Terry Tamminen

Terry Tamminen is the former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and is now a policy adviser and author. His latest book is Watercolors: How JJ the Whale Saved Us.

Energy Lessons From the Middle East

Last week Arnold Schwarzenegger, chairman of the R20 Regions of Climate Action, signed an agreement in Algeria to address waste and sustainable energy challenges in the Mediterranean and North Africa. At the same time, a meeting of officials in Bahrain examined technologies and strategies to help that nation evolve into one of the most energy and water efficient economies in the world. Are there lessons in those examples for the U.S. now that President Obama has reignited the debate over climate change policy? The governments of Algeria and its Oran region have realized the potential of energy efficiency measures, development …

Nuclear Power is So 20th Century

When I was born in the 1950s, nuclear power was said to be “too cheap to meter.” Although few and far between, disasters at Fukushima and Chernobyl have laid waste to that claim and, for that matter, entire cities. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, herself a nuclear physicist, led the charge to eliminate her nation’s nuclear power plants in the next few years based on a rational risk analysis. With the decision by Southern California Edison to decommission its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), we may now see enough data points to reasonably conclude that the nuclear power era is …

Winning the Climate Change Challenge

A few weeks ago, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded CO2 levels in the atmosphere at almost 400 parts per million. Many scientists predicted that in reaching this level, we would see more intense storms (like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy); droughts (like the one suffocating the middle of the US for the past year); and heat waves (the 12 hottest years on record have all been in the last 15). If we keep dumping carbon pollution into the atmosphere, many of these same climate seers predict far worse environmental, economic, and public health consequences. But there are signs that …

Top 5 Green Gifts for Mother’s Day

We wouldn’t be here without her. We’ll never fully appreciate the sacrifices she makes every day for our well-being. Yes, it will take a very special gift to really say “I love you, mom” to our Mother Earth. Here are the top 5 green Mother’s Day gifts that our favorite planet has recently received and which may provide you a few shopping ideas for the other moms in your life. 1.    Green energy. The town of Saint Gouéno, France, just gave Mother Earth a new Enercon 850kW wind turbine, the first of seven and the result of a clever investment …

Time to Recognize the Rights of Nature

With Earth Day 2013 around the corner, it’s a good time to step back and see how we’ve been doing since the first Earth Day in 1970, when 20 million people took to the streets to protest rivers on fire, DDT-poisoned birds, sewage on beaches, and a devastating oil spill off the pristine Santa Barbara coast. Soon after, many of our basic national environmental laws were passed in direct response to this massive grassroots movement. Is there another wave of this activism coming? Since those early days, we have improved sewage treatment plants and banned DDT, but new threats to …

Lessons from China’s Rooftops

Last week in Wuxi, I noticed a newspaper headline about the bankruptcy of Suntech, one of China’s largest solar panel manufacturers. Below the fold was a story about the success of several local car companies and the dramatic rise in their stock values. Was there something that these stories had in common – – and something from them that could help the U.S. economic recovery? Suntech defaulted on over half a billion dollars in government loans, a figure similar to the Solyndra losses for American taxpayers. There are numerous reasons for both of these failures, but chief among them was …

Peak What? Ask Barbie and Mickey Mouse

Peak Oil is the concept that new discoveries of commercially exploitable oil resources do not keep pace with growing demand. By extrapolating the data, you can estimate when we will run out of it for all practical purposes. There are a lot of disagreements about whether we have reached Peak Oil or when the downhill slope will hit a point that brings a significant percentage of our vehicles to a grinding halt, but the concept has made scientists and policy makers ask the question – – what other critical resources may be peaking? Asia Pulp & Paper Company, one of …

We Need Climate CHANGE

“The government can’t change the weather,” said Florida Senator Marco Rubio last week, describing his opposition to President Obama’s State of the Union call-to-action on climate change policy. Given the staggering costs of droughts, heat waves, and super storms, it would seem our political leaders would come quickly to some consensus on these seemingly urgent issues and take some kind of concerted action. So where do our political leaders get their information that has instead led to partisan gridlock? President Obama appears to be relying on facts, as he said in his speech. “The 12 hottest years on record have …

The Real Japan-China Conflict

In recent months, Japan and China have blustered over disputed islands that don’t appear to have any real economic or territorial benefits for either nation. Jets have scrambled and radars locked on opposing vessels, all signs of increasing tension. But the two Asian powerhouses have now begun to argue over a shared threat that actually does have impacts on the health and future of their respective populations – – air pollution. Japanese media and environmental authorities have accused China of being the source of increasing levels of soot in the air (particulates 2.5 microns or smaller, which can lodge deep …