From my essay this week on the eerily similarities between the climate change deniers of 2013 and the AIDS deniers of 1983:
Now every time I read about fires in Colorado or rising seas or Canadian tar sands or Native villages already being washed away in Alaska or preparations for the next hurricane that slams into New York City, a slightly modified version of Buchanan's vicious line about AIDS plays in my head. We have declared war on nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution.
We have declared war on the water we drink and the air we breathe. We have declared war on the forests and the oceans. We have declared war on the honeybees.
From today's Columbian:
Thousands of dead and dying bees have been found in the parking lot of a shopping center in Wilsonville, Ore., southwest of Portland. Oregon officials say their preliminary investigation indicates blooming trees in the lot were recently sprayed with an insecticide known to be toxic to bees.... Most of the dead were gold-and-black bumble bees although honey bees and some ladybugs were found dead as well. A primary focus of the Agriculture Department's preliminary investigation is a pesticide called Safari that apparently was applied in the area last Saturday to control aphids, said Dale Mitchell, program manager in the Agriculture Department's pesticide compliance and enforcement section. Safari is part of a family of pesticides called neonicotinoids that are considered acutely toxic to pollinators.
Aphids we can live with. Bees we can't live without. Maybe we should err on the side of not pushing bees to extinction?
Growers acknowledge, reluctantly, what their antagonists in law enforcement have long maintained: like industrial logging before it, the booming business of marijuana is a threat to forests whose looming dark redwoods preside over vibrant ecosystems.
Hilltops have been leveled to make room for the crop. Bulldozers start landslides on erosion-prone mountainsides. Road and dam construction clogs some streams with dislodged soil. Others are bled dry by diversions. Little water is left for salmon whose populations have been decimated by logging.
One problem making things worse down there: "the drug's murky legal status."
This morning, Mayor Mike McGinn and Climate Solutions Policy Director KC Golden testified in the US House of Representatives’ Energy and Power Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce on the local impacts of the coal port terminal proposals to expand coal exports to China (a topic I cover extensively over here). Meanwhile, the Bellingham Herald reports this huge setback for environmentalists and politicians, like McGinn, who oppose coal ports in Washington and Oregon:
WASHINGTON - The U.S Army Corps of Engineers will not review the broader climate-change impacts of proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, an agency official told Congress on Tuesday, June 18.
The much-anticipated decision is a significant victory for the supporters of three coal terminals in Washington and Oregon - including Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point - and a setback for environmentalists and state and local officials who oppose the projects.
... Moyer added that the Corps would not consider the impact of the transportation of coal by rail from mines to the ports on waterways and air quality - something that the governors of Washington and Oregon, environmental groups and Indian tribes had demanded.
Thanks to Slog tipper Jeff.
What unchecked colony collapse would look like in the supermarket.
While people are quick to dismiss nuclear energy as bad, Pandora’s Promise looks at how some leading environmentalists have converted to support its use. Many activists have become disillusioned with the traditional environmental approaches to climate change. They claim that the concerns are so dire, that non-carbon-producing nuclear is the best current solution to mitigate the effects of our years of fossil-fuel guzzling.
The film makes a surprisingly persuasive argument. Experts on the scientific side explain the ways that nuclear energy technology has advanced (new reactors recycle waste back into fuel) and examine what they say is misinformation (inflated radiation fears, that conservation and alternative energies could be enough). The reality is we will need more and more power, and we cannot continue to extract every last bit of oil, coal, and natural gas, then burn it and send it into the atmosphere. The film lays out the benefits of nuclear energy: It is clean, it doesn’t pollute the air, it doesn’t damage the ozone, and it produces large amounts of energy, which is inexpensive for consumers. One environmentalist says: “To be anti-nuclear is basically to be in favor of burning fossil fuels. I finally had to change my mind.”
Pandora's Promise opens today at the Harvard Exit.
If you like rivers—the Duwamish River in particular—the Environmental Protection Agency needs to hear about it by 5 p.m. today. That's when the public comment period on the EPA's plan to clean the Duwamish River, which starts in South Park and spills into Puget Sound, closes.
The current EPA plan is totally inadequate and doesn't do anything to clean up toxic pollutants in the upper watershed of the river, according to James Rasmussen of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and Duwamish Tribe. But "if the public overwhelmingly tells them to do a better job, they do it! That's something we've seen a record of with the EPA," he says.
