August 5th, 2010

How should scientists communicate about climate?


By 1Sky blogger Janelle Corn, Ph.D. See her bio at the end of this post. -- Luis

Alex Bea recently posted a review of a publication (.pdf) that will help us all communicate more effectively about climate change. This led me to consider how I, as an ecologist, might add to the discussion about effective communication.

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Clean energy biz: South Dakota's Black Hills Solar


By Jesse Hart, owner of Hart Homes LLC/Black Hills Solar in South Dakota. -- Luis

My wife and I started Black Hills Solar about four years ago with the idea that we would build energy efficient and low maintenance homes for the people in the Black Hills area. To save the homeowners money every month on their energy bills, we used structural insulated panels for the exterior walls and blown fiberglass insulation in other areas. On the outside of the homes, we used products that don't need annual maintenance and have long warranties so people don't have to repaint and maintain their house every year.

As the housing market changed, so did our business. We went from building new homes to remodeling and fixing existing homes, but we still try to help customers lower their energy usage and make their home require less maintenance. We look for many ways to help customers reduce their energy demand, such as adding more insulation or installing new windows.

I always tell my customers that first you conserve energy and then you start making your own power. There are a lot of choices out there for solar and wind products, and I try to use products that are manufactured here in the U.S. For solar products I use a company that is starting to make solar thermal systems and solar electric (PV) panels in the U.S. They will also make evacuated tubes, which were once only made in China. The wind company that I deal with is a U.S. company but makes products overseas. I am also trying to work with a wind energy company that will be manufacturing in my hometown.

Solar and wind products bring lots of well paying jobs to the area. For example, when I install solar electric (PV), I get panels that are made in the U.S. and I also hire a licensed electrician to run the electrical and wire to the house. When I put up a wind turbine, I need to hire an electrician, and buy concrete and the turbine, which comes from a local manufacturer. Right now my business is small but in addition to the employees who work for me, we create jobs in other areas, such as manufacturing, shipping, and trained professional jobs.

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August 4th

1Sky Policy Update 8/4/2010 - House passes spill bill, Senate punts

US Capitol small

UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) postponed a vote on oil spill response legislation due to opposition from the entire 41-member Republican caucus and 2 moderate Democrats. Reid hopes to revisit the legislation after the August recess.

With hope of a climate bill this summer stamped out by partisan politics, the House and Senate have been working to pass narrowly-focused oil spill response and drilling reform measures. The House bill passed on Friday, 209-193, with two Republicans supporting it. The Senate bill failed to attract bipartisan support, and is being postponed until after recess. Members of the House are on recess beginning this week, and the Senate will follow suit after voting on Elena Kagan's Supreme Court confirmation later in the week. August recess will be a key time to hold senators accountable for their inaction on climate and energy.

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August 3rd

Organizing tip: shadowing your senators in August


By 1Sky intern Amy Plovnick. -- Luis

If, like me, you are frustrated and angry that the Senate has failed to pass legislation to address the climate crisis, you might be wondering what you can do about it. Clearly, senators need to hear that it is unacceptable that they did not address the biggest challenge of our time. We need to use grassroots pressure to show our senators that they must do their job on climate – and if they don’t, they will risk facing the consequences. But how can we deliver this message?

One way to put pressure on elected officials is through shadowing them at town halls, candidate forums, and other public events. Shadowing, also known as bird-dogging, involves going to public (and sometimes private) events and asking elected officials questions that will get them to take a strong position on climate or expose their lack of effort on the issue. Throughout the August congressional recess, when members of Congress return to their districts, 1Sky volunteers will be asking them to rise above the influence of Dirty Coal and Big Oil and do their job to address climate change.

Here are some tips for making your shadowing event successful, based on the experiences of 1Sky volunteers:

  • Shadowing is a team effort: A successful shadowing squad involves more than one person asking a difficult but relevant question to their elected official. There are plenty of other ways to be involved in an essential way, such as by contacting the media before the event, making signs, recruiting people, and documenting the event. Which brings me to…
  • Take pictures and video: Recording the event is critical for getting the word out, especially if the elected official says something notorious like this:

    So make sure that you have people assigned to record and photograph the question being asked and the senator’s answer, as well as your group with signs and props. To capture a great, compelling photo, remember to…
  • Use visuals! This August, we will be using the visual of oily hands to convey the scope of our addiction to fossil fuels and show the influence of dirty energy money in Congress. You can also make large signs that convey your message. Make sure that the person or people you have designated to ask the question are not holding signs or visuals, as it might make the elected official less likely to listen to them. When you do get to ask a question…
  • Be assertive, and don’t be afraid to follow up. Practice asking the question beforehand so you feel confident about it. If there is a limited amount of time, be assertive so that you have the opportunity to ask your question. If the elected official tries to give an easy answer ( “I support clean energy”), ask a follow-up question to get them to take a strong position on the issue (“What will you do to make sure that we transition to a clean energy economy and don’t invest in new coal-fired power plants?”).

If you follow these suggestions and come up with creative ideas of your own, your shadowing event is sure to be a success. By keeping the heat on our elected officials, we can turn our anger into action, and our action into a reality in which Congress comes to its senses and addresses climate change.

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August 2nd

Cry for an oil spill

You wonder when we as a country will ever learn.”

That's a quote from blogger John Atchison in his Helium piece on the latest oil spill disaster in our country.

