Category Archives: environment

Elections Have Consequences

Call me biased but there are some issues that I firmly believe are better in Democratic hands than Republican ones. And I put the environment at the top of that list.

If you want clean air, water, soil and all the rest, Democrats are your people. Sure, we have disagreements and we’re not perfect; BernieBros purists will be happy to point out Democrats who are okay with fracking, or others who believe in “clean coal.” These are complicated issues and there are some tough choices and all the rest. But by and large, Democrats are the ones who are reliable defenders of the environment. Republicans are the ones who harp on about “red tape” and “regulations” harming jobs, who peddle fantasies about the “free hand of the market” driving polluters out of business and who constantly harp on about dismantling the EPA.

So excuse me for being a little puzzled by the people of Benton County, TN who have lately been wondering how their landfill all of a sudden started accepting hazardous waste, which appears to be a health issue for those living nearby. I’ll tell you how that happened: you overwhelming voted for Republicans at every level of government, and those people don’t give a shit about your water and air, that’s how.

Or to put it another way:

Obtaining a state permit to establish a new landfill requires public notice and disclosure about the types of waste that will be deposited so communities can discuss, debate or even intervene to stop a landfill before it starts. Once a landfill has gotten its initial permit, however, landfill owners and waste generators in Tennessee can privately petition the state to accept additional and potentially hazardous materials.

[…]

Camden Mayor Roger Pafford said no one from TDEC informed city officials that their town was now home to a hazardous waste landfill. The omission was particularly galling to city officials because the leachate – or wastewater – pipe carrying hazardous waste from the landfill flows directly above a city drinking water main.

Well, that’s bad news. So is it okay for private industries to “privately petition the state to accept additional and potentially hazardous materials” and not tell anyone what’s going on? I certainly don’t think so. But remember, our wonderful “moderate” non-crazy Gov. Haslam is the one who removed consumer representatives from the Underground Storage Tank and Solid Waste Disposal Control Board. So that might be one reason why you didn’t know about the toxic sludge now buried in your backyards.

And to add insult to injury, these folks are now hoping the EPA can help them get to the bottom of this mess. They’ve actually requested that the Environmental Protection Agency investigate this.

Excuse me a moment.

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HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA }}

Okay, I’m back now.

Have y’all seen the bill Republicans filed in Congress to eliminate the EPA? That is literally what the bill says:

The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.

And that’s it. So, Benton County, good luck with that! Even if that bill fails, have you seen the order of the President (the guy you voted for overwhelmingly) to dismantle the EPA’s clean water rule? Or his proposal to slash the EPA’s budget by a whopping 25% so we can build more nukes? I mean, you voted for it, bigly, so certainly you’re aware of the Trump mandate that EPA data and studies undergo a political review before being released to the public?

You knew about this right? Right?

So do you seriously think a Trump-era EPA has the time, money, or political mojo to go after Haslam cronies in the solid waste business? Pardon me again:

{{ HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA }}

And do you really think that Congressman Marsha Blackburn, who wants to fold the EPA into a cubby in a corner of the Dept. of Energy — and yet another politician you’ve voted for, repeatedly, by like 75% — is going to give a rats’ ass about your drinking water?

And let’s see how much Gov. Haslam, who also has your undying electoral love and devotion, cares. He’s in the midst of actually increasing the amount of toxic sludge flowing into landfills that people previously thought were for orange peels and other household waste:

TDEC is moving forward with efforts to speed up the special waste approval process. TDEC officials last month told members of the Underground Storage Tank and Solid Waste Disposal Control Board – the oversight board of members appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam – they were creating an online submission portal that will allow TDEC officials to approve requests for disposal. Haslam four years ago reconstituted the board to remove consumer representatives.

So I really want to know why you idiots keep reflexively pulling the lever for Republicans when you’re worried about safe drinking water and complaining about the loss of land values because of the burning sensation when you jump in the swimming pool and the pH levels that are “off the charts.”

