Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Climate Change and Clean Energy Next? (Or Wait Until It Gets Really Hot?)

Now that a Historic, yet still inadequate Health Insurance Reform bill has passed Congress (incomplete because premium cost controls still need to be strengthened, as Senator Feinstein is trying to do, and as competition from a fairly-priced Public Plan would do), people are starting to talk about passing climate change and clean energy legislation.

David Roberts penned a good one here.

I personally think that the Senate should strategically wait until the weather gets a bit warmer, and the painful Memorial Day weekend gas price spike is felt across America, before taking up the legislation.  It's silly, but it's smart. People are more likely to support the legislation if they're sweating and gas prices are rising, which they will be in June and July.

I also like Joe Romm's new piece a lot, especially the parts about messaging -- on both health care and climate/energy.  Says Romm:
No serious messaging strategy can possibly be built around the phrase “healthcare reform.”  Why?  First, “reform” is a process, not an outcome.  No one serious about moving public opinion talks about process over and over again.  They talk about the benefits that reform brings, outcomes the public cares about.  Second, most of the public likes their healthcare, so the phrase “healthcare reform” is not intrinsically positive and, in fact, is probably negative for much of the public given the more effective conservative messaging.
If you spend half your scarce messaging time talking about “healthcare reform,” while your opponent spends all of their time messaging on negative outcomes that the public worries about, you are fighting with one hand tied behind your back.
Here's a quiz:
1)  What’s worse from a messaging perspective, “the public option” or “cap-and-trade”?  Hint:  Both are process.
2)  Tell me in one sentence what team Obama says is the benefit of passing a health care reform bill.
3)  Tell me in one sentence what team Obama says happens if we fail to pass the climate and clean energy bill.
On health care, no simple, repeated core message exists, so the whole effort is a muddle.
Like the 99% of people who aren’t expert on health care reform, only very recently — 12 months too late — have I begun to develop a clear idea of what this plan is or what it would actually do.  The problem is, many if not most people could probably care less about the uninsured — they just don’t want to join that group — and while people may say they want cost containment, in fact they don’t want their own costs “contained,” they only want their premiums lower.  They do want security about their healthcare.
Again, the single phrase that the Democrats repeat most often is “healthcare reform” whereas the single phrase that Republicans repeat most often is “government takeover.”  Is it any surprise the polling on this bill is so bad?
That's certainly a thought-provoking analysis.  Romm thinks Health Care Security would have been a much better frame for messaging, and I agree.  Here's what he proposes:
A vote for this bill is a vote for healthcare security.  You get to keep your healthcare coverage if you like what you have — and they can’t throw you off of it if you get some expensive disease or get fired.  And you get access to health care coverage if you don’t have it, and they can’t keep it away from you if you have a pre-existing condition.  And this bill keeps whatever healthcare you have or get affordable, so you don’t have to compromise your health to pay for other necessities.
Fortunately, we're doing better on climate change and clean energy, and there's far more bi-partisan support for passage of a strong bill, even if it tends to be for different reasons for Democrats (environmental, health reasons, green jobs) than for Republicans (economic, security reasons).

But we're going to have to leverage the types of lessons Romm emphasizes above to convey to Americans why our lives will be much better once Congress passes this legislation and President Obama signs it.

With Peak Oil also looming bigger and bigger (second link) right around the corner in 2014, you don't even need to think about climate change to realize that if we're to have a robust economic recovery that is also resilient, we've got to get our asses in gear on weaning America off of our dangerous dependence on oil.

It's a wonderful thing when environmental, economic, energy, security and health care solutions of this magnitude are all linked.  Now let's emphasize these linkages and pass bold climate change and clean energy legislation.  It will help unleash the Glacial Lake Missoula-level flood of pubic and private investment needed to transition America to a more secure, robust, and stable clean energy-powered economy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Banning Sales of Invasive Species -- A Money-Saving Win for Taxpayers

Last weekend, I made trips to a couple of stores to purchase crops and soil amendments for our spring/early summer garden.  I was dismayed to find that damaging invasive species are for sale in both OSH and Home Depot. 

Shame on OSH for selling the invasive shrub, Scotch Broom, and shame on Home Depot for selling the invasive weed, Japanese Honeysuckle (I'm guessing there were others, but I didn't have time to check).  Both species are on the noxious weed lists of many states and conservation organizations across America.

What are OSH and Home Depot doing wrong here?  These species are or have been classified in many states as "Noxious weeds", which were defined by the 1974 Federal Noxious Weed Act as:
Noxious Weed means any living stage, such as seeds and reproductive parts, of any parasitic or other plant of a kind, which is of foreign origin, is new to or not widely prevalent in the United States, and can directly or indirectly injure crops, other useful plants, livestock, or poultry or other interests of agriculture, including irrigation, or navigation, or the fish or wildlife resources of the United States or the public health.
These plants are injurious and economically harmful!  So why on earth are they for sale, for people to buy and plant in their yards or otherwise on their property?  Is the ability to sell noxious weeds really that important to the horticultural industry and the sales of stores like Home Depot and OSH that such species can't be banned?  Really?

Is it too much to ask for the horticultural industry to show some level of moral responsibility to society and stop selling noxious weeds to typically unsuspecting customers who think they just look pretty?

The result of noxious weeds like this being commercially available to consumers who've probably never even heard of "noxious weeds" is undoubtedly that some plantings escape and become expensive, time-consuming, environmentally-damaging problems for state and federal agencies, environmental NGO's and private landowners.  Even worse, they probably often result in pest control officials using pesticides of questionable or even harmful levels of toxicity to eradicate the infestations.

Why should horticultural companies and stores like Home Depot and OSH get to profit off the sales of harmful invasive weeds at the expense of taxpayers?

This just can't be too hard of a problem to fix in today's day and age of uber-tight agency and NGO budgets.  It's time to ban commercial sales of species legally classified as invasive or noxious.  This is no-brainer conservation action that will save consumers, agencies and NGO's money, protect the public health from pesticide use that can be avoided, and benefit the health of ecosystems and biodiversity.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Deforestation's Impacts in Africa: "The rains stopped, and banana groves and corn stalks died"

I'm a big fan of pictures and stories of the benefits that healthy ecosystems provide to humanity.  As I drove up toward Redwood Regional Park for my weekly meditative hike on Saturday, I was glad to find Living On Earth airing on NPR.

This quote got me -- a story about a reforestation project in Uganda, where the locals talk about what happened after the government cut down their forests:
HOFFMAN: Jerome Byesigwa chairs the group and explains how it started. In 2003, he says, the weather in the area suddenly changed when the government cut down much of the nearby Central Forest Reserve for timber. The rains stopped, and banana groves and corn stalks died.
[BYESIGWA SPEAKING] VOICEOVER: As soon as it had been harvested we realized there was a change in the weather. Just even ordinary people would tell you that the problems we were experiencing were because our forests there had been harvested.
The fact that these folks are getting carbon credits for planting highly invasive, water-hungry non-native tree species is just wrong.  It's great to see the World Bank funding reforestation projects like this, but it would be nice if they would help the local people by selecting native species, adapted to local environmental conditions (especially water needs) that help to replace the ecosystem services that have been lost to deforestation.

Clearly, we've got a ways to go to better integrate the science of sustainability into the planning of Uganda and the World Bank.

