As part of its responsibilities to support more informed Congressional decision making and inform members of Congress about key issues, since 1990 the Government Accounting Office (GAO) has provided a list of key high-risk areas.
identified as high risk due to their greater vulnerability to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or the need for transformation to address economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges.
Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks. Climate change creates significant financial risks for the federal government, which owns extensive infrastructure, such as defense installations; insures property through the National Flood Insurance Program; and provides emergency aid in response to natural disasters. The federal government is not well positioned to address the fiscal exposure presented by climate change, and needs a government wide strategic approach with strong leadership to manage related risks.
Mitigating Gaps in Weather Satellite Data. Potential gaps in environmental satellite data beginning as early as 2014 and lasting as long as 53 months have led to concerns that future weather forecasts and warnings—including warnings of extreme events such as hurricanes, storm surges, and floods—will be less accurate and timely. A number of decisions are needed to ensure contingency and continuity plans can be implemented effectively
The morning after the President actually discussed climate change in the State of the Union address, a group of prominent people are heading to the White House to risk arrest in a call on the President to live up to those words on the need to act on climate change. The Keystone XL pipeline, in and of itself, isn’t enough to ‘cook the planet’ — it is, however, a key tool to foster expanded production of Canadian Tar Sands. And, along with failures to reduce coal consumption, that expanded production could be enough (even without considering all other issues) to hammer in the last nail on the potential for humanity to avert catastrophic climate chaos.
Jeremy Grantham — an excellent financial analyst and advisor — is a powerful symbol of mounting business and financial concerns. [Update: just learned that Grantham will be there but will not risk arrest although his daughter will ...]
Rev Lennox Yearwood, Jr, is the head of the Hip Hop Caucus and is representative of youth, religious, and the rainbow reality of concerns over climate change.
Julian Bond — truly a civil rights legend — links climate change issues to the rich legacy of our nation’s struggles for civil justice.
Darryl Hannah provides an example to our other ’stars’ about the need to put their celebrity on the line and in the struggle to avert Climate Disruption.
Randy Thompson — a Nebraska rancher — provides a powerful symbol of American farmers’ growing realization of how climate disruption is already impacting their lives and of how promoting fossil foolish development is simply, well, outright foolish.
Michael Brune — the Executive Director of the Sierra Club — is a strong symbol of how seriously traditional environmental organizations are taking the struggle against climate change and against Keystone XL
As for the last, the Sierra Club has never authorized civil disobedience in its 120 year history … until now.
2012 was the hottest year on record, half the country is in severe drought, and Superstorm Sandy just flooded the greatest city in the world–New York. A global crisis unfolds before our eyes and immediate action is required. President Obama has the executive authority to make a significant and immediate impact on carbon pollution, and he can begin by saying no to Big Oil by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Civil disobedience is the response of ordinary people to extraordinary injustices. Americans have righted the wrongs of our society – slavery, child labor, suffrage, segregation, and inequality for gays and immigrant workers – with creative nonviolent resistance.
Climate change threatens the health and security of all Americans, and action proportional to the problem is required–now.
Amid all of this, perhaps the best might be P+P=P. Priority + Payoff = PROMISE!
If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.
This is an excellent and truthful statement.
And, as can be seen after the fold, the State of the Union blows through the Climate Silence barrier and signals that President Obama won’t return behind it.
BREAK for a moment: As for Marco Rubio and the Republican response,
Rubio “God gave us Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas”. Okay, then who gave us the sun, wind, waves, and other renewable resources? #SOTU
Secretary of State John Kerry’s first major international meeting came with Canadian foreign minister John Baird. At the press conference, Secretary Kerry faced (and essentially shunted aside) questions about Keystone XL. A Climate Hawk as U.S. Senator, Secretary Kerry faced a difficult situation: Canada is pushing hard to enrich itself with the world’s worst environmental disaster and the United States has to decide whether it will help worsen the situation as the Department of State in nearing the end of a process of review of the Keystone XL pipeline.
In short, the question the Department of State must answer:
Is Keystone XL in the U.S. national interest?
And, more briefly, the answer:
With full explanations after the fold, here are reasons why Keystone XL is a reckless, dangerous, and counter-productive project that should not be allowed to proceed.
