Skip to main content

Speaking Truth to Power

October 24, 2011 - I learned last week of a speech, delivered to the U.S. Senate by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (what a name!) of Rhode Island the week before. The speech was about climate change, of all things. The senator, a member of the Democratic party, spoke very directly and pulled no punches. Rather than describe his speech, let me quote a small portion of it to you:

" ... There is a wave of very justificable economic frustration that has swept through our Capitol. The problem is that some of the special interests - the polluters - have insinuated themselves into that wave, sort of like parasites that creep into the body of a host animal, and from there they are working terrible mischief. They are propagating two big lies. One is that environmental regulations are a burden to the economy and we need to lift those burdens to spur our economic recovery. The second is [that] the jury is still out on climate changes caused by carbon pollution, so we don't need to worry about it or even take precautions. Both are, frankly, outright false[hoods]."

Whitehouse goes on to cite examples of corporate prognostication that turned out to be badly exaggerated, insofar as the cost of complying with environmental regulation is concerned. His speech lasted for 23 minutes - lots of time for speaking lots of truth. Senator Whitehouse, the American people are indebted to you! If you care to hear the speech in its entirety, go to

In other news, you have no doubt heard by now that Dr. Richard Muller of Berkeley, a well-known climate change skeptic, has co-authored a research review which confirms global warming and its anthropogenic origins. Dr. Muller, a physicist, and his team of researchers, have disproved a theory - beloved of climate change naysayers - that contends global warming is merely the product of expanding asphalt located near weather station thermometers. I have to say, it doesn't strike me as much of a theory. Oh well, if Dr. Muller is convinced, that's all to the good. He can now join the 97% of American climatologists who know that climate change is real, and is happening right now.

Another Event Worth Noting also originates in California: the nation's first state-implemented cap-and-trade regulations. The rules have been years in the making, in no small part due to the stringent efforts of the oil industry to fight their institution. As explained by the chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols, cap and trade will permit the board to reward companies for doing the right thing (decreasing their emission of greenhouse gases). The second phase of regulation, which begins in 2015, will require 85% of California's companies to be in compliance.

If, as expected, California's program leads to improved air quality without impeding the state's economy, there will be states waiting in the wings to join the Golden State. It's likely their approach would take the form of regional oversight. Readers will recall that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey chose to withdraw his state from participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The coalition of nine remaining states in the eastern United States continues unabated. Money generated by the sale of carbon credits at public auction is used to develop renewable energy sources.


Popular posts from this blog

The SunShot Initiative

In 2007, the amount of solar power installed in the U.S. was 1.1 gigawatts (GW). As of 2017, that amount has increased to 47.1 GW. Enough to power 9.1 million average American homes. If you're thinking "we've still got a long way to go," you'd be right. On the other hand, increasing installed power by 4300% deserves some attention.  How'd we do it?

The Department of Energy played an important role. In 2011, they initiated a program called The SunShot Initiative. They set targets for the years 2020 and 2030, by which times generating solar power would have become more affordable. More affordable on a utility scale, more affordable on a commercial scale, and more affordable on a residential scale. Thus far, they've succeeded in hitting the 2020 goal for utility-scale generation. Needless to mention, they reached that goal three years early. The goals, it should be mentioned, don't take subsidies into account. It's the technology, in the case of util…

The Future Has Arrived

September 4, 2017 - Wildfires are burning throughout the Pacific Northwest. Hurricane Harvey has decimated the greater Houston area and parts of Louisiana. Hurricane Irma glowers out in the Atlantic. In other words, forecasts made decades ago are proving accurate. Four hundred parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was regarded as a tipping point, the point at which climate change would take on a life of its own. If no one ever drove their car another block, if farmers never used another ounce of chemical fertilizer, if not so much as one more acre of land was cleared with fire, climate change would continue on its way, wreaking havoc.

We passed four hundred ppm this year. I'm not sure where we stand right now; we were supposed to be at around 410 by spring. I'm not advocating giving up. Of course not. We must still - and at this point, will, whether we want to or not - consciously lower our standard of living, and stop enjoying the conveniences for which we are…