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The sun is shining on and at the White House: Honoring Solar #WHChamps

April 17th, 2014 · No Comments

Today, there is an all day event at the White House on solar power, both announcing a series of initiatives and honoring “solar champions” from around the nation (full press release after the fold).  These champions are representative of leaders in technological change, drivers for policy change, and people working ‘in the grassroots’ to get solar on the rooftops of disadvantaged citizens across the country.  As to initiatives, they include several interesting ones:

  • Department of Energy funding to support state, tribal, and local planning for tackling barriers to cost-competitive solar deployment.  As solar technology prices continue to plunge, “soft” costs (planning, financing, inspection, sales, etc …) are also falling — but at a much slower rate which means that they are, with each passing day, a greater percentage of the total costs.
  • Energy Department SunShot and NREL staff/technical support to assist in accelerating solar installations at Federally-assisted housing.
  • EPA issuance of an “on-site renewables challenge” to prod businesses (Green Power partners) around the nation to put renewables (including solar) at their actual facilities rather than ’simply’ buying clean energy credits.
  • Energy Department coming issuance of a “Solar Deployment Playbook”, which is aimed to ease internal ’soft costs’ as to decision-making and understanding within business as to why and how to do solar installations.
  • Capital Solar Challenge:  The Administration is targeting solar power at Federal facilities in Washington, DC, as part of an effort “to lead by example”.
  • Military Solar Deployment:  The White House is reaffirming the military commitment to solar deployments. Note that the WH press release emphasizes the Army.  Last week, at the Sea-Air Space Symposium, Navy leaders mentioned that the Secretary of the Navy ordered far more aggressive action on putting solar up at Navy and Marine Corps facilities.

Many of the above are ‘leading by example’.  Since this is a live, online event, the White House is taking questions via twitter using #WHChamps and #ActOnClimate.  My first question refers back to a painful issue:

Shouldn’t the White House lead by example and put solar pv on the roof (next to Secret Service snipers?) as part of the Capital Solar Challenge?
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→ No CommentsTags: Obama Administration · solar

Whiplashed by weather?

April 16th, 2014 · No Comments

Drastic shifts in weather (from beautiful sunny skies to dark menacing ones, from t-shirt frisbee temperatures to parka-wearing cold, from …) are natural. Humanity, however, has been putting its figures on the scales of “natural”. As Bill McKibben so eloquently discussed 25 years ago in The End of Nature, due to fossil fuel emissions, humanity’s footprint is global. And, as he laid out in Eaarth, we now have changed the earth so much that the “natural world” of the 21st century and beyond is removed from what it was even in my youth a few decades ago. The next person who asks me what happened to my neck is gonna get this umbrella shoved right up his you-know-what...

Amid mounting climate change and increased climate chaos, a term of growing frequency: “weather whiplash”:

The term “weather whiplash” describes the rapid transition from one extreme weather event to another opposing extreme event.

Last May, for example, Iowa had unusual May snow that was soon followed by 106F record heat.

Sioux City, Iowa had their first-ever snowfall on record in the month of May on May 1 (1.4″), but hit an astonishing 106° yesterday. Not only was this their hottest temperature ever measured in the month of May, but only two June days in recorded history have been hotter (June, 10, 1933: 107° and June 21, 1988: 108°.) On May 12th they registered 29°, and thus had a 77° rise over 56 hours (from 6 a.m. May 12 to 1:30 p.m May 14.)

Right now, far from the first time through the 2013-2014 winter (okay, it is now spring), I feel like I am wearing a neck brace.  Two days ago, I was working in the yard in a t-shirt and today I went outside in a winter coat. Being well aware of the need to be careful in extrapolating from our backyard to the globe, after decades of living in the region, it certainly ‘appears’ that the Washington, DC, area is now whipping between extremes with greater frequency.  I have lost count of how many times the DC area — my backyard — has had over 30F or 20C shift in high and/or low temperature in less than 96 or 48 hours over the past six months.  Multiple times, we were walking without coats one day to be shoveling snow the next to then, a few days or hours later, be in short sleeves with snow on the ground.

