Wednesday, December 28, 2016

America's First Offshore Wind Farm Starts Delivering Power

Off Rhode Island, Deepwater Wind's Block Island Wind Farm is now online, providing enough clean energy to power as many as 17,000 homes. Three years ago, I visited Block Island and wrote about how offshore wind would benefit Block Island.

Watch this report from Jerika Duncan of CBS News:

Friday, November 4, 2016

Hydrogen Power: Only As Clean As Its Energy Source

Photo via Alstom
Germany has unveiled a hydrogren-fueled train that it's claiming is zero emissions. It might be! It could especially be progress on the vast majority of American rail lines that aren't currently electrified. But hydrogen is only as clean as the power used to make it, and most of the coverage seems to be ignoring that.

Hydrogen fuel isn't mined or collected directly - it's basically a battery loaded with power from other direct fuel sources. If it's solar or wind, it's zero-emissions! If it's coal or oil, you might as well just use coal or oil to power the train.

Every conversation about hydrogren I've ever had:
PERSON: It's hydrogen-powered! It's zero emissions!
ME: Hydrogren is not a fuel source. It's basically a battery. It's as clean as the power that was used to make the hydrogen fuel. What was used to make the hydrogen?
PERSON: Uh, I don't know.
ME: Was it coal?
PERSON: Maybe?
ME: So it could be a train powered by coal? Like the first locomotives they had in the 1800s?
PERSON: Man, you are depressing AF.
ME: It's a curse. (goes back to blogging like this)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

I Agree With This Big Polluter Lobbyist About Republican Climate Science Denial

When it comes to the Republican Party and global warming, I agree with the assessment of Thomas Pyle, head of the American Energy Alliance, a polluter front group. Here's what Pyle told Bloomberg's Zachary Mider about Jay Faison, a Republican who's spending $175 million of his own money trying to change the GOP's mind on climate science and clean energy:
“You can’t get to where he wants to be, in his lifetime, without a massive dose of good old-fashioned government intervention,” Pyle said. 
Republicans don't deny climate science because they don't know the facts or don't trust its scientific rigor. They deny it because all available solutions to global warming contradict their free-market dogma that big business alone can solve all of our problems (with a few government subsidies along the way).

The free market hasn't, and can't, solve the climate crisis any more than it solved our smog or dirty water problems - we needed the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to do that. But instead of altering their ideology, American conservatives just pretend global warming doesn't exist.

After years of trying to pretend the right messaging will trick Republicans into supporting clean energy and climate science, Faison is still beating his head against the wall of denial. Inexplicably, Faison says he may vote for Gary Johnson, who doesn't think we should bother trying to stop global warming.

Faison would be better off taking Jon Stewart's advice: "Let's stop pretending that concessions to the right will, at any point, sate the beast."

And as the Center for American Progress reports, many of Faison's donations have gone to Republicans with mixed - or flat-out poor - records on climate change. Imagine how much good Faison's $175 million might've done if instead he'd spent that money trying to defeat climate science deniers?

2016's Hottest Trend in "Tainted" Halloween Candy: Tweet First, 911 Later

A big red flag that's emerged in reports of "tainted" Halloween candy in recent years: People who post to social media before calling police, or who never actually call the police at all. That way you get all the attention, but none of the getting charged with filing a false report!

Here are 2016's reports so far, and I'll keep updating this post as the investigations continue:
  • A Halifax, Nova Scotia man says his son cut his thumb on a razor blade hidden in a candy bar. With his son's thumb still bleeding, the man did not clean the wound or put a Band-Aid on it - he took a picture of the bloody thumb and posted it to Twitter. 
  • Right after news of the first razor incident broke in Halifax, and more than 12 hours after trick-or-treating ended, a girl in a neighboring town suddenly found a razor in a piece of her candy.
  • A woman in Huntington, TX posted to Facebook that she found a needle in candy, but apparently hasn't called police. Two women in Marysville, WA also took to Facebook to report finding objects in candy
  • Someone reported finding a razor blade in candy in Manistee, MI. But get this: "Last year, police in the City of Manistee said two children had razor blades hidden in their candy. Police determined that a family member of the victims was behind that incident. The family member had mental-health issues, police said." Very few of the news reports on this year's incident are referencing last year's hoax. 
  • A woman in New Jersey reports finding a needle in candy. This incident is not far from last year's Philadelphia suburbs needle-in-candy hoax, though none of this year's local media coverage mentions last year's identical scare turned out to be hoax.
  • Woman in Wisconsin Rapids, WI says her child found a nail in a Tootsie Roll
  • Ottawa police have already declared one report of tainted candy "unfounded."
  • One Wyoming town apparently got extremely hype for tainted candy & scary clowns. "Rock Springs Police Public Information Officer Alison Deters said as of 10am, the department has received one call about suspicious candy which had liquid on the inside. Officers believe the candy may have had something spilled on it, or it broke during transport."
  • Update! First confirmed needle-in-candy hoax in Christiansburg, VA
Tainted Halloween candy is almost always a hoax, but that doesn't stop media and police from acting like every needle in candy is CERTAIN ATTEMPTED CHILD MURDER.

