The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the transportation sector is the #1 source of carbon pollution in the United States. At 29% in 2021, transportation now generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, every car company has production plans for electric vehicles (EVs). And most are on the path to a fully electric future. Last year, Chair and CEO of General Motors, Mary T. Barra, announced that the company would stop making gas powered vehicles by 2035. Even Exxon Mobile publicly agreed electric vehicles are the future. In June, in an interview with CNBC’s David Farber, the oil giant’s CEO, Darrin Woods, predicted that by 2040 every new passenger car sold in the world will be electric. EV technology has advanced rapidly and an expansion of the market is definitely anticipated, including many more affordable models.
For the first time since 2019, the North American International Auto Show, the largest in North America, was held in September. President Biden attended opening day and used the opportunity to announce the approval of the first $900 million dollars in U.S. funding to build EV charging stations in 35 states, part of the $1 trillion dollar infrastructure law approved last November. Congress and Biden have pledged tens of billions of dollars in loans, manufacturing and consumer tax credits and grants to speed the transition from internal combustion vehicles to cleaner EVs. The Big Three automakers, General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler, showed off new EVs while the president highlighted the automakers’ EV push, including billions of dollars in investments.
Individuals interested in EVs have the opportunity to attend a local event being held this weekend. Sunday, Oct. 2, the final day of National Drive Electric Week (NDEW). The “Southeast Ohio NDEW Ride and Drive” will be held that day from 1-4 p.m. at Civitan Park, 1500 Blennerhassett Ave., Belpre. Drive Electric Southeast Ohio and the West Virginia Electric Auto Association, groups made up of EV owners and enthusiasts, will be welcoming attendees to this event. The latest makes and models of several electric vehicles will be on site and attendees will have the chance to take them for a drive as well as talk to EV owners and leaders in the clean transportation industry about driving electric. There will be speakers throughout the day and even a raffle. The event is free and open to the public. Signs and banners will be hung up to help you find them.
This shift to transportation’s electrification is critical to addressing the climate crisis but it should have come much sooner! Investigations done by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), as well as other organizations, have uncovered hundreds of pages of historic documents with striking parallels between the automakers and oil companies. CIEL’s research demonstrates that two of America’s biggest automakers, General Motors and Ford, as well as one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, Exxon Mobil Corp. were aware of climate risks years earlier than suspected. The documents reveal that for decades, these companies failed to act on the knowledge that their products were heating the planet. At the same time, these industries were donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups that created public doubt about the scientific consensus on global warming.
According to Carroll Muffett, CIEL’s president and CEO, “CIEL’s findings add to the growing body of evidence that the oil industry worked to actively undermine public confidence in climate science and in the need for climate action even as its own knowledge of climate risks was growing.” Muffett’s description of automakers is essentially the same. He stated that the industry was “deeply and actively engaged,” since the 1960s, in understanding how their cars affected the climate. “We also know that … the auto industry was involved in efforts to undermine climate science and stop progress to address climate change,” Muffett said.
It’s sad this behavior seems to be standard operating procedure for many international corporations. Given the urgency of the climate crisis and the increasingly understood negative impacts to the planet and human health, thank goodness the future of transportation is FINALLY electric. We can only hope it’s better late than never for the sake of future generations.
Giulia Mannarino, of Belleville, is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.
The company Competitive Power Ventures Inc. has announced plans to build a combined-cycle natural gas power plant in West Virginia, an 1,800-megawatt facility representing a $3 billion investment that could potentially be built in Doddridge County (this is not certain). The facility would use carbon capture and storage technology made possible by expansion of what are referred to as 45Q tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act. This facility, and carbon capture and storage (or carbon capture, utilization and storage, as it is often referred to) more broadly, are terrible ideas.
Carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) is dangerous, unproven at anywhere near scale, and massively expensive, even with taxpayer subsidization. The “utilization” part is often deliberately left out when describing these processes because it’s an environmental nonstarter. Captured CO2 has, more often than not, been used to extract more oil through a process called advanced oil recovery. What’s the use of capturing these emissions if you’re just going to turn around and use them to recover more emissions-producing fossil fuels? Profit motive is the only rational driver in that scenario. As far as actual emissions reductions, a mitigation report released in April 2022 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that, by 2030, CCUS could cut only half the CO2 emissions that could be cut by solar, wind, and efficiency, and CCUS is far more expensive.