When will you people wake up and realize that your Republican representatives at the state and federal level do not respect you or care about you? They use gays, God and abortion to sucker you into voting for them, then they ignore you the rest of the time. They cut government to the size where it’s useless when you need it, but hey: you bought every BS line they sold you about “big government,” so you have only yourselves to blame.

And okay fine, go ahead and join the Sierra Club now as a last resort, while you try to tell yourself that you’re “not an environmentalist.” We’re all environmentalists, asshole. Poisoned air and water don’t care about your party affiliation. This stuff affects all of us, regardless.

Honestly, I don’t get it, folks.

16 Comments

Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, elections, environment, EPA, Tennessee

Oil Is Over

From the wire services:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Royal Dutch Shell will cease exploration in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast following disappointing results from an exploratory well backed by billions in investment and years of work.

The announcement was a huge blow to Shell, which was counting on offshore drilling in Alaska to help it drive future revenue. Environmentalists, however, had tried repeatedly to block the project and welcomed the news.

Shell has spent upward of $7 billion on Arctic offshore exploration, including $2.1 billion in 2008 for leases in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast, where an exploratory well about 80 miles off shore drilled to 6,800 feet but yielded disappointing results. Backed by a 28-vessel flotilla, drillers found indications of oil and gas but not in sufficient quantities to warrant more exploration at the site.

Activists in Seattle had been protesting Shell for months after the oil company announced plans to use the Port of Seattle as its base for the Arctic drilling operation. The protests severely hurt Shell’s attempts to craft a public image of an “environmentally friendly” oil company.

I’ve said all along that the economics of offshore oil drilling just aren’t there at this point — maybe not ever again. The easy oil is gone; the stuff that’s left is extraordinarily difficult (and expensive) to get at. With oil prices plummeting, it just doesn’t make economic sense.

Meanwhile, Shell is in the hole to the tune of $4.1 billion thanks to this bad business decision — and not only that, it’s been a public relations disaster, too:

Shell is expected to take a hit of around $4.1bn as a result of the decision.

The company has come under increasing pressure from shareholders worried about the plunging share price and the costs of what has so far been a futile search in the Chukchi Sea.

Shell has also privately made clear it is taken aback by the public protests against the drilling which are threatening to seriously damage its reputation.

Ben van Beurden, the chief executive, is also said to be worried that the Arctic is undermining his attempts to influence the debate around climate change.

His attempts to argue that a Shell strategy of building up gas as a “transitional” fuel to pave the way to a lower carbon future has met with scepticism, partly because of the Arctic operations.

A variety of consultants have also argued that Arctic oil is too expensive to find and develop in either a low oil price environment or in a future world with a higher price on carbon emissions.

Oil is over. It’s yesterday, it’s finished. Give it up.

3 Comments

Filed under energy production, environment, oil industry

Walter Palmer, Worst Human In The World

[UPDATE]:

And right on cue:

palmer

Good luck with that, asshole.

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If you haven’t heard, the killer of Zimbabwe’s unofficial lion mascot Cecil is a Minnesota dentist/trophy hunter/repulsive excuse for a human being:

According to the Zimbabwe Conservation Task, Cecil was “lured out of a national park with food, shot with a crossbow, tracked for 40 more hours, then finished off with a gun” by Walter, who is a known trophy hunter. The murder of Cecil is horrifying on its own, but now the many lion cubs left behind are at risk of being killed without Cecil around to protect the pride.

Cecil was found skinned and beheaded. Palmer claims he “didn’t know” the animal he shot was protected and “beloved” but the guy completely lacks credibility. As ABC noted:

In 2008, Palmer pleaded guilty to making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he shot and killed in Wisconsin outside of an authorized hunting zone, according to court documents.

Serial liar. Also, apparently sued for sexual harassment. Charming person.

