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Posts Tagged ‘Carbon Dioxide’

Last weekend professors and scientists from four major Texas universities joined forces to write an editorial in the Houston Chronicle defending the science of global warming from skeptics and deniers.  Check it out!

On global warming, the science is solid

In recent months, e-mails stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom and errors in one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports have caused a flurry of questions about the validity of climate change science.

These issues have led several states, including Texas, to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide (also known as greenhouse gases) are a threat to human health.

However, Texas’ challenge to the EPA’s endangerment finding on carbon dioxide contains very little science. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott admitted that the state did not consult any climate scientists, including the many here in the state, before putting together the challenge to the EPA. Instead, the footnotes in the document reveal that the state relied mainly on British newspaper articles to make its case.

Contrary to what one might read in newspapers, the science of climate change is strong. Our own work and the immense body of independent research conducted around the world leaves no doubt regarding the following key points: (more…)

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This editorial from the Dallas Morning News is a little bit old news, responding to Governor Perry’s lawsuit against the EPA’s endangerment finding about carbon dioxide, BUT I really like the message that clean air vs. jobs is a false choice.  Because everything we would have to do to create a new clean economy, is a JOB. Windmills don’t manufacture themselves, solar panels aren’t going to get up on the roof unless someone bolts them there, and weatherstripping isn’t going to take it off without an audience protect your house from air conditioning leaks unless someone gets in there and give you an energy audit. So, better late than never: read on!

Editorial: Clean air vs. jobs is a false choice

Sure, it buttresses his campaign theme, casting him as the protector of Texas jobs against employment-crippling federal environmental mandates. And Perry is right when he says Texas has a lot a stake.

But his approach is troublingly shortsighted. The lawsuit relies on thinking about the state’s past, not its future, and it falsely pits jobs against clean air. Instead of opposing the tougher air quality rules, Austin would be wise to focus instead on how best to be a leader in a less carbon-dependent economy.

Our state emits up to 35 percent of all greenhouse gases released by industrial sources in the United States, and the state’s energy sector remains a prominent generator of jobs. So it’s vital that Texas work on two tracks simultaneously – clean air and clean jobs.

Efforts to buck the shift won’t save jobs, but rather will tether Texas to 20th-century jobs in the 21st century and, thus, have considerable negative consequences on the state’s long-term economic health. Dirty air endangers health and also kills jobs, as California learned the hard way.

Texas’ legal gymnastics also are odd because the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases has already been decided. (more…)

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You may have seen the political bloviating earlier this week when Governor Perry announced he would sue the EPA over their endangerment finding on CO2.   Or that Attorney General Greg Abbott signed on, as did Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples, who all ended up calling the science behind climate change flawed, saying:

The state’s legal action indicates EPA’s Endangerment Finding is legally unsupported because the agency outsourced its scientific assessment to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has been discredited by evidence of key scientists’ lack of objectivity, coordinated efforts to hide flaws in their research, attempts to keep contravening evidence out of IPCC reports and violation of freedom of information laws.

You may have also seen our response.  If you’re a regular reader here, I hope so!

Perry, Abbott, and Staples claim that the science is flawed on climate change, citing recent controversy surrounding the IPCC (a-hem, that’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, gentlemen. Maybe the legal brief should be thrown out due to citation of a ficticious panel? We’ll call it INTERNATL-PANELGATE! We’ve really got ‘em now!).  Too bad the controversy hasn’t affected the main thrust of the underlying science, only some of the claims. Too bad the conclusions of the IPCC have also been independently adopted and verified by the US National Academy of Sciences and the collected opinions of 13 US Gov’t agencies (like those liberals at the CIA and the USDA), collectively put together in the US Global Change Research Program. Despite its problems, the main conclusions of the IPCC’s report, that temperatures were increasing and climate was changing due to greenhouse gas emissions, remains intact.

Too bad Perry, Abbott, and Staples (or maybe more accurately Larry, Moe, and Shemp?) didn’t seek the advice of…oh, actual scientists, like maybe the Texas state climatologist?  Didn’t know we had a climatologist?  (Maybe Governor Perry didn’t either?) Well, we do, and before you dismiss him as some granola-chewing-Austin-based-hippie-liberal, he’s actually anything but.