This past Sunday topped 80F and the late evening was 76F/24C (about 10 pm was last I looked at the weather in my backyard) — t-weather with flowers in glory.  Last night was below freezing and most of the flowers are now drooping.  And, this is real ‘whiplash’ as you don’t know whether to have shorts or sweaters out … and, anyone who planted tomatoes in the heat over the weekend just lost them to the cold last night.

My ‘impression’ is that this winter has been the worse that I have ever experienced in terms of such major shifts.

Honestly, this is an ‘impressionistic’ perspective that would be a rather straightforward piece of analysis:   How many days per annum of over 50F (or 30C) (or 35F / 20C) shift in high and/or low temperature in less than 96 or 48 hours over the past 100 years?  The data is there even I don’t have the time / resources to run it to see whether the hypothesis of ‘increased weather whiplash as seen in rapid significant temperature shifts’ is substantiated by the historical data.
Obviously, temperature variability is not the only ‘weather whiplash’ element. Some predicted climate change impacts are already clear in the data and well documented, such as ever greater precipitation in extreme events. And, winds … And, … And, …  This arena — weather whiplash — does seem appropriate for greater scientific work — from defining the term with scientific precision to analyzing the issue in regional and global terms with historical data and modeling it for the future.
In any event, Weather Whiplash doesn’t only seem to be an ever growing reality of Eaarth’s climate but a fruitful arena for further scientific analysis.

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→ No CommentsTags: Global Warming · climate change · science

Unpublished Letters: Solution to Ukraine isn’t “Drill, Baby, Drill” to “Pollute, Baby, Pollute”

March 23rd, 2014 · 5 Comments

WarrenS has taken on an admirable resolution: to send a letter to the editor (LTE) (or, well, a major politician) every single day, on the critical issues of climate change and energy. This discusses his approach and here is an amusing ‘template’ to for rapid letter writing.

Now, I have always written letters and even had many published — just not one every day. WarrenS inspires me to do better.

Many newspapers state that they will reject letters that have been published elsewhere, thus I have not been blogging letters … perhaps that should change. Thus, on a delay from ‘rejection’ (or lack of publication), here is an installment of the “unpublished letters” series publishing those LTEs that don’t get picked up by the editors.

To the Editor,

“Energy” is a complex system.

In “Fueling Independence” (6 March), the Washington Post looked at the Ukraine situation through a “supply” mentality – advocating increased drilling in Ukraine and increased liquid natural gas (LNG) imports, including from the United States.

America’s role in the Ukrainian energy system shouldn’t be “drill, baby, drill” to “pollute, baby, pollute.” Instead, we should promote energy efficiency throughout the Ukrainian economy and help Ukraine develop alternative and cleaner paths for fueling its economy.

Promotion of liquid natural gas (LNG) exports only has one true winner: the fossil fuel industry. For the rest of the U.S. economy, mark it as a loss due to increased U.S. energy prices and worsened climate implications.

Enhancing energy efficiency and energy diversification in the Ukraine, on the other hand, is a real win-win-win opportunity:

  • Strengthen Ukraine’s economy and security with ever more sustainable independence from imported fossil fuels – Russian or otherwise;
  • Improve U.S. economy via export of clean energy expertise and products; and,
  • Reduce pollution.

In the Ukraine and elsewhere, dealing with energy complexity matters. Integrating our approaches to national and natural security challenges can create wins for us all.


A Siegel

NOTE: Sigh … Sadly, The Washington Post editorial board has doubled down on its stove-piped thinking with today’s editorial “Using natural gas as an energy wedge against Russia“. While they would likely, if asked, agree with the Pentagon that climate change creates national security risks, they seem unable to connect their calls for increased fossil-fuel exports with the increased climate change risks that would result from the exports.  As well, they do not seem able to process that the old adage ‘give a man a fish … teach a man to fish’ fits well here.  Rather than continue to supply Ukraine’s natural gas habit, much better to help the Ukrainians — far more cost effectively for them and us — reduce their demand for natural gas. This can be done faster and less expensively than creating an export system to send liquified natural gas overseas.

