Archive for the ‘alternative energy’ Category

In Advance of Our New Book, We Gotta Give the Credit to the Prophetic (Gary – that’s you!)

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

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The People’s Republic of Chemicals, our sequel to the critically acclaimed Smogtown, will be out this fall through Rare Bird Books. It’s a different type of Chinese environmental book, one that weaves in history, foreign occupations, “Cancer Villages,” bitter truths about Clinton-Gore globalization, toxic riots, stomach-churning health statistics and a whole lot of climate chaos, especially from breakneck coal-burning. Another element we’re stoked about including involves so-called Trans-Pacific Drift of Asian-borne dust and pollution that floats across the ocean to swamp the West Coast, with increasing frequency. One of the first publications to write about it was Science Daily in 1998. But among the maiden mainstream newspaper folk, you can’t beat former Los Angeles Times environmental reporter Gary Polakovic, a man whose chops treading where few others had need little embellishment. Check out what Gary wrote in 2002, years and years before scientists had their knickers in a bunch over what their test data is revealing. Link.

Wind-borne pollution from China and neighboring countries is spreading to California and other parts of the nation and Canada as a result of surging economic activity and destructive farming practices half a world away, according to new scientific studies. The research shows that a mix of pollutants, from dust to ozone to toxic chemicals, travels farther than once realized. Federal air quality officials fear that the foreign-born pollution will complicate efforts to cut smog and haze, and make it more difficult to meet federal air quality standards in California and other parts of the West. Although most of the pollutants are similar to ones already found in North America, they do add to health concerns by slightly increasing year-round concentrations of gases and tiny particles in the air, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. During peak winds, however, dust and smoke levels can approach or exceed health-based standards. Federal scientists, too, are beginning to probe the dust for bacteria and viruses that may be attached. The made-in-China label on haze over North America is partly due to increased productivity of consumer goods ranging from patio furniture to CDs to toys. But it also is a result of deforestation, over-grazing and intensive cultivation of fragile soils. Researchers at universities on both sides of the Pacific have been tracking the haze for a number of years along its 6,000-mile journey, using satellites and aircraft, land-based sensors and computer models. In one severe dust storm in spring 1998, particle pollution levels in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia soared. In Seattle, air quality officials could not identify a local source of the pollution, but measurements showed that 75% of it came from China, researchers at the University of Washington found. ”A larger fraction of the haze we see is Asian, far more than we ever dreamed,” said Tom Cahill, professor of atmospheric science and physics at UC Davis. “We’re a small world. We’re all breathing each other’s effluent.” … 

All we can to Gary is 1) you don’t how right you were, and; 2) thanks.

People’s Republic of Chemicals – Preparing for liftoff

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

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- Bill Kelly and I are pleased to announce that the sequel to Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, (Penguin Group USA/The Overlook Press – 2008) will be out this fall by Rare Bird Books. The title is set. It’s The People’s Republic of Chemicals. We’re beyond excited. Also this year, Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers, one of the largest outfits of its kind, will be printing an edition of Smogtown in Mandarin. Here, again, is us talking about Asia’s deplorable air quality and its connections to L.A. on CCTV America, China’s state-owned equivalent of CNN International.

- As part of our pre-launch, Bill is writing a series of China-related articles for Inside Climate News, the environmental New Media site that won the Pulitzer. His first installment, which covered China’s blueprint to erect massive coal plants that could throw climate change over the edge, was popular to put it mildly. Here’s a little leg:

China is erecting huge industrial complexes in remote areas to convert coal to synthetic fuel that could make the air in its megacities cleaner. But the complexes use so much energy that the carbon footprint of the fuel is almost double that of conventional coal and oil, spelling disaster for earth’s climate, a growing chorus of scientists is warning. Efforts by China to develop so-called “coal bases” in its far-flung regions have received scant attention beyond the trade press, but scientists watching the effort say it could cause climate damage that eclipses worldwide climate protection efforts. The facilities, which resemble oil refineries, use coal to make liquid fuels, chemicals, power and “syngas,” which is like natural gas but extracted from coal. The fuels and electricity are then transported to China’s big cities to be burned in power plants, factories and cars. Currently 16 coal base sites are being built and many are operational. One being constructed in Inner Mongolia will eventually occupy nearly 400 square miles—almost the size of the sprawling city of Los Angeles …