Meet Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, of the Texas A&M Department of Atmospheric Sciences, appointed to the position of State Climatologist by noted liberal and hater of greenhouse gases George W. Bush. (hope you caught the irony there).

In a sweeping interview with Brad Johnson’s Wonk Room blog, he fired back against Perry’s allegations that the endangerment finding is flawed:  “Anthropogenic increases of greenhouse gas concentrations clearly present a danger to the public welfare, and I agree with the EPA’s findings in that sense.”

To be fair, Dr. N-G also specifically added a caveat to his comments, “Just to be clear, I do not “utterly dismiss” the Texas petition. I have contributed to pointing out errors in the IPCC reports in my own blog, and it is appropriate for the State of Texas to inquire how much of the IPCC findings will ultimately be called into question. Nor would my considered scientific opinion constitute adequate independent grounds for an EPA finding.”

Wow.  A reasonable climatologist, but one who supports the broad scientific consensus.  What scientific consensus is that, you ask?  Well, as a result of this interview, Dr. Andy Dessler (who we have long been a fan of here at TexasVox) and the entire A&M Dept of Atmo Sciences released the following statement:

Dr. Andrew Dessler, a climatologist at Texas A&M University and author of The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change, tells the Wonk Room in an email interview that the entire Department of Atmospheric Sciences agrees with the IPCC:

I, along with all of the other faculty in the department, agree with the main conclusions of the IPCC.”In 2007, the Texas A&M Department of Atmospheric Sciences issued a statement that global warming from emissions of greenhouse gases risks “serious adverse impacts on our environment and society” — the key basis for the EPA’s endangerment finding:

1. It is virtually certain that the climate is warming, and that it has warmed by about 0.7 deg. C over the last 100 years.
2. It is very likely that humans are responsible for most of the recent warming.
3. If we do nothing to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, future warming will likely be at least two degrees Celsius over the next century.
4. Such a climate change brings with it a risk of serious adverse impacts on our environment and society.When asked if the latest attacks on the IPCC affect their stance, Dr. Dessler responded that “the Department stands by its statement. You can quote me on that.”

You can read the entire interview here.  But, when it comes to this one right here, it’s Science 1 – Perry, Abbott and Staples 0.

Or maybe no one is keeping score, and we just chalk this up as more election year posturing?

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Perry Flaunts State, Federal Law in EPA Lawsuit

Statement from Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office and Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club

This morning Governor Perry attempted to show Texas voters that he is bigger than both Texas and federal law by enacting a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s(EPA) endangerment finding for carbon dioxide, but instead just further highlighted his failure to protect Texans’ health and the safety and long term stability of our economy and climate.

Instead of suing the EPA, Perry should be taking proactive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build up our clean energy economy.  Our governor likes to brag about all he’s done to promote wind and energy efficiency and the emissions Texas has avoided as a result, but at the same time he is hammering through a second Texas coal rush that will negate all that hard work and add 77 million tons of CO2 to Texas’ already overheated air.

Perry’s blustering behavior has actually caused Public Citizen to file a lawsuit against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for its failure to regulate global warming gasses. Texas law clearly requires that “air contaminants” be regulated, and defines contaminants as follows:

“‘Air contaminant’ means particulate matter, radioactive material, dust, fumes, gas, mist, smoke, vapor, or odor, including any combination of those items, produced by processes other than natural.” Tex. Health & Safety Code § 382.003(2).

Perry has proudly demonstrated willful ignorance of this portion of Texas law time and time again, and has ordered state agencies such as the TCEQ to ignore it as well. For this reason and his actions today we are issuing our Governor a Citizens’ Citation to cease and desist endangering the health of breathers, the economy and the climate in Texas by continuing to permit coal plants and other large sources of CO2.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Also cross-posted at our Energy Blog:

President Obama announced this morning he was putting the government on a low carbon diet. Through a series of initiatives, he hopes to decrease energy consumption through efficiency and switching to alternative energy that is less carbon intensive.

As the single largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy, the Federal Government spent more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone. Achieving the Federal GHG pollution reduction target will reduce Federal energy use by the equivalent of 646 trillion BTUs, equal to 205 million barrels of oil, and taking 17 million cars off the road for one year. This is also equivalent to a cumulative total of $8 to $11 billion in avoided energy costs through 2020.