The internet is doing what the internet always does: express its righteous outrage. Dr. Palmer’s Yelp page is certainly interesting, and with Yelp deleting comments as fast as they can be posted, I thought I’d capture a few screen shots for your enjoyment. I hope there’s a bankruptcy in this sadist’s future.

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11 Comments

Filed under environment

Good News For The World, Bad News For Republicans

This story says so much about the changing global dynamic and the GOP’s participation in the defining issue of our day:

Carbon dioxide emissions from the world’s energy producers stalled in 2014, the first time in 40 years of measurement that the level did not increase during a period of economic expansion, according to preliminary estimates from the International Energy Agency.

The research suggests that efforts to counteract climate change by reducing carbon emissions and promoting energy efficiency could be working, said Fatih Birol, the agency’s chief economist and incoming executive director. “This is definitely good news,” he said.

Dr. Birol noted that many nations have promoted energy efficiency and low-carbon energy sources like hydroelectric, solar, wind and nuclear power. China, he noted, has worked to reduce carbon emissions as part of an intensive effort to limit environmental damage from economic development. That China appears to be successfully moving down that path, he said, portends well for the deal struck with the United States in November. China committed in that agreement to turning around its growth in carbon emissions by 2030, or earlier if possible, while increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in energy production to 20 percent of its menu.

The agency has been collecting data on carbon dioxide emissions for 40 years, and in that time emissions have stalled or dropped only three times; each of those coincided with weakness in the global economy. The last instance was in 2009, during a global economic slump. In 2014, however, the economy expanded by about 3 percent.

The Republican Party has basically checked out of this issue. They’ve obstructed and denied and propagandized and in pretty much every way imaginable said, “no, we won’t do anything about it. In fact, we don’t even believe in it.” So everyone else said fine, we’ll do it without you. And I mean really, on every important issue of the day — healthcare reform, GLBT equality, pulling ourselves out of an economic quagmire — haven’t conservatives always checked out and left it to everyone else to fix? Yes, they have. Useless idiots, every single one. “Takers” who benefit from the hard work the rest of us have done. Ironic, that.

True, one year’s CO2 emissions may be an anomaly. We aren’t out of the woods yet. But I’m encouraged, and I really think it says something ominous about the GOP. Nothing screams political fail louder than refusing to participate in solving our generation’s biggest threat.

7 Comments

Filed under climate change, environment, Republican Party

How You Know Your Empire Has Died

[UPDATE]:

Here’s the audio clip:

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This discussion between Ali Velshi and Stephen Leeb on Al Jazeera America yesterday was the smartest five minutes I’ve heard on TV news in a long time. The segment was about the new carbon pollution proposals the EPA just unveiled, the same proposals causing aneurisms in right-wing “Drill Here, Drill Now” land (sorry, bear with me guys: for some reason I can’t get the audio clip to post, so here’s the transcript. And you’re gonna have to take my word for this until I can figure out how to post audio, which I believe involves me making a purchase of some kind, possibly more storage) (Got the link posted, I was right, I needed to buy something. The things I do for you guys):

AV: Joining us to tell us more is Stephen Leeb, founder and research chairman of the Leeb Group. Now Stephen, you and I have talked for years about cleaner energy, you‘re an expert on the energy field and somebody who embraces a cleaner environment. My guess is that you would like this, but I’ve heard rumblings that you don’t think this is a good idea?

SL: Well Ali, it’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea, I think it’s a day late, a dollar short, and maybe that’s an exaggeration. It’s way too little. What we need in this country is something nationwide, something like the interstate highway system. Something like a smart grid that runs across the country. I mean for me the key here in reading it was that it’s up to the individual states. That just doesn’t cut it. We have a grid in this country that in some.. there are cases in which our grid is more than a century old.

AV: This is our electrical grid.

SL: This is our electrical grid! I mean the only reason people can’t hack it is that one state doesn’t talk to another state! That’s the only advantage I can see to having a grid this old. We could create so many jobs by following China’s example. Build out a smart grid. Then you can have all these energy sources — gas, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal…

AV: Everything feeds in.

