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President Obama Should Request U.S. Congress to Issue Declaration of War to Fight Global Warming

On December 8, 1941, the United States Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan in response to its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in the U.S. Territory (soon to become state) of Hawaii the morning of December 7, 1941.

The Declaration of War was formulated an hour after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Infamy Speech at 12:30 pm on December 8, 1941. The declaration quickly passed the Senate and then the House at 1:10 p.m the same day. Roosevelt signed the declaration at 4:10 p.m., December 8, 1941. The power to declare war is assigned exclusively to Congress in the United States Constitution; however, the president’s signature was symbolically powerful and resolved any doubts.

Two days later, a similar war declaration against Germany and Italy passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In the Joint Resolutions declaring war against the Imperial Government of Japan, Germany and Italy, the Congress pledged “all the resources of the country of the United States” … “and the president is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the government to carry on war … to bring the conflict to a successful termination.”

The magnitude of the threat of accelerating global warming and a rapidly changing climate that would undeniably accompany the continued and increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as a direct consequence of human actions, mainly from too much fossil fuel burning and continuing and increased deforestation, especially in the tropics, upon the United States of America and the rest of the world, both now and into the future, easily dwarfs the loss of life, injury and misery to humans and animals wrought by all known wars, and therefore justifies a declaration of war by all countries of the world to slow and ultimately halt global warming and climate change, worldwide. Such declarations should be made now, without delay, to ensure an hospitable and safe world for all Earth’s current and future generations.

It is morally essential that Government, businesses, individuals and families begin to meet this challenge of increasing global warming and climate change that has already begun to cause loss of human lives, other species living in the world, and brought pain and misery to so many. To ignore and campaign against actions that reduce this growing threat, which will unquestionably hurt the people of the world’s poorer countries and Earth’s millions and millions of species, is utterly and morally reprehensible and is a practice that ought stop immediately because it needlessly delays progress in attacking this major problem of untold negative consequences for centuries to come.

Climate Change Summit Delegates Better Not Blow It!

 

 

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More than 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are attending COP21, the United Nation International Framework on Climate Change (IPCC) annual meeting, which is being held this year  in Paris, France, November 30 to December 10. The attendees this year have the daunting responsibility of achieving a legally binding agreement to keep global warming below what scientists worldwide say is a critical threshold of 2 degrees Celsius [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] of global average temperature warming above the average global temperature prior to the Industrial Revolution .

The delegates in Paris the next two weeks represent countries that presently emit 95% of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere from human-related sources; they have, literally, the fate of our planet -EARTH –  INCLUDING QUITE POSSIBLY ALL ITS CURRENT AND FUTURE PEOPLE AND ANIMALS – within their hands the next ten days at this historic conference.

Representatives of the 195 nations taking part in this meeting – the 21st annual “Conference of the Parties” to the IPCC (thus COP21), the first of which took place in Berlin in 1995 – are charged what has been called “an urgent last chance to save the planet”.

Clearly, this will not be an easy goal to reach, since the planet already has been warmed by 0.85 degrees Celsius since 1880, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 2014, and many scientists say the gases we have already emitted into the atmosphere will “lock us in” to around 2 degrees Celsius of warming. Therefore, it will take significant reductions in emissions in the near future, especially from the largest emitters such as the United States and China, as well as commitments to sustainable development from all countries.

Growing Worries Over Global Climate Change Threaten Major Highway Expansions

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Some of the main contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere from current society are cement making, paving the landscape and emissions from motor vehicle driving.

Last week,the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved borrowing an additional $350 million to be paid later to put five major highway capacity expansion projects back on the schedule for road and bridge construction. The 5 major projects in Wisconsin include the following:

* the roadwork along Madison’s Beltline, Highway 12-18, at the Verona Road interchange;
* I-39/90 from the Illinois state line to Madison;
* Highway 10/441 in the Fox Valley;
* Highway 23 between Fond du Lac and Plymouth;
* Highway 15 near New London in Outagamie County.

Project completion dates for those project have been put off by two years, due to the lack of funds in the current Wisconsin state budget. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has already contracted for the start of work on these projects but because of the funding shortfall, the completion date for the projects was pushed later into the future.

The five major highway capacity projects are located throughout Wisconsin and their completion dates will be delayed pending full approval by the Wisconsin Legislature’s of the JFC’s ruling in a revised state budget signed by Governor Scott Walker. The bonding approval means the five projects will face delays of one year instead of two.

