You are hereEnvironment
Moments ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed the first national standards to limit global warming pollution in U.S. history.
The proposal would:
- Reduce global warming pollution from automobiles by 21% by 2030.
- Cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 950 million metric tons.
- Save 1.8 billion barrels of oil.
- Save the average consumer more than $3,000 in fuel costs.
EDF President Fred Krupp issued this statement in response:
"This is a critical step to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and curb pollution that threatens our health. It will deliver immediate benefits for the country as Congress crafts comprehensive climate legislation."
Tomgram: Chip Ward, The Ruins in Our Future | TomDispatch.com
All of us have been watching drought in action this summer. When it hits the TV news, though, it usually goes by the moniker of "fire." As we've seen, California, in the third year of a major drought, has been experiencing "a seemingly endless fire that has burned more than 250 square miles of Los Angeles County" (and that may turn out to be just the beginning of another fire season from hell).
Southern California has hardly been the only drought story, though. For those with an eye out, the southern parts of Texas, the hottest state in the union this year, have been in the grips of a monster drought. Seven hundred thousand acres of the state have already burned in 2009, with a high risk of more to come.
Jump a few thousand miles and along with neighboring Syria, Iraq has been going through an almost biblical drought which has turned parts of that country into a dustbowl, sweeping the former soil of the former Fertile Crescent via vast dust storms into the lungs of city dwellers.
And, if you happen to be on the lookout, you can read about drought in India, where rice and sugar cane farmers as well as government finances are suffering. Or consider Mexico, where the 2009 wet season never arrived and crops are wilting in a parched countryside from the U.S. border to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Everywhere water problems threaten to lead to water wars, while "drought refugees" flee the land and food crises escalate. It's a nasty brew. But here's the strange thing -- one I've commented on before: there has been some fine reporting on each of these drought situations, but you can hunt high and low in the mainstream and not find any set of these droughts in the same piece. There's little indication that drought might, in fact, be an increasing global problem, nor can you find anyone exploring whether the fierceness of recent droughts and their spread might, in part, be connected to climate change. The grim "little" picture is now regularly with us. Whatever the big picture may be, it escapes notice, which is why I'm particularly glad that environmentalist and TomDispatch regular Chip Ward has written a drought piece in which, from his perch in Utah, he takes in the whole weather-perturbed American West. Tom
Red Snow Warning
The End of Welfare Water and the Drying of the West
By Chip Ward
Pink snow is turning red in Colorado. Here on the Great American Desert -- specifically Utah's slickrock portion of it where I live -- hot 'n' dry means dust. When frequent high winds sweep across our increasingly arid landscape, redrock powder is lifted up and carried hundreds of miles eastward until it settles on the broad shoulders of Colorado's majestic mountains, giving the snowpack there a pink hue.
Some call it watermelon snow. Friends who ski into the backcountry of the San Juan and La Plata mountain ranges in western Colorado tell me that the pink-snow phenomenon has lately been giving way to redder hues, so thick and frequent are the dust storms that roll in these days. A cross-section of a typical Colorado snowbank last winter revealed alternating dirt and snow layers that looked like a weird wilderness version of our flag, red and white stripes alternating against the sky's blue field.
The Forecast: Dust Followed by Mud Read more.
Mass Civil Disobedience to Defeat "Fake" Climate Bill, Sept. 10-18, Indianapolis, Little Rock & Cleveland
MASS CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE TO DEFEAT “FAKE” CLIMATE BILL | Press Release
- Climate SOS Tours to "Kill The Bill" and push tougher laws
- Nonviolent civil disobedience, office occupations, and protests on both coasts
- "Worse Than Nothing is Not Good Enough"
(Sept 9, 2009) Climate SOS, a grassroots network of environmentalists, scientists, and social justice activists, is launching a nationwide car-free tour to defeat the climate bill now being considered in the Senate—and to demand that any new legislation be grounded in science instead of politics.
By Linda Milazzo
I was out last evening. I tried to escape, just for a while, back to the days of (Taking) Woodstock when we who worked to end the Vietnam war did so as a united, free-spirited force. I readily admit that in today's times of racism disguised as patriotism, religious perversion, rampant ignorance, unhinged media menaces, and growing hostility amongst Americans, I yearn for that long ago era of 'peace and love.'
Enroute home after my wistful evening, I glanced at my phone and saw a Washington Post alert saying Obama's Green Jobs appointee, Van Jones, had resigned. I was shocked. I knew Jones was being assaulted by the right, but I didn't think he'd resign, and I didn't think the Obama administration would so readily sacrifice this brilliant advocate for the environment and the poor. After all, Jones is a person in the Obama administration who personifies the term "public servant." For progressives, Van Jones' appointment was, and is, Obama's tour de force gift to America of a high level appointee free of corporate entanglements who cannot and will not be bought. Jones is a man for the people in an administration where for the corporation is the norm.
