Monthly Archives: October 2014

Chipping away at the baseload myth

One of the most persistent myths about clean energy is that clean energy does not supply a reliable source of electricity. That myth usually includes ideas such as we need coal, or nuclear, to provide baseload.

Check out this analysis from Forbes:

Experts: Reducing Carbon Emissions And Increasing Grid Reliability Are Doable

With the Clean Power Plan out for comment, a lot utilities are scurrying to figure out their game plan — or just how they would work with their state utility regulators to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, from a 2005 baseline. The general feeling is that the goal is doable but it may take a little more time.

Understandably, the utilities and the state regulators want to find better and cheaper ways of doing business. Their level of enthusiasm, though, differs based on which part of the country they live and which fuels they burn to make electricity. The Northeast and California are leading the charge, having created free market exchanges to buy and sell credits to reduce carbon levels — mechanisms that each say is helping to broaden their generation mixes and to boost their economies.

Detroit-Chicago High Speed Rail

Nice to see some movement on advanced, 21st (really, 20th) century public transportation. From Detroit Free Press:

A completed high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and Detroit could boost round-trip passenger train service between the two cities from the current three daily trips to 10 by 2035 at speeds of 110 m.p.h., according to preliminary planning on the project.

The higher speeds would also cut the 5 hour, 38 minute trip by almost two hours, and reduce 20 minutes from the leg that continues from Detroit to Pontiac, which would see an extra four daily round-trips from the current three.

Is the GOP Energy Committee Chair Going Down in Michigan's 6th?

Fred Upton is the incumbent Republican Congressional Representative for southwest Michigan’s 6th district. Upton is considered to be one of Michigan’s most powerful Republicans. He is the Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is an important position in relation to climate change. He has been in the House since being elected in 1986. Most of his elections since then, including after redistricting (when he went from the 4th to the 6th district) were easy wins. In 2012 he was “primaried” by the righter-wing, but still won handily (Wikipedia editors, note that Upton’s Wiki entry seems to have that race still in progress as of this writing).

Although he could be categorized as a moderate Republican, there really is no such thing any more. Since the Tea Party Takeover of the GOP, Upton seems to have voted the new party line most of the time.

This politically motivated adherence to lunacy is reflected in his stance on environmental issues. From Wikipedia:

Upton’s website once stated: "I strongly believe that everything must be on the table as we seek to reduce carbon emissions."

In April 2009, he maintained that "climate change is a serious problem that necessitates serious solutions. Everything must be on the table."

However, "Upton has gradually retreated from his moderate stance on climate change and carbon emissions."

In late 2010, he co-authored a Wall Street Journal editorial saying he was "not convinced" that "carbon is a problem in need of regulation," and urging Congress to overturn Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency.

Regarding the regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act being upheld in Federal Appeals court, Upton said that Congress’s refusal to approve greenhouse gas limits constituted a decision and that lawmakers should act now to reverse the United States Environmental Protection Agency emissions rules. Carbon regulation “threatens to drive energy prices higher, destroy jobs and hamstring our economic recovery,” per Upton.

Due to his environmental policies, the Los Angeles Times wrote in 2011 that Upton "represents one of the biggest threats to planet Earth on planet Earth."

In 2007 Upton was a co-sponsor of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which among other things mandated phased-in energy efficiency standards for most light bulbs. At the time, Upton noted that the legislation, ultimately signed into law by President George W. Bush, would "help preserve energy resources and reduce harmful emissions, all while saving American families billions of dollars on their electric bills."…

But in 2010, after Glenn Beck called Upton "all socialist" for supporting the bill, Upton led a failed effort to stop Obama from enforcing the new energy standards.

(See the original entry for sources.)

So, he’s won every re-election campaign by double digits, started out as a Reasonable Republican on climate change but then, following instructions from Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck, shifted to the right. Though he has occasionally demonstrated a wide stance on the topic, it appears he can be easily slapped into place.

This year, Upton is being challenged by Paul Clements. Clements is a professor at Western Michigan University. He has done well with fundraising, including quite a bit from outside the district. It is said that he is running an excellent campaign.

A quick look at Real Clear Politics shows nothing on this race. That is an indicator that it was assumed to be settled. Publicly available polling (or, for that matter, useful private polling) in House races rarely happens when the presumed distance between the major candidates is double digit.

But now there is a poll, and it indicates a possible upset.

Clement’s campaign released a poll showing Clements within about 4 points of Upton (43-47%, with 10% undecided). The margin of error includes the spread, so it is a statistically dead heat.

According to the pollsters,

The race in Michigan Congressional District 6 has narrowed significantly in recent weeks, as voters have learned more about the negative aspects of Fred Upton’s tenure in Congress, and have been introduced to a viable alternative in Democrat Paul Clements. Additionally, political gaffes by Upton have brought scrutiny to this long-term incumbent who has never faced a credible challenger in a district that Barack Obama won in 2008 and trailed Mitt Romney by only 1.4 percentage points in 2012. Paul Clements has momentum in the closing days of the campaign, in what has turned out to be the most competitive congressional race in Michigan, for a seat that many thought was safe for Republicans

Numerically, the gap has closed in part because undecided are deciding (see graph) and partly because both candidate’s numbers are moving.