“As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient,” said President Obama. “Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift Federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy.”

Fun fact 1: The US government uses approximately as much energy as the entire country of Austria.

Fun Fact 2: Similar initiatives made by states have netted huge results. The state government of Utah, led by governor Jon Huntsman (who Obama named ambassador to China, you may remember), invested $1.5 million in energy efficiency for government agencies expecting a 10 year payback. They made it back in 3– and now they save over half a million dollars in energy costs a year. Efficiency is an economy of scale– and I’m willing to be the entire government of Utah would not even fill in one of the large federal agency buildings around DC.

Fun Fact 3: Texas has its own “No Regrets” greenhouse gas reduction strategy in accordance with the passage of SB 184, which Public Citizen supported: don’t forget that Sunday is the last day to submit your energy efficiency ideas to the state comptroller’s office. For more info see: www.TexasNoRegrets.org

I think this is a domestic spending freeze everyone can get behind.

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If you were as frustrated as I was watching world leaders dither in Copenhagen while the Earth heats up and island nations continue making evacuation plans, there is good news on the horizon for Austin.

Austin Energy has developed a consensus plan that would establish our own CO2 cap and reduction plan. The great news is that by 2020, Austin’s investments in solar, wind and energy efficiency would allow us to reduce our dependence on the Fayette coal plant by nearly 30 percent! This energy plan will also bring a wide variety of jobs to the city, from innovative clean technology companies to installation, retrofit and construction jobs.

We need support to pass the plan now!

Public Citizen has helped form a coalition called Clean Energy for Austin. We’ve brought together businesses large and small, from Applied Materials to Greenling Organic Delivery, and 12 nonprofits such as the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund to call on City Council to pass the energy plan.

The more individuals and businesses that join the coalition, the stronger the message to City Hall that our world-renowned green city must remain a leader in reducing pollution and creating a green economy.

Sign on as an endorser of Clean Energy for Austin!

Thanks,

Matt Johnson

Some background: This fall, I had the privilege of representing Public Citizen on the city’s task force charged with analyzing Austin Energy’s 2020 plan and making additional recommendations. We voted unanimously to upgrade Austin Energy’s energy efficiency goal, create a special self-sustaining market for local renewable power like solar rooftops and parking lots, and protect consumers’ pocketbooks by conducting periodic reviews in case costs change dramatically.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Great editorial in the Dallas Morning News this weekend. We couldn’t agree more :)

Editorial: Texas, a state of denial on pollution rules

To the surprise of no one, the Environmental Protection Agency announced tougher ozone limits this week. The move to tighten pollution standards had long been anticipated as evidence mounted to illustrate the serious health risks associated with smog exposure.

In Texas, a state with notoriously dirty air, the appropriate response from leaders would be to get to work. Significant changes must be made to comply with federal rules – not to mention, to protect the people who live here.

But instead of getting started, too many state leaders just got angry. They seemed shocked – shocked! – that the EPA would dare abide by the science showing significant consequences of allowing a less stringent standard.

Gov. Rick Perry stuck with his three-pronged approach to environmental regulations: deny, deflect, pout.

In his statement, the governor denied the need for tougher ozone limits, somehow conflating smog rules with carbon dioxide regulations and suggesting that flawed science spurred this week’s announcement.

In fact, scientists have found that ozone exposure damages our lungs and is linked to heart and respiratory illnesses. Smog can be deadly. By lumping ozone standards in with climate change legislation, Perry only confuses the issue.

The governor also deflected suggestions that the state has less than pristine air. He focused on Texas’ modest anti-pollution efforts, ignoring the fact that our skies are still dangerously dirty.

And Perry pouted, arguing that the EPA has made Texas workers and taxpayers a target. Some of Perry’s allies have echoed that idea, asserting that the new administration has been hostile to the state.

The EPA is not picking on Texas.

The same pollution standards will apply to every state. Inhaling smog-choked air is a dicey proposition, no matter where folks live.

Admittedly, complying with the new rules will be tougher for Texas than many other states. That’s because years of plugging our ears, closing our eyes and pretending that new pollution rules weren’t looming did not leave Texas in a state of preparedness.

