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Energy and Environment

MIT Study Finds Health Benefits of CO2 Reductions Can Save 10x the Cost of Policy Implementation

by: lowkell

Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 14:16:29 PM EDT

Cross posted from Scaling Green. For Blue Virginia readers, I'd just add that Gov. McAuliffe's office should read this study as they consider how to move Virginia forward in terms of energy efficiency, renewable power, and of course meeting the EPA's new rules for cutting CO2 emissions.

Clearly, we believe it makes sense to slash the air and water pollution that is inextricably linked to fossil fuel extraction, processing, and consumption.  We also strongly believe that moving from a dirty to a clean energy economy makes sense on a whole host of levels -- economic, environmental, national security, health, etc. Yet opponents of a clean energy transition invariably raise claims that it will cost too much to do so, even though research has shown that fossil fuels are actually FAR more expensive than they appear to be, in large part because they are allowed to pollute without having to pay for doing so. Thus, the full "lifecycle cost" of coal to the U.S. public is actually upwards of $500 billion a year, but you won't find that $500 billion a year incorporated into the price of coal, making it artificially cheap, and strongly skewing U.S. energy markets in favor of fossil fuels. Incorporate all the health and environmental "externalities" associated with fossil fuels, while taking away the enormous subsidies they receive from taxpayers, and it's a totally different story -- one in which clean energy would win by a wide margin.

Just in case you wanted even more evidence along these lines, a new study is out from researchers at MIT which finds that policies aimed at cutting fossil-fuel pollution can more than pay for themselves.

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Reps. Connolly, Scott, Moran Urge Obama Admin. to Reject Whale-Killing Seismic Blasting

by: lowkell

Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 13:41:53 PM EDT

The tragic, heartbreaking death of female sei whale the other day in the Elizabeth River both saddened and enraged me. Why enraged? Because the whale died mostly from humans trashing our oceans with plastic (which the whale accidentally ingested, blocking its stomach and causing it to slowly starve to death). For "good measure," the poor creature "might have been hit by a ship shortly before dying the previous day." So, chalk that one up to humans on both counts. Ugh. Sadly, this case demonstrates the hazards marine life is exposed to due to human activities on an ongoing basis. That includes the aforementioned plastic pollution and ships bashing into whales (and other animals), but also the oil-industry practice of seismic airgun testing - loud as explosives, can cause hearing loss and other injuries, even death, to whales and other sea creatures.  

See to the right (click to "embiggen") and on the "flip" for a letter from several Members of Congress, including Representatives Gerry Connolly, Bobby Scott and Jim Moran of Virginia, urging the Obama administration to forbid seismic testing off the east coast. In addition to the danger of oil spills, the process of FINDING the oil should never involve practices which can lead to mass injury and death in the oceans. Why is this even a question, other than unbridled greed, callousness and stupidity?

P.S. To sign the Center for Biological Diversity's petition against this outrageous practice, click here. Thanks.

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Virginia Failing When it Comes to the Biggest Bang for the Buck -- Energy Efficiency

by: lowkell

Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 14:42:47 PM EDT

Cross-posted from Scaling Green; Blue Virginia readers should particularly focus on how pathetically far behind Virginia is when it comes to energy efficiency improvements. For that, we can thank our old pals at Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here" Power, which continues to resist any serious attempts at cleaning up its dirty act. #FAIL as usual for those guys, as well as for the General Assembly that lets them pollute at will.

The release in late May of EPA's draft rules on carbon pollution at existing power plants gave individual states a tremendous amount of flexibility in how they meet the proposed targets.  For instance, a state rich in potential solar power resources might choose to focus on increasing the percentage of its electricity generated from the sun.  Same thing with wind power.  And, of course, all states can use energy efficiency gains as a key part of their plans. As the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions explains:

Through energy efficiency programs, states can drive down their total consumption, including consumption of electricity generated by fossil fuels. This in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions, bringing states closer to their emission rate target. EPA projects that each state is capable of eventually reducing electricity demand by 1.5 percent each year, in line with the rate leading states have achieved. States are projected to meet this figure in varying years, taking into account how advanced each state was in 2012. This 1.5 percent projection is incremental, meaning EPA expects an additional 1.5 percent savings each year, for a much larger cumulative savings by 2030. Projections for states that currently reduce demand by less than 1.5 percent per year are designed in a way that allow a ramp-up period before reaching this level, but EPA has determined that all states have the capacity to meet this projection by 2025 at the latest. Note that under the proposal, states are not obligated to meet EPA's efficiency projections in demonstrating compliance; provided the ultimate target emission rate is met, states could use any combination of measures they see fit.

