Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mountain Justice Takes on King Coal in Columbus

Windmills at AMPCross posted from The Understory, official blog of Rainforest Action Network and

How often do you get to witness a band of activists deploy a direct action and successfully pressure the CEO of a corporation into agreeing to their demands - before the police even arrive on the scene?

On Friday afternoon, student activists with Ohio Student Environmental Coalition and members of Mountain Justice Spring Break occupied the lobby of American Municipal Power and forced an impromptu meeting with CEO Mark Gerken – who was not a happy camper.

AMP is planning to build a 1000 MW pulverized coal power plant in Meigs County, Ohio – one of the most impoverished counties in the state, with some of the highest lung cancer and premature death rates due industrial pollution in the country. There are already 4 coal power plants within 10 miles of Meigs and the coal barons of the Midwest are planning on building five more – the largest and dirtiest being the AMP project.

Determined to put an end to this economic and social injustice, concerned Meigs residents have been working with student and youth activists to organize and empower communities to break out of the socio-economic slavery of king coal. Mountain Justice Spring Break - an event where many students, rather than spending their holidays in Florida or Cancun, have opted instead for more meaningful pursuits in building solidarity, developing consensus, discovering affinity and exploring nonviolent direct action - showcased this collaboration over this last week.

Today marked a watershed moment in the movement against King Coal in Ohio. The activists’ demands were simple: cancel plans to build the coal plant, fund renewable energy, and schedule a meeting between the AMP Board of Trustees, local students, and frontline community activists to discuss how AMP can best chart a course towards these goals.

Demands Met - Action Success

So, Friday morning, about fifty student and youth activists – most of whom had never participated in a direct action – marched to AMP headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, at which point a group of four negotiators entered the building and demanded a meeting with Gerken. Even when confronted by irate AMP employees, the youth negotiators kept their cool and stuck to their demands. They not only managed to meet with Gerken, but also got him to commit to a meeting between students, Meigs County activists and the AMP Board – and to agree that AMP wouldn’t begin construction on the plant until after this meeting has taken place.

This action was part of an ongoing campaign by activists – including residents of frontline communities, and student activists from groups like Mountain Justice, Ohio Student Environmental Coalition, Earth First, and Student Environmental Action Coalition – against AMP’s plans to bring further destruction to Southern Ohio. On a Sunday morning in early March, a group of concerned citizens visited the home of CEO Marc Gerken, and demanded that AMP reconsider its plans to move forward with the plant. (At that point, Gerken brushed off their requests for a meeting.) Earlier this week – as part of the Listening Project – several students visited the homes of Meigs County residents, listened to their concerns about the AMP project, and empowered them to take action and join the campaign against the coal plant.

Today’s action was the biggest step to date in this campaign, and has laid the groundwork for even bigger victories against King Coal in Ohio. Stay tuned for updates on what this collaboration will do next!

Adrian & Ananda in Columbus

Read more!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hillary Clinton Loves Her Some Coal

In an interview on West Virginia Public Radio this morning, Hillary Clinton revealed some pretty profound ignorance about the true costs of coal and especially about the destruction mountain top coal mining is wrecking on both communities and ecosystems in Appalachia. Give it a listen:

Sure sounds like Hillary has drunk the (sour) kool-aid being peddled by coal-front group "Americans for Balanced Energy Choices" (or ABEC, which might as well stand for "American Blowhards Excited about Coal"). Lets compare what Hillary is stumping and what the coal industry's PR machine has to say:

  • Clinton says: "Coal fits in very importantly because obviously, we have a great reserve of coal."

  • Coal industry astroturf campaign says: "Coal is our most abundant fuel. The United States has more coal than any other fuel. A quarter of all of the known coal in the entire world is here in America."

  • Clinton says: "We get more than 50% of our electricity from coal.

  • Coal industry PR machine spews: "Coal provides half of America’s electricity generation and more than twice as much as the next-highest contributor — nuclear."

  • Clinton says: "The challenge is how we are going to continue using coal and meet a lot of our environmental challenges. What I have said is that we'll have a new cap-and-trade system, and we'll take a lot of the money we raise from that cap-and-trade system and invest it in ... clean coal technology."

  • The coal industry reassures us: "We are committed to making coal a clean energy source. ... Today, energy companies are working with the federal government to develop, demonstrate, and deploy the next generation of advanced technologies that will make it possible to reduce regulated emissions even further (to near-zero levels) and capture and store greenhouse gases."

  • Clinton even calls for "subsidies to coal-to-liquids plants that meet [an unspecified] environmental standard."

    How does she feel about the prospects of "clean" coal?

    "I'm excited," she says, about starting on all this pro-coal work today. She even admonishes the Bush administration for not being enthusiastic enough about "clean" coal and for pulling the plug on the FutureGen demonstration project.

    And who wouldn't be excited about the magical transmutation of America's dirtiest fuel to the clean energy source of the future? (It doesn't hurt that you get to score some brownie points with one of America's strongest industries while you're at it...)

    The problem is there's no such thing as "clean" coal. Slightly-less-deadly, sure. "Climate friendly" coal is even possible. But clean?! Don't try to shovel me that!

    It's simply appalling to hear a presidential candidate talk to me about the wonders of "clean" coal while the coal industry levels mountains, razes forests and erases streams, poisons wells, threatens people's lives, and destroys communities through the practice of mountain top coal mining.

