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February 11 2014

20:17

EPA Leader McCarthy Talks Good Jobs, Green Jobs at D.C. Conference

Global warming, job creation and the growing divide in incomes and wealth – three controversial, divisive issues that have come to take center stage in U.S politics and society since the dawn of the new millennium. Though his efforts have wholly pleased neither left nor right, Democrat or Republican, oil industry executive or environmentalist, President Obama and his administration have sought to address all three, and in an integrated manner, to a greater degree than any of his predecessors.

Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference highlights the benefits of the green economyHeard, read about and seen in various guises – sustainable development, the green economy or low-carbon society – the President has been assembling the elements of a new self-organizing paradigm for the U.S. economy and society in the 21st century, one that recognizes that while economic development and growth are vital to the health and well-being of society, so is a fair, equitable and inclusive distribution of income and wealth, and so are clean air, clean waters, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

Taking this green economy platform out to the public, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is one of a host of prominent Americans speaking today and tomorrow at the eighth Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference in Washington, D.C.

Environment, economy, ethics

In the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference’s first plenary session, a panel that included United Steelworkers International president Leo W. Gerard, BlueGreen Alliance Foundation President David Foster, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar discussed U.S. infrastructure needs.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was the featured speaker in an afternoon panel session that also included Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards. Ms. McCarthy opened with a strong statement of values and environmental ethics:

“Whether it’s the teachers union or the steelworkers, the moral of the story is the same, our work and our family values have little value without fair protections that keep us all safe and healthy. At the end of the day, what is economic productivity worth if our water is too dirty to drink and our air is too dirty to breathe?”

The terrible, and rising, costs of climate change inaction

Times they are a’changing, the EPA Administrator continued, highlighting the emergence of a new, clean energy economy and the growing costs and threats posed by climate change. “Climate impacts are not only hurting our people and our planet, they are a threat to our economy.”

By how much exactly?  Emergency and disaster relief cost the U.S. government and taxpayer $110 billion in 2012, the second highest price tag in American history, “all off budget,” Ms. McCarthy highlighted.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka earlier this month talked about the already high and terrible costs of climate change inaction, Ms. McCarthy noted. Repeating Trumka for emphasis, “The nation that goes all in on innovation today will own the global energy [of] tomorrow,” she stated.

“That’s what this president, President Obama, said in his State of the Union. President Trumka, President Obama know what they’re talking about. They agree on these issues. That’s why we need to work together to explore creative approaches to meet our energy demands.

Making lemonade

“That’s why President Obama reiterated his commitment to climate action in the State of the Union. And we need to take action without sacrificing the health protections, without sacrificing jobs in our communities, and without sacrificing a reliable, affordable energy system. And we need to do it with every sensitivity to the workers who have brought energy to American families for decades.

“It’s not just about jobs, it is about fairness, it is about communities, communities where those workers live, and we need to be sensitive to those issues as we struggle to find the right solutions moving forward.”

Strong words. Good words. Positive words, delivered with what sure looks like hones belief and genuine commitment. Tune in and listen to Ms. McCarthy’s entire speech

*Image credit: Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference

The post EPA Leader McCarthy Talks Good Jobs, Green Jobs at D.C. Conference appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 27 2013

01:35

Roundup of U.S. Environmental Achievements in 2013

In 2013, concerned people, organizations and companies in the U.S. and around the world helped move environmental causes forward. From new legislation to the protection of habitats and ecosystems, here is a sampling of U.S. environmental achievements in 2013.

The environmental achievements  of 2013 show that we can act as good stewards of the planetEnvironmental success stories

A new study showed that a solid majority of Americans accept the reality of global warming and are calling for action on climate change.

U.S. President Obama launched the most ambitious government wide climate action plan in the history of the nation. In the summer of 2013, Obama said, “As a president, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.” The President’s Climate Action Plan includes limiting pollution from power plants, new standards for energy efficiency on public lands, doubling renewable energy, and working on leading efforts to forge international action.

The EPA’s new standards to reduce emissions from U.S. power plants are of great importance as these plants produce approximately 40 percent of American greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The U.S. joined the U.K. and the World Bank in a decision to limit financing to coal power plants around the world. The U.S. Treasury Department indicated that except for some rare circumstances, it will not finance any new coal projects.

A study published this summer suggested that global warming may have slowed somewhat over the past 15 years. The observed slow down may be at least partly attributable to a global phase out of potent greenhouse-trapping gases called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The eradication of CFCs is attributable to the Montreal Protocol. This finding can be interpreted as evidence that international agreements can be effective at reducing climate change causing GHGs.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another GHG have largely replaced CFCs and these are also being phased out. President Obama and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, forged a new historic agreement that outlines critical steps both nations will take to end the use of HFCs. Other world leaders are following suit.

The WWF highlighted a dozen environmental success stories in 2013. Here is a their summary of U.S. achievements:

  • People are getting involved with events designed to raise awareness and increase actions that will help reduce our environmental impacts. One such event was Earth Hour. On March 23, 2013, Americans joined hundreds of millions of people around the world who switched off their lights for one hour to show their commitment to the planet. American cities are among the 60 cities worldwide that are participating in the 2013 Earth Hour City Challenge. This challenge involves quantifiable actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand renewable energy, and/or increase energy efficiency.
  • The U.S. is also taking action in support of native people’s land and animal stewardship. One such initiative is the first tribal national park for Oglala Sioux in South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This park will more than double the number of Bison stewarded by the tribe.
  • Responsible forest management and trade practices were adopted by International Paper. This brings the number of companies and communities involved in the WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network to 200 worldwide.
  • In Alaska, Royal Dutch Shell shelved a plan to drill for oil and gas in mammal-rich Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2013.
  • In July, U.S.-based multinational Coca-Cola renewed an agreement with the WWF through 2020 that will help to conserve the world’s freshwater resources and measurably improve Coca-Cola’s environmental performance across the company’s value chain. This includes agriculture, climate, packaging and water efficiency impacts.
  • President Obama is working to address wildlife crime including poaching and trafficking around the world and in Africa in particular.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Denver crushed six tons of illegal elephant ivory tusks, trinkets and souvenirs. This event highlighted U.S. intolerance to ivory trafficking and wildlife crime.

Here is a summary of the Sierra Club’s list of 10 clean energy success stories in 2013.

