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Jon Rynn's Posts


Juggling two disasters at once

James Hansen’s recent post on climate change

James Hansen recently posted a new letter on climate change called "Tell Barack Obama the Truth -- The Whole Truth" [PDF] on his website. In it, he lays out many of his ideas on how to avert climate catastrophe, and I will cherry-pick a few quotes here: A carbon cap that slows emissions of CO2 does not help, because of the long lifetime of atmospheric CO2. In fact, the cap exacerbates the problem if it allows coal emissions to continue. The only solution is to target a (large) portion of the fossil fuel reserves to be left in the ground …

Read more: Climate & Energy


What goes around comes around?

To save themselves, the Big Three should become ‘transportmakers’

Irony of ironies, the one set of products that could save GM is the one that GM destroyed -- the electric trolley systems of America. According to the well-known research of Bradford Snell, GM killed the electric trolley, because in 1922 they decided that the only way to increase car sales was to eliminate the competition -- decent public transit. So they bought systems, pressured railroads and banks, bought public officials, did whatever they could to replace electric -- I'll repeat that, electric -- transportation with oil-based transportation. Irony number one -- if the U.S. had a set of decent …

Read more: Cities


Pssst! It's OK to cut the defense budget!

Cut defense spending in favor of clean-energy investing

Conventional wisdom, that dour specter, seems to be saying we don't have enough money to fix many of our biggest problems, such as global warming or shifting to carbon-free energy. But wait! The Pentagon itself has determined that there are plenty of resources that the Defense Department could do without, according to the Boston Globe: A senior Pentagon advisory group, in a series of bluntly worded briefings, is warning President-elect Barack Obama that the Defense Department's current budget is "not sustainable," and he must scale back or eliminate some of the military's most prized weapons programs ... Pentagon insiders and …

Read more: Climate & Energy


High-speed rail wins in California

A real path to energy independence

Proposition 1A passed 53 percent to 47 percent in California on Tuesday. The network will eventually extend from Sacramento through San Francisco and L.A., to San Diego. The bonds authorized by the proposition provide for about $10 billion or one-third of the cost for the whole system. In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said: Voting for bond measures like high-speed rail was an opportunity for voters to say, "Well, there is something we can do." It pointed out just how desperately Californians feel we need to make investments …

Read more: Politics


Save the planet! Now, how do we do that?

New Mother Jones piece flaunts climate starpower, but lacks practical suggestions

Magazines like to tease their readers with headlines that promise answers to seemingly intractable problems. Such seems to be the intent of the lead story of the December 2008 issue of Mother Jones, entitled "How to rescue the economy and save the planet." Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and Nobel-laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz hold forth, among others, but I thought that David Roberts, in his article about green jobs, and Mark Schapiro, in his piece about Europe, offered the most concrete ideas about what governments can do -- and that, after all, should be our focus. Al Gore and Bill McKibben …

Read more: Climate & Energy


'The great growth industry of the 21st century'

Lester Brown talks about renewable energy expansion

On a conference call Wednesday, I asked Lester R. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, whether the recent financial meltdown would effect the burgeoning solar, wind, and geothermal industries. He responded that while investment of all kinds will be more difficult, a renewable energy jobs program could provide the same kind of stimulus that the Works Projects Administration did in the 1930s if we slip into a deep recession or even a depression. But beyond that, it seems clear from his view of the current energy scene, that renewable energy will be "The great growth industry of the 21st …

Read more: Climate & Energy


The eco-beginnings of modern government

How modern cities made themselves livable

Financial deregulation has obviously been a disaster. Perhaps we are entering a new era, one in which it is acceptable to talk about the positive actions that governments can take. A friend of mine, Bryn Barnard, has written about how government first stepped in to provide a minimally healthy environment -- in a chapter about cholera in his book Outbreak: Plagues that changed history, and in a chapter about the Great Fire of London in his book, Dangerous Planet: Natural Disasters that changed history. He recently put his thoughts together to write the following about Britain in the 1830s. ----- …

Read more: Living


It's the jobs, stupid

The whole economy needs to be green collar

Bob Herbert lays out a strong argument for a focus on jobs in his column "A Fool's Paradise": The economy won't be saved by bailing out Wall Street and waiting for that day that never comes when the benefits trickle down to ordinary Americans. It won't be saved until we get serious about putting vast numbers of Americans back to work in jobs that are reasonably secure and pay a sustaining wage ... we need to find the money and the will to put Americans to work rebuilding the nation's deteriorating infrastructure, revitalizing its public school system, [and] creating a …

Read more: Uncategorized


Penny-dumb, pound-dumber

Why more government now means less in the future

"Socialism!" the House Republicans cried when the financial bailout was proposed -- and they were right, if you define socialism as the takeover of part of the economy by the government. We'll be in for much more of this sort of thing if the House Republicans and the rest of the federal government keeps worshiping at the altar of the "free market." Here's the lesson of the financial mess we're in: A free market with no regulations leads to socialism, as presently defined. Well, doggone it, we have a bunch of huge problems that need regulation and public investment, or …



Why the party that wrecked America can’t fix it

The Republican party has a problem. They have based much of their power, over the last several decades, on the idea of ever-expanding (almost exclusively white) suburbs. The thinking was, as those suburbs become less and less dense -- as one wag put it, the further away the houses are from each other -- the more those suburbanites will vote Republican. As William Levitt, the builder of the first modern suburb after World War II said, "No man who owns his own house and lot can be a communist." Now that strategy is stalling, and I have a feeling that …