Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Barack's State of the Union Address

President Obama gave his second State of the Union address before congress this week to mixed reviews. Some found it boring, some found it inspirational, but for me, a large opportunity was missed.

Remembering the fact that this administration has actually accomplished quite a lot in its time so far, no matter how others may spin it, the President shied away from speaking to those accomplishments and focused on where we need improvements and, like most State of the Unions, it was largely filled with the aspirations of the future. While the President did set (sort of) lofty goals for the next 20-25 years and made comparisons of our Nation's shame compared to other countries the like of Russia and South Korea, one of my biggest disappointments with the speech is best summarized by David Roberts of Grist:
In his 2009 State of the Union-esque speech, Obama spoke of "saving our planet from the ravages of climate change." In his 2010 SOTU, he affirmed the "overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change." In 2011, fresh off the hottest year on record, Obama said ... nothing about climate change. It didn't come up.
The American people need to recognize that global "competition" for green tech industry and innovation is not just for bragging rights it's for the keys to the future. "He who controls the spice controls the universe," can easily be translated to, "the country who controls the technology that will increase efficiency, decrease pollution and eliminate dependence on oil, controls the future of humanity."

It also needs to be remembered that green tech is not the same as carbon/green house abatement. To truly save the future of our existence on this planet we need to change our habits, our relationship with food, energy and the earth.

I will again admit that the State of the Union had some somewhat lofty goals, such as to switch from fossil fuels to renewable source of energy, producing 80 percent of U.S. electricity from renewable sources by 2035, major investments in mass transportation, giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years amongst others. But it could be better. Where is the lowering greenhouse gas emissions? Where is the International Climate Treaty? Where is a push for sustainable building and continuing the reinvestment programs?

For those who are not e-mail members of the Obama administration or, they both were rather aggressive in their post state of the union e-mail push. MoveOn tried to invigorate their base with claims like "progressives aren't yet geared up for the fight" and "Republicans, speaking from a fantasy world where all our problems somehow are the government's fault, essentially laughed at the President's ideas and promised deep, gouging cuts they say will magically get America moving again." Obama's team had a bit more of a bipartisan message with phrasing like; "Overcoming the challenges we face today requires a new vision for tomorrow. We will move forward together, or not at all -- for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics."

Missing from both was any mention of Climate Change. Progressives and Democrats and even some of those on the right need to remember that this is not a fight to be given up on. This is not a candle of hope to let burn out into the night and our focus has to be on ways to improve the economy while prioritizing the global climate.

The mention of "America's Sputnik moment" garnered a lot of attention but it seemed, at least to me (and to some fact checkers) a little weak. Ignoring the fact that it took 4 years to announce our desire to reach the moon and that announcement was more relating to Soviet success in manned space travel, If this was truly a Sputnik moment, there would be massive panic and fear that if we didn't do anything, we will be killed. The immediacy and fear of threat just isn't there anymore. There is no "Green-scare" similar to the "Red-Scare" of the Sputnik era, and it looks like, until 90% of the population can't breath, there wont be.

A really cool aspect of this State of the Union was the amount of observer interaction through social media. Be it instant polling, or online responses, we haven't seen this much social media interaction with politics since Hack the debate. The twitter hashtag #SOTU was exploding during the event and for hours afterwards.

Hopefully the priorities of our country will remained focused not only on job creation and the green tech industry but also on abating Climate Change. One thing is apparent though, through mediums like social media platforms it becomes easier to educate the public and lead to behavior modification that will allow us to sustainably live on this earth. Here's looking at you Future.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Green Jobs and Mandates

During the gubernatorial election in California there was a lot of huff about Climate mandates and the loss of jobs (see AB 32). The main speculation is that if the California's Climate Bill was allowed to be enacted that a cornucopia of jobs would be lost. These jobs would be in industries most likely to be affected by laws trying to . While detractors of AB32 decried the loss of California jobs, they neigh-sayed the concept that these lost jobs would be replaced by others in the growing green job market.

green is pretty
While it is true that the full ramifications of AB 32's enactment is yet unknown, and it is not 100% provable that legislative green demands can truly kick start a market, a recent report has shown that a market has exploded in California when most other industries were flat-lining. From the L.A. Times;
Green jobs at clean-tech or alternative-energy companies are flourishing in California, with nearly a quarter of them based in Los Angeles, a study has found.

Employers offering jobs in fields such as solar power generation, electric vehicle development, environmental consultation and more added 5,000 jobs in 2008. About 174,000 Californians were working in eco-friendly fields by early 2009, compared with 111,000 in 1995, said nonprofit research group Next 10.

Next 10, an organization supporting green tech and geared towards looking at today's issues from the perspective of possible ramifications 10-years from now (otherwise known as planning ahead) has generated the third edition of a comprehensive report, which "tracks California’s history of policy and technology innovation, and resulting economic and environmental gains or losses" (from their press release). The report found many interesting things, including the surprising fact that apparently; "More businesses are starting up in California than are leaving or closing," a significant issue to consider when talking about certain possibly outmoded markets sloughing off.

The 2010 California Green Innovation Index concludes with the finding that California’s green economy is one of the few areas of the economy that is growing in the current downturn. From the Green Job Bank.

New data released today shows that California green businesses have increased 45 percent in number and 36 percent in employment from 1995 to 2008 while total jobs in California expanded only 13 percent. As the economy slowed between 2007 and 2008, total employment fell 1 percent, but green jobs continued to grow five percent.

The Sacramento Area led the pack with job growth of 87 percent from 1995 to 2008, followed by the San Diego Region (57 percent), the Bay Area (51 percent), and Orange County and Inland Empire (50 percent).

