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Meet Me In the Lobby

All this apocalyptic weather and talk of climate doom (1) gets me antsy to do something political, so last week I went to the annual Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL)2 conference. Along with 150 other climate activists from across the country I sat through two days of briefings and seminars and powerpoints in a nondescript conference center outside Washington DC, followed by a day of lobbying on The Hill. There was the usual conference-y mingling, banter, and goofing off, and I had a blast. Each of us was scheduled for six meetings with legislators about climate change and the “Save Our Climate Act” (H.R. 3242)3, four of us in each meeting. Early Tuesday morning we all mobbed onto the Metro which whisked us over to Capitol Hill.

Being from Massachusetts, I met mostly with blue-state pols. The meetings were convivial and the same message repeatedly emerged: climate legislation has no chance of passing if Republicans maintain a House majority after the 2012 elections. You know the story; right-wing Republicans use their majority to block any progressive legislation (especially climate bills) and if nothing gets accomplished, that’s okay with them. Just to be clear: I’m distinguishing the Right from Conservatives, who sometimes cooperate with others to solve the country’s problems.... read more

What Is Going To Happen To The UK's Feed-In Tariff Scheme?

The British government's reward scheme for renewable energy systems was launched amid much publicity on 1st April 2010. Owners of renewable energy systems such as solar panels and air source pumps would receive payment for the electricity their systems produced. Excess electricity that would be returned to the national grid would receive a bonus payment. Upon its launch, the Feed-In Tariff paid 43.3 pence per kilowatt (unit of electricity) created by a qualifying system. An additional 3.1 pence was paid per kilowatt for any unused power that was returned to the national grid. Owners stood to make a substantial profit in the 25 years that the tariff was guaranteed to run for. Indeed, owners of an average domestic solar panel system would likely make over £1,000 a year. An additional bonus was the fact that all the tariff payments were tax free.


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Grow Your Own Green Future

green visions in bostonMy Boston neighborhood’s spring festival celebrates the victory of a Green vision of the future over a vision of doom. In 1972 local activists defeated plans for an elevated highway that would have decimated the community. Instead of six lanes bisecting the neighborhood, we now have the Southwest Corridor Park: a five-mile long greenspace with a new subway line, community gardens, and a bike path to downtown. The Wake Up the Earth! festival affirms this victory every year, beginning with a parade of latino dance troupes, ironic New Orleans brass bands, Zairean drum corps, and more, winding through city streets then entering the park to join the festival. Now in it’s 33rd year, Wake Up the Earth! has solar-powered music stages, face painting for the kids, and booths and tables hawking food, politics, and everything organic. The community, the park, and the festival are real-time examples of urban sustainability, founded on the activists’ vision of the kind of place they wanted to live in.... read more

The State of the Air 2012

American Lung Association State of the Air

Have you read the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2012 report?  If not, I urge you to check it out immediately.  Visit the website and see what the grade is for where you live.   You may be surprised.  

The good news?  Things are getting better.   Air quality is improving.  

The bad news?  We still have a long way to go.  Over 127 million people live in counties that received an "F" for pollution.  California has the most polluted cities on the list.  ... read more

Presidio Graduate School Masters in Public Administration: My MPA visit

Presidio MPA review

A few years back I wrote an article about the Presidio Graduate School’s MBA/MPA program.  I was recently invited to spend a day at Presidio (located in San Francisco, CA) to learn more about the university, students, faculty, and curriculum.  As mentioned in my first article, Presidio tops most lists of “Green” or “Sustainable” Graduate programs, and I was honored to sit in on the Masters in Public Administration (MPA) Integrative Capstone class two weeks ago.... read more

The New Sea Stories

As I plumped myself down to watch Greenfire Productions’ new documentary, Ocean Frontiers, I was ready for a fight. Not to actually be in a fight, mind you, I just wanted to watch one from the comfort of the plush seats at the New England Aquarium’s IMAX theater. Ocean Frontiers starts with a familiar setup; ecosystems stretched to breaking, rickety regulations that are hardly adequate, and everyone wanting a bigger piece of the pie, or at least to keep what they have. I anticipated such well-worn narratives as right vs wrong, perceptive vs blind, spiritual vs benighted -- the usual. But that’s not what I got. Ocean Frontiers shows four coastal communities who sidestepped the gridlock of their eco-struggles and found solutions that worked for everyone, and for the ocean. (Conflict of interest alert: I’m on Greenfire’s board.)
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My Company 'tis of Thee

Talk about a cover-up. Just today, the Boston Globe disclosed that electricity giant NStar has been conducting a secret operation that allows their customers to pay more to get their electricity from wind power rather than a carbon-polluting source. Actually, the program, NStar Green,” isn’t a company secret -- but I hadn’t heard of it, none of my neighbors had, and Brookline Climate Action had to go door-to-door to tell people about it. It might as well be secret.

I don’t think NStar Green is some big, bad greenwashing scheme. NStar probably let the program languish because investing more money in it would yield little profit. And that’s okay, because it’s not NStar’s job make clean energy -- or dirty energy. It’s NStar’s job to make money. A corporation is responsible for making profit, and anything after that is optional as long as it’s legal.
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The Debate Over California's Solar Energy Policy

California Solar Policy

In July, California Governor Jerry Brown, announced a plan to increase the state's renewable energy to a 12-gigawatt by 2020, by relying on “tens of thousands of little decisions” by residents and business owners. Brown cited the cost of routing large-scale energy farms in remote areas as a reason for focusing on smaller projects. He also cited the delays in previous large-scale desert projects due to litigation over natural resources, native animals, and Native American sites.

However, a recent article from points out several concerns with this plan, based on simple cost-benefit analysis:

-Individuals (such as homeowners and small businesses) do not make decisions based on what is “socially optimal”... read more

Boycott Taco Bell & KFC: Demand an End to Deforestation in Indonesia

Taco Bell Rainforest

Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace recently began to put pressure on YUM!Brands, parent company of many large fast food restaurants, due to the immense damage they are doing to tropical rainforests. YUM! Owns chains including Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, A&W and Long John Silvers and has over 38,000 locations across the globe.... read more

San Francisco Promotes Financial Incentives for Eco-Friendly Home Improvements

The San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment) is partnering with the city Assessor-Recorder's office and Energy Upgrade California to launch the SF Home Improvement & Performance (SFHIP) incentive program. The goal of the program is to increase the affordability of "green" home improvements for San Franciscans. San Francisco is one of the only cities in California that provides governmental incentives in addition to state and federal incentives for going solar.

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