- Don’t blame the aliens for this one – a radiation leak in New Mexico. From the L.A. Times:

The Energy Department suspended normal operations for a fourth day at its New Mexico burial site for defense nuclear waste after a radiation leak inside salt tunnels where the material is buried. Officials at the site, known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, activated air filters as a precaution and barred personnel from entering the 2,150-foot-deep repository as they investigate what caused the leak. Radiation sensors sounded alarms at 11:30 p.m. Friday, when no workers were in the underground portions of the plant. Officials at the site discounted any effect on human health, saying no radiation escaped to the surface. But they said little about the extent of the problem or how it could be cleaned up.”Officials at WIPP continue to monitor the situation,” spokeswoman Deb Gill said. “We are emphasizing there is no threat to human health and the environment. How long the repository would be closed and the effects on the defense nuclear cleanup program were unclear …

- Drought solution or bank buster, desalinization is not some ivory tower concoction. It may be how we survive climate change. From NBC News

Besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water, California towns are ramping up plans to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. The plants that carry out the high-tech “desalination” process can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there may be few other choices for the parched state. Where the Pacific Ocean spills into the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Calif., construction is 25 percent complete on a $1 billion project to wring 50 million gallons of freshwater a day from the sea and pour it into a water system that serves 3.1 million people. Desalination was a dreamy fiction during the California Water Wars of the early 20th century that inspired the classic 1974 movie “Chinatown.” In the 1980s, however, the process of forcing seawater through reverse osmosis membranes to filter out salt and other impurities became a reliable, even essential, tool in regions of the world desperate for water. The process, however, is energy intensive and thus expensive, making it practical only in places where energy is cheap, such as the oil-rich Middle East. But recent technological advances in membrane materials and energy recovery systems have about halved the energy requirements for desalination, giving the once cost-prohibitive technology a fresh appeal in a state gripped with fear that it may be in the early stages of a decades-long mega-drought. ”I think it will turn out that it is very affordable compared to not having the water here in Southern California, particularly with the drought that we are facing and the fact that the governor has just cut off the flow of water from north to south in the aqueduct, the State Water Project,” Randy Truby, the comptroller for the International Desalination Association, an industry advocate, told NBC News. The multibillion dollar State Water Project is a complex conveyance system that brings water from the wetter northern part of the state to farms, industry, and people in the thirsty south. In times of drought, such as now, banking on that water is a risky bet …

 

 

 

 

 

Summer catchup: our book in Chinese, Rainforest nuts, Port pollution, small solar and smog-eating concrete

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

* We are proud to announce the book around which this blog revolves, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles (The Overlook Press/Penguin Group USA – 2008), will be printed and published  in Mandarin Chinese by the Shanghai Scientific and Technological Publishing House in the upcoming future. We’ll have more details about it and another equally big announcement soon, so dial back here when you can.  Amazon link

* In our never-ending search for creative ways to fuse environmentalism with other facets of life, we were lucky enough to be introduced to this  ingenious concept from writer/activist Kim Henderson, who must have the foodies of the world planning trips to South America. Nutrition was never so good for the world ecosystem.

- ” … I have a couple snacks for you that are nutrient-dense enough to satisfy hunger and naturally sweet enough to satiate your sweet tooth. In addition to providing fantastic nutrients for your body, they also help save rainforests giving you two things to feel good about!  Incorporating them into your food plan might make the difference between failure and success in your weight-loss efforts … Sounds simple enough. But why Brazil nuts you may ask? Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, copper, magnesium, fiber, vitamin E, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. They are one of the few nuts to have enough amino acids to make a complete protein (important to vegans and hungry dieters). The fiber adds to a feeling of fullness, and selenium is a powerful antioxidant that is believed to help protect against breast and prostate cancer … Brazil nuts are not only good for your body, buying them and eating them helps the planet as well. Brazil nut trees have a unique distinction that makes them important to the preservation of the Amazon rainforest — they flourish only in the Amazon’s untouched rainforest … Basically, if you want to harvest Brazil nuts, you can only do it in healthy tropical Amazon rainforest. That’s the great news. A thriving Brazil nut trade keeps significant areas of the Amazon rainforest intact! …”

Kim’s book, which has a title that Paul Simon would love, gives consumers ways to support the rainforest before man plows them under and looks fantastic, too.

