Thursday, June 25, 2015

Alberta's Carbon Tax is Pocket Change to Big Oil

Calgary Nightlife
Alberta! Apparently lots of people live there? Who knew!
Alberta is raising its carbon tax to $30 a ton by 2017, but that's projected to only cut carbon emissions two percent. So basically, it’s pocket change for the oil industry because it will barely change their behavior, and the government gets millions in revenue. 

There's plenty of evidence in the states that putting a price on carbon pollution is great for state budgets without hurting state economies. California's carbon cap and trade system raised $850 million last year. Business Insider recently ranked California's economic growth second-fastest in the US, so cap and trade is not exactly crippling its economy.

In the Northeast, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative just raised $85 million in its second auction of 2015. It raised $82 million in the first auction, meaning it's on pace to raise in the neighborhood of $330 million for the year, and continuing to prove that carbon cap and trade works really, really well.

Note that Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) pulled New Jersey out of RGGI, and now the state is having to raise taxes to make ends meet. I bet New Jersey could use those millions in easy money right about now.

Imagine how much in revenue Congress and other states are leaving on the table? It’s crazy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More Evidence of Air Pollution's Impact on Health, This Time Our Brains

photo by secret squirrelNew research links air pollution from fossil fuels like coal and oil - particularly from diesel engines - to dementia, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, as Aaron Reuben reports for Mother Jones:
Controlling for things like ethnicity, gender, income, education, and other possible environmental exposures (including cigarette smoke), elderly individuals living in areas with polluted air appear to lose their mental abilities faster, show more predementia symptoms (also known as mild cognitive impairment), and develop Alzheimer's disease at greater rates. Six years ago, researchers in Germany assessed the cognitive abilities of 399 elderly women who lived in the same place for more than 20 years. Regardless of her socioeconomic status, the closer a woman lived to a busy road, the authors reported, the greater the chance that she would have mild cognitive impairment.

Four years ago, researchers from Harvard linked estimates of higher daily exposure to black carbon, a solid type of fine particulate matter, to lower cognitive ability in older men in Boston. In a larger, national study tracking the mental status of more than 19,000 retired nurses over several years, researchers connected the rate of mental decline in women 70 and older to their exposure to coarse- and fine-particle pollution and found that those exposed to more particles lost their mental abilities at a faster rate. In a group of 95,690 elderly Taiwanese, researchers this year found that a slight increase in fine-particle exposure over 10 years led to a 138 percent increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. A smaller, more recent study published in the Annals of Neurology followed 1,403 elderly women without dementia. Scientists found that exposure to air pollution over time to led to a major decrease in the subjects' white matter, a part of the brain essential for cognition. [...]

And there is growing evidence that particle pollution's assault on the mind is not limited to elderly brains. Researchers in Mexico City, which still has some of the worst urban air on the planet, have found signs of advanced brain damage in children as young as six and seven years old: overactive immune cells, degraded white matter, and damaged vasculature typically seen only in older brains. In one autopsy study comparing children raised in Mexico City with their counterparts in less polluted parts of the country, half the Mexico City children had notable aggregations of a protein called amyloid beta—which is strongly associated with Alzheimer's—grouped in clumps across their brains. In the children from less polluted areas, there were none.
If all costs remained the same, and global warming were not occuring, it would still be worth it strictly from a public health perspective to end our use of fossil fuels. From lead damaging our children's brains to air pollution's link to autism to mercury's link to ADHD, the toll of coal and oil pollution is incalculably immense.

But the climate crisis is already well underway and the costs of inaction are staggering, which makes the decision a complete slam dunk. That our elected officials aren't moving us away from polluting energy as quickly as possible shows that there are truly enormous amounts of money to be made from keeping us hooked on fossil fuels and maintaining our energy status quo.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Fraud of Climate Science Deniers Telling the Pope to Shut up

With Pope Francis issuing an encyclical this week declaring that we have "a moral and religious imperative" to cut carbon pollution, climate science deniers are scrambling to explain how their continued obstruction isn't immoral. Their new version of "I'm not a scientist" is "the Pope shouldn't mix religion and politics."

That's beyond hypocritical. As Steve Benen writes at MSNBC, for many of these same conservatives, mixing religion and politics is their bread and butter:
In culture-war debates over gay rights and reproductive rights, for example, the right routinely argues that policymakers should heed the appeals from religious leaders. More generally, conservatives express alarm about the left trying to push voices from the faith community “out of the public square.” It’s these religious leaders, the GOP argues, that should help guide public debate.

Except when the climate is on fire, at which point the pope is apparently supposed to keep his mouth shut?
A related fraud: When polluter front groups like the Heartland Institute, which believes we should have no minimum wage whatsoever, claim to be better advocates for the poor than Pope Francis.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Read These Two Stories, Then Tell Me We Can Separate Environmental Problems From Inequality

Hillary Clinton delivered her first major campaign speech over the weekend, painting climate science denial as part of the same elite obstruction that keeps wages down and public infrastructure shoddy.

It's a powerful case that brings together seemingly unrelated issues. And it's one that's more believable the more you know about how many of the ultra-wealthy simply don't care about solving America's problems:
  • After California Gov. Jerry Brown ordered water restrictions in the face of crippling drought, Rob Kuznia reports in today's Washington Post that the ultra-wealthy community of Rancho Santa Fe has actually increased its water use 9 percent:
    People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” [Steve] Yuhas fumed recently on social media. “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”
  • The Russell Sage Foundation polled the 1% (average income of $1 million or more a year) and found they're 37% more likely than the average American to say we should cut environmental protections than expand them.
As David Roberts writes at Vox, there's growing evidence that, as a group, rich people are selfish jerks.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why Else Would You Want to Build a Fracked Gas Pipeline to the Coast?

There's tons of news coverage about proposed fracked gas pipelines in New England, but almost never mentioned is that they're clearly export pipelines. We're really supposed to believe they want to build these pipelines to lower our energy costs? Why would they do that even if the pipelines are built?

Fracked gas companies are just exploiting high prices to get customers to pay for new pipelines to get their gas to the export market. It's a huge scam.

They're never going to volunteer to stop gouging us. Until we force them to bargain by shifting our energy supplies into utility-scale wind and solar, we're negotiating with the people holding us hostage.

Robert Reich on How to Save the Planet AND Our Economy

Watch this new video from Robert Reich & MoveOn, then read more here:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Jeb Bush's Allegiance to Big Polluters Must Never Be Discussed

Reporters wonder why Jeb Bush is so hard to pin down on climate change.

Then days later, it's revealed Jeb is desperately courting coal money.

It's a real mystery!

Best to present this as some inscrutably brilliant political strategy that only he understands. Surely can't point out his painfully transparent true motivations.