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Sierra Daily: September 2010
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18 posts from September 2010

Sep 30, 2010

There, I Fixed It!

Today, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unveiled rules requiring offshore drilling wells to certify that they have functioning blowout preventers. The new regulations also mandate tougher standards for cementing wells, employee training, and risk-management planning. "We are raising the bar for safety, oversight and environmental protection," Salazar told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Salazar said the rules must be in place before the Interior Department lifts its ban on deepwater drilling, set to expire on November 30.

The Interior Department is also considering requiring that blowout preventers be equipped with two sets of blind shear rams. The final fail-safe device in a blowout preventer, a shear ram cuts through and seals a drill pipe. Immediately after the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico, its shear ram failed to deploy; even underwater robots deployed later failed to trigger it.

Two weeks ago, departing BP CEO Tony Hayward defended his company’s efforts, even though all three mechanisms for activating the Macondo well’s blowout preventer failed. “The Gulf of Mexico is a more challenging drilling environment than many other parts of the world.” Hayward told a House of Commons committee. Today is Hayward’s last day on the job.

--Reed McManus

Sep 29, 2010

Rivers (and People and Wildlife) at Risk

Threats 100928_water_security_fig1-thumb-600x254-92640

Pretty colors make environmental degradation seem so appealing! Researchers from the City College of New York and the University of Wisconsin at Madison looked at the impacts of pollution, dams, urban development, water extraction, and destruction of wetlands on the world’s rivers, and determined that 80 percent of the global population “is exposed to high levels of threat to water security.” Their findings are published in a report published in Nature on September 30.

On the map above, blue indicates a low threat to human security, while red indicates high threat. Admittedly, when the team plugged in data for areas that were prepared to combat drought and shortages with reservoirs and pipelines and other technologies, the threats to humans diminshed, leaving the obvious candidates--Asia and sub-Saharan Africa—most at risk from water shortages.

There’s a hitch, however: Biodiversity is threatened by water shortages everywhere humans live in large numbers, as shown on the map below. Yellow and red indicate a high risk to biodiversity.

Wildlife 100928_water_security_fig4-thumb-600x250-92662

--Reed McManus

No Blue Helmets?

Colorado cyclists realize that they've been found out by Dan Maes, the Republican candidate for governor. Shortly before winning his party's nomination, Maes identified the bike sharing program started by Denver mayor John Hickenlooper (who is also his Democratic gubenatorial rival) as a United Nations plot:

"This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed," Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.

Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor's efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes "that's exactly the attitude they want you to have." Bikeam

Realizing that secrecy was no longer an option, the public-interest group ProgressNow Colorado seized the opportunity to clothe their UN shock cyclists in traditional baby blue. "Every United Nations community has to have a uniform," reads their fundraising pitch. "So we made these handsome t-shirts to kick off our U.N. Bicycle Ambassador program."

For an extra donation, you can probably have your t-shirt delivered by black helicopter.

--Paul Rauber

Sep 28, 2010

Mopping Up

On Tuesday, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus released a report recommending that restoration of the Gulf coast be funded in part by penalties levied against oil giant BP, which could amount to billions of dollars. If BP is found guilty of gross negligence for its 4.1-million-barrel spill, fines could be $4,300 per barrel, prompting a levy of some $17.6 billion. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu has crafted legislation that would earmark at least 80 percent of penalties against BP to go toward a recovery fund.

We wish we could report that it’s all over but the shouting. But on Monday, Florida State University oceanographer Ian MacDonald told the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling that over 50 percent of the spill still remains in the Gulf ecosystem, “a highly durable material that resists further dissipation." MacDonald’s analysis contrasts with statements from federal  officials in August that about 75 percent of the oil spilled from the Macondo well had disappeared.

--Reed McManus

 

Sep 27, 2010

Aggressively Passive

Passive house In our September/October issue. Sierra introduced readers to the concept of a "passive house," a super-efficient home that cuts energy use up to 90 percent compared to a conventional newly constructed  residence. A more stringent regimen than the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design  (LEED) certification program for homes,  the passive house concept is common in Germany, Austria, and Scandinavian countries, and is only now gaining attention in the United States. On Sunday, the New York Times ran a comprehensive article on passive homes, along with a very nifty graphic explaining how all those energy efficiencies come together.

--Reed McManus

 

Thus I refute thee, Roslyn Dee!

