Light Rail in Indiana

A bright light of mass transit in Indiana arrived as January came to a close. The Indiana House lifted the ban on light rail in the counties in and around Indianapolis. The IBJ article covering this is here.

We’ll see what the Senate and eventually the Governor will do…

It is worth noting that China is heavily investing in light rail as a solution to growing cities. They are also using exciting technology. See an intersting article here. The reason this is worth noting is that the House is reacting to a major employer considering Indiana. If we don’t start improving our mass transit systems to catch up to Chinese and other country’s investments, we will find it very difficult to attract an increasingly urban workforce.

It would also benefit our great state and our ability to attract and retain an educated workforce by investing in regional mass transit.


EPA’s Gina McCarthy Offers 3 Reasons to be Optimistic

EPA Admin  Gina McCarthy at Indiana University

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy came to Bloomington last night. Read her (bio), and follow her on Twitter (@ginaepa).

She offered three reasons to be optimistic despite a Trump Administration’s proposed 31% cut to the EPA budget.

  1. We are living in the midst of a Clean Energy Revolution that doesn’t depend on Washington budgets, but is driven by the markets. This is clearly evident in Monroe County by the growth of solar installations on County and residential structures. She mentioned that this revolution could move faster with government investment, which we are seeing in Monroe County!
  2. A Transportation Revolution is on the horizon. Driverless vehicles and electric cars are rapidly developing. Numerous countries are also looking to ban the internal combustion engine. McCarthy also warned that China will soon lead the way in green technology and US companies will be looking East to catch up. Fortunately here in Monroe County there are already electric car charging stations, as I wrote about in October 2017.
  3. McCarthy urged unity and continued effort which is something Monroe County is very good at doing! To this end two groups brought Administrator McCarthy to Bloomington. Indiana University’s Environmental Resiliency Institute and the newly formed Concerned Scientists at IU.

The EPAs Janet McCabe was also in the audience. The Monroe County Environmental Commission brought her to Bloomington in 2016 for a talk on the Clean Power Plan.

    Leaving for the Holidays?

    Leaving your office or home for the holidays? The IU Office of Sustainability (@iusustain) tweeted out this helpful graphic.


    The Rise of Extreme Rain

    It’s raining in Monroe County.

    While our rain is a blessing, it goes without saying that the deluge in Texas and Florida as a result of hurricanes Harvey and Irma are catastrophic. The vast amount of water dumped on these communities is something that we haven’t seen before.

    David Leonhart wrote an excellent piece in the New York Times on why we are seeing this now, entitled “Irma, and the Rise of Extreme Rain.” He shows why warm air carries more moisture than cool air. Naturally as the water warms with climate change, the hurricanes and tropical storms will continue to drop large amounts of water on these coastal communities.

    The article ends with these words: “Welcome to the era of extreme rain. We can continue to pretend it’s all a coincidence and watch the consequences mount. Or we can start to do something about it — by using less of the dirty energy that’s changing the climate and by preparing for a future that’s guaranteed to be hotter and rainier.”

    The Monroe County Environmental Commission is working locally to do something about it!


    Federal Climate Change Denial and What to do About It

    myron-ebell-1024x607President-elect Trump is putting his team together, and his choice to lead the transition for the Environmental Protection Agency is one more step toward an official Federal policy of climate change denial. Trump repeatedly called global warming a hoax . The man Trump has called on to shape the EPA in his administration is a well-known climate skeptic and a critic of efforts by the Obama administration to address climate change.

    The man’s name is Myron Ebell, and here is what you should know.

    First, Ebell is against the the popular Paris Climate Deal. In May, he hoped “whoever was elected president would ‘undo the E.P.A. power plant regs and some of the other regs that are very harmful to our economy.’” This puts his views, against international agreements to help curb environmental changes, in the scientific minority. It also raises the specter that the U.S. could pull out of the agreement. NPR’s Susan Phillips wrote a great article summarizing this issue; she hopefully noted that countries gathered at the Marrakesh Conference exhibited “a defiant optimism”.

