Archives for category: Environment

A friend directed me to a website that reports good news. We all need that during these stressful times.

Here are ten good news stories about the environment.

For example, there is this story.

Researchers Pull Carbon Out of the Sky and ConvertIt to Instant Jet Fuel, Reshaping Aviation for Good.”

The story begins:

A simple, yet world-altering method of sucking CO2 from the air into airplanes where it is converted directly to jet fuel is described in a new paper published in Nature.

With the importance of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at the front and center of so many economic and policy decisions, the invention of an onboard system for carbon-neutral flight would represent a massive step towards addressing the climate crisis.

Some estimates puts the aviation industry’s primarily-CO2 footprint of global emissions at just under 1 billion metric tons, or around 2.4% of all human activities.

Converting atmospheric CO2 into useable hydrocarbon fuel is difficult, and as until recently, expensive both in terms of capital and electricity. Using a molecule that is fully oxidized and thermodynamically stable, there are few keys that can cheaply or efficiently ‘unlock it’ for reuse.

Some catalysts, compounds that can attract and force a change in molecules, can convert CO2 into hydrocarbon molecules of a desirable configuration for jet fuels, but their use is limited because they are expensive or require huge amounts of electricity. They’re also inconsistent with producing hydrocarbon chains with the number of atoms ideal for aviation fuels.

The University of Oxford’s Peter Edwards, Tiancun Xiao, Benzhen Yao, and colleagues designed a new iron-based catalyst that represents an inexpensive way of directly capturing atmospheric CO2 and converting it into a jet fuel-range of hydrocarbons.


The Boston Globe published a story about climate change that scared me. The story has the headline “Climate Change Has Destabilized the Earth’s Poles, Putting the Rest of the Planet in Peril.” President Biden has a sense of urgency about climate change, but thus far he has been unable to move the 50 Republicans and one Democrat (Manchin) to care about the future of the planet. Why is climate change a partisan issue? Don’t we all have a stake in the habitability of the earth? Don’t Republicans care about the world their children and grandchildren will inherit? I don’t get it.

The story begins:

The ice shelf was cracking up. Surveys showed warm ocean water eroding its underbelly. Satellite imagery revealed long, parallel fissures in the frozen expanse, like scratches from some clawed monster. One fracture grew so big, so fast, scientists took to calling it “the dagger.”

“It was hugely surprising to see things changing that fast,” said Erin Pettit. The Oregon State University glaciologist had chosen this spot for her Antarctic field research precisely because of its stability. While other parts of the infamous Thwaites Glacier crumbled, this wedge of floating ice acted as a brace, slowing the melt. It was supposed to be boring, durable, safe.

Now climate change has turned the ice shelf into a threat — to Pettit’s field work, and to the world.

Planet-warming pollution from burning fossil fuels and other human activities has already raised global temperatures more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit. But the effects are particularly profound at the poles, where rising temperatures have seriously undermined regions once locked in ice.

In research presented this week at the world’s biggest earth science conference, Pettit showed that the Thwaites ice shelf could collapse within the next three to five years, unleashing a river of ice that could dramatically raise sea levels. Aerial surveys document how warmer conditions have allowed beavers to invade the Arctic tundra, flooding the landscape with their dams. Large commercial ships are increasingly infiltrating formerly frozen areas, disturbing wildlife and generating disastrous amounts of trash. In many Alaska Native communities, climate impacts compounded the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to food shortages among people who have lived off this land for thousands of years.

“The very character of these places is changing,” said Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and coeditor of the Arctic Report Card, an annual assessment of the state of the top of the world. “We are seeing conditions unlike those ever seen before.”

The rapid transformation of the Arctic and Antarctic creates ripple effects all over the planet. Sea levels will rise, weather patterns will shift, and ecosystems will be altered. Unless humanity acts swiftly to curb emissions, scientists say, the same forces that have destabilized the poles will wreak havoc on the rest of the globe.

“The Arctic is a way to look into the future,” said Matthew Druckenmiller, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and another coeditor of the Arctic Report Card. “Small changes in temperature can have huge effects in a region that is dominated by ice.”

This year’s edition of the report card, which was presented at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting Tuesday, describes a landscape that is transforming so fast scientists struggle to keep up. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as the global average. The period between October and December 2020 was the warmest on record, scientists say.

Separately on Tuesday, the World Meteorological Organization confirmed a new temperature record for the Arctic: 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk on June 20, 2020.

