The Dernogalizer

April 30, 2009

100 days

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:51 am
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I thought it would be a good idea to give my brief impression of President Obama’s first 100 days in office in respect to energy and environmental issues, and what still needs work.

I actually think the best part of Obams’s first 100 says has been the staff he has selected to deal with these issues. Carol Browner is special advisor on climate and energy, and she was the former head of Clinton’s environmental protection agency, and is known as a very tough regulator. I actually heard from Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA at Powershift and she was very impressive in insisting the EPA return back to considering science in it’s methods for protection. I’ve also thought and still maintain that Nobel Prize Winner and Energy Secretary Steven Chu is Obama’s finest appointment. I’ve heard very smart and intelligent rhetoric coming out of Chu so far, and I have high confidence he will run the Department of Energy very successfully. On the great jobs front Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has voiced a strong commitment to green jobs, and recently green jobs adviser Van Jones, a terrific and vocal leader in the environmental and African American community. I think we will see very good things from this green team during this term.

The next positive development I would point to is the green part of the economic stimulus. This stimulus had 62.2 billion dollars in specific spending on green initiatives, and there was an additional 20 billion in green tax initiatives. This will lead to notable improvements in renewable energy, energy efficiency, improved energy transmission, the smart grid, low income housing retrofits, green jobs training, and rail transit. On top of all this, 15 billion is going to be committed to these initiatives in the upcoming budget.

One other tentatively positive development has been the EPA officially declaring carbon dioxide pollution a major health hazard. Other noteworthy trends in the right direction were calling on the EPA to revisit requests by 13 states to regulate their car emissions, directing the EPA to raise fuel economy standards, cutting off funding nuclear waste disposal for Yucca Mountain, announcing plans to finally regulate coal ash, and create a Clean Energy Service Corps as an expansion of the current Americorp Program.

There have been some letdowns, and some things I want to see more of. For one, while the EPA is moving to regulate coal ash, there has not been a move to stop permits for the destructive mountaintop removal, too much talk of clean coal technology, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is talking too positively of offshore drilling, and last I have not seen Obama push the climate bill through Congress as hard as he should to this point. I wrote about this recently, and I think he needs to be more aggressive.

All in all though, the last 100 days have been a LOT better than the last 8 years for green issues. I’m optimistic we’re moving in the right direction, I just think we need to move faster.

April 28, 2009

Column on Native Americans

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 10:04 pm
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So I had a column out day about an issue on our campus where the last remaining Native American coures are being but because of lack of funding.  I also talk about energy issues.  Enjoy!

Native Americans: Power for the persecuted

Matt Dernoga

Issue date: 4/28/09 Section: Opinion

A Facebook message asked me to sign a petition demanding that officials re-instate two Native American studies classes the university won’t teach next semester. And I started thinking, is there a more neglected and forgotten minority in the United States today than Native Americans? Counting American Indians and Alaska natives, the 2007 U.S. Census puts the population at about 0.8 percent of the United States, which is still millions of people. And according to the 2000 U.S. Census, about half a million reside on reservations.

The economic opportunities on these reservations are scarce, and there is tremendous hardship. Unemployment rates are more than 50 percent, along with the highest rate of poverty in the nation. The result is, for practically every measurable social statistic, the Native American population ranks at the bottom.

Anyone who reads my columns knows I tie everything and anything into energy and environmental issues. No need to hesitate here. Native American reservations contain large quantities of natural resources, including energy. There is little to no access or control over as to how they are used – 65 percent of North America’s uranium lies on these reservations, as is 80 percent of all the uranium mining and 100 percent of all the uranium processing in the country.

The result has been high rates of cancer, respiratory ailments, miscarriages and birth defects. The water and soil are loaded with lead, radium, thorium and other toxins. People who work in the mines rarely receive clothing, protection, medical evaluation or compensation. There is almost no wealth to show for this exploitation, and our tax dollars subsidize it daily through our funding of uneconomical nuclear power.

