Left In Lowell

Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs

 
2013 Candidate Questionnaire Responses!
 

February 7, 2010

Now He’s Not Smart Enough…

by at 10:47 pm.

Oh the hits keep on coming with Charlie Baker! He admits to being “absolutely am not smart enough.” The reason? He doesn’t want to give us an answer on where he stands in regards to tackling global climate change. This was his clarification, mind you, on a comment given at the Suffolk Law School.

Said Baker, “I can get eight professors from MIT on both sides of this issue and no one in this room will walk away understanding what they said about climate change.”

Um, sadly, no, Mr. Baker. The professors at MIT are too smart not to look at the scientific evidence and conclude we are, by burning up carbon once locked away for millions of years, changing our planet’s climate. There’s a consensus in the science community, and if you can’t get even a layperson’s understanding of this issue, how the hell can we trust you’ll do so for any other complex issue facing the Commonwealth? We don’t need that kind of nonleadership.

August 20, 2009

We Do Deserve to Vote

by at 9:39 am.

The Lion of the Senate has written a letter to ask that the legislature allow Gov Patrick to fill his Senate seat when, eventually, we lose our senior Senator.

The bill he seeks isn’t a complete repeal of the special election process; rather, he is asking for a short-term, temporary appointment to fill the seat for the five months that such a special election takes place, and asks that the Governor extract a promise from the appointee that they will not seek the seat.

I give the Senator credit for wanting to adhere and retain the special election rules for vacancies - if it was fair for circumstances under Romney, it’s still fair now. I also see why the urgency for Massachusetts to keep two Senators in the meantime, particularly on health care reform. We need all the votes in the Senate we can get - particularly a vote similar to Kennedy’s. The lies and smear tactics in the health care from some quarters on the right have been nothing short of spectacularly disgusting. I know I haven’t written about health care reform like I would normally do (given that we’re so mired in an important local election season here) but I have been following it.

By the way, this is how you fight fire - or rather morons - with fire. Can’t we have a real honest debate without this sort of crazy stupid bullshit? (By the way, watch the full video here - she’s actually worse than you think.)

I wonder if the Senator’s influence will have any affect on the legislature.

April 16, 2009

Our Path To Zero

by at 2:31 pm.

I haven’t given much time to write about my experiences with the Getting to Zero contest like I intended, so I thought I would pen some of my impressions and what it has entailed so far.

First of course I got my National Grid energy audit, which was good but not as thorough as the audit I would get later on. A couple weeks ago, a team of four students from UMass Lowell and their professor showed up for a couple of hours of testing, measuring, and surveying.

They were very professional and courteous and had quite a lot of questions for us, as well as perusing our energy use from some of our latest bills. By and far the best physical test they performed is what is called the door blower test.

They set up a contraption made of plastic panels with seals into one of our doors, where one panel had a powerful fan built in. The process blows air out of your house at a rapid rate, lowering the air pressure in your home as compared to the outside. Because the day was fairly cold, the air outside, now at a higher pressure, comes into every crack and crevice of your home and is quite easily felt with your hands. So you are able to find all the worst air leaks so to seal them and prevent less heat from escaping your home in winter.

Our blower test surprised me in several ways. First, we had always assumed our myriad oversized windows were a point of major heat loss. All windows to some extent are, and though ours are vinyl, they looked to me quite old and outdated. However, the windows must have been carefully installed, because when they were properly locked and sealed, most of the windows felt pretty good. With no major leaks in the casings and having vinyl windows everywhere in the house, we could be confident that the last place we should be spending money to go green was on our windows.

Our funky front door, however, left a lot to be desired. :) It leaked like a sieve! But some inexpensive weather stripping will take care of that. We also found other odd places that leaked: the cut-off pipe-holes in our floors where old radiators had been taken out leaked pretty hard, as did our cellar, from which a wooshing breeze could be felt standing in the doorway to the stairs. One bad leak was where our heating system vents, and there are alternatives for these, but it’s also likely that where our foundation meets the frame there’s places open to the elements. Being a finished basement, it’s hard to know for sure. Of course, if we sealed the door to the cellar with stripping and/or a door cozy or whatever they are called at the bottom, at least in the meantime we can avoid some of the cooling issue we have with the basement (which in the winter we do not heat, finished or not).

We also talked to the evaluation team about the possibility of PVs, photovoltaics (aka solar electric panels) on our almost-due-south-facing second floor roof. In the report from the team, which is pages and pages of information, they outlined what such a system would look like, what it might cost (before and after rebates and incentives). Very useful.

