Friday, June 28, 2013

Tim DeChristopher and Our Upside-Down Punishment Priorities

Wall Street bankers crashed the global economy. Not a single one was put on trial, never mind sent to prison. Not one, not for a day.

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher pranked one oil and gas leasing auction as an act of civil disobedience. Despite the Interior Department subsequently canceling those leases saying they had been rushed into auction with insufficient environmental and scientific review, authorities decided to make an example of DeChristopher. He was sent to prison for 21 months and is now serving an additional three years of probation.

DeChristopher told his story to +Late Show with David Letterman this week:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How GOP Consultants Convinced a Polluting Energy Heir to Waste $1.5 Million Fighting Ed Markey

UntitledJohn Jordan, heir to a polluting energy fortune who now runs his family's California vineyard, decided to dump $1.5 million into trying to defeat Ed Markey in the special election for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. Markey won by 10 points, a big win for a Democrat in a low-turnout special election.

Why did Jordan think he had a shot at beating Markey? As the Wall Street Journal's Neil King, Jr. reports, a busload of Republican consultants paid for their three martini lunches in DC this spring by convincing the political neophyte Jordan to waste a considerable chunk of the family fortune on a race that was never particularly close:
The creation of Mr. Jordan’s super PAC, Americans for Progressive Action, stirred speculation earlier this month about the group’s origins and backers. Its treasurer, Nancy Watkins, used to work for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, while its spokeswoman, Sheena Tahilramani, once served as chief of state to former Bush White House aide Karl Rove. [...]

Mr. Jordan has allied himself in recent months with conservative activist Dick Morris, who is also helping advise on Mr. Jordan’s campaign to assist Mr. Gomez. In February, Mr. Jordan financed and helped craft a poll of Latino immigrants to the U.S. The poll’s methodology was widely panned by critics.
Many of these same consultants just got done freeloading off the campaigns of the entire Republican ticket, from Mitt Romney on down, while running it straight into an Election Day ditch. Dick Morris famously predicted a Romney "landslide." Jordan apparently hired him anyway.

Look, when I started writing this post, I was going to make fun of John Jordan. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, posts lots of pictures of himself at fancy parties on Flickr, and actually kind of looks like a Chris Farley character - sure, he has fun stompin' grapes in the family vineyard, but can he take the reins of an oil & gas fortune? Hilarity ensues!

But the poor guy just got swindled out of $1.5 million by Republican consultancy hucksters. His chosen candidate of Gabriel Gomez was utterly clueless on how to solve America's problems. Jordan says he's a centrist, and if he is, I hope he learns from this experience and refocuses his efforts to get the Republican Party out of the fever swamp of consultant-run campaigns.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

GOP Rebranding: Gabriel Gomez Edition

Massachusetts Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez says he's green!

That's it. That's the whole rebranding. Opposes climate action, just like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Supports building the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, just like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Opposes Cape Wind, just like big polluting Republican bankrollers like the Koch brothers. Backs the same old oil-and-coal-above all energy policies that Tea Partiers do.

But did you hear the part about he SAID GREEN? Totally new and improved, you guys!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fairhaven Joins Falmouth, Goes Full Crazy on Wind Turbines

Fairhaven has now joined Falmouth in having its government being taken over by wind hypochondriacs:
The Fairhaven Board of Health voted unanimously to shut down the town's two wind turbines between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. beginning tonight. The vote was made at a joint meeting of the boards of health and selectmen in a packed banquet room. After the three board members approved the motion to shut down the turbines at night, which was made by Chairman Peter DeTerra, the a roughly 30-person audience erupted in applause.

“It's time to let this town heal,” DeTerra said.
The turbines were recently found to be exceeding noise limits ... by less than 3 decibels. Three decibels is so small I don't even know how to describe it in words - it's like trying to describe the difference between 3/4 of an inch and one inch. The loudest turbine noise measured in Fairhaven was 12.9 decibels. A whisper in a quiet library from six feet away is 30 decibels.

