climate change

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

The wEEkly Update

For Local Governments and their partners

November 27, 2017


Resources and Opportunities
Solar PV Training Program for City and County Staff
Tracking Progress - Updated Statewide Energy Demand
Grant Funding Opportunity – Bringing Rapid Innovation Development to Green Energy
Find more resources and opportunities

Job Announcements
Energy Efficiency Specialist (2) - SF Environment
Business Analyst (Energy Efficiency) – City of Santa Clara

Upcoming events
Free Calif. Energy Efficiency Standards Trainings for Building Inspectors - Nov-Feb
Climate Change Research Grant Program Fresno Workshop - Nov. 28
Climate Change Research Grant Los Angeles Workshop - Nov. 29
Webinar: Essential Tribal and Utility Relationships - Nov. 29
Webinar: Implementing Energy Optimization in Water Operations - Dec. 5
17th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference - Feb. 1-3
Find more events

Copyright © 2017 Statewide Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator, All rights reserved.
The wEEkly update for Local Governments and their partners.

Our mailing address is:
Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator
980 9th St., Suite 1700
Sacramento, CA 95814

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

wEEkly update


New! - EE Coordinator Resources PageCAISO Today's Outlook

News and Opportunities

California’s Largest Net Zero Energy Development Comes to Fruition
California’s Central Valley will be home to the state’s largest net zero energy (NZE) housing development, slated to open in the second quarter of 2018. De Young Properties is behind the forward-thinking construction.

California's goal: an electricity grid moving only clean energy
California lawmakers are considering a future without the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity, a step that would boost the renewable energy industry and expand the scope of the state’s battle against global warming.

Innovators Evening Lecture Series: Solar + Storage for Resiliency
San Francisco’s Solar and Energy Storage for Resiliency project examines the use of solar plus storage systems at facilities throughout the City that would serve critical loads in times of emergency (shelters, libraries, rec centers, etc.).

How Much Climate Change Will Cost Each U.S. County
A study published in the journal Science in June is the most extensive model available of what climate change could cost the United States, county by county. The study is the first of its kind, linking climate projections with economic effects like mortality, labor productivity, energy demand and crop yields.

California’s Multi-Front Fight On Climate
Our decades-long commitment to energy efficiency, which began with Jerry Brown’s first stint as Governor, has not only kept our state’s electricity consumption flat despite a steadily rising population, it has kept Californians’ energy-spending among the lowest in the nation.


Building Operator Certification Program (BOC)
BOC is a training and credentialing program for building operators providing skill sets to reduce energy consumption in their facilities through operational and maintenance practices for HVAC, lighting, and controls systems.

Career Opportunities

Utility Energy Analyst - Alameda Municipal Power

Program Manager - City of San Diego

Environmental Sustainability Manager - City of Woodland

Director, Community Energy Department - City of San Jose

Multiple Positions - East Bay Community Energy

Multiple Positions - Silicon Valley Clean Energy

Multiple Positions - Marin Clean Energy

Regulatory/Legislative Analyst - Peninsula Clean Energy

Click here to find previous job announcements


SEEC Calendar 
Click the SEEC Calendar link to view all upcoming events.

10/15-10/18 Behavior, Energy & Climate Change Conference 
A conference focused on understanding the behavior and decision-making of individuals and organizations and using that knowledge to accelerate our transition to an energy-efficient and low-carbon future.

Cary Garcia Jr.
Statewide Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

Here are your wEEkly updates:

Request for ZNE Resources

The Local Government Commission through SEEC is developing a robust toolkit for local governments on zero net energy. The toolkit aims to compile valuable resources and case studies in a single location in an easy to navigate, interactive online format. If you have come across any ZNE-related resources of particular value, please share it with me at

News and Opportunities

How Locals Can Continue Momentum on Climate Change
While we face serious questions about the potential effects of changes in legislative and budgetary support for environmental action in California, we can draw inspiration and implementation lessons from local models to continue progress toward a low-carbon and resilient future.

GREEN and EEFA Develop 2017 Priorities for EE, Water, and Renewables
Sixty leaders from housing, energy, environmental, and workforce development organizations gathered in LA and AF to help the California Housing Partnerhip's Green Rental Home EE Network (GREEN), NRDC, and EE for All (EEFA) partners set priorities for 2017.

COP22: Key Outcomes Agreed at the UN Climate Talks in Marrakech
When negotiators from almost 200 countries arrived in Marrakech for the latest annual climate change conference, COP22, it was being touted as an opportunity to showcase progress and start the important process of turning the UN's Paris Agreement into a detailed blueprint for action.
Job Opportunity: Sustainability Coordinator, City of American Canyon
The City of American Canyon is hiring for a Sustainability Coordinator to help with water conservation efforts, citywide sustainability programs, and outreach related to these programs. Applications due December 9, 2016.

Job Opportunity: Senior Program Director, Sierra Business Council
Sierra Business Council (SBC) is hiring for a Senior Program Director to assume the responsibilities of day-to-day leadership and management of SBC's current and future programs as they relate to energy efficiency and climate planning. Position open until filled.
Click the Calendar link to view all upcoming events.

12/7 (Oakland) CA EE Coordinating Committee Meeting
Agenda items include planning for 2017 activities and subcommittee functions, discussion and review of proposals, review of implementation plan development process, and more.

Join the CPUC for the upcoming Quarterly Energy Efficiency EM&V Stakeholder Meeting. Please propose agenda topics to Syreeta Gibbs at by COB December 7, 2016. Agenda topics proposed so far include: 1) Review of the EM&V Masterplan, 2) CPUC and Program Administrator Update on EM&V Budgets and Activities, and 3) M&V 2.0 case studies presentation.

1/25-1/26 (Sacramento) California Climate Change Symposium 2017
This forum aims to share cutting-edge research addressing the impacts of climate change on the state to inform the state's strategies and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to develop programs to safeguard California from a changing climate.

2/2/17 (St. Louis, MO) New Partners for Smart Growth Conference
Early-bird registration has been extended to December 16th  for the 2017 New Partners for Smart Growth Conference. This conference is the nation's largest smart growth and sustainability event and has been named one of 12 conferences not to miss by Planetizen.

Resources and Reports

Driving High Performance: Role of Codes & Permitting in Zero Net Energy
Learn how local jurisdictions are getting ahead of upcoming ZNE mandates in California and find out how end users are using streamlined permitting and reach codes to drive high performance.

Volkswagen California ZEV Investment Commitment Workshop Presentation
PowerPoint slides that will be presented at a public workshop today, where interested stakeholder will have the opportunity to provide suggestions for Volkswagen's $800 million 10-year zero emission vehicle investment commitment in California.\

2016 Legislative Update
Legislative update of key climate- and energy-related bills passed in the 2016 legislative session.

And that's all for this week! 

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

Here are your wEEkly Updates:

News and Opportunities

Local Governments Push for Strong Reach Codes
The City of San Mateo and the Town of Portola Valley are both working on adopting reach codes that go beyond the State's CALGreen requirements to help them achieve their climate action goals.

Broad Coalition Backs Enhancements to Energy-Saving Program
A diverse coalition of 19 groups is supporting a proposal to significantly enhance California's Energy Savings Assistance Program, to provide more energy efficiency opportunities for low-income households - especially underserved residents of multi-family housing.

OPR Survey: Streamlined Solar Permitting Ordinance 2016
The Governor's Office of Planning and Research requests information from local jurisdictions on their progress with implementation of AB 2188, the Expedited Solar Permitting Act, Government Code Section 65850.5(g). In addition, CALSEIA and Center for Sustainable Energy are offering technical assistance to help jurisdictions implement streamlined solar permitting processes. Survey closes November 18, 2016.

