Monthly Archives: November 2012

Coal Trains to Coltrane

It’s Friday. That’s my only excuse.

Picture a train. It is composed of coal cars, the very coal cars James Hansen used as a metaphor harkening back to the Holocaust.

The coal cars are full–100 tons of coal in each and there are 100 cars to the mile. It’s a very long train. It stretches from Albuquerque New Mexico to Anchorage in Alaska.

The energy we get by burning all the coal in this train equals one quadrillion BTUs. We call it a quad.

Now picture 54 of these trains lined up side by side, each filled with 38 million tons of coal, each stretching from Albuquerque to Alaska.

And you can start your weekend on either an optimistic or pessimistic note–is your glass half-empty or half-full?

If you want to look on the bright side of life, you can make those 54 trains disappear. In fact, we did. That’s how much energy the world got last year from renewable sources–hydroelectric power, wind, solar, biomass and biofuels.

If being of good cheer is too much for you today, don’t worry–be gloomy. Once those 54 trains are magickally disappeared from the landscape, you have an unobstructed view of the 480 Infinity Trains that we used last year that were provided by sources that were not renewable.

Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist, have a good weekend.

Barack Obama’s Second Term, Climate Change and Energy Consumption

Congratulations, Mr. President. Now let’s get to work.

Because you mentioned climate change one time in your acceptance speech, the writers and readers for whom that subject is of paramount importance (on either side) have let 1,000 flowers bloom in less than a day.

Andrew Revkin did the best job of it, talking through many of the items that should be on the agenda for your next four years. But he was hardly alone. Keith Kloor chimed in, as did the politics blog on my hometown newspaper, the SF Gate, which catalogued responses from the Energy and Environmental Great and Good.

I will be shorter and simpler. You will not be able to do anything useful regarding climate change if you do not look at energy consumption at the same time. With that in mind, the first step is screamingly obvious.

Institute a carbon tax at the low level of $12 / ton of CO2. Make it revenue neutral, lowering social security taxes on both employers and employees by the amount raised from the carbon tax. Add a provision that will re-evaluate the monetary value of the tax every ten years based on benchmark levels of CO2 concentrations, U.S. CO2 emissions per capita and global sea surface temperatures.

Do not hypothecate revenues to energy efficiency or renewables, or anything else. If you want Republican support, make the tax revenue neutral.

If you do this and this alone, you will have done more to solve the problems of climate change than any other government body or multinational institution. If you do this and this alone, it will have a real-world impact, serve as an example for the world and prove our commitment to climate change and responsible governance.

There are 100 other things you could do. But each of them come with caveats and trade-offs that will cause more controversy and delay in passage and implementation.

Do this one thing. Do it now.

Go Vote!

Umm, despite what my friend writes here…

” I am spending this election on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania and am exposed to both media markets.  I watched TV for 1 hour yesterday and saw over 20 Romney ads telling me how bad Obama was.  I saw no Obama ads and no ads telling me what Romney would do. My thoughts:

1. Obama does not deserve a 2nd chance.
2. Romney does not deserve a first chance.
3. Biden scares me every time he opens his mouth about foreign policy.
4. Ryan scares me every time he opens his mouth.
5. I can’t listen to any of the 3rd party candidates for 15 minutes without thinking that they are completely out of touch with reality.
6. My Democratic senator belongs in the Republican Party.
7. His Republican challenger belongs in the nut house.
8. My congressman — wait — who is my congressman?  I’ve been redistricted. My new district looks like a spiney anteater facing south east.  I’m in the thin part of the tail.  It’s about half a mile wide and five miles long and mostly white Republican.  The fat part of the tail isn’t white Republican.  My congressman brags about how he helped the fracking industry skirt the regulations. His challenger wrote a paper on how bombing mid eastern countries is a good thing, but liberals should vote for him because he’s gay and black.
9. A candidate for state senate is promising to restore cuts to health and education. His opponent inferred that he was a Marxist.
10. The candidate for state rep in my district is actually named “Bizzarro.”  He can’t keep his bumper stickers in stock.  A local reporter wrote an article on the “Bizzarro campaign.”  I thought he was talking about the national election.
11.  I keep remembering Pat Paulsen, Stag Party candidate for president, 1968 and 1988.  “What’s all this talk about lowering the voting age.  Another election like this, they should lower the drinking age.”
Go pull the lever and help create the future. Maybe a future that doesn’t resemble  what my friend wrote above. I’ll be voting for the incumbent for president–you’re free to join me or cancel my vote–just get out there.