Archive for the ‘environment’ Category
Coverage of environmental issues may include climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, and resource depletion etc.
Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune reports:
The Divvy bike-share service, less than two months old, surpassed the 150,000-trip mark Friday, according to CDOT. About 5,000 annual Divvy members are enrolled, at $75 each, and more than 37,000 24-hour passes have been sold, at $7 each.
More than 458,000 total miles have been logged on individual trips since the service was introduced June 28, and the trips have averaged roughly 18 minutes each in recent days as more docking stations have opened, according to city transportation data.
Also, the three-speed bikes painted “Chicago blue” have logged more than 11,000 miles a day in recent days this month, with some weekend days exceeding 25,000 miles, the data show, based on the start and end points for each trip.
The service, dubbed Divvy to reflect the divide-and-share nature of bike-sharing, is not designed or priced for users to hog the bikes on leisurely, hourslong trips. Customers are supposed to use the bikes for 30 minutes or less on each ride. Riders get unlimited trips lasting up to a half-hour; after that, overtime fees are charged.
While on the one hand calling the public response to the Divvy program “beyond expectations,” city officials have set a high bar for ultimate success.
(click here to continue reading Divvy bike-sharing program, almost 2 months old, getting in gear, data show – chicagotribune.com.)
I signed my company up for Divvy Bike membership about two weeks ago, wanting to wait until the opening night jitters were worked out, and have been using the bikes for short trips around my office. I’ve taken more than ten rides so far, experiencing only one incident of faulty station – but a Divvy Bikes employee was on hand and took my bike to a different location for me. Also once the station I was planning to use didn’t have any bikes in it, but the next station was less than 2 blocks away. One other minor issue I encountered was that the amount of force you have to use when docking a bike surprised me, and at first I couldn’t get the bike to dock, but eventually a fellow Divvy-rider did it for me. I returned to favor to another rider the next day.
I own a bike of my own, but having a Divvy bike membership encourages brief bike rides; times where I might have taken a cab, or walked, instead I’ll jump on a Divvy bike. Of course, it’s summer right now, and Chicago has been having a beautifully mild season, the real test will be in mid-January. I’d also like to be able to travel farther, this will be possible when more stations are installed. Currently only 160 out of a planned 400 are active, less than half.
Regardless, I’m happy to support the idea of more bikes in Chicago. More bikes on the road means less cars, in general, and also encourages the government to install more bike lanes, which encourages more bikers, and so on.
Merits further attention, especially if replicated in other states besides Georgia…
“The Tea Party has formed an unholy alliance with the left,” Debbie Dooley recalls a panicked member of Georgia’s big energy lobby lamenting. Dooley, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, doesn’t deny the charges. In fact, she is set this Tuesday to celebrate the official launch of the Green Tea Coalition – the same “unholy alliance” of right and left grassroots that has big oil interests reeling.
“It’s an unholy alliance because they see it as a threat to them,” Dooley said, speaking ahead of the launch. “In the past, the elites on both the right and the left got away with it. On the right, they’d say, ‘This person’s on the left. Stay away from them,’ On the left, they’d say, ‘They’re radical, they’re the Tea Party. Stay away from them.’ “But we got through all that bull, got to know each other, and started working together,” she said.
(click here to continue reading Launch of Green Tea Coalition Drives a Wedge Through Georgia’s Tea Party.)
especially because the core truth is that groups like the Koch Brothers do not have the country’s best interest at heart, only in protecting their own financial positions. If they could manipulate working and middle class people into supporting laws that only benefit the 1%, then that is money well spent, for the 1%.
The danger was that conservatives – whose politics have traditionally aligned with the interests of corporate America – would take some of the ideas brewing in the teapot too far. Conservative Americans had begun to wholly embrace the idea that there was such a thing as “crony capitalism,” that certain powerful industries didn’t need to be subsidized for under-performing, or bailed out for failing, and that local and individual autonomy was more important than maintaining the profit structures of big industries.
Those ideas, taken to their logical conclusions, might have led to a conservative revolution that would have severely crippled the power of industries like Koch and Southern Company. The Koch plan, then, was to jump into the fray: a corporate entity hidden among the throngs of one of the largest political movements in decades. On the fertile ground of an emergent movement, Koch would sow their genetically modified seeds of ideology. The idea was to tweak the message of the Tea Party just enough to reroute the movement’s trajectory in such a way that, far from being the bad guys, industrialists could cast themselves as the victims and even allies of average Americans.
“We don’t need taxpayer funded government subsidies and renewable energy mandates,” AFP Georgia wrote in a statement on the Georgia solar plan. “The government has spent $14 billion since 2009 propping up renewable energy projects. They wouldn’t have to do that if the technology was more market ready.”
See? AFP is on the side of the people, standing up against big government subsidies for technology that may not even be ready for prime time. The fact that solar even requires government subsidies proves it isn’t ready, so they claim.
But just don’t expect AFP to apply the same standard to Koch-style industries. Between 1994 and 2009, U.S. oil and gas industries amassed nearly $450 billion in subsidies, compared to a relatively paltry $6 billion for renewable energy over the same period.
And don’t expect AFP to rail against Southern Company’s $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee for its new nuclear projects, either – despite its being the same type of loan granted to solar power company Solyndra, which AFP spent over $8 million to defame between 2011 to 2012.
A new thing for the media to fixate on…
The nation is heading toward the worst outbreak of West Nile disease in the 13 years that the virus has been on this continent, federal health authorities said Wednesday.