Energy Globe Award
The Energy Globe Award is presented annually to outstanding and sustainable projects in the area of environment energy (e.g., resource conservation, improvement of air and water quality, energy efficiency, use of renewable energies, and recycling). Awards are presented at the national level and on the international level in 6 categories: Earth, Fire, Water, Air, Youth and Sustainable Projects. Deadline for submissions is November 18, 2016.

Job Opportunity: Senior Project Manager, SBCCOG
The South Bay Cities Council of Governments is hiring for a senior project manager for their energy efficiency and environmental programs. This senior level position is responsible for the development of strategies, standards, and processes for implementation of programs, activities, and events related to the environment, water, energy, and transportation; engages with partners and program customers; and has knowledge of basic employee performance management standards and practices.

10/25 (webinar) Meeting Climate Change Goals with Energy Efficiency: Cities and the Clean Power Plan
This webinar will discuss how cities can use energy efficiency to meet climate goals and potentially secure new funding streams to pay for projects and programs. Presenters will provide an overview of opportunities under the Clean Power Plan and drill down into the early credit program benefitting low-income communities, the Clean Energy Incentive Program.

10/27 (webinar) LGP + REN EM&V Roadmaps Update
This discussion will be facilitated by Jeremy Battis of Energy Division and will present for public comment proposed changes to the LG sector roadmaps that come out of an engagement exercise with the unified LGP-REN-CCA PCG at its Oct. 11 meeting.

11/15 (Sacramento) Street Lights: Illuminating Implementation and Equity in Complete Streets
This day-long conference will be a chance for transportation planners and engineers, community, equity, and health advocates, local officials, and Complete Streets practitioners to share ideas, brainstorm solutions, and celebrate the success of the Complete STreets movement nationwide together.

11/16 (Berkeley) ZNE for Local Governments Workshop, BayREN Fall Forum
This six-hour workshop will supplor local governments working to integrate state goals to achieve zero net energy (ZNE) buildings. Learn about case studies on ZNE buildings, new programs and tools to support local government ZNE policy and plan development, as well as new research and emerging trends.

Resources and Reports

A Roadmap for Clean Power Plan Compliance: State Development and Consideration of Energy Efficiency
This paper examines two state that have committed to planning for CPP compliance on an accelerated timetable: Minnesota and Pennsylvania. The paper compares and contrasts efforts in these states in order to identify best practices and lessons learned that can be applied in other states as they juggle the multiple responsibilities of air, energy, and utility regulators to achieve their pollution-reduction goals.

Behavior Change Programs: Status and Impact
This report aims to help program administrators choose effective behavior chage programs for their specific purposes. The report focuses on behavior change programs that primarily rely on social-science-based strategies instead of traditional approaches such as incentives, rebates, pricing, or legal and policy strategies.

How Investing in Energy Efficiency Changed the US Power Sector and Gave Us a Tool to Tackle Climate Change
Energy efficiency has become the nation's third-largest elecrricity resource, lowering harmful pollution, creating US jobs, reducing energy burdens for those most in need, and strengthening community resilience. With increased support it could become the largest and one of the world's core strategies to tackle climate change.

ZNE Building Design and Performance Verification Methodologies
This study develops drat verification methodoligies for ZNE buildings in California to address how gross energy savings at the unit level (ZNE building) are to be verified at the design stage as well as once the building is constructed and under operation.

Want to share a news item, an event, or a resource through the wEEkly updates? Please send a blurb and a link to me at for consideration.

And that's all for this week! Have a great weekend!

Why We Need Tree Canopies | Part II

Welcome to Part II of "Why We Need Tree Canopies". This portion will go into a bit more depth of CA's current tree situation, benefits of living near green space and what other jurisdictions in the country are doing to mitigate tree loss and increase benefits from expanded tree canopies.

According to a study by the Carnegie Institution for Science, well over 50 million trees throughout California are at risk of dying because of the drought. Furthermore, drought allows bark beetles to thrive, creating more dire conditions for susceptible trees and, as of last spring, the U.S. Forest Services estimated 12 million trees have already died from a mix of both severe drought conditions and this resulting bark beetle infestation. Studies show that the vast majority of the areas affected have been in the San Joaquin Valley and surrounding Central Valley. Governor Brown declared a state of emergency over dying trees and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) have focused efforts to remove dead trees in the SJV to eliminate the area’s vulnerability for fire and wildfire outbreaks.
Tree loss and disease from drought.

Tree loss results in increased forest fire susceptibility and severity as well as decreased animal and insect diversity, water resources and carbon sequestration. This imminent increase in fires, dying trees and beetle infestations will only continue to produce more carbon emissions, contributing to poorer air quality and climate change.

While the drought has exacerbated these conditions, an increased population of well-maintained, native and drought-tolerant trees will help mitigate some of these issues and provide substantial benefits to communities that plant these types of trees, increasing the local urban canopy. The USDA’s report Effects of Drought on Forests and Rangelands in the U.S.: A Comprehensive Science Synthesis notes that while native, drought-resistant plants do require some water and will increase a community’s necessary allotment, forests, including urban forests, are naturally resilient and resist effects from drought. Forests also help manage erosion and water runoff, supply and quality.

The San Joaquin Valley is home to many who both suffer greatly from asthma and live in poverty. Tree canopies, as previously mentioned, improve local air quality through CO2 sequestration, reducing respiratory-related illnesses and deaths. Tree canopies also provide widespread cooling and temperature control. Tree Fresno, a local environmental agency, shares the information that open, cemented areas can be over five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than similar areas with green space. This causes a reduced quality of life. Community members are less able to take advantage of outdoor amenities, exercising or interacting outdoors; people are more likely to suffer from health problems because of high air-pollution levels and daytime temperatures as well as minimized nighttime cooling; energy bills are higher due to a great need for air conditioning; and city resources become more limited.
Tree Fresno is the "regional resource for trees, trail and greenbelts".

To combat these severe results, Tree Fresno has also shown that a single fully-grown tree can have a net cooling effect of 10 single-room air conditioners each running for 20 hours a day and that shade reduces UVB radiation exposure by up to 50 percent. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) shares an emissions factor of 457 pounds CO2 per MWh. This means that 10 500 Watt air conditioning units running for 20 hours a day is 100 kWh, which is about 45.7 pounds of kWh-related CO2 avoided with every tree planted.

By providing temperature control, the surrounding community is more willing and able to take advantage of outdoor activities and services and less likely to suffer from heat exhaustion and other related illnesses. Health benefits do not stop here. Environmental Health Perspectives recently published a Harvard University study illustrating a link between lower mortality rates as a result from respiratory illnesses and cancer and living near greenery. Living near greenery decreases air pollution and allows for more physical activity and social engagement. The study also found a much lower prevalence of depression in those that lived near greenery.

Additionally, trees reduce road maintenance costs. The Journal of Aboriculture shared a field study conducted in Modesto, CA, which showed that an unshaded street required 6 slurry seals over a period of 30 years and a tree-shaded street only required 2.5 seals over the same time period. This is a 58 percent reduction. So, let us consider the City of Clovis, which has over 120 Million square feet of roads. If the cost for slurry seals are approximately $0.66 per square foot, the City could see potential savings of nearly $80,000,000. Moreover, in its 2014 Regional Transportation Plan, Fresno COG indicated that over $1 Billion needed to be put towards road operations and maintenance projects. Projects may be avoided or have reduced costs with an increase in tree-lined streets.

I also must point out that since the San Joaquin Valley suffers from high unemployment and poverty levels, we need to shed light on the extensive economic benefits provided by expanded and properly maintained tree canopies. Trees provide natural and low-cost energy efficiency benefits to homes and properties protected and shaded by them. Properly placed trees can reduce cooling costs by 30 percent and can even lower heating costs by up to 50 percent. Lower utility bills put more money back into the pockets of the community, which then goes back into the local economy. Tree-lined streets also promote a higher level of business activity and increase home and property values.

Louisville suburb south of Bowman Field
Louisville, Kentucky adopted a Tree Canopy Ordinance and has since formed a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the City’s tree canopy. In support of this effort, the City released a study that outlined many of these benefits in detail. As of 2015, Louisville’s canopy covered about 37 percent of the City, which equates to approximately 147 square miles with nearly 6.2 million trees. This canopy provides the community with over 67 million kilowatt hours (kWh) and over $5 million in energy savings each year as well as a $240 million increase in property values citywide. Additional savings have been reported from nearly 7 million pounds of pollutants and 400,000 tons of CO2 removed from the atmosphere each year and a near 19 billion gallon reduction in storm water runoff each year. The City of Louisville estimates that $330 million in savings will be seen annually from just maintaining the current tree canopy. Expanding the canopy will only increase these savings across all sectors.

Are you impressed by these benefits of tree canopies? Would you like your city to adopt a Tree Canopy Ordinance? Let us know!

Acting on Climate

How many more “Hottest Year on Earth” will we have before we take the warnings to heart and make some significant moves? Your guess is as good as mine now that the Supreme Court has blocked the Obama Administration’s efforts to regulate coal plant emissions and be a leader in Paris climate agreement policies.
The U.S., as the world’s second largest contributor to CO2 emissions, should and is expected to lead the efforts in climate change mitigation. Now that this is temporarily (hopefully not permanently, but you never know how this election will turn out) off the table, other countries may likely assume that the U.S. is not committed to protecting our planet and will postpone their efforts to reduce energy consumption and emissions as well.
Most cities in the world experienced higher than normal temperatures. The first half of 2015 alone saw some of the strangest weather events and while a “lag time” must be allowed for all relevant factors to be considered, long-term data suggests a strong link between climate change and these events. There is far too much evidence to keep ignoring these signs and doing nothing.
If you’re as frustrated with the inaction of governments and larger agencies, you may be wondering what you can do to make a difference.
So, how can you help? The good news is there are lots of ways:
Minimize your carbon footprint. You can do a bunch of different things to meet this requirement from leading a low carbon lifestyle to limiting your reliance on fossil fuels. Here are a few: use public transportation whenever possible; change to more efficient light bulbs throughout your home; unplug electric devices and appliances when not in use and turn off lights when leaving a room; insulate your home; set your thermostat to 68°F in the winter and 78°F in the summer; eat locally produced and grown foods; minimize water consumption; recycle and reuse.
Offset your carbon footprint. Offset what you can’t reduce. You can plant trees, but donating to agencies that improve forest management and protect standing forests is good, too. You can calculate your footprint as well.
Hopefully the EPA will soon be able to do its job and regulate emissions. While the agency’s powers are limited, however, we can and should help!!
What are you doing to fight climate change?

Do You Know Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Climate Change?

With the 2016 Presidential elections fast approaching we are becoming bombarded with all of the election talk and ads from the candidates on TV. Most of the ads on TV focus on the candidates positive track records and what they can do for the country if elected. All of the debates seem to focus on what the candidates economic strategies are and how they would handle foreign policy. Don't get me wrong those are all important items to focus on when electing a president, but what about energy policy and climate change? 
The Nations energy future seems to get the raw end of the deal when it comes to election time. Our current administration has made energy and climate change a large priority over the past eight years. And so Americans have made climate change a high priority and a critical issue when it comes to electing our next president. You would think that each candidate would come out swinging when it comes to the topic of energy and climate change then. So with that being said I will go ahead and lay out where each candidate stands on energy policy and climate change. Hopefully it will give you a better picture of who you might be voting for.

First we will start with those that have taken a clear stance on the issue and have a plan to continue to combat climate change. This group contains a majority of Democrats and one lonely Republican. That lone Republican is Governor Jindal who believes in the science of climate change and combating warming temperatures. He has laid out small scale projects like forest management and the energy efficiency of airlines. Then for the three Democrats those would be Hillary Clinton, Senator Sanders and Martin O'Malley. All three believe in climate change and believe that we need to act now to combat it. Clinton would like to install a half billion solar panels by 2020 while also generating 33 percent of America's electricity from renewables. Senator Sanders on the other was quoted in a USA Today op-ed as saying "we have a moral responsibility to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy and leave this planet a habitable planet for our children and our grandchildren."O'Malley has a plan to phase out fossil fuels by 2050 and switch to clean energy.
Then we move on to the candidates that fall in the middle of the climate debate Senator Graham, George Pataki, Jeb Bush and Governor Christie. Senator Graham is one that believes that we as a country need to act on climate change and he would like to do that in a business- friendly way. As for George Pataki has a long history of supporting climate change. Back in 2007 he was the co-chair of the Independent Task Force on Climate Change. He is also has become an advocate for climate change and green-friendly enterprise. Jeb Bush has stated that he believes humans contribute to global warming, but believes that the current energy policy needs tweaking to not hurt the economy. Governor Christie has been known to flash his states position in the solar energy production realm while also being the one that withdrew the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is a cap and trade program for the states within the Northeastern part of the US. 
We now begin to face the candidates that have taken a stance that climate change is not man made. Those candidates being Senator Rubio, Ted Cruz, Senator Rand Paul and Jim Gilmore. Senator Rubio has stated that he does not believe that human actions are causing global warming, but has at least acknowledged that climate change is real. He also has come out with his own energy policy that would include affordable fuel alternatives. So Rubio in my mind falls right in the middle of the road. As for Ted Cruz he is one that believes in climate change but also believes that there hasn't been any warming as of lately. Ted Cruz may want to step back and check out a few of the maps below that clearly show that 2015 was one of the hottest years on record. Senator Paul and Jim Gilmore both believe in climate change and believe that we should act on it even if we do not know what may be causing it. 

To round out the group we have the candidates that are at the opposite end of the spectrum on climate change. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are ones within this group that can swing in both directions. Both candidates agree with climate change, but either don't believe humans are causing it or that we can't make a difference on it as a nation. Ben Carson after his statement to the SF Chronicle that climate change is not man made cause the California Governor to send him a thumb drive that was loaded with climate research. Then we move to the candidates that have taken a hard stance on climate change being a hoax. Those candidates would be Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. These candidates all have come out with different words to describe climate change as not being real. With that being said since they don't believe in climate change they don't believe in doing anything to combat the issue. 
Everyone has their own views on if climate change exists and how it is caused. Every one and every candidate is entitled to their own opinion on the issue, but when it comes to running a country and implementing a plan for or against climate change the game has changed. Our newly elected President in 2016 will direct the Country on its energy and climate future. This will dictate how us Americans will live our lives for at least four years during their term. When you go into the voting booth make sure you are well informed on where each candidate stands on each topic.  

Waking Up to Your Climate Change Report This Morning?

In the morning we all wake up and listen to either the news or check the weather report online for the day. We want to know if the outfit that we have picked out in our head for the day will be just right for the weather. But, what if we were to get the climate change report for the area we were in as well? Would climate change be more at the forefront of your mind?
Well WXSHIFT a weather and climate reporting website has started such a trend in weather reporting. The webpage collects 100 years of U.S. temperature data from over 2,000 weather stations. If you were to go on to their webpage it will automatically pick up your location and give you the weather. Then once you pass the weather forecast you are given the climate change report. The climate change report gives marks on the areas climate indicators. These include extreme heat, ocean acidification, sea level rise and el Nino.
So since SJVCEO’s office is based in Fresno we will pull up the weather report and see what is given to us.