Implementing the lower ozone limits will come at a cost. But, the EPA notes, the new rules should yield comparable savings by reducing illnesses, emergency room visits and lost work days resulting from ozone-related symptoms.

The state now must get started on a serious ozone reduction strategy. Deny, deflect, pout doesn’t seem to be working.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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The dramatic irony of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) decision this morning to grant the NRG Limestone Coal Plant an air permit (and therefore permission to begin construction on a third smokestack) is painful.  At the very moment that leaders from around the world are meeting to come to an international agreement to save the world from catastrophic global warming, at the very moment that residents of developing nations are begging for the continued existence of their land and way of life, Texas gives the green light to build another mercury-spewing, asthma-inducing, planet choking coal plant.

Not exactly what I was hoping to wake up to this morning.

This decision also comes just days after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came out with its engangerment finding, which says that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases represent a significant threat to public health and welfare.  Earlier this year, the EPA also ruled that TCEQ has not been adhering to the Clean Air Act in its issuance of new air permits.  This is the first coal plant permit that TCEQ has issued since that warning (which TCEQ doesn’t seem to have taken to heart).  AND, according to Karen Hadden, executive director of SEED Coalition,

The TCEQ is not following federal law (Maximum Achievable Control Technology or MACT) in issuing this permit and a result, mercury emissions will be higher.

So many hearts to break, so little time. But of course there’s always a silver lining. Next legislative session, the TCEQ (and a whole host of other commissions) will undergo the Sunset Review process — and as Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office mentions, that gives Texas a chance to reform the TCEQ permitting process:

This is just another example of why the Sunset Commission should take a good hard look at how TCEQ rubber stamps permits for coal plants in Texas.

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for progress in Copenhagen, and stay tuned at Texas Vox for more information on how you can help fight global warming and a 2nd Texas coal rush.

Full breakdown of the good (NRG has agreed to offset 50% of their emissions, though there’s nothing in their permit to hold them to that), the bad, and the ugly after the jump:

(more…)

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By Kirsten Bokenkamp

From office paper, to toilet paper, paper towels, paper coffee cups, newspapers, paper bags, magazines and catalogs, notebooks, napkins, and packaging, we cannot escape our dependency on paper products. Check out some of these crazy facts related to paper manufacturing and use:

  • Deforestation causes more global warming pollution than all forms of transportation combined.  A single forest tree absorbs 26 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, an acre of trees can remove 2.4 to 5 tons of carbon dioxide per year, and there are 728 million forested acres in the United States that remove more than 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year.
  • 50-75% of the pulp used to make toilet paper comes from old growth forests, which are valuable ecosystems and also play a huge role in absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • Americans consume more paper than any other country on earth. Each American, on average, uses 741 pounds of paper per year.  Furthermore, The United States is the largest market for toilet paper, and only 2% of sales are from 100% recycled toilet paper.
  • In addition to contributing to the detriments of deforestation, the pulp and paper industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution (coming in after the chemical and steel industries). To make things worse, CO2 emissions from the paper industry are expected to double by 2020.
  • 36% of the average landfill is comprised of paper. Americans discard 4 million tons of office paper each year, which is enough to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City.
  • The pulp and paper industry is the single largest industrial consumer of freshwater.

As last week’s blog recommended, there is a lot we can do to reduce our use of paper: reusing shopping bags, printing on both sides, refusing junk mail, using cloth napkins, reusing coffee cups, and by buying products with less packaging.  But, sometimes, even when we are doing all of these things, it is still easy to forget the most simple of tasks: buying recycled paper products, especially toilet paper!

Sure, it is not as fluffy – but let’s not exaggerate – the recycled stuff does the trick and it is far from sandpaper.  And, wouldn’t you rather have a future where we have curbed climate change, still have forests, and have clean water to drink?  I don’t mean to sound extreme – but that is what we are dealing with. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: as consumers we have tremendous power to change the world.  The day we no longer demand the plushy, soft, and tree-killing kind of toilet paper, the market will no longer produce it. So next time you are faced with the choice – make the earth friendly one. I’m sure your skin will forgive you. If you are having trouble taking the plunge, just think that if every household replaced just one roll (500 sheets) of virgin fiber toilet paper with a 100% recycled one, we would save 423,900 trees!