    Let me be perfectly clear: I am not opposed to carbon capture and storage. I do not believe, as some do, that the technology poses a dangerous risk. I do not think that the technical challenges are insurmountable to capture the greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants and burying them for centuries underground. I understand that CCS may be a necessary part of the response to the climate crisis.

    But am I "excited" about coal and CCS? Will CCS make coal "clean"? Will CCS do anything to stop the environmental destruction of coal extraction, particularly mountain top removal?

    NO! is the answer to all three of those questions, and it should be the answer that comes from our presidential candidates as well, especially ones who tout their environmental chops on the campaign trail (that'd be all three of them!).

    To be fair, Barak Obama talks up "clean" coal on the campaign trail just as much as Hillary (as I pointed out here).

    No matter how clean the emissions are coming out of the smokestack, you can't ignore the destruction wrought by coal extraction. Talking up how "clean" coal is, or can be, means you're either woefully ignorant (as Hillary seems to be), talking out of both sides of your mouth (as Obama gets dangerous close to doing), or purposefully trying to sell the American public on some "clean coal" snakeoil (as ABEC and the coal industry clearly is). You decide which is worse.

    Here's what truly appalls me about Hillary's interview though: she doesn't seem to have a clue about mountain top removal!

    When asked point blank about mountain top removal, an issue at the top of many West Virginians' minds (for obvious reason), Clinton equivocated, falling back on the age-old false dichotomy between environmental protection and economic development before closing with a good old dose of (completely unrealistic) wishful thinking...

    "I am concerned about it for all the reasons people state," she said, "but I think its a difficult question because of the conflict between the economic and environmental trade-off that you have here."

    She went on:
    "I’m not an expert. I don’t know enough to have an independent opinion, but I sure would like people who could be objective, understanding both the economic necessities and environmental damage to come up with some approach that would enable us to retrieve the coal but would enable us to do it in a way that wouldn’t damage the living standards and the other important qualities associated with people living both under the mountaintop and people who are along the streams. You know, maybe there is a way to recover those mountaintops once they have been stripped of the coal. You know, I think we’ve got to look at this from a practical perspective."
    "I'm not an expert"?! "I don't know enough to have an independent opinion"?! No shit!

    This answer wrong for so many reasons I don't even know where to start, and it evidences a complete lack of understanding about mountain top removal and the effect it is having on West Virginia and across Appalachia.

    Let's look at the economy vs. environment shlock. These two graphics (from Appalachian Voices) pretty well sums up the error in her argument:

    Basically, as mountain top removal has ramped up, coal mining jobs have disappeared, as machinery- and explosives-intensive mountain top surface mining replaced labor-intensive underground mining. In other words, as the environmental destruction ramped up, the economic benefits for Appalachian communities vanished, flipping that old environment/economy dichotomy right on it's head.

    It's no surprise then that the areas that this environmentally devastating practice occurs today are some of the poorest in the nation. If someone's economically benefiting from mountain top removal, it's certainly not the people of Appalachia.

    Finally, Clinton wistfully wonders "maybe there is a way to recover those mountaintops once they have been stripped of the coal." Well that'd sure be nice, Hillary! And while you're figuring out how you're going to turn this...

    ...back into this...

    ...I've got a magic elixir I'd like to sell you that'll guarantee that anyone who drinks it will suddenly win the presidential election.

    Come on Hillary! WTF?!

    [A hat tip to Dana from West Virginia for publicizing the interview]

    Read more!

    The Last Gasp of the Climate Deniers, Detractors and Doomsayers?

    With the science of climate change pretty solidly unimpeachable at this point, the rag tag camp of climate change deniers, detractors, doomsayers and other flat-earthers have a new tactic these days: talk up the supposedly disastrous economic consequences of regulating carbon.

    A good example: the National Association of Manufacturers has been peddling a bought-and-paid-for "study" of the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill, taking their doom-and-gloom predictions of an economy wrecked by climate regulations on a national speaking tour over the next couple of months.

    The Flat Earth camp pulled out all the stops at the Wall Street Journal's ECO:nomics conference held last week in California.

    Hosted by "climate change experts" from the WSJ's notoriously ideological, knuckle-dragging, anti-climate editorial board, the WSJ assembled the full cast-of-characters of the Flat Earth Society of America: Fred Smith and Myron Ebell of CEI (makers of the hilariously funny "CO2: some call it pollution, we call it life" ad), Steve Milloy of JunkScience, and the WSJ's own ideologues came into the conference to put America's leading "green-minded" CEO's to the test, show them they were simply tools for liberal, socialist hippies, and expose carbon regulation as the sure-fire end of the treasured American way of life.

    "Instead, they ended up looking small, shrill, and utterly marginalized," David Roberts, who covered the Eco:nomics conference for writes. "Despite their claims to be pro-business, the business community disdains them."

    David's coverage of the Flat-Earthers flailing attempts at the Eco:nomics conference is great. I highly suggest you head over to Gristmill to read the full story, but here are some great excerpts:

    One incident captured it pretty well. During the panel where EDF's Fred Krupp debated CEI's Fred Smith, moderator and right-wing polemicist Kim Strassel of the WSJ editorial board paused to ask the audience, "is there a CEO who went down this road [going 'green'] and hasn't been happy with the experience?" She looked around the room expectantly, even hopefully.



    Or when she confronted Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris, asking incredulously, "do you think 80% by 2050 is achievable?" The breezy response: "My answer's obvious." So Strassel turned and asked the same question of the crowd. They voted: 75% think it can be done. Strassel's face fell.

