Imagine if we said that seat belts were not going to prevent all auto related deaths so we did not make them mandatory. Imagine if we did not have drunk driving laws because some people are going to drink and drive anyway. Imagine if we did not have any screening of bags at the airport because someone with bad intentions will eventually get something through anyway. Imagine the same examples for texting and driving, lead paint, leaded fuel, athletic protective gear, and so on…. One of core goals we have as a society is the preservation of life and the advances in safety we have made have been towards that end. We learn, we adapt, and we evolve.
When it comes to climate change mitigation discussions and gun violence prevention discussions; a quick argument that is frequently made against taking any action, is that it will not be 100% effective. Why move away from fossil fuels if the sea level is going to rise anyway from all of the carbon already in the atmosphere? Why impose any changes to gun purchasing because if a bad person wants to get a gun they will find a way? Setting the bar to 100% is unreasonable and is an invalid position. As humans we constantly reside in the gray and that is a perfectly acceptable place to be, things are rarely simplistic enough to be black and white.
Imagine if transitioning to cleaner energy sources could minimize future environmental disasters or if modified gun legislation could prevent one mass school shooting, would it then be worth it? How many lives does a change need to save to be worth it? I do not think any reasonable person would say 100% but yet that is quickly the unreasonable standard that is set in these discussions. I am encouraged with the 70 members (35R / 35D) of the Climate Solutions Caucus and the direction their dialog is going as their group continues to grow. I am encouraged by some of the recent town hall style discussions taking place on how to better ensure the safety of our children at school; as I recently mentioned, having a dialogue is a critical part of the equation. Now the next step is to determine what success looks like and agreeing that there is room for compromise in the answer. The consequences of inaction are too great.
Today the front page news is once again pictures of shocked and grief stricken family members trying to cope with the loss of loved ones due to a mass shooting. It seems unlikely that anything meaningful is going to change to improve these situations. Sure, we pass referendums and watch our local school entrances get fortified, we can constantly be aware of our surroundings like Jason Bourne, and we can buy Kevlar inserts for our backpacks; but none of that may help at all. It seemed after Las Vegas that there was going to be an appetite in DC for regulating bump stocks but that fell by the wayside. Having a reasonable conversation about the first four words (a well regulated militia) of the second amendment seems to be a non-starter, the focus is always on the last 14 words (the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed). What bothers me most about this issue is how no real dialogue takes place. Imagine any other scenario resulting in thousands of senseless deaths each year with not even a conversation about options to mitigate it.
On the one side politicians are quick to decry the need for gun control and on the other side politicians are quick to say stop politicizing this. In my opinion, there is the problem. Our political system has become so fractured that having a reasonable and open dialogue about something is taboo unless it is with someone from your own political party. Sure, there are some exceptions to this but it is uncommon and those joint ventures have not secured additional support outside of a small group regardless of whether it is immigration reform, health care, or gun violence. For a brief moment this morning I wondered if the solution was simple, I wondered if the news media started treating mass shootings like they do women’s athletics or climate change if that would improve things. Is part of the appeal of the shooter knowing they will be the lead story and have their name everywhere and be talked about until the next mass shooting? I do not know, but maybe more focus on the victims and mitigations for the problem wouldn’t hurt because the reality is at the moment I could care a less about the piece of shit shooter and his troubled life.
The gridlock, inaction, and self-serving legislation seems to be at the core of many issues facing Americans today. Over the years there have been many clever pictures and calls for politicians to be like NASCAR drivers and wear their sponsors so everyone knows who bought and paid for them. I genuinely think this would help. It might not solve the fractured relationships immediately but it would give clearer insight in to what is happening behind the scenes and make open dialogues more likely. Imagine a senator wearing a large Nestle logo on their chest trying to influence the Forest Service to allow Nestle to keep pumping millions of gallons out of the San Bernardino National Forest for free despite the fact that their permit to extract water from the park expired in 1988. Imagine a politician with a big General Motors logo on his hat trying to pass legislation to not allow Tesla to sell vehicles directly to consumers in Michigan. Not only might it change the dialogue, it might change the mindset of sponsors who currently act with a certain amount of or sometimes complete anonymity. Being able to have a dialogue is the key and today, when it comes to complex issues like gun violence, climate change, health care, equality, immigration and more; the number of politicians on either side of the aisle willing to have a real discussion and have a willingness to compromise is too small.