The state's noise sampling is not even complete and there are simple fixes, like changing their angle to the wind, that can reduce the nighttime noise of wind turbines while still allowing them to collect lots of free clean energy. But this is not about logic! This is about rabid ideology, so we get the public policy equivalent of Walter Peck shouting SHUT IT OFF NOW in Ghostbusters.

A comprehensive state study found there is no scientific evidence wind turbines have any health effects. To be clear, I have no doubt people feel sick. But as one researcher put it, "only a tiny proportion of people living near turbines do actually complain and, when they do, the complaints coincide with campaigning from anti-wind groups." And in Fairhaven's case, many of the people complaining about the turbines are the same people who didn't want them built in the first place. Imagine that.

Much easier to measure is just how much this is going to cost Fairhaven taxpayers. Fairhaven makes $200,000 to $500,000 per year on the turbines - $100,000 per year in direct lease payments, along with $100,000 to $400,000 per year in energy savings. That's a ton of money anywhere, but in a town of 15,873 with per capita incomes and property values that lag well behind the state averages, that is an absolute boatload of money. And that doesn't even begin to count the savings of switching from dirty energy to clean energy, like fewer asthma attacks and lower climate-disrupting carbon pollution.

Anti-wind activists spent heavily to fund candidates in recent town elections backed by the wind hypochondria group Windwise (motto: "None of us are out there with cleavers hacking off bird heads to make a point."). In general, setting local election dates in springtime is done with low turnout in mind to let hardcore activists have a louder voice in local decision-making, and it worked in Fairhaven's case, with a turnout of just 20%.

Note today's vote was held while most town residents were at work or school in front of only a few dozen people. But calling all this a success for anti-wind activists implies there was even a fight - just as in Falmouth, the traditional pro-wind coalition of conservationists and the wind industry has refused to fight entirely. Unless clean energy supporters are willing to take some heat from the fringe by pointing out publicly that "wind turbine syndrome" is usually code for "I don't like looking at them and I REALLY don't like any change at all in my community," what's good for our economy, energy security & public health will keep taking a back seat to NIMBYs.

UPDATE 6/11: Just saw this op-ed from Gordon L. Deane, president of Palmer Capital Corporation in Cohasset, on how wind hypochondriacs have bullied Fairhaven's reasonable majority into silence.

UPDATE 7/5: Like the Friends of Fairhaven Wind page on Facebook, which in just two weeks already has five times more fans than the two-year-old anti-wind WindWise page.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Greenpeace Rips Canada For Funding More Tar Sands Promos (Video)

Can you believe Canada is spending $16 million this year on television advertisements trying to convince people that tar sands aren't as environment-destroying and climate-disrupting as you think? Learn more at Greenpeace Canada:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Proof Republicans Aren't Pro-Business: Tesla Motors

DSC_3183The Green Miles doesn't hate Republicans. I don't! I respect principled conservatives, like former Senators Bob Dole or John Warner.

What I hate are Republican politicians who claim to be pro-business or anti-regulation, when really they're willing to do whatever it takes to protect powerful special interests.

Case in point: Republicans doing auto dealers' bidding by blocking Tesla's efforts to sell cars directly to consumers in North Carolina and Texas. It's not about growing the economy or creating jobs or any other GOP tropes. It's using the law to shield existing businesses from an upstart business that would save consumers money. In effect, the Republican lawmakers' actions constitute a tax on consumers that subsidizes auto dealers.

Drought, Gas-Fired Power Plant Nearly Snuff Out Providence Waterfire

DSC_7665With southern New England in a mild drought and Providence River water needed to cool Dominion's natural gas-fired Manchester Street Power Station, last week Providence's famed WaterFire had to ditch the gondolas:
Organizers of the popular public art display, featuring small bonfires on rivers in downtown Providence, say Friday night's partial WaterFire lighting in the Waterplace Park Basin will be done by volunteers in waders. Typically, boaters keep the flames lit, and Friday's plans called for the city's hurricane barrier to be closed to ensure sufficiently high water levels.