When I say that CCUS is dangerous, I mean it’s dangerous to public health and safety. The site carboncapturefacts.org, sponsored by the Science and Environmental Health Network (SEHN), breaks down the numerous ways CCUS is a threat to the lives, safety and health of communities in its path. CO2, for example, is an asphyxiant and toxicant. In high quantities (such as what would occur in a leak from a CO2 pipeline or storage site), it depletes oxygen in the surrounding environment. Inhalation of high concentrations causes a lowering of the pH of blood and tissues (acidosis) causing acute effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular, and central nervous systems.
CCUS also requires a tremendous amount of water. To quote from SEHN, “A CO2 capture system requires additional water for cooling and make-up, increasing the water requirements for power plants. Estimates in the technical literature show that, with the addition of a full-scale post-combustion capture system, the increase in water consumption per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electrical output can be as high as 90%.” Quoting from the site carboncapturefacts.org, “In 2021, more than 300 U.S. research scientists, including many of the nation’s top climatologists and public health professionals, submitted a letter to President Biden calling CCS [or CCUS] a ‘delay tactic’ and a ‘dangerous distraction.’”
All this danger, all this inefficacy, and it’s not even a good economic investment! Sean O’Leary, senior researcher for the organization Ohio River Valley Institute, recently told E&E News the following:
“Once it is completed, the proposed plant will inflict higher taxes and higher utility bills while still contributing to pollution and the loss of jobs and population that has accompanied natural gas development in Appalachia. In short, if the objective is to decarbonize our energy sector at the lowest possible cost, with the greatest reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and with the greatest amount of job creation, the development of renewable resources would do a much better job of all three.”
O’Leary mentioned in a Twitter post that, “CCS adds $38/MWh to the cost of generating electricity with gas. In 2021, the wholesale price of energy in PJM [PJM is the wholesale electricity market that includes West Virginia] was only $39.86, so electricity from this plant will be at least 2X as costly as the average. Renewable resources would be cheaper and eliminate emissions entirely.”
We are building electric vehicle batteries, electric car chargers, electric school buses, and even electric pontoon boats in West Virginia. Berkshire Hathaway is investing $500 million in Jackson County for a renewable energy microgrid-powered production facility to produce aeronautic titanium. Let’s not lose sight of that progress in favor of combined-cycle gas, which cannot compete with renewables on a levelized-costs basis, especially with added CCUS. Let’s stay focused on a clean, safe, efficient, renewable and sustainable future for West Virginia as an energy state.
Eric Engle is chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.
One of the most daunting tasks confronting those areas that comprise the Appalachian region is the repair of damage caused by the unfettered extraction of oil and gas that took place since 1860. Abandoned and orphaned oil and gas wells are an environmental and safety hazard that leach pollutants into the air and water including methane, which is many times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. These wells, many of which were drilled before modern regulatory regimens, contaminate ground water, threaten agriculture, reduce property values and can cause dangerous explosions. A stark example of the danger of these wells was the Veto Lake blowout that occurred in western Washington County in August 2021. Although the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has not come up with a final report on this event, many assume that the large effluent of raw petroleum was the result of disturbance of an orphaned oil well by excessive injection of brine waste in western Washington County.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are 746,000 abandoned and orphaned oil & gas wells in the U.S., and that the cost of closing these wells is between $78 billion and $280 billion. The Ohio River Valley Institute (Boettner, 2021) has reviewed the situation of these wells in four states of the Ohio River Valley–Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. These four states account for over one-third of abandoned wells in the U.S. The cost of plugging each well varies considerably–from $6,500 to $87,500. At the rate at which these wells were plugged since 2018 it would take 895 years to complete the job!
