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Philip Bump's Posts


Obama administration finalizes 54.5 mpg standard for automobiles

In the future, all cars will be like Knight Rider, maybe. (Photo by Pop Culture Geek.)

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our new fuel-efficiency standards, at long last.

The Obama Administration today finalized groundbreaking standards that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025. When combined with previous standards set by this Administration, this move will nearly double the fuel efficiency of those vehicles compared to new vehicles currently on our roads. In total, the Administration’s national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels. …

President Obama announced the proposed standard in July 2011, joined by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, and Volvo, as well as the United Auto Workers. The State of California and other key stakeholders also supported the announcement and were integral in developing this national program.

Sounds good! Bear in mind that only two cars currently meet the standard: the Chevy Volt and a thing called a "Ford Focus BEV FWD" that I've never heard of.

Environmental groups are pleased. Says the Sierra Club's Michael Brune, "President Obama has taken the most significant action by any President in history to move our country off oil and slash dangerous, climate disrupting pollution that threatens our children’s future." There you go. Carmakers are happy, enviros are happy. Who could be against this?


Romney includes one wind rep on his 50-person Colorado energy task force

wind turbinePhoto by Eric Tastad.

According to his official energy policy, Willard "Mitt" Romney wants states to have final authority over drilling and power generation. It's basically his way of undermining the EPA, allowing states to trump federal regulation.

Romney is providing a preview of what a state-determined energy program could look like. In Colorado, a critical swing state, the candidate is convening a working group, an advisory committee, to consider energy policy. The group has 50 members. Exactly one of them represents the wind industry.

From the Denver Post:

The Romney campaign Monday announced a 50-person Colorado energy advisory committee with a heavy tilt toward the mining and oil and gas industries.

… [A]ll but six members of the group were associated with mining and drilling industries or former Republican officials.

Of those six others, three were from solar generators. And there, in the last paragraph, lonely Sean Tufts from RES Americas, which develops wind power as well as other renewables projects.


Isaac just graduated to hurricane, is aimed right at New Orleans

An update a few minutes ago from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:


Here's the projected path, as of 10 a.m. Eastern.

Click to embiggen.
Read more: Climate & Energy


Republican convention flooded with corporate money

Last night, reporters in Tampa idled by the cancellation of the first night of the Republican convention ran into oil mogul David Koch at a local restaurant. One got a photo:

— Matt Laslo (@MattLaslo) August 28, 2012

(Shortly afterward, a staffer with Koch asked that the reporters not reveal their location to "your 'Occupy' friends.")

A Koch spotting at the convention should not come as a surprise. The convention exists for three reasons, in decreasing order of importance: to generate several days' worth of live prime-time television coverage, to create a way for donors and candidates to mix and mingle, and to set a party platform and nominate a candidate.

Over the weekend, The New York Times looked at that second element, the ecosystem of donors and parties and events and giveaways that surrounds each convention.

When thousands of delegates, elected officials and party leaders begin arriving in Tampa, Fla., for the Republican National Convention, hundreds of lobbyists, corporate executives, trade associations and donors will be waiting for them, exploiting legal loopholes -- and the fun-house atmosphere -- that make each party’s quadrennial conventions a gathering of money and influence unrivaled in politics.

In many ways, their activities amount to a parallel convention, one in which access to elected officials, party leaders and delegates provides corporations, interest groups and lobbyists a chance to advance their causes as the party goes about its official business nearby.

Lobbyists and trade groups, virtually all with business before Congress and federal agencies, are paying for a nonstop schedule of beach parties, concerts and cocktail hours.


Miners’ mandatory attendance at Romney rally cost them a day’s pay

You may remember last week when Fox Nation ran the headline "Ohio Miners Turn on Obama," showing a photo of miners trooping into a Romney rally. Readers dubbed the article "Inspiring."

We were kind of wet blankets, noting that the head of the company indicated beforehand that he would bus those miners in. Perhaps they weren't there entirely willingly, we said! Just maybe!

Little did we know.

From the Plain Dealer:

When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited an Ohio coal mine this month to promote jobs in the coal industry, workers who appeared with him at the rally lost pay because their mine was shut down.

The Pepper Pike company that owns the Century Mine told workers that attending the Aug. 14 Romney event would be both mandatory and unpaid, a top company official said Monday morning in a West Virginia radio interview.