But it is still unclear where and how far cases will spread. Dallas declared an emergency last week, and West Nile deaths have been concentrated in Texas and a few nearby states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma, as well as South Dakota.
So far this year, there have been 1,118 cases and 41 deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Lyle R. Petersen, director of the agency’s division of vector-borne diseases, said Wednesday in a telephone news conference.
“That’s the highest number of cases ever reported to the C.D.C. by the third week of August,” he added. “And cases are trending upward.”
Only about one infection in 150 becomes serious enough for the patient to need hospitalization — usually when the virus gets into the brain and spinal cord. But 10 percent of those hospitalized die, and other patients are left paralyzed, comatose or with serious mental problems. A recent study by doctors in Houston found kidney disease high among survivors.
There is no vaccine, and no drug that specifically targets the virus, so health authorities advise people to avoid getting bitten.
(click here to continue reading West Nile Outbreak Shaping Up as Worst Ever in U.S., Authorities Say – NYTimes.com.)
The numbers may be small, but death is pretty serious, especially since there is no vaccine for West Nile. Illinois is gearing up as well:
The mosquito responsible for the West Nile virus flourished during the summer’s record heat and drought. Now, officials are concerned about emerging signs that a widespread outbreak may be on the horizon in Illinois.
Updated figures from the state Department of Public Health show extremely high numbers of the Culex pipiens species have tested positive for the disease — 71 percent in DuPage County and nearly 60 percent in Cook, the health department reported.
Although the 27 cases of West Nile virus in Illinois don’t represent a particularly high number, experts start to get anxious when just 10 percent of samples of virus-carrying mosquitoes test positive.
The reason, said Linn Haramis, program manager of vector control for the health department, is that history suggests that the 10 percent infection rate is a strong indicator the percentage is going to accelerate rapidly over the summer.
The rate of Culex pipiens mosquitoes statewide that had the West Nile virus stood at 25 percent Tuesday, Haramis said. Last year, that percentage was 8 percent, he added.
(click here to continue reading West Nile: Banner year for West Nile – chicagotribune.com.)
and it appears to be a mostly unremarked side effect of global planet change:
Mosquito activity is highly weather-sensitive. Cooler temperatures and heavy rain reduce the number of Culex pipiens, experts said. Downpours can wash away larvae growing in places such as catch basins and gutters. That didn’t happen this summer.
But high temperatures allowed the virus to replicate quicker, building to dangerous levels inside the mosquito, which infect people through its saliva, experts said.
Even the warmer winter may have helped. The mild weather then and in the early spring, combined with the hot summer, might have fostered conditions favorable to spread the virus, according to CDC officials.
“It’s a banner year for West Nile,” said Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist with the Harvard School of Public Health. “Not such a good year for people.”
Cases usually flare in the summer because the illness is most often transmitted from infected birds to people by mosquitoes.
Wear long sleeve clothing when walking in dusk and evening, avoid pools of standing water, and make sure your last will and testament is current. What more can you do?
More on the global change aspect from Scientific American:
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been over 1100 reported cases of West Nile virus disease in the US this year, including 42 deaths. If these numbers seem high, they are – in fact, it’s the highest number of reported cases since West Nile was first detected in the US in 1999, and West Nile season has just begun. Given that the peak of West Nile epidemics generally occurs in mid August, and it takes a few weeks for people to fall ill, the CDC expects that number to rise dramatically. But why now?
Though the CDC doesn’t have an official response to that question, the director of the CDC’s Vector-Borne Infectious Disease Division said that ‘unusually warm weather’ may be to blame. So far, 2012 is the hottest year on record in the United States according to the National Climatic Data Center, with record-breaking temperatures and drought a national norm. It’s likely no coincidence that some of the states hit hardest by West Nile are also feeling the brunt of the heat. More than half of cases have been reported from Texas alone, where the scorching heat has left only 12% of the state drought-free. Fifteen heat records were broken in Texas just last week on August 13th.
The heat waves, droughts and other weather events are the direct effects of climate change say leading scientists. As NASA researcher James Hansen explained in a recent Washington Post editorial, “our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.” He says that the European heat wave of 2003, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year are all the repercussions of climate change. Confidently, he adds that “once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.”
The fact that the worst US West Nile epidemic in history happens to be occurring during what will likely prove to be the hottest summer on record doesn’t surprise epidemiologists. They have been predicting the effects of climate change on West Nile for over a decade. If they’re right, the US is only headed for worse epidemics.
While the CDC is hesitant to blame this year’s West Nile outbreak on climate change directly, the science is clear. Record-breaking incidences of West Nile are strongly linked to global climate patterns and the direct effects of carbon dioxide emissions. Climate change isn’t just going to screw with the environment, it will continue to have devastating public health implications. In addition to better mosquito control and virus surveillance, we need to focus our efforts on reducing and reversing climate change if we want to protect our health and our well-being.
(click here to continue reading Is Climate Change To Blame For This Year’s West Nile Outbreak? | Science Sushi, Scientific American Blog Network.)
I moved to Chicago in 1994, and the heat-wave of 1995 surprised me. I was used to living in extreme heat in Austin, several of my cheap apartments didn’t have air conditioning. But Chicago was not culturally or politically prepared to deal with the heat of that summer. This year’s heat-wave was taken a lot more seriously by city officials, as Eric Klinenberg reports:
the most visible human drama of climate change is happening in cities. Cities are not merely the population centers where dense concentrations of people are trapped and exposed during dangerous weather events. They are also “heat islands,” whose asphalt, brick, concrete and steel attract the heat while pollution from automobiles, factories and air-conditioners traps it. City dwellers experience elevated heat at all hours, but the difference matters most at night, when the failure of high temperatures to fall deprives them of natural relief. For the most vulnerable people, these “high lows” can be the difference between life and death.
Americans began to take urban heat seriously after 1995, when a record-breaking heat wave — three days of triple-digit heat — baked Chicago. Ordinarily, heat waves fail to produce the kind of spectacular imagery we see in other disasters, like earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. Heat doesn’t generate much property damage, nor does it reveal its force to the camera or naked eye. Heat waves are invisible killers of old, poor and other mostly invisible people. Until the summer of 1995, medical examiners and media outlets often neglected to report heat-related deaths altogether.
But the great Chicago heat wave changed things. It caused so much suffering that at one point nearly half the city’s emergency rooms closed their doors to new patients. Hospitals were not the only institutions stretched beyond capacity by the heat. Streets buckled. Trains derailed. The power grid failed. Water pressure diminished. Ambulances were delayed.
There were “water wars” in poor neighborhoods, where city workers cracked down on residents who opened fire hydrants for relief. There were surreal scenes at City Hall, where members of the mayor’s staff declined to declare a heat emergency, forgot to implement their extreme heat plan and refused to bring in additional ambulances and paramedics.
And there was Mayor Richard M. Daley, telling reporters: “It’s hot. It’s very hot. But let’s not blow it out of proportion,” while the morgue ran out of bays and the medical examiner had to call in a fleet of refrigerated trucks to handle the load. When the temperatures finally broke, 739 Chicagoans had died as a result of the heat wave.
Chicago learned from the disaster, and today it is a national leader in planning for the next acute heat emergency. The city compiles a list of old, isolated and vulnerable residents, and public workers contact them when dangerous weather arrives. City officials and community organizations promote awareness and encourage residents to check in on one another. The local news media treat heat waves as true public health hazards. Everyone knows how perilous the new climate can be.
Unfortunately, Chicago keeps getting reminders. In the early July heat wave, despite its improved emergency response system, Chicago reported more heat deaths than any other city or state. And this week the Union of Concerned Scientists released “Heat in the Heartland,(PDF)” a study that reports an increased incidence of dangerous hot weather throughout the Midwest in the past 60 years, including elevated evening temperatures and more heat waves lasting three days or longer. Along with Chicago, the report singles out St. Louis, Detroit, Minneapolis and Cincinnati as being at risk, but also cites public health research predicting more heat waves in towns and cities throughout the Midwest and Northeast.
(click here to continue reading Is It Hot Enough for Ya? – NYTimes.com.)
Rising temperatures are not just a concern for the future. Dangerously hot weather is already occurring more frequently in the Midwest than it did 60 years ago.
The report, Heat in the Heartland: 60 Years of Warming in the Midwest, presents an original analysis of weather data for five major urban areas — Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis, and St. Louis — as well as five smaller nearby cities.
The results from the analysis are clear: Hot summer weather and heat waves have been increasing in cities in the nation’s heartland over the last six decades on average. The report documents this trend, explores its health implications, and looks at what the largest cities are doing to adapt to these changes and protect their residents.
High temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and deadly heat stroke. Very hot weather can also aggravate existing medical conditions such as diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease, and heart disease.
Urban populations, the elderly, children, and people with impaired health and limited mobility are particularly susceptible to heat-related illness and death.
Now if only someone could come up with a good (non-financial) reason for the Tea Party and other GOP factions to support a national policy dealing with climate change…
Good job by the Trib: doing actual journalism, getting results.
Since the Tribune published its “Playing With Fire” series, momentum has been building for stricter oversight of flame retardants and other toxic chemicals.
The newspaper’s investigation documented a deceptive campaign by industry that distorted science, created a phony consumer watchdog group to stoke the fear of fire and organized an association of top fire officials to advocate for greater use of flame retardants in furniture and electronics.
Promoted as lifesavers, flame retardants added to furniture cushions actually provide no meaningful protection from fires, according to federal researchers and independent scientists. Some of the most widely used chemicals are linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility.
“Your series was an eye-opener,” said Joseph Erdman, legislative director for the New York Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation. “We hope other people around the state and nation read it.”
The committee has revived legislation targeting a chemical known as chlorinated tris, or TDCPP, that was voluntarily taken out of children’s pajamas more than three decades ago after studies found it could cause cancer. Recent tests have found that chlorinated tris now is commonly added to strollers, highchairs, rockers, diaper-changing pads and other baby products.
(click here to continue reading Momentum builds for stronger oversight of flame retardants – chicagotribune.com.)
Kudos to Tribune reporters Michael Hawthorne, Sam Roe, Patricia Callahan; keep up the pressure, and perhaps something good will come of this…
Any corporation that donates money to the anti-planet, anti-humanity hateful organization the Heartland Institute, is on my shite list. There is no excuse to support them.
Along with tobacco giants Altria and Reynolds America, and drug firms GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Eli Lilley, major corporations have given over $1.1m in the past two years to the institute, and are planning to give another $705,000 this year.
Some of the companies included on Heartland’s list of donors were surprising. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation, has vigorously promoted clean energy in a number of speeches, and his charitable foundation works on helping farmers in the developing world, who will be badly affected by climate change.
