Category Archives: environmental news

Toilet-flushing gets POTUS’s attention?

I am trying to understand this one, but so far it escapes me.

Donald Trump, who says climate change is a “hoax” and who yanked the nation out of the Paris Climate Accord, now says people are flushing their toilets too many times. They’re wasting water. He wants the government to look into ways to make, um, more water-efficient toilets?

Well, I’ll be flushed.

The president told a gathering at the White House late this past week that people are flushing toilets “10 to 15 times.” Huh? Who does that?

To be sure, I don’t know the toilet-flushing habits of others, but I have trouble believing that flushing frequency presents the kind of existential threat to our water resources that Trump seems to portray it.

The consequence is the lack of water pressure, he said. “You can’t wash your hands practically, there’s so little water coming out of the faucet,” Trump said.

I guess I need to get out more, or perhaps understand better what at times flows through Donald Trump’s noggin. I just don’t get this one.

Of all the threats to our way of life — carbon emissions, deforestation, pollution, wasteful irrigation — Donald Trump has taken aim at the number of times many of us (he says) are flushing their toilets.

Go … figure.

So very thankful for news out of Golden Triangle

I have been watching the news out of Mid-Jefferson County, Texas, with great interest and keen anticipation.

A refinery in Port Neches exploded and caught fire this week. My wife and I have many friends in that part of Texas, owing to the time we lived in nearby Beaumont for nearly 11 years.

I am grateful beyond measure that no one died in that horrific blast and inferno. My jaw has dropped when I watched video of the explosion that propelled large pieces of debris into the air. I am stunned not only that no one died, but that only a handful of folks suffered what officials have called “minor” injuries caused by flying glass.

The best news is that firefighters have controlled the blaze, giving me a chance to offer high praise yet again for the first responders who have this uncanny ability — not to mention willingness — to thrust themselves into harm’s way.

I hear reports now about the plant that exploded being in violation of Environmental Protection Agency safety standards. That issue needs maximum attention, to be sure, if there will be any chance of that plant being brought back into full operation.

Until then I am merely going to offer a word of thanks and expression of relief that our friends are safe.

Texas is becoming the ‘windy state’

We’re No. 1! It’s a common refrain heard on fields of athletic competition in Texas.

However, Texas has achieved a top-tier ranking in a most fascinating — and one might say unexpected — category. Texas has become the most wind-powered state in the Union. Texas is known more for its pump jacks that pull oil out of the ground. They’re still doing all over the state, but wind power is not to be denied.

I just posted a blog item lamenting the lack of discussion about climate in the upcoming presidential campaign. Here, though, is a reason to hope that Texas might become a leader in the discussion and promotion of wind energy.

The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas reports that wind has replaced coal as the leading provider of electricity in this state. Yes, natural gas remains a huge energy source. Texas, though, has seen a skyrocketing rise in wind energy over the past several years.

I am happy to report that my wife and I have sat at a ringside seat while Texas has become a major wind-power producer. We used to live just a bit east of the wind farm in Adrian pictured along with this blog post. We’ve since moved on to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, but the wind energy industry is continuing to grow significantly along the High Plains of Texas.

This is exciting news.

Wind power remains a costly endeavor. It is expensive to produce and store electricity generated by wind. Believe me, though, the Texas Panhandle has an infinite supply of wind, which to my mind is the cleanest possible energy source possible. Whereas petroleum, natural gas and coal are finite resources, the wind will always blow.

I usually am quite critical of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, however, I want to give Gov. Perry — who is soon to depart as secretary of energy — a proverbial high five for presiding over much of Texas’s wind-power development during his lengthy stint as governor. And, no, it didn’t hurt a bit to say something good about the man the late columnist Molly Ivins dubbed “Governor Goodhair.” 

So, the wind will blow in Texas. The state’s growth will require more electrical use. The wind will continue to play a growing role in fulfilling those power needs … and our precious environment won’t suffer a bit.

Climate change needs candidates’ attention … all of it!

When in the name of environmental sanity are the candidates for president of the United States going to devote their attention to what I believe is the world’s greatest existential threat?

Climate change, man!

Accordingly, Donald Trump — one of those presidential candidates — has declared that he has made the greatest mistake of his presidency. He said via Twitter that he has begun the nation’s formal withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. The United States was among more than 200 nations to sign the agreement to aggressively battle the effects of climate change and global warming.

So help me, this is the action of an incompetent fool. An imbecile. The president of the United States has turned this nation into effectively an “outlaw state” in the fight to stem the devastating impact of a changing global climate.

What in the world are any of the men and women who are seeking to defeat this goofball going to do about it?

I want to hear from all of them that they intend to sign an executive order the moment they sit down behind the big desk in the Oval Office that restores this nation’s commitment to fighting climate change.

