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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 29th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Hurricane Sandy freezes 2012 race in place.

For the last four days — and for at least the next four days — there is only one story in the country: Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricanes dominating the news is nothing new, but the timing of Sandy — it will make landfall just eight days before a presidential election — presents a unique set of challenges for both President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Theories abound as to how Sandy could impact this contest. Some argue it could aid Obama as he will be front and center over the next few days fulfilling his duties as president rather than looking like a candidate. Others note that Democrats rely on early voting far more than do Republicans, and widespread power outages and damage left in the wake of the storm could keep some voters at home in the runup to the election — a possibility that top Obama advisor David Axelrod expressed concern about Sunday.

Speculation aside, there’s one thing that Hurricane Sandy has already done — and will continue to do for at least the early part of this week: freeze the race in place.

There will be nothing — repeat: nothing — on cable television over the next several days other than images of Sandy churning it’s way up the East Coast. (Yes, residents of everywhere not in the path of the storm, we know that it’s not a big story for you. But the storm is headed toward Washington and New York City, two of the country’s biggest media centers. It’s just a fact.)

What that wall-to-wall coverage of the storm will bump off the air, of course, is the wall-to-wall coverage of the campaign that would have been there if not for Sandy. (All of the reporters who were being added for the final week of the election will now be diverted to cover the path of Sandy.) And it will force the two candidates and their campaigns to be far less aggressive in their scheduling and messaging than they normally would be in the race’s last days. Can you imagine if you are seeing footage of homes destroyed and then commercials air that savage either Obama or Romney? Not exactly what you want to see at that moment.

The cumulative effect will be to preserve the race as it was towards the end of last week — a dead heat nationally with President Obama clinging to a swing state edge. What remains to be seen is when/if things return to normal before Nov. 6, and if they do, what the two campaigns do in what will be a very short window before voters’ vote.

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AND WHERE IS THE OUTCRY THAT MANKIND DID NOT DO ENOUGH ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING?

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Romm report: “As the East Coast braces for a possible direct hit from Hurricane Sandy, meteorologists are closely watching the storm’s ‘freak’ formation.”

Satellite image taken yesterday shows Hurricane Sandy along the eastern United States coastline tracking northward. (photo: AP)
Satellite image taken yesterday shows Hurricane Sandy along the eastern United States coastline tracking northward. (photo: AP)

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Did Climate Change Help Create ‘Frankenstorm?’

By Stephen Lacey, Joe Romm, ThinkProgress

28 October 12

s the East Coast braces for a possible direct hit from Hurricane Sandy, meteorologists are closely watching the storm’s “freak” formation. They’re calling it “unprecedented and bizarre,” a “perfect storm,” and a “frankenstorm” that could cause historic storm surges, last for multiple days, and cause over a billion dollars in damage.

After hitting Jamaica and heading toward the Bahamas, experts say it’s likely that Sandy could swing into the Northeast and hit the coast somewhere between Washington, DC and Boston, impacting people all along the Atlantic seaboard. Projections for Sandy’s path are still uncertain, but models show that the threat is increasing.

A confluence of factors are coming together to make the storm unprecedented. As Sandy moves through the Atlantic, it is expected to combine with an early winter storm from the continental U.S., causing pressure to drop — potentially reaching pressure levels of a category 3 or 4 hurricane with winds over 115 miles per hour.

Brian Norcross of the Weather Channel described the storm this way on his facebook page: “This is a beyond-strange situation. It’s unprecedented and bizarre.

Another factor under consideration is climate change. Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace. And like a baseball player on steroids, it’s the wrong question to ask whether a given home run is “caused” by steroids.

As Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, has written, all superstorms “are affected by climate change”:

The air is on average warmer and moister than it was prior to about 1970 and in turn has likely led to a 5–10 % effect on precipitation and storms that is greatly amplified in extremes. The warm moist air is readily advected onto land and caught up in weather systems as part of the hydrological cycle, where it contributes to more intense precipitation events that are widely observed to be occurring.

The climate change link may be more than just more precipitation. A 2010 study found “Global warming is the main cause of a significant intensification in the North Atlantic Subtropical High.”  Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman explains a possible influence:

Recent studies have shown that blocking patterns have appeared with greater frequency and intensity in recent years….

While it is not unusual to have a high pressure area near Greenland, its intensity is striking for this time of year. As Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang wrote on Wednesday, the North Atlantic Oscillation, which helps measure this blocking flow, “is forecast to be three standard deviations from the average — meaning this is an exceptional situation.”

Coastal areas may be hit with storm surges of up to 6 feet, potentially reaching the highest levels ever recorded. The storm could last as long as 4-6 days, bleeding into the election.

The storm comes at a unique time politically. In August, the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida was disrupted by strong rain and flooding caused by Hurricane Isaac. Two days later in his acceptance speech, Mitt Romney mocked President Obama’s pledge to deal with climate change and “slow the rise of the oceans” — causing uproarious laughter among delegates. And for the first time since 1988, the presidential candidates did not talk about climate change during debates — even as data shows that the U.S. is experiencing the most extreme weather ever recorded.

“The climate has shifted to a new state capable of delivering rare and unprecedented weather events,” explained meteorologist Jeff Masters earlier this year.

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elected, Romney is promising an end to key federal policies supporting sustainable energy like the production tax credit for wind.”Senator Bernie Sanders is interviewed by a Reuters reporter, 11/28/06. (photo: Reuters)
Senator Bernie Sanders is interviewed by a Reuters reporter, 11/28/06. (photo: Reuters)

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Transforming Our Energy System

By Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News

28 October 12

t the second presidential debate, Mitt Romney talked about how a president should be “Mr. Oil, or Mr. Gas, or Mr. Coal.” Romney supports continuing the massive $113 billion in federal subsidies for oil, gas and coal over the next 10 years. He has previously referred to sustainable energy as “imaginary.” If elected, Romney is promising an end to key federal policies supporting sustainable energy like the production tax credit for wind.