But Heartland claims in a fundraising document to have received $59,908 from Microsoft in 2011.
A spokeswoman for GSK said the $50,000 the company donated in the last two years was for a healthcare initiative. She could not comment on whether GSK would be working with Heartland in the future.
General Motors Foundation, which is committed to social responsibility, has also made modest donations to Heartland, contributing $15,000 in 2010 and 2011.
Diageo, the drinks company which owns Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Baileys, said its funding of Heartland was now under review. It gave $10,000 over the last two years, according to the leaked papers, and was projected to give another $10,000 this year.
(click here to continue reading Climate science attack machine took donations from major corporations | Environment | The Guardian.)
I don’t buy the excuse that some of what the Heartland Institute does is ok, and is worthy of corporate sponsorship. I wouldn’t excuse a crack dealer who happened to purchase neighborhood kids a pair of shoes either – the main business is still selling crack, just like the Heartland Institute’s main business is denying climate change.
Some other corporate sponsors I recognize, and now despise:
- Anheuser-Busch Companies
- Bayer Corporation
- Eli Lilly
- Farmers’ Insurance (Zurich)
- Marathon Petroleum
- Nationwide Insurance
- Nucor Corp.
- PepsiCo, Inc.
- State Farm
- Time Warner Cable
- and of course, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
I wonder why Maria Pappas is tied in so closely to the scum at the Heartland Insitute? I’ve voted for her in the past, but would have to reconsider that in the future. She’s probably about to switch parties in any case, and join the Tea Baggers.
Heartland also planned to spend $210,000 to help Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas tour the nation to speak about municipal debt, according to one document. Pappas lost to Barack Obama in the 2004 Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat. Pappas confirmed this in a phone interview, saying what Heartland was doing was exposing a “financial tsunami” of municipal debt.
(click here to continue reading INFLUENCE GAME: Leaks show group’s climate efforts.)
from the DeSmogBlog documents:
We [Heartland Institute] have tried in the past to host half-day (or shorter) programs in state capitals, with mixed success. We plan for eight such events in 2012, with some of them perhaps using Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas as a draw…
Maria Pappas, Cook County (IL) Treasurer, has discovered that municipalities and other taxing districts in Cook County are much deeper in debt than is widely understood, or even understood by elected officials in Cook County. She has documented a looming financial crisis, driven largely by employee pension and health care promises, that could have catastrophic results for residents and businesses in the county. She warns that other counties in the U.S. are probably facing similar disasters. She’s eager to speak out on the issue not only in Illinois, but nationwide.
Heartland has agreed to work with Treasurer Pappas’s staff and other allies on three things:
(a) a research and publishing effort that results in one or more Heartland Policy Studies that factcheck, report, and interpret the Treasurers’ findings,
(b) a national communications campaign consisting of distribution of the studies, news releases, op-eds, and other promotional activities, and
(c) a national speaking tour featuring Treasurer Pappas, perhaps with events in state capitals held in conjunction with our allies in a dozen or half-dozen states. We anticipate that this project will cost about $210,000. The anonymous donor has pledged $105,000 toward this project. We are circulating a proposal to potential donors.
We don’t yet know exactly what Ms. Pappas and her buddies were going to say, but odds are it won’t be a liberal position. In the same document (PDF), Heartland also plans to:
- circumvent the FDA and get drugs approved without study
- continue to spread lies about climate change, and fund scientists without morals to do so
- Operation Angry Beaver – support incumbent Governor Scott Walker in his bid to avoid recall in Wisconsin
- Push for more “Charter” schools
- Outreach to the 1 Percenters in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and other bankers, and libertarian-friendly financiers
- Get their anti-climate change agenda taught in K-12 school systems
- Push for more hydraulic Fracking
and others. None of these projects are for the betterment of humanity, just for enrichment of the few. Sad to note that a member of the Democratic Party and the current Cook County Treasurer is a fellow traveller with the Heartland Institute.
If you hadn’t heard of the faux-non profit Heartland Institute before today, they are dedicated to destroying our planet, and making money while doing so.
The blog DeSmogBlog has the actual documents, and says:
Internal Heartland Institute strategy and funding documents obtained by DeSmogBlog expose the heart of the climate denial machine – its current plans, many of its funders, and details that confirm what DeSmogBlog and others have reported for years. The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more.
We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.
The Guardian U.K. has been all over the story, publishing several articles already, including:
The inner workings of a libertarian thinktank working to discredit the established science on climate change have been exposed by a leak of confidential documents detailing its strategy and fundraising networks.
DeSmogBlog, which broke the story, said it had received the confidential documents from an “insider” at the Heartland Institute, which is based in Chicago. The blog monitors industry efforts to discredit climate science.
The scheme includes spending $100,000 for spreading the message in K-12 schools that “the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science”, the documents said.
(click here to continue reading Leak exposes how Heartland Institute works to undermine climate science | Environment | guardian.co.uk.)
The NYT reports:
Although best-known nationally for its attacks on climate science, Heartland styles itself as a libertarian organization with interests in a wide range of public-policy issues. The documents say that it expects to raise $7.7 million this year.
The documents raise questions about whether the group has undertaken partisan political activities, a potential violation of federal tax law governing nonprofit groups. For instance, the documents outline “Operation Angry Badger,” a plan to spend $612,000 to influence the outcome of recall elections and related fights this year in Wisconsin over the role of public-sector unions.
