Category Archives: environmental news

Favorite season has arrived

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We all have our favorite seasons.

Most folks I know usually tell me theirs is autumn. The summer has worn them out. All that heat has gotten to them. They relish the cooler temperatures that come in the fall; they even enjoy “falling back to Standard Time.”

Me? My favorite season has arrived. I love spring. Especially this year.

Spring 2021 seems to carry a special significance for me, if not for millions of others. We are emerging from a killer pandemic.

Not only that, we are emerging from a winter for the ages in North Texas. The temps plummeted to zero and lower in February. Remember that? The lights went out. So did our heat. And then our water. It was a miserable winter.

So now comes the spring. Our lawns are snapping out of dormancy. Trees are budding. The land is coming back to life.

I am a happy fellow. Spring usually brings a smile to my mug. This one makes me smile ear to ear.

Happy spring, everyone. Let’s all enjoy it … until the summer heat gets us down again!

Masks: a new way of life?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My ol’ noggin occasionally receives random thoughts, which I occasionally share on this blog. It did so just now, so here goes.

I am wondering if mask-wearing is going to become a permanent way of life for us in the U.S. of A. Why wonder that?

I have traveled a bit over the years. I have been to Asia and Europe and Latin America. One of the sights I cannot get out of my mind’s eye at the moment is the sight of all those folks in heavily polluted cities like Taipei, Bangkok, Delhi, Mumbai and Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) who wear masks while they’re going about their daily business.

Why do they wear them? The air is so polluted they dare not expose their lungs to any more carcinogens than they already do … even with the masks covering their mouth and nose.

The COVID pandemic has produced at least one positive effect: a significant reduction in air pollution in places such as those I just mentioned. Perhaps those folks are no longer wearing masks at this moment to the extent I witnessed them while traveling to those cities. Then again, the pandemic eventually will wither and die.

Heck, I might have become so used to wearing a mask by the time they signal the “all clear” that I won’t want to stop wearing it.

Eagle makes heroic return

(Photo by: Prisma Bildagentur/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We have been languishing in a flood of negative news of late: the pandemic, Donald Trump’s shenanigans, economic collapse … blah, blah, blah.

I want to share a bit of seriously good cheer: the return of the bald eagle.

This is worth cheering. The nation’s proud symbol once was on the brink of extinction. Then the federal government banned the use of DDT, a powerful pesticide that had poisoned water that provided fish for the eagles to consume. The birds would feed on the poisoned fish and die from DDT-related complications.

As National Public Radio reported: Contamination from DDT, a powerful insecticide that found its way into eagles’ prey, made their eggs so fragile that they often broke while their parents incubated them.

Then came the Endangered Species Act in 1972. DDT was banned. The eagles began their comeback. The eagle population has quadrupled since 2009, according to the Interior Department.

This is a bit of a mixed blessing in one aspect. The overall bird population continues to decline. So, I am not going to offer a full-throated cheer for the eagle’s return. I remain concerned about the decline in wildlife numbers.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland calls the eagle’s comeback a “historic conservation success story.” Haaland, the first Native American appointed to a Cabinet post, said the eagle “has always been considered a sacred species to American Indian people, and similarly it’s sacred to our nation as America’s national symbol.”

Once Imperiled, America’s Bald Eagle Populations Are Soaring | 88.9 KETR

To think, also, that at the founding of this great nation, that one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, disliked naming the eagle as our national symbol; he preferred to give that designation to the turkey. What in the world was Ol’ Ben thinking?

Indeed, the phrase “soar like a turkey” just doesn’t have the same ring as “soar like an eagle.” 

The nation’s grand bird has come back. For that I want to salute not only the bird, but those in government who in 1972 had the good sense to take action to stop its senseless slaughter.

Then there were none

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What the hell?

The last remaining member of the Public Utility Commission of Texas has resigned … at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Holy cow, man! Arthur D’Andrea was the last man standing at the PUC. His two colleagues had quit already, including the chairman DeAnn Walker. Why the exodus?