Watch Leonardo DiCaprio's "Before the Flood" in Full, For Free, Right Now

Friday, October 28, 2016

Exxon Finally Admits Global Warming Is Stranding Its Assets

Exxon Mobil is finally admitting to investors that billions of barrels of oil may be stranded assets - too expensive & too destructive to our climate to ever drill out & sell. That's after decades of deceiving the public on global warming. For the 3rd quarter of 2016, profits fell 38%.

"Oil companies are admitting the future isn't oil," tweets the Wall Street Journal's Christopher Mims. "Think of all the nations, not just stocks, this puts into terminal decline." 

And states - what about the budgets of Alaska, North Dakota, Louisiana, Texas and other places that are so heavily dependent on oil revenue?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Get Ready For 2016's Fake Tainted Halloween Candy Scares

Every year, headlines are filled with reports of tainted Halloween candy. Razor blades in apples! How would you hide one without making it completely obvious? They never say. Poisoned candy! But every kid knows exactly who gave what candy - if you wanted to hurt kids, giving out poisoned candy would be no more secretive than chasing kids around your neighborhood waving a rake.

Let's review 2015's Halloween candy danger scares that made national headlines. Not one of them was even confirmed as an actual attempt to hurt children, never mind an incident that actually hurt a child:
  • Gloucester, NJ: Man arrested for making own tainted candy & falsely reporting it
  • Kennett Square, PA: Kids admit making up report of finding needles in Twix bars
  • Hudson, NH: Cause never publicly identified for razor blade allegedly found in trick-or-treating bag; two years before in a neighboring town, a "razor blade in trick-or-treating bag" turned out to have fallen out of a pencil case
  • Manistee, MI: Razor blade in candy turned out to have been a hoax by a family member with mental health issues
  • Hopkinton, MA: New, wrapped discs of toilet bowl cleaner found in trick-or-treating bags, despite kids not being able to say who gave them out. This was apparently supposed to be dangerous because kids are so stupid they'll eat toilet bowl cleaner.
Poisoned Halloween candy is an urban legend, but that doesn't stop local and even national news from reporting every flimsy story as a WARNING FOR PARENTS TONIGHT. The follow-up news confirming the hoax inevitably gets much less coverage.

Don't inspect your kids' Halloween candy - it scares them for no reason.

And to follow the latest scares - which again, are almost always fake - follow Lenore Skenazy's Free Range Kids blog.

Friday, October 7, 2016

David Letterman, America's Funniest Climate Activist

Most global warming and clean energy humor is chuckle-chuckle amusing but not ha-ha funny. David Letterman is joining this season of Showtime's Years of Living Dangerously and he doesn't do mildly amusing - he does wicked funny:

Go like Years of Living Dangerously on Facebook for more videos & info.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Deregulate Parking, Says Obama Administration

Great to see the Obama administration come out in favor of housing for people over storage for cars:
“Parking requirements generally impose an undue burden on housing development, particularly for transit-oriented or affordable housing,” the paper states. “When transit-oriented developments are intended to help reduce automobile dependence, parking requirements can undermine that goal by inducing new residents to drive, thereby counteracting city goals for increased use of public transit, walking and biking.”

The anti-parking stance came from a “Housing Development Toolkit,” a broadside against zoning. The report says zoning “reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to growing demand,” making affordable housing hard to find in high-price areas.

Nixing off-street parking is not the paper’s only recommendation. It also advocates taxing vacant land, making it easier to get permits and making cities more dense.
This is the opposite of a big government mandate - it's the Obama White House urging communities to get rid of local regulations that restrict new housing and smart growth.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Gary Johnson Wants to Watch the World Burn

Libertarian Party candidate for president Gary Johnson says we should do nothing about global warming.

That means Gary Johnson isn't a libertarian on global warming. Libertarians aren't in favor of letting one party (the coal, oil and gas industries) harm everyone else with no consequence. They're in favor of minimal government intervention, sure - say, a carbon tax - but actual libertarians aren't any more in favor of letting polluters run rampant than they are in letting murders walk free.

Johnson is a climate nihilist, saying the world's going end someday anyway, so why bother trying to protect our children? As with his Syria ignorance, Johnson seems like a dim bulb with no interest in serious policy.

I'm voting for Hillary Clinton, the strongest pro-science candidate with a strong climate policy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Investment Advice From The Green Miles: Exxon Mobil Edition

If they're frauding you on climate science, they're probably more than willing to fraud you on all sorts of other important things:
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating how Exxon Mobil Corp. has valued its assets in the face of the current plunge in oil prices—and how it estimates theirfuture worth in a world of increasing climate change regulations, according to people familiar with the matter.

The SEC sought information and documents in August from Exxon as well as the company’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. The federal agency has also been receiving documents that the company submitted as part of a continuing probe into similar issues begun last year by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the people said.