* Think you know green? The Daily Beast does on this rather subjective scale.

* What’s a good, old environmental debate without statistics and counterclaims bandied about? Answer: boring and nothing. From the L.A. Times

- “Public health and environmental experts are disputing predictions that air pollution would be significantly reduced if a giant rail yard is built next to schools, parks and hundreds of homes in the Los Angeles harbor area. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and the Port of Los Angeles say the proposed 153-acre facility would take enormous numbers of diesel trucks off the road, reducing the risk of cancer and respiratory illness for those who live and work along the 710 Freeway. Rail and port officials say the $500-million yard — known as the Southern California International Gateway — would handle many of the big rigs that now must travel 20 miles north to drop off and pick up cargo containers at Burlington Northern’s Hobart Yard, one of the largest facilities of its type in the nation.The project is widely supported by labor unions, business organizations, elected officials and regional planning agencies that cite the creation of hundreds of jobs and the need to accommodate port growth. Public health experts at USC, environmental advocates and officials at the South Coast Air Quality Management District, however, contend that the project’s impact analysis overstates the air quality improvements.”

* We’ve been saying this for years. The solar movement won’t last until this movement is soldered among the people, not big corporations and agencies. Again, the L.A. Times:

- ” … Those large-scale projects are financially efficient for developers, but their size creates transmission inefficiencies and higher costs for ratepayers. Smaller alternatives, from rooftop solar to small- and medium-sized plants, can do the opposite. Collectively, modest-sized projects could provide an enormous electricity boost — and do so for less cost to consumers and less environmental damage to the desert areas where most are located, say advocates of small-scale solar power. Recent studies project that California could derive a substantial percentage of its energy needs from rooftop solar installations, whether on suburban homes or city roofs or atop big-box stores …”

* Smog ate us, metaphorically, in most cases, anyway, so isn’t it time we pay it back … with concrete shoes? We say hell yes! Read up science kids.

“What if the solution to smog was right where the rubber meets the road? Scientists in the Netherlands have found that installing special air-purifying pavement on city streets can cut air pollution nearly in half. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology outfitted one block in the city of Hengelo, Netherlands, with paving blocks sprayed with titanium oxide, which has the ability to remove pollutants from the air and turn them into less harmful chemicals. The researchers left normal pavement on an adjacent street as a control. After taking measurements for a year, the scientists found that the street outfitted with smog-eating paving blocks, also called photocatalytic pavement, reduced nitrogen oxide air pollution by up to 45% in ideal weather conditions and 19% over the course of a day …”

 

 

Get while it’s hot. Chip’s latest book is a collection of his top narrative and investigative articles. May we present “The Vicodin Thieves: Biopsying L.A.’s Grifters, Gloryhounds and Goliaths” More new projects on the way.

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

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In this stories collection 23-years-in-the-making, you’ll find 29 articles on a sumptuous basket of subjects originally published in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Los Angeles Daily News, L.A. Weekly and other publications. Hold on for the unexpected and the maddening, the heartbreaking and the mystifying. The feature, investigative and opinion pieces here by Chip Jacobs range from Tommy Koulax’s litigious, chili-cheese hamburger empire, Lockheed’s super-secret Skunk Works defense plant and the deadly, 1913-accident during construction of Pasadena’s famous Colorado Street Bridge, to the hazy, first casualty of Operation Desert Storm, chromium-6 pollution outrages, violent bus drivers and profiles of Southern California political heavyweights Richard Riordan, Danny Bakewell and Richard Alatorre, among others. Vicodon Thieves, which draws its name from a Los Angeles Times feature about pharmaceutical burglars who prey on medicine cabinets at real estate open houses, also includes expanded articles about a high-flying, smog-emissions broker who fell in with shadowy, ex-CIA and military-intelligence operatives bent to “repatriate” forgotten U.S. government aid from around the globe, and the unsolved, execution-style murder of one of suburbia’s most electrifying young mayors blocks from his childhood home. Two new stories grace this compendium, as well. One explores the prodigal life of an early, Universal Pictures director (the author’s great uncle, Nat Ross) gunned down in 1941 by a sociopathic drifter, who’d die in the San Quentin Gas Chamber for his crime. A pair of photographs of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., likely captured hours before he was assassinated in the kitchen of Los Angeles’ old Ambassador Hotel, inspires another original narrative. Few outside of the most ardent of Kennedyphiles probably realize how close RFK came to not being there the night America’s trajectory changed forever, or the cursed, Hollywood enmeshment to his final days. Published by Rare Bird Books  / Amazon.com  /  Barnes & Noble