One of the nice things about WordPress, is that I can look at the data for my blog and see what entries people are clicking on, what countries they are from, what days of the week they visit, what search terms they use, what links they click, and more. I can compare readership year over year and also tell if a single visitor went to more than one blog entry and such. It is all anonymous, but interesting data to look at regardless. Some of it does not align with what I would have expected, for instance the majority of the views I get are on Wednesdays which I found surprising since many of my posts are done on Thursdays or Fridays. Some things make me laugh like when someone uses their browser to search for “my 2008 hummer is beeping” and they are directed to my humorous beeping bleeping hummer entry. I am uncertain how the one person from Iceland, six in Russia, or seven from Saudi Arabia found my blog; but it is interesting to view the details from the map picture above regardless. The most clicked on entry was in late December of 2016 and it was a satirical article, channeling my comedic desire to write for the Onion. I think the provocative picture is really what prompted the clicks.
I sometimes think about what my audience might like to hear, but more often lately I am paralyzed with what to say. There is so much ‘bad news’ on environmental topics in the U.S. lately that carving out a sliver of hope or positivity is difficult. At the same time, drudging on and whining about what corrupt idiots are leading this nation is unsatisfying. As ideas pop in to my head about topics, I add them to a list. Below is a snip of some of those thoughts, please let me know if any of these or any other ideas are of interest to you. Thank you!
Make America Great Again (MAGA) is a catchy phrase and one that if simply looking at the words seems like something everyone would want to support. Like most things, the issue comes when you start looking at the specifics. The word “Again” gives the impression of reverting to a previous time and opens itself up for numerous arguments about what timeline we are hoping to move back to and creates a natural issue of negating progress we as a country have made. No matter the time in history that anyone would say is when America was best, there were large fundamental problems then which are improved now. Was America great when women could not vote, when we had leaded gasoline and leaded paint, when no water and air protections existed, or when slavery existed? No, it is better now in those and many other regards because of progress and innovation. MAGA has its nostalgic merits, but when the conversation deepens most sane people would concede that the slogan should lose the A. If our POTUS and his administration were to focus on just ‘Make America Great’, things would be a lot simpler and we could be moving forward to make more progress as opposed to moving backwards.
There are several ways that the “Again” is being implemented and reverting us, as opposed to moving us forward and helping us transform and modernize. The Brooking Institute, Columbia, Harvard, and many others all track new, repealed, and modified rules and policies and I have leveraged some of their data to create a list of environmental changes and updates you might not even be aware of because we are too busy worrying about the countless scandals or offensive tweets of the day.
The social cost of carbon is an estimate of the monetized damages caused by a one-ton increase in greenhouse gas emissions in a given year. On March 28, 2017, POTUS issued an executive order which states that, when monetizing the value of changes in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from regulations, agencies should instead follow earlier guidance from September 2003.
In July 2015, the Department of the Interior (DoI) proposed the Stream Protection Rule, which required that land within 100 feet of a stream could not be disturbed by surface mining activities, including the dumping of mining waste. Two days before that law was to take effect (1/19/2017), several coal producing states filed a lawsuit and shortly after resolution went through the house, senate, and was signed by POTUS nullifying the rule.
Among all industries regulated under the Clean Water Act, steam electric power plants contribute the greatest amount of toxic pollutants discharged to surface waters. The power plant water pollution rule establishes limits on the amount of toxic metals and other harmful pollutants that steam electric power plants are allowed to discharge into surface water. The rule was finalized in 2015 but new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the EPA would reconsider the rule and has delayed its implementation so they can revisit the impacts to industry. Compliance dates for some of the more stringent portions of the rule dealing with flue-gas desulfurization wastewater and bottom ash transport waste, which both come from the burning of coal have been postponed. The EPA is now being sued by several organizations regarding its lack of environmental protections.
