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.
When 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.
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.
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.
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."
The following resolution was approved unanimously yesterday by the Arlington County Board. Nice job! Also, for more on this subject, see here, here, 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.”
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, THAT THE ARLINGTON COUNTY BOARD:
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;
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.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 14, 2014
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-IRVINE COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY
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.
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.
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.”
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."
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.
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:
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.
When I was a law student working at the U.S. EPA in the '80s, we sued a company that had been polluting a Maine river for years. Back then, EPA calculated penalties based on the amount of money a polluter saved by ignoring the requirements of the Clean Water Act. The idea was to take away the economic benefit of pollution so that companies would make out better by installing treatment systems than by imposing their toxic waste on the community.
Not surprisingly, the company's lawyers tried to prevent their client from having to pay a penalty for all those years it had been dumping pollution into the river. But their reasoning was interesting. Faced with the lawsuit, the company overhauled its industrial process and eliminated most of its waste products, which turned out to be a money-saving move. Thus, said the lawyers, the company hadn't gained any competitive advantage by polluting the river; it had actually lost money doing so. Really, they'd have made a lot more money if we'd forced them to clean up their act sooner.
Needless to say, the argument didn't fly, and the company paid a fine. But its experience turns out to have been a common one. When it comes to environmental regulation, industry screams that the sky is falling, but then it gets to work to solve the problem, and frequently ends up stronger than ever.
This is one reason to be skeptical of ad campaigns from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Mining Association trying to convince the public that the EPA's new regulations on carbon pollution from power plants, to be announced on June 2, will destroy the American economy. They've cried wolf so many times they have lost all credibility.
The US Chamber of Commerce is putting the full force of its polluter-funded war chest behind fighting limits on industrial carbon pollution set to be announced by the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday. Paul Krugman dives into their numbers and finds even by the Chamber's biased analysis, the cost of climate action would be just 0.2% of economic growth:
You might ask why the Chamber of Commerce is so fiercely opposed to action against global warming, if the cost of action is so small. The answer, of course, is that the chamber is serving special interests, notably the coal industry - what's good for America isn't good for the Koch brothers, and vice versa - and also catering to the ever more powerful anti-science sentiments of the Republican Party.
Finally, let me take on the anti-environmentalists' last line of defense - the claim that whatever we do won't matter, because other countries, China in particular, will just keep on burning ever more coal. This gets things exactly wrong. Yes, we need an international agreement to reduce emissions, including sanctions on countries that don't sign on. But U.S. unwillingness to act has been the biggest obstacle to such an agreement. If we start taking serious steps against global warming, the stage will be set for Europe and Japan to follow suit, and for concerted pressure on the rest of the world as well.
Now, we haven't yet seen the details of the new climate action proposal, and a full analysis - both economic and environmental - will have to wait. We can be reasonably sure, however, that the economic costs of the proposal will be small, because that's what the research - even research paid for by anti-environmentalists, who clearly wanted to find the opposite - tells us. Saving the planet would be remarkably cheap.
From the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN):
On Monday, June 2nd, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to release long-awaited rules to cut carbon emissions from our nation’s existing fossil fuel-fired power plants.
We know that Virginia’s big polluters, especially the coal industry and their political allies, will go all-out to attack these rules, showing once again that they care more about protecting their profits than protecting the air our kids breathe and the climate we all share. We need your help now to ensure Virginia’s top leaders -- Governor Terry McAuliffe and Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner -- stand up to these attacks and speak out in support of strong carbon regulations. This is a climate solution the commonwealth urgently needs!
While Governor McAuliffe and Sen. Kaine have made recent statements about the need to address climate change, we need them and Sen. Warner to be strong voices of support for cutting carbon from Virginia’s energy supply.
Dirty power plants are the largest source of climate change pollution in the U.S. Not only is this pollution fueling more extreme and costly weather events -- like the habitual flooding in Hampton Roads and the intense storms knocking down power across the commonwealth -- but it’s harming our health. Carbon pollution is leading to more smog, which triggers more asthma and respiratory diseases in places like Richmond -- which is, once again, at the top of the list of America’s “asthma capitals.”
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in April, we must aggressively curb emissions within the next 15 years to have a chance at achieving climate stability. The EPA’s carbon rules should be a major step in the right direction -- especially in Virginia -- if our leaders side with the public, not polluters, and come out quickly to embrace and implement them.
The stakes could not be any higher. These rules will test our resolve and the nation’s commitment to solving the climate crisis. Virginia, as a coal-producing state located near the nation’s capital, will be looked to as a model of compliance. Our leaders need to stand strong, push back against the big coal lobby, and fight for climate change solutions.
Honestly, nothing the corporate media does can possibly surprise me at this point. It's just a giant cesspool of faulty "reporting" and mistakes of all kinds: false equivalency; focus on triviality and sensationalism while ignoring extremely important issues (e.g., climate change, by far the #1 threat to humanity); complete failure to cover stories (too many examples to mention); confusion and conflation between opinion, narrative and fact; etc.
China signed a huge, long-awaited deal on Wednesday to buy Russian natural gas, giving Beijing a new source of clean energy and Moscow a diplomatic boost as it faces international sanctions for its aggressive actions in Ukraine.
Notice how they just slip that one in there, as if it's a fact so obvious - something everyone just "knows" - that they don't even have to explain it? But of course, natural gas is absolutely NOT clean, nor is it in any way straight reporting to say it is. Why not? Among other issues.
1. Natural gas is a carbon-based fuel. Although its carbon content is lower than coal's and oil's, thus making it less dirty than coal and oil, it still emits CO2 when combusted, thus contributing to global warming.