    Or hold on. Even favoriter: There was a debate between Mindy Lubber of Ceres, whose Investor Network on Climate Risk represents $5 trillion in capital, and Steve Milloy, who was there on behalf of his Free Enterprise Action Fund. Milloy spent 20 minutes telling Lubber she was an unwitting vehicle for lefty activists and the CEOs in attendance that they were dupes being fleeced out of billions of dollars by devious crypto-socialists. Toward the end, Andrew Shapiro of Green Order rose to ask Milloy, how much capital does your fund represent? The too-dumb-to-be-embarrassed answer, which prompted open laughter in the audience? $11 million. As Shapiro noted: looks like the market has spoken.
    Or how about this video of WSJ's Alan Murray trying to bait WalMart's CEO, H. Lee Scott Jr. into objecting to carbon regulation because it will raise energy prices and kill the economy. Scott just won't buy it!

    David Roberts sums it all up so well I'll just leave you with this:
    Time after time, the ideologues pushed the same questions: Isn't this a tax? Isn't the government crippling the free market? Won't we lose our precious fluids?

    Time after time, they were dismissed, with reactions ranging from anger to awkward condescension (as when the crazy uncle starts in at the family reunion) to barely concealed disdain. The people operating in the market -- as opposed to lobbing bombs from think tanks and Fox News studios -- are pragmatists. They don't have time for rigid ideology, or as Immelt called it, "false idols." Their job is to make money within the constraints set by the polity; they are under no illusion that there ever was or ever will be the frictionless free market of Ayn Rand's heated fantasies. Unlike the dour doomsayers, they have faith in themselves, in the business community, and in America to innovate and tackle any challenge.
    Are we witnessing the last gasp of the climate deniers, detractors and doomsayers? Is this the beginning of the end for the Flat Earth Society of America? When the CEO's of America's biggest companies can't stand the shit your shoveling, it sure looks like it...

    Well at least they'll always find open arms and a welcome home at James Inhofe's office.

    See also:

  • Gristmill: "Eco:nomics: The decline and fall of the ideologues"
  • Energy Smart: "WSJ, the anti-business newspaper of record?"
  • SolveClimate: "Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Laughing Stock -- Of It's Own Conference"
  • WarmingLaw: "CEI's Ideas Can No Longer Compete (Outside of Congress and the EPA)"

  • Read more!

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    Beyond 80% by '50 to a Climate Positive Vision - a New Philosophy and Goal for the Climate Movement

    By Morgan Goodwin, Jesse Jenkins and Juliana Williams

    Two recent studies "suggest that both industrialized and developing nations must wean themselves off fossil fuels by as early as mid-century in order to prevent warming that could change precipitation patterns and dry up sources of water worldwide... The world must bring carbon emissions down to near zero to keep temperatures from rising further."

    We in the climate movement should take note of these headlines. Apparently based on a cautious interpretation of the climate science, we've been calling for relatively incremental goals like 2% reductions in emissions per year, targeting 80% reductions by 2050 - one of the "mantras" of our movement since Step it Up. We've been busy (successfully) making that 80x50 goal politically feasible.

    Now the mainstream media is telling us - climate activists who are supposed to be pushing the cutting edge - that our goals aren't good enough.

    "People aren't reducing emissions at all, let alone debating whether 88 percent or 99 percent is sufficient," said Gavin A. Schmidt, of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "It's like you're starting off on a road trip from New York to California, and before you even start, you're arguing about where you're going to park at the end."

    If we get wrapped up in the targets we get caught up in the mess of what's politically feasible and scientifically relevant. We as the members of the movement need to come at this from a different angle. No more statistical targets. We need a vision.

    We as a country, we as a people and a society have overcome amazing challenges when we've been inspired by a vision. Inspired by JFK's call to do the seemingly impossible, we put a man on the moon and built an aerospace industry that launched an economic boom. Inspired by MLK's Dream and passion, we fought to desegregate our hearts and our society.

    We now stand at the brink of a challenge that dwarfs those that have come before - climate change - and we are beginning to articulate a compelling vision that matches the scale of that challenge, of that opportunity. We are ready to start building and talking about something inspiring and tantalizing, something truly revolutionary. This sort of vision can be held by everyone in the movement, moving us from fear and despair at the scale of the challenge to hope and optimism at the equally grand scale of opportunity that challenge presents. That sort of vision must be powerful enough to inspire individuals and society to action.

    What is our vision?

    Since the Power Shift summit, young leaders across the country have been developing an idea that feels both powerful and simple:

    We can be Climate Positive.

    Climate Positive has dual meanings. It is a philosophy or mind-set, a way of engaging with the world and the challenge of climate change. And it is also a goal, the target towards which we as a movement and a society are striving.

    Climate Positive is a mind-set that engages eagerly in the opportunities inherent in solving the climate crisis by building a sustainable, just, and prosperous, post-carbon society. It is a philosophy fueled by the vision of the possible, actively striving to make a better future a reality by engaging everyone in the solutions.

    Climate Positive also means that net global greenhouse gas emissions are below the level at which they are absorbed by natural cycles. In this sense, it is the ultimate target of our movement. Putting aside percentages or numerics, Climate Positive is about restoring our atmosphere to a state of balance, and ending for good the climate crisis we are faced with today. Our scientific understanding of what is necessary to achieve this goal will be refined over time (and probably become more urgent), just as the climate science has over the last few years. The scientific understanding will change, but the Climate Positive goal will not.

    Most of all, Climate Positive is a vision of what is possible, of the future that we are striving to create. The vision is not complete - we are all building it every day. But already, you can see it taking hold within the swelling ranks of the climate movement.