As you can see the webpage brings up Fresno’s current weather for the day (pictured above). Then when you look off to the right side you see where it states that Fresno’s Septembers are warming. Now since it has peaked our interest we click on the red button that states show me. Once we do we are able to see the graph that shows data points for each September in Fresno over the past almost 50 years. On the graph it also shows a very thick yellow line. The yellow line demonstrates the average temperature per year, which shows an upward trend in temperatures.

Sooo I now pose my questions to you, the reader, after a brief demonstration. Would you appreciate your weather source or weather page giving you climate change information for your area? I know from my viewpoint (which doesn’t really count) I would greatly appreciate to see the data. How does that saying go; out of sight out of mind? That saying doesn’t ring more true than with the topic of climate change. We all wake up and have our daily routines and only want to know if we need a tank top or umbrella for our work day when we check the weather. Maybe if we were confronted on a daily basis of what our human impact is on our environment we may have more of a motivation to change our behavior.
I know that everyone has their own take on how they look at climate change, but SJVCEO is very interested to hear our readers take on it. So I go back to my first question, would climate change be more at the forefront of your mind if data was shown to you every day?

Gas Pump Warning Labels

Big Oil hasn’t had a lot of competition in the past and even with great advancements and improved technologies in alternative and renewable fuels and vehicles, people still love their gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs and the lower price tags of regular vehicles.

A retired transportation engineer from Oakland, Jack Fleck, decided that he could do something about the immunity of oil companies by placing warning labels on gas pumps. He likened this to the labels on cigarette packages. Tobacco companies can still sell their product, but need to warn people of the harmful effects on both themselves and others. So, Fleck thought, oil companies must also be upfront about the harmful effects on the environment when using their product. These labels don’t need to be aggressive; a purely informational label could work just as well to spread the message.

While these labels might not affect even a small percentage of people and the way they buy cars, it’s a step in the right direction and it will encourage people to contemplate their duty and responsibility to help mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Big Oil won't stop producing, but we can stop using. Whether we buy an alternative fuel vehicle or simply bike, carpool and use public transportation more, we can make all the difference moving forward. If just 10% of us did this, we could save over 25 million tons of CO2 emissions each year!

There has been a lot of negative backlash on this idea, including Fox News contributor and political blogger Michelle Malkin going so far as to ask “‘Why don’t they just ban gas stations?’” Unfortunately, there are lots of people who think this is an appropriate response – they don’t see or feel the urgency of this issue. Additionally, the oil companies sponsor political candidates to spread a much less grim picture of them, thus affecting the thoughts of many Americans on this subject.

Despite this, plans and mock-ups of such labels are being developed in San Francisco and Vancouver as well as other cities and Fleck is sure that we will start to see them at gas stations soon. Hopefully they'll get more attention than these parking signs that have been popping up in L.A.

Statewide LG EE Best Practices Coordinator: Weekly Update Vol. VII, Issue II

For those of you who know who Pat Stoner is you likely are on his email distribution list and receive this update each week.  We are grateful that Pat has agreed to allow our little blog to re-post his weekly update.  If you have an interest in the happenings of energy efficiency and local government throughout California this is the update for you! If you love the information here, but want more in depth features be sure to check out Pat's quarterly newsletter, CURRENTS.  

UPDATE for JULY 10, 2013

The California Energy Commission Lead Commissioner on the Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) will conduct a workshop to discuss the definition of "Zero Net Energy" as it relates to newly constructed buildings in California.

Commissioner Andrew McAllister is the Lead Commissioner for the 2013 IEPR. Other commissioners may attend and participate in this workshop. Commissioners and staff from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) may also attend and participate.

In Person Attendance
Thursday, July 18, 2013, 9:00 a.m.
1516 Ninth Street, First Floor, Hearing Room A
Sacramento, California
(Wheelchair Accessible)

Remote Attendance
You may participate in this meeting through WebEx, the Energy Commission's online meeting service. Presentations will appear on your computer screen, and you may listen to the audio via your computer or telephone. Please be aware that the meeting may be recorded.
To join a meeting:

VIA COMPUTER: Go to and enter the unique meeting number: 923 288 296. When prompted, enter your information and the following meeting password: cec@0718

The "Join Conference" menu will offer you a choice of audio connections:

1.      To call into the meeting: Select "I will call in" and follow the on-screen directions.
2.      International Attendees: Click on the "Global call-in number" link.
3.      To have WebEx call you: Enter your phone number and click "Call Me."
4.      To listen over the computer: If you have a broadband connection, and a headset or a computer microphone and speakers, you may use VolP (Internet audio) by going to the Audio menu, clicking on "Use Computer Headset," then "Call Using Computer."

VIA TELEPHONE ONLY (no visual presentation): Call 1-866-469-3239 (toll-free in the U.S. and Canada). When prompted, enter the unique meeting number: 923 288 296. International callers may select their number from

VIA MOBILE ACCESS: Access to WebEx meetings is now available from your mobile device. To download an app, go to

If you have difficulty joining the meeting, please call the WebEx Technical Support number at 1-866-229-3239.

For more information:
(If link above doesn't work, please copy entire link into your web browser's URL)

EXISTING BUILDINGS DRAFT ACTION PLAN PRESENTATIONS AVAILABLE from June 24, 25 and 28, 2013 Staff Workshops on The Comprehensive Energy Efficiency Program for Existing Buildings Draft Action Plan

For more information:

Per Decision 12-011-015, the “Decision Approving 2013-14 Energy Efficiency Programs and Budgets,” the Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) were directed to hire an expert entity to help design a comprehensive approach to the Workforce Education and Training issues (WE&T) inherent in their energy efficiency (EE) portfolios.  The IOUs are pleased to announce that the UC Berkeley Donald Vial Center was selected after a formal solicitation review process.

The statewide IOU team invites all interested stakeholders to a public workshop during which the UC Berkeley team will present their work plan, in response to the IOU’s requested scope of work.  Questions will also be welcomed.

Public Workshop:  WE&T Consultant Contract – July 29, 2013, 10:00 am – Noon
California Public Utilities Commission (Room TBD)
505 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco  94102
Call-in/Webinar Details Will Be Provided

There will be a free one-hour webinar on Tuesday, July 16. It will feature best-selling author David Gershon who will share recent research and case studies on Addressing Climate Change through Community Engagement and Behavior Change.

Please note the start time in your time zone: 9 a.m. Pacific.

Register here:

David Gershon, co-founder and CEO of Empowerment Institute, is one of the world's foremost authorities on behavior-change, community engagement and large-system transformation. He is the author of 11 books, including "Social Change 2.0: A Blueprint for Reinventing Our World," and the best-selling "Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds." He co-directs Empowerment Institute's School for Transformative Social Change, which teaches change agents to design and implement stakeholder engagement and behavior change initiatives.

The California Sustainability Alliance has released a Water-Energy Toolkit for Sustainable Development, a practical guide to implementing water-energy conservation policies and projects for local government, developers, water agencies and supporting parties.

The Alliance’s Toolkit is designed to provide four important stakeholder groups (water agency staff, policy makers, developers and water-energy conservation advocates) with the basic knowledge and resources needed to enable consideration of water-energy savings solutions in the community development process. Structured as an action-oriented and practical guidebook, the Toolkit offers simple steps, example roadmaps, and exemplary California case study examples of working projects to guide stakeholders through the key components of the water-energy sustainability decision-making process.
Download the toolkit for more details.