Global Warming’s scary math, from skeptic to believer, solar breakthrough in the land of smog, Beijing’s treacherous air and a little desert island literary entertainment: just another August

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

* Must read! “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math: Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is” – Rolling Stone magazine

“If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe …”

*  Intellectual U-turn on global warming by one of its momentous skeptics. Did he really say that before? From the L.A. Times:

“The verdict is in: Global warming is occurring and emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activity are the main cause. This, according to Richard A. Muller, professor of physics atUC Berkeley, MacArthur Fellow and co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. Never mind that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and hundreds of other climatologists around the world came to such conclusions years ago. The difference now is the source: Muller is a long-standing, colorful critic of prevailing climate science, and the Berkeley project was heavily funded by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which, along with its libertarian petrochemical billionaire founder Charles G. Koch, has a considerable history of backing groups that deny climate change …”

* Possible “game-changing” solar power breakthrough discovered – now that warms the cuckles of our green hearts. My pal, L.A. Times blogger Dean Kuipers, with the news:

“One of the holy grails of solar cell technology may have been found, with researchers at UCLAannouncing they have created a new organic polymer that produces electricity, is nearly transparent and is more durable and malleable than silicon. The applications are mind-boggling. Windows that produce electricity. Buildings wrapped in transparent solar cells. Laptops and phones – or even cars or planes – whose outer coverings act as chargers. It might even be sprayed on as a liquid. The promise of cheap and easy-to-apply site-generated solar electricity might now be a lot closer to reality. Of course, the idea of solar films and solar plastics is not new. The breakthrough to making a transparent film, however, came with isolating only one band of light in the spectrum …”

* Just because the Olympics are in Merry Old England doesn’t mean we should forget about the besieged Chinese cooking in air pollution fraught by all that Green Tiger activity. We’re talking shortened lifespan people, just as Angelenos faced during the crisis we chronicle in our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles.  NBC News reports:

“Earlier this month, a U.S. study on the economic impact of China’s air pollution was released with little fanfare. Maybe it was because of the series of successive “blue sky” days we were enjoying in the Chinese capital, thanks to the gusty winds blowing down from Mongolia. The study, which was conducted by researchers at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, breaks down costs that result from the health impacts from ozone and particulate matter, which typically lead to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.The conclusion? “[D]espite improvements in overall air quality,” the cost of air pollution (as in lost economic productivity growth) in China has mushroomed from $22 billion in 1975 to $112 billion in 1995. But for at least one pair of 29-year old software engineers in Beijing, air pollution has actually meant greater economic productivity and a business opportunity …”

– In news related to my latest book …

* My cherished college, the University of Southern California, was gracious enough to feature me in their alumni magazine about my five favorite, “Desert Island” books. I let it rip below, with humble apologies to so many brilliant writers — T.C. Boyle, Ernest Hemingway, John Irving, Mary Carr — that don’t make my little list. Give me an archipelago for my top 100 and then I’ll really grin.

* The local Foothills Paper gives my latest book, The Ascension of Jerry, ahearty reception (minus the lack of photos, that is.) Other reviews on the way.

 

Governor Jerry Brown Can Do More to Green Up California

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Anyone following the listing giant we call California might have noticed that the Chicken Littles have once again hoarded the microphones for their narrative of downsized expectations.