  • The American Electric Power announced it would add enough wind energy to power 200,000 homes in Oklahoma while providing substantial savings to customers.
  • Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado signed into law new legislation that will double the state’s renewable energy standard. Under the new law, 20 percent of the state’s energy will from clean sources.
  • In Minnesota, comprehensive legislation passed the state legislature that will boost the state’s solar electricity from 13 megawatts (MW) to 450 MW by 2020. This represents an increase of more than 1,200 percent.
  • Facebook announced that its Altoona, Iowa data center will be fully powered by wind by early 2015 due to a 138 megawatt wind farm in Wellsburg.
  • Nebraska’s huge wind potential is being tapped after Governor Dave Heineman signed progressive wind energy legislation.
  • The Nevada state legislature passed legislation to retire the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant and bring an end to the importing of coal power from Arizona. The state will also expand local clean energy development.
  • California’s growing solar industry reached a major milestone with more than 150,000 homes and businesses with rooftop solar installations.
  • Environmental groups and Georgia’s Tea Party teamed up to create the Green Tea Coalition. The group pushed for the Georgia Public Service Commission to approve Georgia Power’s proposal to retire 20 percent of its coal plants and add 525 MW of solar power to Georgia by 2016.
  • The Long Island Power Authority is investing in 100 MW of new solar power on the island, and they have plans to add an additional 280 MW of renewable energy. This is the single largest investment in renewable energy in New York history. New York City also announced a 10 MW project at Staten Island’s Freshkills Park, once known as the world’s largest landfill.
  • Maryland is moving forward with clean energy legislation known as the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 and Prince George’s County Council voted to require renewable energy in all new and renovated governmental facilities.

The Wilderness Society is at the forefront of efforts to protect forests, parks, refuges and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Here is thier summary of their environmental success stories for 2013.

  • President Obama designated 5 new national monuments in March.
  • California’s Pinacles National Park, was upgraded from national monument status.
  • Washington state legislature passed a bill that protects 50,000 acres of land in the Teanaway River Valley, east of Seattle.
  • Sensitive areas in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska gained protection from oil and gas drilling when the Department of the Interior issued a final management plan that will protect 11 million acres of “Special Areas.” The BLM also announced a strategic plan to clean up more than 130 abandoned oil and gas well sites.
  • Utah’s red rock lands were protected by a federal judge who struck down a management plan that prioritized off-roading over Utah’s wildlands.
  • Yosemite National Park was removed from a logging bill after a public outcry.
  • A ban on new uranium mining was upheld by the court’s ruling on the Greater Grand Canyon
  • In Montana a bill introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is moving forward. The bill will add 67,000 acres to protected areas in that state’s eastern fringe of the existing Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas.
  • The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is safe for another year despite repeated efforts by Governor  Parnell (R-AK) to launch seismic testing to search for oil and gas in the refuge. All three of Parnell’s attempts were rejected by the Interior Department.

Taken together, these victories give us reason to hope that we are capable of acting more responsibly to defend the planet for future generations.
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Chauncey Davis, courtesy flickr

The post Roundup of U.S. Environmental Achievements in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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June 27 2013

19:11

Reaction to President Obama’s Historic Georgetown University Speech

A group inspired by Obama's climate speechDespite what some detractors may say, the speech delivered by President Obama at Georgetown University will reverberate across America and around the world.  June 25th, 2013 will be remembered as the day America committed itself to act domestically and lead globally on climate change.

It is not overstating the case to say the President’s speech signals an end to the debate on climate change and the beginning of a consorted effort to reign in greenhouse gas emissions.

The President’s ambitious speech has far reaching implications that involve both mitigation and adaptation. “As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act,” Obama said.

Going forward, climate change impacts will be factored into every governmental decision including procurement, land and water management, infrastructure spending, and resource development.

The President’s national climate strategy will:

  • Reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants, the transportation sector, and people’s homes
  • Increase renewable energy production on federal lands
  • Enhance efficiency standards
  • Prepare communities to deal with climate change

For a more detailed review of the plan, click here. For the full transcript of the President’s speech, click here.

Republicans

Republican resistance to the President’s initiatives are as dependable as a Swiss watch.  Even before Obama unveiled his plan on Tuesday afternoon, Republicans in Congress were already on the attack. They declared the plan to be a job killer that would undermine the recovery.

Republicans continue to flog the same ideas knowing that they will gain some traction with the American public. “It’s tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today’s economy,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor of the Senate.

In a more blatant effort to inflame the public, Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said imposing carbon rules on power plants amounts to a national energy tax.

The President responded to his critics preemptively when he remarked, “that’s what they said every time and every time, they’ve been wrong.” Obama stated that research, technology and innovation are American strengths that will help lead the world in the war on climate change.

Republicans are almost unanimously impervious to reality. They refuse to comprehend that the planet is warming, they seem blind to melting arctic ice and devastating droughts. They will not even acknowledge that extreme weather already causes hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage.

Republicans in the Congress are hell-bent on denying the truth and they seem to exist with their heads perpetually in the sand. While Republicans are disconnected from the facts on climate change, the President has carefully crafted a reality-based perspective. In response to Republican outrage over Obama’s use of his executive powers to circumvent the legislature, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “we’ve seen Congress attempt to deal with this issue, and fail.”

Obama is simply making good on the warning he issued in his State of the Union address. As he said last February, “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

Republicans deride the employment potential from the green economy.  They ignore the current staggering cost of climate change including extreme weather, and they seem oblivious to the fact that the situation is destined to get far worse if we continue with business as usual. Most importantly, they refuse to appreciate that the devastating impacts of runaway climate change will dwarf any costs associated with transitioning to a greener  economy and more sustainable employment. The longer we wait the more it will cost and the less likely we will be to stave off the worst impacts.

In a comment that directly addressed Republican climate deniers, the President mockingly said “we do not have time for the meeting of the flat earth society.” He went on to say he has no patience for those who deny that humans are contributing to the warming of the planet.

As the President said, history will judge the present generation by our success or failure in meeting and surmounting this existential challenge. No matter how many Republicans line up against the national climate strategy, we must do what we can to combat climate change. As explained in a White House statement, “we have a moral obligation to act on behalf of future generations.”

Environmentalists

Many environmentalists are heaping praise on the President and lauding his leadership. Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defence Council said, “the President nailed it,” and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “President Obama is finally putting action behind his words.”

Support for the President’s national climate strategy is far from unanimous even among environmentalists.  Those who want to see more from the President need to view his actions from a historical perspective. Obama’s national climate strategy is the most consorted effort to combat climate change in the history of the United States. Even in his first term Obama made more environmental progress than any President in American history, including great strides in renewable energy and fuel efficiency.

Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity is among those who were not satisfied with the President’s speech. He described it as too little, too late.

“What he’s proposing isn’t big enough, doesn’t move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis,” Snape said.

While Snape may even be right, he is still wrong. He and others like him do not understand the politics at play nor do they countenance the limitations of the President’s executive powers. Further, the President has to protect the interests of his party ahead of the 2014 midterms.

Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defence Council is among those who disagree with Snape.

“The country is facing a threat; the President is facing facts,” said Lashof. “Reducing that pollution is the most important step we can take as a nation to stand up to climate change.”

It is understandable that many people are frustrated that the President did not go further. In particular, his apparent support for domestic fossil fuels and fracking in particular was undeniably disappointing.  However, those who wish the President would have done more need to understand that the President is not omnipotent, nor does he operate in a vacuum.

He can expect legal challenges from interests in the old energy economy and by sidestepping Congress he can also expect that lawmakers will introduce legislation to stymie his national climate strategy.  House Republicans have shown themselves to be especially tenacious in their opposition to the President and they will do everything in their power to undermine him and his plan.

Unlike many of Obama’s detractors, Al Gore is a man who understands politics and he applauded the President’s speech. Gore referred to the Georgetown address as “historic” calling it, “the best Presidential address on climate change ever.”

“This action – if followed by skillful and thorough execution of the plan – has the potential to fundamentally alter the course of our nation’s energy infrastructure development and help to promote a sustainable future. On the international front, this action will bolster U.S. credibility and moral authority in negotiations with other countries,” Gore said.

While Gore conceded that more needs to be done, he also indicated that Obama can succeed if he uses the bully pulpit of the Presidency to good effect.

Gore concluded by saying, “I urge the nation to follow President Obama’s lead…to keep fighting. We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

Obama’s speech vindicates those who have supported the President and who held out hope that he would make a serious attempt to combat climate change.  His detractors, particularly those who call themselves environmentalists, should be ashamed of their lack of support for these ambitious actions. Within the purview of his power, and the realities of the current political landscape, the President is moving boldly forward.

June 25, 2013 is an important day for us and for our planet and it will be remembered as the point in history when America enjoined the struggle against climate change and assumed a leadership role.

Stay tuned for the companion piece to this article on the politics of fracking to be published in Global Warming is Real next Thursday.
——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: DailyKos, Energy Action

 

The post Reaction to President Obama’s Historic Georgetown University Speech appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 27 2012

19:41

Fuel Economy Standards To Save U.S. Consumers Billions, Create Jobs, Yet Republicans Say Too Expensive

A proposed rule by the Obama Administration to raise fuel economy standards for cars and “light-trucks” is facing mounting attacks by Republican lawmakers. The proposed rule would require all newly manufactured automobiles that fall under the car or light truck category to achieve a minimum gas mileage of 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025.

The crusade against the new CAFE standards is being led by Republican Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Issa claims that the new standards amount to “coercion” of the auto industry. Rep. Issa has received more than $188,000 from the oil industry during his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Issa’s statements show how out of touch he truly is with both economics and business, as the new standards were the result of cooperation between the Obama Administration and the auto industry itself.

The new fuel economy standards have been approved by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo, who together control 90% of the United States’ auto sales market.

U.S. News and World Report details the contention over the standards, as well as the benefits for consumers:
  

Fuel economy standards have become a surprising example of tougher government rules that benefit practically everybody. In 2007, the Bush administration raised the gas mileage requirements automakers had to meet. Then in 2009, the Obama administration raised them further. Those rules, which are about to be finalized in detail, will require each automaker's fleet to average a lofty 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025—roughly double the mileage requirement of just five years ago.

The aggressive new standards are controversial, especially among Republicans opposed to activist government. GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, for one, characterizes the new rules as just another effort to "insert the federal government into the life of the private sector." He has suggested that if elected, he'll roll back or even seek to eliminate federal mileage standards.

Yet so far, the new mileage rules have generated tangible benefits for consumers, with few of the downsides opponents have predicted. "Without a doubt, the new rules have been a win-win for everybody," says Jesse Toprak, of the car-research site TrueCar.com. "It's a win for consumers, a win for manufacturers, and a win for the environment."

Boosting fuel economy by four or five miles per gallon might not sound earth-shattering—until you bank the savings. A 5 mpg improvement would save about $525 per year for a motorist who drives 15,000 miles annually, if gas were at $3.50 per gallon. With gas at $4 per gallon, the savings would amount to $600 per year.
 

But the benefits of the new standards extend far beyond personal bank accounts. Reports show that the new fuel standards would create an estimated 700,000 new American jobs.

Republicans like Darrell Issa claim that the $192 billion price tag that the standards impose on industry is too lofty to incur right now, but that view is incredibly short-sighted and dishonest.

The new standards will save a projected $1.7 trillion for U.S. consumers by the time of full implementation, meaning that the investment will pay off tenfold. Additionally, by the year 2025, reports show that consumers will be saving an average of $8,000 a year per vehicle.

Issa is not alone in his crusade against the new standards. Joining him in the fight is Republican Representative Mike Kelly from Pennsylvania, who happens to have amassed his $11.9 million personal fortune from the car dealerships that he owns in Pennsylvania. Kelly made the following statement about the new standards: “The new CAFE standards will limit choice, compromise safety, and increase costs to millions of Americans.”

Unfortunately for Kelly, there are no numbers or statistics to back up any of these claims, particularly his statement about compromising the safety of consumers. Safety and fuel economy aren’t two things that are directly related, so it would be interesting to find out where he pulled that from.

Again, all of the major automobile makers have signed onto the new standards, and agree they are necessary to save consumers money, to help their businesses survive in a competitive economy, and to help reduce air pollution emissions.

The only people who stand against the new standards are the politicians beholden to the dirty energy industry.

July 27 2012

21:21

Latest Pro-Keystone XL Website Backed by GOP Special Interest Group

This morning, the latest in pro-tar sands spin went live. KeystoneXLNow.com takes aim at President Obama for failing to approve the Keystone XL project (even though the White House just announced approval of the southern leg today), calling it "an affront to millions of Americans out of work and an outrage to millions more who are paying higher energy costs as a result of this administration's policies."

KeystoneXLNow.com invites users to send a message directly to the State Department to counterbalance "the crazy lefties [who] are already pouring in comments to give Obama an excuse to kill the pipeline." The site calls on users to "push back by filling the official State Department docket with comments demanding they stop stalling and approve the Keystone XL pipeline now!"

Not only is KeystoneXLnow.com rife with faulty facts, but its backers and secret funders make an oil trail back to the GOP and oil-backed right wing think tanks. 

KeystoneXLnow.com argues the U.S. State Department should expedite the review process of the Keystone XL because it could take years, and, worst case scenario, Canada will simply give up and build the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline to ship tar sands crude to Asia.

Failing to approve this tar sands pipeline project now will threaten "about 20,000 immediate jobs, a secure supply of North American oil, billions in private investment, and the global efficiency benefits of connecting a major crude source to the world’s most efficient refining center," the site claims.

Canadian oil giant TransCanada quickly tweeted about the campaign, which claims to have sent 13,000 emails and letters so far. 

A closer look at the website registration for KeystoneXLnow.com reveals the site was registered this morning to Phil Kerpen of the free market group American Commitment.


According to its website, American Commitment is "dedicated to restoring and protecting America’s core commitment to free markets, economic growth, Constitutionally-limited government, property rights, and individual freedom".

The Washington Post calls American Commitment "the latest GOP player", and notes the new group has already raised $7 million to attack Democrats, mostly at the state level. Apparently they aren't only focused on state-level battles. 

In addition to his role as the president of American Commitment, Phil Kerpen is a columnist on Fox News Opinion, chairman of the Internet Freedom Coalition, and author of the book Democracy Denied, part of the Heartland Institute's Author Series.

Kerpen previously worked for the Club for Growth, a Club offshoot called the Free Enterprise Fund and the libertarian Cato Institute.

Kerpen also spent the last five years working at Americans for Prosperity, co-founded by David Koch. Kerpen will not confirm whether the Kochtopus is bankrolling his latest front group.

As for the job creation claims that KeystoneXLnow.com touts, even TransCanada acknowledges that the claim that the project will create 20,000 immediate jobs is false.

TransCanada itself claims the project will create 13,000 direct construction jobs, a number from a report TransCanada commissioned from the Perryman Group. The Perryman Group, however, has refused to release important data behind its estimate, and there are deep flaws in their research methodology. In reality, TransCanada is counting "job years" in its job-creation estimates. In other words, TransCanada believes the project will produce 6,500 jobs that last for two years only.

Six thousand five hundred jobs is a far cry from the 20,000 KeystoneXLnow.com claims are at stake, but according to an independent assessment by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, even the 6,500-job estimate is exaggerated. According to their analysis, the project would produce between 2,500 and 4,650 construction jobs — and could even end up costing the country jobs.

KeystoneXLNow.com also claims that KXL will provide "a secure supply of North American oil", and blames the Obama Administration's policies can for high energy prices. But according to TransCanada, KXL will increase the price of heavy crude oil in the Midwest by almost $2 to $4 billion annually, and those prices could further escalate over several years. This is because tar sands crude that now supplies Midwest refineries will be diverted so it can be sold at higher prices to the Gulf Coast and other export markets.

Consumers in the Midwest could pay 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline and diesel — adding $5 billion to annual US fuel costs.

In case there was a shadow of a doubt, KeystoneXLnow.com is little more than a secretly funded special interest group backing GOP candidates, using misinformation that is delaying our transition to a clean energy future. 

April 30 2012

17:10

Enviro News Wrap: Climate Change and the Election; Koch Bros. Disinformation Campaign; the Scramble for the Arctic, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Obama is setting the stage for the 2012 Election and climate change will be front and center. With the majority of Americans supporting a national policy on greenhouse gas emissions, it’s a seemingly sound strategy. My prediction is that Romney will use the Big Tobacco strategy of creating a cloud of confusion and doubt with the goal of hiding the Truth.
  • Even during difficult times Obama is still supporting R&D (i.e. science) and choosing to invest in our future.
  • Climate change is not a phenomenon of the future, the Arctic is in the process of melting away right now and the Northern Hemisphere is increasing its focus on what will be revealed when the ice is gone. Mostly everyone is hoping for a jackpot of fossil fuels to fight over, literally fight over, with guns and planes and submarines. I prefer a world where we use the strength of the international market to build  a sustainable energy infrastructure. In global politics, generally speaking, where there is cooperation there is peace, where there is zero-sum competition there is conflict and sometimes war.
  • Windows that generate Solar electricity are the Future!
  • The group of Americans that are skeptical of scientists fluctuate between believing and not believing in climate change based on how extreme the weather was last year. What more needs to be said about climate change denial? It is a joke.
  • The nations with the largest economies are blocking the United Nation’s process to create a global agreement on how to deal with climate change. The countries that want to still make a commitment to a low carbon future are creating their own agreements. Peru has now joined this group and is committed to developing their economy sustainably.
  • Japan is still dealing with the damaged nuclear reactors from the Fukushima disaster and trying to figure out how to power their country. With an understandably low confidence in nuclear energy, support for the rapid adaptation to renewable energy is growing in the Japanese government.
  • The state of Virginia is also falling prey to the renewable energy bug where a new study claims that it is feasible to use renewable energy to create half of all future growth in energy generation.
  • Natural gas prices are slowly increasing due to speculation and oil is hovering at $104ish. Oil prices are being kept at $104ish because Saudi Arabia has increased exports to stabilize the price, which needs stabilizing because of conflict in Sudan, Syria, Iran, Nigeria and any other politically difficult part of the world that exports oil.
  • The Koch brothers never stop, their new task is to spend $6million on disinformation ads in swing states attacking Obama’s record on energy. The Koch brothers will need many more campaigns like this in order to get Romney elected because the majority of Americans believe in climate change and the need for a sustainable energy economy and they want something done about it on the federal level.
  • The BP Gulf Oil Spill legal drama is playing out, a $7.8bill penalty will likely be handed out just for one aspect of damages done. Much more money will be sucked out of BP in many other cases that will probably last decades.

 

 

 

 

 

April 09 2012

18:52

Enviro News Wrap: Koch Bros., Climate Change, and the Cost of Oil


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Momentum is building in Washington D.C. to end oil subsidies. Write your federal representative and tell them to stop subsidizing companies that don’t need the help.
  • The Koch brothers are among the largest contributors to the Anti-Obama campaign.
    These two have endless pockets to influence politics with the goal of making America as friendly as possible for big business and as unfriendly as possible for consumers. The problem with this is that in the long run our consumer economy will dwindle down (as it is currently doing) to what China’s is like today and American businesses will no longer be able to survive off of focusing on American consumers.
    If Americans can not consume then products will be designed, made, and sold elsewhere with all the profits circulating through other countries. American consumers need support too, the consumer as an input into the economy is quite delicate despite how rough we treat them. The environmental connection is that an amply funded consumer has the funds to spend wisely, whereas poor consumers just need to survive and often are forced to buy products that contribute to their poverty (like heating your home with coal fired power plants for cheap, but your kids get asthma and you spend all your money on healthcare).
  • So, what does it cost to prevent climate change? Apparently it doesn’t cost much money. The real cost is the effort to change the power structure behind dirty energy. See the Koch brothers article above for an example of the true barriers to change.
  • Sapphire Energy is going big with algae pools that they hope can produce barrels of oil for $85. With the cost of oil expected to stay above $100 it is profitable to do crazy things like try to develop an industry on oil-pooping-algae. Algae would lessen the impact of extracting the fuel, but do we still want to burn fossil fuels?
  • The economics of the cost of oil is crazy. One of the big influences is that some oil-producing states subsidize the price of oil for domestic consumers almost 100%, causing inefficiency and overuse which raises the global price. Once again, why should we be dependent on an energy source that has an unstable and ever-increasing price?
  • Romney is attacking Obama over the high cost of oil. It is not working too well because, as usual, you can only take Romney seriously if you ignore everything he has said in the past.
    As of 2010 Romney was for persistently high oil prices as a way to stabilize the price for oil companies (they like predictability) and to pave the way for a renewable energy industry. Well, now that Romney needs to beat Obama he is throwing out good policy and honest debate and will slander Obama any way he can.
  • One of Romney’s main lines of attack is that we need more domestic production, well Obama has increased domestic production and decreased exportation. I guess for Republicans any idea is only a good idea if a Republican can take credit. It is the same way with the Individual Mandate for National Health Care, Republicans said that the Individual Mandate was a good economic fix to the problem (During and after the Clinton Presidency), but when Obama did it then the Individual Mandate turned into an attack on Liberty.
  • The outspoken NASA scientist, Jim Hansen, spoke recently about climate change as a great moral issue because if we continue as we are with carbon emission we will be handing our children a climate that they cannot control and cannot thrive in.
  • Learn more about the changes that global warming will bring to our ecosystems.

 

 

 

 

 

March 31 2012

22:29

As The Maldives Slowly Erode Away: A Review Of "The Island President" Documentary

Mohamed "Anni" Nasheed caught widespread attention when he held a cabinet meeting underneath the sea in the months leading up to the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. He continued to captivate negotiators, governments, and climate advocates with his frank and outspoken demeanor, sometimes for better or for worse. As the President of the Maldives, one of the lowest lying nations in the world, Nasheed's major objective has been to stop his country from sinking into the rising seas.

A new documentary, The Island President, gives audiences a rare look into the behind-the-scenes political struggles President Nasheed faced in the year leading up to the climate summit. The filmmakers capture Nasheed's monumental task of wrestling major world leaders to agree to reduce their emissions for the sake of saving vulnerable nations from the onslaught of climate change.

Those who attended the summit will quickly remember the frustrating tension felt as the two-weeks rolled further and further into disappointment, eventually leading to Obama's strong-arming on the last day of the conference. However, the film paints the outcome of Copenhagen in a positive light, focusing on the fact that countries came together to talk about the issue of climate change at all, instead of the massive failure that many remember it as.

"No, it was not the dramatic success that some had hoped it would be," recalled director Jon Shenk, in an interview, "but there was something unprecedented that had happened, which was that this agreement got signed by all the countries stating that there is problem and we need to do something about it. From Nasheed's point of view, it's a start."

read more

March 23 2012

20:55

Look to Canada for Proof that Neither Presidents Nor Pro-Drilling Policies Control Gas Prices

Another Spring, another round of totally uninformed and illogical arguments about gas prices.

You could be forgiven if you’re feeling some deja vu. As conservatives and Congressional Republicans scramble to blame the president for rising gas prices, you might have the feeling that we’ve been here before.

Oh, that’s right. It was just last year (almost exactly a year ago, actually) that prices were pushing towards $4 per gallon, and everyone from Sarah Palin (in a ludicrously misguided and ill-informed Facebook rant) to Speaker Boehner were misplacing blame for pump prices.

Anyone who takes the time to actually look into it can pretty easily learn that the president alone can’t do much about rising gas prices, through expanded drilling or approving pipelines or whatever else.

The AP just ran a definitive piece that looked at 36 years of data, and found “no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.”

And here are twenty experts from across the political spectrum (including the staunchly conservative American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute) stating clearly that domestic drilling has no real effect on gas prices.

A full 92% of economists surveyed replied that gas prices are set by external market forces, and not domestic policies. Even Fox News reported in 2008 that “no President has the power to increase or to lower gas prices.”

Still, the disinformation flies, and so I’ll throw another fact-based argument in the mix. You want more proof that we can’t drill or pipeline our way to lower gas prices? Look north, to Canada.

read more

March 15 2012

22:06

U.S. Chamber Front Group Holds “Whine And Blame” Facebook Party – Nobody Shows Up

American Free Enterprise, a front group of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, held a complaint session on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon to let Americans vent about “who is to blame” for rising gas prices. Unfortunately for the group, few people attended their virtual party.

The pity party was an attempt to get Americans riled up at President Obama for allegedly being an enemy of the oil industry – a claim that conservatives have falsely been throwing around since he took office. But the lack of enthusiasm was evident by the low participation.

Here is the comment thread from the “discussion," which I captured yesterday. Names and pictures have been covered:

read more

February 27 2012

23:48

Enviro News Wrap: Trumps Bullies Scottish Government; GOP’s Delusions on Energy Policy; China Pushes for Making More Solar Panels, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

January 25 2012

18:34

President Obama Reaffirms his Commitment to Clean Energy in his State of the Union Address


Obama pushes an agenda of clean energy at his State of the Union AddressPresident Obama showed courageous leadership by supporting clean energy in his state of the union address.  Prior to the President’s state of the union address, a Think Progress Green article encouraged the President to stir ”this country to action on the existential threat of climate change.”  Mr. Obama may have only mentioned climate change once, but his unqualified support for clean energy was consistent with the kind of mobilization required to protect “our homeland from a poisoned climate.”

The President’s desire to expand exploitation of offshore oil reserves and natural gas from shale may be disappointing but it is entirely understandable in the current political climate.

While it is easy to blame Obama for not being strong enough on efforts to combat climate change, the blame actually lies with Republicans. The fossil fuel powered Republican denial machine has done a great job of misinforming the American electorate, making it impossible to address the topic, let alone fight for legislation. The President acknowledged the impossibility of passing climate legislation when he said,

“The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.”

Riley E. Dunlap, a sociology professor at Oklahoma State, and Aaron M. McCright of Michigan State have written a chapter for the new Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society, called, “Organized Climate Change Denial.”  In their chapter of the book, they say:

“It is reasonable to conclude that climate change denial campaigns in the U.S. have played a crucial role in blocking domestic legislation and contributing to the U.S. becoming an impediment to international policy-making…We have argued that because of the perceived threat posed by climate change to their interests, actors in the denial machine have strived to undermine scientific evidence documenting its reality and seriousness.  Over the past two decades they have engaged in an escalating assault on climate science and scientists, and in recent years on core scientific practices, institutions and knowledge.  Their success in these efforts not only threatens our capacity to understand and monitor human-induced ecological disruptions from the local to global levels (Hanson 2010), but it also weakens an essential component of societal reflexivity when the need for the latter is greater than ever.”

The scientific basis for climate change has been around for decades and yet as economist-ethicist Clive Hamilton explains, “The desire to disbelieve deepens as the scale of the threat grows.”

It would appear climate denial is a defining feature of the GOP. This is a point made convincingly in an Oct 10, 2010 Climate Progress article by Joe Romm.  “Indeed, it is difficult to identify another major political party in any democracy as thoroughly dismissive of climate science as is the GOP here.”

Even denialists, like Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post‘s Editorial Page Editor, have published op-ed pieces accusing the GOP of being “lost in never-never land,” on climate change.

In light of Republican denialist propaganda, President Obama’s speech is truly remarkable. He repeatedly stated his support for clean energy technology. One of his most powerful arguments concerned the effectiveness of public-private collaborations.

“In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it”.

He also unapologetically addressed his critics when he talked about government support for clean technologies and America’s international competitiveness. It was as though he was referring directly to the failed solar company Solyndra, when the President said,

“Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.”

He went on to tackle the complex issue of subsidies, asking Congress to remove oil subsidies and replace them with subsidies for clean energy.

“We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs. We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives.”

Dealing squarely with Republican obstructionism the President said,

“So far, you haven’t acted. Well tonight, I will. I’m directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history – with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.”

The President also dealt with the issue of energy efficiency, talking specifically about an energy grid that “wastes too much energy,” and encouraging greener building for businesses.

“Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here’s another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs.”

The President concluded by indicating that he is committed to reducing mercury pollution and making sure that “our food is safe and water is clean.” He also stated that he wants to hold the oil companies accountable.

“I will not back down from making sure an oil company can contain the kind of oil spill we saw in the Gulf two years ago.”

What makes the 2012 speech so noteworthy is the fact that the President mentioned “clean energy” eight times.  Over the course of the last few years the tone of the state of the union address has changed dramatically. In 2009, the President spoke forcefully about the need to address climate change, then he softened his approach in 2010 and in 2011, he fell silent on the issue.

Despite opposition from the GOP, President Obama appears to be determined to fight for clean energy in the forthcoming federal election.

——————–

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

January 19 2012

22:42

Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Blocked – For Now


The Obama administration blocks the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline - for nowResponding to a mandate laid down by conservatives in Congress last month for a decision within 60 days, the Obama administration denied the permit for  construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The proposed route for the 1700-mile pipeline would stretch from Canada to Texas, crossing through sensitive areas including Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sandhills region and the vast Ogallala Aquifer that supplies fresh water to millions of Americans.

The Obama administration had originally said it would postpone a decision on the project to 2013, after the presidential election later this year, but Republicans in Congress attempted to force Obama’s hand by moving the deadline to within 60 days, and that the president responded well ahead of that deadline.

While environmentalists applaud the decision to block the pipeline, which would transport Canadian tar sands oil, the production of which produces more carbon emissions and environmental destruction than “conventional” oil, many are concerned that the Obama administration will eventually approve the project in some form.

“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline,” Obama said in a statement, “but pertains more to the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people.”

Republicans in Congress vow that the fight for the tar sands pipeline is “far from over” and Keystone’s TransCanada has said it will immediately apply for a new permit to build the pipeline.

Job claims inflated

The official State Department report to Congress released yesterday also characterized claims that the pipeline would create 100,000 jobs as “inflated,” saying instead that the project would have no “significant impact on long-term employment in the United States.”

The report says that instead that the project would only create between 5,000 to 6,000 temporary jobs lasting only two years.

Undermining U.S. energy security

A report released by the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) says that heated debate over the project has obscured the true intent of the pipeline: to export Canadian oil to the world market via the U.S. Gulf Coast.

“Canada isn’t even producing enough oil to fill its existing pipelines,” says the NRDC, “which are running half-empty.”

The real reason for the big push to build the pipeline across America’s heartland is not to enhance U.S. energy security, but to grow oil company profits by exporting oil to international markets through Gulf Coast refineries in tax-free Foreign Trade Zones.

Obama’s commitment 

One thing conservatives in Congress and environmentalists do agree on is that the Keystone pipeline story is far from over. Today’s rejection of TransCanada’s permit by the State Department is just as much a rejection of acting on the GOP’s attempt to mandate a timeline than of the idea itself.

“I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my Administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil,” Obama said in his statement.

So while today those that voiced their concerns and made clear their opposition can celebrate a “victory”, bringing to heel what many considered a “done deal,” the fight for America’s sustainable energy future is far from over. The Keystone XL pipeline is but one small battle, and only temporarily won.

Image credit: National Geographic

December 10 2011

00:49

House Republicans Working On Huge Polluter Giveaways

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is playing hardball with President Obama’s proposal to extend a payroll tax cut extension, and now they’ve found a way to use the extension as a means to grant their polluter friends everything on their holiday wish list.

According to Reuters, Republicans in the House added the approval of the recently-killed (albeit temporarily) Keystone XL Pipeline to the payroll tax cut extension bill, granting the project immediate approval if the rider stays connected to the bill. From Reuters, via Raw Story:

House of Representatives will include approval of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline in a payroll tax cut bill, House Speaker John Boehner said on Thursday, raising the political stakes on the issue.

The move by House Republicans marked a challenge to President Barack Obama, who has warned he would veto any bill that linked quick approval of TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline to extending a tax cut for American workers that is due to expire on December 31.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) quickly denounced the House GOP effort, making clear that it will not survive the Senate

The ill-fated measure was sponsored by Republican Lee Terry of Nebraska, who has taken in more than $273,000 from electric utilities and $225,000 from the oil and gas industries over the course of his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Terry claims that he did this in order to help create the estimated “20,000 new jobs” that the pipeline would bring to America.

If Terry was so concerned about creating jobs, then he would pressure his fellow Republican House members to back off their attempts to strip the EPA of their ability to regulate air pollution, which would create more than 1.5 million U.S. jobs.

And speaking of enforcing air pollution standards, the Republicans decided to go all out and add that restriction to their new bill, as well. They also included a rider that would prevent the EPA from being able to enforce air pollution standards on boiler emissions. The Republican-controlled House has worked on that breath-defying measure for quite a while.

The likelihood of these provisions clearing the Democrat-controlled Senate are slim to none, but it could still happen - anything is possible in the U.S. Congress in these whacky times. And with the President emphasizing the dire need to pass the tax cut extension, these common sense environmental and public health protections might become a casualty in the ongoing party war taking place in America.

On a related note, don't miss Bill McKibben's piece over at Politico: "The (bogus) number that won't die," all about the sham of the Keystone XL proponents' "20,000 jobs" statistic. Hint: It's a total fabrication.

For some Friday fun, watch Bill McKibben on the Colbert Report last month, when Stephen Colbert mocks the insane jobs figures tossed around by polluter pundits.

October 20 2011

16:14

EarthTalk: Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the U.S. – Can Obama Get Anything Done?


Can the U.S. federal government ever meet its "aspirational" emissions targets?EarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What’s the latest in regard to putting limits on greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.? Is there any hope that Obama can get something done?            – Bradley Johnson, Helena, MT

Our best hope to date was 2009’s American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), a bill that called for the implementation of a “cap-and-trade” system to limit carbon dioxide emissions by capping overall emissions and allowing polluters to buy or sell greenhouse gas pollution credits—similar to what the European Union has been doing since 2005 to successfully reduce its own emissions—depending upon whether they were exceeding established limits or had succeeded in coming in below them.

According to the bill, U.S. businesses needing to pollute more could buy emissions credits on the open market; those able to reduce emissions could sell their pollution credits on the same trading floor. Thus there is a built-in incentive to reduce emissions: If you exceed pollution limits you have to keep buying costly credits; and if you can get below limits you can profit from the sale of credits for the difference.Among the bill’s key provisions was a 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2020, with a mid-century goal of an 80 percent reduction. Also, billions of dollars would have gone to initiatives bolstering green transportation, energy efficiency and related research and development. The bill was approved by the House in June 2009 by a narrow 219-212 vote. But Senate Democrats decided they didn’t have enough votes to get a version of the bill passed, and tabled the discussion.

While ACES may not have made it into the law books, its passage by the House was significant as it represented the first time the legislative branch called for sweeping climate legislation. Also, the bill’s provisions served as a guideline for U.S. negotiators heading to Denmark later in 2009 for the COP15 international climate talks (although in the end nothing binding was agreed upon there).

Then, in May 2010 Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman unveiled their own cap-and-trade climate bill for the Senate. Dubbed the American Power Act, it aimed to reduce overall U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by similar amounts as ACES. But with the nation still reeling from the effects of BP’s Gulf oil spill—the American Power Act include provisions for offshore drilling—and Senate Republicans leery of any climate legislation, the bill failed to make it to a floor vote. Some point the finger at a handful of Democratic Senators from coal-producing states for not supporting their party colleagues. Others say Obama wasn’t advocating strongly enough despite his campaign rhetoric on the topic.

“The best one could plausibly hope for in the next Congress, assuming only modest Republican gains, is some sort of weak cap on utility emissions, possibly with some weak oil saving measures, though that would still require Obama to do what he refused to do under more favorable political circumstances—push hard for a bill,” writes commentator Joe Romm of Think Progress, a liberal political blog. Romm adds that it’s inconceivable to think the next Congress would even contemplate strong climate or clean energy legislation “without Obama undergoing a major strategy change and taking a very strong leadership role in crafting the bill and lobbying for the bill and selling it to the public.”

CONTACTS:
ACES
Think Progress

 

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EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine . Send questions to: earthtalk[at]emagazine.com.
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September 18 2011

19:18

As The World Warms, Environmental Protections Put On The Back Burner

After a year that has so far produced record-breaking snowstorms, droughts, floods, and violent hurricanes and tornadoes, environmental protections are once again being scaled back. Against the best advice of experts, the U.S. EPA has decided to delay issuing new rules for greenhouse gas emissions, the deadline for which is September 30th. This marks the second time in three months that the EPA has missed a deadline for issuing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards.

In their announcement, the EPA said that they are aware that it is their responsibility to move forward with new GHG standards, but they want to consider all of the available information before issuing a final ruling. According to an EPA spokesperson, one factor that the agency is still trying to figure out is the cost of the new measures.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is legally required to put restrictions on any air pollutant that is deemed unsafe for the American public. Thanks to a recent decision that GHGs are a threat to the public, this means they are required to put new standards in place. In addition to legally being required to regulate, the EPA is also not allowed to consider costs when making their decisions, meaning that their current “evaluation” period should not be extended to examine costs.


This new announcement comes on the heels of President Obama’s recent decision to roll back smog standards that the EPA had already put in place. The White House succumbed to a tremendous amount of pressure that the Republican Party had placed on the administration to curb the power of the EPA. The smog standards in place would have reduced ground level ozone levels, which have been shown to cause asthma and other respiratory problems.

Experts are not just concerned about the health problems that delays in EPA action will cause, but also the environmental impact we could face as a result. NOAA has warned that delays in regulating pollutants could lead to even more extreme weather events, which is especially devastating considering the cadre of natural disasters that have swept across America in 2011 so far.

While scientists and environmentalists are upset over the recent anti-environment decisions, the Republican Party couldn’t be happier. Climate change denier James Inhofe celebrated the recent announcements saying, “This announcement, as well as President Obama's recent request that E.P.A. withdraw the ozone standard, makes one thing clear: not only will E.P.A.'s barrage of regulations cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs, they may cost President Obama his own job, and he knows it all too well.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner said that removing the smog regulation was a good first step toward removing obstacles that are blocking business growth.

Tom Donahue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also had praise for the decisions: (This is) “an enormous victory for America's job creators, the right decision by the president and one that will help reduce the uncertainty facing businesses.”

These comments reflect a growing trend among the Republican Party, which is to ruthlessly and baselessly attack the EPA and environmental protections. Their talking point du jour is “job killing regulations,” a talking point that has been debunked by numerous scholars and studies (the best available research shows that regulations actually help create jobs, rather than destroying them.)

This crusade against the EPA has included attacks on the agency as “inefficient,” as well as calls from elected officials and GOP presidential hopefuls to completely abolish the agency.

Both the White House and the EPA want us to be reassured that they are “very committed” to protecting the environment and issuing new standards. But as we’ve seen so far this year, both the president and the EPA are at the mercy of a political party that is doing everything in their power to completely abolish the EPA and destroy any and all regulations that have been put in place over the years.

September 13 2011

13:15

Video of Keystone XL Tar Sands Protesters Arrested At The White House

Usually the best way to solve a neighborly spat is to march right up to the door and talk it out, face-to-face. However, if said neighbor happens to be away a lot and has rooftop snipers protecting the property, Plan B may be in order: shouting through the fence.

That's why for two weeks over 1250 people got arrested in front of the White House in an attempt to show President Obama that putting a leaky, oily pipeline through their collective backyards is not a very neighborly thing to do. Each day of the protest averaged between 50-100 arrests, steadily increasing until the 14th (and last) day when 244 people were arrested, resulting in the largest act of civil disobedience yet for the climate movement.

Participants protesting the Keystone XL pipeline spanned a wide range of ages, occupations, and origins: including those from the heartland of the Midwest where the pipeline is set to run through, and indigenous and frontline communities situated near the tar sands in Canada.


According to organizers, this is Phase 1 of the campaign, with Phase 2 coming up quickly behind in early October. President Obama will supposedly decide the fate of the pipeline in approximately 90 days, and in the meantime people have been encouraged to give his campaign offices a friendly visit.

Watch the video below for a look at the last day of the arrests in DC:

See video

September 07 2011

18:49

Obama Can Regulate the Environment and Create Green Jobs


President Obama should focus on creating green jobs and supporting environmental regulation. Jobs and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusiveAs U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to unveil his jobs and economic plan, his popularity is at an all-time low. Support from the President’s base has been eroded by the two week long protest against the Keystone XL pipeline and profound disappointment about the abandonment of stricter ozone regulations.

From the end of August to the beginning of September, a total of 1,252 protesters were arrested in front of the White House for opposing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Those arrested included 350.org’s Bill McKibben and NASA climate scientist James Hansen. The tar sands pipeline could galvanize U.S. action on climate because many believe we should be working to reduce the demand for oil rather than increase the supply.

The Obama administration decision to abandon stricter ozone pollution standards pleased Republicans and business groups who say environmental regulations kill jobs. However, the research shows that regulations are not killing small business.

Previous regulations, like amendments to the Clean Air Act, have resulted in far lower costs and job losses than indicated by industry and the GOP. When the EPA first proposed amendments to the Clean Air Act aimed at reducing acid rain caused by power plant emissions, the electric utility industry warned that it would cost $7.5 billion and tens of thousands of jobs. But as reported in the New York Times, Dallas Burtraw, an economist at Resources for the Future, indicated that the cost has been closer to $1 billion. The EPA cited studies showing that the law had been a modest net creator of jobs through industry spending on compliance technology.The costs of regulation should be factored alongside reduced mortality and morbidity. The New York Times reports that clean air regulations have reduced infant mortality and increased housing prices according to research by Greenstone.

The Sierra Club indicates that half of U.S. families live in communities where the air is unsafe to breathe. According to the Sierra Club, the new standard for smog would have prevented up to 12,000 premature deaths, 5,300 heart attacks and tens of thousands of asthma attacks and other serious respiratory illnesses each year. These protections from smog would have saved billions of dollars in health costs.

Countries around the world are investing in cleaner air and a healthier environment. According to ENN, the 2011 Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) show that expert practitioners in the green economy rank Germany as the top overall national green performer while a new index places New Zealand on top. The UK has also announced its national sustainability agenda.

Many other countries are getting very serious about their focus on sustainability. Bolivia forwarded a piece of legislation called la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra (the Law of Mother Earth), which encourages a radical shift in conservation, enforces new control measures on industry, and reduces environmental destruction.

Bolivia’s law redefines natural resources as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings, including: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Perhaps the most controversial point is the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

Ecuador has enshrined similar aims in its Constitution, other nations have also shown interest in this approach including Nicaragua, Venezuela, Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the summer of 2011, politicians in Turkey sought a constitution that would afford rights to the Earth. Even the African nation of Nigeria is working hard to protect their environment. To help with this task, Nigeria created the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) which was created to help enforce environmental laws, standards and regulations in the country.

In the U.S., the preoccupation with jobs overshadows any interest in the environment. When President Obama addressed a crowd of more than 10,000 people in Detroit on Labor Day, they were heard chanting “More good jobs.” During the speech, the President intimated what he’ll be saying in his major jobs address to the joint session of Congress.

“We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding,” Obama said. “I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party.”

A move toward stricter governmental regulation would help green industries to grow and provide jobs. Despite the prevailing public mood, job creation is intimately connected with environmental protection. But it is hard to imagine that Republicans will work with the President to pass any legislation, particularly environmental legislation. According to the Presidential Climate Action Project, there is a great deal the President can do without congressional input. In 2010 they provided a report (pdf) that lists a large number of actions that can be implemented with executive orders.

“What we’re saying is Congress has decided not to act, but [Obama] can do so,” former Sen. Gary Hart, a Colorado Democrat and a co-chairman of the group, said.

It’s not as if Obama has failed to make progress on climate issues. In October 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. This EO calls on Federal agencies to set and meet specific sustainability related targets throughout their operations. As part of this undertaking, GSA is leveraging its purchasing power to promote sustainable procurement. More recently, the Obama administration developed landmark fuel efficiency standards for vehicles by regulating cars and light trucks as well as trucks and buses.

Despite the lack of legislative progress on the environment, the Obama administration has done more to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any previous government. However, Obama’s efforts have been impeded by the unrelenting multi-front manipulation of powerful interests associated with the old energy economy, including the oil industry. Further, the Republican controlled House is working hard to dismantle the EPA.

It comes down to the choice between temporary jobs of the past which are ruining the environment or permanent jobs of the future that protect the planet.

Republicans and ill-informed members of the business community are indicating that now is not the time for environmental regulations or investment in sustainability. In 2008, some feared that a recession would undermine the growth of sustainability, but current events appear to indicate otherwise. Difficult economic times auger greater efficiency, and a weak economy is also the reason why economists argue that massive green infrastructure investments may be the best way to strengthen the economy and create jobs.

A President’s popularity is a function of jobs and the best way to create jobs is to enact regulations and invest in the green economy.
——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Austin Post and Take Part

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August 26 2011

06:19

Breaking: State Department Calls Keystone XL Environmental Impact "Limited," Ignoring Evidence

The State Department just released their Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The 27-page document does not flag any significant environmental concerns. The EIS suggests that construction of the pipeline as proposed is preferable to alternatives considered, including: not building the pipeline, rerouting the proposed location, and transporting the oil through alternative means.

In typical agency beurocratic-speak, the main alternatives are described as such:

  • No Action Alternative – potential scenarios that could occur if the proposed Project is not built and operated;
  • System Alternatives − the use of other pipeline systems or other methods of providing Canadian crude oil to the Cushing tank farm and the Gulf Coast market;
  • Major Route Alternatives − other potential pipeline routes for transporting heavy crude oil from the U.S./Canada border to Cushing, Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast market.

None of the alternatives were considered by the State Department to be preferable to proposed construction.

The Department will have to conduct another assessment of whether the pipeline is in the “national interest”, as well as a 90-day public comment period, but the public hearings scheduled for the fall are unlikely to change the positive decision. Thus today's State Department report is widely considered the final say on approval. The only recourse now is President Obama's power to overrule that approval. People are now watching Obama's biggest test on climate and the environment before 2012 with bated breath.

TransCanada has already begun planning to start construction on the pipeline as early as 2012, and for a pipeline that TransCanada's President for Energy and Oil Pipelines Alexander J. Pourbaix calls "the safest oil pipeline built in the U.S", there are a lot of reasons to believe otherwise.

The State Department Environmental Assessment of the already-constructed Keystone I pipeline predicted a maximum of 1 spill approximately every 7 years. Similarly, TransCanada's projections suggest 11 significant spills over Keystone XL's pipeline's 50 year operational lifetime.
Transcanada’s Keystone I pipeline has already sprung 12 leaks in the past year alone, spilling nearly 30,000 gallons of bitumen crude. In May, EPA forced TransCanada to shut down the pipeline for several days until it met increased safety standards. Then, in June, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a Corrective Action Order, stopping use of the pipeline until safety problems had been corrected.

Independent analysis performed by University of Nebraska professor Dr. John Stansbury argues that TransCanada's used faulty information to calculate safety assessments for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
  • The “Keystone XL Worst-Case Spills Study found that rather than 11 significant spills, a more realistic assessment is 91 significant spills over the pipeline’s operational lifetime
  • Stansbury alleges that TransCanada ignored historical data that represents 23 percent of historical pipeline spills, and made the assumption that its pipeline would only half as many spills as other pipelines. 
  • According to Stansbury’s report, TransCanada's calculations use a 19-minute shut down time, but the company assumes that it will only take 11 minutes and 30 seconds to shut down the pipeline. Stansbury shows that a “response to a leak at a river crossing could conservatively take more than ten times longer” than TransCanada estimates. 
These inadequate estimations mean that worst-case spill volumes will likely be significantly larger than those estimated by TransCanada.

Finally, in the Supplemental Draft EIS (not the report issued today, which we are still reviewing), Keystone XL is expected to leak due to flooding and washout only once every 87,800 years. After July’s ExxonMobil Yellowstone spill, it seems outrageous to claim that flooding and washout will claim a pipeline once every 90,000 years. With climate change, there will be increased rainfall and extreme weather, and current models of erosion prediction will be inaccurate.

The Supplemental Draft EIS also expects one incident due to corrosion every 3,400 yearsTransCanada failed to take into account that tar sands pipelines are operated at higher temperatures and pressures, and that, because of its chemical makeup, it is well known that bitumen is more acidic than the conventional crude and more corrosive, with more abrasive agents in it. 

TransCanada's track record with Keystone I is poor, and it seems foolhardy to trust them with the drinking water for two million people, the health of hundreds of communities, and for numerous ecologically vulnerable regions.

As Amy Goodman writes, in architecture, a "keystone" is the stone at the top of an arch that holds it together. With it, the structure is strong, but without, the structure collapses. To our "keystone": Obama, we're waiting with breathless anticipation. 

June 21 2011

02:47

Supreme Court Affirms EPA’s Power To Reduce Climate Change Pollution

EarthJustice.org Justices deny lawsuit against power plants by holding that EPA has authority to set limits June 20, 2011 Washington, D.C. — Today, in rejecting a climate change pollution lawsuit, the Supreme Court of the United States reaffirmed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to curb climate change pollution under the Clean Air Act, as first [...]
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