In short, Keystone XL would
Contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions;
Foster accelerated damage to one of the most important carbon sinks;
Create risks for water sources;
Facilitate expansion of the most destructive industrial project on earth;
Increase spill risks of extremely difficult to clean-up and damaging Dilbit in extremely sensitive ecosystems;
Divert resources from efforts to reduce American and global dependence on fossil fuels;
Increase gas prices for much of the American Heartland;
Increase profitability of oil interests ripping up the boreal forests by taking money out of Americans’ pockets; and,
Damage American leadership around the globe as we struggle to mitigate climate change.
If this seems a long list, it is.
Despite the $10s ($100s) of millions spent on partial truths, disinformation, and propaganda, the fundamental facts demonstrate that this project should not go forward, that it is counter to U.S. national interest.
Crippling drought. Devastating wildfires. Superstorm Sandy. Climate has come home – and the American people get it.
The first step to putting our country on the path to addressing the climate crisis is for President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. His legacy as president will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in solving the climate crisis.
On 17 February 2013, President’s Day, 100,000s of American citizens will be in front of the White House calling for the Obama Administration to recognize — and declare — that the Keystone XL pipeline is not in the U.S. national interest. Join them.
Virginian Republican legislative initiatives have earned the Commonwealth unpleasant nation (and global) wide attention in recent years. Whether the abuse of public resources to undermine Virginia’s academic reputation with anti-science legal shenanigans (2010 to present); the social, moral, and medical outrage of trying to require unnecessary ultrasounds on women seeking to execute their Constitutional right to control their own medical destinies (2012); or the anti-democratic efforts to redistrict (out-of-cycle) to manipulate the Commonwealth’s Senate districts and to shift the Electoral College votes from Virginia to skew away from voters’ intent, Virginia’s GOP has provided lots of substantive reasons for intensely outraged attention to their anti-science, anti-constitutional rights, and anti-democratic tendencies.
These flashpoint issues have masked other serious issue after issue.
While the threat to the Electoral College and the legislation to redistrict the Commonwealth’s Senate seats are capturing the majority of attention, Governor Bob McDonnell’s very troubling and damaging transportation proposal is receiving minimal (if any) national attention. And, this matters. For example, McDonnell’s (damaging, non-sensical, backwards moving, etc …) proposal to eliminate the Commonwealth’s tax on gasoline would make Virginia unique of the 50 states in not having a user tax on fuel to help pay for transportation costs. With polluter interests heavily behind this, it is not hard to imagine that having this become law in Virginia will quickly become leveraged for legislative action across the nation. We will have a shift from the lunacy of 2008’s discussion of a “gas tax holiday” to a nation-wide call by the “Drill, Baby, Drill” crowd for “No Gas Tax”. This bad policy, damaging on fiscal and environmental grounds, will resonate politically and must be snuffed out at its source before it becomes a conflagration flaring up in state after state.
Within McDonnell’s plan are a litany of problems such that discussing them takes more pages than the (long) proposal itself and thus they merit addressing one after another (after another after another after …) in separate discussions. This post thus turns to a one particular angle of consideration of one of the bad proposals in the bill: Bob’s punitive $100 fee on alternative fuel vehicles. While the full section is after the fold, here are the key points:
While the governor’s plan will eliminate the Virginia gasoline tax, the federal gas tax of 18.5 cents will remain. The majority of federal gas tax revenues are returned to the states for transportation projects, and Virginia typically receives approximately $1 billion per year in federal gas tax revenue. And the more alternative fuel vehicles on the road, the less of a share Virginia will get of that federal tax.
Therefore, the governor’s plan proposes an additional $100 fee for alternative fuel vehicles to ensure that these drivers continue to contribute to Virginia’s transportation networks, which they use every day.
While there has been real outcries about this ridiculous fee on alternative fuel vehicles/hybrids — where there is a “user fee” imposed on hybrid drivers (that is unassociated with actual use) while removing the major user fee (gasoline taxes) — this fee is truly reminiscent of the “New Math” craze …
Let’s work through this …
A hybrid vehicle is roughly 25% more efficient than its equivalent non-hybrid.
The Prius is 50 miles per gallon.
A ‘non-hybrid’ version might be about 40 miles per gallon.
Thus, the difference between a high-end hybrid and the equivalent non-hybrid, mile driven, is roughly 1/5th the level of tax.
$100 fee against the 18.5 cent federal gas tax.
At 18.5 cents, it is 5.4 gallons per $1.00.