SL: Everything feeds in. Right now the Chinese are eating our lunch. I mean there was an item about a week ago in the Financial Times. EDF, a massive French utility, is building an electric plant that will supply 7% of British electricity. Massive! Except they didn’t have the skill sets. Who did they turn to? Not us! The Chinese. Who now has the fastest way of transmitting voltage from one part of the country to the other part of a country? The Chinese! We need to get our act together, Ali, if we’re really going to do something. Yes, I mean, I applaud any efforts to cut down emissions, to use new fuels and we may even get more solar and more wind because ….

AL: And that’s starting to happen. But in Europe it was the cap.. I hear you on how this can be unwieldly with the states but the concept of a cap-and-trade system and an exchange has worked out for Europe.

SL: It can work out yes, but it’s not going to be the solution unless you have a grid that can accommodate it across the country. Eventually you run into trouble. And I’m not even talking about the troubles that you see when you write down the amount of shale oil in this country by 60%, which we did the other day. All of a sudden the Monterey has 4% of what we originally thought.

AV: Right, across the country we are finding in these wells where we thought there was more oil and in some cases natural gas, there’s less.

SL: And it could be much less or maybe there’s more, I mean, you can always hope. But right now we’re becoming more and more dependent on the Marcellus. And you’re starting to see very rapid decline rates there. We need something Ali, I mean we were able to do it 30-40 years ago, interstate highway system, man to the moon…

AV: We don’t have the will to do anything on a national level, particularly something that would cost billions and billions of dollars.

SL: But create billions and billions of jobs! I mean, we somehow equate investment with spending, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Investment in an electrical grid, is not spending, it’s not wasteful. It’s creating something that will benefit all of us, our children, etc.

AV: Give me a sense, because we’ve had some Republicans come out and say this will increase energy costs for the average family in this country where the middle class is struggling. What is the net result on electrical prices out of this?

SL: You know, my guess is the net result is electrical prices go up because the guts of our electrical system right now is still hydrocarbons, and they’re not getting more plentiful. They’re getting scarcer, despite the shale revolution. They are. We’re not going to ever become energy independent, at most maybe we’ll be able to produce 11 million barrels of oil. We may have a little gas to export but basically we’re still going to be relying on outside sources. So regardless, it’s going to up. We need cleaner, renewable, new sources of energy in order to counteract that and this legislation or these proposals — they’re not legislation, not by a long shot — they just don’t go anywhere near far enough to getting us to that goal. I mean I hate to say this but we should take a page out of what the Chinese are doing. I mean look…

AV: There’s no question, they are well ahead of us when it comes to electricity.

SL: And look at their economy? They’re spending all of this money but last I heard their economy is still growing at 7 and a half percent a year. One of the reasons is all the money they’re spending on infrastructure. Let’s do the same thing!

AV: From your lips to their ears, Stephen! Good to see you …

This is what makes me nuts. The idea that we’ve lost touch with what is an “investment” and what is “spending,” when the hell did we decide we can no longer “invest” in America? Now it’s all just “pork” or whatever. The Democrats can’t even get ahead of the damn meme.

You know that America is no longer a global superpower when we can no longer do The Big Things. The saddest thing is, we can’t do these Big Things not because we don’t have the money or the know-how or the military might, but simply because we don’t have the will. This is how empires die, people.

The last “big” thing we did was invade Iraq and Afghanistan. And we did it, not because we forged consensus and compromised and came together as a nation to do it, but because one faction bulldozed their way over anyone who so much as asked the question, why? They used every tool in the toolbox — fear, flag-waving, you name it — to get their way.

The fact that the Left is completely unable to muster the same amount of national will on something clearly more in the country’s interest than invading an oil-rich country in the Middle East is, to me, the single biggest threat to America’s future.

Damn depressing, folks.

12 Comments

Filed under Ali Velshi, carbon offsets, China, climate change, environment, EPA

Your Government Under Republicans

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

Ash Spill Shows How Watchdog Was Defanged

RALEIGH, N.C. — Last June, state employees in charge of stopping water pollution were given updated marching orders on behalf of North Carolina’s new Republican governor and conservative lawmakers.

“The General Assembly doesn’t like you,” an official in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told supervisors called to a drab meeting room here. “They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message.”

From now on, regulators were told, they must focus on customer service, meaning issuing environmental permits for businesses as quickly as possible. Big changes are coming, the official said, according to three people in the meeting, two of whom took notes. “If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.”

But when the nation’s largest utility, Duke Energy, spilled 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River in early February, those big changes were suddenly playing out in a different light. Federal prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation into the spill and the relations between Duke and regulators at the environmental agency.

This is how Republicans “govern.” We see it here in Tennessee and everywhere Republicans are put in charge. This is what they do. Defang the regulators and those charged with oversight under the guise of “creating jobs,” then when the inevitable happens and and families are forced to truck in their drinking at personal expense, Republican throw up their hands and say, “See! We told you so! We told you government can’t do anything right!”

It’s hard to feel sorry for the very people who keep voting for this nonsense in the first place because they buy into those ridiculous free market fairy tales. Except the sad thing is, we all end up paying.

Privatize gains, socialize losses. It’s the Republican way.

8 Comments

Filed under ash spill, environment, Republican Party

“We can stop this madness”

Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation of the Philippines came as the UN’s conference on climate change kicked off in Warsaw, Poland. The Philippines’ lead negotiator, Yeb Sano, whose hometown took a direct hit from the storm, gave an emotional plea for global action on climate change, at times choking back tears, for which he received a standing ovation. If you watch Al Jazeera America, you saw the video and were as touched as I was. (If you watch MSNBC, CNN, network news or, God forbid, Fox, you saw some dog-and-pony-show bullshit on who’s running for president in America in 2016).

As Sano expressed so emotionally in his address, the Philippines have been tested not once but twice by extreme storms powered by climate change’s warming seas. He had a stark reality check for those who still deny what is so painfully obvious to everyone else in the world:

To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair. I dare you to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce. Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, you may want to pay a visit to the Philippines right now.

[…]

Disasters are never natural. They are the intersection of factors other than physical. They are the accumulation of the constant breach of economic, social, and environmental thresholds. Most of the time disasters are a result of inequity and the poorest people of the world are at greatest risk because of their vulnerability and decades of maldevelopment, which I must assert is connected to the kind of pursuit of economic growth that dominates the world; the same kind of pursuit of so-called economic growth and unsustainable consumption that has altered the climate system.

[…]

What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness.

We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw.

I’ve been saying for years that right-wing narcissism/xenophobia has fueled so much climate denialism in the rank-and-file: hey, the weather is nice in my hometown! Must be fine everywhere, so shut yer yaps!

And yet, every year around this time I make my annual donations to the American Red Cross, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Oxfam International, etc. related to one natural disaster or another. The fact that last year we had Hurricane Sandy and this year we’ve had two extreme typhoons just months apart should tell you something right there. Each new storm is more severe than the last; each super-storm and super-typhoon leaves more death and devastation in its wake.

I’m not sure that Sano is right. I’m not sure that we can stop this madness. Personally, I think it’s already too late. Now is the time to batten down the hatches and prepare for the consequences of our profligate ways.

But Sano is right, it is madness. And the people who suffer are usually the poorest nations of the world, the ones whose stories go uncovered by American corporate media, which is more interested in presidential politics than stories about real people.

In the meantime, people are suffering. Please consider donating to one of the groups I’ve mentioned above, or your own relief agency of choice.

8 Comments

Filed under climate change, environment

Assholes Are Stupid

You may have heard the story of the Utah Boy Scout leaders who last week performed a tremendous public service act of vandalism when they destroyed a 170 million-year-old rock formation:

Under fire from the Boy Scouts of America and under investigation by law enforcement, two Utah troop leaders who taped themselves gleefully toppling a boulder from a Jurassic-era rock formation in a state park said Friday they should have been more hands-off.