→ 5 CommentsTags: Energy · Washington Post · unpublished letters

Democratic Senators to pull #Up4Climate all-nighter

March 9th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Monday night, the Democratic Party Senate leadership will take to the floor with speeches on climate change.

Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has pledged in recent weeks to continue allowing time for anyone who wants to discuss the issue during the weekly Democratic caucus lunch or on the Senate floor. The format planned for Monday is an extension of floor speeches given regularly by Whitehouse that usually begin with him saying that “it’s time to wake up” to climate change.

The majority of the majority will follow, through the night, with speech after speech focusing on climate change issues.

Participating Senators:

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.
Senator Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Senator Mark Udall, D-Colo.
Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.
Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Senator Al Franken, D-Minn.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Senator Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
Senator Angus King, I-Maine
Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Senator Edward J. Markey, D-Mass.
Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Here is one of Senator Whitehouse’s 60+ floor speeches on climate … this one about the need for Congress to wake up to reality (text here), that “it is time for my colleagues to wake up.”

After the fold are extracts from Senator Whitehouse’s 11 December speech (the video) and Senator Warren’s request for supporters’ comments re climate impacts 25 years from now …

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→ 1 CommentTags: Global Warming · climate change · politics

#KeystoneXL: Three comments to @StateDept as to “Why #NoKXL?”

March 7th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Today is the last day to provide comments to the Department of State as to the KeystoneXL pipeline national interest determination.

The reviewers of public comments — if they take their work seriously and responsibly — have a lot of work ahead of them.  While there are some 54,897 comments, already registered as of the time of this blog post, citizens’ groups are planning to deliver millions to the Department of State in a few minutes. [UPDATE: Press release from event after the fold, after my comments ...]

To date, I have posted three comments which are reposted after the fold.

These comments are each unique and they take three different angles:

  1. Connecting Keystone XL back to me as an individual, with individual expertise, and expertise.
  2. Laying out how Keystone XL will not serve U.S. national interests; and
  3. Highlighting the need to look at this within the larger context of our necessity to stop investing in fossil fuel (fossil foolish) infrastructure.

I hope you find the comments interesting and valuable.

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→ 1 CommentTags: climate change

The answer is clear: #KeystoneXL is NOT in U.S. National Interest

March 5th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Despite $100s of millions spent to obfuscate the issue, the reality of the Keystone XL pipeline is that it is NOT in the U.S. national interest.

Keystone XL will:

  • Increase climate risks
  • Worsen environmental damage in Alberta, CA, due to increased tar sands exploitation
  • Increase gasoline and diesel prices for most Americans
  • Hurt American economic competitiveness (due to increased pressure on US fuel prices and lower pressure on world oil prices)
  • Undermine our path to a clean-energy future
  • Undermine and discredit any U.S. efforts to lead on climate change issues internationally

Keystone XL will NOT have all the miraculous benefits claimed by the Koch Brothers, American Petroleum Institute, Faux News, Grand Oil Party elites, and other fossil-foolish interests.

Additionally, for Democratic Party interests, the answer is even starker: Approving Keystone XL will further enrich and empower those who are spending recklessly (thank you SCOTUS and Citizens United) to undermine American democracy. Not least of which is the Koch Brothers, who will likely benefit to the tune of $billions in additional wealth if Keystone XL is approved.

This point, of course, is not one that should sway the Department of State analysis of the project … but it should impassion you to add your voice to the discussion.

XL Pipeline “Public Comments”

Let your voice be heard by opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The deadline for submission of comments is March 7, 2014.

