By Published On: February 1, 2008

The cold gray weather makes Dr. Snarky Sparks want to curl up with an engaging novel and hot toddy in front of a crackling fire. But, there is work to be done. More importantly, there’s the unpleasant realization of the greenhouse gas impacts of burning logs. Thus, even if she could, she wouldn’t enjoy a warm hearth knowing she’d help melt the polar ice caps and exacerbate homelessness among the dwindling polar bear population. Unfortunately, not everyone is as concerned about the impact of their carbon footprint on creatures near and far as Dr. Snarky. An area offshore Alaska, the Chukchi Sea and the neighboring Beaufort Sea, is home to about one-fifth of the world’s polar bears, which await listing under the Endangered Species Act for protection. However, the Arctic bears have to compete with the far better financed and less threatened oil and natural gas interests, which want to drill in the area. Bush Administration officials have put off making a listing decision for the polar bear because they don’t want any interference with the fossil fuel sales expected to take place next week. Listing the beleaguered polar bear would require the U.S. Minerals Management Service, which is set to issue the oil and gas leases, to consult with the pesky U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the leases’ potential environmental impacts. In fact, conservation groups sued the Minerals Management agency January 29 for allegedly hiding documents that show the potential harm to the bears and its Artic brethren from more drilling. The suing parties assert the impact assessment would show that oil and gas drilling operations are “ill-advised and possibly illegal.” California’s Senator Barbara Boxer was also quite peeved. She held a hearing January 30 to highlight the matter. “Because this listing is already long overdue, there should be no further delay,” she stated. ”It is our moral obligation to protect God’s creatures on earth.” This is akin to the ongoing battle between California and the Bush Administration over the denial of a federal Clean Air Act waiver needed to implement the state’s tailpipe emissions reduction law. Boxer is involved in both struggles but apparently so, too, is God. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson, who issued the first denial of a California waiver request in the Act’s history, is apparently a big time Bible thumper. He ignored his staff’s pleas to approve the waiver seeking to improve the state’s health but praised the Lord, and his boss, for the early a.m. prayer sessions held in his government office, according to the Los Angeles Times. Johnson also gave Boss George a towel with a picture of a tower on it that supposedly symbolizes “a life of Christian service,” reported the Times. Being an MD, Snarky sure wished Johnson displayed equal dedication to science. Other articles dependent on faith are the utilities’ procurement plans and compliance reports. Just this week, a draft ruling from a California Public Utilities Commission judge would allow Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to keep certain data secret. “Confidential treatment is sought of specific items, such as retail sales forecasts, annual procurement targets, incremental procurement targets”…that supposedly fall with set confidentially parameters. Then again, how will we ever know what materials are at issue because they will likely be kept under seal—ensuring an open and transparent process and market remain a pipe dream. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, it might have been a prayer breakfast, but only the chosen few will ever really know. In the Sunset Room of the august California Club, Edison corporate environmental policy director Mike Hertel welcomed the members of the Coalition for Environmental Protection, Restoration and Development to a private meeting. The topic: “AB 32—Issues and Opportunities as Presented in the Market Advisory Committee Draft Markets Report.” CPUC president Mike Peevey was on the agenda, as was California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols. Next, came an anonymous panel of “environmental, oil, manufacturing, and utilities” representatives to give their views on emissions rights allocations and offsets under the law. Speaking of offsets, that brings me to faith. It seems it’s needed in the carbon offset market. The House of Representatives purchased $89,000 worth of carbon emission offsets to negate the global warming gases it produces. However, a little bit of non-religious research showed that any mitigation was unlikely. “Some of the money went to farmers in North Dakota, for tilling practices that keep carbon buried in the soil. But some farmers were already doing this, for other reasons, before the House paid a cent,” reported the Washington Post. It noted that other money went to Iowa, where a power plant had been “temporarily rejiggered to burn more cleanly” a year earlier. Global warming issues are ever more encompassing and even vain—including tanning and excess pounds. Next time you go for that second slice of pecan pie or another round of Absinthe, remember the more you eat, the more resources are used to feed you. The more you weigh, the more gas it takes to move your load around—be it in a car or jet. “The emissions benefit of fiscal and regulatory measures to reduce obesity could accelerate the tipping point where a majority of voters feel that the problem warrants policy action,” notes a study from the Hamburg Institute of International Economics. And, next time you feel guilt pangs as you head into a tanning salon for the energy produced to make you look sporty, don’t. A company that gets paid to reduce energy use of various companies recently enrolled what it hopes is the first of many tanning salons into its peak demand reduction program. Energy Curtailment Specialists signed up Perfect Color Tanning Salon.

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