But some help is on the way to begin to address this challenging task. An important part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act passed by Congress last fall is the Federal Orphaned Well Program. This program provides $94.7 billion over nine years, 91% of which goes to the states. Much of these funds, in the form of performance grants, are directed to the four states in the Ohio River Valley and are intended to lower unemployment and improve the economic conditions of distressed areas like West Virginia and Appalachian Ohio. It is estimated that 15,151 jobs could be created over 20 years to carry out this important work of plugging orphaned wells. The ORVI study reports that $216 million from these federal funds will go to West Virginia and $334 million to Ohio. The agencies responsible for these funds are: the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management) and in West Virginia the Department of Environmental Protection (Office of Oil and Gas).
On Sept.9, 2022, the Marietta Times reported that Keith Faber, the State Auditor of Ohio, was in Marietta the day before to describe the state plans for plugging abandoned oil and gas wells. He indicated that state funds are available through ODNR for financial services to local governments and that the goals of the state program for plugging abandoned wells are to: improve the inventory, increase the number of wells put to bid, and explore the use of contractors and public/private partnerships to address the problem. He also made the rather startling admission that ODNR has never met its expenditure requirement for these funds. His statements should be a call to arms for local entrepreneurs and public entities with an interest in addressing this serious environmental problem and in job creation.
President Bill Ruud of Marietta College has mentioned the College’s plans to expand its Department of Petroleum Engineering and Geology into an Energy Center. As he seeks input into the scope this new Center, he is well advised to include projects to address the problem of abandoned oil and gas wells as among the tasks of this program. There are research, pressing environmental and employment issues associated with abandoned oil and gas wells, and grant funds available to carry out these tasks.
George Banziger, Ph..D., was a faculty member at Marietta College and an academic dean at three other colleges. Now retired, he is a volunteer for the Harvest of Hope. He is a member of the Green Sanctuary Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, Citizens Climate Lobby, and of the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action team.
A man opens a newspaper and reads the headline: “Climate endgame: Risk of human extinction ‘dangerously underexplored.’”
He reads a paragraph into the story before folding the paper and skipping to the next article below the fold.
“Scientists Say It’s ‘Fatally Foolish’ To Not Study Catastrophic Climate Outcomes,” it begins.
He unfolds the paper and scans the headlines, before turning each page in disgust.
“Major sea-level rise caused by melting of Greenland ice cap is ‘now inevitable’”
“Revealed: How climate breakdown is supercharging toll of extreme weather”
“Climate impacts have worsened vast range of human diseases”
“The Arctic is heating up nearly four times faster than the whole planet, study finds”
“U.S. Sets Record for High Overnight Temperatures in July, Giving Little Relief to Hot Days”
“Climate Crisis Is Killing Off Key Insects and Spreading Insect-Borne Diseases”
“Antarctica’s Ice Shelves Could be Melting Faster than We Thought”
At last the man can’t stand it. He snaps the paper shut and wads it into a pile in his lap, eventually tossing it into the garbage.
He steps onto his front porch into the dreary grayness of a new day. He reads his front porch thermometer, then straightens up with a triumphant smile on his face. The temperature has gone down nearly 20 degrees overnight, and the day is unseasonably cold.
“Ha!” he exclaims. “Where’s you’re global warming now, liberals?!”
The scenario I’ve described is obviously a composite, but every headline is real, as is the man and his reaction to them.
A study in “Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes” has found humans are often more inclined to rely on anecdotal, non-scientific/fact-based evidence, particularly in situations involving stressful and/or highly emotional circumstances.
It makes sense, to a degree, that we might be designed to process information this way. Throughout the majority of our existence, we’ve had no particular reason or incentive to take the entire world or any scientific body of evidence into consideration. Until the last few hundred years or so, we really haven’t had the ability to consider how our actions might impact someone living on the other side of the world, or how events around the globe might have a deep and unexpected impact on our own lives.
We’ve gotten through life by reacting to what was happening in our immediate surroundings, without having to take the abstract behemoth of a wider world into consideration. It isn’t surprising, then, that we in our isolated little pockets of existence should struggle to comprehend the hydra-like tangle of global complexities that is the anthropogenic climate crisis.
A few weeks ago I happened across a letter to the editor in another newspaper, which essentially made the argument: “If sea levels are really rising like the climate people all say, then how come when I watch Wheel of Fortune they give away all these prize getaway packages to beautiful islands, when they should all be under water by now?”
The question is so absurd I’m not going to bother with addressing it, but I feel it perfectly encapsulates the idea I’ve been describing. This person may be completely unaffected by the 99% of scientific papers agreeing about the dangers of the anthropogenic climate crisis, but this small window into the wider world, which has likely been beamed into their home every weekday evening since the 1980s, is enough to nullify the threat of one of the greatest crises ever faced by humanity. They simply trust what they know.
It isn’t hard to understand why an average person might feel an unseasonably cold day in their neighborhood is evidence against global warming. Or why they feel deadly famines in a part of the world they’ve never heard of have nothing to do with them. Or why, as in a case like Kentucky’s deadly summer flooding, even those climate catastrophes which directly harm us and our immediate neighbors don’t necessarily correlate with global warming.
At the end of the day, we’re simply better at understanding things that are close to home. The mind-bending complexity of the climate crisis, coupled with the well documented, decades-long efforts of the fossil fuel industry to obfuscate the truth and spread misinformation, can make it seem easier to shut it out of our minds and deny there’s a threat.
But it IS a threat that grows larger and closer to our doorstep each day. For far too many, the threat has already arrived. And it is critical we begin to challenge how we think about the world around us, and learn how to engage directly with the facts of the climate crisis, however difficult or inconvenient. Only then can we take the steps needed to overcome the many challenges ahead and have some hope of surviving this crisis, together.
Aaron Dunbar is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.
“If you don’t act against climate change, then no matter how much money you leave for your children, it’ll not even cover their healthcare bills, due to living in an unhealthy planet.” — Abhijit Naskar, neuroscientist/poet/author
In many parts of the world, people are facing multiple climate-related impacts such as severe drought and flooding, air pollution and water scarcity, leaving their children vulnerable to malnutrition and disease. Horror stories of children trapped in hot cars make headlines, but air pollution and impacts from a changing climate are also impactful and more constant, year-round threats. Children are at higher risk for health changes due to these impacts for a range of reasons, including the way their bodies metabolize toxins, need more air on a per pound basis, and regulate temperature differently than adults.
Children are often more vulnerable than the general population to the health impacts of climate change because their bodies are developing physically, which can make them more vulnerable to climate-related hazards like heat and poor air quality. They also breathe at a faster rate, increasing their exposure to dangerous air pollutants.
Climate change has the potential to increase outdoor air pollutants, such as dust from droughts, wildfire smoke, and ground-level ozone, which are associated with increases in asthma and other respiratory conditions in children. Climate change can also increase pollen and prolong the allergy season.
Extreme heat events are expected to last longer and become more frequent and intense as the climate changes. Heat illnesses can occur when a person is exposed to high temperatures and their body cannot cool down. Increases in average and extreme temperatures are expected to lead to more heat illnesses and deaths among vulnerable groups, including children. Heat can affect children who spend time outdoors playing and exercising.
Young athletes are at particular risk of heat stroke and heat illnesses. Approximately 9,000 U.S. high school athletes are treated for heat illnesses each year. Children who live in homes without air conditioning are also at risk. Young children and infants are particularly vulnerable to heat-related illnesses and death, as their bodies are less able to adapt to heat.
Heavy rainfall has been linked to occurrences of gastrointestinal illnesses in U.S. children. Runoff from more frequent and intense rains, flooding, and coastal storms can introduce more pollutants and disease-carrying organisms into bodies of water where children swim and play or that communities use as drinking water. Other water-related diseases, as well as eye and ear infections can create serious health concerns for kids.
Because children spend a lot of time outdoors, they are vulnerable to increasingly powerful poison ivy, as well as insect and tick bites that can cause illnesses like West Nile virus and Lyme disease. Climate change is expanding the habitat ranges and length of time when insects and ticks are common. Warmer temperatures associated with climate change can also increase mosquito development and biting rates, while increased rainfall can create breeding sites for mosquitoes.