2. Natural gas is recovered through drilling, "fracking," and other processes which are not in the least bit clean. Thus, as Dusty Horwitt of Earthworks explained several months ago in Arlington, fracking uses chemicals known to be "highly toxic," while some of them are simply unknown, as the companies have not provided the information to the government. In addition, fracking waste water can contain both the chemicals injected into the well, as well as the naturally occurring water ("produced water") that's in the formation. The problem with the "produced water" is that the Marcellus Shale is naturally radioactive. The bottom line is that fracking the GW Natural Forest is "simply too risky for our watershed and our water supply." And that's the same around the country and the world, by the way.
3. There's also the issue that in getting the gas out of the ground, there's a lot of damage done to forests, streams and other ecosystems.
4. Then there's the issue of methane leakage. One recent study found, "the drilling and production of natural gas can lead to leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide," and that "here is already about 50 percent more methane in the atmosphere than previously estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency, a signal that more methane is leaking from the natural gas production chain than previously thought."
Bottom line: natural gas is in no way, shape or form "clean," and it is wildly irresponsible "journalism" to say it is in a straight news article. The Post should correct the error immediately, but of course I'm not holding my breath that it will.
In a speech Friday at the UMass Amherst Commencement Address, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick called for a "future free of fossil fuels." For a transcript of the climate and clean energy portion of Patrick's speech, see the "flip" of this post. A few key lines include the following, below this intro.
Where it says Massachusetts, imagine inserting the word "Virginia" - or any other state - and imagine Gov. Terry McAuliffe - or any other governor - saying them. Because that's what it's going to take to deal with the #1 threat to humanity and to the ecosystems on which the planet's life (including our own) depends; collective action across this country.
Here in Virginia, we should start by ditching any thought of offshore drilling for fossil fuels, and replace that with a crash program of offshore wind turbine installation. We should also move away from coal as rapidly as possible, harnessing the enormous potential of energy efficiency, as well as solar power on rooftops, schools, government facilities, putting a price on carbon, etc, etc. Of course, doing all this will require our "leaders" to take on powerful forces like Dominion Virginia Power and the coal companies, but as uncomfortable as that might make them politically, that's exactly what they absolutely must do.
The history books and future generations will rightfully judge today's "leaders" harshly if they fail to act. Leaders like Gov. Deval Patrick, on the contrary, should and likely will be hailed as heroes and visionaries. Thank you to Gov. Patrick for his leadership in this crucial area; now what about all the governors of all the states?
*"...we cannot continue to consume so much of the world's energy and take so little responsibility for the impact of that consumption on the lives of others, and the life of the planet itself."
*"We knew that if we harnessed Massachusetts-grown energy sources, reduced our energy consumption and protected our natural resources, we could strengthen both the environment and our economy."
*"Working with other states through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, we have lowered carbon emissions throughout the region and demonstrated that a market based cap-and-trade approach works...our economy is not just unharmed but stronger."
*"We must redouble our efforts to get our electricity from clean power sources like wind, solar and hydropower, including by changing the laws that effectively limit the production, affordability and use by homeowners and businesses of clean alternative sources, and passing the hydro/wind bill now pending in the Legislature."
*"And we should double down on energy efficiency"
*"In fact, the time has come to set a new standard that ensures that, at every point in time, at every moment, we are getting the cleanest energy possible. It means energy efficiency first. It means zero-emission electricity next - solar, wind, and hydro."
*"What's the best? The best is a future free of fossil fuels. It's an economy driven by homegrown, independent sources of renewable energy, cutting edge technology, and hyper-efficient cars and buildings. It's a future within our grasp. We don't have to wait for disaster: the Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stone, but because humankind imagined a better way and then reached for it."
In the past week or so communities across Virginia staged Earth Day festivals and other events to raise environmental awareness and support environmental protection. Virginia's largest electric utility, Dominion Virginia Power, had tables or booths at a number of these events, touting the company's environmental record.
The utility's parent corporation-Dominion Resources, Inc.-attempts to defend the company's environmental practices on its website. Chief environmental officer Pamela F. Faggert explains "[e]nvironmental awareness is the responsibility of each Dominion employee. It is woven into the fabric of our culture ...."
What you won't find on Dominion's website or in its Earth Day handouts is any mention of its work to undermine environmental protections through its participation in the American Legislative Exchange Council, widely known as "ALEC." ALEC has been described as "a corporate bill mill." It brings together corporations and state legislators and comes up with "model legislation" for the legislators to introduce back home.
In America today, what might be called the "Spirit of Brokenness" has seized hold of one of our two major political parties, with the result that a battle of more than the usual urgency is being fought over the most fundamental of moral and spiritual issues: constructiveness vs. destructiveness, justice vs. destructiveness, compassion vs. cruelty. And the truth vs. the lie.
We live in one of those times, in other words, in which in our nation something appropriately called "the battle between good and evil" is especially central to the dynamics of the era.
But over the long haul, in human systems, much of the foundational work to advance Wholeness in the world does not partake in any obvious way of the ways of combat. At the same time, when the battle does come - as has now in America - the long, slow, patient work of making the world a better place has a strong bearing upon the battle's outcome.
A quite lovely illustration of both the patient work of goodness, and the eventual relevance of that quiet work for future battles, can be found in the excellent current television series, "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey."
Pay It Forward
This series is, of course, a kind of sequel to the famous series, "Cosmos," that was hosted by Carl Sagan more than 30 years ago. It is at the end of the first installment of the series that we learn that the new host, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, is not just the replacement for the late Professor Sagan but that the connection between the two men goes much deeper.
Here's how the story is told on one site:
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