I also want to hear specifics on how they intend to restore our nation’s commitment to alternative energy sources. I want them to tell us how they intend to replace fossil fuel-producing jobs with jobs related to the development of certifiably clean energy sources.

If we are able to get past this impeachment madness and if we ever could get Donald Trump focused on issues that actually matter and yanked away from the nonsense that pours routinely out of his mouth, then there might be a serious discussion and search for answers for what I believe is the issue that threatens every human being on Earth.

Let’s get busy!

Confession of a weather wimp

I am about to admit something I have resisted admitting.

I am a weather wimp. There. I said it out loud.

The realization came to me this morning while standing next to the fuel pump where I was putting diesel into my big ol’ pickup. The weather is chilly. It is damp. It is dank and dark. Even in Princeton, Texas, where we thought we would enjoy a more temperate climate longer into the autumn.

Oh, no! My teeth were clattering. I kept my hands buried deeply into my pockets. I couldn’t wait for the fuel pump to shut off so I could get the heck outta there, back into the truck and then back to the house.

Maybe it’s a function of age. Maybe I am just getting impatient as I wind my way toward the finish line.

We went through a long, hot summer. I longed for cooler days and nights. I lusted for a bit of rain.

Then, boom! It arrived. With something of a vengeance!

I am not going to complain too loudly about the weather. I know there ain’t a thing I can do about it. The weather is so far out of humankind’s control it’s not even worth the gripes we lay on it. And by all means, I know that many places on Earth have much more severe weather than we get in the Metroplex.

I merely am acknowledging what I’ve known to be true.

I am a weather wimp who is going to start wishing any day now for warmer temperatures … and it’s not even winter yet!

Please forgive me.

Nine tornadoes … and no casualties? I’d call that a miracle!

North Texas experienced a miracle the other night.

I can think of no other way to describe what did not happen when tornadoes plunged to the ground during savage thunderstorms and tore through many square miles of heavily populated regions of greater Dallas.

Each morning I wake up to learn that authorities keep increasing the number of tornadoes that hit the ground Sunday night.

The count of twisters as I write this brief blog post is nine. The strongest of which was an EF-3 twister that hit northwest Dallas. The rest were EF-1s and EF-2s. They pummeled communities north and east of Big D.

The miracle? There are no reported human casualties! Holy smokes, man! How does that happen?

I saw some video in real time Sunday night as storm chasers followed tornadoes along U.S. 75 and the LBJ Freeway. One team of storm chasers found a man in a pickup stalled on the highway; he gave them a thumbs up to let them know he was OK.

Then there’s the story of the manager of the Home Depot store in Dallas who — 45 minute before a tornado hit the store — ordered the outlet closed. He managed to shoo customers out of the store and ordered his employees to go home — quickly! Then the storm hit and inflicted heavy damage to the Home Depot.

The manager is a hero and my hope is that his bosses reward him handsomely for his heroism.

Several schools in the Dallas Independent School District are closed for the foreseeable future; students and teachers will be displaced and parents will have to figure out how to get their children to class on time.

There has been significant damage throughout the Metroplex. Trees were knocked down, shards of metal were thrown into the air, windows were shattered.

And no human casualties? I know that other storms brought tragedy to Arkansas and other points east of the Metroplex. My heart aches for those who are suffering. It aches, too, for those who suffered serious property damage here as well.

Still, I am shaking my head and I am expressing thanks at the miracle that transpired during that night of extreme weather violence.

Nature’s awesome power on display … even after it passes

TOPEKA, Kan. — We got here — finally!

As we proceed southward toward The House in Collin County, we have seen evidence of the awesome power that Mother Nature can deliver to we mere human beings.

The Missouri River runs adjacent to Interstate 29 through Iowa and into Nebraska. We saw a flashing electronic sign that told us that I-29 would be closed; a detour awaited.

So, we exited the freeway and proceeded east along Interstate 680. We had to drive about 16 miles out of our way toward our next stop here in Topeka. We turned south and then west along Interstate 80.

This leg of the journey was extended about 40 minutes.

What caused it? The Missouri River flooded. We didn’t see what it had done to the right-of-way. All we know river caused the state highway department to shut down the major thoroughfare.

But we damn sure did see the river. It is quite high at this moment. In places it is just a foot or two from spilling over its bank and onto the highway. We saw street signs below the Interstate that poked only a foot or two above the water. We noticed buildings half-submerged under the Missouri’s tides.

Yep, it’s an awesome sight.

Grand Forks, N.D., had just gone through what apparently occurred downstream. We watched crews seek to siphon water from ditches into retention ponds.

There’s water. Then there’s too much water. We saw evidence of what happens when you have too much of it.

Yes, our friends along the Gulf Coast are experiencing this very thing at this moment. Our hearts go out them. They are in our prayers.

Now that we’ve seen how far widespread nature’s wrath has become, we send our prayers to those we saw from a distance as we zipped along to our next destination.