The map above shows each state's 2012 incremental efficiency savings as a percentage of the 1.5 percent projection. States colored with a darker shade of blue are closer to meeting this projection. Two states, Arizona and Maine, reported savings above 1.5 percent in 2012.

As we know, energy efficiency is generally considered to be the biggest "bang for the buck" when it comes to reducing energy consumption and carbon pollution, which means that this EPA goal makes a great deal of sense.  Yet, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, only 21 states have mandatory Energy Efficiency Resource Standards, while 17 states have no energy efficiency standards at all.  That's unfortunate, particularly given that Rocky Mountain Institute Chairman and Chief Scientist Amory Lovins has found that"adopting efficiency technologies aggressively yet cost-effectively, yield[s] at least a 12% annual real rate of return." As states formulate their plans aimed at meeting their EPA CO2 pollution reduction goals, it seems like pushing ahead on energy efficiency improvements should constitute an easy, "no brainer" option.
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Video: Leonardo DiCaprio Narrates New Film Series Urging Shift from Fossil Fuels to Renewables

by: lowkell

Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 14:01:36 PM EDT

Logic 101: a) combustion of carbon-based fuels is causing dangerous global warming; b) we need to stop that ASAP; c) ergo, we need to slash our combustion of carbon-based fuels (and replace them with energy efficiency and non-carbon-based energy sources, which are increasingly as cheap or even cheaper than fossil fuels). Any further questions?

P.S. The good news is that a revenue-neutral carbon tax "creates jobs, grows the economy, saves lives, and makes Americans richer" while slashing carbon emissions. Win. Win. Win. Win. Win.

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Other Utilities, States Start to Adapt; Dominion Power Clings to Dying, Top-Down Business Model

by: lowkell

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 16:45:35 PM EDT

I received an email earlier today from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, commenting on a report that Dominion Virginia Power "is considering building 220 megawatts of solar energy in Virginia over five years starting in 2017." According to CCAN, "If pursued, this welcome announcement would likely represent a change in course from Dominion's latest 15-year energy plan proposed to Virginia's State Corporation Commission, which committed the company to increasing the proportion of clean energy in its mix by less than one percent over 15 years." Here's the rest of CCAN's statement, from Virginia Policy Director Dawone Robinson, followed by a few thoughts from yours truly.
This is Dominion's first-ever announced plan for building utility-scale solar power in Virginia, and we fully welcome it. After spending years pressing Dominion to make serious investments in solar energy here in Virginia, we're excited that Virginians could see the benefits of substantial amounts of clean energy from the state's largest carbon polluter.

Virginia's solar potential is substantial, and we urge Dominion to build these solar facilities as quickly as possible, especially given our state is playing catch up with our neighbors. Even if Dominion's newly announced 220 megawatts of solar power are fully developed by 2021, it will be little more than one third of North Carolina's current installed solar capacity of 592 megawatts.

Today's news serves as an important first step towards what should be a long-term commitment by Dominion to increase development of fossil-free energy technologies. As rising seas increasingly flood our coastal communities due to climate change and Richmond's asthma rates continue to lead the nation, the health and safety of Virginia's families depends on replacing toxic fossil fuels like coal and fracked natural gas with abundant, clean and cost-effective energy sources like solar power.

So, sure, praise Dominion Power for doing something positive, even if this is - as another environmental leader in Virginia put it to me - a "very modest baby step." At the same time, be super skeptical. Because, as that same environmental leader noted, while Dominion supposedly moves ahead with this "modest baby step" on utility-scale solar (e.g., NOT on people's rooftops, aka not "distributed" or "bottom up"), the concerns is that the company will simultaneously "be seeking to stifle competition from independent solar installers with a 'standby charge' or 'tax on the sun'." As another Virginia environmental leader told me, "the devil is in the details with these guys," and right now we have very few details on what Dominion's proposing to do exactly - when, where, etc.