Buying recycled office paper is also important. Ask your manager to green-up the office! How much of a difference can it make? According to the Public Works Department of San Mateo County, California:

Every 20 cases of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 390 gallons of oil, 7000 gallons of water, and 4100 kwh of energy. It also eliminates 60 pounds of air-polluting emissions and saves 8 cubic feet of landfill space.

While it is not always the first thing on our minds as we strive to green-up our lives, buying recycled toilet paper is an important step.  In addition to saving old-growth forests, it gives recycled newspaper and office paper an afterlife to look forward to.  In addition to 100% recycled, also buy the brand with the highest percentage of post-consumer material and make sure the bleaching process is elemental chlorine free.  Check out one of the many buyers guides here.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Las Brisas Energy Center, a proposed pet coke power plant, is still in the midst of a protracted permitting process which most recently has taken the form of a state hearing. Opponents have claimed that projected pollution from the proposed plant has been under-estimated by engineers. Testimony ended in the hearing last Thursday, and closing statements have been ordered by January 22. At this time, the two judges, Craig Bennett and Tommy Broyles, will have 60 days to issue a recommendation to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which will ultimately make the final decision. The hearing ended with testimony from Joseph Kupper, an engineer, who was not able to confirm his calculations concerning the particulate matter projected to come from the plant.

Las Brisas might be seen as one battle in the conflict which has been escalating between the EPA and the current Texas air permitting program.

Dr Al Armendariz was scheduled to give testimony in this hearing on November 6th; however, he did not appear due to his recent appointment as Regional EPA Administrator. Dr Armendariz was appointed by Lisa Jackson just the day before. He most recently was a faculty member at Southern Methodist University in the Environmental/Civil Engineering department and has been an outspoken critic of past EPA oversight in Texas.

Dr Al Armendariz

Now, as concerned citizens, Dr Armendariz claims we should worry that “Texas has allowed big utilities and industry to operate any way they want to for decades.” We hope for the best as Dr Armendariz takes on this job with the EPA, which he is already getting on with – some say that by the end of the month the EPA will most likely “declare that Texas’ air permitting program lacks adequate public participation and transparency.”

The EPA sees three areas in which Texas fails to meet standards:

1) Public participation and transparency, which do not adhere to Clean Air Act regulations.

2) Flexible air permits given to many industrial operations (including the Fayette power plant).

3) Greenhouse gas emissions, recently brought into regulation under the Clean Air Act.

So best of luck, Dr Armendariz. If we let the numbers, facts and models speak for themselves, Texas could certainly be a cleaner place for all.

J Baker

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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By Kirsten Bokenkamp

According to the Environmental Defense Fund,  driving leads to more than 330 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year in the United States alone.  This amounts to more than 20% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions!  In an effort to cut down on greenhouse gases, the Obama administration’s new fuel efficiency standards require that passenger cars and light trucks cars get a minimum of 35.5 mpg by 2016.  The environmental impact of these new standards is similar to taking 177 million cars off the road.

While this is a positive change in policy, it does not rid us of our personal duty to decrease our own impact.  This is a tough one, because so many of us depend on our car for basically everything.  I am certain, though, that there are actions that we can all take.  Some of us may be able to walk or bike more, or take advantage of public transportation, while others might choose to buy a more efficient car or drive smarter. And we all can ask our legislators to spend more time and resources on energy efficient city planning and transportation.

Nobody has said that reversing global warming will be convenient or easy, politically or personally.  Sometimes, however, walking, biking, or taking public transportation to work or to run errands is much more enjoyable than driving.  Sure, it usually takes a bit more time, but you are also getting some exercise, enjoying the freedom from road rage, and getting to know your neighborhood better.  You will save loads of money on gas, and perhaps you will find yourself in a better mood by the end of the day.  Walking or biking will not only help save the earth, but will also lower the health care costs associated with obesity. It has been shown that countries with the highest levels of active transportation have the lowest rates of obesity.  Have you ever checked out the website Walk Score?  It is pretty neat – you put in your address, and using a 100 point score it tells you how walkable your neighborhood is, and provides a map showing you how close you are to grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, parks, drug stores, and the like.