There is an ironic twist, though. Throughout history, as Native Americans were thrown off their land and sectioned off in reservations, we thought we were giving them land no one really wanted – land in the Midwest, where the sun was brightest and the wind strongest. We’re now in a time where we desperately need to increase renewable energy production to help address environmental, national security and economic problems, and the solar energy potential on tribal lands is 4.5 times the annual U.S. electric generation. The reservations on the Great Plains have a windpower potential that tops 300 gigawatts, half our annual electric generation. Everyone wins with a clean energy economy, but I can’t think of a group in this country who would benefit more than Native Americans.

This would explain why I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot more of groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network. A good climate bill, a green energy bill and a new electric grid only benefit indigenous people if they are involved in the legislative process. We can’t abuse their renewable resources like we’ve abused their traditional resources. They need to be a partner, not a tool. The less we understand about their culture and history, the harder this will be.

We’re headed in the right direction on energy. I have a hunch. In a few decades, it will be as impossible for the university to abolish Native American courses as African American or women’s studies – lack of funding be damned. For now, they can get away with it. Or can they?

Consider this my petition signature.

Matt Dernoga is a junior government and politics major. He can be reached at mdernoga@umd.edu

April 27, 2009

Mocking Exxon

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 11:11 pm
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I like this advertisement made by Avaaz.  I think it would be great if we could get it on television.  Check it out and consider going to their website and helping them get this more mainstream.

April 26, 2009

Wal-Mart’s Green Path

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 2:33 pm
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I’ve been fascinated with how Wal-Mart, once one of the most notoriously unsustainable and labor-abusive corporations, has managed to transform both its image and it’s now its business to a more sustainable one.  On Earth Day, Wal-Mart announced that they were adding 10-20 solar arrays onto their facilities, to accompany the 18 they already have.  According to the article….”After the new solar panels are in place, the total capacity of renewable energy coming from the Walmart facilities will be 32 million kilowatt hours per year, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 22,500 metric tons, said the company.”  In addition, Walmart has the goal of eventually running on 100% renewable energy, producing zero waste, and selling sustainable products.  

I think it started when they decided to hire the ex-President of the Sierra Club to help transform the company.  The entire story of how this happened can be read here, and it’s quite incredible.  Also great is hearing from Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott asking “since when is waste a business strategy?”.  

A story in the New York Times back in January took a good look at Wal-Mart’s transformation, as well as how it has helped their bottom line, and drawn other big corporations along with them into the mix.  Here are a few notable quotes from this.  I would do a more in depth look of what Wal-Mart has been doing besides solar panels, but the Times story covers it all real well.  

“By virtue of its herculean size, Wal-Mart eventually dragged much of corporate America along with it, leading mighty suppliers like General Electric and Procter & Gamble to transform their own business practices.”

“Today, the roughly 200 million customers who pass through Wal-Mart’s doors each year buy fluorescent light bulbs that use up to 75 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs, concentrated laundry detergent that uses 50 percent less water and prescription drugs that contain 50 percent less packaging.”

“It is hard to measure the financial return of a good image. But no one at Wal-Mart talks about headline risk anymore because the headlines have become largely positive.  Profits climbed to $12.7 billion in the 2008 fiscal year, from $11.2 billion in the 2006 fiscal year, while sales jumped to $375 billion, from $312.4 billion, during the same period. The percentage of employees on Wal-Mart’s health insurance plan rose to 50.2 percent, from 44 percent.”

““As businesses, we have a responsibility to society,” he said this month, speaking to members of the National Retail Federation in his last public speech as Wal-Mart chief. “Let me be clear about this point. There is no conflict between delivering value to shareholders, and helping solve bigger societal problems.”

April 25, 2009

Obama Should Play Hardball

I’ve been blogging consistently about the climate bill written by Congressmen Markey and Waxman which is being considered by the Energy and Commerce Committee.  Right now, the bill is in sub-committee and about to be marked up and negotiated on.  Although the short term target of 20% by 2005 is not strong enough, moderate and conservative Democrats on the committee are looking to weaken the bill. Right now the main compromise looks as though it’s going to be on emissions targets and permit allocations.  Excerpt below..