Here's the clip:

Clearly another example of the insidious war on coal.


New York’s fracking war: Activists rally in Albany; Bloomberg tries to make fracking cleaner

Today in Albany, hundreds of people took part in a protest pressing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban all fracking statewide. It's unlikely to happen; an announcement on areas where fracking will be allowed could come as early as next week. But a key way to influence an elected official is to demonstrate popular support for an issue -- so to Albany they went. Citizen Action has an overview of the protest.

Photo by Citizen Action NY.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who previously made a massive contribution to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, was making his own fracking news.

The Environmental Defense Fund has been awarded a 3-year, $6 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies for its work to minimize the impacts of natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing. The funding will support the organization’s strategy of securing strong rules and developing industry best practices in states with intense natural gas production.


Why does mass transit in the U.S. cost so much more to build than in other countries?

In 1929, New York City decided to build a subway line along Second Avenue at a cost of $1.3 billion in 2012 dollars. It's due to be completed in 2016 at a cost of some $17 billion.

Why so expensive? Why so slow? Because it's being built in America. (Not that they had much choice on that.)

The cavern that will someday be the 72nd Street station on the T line. (Photo by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.)

In a piece at Bloomberg, Stephen Smith explains why American mass transit is so much more expensive than elsewhere in the world. In short: the powerful and unaccountable private contractors, a trend toward extravagant station design, a failure to demand quick timelines, and a surfeit of consultants.

Read more: Cities


Your meat-eating days are almost over, water experts say

It takes about 1,800 gallons of water to make a pound of grain-fed beef. That's the decent stuff, the beef that isn't fed with detritus like pieces of other cows. Other meat products require less water during production, but all need at least some. With humans increasingly using meat as a protein source and with the number of humans increasing as well, we will use more and more water to produce meat in a world that has less water to spare.

Here is a lot of water surrounding one cow, kind of the reverse of the actual problem. (Photo by

Something's got to give -- and the best place to cut back is meat consumption. From the Guardian:

Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world's population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages.

Humans derive about 20% of their protein from animal-based products now, but this may need to drop to just 5% to feed the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, according to research by some of the world's leading water scientists. ...

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


Shell still doesn’t have its sh*t together on Arctic drilling

Shell just needs, like, two more weeks to drill in the Arctic. And then it will be done, promise!

Shell wants to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northern coast this year, and all is not going as planned. The Interior Department says that drilling has to be completed by Sept. 24 in order to avoid sea ice. That's less than a month away, and Shell hasn't even managed to get started yet, so the company is telling the feds it needs just a little more time. The latest excuses:

Peter Slaiby, the vice president of Shell’s Alaskan operation, said Sunday that the firm asked the Interior Department for an extension of a little less than two weeks to drill in the Chukchi Sea. Shell has dealt with equipment delays that have pushed it close to its Sept. 24 cut-off date, and the firm has yet to obtain its final federal permits.

Slaiby said Shell’s Arctic Challenger ship will have all the necessary equipment and certifications by the end of the week, giving it about two weeks in the Chukchi Sea.

These guys are like a crappy tenant, always asking for just a couple more days on the rent because, you know, payday is coming up and they had a flat tire that they had to get fixed or they'd get fired because they already have a warning and also their roommate still owes for the cable. See the video below for footage from Shell's conversation with the government, played here by a baby.


Texans exercise their Second Amendment rights to ward off smart meters

A worker in California installs a smart meter without fearing for his life. Somewhere, a bureaucrat rubs his hands together menacingly. (Photo by pgegreenenergy.)

My dad lives in Texas. I note this because I realize that it is easy to default to stereotypes of Texas in stories like the one I'm about to relate. But there are good, smart, conscientious people in Texas just as there are everywhere.

This story is not about such people.

Thelma Taormina keeps a pistol at her Houston-area home to protect against intruders. But one of the last times she used it, she said, was to run off a persistent utility company worker who was trying to replace her old electricity meter with a new digital unit.

So, yeah. AP has a lengthy story about consumer backlash to smart meters in the Lone Star State. It's an odd issue for people to take up arms over, but it's not without precedent. We've written about similar backlash in California.

Smart meters, you'll likely recall, provide real-time energy consumption information to utilities, allowing them to better deal with grid problems, and provide consumers with data that could help them reduce consumption -- and reduce bills. So what's the problem?