Death of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

March 16, 2009

You know what?  I like it that print is dying.  Good, I think to myself.  Down with print!  Down with that ultimate expression of our love of disposability.  Used once and thrown out, newspapers have carved through forested land for long enough.

The results are utter waste: the papers go right into the trash usually, the land cleared of forests will take decades to recover if it does at all, and most of the words printed are never even graced by a pair of eyeballs.

Oh no they’re not printing — but what’s the loss?  I can look at it online anyway.

Am I wrong?  Is print taking with it the investigative journalists who keep government honest?  Are the payrolls of reporters dying with their old-fashioned medium?  Is the fall of the press really tied to the material, or is it tied to the short attention spans of readers?  Or is it really tied to the investor demand for quicker profits than an old-fashioned newspaper company can provide?

Seattle’s presses stopped for good today; Denver’s did a few weeks back.  Detroit circulates only three days a week now.  Indianapolis shut down its afternoon paper a few years back.  Others are in bankruptcy.

Celebrate!  Consider: if the average newspaper eats up a whole tree for every 1000-to-1500 copies, then the Seattle PI (circulation 117,000 on a weekday) was eating up about 450 trees a week just from the weekday editions.  That fat Sunday paper is far worse, of course, because it’s bigger and because all the glossy stuff is much more paper-intensive and energy-intensive.

So cancel your subscription.  Sure, you can counter that their servers use energy to host the website, so there’s still a carbon footprint to the news biz.  True, but those will run anyway, whether or not you click.  It’s like the bus — it’s already running, so you aren’t adding to the problem by riding it.

But like so many of our dbad environmental habits, we shed them here only to watch them go like gangbusters in China, India, Brazil, etc.  They lurve the newspapers over there.

And they’re gonna keep at it.  Sigh.


Can They Pass the Energy Bill? Or Any Bill?

December 6, 2007

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a GREAT energy bill that would push auto fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon, getting it half way to the President’s desk.

And not a moment too soon! In addition to jacking up the mpg, the bill would also make some other big changes:

  • It would require the electric companies to use more and more renewable generating capacity, to the point where 15% of all electricity comes from renewables (solar, wind, geothermal, i.e. NOT coal)
  • It would levy $21B in taxes on oil companies. They currently get such lavish tax breaks that they practically paid no taxes at all in recent years, despite crazy record profits

But will any of this get past the insurmountable hurdle that is the Democratic Senate? After all, if there’s one thing the Dems have trouble doing, it’s doing anything at all.

Think about it: Have they beaten a filibuster, even once? Come up with the magical 60 votes for something important, even once?

The Republicans never had 60 votes in the Senate but they regularly found a few defectors to vote with them. But the Democrats, despite facing a demoralized, regrouping opposition that is politically and psychologically weak (as well as suffering under big election losses and endless hypocrisy-highlighting scandal), can’t move a bill. And even when they do, as with the kids’-health-insurance bill, they get beat with the veto and then simply accept defeat.

Given that track record, it is naive at this point to expect the bill to survive. That’s so sad, because even though it sounds like a dramatic world-changing law, the truth is that this energy bill is really only catching up to the situation on the ground.

  • Lots of states (and our little ‘burgh, Washington DC) are already taking on California’s car rules, which will eventually push up MPG requirements even without the federal government’s say-so.
  • Lots of utility regulators (like our hometown again) are setting higher requirements for renewable energy in their electricity supply. Many are aiming higher than 15%.
  • Lots of cars get better than 35 MPG already — all the hybrid sedans (Prius, Camry Hybrid, Civic Hybrid), which add up to several hundred thousand cars on the road already. They’re 20+ years ahead of this bill, if this bill even passes this year.

In retrospect, this was the wrong story to write about — Congress’s likely-meaningless charades aside, the real story is happening in state and local governments, where the lightbulbs have been fluorescent for years….

Too Hot, Too Fast

October 1, 2007

According to NASA, this summer was so hot in the Arctic that Canadian researchers are revamping their timetables for when climate change will really start to hurt.  (NYT covers it here.)

Melting permafrost, unfrozen (in some cases) for the first time in hundreds of years, slides down hills and gluts rivers. Water supplies to communities and ecosystems are blocked, or simply disappearing.

Arctic water supplies feed the rest of the continent, so big changes up north mean big changes here. If the potential devastation of vast stretches of pristine habitat doesn’t bother you, that’s one thing. But if the destabilization of water supplies doesn’t scare you, you’re a fool.

Make what difference you can — drive less, buy windpower from your utility, and get CFL’s like these or like these (the sale item) for every light fixture; they’re not ugly, really — and then get on your local government to do more. Is your city encouraging sprawl and car-dependency? Then fight it! Has it passed a law to require new homes and buildings be more energy-efficient? Push for these laws!

Inactivity is what the short-sighted pushers of our coal and oil habits are banking on. Doing nothing is a sin for which your kids will judge you.

Go! Do!

Automakers Pitch Their Bogus Line To DC Officials

September 30, 2007

Last Wednesday, we went to support the Clean Cars bill that is pending in Washington, DC (find a link here; it would make cars sold in DC meet the California emissions standards, which about 11 states also copy).

Most of the people there were supportive, but one attendant was from the AAM, or Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. They’re the industry group that represents the 6 biggest car companies, and they’re fighting cleaner cars and tighter regs at every turn. (They’re fighting California’s new emissions rules, and they just lost the Vermont case.) He was Greg Dana, their Vice President for Environmental Affairs.