Meanwhile, the state of North Carolina and the Federal Highway Administration are reconsidering the widening an interstate highway through west Asheville to eight lanes. Highway builders want to complete the “missing link” of Interstate 26 running from Tennessee to Charleston. That missing link is actually already an interstate: I-240, built right though some of Asheville’s urban neighborhoods during the urban renewal era. The highway was a major dividing line between some of the black neighborhoods in west Asheville and some more affluent white neighborhoods.

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Problem is, FHWA refuses to just rename it I-26 because the highway doesn’t meet some of the modern interstate standards. The DOT is exploring its options for a $600 million widening and “upgrade.”

The state recently released its draft environmental impact statement. The document seems to favor a design that would widen the highway from four lanes to eight — a plan many local residents say is unnecessary and potentially damaging. Last year, the U.S. Public Interest Research group named the project one of its top “highway boondoggles.”

Groups such as “Mountain True”, the Asheville Design Center and a number of community groups had been pushing for a more city-friendly approach. They wanted a design that would preserve urban land for development, minimize air pollution, and provide additional multi-modal connections for neighborhood residents.

“I keep seeing this stuff from U.S. DOT about ‘beyond traffic’ and moving beyond the old paradigm but we’re sort of having the old paradigm forced on us in Asheville”, said Don Kostelec, a local advocate and independent planner skeptical of the project.
Alternative to Verona Road/Beltline Highway Expansion

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Is Now Finalized, but You Can’t Read It Quite Yet

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October 5, 2015

The final version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was just agreed upon at a big, multinational meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, attended by trade negotiators from the 12 Pacific Rim countries involved in the deal. The TPP, which is supported by President Barack Obama, and whose biggest players are the United States and Japan, has been in the works for about eight years. But its text has not been made available for public consumption, and still has to be put to a strictly yes-or-no vote in Congress before it can take effect.

No specific timeline for that vote exists, although according to The Washington Post, Obama legally he has to wait at least 90 days to sign the agreement now that he has notified Congress, and the text must be public for 60 of those days. That means the full text of the TPP might be shown to the public in early November.

As we’ve mentioned before, the TPP, like most international trade deals, is meant to enable free trade between member countries. With this particular agreement, Obama hopes to further the United States’ ability to set global standards for trade, rather than allow the agenda to be set by that other economic juggernaut of the Pacific, namely China.

The centerpiece of today’s announcement is the fact that the deal will knock out 18,000 tariffs, which is probably good news if you’re a consumer, and definitely good news if you’re a shipping magnate.

But a few provisions in leaked versions of the TPP have sparked outrage among the public. One such example is the concept of “investor-state dispute settlements,” which allow international companies to bring their grievances to legally-binding tribunals, which could potentially override laws in member countries. The TPP has also raised concerns about a possible overhaul of intellectual property law, as some fear an expansion of US laws restricting companies from manufacturing cheaper generic drugs will keep drug costs up worldwide.

While the newly agreed-upon draft remains shrouded in secrecy, the official summary released by the Obama administration this week does address the previous controversy about those two issues, albeit sort of vaguely.

In the case of intellectual property, the summary’s section on pharmaceuticals doesn’t exactly make it clear what will happen to drug profiteers like most-hated-man-in-America Martin Shkreli. The summary simply states that the agreement “contains pharmaceutical-related provisions that facilitate both the development of innovative, life-saving medicines and the availability of generic medicines.”

Presumably this availability of generics will be helped along by the elimination of “patent linkages,” a provision that scared Politico’s Michael Grunwald when it appeared in a previous leaked version of the TPP. Today, Grunwald tweeted that it sounds like these linkages were “stripped out” of the new version of the deal.

The US Trade Representative has also put up a page offering alternative talking points about investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS). In response to critics who claim the ISDS provision would allow international companies to undermine environmental and consumer safety laws in the US, the Trade Representative says the administration has been “upgrading” the agreement, presumably to avoid any such nightmare scenarios. The site also offers a few factoids for context: 51 trade agreements already have investor-state dispute settlements in place; “only” 13 ISDS cases have been brought against the US in the past; and so far, the US has always won.

The summary itself is light on details about ISDS, however. But there is a very specific line saying that the tribunals will need to go out the window if the dispute involves “a claim challenging a tobacco control measure of the Party.” In other words, a built-in exemption to TPP means that tobacco companies won’t be among the entities with the power to challenge laws in signatory countries.

