With solar power blossoming in the United States and the Biden Administration’s Day One vow to supercharge renewables, it came as a shock to learn in late March that the Commerce Department was throwing sand in the gears. Based on what turned out to be a largely inaccurate interpretation of data offered by an American solar panel manufacturer, Commerce began an investigation that effectively blocked the importing of solar products from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The impact was immediate and devastating according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA): forecasts for this year and next year being cut by 46%. The 700 responses from an SEIA survey of industry businesses showed that 318 projects accounting for 51 GW of solar capacity and 6 GWh of attached battery storage were being cancelled or delayed, putting $52 billion of private investment and tens of thousands of jobs at risk. An independent analysis, from Rystad Energy, found similar catastrophic disruptions as a result. Continue reading
I have always said that I’m an environmentalist but not a naturalist. I’m an environmentalist largely because I had so much pleasure outdoors as a kid: camp on the ever-magnificent Lake George in New York, climbing and hiking in the Adirondacks, skiing in the Green Mountains, traveling around the American West one memorable summer, playing ball in the fall and spring. I was blessed that way. My wife and daughter have imbibed much of that love of the great outdoors. I have never gained, however, a great deal of a grasp of the inner workings of the natural world. Birders are all around me in Central Park during migration, but I can’t tell a hawk from a handsaw. The wonders of nature nevertheless never cease to astonish me. An article from last year absolutely mystified me with this fact: A species of beetle in South Africa, feeding on animal dung, like others of their cousins which are found on all the continents except Antarctica, roll their dung balls in a straight line at night by orienting with the Milky Way. Astonishing. The flash of color from a male Red-winged Blackbird once captivated me so thoroughly hitchhiking at dusk in Wisconsin that I realized it was my totem animal. When I watch trees waving in the wind, it seems to me that they are dancing in joy at the sunlight and air. Continue reading
Climate models predict a continuation of the trends we’ve been seeing in many countries: heat waves happening more often and more intensely, longer and more severe droughts owing to decreased precipitation, wildfires as a consequence of long-term dry spells, and water stress for both urban and rural populations as well as for agriculture. Nowhere are these trends more in evidence than in the American West. The extraordinary engineering that has gone into making the West prosperous is at risk. (I blogged about the landmark history of water policy and politics in the West, Cadillac Desert, here in September.) Continue reading
I wrote about Cadillac Desert, the classic book about water in the American West, in September. Scores of millions of people depend on the waterworks that were built up over the 20th Century there, and many millions more benefit from the bounty of fruits and vegetables that grow there, much of it in California, where agriculture accounts for 80% of overall use. The story of Cadillac Desert, though, is that there has been a tremendous price paid for all that concrete, steel, energy, and the treasure needed to build and operate the waterworks. Environmental destruction has been catastrophic, lives were lost when dams broke, thousands of small farmers and their communities were destituted because the water too often benefited Big Ag, and the American taxpayer was bilked out of billions over time. Continue reading
Let me see if I have this right: The law says that you have to wear a mask on public transportation in New York City, including in subway stations and on the trains. But police officers feel free to ignore the law. They not only don’t enforce it, but they don’t observe it. And our mayor says, point blank, the cops won’t enforce the law! What am I missing here? Continue reading
That water flows toward power and money is, according to Marc Reisner in his magisterial book, Cadillac Desert, “the West’s cardinal law.” In every chapter, that sad fact is illustrated in abundance. The book, first published in 1986 and revised in a 1993 edition, put a new lens on the American West and the regional and national politics of water. It, like so many chronicles of the abuses of power, and the lies, arrogance, and destruction that accompany them, is both revelatory and maddening.
Dept. of Better Late than Never: A friend gave me the book more than 30 years ago. Continue reading
Here’s our family’s story from 20 years ago today. I sent this around to friends, colleagues, and relatives a few days after the event. It was a good way for many of them to have a personal connection to the day and its aftermath.
On September 10, 2001, you were six months old. The next day the world around you changed as it rarely ever does – with violence, stunning in its cruelty; with mind-numbing speed; and with a decisiveness almost unheard of in human history.
I bear witness to what happened because we were very close to the epicenter of this world-shattering earthquake.
This nightmare that we’ve been experiencing for the past four years may finally be coming to its end. Like many nightmares, it looks like it may culminate in a last, intensely frightening burst of violence. And then we’ll wake up, bathed in sweat, but breathing freely again, feeling relieved that we’re not dead or mangled or crushed by the monsters that were pursuing us in the dreamscape. This nightmare has not just been afflicting those of us who feel as if social justice and sane, reasoned public policy are the means and the ends to which society should attain. Those among us who see ourselves as rightful inheritors of a legacy of cultural dominance over the “other,” be they of a different skin color or sexual orientation or religion, have also been plunged into a darker night of fear than that in which they had previously been trapped. Continue reading
Hydrogen appears, finally, to be well along in realizing its enormous potential to substantially decarbonize our energy. I wrote about The Hydrogen Economy last year and this week I sat in on a compelling webinar, “Opportunities for Hydrogen in the Northeast,” presented by the NECEC. NECEC includes the Northeast Clean Energy Council and NECEC Institute. Continue reading
It is big news that Scientific American, one of the world’s most prestigious sources on science and technology, after 175 years of publication, has endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time ever. The Editors declare that “Scientific American Endorses Joe Biden.” They feel “compelled to do so” and “do not do this lightly.” The first and foremost reason given for this historic endorsement is clear: “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science.” They detail the catastrophic consequences of this rejection, like the nearly 200,000 Americans who have succumbed to the coronavirus. They further note his lies and, beyond that, the attacks on “environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges.” Continue reading