The formal investigation is examining Exxon’s longstanding practice of not writing down the value of its oil and gas reserves when prices fall. Exxon is the only major U.S. energy producer that hasn’t taken a write-down or impairment charge since oil prices plunged two years ago. Peers including Chevron Corp. have lowered valuations by a collective $50 billion.
Learn more about Exxon's climate science fraud at

Monday, September 19, 2016

Watch Wind Turbine Blades Being Tested

I recently had a chance to visit the Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown, a project of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. I got to watch huge wind turbine blades being twisted and bent, over and over, always springing right back into shape.

Wind opponents like to make it seem as though a stiff breeze could knock them over - seems plausible, right? They're so tall and thin! But they're incredibly well made with cutting edge technology and built to last. That thinness allows the blades to be feathered to let the wind go right past. Turbines most often survive the strongest of storms and are right back to generating electricity the next day.

In fact, one study showed wind turbines have a better chance of beating a hurricane than the other way around. Build an absurdly high number of offshore wind turbines and they could slow both the wind and the coastal flooding from of a monster storm, according to Stanford University researchers.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fight Garbage Cable Boxes: Ask the FCC to Unlock the Box

Cable boxes are garbage - slow, expensive, and huge power vampires.

Led by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and supported by Congressional leaders like Sen. Ed Markey, there's an effort to "unlock the box" - to let your cable channels run through third-party boxes like Roku and AppleTV. Those third-party boxes are much cheaper, faster, and better than cable company boxes.

The FCC is set to vote Sept. 29. Please take a moment right now to urge the FCC to unlock the box.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hermine, With Global Warming's Fingerprints, Smacks East Coast

Hurricane Hermine hitting Florida ended a historic 11-year drought of hurricanes making landfall in Florida. Climate science deniers had grabbed onto that lull to claim global warming wasn't worsening storms. But storm trackers say the drought was a total coincidence - there were plenty of storms around, hitting the Caribbean, Mexico and elsewhere, they just happened to miss us.

Meanwhile, Hermine has provided new evidence that global warming is fueling tropical storms.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Conservative Media's New Lie About Obama and Coal Jobs

Conservative media keeps saying there have been 83,000 coal mining jobs lost under President Obama. The problem is that there were barely that many coal mining jobs total when President Obama took office.

Total U.S. coal mining jobs, according to the Energy Information Administration:
  • 2009: 86,859
  • 2014: 74,931 (most recent year available)
If you believe the historic trends, the war on coal began under President Reagan and has had only modest success under President Obama:

The truth is that mechanization has been killing coal jobs for decades. As the Center for American Progress reports, in recent years, cheap fracked gas and competition with foreign coal have done as much to hurt coal as clean air regulations.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why is Providence So Bad at Non-Car Transportation?

Pronk, SharkcycleI've talked about how Providence's local inter-city transportation is terrible.

Today, Transport Providence points out it's no better at helping Providence residents get around by bike:
Mayor Jorge Elorza bikes to work everyday, and takes part in frequent night rides with community members. By all accounts the mayor is supportive of bicycling. However, Providence has made next to no progress on bike infrastructure during the two years the mayor has been in office. This needs to change. [...]

Where is the bike infrastructure, Mayor Elorza? We cannot expect mass cycling to take root in Rhode Island without our core cities establishing bike routes that are suitable for eight year olds, eighty year olds, and everyone in between. If we’re going to provide routes that are safe for people in wheelchairs and rascals, we need bike routes, like what the Dutch and Danish have. Doing this can help us make more efficient use of our school bus funding, our sidewalk funding, our parking, and improve business outcomes for small business.
Bike infrastructure - like protected bike lanes and bike racks - and makes for a more vibrant community. People can get around while exercising, smelling the fresh air, and seeing each other, rather than stuck inside expensive, noisy, polluting cars that take up tons of space through roads and parking.

It's also smart economic policy. One study showed every dollar invested in separated bike lanes returns $24 in avoided pollution, health care costs, and traffic, according to Adele Peters at Fast Company's Co.Exist. Another study showed investment in bike infrastructure returns a huge payoff compared to car infrastructure in longer lives, lower health care costs, less spending on gas, and just plain cheaper infrastructure.

If Providence, or any other aging city, is going to thrive in the 21st century, it needs to be more than just a commuter destination, or a highway pass-through for people traveling from Boston to New York. It needs to be a great place for people - not just for cars.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

5 Years After DC Earthquake, We're Still Cutting Quake Monitoring Budgets

Hey, it's 5th anniversary of the Virginia earthquake that shook DC! Back then, we pointed out the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey had been slashed by austerity measures.

What about in the five years since? Surely as our economy has rebounded, we've restored investments in protecting every single American from major earthquakes, especially quake-prone economic engines like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, right?
  • FY 1997: $1.19 billion, which is $1.76 billion in 2015 dollars 
  • FY 2015 enacted budget: $1.04 billion 
  • That's an effective cut of: 41%
Clearly a nation with a $16.77 trillion annual GDP can't afford frivolities like trying to give its citizens advance warning of major earthquakes and volcano eruptions.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Trump's Taxes & GOP Science Denial: Morals Are For Losers

Today's Republican Party is less about any particular principle or set of values than it is about being willing to completely abandon any morals whenever the party machinery demands it:
Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said Sunday morning that she does not want the Republican presidential nominee to release his tax returns until an audit by the Internal Revenue Service is completed, abandoning a position that she took five months ago, when she didn't work for the campaign and urged Trump to "be transparent" and release the filings.
We've seen similar courage of convictions from Republican senators like John McCain and Lindsay Graham. They spoke out on global warming when it served their maverick images, but that was the high water mark of their climate courage. They abandoned the cause when the party feared a climate & clean energy bill might actually pass in 2010 and have stayed quiet on carbon pollution limits ever since.

As Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times today, "climate denial has become a sort of badge of right-wing identity, above and beyond the still-operative motive of rewarding donors." And now so is denying that Americans have a right to know what a presidential candidate is hiding in his tax returns.

Meanwhile, as Trump demands Hillary Clinton release every email she ever wrote, his new campaign CEO calls it a "smear" when Greenpeace uses the Freedom of Information Act to access some of a polluter scientist's emails. Morals are for losers!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant's New Enemy: Global Warming

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Massachusetts can't take the heat.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Farmers' Almanac Winter Forecast is Malarkey

The Farmers' Almanac just released its winter forecast for 2017, so I thought it would be a good time to see how their winter 2016 forecast did last year. From August 2015:
It’s not what Bostonians want to hear: The Farmer’s Almanac says another rough winter is in your stars.

A year after Boston was pummeled with the snowiest winter on record, editors of the Maine-based publication have dubbed their latest forecast a “winter deja vu,” hearkening to last winter’s misery across the Northeast.

Using a formula built on sunspots, moon phases and tidal action, the 199-year-old almanac that hits newsstands this week predicts cold and snowy weather from Maine to Montana.
Though meteorologists immediately blasted the Almanac forecast as about as accurate as a Magic 8 Ball, even PBS covered it as news. Meanwhile, scientists at NOAA predicted a winter that was warmer and wetter than average. So did AccuWeather.

So what actually happened?
December through February, a three-month period known as "meteorological winter," has shattered warm and wet records in 2015-2016 from New England to the Southeast, Midwest, Plains and West.
Basing your long-range weather forecast on sunspots is like basing your climate change outlook on the moon. When journalists repeat those guesses as news, they're doing a disservice to actual science.

News outlets also uncritically repeat the Almanac's claim to 80% accuracy. But that assertion is no more reality-based than its actual forecasts:
The Old Farmer's Almanac claims "many longtime Almanac followers claim that our forecasts are 80% to 85% accurate." This is simply a claim and not the actual accuracy. John Walsh, University of Illinois Atmospheric Sciences professor emeritus, reviewed the accuracy of five years of monthly forecasts from 32 weather stations around the county and found 50.7% of the monthly temperature forecasts and 51.9% of precipitation forecasts to correctly predict a deviation from averages.
50 percent - you could get just as accurate a guess by flipping a coin.

What do the fortune tellers at the Almanac have to say about winter 2017?
[Y]ou better start preparing because according to the Long Range Weather Forecast released by The Old Farmer's Almanac, this one is going to be a real doozy.

Every region of the U.S. will be hit with a different type of terrible. The Northeast and Midwest can expect "colder than normal" temperatures and precipitation is supposed to be "above normal."
Here in New England, the Farmers' Almanac is geared toward a certain type of yankee who, every single year, thinks god will surely punish us for our sin of enjoying summer by smiting us with a horrible winter. To get those folks to buy your almanac, you need to make sure every winter forecast fulfills that fervor.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Kids Today Do Not Know Your Environmental Icon

A coworker recently cited Woodsy Owl as an example of an environmental household brand name. I have a Woodsy Owl t-shirt. Recently …
Late-teens-ish worker at fish and chips shack: Great shirt!

Me: Thanks!

Him: I love South Park.

Me: What?

Him: That episode where the guy in the owl costume molests kids was hilarious!

Me: Oh, I didn’t see that one. Woodsy Owl was a public service campaign back in the ‘70s and ‘80s who told kids not to litter.

Him: Really? Wow, I had no idea it was a real thing!

Me: (dies of old age)
Environmentalists have done a lousy job maintaining or replacing childhood icons. Past generations have had Woodsy, Smokey Bear, Ranger Rick, The Lorax, and Captain Planet, but I couldn't name one who's come along in the last 20 years. Of that list, who would today's kids be able to identify?

Part of it is the era - in this age of multimedia ad saturation, campaigns are now run and replaced rather than maintained long enough to reach iconic status.

For government agencies, part of it is budgetary - the U.S. Forest Service, which produced Woodsy Owl, now spends most of its money on fighting fires thanks to Congressional budget-cutting and worsening global warming.

And for nonprofits, there's the challenge of generationally split audiences. Design a new campaign for today's children and older donors may not be willing to support something unfamiliar. Design a campaign based on an older icon and you may please older donors but fail to connect with today's kids.

Monday, July 11, 2016

This is Why We're Supposed to Fight for Gas Tax Hikes?