Mr. Dana had his turn at the microphone, and made his case against tighter air regs. It came down to four points. Here are points #1, #2 and #3:

  • The automakers are doing everything they possibly can to make cars cleaner, and really shouldn’t be pressured right now.
  • California’s rules get so tight by 2016 that the auto industry is likely to completely collapse.  Consumers will stop driving rather than buy better cars.
  • They’re looking into making cars out of tin, with 3-cylinder engines, because nothing else could possibly work. They need a “breakthrough” technological advance, which they don’t foresee, if they hope to comply with the 2016 rules.

And here’s point #4, the one I thought most interesting:

  • Under California’s 2016 emissions standards, only 4 of the 494 new-car models on the market today (2007) would be allowed to be sold. They are:
    • Toyota Yaris
    • Toyota Prius
    • Toyota Camry Hybrid
    • Ford Escape Hybrid

I’d like to point out how plainly untrue points 1-3 are, using point 4 (i.e., AAM’s own assertion).

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Paris Hilton, Uhh, Well Just Read This

September 27, 2007

Paris Hilton is gonna Green Her Home.

Hard time does strange things to an inmate, but this is something else: they must do some pretty intense reprogramming at LA County. The Heiress came out a changed woman, apparently. Her itinerary, which used to be a continuous, half-conscious migration from thumping club to vacation town and back again, is now chock full of Angelina Jolie material.

Here’s a rundown of the next couple of months:

  • Shoot a movie called “Repo! The Genetic Opera” in Toronto (actually, not so Jolie, that)
  • Go to Rwanda (that’s right — Rwanda)
  • Go to other places like Rwanda, actual destinations TBA
  • Make her Beverly Hills house eco-friendly. (She said “green friendly”, actually, but you go girl, you’re on the right track.)

And there’s a quote about the green-living effort: “I just bought the house and haven’t been able to work on it yet,” Hilton said. “But I intend to.”

Now, the idea of Paris actually driving a nail, or in any other way working on her own house, just makes my head twitch from sheer impossibility. But if she’s serious (and isn’t taken in by some huckster who wafts incense around her house for $500 an hour), she could do for the green-living movement what she might do for Rwanda. Which could be quite a bit, considering people pay her $300k just to show up at places and not even say anything.

You scoffers must give respect to the silly young lady’s ability to drive traffic and attract cameras. Don’t believe me? Then answer this:who, really, would move more CFL’s by just holding one in front of a camera? Paris Hilton, or Al Gore? Paris Hilton, or Leonardo DiCaprio? Paris Hilton, or Ralph Nader?

Same answer, all three times. Now I go off to confidently await the highest visitor totals this blog has ever had, all because I wrote about Paris Hilton.

Win Some, Lose Some and Too Little, Too Late

September 20, 2007

From around the web:

  • The Green Pope speaks, and looks less and less like the evil emperor from Return of the Jedi every time. At least to us.
  • George Bush’s efforts to study climate change to death (and thus do nothing about it) have inconceivably come under criticism. Almost as though he wasn’t really trying….
  • The Baiji might not be extinct, says a guy with a handicam on a Chinese river somewhere. Love the end of this story: the government built a reserve for this rare dolphin, but now can’t find any to put in it. (Insert Nelson Muntz laugh here.) Of course, if they find one or two now, what do they do? Put them in the reserve, which might actually make the wild population extinct? What do you do when there’s one left? Take pictures, that’s what — there’s nothing else to do.
  • The Big 6 automakers (Detroit plus Toyota, Honda, and Nissan) got a break when a judge threw out a $billions lawsuit by some crackpot who said they were responsible for damages due to global warming from their cars. What crazy, predatory, silk-suited shark plaintiff’s lawyer would dare to file such a — oh, wait. What? Oh. I see; turns out it was the California Attorney General’s office.
  • Hold on, hold on, hold on. What a sign of the times in California. Imagine the AG in Michigan files that suit — his kids will be hoisted up flagpoles by their undies every school day. But in Cali, suing the car companies for global warming is cool. AG’s often run for Governor, and Governors are good at becoming President. Even filing the suit says something about the where the state’s politics are with respect to climate change.
  • Hold on #2: We have to call BS on any state suing cars for too much emissions when it’s happily zoning more and more land for suburban sprawl, which means more driving, more car dependency, greater travel times, and more emissions. So here’s hoping Cali is plucking the beam from its own eye.
  • You SRI stockbuyers have another list to look at, of the 20 most sustainable companies out there. Thanks to Envirostats for the data.

Can You Take a Whole Country Carbon-Neutral?

September 17, 2007

The Pope says Hell Yeah you can. He’s the latest to see the wisdom in (or be swindled by, your choice) carbon offsetting as a way to absolve your CO2 sins.

A Hungarian company is going to re-forest 37 acres on behalf of the Vatican — for free; they’re banking on the publicity, so we’ll help out and mention that its name is Klimafa. They say this will offset ALL the Vatican’s emissions. That’s right, a whole country — okay, it’s really a ridiculously tiny anachronistic city-state, but it is technically a country — is now carbon-neutral.  Hey Andorra, hey San Marino: if you don’t watch out, you’ll get beat by Luxembourg and Monaco.  Now that would be embarrassing.

I find a number of things interesting about this:

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