The bottom line is, we need to be skeptical, VERY skeptical, about anything this company says it's going to do when it comes to energy efficiency or clean energy. But one thing seems certain: unlike many other utilities around the country that realize the top-down utility business model is dying and that they need to adapt to a world of cheap distributed energy (e.g., rooftop solar, batter storage that's increasingly affordable), Dominion seems to be clinging desperately to what they're used to: namely, controlling everything.

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A New Surprise Benefit of Cutting Lead Pollution

by: TheGreenMiles

Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 07:35:03 AM EDT

Contains LeadStudies have shown a strong connection between the phase-out of lead in gasoline starting in the mid-1970s and a plunge in violent crime in the following decades. As Kevin Drum reports at Mother Jones, a new study is connecting lower levels of childhood lead exposure to a later drop in the teen pregnancy rate:
For years conservatives bemoaned the problem of risky and violent behavior among children and teens of the post-60s era, mostly blaming it on the breakdown of the family and a general decline in discipline. Liberals tended to take this less seriously, and in any case mostly blamed it on societal problems. In the end, though, it turned out that conservatives were right. It wasn't just a bunch of oldsters complaining about the kids these days. Crime was up, drug use was up, and teen pregnancy was up. It was a genuine phenomenon and a genuine problem.

But liberals were right that it wasn't related to the disintegration of the family or lower rates of churchgoing or any of that. After all, families didn't suddenly start getting back together in the 90s and churchgoing didn't suddenly rise. But teenage crime, drug use, and pregnancy rates all went down. And down. And down.

Most likely, there was a real problem, but it was a problem no one had a clue about. We were poisoning our children with a well-known neurotoxin, and this toxin lowered their IQs, made them into fidgety kids, wrecked their educations, and then turned them into juvenile delinquents, teen mothers, and violent criminals. When we got rid of the toxin, all of these problems magically started to decline.

Today, we're debating whether to cut the toxic heavy metal and carbon pollution from coal by shutting down the oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants. But the benefits aren't hidden - we know coal kills thousands of people every year and causes thousands more asthma attacks in children.

Electricity rates and jobs are obviously important, but why do reporters talk almost exclusively about those, and hardly at all about these very real impacts on our lives? When did human health become a sidebar story?

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Report confirms Dominion really does have worst clean energy record

by: ivymain

Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 17:14:00 PM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

A new report from the non-profit group Ceres shows Dominion Resources, the parent of Dominion Virginia Power, winning last place among investor-owned utilities on a nationwide ranking of renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings.

That's left Virginians wondering how a company that talks so big succeeds in doing so little. And more importantly, what would it take for Dominion to rank even among the average?

Dominion came in 30th out of 32 in renewable energy sales, at 0.52%. On energy efficiency, it achieved 31st out of 32 on savings measured cumulatively (0.41%), and 32nd out of 32 measured on an incremental annual level (at 0.03%). Together these put our team in last place overall-a notable achievement for a utility that trumpets its solar investments and carbon-cutting progress.

To show just how awful Dominion's performance is, the top five finishers achieved between 16.67% and 21.08% on renewable energy sales, 10.62-17.18% on cumulative annual energy efficiency, and 1.46-1.77% on incremental annual energy efficiency. National averages were 5.29% for renewable energy sales, 4.96% for cumulative efficiency savings, and 0.73% for incremental annual efficiency savings. Rankings were based on 2012 numbers, the latest year for which data were available.  

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Del. Alfonso Lopez Delivers Remarks Strongly Supporting EPA Carbon Pollution Regulations

by: lowkell

Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 19:23:53 PM EDT

The following remarks were delivered by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington/Fairfax) to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality at a hearing in south Alexandria a couple days ago, as well as earlier today at the EPA public comments hearing on Constitution Ave. in Washington, DC. Thanks to Del. Lopez for speaking up for our environment, and for urging action on what is arguably the most pressing problem facing mankind in the 21st century - climate change. I would hope that all Virginia Democrats - and Republicans, if they'll come to their senses on this and stop treating it as a partisan issue - would weigh in as Del. Lopez has done, in strong support of climate action and a rapid transition from dirty to clean energy. It's also crucial to counter garbage like this ("Fossil Fuel-Funded Groups Organizing Public Rallies Against New EPA Climate Rule").
Despite the best efforts in some quarters to ignore it - climate change is a problem that threatens the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Whether it's the economic repercussions of sea-level rise on Virginia's coast-line, the health consequences of breathing polluted air, or the threat of more extreme weather conditions, climate change is having an impact on the day-to-day lives of the citizens of the Commonwealth.