As the coalition's coordinator explained on Slog:
The toxins kill micro-bugs that live in the water, causing a chain reaction upward through the food chain to people, increasing risk of cancer, immune system breakdowns, and reproductive disorders. The chemicals particularly threaten the health of the river’s fishermen.
The upriver sediment they would leave in place—which would eventually flow down river—isn’t clean either. Unless we do this right the first time, all that toxic stuff upriver will end up downriver.
To make matters worse, local officials want to do even less cleanup than the EPA, Rasmussen says. "The City of Seattle and King County need to get their heads out of their asses and stop worrying about the short term costs, and look at the long term costs."
I'm beginning to believe that the gears for the kind of massive social change that's needed to solve the current environmental crisis might not exist in the US but in another country...
The Census Bureau released updated statistics this morning on new single-family housing completed within the past year, a snapshot of the latest demand for fireplaces (in 43 percent of new homes), fourth bedrooms (41 percent) and three-car garages (19 percent) in the housing construction market," reports Emily Badger.
After a celebrated decline in the average square footage of new single-family homes in the United States, the latest data suggests "that we're building big again," she notes. "The average single-family house completed in 2012 was 2,505 square feet in size, just shy of the all-time high. In fact, a larger share of those homes had a fourth bedroom than at any time since the Census started counting."
The market-based humanism of American democracy can absorb things like the rights of blacks, women, and homosexuals (all of whom are after all consumers), but it can't democratize rising sea levels or desertification or the fate of polar bears. That kind of absorption requires a truly universal politics, a post-human politics. Because the US is proving to lack the means to expand its politics beyond democracy or even expand the vocabulary of its democracy, we may have to look to societies that can. It's easy to laugh at a country like Boliva for including Mother Earth in its Law of the Rights, but in terms of the current crisis, which is the only real crisis (the dominant crisis, The Great Recession, is only cultural), there's more reality in that kind of political language than what you will find in the four major political institutions of our great democracy. (The fourth is the Federal Reserve, if you were wondering.)
Waste does not exist in the biosphere but only in the limited view of things that exist in the biosphere...
This is awful.
That was the trailer for Chris Jordan's film Midway. He'll be showing
parts of the movie along with photographs and talking about three years of visiting Midway Island, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which is choked with plastic, on the evening of June 19 at Town Hall. The birds you see are albatrosses.
I wrote a piece about Chris Jordan in 2009 called The American Hero. I wrote then that I was rooting for him, and I absolutely still am. This trailer was devastating. Simple, pure indictment.
UPDATE: Sightline, the event's organizer, tells me that Jordan won't be showing parts of the movie, because he's entering it into festivals this fall. But he will be showing photographs from it and talking about it.
Napster founder Sean Parker, who it must be said looks nothing like Justin Timberlake, wanted to get married in an old-growth redwood grove. He spent ten million dollars on the wedding, and the California Coastal Commission says he spent that money like a huge dotcom asshole:
The Parker Respondents proceeded to perform unauthorized development activities within the campground. Existing roads and campsites were graded and contoured to create the appearance of ruins. Stone gateways and walls were constructed. Staircases were crafted around existing habitat and redwood trees. An artificial pond was dug and installed. A stone bridge over the pond was constructed. Several elevated platforms were created, some adjacent to Post Creek (Exhibit 9). Over 100 potted trees and plants were partially planted within the existing road beds and campsites, and lighting was installed in the redwood forest. In addition to the unpermitted development, other items to facilitate the event have also been placed on the site including tents and generators.
The Atlantic goes into further detail about the shitty things that were done in the name of Parker's love. It really does feel like the late 1990s all over again.
Looks like it may have been Monsanto:
Unapproved genetically engineered wheat has been found growing on a farm in Oregon, federal officials said Wednesday, a development that could disrupt American exports of the grain.
The Agriculture Department said the wheat was of the type developed by Monsanto to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup, also known as glyphosate. Such wheat was field-tested in 16 states, including Oregon, from 1998 through 2005, but Monsanto dropped the project before the wheat was ever approved for commercial planting.
Zero countries have approved genetically modified wheat, so if this rogue wheat got into our country's wheat supply—either for domestic consumption or export—it could be an expensive problem. According to the New York Times, wheat is a $17.9 billion industry in America.
