Ben Buchwalter


Ken Salazar’s Cape Wind Dilemma
February 17, 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under: change.org, energy, Environment | Tags: , , , , ,

That’s some unique NIMBYism. The Cape Wind project, a proposed renewable energy facility off of Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound, hit an unusual snag when the Mashpee and Wampanoag Native Americans opposed the site because it blocked their view of the sunrise, an important part of a daily ritual. The facility, which was also opposed by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) and the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, presents an important dilemma for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. I summed up the dilemma for change.org.

Setting aside the merits and drawbacks of Cape Wind, killing the project would be a major victory for NIMBY politics over clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Sure, it’s easy to support renewable energy in the abstract. But when your sunrise or porch’s mountainous view is obstructed by a hulking white wind mill? Forget about it, some say. But spiking Cape Wind would not eliminate the NIMBY headache that has plagued the project since its inception. It would only add fire to anti-wind movements at other proposed locations.

Secretary Salazar has asked for a final round of public comments to help parse that complexity. But depending on what he decides in April, Cape Wind will either be a historic victory for wind power, or put wind in the sails of NIMBY-ists everywhere.



Will Brazil’s New Dam Displace Indigenous People?
February 17, 2010, 10:44 pm
Filed under: energy, Environment, Mother Jones | Tags: , ,

Earlier this month, the Brazilian government announced that it would move forward with the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon. Current estimates indicate that the dam will flood 100 square miles of Brazil’s rain forest and cost $17 billion. But critics, including pop star Sting, have warned that the dam could have an even larger negative impact on the area:

Some anti-dam activists have worried that, in addition to harming their forests, the project could displace indigenous populations. Minc rejects these concerns. “Not a single Indian will be displaced,” he said. “They will be indirectly affected, but they will not have to leave indigenous lands.”

The claim sounds reassuring, but it’s difficult to take at face value since the Brazilian government has made a practice of moving indigenous people off their land in the name of conservation. As Mark Schapiro reports for Mother Jones, the Brazilian “green police” is feared for displacing the Guarani Indians as part of their conservation strategy in the Guaraquecaba Environmental Protection Area, a 50,000 acre rain forest funded by General Motors, Chevron, and American Electric Power.



Pentagon Pushes for Climate Action
February 17, 2010, 8:58 pm
Filed under: change.org, Environment, Military | Tags: , ,

Earlier this month, the Pentagon released a report warning that climate change would threaten more than just our coast lines if Congress did not act quickly to delay or reverse environmental degradation. Climate change could even put American troops serving abroad at risk. The announcement seems surprising, but it’s consistent with two decades of military dogma on the environment that was largely ignored by the Bush administration. I broke down the unrequited friendship between the earth and the military for change.org:

Good working relationships between the Pentagon and concerned climate scientists dates back to the early years of the Clinton administration, which implemented a program that urges the DOD to share classified satellite photographs of the Arctic Ocean with climate scientists.

In 1992, then-Senator Al Gore floated the idea with representatives from George H. W. Bush’s CIA and DOD, and as vice-president, he implemented the program along with Leon Panetta — Clinton’s chief of staff at the time — and departing CIA director Robert Gates. Bush II disbanded the program in 2001 but the New York Times reported earlier this year that the Obama administration plans to resurrect it.  “Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security,” said CIA Director Panetta in a press release when the agency opened a center on climate change and national security last fall. “The CIA is well positioned to deliver that intelligence.”



Energy Scientists: Nuclear Loan Increase is Bad Policy
February 17, 2010, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Environment, Mother Jones | Tags: , , ,

No one can say that economists, environmentalists, and energy scientists have not warned the Obama administration about the dangers of expanding nuclear energy. After the administration announced that it planned to triple the amount of nuclear loan guarantees for nuclear projects, I posted a roundup at MoJo. Here’s an excerpt:

David Kreutzer, an energy economic and climate change analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote in a blog post for the National Journal that increasing the loan guarantees “is a bad idea for taxpayers, consumers and long-term industry competitiveness” because it would “stifle competition and technological development within the nuclear energy industry.”

And in a particularly damning blow to nuclear interests, Dr. Mark Cooper, an energy and environment economist at Vermont Law School wrote a report (pdf) last summer predicting that the cost of 100 new reactors could cost up to $4.1 trillion and that a combination of increased energy efficiency and cleaner renewable energy options would produce the same level of electricity.



Is Renewable Energy Headed for a Nuclear Wedgie?
February 17, 2010, 8:40 pm
Filed under: change.org, Congress, Environment | Tags: , , ,

In January, I started blogging for change.org’s environment page. In my first post, I wrote about the strain expanding our nuclear program will place on the prospects for a comprehensive renewable energy system in the US. Despite almost universal acknowledgement in the environmental community that nuclear power is dirty, obstructive, and less efficient than its proponents suggest, Congress plans to flood the industry with billions in loan guarantees in order to get a climate bill passed. We’re already starting to see the results of this renewed commitment to nuclear power:

The result? The proposal of new nuclear plant in California, once a hotbed for anti-nuclear activism. In 2006, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a global warming bill that requires the state to increase renewable energy production 30 percent by 2020 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. Nuclear critics didn’t expect is that those goals could lead the state to go nuclear.

“When you look at the need to cut carbon emissions, and California is in the lead in that department, you have to consider nuclear power,” says a spokesman for Areva, the French utilities company that proposed the California plant.



Daily Mail Bends Science to Support ‘Global Cooling’
February 2, 2010, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Environment, Media, Mother Jones | Tags: , , , ,

Climate change deniers pop up all over the place. But they’re rarely part of the Nobel-winning International Panel on Climate Change. So when Professor Mojib Latiff of the IPCC was quoted in Britain’s Daily Mail as a convert to the “global cooling” hypothesis, it raised eyebrows. Well it turns out that’s not what he said at all. I wrote a summary of the controversy that got picked up on the front page of the Huffington Post and the lead of HuffPost’s Green page. Here’s an excerpt:

But speaking to the Guardian yesterday, Latif pushed back hard against the Mail, saying that the tabloid took his comments out of context to make an editorial statement. “It comes as a surprise to me that people would try to use my statements to try to dispute the nature of global warming. I believe in manmade global warming. I have said that if my name was not Mojib Latif it would be global warming,” he said. “There is no doubt within the scientific community that we are affecting the climate, that the climate is changing and responding to our emissions of greenhouse gases.”

This is a predictable misstep for the Mail, which has a conservative streak and recently published a set of denialist stories, including Sunday’s David Rose report “The Mini Ice Age Starts Here,” and a special investigation on the Climategate emails last December.



Video: 350 Gets Rowdy
January 30, 2010, 2:34 pm
Filed under: Environment, Mother Jones | Tags: , , ,

I’m all for saving the world. In fact, I think we need to do more of it. But the San Francisco 350 Day of Action, a worldwide event meant to influence the global debate on climate change, focused more on novelty than substantive change. I checked it out with some MoJoers and we put together this video to sum it up: