Climate Corner: A bipartisan infrastructure bill

Dec 4, 2021

George Banziger

editorial@newsandsentinel.com

On Nov. 15 President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. In August the U.S. Senate had passed the bill with 19 Republicans voting for it, and on Nov. 6 the House of Representatives passed it with several Republicans offering their support. Among those House Republicans was Rep. David McKinley, R-WV-1. Kudos to Mr. McKinley for his expression of support for the interests of the people of West Virginia above the preference of the majority of his political party.

There are several features of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that are related to addressing the time-urgent issue of climate change and associated environmental issues which impact the Mid-Ohio Valley: there is $8 billion for prevention of flooding risks — a growing threat when extreme weather events visit the hills and hollows of West Virginia; abandoned mine land clean up and water restoration–a pressing problem as coal diminishes in its value as an affordable source of energy — will receive $2.2 billion; there is $65 billion to expand broadband access, much of which will benefit the rural areas of our region; another $50 billion is allocated to clean water and removing lead from municipal water pipes; there is $27.5 billion designated for bridge repair and replacement, and $1 billion for Great Lakes restoration.

A notable feature of the bill for our region is $4.7 billion allocated for orphaned oil and gas well sites including plugging, remediation, and restoration. It is estimated that it costs $33,000 per abandoned well just to plug and $76,000 for surface restoration (Energy News Network, May 20, 2021). These wells are capable of emitting methane, which produces 84 times the greenhouse gas emissions as carbon dioxide and accounts for 20 percent of the world’s GHG emissions.

The amount allocated to this problem in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will in no way solve the entire problem of abandoned wells, but it will take an important step forward in capping 81,000 abandoned wells. In the Ohio Valley region alone, comprised of the states of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, it is estimated that it will cost $25 billion-$34 billion to address the entire issue of abandoned wells (Ohio River Valley Institute, 2021). Just in the state of Ohio there are 183,090 abandoned oil and gas wells (ORVI, 2021). There is also a salutary effect on job creation associated with these efforts at plugging oil and gas wells and restoring land and water associated with this equipment; there can be as many as 120.000 jobs created by this enterprise in the U.S. (Forbes, 2020) and over 30,000 just in the Ohio River Valley (ORVI, 2021).

A deeper dive into the details of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill reveals some other features of the bill that can benefit our region. These include the Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program to support projects that enhance tourism and economic development in rural areas and ecosystem restoration in federal lands, which include, in West Virginia, the Appalachian Trail, New River Gorge and Ohio River Islands. Many of the projects supported by the bill that relate to highway and bridge development acknowledge environmental concerns, such as arranging for efficient storm run off in culverts, improving habitat of aquatic species, and facilitating fish passage. Invasive-plant elimination along rights of way is targeted as a way to support native plants species while building much-needed transportation infrastructure.

The bill identifies some specific geographic projects in areas like the Columbia River Basin in the northwest, the Colorado River Basin in the southwest, and the Chesapeake Bay on the east coast. While these regions might need special attention for infrastructure development, we in Appalachia have long been neglected when it comes to major federal investment. As the group ReImagine Appalachia has pointed out, it is well passed time for the Ohio River region, much of which includes Appalachia, to get its fair share of federal dollars so that it can envision a new economy, which is less based on extractive industries and more based on manufacturing and development of renewable energy resources. I urge readers to press our federal legislators to ensure that Appalachia gets its share of the benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and other federal investments in a new economy.

***

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 Mid-Ohio Valley Interfaith, and 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.

Climate Corner: Volunteers can make a difference

Nov 27, 2021

Reed Byers

editorial@newsandsentinel.com

Appalachia is home to me. It is a place that holds rich history, majestic natural resources, and a deep-rooted culture that is duplicated nowhere else. A beautiful thing about our region is that we are all so closely connected to one another. Our connections come through our commonalities, and I believe we have more in common than apart. One thing we all have in common is that the Mid-Ohio Valley is our environment. The healthier our environment is, the healthier we will be – individually and as a community.

How does one measure the health of their environment? We can sample our local drinking water to determine its safety, detect for radiation, monitor air quality, and track the spread of diseases. We can also simply look around us to make a fair assessment. Observation is a strong skill that requires only the investment of time and attention. I encourage you to join me in the first step of the scientific method: make an observation that describes a problem.

The Mid-Ohio Valley has plenty of them. We also have much to be proud of and limitless potential. As a volunteer for Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, I want to be part of the solutions. These changes can sometimes seem lofty and grand, but at the heart of it, we are just passionate about the health of the environment we live in. For me, this means bringing our community closer together to take action and beautify the world around us.

So how can we help MOVCA in its efforts? It begins with helping us identify what we want our community to be. What issues and solutions do you see? Is there history we need to know? I want to hear your vision, ideas, and dreams. Let’s share these with MOVCA. I implore you all to share actionable ideas we can work together on to create a healthier, happier, cleaner tomorrow.

Next, let’s start some conversations about how to make these changes. I recall driving through Parkersburg last summer with a friend and he asked me why our streets, sidewalks, and neighborhoods look the way they do? Pensive, he pondered aloud that we could do something about it. I agreed. Our community is the way we allow it to be. If we want it to be different, it is our responsibility to create the community we wish to live in. Since that conversation, I have started making choices to help build the community I want to live in. I carry trash bags with me on my long summer walks and collect trash throughout our neighborhoods. This is a small step toward a vision many others likely see.

While I may not be an environmental scientist, elected official, or city engineer, I am an effective community organizer and believe that a few more of us more regularly cleaning up our neighborhoods can create a positive ripple effect. Every small action matters. Many small steps make big progress.

To conclude, I invite you to join me and others in the community to start the change. Personally, I can offer my time to the community to work on at least one initiative that I know we can succeed in. One day per month I am happy to join a group of you to pick up trash in Parkersburg or Belpre neighborhoods. Reach out and let’s find a time and place to create environmental action here in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

If you would like to join this effort, contact me on my cell phone at 304-812-2884 or email reedbyers18@gmail.com.

Let’s unite and share ideas on ways we can continue to expand and improve positive change in our community.

***

Reed Byers is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.

Up to us to move forward

Nov 22, 2021

Charles Pickering

editorial@newsandsentinel.com

As West Virginians, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity before us. The bipartisan infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law includes tens of billions in funding for cleantech investments, and the reconciliation bill, if passed, would further build upon these efforts. Taken together, these actions will have a massive impact on our country’s energy sector and have the potential to diversify and strengthen West Virginia’s economy with growth, job opportunities, and more resilient communities.

Investing in a clean energy economy goes beyond wind and solar energy. It also builds on and improves our existing infrastructure through updates to the power grid, additional grid storage, and a significant new program limiting methane leaks and pollutants from abandoned mines and wells — which stands to spur even more job opportunities. Thanks to Sen. Manchin’s leadership on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the infrastructure bill includes investments that will directly benefit West Virginians: $12 billion for carbon capture storage technologies that can be utilized at existing power plants, $84 million for geothermal demonstration projects in regions like Appalachia, and $200 million for wildland restoration around abandoned mine sites. Notably, the infrastructure package also includes funding for legacy coal communities for worker re-training and redevelopment of former coal sites. For decades these communities powered the country — now it’s our turn to strategically reinvest in them.

Without direct action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, scientists tell us we will see more frequent and intensified deadly weather catastrophes — such as the devastating flooding events our state knows all too well. Through volunteer work with the Red Cross after wildfires in California and hurricanes in Louisiana, I know first-hand the devastation and disruption that natural disasters can reap. The infrastructure bill includes investments to harden the grid and make our roads and bridges more resilient to these extreme weather threats, but we also need to reduce our emissions to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate. The reconciliation bill, as currently funded, would help with $555B in investments in clean energy deployment, in which West Virginia could play a big part.

The clean energy sector is one of the fastest growing labor sectors in the U.S. A recent report by E2 found that 7,704 new jobs per year (www. e2.org) could be added in West Virginia over the next five years through investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and grid modernization. This number could be even greater given direct investment from private corporations in new clean energy projects.

Today, the U.S. Energy Employment Report (www.energy.gov) tells us that 12,700 West Virginians work in energy efficiency, renewable energy, alternative fuels, advanced grid technologies, and energy storage. This modest but growing clean energy workforce makes our state ripe for advancing and deploying new technologies.

To be honest, at this moment in time, we have some barriers to aggressively move on these opportunities. Shifting our perspective is one of the biggest challenges. We have years of policies and regulations that tether us to existing paradigms and limit our ability to access and engage with new technologies. It would be a shame to lose this opportunity to other regions that are not limited by these restrictions.