In the report, there’s also information on better home insulation (estimated cost of stripping the siding, putting in 3 inch extruded foam, and residing). Obviously this is a huge expense, although it could reduce total energy usage by quite a lot.

With report in hand, I headed today into the offices at DPD to go over my application with Aaron and Sandy, who spent quite a lot of time with me, going over the students’ report and discussing my application and proposal with me. Since the contest does not require the finalists to spend the money up front (which we really cannot do), I’m definitely going forward and putting my second phase application in. It’ll take some work to finalize our proposal, as I’ll need quotes from some contractors to get a real sense of the total cost, and I have some homework to do (Sandy suggested I get more certain as to whether or not our finished basement is actually insulated, I’m guessing not), but there’s no real reason not to do this.

Even if we don’t win, the process was still worth it because now we will have a blueprint with which to go forward, for making many of the improvements ourselves over time. And given the incentives now coming available with the stimulus and other new grants, that could be sooner rather than later. It’s better to be prepared!

March 31, 2009

New Energy Bill

by at 12:39 pm.

OMG awesome. I’m all tingly!

March 10, 2009

Your EPA - Now, With More Environment!

by at 3:58 pm.

Elections have consequences! Tomorrow, President Obama’s EPA will be hearing the case from California, Massachusetts, and other states who are interested in raising auto emission standards in an effort to combat the global climate crisis. This can be done under the existing Clean Air Act, which gives CA the right to tougher rules and for other states to adopt CA’s standards after, but the Bush administration denied CA a waiver in 2005 when they passed the new standards.

From the press release of Environment Massachusetts:

Giving a green light to Massachusetts’ clean cars program would reduce global warming pollution from cars by 26.1 million metric tons by 2020. And from reduced gasoline consumption, Bay Staters would save $5 Billion by 2020 at the pump, according to Environment Massachusetts’ analysis.
[…]
In 2005, California adopted first-of-their-kind standards requiring cars and light-duty trucks to limit emissions that contribute to global warming. The standards would cut global warming emissions from passenger vehicles by 30 percent by 2016. A total of 13 other states—Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia —have adopted the tailpipe standards. Several additional states are actively considering adopting the standards.

Finally, we have an Environmental Protection Agency poised to actually protect the environment.

November 17, 2008

Environmental Subcommittee Meeting on Power Plant- Finally!

by at 11:51 am.

This Wednesday evening, at 6:00 PM at Lowell City Hall, the Environmental Subcommittee will discuss the proposed Billerica power plant and the consequent impacts to Lowell. Subcommittee members as well as attendees will ask questions and make comments. The developer will be present. It is also expected that City Manager, Bernie Lynch, will attend. The Environmental Subcommittee includes City Councilor, Rodney Elliott, as Chair, Councilor Kevin Broderick, and Councilor William F. Martin. They have been trying since May to have this meeting.

Although the Lowell Sun has reported that the Energy Facilities Siting Board has rendered a tentative decision to permit the plant, the EFSB must still deliberate a final decision. More importantly, the proposal has yet to pass the scrutiny of several boards in Billerica. The process is far from over and the voice of neighboring residents continues to be very important. The neighborhoods near the proposed site would suffer increased noise and traffic, and reduced air quality. Lowell’s school buses travel the same roads tankers would use, and a newly renovated playground is on the same route.

A large show of support will send a strong signal to Lowell officials about the importance of this issue to its residents. Senator Panagiotakos and Representatives Golden, Nangle, and Murphy have been invited to attend.

August 1, 2008

Legislation Accomplished!

by at 1:54 pm.

Nice, just nice. This last legislative session ended on some serious high notes. What a difference from the past tug-of-wars, even during the first year of this session.

The 1913 anti-marriage law was rescinded (and the usual 90-day implementation timeline forwent), we had bills to address our failing infrastructure, global warming, and fair voting, among other things. Awesome!

Of course, just the mere fact I’m mentioning any of this in a positive light might mean I get some derisive, condescending ink in Joan Vennochi’s column. *snicker*

I especially like David Guarino’s comment in his post referencing this: “At the risk of getting myself in another Globe column for keeping you guys in the loop, here I am again…” LMAO.

July 29, 2008

Lege Working Hard Before Break

by at 4:27 pm.

The 1913 law is all but appealed (just needs the Gov’s signature). Congrats to the people who worked so hard to see this happen. Let’s relegate bigotry and discrimination into the past. I am proud to live in Massachusetts today.

