It's goodbye nuclear, hello renewables as Japan prepares to build the world's largest offshore wind farm this July.The thing is to find ways to make progress from reason, from the facts themselves, from the information gathered by experts rather than a public opinion that's been alarmed by a disaster.
By 2020, the plan is to build a total of 143 wind turbines on platforms 16 kilometres off the coast of Fukushima, home to the stricken Daiichi nuclear reactor that hit the headlines in March 2011 when it was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami.
The wind farm, which will generate 1 gigawatt of power once completed, is part of a national plan to increase renewable energy resources following the post-tsunami shutdown of the nation's 54 nuclear reactors. Only two have since come back online.
You gotta love this lede:
WARNING: This column contains science. It might be considered inappropriate or offensive by certain members of our congressional delegation and others who call themselves conservative. Ideological discretion is advised.
Funny lede. But everything that comes after that lede is pretty depressing—particularly to anyone who wants to see New Orleans survive this century.
Let's for the sake of argument say we're witnessing a geologically breakneck, totally coincidental phenomenon that happens to concur with a planet building more and more highways:
Last year was the hottest on record for the contiguous United States, shattering the previous mark set in 1998 by a wide margin, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Tuesday.
The average temperature was 55.3 degrees, 1 degree above the previous record and 3.2 degrees more than the 20th-century average. Temperatures were above normal in every month between June 2011 and September 2012, a 16-month stretch that hasn’t occurred since the government began keeping such records in 1895.
Even if all those cars and use of fossil fuels are just one contributing factor to global warming—even then—wouldn't the global warming skeptics agree that, even if it's the least we can do, we should accelerate our shift to transportation that doesn't rely on as much fuel? Even if that helps just a little bit? Even if that means our city council has to—holy shit—not freeze our transit planning budget and stop deferring rail projects? You might expect them to do that. But, just like global warming, we're told, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical.
Supporters of the production tax credit for wind power can breathe a little easier, at least for now. Whatever else anybody says about the “fiscal cliff” legislation drama, in the end, our friends over at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) are sure in a celebratory mood. The final bill, signed by President Obama late last night, includes a provision that extends the production tax credit for wind power for one year.
Not only that, it changes from providing tax credits only to projects completed by the end of the year, to providing tax credits to any project started by the end of the year.
One of the few things Mitt Romney made very clear during his campaign was his desire to cut this tax credit, which, for one, has proved to be beneficial for Iowa. Iowa voted strongly for Obama.
So, yeah, this climate change stuff has to be a hoax. I mean, really. Mittens, people!
So let's say somebody invented a new kind of car that runs entirely on water. It's an expensive new technology, so these water-fueled cars cost a bit more than their gasoline-fueled cousins, and they don't go quite as far on a full tank. But they produce zero greenhouse gas emissions, and, well, they run on fucking water! Amazing!
You'd think, what with Antarctica warming even faster than the most dire projections, if this miraculous water-fueled car existed, our lawmakers would do everything they could to incentivize its widespread adoption, right? Subsidies, tax credits, whatever it takes. Well, you'd think wrong.
In fact, this water-fueled car does exist, sorta, at least here in Washington, where all-electric vehicles are fueled predominantly by clean, green hydro power—92.39% hydro for Seattle City Light customers—and yet, rather than incentivizing their use, our legislature last session passed a bill charging all-electric vehicle owners a $100 annual fee to make up for lost gas tax revenues. Which, I gotta say, is just plain stupid.
Yes, the gas tax pays for road maintenance, and yes, electric cars use the roads like everybody else. But they don't generate the same sort of external costs as their gas-fueled cousins, and with only about 1,600 of them currently registered in the state, the additional revenue is barely worth the effort of collecting it. It's just hard to see the value of levying this particular fee at this particular time.
And it's also hard to see this as anything but a missed opportunity to reconsider our whole antiquated and regressive system of financing road construction and maintenance. If the goal is to make electric car owners pay their fair share, then we should scrap our current gas tax and car tabs, and replace them with an annual fee based on a combination of mileage and vehicle weight, a much more accurate measure of the wear and tear each driver exacts on our roads.