EmptySteve LeBlanc writes for the Associated Press today about how Massachusetts uses just a tiny fraction of cigarette taxes for anti-smoking programs. By contrast, he says most of a recent gas tax hike goes for its intended purpose:
Drivers paid an extra $257 million to fill up their tanks as a result of the 3-cent-per-gallon increase ... virtually all of the gas tax money went to highway construction and maintenance
As we've discussed before, voters don't want to pay for highway construction, but Democrats are constantly told by Very Serious People that they must campaign for gas tax hikes because it's The Right Thing to Do.

Sure, it's nice to put a more accurate price on gasoline, which gets so many free rides, from polluting our air to getting military protection in the Middle East.

But if the money is just going to pay for more highways, incentivizing more gasoline consumption, it's unclear if raising the gas tax is even a clear net good, never mind worth progressives spending precious political capital on what's a relatively unpopular cause.

I'd rather fight for a millionaire's tax and a carbon tax, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"Sugar Coated": Big Tobacco & Big Oil, Meet Big Sugar

I just watched the documentary Sugar Coated. Its parallels to the War On Science-style campaigns funded by cigarette makers and climate polluters were staggering:
  • Product is cheap & easy in the short term but expensive & deadly in the long run
  • A complex problem that's hard for people to understand or respond to individually
  • Industry pays scientists to manufacture doubt and uncertainty about the harm caused by its highly-profitable product
  • Science advocates not only hopelessly underfunded, but often outgunned with only a scientific background against a multidisciplinary campaign using marketing, political and emotional tactics
As Mother Jones has extensively reported, the sugar industry has worked hard to make sure government policy doesn't reflect the truth that added sugar is toxic. In just the last few months, the Obama administration has taken the important step of including added sugar on nutrition labels, but that barely scratches the surface of what could be done if progressive Democrats took on Big Sugar like they took on Big Tobacco and industrial climate polluters.

Sugar Coated is now available on Netflix. Here's the trailer:

Sugar Coated Trailer from The Cutting Factory on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Being A Green Parent Is Hard. Here's What's Worked For Us.

The first rule of being a green parent is do not sweat being a green parent. You'll have a million other things to stress out about and no matter what you do, you'll feel like you're fighting a losing battle.

You'll have good weeks where you feel like recycling and composting are keeping your household footprint to not much more than it was pre-kids. And you'll have weeks where you look around at piles of unrecyclable plastic clamshell-style packaging & little-used plastic toys and feel hopeless.

With our daughter now two years old, I wanted to share a few tips from our experience navigating life as first-time parents trying to maximize savings and miminize waste & stress:
  • We used the Beaba to make our own baby food. It takes more time & planning, but we found it worked well, produced more vibrant-looking baby food, and saved money in the long run. We bought one round of Gerbers, then re-used those glass containers endlessly for our own food.
  • We're doing disposable diapers. Studies have shown that the extra energy & water consumed washing cloth diapers offsets the landfill impact of disposables. As I said, unless it's a clear environmental win, it's not worth adding stress and a significant amount of additional grossness to an already spit-up-and-volcano-diaper-filled life. We also recommend the Diaper Genie, which holds a lot of diapers in a small amount of plastic & keeps the odors locked in.
  • It's worth signing up for Amazon Prime to get Amazon Family discounts on subcribe & save items. Compile 5 subscription items into one shipment & you get an extra 15% off. Between diapers, wipes, diaper genie refills, etc. it's pretty easy to add up to five. The prices on wipes are particularly good. Unless you're somehow able to walk or bike those cases of diapers home, you'll have a lower carbon footprint than driving.
  • Skip diaper wipe warmers and other absurd gadgets. My wife diligently saved every receipt, allowing us to return products that we found we didn't really need.
  • You'll have many items that you need for a few months, then never again. Talk to other parents about what you can borrow. If you need to buy, buying used and then re-selling can save money and reduce waste. Amazon now sells more used products than ever (look on the right side of product pages). When it comes time to get rid of something, I've been pleasantly surprised how many buyers (or just takers for "free to a good home" items) you can find on Craigslist.
  • Learn how to use everything before the baby comes. Install the car seat & get it checked at your local fire station. Set up, unfold & repack the stroller. Unpack the breast pump, figure out how it works, and decide how & where you'll be storing & cleaning everything.
  • If you're upgrading from a car to a larger vehicle, check An efficient large SUV like the Toyota Highlander Hybrid can get much better fuel efficiency than a smaller less-efficient model like the Jeep Wrangler.
  • A sturdy carrier like an Osprey to save your back on long walks & hikes is definitely worth the investment.
  • Let your kids get a little dirty. It's good for them.
  • Consumer Reports was a life-saver as I quickly & constantly having to become an expert on what to buy. Bike seat or trailer?? Consumer Reports helped guide us to a front handlebar seat. My local library has an online subscription that we used for free access.
Do the best you can to minimize your impact, but don't drive yourself crazy. You'll have many other, less-busy years of your life to shrink your footprint and lobby for environmentally-friendly changes in your own community.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On Fossil Fuels, Politicians Always Want Just One More Cookie

In my new post over at Blue Mass Group, I list 11 reasons legislators need to say no to a fracked gas pipeline tax, concluding:
Look, I understand why including nothing for natural gas in this energy bill is hard to swallow for legislators. It’s counter to the usual horse-trading process where lobbyists for one side asks for a loaf, the other side asks legislators to give nothing, they settle at half a loaf, and everyone goes to 21st Amendment for drinks after.

