Sunday, March 01, 2009

News notes: coal, cars and diesel fumes in the week ahead

D.C. is facing a rare March snowstorm. (You may recall that in “Camelot,” King Arthur notes that winter “exits March the second on the dot.”)

Still, it will be potentially quite a newsy week. The list below is not meant to be comprehensive, though we hope it casts a needed light on several key issues involving coal, cars and diesel fumes.


Power polluters: Now that President Obama has unveiled his budget plan – and given us a strong indication of where he wants to go on the global warming issue – we thought it appropriate to examine the views of his most likely opponents: the electric power lobby. The Edison Electric Institute trotted out what it termed a “significant breakthrough” on global warming.

But our analysis includes it is just a repackaging of the same old coal-dominated power industry strategy of delay and obfuscation. See


DC demo: Our old friend and neighbor, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is on the list of speakers at an event planned Monday afternoon in D.C. to promote an auction approach for global warming rather than the (EEI preferred) method of giving carbon credits away for free to big polluters. The event, organized by our friend Steve Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, will note hundreds of economists who support an auction approach.

For more on the event, contact: SACE’s Christina Honkonen at 865-228-1567

Van Hollen rocked the climate debate last week by noting he plans to introduce legislation that would use the so-called “cap and dividend” strategy. (If you haven’t seen his “dear colleague” letter, please let us know. More on the general concept at )

In a related development, as you may know, thousands of demonstrators have converged on the nation’s capital to press for new climate legislation (as well as an end to coal burning at the infamous Capitol Power Plant.) More at and


Filthy formal: D.C. isn’t the only place where coal is under attack. Another anti-coal demo is planned this week -- this one in New York City, where the New York Coal Trade Association is planning its annual black-tie banquet on March 5. Demonstrators led by NYPIRG and Sierra Club are expected to lampoon this polluter party. For more, contact Lauren Schuster, NYPIRG (212) 349-6460


George Won’t: Some of you may recall we took issue with a recent erroneous column on global warming by George Will.

Today’s Washington Post includes a column by Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander that is critical not only of Will but of how the Post’s editors handled the original column.

Under sharp criticism, Will had snarled out a follow-up column last Friday, in which he not only defended his original erroneous piece of work, but unfairly attached New York Times’ ever-accurate Andy Revkin. (For some of the reactions to this, see and )

One thing Will did do in his follow-up was answer the question we raised in the first place: where the heck is he getting this bogus stuff?

It turns out that it’s from a right-wing ranter named Asher, who (as the Climate Progress blog has exposed) gets stuff from Senator Inhofe’s less-than-objective propagandists .

This appears to be the same Asher who has identified himself as a Republican hit man on the “Town Hall” web site run by the right-wing Salem Communications . Will, of course, is a Town Hall regular also.


Car clash: As you probably know, EPA plans a hearing March 5 on California’s request to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for cars

Several advocates plan a preview media event the prior day. Please let us know if you want more.

There is, of course, an expectation that the Obama EPA will grant California’s request. The broader question is whether the administration will move forward with national standards – and cut some kind of deal with the car industry in the process. Be careful, my friends, what you wish for. We are monitoring closely.


Alaska alarm: As we have pointed out, one way to make quick gains on the global warming front is to reduce the heat-trapping black carbon emissions produced by diesel engines. Black carbon is of particular importance in Alaska.

And so on Monday, the Alaska Wilderness League is bringing Inuit and other native leaders from Alaska to DC to beg for help in cleaning up dirty diesel generators that are used around the clock in these villages for power. (Our friends from the Clean Air Task Force note that flaring from oil and gas facilities is also a significant contributor to black carbon.) Cleaning up these pollution sources would benefit native health (asthma is rampant and nearby oil rigs are part of the problem) AND lower black carbon from sources which are right next to the most vulnerable sites on the planet.

The Alaska leaders are meeting both with the EPA and with Nancy Sutley, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. For more, contact Emilie Surrusco at 202-544-5205.

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