That would be the more creative, progressive, and farsighted approach to the question of how to fund our highway system in this era of rising fuel economy.
Instead, we punted on the larger issue and just imposed an arbitrary $100 a year per electric car, a number that appears to be based on absolutely nothing (drive your electric car 4,000 miles a year or 40,000, and you pay the same fee) and that amounts to little more than a fuel economy tax.
Now where's the sense in that?
Congratulations, Washington residents. For the first time ever, you are recycling more stuff than you are throwing away.What is this reporter talking about? Why is he thanking everybody? He should know, as we in the heart of the city know, that without Seattle, the politics of this state would be as thick as two planks.
That’s the word today from Department of Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant, reporting that in 2011, state residents recycled 50.7 percent of their solid waste. It’s the first time a yearly result has topped the 50 percent goal set in a 1989 state law.
UPDATE: I have to give props to Spokane. I'm not going to hate.
Eds note: I meant to post this last Friday but didn't because, well.
Hundreds of protestors gathered at the Seattle Convention Center before last Thursday's packed public hearing on the proposed coal terminal outside of Bellingham, Washington. State and federal agencies are nearing the end of a four-month public comment period on the proposal before drafting their preliminary Environmental Impact Statement, which will seek to evaluate the proposal from a host of health, environmental, and economic angles (among others). The comment period closes on January 21; You can submit online comments here.
Now here's a melange of pictures and quotes from last Thursday's events:
State officials are estimating that 3,500 people have arrived for the 4:00 p.m. public meeting on the Cherry Point coal export terminal. This meeting is the last its kind in the state before state Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials determine the range of environmental, health, and economic issues that must be examined in an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) before the proposed terminal is granted its permits to move 54 million metric tons of coal annually from Montana and Wyoming through Washington state, for shipment to China.
· A reasonable range of alternatives to the terminal
· An identification of potentially affected resources
· A list of significant unavoidable adverse impacts
· And finally, ways to avoid, minimize, and mitigate those impacts.
Despite the overwhelming turnout, only 150 people will be granted the right to speak before the federal and state officials in huge twin ballrooms at the Convention Center—everyone else will have to submit written comments.
Speakers are chosen through a lottery system, after it was discovered that railroad interests were paying people to stand in line at other public meetings and stump for the proposal. Several city officials are here to represent Seattle’s opposition to coal trains, including Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Seattle City Council members Mike O’Brien, Sally Clark, and Jean Godden. At least one member of the Tacoma City Council and numerous tribal representatives from the Lummi Nation, Nisqually, Tulalip, and Snohomish tribes are here as well.
"We do not support an industry that will damage our economy or cultural heritage, or infringe on our fishing, hunting, and treaty rights," testifies Mel Sheldon of the Tulalip tribe. "This will delay traffic two to three hours daily [in our area]. We stand with our coastal Salish relatives in solidarity. We ask that you not permit a project that significantly impacts our daily life and further erodes our treaty rights. Tulalip says hell no to this project!"
"I appreciate the natural wonders of this state," testifies 12-year-old Rachel Howell. "I like salmon. I like oysters. Global warming is threatening salmon and oysters. I like to ski at Snoqualmie Pass—in my lifetime, I will not be able to ski at Snoqualmie Pass because of global warming. Children are suffering because of global warming. This is the future you’re creating for us an this is not the future we want. It’s pretty simple, even I understand: If you make coal more available, more people will use it."
I try and interview a few of the green shirts but it turns out they are total dicks.
Goddamnit, CNN: you don't need to "cover" both sides of a "story" if one person is just disagreeing to disagree. Media Matters says:
CNN anchor Piers Morgan hosted a "debate" on climate science between Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and professional climate misinformer Marc Morano. As Morano spewed myths about climate change, CNN failed to disclose that he has no scientific training and is paid by an industry-funded organization.
Nye's opinion has more weight because he is working with facts. Just because Morano really believes what he's saying doesn't make his opinion worthwhile. If he had any real facts, he'd be worthy of the pedestal. As it is, CNN is just hurting the public discourse with this kind of irresponsible behavior.
