CRITTERS AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Blue-eyed Darner, Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, New Mexico.

Desert Scientist writes—More Views of Nature: “Watercolor, pen and ink, pencil, color pencils and mixed media have always been my preferred media for my art work. I especially like watercolor, pen and ink and mixed media. They are challenging and that is precisely why I like them. I occasionally sketch directly from nature, but usually I used my own reference photos.  I am now contemplating devoting much of the rest of my retirement to art, at least in part because of comments here on the Daily Kos.  You have convinced me- I am an artist!  So, if I can claim your indulgence, here are a few more of my best so far.

hair ice
Hair Ice (aka wool ice) a transient variant of ice found in broad-leaf forests requiring specific circumstances to form including the presence of a fungus.

RonK writes—The Daily Bucket: What in the Hell is “Hair Ice”? “Pacific Northwest. Washington State.;Whatcom County woodlands. Although not really rare, ‘hair ice; or ‘wool ice,’ is not often seen. It occurs under fairly specific circumstances such as temperature, moisture, the substrate on which it will grow, and the presence of a specific fungus. I ran across these interesting phenomena on several of my recent forest excursions. At the time I was looking for mycelia and fungi. When I first saw this fuzzy sight, I thought it was a variant of fungal mycelia with which I was unfamiliar as it was so strikingly different. Some of these odd structures turned out to be mycelia and others were mycelia-related. I’ll explain  shortly. Although hair ice has been described and theorized about in the scientific literature for over 100 years the research has been minimal and the exact mechanisms by which the hairy strands form is not totally clear. The first scientist in modern times to describe it was Alfred Wegener, a German arctic meteorologist who described hair ice  in 1918 and suggested that a fungus was implicated in its formation. (Wegener, a keen observer was also the first in the modern era to postulate the theory of continental drift that became the basis for tectonic plate theory). Wow!”

lostintheozarks writes—The Daily Bucket – On a Bitter Cold Day, I Think of Valentine’s Days Past: “This morning I took a look at the temperature outside and it was a balmy 8oF. We have not had any sun all this past week and no melting has taken place. There is still a layer of ice on the ground and more to the point — the local roads have not been cleared and are still treacherous! I notice that the sun is finally shining — maybe today we will see enough melt to make the roads into town a little safer! The doves and Juncos are not the only birds at our feeders. The regulars are there, the red-bellied woodpecker, the Cardinals, the purple finches and goldfinches. […] In other words, we have no shortage of winter birds at our feeders! However, here we are in the middle of February and we are in the middle of an arctic blast. Is it always that way? Don’t we usually have some evidence that spring is on its way by now? What was it like in past years?

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akronboy writes—Owl wing imprint in the snow in Ohio. Just something cool: “I didn’t take this picture, but it struck me as a beautiful image left by a beautiful creature, likely taking off after a hunt… successful or not. My guess is successful, because the snow impressions indicate closed talons. (And not the left wing touch after takeoff!) But anyway, a beautiful image in any case.”

Pakalolo writes—Meet Elizabeth Ann, the first endangered species in the United States to be successfully cloned: “Scientists have successfully cloned an endangered black-footed ferret from the genes of an animal named Willa that had died over thirty years ago. After Willa died, her remains were frozen and sent from Wyoming to San Diego Zoo Global that maintains a bank of frozen tissues for over 1,100 endangered and threatened species. The clone has been named Elizabeth Ann, and she will be a part of a new line of the endangered ferret housed at a breeding facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. The facility is run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct from habitat loss in the Great Plains, and ranchers poisoning prairie dogs to make cattle safe for walking amidst the prairie dog’s underground colonies. The large rodent is this ferret’s primary food source, and their colonies provide shelter and space for their young to be born and raised.”

OceanDiver writes—The Daily Bucket – swan count: “February 2021. Pacific Northwest.The results of this year’s swan count are in. This is a 7-county western Washington (+ a British Columbia field just across the border) project through WDFW where observers fan out to count every swan in the Salish Sea lowlands on a particular morning in January. San Juan County has participated for several years now. […] Looking at the data, it appears the wintering swan population in the Salish Sea lowlands is steady, but the numbers in SJC have waxed and waned. For whatever reason, the swans are less interested in wintering out here in the islands in recent years. Either they like it here less or they like it more over there. Granted, our swan population is minuscule compared to the Skagit delta, where two thirds of Washington’s swans winter. But it’s noticeable for us.

Jeff Graham writes—Dawn Chorus: Chocolates and flowers might work for humans, but how do birds attract a mate? “Birds have many ways of finding and keeping a mate. I hope during your turn in the comments, you can add to the conversation by the way of word or photo. Happy Valentine’s Day to all. Preening is a way of keeping all feathers in good condition. Birds that look the best get a better chance of finding a mate.”

protecting your mate or fighting off challengers

CLIMATE CHAOS

organicus writes—Unstable Polar Vortex: Climate Change not just warming: “I will guarantee that Climate Change deniers are going to seize upon the recent extreme cold sweeping the USA to make fun of the dangers of “Global Warming”. They will deliberately ignore the Polar Vortex aspect, and the fact that these extreme cold temperatures down here a part of a pattern of increasingly erratic and uneven Polar Vortex activity which is terrible news for the melting of the polar ice caps — which have been assaulted by equally freakish WARM weather in the last few years, for example: Less than a month ago the world was shocked when the temperature in the Arctic Circle reached a record-breaking 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. While remarkable in its own right, it was merely the exclamation point on an astonishing, prolonged and widespread heat event across all of the Siberian Arctic.

tjlord writes—Get ready – today will be the basis for another attack on green energy and the New Green Deal: “For those of you watching the blackouts and brownouts happening across Texas and the Midwest, you are watching the foundation of the next major attack on green energy. This is from the ERCOT website: we are dealing with higher-than-normal generation outages due to frozen wind turbines (here) The opponents will omit the rest of the sentence: and limited natural gas supplies available to generating units. The reality is that Texas was not designed for a winter load demand that exceeds its maximum ever summer load. Texas plants schedule their maintenance and downtime in the winter because it is less risky, But it happened today. What did happen to the wind generation is a fluke combination of weather — cold rain followed by, in some cases, sub zero weather caused the wind turbines to freeze up. Wind turbines can operate in these conditions — there are wind turbines in North Dakota. But you design to the expected conditions. But that won’t keep climate deniers from clamoring for more coal plants to “keep people from dying”. And since coal plants are expensive now, they will want them subsidized with guaranteed contracts.

Pakalolo writes—The Christophe de Margerie makes history in the Arctic; Jet stream collapse leads to mass starvation: “The ‘Arctic is already under such threat from so many angles, and while production there is expensive, it is also very, very high risk. It requires absolutely the strongest levels of global oversight.’ Phoebe Barnard, Professor at Washington’s Conservation Biology Institute Putin’s Russia made history today when the Christophe de Margerie, the enormous Liquefied Natural Gas tanker returning from the port of Yangkou, Liaoning province, China to the massive Yamal LNG processing plant in Sabetta, Yamal, Siberia, was able to cross the Arctic Ocean’s northern sea route without the assistance of an ice breaker in mid-February. […] As huge swathes of Europe and North America experience bitter cold Arctic temperatures for the foreseeable future, Dr. Peter Wadham explains how a changing jet stream brings the deep freeze south while warm air is sucked into the Arctic will have devastating consequences for our ability to feed ourselves. His short video is at the end of the story.”