Another story in the Boston Globe said that New England is warming faster than the world as a whole.

New England is warming significantly faster than global average temperatures, and that rate is expected to accelerate as more greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere and dangerous cycles of warming exacerbate climate change, according to a new study.

The authors of the scientific paper, which was published in the most recent edition of the journal Climate, analyzed temperature data over more than a century across the six New England states and documented how winters are becoming shorter and summers longer, jeopardizing much of the region’s unique ecology, economy, and cultural heritage.

Their findings were underscored this year in Greater Boston, which is on track to having the warmest year on record since 1900, according to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Based on the data presented here, and the continuing increase of greenhouse gases, it is clear that humanity does not have its hand on the rudder of climate control,” the authors wrote. “We are in a climate crisis, and we need to take concerted steps to reduce our production of greenhouse gases as soon as possible. The temperature changes that are currently happening . . . threaten to disrupt the seasonality of New England, which will disrupt the ecosystems and the economy of New England….”

The warming in the region already has exceeded a threshold set by the Paris Climate Accord, in which nearly 200 nations agreed to cut their emissions in an effort to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. If global temperatures exceed that amount, the damage from intensifying storms, rising sea levels, droughts, forest fires, and other natural disasters is likely to be catastrophic, scientists say.

With New England’s annual temperatures expected to rise sharply in the coming decades, the authors of the study said the region should expect major disruptions to its economy, including coastal waters that will become increasingly inhospitable to iconic species such as cod and lobster; fewer days when skiing and other winter recreation will be possible; less maple syrup and other agricultural products produced; and a range of other consequences.

Denis Smith writes here about the past, present, and hoped-for future of West Virginia. He urges West Virginians to throw out the leaders who undermine their health, safety, and well-being. He reminds us and them of the state’s past progressive leaders. A lifelong educator, Smith retired as an official in the Ohio State Department of Education, where he oversaw charter schools.

He writes:

In her earlier post, West Virginia: The Battle of Blair Mountain, Diane Ravitch not only reminded us about the emergence of the labor movement but also shed light on how, a century later, the coal industry, though greatly diminished in activity from earlier times, still maintains a grip on the state through the misfeasance of its political leadership in the governor’s office and by its representatives in the Congress.

The story goes back to 1921, when 10,000 coal miners, in reaction to the murder of a union-friendly local sheriff, joined together to check the power of coal companies and the low wages, unsafe working conditions, and horrific housing they provided in company towns situated near the mines operated by these representatives of corporate America.

Inasmuch as I completed almost all of my graduate work in West Virginia and lived there for nearly 20 years, I was familiar with the Blair Mountain story and the sad history of exploitation of the land and workers by extractive industries like coal companies. Unfortunately, I thought that this tale of labor history was widely known but learned otherwise about eight years ago.

At that time, I was asked to teach a number of American history courses for Ohio public school teachers so they could meet the then-new content area Highly Qualified Teacher requirements. A review of the draft course syllabus showed, however, that additional content was needed to bolster the students’ knowledge of the Progressive Era and the emerging American labor movement. In particular, there was no treatment of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire as well as the Battle of Blair Mountain, which remains the largest labor uprising in American history.

I soon learned that none of the students in my class in suburban Columbus, Ohio had any knowledge of either event, and the Blair Mountain post, with its spotlight on West Virginia, sheds light on that state’s history of exploitation by energy companies and the lack of political leadership today to ensure the health, safety,and welfare of its citizens based on that past history.

But in light of the state’s challenges in the past, and with the neglect of the health, safety, and welfare shown by its top political leaders, are West Virginia residents also unknowing of its past history? Or have they been bamboozled by their politicians in not realizing what is at stake in the current political climate?

That lack of leadership to ensure the health and welfare of the populace is shown in the misfeasance and conflicts-of-interest manifested by West Virginia’s Governor Jim Justice and its senior U.S. Senator, Joe Manchin, who also served as the state’s governor before his election to Congress.

As the owner of several coal companies, Justice has a history of exploiting not only the land but of the communities affected. Moreover, like his friend Donald Trump, he also has a history of tax avoidance. In 2019, for example, Justice companies paid $1.2 million in back taxes owed to Knott, Pike, Harlan and Magoffin counties in Kentucky, with more delinquent taxes to be paid at a later date. A review of his tax delinquency showed that he had additional obligations to be paid in Virginia and West Virginia, along with past due mine safety fines.