Tax lawyers said Wednesday that tax-exempt groups were allowed to undertake some types of lobbying and political education, but that because they are subsidized by taxpayers, they are prohibited from direct involvement in political campaigns.
The documents also show that the group has received money from some of the nation’s largest corporations, including several that have long favored action to combat climate change.
The documents typically say that those donations were earmarked for projects unrelated to climate change, like publishing right-leaning newsletters on drug and technology policy. Nonetheless, several of the companies hastened on Wednesday to disassociate themselves from the organization’s climate stance.
…A spokesman for Microsoft, another listed donor, said that the company believes that “climate change is a serious issue that demands immediate worldwide action.” The company is shown in the documents as having contributed $59,908 last year to a Heartland technology newsletter. But the Microsoft spokesman, Mark Murray, said the gift was not a cash contribution but rather the value of free software, which Microsoft gives to thousands of nonprofit groups.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Heartland documents was what they did not contain: evidence of contributions from the major publicly traded oil companies, long suspected by environmentalists of secretly financing efforts to undermine climate science.
But oil interests were nonetheless represented. The documents say that the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation contributed $25,000 last year and was expected to contribute $200,000 this year. Mr. Koch is one of two brothers who have been prominent supporters of libertarian causes as well as other charitable endeavors. They control Koch Industries, one of the country’s largest private companies and a major oil refiner.
The documents suggest that Heartland has spent several million dollars in the past five years in its efforts to undermine climate science, much of that coming from a person referred to repeatedly in the documents as “the Anonymous Donor.” A guessing game erupted Wednesday about who that might be.
(click here to continue reading In Heartland Institute Leak, a Plan to Discredit Climate Teaching – NYTimes.com.)
David Atkins remembers that the Heartland Institute was behind the endless promotion of stolen emails:
Ummmm…wasn’t this the same organization that eagerly promoted the so-called “Climategate” non-story based on misleading, selectively quoted, stolen emails?
Karma is a glorious thing. The Heartland Institute is one of the most pernicious organizations in the country, crafting meticulously detailed booklets of ready-made policies and talking points made available for free to candidates of both parties for races as minor as State Assembly.
If you’re a free-market Objectivist Republican, there’s no need whatsoever to have any independent thoughts about even the smallest matter of public policy. The Heartland Institute will do it all for you, all while spending millions to influence school curricula toward more corporate-friendly rewriting of science and history.
And despite doing their best to ensure a hellish future and possible extinction for the human and millions of other species on this planet just to further enrich a few fat cats, Heartland is threatening to sue anyone who quotes their internal memos. Yeah, good luck with that, buckos. I suspect this is just the beginning.
(click here to continue reading Hullabaloo.)
I am curious to which corporations donate to this toxic organization. More on that later…
Hmm, 100 jobs versus the air quality for over 9,000,000 other people (and maybe more – I’m just counting the Chicagoland area). How is that even a debate? And land-use? Again, not really a debate except by debating societies…
While many environmentalists are cheering the closing, it raises new environmental and land-use challenges. It will also be an economic blow to Hammond, and to about 100 employees…Similar situations are playing out nationwide as aging coal plants close, including a Dominion plant in Salem, Mass.; six Midwestern and Eastern coal plants owned by FirstEnergy Corp.; and, potentially, the Fisk and Crawford plants in Chicago in coming years.
Lower natural gas prices from the increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale gas deposits have made it much less profitable to produce electricity from coal. This is especially true for facilities like State Line and the Chicago coal plants, which sell electricity on a highly competitive short-term wholesale market rather than through long-term contracts.
“These companies bought coal plants based on certain assumptions about the price of natural gas,” said William Boyd, a professor of energy law at the University of Colorado. “Shale gas turned their world upside down, and retrofitting old coal plants to meet new environmental regulations doesn’t make sense anymore.”
Some coal plants elsewhere in the country have been retrofitted to burn natural gas. But Dominion and Midwest Generation, which owns the Chicago plants, said converting would be too expensive.
Doug McFarlan, a spokesman for Midwest Generation, said, “We will continue to evaluate numerous factors — including the capital expenditures required to comply with environmental regulations and market conditions that impact our ability to recover costs — in making decisions about future investments in any of our power generating units.”
Dominion had planned to close State Line in 2014, but last summer the company said the plant would be shut down by March.
Environmental advocates have long said the sooner the better, since medical studies link emissions from coal plants to higher rates of asthma attacks, cardiac disease and premature death among surrounding residents.
(click here to continue reading Closing of State Line Power Station, on Illinois-Indiana Border, Is Expected to Leave Problems Behind – NYTimes.com.)
Good for Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the few Senators who actually cares about the average citizen, and our planet…
Bernie Sanders used to be Congressman-at-large from Vermont. Now he’s Vermont’s junior Senator. In so many ways, however, he’s the nation’s Senator-at-large, showing the way when so many others in Congress have lost theirs.
While a good chunk of Congress, including a majority of the freshman class in the House, are climate-change deniers, Sanders has no illusions about where we need to be headed. That’s why he introduced the 10 Million Solar Rooftops bill last June. That bill, now with seven co-sponsors, was approved for a vote by the full Senate in December. It’s also why he introduced legislation to end oil and coal subsidies last year. That bill got just 35 votes in the Senate. But he vowed Tuesday not to give up.
