At a recent forum on the Internet industry’s support for green energy, Facebook and Google representatives could not explain why their companies are members of a powerful lobbying organization that opposes that mission. This year, Google and Facebook became members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nationwide lobbying group that links corporations and conservative foundations with Republican legislators at the state level.
Republicans and a handful of Democrats in Congress really want to demonstrate their loyalty to their fossil-fuel masters. The House has passed three bills to benefit the oil and gas industry, but they have no chance of being becoming law so long as Barack Obama is president.
H.R. 1965 -- Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act
Sponsor: Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)
What it would do: "This would direct that federal lands be managed for the primary purpose of energy development, rather than for stewardship balancing multiple uses including recreation," according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Astonishingly, it also would curb and then penalize the public for raising concerns about oil and gas projects on public lands that may affect them."
It started like this: On the first day of the U.N.'s climate change talks (a.k.a. COP19) in Warsaw, Philippines delegate Naderev (a.k.a. Yeb) Saño made an announcement. Barring any concrete agreement on how the Annex 1 countries (basically the U.S., Australia, the E.U., and Japan) would help countries currently being hammered by climate change, he would be going on hunger strike.
20 years hence we continue to fall short of the ultimate objective: which is to prevent dangerous trophogenic interference with a climate system. By failing to meet the objective of the convention, we may have ratified our own doom.
WARSAW, Poland -- For the first time ever, environmental groups have staged a mass walkout of a U.N. climate summit. Citing immense frustration with the lack of productive action in the COP19 climate talks, which have been dogged by a persistent rift between rich and poor countries on the responsibility of paying for climate damages, hundreds of people from dozens of environmental groups and movements from all corners of the Earth have voluntarily withdrawn from the talks. According to a spokesperson for Oxfam, around 800 civil society members (which is the label applied to all advocate and activist types at these meetings) have walked out. In a joint statement, group leaders offered that “the best use of their time” was to now focus “on mobilizing people to push our governments to take leadership for serious climate action.”
So long as the U.S. government is going to stand around shrugging its shoulders over the nation's growing nuclear waste stockpile, it must stop charging nuclear power plant owners $750 million a year in waste-storage fees.
That was the ruling of a federal appeals court on Tuesday. It's the latest twist in a decades-long saga over the fate of the plutonium and other radioactive waste that's piling up at nuclear plants across the country -- more than 70,000 tons so far.
Ever since Washington state voters rejected a measure to label genetically engineered food earlier this month, I’ve been trying to understand what the vote meant.
On election night, I stressed the importance of advertising, but people on Twitter and in comments have questioned that emphasis. Political advertising rarely changes opinions; it generally sets people more deeply in their convictions. So perhaps what the Washington vote shows us is that fewer people care about GM food than it seems.
Why the measure lost is also related to the question of who voted. In the end, only 45 percent of registered voters cast their ballots -- the lowest turnout in a decade. What does that mean? And what’s the significance of the fact that the race tightened up as officials counted ballots: The measure was losing by 10 percentage points in early tallies, but that margin eventually narrowed to 2 percentage points, with 49 percent voting for, and 51 against.
The answers to these questions have interesting implications for future labeling campaigns. The Washington vote seems to be telling us that concern about GM food is broad and shallow. That is, lots of people are vaguely worried about transgenics, but it’s not a core issue that drives majorities to the polls.
WARSAW, Poland -- The masters of the black-rock industry gathered at the International Coal & Climate Summit in Warsaw this week -- strategically hosted just a stone’s throw from the U.N. climate conference (COP19) — and they would like you to believe that coal has a place in a climate-friendly future.
At the summit, hosted by the World Coal Association (WCA), industry reps are promoting “high-efficiency” coal plants, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and other, wacky tech “breakthroughs” (gasification, anyone?).
The overall theme of the coal summit is that countries can keep burning coal and meet climate targets. They can have their cake and eat it, too.
