Public Comment to the EPA on the Clean Power Plan

The folks over at 350 Silicon Valley have made a web page that explains really easily how to send a letter to the EPA regarding the Clean Power Plan (the plan to limit climate-related pollution from coal plants). Their aim is to send 1000 letters by the deadline of December 1st – and they already have almost 800!


 

November 12, 2014

To Whom It May Concern:

I support the Clean Power Plan and recommend that it be made as strong as possible.

Everything the climate science tells us is that things are worse than we thought: our impacts are greater, our limits are lower, than we thought just a few years ago.

There are several possible “tipping points” that we may cross soon regarding global warming that could make our planet toxic to most life as we know it.

It is imperative that we address climate change with drastic and immediate measures, harshly limiting the use of all fossil fuels, from coal to natural gas.

Please do everything in your power to curtail the use of fossil fuels and promote renewable, clean energy.

Sincerely,
Martin MacKerel

Zero Diesel: A Pathway to Environmental Justice and Climate Sanity

TL;DR: Diesel is bad. I’m proposing a campaign called Zero Diesel with two differentiators: 1) a focus on network effects: attempting to increase the network benefits of electric vehicles and decrease the network benefits of diesel, region by region, and 2) organizing parents of asthmatic children (with a focus on poor people of color) to use people power to force companies and government agencies to pay the costs of electrification. When necessary, we’ll engage in antagonistic action (e.g. boycotts and direct action such as blockades and interference with business as usual).

Why: Diesel is a Climate and EJ (Environmental Justice) Villain

After four decades of the Clean Air Act and the EPA, we still have 200,000 premature deaths a year in the US due to air pollution (7 million worldwide), as well as a staggering load of asthma and other health issues. One of the biggest culprits is diesel combustion, which is an outsize contributor to smog formation as well as the production of PM2.5 — fine particulate matter below 2.5 microns in size. This is absolutely tiny — by comparison, an average human hair is 70 microns in diameter. High levels of PM2.5 are linked to hospital admissions and death as well as the aggravation of asthma and other respiratory problems.

This pollution is not evenly distributed, of course. The residents of areas heavily impacted by air pollution tend to have more melanin and less money. So we end up with a situation where poor children of color are disproportionately afflicted with asthma, leading to obesity, emergency room visits, and missed school days — a cascading series of impairments on an already vulnerable population.

In addition, diesel is particularly bad for climate pollution. While it is better than gasoline in terms of CO2, it produces a lot of black carbon — one of the worst short-term contributors to global warming.

Climate and Electric Vehicles

In order to drastically reduce our emissions of the heat-trapping gases that cause climate change (“greenhouse gases”), we have to do two things: 1) electrify everything and 2) switch to clean sources of electricity. I think that #2 is actually easier than #1 — it’s easier to change a few tens of thousands of power plants than hundreds of millions of cars — and in fact #2 is well under way, due in part to financial considerations and in part to a massive grassroots movement against fossil fuels. That’s not to say that we don’t need to continue to organize and force the transition to clean energy; the market is headed in the right direction, but it won’t be fast enough on its own. But #1 is the weaker point right now.

In particular, the installed plant of over one billion automobiles worldwide poses a formidable obstacle to weaning ourselves from fossil fuels for transportation. A push for mass transit will help, but personal automobiles as well as trucks and commercial vehicles of many kinds are likely to continue to be needed for decades at least. While electric and hybrid vehicles are finally doing well in the market, they are still a small percentage of vehicles sold and a minuscule fraction of actively used vehicles. Part of the issue is that there are strong network effects: the charging network for electric vehicles (EVs) is still in its infancy while the refueling network for liquid fossil fuels is pervasive and standardized. At this juncture we need extra-market forces to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.

Continue reading “Zero Diesel: A Pathway to Environmental Justice and Climate Sanity”

A Virgin Galactic rocket exploded. Good.

It’s unfortunate that a pilot died, but it’s good that a Virgin Galactic rocket launch failed and crashed.

Virgin Galactic’s whole purpose is to start a new industry: space tourism. Many people have paid $200K and up to get a seat on a short space flight.

First of all, such luxury indulgences are obscene in a world where so many lack the most basic necessities.

But even more glaringly, we are faced by the urgency of climate change. It is criminal to invent a new industry that requires truly obscene amounts of energy based on fossil fuels at a time when we need to rapidly and drastically scale down the use of such fuels.

The Virgin Galactic program should be shut down; if Richard Branson won’t do it, governments should outlaw it. If they won’t do it, people should pressure potential customers to boycott it, and should engage in direct action to shut it down. All of the capital put into Virgin Galactic should be put into ramping up wind and solar energy and energy efficiency programs.

The crash of a Virgin Galactic rocket is a good thing for humanity as a whole.

Kinder Morgan lockdown interview and transcript

Early in the morning on Thursday, September 4th, 2014, eight people locked down to the gates of a crude-by-rail facility owned by Kinder Morgan in Richmond and prevented trucks from coming or going for three hours. Later that afternoon, two of the organizers (one of whom was me) were interviewed on Andrés Soto’s half-hour show on KPFA, in which we talked about the action, the dangers of crude-by-rail, and the context of the larger climate movement. The transcript is below.

