Archive for the ‘environment’ Category
Gail over at The Oil Drum has a surprisingly comprehensive list that goes beyond merely ‘trying to drive less’:
1. A better “cash for clunkers” program. A two year plan that gives credit for only replacement vehicles with 35 miles per gallon efficiency or greater is suggested. This program would be paid for by extending the 1978 gas guzzler tax to cars and trucks.
2. Emergency funding for endangered mass transit. The article notes that 59% of public transit networks have cut service, raised fares, or both since January 2009. More federal funding could help this situation.
3. A national telecommuting and videoconferencing initiative. Federal employees should be directed to do these as much as possible. “For everyone else, a campaign would make these more normative and socially acceptable.”
4. Smarter freight movement. Grist suggests that Congress commission a study of methods to make trucking, rail and jet transport more efficient, including approaches to improve milage and ways to reduce empty travel of vehicles.
5. Smarter land use. Grist suggests that Congress could direct (and help fund) efforts to update zoning and land use regulations, to encourage more compact development.
6. Smarter travel through IT. Grist recommends a national study, noting that UPS saved 3 million gallons of fuel in a year, by equipping its trucks with software that allowed them to map out routes that avoided left-hand turns. Also, traffic lights could be timed better.
7. Educating drivers. Drivers ed programs and other outreach programs might teach the importance of slower acceleration and maintaining tire pressure for getting good gas mileage.
8. A resolution saying efficiency is a new national priority. Congress should pass a resolution on the importance of efficiency, and tell government agencies to improve efficiency. Funding for new projects might also depend on efficiency.
9. Prizes for tech breakthroughs. A prize is now awarded for 100 mph vehicle. Similar prizes could be offered for other breakthroughs.
10. Efficiency “visibility.” Congress should fund the development of a National Energy Efficiency Data Center (NEEDC), which would study efficiency technologies.
Many have mentioned and I think it bears repeating that British Petroleum, who, along with Haliburtion, bears full responsibility for the stain of death expanding through the Gulf of Mexico, is only liable for $75 million in damages – what you would call a drop in the bucket. They must pay for 100% of the cleanup, which is substantial, but fishermen and tourist companies, those who have seen their lives ruined for BP’s avarice, can collectively get only $75 million in damages.
The economic damage of this oil spill is sure to run in to the billions of dollars, and many commentators estimate the lost capacity resulting from this spill will run into the tens of billions. All of the property destroyed, the fisheries massacred, the empty tour boats and so forth will have to fight for a slice of the $75 million that BP is offering.
This ridiculous situation came after the fallout of the Exxon-Valdez spill of 1990, which occurred off the coast of Alaska and involved orders of magnitude fewer economic victims. Rikki Ott of Reuters explains how Exxon bargained with the Senate then to shoulder all of the cleanup costs if the Senate could guarantee that they could only be sued for $75 million.
Those are the rules which govern our present disaster, and they are, to say it mildly, unfair. As we know, BP lobbied against the regulation that would have required them to buy a valve ($500,000) which would have prevented this disaster (>$5,000,000,000). They ought to be liable for every cent of damage their avarice caused.
Congress is now working on raising BP’s liability cap from $75 million to $10 billion, a proposal I think we could all get behind. I’ll be eagerly waiting to see what becomes of it.
It’s true. From the BBC:
Five times as much oil as previously thought could be leaking from the well beneath where a rig exploded and sank last week, US officials said earlier.
The slick is 45 miles (72km) by 105 miles (169km) – almost the size of Jamaica – and heading for the US coast.
A third leak has been discovered, and a fire-fighting expert said the disaster may become the biggest oil spill ever.
“Probably the only thing comparable to this is the Kuwait fires [following the Gulf War in 1991],” Mike Miller, head of Canadian oil well fire-fighting company Safety Boss, told the BBC World Service.
“The Exxon Valdez [tanker disaster off Alaska in 1989] is going to pale [into insignificance] in comparison to this as it goes on.”
Scientists say only a quarter of local marine wildlife survived the Exxon Valdez disaster.
The Cape Wind project, the nation’s first offshore wind farm, is go for launch. After nine years of controversy and heated negotiations, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that Nantucket Sound, about five miles off the coast of Massachusetts’s Cape Cod, will host a 130-turbine wind farm covering 24 square miles that will begin generating electricity as early as 2012. Salazar made the announcement from the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston and was joined by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a big supporter of the project.
Salazar included a few modifications to help protect the historical, cultural, and environmental assets of Nantucket Sound. The farm was originally intended to include 170 turbines, but he dropped the number to 130 to help reduce visual impact. He also stipulated that developers need to take additional marine archaeological surveys and other “commonsense measures” to “minimize and mitigate” potential adverse effects of the project.
I guess I have to support pretty much anything we can get on the climate change front, and I admit this bill looks pretty good, despite Reuters’ obvious attempts to slander it. The gasoline tax is bound to cause inflation and more Tea Party unrest, but any climate legislation is to some extent inflationary, and I don’t think there’s very much that wouldn’t spark more Tea Party unrest at this point.
But I wanted to point out the one aspect of the bill Reuters mentioned that I think is a major mistake:
On Wednesday, a Senate source told Reuters the legislation would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide emissions. It would also end state and regional carbon-trading programs, such as the one several Northeastern states participate in, to be replaced by a national carbon reduction policy.
One of the big benefits of the EPA is that it’s an Executive department, and thus its dictates don’t have to go through Congresses’ butchery to become implemented. As Christopher Parenti explains in exhaustive detail, the EPA already has the power to singlehandedly dictate carbon emissions via the Clean Air Act. Whatever this bill recommends will no doubt be much lighter on the pollution industry than whatever the EPA could have come up with.
In fact, given that the EPA had recently signaled it was going to move on climate change with or without Congress’ approval, the timing of this Bill, and its clauses that strip the EPA of most of its power, are suspect. That the current bill enormously benefits industry interests is undeniable.
The “Peak Oil Theory”, as President Obama likes to refer to it, has been what you would call a fringe idea for about a decade now, something only loony conspiracy theorists believed in and which Serious Adults dismissed without a second thought. But opinions on the matter have changed in recent years, and we can now see even a staid establishment mouthpiece such as MSNBC reporting that oil production could hit its peak and decline irreversibly as early as 2014:
Predicting the end of oil has proven tricky and often controversial, but Kuwaiti scientists now say that global oil production will peak in 2014.Their work represents an updated version of the famous Hubbert model, which correctly predicted in 1956 that U.S. oil reserves would peak within 20 years. Many researchers have since tried using the model to predict when worldwide oil production might peak.
For now, Kuwaiti scientists say that the world continues to consume its oil reserves at a rate of about 2.1 percent each year. They plan to continue including new data that can refine the model as time goes by.
Great news, via The Washington Independent:
The White House on Thursday took a giant leap toward eliminating new mountaintop coal mining projects in the Appalachian states, issuing strict new guidelines designed to protect headwater streams by curbing the practice of dumping waste in neighboring valleys.
Announcing the changes, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said the guidelines are intended to make the standards governing new mountaintop projects “clear and consistent,” following a series of EPA decisions over the past year that stakeholders on all sides of the debate found contradictory.