Monday's New York Times had an article about poor air quality inside idling cars, and recommended that drivers adopt the practice of shutting the car off when they are waiting at lights or stuck in traffic. The Times carried an op-ed earlier this year about the very poor air quality inside older school buses. And there's the ray of hope, and a rebuttal to the fatalists who believe we cannot solve our pollution problems. Minnesota has been able, through a program called Project Green Fleet, using both private and public dollars, to retrofit nearly every diesel school bus in the state, and our kids are no longer subject to the kind of health threat described in those newspaper pieces. Meanwhile, please don't idle.
Big public lands victory in Maine, with President Obama designating the new Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument. Here's a video prepared by our friends at the Natural Resources Council of Maine on the project.
Disturbing aerial photos of massive algae blooms on the Mississippi River in Friday's Star Tribune.
This is not "natural" nor is this just an aesthetic concern. These kinds of algae blooms are the result of fertilizer runoff from farm fields and the algae is toxic--not just to aquatic life but human beings as well. Lots of talk about water quality in the past year; very little action.
The city of Wabasha, Minn., lies beyond a massive algae bloom among the backwaters of the Mississippi River on Tuesday.
AARON LAVINSKY, STAR TRIBUNE
Gov. Brown will sign two important climate bills in California, one declaring the state's new goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission levels 40% from 1990 levels by 2030, and one prioritizing direct regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by large sources in the climate policy administered by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Obviously, the first bill sets an admirable goal that other states should emulate, either by legislation or by executive order. The second bill, however, is very interesting because of the environmental justice component. EJ advocates have been critical of California climate policy because of its tilt toward the rich, e.g. subsidizing electric car purchases, and because the cap-and-trade component lets polluters in disadvantaged neighborhoods have a way to keep polluting, by buying allowances and credits from places where reductions might be cheaper, and leaving the adverse health impacts of the stuff that usually comes with GHGs in place.
Last year, those concerns, added to the usual fossil fuel industry pressure, torpedoed the legislation. This year, the EJ folks got some of the policy changes they wanted, and the fossil fuel industry was on its own trying to defeat the bills. If/when states like Minnesota get serious about new climate policy initiatives, it will be important to keep social equity and justice issues in mind. It's not just a numbers game.
Prof. Farber explains how a revenue-neutral "carbon fee" could be assessed on electricity generation and transportation fuels, without the dreaded gov'mint ever getting its hands on the money. At the same time, however, the union/enviro Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy in Washington State is proposing a carbon fee that would NOT be revenue-neutral, but which would instead target the revenue to funding the transition to clean energy, with smaller amounts dedicated to clean water and modern forestry practices.