Mark Sumner writes—The U.S. has rejoined the Paris climate accord, and it’s going to help people in this country: “Donald Trump told his supporters that he would take the U.S. out of the Paris global climate agreement even before he took office in 2017. And he did. Only the process of leaving was long enough that it took until close to the end of 2020 before it became official. Now, 107 days after the United States left the accord, it’s back. On Friday, the United States officially reenters the Paris Agreement, along with 175 other nations. That leaves just Eritrea, Iraq, South Sudan, Libya, and Yemen as nations that are not signatory to the agreement—and most of those have been rather busy over the last few years.From even before it was negotiated, Republicans started pushing propaganda about the agreement, and making claims that it somehow benefits China, or is a gift to Europe, or at least definitely cripples American industry. But the truth is that the agreement is simply voluntary. No one in Paris, or anywhere else, has a hand in telling the United States how to meet its goals, or even what those goals should be. Because of this, the official reentry—like the agreement itself—is largely symbolic. But that doesn’t mean it’s not also important, because what it symbolizes is a nation willing to both engage with the rest of the world and to do its share in meeting a massive challenge facing all humanity. It also signals a commitment to a progressive energy policy that, far from limiting America, can launch it into the future.”

Michael Brune writes—We’re Back, Baby! The Paris Agreement represents the global community’s best shot at averting the worldwide crisis of climate change. Signed by nearly every country, it aims to limit global temperature rise to ‘well below’’ a cataclysmic 2°C (3.6°F) above preindustrial levels, and preferably below 1.5°C (2.7°F). And now the US is back in, just over four years after Donald Trump declared his intention to abandon it. Starting the month-long process of rejoining the Paris Agreement was a Day-One priority for the Biden administration. It signaled to the country and the international community that the US is ready to take the lead on tackling one of the greatest challenges humanity faces—climate change. It’s an important first step. But to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of preventing climate catastrophe, the Biden administration will have to take ambitious climate action here at home, and inspire and enable other countries to do the same. Because the Trump administration abandoned any efforts to tackle the climate crisis, the Biden administration has a lot of work to do just to rebuild the US’s credibility. It should start by closing the gap between our previous commitments and what’s needed to avert climate crisis.

gmoke writes—Insight from Gina McCarthy: After the Obama Presidency, Gina McCarthy, the former Administrator of the EPA, landed at Harvard as a Fellow of the Institute of Politics and ran a Tuesday afternoon study group, as IOP Fellows do.  Since I have way too much time on my hands, an interest in the environment, and a great deal of respect for Ms McCarthy, I attended her study group.  One day, she said something about her experience in the Obama administration that struck me as important, something I’d not heard before.  What excited my interest was that McCarthy said she had never seen the kind of cooperation between different government departments that she saw in the Obama administration.  This cooperation was not only on the top levels of appointed positions like Secretary and Under-Secretary but went deep down throughout the bureaucracy.  McCarthy has worked for 25 years in public administration in Conneticut and Massachusetts and the Federal government.  That this level of cooperation (and the implied lack of turf wars) between departments was remarkable to her is most remarkable to me.”

DrMarmot writes—Bats, Bushmeat and Viruses: How Climate Disruption Helped Create Covid-19: “Climate change is ecosystem change. And like all change it involves myriad and complex consequences. Some consequences of climate disruption—like sea level rise—are easily measured and readily anticipated. Other consequences will stem from long and seemingly unrelated series of hidden but immensely consequential changes. Those hidden factors will likely blindside us with increasing frequency as humans further disrupt the climate. This is sometimes known as the increasing prevalence of Black Swan events. The Covid-19 pandemic is one such event. It is the culmination of many ecosystem disruptions. By tracing those disruptions we can find the origins of the pandemic. One easily observable outcome of climate disruption—even if its effects remain unknowable—is the global redistribution of species. As humans alter the makeup of environments, their biotic communities will change. In general, flora and fauna are moving higher in both altitude and latitude, searching for climates similar to the ones for which they are adapted. Some species are expanding their ranges, bringing competition to the endemic life forms in their new territories. Others are finding the amount of livable habitat greatly reduced; climate disruption is directly linked to the extinction crisis. One recent study found that one third of the planet Earth’s flora and fauna are at near-term risk of extinction.”

ECO-ACTION & ECO JUSTICE

ian douglas rushlau writes—Environmental Justice=Social Justice: A just transition to renewable energy vs. green colonialism: “It is not enough to pursue massive development of renewable energy sources. If we do not address the legacy of colonialism, and its close cousin white supremacy— their pervasive presence in the economic and political systems based on extractive industries– we will simply replicate the colonialist project under the guise of environmental activism. Like all forms of colonialism, the costs and harms of Green Colonialism are borne by the most vulnerable populations on the planet.”

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—We Like You When You’re Angry: Eco-Anger Motivates Action Better Than Anxiety Or Depression: “According to a new study in The Journal of Climate Change and Health, the more angry Australians reported being about climate change, the more likely they were to engage in collective climate activism and individual emissions reduction efforts. Those who reported feeling more eco-anxiety and/or eco-depression, on the other hand, did not appear to take more personal actions, and were less likely to join collective actions than the outraged were. Eco-anger was the strongest, and only, significant predictor of both individual and collective actions, ‘suggesting that more intense experiences of frustration and anger in relation to climate change are associated with greater attempts to take personal actions to address the issue’.

Meteor Blades writes—Tuesday Night Owls. Dorceta Taylor: ‘Environmental justice demands listening’: “In 1972, Sierra Club members were asked to vote on the question ‘Should the Club concern itself with the conservation problems of such special groups as the urban poor and ethnic minorities?’ Most members voted no. But there was a generational divide—the younger the members, the more likely they were to agree that they should. Bringing on employees and board members of color—and treating them as authorities—could have prevented the environmental movement from alienating some of the most skilled organizers in US history. Instead, environmental organizations have shied away from collaboration and continue to stereotype people of color vis-à-vis their engagement with environmental issues. Within these organizations, there are no (or very few) people who know what it’s like to be afraid for their lives when interacting with the police or jogging down the street. Most of the people in these organizations don’t know what it’s like to see the look of fear on white hikers’ faces when these hikers encounter them on the trail, or to have their intelligence and accomplishments questioned by whites on a routine basis. Instead, big environmental groups developed policies like cap-and-trade without consultation with environmental justice organizations.”