In the last 15 years, I have personally engaged with the solar and renewable energy markets in West Virginia and nearby states. I believe that investing in renewable technologies not only helps the environment but is also a great financial decision. As traditional energy sources are phased out, the new technologies associated with renewable energy generation and improving efficiency will only accelerate.

I believe we have an opportunity to build on the momentum of these wins that Sen. Manchin has already delivered for West Virginia by getting the reconciliation bill across the finish line to open up additional economic opportunities. West Virginia companies and individuals need to lean in on this momentum and be part of the technology development, engineering, and construction of these projects. We can play a foundational role in delivering a new energy future to our country.

West Virginia is uniquely poised to be able to deliver this to the eastern seaboard — we’re already wired for it. We have the land and the natural resources to grasp these opportunities and have our workforce ready and willing to help. It’s up to us and our senators to participate in a big way in the future of power generation going forward, and the Build Back Better bill will help us reach that future faster.

***

Charles Pickering of Williamstown is manager of Pickering Energy Solutions.

Get the facts correct

Randi Pokladnik

Letters to the editor The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Nov 20, 2021

A Nov. 13 letter titled “U.S. Weather Bureau Report” was a classic example of unsubstantiated claims. The author refers to the November 1922 edition of the Monthly Weather Review, titled “The Changing Arctic.” The report details the observations of both Norwegian scientist Dr. Hoel and Captain Martin Ingebrigsten. Both noted a dramatic increase in Arctic Sea temperatures around the Spitzbergen region between 1920-39. They also noted a lack of sea ice and disappearing glaciers. The geographic features of the region were “almost unrecognizable” from those of the same area from 1868-1917.

The report provided scientific evidence the region was experiencing the effects of a warming planet. Scientists did NOT claim “in just 18 months the earth will melt away.” However, a simple search of NASA data shows that indeed, glaciers all around the world are melting and this melting directly coincides with the increased burning of carbon-based fuels. Even the United States Geological Survey “climate gurus” report our own Glacier National Park has seen a 60 percent loss of glacier ice since 1966.

I was studying environmental engineering in college during the 1970s and none of my professors claimed “in as little as 3-7 years the oceans would entirely cover all land masses.” I would like to see the source of that statement. Ironically, if we had started to address carbon dioxide emissions in the 1970s our planet would be in a much better position to stave off the worst effects of the climate crisis.

The author goes on to claim that “CO2 spewed out in the eruption of one single volcanic event measures greatly more than humans (and moose and cattle) have collectively emitted since life began.” That is incorrect.

In a 2011 peer reviewed paper, U. S. Geological Survey scientist Terry Gerlach summarized data from previous global volcanic carbon dioxide emissions reaching back to the 1970s. The emissions of carbon dioxide measured about 0.2 billion tons per year on average.

In 2015, between fossil fuel combustion, land deforestation, and cement production, man-made emissions totaled about 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide, 200 times greater than volcanic action. To put our emissions in perspective, eruptions from “Mount St. Helens and Pinatubo released carbon dioxide on a scale similar to human output for about nine hours.”

The “Draconian measures” the writer says we will be subjected to include new jobs in the renewable energy sector, which employs almost twice as many workers as fossil fuels. It also includes new jobs in energy efficiency, electric car manufacturing and green building construction. All beneficial to our wallets and the economy.

American taxpayer dollars, $20 billion annually, are used to prop up the very industry that is the main contributor to climate change. The U.N. Development Program recently calculated the world spends $423 billion each year to subsidize oil, gas and coal — about four times the amount needed to help poor countries address climate change.

Exxon Mobil knew as early as 1977 their products were contributing to climate change, yet they spent decades and millions of dollars refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and instead promoted climate misinformation.

Those “Godless scientific experts” the letter writer belittles are correct. He, however, is not. Refusal to accept scientific data will not bode well for our children’s futures.

Randi Pokladnik

Uhrichsville

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action member

Climate Corner: Resetting Earth’s thermostat

Nov 20, 2021

Cynthia Burkhart

editorial@newsandsentinel.com

As I am writing this, more than 190 world leaders and tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses, and citizens are gathering in Glasgow, Scotland for the 26th Global Climate Summit, COP26. From Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, they were to be working on reaching agreements, setting targets, and developing strategies for reducing global warming. For nearly 30 years, the U.N. has been bringing together representatives from almost every country on earth for global climate summits, called COPs, which stands for “Conference of the Parties.” This year’s summit, COP26, was originally scheduled for 2020, but was delayed one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2015, the Global Climate Change summit (COP21) was held in Paris. History was made when, for the first time, every country attending agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees C, aiming for 1.5 degrees. This became known as the “Paris Agreement.” As part of this agreement, every country committed to developing national plans detailing how much they would reduce their emissions. They also agreed to present an updated plan every five years, which is why this year’s summit is so important — this is the year for those updated plans.