[…]

Taylor and Hall, who were on a trip to Goblin Valley State Park with eight Boy Scouts, recorded the moment they dislodged the rock from the spot it had been perched for 170 million years.

The video, which was posted to YouTube by the Salt Lake Tribune, shows them cheering and high-fiving, crowing that they had saved lives. Taylor struck a pro-wrestling strongman pose and Hall sang the 1990 dance-party hit, “Wiggle It — Just a Little Bit.”

“We have now modified Goblin Valley,” Hall declared on the video.

A rock formation which had withstood all of nature’s fury for 170 million years could not survive the ignorance of some Utah Boy Scout leaders?

Bullshit.

I’m not buying the “we were only trying to help” excuse. Nobody is that stupid, not even in Utah. Especially not in Utah. I’ve spent plenty of time exploring Bryce Canyon, Zion and Arches national parks, all in Utah. These places are filled with fascinating rock formations which may look precarious but have actually been standing for hundreds of millions of years. It’s a signature feature of the state’s natural landscape. There is no way in hell Boy Scout leaders in Utah are not aware of this. They were just being assholes, plain and simple.

Then again, maybe Glenn Taylor truly is that stupid. Because it appears just a few weeks before taping himself destroying an ancient rock formation, he had filed a personal injury lawsuit related to a car accident which happened waaaay back in 2009:

Taylor, the man who is seen actually shoving the rock to the ground, had filed a personal injury lawsuit against a woman and her father for injuries he says he suffered in a 2009 car crash. Taylor filed the lawsuit at the beginning of September saying that after that accident he injured his back and had to “endure great pain and suffering, disability, impairment, loss of joy of life.” Taylor also says in the lawsuit that the accident was “debilitating.”

Alan Macdonald says he was surprised when he saw the lawsuit come across his desk. He says his daughter rear-ended several cars during that accident, Taylor, he says, was one of them. Macdonald says no one went to the hospital after the crash.

He says after watching the video that has taken off across the Internet, he thinks Taylor doesn’t look debilitated at all, “he’s climbing over other rocks,” says Macdonald, after watching the tape, “then he lines up, gets leverage and pushes that big old rock several times before he finally pushes it over,” Macdonald continues, “then he turns and twists and high fives and yucks it up and flexes his muscles he just doesn’t look like a terribly disabled person to me.”

Glenn Taylor, I believe you’ve just learned a cardinal rule: don’t fuck with Mother Nature. She will not be amused.

Hey Glenn Taylor: Don't Worry Your Pretty Little Head About This One, 'mm'kay?

Hey Glenn Taylor: Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head About This One, ‘mm’kay?

8 Comments

Filed under environment

TVA, Killing Us Softly

We need to have a little chat about the Tennessee Valley Authority, aka, TVA (and by the way, on a “you didn’t build that” note? If you live in the seven-state Tennessee Valley region — almost all Red States, let me add — you are enjoying cheap power made possible by every taxpayer in the US of A. If you’ve got a factory or a business? You didn’t build that. Think VW or Nissan would open a factory here if we didn’t have a ready and reliable supply of cheap power? Yeah, seems the free market fairies didn’t have any incentive to wave their magic wands over this part of the country and bring flood control and electricity to the hicks and hayseeds here. It took that Commie Franklin D. Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress to do that. So suck on that one, why don’t you. But I digress).

First of all, TVA is ending its Generation Partners Program at the end of September and replacing it with something less attractive. They’re touting a 20-year contract, but they’re only buying energy at a premium (retail rate plus x-cents per KwH) for 10 years, and that amount is less than what those of us currently in the program receive. So they’re locking you in for a longer contract and paying you less. I’m still unclear as to what happens after 10 years, if they’ll just pay the base rate or if they expect you to give them the energy you generate for free. Surely … not?

