Thursday, May 30, 2013

Maybe Exxon Mobil's Profits Can Buy Us a New Planet

East Africa drought and food crisis emergency, Modogashe (Mado_Gashi)Exxon Mobil made more than $3 billion in profit per month in the first quarter of 2013 and its CEO says now is no time to go using less oil just because it's destroying our planet's climate:
The CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. says there’s no quick replacement for oil, and sharply cutting oil’s use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would make it harder to lift 2 billion people out of poverty.

What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?” CEO Rex Tillerson said at the oil giant’s annual meeting Wednesday.
Think about how much oil the world's poor consume. Are they buying cars and driving to work, or are they walking or biking? Would they be helped more by lower gas prices for cars they can't afford anyway, or by making small-scale clean energy more affordable - solar-powered local water filtration systems, home solar stoves, and better battery storage?

Now think about who suffers most from global warming-fueled extreme weather disasters. Is it wealthy jet-setters like Rex Tillerson? Or is it that subsistence farmer in Africa who Tillerson's holding up as a human shield to protect his company's mind-bogglingly huge profits?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sen. Jim Inhofe on Disaster Aid: Totally Not at All Racist

The Future of U.S. Ground ForcesDisaster aid went to victims of superstorm Sandy far away from the New Jersey landfall in places like Rhode Island. But Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) had some very specific places in mind for his claim that Sandy aid was wasted or stolen:
They were getting things — for instance, that was supposed to be in New Jersey, they had things in the Virgin Islands, they were fixing roads there. They were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everyone was getting in and exporting the tragedy that took place. That won't happen in Oklahoma.
Gee, I wonder what the Virgin Islands (76% black) and DC (the original Chocolate City) have in common?

I don't know what's more amazing: That Inhofe didn't even bother to toss one non-minority-heavy area onto his list, or that unless a Republican says BLACK BLACK BLACKITY BLACK no reporters will call him on being a racist.

All victims of natural disasters deserve our support. You can donate directly through the Red Cross.

If You Deliberately Ask Dumb Questions, People Will Think You're Dumb

On a recent flight with my girlfriend, we shared earbuds and watched a TED Talk interview with Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors, Solar City, and SpaceX.

In contrast to TED's usual style of assuming a high level of audience sophistication, host Chris Anderson launched into a series of curiously ignorant questions. Aren't electric car batteries heavy? (So are tanks full of gasoline.) Isn't gasoline just thousands of years of solar power compressed into a small space? (Put a dinosaur in your tank!)

My girlfriend reached over to pause the video. "Why is he asking dumb questions? Is he stupid?" Instead of helping a broad spectrum of audience learn more about clean energy, Anderson seemed to be asking questions mostly on behalf of a narrow slice of clean energy skeptics.

What hosts and journalists like Anderson may not realize is that if you ask deliberately ignorant questions, you risk having people wonder if you yourself are ignorant.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Green Milestone: 200,000 Visitors

The Green Miles just passed 200,000 visits. Thanks for reading!

Keep up with me by following me on Twitter, adding me on Google Plus at +Miles Grant, and subscribing to my blog's RSS feed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Don't Back Down to Cape Cod Anti-Wind Bullies

Falmouth wind turbineLongtime Cape Wind opponent Peter Kenney has an op-ed in today's New Bedford Standard Times attacking me personally. It's part of a broader strategy by wind opponents to bully clean energy supporters into silence. Will Massachusetts leaders stand up for reasoned debate, or give into scare tactics?

What was my crime in Kenney's eyes? Daring to point out that Bill Koch, a billionaire Cape Cod estate owner and heir to a polluting energy fortune, is blocking New Bedford clean energy jobs by bankrolling Cape Wind opposition.

I'm only the latest person Kenney has targeted for personal attacks. "Mr. Kenney has a history of not being able to disagree respectfully," Yarmouth Planning Board Chairman Erik Tolley said last year.

What's bizarre is that in Kenney's op-ed, he claims I refused to take his call. I talked to him on April 23 for two minutes. Here's my annotation of the phone record:

It was a short call. He immediately launched into berating me for supporting Cape Wind and accused me of taking bribes not to say anything bad about Cape Wind. I asked why he was calling since it didn't exactly sound like there was much room to win him over. We said goodbye. That was it.

It's not just Kenney - across Cape Cod in Falmouth, wind opponents are using similar bullying tactics. "As town meeting members spoke, turbine abutters Neil Andersen and Colin Murphy sat in the back of the auditorium, quietly heckling speakers at times," Sean Teehan reported in the Cape Cod Times last month.