    Second, Ebell is “a well-known and polarizing figure in the energy and environment realm” according to Scientific American. He is the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute. This institute questions climate change, supports increased fossil fuel use, and opposes initiatives such as the Kyoto Protocol, cap-and-trade, and EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses. In a world imagined by this Institute, our air and water would be less clean, and our efforts to stop the effects of a warming world would be more isolated and less effective. The director of these ideas is now heading the transition to the EPA.

    Third, Ebell is not a scientist nor does he have degrees or qualifications in climate science, according to Business Insider. Despite this he works to undermine the work of climate scientists. In interviews conducted by Business Insider, a climate scientist from NASA showed disdain for Ebell and the magazine called Ebell a gadfly whose views scientists had to stoop to acknowledge and whose views had little scientific content.

    This is alarming even for us here in Monroe County because the decisions made by this administration will affect our lives and the ways we interact with our surroundings. This sends signals to the way states run their environmental protection activities that business interests trumps beneficial regulations and there is no middle ground or compromise. It also gives credence to conspiracy theories against the reliance on scientific inquiry and data.

    This can be discouraging, but stay informed and get active! Read reliable, independent reporting on the environment and contact your elected officials to voice your opinions on environmental issues. You can also stay in touch with this blog which sends out a monthly alert of local green events and issues. Lastly, as the Federal Government goes down the climate denial rabbit hole, the role of state and local governments will increase. This means that local reporting and activism will be increasingly important.


    Recommended Update on Environmental Policy

    1107_paris-agreement-1000x663There is something big happening tonight and while I should have been posting yesterday, I was phone banking…

    Diane Rehm, the award winning radio journalist and author, did a great show earlier this month on the environment. The show can listened to or the transcript can be found online. She and her guests provided an in-depth analysis of recent environmental policy. Update your base of knowledge on issues such as coral bleaching, western Antarctic ice sheet retreat, Miami’s concern about rising sea levels, the Montreal Protocol and the seeming end of CFCs, and the upcoming Paris Agreement talks in Morocco.

    The panel of experts is worth following. If you are like me and can’t ever seem to keep up with reliable environmental news, they can help:

    • Amy Harder (@AmyAHarder) is a reporter covering energy and climate policy at The Wall Street Journal
    • Chris Mooney (@chriscmooney) energy and environment reporter, Washington Post
    • Cary Funk (@surveyfunk) associate director of research on science and society, Pew Research Center

    Of course, you should add this blog to your rss reader, as we update this page with local information weekly.


    Will the Heat Stay in a Warmer County?

    us-climate-zonesInsulation has been a focus of the Monroe County Energy Challenge and for good reason. Proper r-values in your home or office can reduce the amount of energy you consume, increase comfort, and best-of-all save you money. But what will the impact of climate change be on insulation recommendations?

    The r-value is a way to measure insulation; defines it as the “insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it. The higher the R-Value the better the thermal performance of the insulation”. You can find your recommended r-value by the region of the country you live in; Monroe County is in zone 4 which suggests attics be insulated from r-38 to r-60.

    If you are a gardener as I am, you’ll notice that the r-value map looks very familiar to the USDA’s hardiness zone map which helps gardeners and farmers know when to plant/transplant certain seeds.

    This hardiness map has not been static. As climate change has impacted our world, the zones have moved. Some areas becoming warmer, some cooler and some there has been no change. But Monroe County became warmer and our hardiness zone changed. The Arbor Day Foundation has a really cool timelapse of this climate change trend that dramatically illustrates this point.

    So, as hardiness zones migrate will r-values migrate as well? If Monroe County continues to experience climate change will our current r-values decrease? If we continue to warm will they increase to keep the cool air in? These are intriguing questions that time will tell. As more changes occur due to climate change, it helps to put the changes in focus when it so directly impacts home/office renovation and new construction.

    As you ponder those questions, take some time to review these Energy Saving Tips.