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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Today’s Flickr photo:

Flickr photo from BP America

If you read one thing today…

Dave Barry’s annual year in review is out. How did 2010 measure up? It wasn’t pretty. From the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico to Toyota’s runaway cars, 2010 was a rough year.

On the BP oil spill:

The perfect symbol for the awfulness of 2010 was the BP oil spill, which oozed up from the depths and spread, totally out of control, like some kind of hideous uncontrollable metaphor. The scariest thing about the spill was, nobody in charge seemed to know what to do about it. Time and again, top political leaders personally flew down to the Gulf of Mexico to look at the situation first-hand and hold press availabilities. And yet somehow, despite these efforts, the oil continued to leak. This forced us to face the disturbing truth that even top policy thinkers with postgraduate degrees from Harvard University — Harvard University! — could not stop it…

…the Deepwater Horizon oil spill officially becomes, according to the news media, the worst thing that has ever happened, with environmental experts reporting that tar balls have been sighted on the surface of the moon. Just when all appears to be lost, BP announces that it has stopped the leak, using a 75-ton cap and what a company spokesperson describes as “a truly heroic manatee named Wendell.” Although oil is no longer leaking, much damage has been done, so this important story remains the focus of the nation’s attention for nearly 45 minutes, after which the nation’s attention shifts to Lindsay Lohan.
If you have a better attention span than that, feel free to check out Public Citizen’s work on the BP oil spill from throughout the year.
At the very least, Barry can make you laugh, shake your head, and then hope that 2011 will bring us some better news. Let’s see what the new Congress and the Obama administration have in store for us this year…

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Today’s Flickr Photo

On Fort Lauderdale beach in Florida. Flickr photo by ticktockdoc.

If you read one thing today . . .

Politico’s David Rogers sat down with outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and talked about the highlights of her term — passing health care legislation and financial reform.

“We came here to do a job, and we did the job. … Those two issues, Wall Street reform and health care, were two that changed the leverage for the American people. Whether you were a consumer or a patient, the leverage is now with you. And that, for me, is why I am a Democrat: to have the leverage to be with the average person.”

There’s some denial to be sure. In the course of an interview, Pelosi repeatedly spoke of her ranking Democrats as committee “chairmen” when they won’t be in the new Congress. Four years of restrictive rules on House debate seem a lost memory: “I’m thoroughly agnostic. If Republicans have a good idea, let’s go with it.”

And by her reckoning, little or nothing about November’s losses can be attributed to the enactment of health care reform.

“If we had never passed the bill, we would still have had these losses. We were told a year ago: ‘If you’re anywhere near 10 percent unemployment, there’s no chance you can hold the majority.’”

“Nothing compares — in anything I have ever done — with passing the health care bill.”

Overheard:

Someone should really do something about those damn environmentalists and their need to protect us from companies that want to pollute our air and water.  Have no fear, Rep.-elect Bill Flores (R-Texas) is here and he’s ready to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency. Think Progress has a snippet from his appearance on something called the Tea Party Internet Radio:

I can tell you the House as a whole, the Republicans in the House as a whole want to get the EPA shut down on these bunny trails that’s going down that are throwing people out of work — particularly the way it’s abusing Texas. And I think that Texas can count on getting some relief from the EPA within the first few months of this Congress because they really have gone overboard.

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The Department of Justice’s filing of a civil lawsuit today against BP for the deaths of 11 workers and the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history is a needed step in holding the corporation accountable.

However, Public Citizen remains concerned that the escrow fund is inadequate to cover BP’s obligations – a concern that has been confirmed over the past few months. It’s clear that the $20 billion set aside won’t begin to cover the cost of damage. More money must be found for the victims of the disaster.

In addition, the civil litigation stemming from the disaster remains focused on BP Exploration and Production, a remote subsidiary of the parent company, thereby enabling BP to avoid responsibility.

And Congress has yet to pass the comprehensive reforms needed to help ensure this kind of disaster can’t happen again. It is astounding that after all that happened – 11 deaths, 4.9 milllion gallons of oil spilled, beaches in five states sullied and closed, fishing in large swaths of the Gulf of Mexico closed, countless livelihoods ruined – Congress couldn’t get its act together and ensure that future oil drilling is safer for workers and the environment.

Tyson Slocum is the director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.

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A meager $293? That’s the average weekly unemployment check collected by the 15 million Americans looking for work right now. Or $293 million? That’s what outside groups funded primarily by corporations and the very wealthy spent on the 2010 elections.

$75 billion? That’s the windfall coming to people who are already rich if the Bush tax cuts are extended. $145 billion? That’s the record amount Wall Street is paying in bonuses this year.