A rule to improve the competency of certified pesticide applicators of restricted use pesticides was halted from going in to effect via executive order and the implementation delayed by Scott Pruitt as it did not promote agriculture and rural prosperity.
Corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards require vehicle manufacturers to achieve an average fuel efficiency over their fleet, or else pay a penalty. The rule was delayed indefinitely, pending reconsideration.
In February 2017, POTUS issued an executive order directing the Interior Secretary to review the oil and gas fracking rule, which requires disclosure of certain information by fracking companies to ensure adequate environmental protection. The Department of the Interior then proposed to rescind the rule, noting that it imposes burdensome reporting requirements and other unjustified costs on the oil and gas industry.
In March 2017, POTUS issued an executive order to reduce regulatory burdens related to energy production. In response to the order the DoI rescinded the oil, gas, and coal lease valuation rule, which sought to increase royalties paid to the federal government by companies extracting resources on public lands.
In June 2017 the EPA published a notice of its intent to extend their deadline for ensuring a portion of the Clean Air Act was being followed. The specific rule is in regards to national ambient air quality standards for ozone and the EPA is supposed to identify areas of the country not meeting those standards in order to protect of public health. In August of 2017, sixteen states filed lawsuits contesting the delay. In response, the EPA withdrew the extension.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST)Act established a set of performance measures for state departments of transportation (DoTs) to use in assessing the performance of interstate highways in regard to, among other things, environmental sustainability. The greenhouse gas emissions measure requires state DoTs to establish targets and report on progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions using this measure. In July 2017, several environmental groups sued the DoT for illegally suspending the greenhouse gas emissions measure, and in response, the DoT reinstated them. A few days later, the DoT officially proposed to repeal the greenhouse gas measures.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature that has a strong odor and is found in certain resins used in the manufacture of composite wood products, including plywood, fiberboard, and particleboard. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen that can cause cancer if inhaled. In September 2017, the EPA extended the compliance date for the formaldehyde emissions standards to December 2018. The rule reduces exposure to formaldehyde during manufacture of certain wood products.
A rule requiring resource extraction issuers to disclose information about payments made to governments for the purposes of commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals was nullified in February 2017 by POTUS. Advocates of the rule claimed that it prevented companies from bribing foreign governments and engaging in other forms of corruption. Detractors argued that the rule placed an excessive burden on companies.
A rule addressing mercury waste discharged from dental offices into publicly owned wastewater treatment plants was rescinded by the EPA in January 2017. In February 2017, the National Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit, claiming the EPA could not rescind the rule absent a notice and comment period. In response to the suit, the EPA reinstated the rule in June 2017.
A rule to improve safety at facilities that use and distribute hazardous chemicals was put in place in response to an April 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer facility in Texas. In March 2017, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced he would delay the rule. In July 2017, eleven states sued the EPA for delaying the rule.
The “Methane Rule” regulated the gas released into the atmosphere during oil and natural gas production through venting (the controlled release of gases into the atmosphere), flaring (the controlled burning of natural gas), and equipment leaks. In January 2017 House of Representatives passed a resolution to nullify the rule but it was then defeated in the Senate. In March of 2017, POTUS signed an executive order and the department of Interior indefinitely suspending the requirements.
In August 2015, the EPA proposed new source performance standards (NSPS) for methane and volatile organic compounds to include several emission sources not covered by the current NSPS. These included fracking wells, which were required to use a process called “green completion” to recover natural gas during flowback. Oil and gas industry firms petitioned EPA and Scott Pruitt proposed extending the implementation of the standards for two more years. Several environmental groups immediately sued and won and the updated NSPS standards are in place.
The goal of the Clean Power Plan (which was finalized in October of 2015) was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector, which is responsible for approximately 30 percent of America’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. In March 2017, POTUS issued an executive order directing the EPA to review the Clean Power Plan and the EPA has since proposed rescinding the plan.