Check out OPR’s newest Climate Changers video: Crossing 400: The Keeling Curve Reaches a Historic Milestone. Ralph Keeling, geochemistry professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, talks about the @keeling_curve and a historic climate milestone: the carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere recently exceeded 400 ppm for the first time in human history. Dr. Keeling explains the consequences of this, outlines solutions, and addresses why time is of the essence.

OPR has also recently uploaded several other new videos to our Climate Changers YouTube Site, an innovative video initiative to share hot lessons and cool solutions. We invite you to browse through our video library and to become a "climate changer" by joining us in working toward a more resilient California.

A new post by Severin Borenstein    
Sure, I'd like to see a tax on gasoline that reflects its greenhouse gases emissions. If we can't or won't do that, then maybe subsidies for electric vehicles can imperfectly address some of the same goals. If not that, how about free EV charging? Free parking? Higher speed limits for EVs? Discount air travel for EV owners? Complimentary massages? By the time you got to the last couple ideas, you probably said "well that's ridiculous."  At least I hope so. But where do you draw the "ridiculous" line? Click here for the whole post.

Also please visit Pat’s website:

US Climate Action: Calling individuals to put on the uniform and step up to the plate.

By adopting an ambitious mandatory energy saving target for 2030 the State of California is well on its way to addressing the pressing issue of Climate Change. Global climate change affects the American public with growing visibility and ferocity. As severe weather events wreak havoc on the East coast or wildfires consume hundreds of thousands of acres here in the West, concern about the effects of climate change grows. In addition, the American public bears a heavy financial burden as tax dollars fund increased firefighting efforts; provide disaster relief to flooded cities and towns; and subsidize the climate issues affecting the American bread basket. However, despite the growing cost to cope with the effects of climate change, national policy to address climate change is still a long way off.

Cap-and-Trade in the US
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory CO2 reduction cap-and-trade program in the US. Under RGGI Northeastern and Mid Atlantic states have capped the CO2 emissions in the power sector with the goal of reducing power sector CO2 emissions 10 percent from the 2002-2004 average by 2018.

California began its own cap-and-trade program as well, with several major industrial sectors joining power as capped entities. Many other states – and hopefully the federal government- are watching intently to see how the California program plays out, as California prides itself on its trailblazing adoption of many environmental policies.

Federal cap-and-trade programs are not new in the U.S., with many people being familiar with the 1990 Clean Air Act Acid Rain Program’s SO2  trading system. This cap-and-trade system is widely considered a major success,with an Office of Management and Budget study finding benefits exceeding costsby a 40:1 ratio

Policy on Climate Change
Americans, witnessing a relentless onslaught of wildfires, droughts and recent flooding are fearful of losing their freedoms and way of life. As severe weather is becoming the new normal across the U.S., the price of inaction is becoming ever clearer. The specific cost and benefits of the cap-and-trade programs are yet to be determined, and a public that traditionally looks so favorably on market-based solutions and “quick wins” remains unconvinced on the potential of a market-based cap and trade solution.

Climate change could fundamentally change how we as Americans interact with each other, the rest of the world, and our environment. As the U.S. struggles with national policy on climate change, we fall behind other countries on this important global issue. In his victory speech on election night, President Obama gave brief but equal mention to ending the dependence of the US on foreign oil and tackling climate change. Perhaps by addressing climate change in terms of energy security federal action stands a chance. Perhaps, under the emerging “new energy economy” America can reclaim its position of leadership in the world.

Photo Credit:

2013: Breakthrough Year On Climate?

My first "local" friend, sweetest lady ever!

According to the Sierra Club, 2013 has the potential to be a breakthrough year on climate, and they are calling on the president to use his full executive authority. The Sierra Club believes Mr. Obama was largely silent on climate change during the presidential campaign, much to the dismay of supporters in the environmental movement. After winning reelection, the president promised to make climate change one of his top three priorities. The president, in an interview for TIME's Person of the Year award, said the economy, immigration, climate change and energy would be at the top of his agenda for the next four years.

Sierra Club wants to see those words translate into action, and will pressure the Obama Administration during the first 100 days of his second term with a series of town halls, rallies, reports and letter-writing events. The Sierra Club states that while Mr. Obama “gets” climate change, a “considerable gap” still exists between words and deeds. Further stating that Mr. Obama should use his State of the Union address in February to "talk very clearly about both the threats and the opportunities posed by climate change and clean energy." In Monday's inaugural address he gave what some say may be the primer version of what is yet to come. 
One of my favorite photos from Nepal, Boy fishing .

There is new political backing for action on global warming in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.That storm has sparked debates in Congress about coastal infrastructure and the long-term impact of rising sea levels. 

I would ask, “how much longer can we drag our collective feet on changing our behavior when it comes to climate change?"

Passing a large climate bill during the new Congress would be difficult, given the strong GOP opposition in both chambers. Many Republicans are skeptical that global warming is occurring, while others attribute the trend to non-human factors which leads them to oppose the emissions rules and emphasis on costlier clean-energy technology. While the House is still under GOP control, the Sierra Club argues we should be urging President Obama to take matters into his owns hands; President Obama could bypass Congress by issuing regulations to enhance clean-energy investment and curtail carbon emissions. 

Waterfall that only a year prior was known as a stream.
I wonder how feasible this actually is, but most of all, how likely is it to happen? 

If we don’t do something in 2013 are we past the point of no return?

I’m counting on the California Leadership to pave the way for sensible climate legislation. I realize that climate change is not a fun topic, but it is one that I have witnessed firsthand while in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal, leaving NO questions in my mind about the legitimacy of the issue itself.

Photo Credits: Deanna Fernandez

Guest Blogger: Can solar calm the coming storm?

Tom Cotter is a renewable energy evangelist, social entrepreneur, activist, trained presenter for the Climate Reality Project, and ordained minister. Professionally, Tom is Regional Sales Manager at Real Goods Solar. He is Chairman and President of the International Green Industry Hall of Fame and serves on the boards of both the Solar Living Institute and Restore Hetch Hetchy. You can learn more about Tom on his website, SolarTomCotter

This article was originally published on November 9 on the

A screen-grab of the Hurricane Sandy Wind Map infographic taken at 10:26 AM 30 Oct 2012. The surface wind data in this beautiful wind map from (Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg) comes from the National Digital Forecast Database. 

