Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Go Ted!

ANAHEIM, C.A. -- Philanthropist and CNN founder Ted Turner has turned his sights to renewable energy -- and he had some fighting words for the wind industry at the kickoff to its annual convention on Monday.

Turbine manufacturers and clean energy utilities can't sit idly by while the coal industry touts its "clean coal" plan and oil companies flood the airwaves, Turner said. He noted that he had "nightmares" caused by clean coal advertisements.

Wind energy companies, which created a quarter of the nation's new electricity capacity last year, need to fight back, Turner said.

"I'd rather have a nuclear than a coal plant built, because one might kill ya and the other one will for sure. But wind doesn't kill anybody," Turner added.
"Let's go out and kick their asses. That's what they need, a good ass-kicking," Turner told the group assembled for the American Wind Energy Association's conference. He was speaking in an unscripted conversation with the group's CEO, Denise Bode.

So far, Turner hasn't found it feasible to build large-scale wind operations on his own vast land holdings in the American West, but he hopes to change that soon.

Turner acknowledged that wind energy faces an uphill battle, with critical tax credits expiring over the next two years and formidable push-back from carbon-based energy producers. The political calculus is particularly tricky in coal country, as Turner illustrated with an anecdote about a conversation he said he had with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.):

"I'm a good friend and admirer of Jay Rockefeller, the senator from West Virginia," Turner said. "I lobbied him, a year or so ago, and he said, 'Ted, I can't go against coal.' He said, 'I can't. It's the biggest employer in my state.' He said, 'I do a lot of good work in other areas, you're just going to have to give me a bye on this one.'"

Rockefeller's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rockefeller voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which included cash grants for renewable energy projects, but he has also pledged to put a halt to the EPA's attempts to tighten climate regulations.

The only way advocates of wind power and other renewable resources like solar power will overcome such staunch opposition, Turner believes, is by committing their own money to public relations and lobbying.

Turner seemed particularly pleased that one of his oldest adversaries, General Electric, could be critical in that effort. GE owned NBC -- a competitor of Turner's cable empire -- from 1986 until this year. GE is now the largest producer of wind turbines in the United States.

"I fought against GE my whole life and now I'm pulling for 'em," Turner told the crowd to applause and laughter.

Turner believes renewable energy is critical for avoiding disruptive climate change over the next century -- but he also thinks global warming is already behind events like the tornado that tore through Missouri over the weekend.

Such severe weather is being caused, Turned said, "by the heating up of the atmosphere because of the goddamned carbon dioxide."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mother Nature Is Just Warming Up!

This is a must-read op-ed by Bill McKibben in the WashPost today:

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.
If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.
It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years….
Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta?
… Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.
It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.”
Hear!  Hear!  Or, rather, climate change is here, here!
In fact, the population hasn’t even acclimatized to the climate change we’ve had already — in part because the GOP and the fossil-fuel-funded disinformation campaign have obfuscated efforts to inform the public.  Hypocritically, the Chamber itself led the effort to stop this country from creating a serious adaptation fund.
We’ve only warmed about a degree Fahrenheit in the past half-century.  We are on track to warm nearly 10 times that this century (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F — with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F).  Indeed, if we listen to the Chamber and the politicians it backs, emissions and temperatures will just keep rising, and by the second half of the century, sea levels will be rising 6 to 12 inches a decade for centuries.  How precisely to you acclimatize yourself to a climate that is always changing?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Amazon rainforest deforestation rises sharply

New satellite images suggest deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has increased almost sixfold.  Deforestation jumped from 103 square kilometers in March and April of last year to 583 square kilometers, or 228 square miles, in the same period of 2011, according to Brazil’s space research institute.
Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira characterized the figures as “alarming” and announced the formation of a “crisis cabinet” in response to the news. “Our objective is to reduce deforestation by July,” Teixeira said.