Falmouth has already voted against dismantling its turbines, but the anti-wind crowd has forced yet another vote on May 24. With Fox on their side, you have to wonder: Will the anti-wind folks will just keep forcing votes until they get their way?

More broadly, Massachusetts elected officials and news organizations need to decide how we'll determine our shared energy future. Will we have a reasoned, fact-based dialogue and move forward together? Or will we let the loudest, harshest and most frequently raised voices dominate debate and shout down anyone who disagrees with them?

If you stand with clean energy, sign up and register your support at Cape Wind Now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Gabriel Gomez Puts Personal Profit Over Protecting Massachusetts

Gabriel Gomez's incoherence on climate science and energy policy makes a lot more sense once you take a deeper dive into his personal finances, as Joshua Israel did at ThinkProgress:
A ThinkProgress review of Gomez’s personal financial disclosure filings reveals that a significant amount of his own money is invested, directly or indirectly, in dirty energy stocks and bonds. These include investments of between $1,000 and $15,000 each in: 
1. Emerson Electric Co., which automates oil and gas operations for energy companies.
2. Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest publicly traded international oil and gas company.
3. Occidental Petroleum Corp., an international oil and gas exploration and production company.
4. Schlumberger Ltd., a the world’s largest supplier of technology and project management services for the oil and gas industry worldwide.
5. Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc., a deepwater drilling contractor for the oil and gas industry.
6. DTE Energy Co., a Detroit-based electric and gas utility.
7. Dominion Resources, a Richmond-based electric utility.
8. Xcel Energy Inc., a Minneapolis-based electric and gas utility.
9. Gulf Power Co., a Florida-based electric utility.
10. Southern California Edison, a California-based electric utility.
11. Entergy Louisiana, a Louisiana-based electric utility
By doing the dirty work of his out-of-state polluting investments, Gomez is turning his back on the more than 71,000 people who work in Massachusetts' booming clean energy industry. He's also ignoring the impacts that climate change is already having on Massachusetts - stronger storms like Sandy, rising sea levels, deeper droughts, and deadlier summer heat waves.

As I'm knocking on doors for Ed Markey in the weeks ahead, this story speaks to the one thing I'll be telling undecided voters: Gomez is so beholden to big money - polluters, national Republicans, shady tax breaks - that we just can't trust the guy to do what's right for Massachusetts.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Another Inconvenient Truth: Sometimes American Politics Kill People

As the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere rocket past 400 parts per million this week, what's more evident than ever is the inability of our political systems to respond to this crisis that's killing Americans right now and growing worse by the day.

Politicians and the reporters who cover them do NOT like hearing that. They absolutely hate being told that the American political system isn't responding fast enough to a crisis and that people might die as a result. This is how we do things! How dare you ask us to change just for your issue? The folks in industry don't tell us that we're accomplices in mass death and they throw really killer parties.

But we knew that cigarettes killed tens of millions of people and tobacco companies covered it up ... and Washington took decades to respond. We knew lack of health insurance killed millions of people and bankrupted millions of other families ... and Washington took decades to respond.

The climate crisis cannot be solved by horse trading. It cannot be solved by trying to say yes to everyone - to cutting carbon pollution AND to whatever Big Oil and Big Coal are demanding. And it cannot be solved by We'll Have to Leave It There journalism that tells viewers, "Scientists say this, polluter front groups say that, who can say what's true?"

We need what Grist's David Roberts calls wartime mobilization - an all of the above approach to cutting carbon emissions. Can Washington answer that call to action?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Something Strange is Happening at National Journal

Folks, what is going on at National Journal? How is Coral Davenport allowed to write pieces not based on "scientists say this, polluter front groups say that, who can say what's true?" false equivalency, but on a reasoned interpretation of what's actually reality? Wait till Rush Limbaugh gets wind of this.

Read Coral's piece today on how rank-and-file Republicans are breaking with their party's extreme denier ideology on climate change, and check out her archive of long-form articles on the policy & politics of climate & energy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Imagining a Tea Partier Reacting to Huge Benefits of EPA Investment

Sure, $1 invested in the Environmental Protection Agency delivers $10 in benefits. But who gets that return? Probably lots of poor brown people, right? Then forget it! GET BIG GOVERNMENT OUT OF PROTECTING MY HEALTH.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Today's Must-Read Piece on Barack Obama and Climate Change

