Friday, February 27, 2009

The Coen Brothers take on "clean coal"

The Coen brothers are into the act against "clean coal" with a series of ads, which you can see after you have seen this one. Unfortunately, the entire campaign is about the sequestering part of "clean coal" even though the ad itself shows black coal soot, which "clean coal" doesn't address at all. There's no such thing as clean coal. It's black, dirty, toxic, and lays waste enormous tracts of once-gorgeous landscape.

We are up against powerful forces, including our own president, who otherwise is doing a lot of good things. He hasn't gotten the full picture yet on coal, even though many organizations have been trying to get through to him. This is one issue he's not really listening on. Why?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Two little words: "...clean coal"

Picture from
...ruined Obama's speech for me last night. He said them at the end of a long list of sustainable energy sources that would be strengthened under the Stimulus Package - wind, solar, advanced biofuels... and then he said it: "clean coal!" Here is the quote from the speech:
And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.
I want to believe that he hesitated with that. He must know there's no such thing. I had been waiting through the entire speech for him to come to that part, and hoped he'd leave it out. The camera glanced briefly at our new Energy Secretary, who also ought to know better.

At least there was no mention of nuclear power. That would have gone way too far.

But why "clean coal?"

Why aren't the environmental organizations out with petitions this morning already?

Coal does not belong in a list of sustainable energy forms. And clean should NEVER be used in connection with coal. There's no way coal can be clean!

Credo sent and email yesterday "Big Coal is on the ropes, let's go for the knockout," with a new campaign: Tell the Power Companies: Stop investing in Dirty Coal!" They may be slightly over enthusiastic, although there are definite indications that this is getting closer to the truth. New coal plants are not getting permitted, rules about emissions are being strengthened by the new EPA, and it will be harder to remove mountaintops in the future as well. The price of coal-generated electricity will be priced out the of the competition when it has to be "clean." So why is Obama still supporting it? There is no reason to send our tax-payer dollars to do research on such a lost cause!

The latest Sierra Club Global Warming newsletter reports of the new regulation of Coal's Carbon Emissions. Although former EPA Administrator Steven Johnson made a "midnight memo" to the contrary, the new EPA is planning regulation "that new coal-fired power plants could soon be forced address their carbon dioxide pollution, the main cause of global warming."
Now the coal-fired power plants are starting to fall in response. First was AES announcing that it's pulling plans for its 320-megawatt Shady Point coal plant in Oklahoma. Then on Friday, EPA rejected Northern Michigan University's air permit for its proposed coal plant in Marquette and ordered Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality to consider regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. . . Tell the EPA to hold off the permit for a proposed 1,500 megawatt Desert Rock facility in Arizona.
Have you noticed the stream of smoke that rises up behind the Capitol - though not while Obama was being inaugurated? That came from the coal-fired Capitol Power Plant, which, according to the linked Wikipedia article, burned 17,108 tons of coal in 2006, producing about 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. They didn't even try to hide it during the Inauguration? What are these people thinking? A group called Capitol Climate Action is also calling to action in Washington on March 2, 2009. I wish I could be there. If it is at all possible for you to be there, please do! Maybe they will understand it better after that!

Make history March 2, 2009 in Washington, D.C.

Be part of the largest mass civil disobedience for the climate in U.S. history.

You know there is a climate crisis. You know we have to solve it. It’s time to take our action to the next level.

With a new administration and a new Congress, we have a window of opportunity. But we have to open it — together.

On March 2, join thousands of people in a multi-generational act of civil disobedience at the Capitol Power Plant — a plant that powers Congress with dirty energy and symbolizes a past that cannot be our future. Let’s use this as a rallying cry for a clean energy economy that will protect the health of our families, our climate, and our future.

This will be a peaceful demonstration, carried out in a spirit of hope and not rancor. We will be there in our dress clothes, and ask the same of you.

It’s time to take a stand on global warming. We can’t wait any longer for the changes we KNOW we can, and must, make today.
Some of us now living will see the day when the remaining coal gets to stay put where it belongs, under those lovely Appalachian mountains or Wyoming hills. I hope I do!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tar Sands

Picture of tar sands from the climateark website. Click to learn more!
Now we're talking about fuel, there's another black horror story besides coal that we have to fight - oil from tar sands in Alberta. Oil from this enormously dirty source is evidently a major portion of the oil we use in this country, not oil from Saudi Arabia. So it is worth our attention - and another reason to support Josh in his search for sustainable biofuels (see the next 3 postings.)

Here is a link to more information, and a protest to President Obama to ask that we not play a part in destroying Alberta forests, homeland to Native Americans. Here is a short excerpt to show what it is all about:

On February 19, President Obama travels to Canada on his first presidential visit abroad, where he will face pressure from the Government of Canada to support production of Alberta tar sands oil. Called oil sands by proponents, tar sands are the very dirtiest of fossil fuels. Producing oil from tar sands emits three times the global warming pollution as conventional oil, requires excessive amounts of energy and fresh water, and destroys huge swaths of ancient boreal forest.

Tar sands development is the most ecologically destructive project in the world. When fully developed, along with its vast proposed pipeline network, tar sands will indefinitely continue North America's addiction to climate destroying fossil fuels, ensuring abrupt and runaway climate change exceeds safe levels. There is virtually no chance of maintaining an operable atmosphere and achieving global ecological sustainability should tar sands production continue or expand.

"Tar sands oil is the dirtiest form of energy in the world. It has no place in President Obama's plans for a clean energy economy," said Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign Coordinator Pat Gallagher. "Tar sands oil accelerates global warming. It destroys forests. It endangers public health. Instead of importing this expensive, dirty oil, we can invest in clean energy that will create millions of much-needed, sustainable jobs."

With the passage of the stimulus bill, numerous companies have projects which were waiting to be financed are ready to get sustainable energy out there to the people, including the company I have been supporting (virtually) for 2 years during its search for financing. If you want to be in line for rental solar panels, just go to Join The Solution and sign up. (Because of the financial stop, you'll still have to wait a while, but things are going to be moving very quickly now!

FUEL (2008) - Official Movie Trailer

More on the Fuel film

According to the Wikipedia Article on the "Fuel" film, it started out as a love-song to biofuels called "Fields of Fuel."
According to director Josh Tickell, since Sundance, the film has gone through major editing changes and additions. The name was changed from Fields of Fuel to Fuel. This edited film and is a re-cut of the same film with 45 minutes of new material in its total 100 minute running time.

The discovery that biofuels were competing with food and tropical rainforests caused a major turn-around, which is well documented in the final 45 minutes of footage, where the director Josh Tickell almost brings you to tears in the film's emotional lowpoint, where he asks if all his work has actually been doing more harm than good. But he discovers that all is not lost. The set-back actually makes the film more interesting, particularly since you have a feeling that it has to come sometime, just like even a romance has a parting of ways before the couple finally find each other,

The LA Times had a short review of "Fuel" yesterday, on its opening day in our area (after the sneak preview we saw.)

'Fuel' to the fire of oil addiction

"Fuel" is a vital, superbly assembled documentary that presents an insightful overview of America's troubled relationship with oil and how alternative and sustainable energies can reduce our country's -- and the world's -- addictive dependence on fossil fuels.The film's structure is built around director-narrator Josh Tickell's personal journey of enlightenment, which started in childhood after moving with his family from idyllic Australia to murkier Louisiana, where he came to realize the oil-rich environment was being ravaged by the omnipotent petrochemical industry. Later, as a young adult, he spent 11 years crossing the country in his vegetable oil-powered "Veggie Van," promoting biofuels and compiling footage for what would become this impressively comprehensive film.The events of Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina factor in both visually and thematically, providing provocative anchors for the movie's indictment of what Tickell believes is the Big Oil-cozy, ecologically indifferent Bush administration. Johnny O'Hara's WGA Award-nominated script doesn't dwell on muckraking, however; it's more focused on broadly inspiring viewers than preaching to the converted.Interviews with a wide range of environmentalists, policy makers and educators, along with such "green" celebrities as Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow and Larry Hagman offer serious fuel for thought -- as well as for action. Smartly animated interstitials, memorable archival material and a lively soundtrack round out the fast-paced proceedings.

Or maybe you'd like this little blurb from the radio station Kink:

The Fuel Film

Thursday, October 30, 2008 - Most Americans know we’ve got a problem: an addiction to oil that taxes the environment, entangles us in costly foreign policies, and threatens the nation’s long-term stability. But few are informed or empowered enough to do much about it. Enter Josh Tickell, an expert young activist who, driven by his own emotionally charged motives, shuttles us on a revelatory, whirlwind journey to unravel this addiction—from its historical origins to political constructs that support it, to alternatives available now and the steps we can take to change things. Tickell tracks the rising domination of the petrochemical industry—from Rockefeller’s strategy to halt ethanol use in Ford’s first cars to the mysterious death of Rudolph Diesel at the height of his biodiesel engine’s popularization, to our government’s choice to declare war after 9/11, rather than wean the country from fossil fuel. Never minimizing the complexities of ending oil dependence, Tickell uncovers a hopeful reality pointing toward a decentralized, sustainable energy infrastructure—like big rigs tanking up on biofuel at Carl’s Corner Texas truck stop, a new Brooklyn biodiesel plant serving three states, a miraculous Arizona algae-based fuel farm, and the Swedish public voting to be petroleum free by 2020. Sweeping and exhilarating, Tickell’s passionate film goes beyond great storytelling; it rings out like a bell that stirs consciousness and makes individual action suddenly seem consequential.

Josh Tickell, a leading expert on alternative fuels, grew up in Louisiana, where members of his family suffered from diseases linked to pollution from oil refineries. After discovering biodiesel, he earned an MFA in film from Florida State University's School of Motion Picture, Television, and Recording Arts to chronicle and vitalize the green-energy movement. He has been working on Fields of Fuel for 10 years. Tickell also authored a controversial companion book, Biodiesel America—How to Achieve Energy Security, Free America from Middle-East Oil Dependence, and Make Money Growing Fuel.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fuel - the film

My husband and I were invited to a prescreening of a new film called Fuel at our local Laemmle movie theater. It tells about one person's journey across the US and to China and Europe (and back in history) to figure out how we can replace ugly, dirty petroleum as a fuel.

He starts back in the beginning, with the primordial algae that became oil, and ends now and in the future, with algae farms growing nice clean oil. In between he visits historians, politicians, pundits, scientists, financiers, truckers, school children and even movie stars, of course, to find out what is the right thing.
Through most of the film he is really hepped on biofuels - until, of course the market fell out from under it, in the deepest darkest emotional pit of the movie.

But he quickly rebounds and discovers algae - and solar, wind, energy conservation, public transportation, etc. etc. and how YOU and I can get this going. As someone told him, "Change a light bulb first and then change a politician."

If you enjoyed the movie KilowattOurs you will enjoy Fuel. And there are loads of other great films out there after you've seen these.

I want to conclude with today's Daily Ray of Hope from the Sierra Club:
It is not the strongest of the species that survives,
nor the most intelligent that survives.
It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
-- Charles Darwin
I just wanted to add (a couple of days later) that there is a fascinating book called Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives by Edwin Black, about the early history of the use of petroleum for transportation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Coal and nuclear can't be a "stimulus"

Carl Pope in his new Sierra Club blog Take the Initiative wrote about how exicited he is about everything our new President is doing for the environment. However there are a few things we have to keep our eyes wide open about!

I noticed a couple of days ago that the "alternative energy" part of the stimulus package includes some support for nuclear. Today I also read that it includes support for "clean" coal, which I've been ranting about through quite a few posts here.

When you think of all the emails we've sent to our congressmen and senators, and to candidate Obama it makes you wonder how they could continue to waste money on such things, when real sustainables, solar, wind, geothermal, new hydropower and some versions of biofuels, are what will really make a difference, both in terms of jobs, CO2, clean air, our health, and ultimately our personal bank accounts.

Here is the email I received from CREDO Action that mention "clean" coal, with the link they provided to contact your Senators, since the stimulus package is in their ball-court now.) Of course I'm maining interested in their first suggestion, but I agree with the others as well. (The 5th one is there because CREDO/Working Assets competes with Verizon on long distance and cellphones.)

This week, the Senate will consider a mind-bogglingly large stimulus package — the latest figures put it somewhere in the neighborhood of $900 billion. Here at CREDO, we believe a stimulus package this large is necessary because our economy is in dire straits. But there is a right and a wrong way to stimulate the economy. Join us in asking the Senate not to screw up the stimulus in five easy steps:

  1. Get rid of a $2 billion provision for "clean coal" plants. Instead, invest this money in green infrastructure and alternative energy development.
  2. Invest in infrastructure, not tax cuts. Don't reward businesses that got us into this mess with tax cuts that won't create new jobs in the future.
  3. Reinstate the Medicaid Family Planning State Option. Funding state healthcare programs for women will protect jobs of healthcare workers and make sure women living in or on the edge of poverty get the care they need.
  4. Include meaningful bankruptcy reform. Bankruptcy judges should regain the ability to restructure mortgages (that is, lower the amount owed and the interest rate, reflecting the lower value of the house) so that borrowers can stay in their homes.
  5. Don't give Verizon $1.6 billion in tax cuts without generating a single new job. Money originally earmarked to encourage companies to bring high speed internet to underserved low-income and rural communities has turned into a billion dollar giveaway to big telecom.

The stimulus package will never be perfect, nor will it please everyone. However, these five key suggestions can help to make it the kind of package that will truly help our economy and aid those Americans who need it the most.

So here's one more opportunity to fight dirty coal. I hope they listen this time. Otherwise they're just throwing money down the coal mine, or might I say "tilting with windmills?"