Read more>>

Monday, March 15, 2010

Autism and Toxins - Living On Earth

This week's Living on Earth has a fascinating story about the role of environmental toxins in explaining the recent spike in cases of autism.  Here's an excerpt of LOE host Jeff Young's conversation with Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai School of Medicine:

YOUNG: The Centers for Disease Control estimate six out of every thousand U.S. children are diagnosed with some form of autism. The apparent increase in autism has alarmed parents and stymied scientists searching for a cause. Dr. Philip Landrigan argues in a medical journal that we should look to our environment for answers on autism. He's a professor of pediatrics and community and preventative medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Dr. Landrigan thinks a sustained focus on chemical exposures in the womb could tell us more than genetic studies have.
LANDRIGAN: I'll begin by pointing out that there has been some very elegant genetic research done over the past five or ten years that has very successfully identified a number of genes and gene mutations that are responsible for a certain number of cases of autism. All together these genetic causes are responsible for something like 20 or 25 percent of cases. Well, that's very important work and it's very important to know that there are genetic causes, but at the same time those findings leave the causation of something like 75 percent of cases of autism unexplained.
YOUNG: So, genetics alone can't explain this, what evidence do we have that environmental exposures might be a cause here?
LANDRIGAN: We know from other research on toxic chemicals that the developing human brain is very vulnerable to environmental toxins, we know about lead, we know about mercury, we know about PCBs, we know about certain pesticides, and for each of those chemicals we know that if the developing brain is exposed to the chemical early in development, especially in the early months of pregnancy, that the potential is very high for injury to the developing brain.
The second line of evidence I would call proof of principle. And this is the finding that there is a short list of chemicals that have been directly found to be linked to autism. The fact that early life exposure to these drugs can cause autism in certain children says to me that it's possible other drugs, other environmental chemicals might also be responsible for some cases of autism
I heard this story on the radio yesterday, and was excited to share it, as I've seen the impact that having an autistic child has had on the lives of friends. I find it infuriating that companies out there are profiting from business processes that put these kinds of toxins out into our environment.

I'm glad to see that high-level people, including experts at esteemed institutions like Mt Sinai School of Medicine, are taking notice.  Hopefully we soon see the kind of progress toward banning these chemicals that has resulted in victories from the the phase-out of lead from gasoline to the recent phase out of BPA from common household products.

Listen to the story>>

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Evolution of Innovative Green Brands

Start off your week with a bit of food for thought from GreenBiz.com -- on how Wal-Mart has changed the game in the Green Products marketplace:
Walmart, being the sensible world-dominating company it is, saw a new twist on green that other brands (both the traditional and uber ethical) had missed. In short, green equalled efficient, and efficient equalled money saving.

From lowering energy consumption to "encouraging" suppliers to cut down their packaging, Walmart introduced innovations in products, services and business models that truly broke new ground.

More than any other entity, Walmart convinced shell-shocked traditional brands that they had to get with this green innovation thing.

Today, we are starting to see the results.
There's still plenty not to like about the mega-retailer's impact on the availability of well-paying jobs in the communities where they displace smaller/family-owned shops (among other things). But backed by Satchi and Satchi S, they seem to be leveraging their buying power to really make a difference up and down their supply chain.  I actually have it high on my priority list to dig deeper into what they're doing (and I'll report, from an ecological perspective, as soon as I have time)...

One thing I don't see them doing is offering many products that are old-school durable, helping us get a better bang for our buck, reducing our resource use and waste over time, and saving us time and money buying and replacing our stuff.  So many common consumer products today -- from computers to cell phones to coolers -- start malfunctioning or otherwise fall apart after a year or two, it's pathetic.  Then we have to recycle them -- if they can be recycled -- and most people then burn fossil fuels to go to the store (or to place an order that needs to be shipped from thousands of miles away) to get a new version of that thing from Wal-Mart that's fallen to pieces after just a couple of years.

What are you going to do about that, Wal-Mart?

Read more>>

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Benefits of Biodiversity: Even Bacteria Do Wonders for Humanity

It's not just charismatic megafauna like bears, wolves, lions and monkeys that should come to mind when you think about the wonders of biological diversity.  And it's beyond the beauty and healing power of plants.