“The talks suggest that utilities that distribute electricity from coal-fired plants are making progress in their efforts to get free access to 40 percent of the emissions permits, underscoring the challenge lawmakers face in seeking strict limits on carbon dioxide and other contributors to warming.”

Of course, allocating permits to polluters for free really defeats the purpose, which is to make the polluters pay for polluting.  The risk of selling permits for free is that utilities raise prices anyways on consumers, but the government has not sold enough permits to offset this increased cost by spending the revenue on energy relief.  In otherwards, people are not going to fare any better under 40% permits sold for free than 100% sold for a price.  In fact, they may fare worse.  It also means it will be harder to hit reductions targets.  

However, Congressman John Dingel has predicted a bill will pass in some form because of the fact that the EPA has deemed greenhouse emissions a health hazard, and can exercise the authority to regulate them if Congress does not.  In otherwards, if the EPA wanted to right now, they could set their own rules for polluters with their own targets without needing the Congress.  Here is what was said regarding this in the article I posted last week…

“EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson cautioned that regulations are not imminent and made clear that the Obama administration would prefer that Congress address the climate issue through a broader “cap-and-trade” program that would limit heat-trapping pollution.  But she said it was clear from the EPA analysis “that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations” and steps are needed to curtail the impact.  Even if actual regulations are not imminent, the EPA action was seen as likely to encourage action on Capitol Hill.  It’s “a wake-up call for Congress” — deal with it directly through legislation or let the EPA regulate, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate committee dealing with climate legislation. If Congress doesn’t move, Boxer said she would press EPA to taker swift action.”

Right now the EPA is saying to Congress “you do it”.  However, Congress appears on the verge of weakening the bill substantially in a way that it does not reflect what Barack Obama has said he wants, which is a 100% auction of the permits.  If Obama is smart, he will play hardball with the members of Congress currently making deals regarding the bill.  Obama should tell the moderate and conservative Democrats that if they weaken the bills targets, or try and give away any of the permits for free, then he will veto the bill and have the EPA regulate on his terms.  That would be playing hardball, and right now with lobbyists playing that same hardball to water down the bill and compromise my generation’s future, that is what we need.

April 24, 2009

Big Industry Scandal

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 9:58 pm
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I’ve made posts before about the resounding scientific consensus surrounding man-made climate change.  It turns out,  so have the scientists hired by dirty industries 14 years ago.

So to give a summary of this disgraceful revelation, the pollutioning industries formed an organization called the Global Climate Coailtion 14 years ago to prevent congressional action on global warming.  Unfortunately, when the coalition’s own hired scientists came back and said that man-made global warming was a fact, they buried the report.  Then they went and sounded off for years and years about the scientific uncertainty over man-made global warming.  Big surprise(not), but the memo has finally been unearthed.  The American people have been swindled by this disinformation campaign for over a decade, and far too many are still falling for it today.  Notable excerpts below..

““The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.”

“But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.  “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.”

“Throughout the 1990s, when the coalition conducted a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign challenging the merits of an international agreement, policy makers and pundits were fiercely debating whether humans could dangerously warm the planet. Today, with general agreement on the basics of warming, the debate has largely moved on to the question of how extensively to respond to rising temperatures.”

“Benjamin D. Santer, a climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratorywhose work for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was challenged by the Global Climate Coalition and allied groups, said the coalition was “engaging in a full-court press at the time, trying to cast doubt on the bottom-line conclusion of the I.P.C.C.” That panel concluded in 1995 that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”

“I’m amazed and astonished,” Dr. Santer said, “that the Global Climate Coalition had in their possession scientific information that substantiated our cautious findings and then chose to suppress that information.”