P041111PS-0177Heading out the door in a few minutes for the groundbreaking for New Bedford's South Terminal, which hopes to service the Cape Wind project when it finally goes in the water late this year or early next, but first a few quick thoughts on Jonathan Chait's New York magazine feature, Obama Might Actually Be the Environmental President:
  • If coal & oil state Democrats and purple state Republicans don't like Barack Obama regulating carbon pollution through the Clean Air Act, Chait's piece is a reminder that they should blame Claire McCaskill, Jay Rockefeller, Lisa Murkowski, Lindsey Graham, Blanche Lincoln, and all the other "moderates" who blocked climate & energy legislation in 2010. That legislation would likely have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating industrial carbon pollution. But extreme Republicans and those "moderates" were successful in blocking it, so now we get the EPA regulations many of those same senators claim to oppose. 
  • It could've been an even stronger piece if Chait wasn't so hand-wavy about Keystone XL being important. Climate activists are making a stand on Keystone not just because of Keystone's direct climate impacts. We're taking a stand on it because, for as many positive things as Obama has done, he's been extremely reluctant to say no to new polluting energy projects, from pipelines to oil drilling to coal mining. 
  • It's a good reminder that despite Beltway media hype about presidential rhetoric and the bully pulpit, presidential powers are in reality limited by Congress. Bush couldn't completely destroy the environment in part because he was limited by Congressional Democrats. Obama can't completely save the environment because of the same handcuffs. 
Read Chait's article and let me know what you think in comments.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Don't Buy Antibacterial Soap

Method Hand SoapsAmerica has spent decades putting a chemical called triclosan in our soap to wage chemical warfare on every bit of bacteria within a five-mile radius of our skin. So what benefit are we getting? According to an extensive new Associated Press investigation, none:
The [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]'s website currently states that "the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water."
No benefit. None. But there's this:
Recent studies of triclosan in animals have led scientists to worry that it could increase the risk of infertility, early puberty and other hormone-related problems in humans.
Swell! Thanks for looking out for us, FDA!

Part of the problem is that chemicals like triclosan kill ALL bacteria - good and bad. And during the exact same time we've been massacring all bacteria, friend or foe, reports of food and skin allergies are increasing.

A little dirt is good for your kids. Maybe even a little dog slobber. Afterwards, wash 'em up with some Method, Seventh Generation, or any other old-fashioned, plain ol' soap.

Gabriel Gomez is Completely Incoherent on Climate and Energy Policy

Gabriel Gomez, the Republican opponent of Democrat Ed Markey in the U.S. Senate special election to fill John Kerry's seat in Massachusetts, is working hard to be all things to all people, and nowhere is that more evident than his positions truthiness on climate and energy policy:
Climate change is real. However, while science says climate change is real, addressing the problem must be done rationally. Unfortunately, many solutions offered by politicians in Washington are not rational, and would put America at a competitive disadvantage. We need a serious energy agenda that promotes private sector innovation in both the United States and in other countries around the world.
Oh, I get it. He supports confronting climate change with a national policy to spur clean energy projects like Cape Wind, right? Not exactly:
Gomez, however, said [Cape Wind] is an issue that should be decided at the local level, and that the local authorities have been pretty much excluded from the process. Gomez made it clear his is opposed to Cape Wind.
So, local control all the way! Then he must oppose Keystone XL tar sands pipeline because of strong local opposition, right? Wrong again:
The Obama administration is wrong in stopping the Keystone pipeline, a project that will create jobs, drive down our energy costs, and help us to become energy independent.
Worth noting: Gabriel Gomez thinks that for some reason TransCanada is dramatically lowballing the benefits of its own Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. TransCanada doesn't say Keystone will drive down energy costs - it knows Keystone won't lower gas prices anywhere in America and would actually raise gas prices in the Midwest. TransCanada doesn't say Keystone will make America energy independent - it knows Keystone is an export pipeline that's being built to get tar sands to the Gulf Coast and the international market so Canada doesn't have to dump tar sands oil in the Midwest anymore.

To sum up, Gabriel Gomez says he understands climate change is threatening Massachusetts with extreme weather like superstorm Sandy, rising sea levels, and deadly summer heat waves - he just doesn't want to do anything about it. And Gomez thinks we need a national energy policy, except in cases where the mansion views of Republican donors are threatened, or if those donors really want a polluting project built even if it's not in America's national interest.

What's the reason for Gomez's incoherence? With the U.S. Senate's antiquated disclosure laws, we don't know yet where Gomez is getting his money. But given his refusal to sign the people's pledge to reject big-spending special interests, I'd suspect he personally knows exactly what climate change means, but he knows the implications of that truth are far too inconvenient for today's fossil fuel money-addicted Republican Party.