OCEANS, WATER, DROUGHT

Maggiejean writes—Overnight News Digest: The US Water Crisis Edition: “The town’s residents had become alarmed in 2015 when a type of PFAS compound called perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, was found in the drinking water. This chemical, which was used by industry for decades to make Teflon coatings and other stain- and water-resistant products, has been linked by scientists to serious diseases. Because Jacobs became pregnant with Oliver after the PFOA alert, he is the only family member never to drink the town’s water. Neither did Jacobs when she was pregnant or breastfeeding him. She knew some of her chemicals would pass to Oliver in her womb but because the village’s water was being filtered in early 2016, Jacobs thought that he would be mostly protected but to her horror, he was not. When she got the testing results last winter her own previously high levels of PFOA had plummeted to practically zero but those of baby Oliver, whom she had been breastfeeding for 24 months, had soared to resemble a factory worker’s. His levels –222,000 parts per trillion (ppt) —were 100 times the national average.”

Shackman333 writes—Burst Pipes, Pipe Bursting, and the American Water Crisis: Part One: “Today, many Texans are living through a massive failure of their municipal water infrastructure brought on by a massive failure in their electrical infrastructure caused by a massive failure in public policy and what people in many parts of the country would consider a minor winter storm. Is this combination of ineptitude and unusual weather unique to Texas today? How robust are municipal water systems in the rest of the country? Water system health is obfuscated and hidden in rarely viewed reports or buried in the fine print of billing statements. Furthermore, when it comes to transmission and distribution, the vast majority of our water infrastructure is underground: out of sight, out of mind. We drive over potholes in our roadways and see rusted girders supporting aging bridges and overpasses, but as long as water is coming out of the tap, and no one has told us it is unsafe to drink, our water infrastructure seems to be functioning just fine.  But if water is your livelihood, you have no choice but to understand the dirty details of municipal water system vitality.

Shackman333 writes—Burst Pipes, Pipe Bursting, and the American Water Crisis: Part Two – Hazards in the Pipeline: “Spring came late to Milwaukee, WI in 1993.  Frozen ground remained snow covered until late March when sudden high temps and heavy rains resulted in a rapid melt and runoff.  Through creeks, streams, and rivers, the melt water from within the city as well as outlying agricultural land drained into Lake Michigan where prevailing winds blowing back towards the city pushed the new runoff towards shore and the city’s potable water intakes.  As the official story goes, it was the agricultural runoff, combined with a perfect storm of wind and sudden thaw, that carried cysts of cryptosporidium into the city’s water supply. The crypto parasite is a resilient pest whose outer membrane or shell allow it to survive for long periods without a host. Once consumed by humans, symptoms of cryptosporidiosis generally begin after 2 to 10 days.  That brief incubation period was long enough for the parasite to go unnoticed in Milwaukee until over 400,000 people were infected, representing the largest outbreak of waterborne disease in American history.  Officially, no deaths resulted, but later research suggests that an estimated 100 early HIV related deaths occurred at least in part because of the outbreak.” 

CANDIDATES, STATE AND DC ECO-RELATED POLITICS

Dan Bacher writes—Sierra Club CA report reveals all Republican state legislators received oil and gas money in 2019-20: “A new report published by Sierra Club California reveals that all Republican legislators in the State Legislature received oil and gas money in 2019-20. The first installment of the Club’s ‘Tracking the Dirty Dollars’ Project, released in November 2020, focused on 28 Democratic legislators who usually have difficulty voting for bills that would reduce dependence on or pollution from oil and gas activities. That report found that about $2.1 million flowed from oil and gas interests and their allies directly to the legislators whose receipts the Sierra Club analyzed. The project also found that the Governor Newsom took $97,000 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry in 2019-20: Report Overview. This data doesn’t include the millions that the oil and gas industry spent on lobbyists and advertising to influence legislation. You can find that information here in my article: www.elkgrovenews.net/…

Martin Smyth writes—McAuliffe would lock us into fossil fuel for decades: “So why did Berkshire Hathaway buy Dominion Energy’s natural gas assets in 2020, just as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was shut down and the natural gas industry was on the rocks? It made no sense at the time, but like a miracle, natural gas demand and prices are now soaring all over the world. At the same time, Russia’s latest gas pipeline to Europe (Nord Stream 2) is being strangled by U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, the Appalachian Basin is now leading U.S. natural gas production. It’s almost like someone at Berkshire Hathaway knew what was about to happen. But there is a problem. How does the 214 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Appalachian Basin make its way to an international seaport like Norfolk, Virginia, so a small band of scrappy billionaires can become trillionaires? First, they need a state that has no limits on political contributions and no independent ethical oversight. Next, they need a governor who can push through pipelines whether people want them or not. As a bonus, it would be awesome if the local electric utility is allowed to operate as a monopoly so they can use ratepayer money to pay for the whole thing. By a huge coincidence, Terry McAuliffe’s biggest, long-time donor, Philip Munger, is the son of Berkshire Hathaway’s vice-chairman (and billionaire investor), Charles Munger. Problem solved. In fact, when McAuliffe was governor last time, he was so into pipelines he held secret meetings for 18 months to negotiate a $58 million liability waiver agreement with Dominion and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. What a pal.” 

poopdogcomedy writes—PA-Sen: John Fetterman (D) Signs Pledge Rejecting Donations From The Fossil Fuel Industry: “Here’s the latest news today out of Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who announced a 2022 Senate bid earlier this month, said in a statement Tuesday that he will not accept donations from the fossil fuel industry in his run. Fetterman said in the statement obtained by The Hill via email that he had signed the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, under which candidates vow not to accept more than $200 from executives, lobbyists or PACs connected to the oil, gas or coal industries. ‘I never have and never will take a dime from the fossil fuel industry,’ Fetterman, who signed a similar pledge in his 2018 lieutenant governor run, said in a statement. ‘Climate change is an existential threat, and we need to transition to clean energy as quickly as possible. And as we do this, we must ensure that we have a just transition that honors and upholds the union way of life for workers across Pennsylvania and creates thousands of good-paying union jobs in the process,” he continued’.

ENERGY

News Corpse writes—COLD-HEARTED LIES: Fox News Callously Exploits Deadly Winter Storms to Attack Green New Deal: “Now that there are historically severe winter storms ravaging much of the country, Fox News has made a typically idiotic, right-wing based, editorial decision to lie about that as well. Rather than just reporting the facts about the storm and how those battered by it can get help, Fox News is spreading ludicrous falsehoods and laying blame on their political foes. The narrative that Fox is adopting is that somehow the Green New Deal and wind turbines are responsible for the power outages that have devastated Texas. Never mind that wind power represents a small portion of the power generation in Texas which is run by Republicans who have always been opposed to alternative energy sources. Fox News wants their viewers to believe that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is in charge of the Texas power grid and is conspiring to undermine it.”

Texas Deep Freeze

ian douglas rushlau writes—Carbon Profiteers: there’s good money to be made killing the planet and every living thing on it: “Almost 80% of all greenhouse gasses are produced by three human activities: According to NOAA, January 2020 was the hottest January on record globally. This record is one data point in a global trend of warming—one that is directly related to human emissions of greenhouse gases. Stabilizing our climate will require substantially reducing our emissions – and understanding where they’re coming from is a key part of the process. This week we discuss the emissions sources in the United States. As defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. greenhouse gas emissions sources can be broken down into five sectors: transportation (29%), electricity (28%), industry (22%), commercial and residential (12%), and agriculture (9%). (emphasis added). 50% of all greenhouse gasses come from electricity generation and general industrial processes.”

