blankenship

Paul Krugman:

In 2010 an explosion at a coal mine operated by Massey Energy killed 29 men. In 2015 Don Blankenship, the company’s former C.E.O., was sent to prison for conspiring to violate mine safety standards. In 2018, Blankenship appears to have a real chance at becoming the Republican candidate for senator from West Virginia.

Blankenship is one of four Republicans with criminal convictions running for office this year, several of whom may well win their party’s nominations. And there is a much broader list of Republican politicians facing credible accusations of huge ethical lapses who nonetheless emerged victorious in G.O.P. primaries, ranging from Roy Moore to, well, Donald Trump.

To be sure, there have been plenty of crooked Democrats. But usually the revelation of their crookedness ended their political careers. What’s striking about today’s Republican landscape is that people who are obvious crooks, con men or worse continue to attract strong support from the party’s base. Moore narrowly lost in Alabama’s special election, but he received 91 percent of the votes of self-identified Republicans.

And Trump, although unprecedentedly unpopular for a president at this stage of his term, continues to receive overwhelming support from the G.O.P. base. Some Republican politicians have openly admitted that this makes the party’s congressional wing unwilling to hold Trump accountable for even the most spectacular malfeasance, up to and including possible collusion with a hostile foreign power.

And this sustained reliance on the big con has, over time, exerted a strong selection effect both on the party’s leadership and on its base. G.O.P. politicians tend disproportionately to be con men (and in some cases, con women), because playing the party’s political game requires both a willingness to and a talent for saying one thing while doing another. And the party’s base consists disproportionately of the easily conned — those who are easily fooled by claims that Those People are the problem and don’t notice how much the true Republican agenda hurts them.

Here’s the third implication, which should scare you: The nature of the modern G.O.P.’s game gives it a bias against democracy. After all, one way to protect yourself against voters who figure out what you’re up to is to stop them from voting. Vote suppression and extreme gerrymandering are already key parts of Republican strategy, but what we’ve seen so far may be just the beginning.

Wonkette:

Despite multiple investigations finding that the Big Branch explosion was due to a buildup of coal dust that resulted from lax safety procedures, Blankenship continues to claim — with no evidence — that all the investigators were wrong, and, as you’d expect from a guy who gives robber barons a bad name, actually blames federal regulators for the mine disaster. Blankenship was sentenced in 2015 to a whole year in prison on a misdemeanor charge of conspiring to violate federal mine safety regulations. The jury found him not guilty on two felony charges (securities fraud and lying to federal investigators) that could have put him away for up to 30 years, but even that year in minimum security prompted Blankenship to declare himself a political prisoner. You see, he was such a terrific, powerful spokesman for Big Coal that Barack Obama had to silence him by sending him to the Gulag. Read the rest of this entry »

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The UK now has the lowest carbon emissions since the 90s.
The 1890s.

Financial Times:

Declining coal use has pushed UK carbon emissions to levels last consistently seen in 1890, highlighting the country’s progress in cutting greenhouse gases faster than most other developed economies. Emissions fell by 2.6 per cent in 2017, driven by a nearly one-fifth reduction in the use of coal as the energy industry shifts towards cleaner sources of electricity generation, especially wind and solar power.

The data marked the fifth successive year in which the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into UK skies has fallen, and emissions are now 38 per cent below the level of 1990. “With coal quickly disappearing in the UK and other fossil fuel use mostly flat, emissions have continued their steady decline,” said Zeke Hausfather, author of the report by Carbon Brief, a climate research and news organisation, which based its findings on the latest UK government data.

“Overall, CO2 emissions have declined faster in the UK since the early 1990s than in almost any other large economy.” Emissions were lower for brief periods during strikes in the 1920s and in 1893 but last year’s CO2 output was the lowest in a year of normal economic activity since 1890, when Queen Victoria was on the throne, the Forth Bridge was opened in Scotland, and the first official county cricket match was played between Yorkshire and Gloucestershire.

The emissions data were extrapolated from measurements of UK energy use that stretch back to Victorian times. Having relied on coal to propel its industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, the UK has shifted away from the fuel faster than most countries in pursuit of a government target to phase out the last coal-fired power stations by 2025.

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Independent:

More than half of the electricity generated in the UK in 2017 came from low-carbon sources for the first time ever, new analysis has concluded.

Renewables and nuclear provided more electricity than all fossil fuels combined, with wind generation alone supplying twice as much energy as coal, according to analysis by Carbon Brief, a website that tracks climate change and energy policy.

It found that wind made a greater contribution to the country’s electricity needs than coal in every month apart from January. The share from low-carbon sources doubled between 2008 and 2017, Carbon Brief said. Much of this was due to a greatly reduced amount of coal power as older plants have reached the end of their lives.