Because political power at a national level is tied up with the overrepresented rural vote, it is up to cities to save the world...
Global CO2 levels just passed 400ppm for the first time! #Walkable Cities could cut CO2 by up to 36%gu.com/p/3fmv2 #ClimateChange
— Walkonomics (@Walkonomics) May 13, 2013
At the end of the day, the thing that makes this building very green is not so much its materials, its special fixtures, fancy glass, computer system, water system, solar panels...
This guest post is by 17 leaders from across the state who oppose the expansion of coal exports.
The fight against dramatically expanding coal exports scored a victory this month when three proposed coal port sites were abandoned by Houston-based Kinder Morgan Co. However, two proposed coal export sites remain in Washington State: Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point and Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview. That is why the newly launched Leadership Alliance Against Coal will continue to work to oppose coal trains and exports to protect our communities.
Washington residents live in a state that is beautiful, prosperous, and bountiful with natural resources. As Washington leaders of cities and tribal nations, we have an obligation and fiduciary responsibility to protect our environment, natural resources, economies, and the health of our residents. Together, we are building a future that ensures generations from now still will call Washington State the best place to make a home and raise their children.
That is why we oppose the proposals to build coal export terminals on the Puget Sound, and to send as many as 18 coal trains per day, each over a mile long, through our state to and from these terminals. These coal trains threaten the health of our communities, the strength of our economies, and the environmental and cultural heritage we share.
In our cities, these coal trains will create unacceptably long delays for residents, visitors, freight, first responders, and others who are trying to cross the busy rail corridor. The City of Seattle conducted a study that found coal trains could add an additional two hours of gate downtime at major street crossings of the railway by 2025. Similar delays are likely in cities large and small along the proposed route of these trains.
On Washington State tribal lands, coal trains will cause those same disruptions, but will also do additional damage to treaty rights and cultural heritage. The proposed Gateway Terminal located at Cherry Point is proposed to be built on sacred ground of the Lummi Nation. It is no different than if someone proposed to build a coal terminal at Arlington National Cemetery. For generations, the Native Americans have witnessed and experienced devastation of cultural heritage, health and ancestral lands. We don’t need to see any more.
Capitalism all around...
Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability (David Owen)
- Highlight on Page 191 | Loc. 2280-84 | Added on Sunday, May 19, 2013, 03:59 PM
In 2006, a researcher at the University of Montana, in a study based on satellite data collected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, determined that the nation’s largest irrigated crop is cultivated grass, which covers more than 32 million acres in the continental United States. (The second largest irrigated crop, at roughly 10 million acres, is corn.) Homeowners spend more than $40 billion a year on their lawns, and they use approximately a hundred... (You have reached the clipping limit for this item)
But this shit really matters. The rules concerning how our city is built decide how it looks, how it functions, how much it costs, and, in this case, how much or how little we contribute to an impending climate apocalypse.
Next month, the newest commercial building codes (residential codes are run by the state) will head to the city council for approval, and in them will be new energy requirements. I started asking around at city hall because at a solar-power-nerd party I went to last month, someone asked city council member Mike O'Brien if it would be possible to change our building codes to make solar power more affordable—a lot of the cost of installing solar panels on a roof has to do with strengthening the roof to hold them, working around poorly placed vents/fans/skylights, and getting at the electrical system to hook it up. That seemed pretty fucking reasonable to O'Brien, who said he'd look into it. Turns out the new codes will address just that.
Duane Jonlin, the city's energy code and energy conservation advisor, says it's all about "phantom design"—adding small requirements to the planning process that don't increase the cost of building, but make future solar projects easier. "As the [solar-power] systems get dramatically less expensive over time," he says, "the cost of moving those bathroom vents and fans and junk out of the way would be an increasingly large portion of the cost" of putting panels on the roof. His new requirements, based on a California solar-ready code, would require that commercial buildings five stories or less make 40 percent of their roof "free of vents and fans and clutter" and relatively unshaded, if possible. There'll also need to be a little extra space for electrical gear solar systems need to hook up to.
He guesses that in a decade or less, "without the need for government subsidies, people will be slathering their buildings in in this stuff." It'll just be too cost-effective not to. But if we don't prepare for that by making the process easier and cheaper, it just pushes further into the future "the day when it becomes an economic no-brainer to put this on your roof."
