Friday, May 29, 2009

Arugula, anyone? (Part 2)

The idea of planting vegetables in different spots throughout the yard seemed like a brilliant one, if I did say so myself. It semed very artsy and creative. But not any more. I put the corn right by the kids' basketball hoop. The plants have since been smooshed. The tomatoes and one pepper plant get only about an hour of sun a day, beneath the shade of a giant pine tree. And the arugula was apparently placed in a spot where the dog loves to pee. Salad, anyone?

Climate change is killing 300,000 people a year

According to the first comprehensive report on the subject, headed by Kofi Annan. And the numbers ain't gonna be going down in the future. Morality issue? National security issue? Whatever perspective gets you to turn off that lightbulb, or walk downtown.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A conservative (and correct) viewpoint on the environment. Believe your eyes.

An article from the conservative American Enterprise Institute called "Lose-Lose on Biofuels?"

It basically says we should stop mandating the increased production of ethanol and biodiesel from virgin sources.

"Forcing the market to produce large amounts of renewable fuel will harm consumers in two ways: it will increase prices at the pump, because biofuels are more costly than gasoline, and it will drive up the price of food, because it diverts crops into fuel. The impact of food price inflation will weigh most heavily in developing countries where food purchases comprise larger shares of consumption. Food expenditures account for as much as 70 percent of household consumption among lower income groups in the developing world."

They conclude that the best way to reduce emissions is through a straight carbon tax. Sounds good to me. But who has the guts (or suicidal tendency) in congress to propose a new tax?

(By the way, it should be noted that ExxonMobil has been big donor to the American Enterprise Institute.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sotomayor's most notable environmental ruling

From the New York Times...

In a defeat for environmental groups, the Supreme Court ruled this term that the Environmental Protection Agency may use cost-benefit calculations to decide whether to require power plants to make changes that could preserve aquatic organisms. The case mostly concerned the meaning of a phrase in the Clean Water Act that requires the power plants' cooling structures to "reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact." Judge Sotomayor had previously ruled that weighing the costs of the changes against the value of the organisms in dollars was not permitted by the law. Instead, the EPA could consider only what cost "may reasonably be borne" by the power plants. When her ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter, dissented, saying that cost-benefit analysis was prohibited by the law and pernicious in practice.

A more detailed view from SCOTUS Blog

Environmental Law: Sotomayor’s most notable environmental-law opinion is Riverkeeper v. EPA, 475 F.3d 83 (2d Cir. 2007), a challenge to an EPA rule regulating cooling-water intake structures at power plants. To minimize the adverse impact on aquatic life (which could otherwise be trapped against the intake structure or, if small enough, sucked into the pipes themselves), the Clean Water Act requires the intake structures to use the “best technology available,” without specifying what factors the EPA should consider in determining what constitutes the “best technology available.” Sotomayor wrote and opinion holding that the EPA was not permitted to engage in a cost-benefit analysis to determine “best technology available”; instead, it could consider cost only to determine “what technology can be ‘reasonably borne’ by the industry” and whether the proposed technology was “cost-effective” - which, she concluded, requires the EPA in turn to determine whether the technology at issue is “a less expensive technology that achieves essentially the same results” as the best technology that the industry could reasonably bear. Thus, she explained, “assuming the EPA has determined that power plants governed by the Phase II Rule can reasonably bear the price of technology that saves between 100-105 fish, the EPA, given a choice between a technology that costs $100 to save 99-101 fish and one that costs $150 to save 100-103 fish . . . could appropriately choose the cheaper technology on cost-effectiveness grounds.” On this issue, Sotomayor remanded to the EPA, finding it “unclear” how the EPA had arrived at its conclusions and, in particular, whether the EPA had improperly weighed costs and benefits.
Sotomayor also held that the EPA could not consider restoration measures - such as restocking fish to compensate for fish killed by an intake system - when determining the best technology available for a particular power plant. Sotomayor wrote that “[r]estoration measures are not part of the location, design, construction, or capacity of cooling water intake structures, and a rule permitting compliance with the statute through restoration measures allows facilities to avoid adopting any cooling water intake structure technology at all, in contravention of the Act’s clear language as well as its technology-forcing principle.” Finally, Sotomayor also determined that, at a minimum, EPA’s determination that the CWA provision at issue applies to existing and new facilities was a reasonable interpretation of the statute.
The industry plaintiffs filed petitions for certiorari, which the Supreme Court granted in April 2008 to review the cost-benefit issue. By a vote of 6-3, the Court reversed. In an opinion by Justice Scalia, the majority deemed “[i]t . . . eminently reasonable to conclude that” the CWA’s silence with regard to determining the best technology available “is meant to convey nothing more than a refusal to tie the agency’s hands as to whether cost-benefit analysis should be used, and if so to what degree.” Justice Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Souter and Ginsburg. In their view, because “Congress granted the EPA authority to use cost-benefit analysis in some contexts but not others” and intended “to control, not delegate, when cost-benefit analysis should be used,” Congress’s silence on this issue did not constitute “an invitation for the Agency to decide for itself which factors should govern its regulatory approach.”