Trillions? In the wake of the financial crisis, that’s what We, the People provided in bailouts, loans and other supports to save Big Business from its own greed and irresponsibility.

At Public Citizen, our mission is to counteract the policies that cause numbers like these. We can defeat corporate power. But we need your help.

Please contribute $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can today.

Contribute $100 or more and get a free DVD from a selection of popular progressive films!

Corporations just elected their dream Congress. It’s going to take all of us doing everything we can, together, to prevent Congress from rolling back our health and safety protections and showering gifts on their corporate patrons—and to win new public interest initiatives.

Public Citizen will be leading the fight against corporate power in the new Congress, a Congress that will be less critical of corporate America’s agenda than any we’ve ever seen.

The critical first step is making sure we can hit the ground running when Congress returns to Washington in January. That’s why I’m writing now to ask for your help to raise $150,000 by the end of 2010.

Your contribution of $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can afford will be put to work immediately building on our important achievements in 2010 and growing our movement against runaway corporate power.

For four decades, Public Citizen members have stood together to face down corporate power.

I need you to stand with me today.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

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With today’s announcement that a large swath of the Gulf of Mexico will be closed to drilling for the foreseeable future, the White House reverses a bad decision it made six months ago to open a huge, environmentally sensitive area – the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic seaboard – to offshore oil drilling and exploration. A mere three weeks later, the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history occurred when BP’s oil rig exploded in the Gulf. 

We applaud the Obama administration for this commonsense decision and its long-awaited recognition of the fact that the BP disaster was indeed a game changer for offshore oil drilling. By maintaining the moratorium on drilling in these areas for at least the next five years, the administration takes its first official step in acknowledging that offshore drilling is too hazardous to be part of the solution to America’s energy challenges.

 The announcement comes just a day before the president-appointed oil spill commission convenes for the final time before releasing its report on Jan. 11. We hope that the commission’s recommendations are consistent with the administration’s reconsideration of U.S. oil drilling policy. Among the recommendations we would like to see is the establishment of Regional Citizens’Advisory Councils – that will give Gulf Coast communities a real voice in the energy industry decisions that affect their lives and homes.

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Today’s Flickr photo

Flickr photo by alkhodarev.

If you read one thing today . . .

Now that climate legislation in Congress is all but dead for at least the next two years, all eyes will be focused on the EPA, which has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The question, David Roberts write in Grist, is how much power does the EPA actually have in this area and will it use it? The answer is bound to leave those who have fought for climate change solutions a little frustrated.

Documents released early this week finally start to offer a glimpse into EPA thinking. Long story short: Climate hawks shouldn’t expect much from these upcoming regulations. They won’t be a substitute for the climate bill. Not even close.

Here’s the basic problem the EPA faces: The best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources — primarily power plants — is to approach the situation holistically: shut down a bunch of dirty power plants, build a bunch of clean power plants, and push hard on efficiency to cover the cost differential and protect ratepayers. Legislation could have done that. EPA can’t. EPA can’t make anybody build anything.

Overheard:

In a WaPo op-ed this past weekend former ABC Nightline host Ted Koppel compared Keith Olbermann and other partisan cable news show hosts to huckster Bernie Madoff, who told his investors what they wanted to hear, instead of the truth. Olbermann, fresh off his brief suspension for contributing to three Democrats, fired back at the end of his Monday show:

“I may ultimately be judged to have been wrong in what I am doing. Mr. Koppel does not have to wait,” Olbermann said. “The kind of television journalism he eulogizes failed this country because when truth was needed, all we got were facts — most of which were lies anyway. The journalism failed, and those who practiced it failed, and Mr. Koppel failed. I don’t know that I’m doing it exactly right here. I’m trying. I have to. Because whatever that television news was before — now we have to fix it.”

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Becoming more energy efficient, which has long been one of the keys to a sustainable future, may have just gotten a little easier. TopTen USA, a new non-profit group, just launched a new website that ranks electronics based on energy efficiency. The website contains information on virtually every electronics product category.  It has an attractive easy-to-use interface that makes it very easy to find what you are looking for.

The World Wildlife Foundation, which is a partner in the project, wrote on its blog yesterday:

Since energy efficiency is one of the quickest, cheapest and easiest routes to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, one of TopTen’s goals is to generate greater demand for efficient products, helping to catalyze a market shift toward more climate-friendly products.

One problem with TopTenUSA is that it only ranks based on energy usage. It appears that the environmental impact of the manufacturing process is not considered. Nor does the website have any information on recyclability of products. Hopefully, as it develops, TopTenUSA will add information about those factors as well.

TopTenUSA  has exciting potential and  will hopefully prove an invaluable resource to consumers.

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