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Monday, September 29, 2008

A friendly reminder from King Coal

Since I started working in downtown Pittsburgh again I take the "T", our light rail system, into work everyday from the South Hills. A few weeks ago I was entering the Wood Street station and I noticed an advertisement from local coal company Consol Energy. It seems Consol wanted to remind us that even though we think we are being green by taking public transportation the trains that run from the South Hills into downtown Pittsburgh are powered by, you guessed it, dirty stinkin coal. It is too bad that the coal industry puts so much money into misleading advertisements that say coal is a "clean and green" energy source instead investing in clean or cleaner coal technologies. We would all be better off if they did.

Green Jobs Day in Pittsburgh

I was in DC over the weekend so I missed Green Jobs Day in Pittsburgh. Khari Mosley of the League of Young Voters echos Green Jobs advocate Van Jones over at his blog Diondega 412:

Today, the mills and factories that once lined the city's three glorious rivers are gone and some say Pittsburgh's best days are behind us. I say Pittsburgh's best days could be right around the corner. I believe that we have the same type of opportunity our fore-bearers did in the 1860s and 1870s. Instead of investing in heavy rail, coal and building polluting factories, we can create a green industrial revolution that will invest in a new economy that will provide opportunity for all people, while protecting our fragile environment.
I have been called an "eternal optimist," and I hope that Pittsburgh is on the verge of its next economic revolution, but I have my reservations. It's not because of the lack of bright young entrepreneurs and support from non-profits and universities. As I mentioned in a few previous posts there are some promising young green companies in the burgh, particularly in the biofuels space, but what we are lacking is the visionary leadership from our public officials. What is the green vision for Pittsburgh? Instead of being a follower, and a laggard, we need to start thinking ahead of other cities and regions.

We need big bold ideas. Instead of touting Zip Car, which is a fine service, why don't we start a program where our Mayor and councilman use plug-in electric hybrid vehicles? We have some promising young biofuels companies here in Pittsburgh, and plenty of natural gas in our backyard - so let's start talking about converting our entire fleet of buses to both natural gas and biodiesel. Both would give the port authority a significant reduction in green house gas emissions - not to mention improve our air quality and health of our citizens. Our leaders need to take the energy and enthusiasm from people like Khari, Nate Doyno and his guys over at SCB and GTECH, and the great people over at the green building alliance, and start translating it into sound public policy that will help Pittsburgh become Cleanenergyburgh.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

China for a day

I just watched Tom Friedman discussing his new book "Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America" on today's Meet the Press. One of the things he mentioned when discussing the book was his chapter titled "China for a day." In this chapter Friedman says he talks about how the US could push through solutions for our energy crisis if the government could just decide to go forward and do it, rather than Congress having to deal with the lobbyists and the red tape within the Washington bureaucracy. If there is one positive about China's communist government it is that when China decides to commit itself to doing things to advance good causes, they get it done.

Here in a democratic republic like the US, we can't afford to wait for the government to do its dance with the lobbyists and special interest groups and then hope that they make the right decisions on big issues like energy policy. That is why Friedman told Tom Brokaw that instead of a government sponsored Manhattan project for energy, he would rather see the "next economic revolution", what he called the ET or energy tech revolution, follow the model created by the Information Technology revolution - supporting and encouraging the start up of 100,000 companies that will attempt to solve one piece of the renewable energy problem.

I have pre-ordered the book, which is officially on the shelves tomorrow (Monday). The book sounds like it will be a hit like Friedman's other efforts. It also sounds like something the eventual President-elect needs to read between election day and their inauguration in January.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Lies at the Podium...McCain lies about his energy policy throughout RNC speech

John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the Republicans want you to believe that they have a real plan for energy independence. They continue to denounce Obama for "opposing nuclear energy" and chant "drill drill drill" or "drill now!" whenever the topic of energy independence comes up. Regarding their distortions of Obama's position on the issue, anyone who has followed Obama's campaign or who saw the last Democratic debate with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards knows that Barack Obama was the only Democrat with a pragmatic proposal for Nuclear power. Obama has stated several times that "Nuclear power has to be part of the mix" when it comes to our long term energy policy, but that we have to figure out a plan for disposal of nuclear waste that makes more sense than shipping spent fuel on trucks and trains cross country to Nevada's Yucca Mountain (McCain supports sending Nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain). Obama does not oppose Nuclear power - but he thinks we should first devise a plan for storing waste rather than diving in and committing to build 40 something new reactors around the country.