According to this article from Science Daily, humans should be thanking even some types of bacteria for making our lives better, in this case by providing a possible cure for Alzheimer's Disease:
Rapamycin, a drug that keeps the immune system from attacking transplanted organs, may have another exciting use: fighting Alzheimer's disease. The drug  -- a bacterial product first isolated in soil from Easter Island -- rescued learning and memory deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer's, a team from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio reported on Feb. 23.
The study, in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, offers the first evidence that the drug is able to reverse Alzheimer's-like deficits in an animal model, said the senior author, Salvatore Oddo, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physiology of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.
Could climate change and/or sea level rise threaten the existence of similar bacteria out there in remote locations?  Who knows.

This may be yet another instance of a highly isolated endemic species (one that occurs in only one place) that is discovered to be incredibly valuable to humanity.  How many such species -- that contain a compound found to cure a crippling diseases or otherwise provide a life-changing solution -- are on the verge of being lost forever due to rainforest destruction or other human environmental impacts?  The best way to not worry about that is for us to support and foster sustainability whenever we can -- both in the voting booth and when we vote with our wallets.

Read more>>

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Get Those Plug-In Hybrids Ready: New Study Predicts Peak Oil In 2014

For those of you interested in Peak Oil -- the other big reason in addition to climate change that we need to wean ourselves from our oil addiction ASAP -- here's a new scientific study on the matter.  It was conducted by Kuwaiti mathematical modelers, and they predict Peak Oil by 2014:
Even though forecasting should be handled with extreme caution, it is always desirable to look ahead as far as possible to make an intellectual judgment on the future supplies of crude oil. Over the years, accurate prediction of oil production was confronted by fluctuating ecological, economical, and political factors, which imposed many restrictions on its exploration, transportation, and supply and demand. The objective of this study is to develop a forecasting model to predict world crude oil supply with better accuracy than the existing models. Even though our approach originates from Hubbert model, it overcomes the limitations and restrictions associated with the original Hubbert model. As opposed to Hubbert single-cycle model, our model has more than one cycle depending on the historical oil production trend and known oil reserves. The presented method is a viable tool to predict the peak oil production rate and time. The model is simple, accurate, and totally data driven, which allows a continuous updating once new data are available. The analysis of 47 major oil producing countries estimates the world’s ultimate crude oil reserve by 2140 BSTB and the remaining recoverable oil by 1161 BSTB. The world production is estimated to peak in 2014 at a rate of 79 MMSTB/D.
I can't wait to get me a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle, and to be able to charge it off my home solar system.  But that's just my preparedness.  We're going to need lots and lots of them -- and lots and lots of rail to transport goods affordably -- ready as close to 2014 as possible if we're to avoid a highly undesirable energy crisis...  Let's get a move on, U.S. government!

Thanks to Chris Nelder for the Tweet...

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The Pyramid of Energy Conservation

A lot of people ask me where to get started in making their homes more energy efficient.  Thanks to Chris Nelder and Twitter for this interesting graphical set of "instructions:
It's late, so I've got to ponder this energy pyramid a little before I reflect on it.  Check back at this post for some comments, coming as soon as I have some time to give it a good thinkover...

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

America's Costly Nitrogen Dilemma and What We Can Do About It

Did you know that overapplication of fertilizer is one of humanity's greatest environmental challenges?  Grist's Tom Philpott does a bang-up job explaining the problems it causes and exploring potential solutions.  He interviews experts including Stanford biogeochemistry guru, Peter Vitousek:
According to Peter Vitousek, a professor of biology at Stanford and a leading scholar on the nitrogen cycle, under optimum conditions and using best practices, plants take up only "50 or at best 60 percent" of the nitrogen laid on by farmers. So if so much of their fertilizer is going to waste, why do farmers apply so much? Vitousek explained that plants take up different amounts of nitrogen at different points in the growing cycle. To ensure that crops have sufficient N when they need it most, farmers essentially have to over-apply.
Globally, "about two-thirds of the nearly $100 billion of nitrogen fertilizer spread on fields each year is wasted," estimates The Economist. That's a lot of cash down the drain and a lot of nitrogen bleeding out of fields in various forms, wreaking all manner of havoc: Exhibit A, the 8,000-square-mile dead zone that blooms every year in the Gulf of Mexico, as Krysta Hozyash covered in this series.
Fortunately, this is yet another environmental problem where the solution will save money: greater efficiency of Nitrogen fertilizer use will cut farmers' costs while improving the health of our soils, waterways and even the air we breathe.