Secondarily, I just got an email from MassVote that the state Senate has also passed Same Day Voter Registration. So we need to call our state Reps, folks, and make sure it passes in the House as well before the session ends on Thursday.

Now, if they could both pass the Global Warming Solutions Act, to complement the great work done in MA for the environment, this will have been a legislative session well worth lauding.

Thanks to the House and Senate members who have helped us make so much progress this session, and to the Governor and all his hard work on so many fronts. I believe I can safely say I am cautiously optimistic about Massachusetts’ future.

July 28, 2008

Two More Reasons to Stop Building Polluting Power Plants

by at 11:58 am.

The Patrick administration admits they should not be needed if their energy plan works (hear Secretary Ian Bowles at Lowell’s public meeting last week talking about the Billerica power plant), many local officials are opposed, and specifically, the peak power plant being proposed in Billerica is just that - a peak power plant, less efficient and more polluting than other peak usage solutions, such as grid energy storage. The only people who really want the plant built are those slated to make millions on it selling us power that, it turns out, we really don’t need.

Not if we go California’s route, that is. Sensible regulation has stabilized California’s usage of energy, despite its population and economic growth. According to the article at Salon,

In the past three decades, electricity consumption per capita grew 60 percent in the rest of the nation, while it stayed flat in high-tech, fast-growing California. If all Americans had the same per capita electricity demand as Californians currently do, we would cut electricity consumption 40 percent. If the entire nation had California’s much cleaner electric grid, we would cut total U.S. global-warming pollution by more than a quarter without raising American electric bills. And if all of America adopted the same energy-efficiency policies that California is now putting in place, the country would never have to build another polluting power plant.

Saving energy is also saving money, and given our growing energy costs (like your gas bill, which has increased largely due to demand from new power plants like the one being proposed in Billerica) we could all use the break for our household budgets.

Simple things, like painting the flat roofs of warehouses white, or requiring outdoor lighting to lose less than 6% of the light to an upwards direction (requiring lower wattage to light the same square footage) can go a long way, but businesses don’t do these things out of the goodness of their hearts.

Read the rest of the article, it’s really excellent. Yet again it shows that reducing climate-changing pollution and our dependence on foreign sources of carbon-based fuel does not have to cost us - in fact, it will benefit consumers, businesses, and most of all, our economy.

Second place in today’s news in why-the-Billerica-power-plant-is-a-bad-idea, who wants to wake up to a sound like your kettle on the stove whistling, except as loud as a power plant can make it?

“It sounded like a very loud whistle, for a short duration of time, until proper operations could be restored,” Nydam said. “The valves helped save the plant, but they did create a lot of noise, which some folks in the area reported to the mayor’s office.”

Nydam said National Grid spent 15 hours repairing the power lines that were damaged, and that during that time his plant’s entire phone system was out of order.

Oh and did we mention that the Billerica power plant is slated to be a “remote operations” plant? You know, via phone and internet, and stuff. Run from Lowell. Real secure.

July 18, 2008

Finally, Someone Freaking Said It

by at 3:51 pm.

I can’t even tell you how much I support and applaud Al Gore and his admonition that our half measures (not even half - quarter measures!) are not only short of the real action we need to take on climate change at this late hour, with two decades wasted, but also selling our nation and its ability to accomplish great things short. Getting off of carbon-based energy in a single decade is entirely possible, good for our economy and our national security. Say it with me: energy independence is good for our economy and good for our national security. Now, say it one more time.

From Gore’s speech (I’ve bolded some highlights):

I don’t remember a time in our country when so many things seemed to be going so wrong simultaneously. Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse, gasoline prices are increasing dramatically, and so are electricity rates. Jobs are being outsourced. Home mortgages are in trouble. Banks, automobile companies and other institutions we depend upon are under growing pressure. Distinguished senior business leaders are telling us that this is just the beginning unless we find the courage to make some major changes quickly.

Like a lot of people, it seems to me that all these problems are bigger than any of the solutions that have thus far been proposed for them, and that’s been worrying me.

I’m convinced that one reason we’ve seemed paralyzed in the face of these crises is our tendency to offer old solutions to each crisis separately - without taking the others into account. And these outdated proposals have not only been ineffective - they almost always make the other crises even worse.

Yet when we look at all three of these seemingly intractable challenges at the same time, we can see the common thread running through them, deeply ironic in its simplicity: our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges - the economic, environmental and national security crises.

We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.

But if we grab hold of that common thread and pull it hard, all of these complex problems begin to unravel and we will find that we’re holding the answer to all of them right in our hand.