We should remember that 2008, when Green Jobs was growing while all else was sinking, that there was huge legislative pushes in the green market in California. It was the year of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger' Executive Order S-14-08, committed to getting a third of California’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020. It put's the state’s renewable energy requirement at 33% by 2020. To this date it is still the most aggressive renewable energy mandate in the country.

Looking ahead to 2009, found other huge pushes in California's eco-political world. 2009 had
the Joe Simitian authored, Darrel Steinburg pushed bill SB 14 that would have "...require(d) private utilities to get 33% of their energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind power by the year 2020" vetoed by the same Governor. This showed, at least to me, that the Governor was fine with giving an executive order to show an intent, but did not want to set the conditions for follow through. His veto letter is found here if you want to take a look. The triple pundit wrote a very impressive piece that year about this fight called "Can California Meet Renewable Energy Goal with a Mandate?" It appears that there was at least some small push to the job creation by even the mention of these efforts, to stay ahead of the game.

It is interesting to see various utilities are dealing with this long term executive mandate. I was unfortunately unaware of how ahead of the curve SMUD has been (way to go btw). Again patience always needs to be stressed, markets take a long time to grow, and it also takes a lot of work to raise the bar for industries to the levels we deserve. Hopefully when the next Next 10 report comes out the industry will have increased to levels unexpected and the real effects of this 33% mandate will be figured out.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Arizona Slaying, a momement of silence

I just wanted to take a second to pay respects to those who perished in the horrible tragedy that took place in Arizona. I hope everyone can maintain the respect the dead deserve.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

John Laird for everything

Today I found out that John Laird, former Assemblymember and State Senatorial hopeful from Santa Cruz was appointed as the CA Secretary of Resources by the newly sworn in Governor Jerry Brown. I was highly excited by the fact that John, who I consider an amazing legislator and activist and a very friendly individual to boot, would be given this incredible opportunity to continue to do amazing things.

From the Sacramento Bee
Apparently I am not the only one who is pleased with this appointment which has happened almost out of the gate for Brown. The CLCV lauded the appointment saying; "CLCV enthusiastically endorsed John when he ran for state office. We're equally thrilled that he will continue to protect California's natural, historical and cultural resources in this new role."

John Laird has an amazing history. He was the first openly gay mayors in the United States when in 1981 (a year before I was born mind you) he was mayor of Santa Cruz and broke boundaries again when he (and Mark Leno) became the two first openly gay Assemblymembers in the California legislature.

For many, that accomplishment could be enough to rest their laurels on; make their main issues geared around progressing rights for the homosexual community and, honestly, that would be impressive alone. John Laird, on the other hand, has also been a leader in the environmental field for as long as his political history has existed. While with the Santa Cruz City Council he worked with Save Our Shores to protect against offshore drilling. While with the State Assembly he passed an impressive list of environmental accomplishments including co-authoring the legislation that created the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a "state agency created by bi-partisan legislation and signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2004... with the understanding that the environmental, economic and social well-being of the Sierra Nevada and its communities are closely linked and that the Region would benefit form an organization providing a strategic direction." While with the Assembly, John received a 100% score from both the California League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club California for his votes on environmental issues which is very very rare.

He is even an extremely excellent writer and a hilarious commenter. I consider him a friend, not only personally, but to California and to the environmental and progressive movement. When he ran for State Senate against in a strange special election situation, I offered my help with Social Media and, had I not been overwhelmed with working at my new gig at the time, I would have been able to help more. Unfortunately he lost out to Sam Blakeslee, the former Assembly Minority leader in a very strangely formed Senate District. With this Gubernatorial appointment Laird is still building his political resume and hopefully will be able to leverage it for something in the future (John if you read this I would totally help out with a race for Governor some upcoming year).

As pointed out in the San Jose Mercury News, this is just one of many early appointments showing Brown's stance on ecological issues;
Political observers say the appointment underscores Brown's commitment to the environment. Also Tuesday, Brown reappointed Democrat Mary Nichols to chair of the California Air Resources Board. He's expected to appoint a new Secretary of Environmental Protection, another top environmental post, with the anticipated retirement of Linda Adams.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Green New Years Resolutions

So it is a new year; 2011. Say goodbye to the 2000 "'naughts" and move on to a new decade. And while we look back on the past year, be it for the "10 top stories in environmental politics" or the "Climate BS of the year" there is a portion of the New Year celebration that most keep relatively, if be it personally, important - resolutions. When we approach resolutions we are looking back at the past year through the framing of "I wish I had done this," or "this year I will improve upon this." Whether you are an elected official looking to use your position better, or a hard working citizen trying to make it in these tough times when we make a resolution, we are making a promise to ourselves of how to make the next year better. While thinking on this, we should remember how we can make our world's year a little bit better. While it is a new year there are still tons of green resolutions mentioned in the past that can be utilized in this new decade.

Even if you have already started touting a green bag (or several) during your grocery shopping, stopped buying bottled water (I have to say, I got my clean canteen 2 years ago and I love it, it keeps the water tasting so crisp), or even if you have switched to solely recycled toilet paper old new years resolutions lists (such as from the Daily Green or Planet Green can contain a bounty of ideas of small things that you can start doing to make the world a better place. It is especially important to look at as many resources when entities like the Environment Agency in Abu Dhabi (EAD) have called on citizens to prioritize the environment when making this year's New Year resolutions.

As for myself, I am going to be pledging to go Vegetarian at least one day a week and one full week this coming year. As Planet Green mentions, the livestock industry is a huge greenhouse gas emitter.

So when making your New Years resolutions, give at least one to how to make 2011 cleaner and greener than 2010.