Well, the PUC overseas the management of the electrical grid, which is run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. ERCOT, though, made some boneheaded decisions during the February snow and ice storm that paralyzed most of the state. Millions of Texans lost power. More of them lost water.

The PUC along with ERCOT became the whipping kids.

According to the Texas Tribune: “Tonight, I asked for and accepted the resignation of PUC Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea,” the governor said in a statement, adding that he plans to name “a replacement in the coming days who will have the responsibility of charting a new and fresh course for the agency.”

Abbott added: “Texans deserve to have trust and confidence in the Public Utility Commission, and this action is one of many steps that will be taken to achieve that goal.”

I’m glad spring is about to arrive. There is no time to dawdle. We need to “chart a new and fresh course” for the PUC.

It’s time to get busy. As in, um, right now!

Texas feels the shame

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas continues to take its lumps over the near-disaster we experienced a week ago.

You see, a state that has prided itself on its ruggedness, its independence and its know-how is being pounded over the failure of an electrical grid that was supposed to carry the state through the worst weather imaginable.

It sure didn’t do the job.

Indeed, now we hear that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas was about four minutes away from a total collapse.

As Ezra Klein wrote in the New York Times: Second, it could have been so much worse. Bill Magness, the president and chief executive of ERCOT, said Texas was “seconds and minutes” from complete energy system collapse — the kind where the system needs to be rebuilt, not just rebooted. “If we had allowed a catastrophic blackout to happen, we wouldn’t be talking today about hopefully getting most customers their power back,” Mr. Magness said. “We’d be talking about how many months it might be before you get your power back.”

How does Texas save its face? How does it recover from this mess, which darkened electrical output for 4 million Texans?

One thought might be to join the two other major electrical grids and give up this notion of Texas running its own grid. ERCOT already is suffering from resignations of seven board members, all of whom quit in the wake of the power failure.

It doesn’t make me feel at all good about my adopted home state.

As Klein writes: It wasn’t even the worst cold Texas experienced in living memory: in 1989 temperatures and electricity generation (as a percentage of peak demand) dropped even further than they did in 2011. Texas hadn’t just failed to prepare for the far future. It failed to prepare for the recent past.

Opinion | Texas Is a Rich State in a Rich Country, and Look What Happened – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Let us demand some actual leadership from our, um, leaders on this matter.

Yes, we’re a rich state. However, we seem to suffer from a poverty-level absence of bright ideas on how to prevent a recurrence of what we all endured. No one likes freezing.

Renewables aren’t the problem, governor

(Bob Daemmrich/Pool Photo via AP)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had me … then he lost me.

The governor declared his displeasure with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’s handling of the deep freeze that produce widespread power outages in the state. He called correctly for a deep probe into the decisions ERCOT made in cutting energy production capacity in the midst of the Arctic blast that sent temperatures plummeting.

Then what does Abbott do? He goes on Fox News and declares that the “Green New Deal” that advocates the use of wind and solar energy is the major culprit in the Texas energy crisis. What the … ?

Rolling Stone reported: On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott went on Fox News to point the finger at renewable energy. “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” he said before claiming the “shutdown” of solar and wind energy “thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power.”

Texas Power Crisis: Gov. Greg Abbott Falsely Blames Green Energy – Rolling Stone

Good grief, man. Renewable energy accounts for a tiny fraction of the energy being produced in this state. It should be more, but it isn’t. Yet, Abbott decided to look for the straw man and beat it mercilessly in front of a friendly audience that has little tolerance or belief in renewable energy.

This is a ridiculous assumption coming from the state’s top elected official. He clearly is playing to a political base he will need if he runs for re-election in 2022. Indeed, Abbott is now being talked about as a possible presidential candidate in 2024.

Ugghh! He is taking aim at the wrong target if he is going to blame the Green New Deal, which I hasten to add hasn’t even been enacted by Congress. Donald Trump opposed the notion when he sat in the Oval Office and his successor as president, Joe Biden, is not a huge fan of the Green New Deal, either.