Yes, mine safety fines owed by companies owned by the governor of the state where 10,000 miners revolted against unsafe working conditions exactly a century ago. But that was then, right? Or are we back to the future and the past simultaneously?

Then we have the case of Senator Joe Manchin, a predecessor of Jim Justice in the West Virginia governor’s office. The current Build Back Better legislation would provide funds to deal with climate change, expand Medicare, and assist families with lower costs for child care and elder care. Yet Manchin, who has interests in the energy industry and a daughter who formerly was the CEO of Mylan, a pharmaceutical company, seems to have a conflict-of-interest when it comes to supporting lower prescription drug costs and dealing with the environment.

When many communities lack safe drinking water caused by years of mining and health consequences caused by such mineral extraction activity in West Virginia, wouldn’t you think that the political leadership on both sides of the aisle would support legislation that would protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents?

If you have financial interests in a top industry, as Manchin and Justice do, that’s asking far too much.

On Sunday, Manchin announced, appropriately enough, on Fox News that he does not support the Build Back Better Act. This is what Bernie Sanders had to say about his colleague, Joe Manchin:

“Well, I think he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia, to tell him why he doesn’t have the guts to take on the drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” he said. “West Virginia is one of the poorest states in this country. You got elderly people and disabled people who would like to stay at home. He’s going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he doesn’t want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and eyeglasses.”

When it comes to drug companies and Manchin’s lack of courage in dealing with them, Bernie Sanders is certainly knowledgeable about some family history. And then some. He went on to add this observation:

“If he doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world.”

Manchin used the canard of not wanting to increase the national debt as one of his arguments in opposing Build Back Better. But he does not acknowledge that West Virginia greatly benefits from all types of federal spending. A study several years ago demonstrated that a number of red states, including West Virginia, receive much more in federal dollars than they receive from the treasury. As examples, West Virginia receives $2.07, Kentucky $1.90, and South Carolina $1.71 for every dollar sent to Washington.

In light of his concern about the national debt, would Manchin favor West Virginia being treated on a par with states like Massachusetts and New York, which receive far less than a dollar back from the treasury for every dollar sent to Washington?

So as I reflect a bit more about the Mine Wars and the Battle of Blair Mountain, I am puzzled by the descendants of these mine workers offering such enthusiastic support to the likes of Governor Jim Justice and Senator Joe Manchin, who obstruct legislation that would improve the health, safety, nutrition, and educational opportunities for West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the union.

There are two great West Virginia Senators who must be turning in their graves as they view the likes of the state’s present political leadership. The first, Jennings Randolph, entered the U.S. Senate in 1933 at the start of FDR’s New Deal and was a champion of Social Security, Medicare, voting rights and the abolition of the Poll Tax. Then there was Robert Byrd, who served with Randolph as the long-time Senate leader who distinguished himself as a check on many of Ronald Reagan’s policies, opposed the Iraq War, and in his last days championed the Affordable Care Act from a wheelchair on the Senate floor.

In a Senate speech on February 12, 2003 that attacked the march toward war with Iraq, Byrd said that “We are truly “sleepwalking through history.” In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.”

In the same vein, it’s past time for the people of West Virginia to emerge from their sleepwalking and support leaders, unlike Manchin and Justice, who will put the interests of the people first and not those of the pharmaceutical industry and energy interests.

One more thing. Dear West Virginians, the next time you vote, remember your ancestors who fought for justice (small j, of course) and basic human rights at Blair Mountain. It’s now the 21st century. Jennings Randolph and Robert Byrd might be pleased with your awakening.

I subscribe to Garrison Keillor’s blog and find him to be consistently interesting and often entertaining. This column is dead serious. It reminds us that we face a serious crisis that endangers us all. Human activity and negligence endangers our environment, on which we all depend. He says in his title that it’s time to talk. I say it’s time to act.

Garrison Keillor writes:

My generation, the pre-Boomers, now known as the Humors, had it pretty easy, coming of age in the afterglow of World War II, believing in perpetual prosperity and progress, much of which came true, even as rock ’n’ roll provided the pleasure of rebellion without any consequence. Great medical advances came along just as we needed them, and Medicare to pay for them. We are lucky to have been born when we were.

I see the thousands of young protesters in the streets of Glasgow bearing signs such as “I Have To Clean Up My Mess, Why Don’t You Clean Up Yours?” and “The Dinosaurs Thought They Had Time Too” and “Stop Climate Crime” and “If Not Now, When?” at the UN Climate Change Conference, where the United States and China have issued vague promises of eliminating carbon someday but without a timetable. So much for American leadership; I guess we’re waiting for Iceland or Ecuador to show the way.