“We’ve got to end all of the tax breaks for the oil companies and coal companies and I’m going to introduce legislation to do just that,” Sanders told demonstrators clad in black-and-white striped referee shirts who rallied to “blow the whistle” on members of Congress and Big Oil. Ending tax breaks and subsidies for oil and gas companies would reduce the deficit by more than $40 billion over the next 10 years. Sanders’ legislation will end those tax breaks and tens of billions of dollars in other special subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
Besides ignoring Sen. Sanders’s bill last year, and Obama’s budget proposal, Congress refused to go along with the proposal of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who wanted to cut some $2 billion in subsidies solely from the five big dogs in the oil business: BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and Conoco Phillips.
Together over the past decade, those five have together put $1 trillion on their bottom lines. And yet some of them have had years in which they not only paid zero income taxes, they actually got rebates. Exxon Mobil paid $39 million in taxes on the $9.9 billion in U.S. profits it made for 2009-2010. Its effective tax rate? 0.4 percent. Outrageous, but perfectly legal.
Sanders told the 350.org crowd, “One of the absurdities that goes on right here in Washington, D.C., is that Congress keeps voting not for the interest of our children, not in the interest of our future, but for the profits of the huge oil and coal companies.”
There’s a good reason for this outcome. In 2011 alone, oil and gas companies spent more than $100 million lobbying Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics reports. Since 1990, they have collectively passed out $238.7 million to candidates and parties, three-fourths of it to Republicans. Exxon Mobil alone contributed $872,694 to candidates in 2010-2011. Sitting members of Congress received $12 million in contributions from oil and gas interests from July 2009 through July 2011, according to the non-partisan research group Maplight.
(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: Bernie Sanders proposes to ax fossil-fuel subsidies and add 10 million sun-powered rooftops.)
Outrageous, really, that our tax dollars go to line the pockets of oil industry executives…
I still do not understand how or why the GOP mouth-breathers have decided that incremental improvements in light bulb efficiency is a threat to civilized society. Such an odd thing to freak out about.
Few things exemplify the ongoing right-wing, media-fueled campaign against reality as well as the hysteria surrounding implementation of light bulb efficiency standards, which gather the low-hanging fruit of energy conservation by inciting manufacturers to improve their technology. Following in a long line of federal efficiency standards created by Republican presidents, the light bulb requirements were signed into law in 2007 by President George W. Bush with bipartisan support.
Reporting on what it called “a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation,” the New York Times noted back in 2009 that Philips Lighting had already developed a more efficient incandescent light bulb using halogen gas to comply with the new requirements. Philips executive Randall Moorhead has said that “the new incandescent lights were not being made because there was not an economic incentive to make them.” The other major lighting companies have followed suit, and today halogen incandescent bulbs are widely available for purchase at hardware stores, department stores and online. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that “more efficient incandescent lights” will continue to make up a large portion of general service light bulb purchases for decades to come.
And yet the efficiency standards — the first phase of which took effect on January 1 despite legislation blocking funding for enforcement — have been met with outrage from conservative media who spent the last year claiming that they infringe on consumer “freedom of choice.” Led by Fox News, right-wing media outlets have repeatedly told consumers that the standards would “ban” incandescent bulbs and force us all to purchase “mercury-laden, ugly and smelly compact fluorescent light bulbs,” to the chagrin of electrical manufacturers. Fox has even gone so far as to encourage consumers to “hoard” the old, inefficient bulbs.
(click here to continue reading Media Matters Goes Light Bulb Shopping | Media Matters for America.)
The lighbulb manufacturers must regret being Republican sponsors…
The NYT reported last May:
Late in his second term, George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires light bulb makers to improve the efficiency of incandescent bulbs by 25 percent. The details of the law dictated a phase-out of the manufacture of certain bulbs in their current incarnation, starting with 100-watt bulbs next January.
The law does not ban the use or manufacture of all incandescent bulbs, nor does it mandate the use of compact fluorescent ones. It simply requires that companies make some of their incandescent bulbs work a bit better, meeting a series of rolling deadlines between 2012 and 2014.
Furthermore, all sorts of exemptions are written into the law, which means that all sorts of bulbs are getting a free pass and can keep their energy-guzzling ways indefinitely, including “specialty bulbs” like the Edison bulbs favored by Mr. Henault, as well as three-way bulbs, silver-bottomed bulbs, chandelier bulbs, refrigerator bulbs, plant lights and many, many others.
Nonetheless, as the deadline for the first phase of the legislation looms, light bulb confusion — even profound light bulb anxiety — is roiling the minds of many. The other day, Ken Henderlong, a sales associate at Oriental Lamp Shade Company on Lexington Avenue, said that his customers “say they want to stockpile incandescent bulbs, but they are not sure when to start. No one knows when the rules go into effect or what the rules are.”
Probably this is because articles about light bulb legislation are incredibly boring, and articles about the end of the light bulb as we know it are less so. Certainly they stick in the mind longer.
For years, Glenn Beck, among other conservative pundits and personalities, has proclaimed the death of the incandescent light bulb as a casualty of the “nanny state” (never mind that the light bulb legislation is a Bush-era act), and he has been exhorting his listeners to hoard 100-watt light bulbs (along with gold and canned food). This year, conservative politicians took a leaf from his playbook, introducing bills like the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, courtesy of Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman, that would repeal the 2007 legislation.