Children can experience mental health impacts from major storms, fires, and other extreme events that are expected to increase with a changing climate. They also can suffer from other changes, such as having to move due to climate threats.
There is a range of personal and family changes people can make. For example, parents that use electric cars for their family can decrease the likelihood of their child getting asthma by 30%. If a family can reduce eating meat just by one day a week, that can help protect the planet and improve the health of their children. Also, buying a filter for your home can reduce indoor air pollution. Using electric appliances instead of gas can improve the air that your family breathes by 50%.
All across the planet, people are facing multiple climate-related impacts leaving children especially vulnerable to malnutrition and disease. Almost every child on earth is exposed to at least one of these climate and environmental hazards. As the climate continues to change, the impacts will continue to grow also. This is a crisis that threatens children’s health, nutrition, education, development, survival, and future.
Until next time. Be kind to your Mother Earth.
Linda Seth, SLP, M.Ed. is a mother, grandmother, retired educator, concerned citizen and member of MOVCA.
“Here’s How Appalachian States Can Create “Good-Paying, Union Jobs” Cleaning Up Mines.”
August 18, 2022 Research REPORT Article by Eric Dixon
“Here’s How Appalachian States Can Create “Good-Paying, Union Jobs” Cleaning Up Mines.”
August 18, 2022 Research Article by Eric Dixon
“Can the Infrastructure Law Create “Good-Paying, Union Jobs” Cleaning Up Coal Mines? Not Without Policy Action”
August 11, 2022 Research Article by Wendy Patton & Roger Wilkens
“Building on What We Have” Strengthening community resilience and mitigating climate change by nurturing the time-honored Appalachian tradition of the backyard auto mechanic. (Converting gas-powered cars to electric vehicles)
August 8, 2022 REPORT link and Article with report summary by Sean O’Leary
“Misplaced Faith: How Policymakers’ Belief in Natural Gas is Driving Rural Pennsylvania Into an Economic Dead End”
August 8, 2022 Article by Sean O’Leary and Webinar Link
“Policymakers’ Pursuit of Natural Gas is Failing Rural Pennsylvania. Investments in Quality of Life May Be More Effective”
August 4, 2022 Article by Joan Kilgour, summary of August 3rd webinar with link to the recording.
“Breaking Down West Virginia v. EPA”
Available from ReImagine Appalachia:
August 8, 2022 ReImagine Appalachia Press statement
“Press Statement: Appalachians Celebrate Passage of Inflation Reduction Act, Call Congress to See it Through”
August 4, 2022 Article by Dana Kuhnline
“How you can support Kentucky Flood Relief Efforts”
August 2, 2022 Article by Dana Kuhnline
“What’s in the Inflation Reduction Act for Appalachia?”
Available on Appalachian Voices:
August 24, 2022 Press Release contacts: Dan Radmacher or Denali Nalamalapu
“FERC grants Mountain Valley Pipeline four more years to complete project.” Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted the requested extension for the troubled project despite thousands of comments in opposition.
August 19, 2021 Article by Regan Russell
“How places of worship can benefit from switching to solar with the help of the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund”
Includes link to July 28, 2022 Webinar, “Solar for Faith Communities”
The recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 has been both applauded and looked upon with disappointment by many in the environmental movement, but one important aspect of the law has mostly been overlooked. The law directly addresses the ruling the U.S. Supreme Court made this past term in the case West Virginia v. EPA.
To quote from a piece in the New York Times, “Throughout the landmark climate law, passed this month, is language written specifically to address the Supreme Court’s justification for reining in the EPA, a ruling that was one of the court’s most consequential of the term. The new law amends the Clean Air Act, the country’s bedrock air-quality legislation, to define the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels as an “air pollutant.” That language, according to legal experts as well as the Democrats who worked it into the legislation, explicitly gives the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gases and to use its power to push the adoption of wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources.”
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., was quoted in the Times piece as saying, “The language, we think, makes pretty clear that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act.” Carper added that there are “no ifs, ands or buts” that Congress has now explicitly told federal agencies that they must tackle carbon dioxide, methane, and other heat-trapping emissions from industrial and other sources.