Another addition to the codes is going to be a mandatory, small amount of renewable energy built in to commercial projects. Currently, according to Jonlin, the city energy code has a "modest" renewable energy requirement—but "very few projects" have actually complied, because there's an exception: Buy renewable energy credits on the open market, and you don't have to put it into your building. That makes sense for City Light, he says, which pays a lot of money over a long period of time—"it does build windmills somewhere." But a one-time customer buying credits out there on the cheap doesn't really get anything done. So he's removing the exception, and as an appeasement, cutting in half how much renewable energy is required.
Will anyone oppose the code changes? "Usually these are non-controversial," he tells me, "because building codes are so boring." Hey, man, it's no nunchuck-twirler arrest, but it still matters.
If this is true, it shows that nothing compares with or can make a dent on the American will to bring the only world we know to an end.
“We’ve reached the limits of suburban development,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan declared in 2010. “People are beginning to vote with their feet and come back to the central cities.” Ed Glaeser’s Triumph of the City and Alan Ehrenhalt’s The Great Inversion—widely praised and accepted by the highest echelons of academia, press, business, and government—have advanced much the same claim, and just last week a report on jobs during the downturn garnered headlines like “City Centers in U.S. Gain Share of Jobs as Suburbs Lose.”
There’s just one problem with this narrative: none of it is true. A funny thing happened on the way to the long-trumpeted triumph of the city: the suburbs not only survived but have begun to regain their allure as Americans have continued aspiring to single-family homes.
Ah summer, that special time of year when thirsty denizens can drink wine coolers for breakfast without judgement—after Memorial Day, naturally—and stacks of Yellow Pages bloom on every doorstep.
That is, unless YOU OPT OUT OF THEM by May 6.
Wait, you're thinking, I thought the city lost that opt-out battle in court. They did! They lost that battle so hard! But it seems that even villains sometimes appreciate a happy ending, as the city has reached an agreement with Dex to continue allowing people to decline Yellow Page deliveries using an industry opt-out site. What's better, people who already opted out under the city’s program do not need to do so again.
“I thank the industry for agreeing to honor all existing opt outs and for taking significant steps to develop this nationwide opt-out system, which has participation from all major publishers, a new user-friendly interface and a complaint system where concerned residents can get quick, reliable feedback," said city council teddy bear Mike O'Brien in a statement.
Here is a thing that baffles me: On a road trip through Idaho last year, I saw a lot of anti-wind-energy billboards. Whoa. Who is actually against wind power? Up until then, it hadn't occurred to me that anyone could be. The basic argument seems to be that wind farms are unsightly or invasive. But there was another billboard argument I saw that was so weird I almost thought I'd dreamed it. One of the billboards compared wind farms to prostitution. It was insane, but I didn't get a picture because, you know, driving. This weekend, a friend who was driving through Idaho snapped one and sent it to me:
If you can't read it, that says: "CAUTION RED LIGHT DISTRICT AHEAD! Wind Development, not the oldest profession, but the result is the same."
Ummmmmm... what?!? The result of wind energy is the same as the result of prostitution? Because wind turbines have little red lights on them so planes don't fly into them? And wait, what's the "result" of prostitution? Sex? Money? The website the billboard's advertising is just this, a simple list of articles that paint wind power negatively. There is not an explanation of why wind farms are such whores.
On the same trip, I saw this totally different billboard about prostitution and meth, which broke my brain with its awfulness. Is she not your daughter anymore? Who's on meth here, anyway? And why is a sex worker such an effective bogey(wo)man on rural highways? It felt like an obsession.
On the other hand, the windstitute billboard has added another dimension to my vocabulary. "I have to wear this dress to see my folks later, do I look like a total wind farm?" It's highly entertaining.
This is just horrifying...
This morning, a group of solar power fans gathered in Ballard to talk about solar power in Washington. It may seem like our less-than-sunny side of the state is not a great candidate for a solar-power revolution, but actually, says Environment Washington in a newly released report, "the Puget Sound region gets as much sunshine as Germany, which is the world's leader in solar energy." And obviously, on the other side of the mountains, there's even more potential.