At this time, Virginia's coastal region is experiencing the highest rates of sea-level rise along the entire East Coast of the U.S. In fact, the Hampton Roads area is second only to New Orleans in its vulnerability to sea level impacts. The Norfolk-Virginia Beach Metropolitan Area is ranked 10th in flooding from sea-level rise.

We cannot afford to wait any longer to take action on climate change in VA - our economy, health, and long-term quality of life rest in the balance.

According to the most recent estimates by the CDC, 8.7 percent of Virginia's adult population suffers from asthma. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital.

In 2012, 25 million metric tons of carbon pollution were emitted from power plants in Virginia - equal to the yearly pollution from over 5 million cars. This is unacceptable.

We have a moral obligation to address this crisis now so that we do not leave our children an environment that is polluted and damaged beyond repair.

For these reasons, I strongly urge the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to adopt the guidelines of the President's Clean Power Plan to address climate change in the U.S.

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Striped Bass Shift Linked to Climate Change? Don't Ask Virginian-Pilot

by: TheGreenMiles

Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM EDT

Albert Spells measures a striped bass; this one is longer than 28 inches and too big to keep. ©Janet Krenn/VASGWhen reporters ignore climate change in their stories, they end up sounding like they're blaming the supernatural for events easily connected to climate change. I'm late in getting to this, but take this Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot story from January on a sharp decline in catch of striped bass:
They say there are a handful of elements that have lowered the ocean take the past two years.

Weather has been the biggest reason. Warmer starts to the past two winters have caused many rockfish to stay in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, or up the coast around upper Maryland and New Jersey. [...]

"It's been the strangest year," said Rob O'Reilly, chief of fisheries management for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. "The weather has been so screwy that some fish haven't moved south like they usually do, and the ones that have positioned themselves offshore."

Reporters are often reluctant to connect the dots to climate change because they're not climate science experts and they're worried that doing so will draw the ire of anti-science Tea Party activists.

But when reporters ignore reality, they leave their audience absolutely baffled. Strange! Screwy! Don't ask me for answers, you're on your own! And then newspapers wonder why half of their audience has stopped paying $15 a month for a subscription. If you have to go find the truth yourself anyway, might as well do it for free on the internet.

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The "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" Con: Newt Won, America Lost

by: TheGreenMiles

Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM EDT

Back in the summer of 2008, incurable Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich pushed the slogan "drill here, drill now, pay less," claiming that making the U.S. more oil-independent would be a solution to high gas prices. Democrats, worried voters would reject the reality there's nothing we can do to lower market-set gas prices and absolutely terrified of saying no to Big Oil, embraced the slogan. Later, President Barack Obama implemented it as our national policy. Six years later, how's drill baby drill working out for you?

Today, while U.S. oil production is near all-time highs, gas prices also remain near all-time highs. Drill baby drill has been great for multinational oil companies, but terrible for American consumers. Meanwhile, we continue shoveling billions in annual taxpayer subsidies to those same oil companies.

A side effect of higher oil production is that oil transportation disasters are also at record highs. Oil train wrecks and spills, gas pipeline explosions, and oil pipeline ruptures are skyrocketing. Our communities, wildlife and clean air and water are now at the mercy of our national petro-state.

Note that gas prices hit their all-time high of $4.46 in July 2008 under President George W. "Texas Oilman Who'll Lasso Those Saudi Arabians Into Submission" Bush, well above the prior peak of $3.70 under President Ronald "Yes Another Oil-Friendly Republican Are You Seeing The Pattern Yet" Reagan.

Aside from Big Oil's record profits, there was one other winner from Newt's drilling push. Gingrich got 1.5 million people to sign his petition, allowing him to cash in by spamming his big new email list. As Chris Hayes has said, "much of movement conservatism is a con and the base are the marks."

