The Dernogalizer

July 31, 2009

Scandal Brewing: Letters to Local Congressman opposing Climate Action were Forged

There’s a scandal brewing around letters sent from minority organizations in Virginia to Congressman Tom Perriello opposing the American Clean Energy and Security Act which was passed in the House in June.  Turns out the letters were forged! I had already heard that many of the phone calls made opposing climate action were coming from out of district, but this goes way beyond ordinary gimmickry.  This could potentially spell legal ramifications regarding trademark fraud, trademark violations, and false representation.  Two of the forged letters are claiming to represent the NAACP and Creciendo Juntos.  Legal action should definitely be pursued, and this can make for some great publicity of how shallow and corrupt the opposition to climate action is.  A good summary of the culprits and fallout.  Here are some notable excerpts from the article.

Update: Also, see the recent John Kerry statement on this.

Update:  Congressman Ed Markey announces investigation

“They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization,” said Tim Freilich, who sits on the executive committee of Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that tackles issues related to Charlottesville’s Hispanic community. “It’s this type of activity that undermines Americans’ faith in democracy.”

“This was not a ‘mistake,’” wrote Freilich, who is also legal director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center. “This was a deliberately and carefully forged letter that used the logo, address and name of Creciendo Juntos without authorization. Additionally, I understand from Ms. Hegyi that our organization was not the only Charlottesville-area organization whose reputations were used in an unauthorized manner to try to influence Congressman Perriello on this particular vote.”

M. Rick Turner, president of the local NAACP branch, said he checked his organization’s roster and found none of the five people who signed their name to the five faked letters.

“I am very appalled as the president that our organization has been misrepresented in this way by this bogus … letter,” Turner said. “I hope that whoever’s behind this will be brought to justice.”  In fact, Turner said, the NAACP supports the American Clean Energy and Security Act, as he said it would create good-paying jobs for blacks and reduce harmful emissions, particularly in urban areas.  “Clean energy creates jobs in the urban setting,” he said

“It’s very unfortunate that opponents of this bill would resort to deception and made-up letters,” she said. “Spreading false information is not healthy for real debate in our democracy. Congressman Perriello voted in favor of the bill because of its potential to create clean energy jobs, which is why the NAACP and many other groups supported the legislation in the first place.”

July 30, 2009

White Roofs: A Key Energy Solution

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 11:45 pm
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I’ve been hyped about this simple idea of painting our roofs white for awhile.  I’m glad to see in this article for the NY Times explaining the major benefits of re-painting our current roofs white, and all new ones white as well.  The benefits are pretty simple, white roofs will reflect more light and absorb less heat.  The net effect of this is actually a very miniscule but important human-engineered cooling of the Earth.  I read a study a year ago that if we painted every roof in the world white we’d reverse all the warming the planet as experienced thus far.  Another huge benefit to white roofs which the article talks about is the energy efficiency savings.  Since a white roof cools the building/house, the air conditioning doesn’t have to work as hard, and substantial energy is conserved.  I would also consider hiring someone to re-paint a roof white a green job.  I’m reposting the article below.

White Roofs Catch On as Energy Cost Cutters

By FELICITY BARRINGER

Published: July 29, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — Returning to their ranch-style house in Sacramento after a long summer workday, Jon and Kim Waldrep were routinely met by a wall of heat.

“We’d come home in the summer, and the house would be 115 degrees, stifling,” said Mr. Waldrep, a regional manager for a national company.

He or his wife would race to the thermostat and turn on the air-conditioning as their four small children, just picked up from day care, awaited relief.

All that changed last month. “Now we come home on days when it’s over 100 degrees outside, and the house is at 80 degrees,” Mr. Waldrep said.

Their solution was a new roof: a shiny plasticized white covering that experts say is not only an energy saver but also a way to help cool the planet.

Relying on the centuries-old principle that white objects absorb less heat than dark ones, homeowners like the Waldreps are in the vanguard of a movement embracing “cool roofs” as one of the most affordable weapons againstclimate change.

Studies show that white roofs reduce air-conditioning costs by 20 percent or more in hot, sunny weather. Lower energy consumption also means fewer of the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

What is more, a white roof can cost as little as 15 percent more than its dark counterpart, depending on the materials used, while slashing electricity bills.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, has proselytized for cool roofs at home and abroad. “Make it white,” he advised a television audience on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” last week.

The scientist Mr. Chu calls his hero, Art Rosenfeld, a member of the California Energy Commission who has been campaigning for cool roofs since the 1980s, argues that turning all of the world’s roofs “light” over the next 20 years could save the equivalent of 24 billion metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions.