The nuclear power lie is not the end of it by any means. Fellow energy collective member and author Joseph Romm compiled a great list of "McCain's 10 energy lies" over at the Huff Post.

Here are few good ones:

My fellow Americans, when I'm President, we're going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades. We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much.

LIE #1: McCain has no plan to reduce oil imports -- indeed, throughout his career he has explicitly rejected every plan that might reduce oil imports substantially, including fuel economy standards, biofuels, and renewables. Heck, he even rejected the plan offered by billionaire conservative oilman T. Boone Pickens to aggressively deploy clean energy and alternative fuels over the next ten years (see The real, Luddite McCain: "The truly clean technologies don't work").

We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas.

LIE #4: McCain has fought against wind and solar and alternative energy for his entire career because he genuinely but mistakenly believes "The truly clean technologies don't work" (see "Anti-wind McCain delivers climate remarks at foreign wind company" and "Why McCain hates renewables but pretends he loves them.")

She's tackled tough problems like energy independence and corruption.

LIE #9: Palin has done nothing to help achieve energy independence because there is nothing the State of Alaska can do. As Pickens and EIA and every independent expert keeps telling us, this is one emergency we can't drill our way out of.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Change we cannot afford to believe in: Sarah Palin chose to protect the oil industry over polar bears!

I've been trying to stay non-partisan on this blog but ever since the general election kicked in to gear it has become harder and harder to out of the fray since energy and environmental policy are two huge issues for this election. After last night's Republican National Convention, where Mayor Rudy Giuliani touted McCain's energy policy with shouts of "Drill drill drill!", I feel compelled to get off the sidelines. John McCain used to be the maverick of his party, as he believes that global warming and climate change are caused by man, and he says that energy independence would be a priority of his administration. However, his pandering to the oil industry and the base of his party, who think that lifting the ban on offshore drilling is the best way to ending our dependence on foreign oil, is just more of the same that we've seen throughout the Bush Cheney years - all talk and no action.

McCain's selection of Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin has definitely energized the conservative wing of the Republican party - but what does it say to independent and swing voters who think energy and environmental policy should be at the top of the nation's list of priorities? Sarah Palin is a total reversal of McCain's previous positions on energy and the environment. She believes in drilling in ANWR, she does not believe that climate change is man made. She even went as far as saying that polar bears should not be on the endangered species list because protecting them may "cripple oil and gas development" in parts of Alaska. Here is the full story from this past May; the following is the key snippet on her position:

The state of Alaska will sue to challenge the recent listing of polar bears as a threatened species, Gov. Sarah Palin announced Wednesday.

She and other Alaska elected officials fear a listing will cripple oil and gas development in prime polar bear habitat off the state's northern and northwestern coasts.

Palin argued that there is not enough evidence to support a listing. Polar bears are well-managed and their population has dramatically increased over 30 years as a result of conservation, she said.

Climate models that predict continued loss of sea ice, the main habitat of polar bears, during summers are unreliable, said Palin, a Republican

Thomas Friedman wrote that John McCain's turnaround on environmental issues to appease his party's conservative base leads one to wonder how he can still claim to be the candidate who will put America on the path to energy independence.

With his choice of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change — for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.

When even George W. Bush has admitted that climate change is a result of human activity, the Republican party's claim that Sarah Palin is a reformer and an agent of change is about as believable as her claim to have been against the poster child of wasteful pork barrel spending, Alaska's "bridge to nowhere."