Going solar is part of solving the climate disruption we are experiencing. 
Though climate change failed to emerge as a topic during the 2012 presidential debates, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did raise it in the final days before the election and in the wake of Hurrican Sandy's devastation, citing President Barack Obama's leadership on the issue as his reason for endorsing the president for a second term. 
“Our climate is changing,” Bloomberg wrote for Bloomberg View. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be - given this week’s devastation - should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”
If the issue is indeed now on the table, the next question is what can we do to slow or reverse the effects of climate change?
Clean energy is a key part of the equation. Clean energy creates electricity by tapping into natural cycles and systems, turning the ever-present energy around us into usable forms while producing little or no pollution, including avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.
Out of the variety of clean energy sources, solar power, geothermal, ocean currents, wind, hydroelectric and biomass, solar is an obvious strong option, especially in California, where we typically have lots of sun.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, solar energy from the sun is a vast and inexhaustible resource around the globe. Just 20 days of sunshine contains more energy than the world’s entire supply of coal, oil, and natural gas.
In Fresno County, California, which suffers, even in good times, from more enduring high unemployment than the rest of the state and nation, solar is an even brighter spot.
Data from the California Solar Initiative (CSI) shows that solar growth over the past several years has primarily come from lower and middle income zip codes. With an average median zip code income of $43,000, Fresno County saw a 122 percent increase in CSI applications from 2007 to 2011.
In looking at what is going on across the country with solar jobs, the solar industry in the U.S. increased its workforce by 6.8 percent from August 2010 to August 2011, according Solar Energy Industry of America. That is a growth of nearly ten times faster than the overall economy.
More good news for Californians is the passing of Proposition 39, which is estimated to create 20,000 to 30,000 jobs for disadvantaged youth, veterans and others in clean energy projects and building efficiency retrofits. In closing a tax loophole that gave out-of-state corporations an unfair advantage over those based in-state, this change will increase annual state revenues by roughly $1 billion, with half - capped at $550 million - going to a new state Clean Energy Job Creation Fund for the first five years and the remainder going into the state’s general fund, according to the Yes on Prop 39 website. It accomplishes this without raising taxes on Californians.
Those are the kind of positive economic force the Valley can use. Jobs, lower energy costs and efficient buildings that are cheaper to operate are not only a win for residents, but also for our environment.
Scientists tell us that by continually dumping 90 million tons of pollution into the atmosphere every single day, we are altering the environment in which all storms develop. As the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, storms are becoming more energetic and powerful. We are beginning to see the effects on humans from this atmospheric experiment.
The impacts of climate change can be daunting, even frightening. But we are not helpless. It is wise and prudent to increase our use of available and affordable clean forms of energy. These choices will reduce global warming pollution and help turn things around both now and for the future.
As this planet is the only home we have for now, we have an obligation to ourselves and to future generations to be responsible stewards.
If you like this article, please Share it, Tweet it, Subscribe (above) or LikeSolarTomCotter on Facebook.
The views expressed by our guest bloggers are those of the author(s) and not necessarily representative of or an endorsement by the Organization

Wellness Wednesday: BFFs & LEDs

Wellness Wednesday has surprisingly been a challenge for me. I thought it would be easy to make the link between personal wellness and happenings in the clean energy world because, to me, the two are so closely tied together; however, it seems that it is not a widely publicized topic. Good and bad. Good because I feel like we can pave the way in exploring this topic and bad because it requires that extra bit of research on my end! With that being said, I encourage you to send any ‘Wellness Wednesday’ ideas to me at - I want to make sure I am addressing what interests our readers! In the meantime, you will have to hear a lot about my personal life adventure of buying and greening my home.
Meet my BFF, IKEA. She’s modern. She’s hip. Yep, she’s my Best Frugal Find and she’s into energy efficiency. It’s like we were meant to be. I just wish she lived a tad bit closer but thank goodness for the Internet because we are able to keep in touch!

Okay, yes. I have lost my mind but to be fair I am drafting this blog on a misty, October Friday when all I can think about is organic hot chocolate, curling up next to the fireplace, and listening to Celine Dion (note to editor: do not remove this Celine reference - I like her and I am not ashamed). Note from editor: I am ashamed for you. 

Back to IKEA.  A recent article let me know that my BFF has a goal to sell only LED lamps and bulbs by 2016. Like Oprah, she really wants people to live their best life and feels that saving energy, slicing utility bills, and cutting carbon emissions are a big piece of that pie. IKEA as a company is strongly committed to being a leader when it comes to energy efficiency – check out the page on Climate Change. I too like to lead by example and feel that as a new home owner it is important to do my part in making my space energy efficient to not only put money back in my pocket but to protect our environment for generations to come.

‘If all IKEA customers around the world took out one traditional light bulb and replaced it with a new LED bulb that would save enough energy to power up a city with one million people.’ – James Futcher, IKEA Product Developer

Energy efficiency is easy and can be cheap thanks to no-cost, low-cost fixes and BFFs like IKEA. Just one bulb per household?! Come on, I think we can all do better than that. I know I plan to. Besides cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, LEDs also cut down on exposure to toxic substances because they are mercury free, unlike traditional incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs. Sure LEDs still cost more upfront, but thanks to a long life and companies like IKEA LEDs will most definitely save you in the long run.

Light bulb projected lifespan
50,000 hours
10,000 hours
1,200 hours
Watts per bulb (equiv. 60 watts)
Cost per bulb
KWh of electricity used over 
50,000 hours
300 500
Cost of electricity (@ 0.10per KWh)
Bulbs needed for 50k hours of use
Equivalent 50k hours bulb expense
Total cost for 50k hours

Energy Savings over 50,000 hours, assuming 25 bulbs per household:
Total cost for 25 bulbs
Savings to household by switching 
from incandescents

Healthy wallet, healthy home, healthy planet - just another win on this Wellness Wednesday.

photo credit: slimmer_jimmer via photopin cc

Scary Weather and Our Climate

Rains that are almost biblical, heat waves that don't end, tornadoes that strike in savage swarms--there's been a change in the weather lately. What's going on?

Join Tom Cotter for a free presentation on extreme weather and climate change at REI Fresno. This multimedia slide show was featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth and is now updated with the latest scientific data and research to convey the scope and urgency of the climate challenge, specific for weather.

* Date: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
* Event Location:  REI Fresno - 7810 N.    Blackstone Ave. Fresno, CA 93720
* Event Fee: Free
* Time:  7:00 - 8:00 PM PDT
* Presenter:  Tom Cotter, Solar Living Institute
* Group Size: 30

Tom Cotter, 559-457-8110

Leaving clean energy solutions to Alien Boy Lem

Petra "Alien Boy" Dorn with monkey in Fairhaven, Wash.
After repeated viewings of the animated movie "Planet 51," my 3 1/2-year-old granddaughter decided her name was no longer Petra.

She assumed the persona of the lead character in the movie. Turns out not only is he male but alien and green. Didn't daunt the girl formerly known as Petra. For two months this summer, she was Lem. And despite questions and interrogations by parents, family and friends, she defended her identity and stayed in character like DeNiro.

"This alien boy Lem lives with Petra's mom," she'd say.

To the Paradise

To my question of what happened to Petra, she would respond, "Petra's gone to the Paradise." Never wavering.

Intense and I guess somewhat unsettling. But we went along with it. I let her mom do whatever she wanted when she was a kid. Mostly. But Petra's mom never became somebody else. My little sister did become a kitten for about a year when she was about the same age. Irritated my grandmother to no end. Julie wouldn't talk, just meow.

Petra/Lem is now another character. Looks the same. Cute as can be.

Kids adapt. Their interpretation of their surroundings is fluid. Anything is possible. In fact, they can accomplish just about anything they put their minds to. Adults have figured out how to operate within the confines of established rules. The parameters of our culture, codes and conditioning have been beaten into our heads.

We need innovation

Not that there's anything wrong with that. American individualism and the freedom to pursue dreams in the United States has driven many to break barriers and achieve success and scientific discovery.

But as a nation and a world, we need innovation. We're close to fouling our planet with climate changing carbon. This was OK for the start of the industrial revolution, but we have the potential to figure out a better method of extracting energy. Fuel prices spike repeatedly. The latest boost in vehicle fuel costs in California had to do with the early August 2012 fire at the Chevron refinery in the Bay Area.

It hurt. Dairy farms are filing for bankruptcy in increasing numbers in Fresno County California, citing feed prices. Feed prices rise when fuel prices increase. Business in general is in the same boat. Cut energy prices and enhance the bottom line.

President Obama is pursuing an all-of-the-above strategy for energy development. It's a decent agenda and one that should make sense on both sides of the domestic political spectrum. Energy policy is linked to national security. We need more autonomy, not greater reliance on Saudi oil.