“That is what the whole world emitted last year,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “So, in a sense, it’s like turning off the world for a year.”

This month the Waldreps’ three-bedroom house is consuming 10 percent less electricity than it did a year ago. (The savings would be greater if the family ran its central air during the workday.)

From Dubai to New Delhi to Osaka, Japan, reflective roofs have been embraced by local officials seeking to rein in energy costs. In the United States, they have been standard equipment for a decade at new Wal-Mart stores. More than 75 percent of the chain’s 4,268 outlets in the United States have them.

California, Florida and Georgia have adopted building codes that encourage white-roof installations for commercial buildings.

Drawing on federal stimulus dollars earmarked for energy-efficiency projects, state energy offices and local utilities often offer financing for cool roofs. The roofs can qualify for tax credits if the roofing materials pass muster with the Environmental Protection Agency’sEnergy Star program.

Still, the ardor of the cool-roof advocates has prompted a bit of a backlash.

Some roofing specialists and architects argue that supporters fail to account for climate differences or the complexities of roof construction. In cooler climates, they say, reflective roofs can mean higher heating bills.

Scientists acknowledge that the extra heating costs may outweigh the air-conditioning savings in cities like Detroit or Minneapolis.

But for most types of construction, they say, light roofs yield significant net benefits as far north as New York or Chicago. Although those cities have cold winters, they are heat islands in the summer, with hundreds of thousands of square feet of roof surface absorbing energy.

The physics behind cool roofs is simple. Solar energy delivers both light and heat, and the heat from sunlight is readily absorbed by dark colors. (An asphalt roof in New York can rise to 180 degrees on a hot summer day.) Lighter colors, however, reflect back a sizable fraction of the radiation, helping to keep a building — and, more broadly, the city and Earth — cooler. They also re-emit some of the heat they absorb.

Unlike high-technology solutions to reducing energy use, like light-emitting diodes in lamp fixtures, white roofs have a long and humble history. Houses in hot climates have been whitewashed for centuries.

Before the advent of central air-conditioning in the mid-20th-century, white- and cream-colored houses with reflective tin roofs were the norm in South Florida, for example. Then central air-conditioning arrived, along with dark roofs whose basic ingredients were often asphalt, tar and bitumen, or asphalt-based shingles. These materials absorb as much as 90 percent of the sun’s heat energy — often useful in New England, but less so in Texas. By contrast, a white roof can absorb as little as 10 percent or 15 percent.

“Relative newcomers to the West and South brought a lot of habits and products from the Northeast,” said Joe Reilly, the president of American Rooftile Coatings, a supplier. “What you see happening now is common sense.”

Around the country, roof makers are racing to develop products in the hope of profiting as the movement spreads from the flat roofs of the country’s malls to the sloped roofs of its suburbs.

Years of detailed work by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory have provided the roof makers with a rainbow of colors — the equivalent of a table of the elements — showing the amount of light that each hue reflects and the amount of heat it re-emits.

White is not always a buyer’s first choice of color. So suppliers like American Rooftile Coatings have used federal color charts to create “cool” but traditional colors, like cream, sienna and gray, that yield savings, though less than dazzling white roofs do.

In an experiment, the National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., had two kinds of terra-cotta-colored cement tiles from American Rooftile installed on four new homes at the Fort Irwin Army base in California. One kind was covered with a special paint and reflected 45 percent of the sun’s rays — nearly twice as much as the other kind. The two homes with roofs of highly reflective paint used 35 percent less electricity last summer than the two with less reflective paint.

Still, William Miller of the Oak Ridge laboratory, who organized the experiment, says he distrusts the margin of difference; he wants to figure out whether some of it resulted from different family habits.

Hashem Akbari, Dr. Rosenfeld’s colleague at the Lawrence Berkeley laboratory, says he is unsure how long it will take cool roofs to truly catch on. But he points out that most roofs, whether tile or asphalt-shingle, have a life span of 20 to 25 years.

If the roughly 5 percent of all roofs that are replaced each year were given cool colors, he said, the country’s transformation would be complete in two decades.

July 29, 2009

Obama: “I love Rick Boucher”

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:36 pm
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I happened to catch the opening part of President Barack Obama’s health care town hall meeting in Bristol, Virginia.  At the beginning of these, local politicians are usually acknowledged by the President.  So Obama thanks the Virginia Senators and the Governor, and then mentions that the Congressman of this area is Rick Boucher.  Now, Obama could leave it at acknowledging Rick Boucher like the others, but instead he goes on an elaboration of energy, saying Boucher was an early supporter of his campaign, and has worked to ensure an energy policy where clean coal is part of Virginia’s energy future, which will create jobs.  Because of this, Obama proclaims “I love Rick Boucher.”