April 23, 2009

Catholics and Climate

Ordinarily, we don’t think of religion and global warming solutions mixing all that well.  However, I’ve noticed in recent years more and more of a voice from the religious community regarding the moral imperative to stopping catastrophic warming.  I personally just had a meeting with some members of the Saint Andrews Episcopalian Church in College Park last Monday, where we discussed the issue, and them attending the town hall meeting with Congressman and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer which I’m helping to organize.  I’ve also seen in the news recently about how evangelicals, especially younger ones, consider climate change to be an important issue.  

Today, I’m focusing on Catholics.  There is a website called the Catholic Climate Covenant, which is run by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.  The CCCC “was launched with the support of both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change supports and complements USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (formerly, the Department of Social Development and World Peace) and the bishops’ Environmental Justice Program.  The Coalition is a membership organization consisting of twelve national Catholic organizations that offers advice and assistance in implementing its programs.”

The Coalition sends regular updates to its growing database of interested Catholics and others of goodwill to keep them informed of its activities and current events. Find the recent and previous updates from CCCC atwww.catholicsandclimatechange.org.

They had an Ad  in the New York Times a couple days ago about the need for climage change solutions.  On top of this, the pope mentioned in his Easter message the danger of runaway cliamte change.  On top of all this, they made the video below on their website about the need for adaptation and mitigation funding for the poor who will be disproportionately affected.  This is the explanation on the youtube video’s page…

“After decades of steady progress in reclaiming and advancing the Catholic Churchs efforts to embrace an ethic of environmental stewardship, the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change is ready to launch an unprecedented and historical campaign to take responsibility for our contribution to climate change and do what we do best: be advocates for those who will be left out of the public policy debate on climate change.”

Amen

April 22, 2009

Action Alert: Over 2,000 in DC Tmo and Friday

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 9:20 pm
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Lobbyists trying to stop the climate bill that is.

$450 million: Amount spent on lobbying and political contributions by
opponents of global warming action in 2008.

52: public spokespersons engaged by polluters and the ideological
right to spread disinformation about global warming online and in the
media.

2,340: Number of paid lobbyists working in Washington on climate
change in 2008.

7 in 8: Proportion of climate lobbyists advocating against climate
action.

$45 million: Amount spent on global warming denial advertising by the
coal industry in 2008.

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As I’ve said before, there is a climate bill being considered in Congress right now, which you can read more about here.  I think the people should have a say too.  Google your Congressman’s name, and give their office a call saying you want them to support the Waxman-Markey climate bill.  Write a letter to the editor supporting Congress to cap carbon and help spark the shift to a clean energy economy.  The best thing though, is to just show up.  Below is an opportunity for people to have their voice heard inside the halls of Congress.  These kinds of activities are also going on Friday in the same place, although the big push is Thursday.  If the above numbers indicate anything, it’s that we all need to find a way to have our voice heard on this one.  2 million votes beats 2,000 lobbyists.  

 

RSVP to theteam@energyaction.net or the Facebook event

What: This Thursday’s Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill

Who: The representatives debating the specifics to include in the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, Lobbyists for the utility companies and some of the biggest polluters, testifying before the committee and asking that the permits to pollute be given away to them for free, and hundreds of young people like us reminding the representatives that this is not an option and it is not what we voted them into office to do.

When: Thursday, April 23rd @ 8AM - The hearings are happening all week, but we want to focus our energy when the oil/coal lobbies are presenting. I know 8am is early but if we want to get into the actual hearing room we need to arrive early because the corporate lobbyists paid “supporters” will be sure to get there early to receive the cash.

Where: Rayburn House Office building, Room 2123 (Click here for a map)

Why: At Power Shift, we flooded the halls of congress for the biggest clean energy lobby day in history to demand bold climate legislation for a more sustainable future.  We told our representatives what we wanted and they heard us, but will they follow through?  This is a chance to show congress that we mean business – our mere presence on the Hill will speak volumes. Come get in the hearing, call constituents in the home districts of those members on committee, pay a visit to their offices, and be outside the office building to rally.

