2011 was a big year for environmental news from Solyndra, to Climategate II, and the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline. Locally, we saw Seattle ban plastic bags, the state ban BPA even as a study from the EPA said there was almost no risk, the fight over coal terminals in Western Washington, more ethics questions about how the Puget Sound Partnership spends money, among other issues.
One photo, however, stands out as the photo of the year, demonstrating the promise and pitfalls of our current environmental policy.
...you think eating squirrels is good for the environment.
One growing element of environmental culture is the rise of the "locavore" movement – people who strive to eat only local food. Some take this quite seriously. In Portland a dispute over local food at a pig cook off ended in "at least two head buttings and a fist-fight" that sent "a renowned chef and the event's organizer to jail after one had been pepper-sprayed and the other shot with a taser."
If you want to be green and celebrate the holidays, the Washington State Department of Ecology, King County Solid Waste and environmentalists have some advice for you: give the gift of self-sacrifice this season.
The Department of Ecology, for example, offers this view of Christmas gift-giving, saying it is little more than "scrambling to perpetuate increasingly consumptive accumulation of 'stuff' to store and throw away."
That is the primary argument the Washington Conservation Voters, the Washington Toxics Coalition and the Environmental Priorities Coalition make in advocating for one of their 2012 "Environmental Priorities" - a proposal to ban "Tris" flame retardant compounds.
The Washington Toxics Coalition and the Washington Conservation Voters argue that the ban on Tris is necessary because:
One of the key tenets of environmental dogma is that buying locally produced food helps the environment. The fewer miles the food travels, they argue, the less energy used and the better it is for the environment. The King County "Ecoconsumer," a taxpayer-funded county employee, argued the case in the Seattle Times:
Why doesn't the environmental left turn to the creativity of the free market for solutions that reduce resource use, environmental impact and improve energy efficiency? Maybe because they don't understand, at a basic level, what the free market is.
Earlier this week, an article in the Seattle Times quoted Washington State Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant saying he was concerned that "new pollution" was undoing the cleanup of Commencement Bay in Tacoma. The new pollution, however, is not the toxic sediment being removed from the Bay. The article notes that the new "contaminants are called phthalates, used in piping, packaging, soft plastic toys and many other products."
For much of the past decade, elected officials in Washington State have been talking about the critical need to limit carbon emissions to reduce the impact of climate change. The Governor, former Seattle Mayor Nickels and others have even highlighted their "leadership" on the issue.
Information released recently from the Energy Information Administration, however, shows that Washington is anything but a leader when it comes to actual results.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has a particularly silly column today in the Seattle Times, proclaiming "That's right: Solar power is now cost-effective." His central claim, after he finishes attacking natural gas exploration, is that "we're just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal."
He doesn't provide a source for this dramatic claim, and with good reason: it simply isn't true.
Why do environmental activists feel so free to exaggerate or say things that simply aren't true? Today's Seattle Times offers a clue.
Today's Times has a story regarding logging roads and their impact on streams. It notes that the Office of the Attorney General has decided to join other states in appealing a decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which ruled that foresters have to receive permits from the EPA for their logging roads.
A great deal is being made of the fact that global population has surpassed 7 billion people today. A number of folks on the left are worried about what this means for the planet. The Seattle Times features a story about the milestone, saying it comes "amid fears of how the planet will cope."
A company in Clark County is looking to build a biomass energy plant. We've written about the science of biomass plants in the past. Although the economics of such a plant are shaky without some government support, the science indicates the plants are one of the best ways to provide renewable energy. They are much cheaper than alternatives such as solar panels.