The summary of the above detail is that if you want the EPA to enforce and protect your air, water, and land; you are likely going to have to sue them to get them to do so. The second takeaway is that moving forward and progressing to a cleaner standard of living is up to us. We cannot rely on our (U.S.) elected and appointed officials to do the right thing for humanity, they have prioritized profits over people and believe any environmental ‘ burdens’ on the most profitable industry in the world should be removed. There has been a long existing myth that the only way to improve the environment is to negatively impact the economy and that is simply not true. There are countless solutions, studies, and historic examples that say otherwise. Having to decide if you want a sustainable planet or a strong economy is a false dilemma.
It is incredibly frustrating to see every other nation in the world moving forward while in the U.S. our leadership continues to promote, protect, and subsidize a dying industry with a finite amount of product that we know is doing us harm. It is embarrassing to be represented by leaders who are so foolish and short sighted. So, let’s remove the A. Let’s Make America Great by transforming while economically flourishing. The alternative is to fall behind and watch every other nation kick our asses on clean energy as their disdain for the U.S. grows.
Today is an exciting day as we just added a ‘new to us’ electric vehicle to our family. With teenage kids who have their own busy schedules, it became more and more desirable to add a 3rd vehicle to simplify transportation. I think adding the vehicle might actually decrease the total miles we drive as a family, an adding an electric vehicle will reduce our overall emissions and fuel spend.
There was much deliberation and debate on what vehicle to get and when to execute. The Tesla Model 3 we pre-ordered was slotted to arrive late summer of 2018 which seemed too far away when thinking about the kids having summer jobs and such. We weighed leasing and buying traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and every flavor of hybrid and electric. In fact, several months ago I would have guessed that it would be a used Nissan Leaf and that I would title this blog entry “turning over an old leaf”. After much deliberation and debate, we ended up purchasing a certified pre-owned (CPO) 2014 Tesla Model S. One of the core decisions in going with Tesla was the mitigation of range anxiety; being able to do 99% of charging at home while maintaining the freedom to take longer trips leveraging the supercharger network. We chose CPO because of the added comfort of a fresh warranty and similar. It is a decent time to be in the market for a used Tesla as there a lot of private sale options and the market has a lot of low mileage lease returns as well. Make no mistake, they hold their value well and it is a financial commitment, but it is one I am glad we were able to prioritize. It is important to me to vote with our dollars and live our values and this is another positive step in that direction. If you find yourself in the market for a vehicle in the future and want to talk it through, I am very willing to share my experiences and opinions.
I think it is still a stretch to justify purchasing most electric vehicles based on cost alone, but things are definitely trending quickly in that direction. I am looking forward to no oil changes or worrying about the various other parts of an ICE vehicle which typically wear down or require maintenance. Electricity prices are far less volatile than oil prices and our overnight electricity rate for the car is almost half the cost per kWh of our normal rate. I anticipate our electrical bill going up about $60 per month based on my preliminary estimate of miles we will drive the Tesla. At current fuel costs and the reduced electricity rate for overnight charging, for every 100 miles we drive the Tesla we will save over $6 in fuel costs compared to our other vehicles.
Our electric cooperative also participates in the Revolt program which allocates wind power renewable energy credits on our behalf. Energy comes from all kinds of sources here in MN (wind, natural gas, coal, etc.) so there is no way to say the electrons that go in to my car actually came from a wind farm, but this program dedicates wind energy on our behalf and more importantly (in my opinion), sends a clear message of what is important to me as a consumer, and steers my provider towards leveraging more renewables.
Thank you to all of the family and friends who helped make this a reality, especially my wife Andrea who as our family’s chief financial officer was able to make this happen. I think she would agree that the picture at the top should say ‘Zero Emissions, Some Compromises (kitchen remodel, new carpet, family vacations, etc.)’. Below is an actual picture featuring our 2014 Tesla model S flanked by our 2006 Toyota Prius which has over 200k miles on it.
In yesterday’s blog post I stated that I think before discussing possible solutions to tragedies like what happened in Las Vegas, that we should agree that investing time in thoughtfully discussing the opportunities for minimizing the loss of life was of value.If you disagree and think we should do nothing more than shrug our shoulders, build a memorial, and use the phrase #<insertcitynamehere>Strong for while then please read no further.
Too often in discussions like this we assume others have extreme positions and we fail to have an honest and thoughtful dialog where we really listen, compromise, and leverage our common ground.So for the purposes of any responses to this post, please resist your urge make assumptions, call names, and behave like an idiot.I will moderate comments if needed.My friend Mike made a Facebook comment on my blog from yesterday about how he thinks open air events like the one in Las Vegas should be eliminated due to the inability to protect attendees from a vertical threat and how those wishing to do harm and commit mass casualties are paying attention.As opposed to knee jerking and assuming here is another guy who does not want to change anything with guns, lets recognize that Mike makes a very valid point.The landscape has changed and we need to adapt our safety protocols and update our thought process because somewhere out there right now there is someone planning to set a new “record”.Physical security is a lot like computer security, we do our best to patch and be secure from the beginning but when something is exploited we need to update our defenses and mitigate for future variants.Our approach going forward needs to be more comprehensive than just dealing with a weapon problem.As an example, look around at your neighborhood school at how they have adapted their entrances and security protocols, and how kids now have practice code red drills and so on.Sure, it is a sad that these are needed, but in reality those types of things save lives.Sadly now we need to think differently about open air event gatherings and vertical threats.I guess my point is that if you are still reading this, you would like to minimize the loss of life like what recently happened in Las Vegas and that is common with anyone else who may comment or offer an opinion so please be respectful.
I am not a gun owner but I would say it is not out of the realm of possibility that I will be someday.I am not an expert on the second amendment, I am not a lawyer, I am not an extremist who wants to take everyone’s guns away; I am a self-defined tree hugger and my only political agenda is to get a revenue neutral Fee and Dividend policy implemented so the true costs of emissions are recognized and our planet has an opportunity to improve its health.As it relates to this issue, my core belief is that we can do better, that we can find common ground and both “sides” can realize they are less far apart than they think and compromise.I choose to use the following as a baseline for my thoughts on this topic:
The focus of any legal changes as it relates to weapons should focus on the problem. The problem is not the hunter or sportsman, the problem is not the gun collector who has hundreds of guns, the problem is not the enthusiast who likes to shoot a variety of high powered and unique weapons in an appropriate place, the problem is not the person at the grocery store who you never knew had a permit for his/her concealed handgun; the problem we are trying to solve is people who thoughtfully plan mass murders.
There is no solution that will prevent every scenario and the goal of any new policy should be to increase the potential for preventing and minimizing the loss of life. This is incredibly important to not lose sight of.
States should be allowed to add their own additional laws if they desire but there should be an updated baseline federal law.If we leave this to the states it will only lead to a scenario similar to fireworks where I can simply drive to Wisconsin and get “real fireworks” and numerous other issues.
Given that, here are my current thoughts on a path forward in order from least to most complicated:
Bump stocks should be made illegal.I had never heard of them before this week but my generic understanding is that they crudely make a semi-automatic rifle behave more like an automatic rifle.Given that they are an accessory and not a weapon themselves, an argument could be made that legal changes to their status is not really protected under the second amendment.Regardless, it appears as though this notion already has momentum so getting more specific on a path forward is in order.The end goal of any legal changes to bump stocks should have a focus on making them more difficult to obtain.I see a few options:
Bump stocks are declared illegal to purchase or sell going forward.The ones in circulation today are left to die on the vine so to speak and they will be coveted by collectors and enthusiasts and the price of purchasing one will continue to increase.Over time, less and less of them will function and continue to exist much like civilian owned machine guns did after 1986.They could need to be legally registered or similar.
Bump stocks are declared illegal for civilians to own.This gets a little more complicated but some sort of buyback program might incite some owners to turn them in but certainly some would remain in circulation.
High capacity magazines are reviewed.Again, I am not an expert in this area but I think minimizing the amount of ammunition a weapon can fire without needing to be reloaded would increase the probability of saving lives in situations like this.I am uncertain what a reasonable amount of ammunition is to have in a single magazine but my opinion is that for the average gun enthusiast and owner, this is not a huge inconvenience as long as the capacity compromise is reasonable.Like bump stocks, a decision could be made to make them illegal to purchase or sell going forward or make them illegal and introduce some sort of buyback or similar to encourage a reduction in the current circulation.