    These days we are moving beyond simply talking about emissions reductions. We are moving beyond talking merely about what we simply wish to avoid - melting ice caps, dying polar bears, a world of climatic chaos. We are beyond talking about simple, small steps, like changing light bulbs and eating local. These things are all still critical. Emissions reductions are of course essential, individual actions and lifestyle changes are a way to start (get your house in order first, right?), and the nightmarish vision of the world we can expect if we fail to act fuels our urgency.

    But we are also starting to see it differently. We are uniting behind fresh visions that are inspirational rather than limiting. We are moving beyond the paradigm of simply cutting carbon emissions to articulating bold plans for a new energy future that will reignite America's economy, generate a new kind of sustainable development, confront poverty and inequity both here and abroad, and build healthy communities that are not only materially comfortable but socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable and secure.

    This approach, a Climate Positive mindset, and a Climate Positive target - a Climate Positive Vision - engages everyone in creating local and global solutions, unleashes human ingenuity, potential and compassion to end the climate crisis and build a brighter future. Those of us in the climate movement can not come up with all the solutions to meet this challenge; not even everyone currently engaged in politics, science or advocacy can come up with all the solutions. We will need everyone, everywhere working on every level.

    Faced with this daunting challenge, we ask ourselves, what are global warming solutions?

    A Climate Positive Vision recognizes that WE - human beings everywhere - are global warming solutions. We are a force for change, a force that can step outside the old energy paradigm to build the future and present that we know is possible. Ordinary people, acting in every community, hold the ideas and inspiration for change, and we can believe in those people as we believe in ourselves.

    Daniel Quinn observes, "During your lifetime, the people of our culture are going to figure out how to live sustainably on this planet--or they're not. Either way, it's certainly going to be extraordinary. If they figure out how to live sustainably here, then humanity will be able to see something it can't see right now: a future that extends into the indefinite future. If they don't figure this out, then I'm afraid the human race is going to take its place among the species that we're driving into extinction here every day--as many as 200--every day."

    We have the opportunity to build an extraordinary way of living. Let's make it Climate Positive.

    Read more!

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    Calling All Young Revolutionaries :: $5000 Fellowship Deadline Approaching

    Got a big idea you’ve wanted to pursue to advance the clean energy movement? Breakthrough Generation, the youth initiative of the Breakthrough Institute, is awarding ten $5,000 Fellowships to the country’s top young organizers and thinkers.

    We’re seeking highly motivated, capable, and innovative young leaders who want to pursue a campus or local clean energy project while advancing the larger movement for a $500 billion federal investment in clean energy to spark an energy revolution and win on global warming.

    The deadline is this Friday, March 21

    Find out more -- and apply now !

    The Breakthrough Institute is also offering paid Breakthrough Summer Internships. The internship takes place at the Breakthrough Institute’s main office in Oakland, CA, and involves high-level research, analysis, and writing that is substantial and substantive, both individually and in collaboration with senior Breakthrough staff. Much of this will focus on the policy, politics, and technology behind clean energy and global warming. Our interns have gone on to co-author major white papers in journals such as the Harvard Law & Policy Review, and the stipend is $300 per week. More information is available at

    The Breakthrough Institute, a progressive think tank directed by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, is working on several fronts – including political candidates, forward-thinking philanthropists, social change agents, and the youth climate movement – to advance a major federal investment in the clean energy economy. We believe that young people today are uniquely positioned to advance a more powerful movement and wish to support their efforts.

    Read more!

    Saturday, March 15, 2008

    Innovative Low-Cost "Windbelt" Could Bring Wind Power to Developing World

    These days, conventional thinking about wind turbines is "bigger is better." Since power output scales exponentially with rotor diameter, wind turbines are getting bigger and bigger in order to squeeze more clean energy out of the rushing wind. The Enercon E-126 is now the world's largest wind turbine. It's mammoth 126 meter (413 ft) rotor generates over 7 megawatts of electricity enough to power 1,775 average American homes.

    Enter the tiny but innovative "windbelt."

    Looking like some kind of pygmy David next to the towering Goliaths of modern, utility-scale wind turbines, the windbelt, an invention of 28-year-old Shawn Frayne, bucks any conventional thinking about wind turbine design. Instead, Frayne designed his invention to be low-cost, highly efficient, source of power at the milliwatt scale, not the megawatt scale.

    Frayne invented the wind belt after working in Haiti and designed the tiny wind generator to produce enough, cheap power to run LED lights and radios in the homes of the world's poor.

    Conventional, rotor-based wind turbines don't scale down well to such a tiny scale. There's too much friction in the gearbox and other components, which is why there are no rotor-based wind generators out there that put out under 50 watts, Frayne says. So he took a new tack, studying the way vibrations caused by the wind led to the collapse in 1940 of Washington's Tacoma Narrows Bridge (aka Galloping Gertie).

    Frayne's windbelt, which won Popular Mechanic's 2007 Breakthrough award for innovative designs, consists of a taut membrane fitted with a pair of magnets that oscillate between metal coils to produce electricity.

    According to Popular Mechanics:

    Prototypes have generated 40 milliwatts in 10-mph slivers of wind, making his device 10 to 30 times as efficient as the best microturbines. Frayne envisions the Windbelt costing a few dollars and replacing kerosene lamps in Haitian homes. "Kerosene is smoky and it's a fire hazard," says Peter Haas, founder of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, which helps people in developing countries to get environmentally sound access to clean water, sanitation and energy. "If Shawn's innovation breaks, locals can fix it. If a solar panel breaks, the family is out a panel."