 4157815518_e4a470e12c

Here on the West Coast it's too hot for words (a record 113 degrees in Los Angeles today), so I'll just pass on this cool excerpt from the excellent selection of cycling quotes at Quickrelease.tv: 

"Ever see Audrey Hepburn on a bike? No, me neither. Catherine Deneuve? Nope. The very notion of either of them, surely two of the most elegant women the world has ever known, getting into the gear and clambering on board a bike is a full-frontal assault on beauty."

--Roslyn Dee, columnist, Irish Daily Mail, February 2, 2008

--Paul Rauber

Sep 23, 2010

Oil Ads, the Golden Years

This morning the indispensable Joe Romm of Climate Progress posted this fabulous advertisement for Shell Oil, which appeared in the December 22, 1947 issue of Life magazine:

4900518222_3299ba1ceb_b

Romm wonders if it might be "the worst oil ad in history." Wrong Joe! The Worst Oil Ad in History was reprinted in Sierra in our May/June 1998 issue, as part of the feature "New! Improved! Destroys the Environment!" The story is sadly unavailable in digital form, but here's the ad that puts Joe Romm's oil salad to shame:

Mobile
Readers, am I right? A free Sierra Club backpack to anyone who can find a better (i.e. more disturbing) one.

--Paul Rauber

Sep 22, 2010

Imagine There's No Traffic Jam

Today is World Car Free Day (I'd link but apparently all the intention caused their site to crash). I celebrated--as I do most days--by riding my bike to the train station. It's not hard! It saves lots of gas and carbon dioxide and justifies that extra slice of lemon meringue pie.

IStock_000011883526XSmall But the same folks who deny that all that CO2 is warming the atmosphere take a dim view of cycling; a press release from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (a major beneficiary of funds from the Koch brothers, wouldn't you know it) encourages us to "to protest - by taking a drive, just because."

"The automobile has improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people in remarkable ways," says CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. "Instead of pushing a misguided political agenda to reduce car use, we should be celebrating automobility."

Emboldened, CEI issues a throwdown: 

"In contrast to the photographs on various Car-Free Day websites, which show healthy young people in picture-perfect weather, advocates of car-free living ought to be portray what it would mean in more realistic conditions, such as: 
When it's raining
When you’re carrying several bags of groceries
When you’re carrying a baby, with a toddler alongside you
On crutches After midnight
Without using a car or cab to get to the train or bus station
Any combination of the above."

Easy-peasy, as my 5-year-old would say. Intrepid Climate Crossroads blogger Canyon Kyle has already covered everything except the crutches here, here, and here. And if you're on crutches? There's always this.

-Paul Rauber

 

 

 

Sep 21, 2010

Koch Koch Koch Koch

Did someone say "Koch"? A bright point in an otherwise dismal political season is the attention being showered on Charles and David Koch, the reclusive Kansas oil-and-gas barons who spend millions on Tea Partiers, climate-change deniers, and other institutions in order to keep the billions rolling in. Their latest effort, as detailed by the New York Times last Friday, has been a $1 million contribution to the effort to defeat California's AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. The aim of this landmark legislation is to roll back the state's CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, which is obviously in conflict with the Koch brothers' goal of selling as much oil and gas as possible. More importantly, a Koch spokesperson tells the Times that should California be allowed to do something about global warming, "it sets a bad precedent for other state and federal governments to do the same thing.”

After shining the spotlight on the nation's biggest promoters of global warming, the Gray Lady followed up today with a killer editorial, "The Brothers Koch and AB 32." Well worth your time, but here's the kicker:

Who wins if this law is repudiated? The Koch brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who are already moving briskly ahead in the clean technology race. And the losers? The people of California, surely. But the biggest loser will be the planet.

--Paul Rauber

 

 

 

 

Sep 15, 2010

GOP Reaches Consensus on Climate Change!

Castle2 Earlier this week, Think Progress reported that among Republicans vying for 37 Senate seats this November, only Representative Mike Castle of Delaware supported action on climate change. But in that state’s Republican primary on Tuesday, Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell knocked the nine-term congressman out of the running for the Senate seat once held by Joe Biden. Upstart O’Donnell refers to cap-and-trade energy legislation, which Castle supported in 2009, as “Nancy Pelosi’s cap and tax energy scheme.” That leaves this year’s Senate pool empty of support for climate legislation.

But what about Arizona Senator John McCain (R), who cosponsored the first Senate bill calling for mandatory greenhouse-gas reductions and earned the League of Conservation Voters endorsement in 2004? He has been on the climate sidelines since 2008, and there is little hope that he will return to green issues any time soon.

--Reed McManus

 

 


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