Archive for the ‘solar panels’ Category

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 …”

 

 

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.

*      *     *
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.

If we want to ditch fossil fuels, and all the smog and global warming that it manufactures in bulk, perhaps we should we get ourselves far beyond the clouds.

Monday, November 21st, 2011

* We love this type of story. Ingenuity meets necessity. Graps exceeds reach. A scientific revolution that might lubricate social harmony. Orbital power plants: a warming, exhaust-laden envivorment needs you.

From MSNBC:

“The sun’s abundant energy, if harvested in space, could provide a cost-effective way to meet global power needs in as little as 30 years with seed money from governments, according to a study by an international scientific group. Orbiting power plants capable of collecting solar energy and beaming it to Earth appear “technically feasible” within a decade or two based on technologies now in the laboratory, a study group of the Paris-headquartered International Academy of Astronautics said … ” Colonel Michael Smith, the U.S. Air Force’s chief futurist as director of the Center for Strategy and Technology at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, said the idea has the potential to send safe, clean electrical energy worldwide “if we can make it work. “Isn’t that what government and industry should be working to do?” he said in a telephone interview.

Sidebar: how realistic?

“The idea of beaming down power from outer space has surfaced in science-fiction stories and government studies for decades now. Commercial deals have been struck, prototype satellites have been proposed, international initiatives have been announced. But has any real progress been made toward developing space-based solar power systems? That’s what we’re talking about this Sunday on “Virtually Speaking Science.”

* In less inspiring news, check out this New York Times story detailing President Obama’s decision to pare back on anti-smog rules. We’re in 2011, but it’s the same story that it’s been for decades. When political fortunes go south and the economy sputters, hard-won environmental regulation is recast as reckless oversight so our government leaders can water them down, to hell wilth the consequences. Maybe some day Uncle Sam will, green-wise, grow up to the point it stops creating false choices. Maybe.

From the New York Times (with their standard picture of a polluted L.A. skyline):

“The summons from the president came without warning the Thursday before Labor Day. As she was driven the four blocks to the White House, Lisa P. Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, suspected that the news would not be good. What she did not see coming was a rare public rebuke the president was about to deliver by rejecting her proposal to tighten the national standard for smog. The half-hour meeting in the Oval Office was not a negotiation; the president had decided against ratcheting up the ozone rule because of the cost and the uncertainty it would impose on industry and local governments. He clearly understood the scientific, legal and political implications. He told Ms. Jackson that she would have an opportunity to revisit the Clean Air Act standard in 2013 — if they were still in office. We are just not going to do this now, he said … The full retreat on the smog standard was the first and most important environmental decision of the presidential campaign season that is now fully under way. An examination of that decision, based on interviews with lobbyists on both sides, former officials and policy makers at the upper reaches of the White House and the E.P.A., illustrates the new calculus on political and policy shifts as the White House sharpens its focus on the president’s re-election …”

Our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution, makes clear we are on history’s hamster wheel here.

AQMD chairman representing smog-smothered China in a deal with the Dodgers, Obama caving in on a critical ozone rule: just another jaded day in Smogtown

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

* Bill Burke, longtime chairman of Southern California’s regional smog-fighting agency, is leading a group that includes the Chinese government, to purchase the L.A. Dodgers for $1.2 billion from beleaguered owner Frank McCourt. Burke, who founded the L.A. Marathon and is the husband to former congresswoman and County Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, has given no official comments. But we have a couple: first, representing an ownership group with funding from China is incendiary, given Burke’s job with the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the fact that China has ghastly air pollution problems far beyond anything us current Westerners can imagine. (Folks who lived through the “great” L.A. smog crises might be about the only ones with damaged lungs and psyches who could relate). What message is Burke sending by aligning himself with a dirty, industrial powerhouse like that? That green (thimk dollars) counts more than brown, as in brown, crusty, noxious air pollution? Also, Burke has some questions to answer, and we’re not talking about the L.A. Marathon. In our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, we discover the smelly deal he cut with then state Assembly Speaker Willie Brown. Let’s just say it involves political promises, a taxpayer-funded P.R. contract that produced no P.R. and a mistress.