For what it’s worth, North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis is pretty upset about this provision aimed at the tobacco industry, writing in a statement Monday that, “the Obama Administration has decided to use the TPP as a laboratory for partisan politics by discriminating against specific agricultural commodities.”

In the wake of the TPP announcement, an anti-globalization group called “Flush the TPP” has issued a call to action, scheduling a protest to run from November 14-18 in Washington, DC. The group says protesters will be urging the government to stop making deals like these, and to come up with “alternative international agreements that put people and the planet first.”

By Mike Pearl, Staff Writer for VICE
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U.S. Passenger Airlines Report After-tax Net Profit of $5.5 Billion for 2nd Quarter of 2015

U.S. Department of Transportation Releases 2nd Quarter (April-June) of 2015 Airline Financial Data

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines reported an after-tax net profit of $5.5 billion in the second quarter of 2015, up from $3.1 billion in the first quarter of 2015 and up from $3.6 billion in the second quarter of 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported today.

The 26 U.S. scheduled service passenger airlines reported an after-tax net profit as a group for the ninth consecutive quarter.

In addition to the after-tax net profit of $5.5 billion based on net income reports, the scheduled service passenger airlines reported $8.2 billion in pre-tax operating profit in the second quarter of 2015, up from $5.1 billion in the first quarter of 2015 and up from $5.5 billion in the second quarter of 2014. The airlines reported a pre-tax operating profit – as a group – for the 17th consecutive quarter.

Net income and operating profit or loss are two different measures of airline financial performance. Net income or loss may include non-operating income and expenses, nonrecurring items or income taxes. Operating profit or loss is calculated from operating revenues and expenses before taxes and other nonrecurring items.

Total operating revenue for all U.S. passenger airlines in the April-June second-quarter of 2015 was $43.9 billion. Airlines collected $33.2 billion from fares, 75.7 percent of total second-quarter operating revenue.

Total operating expenses for all passenger airlines in the second-quarter of 2015 were $35.8 billion, of which fuel costs accounted for $7.9 billion, or 22.1 percent, and labor costs accounted for $11.0 billion, or 30.7 percent.

In the second quarter, passenger airlines collected a total of $962 million in baggage fees, 2.2 percent of total operating revenue, and $773 million from reservation change fees, 1.8 percent of total operating revenue. Fees are included for calculations of net income, operating revenue and operating profit or loss.

Baggage fees and reservation change fees are the only ancillary fees paid by passengers that are reported to BTS as separate items. Other fees, such as revenue from seating assignments and on-board sales of food, beverages, pillows, blankets, and entertainment are combined in different categories and cannot be identified separately.

See BTS Airline Financials Release for summary tables and additional data. See airline financial data press releases and the airline financial databases for historic data.

One-year Anniversary of “Planet Earth: It Needs Our Help Now More Than Ever”, Broadcast on WORT-FM’s Public Access Hour on Labor Day 2014

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Last year on Labor Day WORT-FM in Madison, Wisconsin I had the privilege of recording an hour of music and commentary on a subject I have researched for going on 16 years now: the likely effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, in the oceans, on the landscape; in other words, our planet earth. Since other than president Obama, Pope Francis, the environmental community and the state of California are about the only ones talking seriously about starting to do something to head off what is certain to be catastrophic effects upon our planet and all its livings things in decades and centuries to come, it only seem appropriate to remind folks who would like to listen to the show again. Here it is. Planet Earth – It Needs Our Help More than Ever!

Touring Alaska last month to shine a spotlight on global warming, President Obama warned that “climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here; it is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety. Now. Today.”

This wasn’t supposed to happen. In 2009, 114 countries signed the Copenhagen Accord, agreeing “to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system;” “recognizing the scientific view” that the increase in global temperature should be held to no more than 2 degrees Celsius” (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial level; and promising greater “long-term cooperative action to combat climate change.”

Paradoxically, an accord that should have spurred the world to immediate action instead seemed to offer some breathing room. Two degrees was meant to be a ceiling, but repeated references to an internationally agreed-upon “threshold” led many people to believe that nothing really bad could happen below 2 degrees—or worse yet, that the number itself was negotiable. Perhaps the biggest failure of the Copenhagen Accord was its pact for “long-term” action. Forty years ago, climate change was a “long-term” problem. Today it’s an emergency.

