June 26th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
By S. David Freeman
We keep staring in frustration and anger at the giant flow of oil spilling into the water in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a disaster.
But what is even a greater disaster is what we would see if we looked up, rather than down, and opened our eyes to the millions of deadly toxic “spills” into the air we breathe from cars, trucks, buses, power plants, ships, oil refineries, etc. They spill deadly poisons into the air we breathe every day.
We are more endangered than the birds and the fish in the Gulf. While we are rightfully concerned about the wildlife, let’s wake up to what we are breathing every day of our lives. And there is ample scientific evidence to prove that the “spills” of pollution in the air are just as deadly to human beings.
We need to remind ourselves that what we call smog is a witch’s brew of toxic stuff far more deadly than crude oil. No matter what we burn, whether its gasoline, coal, “clean diesel,” natural gas or biodiesel, it creates tiny particles invisible to the eye that become part of the air we breathe. They go past your nasal passages into the deep recesses of your lungs and into your bloodstream.
Study after study has proven that air pollution is the cause of epidemics of asthma among kids, and heart disease and premature cancer deaths among adults. The tragedy in the Gulf should be a wakeup call to remind Americans that we need to get off oil, not just to save wildlife in the Gulf, but to save our own lives.
It is time to recognize that forms of energy that are inherently dangerous (atomic power, deepwater drilling, and burning coal and petroleum) must be phased out. The truth is that—as we have seen—technology is not perfect and humans do make errors, as the BP oil spill and Three Mile Island reveal.
Remember, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So, let’s stop going for the poisons, and commit our future to clean energy. The convenient truth is that a serious effort to bring on a renewable energy future, in addition to stopping large future oil spills, would:
- Clean the air we breathe
- Reduce the risks of climate change
- Reduce our dependence on oil imports
- Stop the flow of billions of dollars each year to foreign oil-producing nations
- Create a large number of new green jobs for Americans
I have just returned from a visit to China. The leadership in clean tech is now being captured by the Chinese. But it is not too late for America to at least be a major player. But if the tragedy in the Gulf is not a wakeup call, America will lose out. What is needed is leadership that calls for green action now.
There are vast publicly owned lands where solar and wind projects can be built by private companies if the government will grant speedy permission and financing. And the auto industry can be told by the government that, in a few short years, all your cars must be plug-in hybrids or all-electric.
We must make a firm national decision to say no to poisons: crude oil and coal and inherently dangerous radioactive atomic power. The future must be all renewable. Only then can we preserve our way of life.
Wake up, America. Stop talking, and start building green power—and no more fossil fuels or nuclear. Only then will America’s best days be ahead of us.
S. David Freeman is the former chairman of the board of Tennessee Valley Authority and headed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and other large public power agencies. He is the author of Winning Our Energy Independence and a principal in the Renewable Energy Accountability Project, a nonprofit renewable energy watchdog agency.
Read More:Stop Talking and Start Building Green Power
June 11th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Sarah Palin’s “drill, baby, drill” mantra seems all the more idiotic as we watch the environmental scoundrels at BP try to contain the disastrous oil spill they caused along the Gulf Coast (with, I should add, a little help from Dick Cheney’s greedy cohorts at Halliburton).
“While this is a popular strategy among Republicans, Tea Partiers and Blue Dog Democrats, it is a terrible policy,” says Rafael Reuveny, PhD, a professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University, Bloomington. “It risks the health of America’s environment and, even more so, the global ecosystem.”
Offshore drilling is growing costlier and more dangerous, Dr. Reuveny says.
“We don’t even know how to solve the current problem in the Gulf,” he explains. “Offshore drilling pushes our technology and safety measures to the limit. The more we drill offshore and the deeper the sea bed is, the higher the risk of these catastrophes. It is a simple game of probability.”
From Climate Change to Outright Violence
Instead of weaning the planet off fossil fuels, the United States is escalating its dependence and accelerating climate change.
“Climate change increases the frequency and intensity of weather disasters such as storms, floods and droughts,” says Dr. Reuveny, who coauthored Climatic Natural Disasters, Political Risk and International Trade in the May issue of Global Environmental Change. “As a result, these disasters have reduced foreign trade and investments and promoted waves of environmental refugees from poor, affected countries. In Arizona, the arrival of migrants has led to civil strife. In other cases, it has led to outright violence.”
As the United States continues to increase carbon emissions, other countries must wonder why they should cap theirs, Dr. Reuveny says.
Pursuing an Irrational Course
President Obama’s initial executive order to continue offshore drilling, which he reversed by moratorium after the BP spill, “brings all of us closer to the brink of social collapse due to severe environmental decline, which has occurred many times throughout history,” Dr. Reuveny asserts.
A better strategy is to preserve oil as an insurance plan for the future.
“Leaving our oil in the ground is like an underwater bank with an outstanding interest rate as oil becomes increasingly scarce and its price rises,” he says. “In the meantime, we must invest in new technology and alternative energy sources. These are the ways to maintain our status as world leader. We will only self-destruct if we continue on this irrational course.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Energy Independence: Your Everyday Guide to Reducing Fuel Consumption
Read More:Just Leave the Damn Oil in the Ground
May 5th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Birds—from ducks and herons to terns and the brown pelican (Louisiana’s state bird)—are becoming the latest victims of the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf Coast.
“It’s a full moon, a high tide, and it’s bringing the oil on a free ride right into the coastal salt marshes on a southerly wind,” says Dr. Ken Rosenberg, director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “It is also peak migration season for birds crossing the gulf; tens of thousands of exhausted shorebirds are going to be arriving in the next two weeks. They’re flying over water and stopping to refuel on the beaches and in the estuaries along the Gulf Coast, directly in the path of this massive spill.”
As with other environmentalists, Dr. Rosenberg blames “our thirst for fossil fuel” for this unprecedented manmade disaster.
“We’ve been playing Russian roulette with our environment, and the gun just went off,” he says.
Precursor to Human Harm
“Birds are an important first indicator of environmental health, and the old analogy of the canary in the coal mine is really relevant here,” Dr. Rosenberg says. “A lot of these birds are going to die, but that’s just the beginning of the story of what might happen to the coastal environment for both wildlife and people if the oil doesn’t stop flowing.”
At first, breeding bird colonies along the coast will be devastated. Next, thousands of brown pelicans—removed from the endangered species list only last year—will be affected, along with other water-bird colonies. Dependent on fish and other marine life for food and survival, bird populations will die as oil comes ashore. Gulf Coast ecosystems are already extremely fragile because of Hurricane Katrina and other storms.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates millions of birds are at risk.
“When a bird’s feathers become clogged with oil, they no longer act as a waterproof coat,” says Dr. Ian Robinson, IFAW’s emergency relief director. “Cold water penetrates to the bird’s skin and rapidly leads to hypothermia.
“At the same time, as the bird preens to try and clean the oil from the feathers, it inadvertently ingests toxic oil, which leads to symptoms of poisoning, including diarrhea and dehydration.”
“There will be a lot of people mobilized to try to save individual birds by bringing them into rehab and de-oiling them,” Dr. Rosenberg adds, “and there will be some success in saving individual birds. But whether that can save the breeding populations in these areas—we don’t know. If the oil then comes into the coastal marshes and the inshore ecosystems and kills the oyster beds and the shrimp and the fish nurseries, then there are much longer-lasting effects not only on birds, but on an entire way of life for people of this region.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Shattered Lives: Anatomy of an Oil Spill
Read More:Playing Russian Roulette with Our Environment
May 2nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The April 22 British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is shaping up to be the worst environmental disaster in decades—a crisis Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says is a stark reminder of the “high human, environmental and economic costs associated with the extraction of fossil fuels.”
The spill occurred after an April 20 explosion on a BP rig, which killed 11 workers. The rig capsized and sank 2 days later, and oil began to seep into coastal waters.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 210,000 gallons of oil (5,000 barrels) are leaking into the Gulf each day, endangering marine life and Louisiana’s seafood industry. Oil may now drift toward the Atlantic Ocean.
“We are taking every possible step to protect the health of the residents and mitigate the environmental impacts of this spill,” says Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
Louisiana’s Way of Life Threatened
“This incident is not just about our coast,” says Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. “It is fundamentally about our way of life in Louisiana. Our shrimpers, our fishermen, the coasts that make Louisiana [a] sportsmen’s paradise—this all makes up Louisiana, and this is our way of life. We have to do absolutely everything we can to protect our land, our businesses and our communities.”
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has issued recreational and commercial fishery closures. Biologists are monitoring activities and conducting daily field assessments for signs of oiled areas and wildlife.
Because 2,500 sea turtles may be affected by the spill, scientists are also surveying and reporting on oil-tainted animals and other marine life.
Evan Hirsche, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, expects the spill to reach two wildlife areas: the Delta National Wildlife Refuge at the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Breton National Wildlife Refuge, designated as a wilderness area in 1903 by eco-conscious President Theodore Roosevelt. Both sites are critically important to numerous species, including the brown pelican (recently removed from the endangered species list).
“Crucial That We Address Our Dependence on Oil”
Sen. Leahy doesn’t mince words in his assessment of the disaster.
“The evidence is clear that we cannot drill or mine our way to long-term energy security,” he says.
“We need to adopt a comprehensive energy strategy that addresses the challenges of the 21st century and does not simply rely on the energy sources of the past,” he adds. “We need to be more creative and in ways that strengthen our economy, our security and our environment. Our long-term energy security depends on promoting energy efficiency and supporting domestic sources of clean, renewable power, such as biomass, solar and wind energy.
“Instead of focusing so much on securing more fossil fuels,” he concludes, “it is crucial that we address our dependence on oil, invest in renewable energy, and offer incentives for utility companies and others to use these clean, domestic forms of energy.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Over a Barrel: The Costs of U.S. Foreign Oil Dependence
Image courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory
Read More:BP Oil Spill: Worst Environmental Disaster in Decades?
February 26th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
I think it’s asinine to ramble on and on about global warming not being real. It’s a simple concept, people burn too many fossil fuels, planet heats up and everything melts.
But some lunatics aren’t convinced, like “experts” who also support big tobacco. So, the mysterious “Greenman” takes them to task in this short video.
I am not an expert, but it’s blatantly obvious these deniers either have some sort of corporate interest or a bizarre delusion of what “real” America is. I hate that.
Read More:Basically, Climate Change Deniers are Full of It…