Unfortunately, the plans made in Paris did not come close to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. Continuing under those targets would result in global warming well over 3 degrees by 2100, which could be catastrophic. Let us hope that our world leaders recognize this and develop new targets and strategies. We must find ways to produce less carbon than we take out of the atmosphere, in other words, reach “net zero,” by 2050, to achieve the goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.

Have we made any progress? Yes. Solar and wind energy are now the cheapest electricity in most countries, and a growing industry. Many car manufacturers are moving to making only hybrid or electric models. Some cities, states, and regions are working toward reducing their emissions to zero. More natural areas are being protected, and trees are being planted, which sequester carbon. New agricultural practices are being developed to make the soil better able to store carbon.

The U.K. is a leading example of what can be accomplished. It was the first country to pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2035. Its economy has grown by 78 percent over the last 30 years, while its emissions have been reduced by 44 percent. Nine years ago, 40 percent of the U.K.’s electricity came from coal. Today it is only 2 percent, and coal will be entirely phased out by 2024. The sale of new gas and diesel cars will end by 2030. The U.K. is planting trees on 74,000 acres of land per year by 2025, and is working with farmers on improving the carbon-holding capabilities of agricultural land. The U.K. is the world’s largest producer of off-shore wind power. On the international scene, the U.K. is spending over $16 billion over the next five years to help developing countries with climate change, with at least $4 billion of that focused on nature-based solutions. Impressive! Let us hope that other nations, including our own, will commit to meeting the goal of reaching net zero by 2050, and take actions, as the U.K. has, to make that happen.

In the here and now, at home, each one of us can make a difference. Small steps, but if every one of us takes them, they will become giant steps towards a healthier, cooler, safer planet. Here are some things you can do:

1. Plant trees. Trees take in carbon and exhale oxygen, which we breath. Trees store carbon, provide shade, and moderate temperature.

2. Improve your lawn and garden soil. Adding organic matter, such as peat moss, chopped leaves, compost, and manure, and using cover crops, increases the soil’s capacity to store carbon.

3. Use renewable energy. Install solar panels at your home, or purchase your power from a facility that generates from solar or wind.

4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You’ve heard this mantra for years — now please do it! Landfills create methane, 25 percent more potent than CO2.

5. Eat for a climate-stable planet. Eat more meat-free meals (Livestock is a huge source of methane!) Buy organic and local food — support your local farm market. Grow your own food. Don’t waste food. Compost your food waste.

6. Buy a hybrid or electric car.

7. Shopping on-line? Choose slower shipping. 1-day shipping means more delivery trips.

8. Walk or bike instead of driving, or carpool. Combine errands to save on trips.

9. Get an energy audit on your house, and follow up on ways to save energy.

10. Contact your elected officials. Urge them to take bold actions to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.

***

Cynthia Burkhart is a gardener, goat herder and concerned citizen living in Ritchie County, with solar power.

Manchin not serving the people of West Virginia

Local columns 

Nov 13, 2021

Eric Engle

editorial@newsandsentinel.com

In the Nov. 6 and 7 edition of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, oil and gas industry lobbyists wrote a propaganda piece for the ages. While I’m sure they’re quite grateful for the efforts of Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., polled majorities of West Virginians certainly are not.

The Build Back Better Act, which has been languishing for months because of Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona’s corporate and industry-fueled obstruction, is a once-in-a-generation investment in the working- and middle-class people of West Virginia and the entire nation. Guaranteed paid family and medical leave; extension of the child tax credit payments families have been receiving since passage of the American Rescue Plan; universal pre-K for all children ages 3 and 4; the largest, most substantial investments in our nation’s history in climate change mitigation and adaptation; and affordable childcare for working families, just to name a few provisions. These kinds of investments are what McPhail and Burd called an “amorphous political albatross.”