Tackle clean energy issues

Solar and other alternative energy sources remain limited in their potential. We need a way to either come up with a new form of constant and cheap clean energy or overcome those limitations. That means taking new approaches.

Like something Alien Boy Lem would do. Antimatter perhaps?

Taking inspiration from Mars

NASA landing engineer Adam Steltzner and his crew at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory took a unique approach with the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. They used a sky crane concept to lower the research vehicle to the surface of the Red Planet. Upon landing, the crane portion of the lander blitzed off and crash landed, leaving the rover intact.

Mars rover Curiosity.
National Public Radio's Joe Palca did a story on Steltzner describing how he went from a rock and roller to one of the top engineers at the space agency. What he said inspired me. "The thing that engineering and physics gave me was, there's a right answer, and I could get to it," he tells Palca.

He comes at problems from different directions. When they work, he and his team exploit them.

Curiosity likely will uncover amazing things. It won't solve the energy crisis, but it could provide insight or inspiration to somebody who can. A little spark of an idea, a hint of possibility.

You never know.

Greenland as canary

We need all the help we can get. Changes are afoot. Greenland's melting glaciers are shedding more water than ever, breaking a seasonal record and more water than 2010, according to a piece by Jeanna Bryner in

Bryner quotes researcher Marco Tedesco, assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at The City College of New York, as saying, "This year's overall melting will fall way above the old records. That's a Goliath year — the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979."

I just tossed the Greenland piece to show that change is happening faster than I thought possible. Growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska always made me wish for warmth. But the ramifications are deadly. Pick any coast, raise the water table and problems could be costly.

Meet the Robinsons

I'd rather have troubles like Andy Griffith did on a weekly basis in Mayberry. But that's not likely.

Meanwhile, Petra's taken on a new identity. Lewis from "Meet the Robinsons," another animated feature. He's a "brilliant inventor who meets mysterious stranger named Wilbur Robinson," according to

Hmm... I wonder if Petra has the right idea. By the time she's an adult, the problems we've either failed to address or partially solved will be more pronounced. Her generation will need to deal with them good or bad.

You dirty rat: Global warming's fossil fuel friends

The temperature is a little warm.

The forecast for this early August day called for 111 degrees in Fresno/Clovis, Calif. where I live. That's relatively common in this region, where 40 or more days above 100 is common for summer. But it appears more of the United States is in for similar treatment.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center says July was the hottest month in recorded history.

In fact, its State of the Climate report says, January through July was the warmest first seven months of any year on record for the contiguous United States. The national temperature of 56.4 degrees was 4.3 degrees above the long-term average, with only the Pacific Northwest, which was near average, bucking the trend.

And of course Alaska's a bit cooler. My friend Steve likes to post data on his runs in Anchorage's scenic Kincaid Park. The latest was 55 degrees. Sweltering.

Superheating the atmosphere

This temperature stuff is more than just fodder for oblique discussions of the weather. The ramifications are huge, and most scientists predict dire consequences should the trend not be reversed.

Author and climate activist Bill McKibben spells out the scenario in stark terms. In a piece for Rolling Stone, which has some of the best investigative journalism in the country, he highlights three numbers to watch.

The first is 2 degrees Celsius, which refers to the window the world has before it succumbs to significant effects of climate change. The second is 563 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which refers to the amount of climate warming pollutants that can be released before we hit that two degree threshold.

Carbon dioxide, public enemy

The third, and perhaps most significant McKibben number, is 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide. That's the amount of carbon locked up in all the known reserves of oil and coal. Should those reserves be exploited and the fossil fuels burned, we'll be well on the path to universal environmental destruction.

The cost would be astronomical, the devastation unparalleled.

The path to dealing with this appears obvious. Or relatively. Fossil fuels stand as the most costly fuel on the planet. But society would prefer to kick the can to the next generation.

Who's the bad guy?

Pushing fossil fuels

McKibben says it's obvious.The bad guys are coal and oil executives.

"Climate change operates on a geological scale and time frame, but it's not an impersonal force of nature; the more carefully you do the math, the more thoroughly you realize that this is, at bottom, a moral issue; we have met the enemy and they is Shell," he says.

Unfortunately, the oil companies hold the enviable position of having more money than their critics. While BP reported a loss of $2.2 billion for the second quarter of 2012, it's still doing fine. That compares with net profit of $5.7 billion for the same period a year earlier.

The Associated Press reports BP's revenue for the quarter declined 9 percent and the company set aside another $847 million for the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster and cleanup, "taking the total provision to just over $38 billion."

Money is the game

Not a problem. BP can afford it. In fact, it's created an ad campaign that portrays the company in such beneficent terms, its past fades to distant-memory status. Says Hamilton Nolan of "Remember how BP's relentless pursuit of profits at the expense of safety caused the Gulf of Mexico to be flooded with oil a little while ago? No. I don't remember that. Do you? Hmm. What I do remember is BP's absolutely awesome Olympic spirit!"

Earnings-wise, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil fared better with Shell posting second quarter profit of $5.7 billion, down 13 percent from the same period a year earlier, and Exxon showing $8.4 billion, down 22 percent, according to the New York Times. Reporter Clifford Krauss quotes Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson saying, “Despite global economic uncertainty, we continue to invest throughout the business cycle, taking a long-term view of resource development.”

Talk like that drives McKibben nuts. "There's not a more reckless man on the planet," he says of Tillerson. He adds that Tillerson told Wall Street analysts he plans to spend $37 billion on a year on exploration through 2016.

Averting disaster

The problem is that oil companies hold the future of the planet in their hands, and as long as they keep making scads of money, they won't be backing away from extracting, refining and burning as much of their fossil fuel reserves as possible. McKibben says the only way to deal with this is to tax carbon, making alternative energy more economical.

Of course, alternative energy is currently struggling its way to fossil-fuel parity already. But it could use a boost.

In the meantime, McKibben says the best recourse is moral outrage for those who would like to stop this pell-mell push to global warming. Enemy No. 1 is not Jimmy Cagney, nor is it Snidely Whiplash (both personal favorites). It's a bunch of rich executives ruining the globe for a few dollars more.

Unleash the Toxic Avenger on climate change

The year 1984 may be famous -- especially amongst high-schoolers -- for the angst of Winston Smith. He's the guy trying to cope with illegal daydreams of individual freedom in the repressed collective created by George Orwell.

But 1984 also brought "The Toxic Avenger," a low-rent cinematic romp with environmental themes. Described as an action comedy horror film, it broke new ground by being surprisingly entertaining and launched the B movie careers of directors Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz.

Mitch Cohen, who later appeared as a bit player in Kevin Smith's incomparable "Clerks," stars in Toxic as Melvin, the Tromaville Health Club mop boy. Cohen's Melvin "inadvertently and naively trusts the hedonistic, contemptuous and vain health club members, to the point of accidentally ending up in a vat of toxic waste," says Cinema Fan on

For the good of the people

Rather than becoming a mindless monster, as would normally be the case in this genre, the "transmogrification effect" turns Melvin into the Toxic Avenger, royally irritated by "corruption, thuggish bullies and indifference."

Imagine then Melvin's response to climate change. Truly pissed.

Climate change has emerged as a summer blockbuster this year with more than half the United States experiencing drought. Still a far cry from the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s, the phenomena is increasing popular awareness of the fragility of the environment. And rising average temperatures appear all but a certainty at this point, giving credence to predictions of future difficulties.

Nate Seltenrich of the East Bay Express writes about how sea level rise, brought on by climate change, would affect the San Francisco Bay region. He says the toxic legacy of polluted old industrial sites ringing the bay could unleash some particularly bad news for residents.