Van Jones called Republicans what most of the people who voted for Obama call them. And he signed a statement calling for further inquiry and explanation of 911-- the original 911 truth document. Was he left hanging by the Obama Administration for doing what scores of millions of Americans would also do?
Van Jones has been the target of a vicious smear campaign for weeks. Tonight, he resigned his position as special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Apparently, the White House and president Obama did not stand behind Jones, one of the most respected leaders in the ecological movement. The Washington Post reported,
'White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday that Jones "continues to work for the administration" -- but he did not state that the adviser enjoys the full support of President Obama, instead referring all questions to the environmental council where he worked, signaling the resignation was imminent.'
Jones recently issued two apologies. One was for calling Republicans "assholes." The other was for signing a statement in 2004 supporting a call for further investigation of 911, which suggested that the Government might have had a role in the 911 attack. The original document can be found here, with Van Jones the 46th signatory (and this writer was the 47th.) Ironically, one of the most vocal "birthers, who question the validity of Obama's birth certificate, Phillip J. Berg, was also a signatory of the same statement, 8th on the list. Read more.
Controversy Over Fiery Remarks Fells Obama Adviser
Obama's 'green jobs' adviser quits under fire amid controversy over inflammatory statements
By Will Lester, Associated Press | ABC News
The White House environmental adviser under fire for inflammatory statements made before he joined the administration resigned after what he called a "vicious smear campaign against me."
Van Jones "understood that he was going to get in the way" of President Barack Obama's agenda, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Sunday.
The resignation was disclosed without advance notice by the White House in a dead-of-the-night e-mail on a holiday weekend. It came as Obama is working to regain his footing in the contentious health care debate.
Jones, who specialized in environmentally friendly "green jobs" with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, was linked to efforts suggesting a government role in the Sept. 11 attacks and to derogatory comments about Republicans. Read more.
Climate SOS Sets Out to Defeat U.S. "False" Climate Bill, Claiming "Worse Than Nothing Is Not Good Enough"
A grassroots network of environmentalists, scientists, human rights and social justice activists and faith-based organizations concerned about climate change launched a nationwide campaign today to either dramatically improve or defeat climate change legislation being considered in Congress. They say that the Senate bill, expected in September, will very likely take its cue from the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) passed by the House in June, and be even further watered down. While others are calling for passage of the bill, saying it will be "the best we can get under the political climate", the network, calling themselves Climate SOS, states that, like Dr. James Hansen, they believe such a bill will be "worse for the environment than doing nothing". They want lawmakers to start over and get serious about crafting a real and effective climate bill based on the mandates of science, not special interests.
"ACESA was designed to enrich Wall Street, the fossil fuel, utilities and big agribusiness industries at the expense of the climate and our collective peace and survival", said the network's spokesperson Dr. Rachel Smolker, Co-director of BioFuel Watch. "The bill's cap-and-trade mechanism for regulating emissions has been repeatedly proven ineffective, risky and prone to speculation and manipulations, and will lock us into a framework that prevents any effective climate legislation from being adopted. This is one of many provisions in ACESA that make it worse than nothing. It's virtually impossible the Senate will be able to improve on ACESA enough to get us where we must go in order to avoid catastrophic warming."
"ACESA does not even aim to provide a 50/50 chance of averting the worst of climate catastrophe, based on the figures of the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change", said Dr. Maggie Zhou of Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities. "Politicians either do not understand or are not telling the American people about the true magnitude of climate change consequences. The costs of insufficient action will be so much greater than the costs of taking bold action now, and will include lost lives, extinctions and the threatened survival of civilization itself. If politicians and their constituents understood this, there would be far less compromising on the basis of 'political and economic feasibility'."
"Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union," by David Swanson is due in stores September 1st, but the publisher has it now and you can get it straight from Seven Stories Press.
Here's an announcement from CleanHouston.org about the climate fight, which parallels the health fight. The Democrats in both cases have produced bills that go 90% of the way to satisfying the industries responsible for the problems. In return, in both cases, those industries have used astroturf groups and the corporate media to generate pseudo-populist revolts against the impure efforts that did not provide 100% profit maximization:
Energy Citizens, a corporate-organized Astroturf alliance funded in large part by the American Petroleum Institute, is holding rallies in 20 states over the August congressional recess. The rallies aim to undermine the efforts to get climate legislation enacted at the federal level.