As we’re coming ever so close to the dreaded 2-degree mark, which will have devastating effects especially on people and families less economically fortunate, everywhere, Pope Francis last week called upon the members of the U.S. Congress to find solutions to the problems of growing poverty, everywhere, and climate change, including warming and acidification of the oceans. As civilization’s industrial machinery marches on, we’re already at 400 ppm of carbon dioxide, and likely to go much higher and faster under current “business as usual” practices continue.

Such numbers may mean little to the general public, but they matter a lot to negotiators who will be at Paris climate change talks in December. Unfortunately, the numbers that these negotiators plan to propose will only be part of non-legally-binding pledges—and they represent only what is achievable without too much difficulty, rather than the drastic austerity measures needed to stabilize emissions. In fact, 2 degrees is not an upper limit that the nations of the world recognize and respect, only a target that negotiators know they will overshoot with their expected pledges. The very idea that the Paris conference is a negotiation is ridiculous. You can’t negotiate with the atmosphere.

What were they thinking? As Naomi Klein points out in her book This Changes Everything, the 2 degree goal “has always been a highly political choice that has more to do with minimizing economic disruption than with protecting the greatest number of people.” In theory, the Copenhagen Accord relied on the best available science of the time—an international scientific symposium held in 2005 and assessment reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 and earlier, which in turn were based on even older scientific studies. You can trace the 2 degrees notion all the way back to a 1977 paper by Yale economist William D. Nordhaus.

In hindsight, though, the idea that even 2 degrees of warming would be tolerable is baffling. Homo sapiens have never lived in a world that hot. In an excellent series of special reports for CNN on what 2 degrees of global warming would mean, John D. Sutter lists some of the expected impacts: a melting Arctic, enormous wildfires, more intense hurricanes, water shortages, reduced crop yields, and animals and plants at risk of extinction. Even if warming can be held to 2 degrees, scientists predict that global sea level will rise by at least 20 feet as a result.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum, a coalition of 20 nations that expect severe global-warming effects, has called the 2-degree goal “inadequate” to protect fundamental human rights. “How can we possibly subscribe to more than double the current warming?” asked Mary Ann Lucille L. Sering, secretary of the Philippines Climate Change Commission.

Although the 2-degree target was endorsed in Copenhagen in 2009, and again in Cancún the following year, the parties also agreed to periodically review the adequacy of the target and to consider strengthening it. The majority of countries that have signed and ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change now support a lower target of 1.5 degrees, and a review process reported that the lower limit would be “preferable” but that the science supporting it is “less robust.”

What is feasible? The World Bank has warned that a 1.5-degree rise is “locked in,” and that we’re headed toward a warming of 4 degrees by the end of the century. “Scientists, policy-makers and the public already accept that progress will not be enough to keep global average temperature rise within the 2°C limit,” wrote Oliver Geden, head of the EU Research Division at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, in a recent Nature commentary. “The negotiations’ goal has become what is politically possible, not what is environmentally desirable.”

If you add up the pledges that have been made so far, and nations keep their promises, the world is in for about 3 degrees of warming by 2100. Limiting the warming to 2 degrees would require rapid emissions reductions over the next few decades, declining to zero net emissions shortly after 2050.

It is still possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2100 (after a temporary overshoot), according to a paper published in Nature Climate Change a few months ago. But it would mean becoming carbon neutral even earlier than required for a 2-degree scenario.

A national security approach. President Obama made headlines in Alaska—and before that, New Orleans—with fervent talk about the urgency of the climate problem, the need to make communities more resilient, and the “failure of government to look out for its own citizens.” Can this be the same president who, a few months earlier, gave Royal Dutch Shell permission to begin drilling for oil off the coast of Alaska? Developing fossil fuel resources in the Arctic is “incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2°C,” according to a study by scientists at University College London.

There is an alternative to meaningless numbers and endless negotiations: going to war against climate change. If the United States can spend nearly $1.7 trillion on the “war on terror,”surely we can spend at least that much to keep our planet from overheating.

The 2-degree goal was chosen based on what was considered to be a scientific consensus about the most likely scenario for climate change. That is not how national security risks are evaluated. “When we think about keeping our country safe, we always consider the worst case scenarios,” said British Foreign Office Minister Baroness Joyce Anelay in a statement introducing a new climate risk assessment commissioned by her office. “That is what guides our policies on nuclear non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, and conflict prevention. We have to think about climate change the same way.”

In a foreword to the report, Anelay writes: “We must remember that in one way, climate change differs from any other subject of diplomatic negotiation: It is governed by a physical process. A process where the risk increases over time, and will continue to do so until we have entirely dealt with its cause.”

Increased risk is not an abstraction. It is record-setting heat, year after year. It is coastal erosion washing away villages in Alaska. It is massive wildfires raging in the American West. “We have to attack these at the source, which is carbon pollution,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told the Northwest News Network after flying over the worst fires in his state’s history. “It is difficult to comprehend a central fact of these fires,” Inslee said, “which is nature bats last.” Unfortunately, there won’t be any extra innings.

By Dawn Stover, from Bulleten of Atomic Scientists
Stover is a science writer based in the Pacific Northwest and is a contributing editor at the Bulletin. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Conservation, Popular Science, New Scientist, The New York Times, and other publications. One of her articles is included in the 2010 Best American Science and Nature Writing, and another article was awarded a special citation by the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism.

Can A Global Warming Calamity Be Averted?

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“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Global warming is often wrongly said to be a political issue. In fact, global warming is no more of a political issue than a tornado is a political issue, or an erupting volcano, or an earthquake or tsunami. These are factual occurrences that occur for known scientific reasons. As there is no debate on the existence or occurrence of these physical happenings nor should there be a need to debate the occurrence of human-caused global warming and climate change as these changes are, too, scientifically based and measured. In fact, sea level has already begun to rise from global warming, measurably. Migratory bird species are changing their patterns and timing of flight; temperature gradients for gardening around the world have changed; heat wave death tolls have risen; extreme weather has become more extreme; average monthly air temperatures at the surface have been steadily rising; dewpoint temperatures in the Midwest have exceeded precedence. Time is running out run out for acting responsibly to avert the worst outcomes possible from global warming. Alarm bells have rung. Action must be taken now, and on a grand scale, to prevent what scientists have been predicting for decades now – the catastrophic consequences of human fed global warming.

Longtime and well respected University of Wisconsin-Madison Chemistry Professor Bassam Shakhashiri recently summarized on Wisconsin Public Radio his own perceptions of the seriousness of the global warming threat and our collective responsibilities as citizens to work towards mitigating and adapting to this monumental threat as follows:

“We should have high expectation of all our government agencies and we should have high expectations of our elected officials and we should have high expectations of everyone who cares about the quality of life of where we live. We face grand challenges. Global warming is unequivocal. It’s not a matter of voting whether we will have global warming or not. It’s a matter of who we elect in the next election cycle to take responsible action to address and to solve this very, very serious and highly consequential question of climate change.

“We have elected officials from our state of Wisconsin who engage in conversations that label other people as deniers of climate change. I think it behooves us as learned individuals, as people who care about the quality of life that we have, to elect individuals to the U.S. Senate to the presidency, to our local government, who can take responsible action to mitigate and to address in responsible ways, and “responsible” is crucial, global warming. It’s not just local here. You can look at different displays of information. In the past 25 years, the plant hardening zones have been changing. Just in the past 25 years, the zone that we are in Wisconsin, is what it was 25 years ago in Florida. We have issues that relate to water quality. We have issues that relate to wellness, to health care.

“We have fabulous opportunities to make great progress in our society, and that’s why I have high expectations – always have high expectations – but I also live in the real world. We must, in the upcoming election cycle, be truly faithful to our core beliefs and to our values, so that our elected officials can act and can respond, in most good ways, to this one issue of climate change. There are other issues, too, but this is really a critical one.” [The Larry Meiller Show,Thursday, August 6, 2015, 11:00 am]

Global warming has all the marking of becoming a worldwide economic, environmental and human disaster. It could be a disaster that has no precedent in nature, at least during the time humans have been inhabiting Earth. Scientific models have demonstrated the inevitably of global warming due to our relentless burning of fossil fuels, in almost every device possible, and our continued deforestation practices, particularly in the tropics. Should global warming be allowed to continue at the current rates, the death toll from global warming effects could ultimately exceed the number of human losses from all wars, human atrocities, motor vehicle crashes, airplane crashes and worldwide epidemics.

History is repleat with examples of being “too little, too late”. U.S. President Hoover’s attempts to end the Great Depression by funding the construction of the Hoover Dam were believed by the American public as being “too little” to save the U.S. economy and “too late”. He was soundly defeated in the U.S. presidential election by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In medicine, if someone is sick and they do not get to a doctor until their sickness becomes fatal any remedy will be “too little, too late”.

