. In Britain, the onus is on the establishment owner is to make sure there is no risk of contamination and that all food preparation areas are up to specified hygiene standards. And as in all other aspects of dog-owning life, the onus is on the dog owner to make sure the dog's OK around people.

In addition to the fact that life is simply more fun with a dog around, there's a growing body of science that humans have evolved hand-in-paw with dogs and that we actually need them around to keep us healthy.

America would be better off with more dogs in more bars.

Monday, August 12, 2013

They Deny Climate Science. Why Won't Reporters Call Them Science Deniers?

Dana RohrabacherAfter the party's drubbing in the 2012 elections, many political pundits speculated that Republicans would spend 2013 trying to seem less extreme. Instead, many are spending the August Congressional recess assuring the Tea Party that they are, in fact, 2 Extreme 2 Quit.

As first reported by +The Nation's +Lee Fang, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has a bizarre theory that neatly ties his climate science denial into his broader delusions:
“Just so you'll know, global warming is a total fraud,” the 13-term lawmaker told a Tea Party group Thursday. Rohrabacher said the fraud has its origins with liberals at the local government level who want decision-making ceded to higher levels of government.

“You’ve got liberals who get elected at the local level [that] want the state government to do the work and let them make the decisions. Then at the state level they want the federal government to do it. And at the federal government they want to create global government to control all of our lives,” he said.
Republicans want to ban oral sex, ban gay marriage, ban a woman's right to choose, deport undocumented immigrants & send their children to massive government-run orphanages, ban workers from organizing into unions, and restrict which Americans get to vote. But it's liberals who want to use government to control your lives?

The Hill's Ben Geman adds:
Rohrabacher, whose remarks Thursday on climate began by disputing links between wildfires and global warming, is a longtime climate skeptic.
The science connecting man-made carbon pollution to climate disruption is much older and just as well established as the science connecting cigarettes to lung cancer. If a politician denied the link between cigarettes and cancer, we'd call them a science-denying shill who'd say anything for his friends at Big Tobacco.

Why do reporters tiptoe around politicians who attack climate science by calling them "skeptics"? As if they might judiciously change their minds depending on what's in NOAA's next set of satellite data? Dana Rohrabacher is a science-denying shill for industrial carbon polluters. It's OK to say that!

Here's the problem: Dana Rohrbacher hates to be called a science denier. Sure, he'll deny science all day. But if you call him on it, he'll claim to be a great student of science, because that's how Dana Rohrabacher would like to think of himself! That doesn't make it so.

Calling a science-denying politician like Dana Rohrbacher a science denier is 100% fair & accurate and reporters should do it more often. Are they really more interested in staying on politicians' good sides than being fair & accurate? (Don't answer that.)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

If Cooking Spray's Chemical Propellant Sticks To A Non-Stick Pan, Why Eat It At All?

I bought a new non-stick hard-anodized pan recently and noticed this warning in the intructions:
DO NOT use aerosol cooking sprays. Aerosol sprays contain a chemical propellant that is difficult to remove. Instead, use an oil mister filled with olive or vegetable oil, or dab a bit of oil on a paper towel and carefully wipe the interior of the pan.
Now, in a lot of cases like this I'd be suspicious that they were just trying to get you to buy more crap you don't really need, or establish one of a hundred ways they'll try to get themselves out of fulfilling the warranty.

People are already way too mistrusting of government and American regulators do a very good job of protecting us from major health threats, so I don't want to sow too much mistrust. But after learning that McDonald's "egg whites" have 15 ingredients, that Velveeta contains sodium phosphate (also used as a bowel cleanser), or about any of the shady food practices banned in Europe but allowed in America, I'm beginning to wonder if smart consumers need to do more self-policing on stuff that's on the "somewhat to moderately" end of the awful scale.

I bought a Misto olive oil sprayer, which an exhaustive 15-second review of ratings at Amazon revealed was the best/cheapest one. Apparently they're a bit of a pain to take care of - you need to clean it once a month & even then they only last about a year. But I'd rather struggle to clean the oil out of my sprayer than figure out how to clean the propellant out of my small intestine.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

5 Ways Climate Changes are Hammering Cape Cod This Summer

Cape Cod Hurricane #3
Flooding on Cape Cod, 2007 (Flickr/Chris Seufert)
How is global warming changing Cape Cod? Sean Gonsalves of the Cape Cod Times lists five ways, concluding:
5) New waterfront property.

"Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps" are being released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Surprise! They show flood hazard zones in Cape towns will significantly expand, which means skyrocketing flood-insurance premiums — as high as $10,700.

This comes on the heels of several studies showing sea levels will continue to rise. Again, I refer you to the Department of Energy report: "Floods are projected to increase in frequency and intensity" especially in areas "that are expected to receive increased annual precipitation, such as the Midwest and the Northeast."

Let us now give thanks for this costly gift bequeathed to us by previous generations and the expensive lesson in adaptability it will provide.
Fortunately for Cape Cod, the same clean energy solutions that cut climate-disrupting carbon pollution will also create jobs and bring energy stability on the Cape. Show your support for Cape Wind.

You Are Not Allowed to Make Fun of Big Oil CEOs on NBC

Don't believe the game is rigged in Washington in Big Oil's favor? WRC-TV, the NBC owned & operated affiliate in DC, has aired ads in support of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, but it refused to air this ad opposing it:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

When Richmond, CA Fights Big Oil, Chevron Fights Dirty

Thinking about hosting an oil pipeline, refinery, fracking operation, etc. in your town? Better hope everything goes smoothly. If it doesn't, as The Rachel Maddow Show reports, Big Oil is ready to get personal: