Archive for August, 2009

With the Senate about to take up the climate bill, environmentalists are being outmaneuvered by industry, writes the Washington Post.  Also in the Post is news that invasive species from ocean-going ships are infecting the Great Lakes and beyond, and the Coast Guard has recently proposed standards on ballast water.

Lonely describes a woman’s walk to raise awareness of climate change, writes the New York Times.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to call attention to the matter, in the form of a public trial against the EPA (the EPA has declined).  The Times also reports that the disposal of coal ash from last year’s Tennessee spill has caused controversy in an Alabama town, and there’s good news for people interested in solar panels:  lower prices.

The La Times has a wrap-up of the Cash for Clunkers program, which ended last Monday.  The Times also reports that an offshore wind farm is still a ways away, and it has this editorial about the ongoing lawsuit involving Chevron and Ecuador.

The Providence Journal reports that Johnston and North Providence have signed agreements for geothermal heating and cooling systems.  The deals may look cozy, but remember this is Rhode Island we’re talking about.  Meanwhile, this Projo article talks about a Nature Conservancy website that looks at possible future effects of climate change in R.I.

Norwood, Mass has saved money and increased recycling by switiching to single stream recycling, writes the Boston Globe.  This column in the Globe takes aim at bottled water.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is getting bigger (MSNBC).

African nations say they’re entitled to cash compensation for climate change’s impacts (BBC).

Leasing programs enable homeowners to install solar solutions without the upfront cost.

I’ve been thinking more and more about the final scene from “Back to the Future.” Remember when Doc Brown rushes into Marty McFly’s driveway and then fuels up his flying car with the trash? Doc uses whatever he can find in the trash: food, coffee grinds, etc.

Is this type of recycling something we could see in the future? Well, maybe not quite, but the single-stream recycling that I wrote about a month ago is a step toward it. What if manufacturers got rid of all those products that can’t be recycled and only used ones that could be. Would our trash then just be recycling? Would you throw everything in one big recyclable bag? It certainly would make recycling and life easier.

One step in this direction is banning those foam coffee cups. I feel so guilty when I go to Dunkin’ Donuts -  as I sometimes have to in order to get a jolt of caffeine – and I have to use one of these wasteful cups. But maybe I wont, if the ban of them goes through as the Boston Herald reports:

At-large City Councilor Stephen Murphy wants to see the Hub follow the lead of cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., and outlaw all nonrecyclable No. 6 plastic beverage and food-service containers. “This No. 6 plastic is the most dangerous for the environment. (The cups) don’t sink. They float in the ocean. They are a detriment to marine life. If you put them in a landfill, they remain intact for over 1,000 years,” said Murphy, who will unveil his proposed ban at today’s council meeting.

It’s good to see cities legislating this, although a national ban (despite costing jobs in tough economic times) might work, much like when China banned plastic grocery bags. Which, of course, is one more thing we could get rid of if we want single-stream recycling to just become our main trash.

It’s certainly not going to happen right away, but whaddya say Doc? All trash recycled. How does 2015 sound?

Paying farmers not to raze the rain forest is the newest strategy for fighting deforestation, says the New York Times.  The Times also says that the Energy Department isn’t following its own advice about setting the thermostat at efficient temperatures, and it reports on a studying that claims hunter-gatherers wreaked havoc on coastal ecosystems.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are working to go greener, says the L.A. Times, which also has this story about using waste products to make ethanol, and this one about intraparty conflict over climate change legislation.

Algae may be the next alternative fuel (Washington Post).

Wind power continues to face opposition from landowners (MSNBC).  MSNBC also reports that ocean temperatures are the hottest they’ve ever been.

Climate change was on the agenda for the Southern Governors’ Association meeting (Richmond Times-Dispatch).

A shuttered battery plant is revived by green power (Philadelphia Inquirer).

Turning your computer off every night saves $100 per year in energy costs.

Politicians have not had town-hall meettings about it, and there’s only 1 (instead of 5) versions of the bill – and perhaps that’s a good thing. In all the furor over health care reform, the media and public has lost track of the climate change bill.

The House bill, which endorses a cap-and-trade market on pollution, passed in June. The Senate, which is wavering back and forth on cap-and-trade is hoping to pass it in the fall. But a rally in Houston yesterday afternoon voiced concerns of “energy citizens.”

Opponents also say the cost of the legislation is ill-timed in a weak economy. A study released by the National Association of Manufacturers last week says the law would cost 1.8 million to 2.4 million jobs by 2030 and would cost each U.S. household up to $1,248 a year by 2030. Other estimates of annual household costs have differed — $83 per year according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration; $88-$140 according to the Environmental Protection Agency; and $175 a year projected by the Congressional Budget Office.

That’s kind of a big difference – even the CBO, which is supposedly nonpartisan and basically needs to forecast worst-case scenario, says it will only cost $175 per year. Yet a group of companies says it will cost $1300 a year in 2030 (I guess that means they won’t be changing their ways.)

The opponents also want our U.S. House to do what a group of 100 nations has yet to be able to do.

But opponents say the bill won’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it doesn’t secure promises from developing nations, like China and India, to put controls on their growing emissions.

Bill or no bill, this point is unequivocal: We can no longer wait for other nations to join us in reducing greenhouse gases. Europe took the step by itself years ago and it is time for the U.S. to join them.

The protesters, despite having holes in their argument and being derided even by the Wall Street Journal, have led me to believe the Senate may be playing the waiting game on this bill. It is in the U.S. interests to ride into Copenhagen on a white horse … having just passed a major energy bill. This will allow us to make a better push on India and China to join us. We’ve tried the waiting game and it doesn’t work with them, so now we need to walk the walk before we can talk the talk.

Passage of the bill in mid-November also would allow the economy to grow a little more before a bill that will be viewed negatively is passed. The government’s hopes are likely that the economy builds up enough steam to just roll past worries about the economic downside of the climate change bill and that consumers instead focus on the Christmas season and spend on money.

Perhaps spurred by recent blog entries from LOGI, the New York Times has a story about Atlanta’s water woes.  Also in the Times, this column suggests taking a closer look at climate engineering, while this article says the latest climate talks in Bonn were unproductive.

Several old coal-fired plants are exempt from the Clean Air Act, and activists want that to change, reports the Washington Post, which also has this profile of President Obama’s green jobs czar, plus news that bottled water sales are hitting a bottleneck.

A number of clunkers weren’t eligible to be cashed in, says the L.A. Times.  The Times also says that the new Agriculture Secretary has so far gotten positive reviews, and it has this story about difficulties with clean coal.

The race is on to build offshore wind farms in the Northeast (Providence Journal).

With their budgets in crises, states are turning to drilling in parks (MSNBC).  MSNBC also has this article about Seattle’s effort to charge fees for grocery bags, and this one about fuel efficiency claims by electric vehicle manufacturers.

An report by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory suggests that rainfall in Eastern China has diminished because of pollution.  On the subject of pollution, the Boston Globe writes that brownfields are hurting redevelopment attempts by cities.

Half of all electricity customers in the U.S. can now choose green power from their utility.

I believe it was during the Bush administration that the term climate change first came into our lexicon. Global warming had been the go-to phrase, but many members of the administration allegedly felt that the term was too threatening. Instead they adopted the term climate change, unwilling to admit the globe was warming. And thus the lines were drawn: To use the climate change term was to mean you were denying global warming. If you used the global warming term, you were admitting you agreed to it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to fighting over what to call it. Global warming deniers for the most part gave in to overwhelming scientific evidence. However, this scientific evidence, although it did show the globe getting warmer, said the end-result of all this could be that some climates get colder for a period of time before they get warmer in the long run. Both terms were correct.

People in the Northeast that are seeing more extreme temperatures in the winter and summer (and less of a fall or spring) should probably characterize it as climate change. But for many others, it really does feel like global warming.

The question in all this is “What should it be called?” Climate change sounds nonthreatening. Like we can wait on a sailboat for a weather pattern to pass. Heck “change” can be good, right? Isn’t that what our president said during his campaign? Shall we go with global warming instead? Well, although it’s accurate (in the long run) and more alarmist (which is needed since we have to take action to cut greenhouse gas emissions now), you need to explain to people why it’s getting colder during winters in their part of the globe.

This term trouble may seem trivial in a certain light, but it is one of the ways to market this fight. I think we can do better than global warming and climate change. Let’s make a change to the term we can warm to.

Climate change isn’t just an environmental matter; it may have national security implications too, says this New York Times article.  Meanwhile, the U.S. would do well to avoid the fate of Germany’s cash for clunkers program, which, as this Times article notes, saw some clunkers wind up back on the road.

Earlier in the week, this Times blog posting mentioned a study that said LED lights are as energy efficient as CFLs (taking into account energy used to produce, ship, and dispose of the bulbs), while this one mentions a study about psychology and climate change.

If you were in DC last Monday, you could’ve made a difference and testified before the EPA (Washington Post).  The Post also has this nugget about a firm that sent forged letters to Congress, opposing the climate bill.

The mayor of Berkeley, California sets a green example, writes the L.A. Times, which also reports that glacier melting is accelerating.  Earlier in the week, the Times reported that California became the first state to produce a plan for adapting to climate change.  The plan can be found here.

ExxonMobil makes a big bet on natural gas (Forbes Magazine).

Geoengineering, which seeks to reduce warming by reflecting solar radiation back into space, may have serious side effects (BBC).