Read more>>

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Green Jobs Revolution

Here's a fun read from Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo:
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) and former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt explain why retooling our carbon-based energy sector for clean growth can spur the kind of investment and job growth that we saw in the telecom industry after the market opening of the early 1990s.
Congressman Markey and FCC Chairman Hundt compare the benefits we can achieve now from passing bold climate change and clean energy legislation to the benefits America reaped from passing 1990's legislation that lead to revolutions in telecom products and services:
In the ten years that followed the spectrum auctions that created competition in digital cellular and the regulatory framework that opened Internet access to competition and the telephone network to innovation - 1997 to 2007 - investors, according to McKinsey and Company, poured more than $850 billion in new capital into mobile, data, and expanded cable networks in the United States.

This investment drove job creation beyond any economist's prediction. Unemployment fell to 4 percent by the end of 1990s, and nearly 65 percent of the population was employed. That's a remarkable contrast to the numbers today: 9.7 percent of Americans are unemployed and only 58 percent of people are employed. The job growth led to national income growth and increased tax revenue, so that the federal budget, contrary to every estimate at the beginning of the 90s, was balanced by 1998.

We can get the same upside surprises if we pass a law that retools the carbon-based energy sector of the last century and encourages private investment in a 21st century energy economy built on alternatives such as wind, sun, biomass and geothermal. That's the purpose of the Waxman-Markey bill, which passed the House of Representatives last June.

Reform in communications stimulated creative destruction. For example, the old long distance industry charged ten cents a minute for a call when we passed the Telecommunications Act. Now people are not even aware that there used to be a long distance charge when they use their phones to call anywhere.

The replacement of the old networks with the new led to waves of innovation. Our reforms permitted everyone to unplug the phone line from the back of the telephone and stick it into the back of the computer. That connection was the first pathway to the World Wide Web - in large part because we did not permit the telephone company to charge extra money for all that extra and unpredicted use. The new demand for data connections drove telephone companies to buy routers and switches, to build data centers, and to upgrade lines. Cable companies were driven to respond by switching some of their capacity from one-way video programs to high speed two-way internet access, giving rise to broadband. In response, the phone companies are now installing fiber, taking broadband to new levels of speed and lower price per bit.

Similarly, in the energy sector we need to retool the existing generation and distribution networks with cleaner forms of generation, open markets to innovators who will build power lines that lose fewer electrons and connect new sources of clean power to users, and reward investors for installing more efficient ways of using electricity. Creating the right framework for our communications networks led investors to commit about $850 billion to rebuild those networks. With the right set of policies, it is reasonable expect a similar explosion of private sector investment in the energy sector. This will result in consumers paying less for heating, cooling and lighting, and America's energy sector will be firmly based on abundant, cheap and clean fuels. Nothing will pull innovation into the energy sector more than wind farms demanding better storage technology, solar farms demanding better ways of capturing and converting sunlight into electricity, and appliances and electric vehicles that can talk to the grid if it is smart enough.

There are other areas of the economy where Americans can and should find new jobs. In the energy sector we not only will need millions of employees, but we also know that those millions will help us achieve independence from foreign oil and an end to the pollution of the environment from carbon emissions. The trifecta of huge employment, national security, and protection of the environment is a winning ticket for America. We have found that winning formula before in hard times that proved to be the dawn of economic growth; we can turn the dark days of the present into sunny optimism about our future once again.
Superb piece -- they've clearly got their messaging down on the importance of passing bold climate change and clean energy legislation.  Note to the Senate: let's make it happen, already!