"Water could wear away at existing caps, barriers, and other containment measures, increasing the mobility of buried materials," Seltenrich says. "It could also carry metals, chemicals, and oils directly into groundwater and the bay, where they would harm human health and plant and animal life."

Up, up and away

In a another piece, Molly Samuel of's Climate Watch, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists eight superfund sites near the bay. There are 1,304 superfund sites across the country, according to the EPA.

Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard is one of those sites.

Hunter's Point covers 493 acres on land and another 443 underwater and was established in 1869 as the first dry dock on the Pacific Coast. The Navy arrived in 1940 and used it as a shipbuilding and repair facility. Submarines nosed in after World War II and continued to hang around until the 1970s, when some of the land was leased to a private ship repair company. The EPA says tests in 1987 confirmed the area was rife with "polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), trichloroethylene and other solvents, pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons, and metals including lead."

In 1991, the Department of Defense closed the shipyard.

My mom the activist avenger

I have a personal connection. My mother the activist has been trying to clean up Hunter's Point using local labor for decades. She's a longtime resident of the Hunter's Point Bay View neighborhood and is fixated on bringing the land back to health. That means birds, wetlands and people.

Sea level rise there wouldn't be pretty. Nor would it in the nearby Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, where rising waters threaten the complex network of levees and channels that provide the source of water for two of three people in the state. Fresh water from the Sierra Mountains is sent by way of a massive aqueduct and a sophisticated and energy-intensive network of pumps down through the San Joaquin Valley and up over the Grapevine pass to Los Angeles.

Visualize the superfund toxic mixture mingling with that precious fresh-water system. Ugh.

And here's the connection to the Toxic Avenger, or at least my attempt to make one. Melvin just wouldn't stand for such pollution. Of course, he might explode trying to right the wrongs. There are so many. Too much for one really ugly dude.

There may be room for a sequel, however. Cohen came back for "Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV." Maybe he could do another and call it "Superfunds of San Francisco" or something.

Rio Earth Summit: Welcome to the 'insidious conspiracy'

Twenty years ago, Pres. George H.W. Bush told those gathered at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro that he brought an action plan to combat climate change.

"It stresses energy efficiency, cleaner air, reforestation, new technology," he said.

The 41st president also started his speech with a Chinese proverb: "If a man cheats the Earth, the Earth will cheat man." He then followed with, "The idea of sustaining the planet so that it may sustain us is as old as life itself. We must leave this Earth in better condition than we found it."

Blast from the past

That was then. The United Nations' Rio + 20 Earth Summit this week has ushered this debate back into the political scene.

Bush's words show how much he was ahead of his time. Now Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney skirts the entire issue, leaning as far from the entanglements of climate change as he can. According to Neela Banerjee at the New York Daily News, Romney "expresses doubts about climate science like the majority of his party."

Romney says if elected he would support expanded coal and oil production and work to "amend (the) Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from its purview," according to his official website. He also calls solar and wind failures.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., takes aim at such positions in a fiery speech on the Senate floor on the eve of Rio + 20. If he had looked like this during his failed presidential bid, things may have turned out much differently.

"We should fight today's insidious conspiracy of silence on climate change," he says. "The danger we face could not be more real."

Kerry fights back

Kerry singled out those on the green side of the fence by referring to the "timidity of proponents." He likewise railed about those who marginalize and misrepresent the facts.

"Every major national science academy in the world has reported that global warming is real," Kerry says. "It is nothing less than shocking when people in a position of authority can just say — without documentation, without accepted scientific research, without peer reviewed analysis — just stand up and say that there isn't enough evidence because it suits their political purposes to serve some interest that doesn't want to change the status quo."

Rio should be interesting. And no, solar and wind aren't failures. In fact, Brad Plumer of the Washington Post speculates that policy makers may be significantly underestimating their potential. He cites a recent study by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory that says the country could generate 80 percent of its electricity from renewables using existing technology by mid century. He also cites the exponential growth of solar as an indicator.

We could use the jobs. A report by the McKinsey Global Institute says that between 90 million and 95 million low-skill workers -- or 2.6 percent of the global workforce -- will not be needed by employers by 2020 and will be vulnerable to permanent joblessness, according to a story in Huffington Post by Bonnie Kavoussi.

That means we'll be needing something for them to do. Clean energy is a solid investment and a great return jobs wise. Toss in the cleaner air, and we've got a winner. One that members of both parties would approve of more openly just 20 years ago.

Climate change: Water woes haunt Californians

California would sidestep most of the effects of climate change.

The state already is hot and dry, and its coastal areas, with some exceptions, are blessed with some elevation, enabling them to avoid disaster should the seas rise significantly. But one region, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, faces distinct peril, says climate risk analyst Richard Snyder.

"You'll have a problem," says Snyder who spoke at the 2012 International Green Industry Hall of Fame event in Fresno. "Water and climate change are big issues, especially in California."

The Delta is a complex network of levees and channels and the source of water for two of three people in the state. Fresh water from the Sierra Mountains is sent by way of a massive aqueduct and a sophisticated and energy-intensive network of pumps down through the San Joaquin Valley and up over the Grapevine pass to Los Angeles.

When the levee breaks

Should that aging network of levees fail, disaster would strike. Years of farming the roughly half million acres caused large swaths of the peat-rich soil to drop, so that now much if it is below sea level. Some more than 20 feet below. Salt water intrusion would poison the Delta fresh water source, causing extreme economic cost on a scale hard to imagine.

Snyder, a professor at University of California Davis, says Sacramento, the state's capital, would definitely have a problem. Some parts of the city are no more than 20 feet above sea level.

Drought is another probability of climate change. And California would suffer greatly in an extended dry spell, Snyder says. "If you have a 100-year drought, there's no hope," he says.

A decade-long drought would be more manageable. But still no walk in the park. "The secret is to be prepared," Snyder says.

Politics presents a problem

However, politics, and especially the politics of water, is turbulent in California. Always has been. Agriculture would be the first casualty of a water shortage, pummeling the San Joaquin Valley economy.

Heidi Cullen, a senior research scientist with nonprofit Climate Central, spells out the Delta's woes in her book "The Weather of the Future." "The Delta has far more in common with New Orleans that with Hollywood," she writes. "The odds are roughly two in three that during the next fifty years either a large flood or a seismic event will affect the Delta."

Even without such disasters, rising sea level will bring more salt into the Delta and increase the cost of water, Cullen says.

The situation doesn't look good. And attempting a political fix in California is described as a nightmare.

An urgent fix is needed

James Hansen, climate scientist and director of NASA's Goddard Center, says delay shouldn't be an option. He co-wrote a new report, "Scientific Case for Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change to Protect Young People and Nature," which says humanity is the dominant force driving atmospheric composition and the climate.

"We must transition rapidly to a post-fossil fuel world of clean energies," the report says. But that can't be done without public and government support, the report says. But that "requires widespread recognition that a prompt orderly transition to the post fossil fuel world" is the best choice for avoiding disasters like the one that faces the Delta.

A solution may be tough to find. A line in 1974 film noir "Chinatown," which uses California water politics as its central theme, explains the importance: "Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water."

But the difficulties surrounding water, climate change and the potentially tumultuous mix indicate a bleaker outlook, something like that faced by Jack Nicholson's character Jake Gittes in the movie: "Forget it Jake. It's Chinatown."

And let's hope the Delta can avoid the destruction wrought by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 that destroyed homes and the agricultural economy of the Mississippi Basin.

That flood was chronicled by blues duo Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, but I know the Led Zep version with John Bonham's drums a whole lot better.

Photo: Sacramento's Yellow Bridge.