On Thursday, May 18, the Big Three automakers have scheduled a trip to the White House to discuss their "needs" with President Bush. CalCars wants to bring a 100-MPG plug-in hybrid to Washington to meet them. I think that's a really good idea. If you do too, join me in helping out.
The New York Times is running an interesting article called "The High Cost of Cheap Gas and Vice Versa." The author calculates the current average cost of driving at 15 cents a mile, up from 6.6 cents in 1998, and down from 20.1 cents in 1980 (in 2006 dollars). He also puts up a cost-per-mile calculator, in case your math skills have deteriorated since you last took the SAT. My colleague JP Ross tells me that a Toyota Prius in electric-only mode uses .26 kWh to go a mile. If you are filling up with peak electricity rates, say 12 cents kWh, that's 3 cents a mile. Many utilities have nighttime off-peak rates way lower -- at 5 cents kWh, that's around a penny a mile. In places where the wind blows at night, you could be filling up as you sleep. And if you have solar covering your parking garage, like the City of Tucson, you could be charging while you work. You can tell the smart utilities -- they are the ones putting their lobbying power behind plug-in hybrids. It just makes cents.
The next big vote on renewable energy won't take place in Washington. It will take place in Phoenix. Some time this summer, the five commissioners on the Arizona Corporation Commission will vote on a proposed rule to significantly expand renewable energy in Arizona -- 15% renewables by 2025, 30% of that from distributed-generation resources like solar. We are talking on the order of up to 1,800 MW of solar: a very big deal. The emissions reductions are roughly equivalent to removing 1 million cars from the road -- not to mention jumpstarting the clean technologies of the future. There is a precarious 3-2 majority on the Commission right now, and the usual suspects are gearing up opposition. There's a public comment period culminating in a public meeting on May 23. Demonstrating the public mandate for renewable energy is critical. We've set up a petition -- if you live in Arizona, here's your chance to stand up and be counted. Or no complaining later.
Uh-oh. Climate scientists have documented a pronounced slowdown in the Pacific Ocean atmospheric system that drives the trade winds, a prediction of global warming theory that appears to be coming true. You -- or Jonah Goldberg -- might say: Trade winds? Who uses trade winds anymore? I get groceries by truck, not square rigger. The scientists continue:They focused on the giant system known as the "Walker circulation," named in honor of Sir Gilbert Walker, the late British scientist who was one of the first to trace connections among widely scattered weather events. The system is a kind of heat engine that drives half the world's climate. When you read things like this, remember that there is a relatively small group of people who took money to ensure that our federal government not only ignores the threat, but undercuts those working toward effective remedies.
After Jonah Goldberg published his scurrilous harangue on global warming in the Los Angeles Times on Earth Day, I and others posted some thoughts -- combined with what we thought were knock-out sit-yer-butt-down-and-shut-up witticisms. Amateurs. Professor Juan Cole shows us how it is done. I must admit to some jealousy.
I have no idea if this is actually the nation's largest solar home community. I do know, however, that it's good news: Homebuilder, Lennar today announced a partnership with PowerLight Corporation and Roseville Electric to build the nation's largest solar community. The Sacramento division of the national builder, Lennar, operates locally as Renaissance Homes and Winncrest Homes and will integrate photovoltaic systems and upgraded energy efficiency measures into 450 new homes slated to be built in Roseville over the next two years. When municipal utilites, homebuilders, and solar installers team up and cooperate, efficiencies and cost savings can be maximized. Solar installations are cheaper when installed at the time of contruction. Houses can be oriented to maximize production. And the distribution system can be sized appropriately, with additional potential savings. How did this happen? Back in November, the city passed a requirement making it so. Leadership on clean energy is at the local level.
I unfortunately did not take Dave Robert's advice, and went ahead and read Jonah Goldberg's vapid op-ed on global warming. I'll leave it to others to say why Goldberg is wrong. I want to discuss why the L.A. Times is wrong. A year or so ago, ESPN hired Rush Limbaugh to provide color commentary (the irony only became apparent later) during NFL football games. This little experiment ended, as any idiot could have predicted, when Limbaugh made on-air comments that -- how to say this in a balanced way? -- some listeners thought might be racist, and others knew for sure were racist. Limbaugh's shtick might play well on rightwing hate-radio (though is no less excusable), but no one, including ESPN, should have been surprised when it didn't translate well to a broader audience. An audience with black people, for instance. ESPN endured a firestorm of criticism -- the National Association of Black Journalists said "ESPN's journalistic credibility is at stake" -- and ended up issuing mea culpas and canning Limbaugh. Ditto Goldberg. His vapid screed might play well over on National Review Online, but the L.A. Times insults the thinking members of its circulation when they publish this kind of horseshit on Earth Day. What's next? Paul Bunyan's ode to lumber on Arbor Day? Will they give Hugh Hefner free rein on National Chastity Day? (Trust me. It's only a matter of time.) Shame on you, L.A. Times. You insult your readers at your peril.
The U.S. EPA released a new report on greenhouse gas emissions today. From the press release, here's EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson: "The Bush Administration has an unparalleled financial, international and domestic commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. Can't argue with that. And don't get me started on their made-up-metric, "greenhouse gas intensity."
Like most people, I enjoy mocking New Jersey as a toxic miasmatic wasteland. Yesterday, New Jersey responded by serving me a double portion of shut-the-hell-up. By a 4-0 vote, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved one of the most robust renewable-energy standards in the country. By 2020, 20% of the electricity the state's utilities sell must come from renewable resources. And there's more: 2% must come from solar, making New Jersey, on a solar-per-capita basis, the nation's solar leader. Take that, you California hippies.