With that in mind, let’s look at some other facts.

1- TVA really, really needs to improve its alternative energy investment. Like, really. On my latest “Green Power Switch” newsletter (that’s where customers voluntarily buy blocks of renewable energy at a cost of $4 per unit each month. It helps pay for stuff like the Generation Partners program), it broke down by actual percent which renewables comprise that program. Solar is a paltry 8%, which considering the investment in solar in this state — and the potential in the entire TVA region — is ridiculous. The bulk, actually, is biomass biogas. I don’t even consider that a renewable, frankly.

[UPDATE:]

It’s actually worse than that. I finally found a link to the 2011 & 2012 “product content”. It’s 8% solar, 44% wind, and 48% biogas for 2012; in 2011, it was 14% solar, 32% biomass (not biogas, don’t know the difference) and 54% wind. That’s a huge shift.

I called TVA’s Renewable Energy Information Call Center and didn’t get a satisfactory answer to my question regarding the difference between biomass and biogas (both seem to be from agricultural waste?), let alone any information as to why TVA’s is purchasing less wind and solar this year versus last. I had to be transferred to TVA (that’s not who I was calling?) to get my very logcial questions answered. After getting transferred to TVA, waiting on hold, confusing another poor sop in the customer service department, waiting on hold again, and getting transferred to another person I got … voicemail.

* sigh *

Customer service FAIL.

Y’know, way, way back in another lifetime I actually worked for TVA. One thing I can tell you is that managers are forced to waste spend just ooodles amount of time going to training seminars, customer service seminars, this workshop thing, that off-site training doo-hickey. It’s amazing anyone can get anything done. And yet, you call to get two little perfectly logical questions answered and it’s like I asked them to explain the physics of a fucking nuke plant.

If I get any answers, y’all will be the first to know.

2- Right now we’re still dealing with the toxic aftermath of TVA’s December 2008 Kingston Coal Ash Spill, which dumped 1.1 billion gallons of coal slurry into the Tennessee, Clinch and Emory Rivers. That’s right, we’re still cleaning this mess up nearly four years later, and now it looks like we — oh and I do mean we, because that’s who’s paying for this, the ratepayers — will be out another $10 million for — get this — not to clean up the rest, oh no! But to “monitor” the ash and surrounding environment for 30 years. Yes because it’s just too fucking expensive to finish cleaning it up. I’m serious: they could spend up to $179 million cleaning up the “residual ash” (that’s on top of the $1.2 billion TVA estimated it would cost to clean up the bulk of the toxic mess). The rest, of course, got trucked to a landfill in the poor, predominantly African American Perry County, Alabama, where the people are so desperate for jobs they’ll happily pay the price of TVA’s dirty sins. Losses are always, always socialized by our poorest and most vulnerable. Shameful.

This is an untenable situation, not just for the people in Tennessee but for people far away who never used one kilowatt of the Kingston Fossil Plant’s energy. Seems like there could be a better way of generating electricity, one that doesn’t come with all of these social and financial costs. Oh, wait! There is! The program TVA is in the midst of killing.

TVA Invested In Clean Coal & All I Got Was A Billion Gallons Of Coal Sludge In My Living Room

And don’t think you can breathe a sigh of relief if you don’t live near Kingston. TVA operates 11 coal-fired plants and in 2009, storage problems were found at every one of them.

3- The NRDC has ranked Tennessee the 11th-worst state in the nation for coal-based air pollution. And we’re not even the worst in the TVA region! (click on the image to enlarge):

Hey Kentucky! You’re Number One!

The breakdown of where TVA states rank in this list is as follows:

1- Kentucky
8- North Carolina
9- Georgia
11- Tennessee
12- Virginia
14- Alabama
15- Mississippi

Yay, Mississippi! You’re finally last on a list that you want to be last on! Of course, you really don’t want to be on this list at all! (We keed, Mississippi. We keed because we lurve.)