So why does Abbott beat the hell out of a policy that promotes clean energy, seeks to save the environment, endeavors to wean the nation of finite fossil fuels in favor of infinite sources of energy, such as sunshine and ever-present wind? He does so because the fossil fuel lobby includes big political donors who can influence politicians’ seeking to stay in office or perhaps seek a higher office. Do you get it?

Gov. Abbott continues, therefore, to disappoint me.

Texans are suffering because of inept energy management policies. As for the energy grid and the source of the power, it comes from petroleum, natural gas primarily. Renewable energy accounts for a tiny fraction. Abbott should have stuck with his initial anger at ERCOT for its mismanagement of energy during this crisis.

Instead he wandered onto a field that has next to nothing to do with the crisis at hand.

Shameful.

ERCOT hardly ‘reliable’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is angry.

He can join millions of other Texans who share his dismay, his disgust with a major supplier of electrical energy to the vast state he governs.

We are going through massive, widespread power outages while the state battles an unprecedented winter freeze. We are going through it in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Millions of us lost power for days. It’s back on at our house in Princeton, but to be brutally honest, I continue to fear it could go sideways in an instant.

Abbott and several state legislators want to launch a thorough investigation into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas; I emphasize the term “Reliability” because ERCOT has been anything but a “reliable” provider of electrical energy.

The Texas Tribune reports: “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said in a statement. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable.”

ERCOT is a non-profit organization that manages the electrical grid that covers about 90 percent of Texas. Hmm. Let’s see, Texas comprises about 269,000 square miles, which means ERCOT manages electricity for about 242,000 of that vast real estate.

It hasn’t done too well as the provider of electricity for a state facing the crises it encountered when the Arctic blast blew in from points way up yonder.

The Tribune reports further: The governor’s latest announcement came hours after Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, asked two committees in the lower chamber to hold a joint hearing later this month to review the outages. Phelan, a Beaumont Republican, requested the House State Affairs and Energy Resources committees convene for the hearing on Feb. 25.

“We must cut through the finger-pointing and hear directly from stakeholders about the factors that contributed to generation staying down at a time when families needed it most, what our state can do to correct these issues and what steps regulators and grid operators are taking to safeguard our electric grid,” Phelan said in a news release.

Texas power outage prompts calls for investigation into ERCOT | The Texas Tribune

I’m just a consumer, a taxpayer, a longtime Texas resident who has come to rely on “reliable” energy to heat my home and to protect my family. ERCOT has failed us.

That wasn’t much fun

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We moved from what I have called The Texas Tundra to what I thought was something of a Banana Belt.

Silly me.

Rolling blackouts? Never experienced ’em in the Panhandle in our 23 years living there. I am sure some folks have experienced the joy of going without power for, oh, an hour or two to save energy.

However, the blackout from which we have just emerged wasn’t the “rolling” kind. It turns out that the power grid that serves the state of Texas isn’t equipped to handle zero-degree temperatures with extended regions of the vast state enduring wind chills in the neighborhood of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

We don’t have water just yet. The power went out at the Princeton water treatment plant, too. I have been advised by a neighbor in the know that the water will be flowing “in a few hours.”

I realize this might be a once-in-a-lifetime event for a lot of us. The wind chill factors have been punishing to say the least.

Our power went out late Sunday. It came back on for a time in wee hours Monday, then we went dark again. We awoke Monday to no electricity, but we had water. The temperature was about 15 degrees and heading south in a hurry.

We turned in early Monday night because the house was dark, we couldn’t read. So we figured, “What the hey?” We woke up this morning still with no lights.

Oh, and the temperature registered zero … degrees. 

The water went out during the night. We got up once or twice, turned on the faucets to let it drip. It did for a time. Then it stopped.

