A Pig with Lipstick

Posted on June 8, 2011. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , |

We’ve all seen or heard ridiculous propaganda advertisements  by companies or organizations eager to tout their feel-good green attributes.  Often these attempts have proven pure marketing magic with little actual environmental weight behind them.

But what to make of companies that have made real commitments to sustainability and improving the environment, while simultaneously taking contradictory stances on climate change?

 

Big fund manager Calvert Investment Management (among other large investors) decided to tackle this such issue by sending a letter to 43 companies on the board of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) asking them to explain how they reconcile their own greenhouse gas-reduction efforts with NAM’s efforts of stripping the EPA of its powers to regulate greenhouse gases.

 

The letter singles out companies such as Intel, Heinz, Pfizer, Verizon, CSX Corporation, Abbot Laboratories, and Dow Chemical for having industry leading sustainability efforts while also supporting NAM’s efforts to repeal authority of the EPA to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act.

 

The EPA was granted the authority to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases (namely CO2) in 2010, but efforts by private interests and (mainly) republican officials have been underway since then to limit its authority.  NAM’s claims that EPA regulation of GHGs would impose unreasonable costs on American manufacturing  have been refuted by leading groups that have countered that imposed costs are exaggerated and pale in comparison to future costs of consequences of climate change.

 

The fact that companies are playing both sides – pursuing sustainability goals while also funding efforts to stymie environmental legislation in Congress is only adding to the partisan stall our country finds itself in today.

 

This is why it’s imperative to know the full-story of how a company operates and what it invests its resources (time, money, lobbying effort) towards – in order to be a conscious and informed citizen and consumer.

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New Clean Currents White Paper: Update on Shale Gas Drilling & Hydraulic Fracturing

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: News, White Papers | Tags: , , , , , , |

Recent discoveries of vast natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale region (spanning PA, NY, MD and DE) and in other parts of the country are driving down natural gas prices and sparking a modern “gold rush” of companies seeking to cash in on new drilling opportunities. This abundance is leading many energy industry experts and politicians to tout the promise of natural gas as a major piece in meeting US energy needs and reducing dependence on foreign resources. Because natural gas typically has a lower carbon emissions profile than coal,  progressives (including President Obama and the Natural Resources Defense Council)  have joined more conventional allies of natural gas, calling it a ”bridge fuel” between coal-fired generation and renewable options. However, recent studies have found that shale gas may not be as an environmentally or climate friendly and a shift to this fuel source may actually lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Read the rest here!

Shale Drilling in PA

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Chicago Faces the Climate Challenge

Posted on May 25, 2011. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , |

While the rapture may not have come last weekend, there are cities across the globe that are not taking any chances.  As our Federal government continues to argue the very existence of climate change, cities like Chicago are integrating climate change preparedness into their long-term plans.   

Chicago may be known for its bitter winters and stiff wind, but climate scientists reported that if global carbon emissions continue apace, Chicago could expect a climate similar to that of Baton Rouge’s within seventy years.

The implications of such a dramatic climate shift in Chicago would be huge.  Climate modeling shows increased summer temperatures, increased precipitation, and more violent weather in general.

By implementing relatively inexpensive adaptive measures such as transforming paved surfaces and creating and expanding green corridors and roofs to prevent flooding and decrease heat-island effects, the city is positioning itself to avoid more costly climate disasters in the future.

Read the full article HERE

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Climate Ride Countdown: 20 hours!

Posted on May 12, 2011. Filed under: Climate Ride | Tags: , , , , , |

Kristin here with my first Climate Ride update from the road. Currently at Union Station awaiting my Bolt Bus.
Woooeee, I’ve got a lot of stuff for this adventure and getting it from my apartment in DC to the event registration in NYC is already proving cumbersome. Thank goodness I don’t have to carry things during the ride, I simply wouldn’t know how to do it! Check out this picture; I’ve got a backpack and tent, then my sleeping bag and foam pad, helmet and bike – I feel ridiculous! But it will need it all each night so I guess there’s no way around it.
Thanks to my colleague, Nicole, for being awesome and dropping me off right at the station! Unfortunately the elevator was out so I had to carry this all up the stairs to the bus garage! HAHA oh man…
Now that I’m here at the stop, I’m just hoping the bus has a toilet because I’m avoiding going all the way back down those stairs with all my stuff before we hit the road… Anyone know if Bolt Busses have bathrooms on board??