The young people in the streets are aware that a time of suffering lies ahead. Science is pretty clear about the ecological impact of industrial agriculture and the rapacious destruction of forests and overfishing of the seas and the virtual disappearance of many insect species, but none of this has enough political impact to turn the ship of state. Statistics don’t move people, recognizable images do, such as the plight of a polar bear on an ice floe miles from land. We’re fond of polar bears in zoos, and if we could get a video of this bear drowning in glacial melt, it would move people. Or if Yellowstone blew up and ushered in a year of darkness. That could be the Pearl Harbor that moves our country to action.

Greta Thunberg, the 18-year-old Swedish activist who, in 2018 after Sweden’s fierce hot summer of wildfires and omens of disaster, sat outside the Swedish parliament every day to get her message across. Her message was simple: “Our house is on fire.”

Five words, not one wasted, and you could paint it on any wall and everyone would know what you mean.

Children have great power to shame the rest of us, as every parent knows, and this cause is worth their effort. It’s about the survival of our kind. Everything we love is in the balance, language, art, music, history, the art of story, dance, Eros, baseball, bird-watching, and the effect of apocalypse on the bond market would not be good.

The last Good War was won by boys who rushed to sign up, after seeing newsreels of sunken battleships in Hawaii. My hero Bob Altman was 16 and lied about his age to get into the Army Air Force and pilot a B-17 bomber in the Pacific. The children marching in Glasgow are capable of heroism, but they’ve put their faith in the conscience of politicians, not a good bet. One of the two major American political parties is in denial that global warming exists because it is devoted to an illiterate leader. That party appears likely to take over Congress in 2022 and two years later No. 45 may well become No. 47. If he does, we may have a constitutional convention at which the presidency is made a lifetime term. Meanwhile, we have a Supreme Court with a solid majority of Ayn Rand justices who deny that the state has the right to govern individual behavior. Gun control will be dead, conservation will be an individual responsibility.

I don’t see that bunch leading the country toward clean energy. So we’ll go on enduring wildfires and horrific hurricanes and drought and the melting of the arctic ice cap and nothing will change. We’re living in a tunnel and a train is approaching. Mr. Bezos and Mr. Musk can move to the moon but the rest of us are earthlings.

I put my faith in scientific enterprise. Someone will come up with a way to turn plankton into something that looks like and tastes like ground beef. Someone else will figure out how to make linguine from dead leaves. Then there’ll be nuclear airliners.

People don’t like to be lectured and made to feel stupid, Mr. Science. Get busy and invent a car that runs on urine. So much gas is wasted by people driving around looking for a lavatory. This will come as a great relief.

To subscribe to Garrison Keillor and Friends Garrisonkeillor.Substack.com


This article by Ed Montini in the Arizona Republic explains the childish behavior of Republican leaders, who engage in taunts instead of reasoned discourse about their agenda. They don’t want to expand Medicare. They don’t want universal pre-K. They don’t support efforts to combat climate change. They oppose paid family leave for families in need after surgery or childhood. They are against a federal guarantee of two years tuition-free community college. They oppose higher taxes on billionaires. They don’t care about voting rights. They don’t want to expand opportunity. They don’t want to reduce inequality. They don’t invest in the future.

What are they for? Tax breaks for the rich.

Since they have no agenda, their goal is to make sure Biden can’t succeed. After blocking everything he proposes (with the help of Senator Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Krysten Sinema), they have nothing to offer other than the schoolyard chant.

Ed Mancini was walking his dog early one morning, and he saw two other dog owners engage in conversation, a man and a woman. As they part ways, the man says to the woman, “Let’s go, Brandon!” then turning away.

The woman is puzzled and asks Montini if he knows what that phrase means.

So, first thing in the morning I am called upon to explain this recent cultural phenomenon to one of the few American grown-ups who has managed to remain a fully functioning adult, while most of the rest of us have been transformed by social media into crude, smart-alecky 8-year-olds.

There’s that Southwest Airlines pilot

This particular sign was a the Boston College-Syracuse football game Oct. 30. A fan’s juvenile jab at President Joe Biden.Joshua Bessex

For instance, the woman had not heard about the Southwest Airlines pilot who recently signed off on a flight, telling passengers, “Let’s go, Brandon.”