It is possible that messages will be sent.

A near loss is predicted to encourage Upton to retire. An actual loss is a slap in the face to the Republican Party’s leadership, given Upton’s position on the Energy committee. People will then argue over whether this was Upton’s loss or Clements’ win.

What are the “gaffes” mentioned by the pollsters? This is not entirely clear.

Clements is being supported, or perhaps more accurately, Upton is being opposed, by the Silicon Valley Mayday Pac. It is claimed that Upton’s people have pressured the pac donors, with the suggestion that they will have some trouble from Washington if they keep contributing to the effort to oust Upton, if Upton survives. That sounds inappropriate and all, but it also sounds kind of typical. This sort of thing is one of the reasons, of course, that we need campaign finance reform.

(As an aside, I find it interesting that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has not been in this game. I agree with Mark Miller, the Democratic district chair, who is quoted as saying “[The 6th District is] the most Democratic seat in Michigan that’s held by a Republican. Why the DCCC has been unwilling to invest in this district is perplexing." But I digress.)

Do you want to get involved in this race, and possibly help affect the outcome? Check this out, a note I just got this from Climate Hawks Vote:

Something is happening on the ground in a small corner of Michigan. For weeks I’ve been hearing that people are fed up with Fred Upton and just tired of his allegiance to Big Oil. He’s ducking voters – he canceled a prescheduled debate with climate hawk Paul Clements to attend a prescheduled DC hearing, and canceled a NAACP appearance. DC papers are asking: is Michigan’s most powerful Republican really in political danger?

Climate Hawks Vote got into this race for the same reason we’re in every race: a powerful Republican (the chair of the House Energy & Commerce committee, no less!) denying science and blocking progress, a good climate hawk sending a message, and a potentially winnable race. How winnable? Every other climate/environmental group wrote it off as a longshot. But day after day, our Benton Harbor field organizer reports: "everyone’s voting for Clements." "Upton drifted too far right." "Time for a change."

So we’re going all in.

If you’re local – including South Bend, Indiana – come to our candidate forum Wednesday, October 29 at the Pilgrim Rest Church, 1105 East Main St., Benton Harbor, which we’re cosponsoring with the local NAACP chapter. Meet Paul Clements, because everyone who meets him ends up deciding to vote for him, and other candidates. Then #TurnOutForWhat – a voter rally! – on Friday, October 31 from 3:30 to 6 PM at the Citadel, 91 Hinkley St., Benton Harbor. (Sorry, no extra treats for dressing as a big spill in the Kalamazoo River.) Wear your walking shoes and your brightest smile to both. Can’t make either, but time this weekend? We’ve got doors to knock and people to call. Reply to this email, and we’ll find something for you to do.

Not so local? This is my last donation request of the 2014 campaign season. Money raised goes to pay organizers canvassing on the ground this weekend in Michigan. Talons-on-the-ground field operations won primaries in Hawaii and Arizona. I’m proud of the successful grassroots organization we’re building with your help. Thank you.

John Coleman, Founder of The Weather Channel On Fox News

… to play the victim. Interestingly, Fox News doesn’t exactly give him a pass at first. Then they threw him an Al Gore softball on Arctic Ice. Watch:

Media Matters for America has a great writeup on this. It is all about false balance. Fox is great at that.

Coleman’s experience in weather forecasting does not make him an expert in climate science — there is an immense difference between a scientist and a weather forecaster. … Disregarding the fact that Coleman never received a formal education in meteorology — his degree was in journalism — his experience predicting the weather does not make him a credible source to debunk the vast majority of scientific literature on climate change.

Coleman also claimed that “9,000 Ph.D.’s and 31 [thousand] scientists” agree with his position on climate change, referring to the widely discredited Oregon Petition Project. Its signatories are mostly engineers with master’s degrees, and it once included the names of fictitious characters and a member of the Spice Girls.

Coleman is not a climate scientist. Neither is Al Gore, actually. But one of them is seriously concerned about climate change and does listen to what climate scientists day. Guess which one.

How to get women. To vote for you. If you are a politician.

Joireman with students in his lab at WSU. (Photos by Rebecca Phillips, WSU)
Joireman with students in his lab at WSU. (Photos by Rebecca Phillips, WSU)
There are a lot of possible answers to that question, but whatever set of answers you like, you have to account for change. Certain social justice or reproductive rights issues are less important now than they they have been in the past, not because the issues are less important, but because they are more settled. A new change you have to account for now, for a certain voting bloc of women, is Climate Change. Science 2.0 has a summary of a recent study — Don’t Believe In Global Warming? Women Won’t Vote For You — suggesting that for some, climate change has become a woman’s issue.