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan to reduce global warming is also both too little and too late to prevent what scientists call a “runaway greenhouse effect”, as what happen on the planet Venus eons ago, making the planet’s former oceans of water boil away, due to surface atmospheric temperatures that continued to climb, unabated.

While the U.S. electrical energy power production may be the top emitting sector of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the U.S. economy, timely and sufficiently large GHGs emissions reductions in the transportation and other GHG emitting sectors (construction industry sector, agriculture industry sector, consumer sector, export/import sectors, the military industrial complex) will nullify any gains made in the electricity production sector. This could leave the planet vulnerable for the positive GHG feedback mechanisms that contribute to more global warming to kick-in, which could cause a runaway greenhouse effect on Earth. Examples of positive feedback to more global warming of Earth include a reduced ability of the Arctic Ocean to reflect solar energy back into space (darker water absorbs more solar energy than snow and ice), causing additional heating of the oceans; melting of the permafrost region (1/5 of the earth’s surface) resulting in more methane gas (a much stronger GHG than carbon dioxide) production.

Albert Einstein once remarked: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Offering the public positive financial incentives to reduce actions that emit greenhouse gases, such as driving, flying and using fossil fuel created heat and electricity, could drastically reduce human caused climate change and as well as other problems created by our fossil fuel powered economy (such as oil spills, ground water pollution from petroleum waste, and natural gas explosions).

A Record 988 Billion Miles Driven on U.S. Highways During First Four Months of 2015

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Data from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration show Americans drove a record 988 billion miles during the first four months of 2015. Motor gasoline consumption, which rose by 80,000 barrels per day in 2014, will increase by a projected 170,000 barrels per day (1.9%) in 2015 as the effects of employment growth and lower gasoline prices outweigh increases in vehicle fleet efficiency.

Lower prices along with higher rates of road traffic and more demand for larger vehicles continue to push gas consumption higher.

As refiners continue to produce at a near-record pace, U.S. gasoline stockpiles have declined. Gasoline stockpiles are down 10% since February.

Demand for automotive-grade gasoline increased to 9.17 million barrels (385.14 million gallons) per day, according to information from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The Energy Information Administration estimates that for each gallon of gasoline burned in an internal combustion engine, 19.564 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) are emitted to the atmosphere, as well as smaller amounts of nitrous oxide and other gases. This calculates to 7.7 billion pounds CO2 per day from U.S. drivers. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere from year to year, building to higher and higher levels of concentration, which is known to be causing warmer temperatures at lower altitudes, warmer ocean surface temperatures. In Wisconsin, nightly low temperatures have increased the most, as reported by the Weather Guys.

Yet nationally, only 63% of U.S. citizens believe global warming is occurring!

Arena Deal Is A “Pig in a Poke” for Milwaukee, Others Too

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The National Basketball Association (NBA) said the Milwaukee Bucks must have a new arena by 2017 or the city risks losing the team to another state. Enter Governor Scott Walker.

Gov. Scott Walker negotiated the deal in July with the current Bucks owners – billionaire hedge funds managers Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, who jointly purchased a majority interest in the team from former senator Herbert Kohl – and senator Kohl.

The team is currently valued at $600 million. In a bipartisan vote last month, the Wisconsin Legislature approved a bill authorizing $250 million in state and local public financing for the Milwaukee Bucks arena. Governor Walker signed the bill into law on Wednesday, August 12, setting up a vote on the $500 million public/private project at a City of Milwaukee Common Council meeting on the proposal in September.

Walker’s signing of the bill commits the State of Wisconsin’s taxpayers to paying at least half of the dollar cost of the massive new arena over the next 20 years, discouraging the NBA from moving the team out of Milwaukee.

Opponents have said the public’s money would benefit the team’s already wealthy owners and is not a good use of public funds. The state’s financial commitment to keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee comes on the heels of controversial state cuts to spending on transportation infrastructure along with a $250 million cut of the University of Wisconsin System’s budget and historic earlier cuts to the state’s public K-12 education system. The state’s commitment to fund the arena was perceived by many Wisconsinites as a slap in the face to Wisconsin’s dwindling number of middle class families and its increasing number of low income families.  The governor has not been shy in showing his disdain for those who advocate for a higher minimum wage in Wisconsin – presently $7.25/hour, or the same as the federal minimum wage – and his budget approval of cuts to other social programs in Wisconsin which help the state’s disabled and low income populations.