Dan Bacher writes—Lawmakers opposing order to pause new oil leasing received $13 million from fossil fuel interests: “While some analysts have claimed the bankruptcy of several oil companies and the collapse of oil prices last year during the pandemic signaled the ‘end’ of the fossil fuel industry, you wouldn’t know that from the millions of dollars the Big Oil and Big Gas have poured into the campaign coffers of federal lawmakers to oppose any effort to transition to clean energy. Fossil fuel executives and oil and gas industry political action committees have poured millions into the campaigns of lawmakers now criticizing the Biden administration’s efforts to move the country away from fossil fuels and build a clean energy future, according to a new Public Citizen report. The report, ‘Big Oil’s Capitol Hill Allies,’ reveals that twenty-nine U.S. House lawmakers who oppose President Joe Biden’s order to pause new oil leasing on federal lands and offshore waters have received a combined $13.4 million over their careers from fossil fuel interests and $23.6 million from energy and natural resources interests.”

Dan Bacher writes—SoCal marine protected areas, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta threatened by oil and gas wells: “A recent report by Kyle Ferrar of the Fractracker Alliance confirms my extensive reporting on how the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative in Southern California, chaired by Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) President, did little or nothing to protect the marine environment from oil and gas drilling. The report also reveals the threat to the ecosystem presented by oil and gas production wells on state land on Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. This is particularly alarming considering that Newsom Administration is currently fast-tracking construction plans for the Delta Tunnel, potentially the most environmentally destructive public works in California history. ‘The fossil fuel industry has historically taken advantage of the nation’s mineral estate for private profit, while outsourcing the public health debts of degraded environmental quality to Frontline Communities,’ said Ferrar. ‘While President Biden has recently ordered the Department of Interior to put a 60-day halt on permitting new oil and gas drilling permits on federal lands, no such policy exists for state lands in California’.”

A Siegel writes—Fossil Foolish Deceit about Polar Vortex Texas: 2021 is 2011: “Amid a Polar Vortex slamming the central United States, Texas (and Texans) are facing an energy crisis — with greatly increased power (electricity demand) with lowered supplies (about 30 gigawatts of electricity production offline), massively peaking prices, and customers (users, homes … some four million or so) without power amid seriously cold weather (and thus potentially risking freezing due to lack of electricity heat). Almost exactly the same thing occurred a decade ago.[…] Today, just like a decade ago, fossil fools do want people to understand what is really going on and are falsely blaming renewable energy and clean energy efforts for the outages. In Texas, today, natural gas power generation has gone down because of frozen pipes and other problems. There also gigawatts of coal and diesel generation that are offline. In addition, there are many wind turbines that are not producing power because of freezing frozen (perhaps 10-20 percent of the fleet) but the remaining turbines are outproducing the expected production and thus renewables are contributing more electricity than ERCOT had expected. The real story: fossil fuel systems are failing while renewables are delivering. Regrettably, that is unlikely to be the tweet you see or headline you read.

Mark Sumner writes—Messing with Texas: The Lone Star state’s power grid is working exactly as designed: “On President’s Day, many in Texas received an unexpected “gift” that was even less welcome than a day filled with discount mattress ads, as the state was plagued by a series of rolling blackouts. The outages came on a day when the southern U.S. is literally colder than Alaska. That, in turn, comes because climate change has destabilized the normally tightly constrained systems that spin cold air around the pole, and now that system wobbles like a spinning top in the last unsteady stages before collapse. This week, that wobble is tilted toward the central U.S., and folks in Siberia get to go around in shirtsleeves (briefly, before things wobble back in their direction). But since it’s Texas, and this is 2021, Fox News and assorted guests have spent the last two days railing about how the problem is actually green power. In particular, they’re blaming Texas’ high use of wind energy and ‘frozen wind turbines’ for the blackout. If only Texas relied more on burning more coal/oil/gas/wood/witches/liberals, then surely all would be well. Only that’s not the problem. As Ars Technica pointed out on Monday, wind power in Texas is currently working at over 100% of its projected capacity. The real problem is that the Texas electrical grid is working exactly as designed, by people who created a system where the occasional failure is a virtue. Because the profits are better that way.”

Mark Sumner writes—Four days into widespread outages, misery in Texas is immense … so Ted Cruz is going on vacation: “The first thing is the sheer scale. For more than three days, the area of Texas that was out was essentially known as ‘Texas.’ The outage map on Thursday morning shows considerable improvement, with many counties fully restored. However, there are still counties where the majority of homes are without power for a fourth straight day, and rolling blackouts might spread later in the day as demand for power increases. The second thing is the nature of the outage. This wasn’t high winds or accumulating snow and ice causing the issue. It wasn’t a failure of the power lines—it was a failure of the power system. It’s a vivid illustration of how the deregulated, self-contained power system in Texas has incentivized producers to keep the system always on the brink of failure. Because in Texas’ system, failure is highly profitable. Finally, for both business and homeowners, the outage illustrates how a hands-off approach to building codes and regulation leads to “cheap” solutions that turn out to be extremely costly.”    

Mark Sumner writes—Texas is demonstrating a massive failure of GOP core policies, and they’re lying about it. Bigly: “Perhaps it’s appropriate that on the day when everyone can say something good about Rush Limbaugh, Republicans are again working hard to push a big lie. As has been seen so many times in  Donald Trump era of Republicanism, the big lie is best deployed in an attempt to mask abject defeat with a false patina of victory. And, as has been the rule since the time of Joseph Goebbels, one of the most important features of selling that lie is repetition. With Texas in a deep freeze—a deep freeze that lacks power and water—Republicans who lead the state desperately need an excuse for why they’ve failed their citizens to the extent that millions are cold and many of their lives are in genuine peril. The explanation the Republicans have created is exactly as truthful as the idea that the assault on the nation’s Capitol was directed by antifa. And they’re doing it for exactly the same reason: The failure of the Texas power grid is a prime example of a massive failure not just on the part of Republican leadership in Texas, but of the whole conservative philosophy.”

Mark Sumner writes—Blackout continues in Texas, as Republicans blame everything but the real problem: “On Wednesday morning, millions of homes in Texas are still without power as a prolonged blackout continues. Meanwhile, the temperature in Austin, Texas, is expected to approach freezing for the first time in days … as the city is hit by a massive ice storm that’s expected to bring down trees and power lines. As a bonus, the cold weather has also broken water lines in multiple Texas towns and cities. In some areas, the prolonged outage has become genuinely life-threatening. Fox News and Republican politicians—including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott—have been taking this ‘opportunity’ to attack Texas’ use of wind energy, call for the burning of more fossil fuels, and to make claims that green power is “deadly.” However, the statistics provided by Texas own grid managers show that wind continues to produce more power than projected for this time of year, with the great majority of outages in exactly the gas- and coal-based plants that Fox has been touting.”

