If you live in California, the most climate-friendly car you can drive is a Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid. If you live in Ohio, you could go easier on the climate by driving a regular ol' non-plug-in Prius. And in Vermont, the best pick would be an all-electric Honda Fit.
An electric car is only as good for the climate as the electricity used to power it. And in states that rely heavily on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas for their electricity there are many conventional and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that are better for the climate than all-electric cars.
First, a rat gnawed through exposed wiring, setting off a scramble to end yet another blackout of vital cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Then, hastily built pits for a flood of contaminated water sprang leaks themselves. Now, a new rush of radioactive water has breached a barrier built to stop it, allowing heavily contaminated water to spill daily into the Pacific.
It turns out that radioactive water has been spilling into the sea almost since the initial disaster, at a rate of 75,000 gallons, or 300 tons, a day.
So now Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, which owns the plant, has a plan to build an underground wall of frozen earth to stop the radioactive water leakage. NPR explains:
There aren't many hot races in this off-off election year, but the Virginia governor's race is packed full of enough drama and weirdness for a dozen contests. Here's just a sampling of the crazy: An obsessive vendetta against a prominent climate scientist. A fledgling cleantech company under federal investigation. A $1,500 turkey dinner (let's hope it was organic and heritage breed). Dueling high-profile billionaire donors. And as a bonus, the Clintons are mixed up in it too -- Bill, Hillary, and even Hillary's brother.
Here's how the contest is shaking out in terms of climate and energy issues:
Ken "The Cooch" Cuccinelli is no ordinary GOP climate denier. As Virginia's attorney general, he waged a two-year campaign to discredit one of the world's top climate scientists, Michael Mann. Mann was a professor at the University of Virginia when his research led to publication of the iconic hockey-stick graph, which shows how average northern hemisphere temperatures have soared since the late 20th century. (The hockey stick has been reaffirmed by multiplesubsequentstudies.) In 2010 and 2011, Cuccinelli accused Mann of fraud and repeatedly tried to obtain papers and emails from his time at UVA, a failed attempt to discredit Mann's climate research that proved costly for Mann, UVA, and Virginia taxpayers.
A new article in Nature highlights a supposed rift among some scientists over Keystone XL: Is it a smart focus for climate activists or a distracting sideshow?
There doesn't seem to be nearly as much of a rift as author Jeff Tollefson suggests, but he does talk to some scientists who are conflicted over the Keystone focus:
The issue has ... divided the scientific community. Many climate and energy researchers have lined up with environmentalists to oppose what is by all accounts a dirty source of petroleum: emissions from extracting and burning tar-sands oil in the United States are 14–20% higher than the country's average oil emissions. But other researchers say that the Keystone controversy is diverting attention from issues that would have much greater impact on greenhouse-gas emissions, such as the use of coal.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has, shall we say, a vivid oratorical style.
Last month, he noted that not all of the young immigrants who would benefit from the DREAM Act are star students. “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” he said.
Almost 87 percent of the Western U.S. is in a drought, the Los Angeles Times reports today in a big, gloomy article with big, gloomy pictures. New Mexico is 100 percent droughty. Here are just a few of the ways that sucks.
2. People in parts of New Mexico are having to take drastic measures to get water. "Residents of some towns subsist on trucked-in water," the L.A. Times reports, "and others are drilling deep wells costing $100,000 or more to sink and still more to operate."
(And the magazine gets kudos for using the word childfree, preferred by those who don't want children, as opposed to childless, which is more appropriate for people who want kids but don't have them.)
Writer Lauren Sandler notes that an increasing percentage of Americans are bypassing parenting:
The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history, which includes the fertility crash of the Great Depression. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there's data, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s. Even before the recession hit, in 2008, the proportion of women ages 40 to 44 who had never given birth had grown by 80%, from 10% to 18%, since 1976, when a new vanguard began to question the reproductive imperative. These statistics may not have the heft of childlessness in some European countries — like Italy, where nearly one-quarter of women never give birth — but the rise is both dramatic and, in the scope of our history, quite sudden.
First, he pointed out that Keystone would create few permanent jobs:
Republicans have said that this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that that’s true. And my hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline -- which might take a year or two -- and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in a economy of 150 million working people. ... that is a blip relative to the need.
A similar fight is afoot in Seattle -- but over Whole Foods. Mayor Mike McGinn, who's up for reelection this year, is leading the charge against a proposed new store in the West Seattle neighborhood. Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat reports:
“I’m setting a new standard here, that we are going to look at the wages they pay, and benefits, when a company wants to develop with land that involves public property,” McGinn told me in an interview. ...
McGinn contended in a letter that the nonunion Whole Foods pays “significantly lower” wages and benefits than other grocery stores, including some already in West Seattle. So the idea of allowing Whole Foods to go in there violates the city’s social and economic justice goals.