Kudos for TMP for bringing us this kind of high quality content, which is worthy of the op-ed pages of the world's finest newspapers.

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Is the Push for New Nuclear Power Plants a Gigantic Waste of Time and Money?

I'm anything but convinced that new nuclear power plants are a practical, cost-effective and safe solution to our climate disruption and Peak Oil problems.  This article, titled "No New Version of Nuclear Power", provides some up-to-date information, including links to recent reports, about why this is my current take on Nuclear Power.

Amory Lovins writes: "Every new reactor in history has been costlier, slower, and harder than projected." He continues: "IFRs (integrated fast reactors) might in principle offer some safety advantages over today's light-water reactors, but create different safety concerns, including the sodium coolant's chemical reactivity (sodium catches fire if exposed to airand explodes if exposed to water) and radioactivity."

Also from the report:

“2009 was the seventh year of the so-called “Nuclear Renaissance,” but it looks a lot like the US nuclear industry of the 1980s, a decade of no new orders, multiple delays and cancellations, hefty defaults, and emerging cheaper alternatives.” (Mark Cooper, Institute for Energy and the Environment, December 2009)

Right now, we really need to be investing our time and funding into low-carbon energy solutions that are cost-effective and can be deployed relatively quickly (like starting now, and up and running starting within the next 5 years).  I'd love for nuclear to work as an addition to our energy mix that really helps our transition off of the 20th Century sinking ship that is fossil fuels -- I really would.  Show me the numbers, the new plants that are being built quickly and cost effectively.  You can't!

Thus, this article certainly doesn't do anything to convince me that we should be investing billions of precious taxpayer dollars in nuclear right now, as President Obama seems to be approving of to achieve "bipartisan" support of climate change and clean energy legislation in the Senate. 

At a time when we need to get as many kWh of low-carbon energy sources in place as soon as possible, it's painful to watch as "bipartisanship" takes priority over "likelihood of success".  I don't give a whale's armpit if policy solutions are Democratic, Republican, bipartisan, or friggin Martian.  I just want them to successfully achieve our climate change and clean energy transition goals.

It boggles the mind how plumb dumb the politics of our transition to clean energy can be sometimes.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Pacific Northwest Forests Act As Massive Carbon Storage Banks

A new report by The Wilderness Society identifies 10 Pacific Northwest National Forests as the most prolific for storing carbon in our national forest system.

These forests are my favorite in the U.S. -- unbelievably vibrant, and remaining old growth stands are magically cathedralesque...

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Climate Disruption Concern: Methane from Melting Arctic Ocean Permafrost

Here's a bit of a climate disruption eye-opener for you:

Based on a series of expeditions to the margins of the Arctic Ocean by ship and helicopter, University of Alaska researcher Natalia Shakhova and her colleagues report that methane, a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, is bubbling up from the continental shelf and leaking into the atmosphere. The estimated total: 8 teragrams — that's 8 trillion grams — per year. (See pictures of the effects of global warming.)

Exactly what this means for climate change, however, isn't at all certain. Eight teragrams of anything, let alone a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, sounds dangerous, but as Martin Heimann of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, points out, the newly discovered methane leak represents a small piece of the overall global total of methane emissions — about 500 teragrams annually — from wetlands, termites and agriculture (including belching cows, rotting manure and rice paddies).

The number itself isn't what worries people, though: it's whether this newly identified methane source is part of an ominous trend. Climate scientists have long worried about the enormous amount of methane locked in Arctic permafrost, the thick layer of soil just beneath the surface that remains frozen all year. The methane was originally deposited there through decomposition of organic matter in ancient wetlands, and as long as it stays put, it can't contribute to climate change.

But as the planet warms and the permafrost thaws, methane could begin to escape into the atmosphere, where it would trap more heat and melt more permafrost — one of the many positive feedback mechanisms that could accelerate the climate change that is already under way.

