Keystone pipeline spilled tar-sands oil 11 times in past year. Do we really want to supersize it?

The routes of the existing and proposed Keystone pipelines. Image: RL MillerThe State Department is currently weighing whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar-sands oil some 2,000 miles southward, from Alberta, Canada, to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas. It would be an expansion of the now-operational Keystone pipeline that goes as far as Cushing, Okla. The original Keystone pipeline has been in operation less than one year, and its owner TransCanada predicts no more than one spill every seven years. Instead of one spill every seven years, oil has spilled 11 times in the last year. …

Nixing pollutants could save $76.6 billion in health care costs

Between medical costs and lost productivity for parents, environmental illnesses in children cost $76.6 billion annually, says a new study in Health Affairs. That’s the cost of all illnesses that are correlated with exposure to pollutants and toxins. (Some of the associations are better-documented than others, but many — like lead poisoning, which costs $50.9 billion annually — are well-established.) What could we get if we weren’t spending that money? Well, you could buy a private island in the Florida keys ($18 million) and sit on it in your diamond-encrusted bra ($3 million), reading your Gutenberg Bible ($35 million) and …

For half the nation’s population, it’s dangerous to breathe the air

Close your eyes and stick your finger into a map of the United States. (A map. A big piece of paper with a picture of the country? Okay, look it up on Google Images, we'll wait.) Chances are you just poked a county with dangerous levels of ozone or particle pollution in the air. Nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population lives in counties that the American Lung Association gives an "F" for air quality. California is a major offender, boasting eight of the 10 most ozone-polluted cities and half of the cities with the worst short-term and long-term particle …

Royal wedding will be slightly greener wretched pile of excess than usual

I've noticed that I have zero posts in my Twitter feed about how awesomesauce the royal wedding is, and 2930820385 about how nobody else will shut up re: the royal wedding and its awesomeness. But clearly somebody somewhere is into this, so okay, this one's for you: Looks like Prince Harry and Princess Hermione, or whoever, are taking steps to turn their wedding from a completely over-the-top exercise in overconsumption to an eco-completely-over-the-top exercise in overconsumption.


No, ozone regulations were not easy

There’s a certain story you hear from the Breakthrough crowd these days. It goes like this: climate change is not like previous environmental problems. When it came to ozone depletion or acid rain, there were economically viable technologies available. That made it easier for policymakers to impose regulatory limits. Alternatives to fossil fuel energy are not yet economically viable, which explains the difficulty American politicians have had regulating climate pollution.. As Matthew Nisbet put it in the introduction of his recent report, “technological alternatives were already available and the economic benefits of action more certain — both conditions that allowed …


AEI blogger celebrates the success of the acid rain program, without acknowledging its existence

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. For Earth Day, Steve Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute posted this shocker: “Energy Fact of the Week: Sulfur Dioxide Emissions from Coal Have Declined 54 Percent.” He includes some nice government charts, which I’m sure he won’t mind my reproducing below. But from Hayward’s blog, you’d think this happened by itself! The chief causes of this decline are technology — cost-effective “scrubbers” to remove sulfur dioxide from the waste stream — and resource substitution: We started using much more low-sulfur coal from the western United States. No mention of the Clean Air Act’s …

Underground environmentalism in communist East Germany

When I had a free afternoon during my recent trip to Berlin, I headed down Unter den Linden (I love German street names — my hotel was on the Albrechtstraße, which is a whole meal in a word) to the relatively new DDR Museum, which showcases ordinary life under socialist rule in East Germany. It’s a fascinating place. It doesn’t downplay the crushing conformity imposed on living quarters, cars, and work conditions under the German Democratic Republic (GDR), but it still shows the idiosyncrasies and spirit that no regime can ever entirely suppress. If you’re in Berlin, I recommend it. …


Will Richard Daley, Chicago’s outgoing ‘green’ mayor, help quash coal pollution?

Will Richard Daley’s last month in office be marred by two old coal plants?Photo: Kate GardinerCross-posted from Midwest Energy News. A long-stalled Chicago ordinance that could force the city’s two aging coal-burning power plants to greatly reduce emissions or shut down now has enough backing to pass at the city council’s next meeting. But proponents aren’t declaring victory yet. The ordinance must first pass a joint committee hearing Thursday. And if the full city council does vote it into law when it meets May 4, it would likely face a legal challenge which even its most important council backer says …


Barton denies any ‘medical negative’ from mercury, smog, or soot pollution

Cross-posted from the Wonk Room. At a congressional hearing on Friday designed to lay the groundwork for an effort to delay critical EPA toxic pollution standards, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) claimed that reducing emissions of toxic mercury, sulfur dioxide, and soot would not bring health benefits. Though conceding he is “not a medical doctor,” Barton offered the “hypothesis” that EPA estimates of the benefits of its proposed air toxics rule are “pulled out of the thin air” because there is no “medical negative” to the pollution: To actually cause poisoning or a premature death you have to get a large concentration …

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