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The Political Climate Gets Legal December 17, 2013

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Law.
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This blog has been quiet for a while, but that does not mean the writing has stopped.  Here’s a link to my first print publication with the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, entitled, The “Lone Grid” State: Texas as the Ideal Location for State-Level Climate Regulation (pdf).  In short, I argue that the interaction between the interstate electrical grid and the Constitution’s limitation on state regulation of interstate commerce may actually make Texas better able to enact a strong climate program than even California.  Enjoy!

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GOP vs. the Vatican? May 9, 2011

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Politics.
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Three years ago, the Roman Catholic Church commissioned a report to investigate the environmental changes occurring on our planet.  The Vatican’s non-denominational scientific arm, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, reached out to international experts and asked them to compile the report that will soon be delivered to Pope Benedict XVI.

Brace yourself, because this document issues some shocking warnings: at our current trajectory, we risk “serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses.”  Even more unsettling, it urges deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, offering at least tacit papal approval for socialism (by which I mean cap and trade or a comparable system, of course).  It should be fun to watch Newt Gingrich denounce the pope as a tree-hugging communist any minute now.  Ah, what luck!  A segue… 

One of the most disturbing trends in America is the politicization of science.  Applying politics to science ensures that what threats we encounter will remain unaddressed – how can we ever agree on a solution when half of the political establishment refuses to even acknowledge that a problem exists?  While I am not unbiased, it is objectively fair to say that in this story, Republicans are the bad guys.  Most politicians selectively choose facts that advance their cause, but the GOP attacks any concrete numbers as “fuzzy” and gleefully persecutes scientists just because the reality they study does not conform to dogmatic conservative ideology.  Watching the way Republican congressmen interact with scientists at Congressional hearings will literally dispel any sense of hope you have for our future while they wield any sort of control over our government.

Polling consistently shows that most of our nation’s god-fearing Republicans take it as an article of faith that climate change is a hoax or occurring naturally.  Both of those viewpoints are based entirely on political talking points and polluter-funded propaganda campaigns; scientists do not support these views.  Baseless beliefs of this type are difficult to dislodge, especially with the GOP on a disgustingly successful warpath to discredit everyone with an advanced degree as lying conspirators and/or partisan hacks. 

Enter the Pope.  Granted, His Holiness wasn’t out there measuring glaciers for this report and those dastardly scientists actually wrote the thing, but surely this is different from purely academic work.  It will be interesting to see how, if at all, conservatives respond to the Vatican.  Not that I expect anything at all to change, it will just be interesting to watch. 

Drill Baby Drill Crowd Eyes Alaska Refuge…Again February 3, 2011

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change.
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New post at the new and improved Change.org:

It’s one of those immutable laws of American politics: When oil prices go up, lawmakers inevitably try to get their hands on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Ans as oil prices rise inexorably back near $100 per barrel, Big Oil’s favorite senator, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), is at it again.

Year after year, we have to defend this unparalleled wilderness sanctuary and vital calving ground for the Porcupine caribou from Big Oil’s hired guns in Congress.  It’s time to protect this iconic treasure once and for all.

The Alaska Wilderness League is leading the charge to have the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge designated as a National Monument. Sign their petition here and join more than 32,000 other Change.org activists to tell President Obama to finally secure this natural legacy from special interest exploitation—right now, the petition is just shy of the 35,000 signature benchmark.

Read the full post here.

Port Activists Want to Stop U.S. Coal Export Terminal January 16, 2011

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Coal.
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New post at Change.org:

The export facility proposed by Millennium Bulk Logistics will create 71 permanent jobs in Longview, Washington.  The site’s current tenant, Chinook Ventures, already employs about 50 people.  So let’s put 21 new jobs in the “pro” category (plus 120 temporary construction jobs).  That’s about it on the plus side.

Now let’s examine the negatives.

Transporting upwards of five million tons of coal annually has impacts on a local community that range from the inconveniences of increased traffic to more serious hazards such as air pollution. Coal dust is a well-known health risk (and also explosive suspended in the air, but that’s not a likely event).  This operation would also threaten fish and wildlife in and around the nearby Columbia River.

Read the full post and sign a petition to help stop this project here.

Utah Legislators to Brainwash Youth for Fossil Fuel Industry November 29, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Coal, Natural Gas, Politics.
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Indoctrination. That is what Utah state lawmakers decided to implement last week.  A state committee voted unanimously to recommend the Mineral and Petroleum Literacy Act.  This bill would use oil, gas, and mining revenues to develop an elementary school curriculum to teach young children “the virtues of mineral industries.”

Republican state Rep. Jack Draxler outlined the intolerable situation that left him no choice but to sponsor the Mineral and Petroleum Literacy Act: “Few elementary school-age children can say how important oil, gas and coal are to Utah’s economy or for paying for their educations.”

Read the full post and sign a petition to stop this bill at Change.org.

Canadian Tar Sands Threaten America’s Water Supply October 21, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Politics.
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New post at Change.org:

What if I told you there was an alternative to offshore oil? Don’t get too excited, it’s still oil. What’s more, it’s an alternative that releases three to five times the greenhouse gas emissions and also contaminates up to five barrels of water for each barrel of oil produced, all with the added ecosystem devastation of mountaintop removal mining. Enticed yet? Well, meet tar sands.