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Governor McAuliffe Signs Executive Order Convening Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission

by: lowkell

Tue Jul 01, 2014 at 13:26:11 PM EDT

From Gov. McAuliffe's office: 


Governor McAuliffe visited First Landing State Park on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach to sign Executive Order 19, convening the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission.


The bipartisan Commission is made up of leaders from around the state including local elected officials, members of the General Assembly, business leaders, environmental advocates, faith leaders, and industry representatives.

“We need to prepare Virginia’s coastal communities to deal with the growing threat of climate change, which is why I’ve re-convened the Climate Commission for the first time in four years,” stated Governor McAuliffe. “Virginia has the opportunity not only to be a leader in finding creative ways to mitigate climate change in the future but also to adapt to the effects of climate change that we have already begun to see here in the Commonwealth. I have asked Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward and Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran to co-chair the Commission, which will focus on protecting Virginia’s citizens, our environment, and our industries in every region of Virginia.”

This Commission will evaluate the recommendations made by then-Governor Kaine’s Climate Commission, determine what actions were taken on those recommendations, and issue an updated final report.  The Executive Order gives the Commission one year to complete its work.

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New Report: Electric Cars Are Putting the Brakes on Pollution

by: sbucci

Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 15:02:22 PM EDT

More than 220,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are on America’s roads today, including over 3,000 in Virginia (a 1,000% increase since early 2012), delivering real benefits for our health and our environment, according to a new report released today by Environment Virginia. In just the last two years, annual sales of electric vehicles have increased by 500 percent. Now, with strong implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the development of more renewable energy, electric vehicles are set to deliver even greater benefits for the environment.  

“It’s time to charge ahead,” said Sarah Bucci, Environment Virginia’s campaign director. “It’s not just because electric cars are speedy, quiet and cool-looking – they are also one of the most important tools we have to break our dependence on oil, clean up our air, improve our health and protect our climate.”  

The report, “Driving Cleaner: More Electric Vehicles Mean Less Pollution,” shows that electric vehicles could prevent more than 320,000 metric tons of climate-changing carbon pollution annually in Virginia by 2025. That’s the equivalent of saving more than 15 million gallons of gasoline per year, or eliminating tailpipe pollution from 67,000 of today’s cars and trucks.

“This report provides an exciting read for Virginians embracing electricity as a cleaner domestic choice for their vehicle fuel,” said Alleyn Harned, Executive Director of Virginia Clean Cities and EV owner.  “With hundreds of public charging locations in the state, the ease of home charging, and options available from a range of vehicle manufactures, electric cars are an exciting clean fuel vehicle." 

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Arlington County Board Unanimously Opposes Fracking Up the GW National Forest

by: lowkell

Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 17:34:04 PM EDT

The following resolution was approved unanimously yesterday by the Arlington County Board. Nice job! Also, for more on this subject, see herehere, and here.

Resolution Concerning Horizontal Fracturing in the George Washington National Forest

WHEREAS¸ the George Washington National Forest is located in the Potomac River Watershed and plays a vital role in protecting downstream water quality; and

WHEREAS¸ the Potomac River is the sole raw water source for water treated by the Washington Aqueduct Division of the UnitedStates Army Corps of Engineers, serving approximately 1 million residents of Arlington County, the District of Columbia, the City of Falls Church and a portion of Fairfax County; and

WHEREAS¸ Arlington Countypurchases its water from the Washington Aqueduct and distributes it to the over 210,000 residents that live in Arlington and hundreds of thousands of others who work and play in our community on a daily basis; and

WHEREAS¸ the Potomac River flows to the Chesapeake Bay, a vital estuary for which Arlington continues to invest substantial sums to protect from pollution; and

WHEREAS, the United States Forest Service is currently in the process of updating its George Washington National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, which will direct natural resource management for the forest for the next 10 to 15 years, including the possibility of mining the Marcellus Shale by horizontal hydraulic fracturing; and

WHEREAS¸ horizontal fracturing is currently exempted from many of the requirements of the federal laws that protect our nation’s water supply, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act; and

WHEREAS, at the request of the United States Congress, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a research study on the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas on drinking water resources; and