The new figures have taken the government by surprise, analysts say. A government report from December said Brazilian Amazon deforestation had fallen to its lowest rate in 22 years. But the new numbers show a 27 percent increase in deforestation from August 2010 to April 2011.

Some environmentalists are arguing that growing demand for soy and cattle is causing farmers to clear more land. Others say the easing of an existing law on forest production is causing it.

The Facts:

  • We are losing Earth's greatest biological treasures just as we are beginning to appreciate their true value. Rainforests once covered 14% of the earth's land surface; now they cover a mere 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years.

  • One and one-half acres of rainforest are lost every second with tragic consequences for both developing and industrial countries.

  • Rainforests are being destroyed because the value of rainforest land is perceived as only the value of its timber by short-sighted governments, multi-national logging companies, and land owners.

  • Nearly half of the world's species of plants, animals and microorganisms will be destroyed or severely threatened over the next quarter century due to rainforest deforestation.

  • Experts estimates that we are losing 137 plant, animal and insect species every single day due to rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year. As the rainforest species disappear, so do many possible cures for life-threatening diseases. Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources. While 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, less that 1% of these tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists.

  • Most rainforests are cleared by chainsaws, bulldozers and fires for its timber value and then are followed by farming and ranching operations, even by world giants like Mitsubishi Corporation, Georgia Pacific, Texaco and Unocal.

  • There were an estimated ten million Indians living in the Amazonian Rainforest five centuries ago. Today there are less than 200,000.

  • In Brazil alone, European colonists have destroyed more than 90 indigenous tribes since the 1900's. With them have gone centuries of accumulated knowledge of the medicinal value of rainforest species. As their homelands continue to be destroyed by deforestation, rainforest peoples are also disappearing.

  • Most medicine men and shamans remaining in the Rainforests today are 70 years old or more. Each time a rainforest medicine man dies, it is as if a library has burned down.

  • When a medicine man dies without passing his arts on to the next generation, the tribe and the world loses thousands of years of irreplaceable knowledge about medicinal plants
  • Tuesday, May 10, 2011


    Oil Companies Don't Need Our Tax Dollars
    May 09, 2011 9:23 am ET
    Senate Democrats say they will move forward this week with a plan to eliminate tax giveaways for the top oil companies, which would save taxpayers billions. Republicans have voted in lockstep to protect these giveaways - but lately, their rhetoric has shifted. Will they change course and put the American people before their oil company donors?


    Oil companies raking in record profits get enough of our money at the pump -- they don't need billions of our tax dollars, too.

    Connect: American families are struggling -- oil companies aren't.
    Define: Oil company profits are at record highs, but Washington Republicans are using high gas prices as an excuse to keep handing them billions.

    Taxpayer-funded handouts for oil companies won't do anything to relieve the pain Americans feel at the pump -- and only drive our deficit higher.

    Giving tax breaks to oil companies to drill is like paying the sun to rise every morning, but politicians are protecting them for their oil company CEO donors.

    Offer solutions:
    We can start reducing our deficit right now by getting rid of wasteful tax giveaways for oil companies and reducing our dependence on oil by developing clean, safe sources of energy that will create American jobs and never run out.


    "Obama's energy policies are driving up gas prices."

    We need to continue subsidies for oil companies to encourage domestic drilling."

    "Subsidies for wind and solar energy have resulted in virtually nothing."

    • Wind power has been the fastest-growing source of new electric power for years, and the solar industry grew by almost 70% last year alone and put the U.S. back in the forefront of the global energy industry.
    • The best way to bring jobs and prosperity back to this country is also the best way to end our dependence on foreign oil - by harnessing our limitless supply of clean energy and building wind turbines, solar panels, and energy-efficient products that say "Made in America."
    • We have led every technological revolution of the last two centuries, from electricity to telephone to automobiles, and we can lead this one too.


    We develop messaging by aggregating, analyzing and distilling polling, tested messaging, and expert recommendations, and monitoring the media to identify what is and isn't working. See here for some of the experts and organizations we draw on.