We hope we have powered through this crisis. It’s still early. The power came on and we did what we were advised to do: We unplugged all the unnecessary appliances, such as the toaster, blender, can opener, digital clock, the reclining living room couch.

Pray for us the rest of the way, will ya?

Meanwhile, I need to do a little research to determine whether our city fathers and mothers did all they could do to prepare for this event.

It’s cold, but …

Winter can be a bitch.

My wife and I sat in a cold house for most of two days, victimized by a remarkable freeze that paralyzed much of Texas. It certainly grabbed North Texas by the throat. Our electrical grid was overtaxed and it couldn’t handle the demands placed on it by the plummeting temperature.

I am struck by a thought that keeps nagging at me. Weather such as what we experienced – 10-degree high temperatures and lows near zero in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, for crying out loud! – is going to energize the climate change deniers out there.

They are going to say something like this: Hey, the bitter cold weather of the winter of 2021 just proves that Earth’s climate isn’t changing, that it isn’t warming up, that our planet isn’t in dire jeopardy at all!

To which I would say: Nonsense. Earth’s climate is changing and our planet and those of us who live on it are facing dire peril every year we fail to come to grips with humanity’s contribution to the change.

I am reminded of the time an infamous climate-change denier, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, brought a snowball onto the Senate floor to illustrate the very point that climate change is a hoax. Why, how can Earth’s climate be warming when Washington, D.C., at that very moment was gripped in such a bitter cold snap?

Such idiocy doesn’t take the long view, doesn’t look at it through the longest lens possible.

National environmental observers note that the median temperature of Earth, examined over a period of an entire year, suggest a distinct warming trend. I daresay that when they take our planet’s temperature at the end of this year it will continue to show the same trend.

So please. Spare me the notion that a current deep freeze – a symptom of winter weather – is somehow proof that the larger crisis doesn’t exist. It most certainly does exist.

Now … I am just wishing for a quick warmup.

Climate change: existential threat

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden has blasted his way out of the chute determined to make good on proclamations he made along the campaign trail.

He has a pandemic with which to deal. He vows to restore our worldwide alliances. Biden vows to boost our economy with a titanic stimulus package. Oh, and he wants to tackle climate change head-on, full throttle.

I want to explore briefly the climate change matter.

In one of his first acts as president, Biden signed an executive order returning the United States to the worldwide Paris Climate Accord, from which Donald Trump pulled this nation.

Then he named John Kerry the head of a newly created position, special envoy on climate change. Kerry comes to this task with an impressive personal and professional record: combat veteran of the Vietnam War, senator from Massachusetts, secretary of state during the second term of the Barack Obama administration.

He now takes on the role of climate change envoy to communicate with the world on policies enacted by the Biden administration  dealing with climate change.

President Biden is  taking precisely the opposite approach to climate change than the one articulated by Donald Trump. Biden calls climate change an “existential threat” to the nation; Trump calls it a “hoax.” It isn’t a hoax. It’s the real thing. It is harming us tangibly. It poses a threat to Earth and to our ability over the long term to continue to thrive, let alone survive, on the only planet we can call home.

Biden wants to suspend oil and natural gas leases. He intends to re-energize — no pun intended — efforts to develop renewable energy sources. The president plans to restore the tougher air quality rules and  regulations that Donald Trump rescinded.

John Kerry doesn’t take on this task peering through sparkly glasses. He is realistic about the threat. Kerry said recently that even if we reduce carbon emissions today to “zero,” we still might be unable to reverse the effects of climate change on Earth’s environment.

* * *

I must add an important caveat to what I hope is a concerted effort to stem to effect of climate change. Someone will have to explain to me how our military establishment will operate the equipment it uses in a climate-friendly manner. Our jets, naval vessels, and our vast array of land vehicles — tanks, trucks, fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers — require fossil fuels to operate. If we can find our way to balance those needs with strategies that attack the existential threat many of us believe is out there … then we might be able to save the world.

I want to give President Biden a push in the direction he needs to go to attack climate change.