Like Manchin, McPhail and Burd don’t want the industries they represent held responsible for the damage they’ve caused. Manchin already killed the Clean Energy Performance Program, which would have required electric utilities to transition at least 4 percent of their energy portfolios annually to renewable and non-carbon sources, with rewards for doing so and penalties for failing to do so. Manchin’s opposition will also likely lead to the death of a fee on methane emissions for the oil and gas industry. Methane is up to 86-times more efficient at trapping heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, though it is shorter-lived in the atmosphere. These two provisions were two of the best shots we’ve had for serious emissions reductions, but I’m sure McPhail and Burd are glad they won’t be a reality any time soon.

McPhail and Burd mention the budgetary implications of the Build Back Better Act. That’s interesting, considering that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that just passed the House adds approximately $256 billion to our national debt, according to CBO estimates. I don’t remember hearing McPhail or Burd object to the $2 trillion in debt-fueled tax cuts for the wealthiest persons and entities in the country in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. And Manchin didn’t seem to have debt in mind when he voted recently for a $778 billion National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022 alone.

The Build Back Better Act has been whittled down to between $1.75 trillion and $1.85 trillion over ten years for people who aren’t just in the top 1 percent, 5 percent, or 10 percent of the socioeconomic ladder–cue the performative cries of socialism!

Investment in what is traditionally known as infrastructure (i.e. roads, bridges, ports) as well as broadband and other more modern infrastructure is very important, but progressives have been opposed to passing the bipartisan infrastructure framework because they have been the only ones negotiating in good faith. Progressives were originally looking at anywhere from $6 trillion to $10 trillion over the next decade to fuel a second industrial revolution in renewable energy and sustainability and social investments. They compromised that number down to $3.5 trillion with the Biden administration, and now it’s half of that. Manchin still won’t commit to voting for the Build Back Better Act. He’s conceded nothing. That’s not statesmanship, it’s brinksmanship and senseless obstruction.

Manchin is not “conducting a clinic about how an elected official should operate” by any stretch of the imagination. Manchin is executing the Mitch McConnell playbook to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory for meaningful change and for his own party’s political well-being. This may serve McPhail and Burd’s clients well, but it certainly doesn’t serve the interests of the people.

***

Eric Engle is chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.

Take action on climate change

Letters to the editor 

Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Nov 13, 2021

Giulia Mannarino

We live in the most decisive decade for the future of our planet. The global scientists who raised the recent “Code Red For Humanity” alarm are dead serious. Global warming is real, urgent and accelerating. Systemic changes in policies, economies and politics are necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As climate scientist Michael E. Mann stated: “The science that we are doing is a threat to the world’s most powerful and wealthiest special interest that has ever existed: the fossil fuel industry … It is about the short-term interests of a small number of plutocrats over the long term welfare of this planet and the people who live on it.” Hopefully the leaders of world nations, who were not on track to meet past Paris commitments and who recently made pledges in Glasgow that are not enough to limit global warming, will surpass their COP26 commitments and take climate actions bold enough to address this existential threat to life on Earth before it is too late to save the grandchildren.

The fossil fuel industries and their executives, who earned billions while ignoring the warnings of their own scientists and the consequences of their actions, certainly bear responsibility for the costs involved to mitigate this crisis. However, humanity cannot leave the industries in charge of creating the problem in charge of the solution. Carbon capture, natural gas and petro chemicals, should not play any part in this future. The only viable solution is renewable generation in the energy sector as well as electrification of transportation. But the power to save the planet from destruction caused by humans isn’t only the responsibility of world leaders.

There are actions individuals can take to help slow down climate change.

Discuss climate change. Talking about climate change at the dinner table and elsewhere is important to transform the culture and mobilize at the scale necessary. Use the power of your vote. Vote in every election and put politicians in place that protect their constituents over corporations and believe in implementing already available solutions. Use the power of your wallet. Divest from banks etc. that finance and expand the climate problem. When shopping, support companies that are concerned about sustainability and their carbon footprint. If possible, purchase items second hand. Eat sustainably. Cut back on beef consumption, plant a garden or trees, shop locally.

Address impacts on the local community. Engage local networks, local institutions and local decision-makers to think about the impacts of climate change for the communities and regions where you live and how to make them more resilient.

Other actions: If you have special skills use them to fight for the climate; give up single-use plastics; if you can, switch from gas to electric vehicles and install solar panels.

And, of course, donate time or cash to local organizations, like Mid Ohio Valley Climate Action, that are dedicated to educating the public in our region about the climate crisis.