Probably because CCS and other breakthroughs are still entirely unproven commercially, there’s been particular hype around so-called “high-efficiency coal.” In its Warsaw Communique that preceded the summit, the WCA called for “the immediate use of high-efficiency low-emissions coal combustion technologies as an immediate step in lowering greenhouse gas emissions.”
It’s a claim oft-repeated this week in Warsaw: High-efficiency coal is a climate solution.
Except it isn’t, says a group of 27 scientists from around the world who together released a report on Monday on how coal is absolutely incompatible with current internationally agreed-upon climate goals.
Clouds of coal dust and petroleum coke, a waste product from the refining of tar-sands oil, have been enveloping neighborhoods on Chicago's southeast side. Federal, state, and city officials are finally moving to temper the dangerous air pollution.
The villains: KCBX Terminals (a division of Koch Industries) and Beemsterboer Slag Co.
The villainous acts: The companies own three terminals along the Calamut River that are storing huge piles of coal and petroleum coke, aka petcoke, which is coming from a nearby BP refinery. But they aren't bothering to cover all that gunk to make sure it stays on site, so it's being picked up by winds and blown over neighboring homes, forcing residents to stay indoors.
The plot: The piles of petcoke are expected to grow in Chicago and elsewhere around the country as refineries switch to processing tar-sands oil from Canada. Detroit suffered a similar problem (also courtesy of the Kochs) until city, state, and federal officials banded together to chase it away with lawsuits and legislation.
The victims: Residents of Chicago's East Side and South Deering neighborhoods.
Colorado health officials announced new rules on Monday that would work to cut the air pollution produced by oil and gas operations in the state. The rules would force companies to capture 95 percent of all toxic pollutants and volatile organic compounds they emit. In addition, the rules include a requirement that companies control emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane, marking the first time a state has drafted rules to directly address the methane emitted by oil and gas operations, according to The Denver Post.
“These are going to amount to the very best air quality regulations in the country,” Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said.
Methane is a key driver of climate change; the greenhouse gas is 25 times more potent than CO2 over a century and 72 to 100 times more potent over a 20-year period. As oil and gas production booms in Colorado, the resultant air pollution is becoming a serious concern. Last year, air sampling conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded a 4 percent methane emissions rate over Colorado, more than double the rate reported by the industry. A 2011 study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research found that “unless leakage rates for new methane can be kept below 2%, substituting gas for coal is not an effective means for reducing the magnitude of future climate change.”
Colorado’s new rules will require companies to detect leaks from tanks, pipelines, wells, and other facilities using devices such as infrared cameras, and to inspect for leaks at least once a month at large facilities and plug leaks. In addition, companies must adhere to stricter limits on emissions from equipment near where people live and play.
It’s helpful to understand game theory if you want to know why it's so difficult to reach an international deal to reduce climate emissions. Everyone will be better off if everyone does their part, but if one country gets away with doing nothing while the others reduce their emissions, that country would be the biggest winner of all, enjoying the benefits of averted catastrophe without any of the costs. That calculation could lead to a lot of countries bailing out. No one wants to be the sucker who cuts emissions but still doesn't prevent catastrophic climate change because no one else participated.
So making a deal and sticking to it will require countries to place a lot of trust in one another. And that trust has to be painstakingly built.
When the world’s richest countries say -- as they did at the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark -- that they will contribute $100 billion a year to a Green Climate Fund to help poorer countries reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change, and then they don’t pay in, it erodes trust. And yet, that’s what has happened so far, as John Upton reported in Grist last week. Only $7.5 million has been contributed to the fund’s coffers so far. That’s partly because it's not fully operational yet; it's intended to be funded at $100 billion a year starting in 2020. But it's also because wealthy countries are simply loath to part with the cash.
And it's not even that much money we're talking about here. Upton noted that $100 billion pales in comparison to the $500 billion that the world’s developed countries spend each year on fossil fuel subsidies.