20110512-124223.jpg

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Remember that thing called “Climate Change?”

Posted on May 5, 2011. Filed under: Gary's Blog | Tags: , , , , , |

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Speaking at Climate Gala in DC

Climate change has seemingly fallen off the face of the Earth in the public arena as of late. Climate deniers seem to be on the rise, and the media/political world is more interested in talking about deficits, jobs, foreign affairs, and of course, birth certificates (long form or otherwise). But despite our best effort at sticking our head in the sand and hoping it goes away, the ugly facts of the science behind climate change keep coming back to remind us that we have no time to lose in finding a solution.

A new study by a team of scientists for the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) says arctic sea ice melt is much worse than previously thought and significant rising sea levels are coming in our children’s lifetime.  They conclude we could see as much as a 5.2 foot rise in sea levels by the end of this century, more than double the previous estimate of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Think of what that would do to Maryland’s beaches, coastline, and the islands in the Bay (ie. Smith Island).

The report notes that the increase in annual average temperature in the Arctic since 1980 has been twice as high as the rest of the world. In fact, it points out that the past six years have been the hottest ever recorded in the Arctic.

A separate report led by an American scientist from NASA corroborates these findings. It projects sea level rise of 13 inches in the near term.

While Congress may be in denial, not everyone inside the Beltway is so clueless.  I had the pleasure of attending the Climate Gala this week in DC, sponsored by Earth Day Network, the Carbon War Room, and ACORE. Prominent speakers from different walks of life all echoed the message that we need to act immediately to dramatically cut carbon emissions and spark a clean energy revolution. Perhaps most impressive was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He listed all the significant achievements the City of Angeles has reached under his watch, including a major turn towards renewable energy. But he also made a strong case for the economic and business reasons for reducing carbon emissions. Likewise, José María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica, discussed how he positioned his small nation to be a world leader in eco tourism not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes economic sense. In fact, he said that Cost Rica’s extremely high use of renewable energy (he said it was more than 90%) has put the country in a great position now with respect to the rise in costs of fossil fuels.

So goes another week in the carbon war. The science is screaming loud and clear. Dynamic leaders are proving what can be done. And still Congress and the mainstream media dither.

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Fracking Under Fire

Posted on April 13, 2011. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , |

Natural gas is making lots of headlines these days. Vast natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale region (spanning PA, NY, MD and DE) have been touted by some a major step in meeting US energy needs with domestic resources. Many progressives (including President Obama and the NRDC)  have joined more conventional allies of natural gas in touting it as a “bridge fuel” between fossil fuel generation and renewable options due to its lower emissions profile when burning.

However, the reason domestic natural gas has become so abundant is that a new extraction technique has opened up once unaccessible reserves. Fracking (short for hydraulic fracturing) involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into a well to force up the underlying gas from the shale. This process is water intensive and has led to contamination of local water sources. As a result, this technique has been highly contentious, facing challenges from local enviromental groups and national organizations like the Sierra Club. It has even been banned in several jurisdictions in New York and Pennsylvania. So while on the one hand, environmentalists concerned about climate change are drawn to the promise of natural gas as a path away from coal, they are also concerned about the negative of impacts of fracking for local communities.  

To add to the mix, this week brought a flurry of coverage on two recent studies that put shale gas above coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. As the NY Times explains, one of the studies by a Cornell University researcher examined the climate change impact of methane released during fracking and transportation of gas through pipelines. The study found that 3.6-7.9% of the methane is released into the atmosphere through fracking and other unconventional natural gas extraction methods. Since methane is a potent greenhouse gas (21 times more so than carbon dioxide), the emissions profile of shale gas compared to coal is higher over a twenty year time span. Building off this study, another researcher at the Post Carbon Institute concluded that a concentrated switch to natural gas would actually increase, rather than decrease US greehouse gas emissions.

