I just can’t bring myself to doing the usual “This Week in Climate News” roundup today, since the subject has a Groundhog Day quality to it that gets tedious after a while. How often can you take note of the mania that causes adults to repeat themselves long after everyone has stopped listening, like this UN chap who said this week that climate change will lead to more wars and conflict, and will increase the scale of natural disasters “exponentially”?
But this story about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest foray into environmental correctness really takes the biscuit, as Bertram Wilberforce Wooster might say. Bloomberg has coughed up $50 million for the Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign, which the new SC executive director Michael Brune called a “game changer.” Can’t we come up with a new cliché to replace the tired “game-changer”? I can’t imagine another $50 million down the climate campaign rat hole will change any game, unless the game being played is lawn bowling on valium. (The Environmental Defense Fund spent north of $300 million lobbying for cap and trade. Their donors would have done better investing in sub-prime mortgages.)
What’s notable isn’t Bloomberg’s lending his name and cash to the usual politically correct cause, but where he decided to announce the new frontier of his benevolence: at a press conference staged on a boat in the Potomac River between Washington DC and Alexandria, Virginia, in front of Alexandria’s coal-fired power plant that supplies electricity to northern Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC. Wonder what Washington’s new major, Vincent Gray, thought about Bloomberg appearing in Washington to do this. Weren’t there any coal-fired power plants closer to New York City? Does the Alexandria plant, as opposed to dozens of upwind plants in the northeast, actually affect New York City? Will New York city suffer power shortages if the plant shuts down? Methinks DC ought to start shipping clandestine supplies of transfats and salt to the Big Apple just to get even. Or perhaps DC mayor Gray, or Governor Jerry Brown, ought to hold press conferences in the streets of Manhattan denouncing the financial industry’s credit policies toward states and municipalities, and demand that those banks be shut down. Bloomberg might have a thing or two to say about that.
And what great timing: denouncing a power plant in the midst of a heat wave that is straining the electrical grid. Mirant, the plant’s owner, had voluntarily scaled back the plant a few years ago in response to data about its emissions (which were nonetheless in full compliance with Clean Air Act standards), a precursor to shutting it down completely in the fullness of time. But a 2005 news story about this move notes, “While there is enough excess production in the network to cover the loss of Mirant’s 482 megawatts, it leaves the Capitol without a safety net. If there is a heat wave (above 96° F) or other disaster, the grid could falter.” Thus it was not surprising that local government leaders asked Mirant not to close the plant down completely, but instead demanded that Mirant spend a pile of dough to install new pollution control equipment. But these abatement measures are all for conventional air pollutants—sulfur dioxide and particulates, mainly—while the Sierra Club wants to shut down the plant because of its carbon dioxide emissions, as there is no control technology to reduce CO2 emissions. I say let New York City promise to provide the replacement power to the Beltway, at the same price, if the plant shuts down. That would be a “game changing” way to put your money where your big mouth is, Mr. Mayor.