So wrap your head around this one: every single TVA state is in the top of the “toxic 20” for electricity generation-related air pollution. TVA, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Really.

So let’s connect dots 1, 2 & 3 here: TVA’s anemic renewables program is getting less attractive to participants. But the way TVA currently generates electricity is toxic, costly and unsafe to both humans and the environment (and need I point out how redundant that is, because anything toxic to the environment is by default also toxic to humans. We cannot unhook ourselves from our planetary life support system).

Okay, anyone think this makes sense? No? Good.

The good news is that TVA is a quasi-public organization. The board is set by Congress. You can write your congress critters and tell them you want the board to reflect more sensitivity to renewables and environmental safety. Also, if you live in or near Knoxville, maybe you can sign up to speak at their August 16 board meeting. Maybe they need some Occupying to nudge them in the right direction.

Tell ’em Southern Beale sent ya.

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Filed under alternative energy, ash spill, energy future, energy production, environment, Tennessee, TVA

Living The Leaf Life, Update

In honor of Earth Day I thought I’d update folks on my Nissan Leaf experience. Short answer: yes I still love my car. No, I haven’t had any issues — not with range, nor with anything else.

The one question everyone always asks when I’m out and about is, “what kind of gas mileage do you get?” To which I always answer, “Zero.” Ha ha. People are still wrapping their heads around the idea of a non-internal combustion engine. And I get that; it’s a big change. The concept of a car without a tailpipe — which doesn’t require regular oil changes! — is a big effin’ deal, to paraphrase Joe Biden. You know what else the Leaf doesn’t do? Get hot. You come in from a long drive and the hood is pretty much cool to the touch.

The Leaf’s Carwings software tells me I average 7 miles per kWh. Based on that, we calculate I get the equivalent of 300 miles per gallon. That’s factoring in what NES charges for electricity on a $3.65/gallon gas price: since we have a solar array on our roof and are actually selling our power several months out of the year, it doesn’t quite work out that way for us. But you get the general idea.

And no, we haven’t seen any uptick in our electric bill; in fact, as I’ve mentioned before, because of home energy efficiency work we did last year like insulation and ductwork sealing, we’re actually using less electricity than last year, when we didn’t have an EV.

All of this has to be presented with a big caveat: I don’t drive a lot, mostly just in-town stuff. So, “your mileage may vary.”

Last week I saw this story in a local paper about the number of public charging stations which go unused. We see these stories a lot these days, and they annoy the hell out of me. Fer crying out loud, people: the Leaf has only been available in this state for, what, a year? Jesus. Give it a rest. This stuff takes time. Quit yer whining.

You know, I’m always hearing people say, “there’s an EV charger at such-and-such place and .. I never see anyone using it!” My response? So what! How many times do you see empty handicapped parking spaces? Or how about those parking spaces retailers reserve for expectant mothers? I see them at shopping malls and grocery stores all the time, and they’re always empty. No one bitches about those, do they?

These are things that retailers do to serve their customers (except for handicapped parking, which is required by law). If you’re going to be all “free hand of the market” about this stuff, then let a business owner do what they think serves their clientele. Don’t get your shorts in a knot because you think you know better. I’ve got a steaming cup of STFU with your name on it.

I mostly charge my car at home. Sometimes I charge when I’m out and about, but because I live in town, these public charging stations are not for me. They’re for Leaf owners I know who live out in Williamson County and come into town to do their business. These public chargers will be used as the number of EV owners increases.

And let me add, I’d use the ones down in Brentwood and Williamson County if I knew they were there. There really needs to be a better way of letting people know where these things are: some kind of standardized signage or something. Carwings is supposed to tell you where chargers are located but half the time they don’t show up on your console screen until you actually use one.

So far, the Leaf life is working out really well. Last time I crunched the numbers I calculated I spent $8 a month on transportation, versus the $100 or so I’d spend previously. The economics work, but also: it’s just a great little car.

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Filed under Earth Day, electric car, energy future, environment