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From ‘dirty power plants’ to Arctic oil drilling: can the US be sustainable under Romney?



Mitt Romney is almost certain to be the next Republican Party presidential candidate. But what if he wins? Can the US, governed by Romney’s Grand Old Party, seriously strive for the sustainable future the world needs? Charlie Wood finds out.

The Republican National Convention kicks off on Monday in Tampa, Florida, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney will be confirmed as the Grand Old Party’s choice to take on President Obama in November. As the Republican primary process unfolded, the platform upon which Romney will run has become somewhat clear – he is for an across-the-board 20% income tax cut, he has vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (AKA ‘Obamacare’), and he has pledged to defund some federal programs of a socially divisive nature, such as Planned Parenting. Romney’s views on environmental sustainability, however, are still something of a mystery, and thus prime for investigation.

This assessment must be prefixed with an outline of the vagaries of governing in the United States. If Romney were to win the general election (and it is a very large ‘if’), he would be in control of only one of the three branches of government – the executive. It seems increasingly likely that the congressional branch, made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate (similar to our Houses of Commons and Lords respectively, but with a much more powerful Lords) would remain, as they are now, deadlocked.

As it stands, the Republicans control the House, and the Democrats control the Senate, and this is unlikely to change – if anything, the Democrats may take back the House. If this remains the case then the president, as Barack Obama has learned to his chagrin, will find it immensely difficult to force through any legislation, and the sustainability may be kicked even further down the road.

Also, as Romney learned to his undoubted cost in the case of the Affordable Care Act, the judiciary, helmed by a conservative-led Supreme Court, does not always do what is expected of it. These factors could easily lead to a legislative ‘log-jam’ in a potential Romney presidency, forcing him to concentrate his efforts into one thing – the economy – and be damned with all else. In these circumstances, we can only speculate upon what a President Romney would do for the environment if he had a free hand, and speculate we shall!

Politicians say they like to run on their records, and not from them, so Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts is a good place to begin. At first glance, it seems that Governor Romney’s green credentials were sound: early on in his tenure he waged war on dirty power plants, insisting on tough emissions standards for coal producers, and negotiated the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI or ‘ReGGIe’) in support of the regulation of greenhouse emissions.

However, the political price of this initiative forced the governor into a U-turn when, after lobbying for a cap on penalties to businesses that exceeded stated emission levels, he pulled out of RGGI in 2005. The governor also opposed the Cape Cod wind farm proposal in 2006, citing the visual detriment to the area.

It seems fair to conclude from these instances that Governor Romney paid lip-service to the cause of sustainability, but could not summon the political will required to be thought of as ‘green’. Candidate Romney, as he has been since his failed attempt at the big job during the 2008 presidential cycle, has employed markedly different rhetoric.

While it is true that Candidate Romney has championed renewable energy sources such as bio-diesel, biofuel and ethanol, and has conceded (unlike some in his party) that global warming is at least partially man-made, he also opposes Kyoto and Cap-and-Trade, noting in his 2012 book, No Apologies, that “if developing nations won’t curb emissions, even extreme mitigation measures taken by the United States and other developed nations will have no appreciable effect on slowing the rate of greenhouse gas emission“.

This position is not outside the mainstream of Republican orthodoxy. It is true that many of Romney’s views would be to the left of his colleagues. The more pertinent problem with candidate Romney’s green credentials is his campaigns incessant need to use President Obama’s green agenda as a stick to beat him with. On his official website, a full page is dedicated to highlighting the president’s “wasteful spending on failed energy policies“, repeatedly quoting the figure of “$90 billion earmarked for clean energy efforts in the recession-fighting stimulus package“.

As regards funding, the now defunct solar cell manufacturers Solyndra, and drawing attention to the relative disappointment felt towards the administration regarding sustainability, they may have a point. However, a breakdown (supplied by the New York Times) of the $90 billion  includes $3 billion for research and development into carbon capture, $10 billion for grid modernisation (including smart meters), $18 billion for fast trains, and a whopping $29 billion for energy efficiency, much of it to homes of low earners.

If candidate Romney believed, as Governor Romney stated in 2007, that “we must use America’s power of innovation to develop alternative sources of energy and technologies that use energy more efficiently“, then he would surely embrace these initiatives, instead of castigating the president to score cheap political points.

The politically poisonous charges of ‘Flip-Flopper’ and ‘Waffler’ have been levelled against Mitt Romney during this election cycle, as they were against John Kerry in 2004. Regarding his green credentials, there is evidence to suggest Romney talks a good talk, but refuses to walk the walk.

If elected president, Romney will lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil in the short term, by sanctioning the construction of the Keystone pipeline and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). It seems unlikely, however, that either he, or his running mate, congressman Paul Ryan, will seriously strive for the sustainable future the world needs.

If a Romney presidency became enmeshed in economics and foreign affairs, and the responsibility for the environmental portfolio fell into his VP’s hands, then we had all better hold on to our hats. Congressman Ryan’s pronouncements on climate change include the belief that scientists have tried to “intentionally mislead the public“, and his voting record in the House suggests he has neither the time nor the inclination to tackle environmental  issues.

Members of the environmentalist lobby who are frustrated with the efforts of the current administration have been forewarned – the grass is no greener on the other side.

Charlie Wood is a 30-year-old recent graduate of English literature at Leeds Metropolitan University, from Fleetwood, Lancashire, and West Cork, Ireland. He intends to pursue a career in politics and writing.

Further reading:

The world needs ethical, environmental and entrepreneurial leaders

International Green Party success

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2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage



Natural Disaster Damage
Shutterstock / By Droidworker |

Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.

Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.

Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each

The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.

Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.

Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.

That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.

Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.

Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.

Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.

The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.

Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity

Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.

Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.

Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight

The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.

The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.

2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded

People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.

Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.

Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.

Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.

Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.

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How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018



Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art |

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly


Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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