Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Hope Blogging

The Sierra Club has won a huge victory against the coal industry:

In a move that signals the start of the our clean energy future, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) ruled today EPA had no valid reason for refusing to limit from new coal-fired power plants the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming. The decision means that all new and proposed coal plants nationwide must go back and address their carbon dioxide emissions.

“Today’s decision opens the way for meaningful action to fight global warming and is a major step in bringing about a clean energy economy,” said Joanne Spalding, Sierra Club Senior Attorney who argued the case. “This is one more sign that we must begin repowering, refueling and rebuilding America.”

“The EAB rejected every Bush Administration excuse for failing to regulate the largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States. This decision gives the Obama Administration a clean slate to begin building our clean energy economy for the 21st century,” continued Spalding
Apparently, Congress has the ability to block BushCo's last-minute anti-regulation regulations:
When it returns for its short, post-election session later this month, the Democratic-controlled Congress could pull the plug on a raft of last minute regulations being prepared by the Bush administration, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). By acting now to prevent enactment of the rules, Congress would save itself and the incoming Obama administration substantial time and effort that will later be required to repeal these “midnight regulations” one-by-one.
It might be worthwhile to contact your representatives about this.

Here's an outcome of the election that hasn't received enough attention: most Congressional candidates who took a hard line on immigration were defeated. According to America's Voice, reformist candidates mopped the floor with xenophobic hardliners in 19 of 21 House and Senate races.
Swing voters chose Democrats overwhelmingly, including many candidates that stood up for a more comprehensive approach to immigration reform than their hard-line opponents. Latino voters turned out in record numbers and fled the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Republican Party in droves. Their participation in the 2008 elections contributed to Senator Obama’s wins in key battleground states like Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Florida, and also helped Democrats win contested House and Senate races in these states and more. Meanwhile, the anti-immigrant forces that have all but hijacked the Republican Party proved to be inconsequential at best, except for their role in potentially driving the GOP into the political wilderness.

What a difference an election makes.
In related news, the Minutemen continue to disintegrate.

Mass transit also did amazingly well in this election.
Some 23 initiatives were approved nationwide last week that will inject $75 billion into transportation systems, according to the Center for Transportation Excellence....

Overall, more than 70% of the major transportation-funding measures on ballots this year were approved, about double the rate at which initiatives are usually passed, the CFTE said. This rate of success came as a surprise to many transportation advocates, who were expecting a less enthusiastic response to tax increases and public debt at a time of economic and fiscal turmoil.
Obama claims that he'll block political appointees "from working on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years." It'll be interesting to see whether he keeps this promise. It'll also be interesting to see whether he takes this advice from the Pentagon:
A senior Pentagon advisory group, in a series of bluntly worded briefings, is warning President-elect Barack Obama that the Defense Department's current budget is "not sustainable," and he must scale back or eliminate some of the military's most prized weapons programs ... Pentagon insiders and defense budget specialists say the Pentagon has been on a largely unchecked spending spree since 2001 that will prove politically difficult to curtail but nevertheless must be reined in.
German doctors may have cured an AIDS patient with a marrow transplant:
Dr. Gero Huettler said his 42-year-old patient, an American living in Berlin who was not identified, had been infected with the AIDS virus for more than a decade. But 20 months after undergoing a transplant of genetically selected bone marrow, he no longer shows signs of carrying the virus.
Connecticut has begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses.
“It’s a joyous day in Connecticut as hundreds of loving, committed couples prepare to receive the ultimate recognition of their relationships by receiving civil marriage licenses. And it’s a historic day for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people all over the nation, who may have suffered a setback last Tuesday, but know that our fight for equality goes on,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Today’s actions in Connecticut signal a new and hopeful day.”
Speaking of transgender people, I didn't realize that Silverton, OR had elected the country's first transgender mayor. I checked for reports of fire and brimstone raining down on the city...nothing so far.

Returning once more to the election, Good presents an eye-opening map of the youth vote, and adds that "if the youth vote was the only voice in the election, Obama would have won 455 electoral votes -– 91 more than he has in the official count."