Weather vs. climate … short term and long term

When we gripe about the weather, we are speaking of an event in the moment.

If it’s hot out there, it’s hot at the time you notice it. Same if it it’s cold. We’re talking about the weather, not the climate.

Our climate, though, cannot be discussed in real time. It requires a longer look, a broader view.

Thus, when politicians or citizens conflate the two — weather and climate — they’re talking about non-parallel phenomena.

I have spoken already on this blog about my desire to see climate change assume the important role it deserves in the upcoming presidential campaign. Donald Trump calls climate change a hoax; scientific analysis calls it real. Who do you believe? I’ll go with the scientists who study these matters intently even though Donald Trump — in his own mind — is the smartest human being ever to inhabit Earth.

NASA, the agency that launches satellites and people into space, calls it correctly: The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.

Earth’s climate is changing. We’re posting record high temperatures virtually every year. Those ice caps on either pole — North and South — are shrinking. Icebergs the size of cities are breaking off at alarming rates. Sea levels are rising as a result, threatening coastal cities on every continent.

Weather patterns are changing, too. Storms are getting more severe, more frequent. We see evidence of this each year. When have we ever seen, for instance, a storm drop 50 inches of rain in 24 hours as Hurricane Harvey did when it pummeled the Upper Texas Gulf Coast in 2017?

I want the candidates for president — even the one who occupies the office — to tell us how they intend to do battle with climate that threatens the nation and the world. No more platitudes. No more clichés.

No more phony denials about it all being a hoax. Climate change presents an existential threat to the very planet on which we all live.

‘Climate change’ needs to take center stage

There can be no doubt in my own mind — none at all — that climate change must become the pre-eminent issue of the 2020 presidential campaign.

The incumbent president calls the issue a “hoax.” Donald Trump says it’s a figment of some plot concocted by China to undermine the U.S. fossil fuel industry.

The president is as wrong about this as he is about damn near everything. Except his error bodes grim for the country and the planet.

Most of the Democrats running for their party’s nomination have spoken with varying degrees of eloquence and detail about how they intend to tackle climate change if they are elected in 2020.

I am waiting to hear some more detail about what they intend to do and how they propose to pay for it.

I simply know this: Earth’s climate is changing and it is imperative that the world’s most powerful industrial power and the nation that is chiefly responsible for humankind’s role in changing the climate to do something about it … now!

Climate change deniers endanger the nation. Do you remember that idiotic stunt U.S. Jim Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican, pulled on the Senate floor some years back? It was cold in Washington one winter, so Sen. Inhofe brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to prove, by golly, that Earth’s climate isn’t getting warmer. Of course, Inhofe conflated weather with climate, ignoring the science that separates the two phenomena.

The scientific community is speaking with increasing sameness on this the gravity of this issue. Climatologists tell us that it well might be too late for humanity to change the trend that already is developing. My response? OK, but that doesn’t mean we do nothing!

The Trump administration is backing away from air-quality emission standards. It has been silent on the issue of deforestation. The president nominated and the Senate confirmed an Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, who himself is a climate change denier; Pruitt forgot during his time at EPA that the agency’s mission is to “protect the environment,” not destroy it.

Climate change is real. It is endangering the planet we call home. It’s the only planet we have. Or, as someone noted just recently, there is “no planet B.”

The president takes an oath to protect Americans. The current president is far falling short of fulfilling that oath. The next one needs to step up.

Some issues linger far longer than they should?

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — There’s chronic flooding, and then there’s Grand Forks, a nice city on the North Dakota-Minnesota border that turns into a gigantic pool of water when the rain comes in torrents.

We rolled into this city along Interstate 29 just south of the Canadian border to see  “Road Closed Ahead” staring at us. We exited the freeway, made a huge loop east of the freeway, then re-entered I-29 a good bit south of where we left it.

The rain had just fallen heavily here prior to our arrival.

We looked back and saw a huge flooded area under a bridge crossing the freeway that obviously was too dangerous for motor vehicle traffic. For all I know at this moment, someone might have gotten caught in there and paid a huge price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I thought immediately of the 1997 flood that crippled Grand Forks. The Red River spilled over its banks and inundated the city. I remember reading at the time that farmers here had relied on levees to alter the river’s course; they used the water to irrigate their crops.

However, the river goes where the Almighty intends for it to go. Such was the case then when the Red River decided that little ol’ humankind wasn’t going to dictate its water flow.

I am unaware of the measures they took to prevent that kind of catastrophe from repeating itself.

However, we did see that lots of standing water — much of knee- or perhaps even waist-deep in some places as we made our way toward the RV camp where we spent the night.

As we prepare to leave this lovely community, I will express hope that the nice folks here have learned their lessons from that Red River tragedy.

Just remember: The river ain’t gonna go where human beings tell it to go; it goes where it is meant to go all along.