There's only one more day til the deadline to comment on Keystone XL. Check out this great video from National Nurses United on why President Obama should reject Keystone XL.
There's only one more day til the deadline to comment on Keystone XL. Check out this great video from National Nurses United on why President Obama should reject Keystone XL.
A new generation of kids is becoming more dependent on "fast-food" and "smart phones," rather than understanding the importance of "perseverance" and "patience." I'm not alone in feeling that my generation have not taken the time to really to dive deeper into learning our Black History, enough to supplement the enormous gap that leaves the history of people of color out of our schools' lesson plans.
I have tried to impress upon my daughters that knowing your history is important -- even if it's just to recognize that you cannot take for granted the opportunity to attend school, the house and neighborhood you live in, and last but certainly not least, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the safe, green space we enjoy.
In 2014, we celebrate several milestones in civil rights. Sixty years ago, we desegregated our public institutions with Brown vs. the Board of Education, and 46 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led the strike of the sanitation workers in Memphis, TN, which was the civil and human rights movement that would soon become known to many as environmental racism.
Environmental justice is a movement that has fought to bring a solution to end environmental racism -- making sure that no person, despite, race, ethnicity, social status, political power, or the amount of income, will be disproportionately, or negatively impacted by environmental laws and policies that are not protective of public health.
Communities across the county began to speak out about all forms of racism. They were tired of living near hazardous-waste landfills, tired of waking up to the spells of the chemical manufacturing facilities that violate the comfort of their homes. They were tired of their family members getting sick and dying because of some chemical that infiltrated their water system. These were the types of harsh realities that engendered a generation of community activities and leaders that -- through pressure and persistence -- led to signing of the first executive order to mandate that all federal government agencies make their policies and programs in accordance with the principles of environmental justice.
In a speech today in Maryland, President Obama directed his administration to move forward with standards to make our tractor trailers and commercial vehicles more efficient. Already the administration has set historic standards for passenger vehicles of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 that will cut U.S. carbon pollution nearly 10 percent. These truck standards are another step to slash oil use, save Americans money, and bring down carbon pollution.
Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, everything from 18-wheelers to delivery trucks, are the fastest-growing source of oil consumption in the transportation sector. Even though these vehicles make up only seven percent of the vehicles on the road, they guzzle more than 25 percent of transportation fuel. Although new fuel-saving technologies are found in some trucks, most 18-wheelers on the road average around six miles per gallon (mpg) -- about the same as they did decades ago.
In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation (DOT) finalized the first-ever efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sold from 2014-2018. These standards will ensure that new engines are more efficient, and will reduce fuel consumption in semi-trucks by roughly 20 percent.
Developing the next round of efficiency standards now will allow manufacturers to innovate and develop new fuel-saving technologies, such as plug-in electric drive-trains, aerodynamic trailers, higher-efficiency engines, advanced materials, and lower-rolling-resistance tires. Last year, Peterbilt and Cummins showcased a 10-mpg truck as a part of the DOT's Super Truck program. While 10-miles-per-gallon might not sound like much, it's a big deal. By increasing fuel economy 54 percent over today's average trucks, this prototype could slash greenhouse gas emissions and save an average driver $20,000 in fuel costs annually.
It is critical that the new standards developed by EPA and DOT are strong. Stringent standards will not only drive innovation for a wide range of new technologies, they will ensure that these technologies spread throughout the marketplace, instead of being found on only a small portion of vehicles.
Of course, setting new efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles is only one part of the solution to reduce carbon pollution and oil consumption. We must create an energy-efficient, multi-modal freight system that relies on trains and ships, as well as trucks. When we're smarter about what we ship and how we ship it, we save money and reduce carbon pollution.
President Obama's announcement of new heavy-duty vehicle standards will build upon a strong legacy of passenger-vehicle standards that is already reducing our oil consumption, including a transition to plug-in electric vehicles that run on little or no oil. While it will take EPA and DOT two years to develop new standards and incorporate input from the public, this is another tremendous opportunity to save drivers money at the pump and make our air cleaner to breathe. But most importantly, this is the kind of policy action that's good for manufacturers and businesses, good for workers and consumers, and a very real and significant step to addressing carbon pollution.
-- Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Sierra Club
On a very snowy winter's day February 11, 1994, President Clinton signed a historic executive order: EO 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations."
The executive order directs, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, federal agencies to identify and address the disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their actions on minority and low-income populations. The order mandates that each agency develop a strategy for implementing environmental justice (EJ). The order also directs promotion of nondiscrimination in federal programs that affect human health and the environment -- and that minority and low-income communities have access to public information and public participation.
The road to the environmental justice executive order has been a long and hard one for EJ communities and activists. The road is still uphill, with many tough and treacherous areas. Communities of color and low-income communities, urban and rural, have been sited for decades near toxic and noxious facilities and extractive processes.
It is commonly accepted that the EJ movement formally started in 1982 when black residents in Warren County, NC, lay down in road near where a carcinogen-laden landfill was about to be sited. This county, which was mostly African American already, had a number of such landfills, and the community had had enough. Indigenous communities, farmworkers, and workers inside industrial plants had long agitated for environmental justice, as well. The research and documentation started piling up that the government was acquiescing to disproportionate pollution in communities of color and low-income communities.
This week, actresses Amy Smart, Eva Amurri Martino, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Dawn Olivieri joined the Sierra Club in an online video asking California Governor Jerry Brown to make a "clean break" with fossil fuels, and commit to replacing the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station with 100 percent clean energy. Check out the great video.
The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to begin its decision-making process within the next few days as to how much of the shuttered nuclear plant will be replaced by clean or dirty energy.
Take action and learn more here.
The Sierra Club's My Generation Campaign is a statewide effort to ensure that every Californian is able to enjoy the access and benefits that come from the use of affordable, local clean renewable sources of energy, thereby reducing our overall reliance on dangerous fossil fuels.
Imagine pumping 400 million gallons of fuel for your cars over the course of a year. That's roughly twice the amount of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico by BP in 2010. That's also the amount of fuel the federal government used in 2012. A new report by the General Services Administration shows that federal fleets are falling well short of goals set by President Obama to reduce oil consumption and shift to advanced vehicles.
In the Sierra Club's Future Fleet campaign, we are pushing large fleets to reduce their oil consumption and stop using dirty and dangerous tar sands oil wherever possible. As the largest single fleet operator in the country, the federal government has a tremendous opportunity to lead the nation in reducing our dependence on oil. In a 2009 executive order, President Obama set a goal of reducing oil use in the federal fleet 30 percent by 2020, and outlined more specific guidelines for federal fleet managers in a 2011 presidential memorandum.
In 2012 the federal government managed more than 650,000 vehicles around the world -- roughly split in thirds among military vehicles, civilian agency vehicles, and the US Postal Service fleet. According to the GSA report, vehicles in the federal fleet drove more than five billion miles, consumed nearly 400 million gallons of fuel and incurred operating costs of $4 billion. While this represents a reduction in fuel use of five percent from 2011 to 2012, the federal fleet has only reduced oil use a total of three percent since 2005.
A closer look at the numbers reveals several interesting trends. The military has aggressively moved to reduce oil use in its vehicles, shedding five percent of its vehicles from 2011 to 2012, and reducing oil use ten percent compared with the previous year alone. These actions saved the military billions, reducing operating costs by more than five percent in just one year.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the US Postal Service. While the Postal Service did reduce the numbers of miles driven by its vehicles by 4.5 percent from 2011 to 2012, its fleet operating costs increased slightly, and it lagged behind the military and other civilian agencies, only reducing oil use by 2.5 percent.