- From the L.A. Times:

“In an international twist in the Dodgers’ ownership saga, Frank McCourt has been offered $1.2 billion to sell the team to a group indirectly financed by the government of China. The bid is headed by Los Angeles Marathon founder Bill Burke, according to a letter sent to McCourt on Tuesday. The letter was disclosed to The Times by two people familiar with its content but not authorized to discuss it publicly. The proposed sale price would set a record for a Major League Baseball team. However, the bid was received with skepticism within MLB, where executives wondered whether the proposal might be used by McCourt to stir negotiations with other potential buyers or to persuade a Bankruptcy Court judge to keep McCourt in charge of the team …”

Stay tuned.

* There’s a great bumper sticker out there that says, in effect, if you’re not cynical enough, you’re not paying attention. Optimists that we are, we’re also realists and pollution historians and we know that when the economy goes into the crapper, health-protecting environmental rules we all figured we’re mainstream and untouchable are suspended and put on ice. Well, one of the holy grails of enviromental protections against pernicious smog is about to spend time in regulatory purgatory. L.A. anti-smog crusaders like Ken Hahn must be rolling in their graves at the rollback built on so many people’s suffering. Then again, none of us are president of a hurting country. Ozone: what hath you done? We smell clusmy backpedal.

- The New York Times hits it on the head:

“The Obama administration is abandoning its plan to immediately tighten air-quality rules nationwide to reduce emissions of smog-causing chemicals after an intense lobbying campaign by industry, which said the new rule would cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs, officials said Friday. “If he continues to represent Republican interests, he should open the door for Democrats to choose a candidate who represents them, rather than the opposing party.” The Environmental Protection Agency, following the recommendation of its scientific advisers, had proposed lowering the so-called ozone standard from that set by the Bush administration to a new stricter standard that would have thrown hundreds of American counties out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. It would have required a major effort by state and local officials, as well as new emissions controls by industries and agriculture across the country. The more lenient Bush administration standard from 2008 will remain in place until a scheduled reconsideration of acceptable pollution limits in 2013, officials indicated Friday …”

- More about this from the L.A. Times:

“President Obama announced Friday that he has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to drop controversial rules to cut smog levels, a move welcomed by the business community that has long decried them as onerous but one sure to alienate the president’s environmental base even further as his administration backs away from key anti-pollution initiatives. In a statement issued by the White House, the president said: “I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover. With that in mind, and after careful consideration, I have requested that Administrator [Lisa] Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time. Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013. Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered,” the statement concluded …

* As if this wasn’t demoralizing enough, here’s a story emblematic of the collossal missed opportunity to jump start an alternative enery industry in the face of global recession and global warming because politicas interfered. From ABC News

“Solyndra, a renewable energy firm that became the darling of the Obama Administration, shut the doors to its California headquarters today, raising sharp questions from the administration’s critics about political favoritism in the federal loan program. “We smelled a rat from the onset,” Republican House Energy and Commerce Committee members Rep. Cliff Stearns and Rep. Fred Upton said in a statement to ABC News of the the $535 million government loan guarantee awarded to Solyndra in 2009. The manufacturer of rooftop solar panels opened in 2005 and in 2009 became the Obama administration’s first recipient of an half-billion dollar energy loan guarantee meant to help minimize the risk to venture capital firms that were backing the solar start-up. Obama made a personal visit to the factory last year to herald its bright future.

* Lastly, not so Greenland anymore.

Cap and delay; the chromium tide. A mid-summer Smogtown roundup

Monday, July 18th, 2011

* California/West Coast greenhouse gas cap and trade on hold until 2013. Big surprise, here. The idea is controversial, poorly understood, largely unproven and being implemented during a historic election. Got juice?