The planned Keystone XL pipeline will bisect our nation as it pumps pressurized oil 2000 miles from Alberta to Texas. The Great Plains may not be densely populated or a biodiversity hotspot, but it is America’s breadbasket. An oil spill beneath this proposed pipeline could have devastating consequences. The Midwest is home to the Ogallala aquifer, one of the largest underground water reservoirs in the world. It sprawls over 174,000 square miles beneath most of Nebraska and eight different Great Plains states. It provides 30 percent of the nation’s irrigation water and 82 percent of the drinking water consumed by those who live above it.

Were oil to spill from the Keystone XL pipeline, it could migrate into and contaminate this vital water source. And it’s not as if pipeline leaks are unheard of: just this year, within the United States, we’ve already had leaks in MichiganIllinois, and Alaska.

And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she’s about ready to approve the project.  Read the full post here and sign a petition to stop it here.

 

Our Aging Nuclear Reactors Could Outlive the Average American October 12, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Congress, Nuclear.
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New post at Change.org:

Our aging fleet of nuclear reactors has outlived its initial licenses. Half of them have already been approved to operate for an additional 20 years and the rest will likely be offered similar extensions. There is even discussion of doubling their lifetimes to 80 years; our nuclear reactors could well outlive the average American.

We must be cautious about doubling the lifetimes of our nuclear plants: the AP reports that 27 of our 104 plants leak radioactive tritium, as demonstrated by the recent leak at Entergy’s Vermont Yankee plant. The accompanying cover up was less than inspirational. And we all know that leaks are not the worst nuclear risk.

That being said, America seems destined for a nuclear renaissance if for no other reason than Republicans will not support any energy bill without nuclear incentives. The Obama administration has been pushing nuclear as well. In February, it offered $8.33 billion in loan guarantees to spur new construction, and the president has proposed an additional $46 billion alongside significant federal subsidies.

Full post available here.

Virginia: The Latest Front in the GOP War on Science October 6, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Politics.
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New post at Change.org about how Virginia’s attorney general is earning a name for himself as an anti-science zealot:

Cuccinelli was deeply moved by the fake scandal in Britain [Climategate]. Based on that alone, he chose to investigate a prominent American scientist for fraud, setting a new baseline legal precedent for probable cause that a local newspaper articulately dubbed “hey-it’s-not-impossible.”

Since then, all the researchers have been repeatedly vindicated.

After these developments, this week, Mr. Cuccinelli pursued the only logical course of action: He served a new subpoena to UVA.

Unable to challenge climate science on technical merits, the GOP has taken the fight to the streets. Or worse yet, to Congress. Beyond legislating their values, conservatives are now trying to write laws dictating what is true and what is false – arbitrarily striking down facts via legal decree. As if a 60-vote supermajority could by mutual self-delusion muzzle the laws of atmospheric chemistry. FYI, just in case that doesn’t work, they’re also trying to ban climate science from the classroom.

Full post here.

Russians to Float Nuclear Plant in the Arctic as Ice Melts September 28, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Politics.
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Third post is up at change.org:

Last year, Russia began constructing a floating nuclear power plant. It is scheduled for deployment in the Arctic in 2012 and eleven additional units are currently planned. (Hat tip to Richard Galpin at BBC News.)

I know what you’re thinking: Might there be some remote risks associated with floating nukes in the Arctic? Well, relax, because there actually aren’t any risks whatsoever. Not one. At least not according to a Russian spokesman for the project: “We can absolutely guarantee the safety of our units one hundred percent, all risks are absolutely ruled out.”

Great news, folks, the Russians have unlocked the secret of zero-risk nuclear technology: remove solid land from the equation. Voila! Energy crisis solved.

Read the full post here.

Baby Steps: The Senate Eyes a Renewable Electricity Standard September 22, 2010

Posted by Jamie Friedland in Climate Change, Politics.
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Just finished my second post at Change.org’s environment page:

At this point, we’ll take what we can get. This is the resigned tune being sung by many environmentalists and clean energy advocates as Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sam Brownback (R-Neb.) unveiled a proposal to implement a national renewable electricity standard on Tuesday. And, amazingly enough, it looks like the votes are actually there.

You can read the full post here, but I want to highlight the last paragraph:

Finally, I’d also like to take a moment to highlight the quality of criticism against a renewable energy standard.  You read above that a 15 percent by 2021 standard will have virtually no impact on the energy market.  Yet the energy experts at the conservative Heritage Foundation are sounding the alarm with their analysis that this basically symbolic law would “kill a million jobs and cut a trillion dollars from the national income by the end of the decade.”  Booga booga!

We have to raise the level of political discourse if we are to have sensible governance in this country.  Former President Clinton said yesterday that he thinks we may be entering a “fact free” period in politics.  Such a world might make for nice sound bites, but real problems need real solutions.  And I’m not saying that a weak RES typifies real solutions, but we need to have honest debate about matters of such importance to our country.  Let’s at least not blatantly lie.  Yes, I’m looking at you, Heritage Foundation.