Writing public comments in opposition to the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline is easy. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard directly to the White House without interference by the media, lobbyists or the GOP. We have until March 7 to express our views on whether or not building the big tar sands pipeline is in the vital national interest of the United States.

In the past, public comments have absolutely made a difference. Please don’t delay as it is the last opportunity to affect this public debate. Submit your comments today …!documentDetail;D=DOS-2014-0003-0001].

For more helpful tips, please consult ["Tips for Submitting Effective Comments"] at [!documentDetail;D=DOS-2014-0003-0001], the website where you will be posting your comments. A

All of us should add our voices to the State Department comment period.

After the fold is an overview of some of the reasons and arguments that you might choose to make.

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→ 1 CommentTags: Energy

Amid DC #WeatherWhiplash, 400 arrested @Whitehouse protesting #KeystoneXL

March 2nd, 2014 · No Comments

Today, some 400 university students were arrested at the White House.  These students are a leading wave of what could be the largest civil disobedience movement in the United States in decades.  Echoing the over 1200 arrested two summers ago, also at the White House fence, these 400 — and the thousands who marched from Georgetown to the White House with them — have a simple message to President Barack Obama:

Live up to your rhetoric on climate change.

Deny the Keystone XL pipeline due to its detrimental implications for fostering catastrophic climate chaos.

Put the U.S. — and us — on a path toward climate solutions.

Thelma and Louise, Scott (1991) Let us be clear, the decision as to Keystone XL pipeline is not ‘it’ on climate issues.  If every other fossil foolish project proceeds, the United States keeps promoting coal exports, and there are not a myriad of other shifts for the better globally, approving Keystone XL will only be slight additional pressure on the gas pedal as we hurtle over the climate cliff.  Keystone XL is significant only if we have any seriousness about averting catastrophic climate chaos. Denying Keystone XL will be a statement that President Obama is not interested in emulating Thelma and Louise — that he is serious about putting an end to the United States of Petroleum even when facing pressure from the Petro State to the north to foster greater exploitation of the Tar Sands climate bomb.

These 400 could represent the first of many to come. Facing a ethically (if not outright) corrupt State Department review process, Americans of all colors, races, creeds, economic status, ages, and communities have committed themselves — as part of XLDissent — to follow the 400 into the breach in the call for climate sanity.

Climate change has many faces — weather whiplash is one.  Yet again this winter, the Washington, DC, area is going to see a rapid 30+ degree shift in temperature. The 400 arrived at the White House in temperatures hovering around 60.  By tomorrow, at this time, the White House should be bathed in white — with many inches of snow and ice.  This is a signal of climate chaos reality just as the 400 arrested are a signal calling for sanity when it comes to Keystone XL.

President Obama has said some strong words as to climate change. He has ordered Administration action that will reduce carbon pollution and shift us from ‘business as usual’ toward lesser carbon emissions.  The Keystone XL decision is his — this is an action that he can, and should, take to signal that it is no longer ‘business as usual’ and that we will fight to create a prosperous, climate-friendly future for America.

“Obama was the first President I voted for, and I want real climate action and a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Nick Stracco, a Senior at Tulane University and one of the lead organizers of XL Dissent. “The people that voted him into office have made it absolutely clear what we want, and that’s to reject Keystone XL.”


  1. See after the fold for press release on protest.
  2. See Jamie Henn,, at HuffPost.
  3. National Journal article makes clear that XLDissent doesn’t plan to play softball with the White House.
  4. This MSNBC reporting highlights the political risks from a Keystone XL approval.
  5. For a short explanation, see Why Keystone XL is not in the U.S. national interest.

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→ No CommentsTags: Energy

Portfolio Theory vs the Myth of Intermittent Wind Power

February 24th, 2014 · No Comments

Another guest post from the very thoughtful BruceMcF.

Several points:

Key:  If viewed as “portfolio” (and combined with advancing smart grid and storage options as penetration increases), clean energy can phase into replace 100% of the fossil-foolish electricity grid.

