The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

what Bachmann and TRC have in common.

leave a comment »

TRC is no fan of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. That’s no secret. We are also no fan of the St. Croix Bridge project that Ms. Bachmann has been pushing for, and recently succeeded in navigating though DC.

But in celebration of that success, I saw this picture, and thought, well, despite my personal thoughts on Bachmann, we do have one important thing in common: she wears Minnesota proudly. Here she is in a Twins apron, serving hot dish to Senator Amy Klobuchar. Doesn’t get more Minnesota than that.

From the Stillwater Patch, which includes the recipe for Congresswoman Bachmann’s St. Croix River Crossing Hot Dish

Written by Christopher ZF

March 8, 2012 at 15:13

the Presidential Election Forthcoming

leave a comment »

This is from Andrew Sullivan. I saw this cartoon, and all I could think was: holy shit.

This is totally wrong. I don’t mean “wrong” wrong; it is just a political cartoon, and they have been ugly for as long as there have been presidents. Such efforts at satire are welcome in making one’s political point, TRC partakes in such efforts regularly. (This cartoon, however, is much closer to “wrong” wrong, in my humble opinion).

I do think, however, that this image of Obama the Pimp and Sandra Fluke the Prostitute does not bode well for the upcoming presidential election. I worry that what we were fighting about, the appropriate mechanism to provide contraception and the impact of that mechanism on constitutionally protected rights, has already been sacrificed on the altar of insanity. Not a great sign of things to come.

And finally, poor Ms. Fluke. She participated in our civic process by standing up for what she believes, and look how she has been repaid.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 8, 2012 at 12:30

Neil DeGrasse Tyson shares the most astounding fact about the universe

leave a comment »

A few weeks back, my column over at Precipitate, Everything we know is stardust, focused on that very fact. In it, I said:

The curse laid on the first human by God in the Garden of Eden, it turns out, is perfectly accurate: what are we humans but the dust that makes up the entire universe? We are made of the history of everything that has ever or will ever be. We are stardust of the billions of years old supernovae of the universe. Which is a beautiful idea, one that is capable of providing relief from the tumult of the day to day. Amazingly, it just happens to be accurate.

Today I saw this video, and I thought, I will say never say anything better than Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 7, 2012 at 16:08

Running against Malaria with Nothing But Nets

leave a comment »

I’ve never fund-raised at TRC before. But here I am.

I’m raising money for Nothing but Nets in coordination with my training for the Twin Cities marathon. $10 buys 1 bed net, delivers it and educates the recipient on how to use it. Or, $10 means 1 life lived malaria free.

I know TRC can be a political environment, but even if you hate my politics, my environmentalism, and everything about what goes on here, we can all agree on the need to end malaria.

Donate, please.

We can achieve a world without Malaria.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 7, 2012 at 14:49

Posted in Personal Entry

Santorum wants you to know that if he loses America is over.

leave a comment »

In case you were wondering what is at stake in the 2012 election, here is Rick Santorum during his Super Tuesday speech last night:

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the beginning of the end of freedom in America. Once the government has control of your life, then they got you…We’re at a time in this country when freedom is at stake and you are all blessed, as I am, to be here at a time when your country needs you, to be here at a time, like the original founders of this country, who signed that Declaration of Independence, to be here at a time when freedom was at stake and people were willing to go out and do heroic and courageous things to win that victory.

It’s Rick Santorum or a complete loss of freedom in America. At least  he has perspective.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 7, 2012 at 13:31

An update on Coal’s Decline

leave a comment »

Whatever you want to call the coalition of folks working to get our country off of coal–committed activists, radical environmentalists, or just smart people worried about the future–these folks have been working hard, for years, to end our reliance on coal powered electricity generation.

The country has of course benefited from our coal development. But knowing what we know, the great problem of epistemology, it is irresponsible to continue burning coal: it is toxic to our planet’s air, water, and the health of everything that relies on air and water.

So how are these efforts going? Recently, the retirement of two Chicago coal-fired plants was announced, a major win in a decades long fight. This victory has prompted a bit of self-evaluation in the crusade to get our electricity freed from coal.

Clean Technica has an update on how the movement is coming.