Except for taxes and pensions, few subjects leave them as screechy as the bottomless environmental ethic they blame for pushing demoralized residents out of state in search of common sense, not taxes on supermarket plastic bags.

How can Governor Jerry Brown support a billion-dollar blueprint to lop emissions of greenhouse gases while foreclosure ghost towns sink California cities such as Stockton and San Bernardino, naysayers ask? Why is Brown, whose quixotic liberalism won him the Governor Moonbeam moniker during his first stint in office in the 1970s, suing to curb sprawl when thestate unemployment rate is near 11 percent and the budget gap is $16 billion?

Because, they hypothesize, a future with social engineering that favors a low-polluting, electric-car lifestyle over lunch- pail jobs is Brown’s naked agenda. Because bellwether stewardship of reasonable protections for clean air and water a generation ago have transmogrified today into policy zealotry about to collapse under its own biodegradable hubris. Beyond Facebook andGoogle (GOOG), the West Coast spirit of innovation is withering. A business climate that once nourished oil giants, defense juggernauts, agribusiness and the country’s smartest entrepreneurs has died off faster than dial-up. Look at the latest population numbers showing that since 1980 four million more people have left California than have come in from other states.

Fighting Smog

This story line of a Green Hulk run amok in a state whose economy is in the top-10 in the world would be essential reading, an SOS even, if only our past didn’t trample it.

In 1955, a dozen years into the Los Angeles campaign to eradicate eye-watering smog, air pollution generals realized they needed an emergency plan in case ozone and other airborne poisons approached life-strangling levels. (A year before, a frighteningly thick haze led officials to seal the harbor, redirect planes from the airport and deploy the California Highway Patrol in case of evacuation.)

Industrialists, embittered by years of being scapegoated for pollution that mainly puffed from cars, revolted against this crisis planning, including a last-gasp contingency that they idle their plants for days to let the atmosphere cleanse itself.

An executive of Richfield Oil Co. announced that its refinery would only halt operations on written orders from the Air Pollution Control District. If the shutdown was later found to have been overkill, Richfield expected the district to write it a check for lost income.

Hollywood, meantime, desired a return of blue skies for its backdrops. The chemical air was costing showbiz millions. “Every morning before we leave the studio we say a few Indian prayers that the smog will have blown away,” said an actor in the Western drama “Brave Eagle,” filmed in the San Fernando Valley in the mid-1950s.

So they all vamoosed, right, showbiz and Big Oil, to Seattle or Phoenix or Kansas City, where breathing wasn’t painful and where regulations were relatively pain-free? No! In the murky 1950s, roughly 100 polluting industries a year relocated to Southern California. Behind them caravans of family station wagons entered the state, with occupants dreaming of jobs. By the time of the first Earth Day in 1971, with every car, truck and smokestack in California under the sternest regulations on the planet, the populace had doubled, to 20 million, since 1950.

Voter Support

The defense companies, whose many smokestacks and machines disgorged any number of scary chemicals, remained as well. Fine- print-loving bureaucrats didn’t crush their business. Superpower peace eventually did much of that.

Today, 40 million souls live in California, not all of them heel-clicking, but few packing their suitcases with green- migraine syndrome, either. Even during the Great Recession, when manufacturing swooned, Californians trounced by an edge of 2 to 1 a 2010 ballot initiative to delay the state’s global warming law until the jobless rate dropped.

This is not to suggest that all companies adore inspections, permitting and fees, or are embracing carbon markets. But CEOs certainly know, if only in the abstract, that the estimated $28 billion in health costs from dirty air would explode to gargantuan levels without rules on the books. That’s why they are CEOs, not window-washers.

No, the trouble isn’t the existing green ethic. Only about 50,000 out of more than 7 million homes in the state have solar panels. The problem is a lack of leadership imagination. Brown & Co., for all their gallant intentions, have yet to inspire Californians by connecting environmental problems with what could be a rejuvenating, self-sustaining economy that electrifies California cleanly while shopping its products to an energy-parched globe.