Giving polluters some of what they want also appeals to legislators who prefer to avoid lines in the sand. Can’t we approve just this one more dirty energy project?

But when it comes to confronting global warming, we’re literally decades past the bargaining point. James Hansen warned Congress that our climate was already changing in 1988 – 28 years ago. Temperatures are rising even faster than predicted and as today’s Providence Journal editorializes, sea level rise forecasts are getting scarier.

“Cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by burning natural gas is like dieting by eating reduced-fat cookies,” says the University of California-Irvine’s Steven Davis. “If you really want to lose weight, you probably need to avoid cookies altogether.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Does Disconnected Modern Life Trigger Drug Addiction?

We tend to think of drugs like heroin as the cause of broken communities. But what if it's the other way around? What if bad communities, disconnected lives, and a lack of fulfillment are what drive people to addiction?

That would lead to another set of strange ideas. Think of all the money we currently spent on enforcing drug laws - police, prison, the Coast Guard, and military operations. What if we spent it instead on building stronger communities - better health care, improved transit, and public works projects?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Asked About Climate Risks, Trump is on to Cincinnati

Donald Trump sat down with the Washington Post editorial board and revealed in 2016's Republican Party, you can win the presidential nomination without knowing anything about anything.

Trump talked about how "double sanctions" work better than sanctions, that infrastructure is all about luxury airports, went on a 738-word rant about his hands, and rambled incoherently about Iraqi oil. The full transcript is worth reading to really soak in how much, in terms of chance of winning, it doesn't matter whether Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders - either will mop the floor with Trump, who sounds way over his head the minute he can't shout his way out of a jam.

For climate activists, the section on global warming is the must-read. There are science deniers who know how to sound like they can talk smart, like Ted Cruz's made-up speech about satellite data. And then there are people like Trump who don't know anything at all about climate science (other than they're supposed to be against it) but can't help themselves from blabbling anyway:
HIATT: Last one: You think climate change is a real thing? Is there human-caused climate change?

TRUMP: I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I’m not a great believer. There is certainly a change in weather that goes – if you look, they had global cooling in the 1920s and now they have global warming, although now they don’t know if they have global warming. They call it all sorts of different things; now they’re using “extreme weather” I guess more than any other phrase. I am not – I know it hurts me with this room, and I know it’s probably a killer with this room – but I am not a believer. Perhaps there’s a minor effect, but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.

STROMBERG: Don’t good businessmen hedge against risks, not ignore them?

TRUMP: Well I just think we have much bigger risks. I mean I think we have militarily tremendous risks. I think we’re in tremendous peril. I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons. The biggest risk to the world, to me – I know President Obama thought it was climate change – to me the biggest risk is nuclear weapons. That’s – that is climate change. That is a disaster, and we don’t even know where the nuclear weapons are right now. We don’t know who has them. We don’t know who’s trying to get them. The biggest risk for this world and this country is nuclear weapons, the power of nuclear weapons.

RYAN: Thank you for joining us.
In this answer, nuclear weapons seems to be Trump's version of we're on to Cincinnati. Don't like the question or any of the possible answers? Answer a different question!

Meanwhile, January and February shattered global heat records and climate scientists are now warning the climate crisis may be much worse and happening much faster than we thought. Thank you for joining us!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"Winter" in Boston

Running on thin ice"Winter" 2015-2016 in Boston so far:
  • December 2015: 10.6 degrees above average (warmest on record)
  • January 2016: +3.5
  • February 2016:  +3.0
  • March (through 3/12): +4.8
It was the second-warmest meterological winter (December-February) on record in Boston. All of the three warmest have come since 2001.

Hey, it's hard to complain about a winter in Boston that was closer to Washington, DC temperatures. But what's a New England winter without pond hockey? And my wife got her first bug bite of the year yesterday, a reminder payback comes due in the spring and summer when pests run wild after warm winters.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Time for Trump to Embrace Climate Action

I've been watching the Republican primary debates, mostly because my wife enjoys hate-watching them in the Jon Stewart eating popcorn sense.

Here's what I don't get: Why is Donald Trump, who embraces radical thinking on Social Security and trade deals, embracing the same old climate denial? Both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are hardcore climate science deniers. Trump himself is softening his previous climate science denial but mostly ignoring the issue.

We all know Trump has only a binary policy world view, where the two options are:
  1. WE'RE GONNA DO IT BIGGEST AND BEST AND AMERICA'S GONNA WIN AGAIN (border wall, torturing harder, banning Muslims)
  2. THESE CAREER POLITICIANS ARE TOTALLY WRONG ABOUT HOW AMERICANS ARE GETTING SCREWED (opposing trade deals, opposing cuts to Social Security & Medicare)
Trump's current climate science sorta-denial doesn't fit either of these frames. He attacks climate action, but in a way that makes him totally vulnerable to getting called a loser:
All Hillary Clinton has to say is, "China led the world in solar AND wind capacity added in 2014. It's happening. They're beating us. And my opponent's answer is 'let them keep winning?' SOFT."