Giulia Mannarino

Belleville

Last Week Tonight with Congressman Bill Johnson

Letters to the Editor Marietta Times

Nov 13, 2021

Aaron Dunbar

I was delighted to see our own Congressman Bill Johnson appear in a recent episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. I was especially delighted to see host John Oliver flatly tell him “shut up” at one point, something I’ve wished I could tell our corrupt, climate change denying Representative for quite a while now.

For context, Oliver hosts a kind of weekly variant on standard late night political talk shows, and spends the bulk of each episode diving deep into a specific topic. The segments are both funny and well-researched, and usually cover important topics that might fly under the radar for most late night hosts.

The segment in question, which can be found in full on YouTube, delves into the topic of America’s power grid. Oliver explores both the recent decline in our energy infrastructure due to its advanced age, as well as the challenges our nation faces in developing a modern grid to accommodate a massive shift toward renewable energy, in order to combat the rapidly escalating climate crisis.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the particular subject of power grids, but I somehow don’t think Congressman Johnson is either, despite an apparent willingness to present himself as such, and to continue shaming the district he represents with his ignorance.

Around 18 minutes into the video, Oliver shows a clip of Johnson grilling Patricia Hoffman, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity (OE) at the U.S. Department of Energy, over the proposed Clean Future Act, which would help to transition us toward a decarbonized power grid.

“What is the return on investment? What is the return on investment?” Johnson keeps yapping at Hoffman like a broken record, interrupting her even as she tries to give an answer about the necessity for this infrastructure toward the health and future of our nation.

Of course, not wanting your kids to be swept up in a climate change-induced firenado isn’t justification enough for Johnson. He wants a specific dollar amount, which Oliver, back in his Last Week Tonight segment, is only too happy to give him, after describing him with a few choice expletives that I really wish I could print here.

Oliver cites multiple studies showing the cost effectiveness of expanding transmission lines across the U.S., including one that predicted approximately $2.50 in benefits for every $1 of cost- a pretty decent return on investment, one might think.

But of course that doesn’t actually matter to Johnson. Evidence doesn’t truly matter at all to those of his ilk. Presenting him with the specific figures he demands isn’t enough, the same way that a 97%+ consensus among the scientific community, half a century’s worth of warnings going back to at least the Kennedy administration, and even buried reports funded by the very fossil fuel industry that created the disaster, aren’t enough to convince him of the runaway climate crisis we are now experiencing. I should know, having delivered a shopping cart full of 100 books on the subject of climate change directly to Johnson’s office two years ago. If he actually wanted to learn what was happening and how to fix it, he would have all the research material he could possibly desire.

But even if I could somehow print off a trillion pages of evidence for Representative Johnson indisputably proving that we were in a climate crisis, it would still pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of dollars he takes in from fossil fuel donors (at least $688,109, according to OpenSecrets.org, as well as, notably, $480,218 from electric utilities.)

Johnson, a supposed Christian who regularly posts Bible verses on his official government Facebook account, is ideologically committed to the notion that greed is good, and that the murderous corporate juggernauts making our planet uninhabitable truly have our best interests at heart.

Johnson’s sustained, willful ignorance cannot be reasoned with, for the simple fact that it’s based exclusively on far right dogma and corruption, rather than actual evidence. And at the end of the day, every last one of us will pay the price for it.

Aaron Dunbar

Lowell

Climate Corner: A look back at a record hot summer

Nov 13, 2021

Dr. Danesha Seth Carley

editorial@newsandsentinel.com

Picture this: It’s July, the sun is out, the grass is wilting, and the neighbor’s kids are gleefully running through a sprinkler right down the street. On this peaceful morning as I sit on my patio with a cold glass of lemonade in my hand, I watch my dog chasing a loud and clueless bumble bee (a Bombus griseocollis, or brown-belted bumble bee) through my vegetable and flower gardens.

I look back down at the dog, who is now panting heavily, curled up at my feet on the sunny patio. It isn’t just her romp through my garden that made her need a quick drink of water and a rest break. It is indeed hot. Really, really hot. No surprise; it is summer in the South. However, this July is actually really hotter than usual. Yes, July is typically the hottest month of the year, but this year, July out did itself. It, in fact, is LITERALLY the hottest month EVER recorded in human history.

As I sip my lemonade, I think about how badly my garden needs rain, and yet, in Harrisville, W.Va., where I grew up and where much of my family lives, it rained 11 days in May, 10 days in June, and to-date in July, they have already had 7 days of rain. In fact, with over 11 inches of rain in the last two months, my mother had to delay her tomato planting due to the “muddy soup” her garden had turned into. My tomato plants would love that rain, but it isn’t to happen for another few weeks.