At this little presser in the offices of Sunergy Systems, a small solar-panel design/install company, activists and Seattle City Council member Mike O'Brien crowed about the possibilities of solar power. Environment Washington is calling on Governor Inslee to set a goal: 150,000 solar roofs in Washington by 2020. They point out that solar power is a "triple play"—it produces energy, it cuts carbon emissions, and it's a boost to the local economy. The owner of Sunergy, Howard Lamb, spoke of the growth of the solar industry and said he's looking to hire a few new workers soon to keep up with demand. O'Brien pointed out that "natural gas and oil don't come out of Seattle; we don't build automobiles." Investing in sustainable power like wind and solar could give us a larger local energy economy, and it also "gives customers empowerment over their energy use," he said. They made a strong case.
But Olympia hasn't been cooperating. As with bills about nearly everything you could ever care about, bills relating to solar power and renewable energy haven't gotten anywhere this year. A sales-tax exemption for solar panels (and other renewable energy sources), which small business owner Lamb loves, is set to expire in June, and attempts to renew it didn't get out of the house or into the budget. (Representative Reuven Carlyle tells The Stranger the exemption didn't make it because their analysis showed that "a majority of the benefits are provided to big international energy firms," and they're desperately trying to close inefficient tax loopholes to save money.) A house bill on sustainable-energy incentives, HB 1301, got into the senate and died in committee (just like so many other important, progressive bills).
Environment Washington says that even though none of the solar-friendly legislation they followed and promoted this year passed, they're "hopeful" that Inslee setting a public goal will "propel solar legislation forward in the legislature."
Here in Seattle, we can make our own headway on renewable energy while the state sleeps: As the discussion moved toward how to get more houses to install solar panels, someone pointed out that it was relatively easy to make new buildings solar-ready, so that the basic framework for receiving energy from rooftop solar panels was built into the wiring, if the building owner wanted to install them later. All you'd have to do would be to amend building codes to make that mandatory in new construction.
As Cienna told us, there's a proposal to build huge coal terminals on the Washington State coast, which would, naturally, require tons of coal to come barreling through the state each day to supply the terminals. And coal is very bad for oysters. Bummer! But lo! The bivalvapocalypse is not here yet. Stick out your pinkie and slurp down a little sea snot tonight at Coastal Kitchen to stick it to Big Coal. Every cent of oyster sales goes to Puget Soundkeepers Alliance and their campaign against the coal terminals.
Find more ways to indulge yourself gastronomically, politically, and otherwise on our News & Politics Calendar (the best calendar on earth).
Because oil pipelines never have problems:
Two recent oil pipeline spills have prompted new criticism from opponents of the proposed Keystone XL project, while raising more questions about whether the federal government is adequately monitoring the nation’s vast labyrinth of pipelines.
An Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured in central Arkansas on Friday, leaving a sheen of oil on nearby streets and causing the evacuation of 22 homes in the small town of Mayflower...
The Arkansas spill followed an accident in Utah on March 18 in which a Chevron pipeline leaked more than 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel in a wetlands area about 50 miles from Salt Lake City.
Today the Puget Sound Regional Council, at the request of Mayor Mike McGinn, agreed to study a controversial proposal to allow coal terminals in Washington State. As has been much reported, the terminals would lead to some 18 trains of a half-mile each sprinkling coal powder in their wake every day—perhaps along the downtown Seattle waterfront. This study is designed to augment the official environmental analysis by gauging the trains' "impacts on trade and development, property values, land use, employment and railway congestion within the central Puget Sound region," McGinn's office says.
But the government's environmental studies—with or without research from regional councils—usually seem like a formality that ratify the interests of investors (see: downtown tunnel, Sodo arena). So if these terminals and their ensuing trains are approved despite obvious drawbacks, would you join a mass civil disobedience to stop them?
That's today's poll:
Governor Jay Inslee has remained irritatingly coy on the subject of several proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, and the mile-and-a-half-long coal trains they would send rumbling through Washington State. Until, perhaps, today.
In a letter sent jointly with Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to Nancy Sutley, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Inslee at first adopts his usual noncommittal air, emphasizing that "no final decisions have been made on the related applications for state permits for these facilities." Okay. Whatever.
But after several paragraphs outlining the negative environmental and health impacts of coal emissions, Inslee and Kitzhaber go on to demand that as "the major owner of coal reserves in the western U.S.," the federal government "must examine the true costs of long-term commitments to supply coal from federal lands for energy production."