Or about how the whole thing began when a race car driver named Brandon Brown won a NASCAR race and, while being interviewed on TV, the crowd started chanting, “F–k Joe Biden.” The flummoxed interviewer suggested they might be saying, “Let’s go, Brandon.”

After that, the phrase became a way for grown-up 8-year-olds to say the f-word about Biden without actually using it.

Really.

Elected Republican politicians in Washington, D.C., started using the phrase.

Donald Trump began selling “Let’s go Brandon” T-shirts through his Save America PAC for $45, and grown-up 8-year-olds in America actually purchased them.

$45.

There are adults who channel their 8-year-old selves by bringing signs saying, “Let’s go, Brandon” to public events, as well as some who scribble the message in paint on the rear window of their automobiles….

How to answer someone who says such a thing

Of course, we all learned as children that infantile behavior tends to draw some type of backlash….

After I explain the whole “Let’s go, Brandon” thing to the woman who’d been walking her dog she says, “That seems incredibly childish. How are you supposed to answer someone who says such a thing?”

I tell her that, as a grown-up, she would be best served simply ignoring it.

As for the rest of us, suffering as we do from social-media-induced age regression, I’d respond, “I’m rubber and you’re glue …”

Reach Montini at ed.montini@arizonarepublic.com.

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After months of negotiations among Democrats over the fate of President Biden’s historic $3.5 trillion proposal, a compromise seems to have been reached (although nothing is certain). At the insistence of Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema, the size of the ambitious plan has been cut in half. Many of its parts were cut away, including two years of free community college and 12 weeks of paid family leave for medical reasons (the U.S. is the only major nation that doesn’t provide it). Three Democratic members of the House killed the provision to lower prescription drugs. And of course the Republicans opposed everything.

This is how Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect described it.

World’s Biggest Half-Full, Half-Empty Glass

Biden’s bill is historically great and bitterly disappointing.


Well—had we not anticipated, had it never seemed, that the Democrats, having won control of Congress and the White House, would proceed to enact paid family leave, expansions of Medicare, a permanent Child Tax Credit, disincentives to fossil fuel use, the ability to negotiate down drug prices, and such—had we not counted on that, then today would be a day of unmitigated celebration. Instead, celebration of the groundbreaking social provisions that actually are in the bill President Biden outlined today—universal pre-K, child care subsidies, incentives for clean energy, commonsense tax reforms that will compel corporations to pay some taxes, and the like—has to be mitigated by the fate of the even more commonsense provisions that now lie on the cutting-room floor.

For me, the most absurd relegation to that floor has been killing the proposal to give Medicare the ability to bring down drug prices. Seldom is a serious change to social and economic policy backed by more than three-fourths of the public, but this one surely was. Reportedly, President Biden has persuaded Kyrsten Sinema to accept a deal so preposterously weak—one that enables Medicare to negotiate down the price of drugs whose patents have expired (that is, after the big drug companies have wrung out the lion’s share of profits on those drugs, and which simply incentivizes those companies to extend their patents)—that few Democrats on the Hill seem inclined to vote for it. (Its merits are so nonexistent that the provision was omitted from Biden’s bill.)

By opposing giving Medicare the capacity to stop Big Pharma from charging Americans vastly more for their medications than they charge the citizens of any other nation, Sinema and three House Democrats effectively killed the one provision of the proposed $3.5 trillion package that would have most reduced the cost of living, significantly slowed the pace of inflation, and quite possibly moved more swing votes into the Democrats’ column than any other.

Leading the resistance to this measure in the House was Scott Peters, the California Democrat whose North San Diego County district includes many of the biotech companies that reap fortunes from high drug prices. While Sinema and the two other House Democrats who joined with Peters can likely be successfully primaried, the economy of Peters’s district is so dependent on high drug prices that he might well survive such a challenge…

One provision of the PRO Act—which, taken as a whole, would have been a new Magna Carta for American workers—has made it into Biden’s bill. The provision requires employers to pay fines ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 when they commit unfair labor practices, such as firing employees for their pro-union activities. Under current law, there are effectively no penalties assessed on employers when they’re found guilty of such practices. By excluding the more fundamental provisions of the PRO Act from Biden’s bill, chiefly because they don’t fit under rules of reconciliation, the employer-employee playing field remains steeply tilted toward employers, but if these fines pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian (an open question), they do reduce that tilt by a decidedly modest margin.

As befits a half-empty, if also half-full, glass.