Walker claimed Wisconsin needed to keep the team and its stream of income taxes in the state. “It’s cheaper to keep them,” he said repeatedly to reporters on Wednesday..

The Bucks deal includes $250 million in contributions from the state, city and county of Milwaukee, and a special arena and entertainment district. The other half of the arena is being paid by Edens, Lasry and Kohl.

State, city and county residents will ultimately pay $400 million on the arena when accounting for $174 million in interest over 20 years, with any construction cost overruns and maintenance expenses being the responsibility of the team.

Of the principal coming from taxpayers for the arena, $47 million would come from the City of Milwaukee, which must agree to provide for a parking structure and tax incremental financing.

The rest — $203 million — would come from: bonds issued by an arena and entertainment district and paid off by state taxpayers; a $4 million decrease in Milwaukee County’s state aid over the next 20 years; and the increase of a ticket surcharge and the extension of existing local hotel room, rental car, and food and beverage taxes being collected by the Wisconsin Center District.

Walker included $220 million in state borrowing for the arena in the budget he proposed in February.

But his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature took the measure out of the budget and reworked the deal with some input from Democrats.

Not factored into this analysis is the total number of tons of carbon dioxide (C02) and other greenhouse gases that will be emitted to the atmosphere by jet travel by other NBA teams traveling to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, nor the tons of C02 and other greenhouse gases emitted by the jets carrying the Bucks to distant locations over the next 20 years to play basketball. Nor does the agreement factor in the costs to the environment of paving roads and Wisconsin’s landscape to accommodate more travelers to the arena for games and other events and their emissions.  Presently, travelers and the airlines and associated companies are getting a “free lunch” from everyone who might be affected by those emissions, to say nothing about the cost to the public of funding the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic controllers, who mainly benefit people who can afford to fly commercially or privately.

Part of this post are taken from a 8/12/15 story of by Mary Spicuzza, Jason Stein and Crocker Stephenson of the Journal Sentinel.

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Vatican Conference Linked Climate Change and Modern Slavery

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Democracy Now:

Following the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, a major conference on climate change was held at the Vatican. Speakers included our guest, Naomi Klein, author of “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” We speak to Klein about her trip to the Vatican and the importance of the pope’s message – not only on climate change, but the global economy.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Naomi Klein, journalist, best-selling author. Her most recent book is This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, out today in paperback. A documentary film directed by Avi Lewis based on This Changes Everything will be released in the fall.

Naomi, you have recently returned from the Vatican. Can you describe that experience? What were you doing there?

NAOMI KLEIN: So I was there at a conference that was convened by Cardinal Peter Turkson. And Cardinal Peter Turkson is—has been doing a lot of the speaking on the encyclical. It wasn’t convened by Francis, just to set that record straight. It was convened by the Cardinal Turkson’s office and also by the organization representing Catholic development agencies. And it was part of the rollout for the climate change encyclical. The organizers described what they were doing as building a megaphone for the encyclical, because they understand that it’s words on a page unless there are groups of people around the world who are amplifying that message in various ways. So there were people from around the world.

There were people there, for instance, from Brazil, who were talking about how the movements there that have been fighting large dams, oil drilling, fighting for more just transit, are going to be putting huge resources behind popularizing the climate change encyclical, buying radio ads, producing videos, creating teaching materials for every chapter of the encyclical, and really using it as an organizing tool. That was one of the things I was really struck by while I was there, was just how ready particularly the movements in Latin America are to operationalize the encyclical, if you will.

And they also talked about not wanting it to be domesticated, was a phrase I heard a lot, domesticated by the church. You know, there’s a way in which you can just take this document that is, you know, almost 200 pages and just take out the safest parts of it—you know, “Oh, we’re against climate change, and we all need to kind of hold hands.” But, in fact, if you read the document, it’s very clear in calling for a different economic model, and it’s a challenge to what Pope Francis calls our throwaway culture. So they want to make sure that the parts of the encyclical that really do represent the deepest challenge to our current economic system and represent the most hope for the people who are excluded from the benefits of that economic system are really highlighted.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, last month, Pope Francis went on a tour of South America in his first foreign trip after unveiling the historic encyclical urging climate action. In Ecuador, he reiterated his call for social justice and environmental preservation.