Last week, a million gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River in southwest Michigan. My wife grew up on that river. She recalls a childhood watching the ducks, egrets, and fish that populated the river just out her back door. We were married right along the river on a warm day in July fourteen years ago. For us, it was a symbol of the flow and continuity of life. My wife sobbed as we watched the news reports about the spill, knowing it may or may not converge into Lake Michigan and that the clean up is expected to take months.

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July 30th

Weekly Round-Up 7/30/10: Another oil spill, this time in Michigan


Michigan called for a "State of Emergency" because of the largest oil spill in Midwest history. The pipeline, owned by Enbridge Liquids Pipelines and the largest transporter of oil from western Canada, leaked 840,000 gallons into the Kalamazoo River Monday morning devastating Calhoun County. The pipeline has been shut down but the damage is already done. And to think, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich was on the fence about the climate and energy bill that was recently proposed then put on the back burner.

The horrific pictures coming in of the oil spill in Calhoun County area underscore just how imperative it is for Michigan to move toward clean, safe energy sources like wind and solar instead of relying on outdated fuels like oil," Clean Water Action Michigan Director Cyndi Roper.
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July 29th

Following the money in Missouri


By 1Sky intern Amy Plovnick. -- Luis

On Tuesday, July 20, people from across Missouri gathered in front of Senator Claire McCaskill’s St. Louis office to mark the three month anniversary of the BP oil spill disaster. They asked her to stand with the people, not the polluters, by rejecting campaign contributions from dirty energy corporations, working to switch federal subsidies from polluting fossil fuels to renewable technologies, and supporting an end to offshore drilling.

To ensure that Senator McCaskill heard about this event, in which demonstrators performing an oil “spill-in” blocked traffic in front of her office for about ten minutes, several Missouri residents now in D.C. attended “Coffee with Claire,” a weekly event in which the senator meets Missourians and answers questions. Arielle Klagsbrun of the Energy Action Coalition handed Senator McCaskill photos of the July 20 event and asked her if she would stand with the people by “returning the $25,000 in campaign contributions that you received from dirty energy companies.”

Senator McCaskill replied with a contradiction. She first said that, “I ran for this office and got elected without one dime from any of the people you’re talking about, they were all for my opponent. I’m not here on the basis of any of that money.” However, she later said “Coal has given me a few contributions, compared to many of my colleagues who have gotten a lot more”.

While Senator McCaskill may not have been elected with the help of dirty energy money, she has taken money from the industry while in office. In 2010 she has accepted $9,200 from the coal mining industry and $24,000 from electric utilities, according to When Senator McCaskill says that she will not support a climate and clean energy bill that increases energy prices for Missouri ratepayers because “it is not our fault in Missouri that we are depending on coal,” one has to wonder whether she really has Missourians in mind, or whether she is looking out for the large dirty energy corporations that have given her so much money and that would be regulated under such a bill.

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July 28th

They're coming for the Clean Air Act -- again


By 1Sky blogger Nick Santos. See his bio at the end of this post.-- Luis

By now, most of you have probably heard the double dose of bad news coming out of the Senate (It seems like political bad news too frequently comes from there). Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indefinitely delayed action on a climate bill and is still talking of scheduling floor time for Senator Rockefeller's (D-WV) reprise of Lisa Murkowski's (R-AK) Dirty Air Act.

There's a lot of implications to both of those actions, and I'm now beyond frustrated with the Senate, so let's step through why this extra delay from the Senate is absolutely dangerous for public health and welfare.

First, let’s address the delay of the climate bill. The Senate continues to show absolute cowardice in its unwilling to act, despite clear public support for the measures. Working on climate change issues has given me a healthy dose of reality regarding the Senate’s timelines and the frequent delay that’s involved. However, this delay has the potential to be more devastating than the others because, unless something changes, we’re looking at a minimum of three months of delay, but potentially 6-12 months in reality. This length of time is unacceptable to address one of the biggest issues of our time.

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July 27th

Guest blog: Why we climbed against coal


By Genevieve Raymond is a full time mom and part-time founding member of Climb Against Coal. -- Luis

We were moms on a mission. We woke up at midnight Saturday morning to attempt the 14,411 ft summit of Mount Rainier.  We had a message for Governor Gregoire: close Washington’s largest toxic polluter and point source of deadly carbon — the TransAlta coal-fired power plant in Centralia.

We are not experienced mountaineers, but six months ago, when we brainstormed this crazy idea, we determined to meet an urgent challenge with radical action.  We each have children between the ages of 3 and 6, and our kids have taught us to be loud and persistent in our demands.  The Governor’s plan to burn dirty coal for fifteen more years is unacceptable.  The time to transition to clean energy is now.

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They've failed -- and we must hold them accountable


I am furious and frustrated.

We're sweltering here in Washington DC -- living on a planet that just survived the hottest six months in recorded history -- and yet last week the Senate announced it plans to do absolutely nothing for the foreseeable future about our climate crisis.

Big Oil, Dirty Coal and their allies in Congress have succeeded once again in blocking bold climate action.  As a result, they will continue to reap record profits at the expense of our health, safety and economic security.

It's time to show Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, our senators and President Obama the full extent of our outrage at their failure to take on the greatest crisis of our time.

That's why 1Sky has launched an online campaign to hold our leaders accountable. We're asking you to send them a message with two simple points:

  • They've failed to do their job on climate -- and you won't take 'no' for an answer;
  • You'll hold them accountable for their lack of action.
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