A confluence of factors is making it very difficult for owners of coal plants — particularly old coal plants — to compete. A combination of high domestic coal prices, low natural gas prices, new air quality regulations, coordinated activist pressure, and cost-competitive renewables are making coal an increasingly bad choice for many power plant operators. Along with the 106 announced closures, 166 new plants have been defeated since 2002.

So just how much of an impact have these factors had on coal closures? Bruce Nilles, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign sent along these numbers:

EXISTING COAL (ANNOUNCED/RETIRED SINCE JAN 1 2010)

  • 106 coal plants, 319 units
  • 42,895 MW (13% of fleet)
  • 150 million MWh (8% of fleet)
  • 162 million tons/year of CO2 (9% of fleet)
  • 921,417 tons/year of SO2 (16% of fleet)
  • Average age: 55 years old
  • (For plants with available data – Data from Clean Air Task Force): 2,042 pre-mature deaths, 3,229 heart attacks and 33,053 asthma attacks prevented each year (about 15% of total health impacts from fleet).  All together these plants retiring will save about $15.6 billion in health care costs.

This is no way to imply that the effort on behalf of climate change is winning. As producers are moving away from coal in some parts of the country, plans for new coal plants (“clean coal”) are progressing. And much of this generation is being replaced with natural gas, which has its own questions.

But it is important to take a step back from time to time and acknowledge that despite what the big political stories of the day might be, progress is being made.

Written by Christopher ZF

March 7, 2012 at 10:46

as the Politics has shifted, the dangers have remained the same

leave a comment »

It wasn’t that long ago that Americans on both sides of the political spectrum understood that burning fossil fuels was bad for the Earth. Coal and gas were understood as the root cause of climate change, they polluted our drinking water and our oceans and our skies. As a result, the idea that we should consume fewer hydrocarbons was widely accepted, the science of climate change was accepted, and moving towards a diversified, clean, home-grown energy portfolio was a plan everyone got behind.

But something else was also happening in that time of climate harmony. It was understood that alongside decreased consumption would come decreased production. We were running out of cheap sources of oil and gas in the United States anyway.

Fast forward to today. Consumption of coal and gas are still root the cause of climate change, they are still polluting our drinking water and our oceans and our skies. The science behind climate change has only gotten more sound. And yet, the bi-partisan acceptance that we should move to a clean energy future has eroded. Heck, even President Obama is calling for increased production of oil and gas. So what changed?

Technology. We could all get along on energy when we all thought we would be producing less. Now we can get a whole lot more of that out of the way, expensive hydrocarbon bounty that was just not worth it in the past–the “unconventional sources.” And if we can recover more oil, if we can successfully drill deeper and further and in more remote places, if we can continue to make money off oil and gas, then the arguments against consuming fossil fuels become much less impressive.

So the argument shifts, the new era of technology makes energy security and energy jobs and domestic production the holy grail of the political energy sector, on both sides of the aisle, and relegates what has not changed, the very real and potentially catastrophic environmental threat of continued dependence on fossil fuels, to the background.

For a clear, thoughtful, reminder that we are indeed reverting, read America’s Fossil Fuel Fever, by Michael T. Klare, at The Nation.

Advocates of the new techniques claim that the environmental risks are overshadowed by the greater benefit of economic gain and national security. “Even while the environmental argument rages,” Yergin wrote in the Washington Post in October, “oil sands are proving to be a major contributor to energy security” by lowering the nation’s dependence on Middle East oil. Increased domestic production, he adds, is generating jobs and reducing the nation’s dollar outlays for imported petroleum.

These arguments have great appeal and are attracting support. But they are deeply flawed. While highlighting some benefits to the nation’s security and well-being, they overlook detrimental outcomes of equal or greater significance.

The most important, of course, is the impact of these trends on global warming. By shifting the emphasis from renewables to fossil fuels, we can expect a significant increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—from the consump-
tion of oil and gas and from its production. The consumption aspect is well understood: all fossil fuels contain carbon and this carbon is released when the fuels are burned, so any increase in fossil fuel use will result in increased GHG emissions. But the production aspect requires closer attention. All drilling activity requires energy, which produces GHGs; producing unconventional oil and gas, however, usually requires far more energy than drilling for conventional fuels and so emits a correspondingly greater amount of GHGs.