The methane question is something readers of this blog will know that I am keeping a wary eye on.  I'm glad that the amount of methane that these researchers measured doesn't amount to much in relation to the global methane budget.  But reading an article like this worries me in a big big way -- are we just now starting to detect the tip of the iceberg of the methane time bomb starting to go off?  I sure hope not...

Read more>>

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Myths and Realities of Cap and Trade

For those of you who'd like to read a quick primer about the Myths and Realities of Cap and Trade, here's a nice simple one.

It's a good response to the confusion out there -- even among those in Congress -- about climate policy.


President Obama Proposes $3,000 Rebates for Energy-Saving Home Improvements

Well, this is some good news for both job creation and those who want to save some money via home energy efficiency.  Big help dealing with costs:

Obama called on Congress to enact an administration proposal dubbed "Homestar," which would offer rebates of up to $3,000 for energy-saving home renovations. The idea is based on the popular "Cash for Clunkers" program last year, which offered incentives to trade in older vehicles for more energy-efficient ones, providing a boost to auto sales.

If passed by lawmakers, the latter program is expected to cost about $6 billion and entice as many as 3 million homeowners to initiate the renovations.

Obama said the program would achieve multiple goals at once: lowering energy bills for consumers, creating jobs and reducing the nation's dependence on foreign energy sources.

"This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea," Obama said. "It is a common-sense approach that will help jump-start job creation while making our economy stronger."

Let's hope that this program gets rolled out quickly, bringing badly needed economic stimulus via emissions-reducing energy efficiency retrofit work that saves citizens money and creates jobs. 

I've had enough of the excuses for these smart programs getting bogged down in bureaucracy during implementation and not having an impact as quickly as hoped.  It's time to get a move on, D.C. folks -- make it happen! 

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Bloom Box's PR Coup: Showing Just How Thirsty the Public Is For a Clean Energy Revolution

I've been following the big stir caused by 60 Minutes' coverage of the fuel cell company, Bloom Box.  I don't necessarily buy the hype, and Chris Nelder will tell you why.  I sure am rooting for the rise of fuel cell technologies though!

Perhaps more interesting than the technology itself is the huge public reaction -- the curiosity, the buzz, the hope for that holy grail of energy independence.  Nick over at The Triple Pundit nails it on the head:

Despite the legitimate questions above, the cleantech world and the public at large remain captivated by the gee-whiz possibilities of fuel cells and the Jetson’s-like fantasy of limitless, magical power.

Indeed, by giving a company or a home complete control of their electricity generation, in a relatively green way (after all, end users could still supplement the bloom box with wind or solar), there’s a secondary appeal that emerges beyond price – independence. In terms of the general public, I think it’s this “off the grid” mentality that’s really driving enthusiasm, and which played so perfectly into the product’s launch hype. Generating electricity off the grid may ultimately be more efficient, but it’s also potentially safer – think about the east coast black-out a few years back. Especially in the United States, the quest for independence (whether fantasy or real) remains a bigger psychological driver than limiting one’s carbon footprint.

Whether or not Bloom can live up to the hype that’s been built remains to be seen, but even if they don’t, the excitement that’s been generated around fuel cells and even the criticism that’s been levied are proof of the public’s thirst for something new. People are very much ready for new energy technology, for greater efficiency, and for a greater feeling of independence – whether they’re particularly ‘green minded’ or not.

Let's hope the Senate gets this message and passes a bold climate change and clean energy bill that helps give the public the transition to clean energy technologies that we're hungry for.   Why should so many countries be so far ahead of us in high speed rail, clean energy policies and vehicle fuel efficiency?  Why can't other countries envy America's clean tech leadership in driving the transition to a clean energy economy?  It's time for you and me to help the Senate make it happen.

To write your Senator in support of bold climate change and clean energy legislation (and get some free music for doing so), check out HeadCount and NRDC's new Music for Action campaign.  I wrote up their climate change information page

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