Maybe walking or biking is not an option for you, but the bus is.  Public transportation in the US saves about 37 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, and more than 11 million gallons of gas every day! While it may take a bit longer than driving, you have the freedom of reading a book or the paper, or simply sipping on your coffee and looking out the window.  It may sound crazy, but for every gallon of gas that you spare, you keep 19.4 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere – who says individuals can’t make a difference?

About half the people in the US don’t have access to public transportation.  If this is you, there are other ways to reduce your impact from driving.  If you are in the market for a new car, put fuel efficiency as a top priority.  A hybrid car can save 16,000 pounds of carbon dioxide and $3,750 per year.  Shop around for the most fuel-efficient car that suits your needs on websites like FuelEconomy or GreenCar.  If you don’t really need a big car, then don’t buy one.  Another huge thing you can do is to keep your tires properly inflated. This saves you about 250 lbs of carbon dioxide and $840 per year per vehicle!  Other tips include: don’t use your car as a storage unit, the more stuff it is carrying around, the harder it needs to work; drive more smoothly, try to limit stopping and starting; shift to a higher gear a little bit earlier; and turn off the car instead of idling.  Of course, car-pooling when you can makes a huge difference as well.

Depending on our living situation, we all have different abilities to lessen our impact on the planet from driving.  One thing, however, that we can all do is urge our leaders to invest more in public transportation and cities and towns that are walker and biker friendly.  It is easy, and will only take a minute of your time. Sign a petition here.  In the meantime, do whatever you can to walk more and drive less.  While you are doing your part, you might be surprised at just how rejuvenating slowing down can be.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Tomorrow – October 24, 2009 – will be the largest day of climate action in the history of the world, and something you don’t want to miss. If you do not yet have anything planned for 350.org’s International Day of Climate Action, please join one of the 4641 events happening around the world. In 171 countries, people will be marching, planting trees, singing, gathering in museums and churches, throwing Frisbees, flying kites, attending black-tie galas, and more, all in the name of bringing awareness to climate change.

There is a lot of talk about the number 350, which is the “number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide—measured in “Parts per Million” in our atmosphere.” On a global level, we have already passed it, but if we work hard we can get back on track. Get out there tomorrow and show Obama that as U.S. citizens, we mean business. The timing could not be more important. With the Climate Change bill being deliberated in Congress and the Copenhagen conference around the corner – now is the time to put pressure on our law makers, and to show the rest of the world that we care.

Checkout the interactive map to find an event near you, and spread the word to all your friends – no matter where they live – there is bound to be an event nearby! Tomorrow, there are almost 50 events taking place in Texas alone, including:

There are just too many events to list here – so you gotta check out that map! And remember, spread the word to all your friends…everywhere.

If you will be in Houston tomorrow, come join Public Citizen’s Andy Wilson and pastor Brian McLaren at Texas Impact’s Advocacy Camp, a day-long workshop about getting involved not only with climate change, but also issues of immigration and healthcare.  (Even though this is sponsored by Texas Impact, Andy promised he won’t preach too much Jesus at you.) We hope to see you there!

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Peabody Coal, presently the largest Coal Mining Company in the World

Peabody Coal, presently the largest Coal Mining Company in the World

Take a quick look at this article/video. After the showing of a comedic political documentary, a speech is made about mountain-top removal mining and its ill effects. The crowd of enthusiastic movie-goers then canvasses the sidewalks of a nearby JP Morgan Chase bank with coal graffiti. It brings up an interesting point about who’s surreptitiously lurking behind the companies that deal with coal. In a word, banks.

Let’s reflect for a bit on the role of banks in (or rather behind) coal-related issues. For starters, it’s a tricky situation because the banks don’t actually do any of the polluting or emitting, they merely finance it:

One could take one of two extreme standpoints on the environmental impact of banks’ products. On the one hand, all pollution caused by companies who are financed by banks is the responsibility of banks. It is easy to make an estimate of the environmental impact in this sense: it would equate to almost the aggregate pollution of the whole economy in many countries. On the other hand, as the products of banks do not pollute, the users of those products—the clients—should take sole responsibility for the pollution they create. Of course, both standpoints are absurd. The truth lies somewhere in the middle

(taken from a paper on sustainable banking).