Here in Raleigh, N.C., I planted my tomato plants in early April. Last winter, I only scraped my car windows twice, so I think the tomatoes will be safe. From cold at least. They are on their own for water, apparently.

There was a time I took the advice of the Old Timers and waited diligently to plant my carefully tended seedlings until “after Mother’s Day,” although where I live in North Carolina, the Farmer’s Almanac say I should plant on Good Friday, so I’m only a week or so early this year.

However, times, as they say, are a changin’. The climate (i.e. the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period) is anyway. The extreme heat I am currently contemplating is a part of this new normal. As are the heavy rains that kept my mother complaining about her lack of gardening progress even now, in July. We don’t have it as badly as the Northwest right now, a fact I remind my dog of as she whines to go back in the air-conditioned house.

Many will remember summer 2021 for being a hot one. An historic heat wave just baked the Pacific Northwest in June, setting all-time highs in Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash. and Lytton, British Columbia. In fact, the 121 F reading in Lytton was the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada. The event was heralded as a “1,000-year event” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was the hottest June ever in the United States. And subsequently, the hottest July as well. Especially if you live in Death Valley, Calif. There, on more than one occasion in June, they came within striking distance of its own world record temperature of 134 degrees F from 1913, hitting 128 F. Talk about hot!

Wildfires were raging across the hot western U.S., with the Dixie Fire in California devastating town after town, burning nearly 1 million acres. Smoke from the wildfires in the United States and Canada traveled across all the way to the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard over much of the summer, and caused some of the most vivid and beautiful sunsets, but unfortunately, and more importantly, they are also negatively impacting air quality across vast swaths of the country.

As a Professor in Horticultural Science and a pollinator habitat expert, I fully appreciate the impact that these weather and climate events have not only on my tomatoes and other plants in my garden, but on a regional, and global scale. As the June months trend wetter, and the July months trend hotter, we will see more and more super storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and heat waves.

The impacts will be felt not only by upscale California and Colorado communities, but also our very own rural communities in Ritchie, Roane, Wood … and other counties in West Virginia. I think about how our children will be impacted, but also our rich and unique wildlife, including, but not limited to the brown-belted bumble bees, painted lady butterflies, and the much-adored honey bees.

Personally, what hits home most to me is simply the new challenges gardeners will continue to face. However, as I sip my lemonade, contemplating the heat, the lazy dog at my feet, and the bees visiting my coneflowers, I think there may just be a silver lining. Think of how much I will save on lemons when I can grow my own lemon trees year-round right here in North Carolina! But then, there’s that water bill…

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Dr. Danesha Seth Carley is a West Virginia native, author, director NSF Center for IPM / USDA, Director, Center of Excellence for Regulatory Science in Agriculture, Associate Professor, Dept. Horticultural Science NC State Univ.

Climate Corner: The environmental costs of cheap fashion

Nov 6, 2021

Randi Pokladnik

editorial@newsandsentinel.com

A few years ago, I attended a Climate Reality Training Conference in Minneapolis. One of the speakers was involved in sustainable fashion. She told us what prompted her to leave the world of high fashion and create her own line of clothing. During a trip to China, her former employer dumped millions of mis-dyed buttons and thousands of yards of fabric into a river in China. Rather than find another use for the imperfect cloth and buttons, they chose to waste them and pollute the environment.

The supply chain of a garment, from cradle to grave, damages the environment. Most damages are in the form of toxic emissions and pollution. The industry workers and the environment pay the price so we can have cheap clothes that must be shipped thousands of miles across the ocean.

We wear blue jeans almost every day totally unaware of the environmental issues surrounding the production of a pair of jeans. More than five billion pairs are made annually. It takes an average of 1,800 gallons of water, 110 kilowatt-hours of energy, and 5 ounces of chemicals to produce one pair of jeans.

Dana Thomas’s book “Fashionopolis” states that jeans, the most popular clothing item in history, are also the most destructive of the fashion items we consume. Guangdong Province, China, claims to be the “jeans capital of the world.” Each year 200,000 garment workers in Xintang’s 3,000 factories and workshops produce 300 million pairs of jeans, about 800,000 pairs a day. The documentary, “The River Blue: Can Fashion Save the Planet,” details the environmental damage from the production of jeans.