The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.

Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.

This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative. It represents a challenge to all Americans - in every walk of life: to our political leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen.

A few years ago, it would not have been possible to issue such a challenge. But here’s what’s changed: the sharp cost reductions now beginning to take place in solar, wind, and geothermal power - coupled with the recent dramatic price increases for oil and coal - have radically changed the economics of energy.

To those who argue that we do not yet have the technology to accomplish these results with renewable energy: I ask them to come with me to meet the entrepreneurs who will drive this revolution. I’ve seen what they are doing and I have no doubt that we can meet this challenge.

To those who say the costs are still too high: I ask them to consider whether the costs of oil and coal will ever stop increasing if we keep relying on quickly depleting energy sources to feed a rapidly growing demand all around the world. When demand for oil and coal increases, their price goes up. When demand for solar cells increases, the price often comes down.

When we send money to foreign countries to buy nearly 70 percent of the oil we use every day, they build new skyscrapers and we lose jobs. When we spend that money building solar arrays and windmills, we build competitive industries and gain jobs here at home.

I for one do not believe our country can withstand 10 more years of the status quo. Our families cannot stand 10 more years of gas price increases. Our workers cannot stand 10 more years of job losses and outsourcing of factories. Our economy cannot stand 10 more years of sending $2 billion every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil. And our soldiers and their families cannot take another 10 years of repeated troop deployments to dangerous regions that just happen to have large oil supplies.

What could we do instead for the next 10 years? What should we do during the next 10 years? Some of our greatest accomplishments as a nation have resulted from commitments to reach a goal that fell well beyond the next election: the Marshall Plan, Social Security, the interstate highway system. But a political promise to do something 40 years from now is universally ignored because everyone knows that it’s meaningless. Ten years is about the maximum time that we as a nation can hold a steady aim and hit our target.

When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon.

Of course, we could and should speed up this transition by insisting that the price of carbon-based energy include the costs of the environmental damage it causes. I have long supported a sharp reduction in payroll taxes with the difference made up in CO2 taxes. We should tax what we burn, not what we earn. This is the single most important policy change we can make.

Of course the greatest obstacle to meeting the challenge of 100 percent renewable electricity in 10 years may be the deep dysfunction of our politics and our self-governing system as it exists today. In recent years, our politics has tended toward incremental proposals made up of small policies designed to avoid offending special interests, alternating with occasional baby steps in the right direction. Our democracy has become sclerotic at a time when these crises require boldness.

It is only a truly dysfunctional system that would buy into the perverse logic that the short-term answer to high gasoline prices is drilling for more oil ten years from now.

If you want to know the truth about gasoline prices, here it is: the exploding demand for oil, especially in places like China, is overwhelming the rate of new discoveries by so much that oil prices are almost certain to continue upward over time no matter what the oil companies promise. And politicians cannot bring gasoline prices down in the short term.

However, there actually is one extremely effective way to bring the costs of driving a car way down within a few short years. The way to bring gas prices down is to end our dependence on oil and use the renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline.

So I ask you to join with me to call on every candidate, at every level, to accept this challenge - for America to be running on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity in 10 years. It’s time for us to move beyond empty rhetoric. We need to act now.

This is a generational moment. A moment when we decide our own path and our collective fate. I’m asking you - each of you - to join me and build this future. Please join the WE campaign at wecansolveit.org. We need you. And we need you now. We’re committed to changing not just light bulbs, but laws. And laws will only change with leadership.

On July 16, 1969, the United States of America was finally ready to meet President Kennedy’s challenge of landing Americans on the moon. I will never forget standing beside my father a few miles from the launch site, waiting for the giant Saturn 5 rocket to lift Apollo 11 into the sky. I was a young man, 21 years old, who had graduated from college a month before and was enlisting in the United States Army three weeks later.

I will never forget the inspiration of those minutes. The power and the vibration of the giant rocket’s engines shook my entire body. As I watched the rocket rise, slowly at first and then with great speed, the sound was deafening. We craned our necks to follow its path until we were looking straight up into the air. And then four days later, I watched along with hundreds of millions of others around the world as Neil Armstrong took one small step to the surface of the moon and changed the history of the human race.

We must now lift our nation to reach another goal that will change history. Our entire civilization depends upon us now embarking on a new journey of exploration and discovery. Our success depends on our willingness as a people to undertake this journey and to complete it within 10 years. Once again, we have an opportunity to take a giant leap for humankind.

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