The Skywriter

Weekly roundup 2/18: Climate champs, Kentucky rising, modern marvels and more

18
Feb

Weekly roundup 2/18: Climate champs, Kentucky rising, modern marvels and more

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So much of our time has been taken up with defending the Clean Air Act from the likes of Fred Upton (R-Coal/Oil) that it's easy to forget there are lawmakers out there willing to speak out strongly in its defense. People like Barbara Boxer, who has been giving Fred Upton her own version of Ian McKellen's 'you shall not pass!' speech from Lord of the Rings in reference to the Clean Air Act. Around here we call these leaders "climate champs" -- and they deserve recognition when they speak out.

Props go this week to climate champ Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), who wrote an outstanding and widely circulated op-ed this week about the need to protect the Clean Air Act from dirty polluters and their allies in Congress. Inslee talks extensively about the positive impact the Clean Air Act has had on public health, but he also reserves a good portion of his outrage for Republican attempts to gut greenhouse gas regulations by attacking climate science:

Nor can a lack of clarity about the science justify the Republicans' assault on the law. Huge power plants are now burning more than 1.1 billion tons of coal [PDF] and pouring out 2.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, gases that are irrefutably changing our climate and increasing concentrations of ozone that are directly making our children's asthmatic gasps more frequent and severe. Their effort to spray an ink cloud of doubt about this unassailable fact was revealed as quite pathetic when they failed to produce one credible scientist who contradicted this rock solid conclusion. Not one!

This is exactly what we need to hear from our elected officials: an impassioned defense of the Clean Air Act that puts its climate pollution-cutting role front and center. If you want to hear your own members of Congress sing the same tune, check out Erika's blog on what you can do this month to protect the Clean Air Act .

And speaking of Fred Upton...

I Love Mountains Day

On Monday, you might have received some flowers or handed out candy to your sweetie pie, but Kentuckians for the Commonwealth dished out the real love. They celebrated I Love Mountains day, where hundreds gathered in Frankfort, KY to support legislation ending mining waste dumping and clean energy investment. They kicked the love-fest off early by occupying Governor Stee Beshear's office over the weekend as part of their demand to stop mountaintop removal in its tracks.

Stanley Sturgill, a retired mine safety and health administration inspector wrote a great op-ed urging his fellow Kentuckians to keep Dirty Coal out of the equation for his community. Through his time working as an underground miner, he's developed strong pride for his craft, community and beautiful mountains that surround it -- but he knows coal companies do not share that pride.

None of these coal companies is from our area. They talk a good game, but they're like any other for-profit company -- only here for the money. They get as much as they can, as quickly as they can, for as little cost as they can, then move on. Then our problems begin.

He urges those who have lived in the mining community to take a look at the sacrifices families and environments will have to make for blasting and mountaintop removal projects.

National Renewable Energy Lab

The New York Times did a story on the largest net-zero energy office building on U.S. soil, which was built by the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado as a template for how to do affordable, super-energy-efficient construction. Please take a moment to soak in the view on this beauty. Housing 800 engineers and costing $64 Million to construct, the building has been described as a "wonderland." The numbers behind that dollar sign might look a look big, but it still managed to be $77 below the average cost of a new super-efficient commercial office building per square foot.

The basement serves as a storage unit for radiant heat, electricity from photovoltaic panels run the elevator and window louvers fling sunbeams to white panels over the office workers heads' to minimize electricity use. They left no stone unturned. More than 400 tour groups have already made their way through this clean energy marvel. You can check out the energy and design masterpiece from the ground up in their video below.

And speaking of coal…

The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences released a report detailing the economic, health and environmental costs associated with each stage of the life cycle of coal. Climate progress explains that a third of the costs generated costs from extraction, transportation, processing and combustion are passed directly to the public That's $74.6 billion a year in public health burdens in Appalachian communities alone. You can see their diagram of the life cycle on the Climate Progress site. The report ends by offering the final recommendations:

  • Comprehensive comparative analyses of life cycle costs of all electricity generation technologies and practices are needed to guide the development of future energy policies.
  • Begin phasing out coal and phasing in cleanly powered smart grids, using place-appropriate alternative energy sources.
  • A healthy energy future can include electric vehicles, plugged into cleanly powered smart grids; and healthy cities initiatives, including green buildings, roof-top gardens, public transport, and smart growth.
  • Alternative industrial and farming policies are needed for coal-field regions, to support the manufacture and installation of solar, wind, small-scale hydro, and smart grid technologies. Rural electric co-ops can help in meeting consumer demands.
  • We must end MTR mining, reclaim all MTR sites and abandoned mine lands, and ensure that local water sources are safe for consumption.
  • Funds are needed for clean enterprises, reclamation, and water treatment.
  • Fund-generating methods include: maintaining revenues from the workers' compensation coal tax;
    • increasing coal severance tax rates;
    • increasing fees on coal haul trucks and trains;
    • reforming the structure of credits and taxes to remove misaligned incentives;
    • reforming federal and state subsidies to incentivize clean technology infrastructure.
  • To transform our energy infrastructure, we must realign federal and state rules, regulations, and rewards to stimulate manufacturing of and markets for clean and efficient energy systems. Such a transformation would be beneficial for our health, for the environment, for sustained economic health, and would contribute to stabilizing the global climate.

Don't mind if we do.

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