WHEREAS¸ numerous other stakeholders have expressed their concerns with horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest, including the EPA, the National Park Service, and many of the localities in our region that depend upon the Potomac River for their water supply; and

WHEREAS, the August 2011 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Revised Land and Resource Management Plan for the George Washington National Forest, developed by the United States Forest Service, states “concern about the development of gas resources in the Marcellus shale formation led to Plan direction that horizontal drilling would not be allowed on any federal leases.  This restriction is based on concerns about the impacts of extensive hydraulic fracturing associated with horizontal drilling on water quality, the unknown potential for developing the Marcellus shale formation on the George Washington National Forest, and the limited experience with horizontal drilling in the immediate vicinity of the GWNF.”


  1. Expresses our concern about the potential impact of horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest on the Potomac River Watershed, and therefore the quality of Arlington County’s water supply, and;
  2. Supports the United States Forest Service’s proposal, contained in the George Washington National Forest Draft Forest Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, to prohibit the use of horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest.
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Pres. Obama: "clean energy economy can be an engine for growth and jobs for decades to come"

by: lowkell

Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 18:08:48 PM EDT

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                              June 14, 2014


Angel Stadium
Anaheim, California

12:10 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Hello, Anteaters!  (Applause.)  That is something I never thought I'd say.  (Laughter.)  Please, please take a seat.

To President Napolitano -- which is a nice step up from Secretary; to Fred Ruiz, Vice Chair of the University of California Regents; Chancellor Drake; Representatives Loretta Sanchez and Alan Lowenthal; to the trustees and faculty -- thank you for this honor.  And congratulations to the Class of 2014!  (Applause.).


In your young lives, you've seen dizzying change, from terror attacks to economic turmoil; from Twitter to Tumblr.  Some of your families have known tough times during the course of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  You're graduating into a still-healing job market, and some of you are carrying student loan debt that you're concerned about.  And yet, your generation -- the most educated, the most diverse, the most tolerant, the most politically independent and the most digitally fluent in our history -- is also on record as being the most optimistic about our future.

And I'm here to tell you that you are right to be optimistic.  (Applause.)  You are right to be optimistic.  Consider this:  Since the time most of you graduated from high school, fewer Americans are at war.  More have health insurance.  More are graduating from college.  Our businesses have added more than 9 million new jobs.  The number of states where you're free to marry who you love has more than doubled.  (Applause.) And that's just some of the progress that you've seen while you've been studying here at UC Irvine.

But we do face real challenges:  Rebuilding the middle class and reversing inequality's rise.  Reining in college costs.  Protecting voting rights.  Welcoming the immigrants and young dreamers who keep this country vibrant.  Stemming the tide of violence that guns inflict on our schools.  We've got some big challenges.  And if you're fed a steady diet of cynicism that says nobody is trustworthy and nothing works, and there's no way we can actually address these problems, then the temptation is too just go it alone, to look after yourself and not participate in the larger project of achieving our best vision of America.

And I'm here to tell you, don't believe the cynicism.  Guard against it.  Don't buy into it.  Today, I want to use one case study to show you that progress is possible and perseverance is critical.  I want to show you how badly we need you -- both your individual voices and your collective efforts -- to give you the chance you seek to change the world, and maybe even save it.

I'm going to talk about one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet faces: the growing threat of a rapidly changing climate.

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Koch Bros Launch New "Seven Figures" Effort to Push Dirty Energy; Trash Clean Energy, Environment

by: lowkell

Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 14:02:26 PM EDT

Cross posted from Scaling Green

Just when you think the Koch brothers can't get any more active in their relentless anti-environment and anti-clean energy efforts, they do just that.

The energy initiative is being created under the umbrella of the largest Koch network nonprofit in apparent response to a number of developments: the commitment by liberal billionaire Tom Steyer to steer $100 million into ads in several states to make climate change a priority issue in the elections; numerous setbacks at the state level where Koch network backed advocacy groups have been fighting against renewable energy standards; and the new EPA regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.


In an April 1 missive, [och fundraising honcho Kevin] Gentry invited Freedom Partners members to join an upcoming conference call about a "significant new Freedom Partners initiative" which he touted as one that would "drive the national narrative around energy and the tremendous benefits of reliable affordable energy for all Americans, especially for the less fortunate." The email indicated that discussions about the energy project began last summer at another Koch donor event in New Mexico, which drew outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Rep. Paul Ryan among others.