~ HAROLD MEYERSON

Linda Lyon, a military veteran and former president of the Arizona School Board Association, writes here about the devastating effects of climate change and the lack of will to confront it.

Consider some of the evidence she offers:

The news over the past month has been full of climate change stories. You’ve no doubt seen that Lake Powell, Lake Mead and the Great Salt Lake are all at record lows and although drops were predicted, the pace at which they are happening, is shocking. Lake Powell is now below the target level requiring mandatory cutbacks next year to Arizona, Nevada and Mexico with California following if the decline continues.

Record heat blasted the Pacific Northwest last month, with Portland hitting 116 degrees and Seattle 108 degrees, both record highs. Even more surprising, was the 121 degree temperature hit in the British Columbiavillage of Lytton.

The deaths of almost 200 people is attributed to the recent Pacific Northwest heat wave, 50 hawk chickswere found to have flung themselves from their nests 50 feet high just to try to escape the heat, an estimated one billion mussels, sea stars and other shore-dwellers died from exposure to unusually hot air, and countless fish are struggling to survive, including the endangered Chinook salmon which can’t survive beyond their egg stage in overheated waters.

And it isn’t just in the Pacific Northwest. As of July 23rd, the U.S. had set 585 all-time heat records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). One place, Death Valley, hit 130, considered the hottest reliable temperature ever recorded there.

According to the University of Nebraska’s Drought Monitor, 60% of the U.S. West is in exceptional or extreme drought with less than 1% of the West not in drought or abnormally dry. Average rain- and snowfall per year in the West has fallen from 22 inches per year in the 1980s and 1990s, to 19 inches from 2010 to 2020 and only 13.6 inches from July 2020 to June 2021. Now in a megadrought, the West has extremely low soil moisture, setting the stage for more frequent, and much larger and hotter wildfires.

These fires now rage across the U.S. West, and in Oregon alone, over 475,000 acres have burnt thus far in eight fires, with the largest, the Bootleg fire, generating so much energy and extreme heat that it’s creating its own clouds and thunderstorms and sending dense smoke 3,000 miles from one side of the country to the other. By the third week in July, 60 other fires were burning across the American West for a total of over one million acres consumed by fire. In fact, the average million acres burned in wildfires each year has doubled in the past two decades. And, they are happening earlier in the year and more often over the years, negatively impacting the ecosystem’s ability to regenerate.

Open the link and read it all.

This is a realistic and frightening analysis of the paralysis in Washington, D.C. on climate change. President Biden proposed an ambitious agenda to act against the pernicious causes abd effects of climate change. The Republicans refused to support Biden’s plans and they refuse to tax the rich, the billionaires whose gold will be useless on a dead planet.

Michael Grunwald of Politico writes:

CRUEL SUMMER — The heat wave that fricasseed the Pacific Northwest this week, along with the evocatively named Lava Fire in northern California, has inspired a lot of rhetoric about a “climate emergency.” But the newest inconvenient truth is that climate change isn’t the kind of emergency that inspires emergency action in Washington.

Most of President Joe Biden’s ambitious climate proposals were stripped out of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that he’s urging Congress to pass. And it’s not even clear whether Congress will comply.

This is partly a human nature problem. The now-focused, more-wanting, change-averse biases of our species aren’t well-suited for an all-out war against an invisible enemy that won’t kill most of us in the short term but can’t be defeated unless we transform our civilization in the not-too-long term. This week’s 116-degree nightmare in Portland, Ore., ought to remind us that we’re gradually filling our atmosphere with the same heat-trapping gases that have rendered Venus inhospitable to human life. 

But most of the earth is still quite hospitable most of the time, and many of us have air conditioners for when it isn’t. We’ll freak out again this summer as wildfires rage across California, and then we’ll stop freaking out once the fires stop burning.

A thermometer sign displays a temperature of 117 degrees Fahrenheit on June 15 in Phoenix.

A thermometer sign displays a temperature of 117 degrees Fahrenheit on June 15 in Phoenix. | Caitlin O’Hara/Getty Images

The fact is, even though many of us acknowledge the climate is in crisis, few of us live with a real crisis mentality, as if we truly believed our planetary home was on fire. We’re busy. We’re not going on #ClimateStrike with Greta Thunberg. We don’t like thinking about the enormousness of the crisis, and we don’t like the screechy apocalyptic rhetoric surrounding it. We default to the blasé reaction lampooned in the classic Onion headline: “Yeah, Yeah, Nation Gets It, We Rapidly Approaching End of Critical Window to Avert Climate Collapse or Whatever.” 