These studies are hopefully the first of many that look deeper into the lifecycle and full environmental impacts of shale natural gas extraction. The lead researcher in the Cornell study, Michael Howarth put it like this:

“I don’t think this is the end of the story…I think this is just the beginning of the story, and before governments and the industry push ahead on gas development, at the very least we ought to do a better job of making measurements.

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2010 MD General Assembly Wrapup

Posted on April 15, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

The 427th MD General Assembly has wrapped for the year.  Several important renewable energy bills were heard (and voted on) this year.

Clean Currents would like to thank those elected officials who remained committed to green issues.  We would also like to offer a “spanks” to those officials who continued to deny the urgency of pressing for greater renewable goals.

***

Thanks and Spanks for the 2010 Maryland General Assembly Session

The Maryland General Assembly has wrapped up for the year and now the politicians are about to enter full campaign mode. Who was good for clean energy, and deserves a “thanks” from us and who was bad and deserves a “spanks” from us? The number one priority of Clean Currents and the environmental plus solar business community was Governor Martin O’Malley’s solar RPS improvement. Thanks to the hard work of Governor O’Malley and his people at the Maryland Energy Administration, plus our staff here at Clean Currents and hundreds of likeminded supporters, the bill passed. This is a huge accomplishment in an election year session. Big Thanks to Governor O’Malley! The bill increases the value of Solar Renewable Energy Credits and requires more solar installations in the state. This means more money for homeowners and businesses that want to go green with solar panels.

In all, Clean Currents supported nine bills and opposed one as our top priorities for the session. Our record on these bills was pretty good. Of the nine we supported, four passed and will be signed into law, one passed the House but died in the Senate on Sine Die, and four were killed. The one bill we opposed was killed.

The bills that passed include the above-mentioned solar RPS bill (SB 277), as well as a bill to force the utilities to pay consumers for excess green power they generate via net metering (SB 355) and a bill to make it easier to install solar on master metered properties (SB 538).

BIG THANKS These are our big champions for the 2010 session:
Governor O’Malley, Senator Rob Garagiola (Potomac), Delegate Sue Hecht (Frederick)

THANKS These folks were consistent supporters of Clean Currents legislation, rock solid on solar and green energy.
Del. McHale came up with the amendment that saved the Governor’s solar RPS bill in House Economic Matters. Sen. Catherine Pugh (Baltimore) Sen. Kathy Klausemeier (Baltimore) Del. Herman Taylor (Silver Spring) Del. Roger Manno (Silver Spring) Del. Brian McHale (Baltimore)

BIG SPANKS There’s really one “superstar” of the anti-solar, anti-green energy side of the equation: Sen. EJ Pipkin (Eastern Shore)

SPANKS These folks voted against the Solar RPS bill and/or were not supportive of green electricity bills:
Sen. Delores Kelley (Baltimore) Sen. Alan Kittleman (Howard) Sen. Norman Stone (Baltimore County)Sen. Roy Dyson (Southern Md)Del. D Stifler

Finally, I want to give a big thanks to all who wrote letters, emailed, or called about the vital pieces of legislation we supported for a cleaner, greener future.

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Eco Kids Fighting Climate Change in Britain

Posted on December 16, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Here’s an interesting listen from today’s NPR Morning Edition. The story is about kids in British schools taking the lead in fighting climate change by learning about the topic and designing programs to cut their own carbon footprint. The students are supported by the Eco-Schools program which helps get kids involved as eco-reps that track energy use, encourage sustainable commuting and promote recycling. Also mentioned in the story were schools making use of renewable energy including wind and solar for on-site, clean power generation. Another idea for the teenage crowd carbon dating–students meet up and go on low carbon dates such as taking bike rides or eating local vegetarian food.

