environment


My column from the June 17 issue of Ottawa Delivered:

As tempting as it has been to pick the low-hanging fruit and write a column blasting the ineptitude of BP, I thus far have resisted.

But after hearing about those Louisiana walruses and Gulf Coast seals Tuesday morning, I no longer can help myself.

In case you haven’t heard, the oil spill response plans of BP, Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil apparently are eerily similar – right down to including how they would deal with the wildlife that might be affected by an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, including seals, sea lions, sea otters and walruses.

Goo goo g’joob. Which, in this case, roughly translates to, “Good God, you boobs!”

Too harsh? I don’t think so. Actually, I’d like to extend the insult to whatever federal officials allowed such emergency contingency plans to be filed. None of those animals can be found anywhere near the Gulf of Mexico, which means whoever created those plans didn’t pay much attention to detail. And if they didn’t pay much attention to detail … well, you get the idea. We get an oil spill situation that worsens exponentially by the day.

But don’t you worry, BP has a solid plan for dealing with the media after a disaster. According to ABC News, BP’s oil spill response plan has 40 pages devoted to dealing with the media, but only nine pages are dedicated to how the company would actually clean up an oil spill.

In other words, BP was four times more prepared to deal with the media than the actual oil spill itself. That would explain why the oil company continually stumbled while searching for a way to effectively deal with the oil spill, yet was more than ready to spend $70 million on advertisements promoting tourism in the Gulf states negatively affected by the oil spill. BP had a CYA plan ready to go on day one.

Meanwhile, back in the bayou, the oil menace continues to grow worse. Louisiana’s biologically diverse wetlands system is in peril, with the oil spill looming like a waterbound version of a dark thunderstorm cloud hanging overhead. And it’s even worse for the commercial fishermen and other people whose livings depend on the Gulf not being irreparably ruined by oil. Those people are out of jobs and can only watch helplessly as their livelihoods are dealt continual blows.

And the danger is about to get a lot worse as hurricane season begins. Imagine a powerful hurricane flinging all that oil all over the Gulf states. I imagine the potential poisoning of air and drinking water is a more troublesome worry than any physical damage that could take place.

These are the things that must be kept in mind by President Obama, the oil executives and everyone else involved in the cleanup efforts. These are the reasons why the American people are anxious to see this problem fixed.

Right now, we don’t care whose fault it is as much as we just want the problem solved.

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If you’re a sports fan, you probably heard about the Philadelphia Phillies fan who ran on the field and got Tasered for his trouble.

There has been some outcry about the security guard using a Taser to take the 17-year-old down, but I think the time for teaching these wall-jumpers a lesson was long past. Think it was cool to make 45,000 people wait for you to stop running around so they can continue watching the game? I bet there were a lot of people in attendance who thought it was equally cool to see the guy get the Taser treatment.

Yes, perhaps using a Taser was a bit premature, but hopefully it sent a message to wannabe lawbreakers that if you don’t follow the rules, there are consequences – and sometimes consequences involve a Taser blast.

I can think of a few other people who deserve the Taser treatment. For instance, former Illinois governor and ongoing embarrassment Rod Blagojevich – there’s a guy severely in need of a Taser zap. Not only does he have it coming, but I’d love to see what it does to his hair, too.

I won’t even bother listing all the annoying celebrities that deserve a Taser blast, but the ones at the front of the line are the ones who are famous for nothing. Kim Kardashian, anyone?

There are plenty of politicians I could list here, too, but for the sake of brevity, let’s stick to the Kennedy clan for now. I find it disingenuous of them to be in favor of using alternative “green” energy sources, but when their country wants to put a wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, the Kennedys loudly oppose the project because it would be seen from their family compound on Martha’s Vineyard. You can’t want it both ways without being a hypocrite.

I’d also like to see BP officials get the Taser treatment. It was bad enough when, in 2007, the oil giant procured an Indiana permit allowing it to dump more pollution into Lake Michigan than typically allowed. But now BP is also responsible for the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, so somebody needs to zap some BP executives.

Speaking of the oil spill, BP executives and their oil rig subcontractors spent part of Tuesday morning pointing their fingers at each other. Nobody wants to take responsibility for the oil spill. Here’s a solution: take a Taser to the whole lot of them.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s not forget to save a Taser blast for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently said the oil spill should not be blamed on the oil industry because such disasters are “acts of God that cannot be prevented.”

Hey Perry – consider your Taser shot an act of God that cannot be prevented because of your stupid statement.

This column was also published in the May 13 issue of  Ottawa Delivered.

Yesterday I read an interesting article about a Boston-area bookstore that delivers book orders by bicycle — which is more environmentally friendly than mailing them. Here is most of the brief article, written by Boston Globe staff writer Beth Daley on the newspaper’s Green Blog:



[T]he Harvard Book Store deserves kudos for their very green book delivery system: By bike. And starting [Monday] for Earth Week, the independent store is making green delivery free through [noon Saturday].