This is very important because the Inflation Reduction Act itself must not be the final word from this or any future congress and presidential administration on addressing the global climate crisis. It was one important step in the right direction, with numerous drawbacks and flaws that can be laid at the feet of Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va. Senate Republicans tried numerous times in multiple way to exclude this language from the bill, but the Senate Parliamentarian allowed the language in this budget reconciliation legislation and there was nothing else they could do to remove it.
The Republican Party is well-known for its attempts to dismantle the administrative state and eliminate the federal government’s ability to oversee and regulate the activities of industries, corporations, and private entities of all kinds. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was continuing that ideological crusade when he drove the West Virginia v. EPA suit through to victory at the nation’s highest court. But this legislation answered back in the affirmative that administrative bodies like EPA can and must be able to protect the citizenry from things like harmful air pollutants, including excess greenhouse gases.
Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action has joined with hundreds of other groups and organizations across the country to demand that President Biden declare a climate emergency, therein unlocking powerful tools needed to further combat the global climate crisis. And make no mistake, “crisis” is precisely the right word to use. We are witnessing firsthand the dire consequences of approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius warming over a preindustrial baseline.
These include massive precipitation and flooding events becoming more frequent and severe; loss of Arctic, Antarctic and other glacial land ice, as well as sea ice; sea-level rise; record-setting droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires; stronger and more destructive hurricanes and other storms that move more slowly and hover over particular areas for longer due to warming impacts on the jet streams; increased geographic area of disease vectors like mosquitoes and ticks and zoonotic viruses like SARS-CoV-2; crop failures and loss of potable water; and massive biodiversity loss. This is not an exhaustive list.
The Inflation Reduction Act largely continues a legacy in the United States, prevalent since the 1980s, of the federal government subsidizing the private sector and trying to use a lot more carrot than stick to motivate, rather than force. Robert Reich recently wrote on this trend stating that, “In truth, the three decades-long shift in power to big corporations has transformed industrial policy into a system for bribing them to do the sorts of things government once demanded they do as the price for being part of the American system.” But hidden in this 725-page bill is hope that the federal government can once again take its regulatory authority seriously in an era of existential threats.
Eric Engle is chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., shocked us all recently when he agreed to support, and then voted to actually pass, climate and energy legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. As expected, though, the legislation is a mixed bag at best.
An analysis by Energy Innovation, a nonpartisan energy and climate policy firm, finds that the legislation, if enacted, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 870-1,150 million metric tons in 2030, dropping U.S. emissions to 37% – 41% below 2005 levels by that year. The analysis also concludes that the legislation will add 1.4 million -1.5 million new jobs and reduce premature deaths by 3,700-3,900 per year in the U.S. by 2030.
Rewiring America, a nonprofit group, estimates that energy efficiency (i.e. heat pumps and insulation) and solar + battery tax incentives in the legislation could save households $1,800 a year on energy costs, and analysts with the Political Economy Research Institute, according to a BlueGreen Alliance fact sheet, estimate the creation of more like 9 million good jobs over the next decade. Coupled with environmental justice initiatives for socioeconomically disadvantaged and systemically oppressed communities, there’s a lot to be happy about in the bill.
Now for the major downsides, aka the Manchin concessions. Manchin secured promises from congressional leaders and the President to pass legislation by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30 that will almost certainly guarantee completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project in West Virginia and Virginia and ease permitting requirements for other fossil fuels energy projects like Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export terminals.
He also secured provisions that will open up 620 million acres of land and water over the next decade to oil and gas exploitation, especially in already overexploited areas like the Gulf Coast.
Why? Manchin says we’ve got to counter Russia and continue our reliance on fossil fuels indefinitely for reasons of energy security and reliability. This makes for great PR, but always follow the money. According to reporting in The New York Times, “Natural gas pipeline companies have dramatically increased their contributions to Mr. Manchin, from just $20,000 in 2020 to more than $331,000 so far this election cycle, according to campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission and tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics. Mr. Manchin has been by far Congress’s largest recipient of money from natural gas pipeline companies this cycle, raising three times as much from the industry than any other lawmaker.”