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New Study: Carbon Tax "creates jobs, grows the economy, saves lives, and makes Americans richer"

by: lowkell

Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 13:05:22 PM EDT

Cross posted from Scaling Green

A brand new study of a national, revenue-neutral carbon tax was released earlier today by the policy-neutral economic modelers Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) and Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. The key findings are as follows.

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Governor McAuliffe Signs Executive Order to Establish the Virginia Energy Council

by: lowkell

Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 13:41:54 PM EDT

This looks good to me overall, at least on the surface (e.g, "Accelerating the development and use of renewable energy sources;" "Virginia can become a national leader in energy efficiency practices"; nothing about offshore oil drilling, thank goodness). Of course, how this all works out in the end will depend to a significant degree on who's appointed to the Council, and also how hard Gov. McAuliffe pushes to focus the group's efforts on a rapid transition towards clean energy. 

P.S. Obviously, I'd ditch the part about expanding Virgniia coal exports. That's the exact opposite of what climate scientists tell us we need to be doing right now.  And yes, I'll go with the scientists any day over the politicians and fossil fuel corporations. Go figure. ;) 


Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Order #16 today, which establishes the Virginia Energy Council. The Virginia Energy Council will assist in the development and implementation of a cohesive, comprehensive, and aggressive energy strategy for Virginia and deliver recommendations for the Virginia Energy Plan, which will be submitted to the General Assembly on October 1, 2014.  Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones will chair the Council.  


Speaking about the executive order, Governor McAuliffe commented, “Virginia must develop an aggressive strategy to protect existing jobs in our energy industries while positioning the Commonwealth to be a leader in new energy technologies. An innovative energy strategy will enable us to attract the best businesses and entrepreneurs to Virginia, create more jobs in growing industries, and lead a 21stCentury Virginia economy. As we move forward with this process, the Virginia Energy Council will be an important partner as we work toward meeting our energy goals.”


Full Text of the Executive Order is Below:

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Big Mistake: Virginia's "Coal Country" Should Have Voted for Rick Boucher, Supported "Cap & Trade"

by: lowkell

Wed Jun 04, 2014 at 11:33:38 AM EDT

That's right, let me repeat: Virginia's "coal country" voters should have voted in 2010 to reelect Rick Boucher. They also should have strongly supported Boucher's work to protect the coal industry in the Waxman-Markey "cap-and-trade" bill that passed the House of Representatives but never came to a vote in the U.S. Senate.

But wait, what do I mean by Boucher's "work to protect the coal industry?" I refer you to "The Climate War" and Why Rick Boucher Lost His Election, which I wrote back in November 2010, right after Boucher got swept away by Tea Party extremist and climate science denying nutjob Morgan Griffith. The key points:

*According to Eric Pooley's fascinating book, "The Climate War," Boucher believed that "if coal was going to have a future, it had to find a way to capture and store CO2," that "[b]y making that happen, legislation could usher in a new golden age for coal." Boucher also believed that he "had to make sure Waxman-Markey became that bill, then persuade the coal and power industries to back it." Which is exactly what he did.

*As Pooley writes, Boucher "had done painstaking work on how to structure a cap-and-trade program so it wouldn't punish industry or consumers." In the end, and from my view this is morally reprehensible and environmentally disastrous, "If it came to choosing between the future of the planet and the future of coal, he would choose coal."

*Which, again, is exactly what Boucher did on this legislation, working closely with coal and coal-fired power industry titans like Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers. Among other things, what Boucher worked on was ensuring that "existing coal-fired power plants - and plants that were under construction - would be 'grandfathered' in and not subject to the new carbon standards (though they would be bound by the new economy-wide cap)." Boucher got that agreement "early", then proceeded to work on other aspects of the legislation so that the coal and coal-fired power industry folks would be happy. Which they were.

*In the end, Rogers and other fossil fuel barons realized that "We're not going to get a better deal" and "If you do the math, you're going to make this trade every day."

