Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

Emissions Accomplished?

March 11, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently considering reversing a Bush administration decision which prevented California (along with 13 other states) from enacting stricter air-pollution standards for motor vehicles. This is great news, not only because of the positive environmental effects the stricter rules would bring about, but simply because it might actually happen!

California has been leading the fight to enact these stricter CO2 regulations for years now and has seen little help from the federal government. However, that was under the Bush administration. Things seem to be changing since Obama took office.

On January 21, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a letter to President Obama requesting that he review the EPA’s denial of California’s waiver request, stating, “California and a growing number of farsighted states have sought to enforce a common-sense policy to reduce global-warming pollution from passenger vehicles, which are the source of 20 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Regulation will not only reduce these emissions, but will also save drivers money and reduce our nation’s dependence on foriegn oil… Your administration has a unique opportunity to both support the pioneering leadership of these states and move America toward global leadership on addressing climate change.”

A mere five days after Governor Schwarzenegger sent this letter, President Obama directed federal regulators to review California’s and 13 other states’ request to set automobile emissions and fuel efficency standards. According to the Clean Air Act Section 209 – State Standards, the EPA must grant the waiver unless it finds that California:

-was arbitrary & capricious in its finding that its standards are, in the aggregate, at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable federal standards;

-does not need such standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions; or

-has proposed standards not consistent with Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act

The 13 other states joining California in this fight are: Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Help make this happen – sign the petition urging the EPA to grant the waiver!

Windy City, wind-powered cars?

February 25, 2009

Listening last night to President Obama reiterate solar, wind, biofuel, etc., among the renewable energy sources he wants to see as cornerstones of a new green industrial complex in the U.S., one wonders how they’d be incorporated into a smart grid that benefits both consumers and business. The answers to that question are multitudinous and mind-blowing.

But here’s one possible synergistic scenario I just read about on Green Tech: a smart-grid project on an island off the coast of Denmark—supported by both the Danish government and IBM—in which energy created by wind turbines is being used to generate electricity for plug-in electric hybrid cars.

It’s not the technology R&D that’s the hold-up, though. It’s the usual red tape:

The article quotes Allan Schurr, the vice president of strategy and development at IBM’s Global Energy and Utilities practice, who spells it out:

In an interview on Tuesday, Schurr said that he planned to tell members of Congress that smart-grid technologies are already available and can deliver substantial improvements in efficiency. What’s holding back large-scale adoption isn’t technology but regulations and “institutional inertia,” according to the text of his testimony.

Gets pretty damn windy in Chicago, doesn’t it? The most obvious place to create a wind-turbine corridor is through the Great Plains states, which skirt Illinois, but northern Illinois certainly packs enough wind power to feed off such a grid. ComEd and local engineering wunderkinds at some of our universities (I’m looking at you, IIT) have plug-in fever and are seriously interested in pursuing that future agenda.

Imagine wind turbines off-shore in Lake Michigan. Possible?

Maybe all we need to get a head start in this new game is a strong wind at our backs.

Keepin’ it rail in the Midwest

February 23, 2009

Seems our previous blog post on high-speed rail’s future prospects was a bit prescient. Check out this AP piece in the Chicago Tribune today on how Chicago, as a hub, stands to score more high-speed-rail funds thanks to early support from Obama and other Illinois pols in his cabinet (notably Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood).

Looks like Nevada and California—which want a high-speed line connecting Las Vegas and Anaheim—might be the caboose in this scenario.

Excerpted from the article:

Howard Learner, president of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, a group promoting a Midwest high-speed rail network, said his area is in excellent position to capture a good chunk of that money. The Federal Railroad Administration, he said, has recognized the Midwest initiative connecting Chicago and 11 metropolitan areas within 400 miles as the system most ready to go.

He and others brushed aside claims that the $8 billion was set aside for Reid’s favorite. Obama, who expressed strong interest in high-speed rail investment during the campaign, and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, are both from Chicago. Obama’s transportation secretary, Ray Lahood, also is from Illinois. So is the Senate’s no. 2 Democrat, Richard Durbin.

A WPA-type high-speed-rail project in the Land of Lincoln, the original rail splitter? Somehow apropos, isn’t it?

Then again, we’re talking years and years of construction and development.

Meantime, why don’t we all take a cue from the bike- and hike-friendly Rails to Trails Conservancy, and try to drive some funds their way as well? Those repurposed dilapidated tracks, like Chicago’s imminent Bloomingdale Trail, could be fixed up a whole lot quicker.

(Above photo, of Obama-Biden whistle-stop tour during their election campaign, from Time Inc.)

Follow Change and whatnot on the White House website and blog

January 21, 2009

Hey everybody, did you see the new White House website? Very cool – so much change. For you sustainability wonks, there are a lot of good bits on the energy & environment section – let’s hope President Obama can see these goals through. You can keep up with all the Change on the White House blog.

Are you confident in our new President’s commitment to green energy and sustainability, or do you think it will be forgotten as foreign policy and economic crises pile up?