RSVP to theteam@energyaction.net or the Facebook event

Questions?  Contact Ethan: Ethan@chesapeakeclimate.org, 202-631-1992

Earth Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matt Dernoga @ 1:48 am
Tags:

Happy Earth Day!  Quit reading my blog and go do something green for the occasion.

April 21, 2009

Green Stimulus Column

A couple weeks ago, I had an idea for how to alleviate poverty, crime, and bring green jobs to College Park/Prince Georges County.  A figured it would be good to highlight an opportunity in this column to actually acquire the funding for some of my suggestions.  Additionally, I actually had to do some investigating to figure out who was doing what.  My sources are posted below my article.

Green jobs and government grants: Get what’s yours

Matt Dernoga

Issue date: 4/21/09

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a column suggesting a few measures by which Prince George’s County and local cities could invest in job-creating green initiatives. This would help alleviate poverty and reduce crime. Local governments everywhere have faced gigantic budget deficits and big spending cuts. Good ideas are nothing without a bag of cash, and I’ve got the treasure map for you.

The economic stimulus package appropriated $3.2 billion for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. This money is being allocated to states, counties, cities, Native American tribes and U.S. territories based on population size and energy usage for state and local governments. The rule for the money is it must assist in the implementation of strategies to reduce fossil fuel emissions and total energy use and improve energy efficiency. Prince George’s County is eligible for $6.6 million. College Park can grab $133,700.

The catch is the money isn’t just handed out to local governments. They have a certain amount earmarked and available to them, but they need to apply for grants detailing how they’ll use the money. Only then are they awarded the funds. In other words, someone in the government needs to know the money is there and go after it. If they don’t submit a formula grant proposal by June 25, good-bye free cash.

Fortunately, both Prince George’s County and College Park are aware of the opportunities the EECBG Program provides. The county has applied for seven grants and is considering three more. The assistant city manager is going to present a recommendation for a grant to the College Park City Council on May 5. I encourage students and residents to submit their ideas to their county and city representatives. It would be more productive than throwing a Tax Day tea party.

There’s going to be even more money available than the figures I listed above. The state has received $9.6 million from the EECBG Program. Up to 40 percent of that money could soon be made available to all counties and cities in the state to apply for with competitive grants. The other 60 percent is available to small towns with low populations, like Edmonston and Hyattsville, which didn’t get any money earmarked specifically for them. County and city governments should coordinate to get as much money as possible.

The county is working on a plan to build a solar farm at the county landfill with Pepco. This would create jobs and make the county a leader in renewable energy, but it needs money. Or consider energy-efficient overhauls of buildings, free residential and commercial energy audits, energy efficient traffic signals and street lighting and low-interest revolving door loan funds to low-income energy users for efficiency improvements.

The wish list goes on, and the money is sitting there alongside a more prosperous and sustainable future. Regardless of how you feel about the federal government’s spending, here is a case where money is available to benefit ordinary people on Main Street, not Wall Street. Go after it! X marks the spot.

Matt Dernoga is a junior government and politics major whose father serves on the Prince George’s County Council. He can be reached at mdernoga@umd.edu

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http://www.eecbg.energy.gov/
http://www.eecbg.energy.gov/grantalloc.html
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Dr. Brown held a meeting on April 2, 2009 on the American 
Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) asking all cabinet 
members to work together to explore opportunities.  DER has 
applied for 7 grants and we have another 3 as possibilities 
we are looking into.  DER is also working with Housing to 
explore other opportunities together.

Charles W. Wilson
Director
Department of Environmental Resources
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Hi Matt:

I am preparing the application for the energy block grant, 
which is due in
June.  I'm still researching options for use of the money, 
and I will
present a recommendation to City Council at the worksession 
on May 5th.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Sara

Sara Imhulse
Assistant to the City Manager
City of College Park
4500 Knox Road
College Park, MD 20740
301-864-8667
301-699-8029 fax
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