The Skywriter

Weekly roundup 11/12/10: Coal, mad scientists and a moon bounce (VIDEO)


Weekly roundup 11/12/10: Coal, mad scientists and a moon bounce (VIDEO)


This week we're looking across the board from scientists to politicians to the EPA and how we spent our Veterans Day. But first, let's look at some developments in coal.

This week in Coal:

Some serious strides were made this week on the front to eliminate the harmful effects of coal, and we're hoping to make a few more. PNC bank announced this week that they're officially ending their support in mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. As the top funder of MTR projects, ending their loan relationship with MTR-specialized companies is a huge step in the movement. They're the seventh bank to pull the plug, and only two more major banks remain. We're looking at you, UBS and GE Capitol.

The Environmental Protection Agency will close its public comment period on regulating coal ash as hazardous waste in exactly one week. It's not too late to weigh in on the toxic dumping practices. Our very own Garth Moore wrote a post reminding us just how toxic the nature of this deadly practice really is and that it's closer to home than you may have thought. Help ensure that the EPA enacts the strongest possible regulation of toxic coal ash by signing 1Sky's coal ash petition today.

Guidelines and subpoenas, just another week in the EPA

On Wednesday, the EPA issued their guidelines for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to help states understand how to implement greenhouse gas reductions and lighten the costs. Jason Dearen at the Huffington Post reports,

The new rules were spurred by a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that greenhouse gases can be regulated under the Clean Air Act, and a 2009 finding by EPA that these pollutants are a danger to human health. Clean Air Act permits already are required on large industrial facilities for other air pollutants that are hazards to human health. State air quality regulators said EPA's new guidance would help permitting move forward quickly.
These new guidelines are on track to go in effect on January 2, of the new year.

How have industrial conglomerates been manifesting their dissent from EPA -- well, besides funding congressional campaigns? Koch Industries reportedly provided a moon bounce shaped like an EPA carbon-cop SWAT car for the kids, the natural alternative to helping build their environmentally healthy future. Don't say they never gave you anything.

The EPA has also subpoenaed Halliburton for information on the chemicals and operating procedures for their hydraulic fracturing process. The agency asked for the information back in September from nine companies, but Halliburton is the only one dragging its heels. Amy Mall at Switchboard explains,

Hydraulic fracturing is implicated in cases of drinking water contamination in many states, and the best scientific information is needed to inform regulation of this practice… Communities across the country want to better understand the risks to their families and farms.
Way to keep this (clean-energy) train in motion, EPA!

Mad Scientists:

These scientists are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore. Neela Berjee reports that the American Geophysical Union, the country's largest association of climate scientists, have rounded up a solid 700 to tackle the skeptics of man-made global warming. Since Climategate 2009, when over a thousand e-mails between climate scientists were hacked and made public, skeptics have been quick to accuse data-fabrication and suppression -- despite independent panels clearing the researchers involved and validating the findings. But skepticism lingers -- and this new wave of congressional members were the straw that broke the geophysical camel's back. Berjee says,

During the recent campaigns, skepticism about climate change became a rallying cry for many Republican candidates. Of the more than 100 new GOP members of Congress, 50% are climate change skeptics according to an analysis of campaign statements by the Center for American Progress…

We're only seeing the early numbers on how many scientists have jumped on board, but Jeffrey Taylor, the project's manager gives us an indication that this is only the beginning.

The American Geophysical Union plan has attracted a large number of scientists in a short time because they are eager to address what they see as climate misinformation,
He sounds soft spoken now, but you won't like him when he's angry.

Is it hot in here, or is it just Chris Christie?:

NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies says 2010 is still on track to be the hottest year in temperature recorded history. Though La Niña may still enact an end of the year cool-down on the record warm weather, 2010 may still snatch the record from 2005. Don't worry '05, we can always remember you in other ways.

Speaking of hot, the Garden State Governor -- and rapidly rising GOP star -- Chris Christie got into hot water this week after explaining the verdict on man-made global warming is still out as far as he's concerned. Though he acknowledges the environmental issue and made some outstanding pledges to make New Jersey a clean energy advocate, Sam Stein at the Huffington Post notes that fueling skepticism about the man-made roles in global warming is leaving the door open to the dangerous fad growing among many GOP candidates.

Skepticism of man-made global warming is a big trend in Republican circles these days. And the temptation will undoubtedly be to place Christie's position in the broader context of talk that he's privately eying a run for the Republican nomination for president.

But thankfully he's not quite where our next possible chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is quite yet. Rep. Shimkus explains he isn't worrying about Climate Change. because, well… God told Noah that he wasn't into floods anymore. Listen in on a snipped of his speech below, but please take every precaution to keep your head from exploding.

He is one of four Republican representatives competing for the House Energy Committee in the next Congress. Climate Progress provides a run down on their positions and their less-than-subtle efforts to deregulate the fossil fuel industry.

Veterans Day:

This Veterans Day, bloggers skipped the department store sales to offer up a better way of honoring the soldiers who fought for us: Listening up and working toward a safer environment for our troops. In the perils of war and military intervention, any precaution we could take to make a soldier safer can't be spared -- and as it turns out, a big step is stopping climate change and implementing clean energy. Climate Progress' post points out the rising prospect of soldiers sent to deal with the violent storms, drought and food scarcity related to climate change is only increasing.

But Congress doesn't seem to be listening -- not to the top analysts , not to the Pentagon, and not even to our own veterans, like the unprecedented 33 retired military generals who announced their support for comprehensive climate and energy legislation back in April.

Jonathan Hiskes at Grist even wrote about his experience talking to Iraq War veterans who are working toward a national clean-energy plan. After witnessing the danger fossil-fuel dependence has on soldiers who drive convoys with fuel tankers outside secure zones, they took to campaigning. Former Iraq War soldier Robin Eckstein explained her standpoint.

If they had solar panels to charge their laptops and other equipment, they wouldn't need our slow-moving vehicles coming out to them. They would be more efficient. We would be putting less American lives at risk.

But what about our current veterans? Carlos A. Velazquez Lopez, a former marine wrote into the Huffington Post about Veteran Green Jobs, an organization dedicated to connect military veterans with employment that serves communities and the environment:

Founded in 2008, Veterans Green Jobs operates programs in a variety of green jobs fields. We believe that our nation's military vets - equipped with transferable skills, tools and resources - can lead America's transition to energy independence, ecological restoration, community renewal and economic prosperity.

Break me off a piece of that.

The earth-dashboard

Lastly, but certainly not least, hugely talented Climate Precinct Captain Chris Hoffman created an awesome resource for everyone and anyone concerned about the fate of our planet. is a must click -- check out features like the renewable energy fuel gauge, a population odometer, and guide to action opportunities.

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