Politics

Put It in Park

Donations roll in for national parks’ centennial projects The 100th anniversary of the National Park Service is a mere nine years away, and donations are rolling in to spruce up parks for the occasion. In a spending bill yet to be approved by Congress, Bush made funds available to match private giving; some $300 million has already been pledged by corporations, nonprofits, and visitors’ groups. Last week, the National Park Service unveiled a list of 201 priority projects for the centennial bash, covering 116 parks in 40 states. Says NPS Deputy Superintendent Frank Mares, “The last big heady time for …

Ignoring science: Not just for Republicans anymore!

Michigan gov. follows Gingrich’s example, kills science advisory board

Newt Gingrich, claiming a mandate to make government smaller, actually managed to abolish only two offices: the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). The OTA was a widely praised, nonpartisan board that helped Congress understand and deal with technical issues -- exactly the kind of office you don't need if you get your understanding of biology from Genesis, your thoughts on telecommunications from K Street, and your opinions on energy from Exxon. The OTA was probably one of the least-known but best performing offices in all of D.C. Oddly, Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan just killed the Michigan Environmental Science Board, which was composed of volunteer scientists appointed by the Governor. The only cost to the state was for member travel when on assignment, and for preparation and distribution of reports. Here are the reports prepared by the MESB over the years:

Killing you legally

The Bush administration proposes to make illegal MTR mining legal

I suppose I should have something to say about the Bush administration’s latest effort to encourage mountaintop removal mining. But what? It’s not like there’s any particular analytical insight required. The Bushies are choosing profit for coal companies over some of America’s most beautiful landscapes and oldest cultures. It’s right there in the open. What’s required in situations like this is not analysis but brute power politics. The administration makes it clear that they don’t give much of a damn about feedback: The Office of Surface Mining in the Interior Department drafted the rule, which will be subject to a …

You call this wonkery?

New article fails to shed light on state renewable portfolio standards

Jordan Schrader of USA Today manages to pen a long piece about the profusion of state renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) without discussing, except in the most glancing, cursory fashion, any of the important issues around them. For instance, he notes that some people say RPSs will raise electricity rates, while others say they will ultimately save ratepayers money. Who’s right? Which RPSs have raised rates and which haven’t? How do different RPSs address costs? Or this: Renewable resources are defined differently in each state, but primarily as cleaner alternatives to coal that do not produce as much greenhouse gases. This …

The right target

How much should we aim to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions?

As faithful Daily Grist readers know, yesterday six western states (and two Canadian provinces) formally debuted the Western Climate Initiative, a cap-and-trade agreement aiming to lower GHG emissions by 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Carbon neutral in his lifetime. Inevitably, announcements like this are met with heated debate over the target. Is it strong enough? Fast enough? Politically palatable? The 80%-by-2050 target seems to be gaining steam in political circles, though some bills propose a mere 70% or even 65%. Some enviros argue we need 90%. The intensity with which this numerical parsing is debated has always struck …

Violence, in a gentle manner

Romney on energy

Here’s Romney on energy: … his plan to get America “energy independent, by increasing oil, gas, nuclear, and liquid coal development,” calls for it to be done in an environmentally sound manner.

Alternative information

GA state legislature tries to figure out whether climate change is real

Wow. Via the indispensable Aunt Phyllis, this is old school: On Tuesday the Georgia legislature held a hearing called "Climate change: fact or fiction?" Listen to these blasts from the past: “In the media, we hear the gloom and doom side,” said Rep. Jeff Lewis (R-White), chairman of the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee that held the hearing. “There is alternative information out there.” Indeed there is! Puzzlingly, the "alternative information" continues to be offered exclusively by the same four or five people that have been offering it for years now. But no mind! "What this has done is …

Roads vs. transit

Seattle enviros face a Hobson’s choice in November

This November, those of us who live in and around Seattle will vote on a $17.7 billion transportation package that would expand light rail (by 50 miles) but also include billions for road expansion -- including roads that will primarily serve sprawling developments to Seattle's south and east, making the package a Hobson's choice for environmentalists. (The state legislature tied the roads and transit votes together last year, on the theory that road supporters will only support transit if it's accompanied by pavement, and vice versa.) A lot of the debate around whether the package is good or bad, environmentally speaking, has centered around whether the roads part of the package (known as the Regional Transportation Investment District, or RTID) consists mostly of "good" or "bad" roads. There are a lot of elements to this debate, the first of which is: What constitutes a "good" road? Are new HOV lanes "good" (because they serve people who are carpooling) or "bad" (because they're still new road miles), and could they have been created by converting preexisting general-purpose lanes to HOV lanes? Another issue is whether roads that are designated primarily for freight, but can be used by single-occupancy cars, count as "good" or "bad." Further confusing matters is the question of whether already-clogged roads produce more or fewer greenhouse gases when they're expanded to accommodate more traffic, because traffic moves more smoothly (at least for a little while.) Given all those variables, it's not surprising that Seattle's environmental community is split on whether RTID/Sound Transit is a good or a bad thing.

Brown Knows

San Bernardino County, Calif., will account for greenhouse-gas emissions One of the largest, fastest-growing, most sprawl-happy counties in the U.S. will have to measure its greenhouse-gas emissions and set targets for reducing them by 2010, according to a legal settlement announced Tuesday. California’s San Bernardino County had been sued by State Attorney General Jerry Brown after county officials updated a 25-year growth plan without accounting for emissions. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the settlement, and enviros crossed their fingers that the ruling will set a precedent for other counties and municipalities to limit sprawl and create denser communities. Because driving …

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