POPE FRANCIS: [translated] The goods of the Earth are meant for everyone. And however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. In this way, we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, toward social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life. The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Pope Francis speaking in Ecuador. Naomi Klein, could you talk—you’ve mentioned in the past the significance of the pope’s origins in Argentina and the particular form that Catholicism took in Latin America. Could you talk about the significance of that and the kind of turn that you witnessed at the Vatican in the focus of this new pope and the church under his leadership?

NAOMI KLEIN: Sure, Nermeen. Yeah, it was definitely striking that a lot of the people who are real players in the Vatican right now come from the Global South. As you mentioned, Pope Francis is from Argentina, and he is the first pope from the Global South. And Cardinal Turkson is originally from Ghana and is talked about as potentially going to be the first African pope. And you see the influence. There are a lot of people who have a history with liberation theology around this pope. He doesn’t come from that particular tradition, but there’s clearly an influence, because before he became pope, he worked with the Latin American Council of Bishops, which—you know, the form of Catholicism in Latin America is one that is more influenced by indigenous cosmology than perhaps in North America, and definitely in Europe, precisely because the genocide of indigenous people in Latin America was far less complete.

So, the first phrase of the encyclical, the first paragraph of the encyclical quotes Francis of Assisi, referring to the Earth as “sister” and as “mother,” and then goes on to talk about Francis—Francis of Assisi, not Pope Francis—and it’s significant that Pope Francis chose the name Francis, the first pope in history to choose that as his name—how we ministered to plants and animals, and saw them as his brothers and sisters. And obviously, in there, you have echoes of indigenous cosmologies that see all of creation as our relations. And while I was at the Vatican, I did ask and, before and afterwards, talked to different theologians about whether there is any precedent for a pope talking—using this language of Mother Earth so prominently, and nobody could think of a single example of this. So, I think what is significant about it is that it is very much a rebuke to the worldview that humans have been put on Earth to dominate and subjugate nature. That is very clear in the encyclical. And the major theme of the encyclical is the theme of interdependence.

You also mentioned—or you played that clip where Francis talks about natural resources as being something that everybody has a right to. And this, of course, is a challenge to a pretty basic principle of private property under capitalism, that if you buy it, it’s yours to do with whatever you want. And that’s something else that’s very strong in the encyclical, is the idea of the commons, that the atmosphere is a commons, that water is a right. And I do think that you can see the influence of Pope Francis’s many years in Argentina. You know, he ministered in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and that’s somewhere where I spent some time doing reporting and filmmaking. And the outskirts of Buenos Aires, they have had one of the most catastrophic experiences with water privatization, where a French water company came in and put in the pipes, but then refused to put in the sewers. So every time it rains, there are these huge floods, and there’s even cases of bodies being washed up in the streets and in people’s basements, so—which is simply to say he knows of which he speaks. I mean, he has seen a very brutal form of deregulated capitalism introduced in the Southern Cone of Latin America, and he also understands that this is a form of capitalism that, in that part of the world, was imposed with tremendous violence.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, as we wrap up, very quickly, the pope is coming to the United States in September, but before that, he will go to Cuba first. Can you talk about the significance of the Cuba trip, and then, within the presidential race here, the pope landing in the United States?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think the timing of this trip is obviously going to be very awkward for several Republican candidates who are Catholic and understand that this is a very, very popular pope. He’s particularly popular among Latinos, and that’s a really coveted voting bloc. So, you know, picking a fight with this pope is not a very smart political move if you’re running for office right now.

And I met somebody while I was—I can’t use his name, because it was just—it wasn’t an interview situation. But I met a fairly prominent Catholic, while I was at the Vatican, from the United States, from a major U.S. organization, who said, “The holy father isn’t doing us any favors by going to Cuba first,” by which he meant that there are a lot of people talking about how this pope is sort of a closet socialist, and by going to Cuba first, he was reinforcing that narrative. So I think for conservative Republican Catholics, the fact that this pope is going to Cuba first, but also because he has said such critical things about deregulated capitalism and everything he’s saying about climate change, is putting them into, frankly, uncharted territories. They really don’t know how to navigate these waters.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s President Obama’s birthday today. Do you have any particular birthday wishes for him?

NAOMI KLEIN: Amy, I had no idea. Thanks for telling me. And I wish him a very happy birthday.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein, we want to thank you for being with us, journalist, best-selling author. Her most recent book is called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. It’s out in paperback today. And she’s got a documentary film coming out. It’s directed by Avi Lewis, based on This Changes Everything. It’s out in the fall. She also, together with Avi Lewis, made The Take, about Argentina. Her past books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

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