At a speech to 200 energy experts at University of California, Los Angeles, last summer, Brown floated a goal of the state creating enough clean local energy to support 3 million homes. Developing those 12 gigawatts is “going to take all manner of investment, risk taking and collaboration,” he said. Some idea of collaboration! Instead of chin-wagging inside a university lecture hall, Brown should park a Prius in front of small-business leaders and just about anybody he can buttonhole, to solicit their ideas.

About 430,000 Californians, or roughly 4 percent of wage- earners here, work in clean-energy production, new-generation batteries, recycling and green education. Brown should be hollering that we must do better.

In Perspective

Yet, too often, the skeptics are doing the talking about our eco-obsessions as if they were the indulgences of an insufferable diva. Remember Solyndra, the solar-panel maker that went belly up, despite a half-billion dollars in federal support? Tell me which is more vital for our national security: public investments to harness solar rays in a world bloodied by oil, or the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor project, where each jet fighter is estimated to be $269 million over budget, meaning that overspending on two of them exceeds the taxpayer loss for Solyndra?

Just as the state once engineered carbon-graphite bombers during the Cold War, Brown 2.0 should man the bully pulpit to speak directly to average Californians. The UCLAs and NRG Energies and Wal-Marts of the world can book the messianic one another time.

With an honest spirit of green invention, perhaps some of those who left the state will flip a U-turn, plugging their ears to the opinionated cluckers on the drive home.

Bloomberg View link to Op-Ed

“The Ascension of Jerry” book coverage and May environmental news of note

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

“Jerry Schneiderman: The Rabble-Rouser you’ve never head about but should know” - L.A. Weekly, May 22, 2012. Author Q&A

Jerry Schneiderman was not your ordinary real estate developer. For years, he was a rabble rouser who took on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority after tunneling for the Red Line subway collapsed parts of Hollywood Boulevard.”You can never stop a government public works project entirely,” Schneiderman told me last summer for the L.A. Weekly cover story “Beverly Hills Versus the Westside Subway.” But “you can starve it.” Schneiderman died in December 2011, but years earlier, in 1979, his business partner had been murdered by a hit man. Schneiderman was never the same, and was always on the lookout for his own safety. Los Angeles journalist Chip Jacobs has written a gripping book about Schneiderman’s story – The Ascension of Jerry – which took years to research and write. Jacobs and I recently talked about Schneiderman, who struck up a friendly working relationship with me back in the late 1990s…

L.A. Weekly: I talked with Jerry a few months before he died. He said you were working on a book with him for years. Why did you decide you wanted to spend so much time and write a book on a man the average person has never heard of?

Chip Jacobs: Having written only about a half-dozen crime stories during the course of my career, I had no outward business devoting myself to a book about a whacked murder triangle in ’79 L.A. — one bubbling out of real estate greed — that scared Jerry so badly. I might as well have applied to the Navy SEALs, experience-wise.

But the more I learned about his past, not just the spectacle of lame hit men and violent, blue-collar embitterment in an angry age reminiscent of today, the more I realized that people who survived such terrible ordeals frequently had no one who’d believe their psychic damage and few avenues to release it.

So though Jerry was hardly a household name, even during his prolific political shenanigans of the 1990s, the dark pain fueling his activism was extraordinary, if not gigantically entertaining. Come on: a brilliant, former space planner-turned-developer-turned-civic-prankster dressing up like a corpulent councilwoman, or spreading rumors of a vapory creature busting the MTA for subway safety violations. Jerry was unique and invisible all at once, perfect, too, because he was a smirking contradiction …

Also about The Ascension of Jerry …

“Author Chip Jacobs details Jerry Schneiderman Murder Triangle in New Book” - KCBS-KCAL TV, May 17, 2012 Author Chip Jacobs visited the KCAL9 studios Thursday to talk about his new non-fiction murder mystery book, The Ascension Of Jerry: Murder, Hitmen and the Making of L.A. Muckraker Jerry Schneiderman.

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And now for some things completely environmental 

“L.A. OKs BAN ON PLASTIC BAGS AT CHECK-OUT”Los Angeles Times 

“DIRTY AIR IN CALIFORNIA CAUSED $193 MILLION IN HOSPITAL-BASED MEDICAL COSTS DURING 2005-2007″ - Rand Corp.