Mark Sumner writes—Texas mayor is exactly the hero Republicans are looking for in a life-threatening crisis: “When it came time to write a platform for the 2020 election, Republicans either could not be bothered, or could not think of anything beyond “whatever Trump says now.” In any case, they took the extraordinary move of simply discarding their platform and moving forward with no declared plan at all.  Which at least means they can’t be accused of breaking promises, since they didn’t make any. But now one Republican official has spoken up to provide a document that seems tailor-made to fill that empty niche. It incorporates the core Republican themes of “rugged individualism” and the Reaganesque tradition of government distrust into such a pure form, that it’s not hard to see them being stitched onto banners for the next assault on the Capitol. ‘No one owes you or your family anything; nor is it the local governments responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice! … Only the strong will survive and the week [sic] will perish.’ This message was delivered by the mayor of a Texas town suffering from electrical outages and frozen water pipes in the middle of a freezing arctic blast. You can practically hear the stirring patriotic music.”

Mark Sumner writes—Texas is a disaster capitalism paradise, with a system that guarantees disasters: “For millions of people who live in Texas, this week has seemed like hell. With the electrical grid collapsing, people were left to freeze to death in their living rooms while others watched their homes literally fall apart as frozen water pipes burst. But this is all simply a matter of perspective. For electricity providers in Texas, this has been the best week ever. The same goes for natural gas companies. And coal companies. And drilling companies. And on down the line. The entire energy industry, including the owners of Texas wind farms, has seen a tremendous surge of profit. That surge was so great that on just two days this week, Monday and Tuesday, providers could easily have cleared more profit than they do in a full year of ordinary, full-scale production. Not providing adequate electricity to Texas is much more profitable than providing every Texan with the power they need. By design.”

Mark Sumner writes—Texas energy companies celebrate ‘hitting the jackpot’ in system that rewards failure with billions: “For electricity providers in Texas, this has been the best week ever. The same goes for natural gas companies. And coal companies. And drilling companies. And on down the line. The entire energy industry, including the owners of Texas wind farms, has seen a tremendous surge of profit. That surge was so great that on just two days this week, Monday and Tuesday, providers could easily have cleared more profit than they do in a full year of ordinary, full-scale production. Not providing adequate electricity to Texas is much more profitable than providing every Texan with the power they need. By design. On Friday, as the electric grid begins to recover and people survey what’s left after days of no power, no water, and a governor who was so busy going on Fox News he didn’t have time to even distribute the stock of generators provided by FEMA, most of Texas is exhausted. But the energy industry is ecstatic. They’re coming down from a sugar rush that has sent an injection of billions straight into their pockets, and all they had to do to collect it was be bad at their supposed jobs.”    

Dartagnan writes—The GOP just saw its life flashing before its eyes, so Fox News leaped into action: “If the total breakdown of a state’s electrical power grid, plummeting millions of people without warning into subzero temperatures for several days, had occurred anywhere else but Texas, most media outlets, including Fox News, would have dutifully covered the story in accordance with their usual practice. In other words, it would have been a major news item on Fox, but they wouldn’t have spent an inordinate amount of time on it, certainly not making it a subject for their opinion-based commentators to fixate on. As bad as the effects of the Texas storm were, neither winter storms nor power outages (even severe ones) really reflect that network’s bottom line, which is mainly amplifying political propaganda on behalf of the Republican Party. However, as reported by Rob Savillo for Media Matters, Fox allotted an extraordinary degree of coverage to the Texas power outages last week. Nearly every instant of that coverage falsely blamed the power breakdown on renewable energy, the Green New Deal, or some other energy initiative notably associated with the Democratic Party.”

Aldous J Pennyfarthing writes—Jerry Jones’ energy company ‘hits jackpot’ as fellow Texans struggle to survive: “The Frisco-based natural gas producer owned by Dallas billionaire Jerry Jones is cashing in on a surge in prices for the fuel as a brutal freeze grips the central U.S., leaving millions without power. Comstock Resources Inc. has been able to sell gas from its Haynesville Shale wells in East Texas and northern Louisiana at premium prices since Thursday. As demand jumps amid the cold, gas at some regional hubs has soared past $1,000 per million British thermal units. Yeah, why don’t poor and middle-class Texans pull themselves up by their bootstraps and realize they could all be doing this? Step 1: Buy an NFL team that shits gold doubloons no matter how awful it is. Step 2: Become a player in Texas’ dangerously deregulated energy market. Step 3: Rake in the cash like it’s a forest floor in Finland. Easy-peasy, you layabouts. Now show some initiative! Jerry Jones doesn’t owe you anything—except for 39% of the cost of his massive golden goose of a stadium.”

AlyoshaKaramazov writes—Historian Predicts Texas Blackouts Will be Greg Abbott’s Katrina: “It’s a bigger disaster”: “Austin, TX resident and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley pulls no punches, speaking about Greg Abbott’s abdication of responsibility. Sarah K. Burris:  Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley was furious speaking with CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday evening. Speaking from his Austin, Texas home surrounded by flashlights and candles, Brinkley unleashed on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the mismanagement of the crisis. ‘I wanted to help you guys and just tell you that it is a bigger disaster, this blackout than you are even reporting on the news,” said Brinkley. “It is so widespread. It is creating a sense of depression and fear everywhere. Very few people have the privilege wealthy people do with generators. Just like the levies that faced Katrina, since 1935, ERCOT bucked Franklin D. Roosevelt and they want to control their own energy input and they have let it go down and down and down.”

EvanJellicoe writes—ERCOT didn’t fail. It was designed that way:But the money quote in the entire CNN article is this: When asked on Wednesday why ERCOT hasn’t mandated more winterization to prevent outages, ERCOT’s senior director of system operations Dan Woodfin said it was not required. It was not . . .required. And that’s what you get when you allow corporations the freedom to decide what is and what isn’t necessary. They look at the projected bottom line, and they do some ‘what if’ calculations based on various scenarios. And if they conclude that taking certain routine preventative measures will be more costly than simply absorbing the occasional weather problem, they don’t do the precaution. (And it probably goes without saying that when they were doing those ‘what ifs’ they did not include a scenario with a Uri-magnitude storm, because the odds of such a storm happening were so small that it could safely be ignored. Oops.)

Nancy Groutsis writes—Questionable Benefits of Texas Electricity Secession: “The story goes, “Texas makes up for the higher electricity rates they charge during cold snaps because the power rates are very low during the rest of the year.” This is supposed to justify Texas’ power grid secession-that they’re the only state that’s separated from the national power grid system. The truth is that a lot of states connected to the power grid charge less than Texas. For example, in January 2019 twenty states charged a lower rate for electricity than Texas: Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Some of these states are a lot colder than Texas and they suffered from the recent Arctic freeze, but they didn’t charge astronomical rates. Last Monday ‘The spot price of wholesale electricity on the Texas power grid spiked more than 10,000%.’ Texas was already charging more than about 40% of our nation, according to geographic space; so, it’s wrong to force their citizens to accept a 10,000% increase in the price of power every time the weather is cold. They are exploiting their citizens and harming every business in the ERCOT grid other than a few power companies.” 

annieli writes—In Texas, it’s mainly the failure of thermal power plants — natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants: “Texas is the coalmine canary of failures in the GQP’s industrial policy. The ‘clusterfuzzle’ appears to be only in Texas: perhaps they skimmed on costs and failed in winterizing their plants. The structural failure comes from the anti-federal, deregulatory policy of the Texas grid which reveals itself in the disinformation of Texas pols blame-shifting to the ‘Green New Deal.’ This state-level crisis is part of the failure of national industrial policy revealed in the pandemic response.