The bookstore began partnering with MetroPed, a pedal-driven delivery service, several months ago.


For $5 – and $1 for each additional item – the bookstore did away with the often more financially and environmentally expensive shipping route.


For some customers, bike delivery may be even faster than mailing a book: Cambridge and parts of Somerville and Allston will get same-day or next-day delivery. Everyone else in the zip codes the store covers are guaranteed 1-3 day delivery.


For more information – and the fine print – go to www.harvard.com.


Obviously “green delivery service” is available only in the surrounding area, but I still think it is unique enough to be worth mentioning. I wonder if other businesses will follow suit, if not to be more environmentally responsible, at least to cut shipping costs and create better customer service.

President Obama reiterated this morning his plan to build a nationwide system of high-speed rail lines to ease congestion and modernize the transportation systems in some of the country’s most populated corridors.

“A major new high-speed rail line will generate many thousands of construction jobs over several years, as well as permanent jobs for rail employees and increased economic activity in the destinations these trains serve,” Obama said. “High-speed rail is long-overdue, and this plan lets American travelers know that they are not doomed to a future of long lines at the airports or jammed cars on the highways.”

The federal stimulus package includes $8 billion for high-speed rail projects and Obama requested an additional $1 billion a year for the next five years. I’m sure that sounds wasteful to the TEA Party protesters, but building a high-speed rail system is stimulus spending I support. Not only would a high-speed rail system create jobs and ease congestion, it would help roads last longer and reduce carbon dioxide emissions per passenger, making it environmentally friendly. Plus faster travel times encourage tourism by making it easier to go to further-away places, which sounds a lot like true economic stimulus spending to me.

There currently is only one high-speed rail line operating in the United States, between Boston and Washington, D.C.

* * *

The government identified 10 corridors of 100 to 600 miles in length with the greatest promise for high-speed rail development. They are:

— California Corridor (Bay Area, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Diego)
— Pacific Northwest Corridor (Eugene, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver BC)
— South Central Corridor (Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Little Rock)
— Gulf Coast Corridor (Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Birmingham, Atlanta)
— Chicago Hub Network (Chicago, Milwaukee, Twin Cities, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville)
— Florida Corridor (Orlando, Tampa, Miami)
— Southeast Corridor (Washington, Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Macon, Columbia, Savannah, Jacksonville)
— Keystone Corridor (Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh)
— Empire Corridor (New York City, Albany, Buffalo)
— Northern New England Corridor (Boston, Montreal, Portland, Springfield, New Haven, Albany)

* * *

One more note from Obama’s news conference, as reported by The New York Times:

In making the announcement, the president was joined by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., whom Mr. Obama joshingly referred to as “America’s No. 1 train fan.”

In the Senate, Mr. Biden earned the nickname “Amtrak Joe” for his regular train use between Washington and his home in Delaware over decades and for his strong support for increased rail financing.

Perhaps someone can explain to me why The New York Times anally refers to the vice president as “Joseph R. Biden Jr.” but uses the hokey word “joshingly” in the same sentence.

Newmatilda.com, an independent news Web site based in Sydney, Australia, quoted The Bread Line in an article about the future of print media. It is a lengthy article that examines the issue from numerous angles.

Speaking of Australia, a story in today’s Los Angeles Times says climate scientists believe the island continent is “an early cautionary tale for the rest of the world” regarding global warming. Australia’s climate change-induced problems reportedly include “prolonged drought and deadly bush fires in the south, monsoon flooding and mosquito-borne fevers in the north, widespread wildlife decline, economic collapse in agriculture and killer heat waves.”

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that White House officials are looking at using geoengineering technology to purposely cool the Earth’s climate as a last-ditch option to combat global warming if it worsens dramatically. President Obama’s science adviser, John Holdren, told the AP there are two possible geoengineering options:

• Shooting sulfur particles (like those produced by power plants and volcanoes, for example) into the upper atmosphere, an idea that gained steam when it was proposed by Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen in 2006. It would be “basically mimicking the effect of volcanoes in screening out the incoming sunlight,” Holdren said.

• Creating artificial “trees” — giant towers that suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it.

The first approach would “try to produce a cooling effect to offset the heating effect of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases,” Holdren said.

But he said there could be grave side effects. Studies suggest that might include eating away a large chunk of the ozone layer above the poles and causing the Mediterranean and the Mideast to be much drier.

I’m sure this revelation will become an anti-Obama talking point for conservatives who deny climate change is occurring. I’m sure they will say Obama is going to destroy the planet by shooting sulfur particles into the atmosphere. At least one fringe commentator is bound to say this is evidence that Obama is the Antichrist.

That is why it is worth repeating that Holdren says geoengineering is only being considered as a last resort. It would be foolish not to at least consider all the possible options, even the ones that may never see the light of day. A well-informed decision is always better than a haphazard one.