    Frayne hopes to help fund third-world distribution of his Windbelt with revenue from first-world applications. The windbelt could replace the batteries used to power temperature and humidity sensors in buildings, for example.

    So here's to thinking big and designing small. We need innovative, clean energy solutions at all scales, and for deployment throughout the world, including the developing world. "There's not a huge amount of innovation being done for people making $2 to $4 per day," says Haas. "Shawn's work is definitely needed."

    Frayne explains his invention at a video at Popular Mechanics.

    [Image sources: Popular Mechanics. A hat tip to Tyler Burton at Breakthrough Blog]

    Read more!

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    Some TGIF Humor: Treeless Squirrel Says "Plant Trees Please"

    While this isn't strictly climate or energy related, I figured I'd pass on this humorous video today (planting trees helps solve climate change, right?). Enjoy, and TGIF!

    Check out for more from this apparently Earth Day-related campaign and more from this numerous, hairy arborphile.

    [A hat tip to Sergeant B. Hinley!]

    Read more!

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Lieberman-Warner Climate Bill Under Close Watch, Needs Improvements

    Twelve of America's largest environmental groups gathered with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, on Capitol Hill this morning to show America that they are united to push hard for global warming legislation during this session of the 110th Congress.

    The press conference "Boxer and Environmental Leaders United on Urgent Need to Address Global Warming" came as people have been talking about a division within the environmental community concerning the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act -- with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth absent from the press event. The Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, NRDC, Environmental Defense Fund and others were in attendance, and their CEO's offered strong remarks on what is at stake if America does not step up and take a leadership role in reducing global warming pollution, soon.

    Boxer's opening remarks were firey: "It is the job of Congress - starting now - to pass legislation to effectively reduce global warming pollution. We can't duck, we can't hide, we can't evade, unless we want our children and grandchildren to blame us and disparage us for walking away from this - our sacred responsibility. We can no longer fiddle while the planet gets ready to burn."

    With each passing day, each scientific study that emerges, it becomes more clear that the U.S. "simply must step up and take a leadership role," as Sen. Warner (R-VA) said at a National Wildlife Federation press conference in February.

    For those of you who have not followed this closely, the Lieberman-Warmer Climate Security Act passed through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in December. It calls for a more than 15 percent recution in global warming pollution (from today's levels) by 2020, and a 62-66 percent reduction by 2050. The bill would achieve this through a cap and trade program. Beyond any controversy about the free allocation of carbon offsets to polluting industries based on their past emissions, the very bottom line is that the reductions do not match what the best available science tells us is necessary to avoid the catastrophic effects of global warming. The bill does not go far enough.

    At the press event this morning, however, Boxer and others made it clear that they will look to strengthen the bill as it moves through the Senate this spring or summer.
    It seems that Boxer and friends are setting this up for a great debate...

    on the Senate floor, and it seems that Congress will not be able to ignore the threats posed by global warming, especially if we continue to turn up the heat on them. It is good that global warming legislation is receiving so much attention, although it is still risky because as it stands right now it just does not do enough. We must look to ensure that the bill is not weakened, only strengthened, and that a winning piece of legislation is crafted as it continues to move forward.

    "I'm willing to settle for the necessary, no less," said Boxer. "So if it isn't a good bill, it isn't going to happen."

    Read more!

    Earth to America: Video Sends Message on Global Warming, Loud and Clear

    This is a great video skit from the Blue Man Group I just ran across (thanks to Architecture 2030). It's old, I know, but new to me. Check it out:

    Read more!

    These Guys Are No Fossil Fools! Markey and Waxman Call for Ban on New Coal Plants

    Ed Markey and Henry Waxman are no Fossil Fools! The two Chairmen and Congressional Climate Champs released a new bill yesterday calling for a moratorium on any new coal plants that do not capture and sequester their greenhouse gas emissions.

    The ban would stay in place until Congress adopts and implements comprehensive global warming regulation and is designed to addresses the largest new source of global warming pollution — new coal-fired power plants that are being built without any controls on their global warming emissions.

    "Comprehensive economy-wide regulation to address global warming is coming soon. But new uncontrolled coal-fired power plants are being built today," said Rep. Waxman (D-Cal.), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and author of the most-aggressive Congressional proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. “My legislation says: “No new plants without emissions controls.” The alternative is senseless - locking in decades of additional global warming emissions and requiring greater emissions reductions across the U.S. economy to compensate."

    "If we lose control of coal, we will have lost control of the climate," said Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. "This bill will make companies prepare for the future and prevent them from building low-tech coal-fired power plants before a global warming bill is passed that will necessitate the use of the newest, most climate-friendly technology. "

    Without emissions controls, a new coal-fired power plant will emit hundreds of millions of tons of global warming pollution over its fifty-year lifetime. Over 100 new plants have been proposed, and if just a portion of these are built, they will make hitting greenhouse gas reduction targets necessary to halt dangerous climate change next to impossible. A single new uncontrolled coal plant could erase all the emissions reductions that will be achieved through the Northeastern states' Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, for example.

    The bill, titled the "Moratorium on Uncontrolled Power Plants Act" would ban either EPA or states from issuing permits to new coal-fired power plants that are not built with state-of-the-art emissions control technology to capture and permanently sequester the plant's carbon dioxide emissions. The moratorium extends until a comprehensive federal regulatory program for global warming pollution is in place.