But with high temperatures forecast this weekend, a power plant on the river bank may need to run at full capacity. So the hurricane barrier must be opened to ensure a constant flow of coolant water.
New England remains overly dependent on nuclear and natural gas-fired power, with a lingering but shrinking slice of coal-fired power, all of which are extremely water-intensive. As global warming continues fueling more droughts, water-intensive energy sources are at risk of becoming increasingly unreliable.

Which makes some other news this week especially important: New Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is moving forward with offshore wind leases off Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Offshore wind and solar power will not only strengthen our energy security - hopefully they mean we won't have to get used to the hip waders at WaterFire.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Solar-Powered Robot Boat To Attempt Atlantic Crossing, Because Guys

At a certain point in your life, you realize how much of scientific progress relies on dudes without girlfriends. Today's example: The Rhode Island students who want to shatter a world record with their solar-powered robot boat:
For the past three years the two along with three other friends have been working on an autonomous vessel named Scout to make the trip across the Atlantic. If Scout makes it, it will be the first ever autonomous vessel to make the crossing. Brendan Prior, one of the vessels builders and partners, says, "our first goal is to have it break that 60 mile world record which we can hopefully do in two days."

Once Scout is launched, it will be GPS guided and will send back information every twenty minutes of the 3000+ mile trip. Dylan says, "Scout sends back it's position, course, and the heading. Conditions of the sea, whether it's calm or rough, pH, salinity, barometric pressure, and three temperature readings.
I am only assuming they do not have girlfriends, because if they did, good luck making it through an inning of watching a Red Sox game, never mind three years building a robot boat, amirite guys?

Follow SCOUT's trip at or on Facebook.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Jobs and a Safe Climate or Bill Koch's Estate View: Whose Side Are You On?

Barrow Offshore wind farm from the air When Cape Wind begins construction, it will be the leading edge of an offshore wind industry that's already created 35,000 jobs in Europe. As Cape Wind's Hannah Wood writes in the Cape Cod Times, those jobs are critical to a region in transition:
I know for some, concerns about Cape Wind stem from a desire to keep the Cape as it is. But, like it or not, climate change is already affecting the Cape.

The question for all of us is whether we try to control the change or let it control us. If we don't start using cleaner sources of energy, we are on a course to see much more severe erosion from our beaches and dunes and continued harm to fish and other wildlife, as well as to the plants and trees that we all enjoy.

Constructing this offshore wind farm is the type of change we need to ensure that future generations can appreciate the Cape as much as we do now.

Young people on Cape Cod also need more sustainable industries here that pay decent salaries year-round so more of them stay here to raise families of their own. Offshore wind is a move in the right direction, and Cape Wind is a crucial first step.
But what about the view from Bill Koch's vacation estate? And what about all the other wealthy Cape Cod landowners hiding behind front groups to attack Cape Wind? What should come first - our economic development, public health, and long-term climate security, or their pristine estate views?

Sign the Conservation Law Foundation & Civic Action petition to stand up to Bill Koch and build Cape Wind now.

In Local Traffic Reports, Roads Always Come First

Boston - Boston University - Green LineIn the middle of this morning's commute, Boston's MBTA B Line was briefly shut down due to an electrical issue, forcing hundreds if not thousands of commuters to get off at Packard's Corner and take shuttle buses to Kenmore Square, then get back on trains.

This news was presented last in the local traffic report, after a long list of highway stop-and-go's at all the usual gridlock spots that have been stop-and-go every single weekday morning of my life.

It's been the same anywhere I've lived in this great country: Even if aliens came down from space and started space-lasering multiple trains and buses full of commuters and GOOD GOD WHATEVER YOU DO DON'T TAKE THE 16B, that news would have to come after a car in the breakdown lane of I-95 right before exit 24, so watch out for that one.