*In sum, Pooley concludes, "Boucher had collected a breathtaking set of concessions for coal," including "the weaker 2020 target and the free allowances and the generous offsets that would allow power companies to comply with the law while continuing to burn coal" to "$1 billion a year for ten years for [carbon capture and sequestration] research and development" to "$181 billion worth of bonus allowances to hand utilities that began capturing and storing their carbon dioxide after 2020."  

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No Surprise: VA Republicans Voted to "Blunt" EPA Carbon Rules. What About Most Virginia Democrats?

by: lowkell

Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 14:43:06 PM EDT

I was reading this AP story ("States move to blunt Obama carbon plan"), and it listed Virginia among states which "have signed laws directing their environmental agencies to develop their own carbon emission plans that consider the costs of compliance at individual power plants." I was curious what THAT was all about, so I looked up the bill -- HB 1261 ("Carbon dioxide; regulating emissions.").

What surprised me wasn't that two Virginia right-wing Republicans from "coal country" (Del. Ben Chafin and Sen. Charles Carrico) had sponsored this legislation - that's expected from fossil fools like these - but that almost everybody else in the Virginia General Assembly, including environmentalists and liberal Democrats, had voted for it.

Here's how Chafin described the bill on his Facebook page:

In support of our coal industry, I have introduced two bills that have passed the House of Delegates...The second bill adopts new measures to the Virginia Energy Plan to counter the job killing EPA regulations. House Bill 1261 requires studies to be performed of all EPA regulations concerning carbon dioxide emissions in order to measure the negative costs to the coal industry and citizens of the Commonwealth versus any suggested benefits.
Of course, that is complete crap, as the EPA regulations are far more likely to create jobs than to kill them, but apparently Frank Luntz instructed his Republican minions to put the words "job killing" in every sentence with "taxes" or "regulations," no matter how false and misleading it is to do so. Also, of course, Chafin's Facebook comments might just be spin, but still...gack.

In other words, Chafin's position is essentially, "there are profits to be made getting the last lump of coal out of the ground, who cares if we make the earth an uninhabitable hellhold in the process." Sadly, that's exactly what we expect from fossil fuel tools like Chafin. But why did only 6 House Democrats (Charniele Herring, Joe Morrissey, Ken Plum, Mark Sickles, Scott Surovell - see his statement on the "flip," in which he says this bill reads "like something drafted by the Koch Brothers" - and Minority Leader David Toscano) and just two State Senators (Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola) vote against this malarkey? What happened to everyone else? Was it a failure of the environmental groups to inform House and Senate members to vote no on this bill? Does it reflect the dominance of Dominion Power and other fossil fuel interests in Richmond? Some other explanation?

I asked around and, not surprisingly, got a variety of responses. For instance, one General Assembly Democratic aide pointed a finger at the environmental groups for not sounding the alarm on this bill. In contrast, Ivy Main of the Sierra Club (who blogs here at Blue Virginia periodically), wrote on her blog:

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EPA Proposes First Guidelines to Cut Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants

by: lowkell

Mon Jun 02, 2014 at 10:25:35 AM EDT

Good news from the White House (see statement below). Although I'd argue that these rules should be MUCH stronger than they are, based purely on the science, this might be the best our f'ed-up political system, thanks mostly to Republicans and their fossil fuel funders, can do at this point. Still, it's a start, and an absolutely essential one towards averting catastrophe. Still a lot more to do, though, such as Congress putting a price on carbon, either via a revenue-neutral tax (e.g., "fee and dividend") or via a Republican-style, market-based "cap-and-trade" system. So, Congress...hello?!? 

With regard to Virginia specifically, I'm very interested how our fine General Assembly, as well as Gov. Terry McAuliffe - who said in 2009 repeatedly that he's a huge fan of clean energy - will comply with these new rules. And then there's the Evil Empire, of course, otherwise known as Dominion Virginia Power. What will they do - lead, cooperate, obstruct, sabotage, other?


Clean Power Plan is flexible proposal to ensure a healthier environment, spur innovation and strengthen the economy


WASHINGTON – At the direction of President Obama and after an unprecedented outreach effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is today releasing the Clean Power Planproposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. Today’s proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.


"Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life.  EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama's Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source--power plants," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment--our action will sharpen America’s competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs." 


Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon pollution levels.

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