The hubbub has been deeply irritating to light bulb manufacturers and retailers, which have been explaining the law, over and over again, to whomever will listen. At a Congressional hearing in March, Kyle Pitsor, a representative from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a trade group that represents makers of light bulbs, among others, patiently but clearly disputed claims that the law banned incandescent bulbs. He restated the law’s points and averred light bulb makers’ support for the law. As usual, it seemed as if no one was paying attention.
(click here to continue reading Fearing the Phase-Out of Incandescent Bulbs – NYTimes.com.)
The GOP only cares about symbolic victories, not about actual governance. For example, the infamous Keystone XL pipeline. Obama would have happily punted on the decision until after the election, but the GOP was more interested in scoring political points, so they forced Obama’s hand.
At the peak of December’s payroll tax cut showdown on Capitol Hill, two top Republican aides discussed with me the pros and cons of making the Keystone XL pipeline a centerpiece of the debate. They relished the idea of forcing President Obama to take a public stand on the pipeline early in an election year, instead of after the election as he had wanted. And they were eager to force him to choose between supporters in the labor movement, some of whom are pushing for the pipeline, and others in the environmental movement who vehemently oppose it. So they decided to go for it.
At the same time they knew he’d likely have to reject the project, and for them that created a dilemma.
“It’s a question of whether we’d rather have the pipeline or the issue,” said one of the GOP aides. Black or white.
In the end they chose the issue.
On Wednesday, as expected, Obama shutdown the project, dooming it unless the Canadian company angling for the project goes through the costly process of reapplying and winning approval next year.
All to generate some talking points, and talking points based on lies…
The political attack here is based on a number of false and exaggerated claims — including that the pipeline construction would have created 20,000 jobs (the only independent study of the project concluded that the true number would’ve been much lower) and that the oil is now destined for China instead of the U.S.
At her own Capitol briefing Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took issue with these claims.
“If the Republicans cared so much about the Keystone pipeline, they would not have narrowed the president’s options by putting it on the time frame they did,” Pelosi said. “They left him very little choice…. This oil was always destined for overseas. It’s just a question of whether it leaves Canada by way of Canada, or it leaves Canada by way of the United States. So without taking a position on the pipeline, I don’t agree to the stipulation that this is oil that’s going to China now instead of the US. It was always going overseas. I don’t know where to, but it wasn’t for domestic consumption. And that’s really an important point because the advertising is quite to the contrary.”
(click here to continue reading How Republicans Killed Own Pet Oil Pipeline Project | TPMDC.)
Not to mention this little under-reported factoid:
In the meantime, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) launched a “countdown clock” that ticks off the time until the permitting deadline expires and posted a video on YouTube that touts the pipeline as a chance to create jobs with private investment. Playing off Obama’s mantra of “We Can’t Wait,” the video flashes phrases across the screen including, “We Can’t Wait for Leadership. We Can’t Wait for Jobs.” Environmentalists note that in December 2010, according to Boehner’s financial disclosure forms, he invested $10,000 to $50,000 each in seven firms that had a stake in Canada’s oil sands, the region that produces the oil the pipeline would transport. The firms include six oil companies—BP, Canadian Natural Resources, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Devon Energy and Exxon—along with Emerson Electric, which has a contract to provide the digital automation for the first phase of a $9.4 billion Horizon Oil Sands Project in Canada.
Bill McKibben, a climate activist and co-founder of the group 350.org, wrote in an e-mail that Boehner has received more than $1 million from fossil-fuel companies, “and now we find out that he’s got extensive personal investments in companies dependent on tarsands oil.”
“He was willing to shut down the government in part to prevent enough time for serious environmental review,” McKibben added. “In any other facet of our public life . . . this whole list taken together would be seen for the gross conflict of interest that it is.”
(click here to continue reading Daily Kos: John Boehner’s Keystone XL conflict of interest.)
Incredible news, if it ends up being completed in my lifetime. Even if only some is completed, it will help filter out pollution from Gary, Indiana, and elsewhere from reaching downtown Chicago.
The largest urban park in the contiguous United States is coming to Chicago.
A new project, backed by at least $17 million from the state, aims to turn 140,000 acres of under-used and post-industrial land along the Second City’s southern rim into a public recreation hub called the Millennium Reserve.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn hopes to add private funding to the project, figuring the reserve will boost the economy and create hundreds of jobs. Environmental groups have been calling for a makeover for the Calumet region for years. “The Millennium Reserve Plan represents the first viable, large-scale attempt to protect and enhance the Lake Calumet area through an integrated, cooperative approach to land and resource management,” the Sierra Club of Illinois said in a statement.
In comparison, New York’s renowned Central Park is a mere 843 acres. In fact, New York City itself has four or five parks larger than Central Park, depending on who’s counting. Still, its attractions include a zoo and wildlife center, a lake, a concert arena and a world-class restaurant, as well as an endless list of film locations.
Chicago’s largest existing park is Lincoln Park, a 1,200 acre lakefront stretch of ball fields and open space that includes a conservatory, a nature museum and a popular zoo. Though partially outside the city, the Millennium Reserve will put it to shame, upon completion. The first phase is scheduled to open in a few years.
(click here to continue reading A Plan for America’s Largest Urban Park – Jobs & Economy – The Atlantic Cities.)
I hope they utilize their learnings from the creation of Henry Palmisano Park in Bridgeport.
The largest open space project in the country is coming to the South Side of Chicago. The project aims to transform 140,000 acres of brownfields and other under-utilized land in the Calumet region into the Millennium Reserve — a public recreation hub teeming with plants, wildlife, trains and parks. The effort draws from President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and state resources.
