Seven years ago this month, while I was at Rainforest Action Network, we were working with several hundred California residents who were fighting to prevent their electric cars from being seized, crushed and sold for scrap. These vehicles were fully functioning, economical and, because they were electric, didn't use a drop of gas. Yet they were being pulled off the roads by major automakers—over the objections of the people who loved driving them. We didn't save all those cars back in 2005, but we did see more clearly than ever that if we want to move America beyond oil, then we need to jump-start the American auto industry.
Fortunately, times have changed. Today, I testified at an U.S. EPA hearing in San Francisco to support proposed standards that would raise vehicle efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon, with electric vehicles as one of the primary ways to meet this goal. Here's my brief testimony....
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to California. I'm Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is our nation's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. We were founded by John Muir, who sought to defend Yosemite Valley and help create and expand Yosemite National Park. Today, nearly 120 years later, the Sierra Nevada range—like every other ecosystem in America—is suffering from the impacts of climate destabilization. It's just one reason why these standards are so important.
I want to thank EPA and NHTSA for the opportunity to testify today. I appreciate the incredible amount of work you and your staffs have put in along with California's Air Resources Board to make these historic standards possible.
I'm here today because our dangerous addiction to oil is threatening our quality of life by draining our wallets at the gas pump, polluting our air, and devastating our climate. Every day, we send nearly $1 billion overseas for foreign oil—wasting money that should be fueling American innovation and investment in growing industries like clean energy. Our oil addiction fuels the climate disruption that is increasing the number and intensity of severe droughts and devastating storms. It also puts our troops at risk around the world, and our families' health and security at risk here at home.
That's why these new fuel efficiency and carbon pollution standards for new cars and light trucks are such a big deal. President Obama's proposal to double the efficiency of America's cars and light trucks is the biggest single step we've ever taken to move America beyond oil. In 2025, American families will get to buy cars and light trucks that average 54.5 miles-per-gallon, and emit no more than 163 grams per mile of carbon pollution.
That's a big win for all Americans. To put this in perspective, the average family buying a new car in 2025 will save more than $3,500 at the pump—even after paying for fuel-saving technology. In 2030, Americans will use 1.5 million fewer barrels of oil every day, the same amount we imported from Saudi Arabia and Iraq in 2010, and cut carbon pollution by an amount equivalent to shutting down 72 coal-fired power plants for a year.
The shift we have seen over the past few years in our auto industry is worthy of recognition. The United Auto Workers—the backbone of the American manufacturing industry—strongly supports these standards, as do Ford, GM, Chrysler, and the other major automakers. The industry is already enjoying a rebound, with new jobs in Michigan and across the Midwest; by 2030 these standards could create nearly half a million jobs across the country.
Here in California, we've been paving the way for cleaner cars for nearly a decade. I'm proud to live in a state that has led the nation in cutting pollution from cars—from the pollution that compromises our health and our right to breathe healthy air to the pollution the threatens our climate. California pioneered the first-ever tailpipe standards for greenhouse gases, putting its authority and the Clean Air Act to work. It took years of litigation and 13 other states joining our state's clean cars program before we finally created the momentum at the national level to raise the national standards that had been stuck since the 1970s.
For more than twenty years, the Sierra Club and its members have pushed for stronger fuel-efficiency standards that will help America break its oil addiction. Already more than 20,000 of our members have sent in their comments, and more than a hundred of our members have testified at these hearings. We are committed to help educate members of the public about the benefits of buying the most efficient vehicle that meets their family's needs. The Sierra Club will also continue working to ensure that all Americans have more and better transportation choices—by making walking and biking safer and increasing our access to transit.
As a father of two young kids, I'm relieved to know that the cars they'll drive in the years to come will use much less oil and emit less pollution. The reality is, these standards are strong, and they need to be stronger. Dirty oil pollutes our air, our water, and our atmosphere. And as we've seen over the past couple of elections, Big Oil cash pollutes our democracy. We look forward to working with President Obama, along with your agencies, to ensure that the Administration finalizes strong standards this July that will deliver the strongest possible benefits to American families and workers through 2025 and beyond. Thank you.
I had my say today, but you can still tell the U.S. EPA and NHTSA what you think about stronger fuel economy standards here.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.