Have you heard about the eight-acre sinkhole in Louisiana? Apparently, it's been "burping" up "debris"—including hydrocarbons, which are found in crude oil—and the surrounding swamp has been bubbling and smelling like gas. Local authorities have warned of explosions and evacuated hundreds of residents, who are angry that Governor Jindal, who only lives 50 miles away, hasn't visited.
Some say the sinkhole could be related to the BP Deepwater disaster and that "methane-bubble tsunami" people were talking about two years ago. Others blame a collapsed "brine storage cavern"
related to closer oil-drilling operations. (It appears this salt cavern was involved with salt mining, though engineered salt caves in the region are also used for oil and gas storage.)
Either way, this apparent drilling operation across the street from Stranger HQ—at least it sounds like a drilling operation—has us all on edge:
If we disappear into a smoking crater in the near future, don't blame the smiting hand of god. Blame the oil industry.
The Nation, in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network nonprofit, has a chilling story about early-warning signs of how fracking could seriously frack up the US food supply. Fracking, for those fuzzy on the details, involves "drilling thousands of feet into ancient seabeds, then repeatedly fracturing (or 'fracking') these wells with millions of gallons of highly pressurized, chemically laced water, which shatters the surrounding shale and releases fossil fuels."
Sounds healthful, doesn't it?
The story is ugly. Preliminary investigations of fracking areas show all kinds of mysterious problems in livestock, pets, and people—birth defects, deaths, rashes, overworked kidneys, urinating blood, limps, infections, crowns and fillings falling out of people's teeth, and the titular tails falling off.
The story also gets into why there isn't more outcry about this—in part, because people either aren't looking for it or have incentives to turn a blind eye. One rancher had her air and water tested after fracking wells opened three miles away, several of her cows mysteriously dropped dead, and she started to get sick. Tests showed lots of problematic stuff (acetone, acetone, selenium): "State health and agriculture officials acknowledged Schilke’s air and water tests but told her she had nothing to worry about. Her doctors, however, diagnosed her with neurotoxic damage and constricted airways."
And unless animals are visibly melting from chemical poisoning, the USDA isn't interested:
Veterinarians don’t know how long the chemicals may remain in animals, and the Food Safety Inspection Service, part of the US Department of Agriculture, isn’t looking for them in carcasses. Inspectors in slaughterhouses examine organs only if they look diseased. “It’s gross appearance, not microscopic,” Bamberger says of the inspections—which means that animals either tainted or sickened by those chemicals could enter the food chain undetected.
I've contacted the campaign of our freshly elected, soon-to-be newly minted governor Jay Inslee at least three times in the past two weeks looking to get Inslee's position on one of the state's biggest environmental and political battles: building coal export terminals in our state.
His staff hasn't responded to my repeated requests to set up an interview. Meanwhile, I'm far from the only reporter in the state wondering why Inslee still appears to be dodging questions on this controversial topic now that he's won the governor's mansion. Grist writes:
Inslee, a Democrat, won election in Washington state earlier this month after getting unprecedented support from state and national environmental groups. They’re counting on him to keep up the advocacy for climate action and clean energy that he demonstrated during more than 15 years in Congress.
But on one critical environmental topic, Inslee has been largely silent: coal trains and coal export terminals. During the campaign, he, like his Republican opponent, stayed neutral. In a June debate, he said, “My view is we need to evaluate all of the jobs prospects, both plus or minus, before we make a decision.”
... [Coal] Proponents say they aren’t worried. Job creation was a tenet of Inslee’s campaign in a state where the unemployment rate hovers above the national average. And the projects would create thousands of high-paying construction jobs. “Hopes are still high” for his backing, said Lauri Hennessey, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, which comprises about 40 coal companies, transportation firms, labor unions and regional business councils.
Neutrality is an increasingly untenable, and stupid, stance to take on this very important issue. So, Jay, why don't you pick up the phone and tell us where you stand on coal trains? xoxo!