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You can think of the new Yale Climate Connections video as your Executive Briefing on current observations and projections for Global Sea Level, one of Climate Change’s most critical impacts.

I caught up with Jeff Goodell a few months ago, after his book “The Waters will Come” hit the bestseller list.  Jeff was a key member of the original Dark Snow Project team on our first trip to Greenland in 2013 – and flew with the team along the wall of Illulissat Glacier – the world’s fastest moving ice stream. He recalls it vividly in the book.

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Not long after, I was at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and managed to sit down with a number of key researchers, some new to me – who helped fill in the details. Among them, Jonathan Bamber, Eric Rignot,  and Rob DeConto. I added some great detail from Dark Snow Project chief Scientist Jason Box, something I’ve been trying to get out for some time.

Finally, I scored an extremely useful Skype interview with Steven Nerem of the University of Colorado, whose recent paper on the acceleration in the rate of sea level rise has become a key touchstone in the discussion.

One of the key moments here is Eric Rignot filling in some detail on observations of West Antarctic ice sheet retreat. Famously, in 2014, Dr Rignot left a lot of folks peeling their jaws off the floor with the announcement that “…the fuse is already blown” as far as the retreat of giant glaciers like Pine Island and Thwaites – meaning meter level ocean rise is already baked into the climate change cake.
But that does not mean humans are powerless.

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Bring back that sunny day.

Below – the inevitable parody and = who knew? Santana has a cover of this. Read the rest of this entry »

Asked to give a presentation in a church last weekend, I dusted off and buffed my video about Pope Francis’ stand on climate change. Still holds up.

Worth a watch, particularly in light of Francis’ words to young people this weekend.

Reuters:

Francis spoke a day after hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters answered a call to action from survivors of last month’s Florida high school massacre and rallied across the United States to demand tighter gun laws. He did not mention the demonstrations.

The 81-year-old Roman Catholic leader led a long and solemn Palm Sunday service before tens of thousands in St. Peter’s Square, many of them young people there for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Youth.

Carrying a woven palm branch known as a “palmurello,” Francis led a procession in front of the largest church in Christendom to commemorate the day the Bible says Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as a savior, only to be crucified five days later.

Drawing on biblical parallels, Francis urged the young people in the crowd not to let themselves be manipulated.

“The temptation to silence young people has always existed,” Francis said in the homily of a Mass.

“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive,” he said.

“Dear young people, you have it in you to shout,” he told young people, urging them to be like the people who welcomed Jesus with palms rather than those who shouted for his crucifixion only days later.

“It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?”

Below, Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of “The Times they Are a Changing”.
Ms Hudson lost several family members to gun violence. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s good news and bad news..

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Vox:

The $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that needs to pass this week to avert a government shutdown increases spending on clean energy and keeps the Environmental Protection Agency funded at current levels.

That’s despite the White House suggestion that Congress cut EPA’s budget by one-thirdand make drastic reductions in clean energy research.

Tarak Shah, a former chief of staff in the science and energy office at the US Department of Energy, told Vox the bill was an “utter repudiation of the Trump budget!”

The EPA will keep its $8.1 billion budget with a few changes, including $66 million allocated toward the Superfund program for cleaning up highly contaminated sites.

The Department of Energy’s high-risk, high-reward research incubator, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, can also breathe easy. Trump’s budget proposal recommended eliminating the popular program, but Congress gave it a $47 million boost up to $353 million.

The DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, which the White House wanted to gut by $1.3 billion, also got a 15 percent increase to a new total of $2.3 billion.

There are also a few strange energy-related riders: The bill declares biomass as a carbon-neutral energy source, though scientists are still debating whether that’s the case. Livestock producers are permanently exempted from the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations, killing any efforts to keep them in check.

On balance, the spending bill (if it passes) signals that while the Trump administration is desperate to save American coal and eliminate environmental regulations, lawmakers from both parties still think that protecting the environment is a high priority and that clean energy is a worthwhile endeavor.

Federal agencies, however, have some discretion in how they spend the money Congress gives them, and some departments are dragging their feet when it comes to doing the work they’re supposed to do.

We’re already seeing grant applications and research programs being screened for references to climate change at the EPA, the DOE, and the Department of the Interior. The EPA has seen a decline in enforcement of rules against polluters, and lawmakers have complained that programs like ARPA-E have delayed or not issued the funding that they’re required to provide.

Washington Examiner:

Congress on Wednesday night released a fiscal 2018 spending bill that rejects Trump administration efforts to reduce funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Department.

After President Trump threatened to make massive cuts to the EPA budget, Congress decided to keep funding levels the same from fiscal 2017, at $8.1 billion. Read the rest of this entry »