Tag Archives: Keeping Watch on Earth News

What’s good for the climate – and not so good – in the new Inflation Reduction Act

By Roger Straw, July 30, 2022

The proposed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is important, no doubt about that.  Here are a number of ways to learn more.

If you’re a wonk for details, read the first of these two articles below, Manchin’s Inflation Reduction Act: What’s Good and Bad for Climate News. by Drilled News.

If you want a one-page exposé on the bill’s weak points, check out the second article, Manchin Poison Pills Buried in Inflation Reduction Act Will Destroy Livable Climate, by Brett Hartl of the Center For Biological Diversity.

Offsite reading – see also:

It’s a sad day when “progress” must be taken in great big baby steps and a few backward leaps.  I fear for the generations to come….

Manchin’s Inflation Reduction Act: What’s Good and Bad for Climate

Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Drilled News, July 28, 2022

Weird coincidence: My power was out when the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 was announced. By the time it came back on, Twitter was awash in takes on what Senator Joe Manchin’s proposal means for climate. Quick aside here, how annoying is the dude who shits on everyone else’s proposal and then finally submits his own worst-of-all-versions approach as the most sensible path forward? We’ve all worked with this dude at some point, and he is no one’s favorite.

Negotiating on climate policy with Senator Coal Baron began with the first iteration of the Build Back Better Act, which earmarked more than $500 billion for climate-related programs. That was still less than half of what is needed to actually transition off of fossil fuels, but it was a start and clean energy advocates were particularly excited about the Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would have required electric utilities to clean up their electricity mixes by 4 percent each year. That doesn’t sound like much, but even the fastest-moving utilities were hitting around 2 percent each year (2020 was the best year on record, when the utility sector hit a 2.3 percent increase in clean energy), so the mix of regulation and incentives aimed at pushing them to 4 percent would have delivered meaningful emissions reductions. It was one of the first programs Manchin killed; he said utilities were already moving quickly enough. The fee proposed on methane emissions went too, as did a whole host of other regulatory measures.

“What we’ve seen is that carrots are much easier to pass than sticks,” Dr. Leah Stokes, professor of political science at University of California at Santa Barbara and author of the book Shortcircuiting Policy, about the way utilities have influenced and controlled energy policy over the years, told me at the time. “It’s really hard to actually require change,” she adds. “It’s a lot easier to say, ‘Hey, if you’d like to go solar, cool! Here’s some money. But you know, you don’t have to. You want an EV? Sure, that’s great. But you know, you don’t have to get an EV. Everything is just kinda voluntary and that’s important. Don’t get me wrong. Carrots are really important. But the problem with climate change is that we actually have to move fast enough. We need everybody to be doing the right thing at the pace and scale that’s necessary.”

And therein lies the rub. Politicans are still treating climate change like, well, politics. In doing so they’re missing the one really key difference between this issue and every other issue they might address: time. If Washington fucks up on healthcare, people will die, it’s true. But we’re not locked into mass death year over year, compounding and increasing all the time with no way to stop it. A new policy could literally stop the bleeding from one day to the next. The same is not true of climate. A compromise today may well be smart politics, but it is also genocide. It is a choice to put corporate profits above human life, and not just the humans walking around right now but also those who will walk the Earth 50 years from now. It’s the sort of thing that makes me wonder all the time whether politics is just fundamentally incapable of meeting this challenge.

Which is not to say that doing something, anything isn’t always better than doing nothing. Every percentage of a degree matters, and despite the fact that this Act supports fossil fuel extraction alongside clean energy development, on the whole we will emit less than had Manchin proposed absolutely nothing. So, with our climate realist glasses on, let’s take a look at the details of this proposal, which Manchin and Schumer agreed to and announced on July 27, 2022, and which they say could be law as early as August 2022.

The Weeds

This is a 725-page bill, and I have not read every single page yet, so please if there are climate provisions lurking outside the “Energy Security” section give me a shout. The section begins on page 232, and it starts with “Clean Electricity and Reducing Carbon Emissions.” Here’s what it does (I’ve put ** next to provisions that were part of the original BBB climate proposal):
…….(>>>…continued, click here…)  [An EXTENSIVE listing of provisions follows, a thorough analysis of the bill’s pros and cons.  Excellent for a deep understanding.  – R.S.]

Manchin Poison Pills Buried in Inflation Reduction Act Will Destroy Livable Climate

Press Release by Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity, July 28, 2022

WASHINGTON— A proposed climate and energy package would require massive oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, reinstate an illegal 2021 Gulf lease sale and mandate that millions more acres of public lands be offered for leasing before any new solar or wind energy projects could be built on public lands or waters.

The provisions, in sections 50264 and 50265, are buried near the end of the 725-page Inflation Reduction Act. The bill was released Wednesday after Sen. Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced they had agreed to the $370 billion package.