    Looking ahead to future global warming regulations, the bill also bars any new coal-fired power plant built without state-of-the-art control technology from receiving any free or reduced cost emissions allowances under a future cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases.

    "Many communities are still paying for failed nuclear power plant investments in the 1980's," said a press release issued by Chairman Markey. "This bill puts investors and power companies on notice that if they invest in new sources of global warming pollution now, taxpayers won't pay for the costs of cleaning up those sources later."

    “It’s important for ratepayers and regulators to understand the financial risks if their power company wants to build a new uncontrolled coal-fired power plant," said Rep. Waxman. "Those plants will be a lot more expensive to operate when global warming pollution is regulated. Ratepayers need to make sure they won't be stuck with the bill."

    It's time to simply say "No!" to new coal plants! Like Markey and Waxman, American's are no Fossil Fools. Americans want Green Jobs Not Coal, and it's time Congress heard that message.

    Read more!

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Face It Contest Says "No Coal!"

    Architecture 2030 selects winners of graphic design contest. Students use face/body paint to send a clear message: "No Coal!"

    If you could only use a single still image, your own face or body as a canvas, and body paint as your medium, how would you communicate the powerful message: "No Coal!"?

    That was the challenge laid out by Metropolis magazine, USGBC, American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), and Architecture 2030 in their "Face It" graphic design contest, part of Architecture 2030's ReVERBerate project, launched on January 30th-31st (along with Focus the Nation).

    The entries, from students across the nation, were varied and creative. Many were frankly stark and disturbing! Check out the submissions here.

    And without further ado, here are the winners in the three categories: face, black-and-white, and body:

    Check below the fold for the grand prize winner and some good runners up (my picks, may take a while to load given the number of images)...

    Some other good submissions...

    My favorite runner up (particularly relevant given upcoming Fossil Fools Day):

    Some other good ones.

    I think this one broke the rules, but it's pretty good...

    Here's to some patriotism...

    And finally...

    Face It also involved a video contest. Check out submissions here. Voting has closed and winners will be announced soon by Architecture 2030 and the Face It partners.

    This one has my vote for impact...

    And this one for humor!

    [A hat tip to Edward Mazria at Gristmill]

    Read more!

    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Beyond Al Gore and Inconvenient Truths: A New Generation, A New Vision, a New Dream

    Al Gore, the erstwhile trumpeter of inconvenient truths and dire warnings of climate catastrophe has fallen under attack by the climate deniers and flat earth-ers of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

    CEI is taking Gore, perhaps the most visible figurehead of the climate movement, to task for living in "a posh Nashville mansion" that allegedly uses 20 times the energy of a normal American home while making money as he calls for action to halt the climate crisis.

    Adhering to the age old maxim, "If you can't kill the message, kill the messenger," they cry "Hypocrite!" trying to besmirch Al Gore's cause as they besmirch his reputation.

    Some of my friends and fellow bloggers have been bustling to rise to Al Gore's defense. I on the other hand, have not.

    So what if Al Gore isn't a perfect model of a modern major climate hero? That's only a problem so long as we insist on making him our figurehead. His alleged hypocracy is only a problem if we insist on making climate solutions all about personal sacrifice. Heck, the bulletproof veracity of the dire predictions of climate science is only critical if we insist on making our movement solely about avoiding the nightmarish future Gore describes in "An Inconvenient Truth."

    So defend Al Gore if you want, but I'm going to waste little time on it. Al Gore is not the leader of my movement. He's not my inspiration, or my hero. His message is not the message that inspires me to act.

    Do we think he's going to be our MLK with a message of inconvenient truths and dire warnings? Is that what will inspire America and the world to act?

    The leaders of my movement are the hundreds and hundreds of citizens and activists, many (most) of them young, working day in and day out to make a difference, trusting implicitly that others out there are doing the same. These climate champions aren't former "next presidents of the United States," or millionaire politicians. They are everyday people rising to do great things, motivated not by fear (by a sense of urgency, yes) but rather by a vision of the better world we're striving to create, a sustainable, just, and prosperous future.

    Don't get me wrong, Al Gore has done a great service, tirelessly raising the profile of climate science and highlighting the warnings of the nightmare future we stand to inherit if we fail to act to end the climate crisis. But now it is time for a new generation of leaders, and a new vision of a brigther future, a vision where we talk not about "inconvenient truths," but about the very convenient fact that we stand at a moment of unique opportunity, at a catalyzing chance to create a better world.

    A crisis is not yet a disaster. Gore himself says something akin to that, although that message is often lost in the rest of his rhetoric. A crisis is a choice, a choice between futures, and we still have time left to choose.

    Will we choose the nightmare or the dream? And which will inspire us to action? I say it's time to dream.

    Read more!

    As the Science Pours In, Economists and Investors Call for Action

    It seems that a scientific study emerges nearly every month highlighting the grave threats posed by global warming, and the ever-increasing need to reduce global warming pollution as quickly as possible. While federal response can be slow going, and has hardly ever been known to be quick, the private sector is on the move with economists and entrepreneurs jumping into investment in clean energy technology and petitioning big business for action on global warming.

    A recent survey of investors, entrepreneurs and analysts found that roughly 24 percent of investors feel that clean energy technology will receive the most investment in the next two years, more than any other sector! And in 2007, venture investors globally invested $3 billion in 221 clean energy technology companies, up 43 percent from 2006.