Now, as whole I’m a supporter of Obama’s presidency.  After 8 years of Bush I’m infinitely happier with Obama as president.  I think Obama understands the critical issues around clean energy and climate change.  Although he needs to show much stronger leadership and be more vocal with the media, I have considered the stimulus investment, stronger fuel economy standards, as well as his administration’s aggressive behind the scenes arm-twisting over the Waxman-Markey bill(which I support) to be pretty good.  At the same time, I’ve criticized his administration over the EPA ruling on mountaintop removal, as well as his stance on clean coal, which is no secret at this point.  The tar sands aren’t looking too good either.

But the notion that Obama can stand there and proclaim such outstanding support for a bought out Congressman is absolutely disgraceful and damaging.  Not just because of Boucher’s efforts to drain what should be clean energy funding into longshot carbon capture and sequestration.  That you would expect Obama to support.  It’s the fact that Boucher was the leader on the Energy and Commerce Committee in weakening Waxman-Markey’s emissions targets and he pushed to weaken them further.  It’s that Boucher took a 25% renewable electricity standard and a 15% efficiency standard and turned them into 20% combined together.  These were the two biggest weakening effects.  Although permit allocations and EPA authority are not at the top of my complaint list, Boucher had a big hand in those tamperings as well.  If you could pick one member of the House that’s done the most damage to our efforts to pass a strong climate bill, it’s Rick Boucher.  That’s why back in May, I was present at a direct action protest in the halls of Congress, where some blocked Boucher’s office and were arrested.  At that event, one of the organizers Mike Tidwell, the director of CCAN and a friend talked about how Obama had all these goals for a good climate bill, and that Boucher was ruining Obama’s plan.  If this really was so, Obama would not have such kind words for Boucher.

These kinds of remarks along with the EPA’s inability to block mountaintop removal mining makes me quite perplexed when I hear activists say we should kill the current bill so EPA can work its magic.  I seriously doubt EPA would do better even if it moved in a timely fashion and cleared all the legal hurdles.

So, some general points I’m making  to take away…

-  I wouldn’t bet the planet on the EPA, and I doubt China or India would either.  Let’s do our best to get a bill passed and improved out of the Senate that we can take to Copenhagen.

-  I don’t like Rick Boucher.

- President Obama is doing some good things and some bad things.  However, if he doesn’t adopt a much stronger public stance to pass a Senate bill and get a treaty in Copenhagen, his Presidency will go down in history as a colossal failure despite some of the good things he does.

-  You can’t take a stronger public approach if you’re holding hands adoringly with Rick Boucher.

Stunning Energy Efficiency Potential

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 3:23 pm
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I’ve written a lot about the incredible potential of energy efficiency to solve the climate crisis and save Americans a ton of cash in the process(see here).  McKinsey & Company have documented in incredible detail how much potential this resource has.  Below is the must-read summary of their findings

“The research shows that the U.S. economy has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020, eliminating more than $1.2 trillion in waste – well beyond the $520 billion upfront investment (not including program costs) that would be required. The reduction in energy use would also result in the abatement of 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually – the equivalent of taking the entire U.S. fleet of passenger vehicles and light trucks off the roads.”


Putting Anthony Watts to Shame

Filed under: Climate Change — Matt Dernoga @ 2:44 pm
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For those who don’t know, Watts is a very popular blogger on WordPress who runs a global warming denial site.  When a video was posted on youtube which exposes Watts as a fraud, he made copyright infringment threats and youtube took it down.  Now it’s back up.  Fail.

July 28, 2009

Record US Wind Power Growth in 1st Half of 2009!

Filed under: energy — Matt Dernoga @ 5:59 pm
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According to the American Wind Energy Association, as I read on SET energy and Climate Progress, we have had record wind growth so far this year.  The Energy Information Administration’s projection is we’ll be at 5% wind power by 2012 based solely on the economic stimulus(right now it’s just under 2%).

Kenya building Giant Windfarm

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 3:10 pm
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This is an article in the Guardian from Monday about how Kenya is building Africa’s largest wind farm, and one of the largest in the world.  It will be 300 MW, a quarter of Kenya’s installed power!  Notable excerpts below.

“One of the hottest places in the world is set to become the site of Africa’s most ambitious venture in the battle against global warming.