Submitted by David Solnit
On August 15th activists and community members from around the Bay Area joined Richmond, California residents to protest the Chevron corporation’s devastating environmental and human rights record around the world.
By Dave Lindorff
Bill Clinton was the worst thing to happen to the Democratic Party and to progressives since that racist warmonger Woodrow Wilson won the presidency and dragged the US into the utterly pointless and incredibly bloody First World War.
Clinton, by posing as a progressive, confused and undermined, and ultimately betrayed the liberal/progressive wing of the party, shattering what was left of the New Deal coalition and leaving the American left adrift and riven by the conflict between those who thought the Democratic Party was the only viable vehicle for progressive reform and those who thought it was hopelessly in the grip of corporate interests.
Barack Obama offers the hope of bringing that era of debilitating confusion to an end.
We're so past the Roman Empire by now that it's probably time to update the phrase "fiddling while Rome burns." What about, for instance, "writing fake letters ostensibly from real non-profit groups to weaken a climate-change bill while the planet burns"? It's true. According to the New York Times, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a coal industry and utilities trade group, "indirectly hired" a lobbying firm that did just that, sending piteous letters to congressional representatives from, for instance, the Albemarle-Charlottesville chapter of the N.A.A.C.P, claiming: "Many of our members are on tight budgets, and the sizes of their monthly utility bills are important expense items." (Hilary Shelton, the N.A.A.C.P.'s perfectly real senior vice president for advocacy and policy, "called the fake letters 'outrageous.'")
To add insult to injury (or is it to fiddling?), the ACCCE then hired the very lobbying firm that hired the subcontractor that sent out those letters to run a million-dollar campaign to influence Democratic congressional representatives to give the coal industry yet more concessions via further "grass-roots" efforts. ("We're not going to throw the baby out with the bath water here," commented a Coalition spokesperson.) To anyone who has been following the health-care debate, the tactics to be wielded will surely sound remarkably familiar: "The new project will use 225,000 volunteers dubbed 'America's Power Army.' They will visit town hall meetings, fairs and other functions attended by members of Congress and ask questions about energy policy."
As for that burning planet, while the ACCCE's hirees fiddle, the Millennium Project, a Washington-based think-tank supported by the U.N. and other organizations, just issued "2009 State of the Future," a massive 6,700-page report that called on 2,700 experts from 30 countries. With its focus on the condition (perilous) of our burning planet, it got hardly any attention in this country. The report lays out the "seven terrors of the world," of which it ranks climate change as number one, and warns that, in the not-so-long run, civilization itself may be at stake. The report also calls for an Apollo Project-style decade-long effort -- by China and the U.S. in particular -- to tackle the various issues surrounding climate change. But we all know that just ain't gonna happen.
A lot of young people, assumedly thinking about their futures and those of their children in a way their elders have consistently refused to do, have begun to address climate change directly. It's no social movement version of an Apollo Project. Not yet. But Mark Engler, author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy, sees possibilities. (Catch a TomDispatch audio interview with Engler by clicking here.) Tom
Climate Disobedience: Is a New "Seattle" in the Making?
By Mark Engler Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
OMG! Those protesters showing up at Democratic “town meetings” to promote the president’s health care “reform” program are being bused in from out of town?
Scandal! Que horrible! (Gasp)
But wait! That’s exactly what we on the left always did when we held demonstrations—at least if we could. Who in the trade union movement hasn’t called on fellow workers in other unions to join them in rallies during struggles with an employer, or asked them to join sparse picket-lines? Who hasn’t pulled out the stops trying to get people from other cities to attend a local protest?
Obama Invests Record $2.4 Billion in Electric Vehicles, Advanced Batteries
ELKHART, Indiana, August 5, 2009 (ENS) – President Barack Obama today announced $2.4 billion in economic stimulus funding for 48 new advanced battery and electric drive projects, the single largest investment in advanced battery technology for hybrid and electric-drive vehicles ever made.
President Obama visited Navistar International Corporation in Elkhart to make the announcement. Navistar will receive a $39 million grant to manufacture electric trucks, which the company reports will ultimately will create or save hundreds of jobs when full scale manufacturing at the site begins. Overall, seven projects in Indiana will receive grants totaling more than $400 million.
An underwater pipeline leaked more than 58,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune is reporting. The spill, which occurred about 30 miles off the Louisiana coast, has now spread to cover 80 square miles -- up from just 28 square miles on Monday. The cause is still under investigation.
The spill "was among the largest in recent years in U.S. waters," Reuters reports.
