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: