Today’s House Energy and Commerce subcommittee vote to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating power plant and oil refinery carbon emissions is “an insult to all Americans,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The bill that passed out of the Energy and Power Subcommittee this morning was introduced by Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.).
“The House subcommittee vote is a triumph of fiction over fact,” said Lexi Shultz, legislative director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS. “This bill ignores the vast body of scientific evidence that carbon emissions are leading to climate change and harming public health.”
The legislation also would undermine efforts that would save American drivers thousands of dollars at the pump over the life of their vehicles through stronger fuel efficiency standards, according to UCS.
“The Upton-Whitfield bill would end a promising collaboration between the EPA and the Department of Transportation to develop new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks between 2017 and 2025,” said Michelle Robinson, director of UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program. “Representative Upton claims his bill would save Americans money at the pump, but the reality is that it would do the exact opposite. By blocking future fuel efficiency standards, the bill would eliminate savings at the pump of as much as $7,400 over a vehicle’s lifetime, increase pollution, and worsen America’s oil addiction.
“For the last 35 years, fuel efficiency standards have saved consumers billions of dollars, cleaned up our air, and reduced our oil consumption,” she added. “At a time of rising gas prices, the last thing consumers need is more pain at the pump.”
Taking a page out of Orwell’s “1984,” Rep. Upton and Whitfield titled their bill the “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011,” when, in fact, it would not prevent an energy tax because no one has proposed one. Instead, the bill would prevent the EPA from reducing harmful carbon emissions, despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled the agency has the express authority to regulate carbon under the Clean Air Act.
“The bill’s sponsors are ignoring the fact that Clean Air Act regulations have and will continue to save lives,” said Shultz. “They also have provided enormous financial benefits.” The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, for example, have prevented as many as 160,000 premature deaths last year alone, she pointed out, and while they cost $65 billion to implement, their overall financial benefit could reach $2 trillion by 2020, according to the EPA.
Reps. Upton and Whitfield justify their bill by citing grossly inflated industry-generated estimates of the cost of new carbon regulations. Historically industry has overstated the cost of regulation. Past Clean Air Act standards, such as those that addressed acid rain, have cost less than a third of even the EPA’s own estimates.
Meanwhile, warnings from the scientific community are mounting. In October 2009, for example, 18 U.S. scientific societies sent a letter to Congress that stated: “If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced.” In 2009, the U.S. Global Change Impacts Report concluded that if global warming emissions are not cut dramatically, “threats to human health will increase.” And earlier this month, more than 2,500 scientists signed a letter urging Congress to allow the EPA to move forward with carbon regulations.
One of the most enduring mysteries in solar physics is why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, is millions of degrees hotter than its surface.
Now scientists believe they have discovered a major source of hot gas that replenishes the corona: jets of plasma shooting up from just above the Sun’s surface.
The finding addresses a fundamental question in astrophysics: how energy is moved from the Sun’s interior to create its hot outer atmosphere.
“It’s always been quite a puzzle to figure out why the Sun’s atmosphere is hotter than its surface,” says Scott McIntosh, a solar physicist at the High Altitude Observatory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., who was involved in the study.
“By identifying that these jets insert heated plasma into the Sun’s outer atmosphere, we can gain a much greater understanding of that region and possibly improve our knowledge of the Sun’s subtle influence on the Earth’s upper atmosphere.”
The research, results of which are published this week in the journal Science, was conducted by scientists from Lockheed Martin’s Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory (LMSAL), NCAR, and the University of Oslo. It was supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), NCAR’s sponsor.
“These observations are a significant step in understanding observed temperatures in the solar corona,” says Rich Behnke of NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research.
“They provide new insight about the energy output of the Sun and other stars. The results are also a great example of the power of collaboration among university, private industry and government scientists and organizations.”
The research team focused on jets of plasma known as spicules, which are fountains of plasma propelled upward from near the surface of the Sun into the outer atmosphere.
For decades scientists believed spicules could send heat into the corona. However, following observational research in the 1980s, it was found that spicule plasma did not reach coronal temperatures, and so the theory largely fell out of vogue.
“Heating of spicules to millions of degrees has never been directly observed, so their role in coronal heating had been dismissed as unlikely,” says Bart De Pontieu, the lead researcher and a solar physicist at LMSAL.
In 2007, De Pontieu, McIntosh, and their colleagues identified a new class of spicules that moved much faster and were shorter-lived than the traditional spicules.
These “Type II” spicules shoot upward at high speeds, often in excess of 100 kilometers per second, before disappearing.
The rapid disappearance of these jets suggested that the plasma they carried might get very hot, but direct observational evidence of this process was missing.
The researchers used new observations from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly on NASA’s recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory and NASA’s Focal Plane Package for the Solar Optical Telescope (SOT) on the Japanese Hinode satellite to test their hypothesis.
“The high spatial and temporal resolution of the newer instruments was crucial in revealing this previously hidden coronal mass supply,” says McIntosh.
“Our observations reveal, for the first time, the one-to-one connection between plasma that is heated to millions of degrees and the spicules that insert this plasma into the corona.”
The findings provide an observational challenge to the existing theories of coronal heating.
During the past few decades, scientists proposed a wide variety of theoretical models, but the lack of detailed observation significantly hampered progress.
“One of our biggest challenges is to understand what drives and heats the material in the spicules,” says De Pontieu.
A key step, according to De Pontieu, will be to better understand the interface region between the Sun’s visible surface, or photosphere, and its corona.
Another NASA mission, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), is scheduled for launch in 2012 to provide high-fidelity data on the complex processes and enormous contrasts of density, temperature and magnetic field between the photosphere and corona. Researchers hope this will reveal more about the spicule heating and launch mechanism.
The LMSAL is part of the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, which designs and develops, tests, manufactures and operates a full spectrum of advanced-technology systems for national security and military, civil government and commercial customers.
History will judge poorly those who tried to remove the basic human rights of their fellow human beings.
The Senate voted 65 to 31 Saturday to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, beginning the process of ending a 17-year ban on gays serving openly in the military and reversing decades of official military policy.
A years-long campaign to end the ban came to a swift conclusion Saturday as 57 members of the Senate Democratic caucus and eight Republicans voted to end the ban.
In a statement, President Obama praised the procedural vote earlier in the day that allowed for Saturday’s historic passage: “I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known.”
President Obama will sign the bill next week, the White House said Saturday.(via)
Now its only a matter of time before gay marriage is legal in every state. Because if America will let you fight and die for us, the least we can do is let you marry the person you love.
It is a damn shame that we still live in a world where a third of the senate would still vote against a bill like this.
For environmentalists, the recent Supreme Court term was a shutout — 0 for 5. That is, all five of the “green” cases argued before the Court this term were decided against the environmentalists’ positions.
The defeats were especially painful in that all five decisions reversed lower court decisions in favor of the “greens.” Writing for the National Law Journal, Marcia Coyle reported that “The justices granted review at the behest of business, even when the solicitor general of the United States recommended denying review.”
One of the five cases was Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper, which reversed a decision of the Second Circuit Court, a panel that includes Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor. In this case, the Supreme Court decided the Clean Water Act allows the Environmental Protection Agency to use cost-benefit analysis in decided what means it would use to protects rivers and lakes near power plants.
None of the five cases specifically dealt with asbestos contamination of the environment. But one decision that might be of concern to people suffering mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases is Burlington Northern Railway/Shell Oil Co. v. U.S.. This case concerned who would pay for an environmental cleanup of toxic substances.
In the 1970s and 1980s, a company called Brown & Bryant purchased chemicals from Shell Oil Co. and stored these chemicals on parcels of land owned by itself and also by Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Company and the Union Pacific Transportation Company. The chemicals leaked onto the property, and eventually the EPA spent more than $8 million to clean it up. The EPA also ordered the two railroad companies to perform several tasks involving the properties, at a cost of $3 million to those companies.
The railroads sued the now-defunct Brown & Bryant to recover costs, and that suit was consolidated with suits brought by the state of California and the EPA against Shell and the railroads. The two issues these cases presented to the Court were, first, whether Shell bore any liability for the cleanup of the chemicals; and second, whether the courts could impose joint and several liability in this cost-recovery case. Very briefly, in tort cases, “joint and several liability” means that where there are several defendants, a claimant may recover all damages from any of the defendants regardless of their individual share of the liability.
In their interpretation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (”CERCLA”), the Supreme Court reversed the lower courts and said Shell could not be held responsible as an “arranger” of the environmental hazard, even though Shell continued to sell chemicals to Brown & Bryant knowing the chemicals were not being properly stored. Under the language of CERCLA, the justices said, Shell would have been responsible for the cleanup only if its intention was to dispose of the hazardous chemicals by selling them to Brown & Bryant. In other words Shell did not arrange for the chemicals to be disposed, the Court said.
The Supreme Court also reversed the Ninth Circuit’s decision that the railroads were jointly and severally liable for the full cost of the governments’ response efforts. The issue of joint and several liability often applies to asbestos litigation cases, so the Court’s thinking in this case may be a concern. Certainly the issue of who pays for environmental cleanups also sometimes applies to asbestos contamination. This was an 8-1 decision, with only Justice Ginsburg dissenting.
In the three other cases the “greens” lost, the Court ruled that environmental groups lacked standing to challenge certain U.S. Forest Service regulations; lifted an injunction limiting the Navy’s use of sonar near marine mammals; and sided with a gold mine operator who argued that the Army Corps of Engineers could issue dumping and dredging permits without satisfying the EPA’s more stringent pollution permit limits.
June 28, 2009
Bruce Nilles is on vacation this week. This post is by Mary Anne Hitt, deputy director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.
On Monday, close to 300 Sierra Club members and activists, clergy and people of faith, scientists, health professionals, and even a former 007 turned out for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) global warming endangerment hearing in Arlington , VA.
Support for the endangerment finding and further regulation of cars and coal plants overwhelmed any opposition, with an unofficial estimate of more than 90% of testimony in favor of the endangerment finding.
The day began with a representative from the State of New York speaking on behalf of Gov. David Paterson, and a representative from the Association of Clean Air Agencies – and from then on it was one excellent speaker after another all urging EPA to take action on regulating global warming pollution.
We heard doctors talk about the health impacts, scientists discuss the climate models, regular citizens tell personal stories, and many clergy people talking about why we should take action and why their faith communities are involved.
“(They) were really amazing,” said one Sierra Club staffer. “To hear perspectives from almost every major tradition on the importance of acting on global warming was a powerful experience– one that the EPA panel was still talking about during one of the breaks.”
Keely and Pierce Brosnan also showed up to testify and really enjoyed themselves. We were all appreciative of the willingness of the Brosnans to stay through additional testimony after they spoke, spend some time afterward talking to hearing attendees, and take a few pictures.
(Then the paparazzi chased the Brosnans’ car – which I was riding in – from the hearing all the way back to DC, and then the cameras followed us into a Barnes and Noble, where security finally chased them away. The good news is that I loaded the Brosnans up with good books on coal and global warming.)
EPA moved very quickly through all the testimony, and the hearing wrapped at 8pm.
We agree whole-heartedly with David Bookbinder, Sierra Club’s Chief Climate Counsel, who said Monday that “it’s clear, from the crowd of people who turned out today, and the thousands of people who have already submitted comments, that there is broad public support for strong action on global warming.”
Tomorrow in Seattle is the second EPA public hearing on the global warming endangerment finding. You can sign up to attend our mid-day rally, and if you can’t make that – then be sure to send your comments to the EPA about why they should regulate global warming pollution.older posts »