The Postal Service fleet must operate nationwide in tough conditions; however, there are significant opportunities for using less oil and saving money. Currently, Postal Service delivery trucks achieve around 10 miles per gallon. A 2009 Postal Service analysis found that electric vehicles could cut maintenance costs substantially, and that fuel costs could be reduced from 33 cents a mile to five cents a mile by switching from gas to electricity. Just this week, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Representative Connolly (D-VA) introduced the FLEET Act, a bill that would require the Postal Service to reduce oil use two percent each year through 2025.
It is encouraging to see federal fleets taking important strides to reduce oil use. However, more action is needed to meet the ambitious goals set by President Obama. It is critical that the government continue to transition to advanced vehicles, such as plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, and show leadership in reducing our dependence on oil.
-- Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club Responsible Trade Program
MSNBC's Chris Hayes had a great commentary on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline this weekend.
Are you attending one of the more than 280 Keystone XL protest vigils tonight?
It has been an inauspicious few days for congressional Republicans when it comes to action on the climate crisis. Hours before Tuesday's State of the Union address, the Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee rejected an amendment that would simply have recognized that climate disruption is occurring. Minutes after the president was done speaking, four congressional Republicans gave four separate televised responses that offered a grand total of nothing regarding climate. And on Wednesday, members of that Republican congressional conference -- a sizable majority of whom deny basic climate science -- began their three-day retreat at a place right in the path of some of climate disruption's worst expected outcomes.
Speaker John Boehner and his colleagues are calling it a meeting of the "Congress of Tomorrow," but if they continue to stand in the way of climate action, the place where they are having their retreat soon may not have a tomorrow. This year, the conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina -- a resort located on Maryland's waterfront, and just one of numerous areas on the eastern seaboard at risk of sea level rise.
Take a look at the map above, collected from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's maps depicting the vulnerability of different regions to sea level rise and coastal flooding. The dark red indicates the retreat is occurring in an area of "high" vulnerability. The light blue shows the expected impact of sea level rise of up to six feet. Clearly, the choice of location is an ironic one for a group with so little to say on climate action.
Climate scientists have been very clear: As Earth's temperatures continue to rise as a result of human activity -- such as burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas -- sea levels will continue to rise at an alarming rate. According to experts, the sea level in Maryland could rise upward of six feet by the end of the century.
It's not just Maryland. As of 2010, two out of every five Americans -- more than 123 million of us -- lived near the coast. This includes major cities like New York, New Orleans, Boston, and San Diego. And, in addition to the shoreline erosion, the costs, severity, and frequency of extreme storms like Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and Typhoon Haiyan are expected to increase in those areas.
If those storms weren't a wake-up call to every elected official that we need to act on climate, we can only hope the congressional Republicans' choice of location will help open their eyes to the reality of what's at stake -- but we certainly don't expect it. After all, these are the folks who have earned the inauspicious designation as the most anti-environmental Congress in history.
The worst effects of climate disruption won't discriminate when it comes to political party -- National Geographic's recent image of the effect on North America if all sea ice melts makes that shockingly clear. Whether they are looking at the coastline in Cambridge or at these projections, the dire need for action is staring climate deniers right in the face. The question they’ll be judged on is whether they actually do something about it.
Ever wondered why we can't just stick solar panels on top of cars to fuel them even more cleanly and easily than today's plug-in electric cars? Engineers have actually been working on this challenge for a number of years. The main speed bump has been that the solar panels sized for the top of a car would not be sufficiently powerful, efficient, or large enough to actually power the vehicle. Also, cost has been prohibitive for commercial viability.
However, Ford has just come a lot closer to making this pie in the sky a reality.
At this week's annual International CES technology convention in Las Vegas, Ford will unveil a concept car that is actually powered by solar panels on the roof of its C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (EV). In 2013, Ford sold about 7,000 units of the non-solar plug-in C-Max Energi, which I enjoyed test-driving last summer.
By Michael Marx, Beyond Oil Campaign Director
I've never been superstitious, but looking back on 2013 it's likely that oil company executives will be. In 2013 the Sierra Club's Beyond Oil campaign made huge strides in blocking some of the most polluting and carbon-intensive sources of oil. I’m especially proud of our successes when I compare the size of our campaign to the industry we’re taking on. Big Oil counts their profits in billions. They have an all-star bench of power brokers -– from lobbyists and PR firms to former administration officials, members of Congress, and the Prime Minister of Canada. Very impressive. But in 2013 a ragtag group of citizens, community groups, and environmental organizations have changed the calculus on Alberta tar sands and fired up a national climate movement. This will go down as the year that oil executives reached for their rabbit's feet and wondered just where their luck went.
In 2013 Keystone XL took center stage as the test of our commitment to address climate disruption. We kicked off Lucky '13 with Forward on Climate, the largest climate rally in U.S. history. Fifty thousand people joined us on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for a new kind of environmental action. Forward on Climate was an invitation to the president to match the strong words in his second inaugural address with decisive action on coal, fracking, protecting the arctic, and stopping the tar sands pipeline. It was a cold day, but we sent a burning message that Americans are ready to act on climate.
The Keystone XL fight will continue into 2014, and maybe even beyond. But in the five years since Keystone XL was first proposed, we've fought the project to a standstill and kept at least 200 million metric tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. We’ve turned a rubber stamp from the State Department into a new climate test for this and ultimately all new oil projects.
As the president laid out in his historic climate speech this summer, he will not approve this pipeline if it "significantly exacerbates carbon pollution." And certainly it would. That's why people are speaking up against this pipeline like never before. In the spring we and our partners gathered 1.2 million comments from American citizens taking the State Department to task for its faulty environmental review. We joined hundreds of citizens in Grand Island, Nebraska, for the State Department public hearing -- and hundreds met the president, vice president, and secretary of state as they traveled to more than 40 events around the nation. At one of these events in North Carolina, Vice President Joe Biden reached out to our great volunteer Elaine Cooper and told her, "I'm with you, but I'm in the minority."
Our report, FAIL: How Keystone XL Flunks the Climate Test, lays out the evidence that tar sands expansion is not inevitable (as the State Department contended in its draft environmental review), and that Keystone XL is a climate disaster in the making. It turns out that people who know the truth about tar sands, and know the risks of this pipeline, are quick to join us in the minority. And like all causes on the just side of history, we won't remain the minority for long.
Keystone XL may take the year's the top billing, but we also made great progress fighting for stronger regulations for railroad transportation of tar sands and other dangerous crude oil. We challenged tar sands refinery expansions in Delaware and export terminals in the Pacific Northwest. And we set a new standard for tar sands pipelines, so all proposals to move dangerous crude will now face the same level of scrutiny that Keystone XL faces.
We also fought for solutions. In 2013 we launched our Future Fleet campaign to push some of the nation's largest oil consumers -- including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo -- to slash their use of oil, and to stop using fuel refined from toxic tar sands altogether. Our work as part of the Clean Cars Coalition convinced eight governors to make a joint commitment to get 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles like electric cars onto the road in their states by 2025. We co-organized events to promote electric vehicles in nearly 100 cities with more than 36,000 people attending, and conducted thousands of test rides on the third annual National Plug In Day. The EPA released its Fuel Economy Trends Report in December, showing the second-largest annual increase in fuel efficiency in the last 30 years, reaching an all-time high of 23.6 mpg. Since President Obama took office, fuel economy has increased 12 percent, thanks to the vehicle standards he has put in place after years of advocacy work by the Sierra Club and our allies.
I've never been one to knock on wood, avoid a sidewalk crack, or hang a horseshoe. There's nothing magical about the success of the beyond oil campaign in 2013. It's the result of a hardworking, determined team of staff and volunteers who are standing toe to toe with the biggest, most powerful industry in the world -- a team of people in every state, who represent every imaginable cross-section of America, but who share an unfailing belief that we must move our nation beyond oil. That's bad news for Big Oil, because we are a movement that's only just begun our fight. And as I look forward to 2014, I don't need a four-leaf clover to know that we can expect more success ahead.
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