Yesterday, everyone was reporting that all the new Republican Committee Chairs are white men. Which is of course bad, especially for a party that openly admits it has a diversity problem. But they also put a goddamned climate change denier in charge of the Science Committee?
Case in point: yesterday’s nomination of Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) to chair the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology — a body with jurisdiction over many laboratories, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the National Weather Service.
Smith is a climate skeptic who has taken to the House floor to rant against scientists and journalists “determined to advance the idea of human-made global warming.”
I know this is standard stuff for the Republican Party; they think it's hee-larious to put creationists on science panels and whatnot. But 68% of Americans believe climate change is a serious problem. You'd think Republicans could take this shit a little more seriously, maybe.
Posted by news intern Al Jacobs
California continues its streak as a hulking guinea pig. This time, we'll get to see how cap and trade plays out, if it's a model all of America should copy.
The California Air Resources Board held the state's first cap and trade auction this morning. The ambitious cap and trade goal is to reset current carbon emission levels to those of the 1990s by 2020. On January 1, 2013, the cap starts at 162.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and will shrink.
While nine northeastern states already subscribe to a cap and trade program for power plants, California's new law caps carbon emissions across industries. The state requires refineries, Big Agriculture, cement, and power plants that emit over 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year to pay for the right to pollute our air.
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are already down 7.7% from 2006 even after Congress abandoned cap and trade in 2010. But at least California's law legislatively acknowledges climate change, a potential step toward resurrecting the national discussion to reduce carbon emissions.
Yesterday, a group of state legislators sent a letter asking—if not pleading—for Governor Christine Gregoire to immediately convene a multi-agency task force to study the economic, environmental, transportation, and infrastructure impacts of building the country's largest coal export terminal outside of Bellingham.
In their November 7 letter to Gregoire, the representatives argue that the potential impacts far supersede such a limited scope, since the 1.6-mile long coal trains, running 24 hours a day, would cart 48 millions of coal annually through Spokane, Vancouver, and downtown Seattle:
As legislators representing varied communities and districts, we are concerned that the widespread impacts of these proposed projects can only be accurately identified—and thus included in the environmental review process—if the departments of Ecology, Transportation, and Commerce are directed to actively coordinate their analyses, data, and perspectives. Moreover, this information can help cities and counties to more thoroughly understand the broader potential impacts.
...In addition to the economic impacts, the possibility of exporting coal from Washington ports forces a
close look at our state’s rail infrastructure and what public investment would be necessary to allow for growth in the future. The prospect of doubling the tonnage of freight transported on our railways demands an inspection of Washington’s rail capacity, and the proposed daily addition of 60 trains in cities like Spokane highlights the need for examination of mitigation measures and cost. As a trade dependent state, we welcome this analysis as we strive to ensure a world-class transportation infrastructure for the coming decades.
The proposals would also force an examination of the impact that coal trains would have on the ability of Washington businesses to move goods to and from port, and the complications to vehicle movement that would arise in areas where roads and railways intersect. Additional rail traffic would exacerbate existing rail congestion issues, and the incremental impact of this proposal on rail is substantial by any definition. The likelihood of increased short-haul freight costs (for example apple transport between Wenatchee and the Seattle area) serve as a further externality of the plan. These impacts require a thorough analysis by ports, cities, counties, and the State, one not mandated by or possible through the SEPA procedure
The deadline to sway the scope of the Army Corps's environmental study is January 21, 2013—meaning this multi-agency task force needs to meet and create a list of specific statewide concerns for the state Department of Ecology and Army Corps of Engineers to address before then. "With a coordinated approach among state agencies, and a particular focus on economic externalities and issues, there is greater assurance that the [environmental impact study] will fully identify the range of impacts across the state," they write.
Their letter comes on the heels of a traffic study, commissioned by the City of Seattle, that shows coal trains could cause one- to three-hour traffic delays downtown and in SoDo.
This video is brutal, but you really should watch it:
(Via Glenn Fleishman on Twitter.)