• Environment (Protection of fish at power plants): Sotomayor, writing for a three-judge panel, ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency may not engage in a cost-benefit analysis in implementing a rule that the "best technology available" must be used to limit the environmental impact of power plants on nearby aquatic life. The case involved power plants that draw water from lakes and rivers for cooling purposes, killing various fish and aquatic organisms in the process. Sotomayor ruled that the "best technology" regulation did not allow the EPA to weigh the cost of implementing the technology against the overall environmental benefit when issuing its rules. The Supreme Court reversed Sotomayor's ruling in a 6-3 decision, saying that Sotomayor's interpretation of the "best technology" rule was too narrow. Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg dissented, siding with Sotomayor's position. Riverkeeper, Inc. vs. EPA, 475 F.3d 83 (2007)

The case for a gas tax

Presented here in the American Prospect...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Steroids and blogging

Even though there is no drug testing at the Greasy Rider book world headquarters, there's no truth to the rumors that I'm taking steroids to improve my blogging performance. Especially the ones that Manny took that improve your chances of getting pregnant.

Station wagon repair report

The wagon needs a new rear axle. We'll be getting it soon. Meanwhile, the mechanic assures me that we have nothing to worry about. "I've never seen one of 'em break on an old Mercedes wagon. Yet."

I'm planning to drive the kids up Mount Mitchell (the tallest mountain in the US, east of the Mississippi) in the car this weekend. We'll see how it holds up.

China may save the planet, and crush us in the process

There's no debate about global warming in China. Instead, it's about whether they should do anything about it. Now, the country is charging forward on renewable energy solutions, and if they create cheap technologies to solve the problems before us--and then sell it to the rest of the world--we're hurting.

Here's why China has an even more urgent incentive than us:

Currently, one-third of China's rivers are polluted; one-fourth of its territory is desert while another one-third suffers from severe soil erosion and drought; more than three-fourths of its forests are gone; urban residents are forced to breathe air containing lead, mercury, sulfur dioxide and other elements of coal-burning and car exhaust. The number of cars is expected to grow from 33 million to 130 million in the next 12 years and every 30 seconds a baby is born with pollution-related birth defects.
Just last year, China overtook the United States as the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. By 2030, the International Energy Agency says China's emissions will be 41 percent greater than those of the United States.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Big Day: Grease-powered car hits 300,000 miles

The odometer passed 300,000 miles on the old station wagon today. I guess that puts the engine in its teenage years. (The body's not doing quite so well.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New chocolate-powered race car unveiled.

From the Mail: "A racing car that is powered by chocolate, guided by a carrot steering wheel and has bodywork made from potatoes, was unveiled in Britain today."

"The car meets all the Formula 3 racing standards except for its biodiesel engine which is configured to run on fuel derived from waste chocolate and vegetable oil. Formula 3 cars currently cannot use biodiesel."

I do see a problem here: chocolate is already freaking expensive enough. I don't need car drivers sending the prices up higher. Otherwise, I'll have to find a cheaper vice, like smoking.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Annals of enviro-hypocrisy, chapter 1,823: The Edge wants to build five 10,000 square foot "green" mansions on one Malibu property. Seriously.

The Edge wants to build five 10,000-square-foot mansions on his pristine Malibu property (complete with a new mountain access road dug for them). (Why do you need five mansions? I guess one for you, and the other five for guests? Or maybe to house hundreds of displaced families from Darfur?) And he's trying to claim it's a green effort. No word on whether he's also building a landing strip for his private jet there.

"The project...calls for a cluster of five, 10,000-square-foot homes. The two-story, earth-toned dwellings would be the maximum size allowed in areas designated as environmentally sensitive habitat.
Renderings show organic design features such as a pool that encircles one home like a moat. Another house would wrap around an existing pile of boulders while The Edge's own dwelling would feature curved roof lines to simulate leaves."

He says the houses will all be gold LEED certified. The only problem is that the houses are too big, about five times too big, to receive LEED certification. What he's doing defeats the entire purpose of green building.

As Bono might say, how long must we sing this song?