Increasing levels of greenhouse gases and other pollutants resulting from the burning of coal, including pollutants other than CO2, are imposing direct costs on people, businesses and communities in the U.S. and around the world. These costs include the public health costs of increased atmospheric deposition of mercury in drinking water sources, as well as costs resulting from ocean acidification, rising sea levels, wildfires, and shrinking snow packs that are key sources of water for the western U.S.
[...] Given that the cumulative total of coal exports from Oregon and Washington could result in CO2 emissions on the order of 240 million tons per year, well above the significance level described in the draft guidance – it is hard to conceive that the federal government would ignore the inevitable consequences of coal leasing and coal export. We believe the decisions to continue and expand coal leasing from federal lands and authorize the export of that coal are likely to lead to long-term investments in coal generation in Asia, with air quality and climate impacts in the United States that dwarf those of almost any other action the federal government could take in the foreseeable future.
Inslee and Kitzhaber don't directly ask the feds to block the export terminals, but they do urge the CEQ "in the strongest possible terms" to hold the coal export terminals to a standard they likely cannot meet. For if the economic externalities of expanding coal exports were worked into the price of the coal, it would almost certainly be too expensive to export.
"There are costs associated with exporting coal that are beyond the limited impacts of any one project," Inslee spokesperson Jaime Smith replied via email when I asked her to confirm if the letter really said what I thought it said.
While it's awfully damn frustrating that Inslee and Kitzhaber can't bring themselves to come right out and say that they oppose the coal export terminals, it's hard to read this letter any other way. In any case, it's the most sweeping and definitive statement we've seen from Inslee on the subject yet.
The state House passed SB 5802 on 61-32 vote today, sending it on to Governor Jay Inslee's desk for his signature. The bill, which will create a Climate Legislative and Executive Work Group to evaluate and recommend approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, had previously passed the state Senate on a 37-12 vote.
"This bill is a collaborative, bipartisan step forward that will allow us to seize the environmental and economic opportunities of addressing climate change and preserve the legacy of stewardship we owe our children," Inslee said in a statement.
Normally, I'm pretty jaded about the creation of work groups and commissions and such. Tasking a work group with recommending bold new policies is far removed from actually passing such policies. More often than not, these are feel-good measures that ultimately have little impact. But this is a little different.
First of all, the bill stands out as the first major piece of legislation proposed by Governor Inslee to pass both houses of the legislature. That alone marks it as a bit of a milestone. That it received modestly bipartisan support also says something, though I'm not sure exactly what.
Second, it's significant to note that by establishing a work group to recommend programs for reducing climate-changing greenhouse gasses, the measure implicitly acknowledges that greenhouse gas induced climate change exists. There is no "intent" section explicitly stating this—it was excised in order to secure more Republican votes—but, well, you don't task a work group with recommending programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if you don't believe that greenhouse gas emissions are a problem.
The point is, our legislature has moved beyond debating whether climate change is real. The debate has now officially moved on to what to do about it. And while this bill doesn't actually guarantee that we will do anything about it, it's an encouraging state.
What's next? Creationism replacing evolution in science classes?
The Senate voted Wednesday night by the barest of margins to approve a massive tax cut for the oil industry in the hope that it would lead to more oil production in Alaska.
The vote on Senate Bill 21 was 11-9, with only Republicans supporting the measure.
Happily, Seattle has been there, done that:
Across the country, cities are showing a renewed interest in taking over the electricity business from private utilities, reflecting intensifying concerns about climate change, responses to power disruptions and a desire to pump more renewable energy into the grid.
... [G]overnment-owned utilities, most of them formed 50 to 100 years ago, are nonprofit entities that do not answer to shareholders. They have access to tax-exempt financing for their projects, they do not pay federal income tax and they tend to pay their executives salaries that are on par with government levels, rather than higher corporate rates.
That financial structure can help municipal utilities supply cheaper electricity.
Seattle City Light isn't perfect, but it provides residents and businesses with some of the lowest, most stable rates in the nation, with more than 96 percent of its power generated with zero greenhouse gas emissions. It's hard to overstate the huge economic advantage city-owned City Light has bestowed on Seattle: "Electrical power represents the main energy cost for most businesses," notes the pro-business Washington Roundtable.
It's enough to make even some hardcore capitalists endorse the collective ownership of the means of production.