The spill from Shell Oil's pipeline may not reach land, but its effects are rippling through Florida. Opponents of expanding drilling in the gulf spread the story as yet another reason to keep the eastern gulf clear of offshore rigs (and the pipelines that would bring the oil onshore). Read more.
Iraq in throes of environmental catastrophe, experts say
Now-frequent dust storms are just one sign of the man-made damage that has taken the country from Middle East breadbasket to dust bowl, they say.
By Liz Sly | LATimes
You wake up in the morning to find your nostrils clogged. Houses and trees have vanished beneath a choking brown smog. A hot wind blasts fine particles through doors and windows, coating everything in sight and imparting an eerie orange glow.
Dust storms are a routine experience in Iraq, but lately they've become a whole lot more common.
"Now it seems we have dust storms nearly every day," said Raed Hussein, 31, an antiques dealer who had to rush his 5-year-old son to a hospital during a recent squall because the boy couldn't breathe. "We suffer from lack of electricity, we suffer from explosions, and now we are suffering even more because of this terrible dust.
"It must be a punishment from God," he added, offering a view widely held among Iraqis seeking to explain their apocalyptic weather of late. "I think God is angry with the deeds of the Iraqi people."
The reality is probably scarier. Iraq is in the throes of what some officials are calling an environmental catastrophe, and the increased frequency of dust storms is only the most visible manifestation. Read more.
The answer to easing the energy crunch in one of the nation's most populous states could lie underwater.
Imagine if your utility company could harness the ocean's current to power your house, cool your office, even charge your car.
Researchers at Florida Atlantic University are in the early stages of turning that idea into reality in the powerful Gulf Stream off the state's eastern shore.
"If you can take an engine and put it on the back of a boat or propel a ship through water, why not take a look at the strength of the Gulf Stream and determine if that can actually turn a device and create energy?" asked Sue Skemp, executive director at Florida Atlantic University's Center for Ocean Energy Technology.
The demand for energy in Florida -- the fourth most populous state, with an estimated 19 million residents -- is quickly outpacing the capacity to create it, according to experts. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
Agent Orange, the herbicide used as a weapon by US military forces in Vietnam for nearly a decade to defoliate vast stretches of inhabited forest and jungle in an effort to deprive the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces of both cover and a supportive populace, has long been known to have caused a large number of serious and debilitating diseases, many of them passed on to children of those exposed. But now it also appears to cause a peculiar blindness among American journalists.
Grassroots Coalition Special Bulletin | Press Release
Several days ago Paul Krugman in the NY Times pointed to a recent report by MIT scientists which stated that our planet is changing faster than even the pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe – a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unbelievable – can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is instead the most likely outcome if we continue on our present course,
Researchers at MIT who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees by the end of this century we would see a rise of 9 degrees, because greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected, and some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped.
Antonia Juhasz wrote AfterDowningStreet.org to announce a new research and tracking program at Global Exchange. Read her Op Ed below. Antonia wrote:
I'm thrilled to announce the launch of the new Chevron Program at Global Exchange with my Op Ed (below) in today's San Francisco Chronicle. I'll be directing this new program which is just getting off the ground this week. In the coming weeks you'll find our website updated with new information on the Program. Many of you are already familiar with The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report which I was the lead author and editor of and which was released by Global Exchange and several other organizations in May 2009.
Global Exchange has launched the new Chevron Program in recognition of both the growing power and influence of Chevron as it rises from the sixth to the fifth largest corporation in the world and the budding new movement of Chevron-affected communities combining their efforts in resistance to Chevron's harms.
I am thrilled to be joining the amazing team at Global Exchange as well as continuing my current affiliations with the Institute for Policy Studies, Oil Change International, and Foreign Policy in Focus.
This week, Fortune magazine released its list of the 500 largest corporations in the world. With a nearly 25 percent increase in its revenues from 2007, Chevron Corp. moved from the sixth to the fifth largest corporation in the world. Only 36 countries on the planet had GDPs larger than Chevron's $263 billion in 2008 revenues.
By revenue, Chevron is the largest corporation in California, the second-largest U.S. oil corporation and the third-largest corporation in the nation. Chevron's nearly $24 billion in profits for 2008 were its largest on record and the fourth-highest profits of any corporation in the world. Chevron's profits have increased every year since 2002, increasing by an astounding 2,100 percent.
Those who have not benefited are the Richmond community, the site of Chevron's oldest refinery, and the state of California.
In November, Richmond voters passed Measure T. At the current price of oil, it would provide the city with an additional $16 million annually from Chevron (adding 11 percent to the city's tax revenues). Chevron sued, challenging the new tax.