“This is a climate suicide pact,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s self-defeating to handcuff renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction. The new leasing required in this bill will fan the flames of the climate disasters torching our country, and it’s a slap in the face to the communities fighting to protect themselves from filthy fossil fuels.”

The bill would require the Interior Department to offer at least 2 million acres of public lands and 60 million acres of offshore waters for oil and gas leasing each year for a decade as a prerequisite to installing any new solar or wind energy. If the department failed to offer these minimum amounts for leasing, no right of ways could be granted for any utility-scale renewable energy project on public lands or waters.

In January a federal judge overturned the 80 million-acre Gulf of Mexico lease sale because Interior failed to address the climate harms from developing the leases. The additional Gulf of Mexico and Alaska lease sales mandated by the bill for 2022 and 2023 were part of a prior five-year leasing plan, but they did not occur.

The Inflation Reduction Act would require offering these minimum lease amounts for 10 years. That translates to more than 600 million acres of offshore leasing — four times the size of the entire Gulf of Mexico outer continental shelf.

On average the fossil fuel industry has purchased for lease 1 million acres of land every year since 2009. By requiring 2 million acres per year to be offered for lease — an area the size of Yellowstone National Park — the legislation all but ensures that the fossil fuel industry will maintain current oil and gas production levels without any change for the next decade. U.S. emissions must be cut in half over the next nine years to have even a chance of avoiding catastrophic warming.

“More oil and gas leasing is completely incompatible with maintaining a livable planet, so we’re forced to fight this,” said Hartl. “This deal is unacceptable. If it passes, we’ll fight every single lease the Interior Department tries to approve. Our climate and the health of our communities depend on it.”

Passing new laws to mandate oil and gas leasing would fundamentally conflict with the Biden administration’s climate goals. Multiple analyses show climate pollution from the world’s already producing fossil fuel developments, if fully developed, will push warming past 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Avoiding such warming requires ending new investment in fossil fuel projects and phasing out production to keep as much as 40% of already-developed fields in the ground.

Fossil fuel production on public lands is responsible for about a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas pollution. Peer-reviewed science estimates that a nationwide federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce carbon emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate-policy proposals in recent years.

Let’s Have an East-Side City park in the Historic Benicia Arsenal !

Benicia moving to build apartment complexes on historic land in the Benicia Arsenal

Letter by Kathryn Reiss and Tom Strychacz of Benicia, July 20, 2022
[Editor: see additional supporting documentation below.  – R.S.]

We are 25-year residents of Jefferson Street, and we are extremely concerned about two large apartment complexes threatening Officer’s Row in the Historic Benicia Arsenal. The city intends to develop two sites on our street—yet both sites of these planned developments are on the National Historic Register of Places, and as such are not projects that should be part of SB35. The city has a charge to protect the Historic Arsenal and Officer’s Row, and NOT throw it under the bus in its quest to provide much-needed affordable housing. We request that the Historic Benicia Arsenal in its entirety be removed from Housing Element Opportunity listings, and we hope that other residents of Benicia will write to the city to make their views known. These protected lands of national historical significance should not be part of SB35 development, and the city has a duty to protect the area.

Please consider:

  • “1451 Park” is a project on the corner of Jefferson and Park that intends to build several large three-story apartment buildings on a lot where the army’s Officer’s Club once stood. The current plan is not in keeping with the scale and appearance of the existing homes on Jefferson Street. There is room for 4 or 5 cottages on the 1451 Park plot, if designed to be in scale and appearance with the existing homes. It would be excellent if homes on this lot truly were all affordable housing. Additionally, there must be a safety setback from Park, which is a busy road with truck traffic whizzing through the industrial park.

Why cottages, front porches and picket fences? Because this “Officers’ Row” is a beautiful street of carefully maintained and preserved historical homes from the mid-19th century and is a treasure for our city. The homes are frequently featured in the city’s Historical Homes tours. The street has been used in television commercials. It is considered a special street, and one that our City Conservation Plan vows to protect and conserve.

Therefore, ANY new construction must fit in appearance with the historic homes already on Jefferson Street—just as the new-builds constructed in the 1980s were designed to fit in seamlessly among the 19th century homes. Residents on Jefferson Street, whether living in a 19th or 20th century home, have been under the restrictions and guidelines of the Historic Preservation/ Historical District plan when making any changes or updates to our properties. The city has been quite strict in enforcing the guidelines—rightfully so—in order to preserve the integrity of this Historic district. So the city needs to be equally stringent in any new development.

Thus, any new development on 1451 Park must respect the integrity of our city’s Conservation Plan, while still providing several affordable homes in the beautiful historic Arsenal neighborhood. The new builds must fit in rather than stand out like the proverbial sore thumbs. The east side of town already has many townhouses, condos and apartment buildings — and other areas of Benicia need to absorb their fair share rather than transgress on historic Jefferson Street.

  • “Jefferson Ridge” is a project slated for the second block of Officer’s Row—Jefferson Street—on the undeveloped land adjoining and across from three 19th Century Mansions. These were the homes of the highest-ranking military officers and–continuing along the street–the impressive Commanding Officer’s Mansion. The Clock Tower at Johansson Square completes this collection of magnificent historic buildings.

This collection of buildings atop rolling hills and affording views over the Carquinez Strait is the only property of its kind in the state of California. It is considered of value to the entire United States—having earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places as a Civil War Era relic of national importance. Benicia has a responsibility to protect it. We urge the city to research and consider other spaces for the necessary affordable housing required by SB35 without ruining forever the historic lands already on the National Register. The protection of the Historic Benicia Arsenal is not only a city issue; it is a state and national issue.

Rather than build on this land with its sweeping views of the hills, the port, and the Carquinez Strait, we request that the city turn it into a much-needed east-side park. Its open spaces were once enjoyed by countless visitors and dignitaries—even President Ulysses S. Grant– and it should continue to be enjoyed that way by future generations. Families living on this under-served side of town deserve a beautiful park—one for all residents of our city to enjoy. What a draw such a park would be for out-of-town day-trippers as well, who would then stay to dine at First Street restaurants and shop at First Street shops.

Even without a proper city park on this side of town, the Benicia Arsenal land has already become a de facto park for the lower east side. Picnickers, dog-walkers, bike riders make daily use of the land. Wedding photographers are often seen staging shots with the imposing Clock Tower and elegant Commanding Officer’s mansion in the background. The Jefferson Street Mansion is a popular wedding venue that would be put out of business entirely if the land around it were to become a high-density apartment complex housing hundreds of residents.

Additionally, the ten-fold increase in traffic and parking will cause mayhem and safety concerns for the narrow streets in the area. And the water needed for such a high-density development draws on resources California simply does not have.

To conclude: There is a time and a place for affordable housing—and though the time is now, the place cannot be the Historic Benicia Arsenal. Other areas of town can and must be found for development, and there are many areas that would serve without ruining forever our city’s Civil War Era gem of national significance. The city of Benicia should stand as stewards for our historical treasures—not allow them to be lost forever.

Losing such an irreplaceable resource causes irreparable harm. There is no going back once historic lands are developed. Therefore, we fervently ask that 1451 Park be developed in keeping with the other houses on Jefferson Street, and we ask that Jefferson Ridge be preserved as an east-side park where our city’s heritage is honored and where all residents can enjoy the special beauty of a bygone era.


Kathryn Reiss and Tom Strychacz

Kathryn Reiss is a Benicia author.  See her online presence at https://www.kathrynreiss.net/

Tom Strychacz is a Benicia artist.  See his online presence at https://www.tomstrychaczart.com/

Documents opposing the development, by Marilyn Bardet
City of Benicia documents


Warnings of ‘collective suicide’ as heat and wildfires rage worldwide

António Guterres tells governments ‘half of humanity is in danger zone’, as countries battle extreme heat

The Guardian, (abbreviated version from email newsletter), by Fiona Harvey, July 18, 2022

It’s not often that the national news agenda in the US so closely mirrors the one across the pond in England, where the Guardian is headquartered. But with scorching temperatures sweeping so much of the northern hemisphere, and similar scenes playing out in so many countries, it’s never been more evident just how borderless the climate emergency is.

In London this week, previous records were “absolutely obliterated” when temperatures shocked climate scientists by reaching 40.2C (104F). Flights were canceled after the soaring temperature “melted” a runway and fires raged across the capital in the busiest day for the fire service since the second world war. Throughout Britain, Guardian journalists endeavored to report on the debilitating heat and what it means for the future in a country where, as a number of colleagues reminded me this week, no one really has air conditioning.

As drought warnings are in place across half the EU – and wildfires blanket much of France, Spain and Portugal – more than 100 million Americans are under heat warnings. In Alaska alone, 264 fires are currently burning.

The UN secretary general said this week that humanity is facing “collective suicide” over the crisis. But as David Smith and Chris Stein report for the Guardian:

The brutal contrast between political inaction and catastrophic global heating has led some to question whether America’s institutions of government are fit for purpose. David Axelrod, a former strategist for Barack Obama, tweeted: “We are fiddling as the world burns.”

Joe Biden is expected today to announce measures to address the climate crisis, but the barriers to meaningful reform seem to be multiplying by the day. His climate agenda appears to be all but dead after Senator Joe Manchin blew up the latest efforts at congressional action. Democrats may lose their congressional majority in the midterms, dimming the potential for future legislation. And any measures face inevitable scrutiny by a supreme court that has proved hostile to climate action.

As you are likely aware from reading the Guardian, we’ve long considered the climate crisis to be the most pressing issue of our time. At Guardian US, we’ve recently hired an extreme weather correspondent, who’s currently out reporting with firefighters in California. We’re focused on solutions – for example, the race to breed a variety of wheat that can withstand the climate crisis.

And as a global organization, we never lose sight of the international picture: while many headlines this week were understandably focused on Europe and the US, it was also a good time to remind readers what’s happening elsewhere. In India earlier this year, temperatures exceeded 120F. In Mexico, more than half of the country is experiencing drought, with residents of Monterey able to access running water for only six hours a day.

A fire in Rainham, east London, on Tuesday. There were more than a dozen fires across the capital. Photograph: Tony O’Brien/Reuters

Originally published on The Guardian, July 18, 2022

Benicia Independent announces new directions

‘BenIndy’ will return to more frequent focus on issues other than COVID-19

The Benicia Independent, by Roger Straw, May 25, 2022

Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

Friends, family and neighbors near and far – it’s been a looong and sometimes lonely road here at the wheel, driving and maintaining the clean-energy vehicle known as the Benicia Independent.

Now, having passed through a challenging 25 month public health journey, the time has come to reconfigure the roadmap – again.

The BenIndy on COVID-19

In April of 2020, the BenIndy was overtaken by the urgency of reporting on the deadly pandemic sweeping into Benicia and Solano County.

At first, your BenIndy staff of one – that’s me – collected, analyzed and published Solano County COVID data five days a week M-F.  More than a year later in June of 2021, the County cut back to 3 days a week, and although I complained that we ought not be slacking off, I followed suit and began posting my COVID report on MWF.

Just two months ago, on March 14, 2022, the Solano County Health Department cut back to informing the public about COVID only on Mondays and Thursdays.  Again, I expressed disappointment, but switched to a twice a week posting.

As of today, over more than two years, I have published 416 Solano/Benicia COVID reports, keeping residents informed as the virus mutated and surged – and killed 425 of us.  (425 Solano residents.  The County does not disclose City data on deaths and hospitalizations.)

I have been tired of this for a long time, but I carried on due to the danger and severe threat to public health.

The world beyond COVID-19

Meanwhile, like everyone else, I have been alarmed by historic news from Ukraine.  I’ve not posted nearly often enough about our U.S. Supreme Court poised to take over the private health decisions of women.  Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are threatening the very basis of our democracy.  And my deep and abiding concern for sensible gun control and racial justice has spiked, again, with the devastating news from Buffalo NY and Uvalde TX.

Of course, that’s not all.  There’s a world of nearby news: it’s electoral campaign season again here in Benicia, with our Big Oil political action committee amassing over $200,000 to once again pollute our polls and elect a puppet City Council.  Vallejo news and Solano County and California news is compelling and important.

So it’s time for me to let go of the daily, weekly, interminably ongoing COVID report.  I’ll archive for public access the spreadsheet I’ve kept that shows the spread of COVID here from April 2020 to May 2022.  Check it out at BenIndy COVID SPREADSHEET
And the 416 individual updates are archived here: DAILY COVID POSTINGS ON BENINDY.

New Directions

I will renew and strengthen my Benicia coverage, including:

    • an expanded focus on Benicia Black Lives Matter
    • coverage of Benicia’s 2022 electoral campaigns, including the run for City Council by my favorite candidate, Kari Birdseye and the powerful Valero PAC that will surely oppose her
    • continuing stories on Benicia environmental concerns, with a close eye on the SF Bay, the Carquinez Strait, the air around us and our not-so-friendly neighbor, Valero Benicia Refinery

I will also return to peace and justice themes writ large, national and international issues that have motivated me for over 50 years in my professional and retirement life:

    • Racial Justice and the resurgence of white supremacist ideology and expression
    • Gun violence and sensible gun control
    • Organized threats to our democracy in swing states and the federal government
    • Gender justice and LBGTQ rights, with a serious focus on women’s health issues and the right to safe and legal abortion
    • World order, peace, freedom and international justice, including opposition to authoritarian and fascist powers
Limits and personal needs

Of course I’ve set the bar higher than my 73-year old body and retirement needs can begin to attain.  We all know that it’s important to accept some limits and attend to personal needs as well as the critical calls to vigilance, resistance and service.

So I’ll never do it all.  But at least I’ve given myself clarity and permission to move in a good direction.

Help where help is needed?

If there’s anyone out there reading this far down in the story who would like to assist me, I’d welcome turning a one-person operation into a team approach.  In particular, if you would like to pick up on COVID reporting, that would be nice.  Or if you’d like to become a regular contributor on any of the themes I’ve highlighted, let’s talk.  Write to me at rogrmail at gmail dot com.

Who knows?  Maybe the BenIndy will see another 15 years?!