But this is why we ordinary citizens outsource our crisis-response responsibilities to elected representatives, who are supposed to deal with urgent threats to our civilization whether or not most of their constituents are screeching for action. Their failure to do that is not just an existential human-nature problem. It’s also a prosaic Washington problem.

The problem is that Biden doesn’t have the votes he needs for all the climate action he wants. Most Washington Republicans either don’t want to give Biden a win in a zero-sum partisan war, reject climate science, aren’t willing to risk the wrath of climate-science-rejecting voters, or some combination of those factors. 

Five Republican senators were willing to support a stripped-down infrastructure bill that included generous funding for public transit and electric-vehicle chargers, but not massive wind and solar subsidies, tax credits for electric-vehicle buyers, and other climate provisions.

Biden has said he plans to fight for the rest of his climate agenda, including a strict clean electricity mandate, in a separate reconciliation bill that would require only Democratic support. But it’s not clear how much of that agenda the quasi-deputy-president Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia will accept.

The young climate activists of the Sunrise Movement have been protesting outside the White House, calling Biden a coward, screaming “No Compromises, No Excuses.” But not having the votes in your own party’s Senate caucus to avoid a compromise is a pretty good excuse.

Washington enacted $6 trillion worth of Covid relief, proving that it’s capable of responding to an emergency that was killing thousands of Americans every day. Climate change has never been treated like that kind of emergency. Time Magazine called for a war on global warming with a green-bordered cover in 2008, but we never went to war. Bloomberg BusinessWeek ran a wake-up cover declaring “It’s Global Warming, Stupid” after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Record-shattering heat in Seattle might be another wake-up call. The last seven years were the seven hottest years in recorded history. 

One illuminating battle in the current infrastructure wars involves “pay-fors,” as Republicans push for the infrastructure bill to be paid for in part by new user fees on electric vehicle owners. They’re not just trying to impose a political tax on electric cars that they see as a Democratic form of transportation favored by rich urban progressives; they also make the legitimate substantive argument that electric-vehicle drivers are literal “free riders” who contribute to the wear and tear on U.S. highways without paying the gasoline taxes that help finance highway maintenance.

But when it comes to the greenhouse-gas-emitting activities that are making the earth a bit more like Venus every day, we’re all free riders. The big problem with America’s fossil-friendly public policies since the Industrial Revolution is that they haven’t imposed user fees on us for contributing to the wear and tear on our atmosphere — by flying, eating meat, and especially these days, running our air conditioners.

The whole point of climate policies like clean energy subsidies or Biden’s clean electricity standard or a carbon tax or Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal is to encourage us to pay a user fee for our use of the atmosphere, creating a financial incentive to reduce our impact on the environment. But it’s going to be tough to pass those kinds of policies until our politicians act like the emergency is real.

The tiny city of Cudahy, California, is locked in battle with the mega-powerful KIPP charter chain over KIPP’s determination to build a charter school on a toxic waste site. KIPP is avoiding the usual environmental review that would be required for public schools. Local environmental activists and parents are raising money to fight the KIPP machine.

Larry Buhl writes in “Capital & Main”:

At issue are a state law allowing different building standards for different types of schools, and a planning code, obscure to most local residents, that allows a charter school company to build a new school without thoroughly cleaning up the site’s alleged toxins.

Using a process that allows the company to skirt state environmental rules, KIPP SoCal Public Schools plans to build a new elementary school on land that its own reports show contains toxic substances including lead and arsenic. The company can do that because the regulations for building or renovating charter and private schools are less restrictive than for state-funded district schools, and because Cudahy has, according to critics and plaintiffs in a lawsuit, used the wrong planning code to approve the project.

If charter schools were public schools, there would be a full environmental impact review.

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and a bevy of rightwing commentators blamed wind turbines, which supply 10% of the state’s energy, and “the Green New Deal, which doesn’t exist, for the failure of the state’s power supply. He learned “the Big Lie” from his hero Trump.

As millions of people across Texas struggled to stay warm Tuesday amid massive cold-weather power outages, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) directed his ire at one particular failure in the state’s independent energy grid: frozen wind turbines.


“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Abbott said to host Sean Hannity on Tuesday. “Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10 percent of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis. … It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary.”


The governor’s arguments were contradicted by his own energy department, which outlined how most of Texas’s energy losses came from failures to winterize the power-generating systems, including fossil fuel pipelines, The Washington Post’s Will Englund reported. But Abbott’s debunked claims were echoed by other conservatives this week who have repeatedly blamed clean energy sources for the outages crippling the southern U.S.