To achieve $100 requires buying 540 gallons of fuel.
At 40 mpg, this would translate to 21,600 miles of driving.
At 50 mpg, this would translate to 27,000 miles of driving
Looking at differential in another angle, the difference is 1/5 of the gas tax
For having a hybrid car rather than non-hybrid, the Prius (or Ford Fusion C-Max or …) would have to drive five times as far to meet the $100 savings.
E.g., the Prius driver would have to drive 135,000 miles in order to meet the $100 difference between owning a hybrid and a non-hybrid vehicle
That 135,000 miles represents roughly 10 years of driving.
Governor McDonnell seeks to justify a punitive $100 fee on alternative-fueled vehicles due to the asserted loss of gasoline taxes. The “lost” gasoline taxes represent roughly the lost gas tax equivalent of 10 average driving — are you starting to feel like Governor McDonnell is lost within New Math?
“I invested in a hybrid car to do my part to make the air we breathe cleaner and our climate safer,” said Chester resident Laurel Snode, owner of a hybrid Honda Insight and a participant in the car parade. “We wouldn’t tax non-smokers to fund more public ash trays. Punishing Virginians who want to be part of the solution and pollute less makes absolutely no sense. It will only do more harm.”
Later today (scheduled for 1415 eastern), President Obama will award the National Medal of Technology to a true hero: Art Rosenfeld.
Simply put, Art’s is a name that every American should know.
He has had a profound impact on essentially all of our lives.
And, if there is any real regret to be had, it is that our national polity has been so inept that Art’s work has not impacted us even more significantly.
Called by many “the Godfather of Energy Efficiency“, Rosenfeld has help drive many significant advances in American energy efficiency standards and help establish core infrastructure to enable future advances. He is, quite simply, one of the greatest achievers/heros of ‘invisible energy‘ and his quite tangible achievements remain invisible to most Americans.
Rosenfeld founded the Center for Building Science at the Berkeley Lab back in 1975 and served for ten years on the California Energy Commission (retiring from there in 2010).
Rosenfeld has had such an impact that a unit of measurement exists:
the Rosenfeld (symbol: Rs). One Rosenfeld is equal to 3 billion kilowatt-hours per year, which represents the electrical output of one 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant under a set of standard assumptions. In reference to such a standard coal plant, one rosenfeld of saved electricity also avoids emissions of 3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
While Art Rosenfeld is just one man, we might say that he is prolific because his work is responsible for 10s (and quite likely 100s) of Rosenfelds.
One might expect that the Secretary of Energy (whose resignation has just become public) had a role in having this award event occur:
When U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu appeared on the “The Daily Show” in July 2009, he bantered with host Jon Stewart about energy-efficient “white roofs,” a powerful tool in the race to combat climate change.
Chu credited much of the research on white roofs to “Art Rosenfeld” …
Art is admired the world over,” Chu said in an interview with the Mercury News. “He’s a very distinguished physicist who recognized that the energy problem is huge. Art was my example of someone who said, ‘I have to stop staying on the sidelines, and get involved.’ “
To get a sense of Rosenfeld, this article is a good place to start:
The oil embargo of 1973 prompted him to make a career switch.
“I’d lived abroad, and it was a basic fact that the Japanese and the Europeans use a lot less energy than Americans,” said Rosenfeld. “One Friday night I was in my office and I realized that all of the lights were on in the building. It took me half an hour to go around and turn them all off. Some of the light switches were hard to find; there were bookshelves in front of them.”
Today, President Obama is giving an award to a true American hero, “The Godfather of Energy Efficiency”.
Tomorrow (and for all the days that follow), let us hope that President Obama works his hardest to create more Rosenfelds.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2013
Statement from the President on Secretary Steven Chu
I want to thank Secretary Chu for his dedicated service on behalf of the American people. As a Nobel Prize winning scientist, Steve brought to the Energy Department a unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy. And during his time as Secretary, Steve helped my Administration move America towards real energy independence. Over the past four years, we have doubled the use of renewable energy, dramatically reduced our dependence on foreign oil, and put our country on a path to win the global race for clean energy jobs. Thanks to Steve, we also expanded support for our brightest engineers and entrepreneurs as they pursue groundbreaking innovations that could transform our energy future. I am grateful that Steve agreed to join in my Cabinet and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.