In an effort to avoid the “break-in” period for new jeans, the industry came up with distressed jeans. Popular in the late 1980s, these jeans must be artificially treated to achieve that look of being old and worn. Workers use millions of gallons of water and energy to wash the jeans with pumice stone. Often the heavily contaminated wash water is dumped untreated into rivers.

In Guangdong, the local water treatment plant closed years ago, leaving factories to dump dye waste directly into the East River. The river quickly turned opaque; aquatic life could no longer survive. Greenpeace has reported that the riverbed contains high levels of lead, copper, and cadmium, and the river had a pH level of 11.95. Workers exposed to the water and dust reported skin rashes, infertility and lung infections.

The recently released report “A New Textiles Economy” states that between 1.22 billion and 2.93 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere annually by the textile industry. If you include the emissions released to launder those garments the total contribution from clothing accounts for 6.7 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

We live in a time of “fast fashion” where high fashion designs are mass produced in a way that uses incredible amounts of energy and resources as well as large quantities of toxic dyes. Clothing barely lasts beyond a few months before it is deemed “out of fashion” or looks like an old rag from a few washings. Millions of pieces of fast fashion garments end up in landfills every year. In New York City alone more than 400 million pounds of clothes are wasted each year and the EPA reports that 5.8 percent of annual municipal solid wastes is from textiles. It can take up to 200 years for a piece of fabric to break down.

Every type of garment, be it wool, fur, or polyester, has a carbon footprint, but synthetic fibers are much worse than others. If you sew like I do, you probably have noticed that the amount of fleece fabrics available in fabric stores has skyrocketed. In some cases, half the store is stocked with various fleece fabrics.

An article in “The Revelator” states that the amount of polyester in our garments has doubled since 2000. It takes 342 million barrels of oil annually to supply synthetic fibers, which means fibers like fleece have a high carbon footprint. Consider that once discarded, fabrics like polyester, nylon, and acrylics add to the plastic fibers contaminating waterways in our environment.

Cotton-based fabric also comes at a high cost to the environment. Cotton, once referred to as “the fabric of your life,” primarily originates from genetically modified cotton plants. The genetically modified seeds are engineered to be resistant to herbicides such as Roundup, which allows the fields to be sprayed without killing the cotton plants. The use of pesticides and man-made fertilizers also adds to the carbon footprint of conventionally grown cotton. According to the World Health Organization, the world’s cotton crop requires 200,000 tons of pesticides and 8 million tons of fertilizers each year.

The Soil Association’s 2019 report, “Thirsty for Fashion,” details how a switch to organic cotton can help reduce the externalities of the fabric. Organic cotton costs more but workers have much safer working conditions, the crop uses much less water, uses little if any industrial chemicals and improves soils. The higher price tag for organic cotton is well worth it.

Another alternative fiber gaining traction in the world is hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp which, up to that point, had been declared an illegal drug like other cannabis plants. Unlike its cousin marijuana, hemp has no significant amount of THC. Hemp has a long and colorful history in the USA, and farmers were once required to grow it. Our first American flags and Levi jeans were made from hemp, and our navy used ropes crafted from American grown hemp.

However, in the early 1900s, industrialists like DuPont and Hearst lobbied against the crop because they saw the threat it posed to some of their industries. Hemp can produce four times as much paper as trees. PR campaigns quickly started to associate the benign crop with “mad pot smokers.”

Hemp can be grown without pesticides and fertilizers, it grows faster and absorbs more carbon dioxide than other crops, it is biodegradable, UV resistant, and breathes, unlike synthetic materials.

There are other ways to cut the carbon budget from your clothes. Madeline Hill, an author who writes about sustainability, said in her “Good On You” column, “we need to follow these practices when it comes to fashion: reduce, reuse, rewear, repair, and resell.” There are many companies like Patagonia that will take “trade-ins” on old clothing from their stores and repair clothing for a small fee.

In 2015, I attended a conference sponsored by the Patagonia Company. The company gets high marks for its contributions to environmental grassroots groups and its sustainable business practices. During the conference, Yvon Chouinard, founder of the company, spoke to us. As he sat in an over-stuffed chair wearing an old flannel shirt he asked, “Why do kids need so many T shirts and twenty pairs of jeans?” It was a good question and one to consider as the ridiculous madness of Christmas shopping approaches. Instead of buying cheap stuff made in China and transported across the ocean using fossil fuels, why not refrain from consuming or at least purchase something that will last longer than the next wash cycle? Let your fashion choices reflect your desire for a livable planet.

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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.