Some 365 giant wind turbines are to be installed in desert around Lake Turkana in northern Kenya – used as a backdrop for the film The Constant Gardener – creating the biggest windfarm on the continent. When complete in 2012, the £533m project will have a capacity of 300MW, a quarter of Kenya’s current installed power and one of the highest proportions of wind energy to be fed in a national grid anywhere in the world.”

“Kenya’s electricity is already very green by global standards. Nearly three-quarters of KenGen’s installed capacity comes from hydropower, and a further 11% from geothermal plants, which tap into the hot rocks a mile beneath the Rift Valley to release steam to power turbines”

“According to LTWP, which has an agreement to sell its electricity to the Kenya Power & Lighting Company, the average wind speed is 11metres per second, akin to “proven reserves” in the oil sector, said Carlo Van Wageningen, chairman of the company.”

“At the end of 2008, Africa’s installed wind power capacity was only 593MW. But that is set to change fast. Egypt has declared plans to have 7,200MW of wind electricity by 2020, meeting 12% of the country’s energy needs. Morocco has a 15% target over the same period. South Africa and Kenya have not announced such long-term goals, but with power shortages and wind potential of up to 60,000MW and 30,000MW respectively, local projects are expected to boom.”

US vs. China Climate Efforts

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 1:12 pm
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There’s a lot of high stakes negotiating going on right now between the US and China on a deal to take to Copenhagen to avoid catastrophic global warming.  Contrary to the typical “China/India not acting” buzz phrased, both countries are taking steps.  See China going crazy on renewablesIndia serious, and India’s solar committment.  Below is a great breakdown from Planet Ark comparing the actions so far by the US versus China.

FACTBOX – Comparison of US, China climate efforts

Date: 28-Jul-09
Country: US
Author: Richard Cowan and Doug Palmer

Combating global warming is one of several topics being discussed at high-level meetings this week between US and Chinese government officials.

Progress between the world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases would boost an international summit set for December in Copenhagen that aims to craft new global goals on controlling climate change.

Some in the United States argue Washington should not commit itself to specific reductions in industrial emissions, which could boost energy prices, until China does so as well. But an argument can be made that China already has taken more concrete steps than the United States.

Here is a rundown of climate change moves by both countries:

CHINA:

* China’s latest five-year plan calls for a 20 percent cut in energy intensity by the end of 2010, from 2005 levels. Chinese authorities estimate this would cut the country’s carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 1 billion tons. However, the effort has fallen behind schedule.

* Beijing also has set a goal for about 15 percent of the electricity it generates to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

* China’s fuel economy standards for its rapidly growing passenger vehicle fleet are more stringent than those in Australia, Canada and the United States. Average fuel economy for new vehicles was projected at 36.7 mpg in 2008.

* Some energy-intensive products for export no longer qualify for special tax breaks in an attempt to encourage energy efficiency.

* At a recent summit in Italy, China joined rich and poor countries acknowledging that global temperature increases should be limited to 2 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, a goal that would force deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

* But in a disappointment to environmentalists, China was among developing countries that would not commit to a goal of cutting world carbon emissions in half by 2050.

* Environmentalists also worry that China plans to significantly expand the number of coal-fired power plants that contribute to global warming.

UNITED STATES:

* No national carbon-reduction goals have yet been set but the House of Representatives has narrowly passed legislation calling for industrial greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced 17 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels, and 83 percent by 2050.

* Senate leaders say they are considering similar legislation. While a bill might be debated in October, the measure has not been introduced yet and a difficult fight is expected.

* If Congress fails to finish a bill, the Obama administration has indicated it will go ahead with regulations to control climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency, early next year, has the power to move ahead.

* Some states, such as California, have set their own goals for reducing emissions.

* An economic stimulus measure enacted in February included $30 billion for investments in renewable energy technology and improved energy transmission.

* With no agreement among policymakers over whether to expand non-polluting nuclear power, mostly because of waste storage problems and high construction costs, many fear that continued use of dirty coal will hobble climate change efforts until alternative methods can be developed.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Doug Palmer in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)

July 27, 2009

World Religions fighting Global Warming

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 12:44 pm
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I’ve blogged previously about the increasing role of religious groups in combating climate change(see here and here).  There’s a great article in the Jerusalem Post about Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and Sikh leaders pledging to draft climate plans for educating and raising awareness about the need for environmental stewardship and sustainability.  They plan to present their plans in November, which should be a piece of great momentum leading up to international climate negotiations in Copenhagen.  Article is reposted below!

Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs fight global warming

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS

As political leaders aim for a momentous climate change conference in Copenhagen in December, religious leaders are rolling up their sleeves as well.

This month, Muslim, Catholic, Hindu and Sikh leaders all pledged to build climate change plans for their adherents. Jewish leaders have also promised to build a seven-year climate change plan.

The world religions initiative is being organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, a UK-based organization founded 14 years ago by Prince Philip.

What differentiates each religion’s take on the environment? In truth, not much. They base their actions on words of wisdom from their prophets or leaders of old, and plan to focus on education, and to take action to become examples to the wider world of their followers. Of course, each religion uses its symbols and concerns in the fight to cope with climate change

Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI firmly placed ecology and the environment into the mainstream of Catholic concerns in a new encyclical. The pope argued, much as Jewish leaders do, that the Earth was given to human beings to preserve and protect. He singled out fossil-fuel-guzzling countries for criticism, both for their deleterious effect on climate change and for the social inequality he said they engender.

The pope also linked what he called “human ecology” to the right to a natural life and death and the absence of experimentation on embryos.

“In order to protect nature, it is not enough to intervene with economic incentives or deterrents; not even an apposite education is sufficient. These are important steps, but the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society.

“If there is a lack of respect for the right to life and to a natural death, if human conception, gestation and birth are made artificial, if human embryos are sacrificed to research, the conscience of society ends up losing the concept of human ecology and, along with it, that of environmental ecology. It is contradictory to insist that future generations respect the natural environment when our educational systems and laws do not help them to respect themselves,” Benedict wrote.

The pontiff also condemned contemporary society’s tendencies towards “hedonism and consumerism.”

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation is organizing five- to nine-year plans from the 11 major religions of the world which will be presented at Windsor Castle in November, ahead of the Copenhagen conference. At Copenhagen, world leaders are expected to work out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, whose greenhousegas limitations expire in 2013.

The Muslims, including many significant scholars, proposed a series of measures such as “greening the Haj,” greening some cities to act as models for the rest and a host of certification and best practices measures during a conference in Istanbul at the beginning of the month.

British Hindus have also pledged to examine their temples and their other assets and to try to implement greener practices. The UK Hindu community also hopes to reach out to India.

Ranchor Prime, author of Hinduism and Ecology, said: “Food has always been at the heart of the Hindu way of life. Now with food, and especially the environmental cost of meat, right at the top of the global climate change agenda, Hindus feel they have something to say. One of their key concerns is to change public perceptions of the cow as simply a source of food.”

The Sikhs have dedicated the new 300-year cycle, which began in 1999, to nature. During the previous cycle, dedicated to protecting the vulnerable, they fed 30 million people a day from their free soup kitchens in their temples. While 300 years may be too long to save the planet, their track record for religious action remains impressive.

The alliance was founded to harness the potential of the world’s religions. Taken together, they hold sway over vast numbers of people around the world. The potential for reaching out and changing the habits of ordinary individuals is tremendous, the organization believes.

From a materialistic perspective, the world’s religions own many profitable temples, tracts of land and other assets, which, if greened, would be beneficial in and of themselves.

Astronaut sees Warming from Space

Filed under: Climate Change — Matt Dernoga @ 12:29 pm
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Grey Line is average from 1979-2000

Grey Line is average from 1979-2000

I’ve heard one of the catalysts for the environmental movement were the first pictures taken of the Earth from outer space.  One of the astronauts made remarks that he could see the “scars of human destruction” from space.  I think it’s worthwhile to repost those remarks, this astronaut last looked at the Earth from space 12 years ago, and he can see the difference.  So can US spy Satellites.  For more on what additional melting could be possible this year, check out the National Snow and Ice Data Center update, and this analysis from Real Climate.  For more information on how the planet is warming, check out this recent post.

A Canadian astronaut aboard the International Space Station said on Sunday it looks like Earth’s ice caps have melted a bit since he was last in orbit 12 years ago.

Bob Thirsk, who is two months into a planned six-month stay aboard the station, said he is mostly in awe when he looks out the window, particularly at the sliver of atmosphere wrapped around the planet.

“It’s a very thin veil of atmosphere around the Earth that keeps us alive,” Thirsk said during an in-flight news conference. “Most of the time when I look out the window I’m in awe. But there are some effects of the human destruction of the Earth as well.”

“This is probably just a perception, but I just have the feeling that the glaciers are melting, the snow capping the mountains is less than it was 12 years ago when I saw it last time,” Thrisk said. “That saddens me a little bit.”

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