The study is by Jeff Joireman and Richie Liu is “Future-oriented women will pay to Reduce Global Warming: Mediation via political orientation, Environmental Values, and Belief in Global Warming.” and here is the abstract:

The present work addresses calls to clarify the role of gender in climate change mitigation and adaptation by testing a theoretical model linking gender and concern with future and immediate consequences to mitigation actions through political orientation, environmental values, and belief in global warming (gender x time orientation ? liberal political orientation ? environmental values ? belief in global warming ? willingness to pay to reduce global warming). Drawing on a sample of 299 U.S. residents, structural equation modeling and bootstrapped indirect effects testing revealed support for the model. Interaction analyses further revealed that women scored higher than men on model variables among respondents who routinely consider the future consequences of their actions, but the gender difference was reversed among those low in concern with future consequences (on liberal political orientation and willingness to pay to reduce global warming). Practical and theoretical implications are considered.

The study has a press release by Rebecca Phillips:

Politicians who discredit global warming risk losing a big chunk of the female vote….women who consider the long-term consequences of their actions are more likely to adopt a liberal political orientation and take consumer and political steps to reduce global warming.

Jeff Joireman, associate professor of marketing at Washington State University, demonstrated that “future-oriented” women are the voting bloc most strongly motivated to invest money, time and taxes toward reducing global warming.

Joireman said belief in global warming is positively linked to outdoor temperatures, so in light of recent record-breaking heat, people – especially future-oriented women – may have climate change on their minds during next week’s midterm elections.

September was the hottest on record in 135 years, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects 2014 will likely break the record for hottest year.

This year’s political contests are also heated, with environmental ads surging to record levels. More than 125,000 political spots cite energy, climate change and the environment – more than all other issues except health care and jobs – according to an analysis by Kantar Media/CMAG.

Motivating the wider populace to engage and take action on global warming, however, is an ongoing challenge, said Joireman.
“Decisions that affect global warming pose a dilemma between what is good for individuals in the ‘here and now’ versus what is good for society and the environment ‘in the distant future,’” he said.
“Unfortunately, it can take several decades for the lay public and lawmakers to realize there is a problem that needs fixing,” he said. “This is clearly the case with global warming, as the consequences of our current lifestyle are not likely to be fully realized for another 25 to 50 years.”

…Joireman investigated how the time element contributes to people’s willingness to address climate change.

For the study, he focused on the personality trait called “consideration of future consequences.”

Those who score high on the trait scale tend to be very worried about the future impacts of their actions, while those with lower scores are more concerned with immediate consequences.

… his team polled 299 U.S. residents, with an age range of 18-75. Forty-eight percent of the respondents were female and 80 percent were Caucasian.

Women scored higher than men on liberal political orientation, environmental values, belief in global warming and willingness to pay to reduce global warming when their concern with future consequences was high.

But it wasn’t a simple gender difference. Women scored lower than men on liberal political orientation and willingness to pay when their concern with future consequences was low.

Joireman said a specific chain of influences makes future-oriented women more likely to take action. First, they are more politically liberal.

Liberals are more likely to value the environment, which makes them more likely to believe in global warming, he said. All together, these effects lead to a willingness to pay more in goods, services and extra taxes to help mitigate climate change.

“Future-oriented women, for example, might be more willing to pay higher prices for fuel-efficient cars, alternative forms of transportation and energy-efficient appliances. They might also eat less meat – all to help lower greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

The question for environmental advocates now, said Joireman, is to “figure out how to motivate all people to engage in behaviors that reduce global warming. To be effective, we will likely need to tailor persuasive messages to appeal to the consequences people value.
“If people are not worried about future consequences, we have to try to appeal to their more immediate concerns,” he said, “like encouraging them to buy a fuel-efficient vehicle so they can instantly start saving money on gas.”

Rate of mass shootings has tripled in three years

The frequency with which shooting events in the US occurs has gone way up in the last few years, according to recent research. Amy Cohen, Deborah Azarael and Mathew Miller have an article at Mother Jones reviewing the research: Rate of Mass Shootings Has Tripled Since 2011, Harvard Research Shows…And: Why claims in the media that mass shootings aren’t increasing are wrong.

I find the graphic they used a bit odd:

shootingsSince2011-mfms11 (1)

The overall form of the graph shows a decrease over time. But it really shows an increase. You just have to know how to read it. The Y axis is the number of days since the last shooting, which as we can see is very high for several shootings before about 2011, but very low after. But, once you do understand the graph it makes the point very clearly. Notice that there are several time periods prior to 2011 which also have low numbers (meaning more shooting events) but those periods are never very long. There seems to be a dramatic and sustained increase in rate of shootings.

The authors explain it this way:

As the chart above shows, a public mass shooting occurred on average every 172 days since 1982. The orange reference line depicts this average; data points below the orange line indicate shorter intervals between incidents, i.e., mass shootings occurring at a faster pace. Since September 6, 2011, there have been 14 public mass shootings at an average interval of less than 172 days. A run of nine points or more below the orange average line is considered a statistical signal that the underlying process has changed. …The standard interpretation of this chart would be that mass shootings, as of September 2011, are now part of a new, accelerated, process.