But first, a great overview video:

Blockade the Bomb Trains! Lockdown at Kinder Morgan 4 Sept 2014 from Peter Menchini on Vimeo.

El Show de Andrés Soto on KPFA 3:30pm, Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Here’s the full audio – about half an hour.

Transcript of El Show de Andrés Soto on KPFA Thursday, September 4th, 2014

[Music and intro up to 00:38.]
Andrés: This is El Show de Andrés Soto, formerly of the Morning Mix.

Crude-by-rail. The Bay Area’s been targeted for dangerous Bakken crude deliveries to refineries throughout the Bay Area. There was an important action yesterday in Everett, Washington, to halt crude-by-rail and one this morning in Richmond. There’s also a critical court hearing in San Francisco tomorrow to stop the Kinder Morgan crude-by-rail operation in Richmond. We will speak with the key organizers of the action in Richmond today and talk about all of the events and activities, today on El Show de Andrés Soto on KPFA 94.1 FM, sometimes the people’s radio station. All of this and some very cool music.

Continue reading “Kinder Morgan lockdown interview and transcript”

Letter to Kern County Board of Supervisors on crude-by-rail project and refinery re-opening

Apparently Kern County wants to increase crude-by-rail and re-open a refinery. That’s a horrible idea, since we need to start closing refineries and move to all clean energy, immediately. Here is my letter of comment, sent through an action page hosted by the Center for Biological Diversity.

Comment

Subject: Reject the Alon Bakerfield Project
You would do well to read California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s January 15th, 2014 letter to the City of Pittsburg, CA regarding a proposed crude-by-rail terminal there. Many of her concerns apply to this project, including:

  • the issue of cumulative emissions on an already highly-impacted community,
  • the increased and novel risks of transporting extreme crudes such as diluted tar sands bitumen and Bakken shale oil, and
  • the effects that new fossil fuel infrastructure may have on California’s ability to meet its own (legislated) greenhouse gas emissions goals.

The full letter is available at http://pittsburgdc.org/?p=655

To protect our climate and meet California’s greenhouse gas emission goals, we must not build any more fossil fuel infrastructure. Period.

Martin MacKerel

Update

The letter can be found at https://www.scribd.com/document/200688980/Letter-from-Kamala-Harris-CA-Attorney-General-to-Pittsburg-regarding-the-WesPac-EIR

What is Islamophobia?

I just had a bit of jolting experience.

I wanted to make some notes (on actual paper, for once), and I grabbed a notebook. The notebook had all kinds of random scribblings: notes about books; ideas for blog posts; to-do lists started, amended, re-written, and abandoned; German vocabulary for understanding something by Walter Benjamin; notes from a USPTO Software Patent Roundtable. I mean this thing is random. Various projects that never got off the ground over the last five years.

And I think to myself, why don’t I rip out the pages relating to the more thoroughly dead projects? As I start to do so, I stop briefly. I look down at the page. It’s got Arabic letters on it.

And I remember that one time I saw that the tiny, hole-in-the-wall mosque on my block taught weekly Arabic lessons, all levels, beginners welcome, etc. And I decided to check it out. It was a very informal affair, taught by a native speaker to a handful of students with very little knowledge of Arabic. I quickly realized that this class would progress very slowly, if at all, and said, ok, well I checked it out. And thought no more thereon.

When I paused at the page, though, it wasn’t because of this memory. It was because some tiny part in the back of my brain said, woah. Hold up. This is dangerous stuff. Might need to put that in the shredder, not the recycling. What if the feds were searching the garbage and this tidbit just elevated your KST score?

Well, it didn’t say all that. The tiny part of my brain just said “woah”. But behind the woah was a lot of forethought about danger. And although I regard the scenario as far-fetched, unfortunately it’s not as far-fetched as it used to be. (After all, we now know that the US government takes a picture of the outside of every piece of mail and that their procedures for “No Fly” lists and evaluating “Known and Suspected Terrorists” are decisively Kafka-esque.)

This is the power of state-backed Islamophobia today. It reached way into the back of my brain and planted this fear not of Muslims, but a fear of Islam as a dangerous subject, a known or suspected terrorist, a bad reputation.

When will we tire of their games? The war on Communism, the war on drugs, the war on Islam. It’d be pathetic if it didn’t have such dire human consequences.

 

Yes, #YesAllWomen!

I am incredibly heartened to see the huge explosion of the #YesAllWomen hashtag/meme. And flabbergasted. I see women I know coming out about being raped or sexually assaulted. I see stories and stories and stories spill over. I see men getting it. I see the mainstream media shift its interpretation of the Isla Vista shootings from just being about guns and “mental illness”.

It reminds me of this great passage about the movie Django from a blog post on The Last Psychiatrist:

Anyway, perfectly ordinary slaveowner DiCaprio asks a rhetorical question, a fundamental question, that has occurred to every 7th grade white boy and about 10% of 7th grade white girls, and the profound question he asked was: “Why don’t they just rise up?
….
[I]t’s completely legitimate for a guy who doesn’t know the score to ask this question, which is why 7th grade boys ask it; they themselves haven’t yet felt the crushing weight of the system, so immediately you should ask, how early have girls been crushed that they don’t think to ask this?

I myself have thought for a long time about women: why don’t they rise up? And it’s great to see you rising up. With all due respect to Yoda, anger leads to change.