    There is also a growing network of environmentally minded investors who are unsatisfied with the conduct of some of the world's biggest corporations, and are flexing their monetary muscles to influence companies' behavior. The Investor Network on Climate Risk, 60 institutional investors whose collective assets total more than $5 trillion, is an ever-growing alliance focused on environmentally-sound investments. Several of these investors have filed 54 global warming shareholder resolutions -- a record number of environmental resolutions -- with Big Oil and Coal, airlines, banks and other large corporations that they feel are severely missing the mark when it comes to doing their part to fight global warming and mitigate its impacts.

    ExxonMobil, Chevron, Southwest Airlines, U.S. Air, GM, Dynegy, Massey Energy, Ford and Citigroup are several of the corporations that the investors are targeting...

    Such actions from investors signals a lack of tolerance for polluting industries' business-as-usual models in the face of mounting evidence concerning global warming; such industries must modify their conduct if they desire ongoing private investment. The federal government also changed the way that the coal industry will do business in rural communities last week, suspending their hefty loan program, and if the private sector holds the coal industry accountable as well, it will have nowhere to hide!

    "Assessing Climate Change is an Essential Part of Intelligent Investing" - William C. Thompson Jr. New York City Comptroller, member of INCR

    Read more!

    Saturday, March 08, 2008

    "Toxic West Virginia" Series Takes Close Look at Mountain Top Removal

    A hat tip to BruceMcF for calling my attention to this.. has an excellent video series that takes a close look at Mountain Top Removal in West Virgina. Check out "Toxic West Virginia"...

    [Warning, some segments contain explicit language]

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Part 3:

    Read more!

    Friday, March 07, 2008

    Obama and Clinton Both Talking Up "Clean" Coal in Primary States

    Both Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton have solid energy plans that, if implemented, would take America into a cleaner energy future. On energy and climate, like on so many other issues, both remaining Democratic contenders for the White House followed John Edwards' early example and developed bold clean energy and climate change plans late last year.

    As David Roberts of Grist says, "Both would substantially cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost clean energy; both pitch sustainability as an issue of shared sacrifice and economic opportunity; both have an impressive grasp of the policy details."

    In fact, when it comes to the two candidates' energy and climate plans, there's about as much distance between them as their current neck-and-neck delegate counts.

    Obama and Clinton have something else in common we should all be taking note of: they've both been talking up so-called "clean" coal on the campaign trail, especially in coal-friendly primary states like Ohio and Wyoming.

    Obama earned some well-deserved heat last summer for his seemingly friendly stance towards coal-to-liquids (CTL) synthetic fuel production. While CTL might help displace oil, the synthetic fuel results in up to twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as conventional gasoline. Obama has since "clarified" his position on CTL, saying he'll only support new plants if they decrease both oil use and GHG emissions (a tall order for this dirty fuel!).

    Clinton has been pretty silent on CTL, but both candidates energy plans and stump speeches tout the potential of "clean" (aka slightly-less-deadly) coal technologies.

    In coal-lovin' Ohio last week, Obama had this to say:

    "Clean-coal technology should be part of [the] mix... We are the Saudi Arabia of coal."

    And Clinton is just as bad. Her husband was out today touting "clean" coal to crowds in Wyoming (set to caucus on Saturday). From the Denver Post:

    "At the University of Wyoming in Laramie, thousands of people braved icy winds and waited in long lines outside a campus arena to hear the former president speak. He answered with a speech that held them rapt even as he ranged from his wife's plans for universal health care to her plans for creating a technology that could burn Wyoming coal without generating greenhouse gases."

    So what's wrong with a coal technology that lets us burn our most abundant domestic fossil fuel resource "without generating greenhouse gases." To answer that, I'll let you ask the fine citizens of West Virginia, or refer you to this video:

    The short answer though, is that as long as you need dig coal out of the ground, it'll never be clean - particularly while coal companies employ the extremely destructive process of mountain-top removal strip mining to supply those "clean" coal plants with fuel.

    Slightly-less-deadly, sure, but "clean?" Don't try to shovel me that!

    As Jeff Biggers, the author of The United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture and Enlightenment to America, writes: "Clean coal: Never was there an oxymoron more insidious, or more dangerous to our public health."

    Barak Obama has at least spoken publicly against mountaintop removal and strip-mining in both DC and Kentucky.

    "We're tearing up the Appalachian Mountains because of our dependence on fossil fuels," Obama said at a campaign stop in Lexington Kentucky, sparking loud applause.

    As of yet, the Clinton campaign has been silent on the practice of mountain top removal or strip mining.

    Any energy plan that pledges to clean up coal must address both the combustion and extraction of the dirty fuel.

    I sincerely hope that a President Obama will fight to end the practice of mountain top removal, which devastates both the environment and the lives of Appalachia. I also hope that Clinton's silence on the matter is merely oversight.

    Neither candidate has yet convinced me that they their "clean" energy plans will not push an expansion of coal-fired power plants under the guise of "clean" coal that will accelerate mountain top coal mining and other strip mining and lead to expanded environmental and human devastation.

    My question is this: what exactly do Obama and Clinton mean when they say "clean" coal? If this is what they have in mind (or what they are ignoring), then they can take their "clean" coal and shovel it!

    Read more!

    State Climate Victory: Green Jobs and Climate Action for Washington!

    [This is a guest post by JP Kemmick, cross-posted from]

    Cascade Climate Network - Washington Lobby DayLast month while lobbying our Washington state legislators for climate change solutions, a legislative aid asked me, “Well, do you want climate change action or green jobs?” Thankfully some of our legislators understand you can’t have one without the other.