As the story points out, this type of action is not a substitute for clear government policy to cut carbon emissions. Still, education early on helps make low carbon living a natural habit for kids and is changing the mindset of future generations towards environmental stewardship.

Schools in our area are also working to integrate climate change and renewable energy into their curriculum. Earlier this week, Clean Currents attended the  unveiling of a 111KW solar installation at the Bullis School in Potomac, MD. Not only will the installation provide 20% of the electricity needs for the Blair Arts Center, the largest building on the Bullis campus, but it will also serve as a learning tool to teach kids about solar power and climate change. Here’s a video from Monday’s event:

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Skepticism, Climate-Gate and Copenhagen

Posted on December 11, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , |

In the lead up to the Copenhagen Climate conference which kicked off this past Monday, there was a lot of buzz about what has come to be known as “climate-gate”. 

Shortly before the conference, hackers released of files and emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in which some scientists questioned particular data and talked about preventing the publicaiton of colleague’s papers that may have presented altnernative viewpoints. Climate change skeptics took this data and ran with it, with everyone from Sarah Palin, to Saudi Arabia citing it as evidence that human induced climate change is a hoax.  The scientific community has vocalized its opposition to this claim and as Andrew Revkin and John Broder from the NYtimes GreenInc blog explain:

“In recent days, an array of scientists and policy makers have said that nothing so far disclosed — the correspondence and documents include references by prominent climate scientists to deleting potentially embarrassing e-mail messages, keeping papers by competing scientists from publication and making adjustments in research data — undercuts decades of peer-reviewed science.”

Still, these attempts to fix the did little to fuel the drama of climate-gate in Copenhagen. As the NY times reports, a group of prominent climate skeptics met at the city during the climate summit. Here are a couple quotes from that meeting:

“Carbon dioxide is only a good thing…More carbon dioxide means more warmth, and more crops, which means more people can be fed. That doesn’t bother me at all” –Phillip Foster, author of While the Earth Endures: Creation, Cosmology and Climate Change

I wonder if Mr. Foster thinks rising sea level and increasingly severe weather patterns are also going to help us humans lead better lives…or maybe he’s just choosing to ignore some key data. How could such a stickler for scientific truths do such a thing?

“They [scientific majority who supports the hypothesis that climate change is human induced] have brainwashed the broader population into believing that they are right…and now we see and hear that they are not right, and that convinces me that it is good that we are here…Also, I hate windmills.”  –Claus Castenskiold, retired gentleman farmer.

I know my personal vendetta against windmills has also led me to question human induced climate change at times…

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Stop going green to stop climate change?

Posted on December 6, 2009. Filed under: Events, Recommendations | Tags: , , |

Mike Tidwell, executive director of CCAN, had an interesting and counter-intuitive at first glance piece in the Outlook section of the Post today. In it, he advocated that small green actions like replacing lightbulbs, or buying recycled wrapping paper are only giving people a false sense of progress against climate change, but in reality doing very little to address the problem. He urged people to stop “going green” altogether and instead put their time and energy towards fighting for real policy actions to create a legally binding response to climate change. He compared climate change to civil rights–indicating that voluntary measures are not enough and that laws need to change in order to create real progress. Even though integration was not flawless once it was required by law, it happened and the country moved forward:

“After many decades of public denial and inaction, the civil rights movement helped Americans to see Southern apartheid in moral terms. From there, the movement succeeded by working toward legal change. Segregation was phased out rapidly only because it was phased out through the law. These statutes didn’t erase racial prejudice from every American heart overnight. But through them, our country made staggering progress. Just consider who occupies the White House today.”

On the eve of the Copenhagen climate talks, Tidwell also points out that strong US leadership will drive the rest of the world to address this issue as well, and hints at his disappointment with President Obama’s current, “leadership from behind” on this issue.

Tidwell will be chatting on the Washington Post’s site about his piece tomorrow at 11AM, and its likely his opinions are bound to elicit various reactions from readers.

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