That's why Trump should embrace climate action: It fits both sides of his policy world view. I'm gonna do the best, toughest climate deals and we're gonna win 'em AND I'm gonna do the biggest, most amazing clean energy and finally stop screwing Americans like these career politicians of both parties (beholden to energy donors in a way Trump is not) have been doing.

But isn't climate science denial embedded in conservative culture? Republican denial is like support for cutting Social Security and Medicare - near-universal among party leadership but surprisingly divisive among the rank & file. In fact, 56% of Republicans support cutting climate-disrupting carbon pollution and 64% support tax rebates for clean energy.

Think about how a pro-clean energy Trump would play in Republican debates. Trump's current denial just makes him agree with Cruz and Rubio. No daylight between them. Bad!

But imagine a Trump who said: "Look, climate deals are gonna happen, whether I like it or not. They're gonna happen! IT'S MY TURN TO TALK NOW LYIN' TED. We have to get a piece of the action and I'm the guy to do it because I do the BEST DEALS. I'm gonna make China do all the work to stop climate change, and I'm gonna make them buy our solar panels, our windmills, and our electric cars. And the American factories are gonna be opening up so fast, Mexico is going to be BEGGING ME to let their people through my yuuuge border wall so they can come work here. And you know what I'm gonna tell 'em? NO YOU CANNOT THESE ARE AMERICAN JOBS BACK UP WHO SAID YOU COULD TOUCH THE WALL."

Nah, he'll just stick with the same old denial, if climate change is ever mentioned at all in this campaign. Both Republicans and reporters have completely ignored it so far and I'm happy for Republicans to stay deeply in denial until the Democratic nominee uses climate action as a winning political issue in the fall.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Least Accidental Car "Accident" Ever

The #CrashNotAccident movement asks us to stop referring to vehicle collisions as "accidents." A great example of why it's the wrong term to use comes from my local New Bedford Standard-Times, which used the term three times in describing a recent incident downtown.

Police say 38-year-old Heather Gonsalves:
  • Got drunk, then got in her car despite having a suspended license
  • Hit a parked car
  • Hit an 85-year-old woman
  • Left the crime scene
  • Came back
  • Almost ran over a firefighter
  • Refused to stop for a police officer
  • Went the wrong way down a one-way street
  • When police finally stopped her, she was still drinking in the car
Whoops! An accident! Like when I dropped an egg in my kitchen this morning!

Why is it so important to use the right language? From
Before the labor movement, factory owners would say "it was an accident" when American workers were injured in unsafe conditions.

Before the movement to combat drunk driving, intoxicated drivers would say "it was an accident" when they crashed their cars.

Planes don’t have accidents. They crash. Cranes don’t have accidents. They collapse. And as a society, we expect answers and solutions.

Traffic crashes are fixable problems, caused by dangerous streets and unsafe drivers. They are not accidents. Let’s stop using the word "accident" today.
Despite it all being totally accidental, for some reason police are charging Gonsalves with:
  • Leaving the scene of personal injury
  • Operating a car under the influence of alcohol
  • Negligent operation of a motor vehicle
  • Operating after suspension of license
  • Failing to stop for a police officer
  • Leaving the scene of property damage
  • Assault with a dangerous weapon
  • Possession of an open container of alcohol on a public way

Friday, February 26, 2016

Watch a Wind Turbine Go Up

Very cool video from the American Wind Energy Association:

Watch a wind turbine get pieced together in this drone footage. Video courtesy Atlantic AerialworX
Posted by American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) on Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Your Local Park Should Sell Beer and Wine on Nice Summer Nights

Summer Jazz in the Sculpture GardenWhy don't more communites encourage park use & raise revenue by letting people buy a drink at parks on select days?

There are plenty of successful examples like Washington's National Sculpture Garden's wildly popular Jazz Fridays. Now Philadelphia is looking to expand its experiment with letting food trucks sell drinks at parks:
The city wants to schedule 12 to 18 consecutive weeks from June through October.

The venues identified include Aviator Park/Logan Square; Paine’s Park (Franklin’s Paine Skatepark); Schuylkill Banks (between Walnut & Market); Water Works / Lloyd Hall, lawn area between the two along the Schuylkill; Lemon Hill Mansion (park also available if desired); Playing Angels (Kelly Drive); Sedgley Woods Disc Golf Course; Mount Pleasant; Clark Park; Belmont Plateau; Japanese House & Gardens (Shofuso); Horticulture Center; Smith Memorial Arch/Whispering Wall; FDR Park; Jefferson Square Park; Hawthorne Park; Penn Treaty Park; and Powers Park.