Criminal background checks should be required for all firearms sales and they should be tracked.Today licensed firearms dealers require an ID and leverage NICS but this does not cover other scenarios.Today, if I were to go buy Sudafed I would need to swipe my drivers license.If I were to drive to a dozen pharmacies and buy one box at each, some sort of alarm would go off somewhere and I would need to get an exception or follow a more rigid process to purchase in bulk.I think a similar program could exist with firearms so that if someone were purchasing dozens of high powered rifles in a short period of time, a few questions would be asked to vet the person, their intent, and legitimize the purchases as appropriate.The goal of the program would NOT be to eliminate the right to make bulk or consistent purchases, it would simply be to ensure those who were making the purchases were vetted and determined not to be an imminent threat much like with Sudafed where the goal is to ensure I am not a meth dealer.This one would require some real compromise to accomplish.
Is there a way to ensure concerned gun owners that this is not a path towards some sort of national gun registry that will later be used to confiscate their guns or similar?Can that be written in to law or somehow or an amenable compromise be made?Given that Equifax cannot even secure our most prized financial and personal information, how would this data be secured and who would have access to it?What would the criteria be that “triggered” an alert on purchases? Etc.Many questions would need to be answered to gets folks on board but working through those specifics would be a valuable investment of time in my opinion.
It is an easy argument to make that if a bad person wants to do harm, they will find a way.That is absolutely true but if we go back to my baseline statement that the goal of any new policy should be to increase the potential for minimizing the loss of life then this holds weight.If someone has to jump through a few extra hoops or do unconventional things, then they are more likely to be caught or have the amount of damage they do diminished.In turn, if law abiding citizens need to step through an extra hoop for the greater good, then so be it, we do it every day in many other scenarios.Another common argument is that implementing anything like this leads down a slippery slope and that it will be the start of numerous other actions against gun owners.I wonder if there is a way we can write something in to law to mitigate that fear or perhaps through thoughtful dialog that focuses on the areas most people find common ground, we can move past it.
That is it, those are my thoughts today.I welcome your respectful ones and am genuinely interested in protecting the rights of gun owners while trying to add some common sense ways to decrease unnecessary bloodshed.
After the recent hurricanes we heard Scott Pruitt and others talk about how now is not the time to be talking about climate change, how we should be focused on helping the people who need help.After the devastating loss of life in Las Vegas many of our elected officials expressed the same sentiment related to talking about gun control.These types of deflections and deferrals are incredibly frustrating.With climate change enhanced storms, fires, floods, and mass shootings becoming common events; that deferral approach will never provide the time for real discussions, but perhaps that is the point.If you kick over the sand on a sidewalk ant hill, the ants will immediately begin working to rebuild and fix their home.They will not stop and ask themselves if there are any actions they could take that would improve the sustainability of their home nor put critical thought in to how to prevent further disruption.As humans, we do stop and ask questions and this has led to countless advances in society that have increased our safety and lifespan.If we had always taken the ant approach, our life expectancy would be like that of a caveman.
The other thing we as humans often do when domestic terrorism happens is shrug our shoulders with a sort of ‘oh well, if someone wants to do bad things they will find a way’ attitude.This is absolutely true, but I strongly disagree with the complacency, dismissiveness, and acceptance of the statement.Throughout history we have implemented countless new precautions and policies to help thwart and minimize the loss of life.After the Oklahoma City bombing, federal buildings were modified so they are set back from the street, have blast resistant glass, are engineered so the floors do not collapse, and have cement flower planters or similar that prevent vehicles from getting too close.After 9/11 there were countless security measures implemented to increase the safety of air travel.So when it comes to gun violence, let’s try and find common ground and agree that exploring the opportunities for preventing and minimizing the loss of life is a valuable investment of time.Once we have agreed on that, then we can move on to a more interesting dialog about what those potential solutions could be.So whether it is fighting climate change, domestic terrorism, gun violence or anything that is a deep threat to life itself; let’s be smarter than ants.