The International Energy Agency, an entity that is anything but a bastion of environmentalist sentiment, has said that we cannot develop any new fossil fuels resources and still meet the Paris Climate Accords goals of limiting global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or ideally 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, over a preindustrial baseline. Manchin may not care, but posterity certainly will.
We can do better. A recent piece in PV-Magazine covered how “New research from Stanford University researcher Mark Jacobson outlines how 145 countries could meet 100% of their business-as-usual energy needs with wind, water, solar and energy storage. The study finds that in all the countries considered, lower-cost energy and other benefits mean the required investment for transition is paid off within six years. The study also estimates that worldwide, such a transition would create 28 million more jobs than it lost.”
The Build Back Better Act that the U.S. House passed in 2021 was far superior to this legislation and Manchin is the reason it died. Now we get a sorely watered-down and, in many ways, dangerous bill because of Manchin’s inordinate power in the anti-democratic U.S. Senate. With nearly $369 billion in desperately-needed investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency, we can’t really afford to say no to the Inflation Reduction Act. I don’t blame House and Senate Democrats for passing it. But is it a Pyrrhic victory? I guess time will tell.
To quote climate and energy writer Kate Aronoff, writing for The Guardian, “This bill is woefully inadequate, featuring a cruel, casual disregard for those at home and abroad who will live with the consequences of boosting fossil fuel production as a bargaining chip for boosting clean energy. And it’s almost certainly better than nothing.”
Eric Engle is chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.
Last summer, more than a thousand people participated in the Treaty People Gathering (TPG), a protest against the Line 3 pipeline being constructed by Enbridge, a Canadian energy transportation company. This pipeline crosses the treaty lands and treaty protected wild rice fields of the Anisihinaabe in northern Minnesota. During the nine months of construction, over 1,000 arrests were made. The decision to engage in civil disobedience is a personal one that is made for a variety of reasons. At the TPG, these may have included the following: treaty rights are the supreme law of the land and this pipeline violates treaties made by endangering the water and wild rice; this pipeline will result in carbon emissions equivalent to building 50 new coal fired power plants, ignoring the fact that climate change is real and urgent; Enbridge has had many spills, leaks and violations over the years including the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history; and, of course, the future of the planet and the grandchildren should come before corporate profit.
For some individuals, arrest was a planned decision and for others, a more impromptu one. The people arrested were a variety of ages, races and income levels and included well known senior citizen climate activists, Bill McKibben and Jane Fonda as well as Harvard educated attorney Winona LaDuke, a member of the White Earth band of Anisihinaabe.
During the pipeline construction, Enbridge collaborated with and funded local police forces throughout northern Minnesota. It is a well known fact that the company, based on the need for “public safety,” donated $8.6 million to state and county police forces for costs associated with surveillance and arrest of water protectors. And although some brutal arrests were made at the TPG, the new riot gear worn by the police was unnecessary, as the protest remained peaceful. Protesters were arrested in different locations at various times and dates; however, a majority of the arrests were made in Hubbard County on June 7, 2021.
Since that time, these 441 cases have been making their way through the Hubbard County Court process. Many of the defendants arrested at the TPG were represented by a very capable, kind and young Attorney-Fellow employed by the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) located in Park Rapids, Minn. The same CLDC attorney also represented some of the indigenous defendants in cases that had been transferred to the tribal court system. These tribal court cases were recently dismissed in a major legal victory for indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights.
In late June, of this year, the Hubbard County Prosecutor offered the colonial (non-indigenous) Hubbard County defendants, being represented by CLDC, a Continuance For Dismissal (CFD). The CFD is an agreement between both parties to not continue the court process. It was acceptable to many defendants because it does not require a guilty plea and the probation is waived once the court fee is paid. In many cases, these court fees are being paid by donations made to the Line 3 Legal Defense Fund, which was established in 2019.
These CFDs were partly the result of Enbridge’s denial of Hubbard County’s recent request for thousands of dollars to pay court staff overtime/new hires to handle the additional court work load. Enbridge wasted no time in informing the Prosecutor that his request did not fall under the definition of “public safety” as outlined in their original contract. In any case, the negotiating and legal skills of the CLDC lawyer was also a major factor in the positive outcome of dismissal.