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Texas Blackout: It Was Unreliable Gas, Not Predictable Wind, That ‘Failed Terribly: “The Texas grid planners weren’t counting on wind to keep the power on, they were counting on the ample gas power. After all, ‘reliable has one of the few key words dirty energy uses to sell their product — ‘natural gas defines reliability,’ according to a 2017 API post about API’s congressional testimony to that effect. Just this last month, API’s State of American Energy page introduced itself with a line about “the foundational role of affordable and reliable energy…’ while CEO Mike Sommers released a statement on gas and climate that opened with a reference to ‘affordable, reliable and cleaner American energy’.” So according to its backers, one of the great big benefits of gas is that it’s reliable. But it froze. Literally. Pipelines, valves, all the complicated machinery and instrumentation built to keep cool in Texas summers were suddenly iced out, while gas pressure fell in the pipes. Bloomberg reported frozen turbines were the “least significant factor,” accounting for just 13% of the blackouts as of Monday evening, so those who operate in good faith would know that it’s unfair to blame wind turbines after that point when so much more gas, coal, and nuclear power unexpectedly went offline.

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Speed And Spread Of Lies To Protect Frozen Fossil Fuels Shows Need For Supply-Side Disinfo Solutions: “As legitimate media has struggled to catch up with the professional liars who blamed wind for gas and coal’s failure to perform to expectations in Texas, those committed to the party line will keep on lying, as evidenced by a second Wall Street Journal editorial on the topic, just as false as the first. When the Republican Governor of Texas can blame ‘private power companies’ and ‘natural gas & coal generators,’ but the WSJ editorial board denies that and says it was really government regulations and wind turbines, clearly there’s no amount of real world facts that will change the WSJ’s commitment to defending fossil fuels (which froze) and attacking renewables (which out-performed expectations). And no amount of careful fact checking can overcome the fossil energy industry’s willingness and ability to spend money promoting itself by distorting the truth about its dirty, deadly, and unreliable products. So they’ll always have someone like industry lapdog Marc Morano appear on white supremacy superstar Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to try and steer the public into believing the lies they’re selling — long before any real experts have had time to weigh in.

committed writes—Rick Perry says Texas would rather stay in the dark than accept the national grid: “so why are the feds sending any help to texas again?Rick Perry suggests Texans prefer blackouts to federal energy regulation. Rick Perry once wanted to get rid of the U.S. Department of Energy. Now, he’s apparently fine with temporarily ridding Texas of energy altogether. As the former Republican governor of Texas and energy secretary under former President Donald Trump, Perry had a lot to say about the state’s ongoing blackouts amid an unprecedented winter storm. But even as it becomes clear Texas’ energy system needs a major overhaul, Perry said Texans would rather remain in the dark if it meant keeping the federal government out, he told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) office in a blog post published Wednesday. ‘Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,’ Perry said.”

Egberto Willies writes—Texas electric grid collapse caused by a Slavish devotion to markets, false independence, more: “The Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith appeared on All In with Chris Hayes and pretty much laid it out. And it was not pretty. ‘If we’re going to talk about what happened here, how we got here, the texas moment for the ages,’ Evan Smith said. ‘I think it has basically three key features to it familiar to anybody who’s followed the politics of the state over the last couple decades. The first is a slavish devotion to markets. Right? Markets are the be-all and end-all. Markets fix everything. That’s the attitude about everything here in the state of Texas except when they don’t fix things. And in this case, markets did not fix things, did not anticipate the problem adequately, and have left us where we are.’ Of course, he was not done there. Many Republican Texas politicians have the false belief that Texas can go it alone. Of course, Texas is dependent on many government programs among them, the military, NASA, and much more.”
Egberto Willies writes—Psaki calls out, lying Texas politicians: Not job-creating green energy, but coal & gas failing: “Texas, a state where its Republican politicians are full of hubris, have a false sense of independence from the U.S. and consider the laissez-faire markets their god, decided to keep most of Texas off the national electric grid. Then the Governor of Texas attempted to blame renewable energy, specifically windmills, for causing the Texas Electric grid failure. A reporter asked Jen Psaki if Texas should be on the national grid.

Of course, Jen Psaki was not going to answer that question directly. It is for the Department of Energy. But she used it to segue into a necessary narrative. ‘Let me first say that building resilient and sustainable infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather and a changing climate will play an integral role in creating millions of good-paying union jobs, creating a clean energy economy, and meeting the President’s goal of reaching a net-zero emissions feature by 2050,’ Jen Psaki said. ‘And also will be beneficial in future storms. I will say that there have been some inaccurate accusations out there. I’m not sure if former Secretary Perry made these but that it was suggested that renewables caused failures in Texas’ power grid. And actually, numerous reports have actually shown the contrary’ …” 

LeftOfYou writes—It’s Snowin’ Down in Texas; all the ‘Lectric Lines are Down: “ Y’all best brace yourselves. I don’t think that the horror of the disaster unfolding in Texas, from the current onslaught of Winter weather, has really begun to sink in to the rest of the country. My 30-something daughter grew up in Texas and is a school teacher now in Austin. We’ve previously lived in the DFW Metroplex and understand how poorly communities in most of Texas are equipped to deal with severe Winter weather.  The farther South one moves in Texas, the less likely cities and counties and TDOT will be well equipped with snowplows and highway deicer. Then, there’s the problem with the Texas electric grid. At 1:00 AM Monday morning, the apartment complex, where my daughter lives in North Austin, lost electric power. She and I were on the phone 8 hours later with her mood fringing on panic as she and her dog were enduring exposure to subfreezing temperatures in her apartment with no heat and faucets dripping to avoid damage from icing.”
 
txjackalope writes—Things are very very bad in Texas: “I spent the day trying to get word to friends and neighbors they could come over and have a hot meal, charge devices, and warm up. Can’t get people to spend the night because they are worried about leaving pets and houses alone or are worried about COVID(We’ve had our first shots but not our second). I gave all my firewood to a neighbor who has a kid running a fever with a cough. I sent him home with hot coffee for his wife. I charged the phones and tablet of an ER nurse friend who hasn’t been home in two days because the road home is closed. Her partner is stuck there with her dog. This has none of the hallmarks of a hurricane.  In hurricanes you prep, the vulnerable evac, and it hits. It’s bad for a few hours and after that few hours everyone gets to work and things get incrementally better every hour.  Help starts arriving from non impacted areas almost immediately. Lightly effected areas patch themselves up and send help to the epicenter in a day. This shit just keeps getting worse.  The closest “unaffected area” is 600 miles away.”

annieli writes—Texas grid failure blamed by pols who John Fetterman might call ‘Trump simps: “When it gets really cold, it can be hard to produce electricity, as customers in Texas and neighboring states are finding out. But it’s not impossible. Operators in Alaska, Canada, Maine, Norway and Siberia do it all the time. What has sent Texas reeling is not an engineering problem, nor is it the frozen wind turbines blamed by prominent Republicans. It is a financial structure for power generation that offers no incentives to power plant operators to prepare for winter. In the name of deregulation and free markets, critics say, Texas has created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service. It’s a “Wild West market design based only on short-run prices,” said a portfolio manager, Matt Breidert, at an analytical firm called EcoFin/Tortoise. And yet the temporary train wreck of that market Monday and Tuesday has seen the wholesale price of electricity in Houston go from $22 a megawatt-hour to about $9,000, while 4 million Texans have been without power.”
 