“SOLAR PLANE TAKES OFF FOR ITS FIRST TRANSCONTINENTAL FLIGHT”MSBNBC.com

“U.S. ORDERS TARIFFS ON CHINESE SOLAR PANELS”Los Angeles Times  

“A PULITZER FOR ECLIPSE COVERAGE? IT HAPPENED”Los Angeles Times 

Evolving tactics, local fracking, communist solar panels and fatalistic gimmickry: a Smogtown stew

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

  

* When it comes to major California solar projects, these are not your parents’ environmental watchdogs anymore. From outside agitators to inside-the-system players, the green world is shifting, or shrinking. From the L.A. Times:

“April Sall gazed out at the Mojave Desert flashing past the car window and unreeled a story of frustration and backroom dealings … “We got dragged into this because the big groups were standing on the sidelines and we were watching this big conservation legacy practically go under a bulldozer,” said Sall, the (Wildlands Conservancy) director. “We said, ‘We can’t be silent anymore.’ ” Similar stories can be heard across the desert Southwest. Small environmental groups are fighting utility-scale solar projects without the support of what they refer to as “Gang Green,” the nation’s big environmental players. Local activists accuse the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, the Wilderness Society and other venerable environmental groups of acquiescing to the industrialization of the desert because they believe large-scale solar power is essential to slowing climate change …”

* Hydraulic fracturing is greatly understated here in California, according to the Times:

“State regulators say existing environmental laws protect the state’s drinking water but acknowledge they have little information about the scale or practice of fracking in California, the fourth-largest oil producing state in the nation. That has created mounting anxiety in communities from Culver City to Monterey, where residents are slowly discovering the practice has gone on for years, sometimes in densely populated areas. “The communities have been left on their own to figure this out,” said Lark Galloway-Gilliam, executive director of Community Health Councils, a health advocacy group that sued a Texas oil company and Los Angeles County over oil extraction near Baldwin Hills. “We are looking to our regulatory agencies to protect us, and they are scratching their heads and turning a blind eye …”

The Obama Administration isn’t ignoring the potential air pollution effects of fracking. It’s enacted rules … that will be applied post-election in a few years. MSNBC article.

* Shot across the bow in a looming, green-energy trade war or political theater designed for domestic consumption. You decide. From the New York Times:

“In a significant decision involving one of the world’s most sought-after industries, the U.S. is gearing up to impose duties on imports of Chinese solar panels after finding evidence that China’s government provided illegal subsidies to its export manufacturers. In a preliminary finding released Tuesday, the Commerce Department said it would start levying duties ranging from 2.9% to 4.73% on Chinese imports of solar panels, as well as panels made in other countries that have Chinese-made solar cells …”

* In case you missed the nostaligic, KCET article about “Smog in a Can” that yours truly appeared in, read on:

“ … In 1957 the “Smog in a Can” was introduced by Hollywood actor Carleton Young, best known for his line from the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “This is the West sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Establishing the Los Angeles Smog Corporation, Young and associate Hal Tamblin set about canning smog in colorfully designed labels for mass distribution. According to the label: “Genuine Los Angeles Smog. This is the smog used by famous Hollywood stars. Contains hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, sulfer dioxide, organic oxides, aldehydes, formaldehydes. “Made in Los Angeles by Angels. To insure freshness and purity keep container tightly sealed. Beware of imitations! Accept none but the pure Los Angeles Smog. “No pollutants or irritants removed. Packed for Los Angeles Smog Corp,, Los Angeles 28, California …”

Of course, you don’t a story to learn about the sociological despair bottled up in those cans. You can just read our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. What’s a gimmick like packaged air pollution without the context, after all?

 

 

 

Time to get serious again about deadly smog

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

 

India: the world's newest smog breeding ground?

* What happened on January 28 should be emblazoned in green, not brown. Indeed, it was the most noteworthy news out of Sacramento that I can remember on the air pollution front for years, maybe decades. It’s the type of brassy, foresighted leadership reminiscent of the 1960s, when California’s legislature finally pressured the big American automakers to dramatically reduce smog-forming exhausts after years of their lying, industry filibustering and political dilly-dallying in the name of profits. You can read all about that watershed effort in our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles.