As usual, it’s that middle ground which is very hard to find in the real world.

The Rainforest Action Network has put together a very informative pamphlet concerning banks (particularly Citi and Bank of America) and their relationship to coal in the US. Here are just a few numbers taken from this publication:

  1. There are about 150 proposed coal-fired power plant sites in the US currently, with an estimated price-tag of approximately 140 billion dollars for the lot. This might be considered another ‘coal rush,’ and someone will have to finance all of this. You might think of this as adding 100-180 million passenger cars to US roads.
  2. Citi and Bank of America have both been major financiers of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal mining company. Peabody has been involved in mining coal on the Black Mesa (Hopi Indian community land), where they have drained millions of gallons of water from the sole aquifer in the area and left behind a 273-mile coal slurry pipeline.
  3. Both banks have also underwritten numerous loans for other coal mining companies including Massey Energy, Arch Coal, and Alpha Natural Resources. Each of these companies is involved in mountaintop removal, a particularly destructive form of coal mining.

Citi Bank

The World Bank is not setting a very good example, either. The Bank has acknowledged that the developing world should not become locked into the same carbon-intensive infrastructure of the West, yet it still intends to help fund coal-fired power plants in several developing nations. It’s a hard line to walk, that between developmental and environmental issues, however there are more sustainable alternatives available and with the right planning and finance, these could become a reality.

Bank of America

Bank of America

But let’s step away from the blame game. No matter who is the most responsible – the bank or the polluter – the fact is that banks, with their abundant resources, should be clever and forward-thinking enough to see the non-sustainability of coal as an investment. Conversely, there abound investment opportunities in clean, sustainable energy. For example, Lord Browne, former head of BP, has urged the British government to direct government-controlled bank investment into renewable energy resources, such as offshore wind power. Germany has been a leader in sustainable energy investment; look at this report from the Deutsche Bank. In the US there have been proposals for a Green Bank which would, among many other things, help to drive much-needed capital investment into clean-energy technologies and infrastructure.

This isn’t just green tomfoolery, it could be money in the bank (literally).

J Baker.

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Yesterday marked the end of a State-Wide “Roll Beyond Coal” press tour of Texas coal plants. This tour has seen representatives from Public Citizen of Texas and Sierra Club travel across the state visiting communities which would be impacted by proposed coal plants and meeting with local organizations. This was all in a bid to support recent bold action from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning the coal plant permitting process of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and to request that the EPA take further steps to create a moratorium on the permitting or operation of any new coal-powered plant (Texas currently has 11 in either the pending, permitted or under-construction phase).

The crux of the matter is the discrepancy between the TCEQ permitting standards and the Federal Clean Air Act. The TCEQ is responsible for the permitting process of coal plants in Texas. For some time now the TCEQ has been issuing what it calls ‘flex permits,’ which essentially allow individual polluters to emit over the limits of the Federal Clean Air Act, as long as the aggregate pollution of an umbrella of regional sources is below the allowed level. In summation: “EPA ruling claims Texas’ air permitting standards are so flexible and record keeping so vague that plants can circumvent federal clean air requirements [emphasis added].” I suppose these ‘flex’ permits are aptly named.

Here are some of the steps the EPA should take as it reviews the relevant TCEQ policies over the coming months (taken from the Texas Sierra Club web site, where you can take action and contact the EPA):

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1) Halt any new air pollution permits from being issued by the TCEQ utilizing the TCEQ’s current illegal policy.

2) Create a moratorium on the operations of any new coal fired power plants in Texas until the TCEQ cleans up its act by operating under the Federal Clean Air Act.

3) Require companies to clean up their old, dirty plants – no exemptions, no bailouts, and no special treatment by reviewing all permits issued since the TCEQ adopted its illegal policies and require that these entities resubmit their application in accordance with the Federal Clean Air Act.

(Read this blog concerning plans to “grandfather” Texas coal plants, where you can also contact Texas senators about these issues)

The tour visited communities in Waco, Dallas, Abilene, College Station, Corpus Christi, Bay City, Houston, and concluded today in Austin. The travelers included a giant coal plant float and local protestors at each site, attracting much local media attention. I’ve included some of the media links below:

9/23: WFAA (Dallas)

9/29: Corpus Christi Caller Times

9/29: KRIS-TV (Corpus Christi)

09/30: KIII-TV (South Texas)

09/30: Houston Press

10/01: TheFacts.com (Brazoria County)

This is a long-overdue first step taken by the EPA, and it now needs to be followed by some decisive and bold action in the coming months.