- L.A. Times coverage:

“Facing continued litigation, California officials will delay enforcement of the state’s carbon-trading program until 2013, state Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols announced Wednesday. The delay in the cap-and-trade program, slated to take effect in January, is proposed because of the “need for all necessary elements to be in place and fully functional,” she said. But in testimony before a state Senate committee,Nichols said the postponement would not affect the stringency of the program or the amount of greenhouse gases that industries will be forced to cut by the end of the decade. Carbon-market executives mostly shrugged at the news. The air board “has given firms a breather, not a pass,” said Josh Margolis, chief executive of CantorCO2e, an emissions-trading company. “Companies will need to make the same reductions, but they will face a steeper slope.” The cap-and-trade program, championed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a centerpiece of the state’s landmark effort to cut planet-warming gases to 1990 levels by 2020. It accounts for a fifth of the planned cuts under the state’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act. Under the program, 600 industrial facilities, including cement manufacturers, electrical plants and oil refineries, would cap their emissions in 2012, with that limit gradually decreasing over eight years. Several neighborhood organizations and environmental justice groups that focus on local pollution are fighting the program in court, saying it would allow industrial plants to avoid installing the strictest pollution controls. A San Francisco judge ruled in March that the air board had not sufficiently analyzed alternatives to the trading program, as required under California’s Environmental Quality Act. The agency appealed the decision, and an appeals court ruled last week that officials could continue working on the regulation pending the court decision. The board is drafting an analysis of alternatives, which is to be considered for adoption Aug. 24, Nichols said … In the wake of the failure of national climate legislation in Congress last year, California’s program would be North America’s biggest carbon market, three times larger than a utility-only system in the northeastern U.S. By 2016, about $10 billion in carbon allowances are expected to be traded through the California market, which is slated to link to similar markets in several Canadian provinces …”

* Chromium-six polluting L.A. County’s wells in addition to local cities. No cause for panic, but one for focused alarm.

- From the L.A. Daily News:

“The tap water in at least four Los Angeles County facilities, including two in Lancaster, has levels of contaminants such as arsenic and lead that exceed federal and state recommendations, according to a new county report released Thursday. The study by the county Department of Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures looked at the drinking water in 765 county facilities, including county jails, fire stations and wells. While it found that several hundred facilities had detectable levels of contaminants such as chromium 6, arsenic and lead, four of them were above the “maximum contaminant level” set by state and federal agencies. Those sites included Challenger Memorial Youth Center and a county-owned well at a trailer park, both in Lancaster. The report was the first time in 10 years that such an evaluation of water quality at county facilities was undertaken. County officials said that while they take the findings seriously, they urged the public not to panic … Of the 765 county facilities that were tested, about 43 percent exceeded the state’s “public health goal” for hexavalent chromium, 84 percent exceeded the PHG for arsenic, while 31 percent exceeded the PHG for lead. But officials said that public health goal is a very conservative target and failing to meet it does not necessarily mean the water is dangerous. Of greater concern are the facilities that exceeded the “maximum contaminant level” for certain pollutants. The study detected concentrations of arsenic at 70.4 parts per billion – seven times the federal and state maximum contaminant level – in samples from a restroom faucet at Challenger. It also found that Challenger, and several other facilities, had high levels of hexavalent chromium — aka chromium 6 — a heavy metal that gained notoriety in the film “Erin Brockovich.” The juvenile facility was found to have 12.2 ppb of hexavalent chromium. State officials have yet to set a maximum contaminant level for that particular chemical, but they said the “public health goal” is 0.2 ppb … ”

* Speaking of pollution victims, few place can lay claim like Kettleman, California. Looks like the natives are taking matters into their own hands now, and there’s real parallels to anguished mother in the early days of L.A.’s smog fight.

- From the L.A. Times story:

“Central and Southern California community groups filed a complaint about toxic waste dumps with the Environmental Protection Agency 17 years ago and never received a response. Tired of waiting, they have filed a federal lawsuit … Kettleman City, Buttonwillow and rural areas of Imperial County are home to the only toxic waste dumps in the state. Grassroots community groups say that locating the dumps only in low-income and predominantly Latino areas violates Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits any recipient of federal money from discriminating on the basis of race or national origin …”

MISC.

* Don’t even get us going on how disingenuous until now the state’s efforts at popularizing solar power has been with homeowners. Progress now, or perhaps the truth bubble emerging of people’s hunger to do more than themselves? You decide.

- From the L.A. Daily News:

“Due to public demand, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power canceled a single public meeting about its solar energy programs and replaced it with four workshops, the utility announced today …”

- The big boys are already reaping the savings, though. Thank God for Google. It just created a $280 pocket change fund. Link

* Some things never change: a conservative group trying to undercut hard-won environmental rules, state by state. They have fans, too. Link

Now, this is a big deal – California cementing its commitment to green energy

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

 

– From the L.A. Times story: “A mandate that California utilities increase their use of renewable energy sailed through the state Assembly on Tuesday and is headed for the governor’s desk. Environmental groups say the legislation is the most ambitious of its kind in the country. It would require the state’s electricity companies to provide 33% of power from renewable resources by the year 2020. State law now sets a 20% goal. Supporters made their case by invoking the nuclear plant problems in Japan and conflict in the oil-rich Middle East, as well as the struggling California economy: Environmentalists have said the mandate could create 100,000 jobs. The bill aims to lessen dependence on coal and natural gas in favor of wind, solar and geothermal energy. It would also protect ratepayers from large new costs, and “provides flexibility to utilities,” argued Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata).”

Very heartening news. Too bad it didn’t come a generation earlier.

– More on California and energy.

* It looks like California’s under-reported and provocative bid to run a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade will go forward after all once officials conduct further studies about alternative plans. Color us skeptical about market-based approaches after covering the Anne Sholtz case involving the AQMD, EPA, DOJ, and, yes, even the CIA, and hearing about Europe’s rampant cap-and-trade scandals. We’ll see.

* From the L.A. Times: “California’s effort to curb global warming, which was put on hold by a court decision, will be able to proceed on schedule once officials conduct a new environmental review, according to attorneys analyzing the case. A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled that the California Air Resources Board failed to properly evaluate alternatives to the so-called cap-and-trade program, which would allow industries to purchase pollution allowances rather than cut their own carbon emissions. The court said that measures such as a carbon tax or direct regulation of greenhouse gases were not given enough consideration. Air board officials said Tuesday that they would meet with environmentalists who filed the lawsuit in an effort to narrow the scope of the court injunction, which is expected to be issued in about a week …”

* Wave energy and the future: a truly untapped source to meet our insatiable needs or a quick path to disrupt the marine ecosystem we need to live? Read it here. :”The waves off San Onofre have for generations beckoned surfers and sport fishermen to a wild stretch of coastline in the shadow of domed nuclear reactors. Now, an Orange County entrepreneur wants to tap the power of that legendary surf in a novel but highly controversial plan to build one of the nation’s first hydrokinetic wave farms …”

– For those convinced it’s no big deal to shave provisions of the Clean Air Act to shore up the wobbly recovery, take a read through these EPA-generated public health statistics from the Environment News Service. “Last year, the reductions in fine particle and ozone pollution from the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments prevented more than 160,000 cases of premature death, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates released Tuesday … By 2020, the benefits of reducing fine particle and ground level ozone pollution under the amendments will reach approximately $2 trillion while saving 230,000 people from early death in that year alone, the report concludes.”

In the year 2010, the reductions in fine particle and ozone pollution from the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments prevented more than:

  • 160,000 cases of premature mortality
  • 130,000 heart attacks
  • 13 million lost work days
  • 1.7 million asthma attacks

For more about the landlmark Clean Air Act, click here.

– Will the prolonged and alarming Japanese nuclear-plant crisis mean fresh opportunities for more exotic alternative energy ideas? Geothermal: get ready for your close up. LA Times Greenspace Link. Here’s my L.A. Times’ story on this general subject. And here’s my New York Times online Op-Ed that underscores how few Californians in supposedly America’s greenest state have largely eschewed solar power and our governmental hypocrisy.

– More about those Robert F. Kennedy photographs that my older brother took not long before RFK was assassinated in the kitchen of the old Ambassador Hotel nearly 43 years ago. L.A. Times Daily Mirror blog (note to self: type slower when commenting) and L.A. Observed, which produced a hysterical headline.

* For the record, my brother a couple of years ago emailed me these photographs and told me I could do with them what I pleased, as long as nobody stole the images. They sat idly on my hard-drive until I did a little file organizing recently and decided to post them. Both of us had completely forgotten about them, and so the idea we were seeking our 15 minutes — or 15 seconds in the blogosphere — of fame out of such a gruesome tragedy makes me want to laugh for about 15 hours. These were just a couple of poignant and significant photos taken by a then-21-year-old USC undergrad who stumbled upon one of his heroes. In broken record cadence, I believe the timing of the images pales next to the fact that Paul could get so close to a presidential candidate whose brother was assassinated in Dallas less than five years earlier!

Duhs and huhs – green/brown world update

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

* File this one in the department of factual duhs. Label it something you’d know by heart if you’d read our book, Smogtown: the Lung Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. Consider it beyond obvious if you’re a L.A. longtimer, or keep abreast of news from any distant cave. Ready for your shocker, well here goes. From the L.A. Times: ”Automotive emissions standards in California have resulted in cars that are 99% cleaner than they were 50 years ago, according to a new report. Vehicle-related air pollution in the state is down 85% since 1975. Peak smog levels are down. But the Golden State still houses the top 10 most polluted counties in the country, Environment California Research & Policy Center said Tuesday in a new study. State officials should update emissions regulations, according to the report …”

* Will the chrome-six nightmare ever end? Don’t expect the stricken people of Hinkley, California to answer yes. From the L.A. Times: ”A plume of chromium-tainted groundwater is once again bearing down on residents of Hinkley, Calif., where more than a decade ago an underdog battle with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spawned a multimillion-dollar settlement and the Oscar-winning film “Erin Brockovich …”

* Speaking of water, an interesting, if somewhat half-baked concept how to use the global warming crisis to improve the Third World’s dismal water quality.. From a New York Times opinion piece. “… Now there’s a new way to save water projects from an early death: make clean water a for-profit business, charging people an unusual price: zero. Several multinational companies, such as Bechtel and Suez, already run for-profit water systems in cities around the world. These companies have attracted a lot of criticism, especially for the way they treat rural people and slum dwellers. The companies have little incentive to lay pipes to reach people who are far away, and if they do, they charge very high prices. I’m talking about something different: a water business run by a company that has headquarters in Switzerland, Vestergaard Frandsen, that plans to provide clean water to some of the world’s poorest people and charge them nothing …”

* The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power says consumer demand for solar panel and the subsidies they earn are at an all-time high. Since residential use of roof-mounted, photovoltaic panels never amounted to much before, despite California’s supposedly impeccable green credentials, statistical victories are easy to chalk up. Some day, maybe in 2050, ten-percent of homes may actually be harnessing the sun. Not that public utilities really want that, truth be known. Anyway, from the L.A. Times: “… Although the department had budgeted $30 million annually for residential solar rebates, applications this year total as much as $70 million. John Dennis, a senior DWP power system manager, said other utilities, both public and private, are facing the same problem and have made similar moves to slow down or suspend their rebate programs. “We still offer the best, or one of the best, incentive programs here in the state of California, even with these proposed reductions,” he told the council …”