Second, BruceMcF violates the cardinal law of debunking myths (here):   Don’t lead with the myth because, as per The Familiarity Backfire Effect, this just reinforces the myth.

With that in mind, valuable thinking and substance in the post that follows.

In the comment section of the EnergyCollective, I saw the same myth that I have seen time and time again regarding wind power:

Fact 1: renewables are aleatorically intermittent, and so unreliable.Fact 2: due to Fact 1, they cannot provide energy when it is needed, but only when and in the quantity they can

Fact 3: users have to get energy when they need it, not when it is aleatorically provided

Fact 4: to date, there is no storage system that can be useful for a complex industrial society

Fact 5: due to facts 1 to 4, renewables need to have a back up system that can cope with the needs of the users.

Fact 6: that back up system cannot be just stopped and then put to generation in a few seconds or minutes, and usually have to generate at low efficiency to maintain the back up at call point, generating added costs, besides the usuals as maintenance, lost profits, complex distribution grid, etc.

… not surprisingly ending with climate crisis denialism in “Fact” 8, since the name of the game here is clearly not arguing by starting with facts and seeing what conclusion you arrive it, but rather is myth creation and propagation in support of an already selected conclusion.

While many people don’t know what “aleatorically” means, many would actually share the misconception that windpower is an intrinsically intermittent resource. However, for wind power, the “Fact 1″ is in many cases “Falsehood 1″. Even though individual wind turbines are intermittent, for many wind resource regions, it turns out that a substantial share of wind power is not intermittent at all, in either their “by chance (aleatorically) and unpredictable” component or their “by chance (aleatorically), though predictable” component.

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→ No CommentsTags: Energy · economics · electricity · emissions · wind power

Does the editor of Science understand ‘the Dismal Science’?

February 23rd, 2014 · 4 Comments

Reading the latest editorial by Marcia McNutt, the editor of Science magazine, makes one wonder: Does she understand and have any respect for ‘the Dismal Science‘?  Very simply, McNutt failed to demonstrate basic knowledge about economics (that ‘dismal science’) and failed to consider basic business calculations (and ignored many other reasons why Keystone XL is not in the US national interest) in what is thus a flawed argument in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline.

To be clear, counter to McNutt’s erroneous assertions:

  • Building Keystone XL will accelerate and expand the exploitations of Tar Sands and, therefore,
  • Keystone XL pipeline will lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions (and other environmental damage).

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→ 4 CommentsTags: Energy · analysis · economics · tar sands · trains

Steer-ing the climate conversation to sanity re economic analysis

February 21st, 2014 · 1 Comment

Monday evening, the PBS’ Newshour hosted a segment on climate change issues building on Secretary of State John Kerry’s strong comments over the weekend equating climate change with weapons of mass destruction.

The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3-D movie. …

Terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, all challenges that know no borders. The reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.

Secretary Kerry called on citizens — worldwide — to call on leadership to lead on climate change.

Secretary Kerry also commented about disinformation, including disinformation about cost-benefit analysis related to climate change mitigation:

We shouldn’t allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact, nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits.

There are people who say, “Oh, it’s too expensive, we can’t do this.” No. No, folks.

Secretary Kerry continued to highlight that the costs of inaction are too high:

President Obama and I believe very deeply that we do not have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society. One of the arguments that we do hear is that it’s going to be too expensive to be able to address climate change. I have to tell you, that assertion could not be less grounded in fact. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Serious analysts understand that the costs of doing nothing far outweigh the costs of investing in solutions now. You do not need a degree in economics or a graduate degree in business in order to understand that the cost of flooding, the cost of drought, the cost of famine, the cost of health care, the cost of addressing this challenge is simply far less – the costs of addressing this challenge are far less than the costs of doing nothing. Just look at the most recent analysis done by the World Bank, which estimates that by 2050, losses – excuse me one second – losses from flood damage in Asian ports – fishing ports, shipping ports – the losses in those ports alone could exceed $1 trillion annually unless we make big changes to the infrastructure of those ports.