Applicants must have a minimum of three years of experience operating a successful food and beverage venue that is currently in business and must hold a current Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board liquor license in good standing and be capable of securing a PLCB Off-Premises Catering Permit.
There are some obvious, common-sense limitations you want to follow: You wouldn't want to do this in troubled neighborhoods and you don't want to serve drinks long enough or late enough to cause problems.

I've lived in many places and the park closest to me is rarely the one I've used the most. I usually go to destination parks - the ones with the best trails, best basketball courts, or best views. The closest park is usually a barren patch of grass that I walk briskly past to a more fun place.

But there's no reason you can't take a bland park and cheaply & easily encourage its use. Summer movie nights in the park are a staple across America, and some communities like my own Fairhaven offer things like yoga in the park.

Why not also encourage people to picnic by selling wine & beer? If you're feeling really Big Governmenty, you could even pay a local band a couple of hundred bucks to play some music.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

East Coast Snow Bomb, Meet Global Warming Gasoline

Warm water fuels storms, whether summer hurricanes or winter blizzards. As a major winter snowstorm looks set to race up the East Coast this weekend, take a look at how warm the Atlantic water is right now:

Will any of the media coverage mention climate change, or will we spend another winter wrapping ourselves in a blanket of denial?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Don't Spend the Extra Money on Grassfed Milk

Organic Valley Grassfed Milk recently hit the shelves of my local Market Basket, retailing for $1 more per half-gallon than standard organic milk. Since I'm a strange person who can't go grocery shopping without coming home with a research project, I wanted to see if it was actually worth the extra money.

If you're buying milk, it's worth it to buy organic, and Organic Valley is one of the better national brands. But is it worth paying that much more for grassfed milk?

The short answer is no:
  • Grassfed cows seem to be no less destructive to the environment than standard cows
  • The evidence grassfed milk is healthier is pretty limited. It's a bit of a Rorchach - if you're inclined to believe grassfed is healthier, you'll find evidence to back you up. If you're more skeptical, you'll wonder if it's worth paying 25 percent more just for a slightly better omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.
  • Organic milk is already better for you and the environment than standard milk, and whole milk is better for you than you think
  • If you really want to cut the environmental impact of your milk drinking, switch to soy
Grassfed milk seems to be more of a marketing gimmick than a health or environmental benefit. Oh, you won't spend an extra $1 per half-gallon on grassfed milk? I guess you don't really love your children, huh?

If you have $1 a week to help yourself & the planet, I'd rather you switch to clean electricity.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Michigan GOP Begs Big Government to Solve Flint Water Crisis

After Michigan officials tried to cut corners and ended up turning Flint's water supply toxic, Gov. Rick Snyder is now asking the Obama administration to step in to help.

Whether it's the deficit, the Iraq war, climate change or any of a list of hundreds of other problems big and small, it's a pattern we see time after time:
  1. Elect Republicans who brashly slash regulations and public investments
  2. Beg Democrats to use big government to save them from the resulting disaster
Considering how badly so many people in Flint have been poisoned, I don't know how Gov. Snyder doesn't go to prison for this.

Monday, January 11, 2016

2015's Most Popular Posts at The Green Miles

The top posts of 2015 by page views here at The Green Miles:
  1. Comcast's New "Power Save" X1 Boxes Still Waste Tons of Energy  
  2. Parking Lot Historic, Solar Farm Not  
  3. New England Coalition for Affordable Energy: The Latest Fracked Gas Pipeline Front Group  
I've now received over 330,000 page views since starting this blog back in 2006. Thanks for reading!

And since I haven't gotten to brag about him here yet, here's our family's 2015 addition: Harry the mini goldendoodle:

Friday, January 8, 2016

"Market Forces" Aren't Boosting SUVs - Congress is Subsidizing Them

driving in the land of giants

With gas prices plummeting below $2 a gallon, SUV and pickup sales are skyrocketing while sales of fuel-efficient and electric cars stall. The conventional wisdom among auto writers is that greenie efforts to cut gas consumption are failing in the face of the Free Market:
It’s the classic battle between market forces and regulators. [...]

Even if you’re a die-hard green car person—or at the very least, someone who sees the long-term value in weaning cars off fossil fuels, as I certainly can—you can see what a tough situation this is for automakers. Standards are forcing them to make cars that people may not necessarily buy, and that they may not necessarily profit from. But what’s the alternative, the government backs off on making cars more efficient? That’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
It is completely false to call this a battle between “market forces and regulators.” The free market hasn’t kept the gas tax artificially low - Congress has done that.

Congress hasn't raised the federal gas tax in more than 20 years. Since it's a set rate of 18.4 cents a gallon that's not indexted to inflation, the tax has effectively fallen 34 percent since 1993. It’s now totally insufficient even to cover the costs of building & maintaining highways, never mind the social costs of burning gas, from local air pollution to global warming.

That low gas tax acts as a subsidy for SUVs and a disincentive for buying electric cars, one it has nothing to do with the free market and everything to do with oil companies’ friends in Congress.

On top of that, the Obama administration has adopted a drill baby drill stance, with active US oil rigs more than doubling under his watch. Again - regulators, not "market forces," putting a thumb on the scale for flooding the market with cheap gas.