J Baker.

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This just in from EPA:

LOS ANGELES – U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will announce today in a keynote address at the California Governor’s Global Climate Summit that the Agency has taken a significant step to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act. The Administrator will announce a proposal requiring large industrial facilities that emit at least 25,000 tons of GHGs a year to obtain construction and operating permits covering these emissions. These permits must demonstrate the use of best available control technologies and energy efficiency measures to minimize GHG emissions when facilities are constructed or significantly modified.

The full text of the Administrators remarks will be posted at www.epa.gov later this afternoon.

UPDATED: that text is now available here.

“Wow” would be an understatement.  This on the heels of the release of Senator Kerry and Boxer and their climate bill.  Here’s my statement on that subject:

Sept. 30, 2009

Reaction to Boxer-Kerry Climate Change Discussion Draft

Statement of Andy Wilson, Global Warming Program Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

The Boxer-Kerry draft includes some important measures to address climate change and create new green jobs, but it is simply not sufficient to solve climate change or create the green jobs revolution we need. While an improvement in some ways over Waxman-Markey and its billions in giveaways to polluting special interests, the discussion draft put forth by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) still punts on many of the most contentious issues, such as how and to whom emissions allowances will be allocated or auctioned. Waxman-Markey started off similarly strong and vague but was weakened as it went through the committee hearing process. Sen. Boxer must work to strengthen the bill as she guides it through her Environment and Public Works Committee hearings.

The discussion draft calls for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution from 2005 levels by 2020. This is a slight improvement over the 17 percent called for by Waxman-Markey, but is far short of the goals our best science tells us we need to make. Specifically, the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us in order to avoid the worst of global climate catastrophe, we need to cut our pollution levels 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

Japan will cut its emissions 25 percent by 2020; the EU has signaled it may meet or beat that goal. Why would we set ourselves to lag behind the rest of the world? We must win the technology races in manufacturing advanced energy technology so we do not replace importing oil with importing solar cells.

The draft should be applauded for including strong language to protect consumers and protect the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate emissions in the future.

Among the changes we recommend to the draft are alterations to address these problems:

Allowances should be auctioned 100 percent. President Obama’s budget continues to show revenues from a 100 percent auction and EPA analysis of Waxman-Markey found this to be the least regressive method of implementation.

Subsidies for nuclear should be removed. Despite recent findings by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff that the United States will never need to build another traditional power plant, the bill spends considerable space on (Subtitle C, Sec 131) and would allocate significant resources to nuclear power. Nuclear is neither as carbon-free nor as safe as the draft language claims. Neither is it cost-effective. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated half of all federal loan guarantees for nuclear loan guarantees will fail, meaning any extension of these guarantees is a pre-emptive bailout of the nuclear industry leaving the taxpayers on the hook for up to half a trillion dollars.

The draft still relies on more than two billion tons in offsets – actually expanding permitted offsets from the Waxman-Markey language. This has huge potential consequences. It means that despite the intent of the draft, we could conceivably end up having failed to reduce emissions at all – and with major questions about whether alleged offsets were even achieved. While the offset oversight language is considerably better than in Waxman-Markey, it still is troubling that we are relying on offsets rather than actually decreasing our pollution.

The draft does nothing to improve vague language in Waxman-Markey, which could effectively grandfather more than 40 proposed coal-fired power plants, including up to a dozen in Texas alone. These proposed plants would be exempted from new performance standards in the bill, while a plant built just three years from now will have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by half.

With Kerry-Boxer maintaining EPA’s right to regulate CO2 as a pollutant, this sets the table nicely to try to get a bill passed which will both solve climate change and create the new energy economy we need.  We just need to improve the ground of the special-interest-riddled Congress.  Tip of my hat to Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman for their articles on this earlier this week about the severity of the problem that faces us and the relatively lame responses by our government.  As a palate cleanser, please to enjoy this 15 second video from [adult swim] about what the REAL problem may be:

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