Unfortunately, for our planet and our grandchildren, Enbridge’s controversial Line 3 pipeline expansion project was recently completed. The “black snake” is now running Canadian tar sands oil, among the world’s dirtiest extreme fossil fuels, from Alberta, Canada, through hundreds of previously untouched wetlands, the Mississippi River headwaters and over 200 water bodies, to the shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin for refining. In an address given on April 4, 2022, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated: “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But, the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.”
The campaign against Line 3 is not over. The “dangerous radicals” have now shifted gears to focus on shutting it down.
Giulia Mannarino, of Belleville, is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.
This year Californians had to do something that many of us would have a hard time doing … they had to let their lawns die. The drought in that state became so dire that many communities were on water rationing. There were fines levied against those who were caught giving their lawns a drink. Some folks were optimistic and said the lawns were turning golden in the Golden State.
What would happen if that scenario ever occurred in our area? I know many people in Ohio have huge lawns, in some cases over five acres. I often wonder why they do this. Do they play football in that area? Do they have a solar array? Do they have a reason for mowing, watering, and in some cases fertilizing and spreading herbicides on acres of turf grasses?
I have on occasion asked this question and the only answer I get is this: It looks nice.
Some researchers have investigated this paradigm and believe the longing for wide expansive lawns dates back to the time when man roamed the savannas. In an effort to mimic this style of ecosystem, we plant and care for enormous lawns.
Michael Pollan, the author of the “Botany of Desire” wrote that our zeal for the perfect lawn is a throwback to19th Century England when only the very rich had luxurious lawns surrounding their magnificent estate.
I think some of our love of lawns has to do with the introduction of the motorized lawn mower. My dad had the old fashion reel mower when we were kids. Of course, we didn’t have a huge lawn; only about one eighth of an acre. Dad could get those blades spinning quick enough to finish mowing in under an hour. He never liked mowing and he didn’t agonize over uneven blades of grass.
With a riding mower, cutting the grass becomes a sporting event with riding mowers blazing paths across the terrain. People (mainly men) discuss models and makes and mowers can price out in the small car range. It takes much less labor and is usually quicker. However, I’d like to see the statistics on how many old fashioned mowers were involved in deadly accidents or maimed their user.
There are other disadvantages to cultivating that huge lawn. Estimates say that in the United States, we spend $40 billion a year taking care of 21 million acres of grass. Americans spend “more than three billion hours a year mowing lawns.”
The carbon footprint of a lawn mower is pretty significant and some can emit as much pollution as eleven cars. Another major issue with a nonnative lawn is the use of pesticides and herbicides used to cultivate that green carpet. Years ago, one of my college professors shocked the class when he asked us; which crop in the USA uses the most water, fertilizer and pesticides? We all said corn but the answer was grass.
Maybe we should investigate other less expensive and more ecological uses for that land. Native grasses and wildflowers are increasingly gaining in popularity. We can plant ground cover or shrubs that provide habitat for birds and other animals. We can simply leave the space grow in its own way and let nature take over.
If you opt to divorce your huge lawn, you might not have that manicured golf course setting but the advantages are many. You’ll save money, you don’t have to spend hours each weekend stuck on that mower, you will not release as much carbon dioxide, you won’t have to buy as much gas, you might reduce mower injuries, and if you stop using lawn chemicals you’ll be contributing to a healthier environment. All those fertilizers and pesticides people use to get that lush green lawn are in part contributing to carbon emissions, water pollution or eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) and the increase of algae blooms in bodies of water.
So, maybe this fall, you and the lawn can have a discussion. Isn’t it time to move on? Serve the divorce papers and start a new relationship with a better, more eco, and smaller lawn next spring.
Randi Pokladnik, Ph.D., of Uhrichsville, is a retired research chemist who volunteers with Mid Ohio Valley Climate Action. She has a doctorate degree in Environmental Studies and is certified in Hazardous Materials Regulations.