While I may not agree with all of President Obama’s energy policies, I strongly supported his successful effort to double fuel economy standards for cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. This will cut our reliance on imports from OPEC by half. I also support his investments in energy efficiency and the sustainable energy industries. Frankly, I think he may be too modest about his accomplishments in this area. The fact is, over the last four years we have begun to transform our energy system, cut greenhouse gas emissions and create new jobs through energy innovation.

The truth is that we’re off to a strong start, but given the crisis of global warming much, much more has to be done.

Energy efficiency is the low-hanging fruit. Every day we are paying more for energy than we should due to poor insulation, inefficient lights, appliances, and heating and cooling equipment — money we could save by investing in energy efficiency. Since Obama took office and we passed the stimulus, we have weatherized over 1 million homes. In Vermont, families whose homes are weatherized save on average $916 a year on their fuel bills while making significant cuts in carbon emissions. Given the fact that over 90 percent of the products used in weatherization are manufactured in the United States, we are creating jobs not only in construction but also in manufacturing. This is a win-win-win situation.

In the last several years we have also made significant progress in local energy innovation. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program I wrote with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) helped Carmel, Ind., switch 800 of their 1,300 street lights to LEDs, reducing their energy use by nearly 50 percent and saving the city $70,000 a year. In Raleigh, N.C., block grant funds helped install solar hot water systems at fire stations across the city, reducing fossil fuel use for water heating by up to 50 percent. In Miami-Dade County, Fla., block grant funds went to construct a new power plant that recycles gas from a wastewater treatment plant and a landfill to make electricity.

Contrary to Romney’s claims, we are making significant progress on solar. At the end of 2008, we had about 1,500 megawatts of solar and less than 50,000 solar jobs in America. The cost of solar was $7.50 per watt installed. Today, less than four years later, largely thanks to federal investments, we have more than tripled solar energy to 5,700 megawatts installed. We now have more than 100,000 solar energy jobs at 5,600 companies in the United States, double the number of jobs from four years ago. And, very significantly, the cost of solar has been cut by more than half, down to $3.45 per watt installed. There is nothing “imaginary” about the growth of solar energy.

In fact, the Department of Defense, the largest single energy consumer in America, is bullish on solar. Whether it is the 1.45-megawatt solar project at the Burlington, Vt., Air National Guard Base or the 14-megawatt project at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., the military recognizes the value of solar. Thanks to the stimulus, America is now home to the largest operating solar photovoltaic plant in the world, the 250 megawatt thin-film plant in Yuma County, Ariz. That plant can provide electricity to 100,000 homes.

Photovoltaic technology is not the only significant solar development. In California, construction is underway for the largest concentrated solar thermal plant of its kind in the world, the 392-megawatt Ivanpah project in California that created 2,100 construction jobs. When completed in 2013, this concentrated solar plant will power 140,000 homes. And a 280 megawatt concentrated solar plant in Gila Bend, Ariz., will be the first in the U.S. with energy storage, providing power even when the sun goes down. That project created 1,600 jobs.

The story is much the same with wind energy, thanks to the federal production tax credit and the stimulus bill. At the end of 2008 we had about 25,000 megawatts of wind energy, but today we have doubled wind energy capacity to over 50,000 megawatts. We have added more new wind energy capacity over the last five years than nuclear and coal combined. We now have 75,000 Americans working in wind and over 470 plants in America manufacturing wind products. The upshot: the cost of wind energy dropped from 8.4 cents per kilowatt hour in 2008 to about 5 to 7 cents per kilowatt hour today.

States like Iowa and South Dakota have achieved the milestone of getting 20 percent of their electricity from wind. And the Shepherds Flat wind farm in Oregon, one of the largest in the world at 845 megawatts, created 400 construction jobs and is powering 235,000 homes. Wind energy is real, not “imaginary.”

We are seeing great progress on geothermal. Ball State University in Indiana is constructing the largest closed-loop geothermal heating and cooling system in the country, creating 2,300 jobs as they replace aging coal-fired boilers. As a result, they will save $2 million annually in energy costs. In Oklahoma, a state with over 4,000 people working in geothermal, the Oklahoma Gas and Electric utility is helping customers switch to geothermal in order to cut peak energy demand by 27 megawatts in the next decade. This will avoid the need for costly new fossil fuel plants. Geothermal technology is creating jobs for well drillers, and 99 percent of the geothermal heat pumps sold in America are made in America.

Likewise, with biomass, we are seeing innovation. In Kansas, a cellulosic ethanol refinery is under construction that will produce 25 million gallons a year of fuel from sources such as wood and agricultural waste, instead of corn. That plant, supported by the stimulus, created 65 jobs and will generate 22 megawatts of biomass electricity as well. The Navy is using algae and advanced biofuels in its fleet, and the Air Force has flown fighter jets using a 50 percent advanced biofuel mixture.

As a nation, we should all be proud of the progress we have made in the movement toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy, but much more needs to be done. The scientists tell us that if we do not reverse global warming, more and more damage will be done to our planet in terms of floods, drought and extreme weather disturbances. The United States today has not only the opportunity to lead the world in cutting carbon emissions, but also in creating millions of good paying jobs as we transform our energy system away from fossil fuels.

Mitt Romney’s energy policy is a relic of the 19th century. We need a 21st century plan. The fate of the planet is at stake.

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