See after fold for live feed from White House which, at 1415, should have the medal award.
President Obama made a strong call for action on climate change in his inaugural address. As in the past, he described the potential for economic growth in the transition to energy sources with a much smaller carbon footprint. He also framed the issue in moral terms.
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”"That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.”
Even the stodgy Washington Post noticed.Since human contributions to climate change is the moral crisis of our age, it is worth looking at the importance of moral framing of the issue.
Morality is best thought of as the values we live by. As Darwin noted in Descent of Man, morality is rooted in how we treat others and our willingness to work for the greater good. Self-centeredness impairs our ability to work together, solve complex problems, and respond to major existential threats. One of my favorite quotes from Darwin sums it up perfectly. “Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence nothing can be effected.”
The we vs. me idea is the central theme to the president’s inaugural address. He states it eloquently in prefacing his remarks about climate change.
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.”
As scientific evidence piles up for the adverse impacts of burning fossil fuels on our planet’s climate, the challenge becomes how to build public support for making the transition to cleaner sources of energy. The task has become even more difficult as the richest corporations in human history have sought to protect their profits by cleverly designed disinformation campaigns aimed at discrediting climate science and confusing the public.Several recently published studies have examined different approaches to increase support for environmental sustainability. Both conclude that values matter.
To the 180 Members of the House of Representatives Who Voted Against Sandy Disaster Relief:
Dear Founding Member of the Jackass Caucus,
I write following the House of Representatives’ passage of HR 152, the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, which will fund relief and rebuilding for the tens of millions of victims of Hurricane Sandy. I suggest the formation of a caucus, comprised of the 180 members who opposed HR 152. These members will be united in their belief that for too long, Washington has been ruled by the tired convention that survivors of climatological and meteorological disasters should receive federal assistance. This caucus will boldly oppose the conventional wisdom of the American people, that we are elected to promote the general welfare of this nation, and commit to rejecting any federal support for the victims of floods, wildfires, storms, or drought.
Former Senator Al D’Amato of New York has called the opponents of Sandy relief a “bunch of jackasses.” It’s a term that these persecuted members should embrace proudly.
Each and every one of you should be proud of being a
This guest post comes from DWG and covers something that the vast majority of Americans are unaware is happening. And, well, how many schools could be renovated, roads repaired, policemen hired, and other public services provided with the tax subsidies that the ever-so impoverished fossil fuel industries are pocketing?
NOTE: Let us be clear, however, that this post focuses on financial subsidies and does not go into the much larger real of “externalities”. The vast majority of subsidy for coal, oil, and natural gas comes from their ability to dump their pollution into our air, water, and soil without charge. No other business arena is allowed to simply dump their trash into others’ lives for free — whether paying water sewage fees or trash collection or tipping fees at dumps, every other business arena in the United States must pay for its waste disposal. The tax subsidies that DWG discusses below are only a fraction of the Social Cost of Carbon and the other costs that the extraction and burning of coal, oil, and natural gas imposed on all of us (all of the U.S.).
The Obama administration has proposed drastic cuts to federal subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels corporations for the past four years. It is a policy that both climate and fiscal hawks should find common ground. Most energy-related incentives go to carbon polluters at a time when cutting greenhouse gas emissions is critical to avoid a climate catastrophe. Since these are also the richest corporations in human history, so-called fiscal hawks should be clamoring to end the unnecessary burden on taxpayers. Needless to say, those proposals have been rejected by Congress every year.
While federal subsidies for oil, gas, and coal are offensive and unnecessary, they are a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the generosity of states to the carbon polluters. This toxic stupidity at the state level has been ignored for too long.
I worry about the ongoing drought every day. I know I am starting seeds, and talking about gardening, but there is always a part of me that is worrying about the long terms effects of the last two years extreme heat, and of course, what the Spring and Summer have in store for us this Summer. Sometimes focusing on the gardens and the bees, and the like, help me maintain the illusion of control and normalcy. But I know that these are really just illusions.
Australia has been in the news lately due to the extreme droughts in their part of the world. When I read the Aussie stories, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between there and Oklahoma and Texas droughts. The last two summers here locally, it was so hot that baby birds, like those flying foxes were dropping out of the trees, some adult birds dropped out of the skies, because the heat was so intense that they were overheated and dehydrated and weakened. I rescued a Mississippi Kite last year, and some Jays as well.
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