“Our state – we’re putting in $17 million in this mission of reclaiming land and building a special place of nature conservation,” Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn said Friday.
The announcement was made near 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Highway. Quinn said the hope is to leverage private money into the overall project. Local officials also say Millennium
Reserve will bring economic development and jobs to the area. The first phase won’t be finished for several years.
Environmental groups applauded the announcement and the project’s aims; for years several advocacy organizations have clamored for restoration and greenways.
In a statement, the Sierra Club of Illinois said: “The Millennium Reserve Plan represents the first viable, large-scale attempt to protect and enhance the Lake Calumet area through an integrated, cooperative approach to land and resource management by multiple state, local and federal agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations and the local economy.”
Water is scarce already, especially in arid places like South Texas and North Dakota. But hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, slurps up a lot of water.
CARRIZO SPRINGS, Texas—Water has always been a concern for 65-year-old Joe Parker, who manages a 19,000-acre cattle ranch here in South Texas. “Water is scarce in our area,” he says, and a scorching yearlong drought has made it even scarcer.
What has Mr. Parker especially concerned are the drilling rigs that now dot the flat, brushy landscape. Each oil well in the area, using the technique known as hydraulic fracturing, requires about six million gallons of water to break open rocks far below the surface and release oil and natural gas. Mr. Parker says he worries about whether the underground water can support both ranching and energy exploration.
Darrell Brownlow, another cattle rancher, says that if the economically depressed region has to choose between the two, the choice should be simple.
Mr. Brownlow, who has a Ph.D. in geochemistry, says it takes 407 million gallons to irrigate 640 acres and grow about $200,000 worth of corn on the arid land. The same amount of water, he says, could be used to frack enough wells to generate $2.5 billion worth of oil. “No water, no frack, no wealth,” says Mr. Brownlow, who has leased his cattle ranch for oil exploration.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has revived prospects for oil-and-gas production in the U.S. and provided a welcome jolt to many local economies. Less than three years after its discovery, the Eagle Ford oil field here already accounts for 6% of South Texas’s economic output and supports 12,000 full-time jobs, according to a study by the University of Texas at San Antonio earlier this year, which was funded by an industry-backed group.
But fracking also is forcing communities to grapple with how to balance the economic benefits with potential costs. To date, criticism of fracking has focused mainly on concerns that the chemicals energy companies are mixing with the water could contaminate underground aquifers. Oil industry officials regard that issue as manageable. The biggest challenge to future development, they say, is simply getting access to sufficient water.
The issue isn’t just rearing its head in parched regions like South Texas. North Dakota, another big source of oil from fracked wells, is concerned about the industry depleting aquifers and has threatened to sue the federal government to free up water held by an Army Corps of Engineers dam. Oklahoma, too, is struggling to cope with the industry’s thirst.
(click here to continue reading Focus on Fracking: Oil’s Growing Thirst for Water for Hydraulic Fracturing – WSJ.com.)
So, either short term profits or long term ability to live in an area. Hmm, I know what Darrell Brownlow has chosen, but what about the rest of the people in his community? Are they willing to destroy the local water supply so that he can get rich?
In addition to tapping underground aquifers, oil companies are interested in water from Texas rivers. They have acquired—or are currently seeking to acquire—from local irrigation authorities the rights to nearly 40,000 acre-feet of water a year. That is enough to supply nearly a quarter-million people for a year.
One source has been the Rio Grande. Cities along the river, which are among the fastest growing in the state, draw from it to supply water to residents.
“This is a major concern for us,” says Juan Hinojosa, a Democratic state senator from McAllen who represents the area. “The oil companies have a lot more money than we do to buy water rights.”
The intense drought over the summer exacerbated the water concerns of cities. More than 964 public water systems, covering 14.7 million Texans, have imposed voluntary or mandatory restrictions, according to the state.
This summer, the city of Grand Prairie, near Fort Worth, stopped selling water to oil companies as part of its drought-contingency measures, which also included lawn-watering restrictions.
Oil companies have long been exempt from most Texas state water rules and permitting requirements, but the state has begun to take a fresh look at the industry’s ability to drill water wells wherever they have acquired rights to extract oil and gas.
Speaking of propaganda: Before I get to solar, let’s talk briefly about hydraulic fracturing, a k a fracking.
Fracking — injecting high-pressure fluid into rocks deep underground, inducing the release of fossil fuels — is an impressive technology. But it’s also a technology that imposes large costs on the public. We know that it produces toxic (and radioactive) wastewater that contaminates drinking water; there is reason to suspect, despite industry denials, that it also contaminates groundwater; and the heavy trucking required for fracking inflicts major damage on roads.
Economics 101 tells us that an industry imposing large costs on third parties should be required to “internalize” those costs — that is, to pay for the damage it inflicts, treating that damage as a cost of production. Fracking might still be worth doing given those costs. But no industry should be held harmless from its impacts on the environment and the nation’s infrastructure.
Yet what the industry and its defenders demand is, of course, precisely that it be let off the hook for the damage it causes. Why? Because we need that energy! For example, the industry-backed organization energyfromshale.org declares that “there are only two sides in the debate: those who want our oil and natural resources developed in a safe and responsible way; and those who don’t want our oil and natural gas resources developed at all.”
So it’s worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government “pick winners,” yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.
…Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.
(click here to continue reading Here Comes Solar Energy – NYTimes.com.)