Blog

I knew in my bones the moment I first heard about the recent winter weather-induced rolling blackouts in Texas that someone would use it as an opportunity to take politically motivated potshots at efforts to clean up the nation’s electricity system – facts be darned. It didn't take long.

New data from the Maryland Department of the Environment show a remarkable drop in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from Maryland’s power plants, thanks to the state’s Healthy Air Act that passed in 2006.

On a per-commuter basis, congestion levels are lower than they were five years ago, or even a decade ago.

The climate is like the Apollo 13 spaceship – dangerously out of control and one false move from catastrophe. We don’t have the perfect tools to fix it, and we can only hope that the tools we do have – and can realistically implement in time – are good enough. It behooves all of us who advocate for these positions to be realistic and humble about what they might achieve, and to be sensitive to opposing arguments. But what’s needed now is creative discussion about how to move forward – both on the substance and on the task of rallying the American people to action – not an unproductive tearing-down of policy ideas that don’t meet some ivory tower ideal of purity and comprehensiveness.

The "dead zones" in waterways such as the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay, coupled with the myriad water quality problems faced in areas with heavy agribusiness activity, pose an environmental crisis that is similar in scale and scope to the industrial water pollution problems that prompted passage of the Clean Water Act nearly four decades ago.

There seems to have been a sea change in EPA’s attitude toward environmental information: one that now prioritizes getting data out to the public as quickly as possible and providing multiple tools to help users take advantage of that information. There are still too many gaps in information and too many places where the system falls down, but things are on the upswing.

If Breakthrough and its colleagues can use their agreement on energy R&D to help build a sensible "third way" consensus on climate and energy policy, more power to them. But I suspect that what's really being offered is an easy out to policy-makers who claim to care about the climate, but don't care to do anything consequential about it. It's far easier to put down $25 billion and wish for a technological deus ex machina than it is to figure out how to weatherize 10,000 homes, or change entrenched regulations to provide a level playing field for clean energy, or gore the oxen of powerful special interests.

On October 11, Constellation Energy stumbled over the massively high cost of building a new nuclear reactor. After the federal government refused to give the company a loan guarantee for free, Constellation decided that it didn't have the appetite for the risk that would accompany the construction of a new reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland. To anyone following the so-called “nuclear renaissance" -- and Frontier Group research on the topic -- this stumble should not come as a surprise. Nuclear reactors are likely to become another black hole for taxpayer dollars. Moreover, we have many better energy options to deploy in the fight against global warming.

It is not surprising that the availability of real-time data for bus service -- which the MBTA has been gradually rolling out now for some time -- has coincided with record bus ridership. MBTA bus ridership in August was 4.5 percent higher than the previous year and represented the MBTA's all-time record month.

At its core, the debate is about whether we as a society care to lift a finger to protect our kids (and their kids) from the disruption that global warming will bring – including the kinds of extreme weather events that are rapidly becoming the new normal in the United States and worldwide.

With more local and state governments finding themselves in budget trouble, look for more of these sketchy asset privatization deals in which governments sell off not just the family jewels but also the everyday silver, the plates and the sofa to Wall Street financiers in exchange for a quick infusion of cash.

"We're looking at a crisis of cataclysmic proportions," said Charles Hartsell, an environmental scientist at Tufts University. "In a matter of days, this oil may be refined into a lighter substance that, when burned as fuel in vehicles, homes, and businesses, will poison the earth's atmosphere on a terrifying scale."

It is critical that our nation’s future transportation investment decisions not be driven by “unfrozen” policies from a very different time, nor inaccurate notions about the degree to which highways do or should “pay for themselves,” but rather by a clear-eyed vision of the kind of infrastructure our nation will need to thrive in the 21st century.

Congressional action is a likely prerequisite to solving global warming, but there is plenty that can be done in the meantime to cut emissions and to make future federal action easier to achieve and more likely to succeed.

Late last week we learned that the U.S. Senate will not be considering comprehensive climate legislation before the November elections. Over the weekend, those of us in the Mid-Atlantic learned more about what extreme hot weather, a predicted impact of global warming, feels like.

The thing about environmental disasters is that they have a way of making their impacts felt in insidious, unpredictable ways – often far into the future.

Instead of providing a lengthy take-down of Lind's flights of illogic, ignorance of basic facts, and smarmy pseudo-contrarian tone, I simply direct you to have a look at the comments section for the article. You'll be glad you did!

High-speed rail is no panacea, but it is a powerful tool that has been used to positive effect elsewhere in the world.

America will get off oil one way or another. We will either do it the “easy” way – by making gradual changes in behavior and policy that lead to the development of technological and lifestyle alternatives that reduce our use of oil and move us toward cleaner alternatives – or we will do it the hard way.

Can we do without deep offshore drilling? That’s the question that Brooks never poses. But it’s the one that Americans should be asking.

Pages

Subscribe to Blog