Sadly, the Secretary’s comments suggest that there is a minority who believe that climate mitigation costs outweigh the benefits: that is actually the mainstream perspective.  The ‘mainstream’, however, is sadly horribly wrong due not just disinformation from those opposing action and denying basic science (for whatever set of reasons) but more fundamentally due to the difficulty of assessing ‘wicked problems‘.  Secretary Kerry  also solely discussed the issue in terms of avoiding costs of damaging climate change (an insurance value) as opposed to discussing the direct benefits from action. Analysis that doesn’t stove-pipe issues — that forthrightly seeks to tackle the ‘wicked problem’ — would reveal that the benefits of climate mitigation and adaptation action (massively) outweigh costs — e.g., a set of investments that will provide massive returns.

With these point in mind, within the PBS discussion as to “can the United States compel action on climate change,” World Resources Institute’s (WRIAndrew Steer snuck in a point that merits emphasis:

Most people look at the challenge of climate change and they think, my goodness, it’s going to be costly.

Well, it turns out that, just as the science is firming up, so too the economics is firming up.

It turns out that if we do it right, we can have a transition to a low carbon future that actually has more jobs, more technology and actually benefits people.

This is a critical point:  our economic system will be more fruitful (in the near, mid, and long-term) for all [1] if we pursue a low-carbon future due to better job creation, better living standards, better health, better education, better …, and, oh by the way, reduced risk from catastrophic climate chaos.

Sadly, the global discussion is dominated by ‘it will cost to take action to mitigate climate change’ rather that assessing, embracing, and educating the truth that smart mitigation policies will strengthen economies while reducing climate change risks and costs.

Steer went on to highlight that the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (WRI is one of the member institutions) is seeking to help change this general understanding.

the New Climate Economy project, bringing together some of the world’s foremost economic experts to examine how stronger economic performance can be supported by good climate policy. The project aims to contribute to the global debate about economic policy, and to inform government, business and investment decisions.

“Climate impacts are rising and the evidence of warming is increasingly clear, but most economic analysis still does not properly factor in the increasing risks of climate change or the potential benefits of acting on it,” said Commission Chair and former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón. “We need urgently to identify how we can achieve economic growth and job creation while also reducing emissions and tackling climate change.” ….

“At a time when governments throughout the world are struggling to boost growth, increase access to energy, and improve food security, it is essential that the full costs and benefits of climate policies are more clearly understood,” said Lord Nicholas Stern, Vice-Chair of the Commission and author of the 2006 Stern Review. “It cannot be a case of either achieving growth or tackling global warming. It must be both.”

While there are those who strongly dismiss the potential for ‘green capitalism’ [2], a fundamental truth is that sensible climate mitigation policy offers the potential for accommodating improved human living conditions (improved economic performance) while offering a potential for avoiding utter catastrophic climate chaos.

Secretary Kerry - and others who understand the critical need for climate mitigation policy and investments — would be well served to pay attention to The New Climate Economy Project.


[1] Of course, “all” is not a fully true term.  Those heavily invested in fossil fuel (foolish foolish) endeavors will not necessarily see the economic benefits that the vast majority of humanity and economies will reap from sensible climate policy.  However, we should explicitly recognize that these businesses, individuals, institutions, nations, etc are privatizing profits (to themselves) while socializing costs (pollution costs — health, climate, etc …) to all.

[2] For an in depth discussion — bringing economics and environmentalism — of the challenges of ‘economic growth’ within the fixed constraints of the world’s carrying capacity, see Brian Czech, Supply Shock:  Economic Growth at the Crossroads and the Steady State Solution.  Czech directs the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE). An interesting counterpoint, which should challenge anyone with an open mind, is Ramez Naam, the infinite resource: the power of ideas on a finite planet.

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→ 1 CommentTags: Global Warming · Obama Administration · analysis · climate change · economics · government energy policy