Essephreak writes—As Austinites freeze, our Democratic city leaders deliver a press conference in short sleeves: “I am a lifelong (58 years old) Democrat. So when I see our local ambitious Mayor deliver yet another master class in tone-deafness, I feel the need to warn a broader audience, lest he continue his advance through the party ranks. Coming on the heels of a warning not to travel because of covid that delivered via videotape from a timeshare in Cabo (really!), today Austin mayor Steve Adler led a press conference to address the wide swathes of our city that have been without power in sub-freezing temperatures for over 12 hours. Dressed in a lightweight shirt in an obviously well-heated home or office with plenty of mood lighting, the Mayor assured the city that “we are all in this together.” This, while asking the remainder of the city with power to conserve, in order to restore it faster to those who don’t. As he and several others, including our t-shirt wearing city manager, bloviated for 40 nearly information-free minutes, even as Facebook commenters with no way to charge their phones begged them to get to the point. And as an Austin Energy rep provided vague, self-contradictory, and self-serving excuses for how and why what were supposed to have been “rotating blackouts” of ~40 minutes have turned into a life threatening disaster that, according to the same rep, is unlikely to end before tomorrow afternoon.”

sufeitzy writes—Harvard Prof Says: No Design Flaw in Texas Grid: “Cold is not typical in winter as far south as Houston. Texans, however, always expected an arctic blast at times. Meteorologists always explained it as a cold jet stream excursion. Every time. Many times over the decades. Today I had to burst out laughing at a quote from one Mr. William Hogan, a Harvard Economist, in The Wall Street Journal: William Hogan, an energy economist at Harvard University who helped design the Texas market, said this week’s blackouts weren’t indicative of a major design flaw, but rather inevitable imperfections stemming from extraordinary weather challenges. I dropped my phone laughing folks. The way I read this is ‘the entire system failing for better part of several days and destroying water distribution for untold thousands, killing many from a single point of failure…’ no that’s not a major design flaw. Texas, the state, is an extraordinary weather challenge even in the decade and a half I lived there. The  idea that an economist can ‘design a market’ rather than the electrical grid system itself to be resilient to rather mundane weather—sub-freezing in Houston and Dallas and Abilene and Austin and Amarillo isn’t extraordinary, for days at a time, and clearly within the range of possibilities—well here we are!”

Fossil Fuels & Emissions Controls

harrisco99 writes—A powerful commission oversees utilities in Georgia. Democrats can take a seat in 2022: “There were three races on Georgia’s runoff ballot in January:  Two for US Senate and one for Georgia’s Public Service Commission (PSC). Democrats prevailed in the first two but came up 34,000 votes short in the third.  If elected, Daniel Blackman would have become the first Democrat to serve on the powerful five-member Commission since 2006. The PSC regulates the rates charged and services provided by most electric, natural gas and telecommunication utilities operating in Georgia.  It also monitors natural gas pipelines for safety. No surprise, then, after years of Republican control:  Georgia has some of the highest utility rates in the United States—and they are going in the wrong direction. Consumers and communities haven’t had a voice on the PSC in years.  Instead, the Commission is a pawn of utility companies and GOP elites.  In 2022, that can change.  One of the PSC Commission seats will be on the ballot—and the incumbent is a Trumpist.”

Dan Bacher writes—CA Senators Wiener and Limón introduce bill, SB 467, to ban fracking and require 2500 foot setbacks: “Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) today introduced legislation, Senate Bill 467, to ban fracking and other destructive oil extraction methods and to require setbacks between oil extraction and homes and schools in California.  You can expect the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron, Aera Energy and California Resources Corporation to spend big money lobbying to oppose this legislation, like they have done with every bill introduced into the Legislature to ban fracking and to require a 2500 foot health and safety setback between oil and gas wells and homes and schools. These four oil industry lobbyist employers spent over $10 million last year to defeat a setbacks bill and other legislation opposed by them. For an in-depth investigation into Big Oil’s lobbying expenses in 2020, read my article: www.counterpunch.org/…

mcc4 writes—The Great Texas Freeze Out: “As Texans suffer through their fifth consecutive day in sub-freezing weather with little or no power, little or no heat, and now little or no water or water that needs to be boiled despite having no power or heat to do so, there are already a number of obvious lessons to be learned. First, living in a state that believes in a functioning government and at least some regulation of capitalist forces is probably a good idea. Texas has already seen this kind of deep freeze and the resulting power problems before. Back in 2011, another polar vortex froze natural gas lines, shut down coal-fired plants, and froze wind turbines resulting in power outages similar to what we are seeing today, just not on such a statewide scale. After that incident, federal officials recommended that Texas winterize its electric grid but could not mandate those changes be made simply because Texas ran its own segregated grid. The reason Texas set up such an isolated grid was specifically to avoid federal regulation.”

AGRICULTURE​, FOOD & GARDENS

mahdalgal writes—Freeze Dried and Rehydrated Saturday Morning Garden Blog Vol. 17.08 February 20, 2021: “The garden is undergoing an unusual freeze dried period to start this year. I love Texas native perennials since they generally can withstand our fickle 8a/b-9 growing zone temps and still return year after year. This year the dormant flowering perennials were hit far too hard with what seems like an endless onslaught of brutally hard freezes/strong winds/snow/sleet/ice/freezing fog —  after 5+ years of super-mild winters. Can’t help but wonder if I will be starting over with new plants. Will this be the year we don’t experience the glorious spring green colors of the Vernal Equinox on its due date — March 20? Has 2021 decided to become 2020’s ugly twin sister? Today’s diary will have more political opinions than I usually express.”

NAT’L FORESTS, PARKS, MONUMENTS & OTHER PUBLIC LANDS

Meteor Blades writes—Wyden, Neguse push 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps legislation, with billions in funding: “On Friday, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado resurrected 2020 legislation that would establish a ‘21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act’ with $38.8 billion in funding with $9 billion of it going to hire and train men and women for outdoor jobs constructing trails, controlling invasive species, restoring wetlands, building parks, and, like its predecessor decades ago, planting trees. Susan Jane M. Brown, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, said: ‘Reinvesting in America’s public lands is a win for all of us who work and play on these lands. This legislation will provide important support for critical programs that are essential to stewardship of our national forests, parks, and other public lands’.”

Username4242 writes—Adventuring the Yellowstone River once more! Montana winter beauty (Video):More riverside adventures! Soon returning to Oregon for the field season, and gonna be filming some amazing places on the way.

REGULATIONS & PROTECTION

DrMarmot writes—Trump Considered Abolishing the EPA: “People in and out of media constantly claim that Trump broke presidential norms. This is true— if by “norms” one means not being an openly criminal bigot and all-around asinine jerk—but that truth can obscure a key understanding of Trump. Because as norm breaking as Trump was in his persona, he was a devoutly typical Republican in making actual law. Trump’s policies were mostly the standard far-right wing fare: tax cuts for the truly wealthy coupled with cruel attacks on people of color and the environment. Which brings us to Scott Pruitt, the Trump administration’s first Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. Do you remember this particularly weaselly mountebank? If you do, it’s likely because he installed a SCIF—a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility—at the EPA, charging the taxpayers $43,000 for his super cool top secret phone booth. Hey, people need privacy when they are assiduously working to undermine the ability of humanity to survive on the only planet we have.

MISCELLANY

cdmigrante writes—In Wake of Deadly Chemical Leak and Pandemic: OSHA Needs to Certify U Visas: “On January 28, workers reported to Foundation Food Group’s Gainesville, George chicken processing plant like they did every morning, to perform grueling, dangerous work in the midst of a global pandemic. Then, a deadly nitrogen leak from a refrigeration system used to flash-freeze chicken killed six essential workers and sickened dozens more. Like many workplace health and safety accidents, the Foundation Food Group plant accident was tragic and preventable—another  case of production over people. The weekend after the accident, I joined legal advocates from across the country in Gainesville, Georgia to meet with workers affected by the chemical leak at a legal clinic organized by the grassroots organization, Georgia Familias Unidas.  I sat with one woman, six-feet apart, our masks separating us, her hands trembling, as she told me about how her coworkers were killed in the accident and that she had been experiencing a persistent headache for days. I asked her if she had seen a doctor and she shook her head no. Over the course of the day, I learned that Foundation Food Group had actively discouraged workers, most of whom were undcoumented Latinx workers, from speaking to anyone moments after the accident. This meant that workers were afraid to go to the doctor or to speak to investigators. Unfortunately, the stories I heard on Sunday were very familiar.

LaFeminista writes—I don’t need lectures from Billionaires about climate change: “In particular Bill Gates pontifications under his label of the ‘Good Billionaire.’ Yes he does keep to the science in a way, but  please stop with the hypocrisy. If there is a credibility gap in listening to Gates on this subject, it comes from the suspicion that he lives in a world so far removed from the rest of us as to raise large blind spots. If everyone could pay to offset the carbon Bill Gates does the world would be a slightly cooler version of Venus. Private jet, mega-houses and sports cars are his only little guilty pleasures, buying another rich peoples airline another. About carbon offsets. Airlines and oil companies love talking about carbon offsetting. But to be serious about tackling climate change, they need to stop carbon emissions from getting into the atmosphere in the first place.”

Walter Einenkel writes—Kenyan woman invents method to turn plastic into construction cubes that are ‘stronger than bricks’: “Nzambi Matee of Kenya is one of the 2020Young Champions of the Earth winners selected by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Matee’s young company, Gjenge Makers, takes plastic waste and turns it into building materials. According to Matee, using sand and a mixture of plastic waste can produce bricks, manholes, and tiles that are stronger than traditional concrete materials used for construction. Matee boasts thatOur product is almost five to seven times stronger than concrete.What’s more, Matee’s recycled bricks are lighter and cheaper than more traditional construction products. This makes the entire supply chain of construction cheaper because transportation costs are greatly lowered, and obviously the materials themselves are cheaper. The 29-year-old’s company is able to create ‘1,000 to 1,500 plastic products’ in a day, and the target for her environmental entrepreneurialism is people in need of shelter. “It is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter—a basic human need. Plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. The potential is enormous, but its after life can be disastrous.” The business has already been certified by the Kenyan Bureau of Standards and as plastic is a problem facing not only Kenya but the world, Matee’s innovation could have far-reaching effects.

Meteor Blades writes—Earth Matters: TX power mess worse for people of color; 331 human rights defenders murdered in 2020: “NO SURPRISE. TEXAS BLACKOUTS WORSE FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR: “As the deep freeze that has sparked rolling power blackouts to 4 million Texans continues, experts point out that the first to have their electricity cut off are marginalized communities. As noted by the authors of the peer-reviewed Energy, Poverty, and Health in Climate Change: A Comprehensive Review of an Emerging Literature, these communities can also expect to be the last to see their power reconnected. Not only are they less financially able to retreat to some place warm, the weather-induced surge in demand for electricity that has boosted prices will leave families unable to pay their utility bills next month, putting them at risk for having their power cut off. And that means a greater likelihood of their pipes freezing, leaving them without power and water. Poorer households already pay a disproportionate amount of their earnings on utilities and their residences are less likely to be well insulated or have efficient heating equipment. Robert Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University widely regarded as the father of environmental justice, told The New York Times,Whether it’s flooding from severe weather events like hurricanes or it’s something like this severe cold, the history of our response to disasters is that these communities are hit first, and have to suffer the longest. These are communities that have already been hit hardest with COVID’.”

Meteor Blades writes—Earth Matters: Alligators have a cold weather trick; despite pandemic, solar and wind soared in 2020: “While the U.S. economy plunged into recession last year, with at least 25 million Americans now unemployed, furloughed, or working for less pay than before the coronavirus struck in February 2020, there were record-breaking new installations of renewable energy sources. Installations already operating generated 20% of all electricity produced in the U.S. in 2020, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. “It was a year of records but also resilience,’ said Ethan Zindler, head of Americas research at BloombergNEF at an event highlighting the report. ‘I’ll be candid in saying [that] about halfway through the year, things looked pretty dire.’ And, in fact, the renewables industry lost 67,000 jobs between February and December, according to Environmental Entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, new U.S. solar installations hit 16.5 gigawatts, breaking the previous record of 14.4 gigawatts set in 2016. Using a different metric to measure timing of projects’ completion, Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy, put the gain at more than 19 gigawatts of solar. The wind industry added more than 17 gigawatts, according to BloombergNEF. Together these renewable additions grew 11% over 2019.

funningforrest writes—The Daily Bucket. What is Time? “Here we go with another of funningforrest’s scintillating sciencey soliloquies. You can substitute ‘soporific’ for ‘scintillating’ if you wish. We have all the time in the world to think about time but when do we ever take the time to think about time?  I do it so you don’t have to, and then make you suffer through what I come up with. In the text-box template thingamajig above (there’s a name for the thing, I think) you’ll see the word ‘phenological.’ What does this mean, and how is it related to time?”





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