[The Texas grid got crushed because its operators didn’t see the need to prepare for cold weather]


In fact, typically mild winters and a lack of state regulations in Texas combined to leave electricity providers unprepared for the extreme cold that has suddenly hit the state, The Post reported. Nearly every source of energy — from wind turbines to natural gas to nuclear power — have failed to some degree following a harsh storm that covered the region with thick layers of snow and ice.
Although renewable energy sources did partially fail, they only contributed to 13 percent of the power outages, while providing about a quarter of the state’s energy in winter. Thermal sources, including coal, gas and nuclear, lost almost twice as many gigawatts of power because of the cold, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s electric grid operator.

Critics have also noted that wind turbines can operate in climates as cold as Greenland if they’re properly prepared for the weather.


Despite the much larger dip in energy from fossil fuels, Republican politicians have seized on the outages to attack the Green New Deal and Democrats’ push to address climate change by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels.


In his Fox News interview, Abbott did not address the fact that most of the state’s power comes from fossil fuels and that ERCOT had planned to produce far more power from natural gas than became available as the cold set in, contributing a stunning deficit amid the freezing weather. On Tuesday, Abbott called for a state investigation into ERCOT’s failings, saying the agency had been “anything but reliable” following the winter storm.


Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.
The governor was not the only prominent Texas Republican to blame clean energy for the historic power outages. After Fox News host Tucker Carlson inaccurately told viewers that the state’s power grid had become “totally reliant on windmills,” former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who served as energy secretary under President Donald Trump, joined Carlson in railing against the Green New Deal, which has not been enacted in Texas or nationally.


“If this Green New Deal goes forward the way that the Biden administration appears to want it to, then we’ll have more events like we’ve had in Texas all across the country,” Perry said in another Fox News segment.


Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) shared a detailed accounting on Twitter of how the state’s power grid failed, noted the roles that natural gas and nuclear power played — but also used the moment to attack wind turbines on Tuesday.


“Bottom line: Thank God for baseload energy made up of fossil fuels,” Crenshaw tweeted. “Had our grid been more reliant on the wind turbines that froze, the outages would have been much worse.”


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has been a strong proponent of the Green New Deal proposal, slammed Texas Republicans early Wednesday.
“The infrastructure failures in Texas are quite literally what happens when you don’t pursue a Green New Deal,” she said in a tweet.


Texas Democrats also criticized Abbott in a statement Monday, calling out Republican leaders for allowing the power to go out in the state that produces the most energy in the nation.
“If we had a governor open to alternative sources of energy, Texas might be in a situation in which we have energy reserves to efficiently power our state, instead of the reckless leadership we have witnessed time and time again from Greg Abbott,” the Texas Democrats said.


Wind turbines are working very well in far colder climates. Abbott probably outsourced the state’s energy needs to profit-seeking entrepreneurs who cut corners to make more money.

In another article in the Washington Post, the blame is placed where it belongs: on short-sighted politicians who didn’t plan for a worst-case scenarios.

When it gets really cold, it can be hard to produce electricity, as customers in Texas and neighboring states are finding out. But it’s not impossible. Operators in Alaska, Canada, Maine, Norway and Siberia do it all the time.


What has sent Texas reeling is not an engineering problem, nor is it the frozen wind turbines blamed by prominent Republicans. It is a financial structure for power generation that offers no incentives to power plant operators to prepare for winter. In the name of deregulation and free markets, critics say, Texas has created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service.


It’s a “Wild West market design based only on short-run prices,” said Matt Breidert, a portfolio manager at a firm called Ecofin.


And yet the temporary train wreck of that market Monday and Tuesday has seen the wholesale price of electricity in Houston go from $22 a megawatt-hour to about $9,000. Meanwhile, 4 million Texas households have been without power.


One utility company, Griddy, which sells power at wholesale rates to retail customers without locking in a price in advance, told its patrons Tuesday to find another provider before they get socked with tremendous bills.


The widespread failure in Texas and, to a lesser extent, Oklahoma and Louisiana in the face of a winter cold snap shines a light on what some see as the derelict state of America’s power infrastructure, a mirror reflection of the chaos that struck California last summer.


Edward Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston, said the disinvestment in electricity production reminds him of the last years of the Soviet Union, or of the oil sector today in Venezuela.
“They hate it when I say that,” he said.