    Yesterday, Washington state passed a historic climate change action bill. The Climate Action and Green Jobs Bill passed out of the Senate unamended and is now awaiting the signature of Governor Christine Gregoire. Gregoire requested the legislation this session and has supported it all along the way, so there is little doubt that the bill will pass into law early next week.

    The bill makes Washington just the fourth state in the nation to enact binding limits on greenhouse emissions in the state, after California, New Jersey and Hawaii. The bill states that the state shall reduce greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020; 25% below 1990 levels by 2035; and 50% below 1990 levels by 2050 and charges the state Department of Ecology with developing plans to achieve these reductions.

    The bill also contains a green jobs portion that will help colleges and technical programs across the state which are already interested in green jobs programs really get off the ground and start churning out a new workforce ready for the new green economy. The bill is groundbreaking for coupling reduction emissions targets with support for new green jobs.

    The Cascade Climate Network and friends have worked hard to support this bill and it we are excited to have won our first major state climate victory!

    However, like most victories these days, there’s plenty more work to do to keep Washington moving forward on the path to a sustainable, just, and prosperous future.

    The climate action portion of the bill sets up a strong framework to reduce emissions in Washington, but requires additional follow through from the legislature later this year and next as Washington prepares to work with the Western Climate Initiative cap and trade program.

    Supporters of the bill will also have to keep fighting for funding to support the bill’s programs, including the green jobs portion. The House and Senate gave very inadequate funding and the financial commitment from the governor is also much less than the bill initially asked for at only $250,000.

    We must continue to pressure our legislators as the session nears its end to guarantee that the bill is fully funded so it can be as effective as it promises.

    Click here to get talking points and call Governor Gregoire to urge her to do everything she can to fully fund the Climate Action and Green Jobs Act.

    Read more!

    Wednesday, March 05, 2008

    Beating Back the Coal Rush: Feds Suspend Subsidized Loan Program for Rural Coal Plants

    Coal plantIn another big victory in the fight against the coal rush, the feds apparently suspended a major loan program that provided rural electric cooperatives with subsidized loans to construct new coal-fired power plants. An official with the US Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS), which manages the loan program, cited the uncertainties of climate change and rising construction costs as the reasons for the programs suspension.

    "This is a big decision. It says new coal plants can't go to the federal government for money at least for the next couple years, and these are critical times for companies to get these plants built," said Abigail Dillen with the environmental law group Earthjustice.

    Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, the Montana Environmental Information Center and other environmental groups filed suits to block RUS financing for new coal-fired power plants last summer, arguing that RUS did not consider the impact of greenhouse gas emissions spewing from the pulverized coal plants the program is financing and the impact those emissions will have on global warming.

    The program's suspension marks the end of a reliable source of financing for new coal plants. The RUS program, established in 1935 as a New Deal-era program to finance rural electrification, has been a major funding source for the coal rush. The Seattle Times reported last May that "The beneficiaries of the government's largesse — the nation's rural electric cooperatives — plan to spend $35 billion to build conventional coal plants over the next 10 years, enough to offset all state and federal efforts to reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions over that time." The RUS program provided $1.3 billion in loans to build new coal plants since 2001, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

    The suspension of the subsidized loan program means that no loans will be issued to rural electric cooperatives this year and likely none in 2009, James Newby, assistant administrator for the Rural Utilities Service, a branch of the Department of Agriculture, said Tuesday.

    According to the Star-Tribune, at least four utilities are currently lined up for RUS loans totaling $1.3 billion — for coal-fired power plants in Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri. Another project in Montana was denied funding last month and two more recently withdrew their requests for RUS loans: last October in Wyoming and earlier this week in Missouri. All seven plants will now have to look for private financing to move forward, and at least two of the plants are suspending development after this announcement.

    "This decision means one more nail in the coffin of new coal plants," said Alice McKeown, coal analyst for the Sierra Club. "There have already been a handful of plants affected by this news, including the indefinite delay of a plant in Missouri."

    The Star-Tribune reports:

    Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. announced this week it was "delaying indefinitely" its proposed plant in Norborne, Mo., after receiving word of the loan program suspension.

    At least one developer, the East Kentucky Power Cooperative, is hoping to wait out the suspension of the loan program rather than seek more expensive loans on the open market, spokesman Nick Comer said.

    Other projects, like the embattled Highwood Generating Station proposed by Southern Montana Electric, Basin Electric Power Cooperative's Dry Fork plant in Wyoming, and East Texas Power Cooperative's proposed plant in Plum Point, Arkansas, must now try to secure private funding - a difficult task given the typically poor credit ratings of rural cooperatives and increased scrutiny of coal investments from Wall Street.

    "The move by RUS to take a time out on coal is part of a larger story," says McKeown. "We're seeing different sectors coming together to make sure that we are looking before we leap into 50+ years of serious global warming pollution. From carbon principles out of Wall Street to ending taxpayer subsidies, financial uncertainties are turning up the heat on energy investors to look to solutions rather than following a business as usual mentality."

    The suspension of the loan program is only temporary, but should hold at least through the end of 2009. It comes at a critical time in the coal rush and again signals growing (and appropriate) nervousness about new coal investments in the financial sector.

    "Coal is not the best investment for our future. Dozens of states, major Wall Street banks, and now even the federal government, have all now said no to new coal," says MacKeown. "It’s becoming increasingly clear that energy efficiency and renewables are the way of the future.”

    Hear hear to that!

    Read more!