Florida's St. Lucie County has announced that it will build the country's first plasma gasification plant:
The plant will use super-hot 10,000 degree fahrenheit plasma to effectively vaporize 1,500 tons of trash each day, which in turn spins turbines to generate 60MW of electricity - enough to power 50,000 homes! Cutting down on landfill waste while generating energy is a pretty win-win proposition, and the plant will also be able to melt down inorganic materials to be reused for other applications, such as in roadbed and heavy construction.
PacifiCorp has agreed to remove four dams from the Klamath River:
The deal is part of a broader effort to restore the river and revive its ailing salmon and steelhead runs and aid fishing, tribal and farming communities. When the dams come down it will be the biggest dam removal and river restoration effort the world has ever seen.

We have not popped the champagne cork yet, but we have put a bottle on ice. We believe this initial agreement is a huge step toward a healthy Klamath River Basin.
Ottawa has rejected a plan to spend $84 million on roads:
The new master plan for Ottawa calls for a radical rethink of priorities, postponing at least $84 million in road building to focus on creating a 'compact, transit city'.

"The plan also includes recommendations for the order in which the city's new light-rail plan should be built, and better cycling and pedestrian routes.
A rare snake has been hatched in a London zoo:
With its characteristic horn, the endangered rhino rat snake has been bred in a European zoo for the first time.

Eight snakes were born in the Zoological Society of London's Reptile House. Three have already been moved to other zoos in Europe in an effort to increase the captive population.

A conservationist has invented a device that turns invasive brush into a clean-burning log:
Dr. Laurie Marker, founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), has been awarded $50,000 by the Tech Museum of Innovation for her organization's Bushblok program which uses a high-pressure extrusion process to convert invasive, habitat-destroying bush into a clean-burning fuel log. Bushblok provides an alternative to products such as firewood, coal, lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes that are costly or result in environmental harm.
A talented new species of cyanobacteria has been discovered:
A remarkable species of cyanobacteria possessing a unique nitrogen fixation adaptation has recently been discovered in the open ocean, report researchers writing in the November 14th issue of Science.

"Fixation" is the process by which bacteria convert ambient sources of otherwise unusable molecules into compounds necessary for life. Previous to the discovery, carbon was thought of as a necessary accompaniment during fixation because the conversion of carbon dioxide into sugars through photosynthesis provides the necessary energy source for cyanobacteria.
UPS is switching over to paper-free printer:
The device underscores that it pays to be green – according to UPS's estimates, it will save about 92,456 hours year through increased productivity, save about 1,338 tons of paper, and reduce carbon emissions by 3,807 tons each year.
Lasers may improve the efficiency of windmills:
A new fiber-optic laser system can measure wind speed and direction up to 1000 meters in front of a wind turbine, giving the massive machines enough precious seconds to proactively adapt to gusts and sudden changes in wind direction. The device…could improve the efficiency of wind turbines and keep them from breaking down.
Images of alien planets. Images from Russian avant-garde books. And via Plep, images of medieval Novgorod, drawn by a child.

Cinema's first dogs. Also from the Bioscope, Fondation Jérôme Seydoux Pathé . A collection of magic lantern slides from Japan (also via Plep). Photographs by Adam Kuehl (via wood s lot). And Inanimate, a nicely compiled Flickr set comprising "pictures and drawings of buildings, vehicles, and other soulless [?] objects."

Also: A carnivorous lamp. Sonification of five mathematical constants. Sound drawings by Douglas Huebler. An abandoned red-light district in Mexico. City maps as a Rorschach test (apropos of which, weekly strips by Ben Katchor are now available online). The fauna of Turkish mud. Semiconscious seascapes by Asako Narahashi.

Last, a short film by Lucien Bull, from 1904.

(Photo at top shows auroral activity at Saturn's north pole, captured by the Cassini orbiter. More here.)


Anonymous said...

Uplifting ! thanks for gathering all of this in one place and cheering up my week.

Phila said...

My pleasure!

peacay said...

Re: defence spending. Some of us were taking (hoping) it as a given that some (and not enough for many of us) sense would be brought to bear on the military budget by the incoming admin. Seemingly like guns, it's a very politically sensitive topic to even raise without being framed within hawkish rhetoric. Damned if you do (at the ballot box) and damned if you don't (the logic centres of the brain, in world esteem, in the face of a disappearing economy &c).

BO has been fairly hawkish (and sometimes overtly hawkish : Afghan/Pakistan) so maybe my hope is but a pipe dream.

Love the snake pic!

chris said...

Excellent as always.
But mind where you mention plasma and garbage in Vancouver BC. You might run into these folks.

Maybe it's just me, but I smell megaproject boondoggle here.

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