The only truly competitive congressional race in the state is in the newly redrawn 1st Congressional District, where recent polling suggests a tossup between Republican John Koster and Democrat Suzan DelBene. It would kinda suck for Western Washington to send an anti-choice/anti-Social Security teabagger like Koster to Congress, but on the bright side, should he win, at least he'd no longer be able to shill for local developers/contributors from his perch on the Snohomish County Council.
Koster has a long history of anti-Growth Management Act property rights activism, but don't mistake him for a mere ideologue. No, the folks Koster shills hardest for are also some of his biggest campaign contributors.
Since 2001, members of the Lane family, which owns several car dealerships in Snohomish County, have given Koster at least $19,950 toward his various political campaigns. This is also a period during which Koster has repeatedly gone to bat on behalf the Lane family's efforts to build a car dealership on 110 acres of rural land along I-5, north of Marysville.
The Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board had ruled that the "Island Crossing" property should be protected as farmland to avoid flooding problems, but the Lanes kept pushing to rezone the land as urban, and Koster was with them every step of the way. In 2003 Koster voted to make the land urban, and then voted again to override County Executive Bob Drewel's veto. Governor Gary Locke appealed the county's decision to the Growth Management board, prompting Koster to lobby the state legislature to change the law so as to bar the governor from appealing local land-use decisions.
The New York Times Mark Bittman writes about a fascinating (though not particularly surprising) ten-year Department of Agriculture study on 22 acres of Iowa State University farmland:
[R]esearchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer.
The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.
This type of integrated, long-rotation land management is what farmers practiced for generations before the widespread adoption of chemical fertilizers and pesticides starting in the mid-20th century, so I personally don't find its efficiency all that surprising. These longer rotations required more labor, the study found, but fewer expensive chemical inputs, so the costs balanced out in the end.
And note, we're not talking organic here. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides were still used when needed, but only when needed, as opposed to on some Monsanto-dictated regime. As Bittman observes:
It's new and in Chicago
Chicago officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on “the greenest street in America,” a two-mile stretch of Cermak Road and Blue Island Avenue in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood. In addition to new pedestrian and bicycle features, the innovative new street surface will filter stormwater, helping to prevent the city’s combined sewers from overflowing.The most amazing thing about this green street is that it's made from an almost magical form of cement, a cement that does not just end things right there (being hard for human movement), but a cement that has mastered the incredible trick of consuming pollution.
It's not often that out of state PACs play in legislative races, but State Representative Mark Hargrove (R-Covington) has been such a nightmare on environmental issues that he's drawn an independent expenditure from Progressive Kick*, an organization that backs progressive candidates in winnable local races. Of course, Progressive Kick wouldn't be spending the money if Hargrove didn't have such a kick-ass Democratic challenger, fire fighter and former Covington council member Bud Sizemore.
I don't know much about Hargrove other than his awful voting record, but I know Sizemore from his years as a legislative liaison for the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters. Sizemore would be more than just a better vote; he's got the experience and disposition to hit the ground running and be a progressive leader in Olympia.
* Disclosure: I did paid contract work for Progressive Kick during the 2010 election cycle.
Yet another poll finds Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Inslee with a small but substantial lead over Republican Rob McKenna.
Following yesterday's release of a KING5/SurveyUSA poll that shows Inslee leading McKenna 49-44, Public Policy Polling has released a survey that corroborates those results. The poll of 563 likely voters, conducted September 7-9 on behalf of Washington Conservation Voters (WCV), finds Inslee with a similar 48-42 lead over his Republican opponent.
That's good news for Inslee. Even better news, according to an insider who ought to know these sort of things, is that WCV intends to back this up with a $700,000 independent expenditure against McKenna, to be spent entirely in King County. That's a dollar figure that may only amount to a small fraction of the tens of millions of dollars that will ultimately be spent in the governor's race, but it's sure to ding McKenna in Washington's most populous and environmentally sensitive county.