Chevron has also repeatedly blocked state initiatives to impose a severance tax on oil extracted in the state. California is the only major oil producing state in the nation without such a tax. It is estimated that imposition of a severance tax could bring in over $1 billion a year to the California state budget. Read more.
G-8 Failure Reflects U.S. Failure on Climate Change
By Dr. Jim Hansen [director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, but he writes on this policy-related topic as a private citizen.] | Shalom Center
It didn't take long for the counterfeit climate bill known as Waxman-Markey to push back against President Obama's agenda. As the president was arriving in Italy for his first Group of Eight summit, the New York Times was reporting that efforts to close ranks on global warming between the G-8 and the emerging economies had already tanked:
The world's major industrial nations and emerging powers failed to agree Wednesday (July 9, 2009) on significant cuts in heat-trapping gases by 2050, unraveling an effort to build a global consensus to fight climate change, according to people following the talks.
Of course, emission targets in 2050 have limited practical meaning -- present leaders will be dead or doddering by then -- so these differences may be patched up. The important point is that other nations are unlikely to make real concessions on emissions if the United States is not addressing the climate matter seriously.
With a workable climate bill in his pocket, President Obama might have been able to begin building that global consensus in Italy. Instead, it looks as if the delegates from other nations may have done what 219 U.S. House members who voted up Waxman-Markey last month did not: critically read the 1,400-page American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 and deduce that it's no more fit to rescue our climate than a V-2 rocket was to land a man on the moon.
I share that conclusion, and have explained why to members of Congress before and will again at a Capitol Hill briefing on July 13. Science has exposed the climate threat and revealed this inconvenient truth: If we burn even half of Earth's remaining fossil fuels we will destroy the planet as humanity knows it. The added emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide will set our Earth irreversibly onto a course toward an ice-free state, a course that will initiate a chain reaction of irreversible and catastrophic climate changes.
The concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere now stands at 387 parts per million, the highest level in 600,000 years and more than 100 ppm higher than the amount at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Burning just the oil and gas sitting in known fields will drive atmospheric CO2 well over 400 ppm and ignite a devil's cauldron of melted icecaps, bubbling permafrost, and combustible forests from which there will be no turning back. But if we cut off the largest source of carbon dioxide, coal, we have a chance to bring CO2 back to 350 ppm and still lower through agricultural and forestry practices that increase carbon storage in trees and soil.
The essential step, then, is to phase out coal emissions over the next two decades. And to declare off limits artificial high-carbon fuels such as tar sands and shale while moving to phase out dependence on conventional petroleum as well. Read more.
Obama's Cap and Trade Carbon Emissions Bill - A Stealth Scheme to License Pollution and Fraud
By Stephen Lendman
On May 15, HR 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA) was introduced in the House purportedly "To create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy."
In fact, it's to let corporate polluters reap huge windfall profits by charging consumers more for energy and fuel as well as create a new bubble through carbon trading derivatives speculation. It does nothing to address environmental issues, yet on June 26 the House narrowly passed (229 - 212) and sent it to the Senate to be debated and voted on. More on that below.
On March 31, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey released a "discussion draft" of the proposed legislation and falsely claimed:
Unveiling a blueprint for the VA-5th to lead the nation in clean energy economy: http://tinyurl.com/ldmtvd
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Mountaintop removal coal mining is the worst environmental tragedy in American history. When will the Obama administration finally stop this Appalachian apocalypse?
... Obama has the authority to end mountaintop removal, without further action from Congress and without formal rulemaking. He just needs to make the coal barons obey the law.
Kucinich: "Passing a weak bill today gives us weak environmental policy tomorrow" | Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 26, 2009) -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today issued the following statement after voting against H.R. 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009:
“I oppose H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The reason is simple. It won’t address the problem. In fact, it might make the problem worse.
“It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term, and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods. It gives new life to one of the primary sources of the problem that should be on its way out– coal – by giving it record subsidies. And it is rounded out with massive corporate giveaways at taxpayer expense. There is $60 billion for a single technology which may or may not work, but which enables coal power plants to keep warming the planet at least another 20 years.
“Worse, the bill locks us into a framework that will fail. Science tells us that immediately is not soon enough to begin repairing the planet. Waiting another decade or more will virtually guarantee catastrophic levels of warming. But the bill does not require any greenhouse gas reductions beyond current levels until 2030.
“Today’s bill is a fragile compromise, which leads some to claim that we cannot do better. I respectfully submit that not only can we do better; we have no choice but to do better. Indeed, if we pass a bill that only creates the illusion of addressing the problem, we walk away with only an illusion. The price for that illusion is the opportunity to take substantive action.