From the L.A. Times coverage: “California, long a national leader in cutting auto pollution, pushed the envelope further Friday as state regulators approved rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and put significantly more pollution-free vehicles on the road in coming years. The package of Air Resources Board regulations would require auto manufacturers to offer more zero- or very low-emission cars such as battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles in California starting with model year 2018. The board also strengthened future emission standards for all new cars, making them the toughest in the nation. The rules are intended by 2025 to slash smog-forming pollutants from new vehicles by 75 percent and reduce by a third their emissions that contribute to global warming. “Today’s vote … represents a new chapter for clean cars in California and in the nation as a whole,” said Air Resources Board chairwoman Mary Nichols …” Time to take the smog meters to the shop? India and Bangladesh, according to a new World Economic Forum study, has more severe air pollution that L.A, the San Joaquin Valley, China (oh, please) and other industrialized, air-trapping mega-metropoles. Yale University has a telling map, whatever one thinks of the readings.

* From the Department of Don’t-Make-Me-Laugh-California-Is-A-Fale-Green-Ecoland comes this humdinger:  “Wind energy now supplies about 5% of California’s total electricity needs, or enough to power more than 400,000 households. That’s the word from the California Wind Energy Assn., which said that California put up more new turbines than any state last year, with 921.3 megawatts installed. Most of that activity occurred in the Tehachapi area of Kern County, with some big projects in Solano, Contra Costa and Riverside counties as well. “The total amount of wind energy installations in 2011 created a banner year for wind generation in California and is helping to drive California closer to reaching its goal of 33% renewable energy,” said Nancy Rader, executive director of the California Wind Energy Assn …” Link. Why so skeptical? Have you ever compared California’s consumption of alternative/renewable sources with places with Germany? When you do, you’ll see we’re still tilting at windmills, metaphorically speaking.

San Joaquin Valley’s chemical pall not going anywhere, except inside peoples’ bodies

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Google at work on alternative energy

* Curious this issue doesn’t grab more mainstream media attention. It pits the demands of big Agriculture against the socioeconomics of migrant and poor workers subjected to a pretty ravaging environment – pesticides, old-fashioned smog, diesel particulates, infected water, etc. And we used to think Burbank, epicenter of water pollution, freeway fumebanks and toxic ground, was dispiriting. From California Watch:

If New Year’s resolutions could apply to places, perhaps no place is as worthy of concerted change as the San Joaquin Valley. Home to nearly 4 million people, the nation’s breadbasket is described as “a patchwork pattern of separate and unequal places” in a report by the UC Davis Center for Regional Change. Titled “Land of Risk/Land of Opportunity,” the report confirms what community members and advocates have long suspected – that environmental hazards tend to be clustered around low-income populations with low levels of education and English literacy. These include urban neighborhoods like West Fresno, which has borne the brunt of slaughterhouses, waste dumps and other undesirable land uses, as well as unincorporated rural communities like Earlimart, where pesticide drift prompted years of citizen activism and ultimately new legislation. The report, linked here, is well worth reading. It’s chief finding may be that “one-third of the nearly 4 million people in the region face both high degrees of environmental risks and high degrees of social vulnerability.”

* Other news of note:

- The last word on the Solyndra controversy from the Washington Post.

- Wind-power as alternative energy is no longer just about tilting. It’s about practicality. Got a roof? Read about it here in Slate via MSNBC.

- Not everything that web juggernaut Google embarks on turns to gold … or even energy. Talking Points Memo nails it well with this piece.

- Finally, from the Department of We Already Knew That (Hereon referred to as the DWAKT) , this about America’s most gridlocked byways being in Los Angeles. Have you been on the Harbor Freeway lately, or noticed a hovering orange-brown film still clinging to the lower atmosphere? If you have, DWAKT is going to sound superfluous and gang-piling. Good old car culture. It begat smog, and smog begat environmentalism. If you doubt it, check out our acclaimed Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution of Los Angeles. We leave the obvious in the chemical dust to tell the full story.