scharrison's blog

Coal Ash Wednesday: Pandemic recovery is boosting coal burning

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2021 is shaping up to be a really bad year for global emissions:

The pandemic abruptly slowed the global march of coal. But demand for the world’s dirtiest fuel is forecast to soar this year, gravely undermining the chances of staving off the worst effects of global warming.

Burning coal is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, and, after a pandemic-year retreat, demand for coal is set to rise by 4.5 percent this year, mainly to meet soaring electricity demand, according to data published Tuesday by the International Energy Agency, just two days before a White House-hosted virtual summit aimed at rallying global climate action.

Any time you have an economic setback, the "easy way forward" is the first to get chosen. Coal deposits are still abundant, even after a few centuries of sustained mining, and they are relatively easy to access. In other words, it will take a continued (global) effort to promote alternatives, or the human race will always revert to that "easy" approach when economic pressure comes to bear. We have made much progress in the right direction:

The biomass bait-and-switch: From scraps to whole trees

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This was both predictable and preventable:

Several Enviva mills were soon processing material from logging sites and sawmills throughout the region. Environmental groups say they have documented truckloads of logs and whole trees, not just leftovers, entering pellet mills. Publicly available images show logs stacked at mills, and a reporter outside a pellet mill entrance saw trucks of logs entering.

Pellet makers’ pledges to rely on waste wood “painted them into a corner,” said Robert Abt, a forest economist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, because the wood-products industry already used its supplies relatively efficiently, leaving little waste.

Around 2009 or so I got into a protracted (online) debate with an NC State grad student about burning biomass as a replacement for coal. I could not get him to admit that, eventually, the industry would grow to the point it would need to consume whole trees instead of detritus. Which he stubbornly claimed would be "more than enough" to satisfy demands. But aside from the deforestation issues, the environmental justice impact of these plants is horrendous:

Protect the NC Constitution: TABOR is back, and it's really bad

Voting about voting about tax increases:

No law shall be enacted to impose or increase any tax, or to allow the counties, cities, or towns to do so, unless approved by a majority of the qualified voters of the jurisdiction to which the tax or increase pertains.

This isn't just about sales taxes, it's about all taxes. Including property taxes levied by county, city, and town governments. Those property taxes are a major source of funding for school construction, but they also cover police and fire protection, public works, parks & recreation, etc. Every year (or two) municipal governments crunch numbers on their budgets (which the state requires to be balanced, by the way), and those elected officials have to decide what is needed, and whether property taxes have to be increased to cover those needs. They are already constrained by electoral politics, but this Amendment would shift those decisions directly to the voters. And if you believe they would ever vote to increase their own taxes, I've got a bridge to nowhere I'd like to sell you.

In the struggle against Climate Change, all roads lead to China

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And John Kerry is answering the call:

A main purpose of Mr. Kerry’s travels to China and elsewhere has been to rally support for Mr. Biden’s virtual climate summit of dozens of world leaders next week. Mr. Xi has not yet accepted the invitation, but he will join a similar conference on Friday with President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

Cooperation between the United States, the worst emitter of greenhouse gases historically, and China, the worst in the world today, could spur greater efforts from other countries. China accounts for 28 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions; the United States, in second place, emits 14 percent of the global total.

To call this issue "complicated" would be a laughable understatement. And thanks to that idiot man-child Trump, it's more complicated than it should be:

Kinston police punched black man after he was on the ground

Apparently it's open season for this kind of behavior:

Two North Carolina police officers were placed on leave after at least one of them was shown on video throwing punches at a Black man who was taken to the ground after a foot pursuit.

A roughly 17-second video clip from a bystander's cellphone during the arrest Monday night in Kinston appears to show an officer standing over David Lee Bruton Jr. and throwing multiple punches while he's on the ground. The leader of the local chapter of the NAACP called the video disturbing and the man's mother said she's grateful he's alive.

Bolding mine, because it's a damn shame when simply surviving a police encounter is considered a blessing. A woman called 911 to say she had been threatened by somebody (not even sure if it was him), and I'm very curious to see what that threat actually entailed:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Cue bigoted Republicans bashing the NCAA in 3...2...1...

No refuge: Transgender youth persecuted by their families first

It's no wonder the suicide rate is so high:

28 – percentage of transgender or nonbinary youth who attempted suicide who reported they had been subjected to so-called “conversion therapy.”

78 – percentage of transgender or nonbinary youth who reported that they were under the age of 18 when they were subjected to “conversion therapy.”

40 – percentage of transgender or nonbinary youth who reported being physically threatened or harmed due to their gender identity.

50 – percentage of transgender or nonbinary youth who reported being kicked out of their homes.

To call those numbers "shameful" is a gross understatement. Children are the greatest responsibility an adult can have, and tossing them out if you can't "fix" them is the height of selfish irresponsibility. It's also criminal, or at least it's supposed to be. Conversion therapy is psychologically abusive and, in many cases, also physically abusive. Of course Republicans know this, but they refuse to stop it. And they also don't care if NC gets negative national exposure for promoting violence against transgender youth:

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