At least one of the issues on which the WCV ads reportedly will focus is McKenna's unprecedented refusal to defend the Department of Natural Resources in a lawsuit seeking to protect state land. The Supreme Court ultimate ruled in Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark's favor, ordering the Attorney General to do his constitutional and statutory job. McKenna had counted on not doing quite as crappy in King County as most Republicans generally do, but these are optics that won't play well around these parts, so good on WCV for pushing the message out.
Thanks for running Jonathan Golob’s piece on global warming. I was glad you included a list of things that folks can do. Despite the cynicism, denial, and despair that such an article all too easily provokes, I’m not willing to give up.
Another thing that folks can do is lobby their representatives for a carbon tax. Citizens Climate Lobby is working on this at a national level. Their proposal would levy an annually rising fee on all carbon-based fuels at the source, pushing the market toward clean alternatives. The revenue would be returned to consumers to offset the rising price of fossil fuels, allowing them to choose whether to spend the money on carbon or non-carbon sources. Over time this will push the energy sector away from greenhouse-gas-producing fuels. Jim McDermott’s Managed Carbon Price Act and Pete Stark’s Save Our Climate Act both incorporate elements of this proposal, though they use some revenue for debt reduction.
Political pressure is indispensable for making the large-scale changes needed. I encourage folks to make their voices heard.
Jonathan Golob's list of other things you can do right now is RIGHT HERE.
People, even in the 1950s, understood on some level what a nuclear bombing would mean—and their sense only became clearer through the aboveground nuclear tests. By the Cuban missile crisis, a plurality understood that nuclear war would mean the end of humanity as we knew it.
Climate change, unfortunately, is not like a nuclear bomb in this regard. Even though scientists are generally as convinced about the consequences of climate change as they were about the consequences of splitting atoms over a large city, there is no political or cultural consensus to do anything about the problem. It's easy to see why: Climate change is a far-in-the-future calamity on a scale none of us can really comprehend. At least the poor fools in the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and '80s had the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to make sure there were no delay-inducing illusions.
Let this summer be our Hiroshima, then. Not just because of the heat, not just because of the fires, but because the last few scientifically relevant skeptics acknowledged what most of us already know: Climate change is real, it's happening, and it could destroy us all.
Read the whole thing RIGHT HERE.
Former Chinese NBA player Yao Ming:
Not 20 yards away, I saw the body of an elephant poached for its ivory three weeks ago. Its face had been cut off by poachers and its body scavenged by hyenas, scattering bones around the area. A sad mass of skin and bone. The smell was overwhelming and seemed to cling to us, even after we left.The giant has giant emotions.
I really was speechless. After seeing these animals up close and watching them interact in loving and protective family groups, it was heart wrenching and deeply depressing to see this one cruelly taken before its time.
"The next three days are going to be very dangerous in terms of the potential for wildfire," Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said in a press release. "That is true in Western Washington as well as Eastern Washington. It is everyone’s responsibility to be safe and not take any risks."
In other words, you know, don't start a fire.
Also, it's useful to keep in mind during the dry season that while only you can prevent forest fires, only the government is adequately equipped to fight them. You might want to remember that in November when you're asked to vote on Tim Eyman's latest initiative to make it impossible for the state to raise the taxes necessary to pay for things like putting out fires.
Eight years until "Glacier National Park" is just "National Park." The ice had been the lure to get the family to go see the great glaciers before they're gone. But I misjudged how far gone they already are. As did the scientists.
Just say it like it is:
"Global warming is melting the glaciers that give Glacier National Park its name," it says. "By 2030, they all could be gone."This is about our world, which is not the earth (our planet is here to stay), but a moment in earth's history. If this moment goes, we go with it. What ever faith certain powerful people have in human adaptability, know that human culture will find its limit when this moment goes.
See it with your own eyes...
The region's ice cover is now significantly lower than expected, says the Canadian Ice Service, with coverage on July 30th estimated at 33 per cent, compared to the 1981-2010 median of 79 per cent. Despite the melt, this part of the North-West passage may not yet be navigable.
Melting will continue as we head towards September, when annual ice cover is at its lowest.
At the current rate, 2012 is likely to see the greatest ice shrinkage since satellite records began, exceeding 2007's record low.