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Friday, September 9, 2011


I'm currently on my way back home from my summer organizing gig in Alaska. I apologize for by hiatus, but I have several blogs already drafted about my experiences out here in the last frontier, so look for them in the upcoming week!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Duke announces 2015 closing of Beckjord coal plant

Check out this blog by my friend and greenpeace organizer Paul Wojoski:

Last Friday, Duke Energy announced its plans to close the W.C. Beckjord Power Station by January 1, 2015, citing upcoming EPA regulations, including the Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule (MACT).  This 60-year-old, unscrubbed plant is located about 20 miles east of Cincinnati and has been emitting 69,156 tons of sulfur dioxide, 4,556 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 4,289,107 tons of carbon dioxide each year in addition to mercury and other hazardous air pollutants.

While I’m encouraged by Duke’s recognition of the “regulatory writing on the wall,” Duke needs to take seriously the health of Cincinnatians and accelerate the retirement of this plant.  In Duke's statement about closing Beckjord, the company only cites the cost “to which their customers will be exposed” from installing pollution control, rather than the toxic emissions to which they are exposed to daily. 

Duke Energy's W.C. Beckjord Coal-fired Power Plant
Duke Energy's W.C. Beckjord Coal-fired Power Plant
According to the Clean Air Task Force, every year that the Beckjord coal plant operates, it causes 140 deaths, 220 heart attacks, over 2,000 asthma attacks and a host of hospital and emergency room admissions. Waiting until 2015 to close this plant is simply not soon enough, especially when Duke has heard from its customers that human lives are more important than profits.

Over the last three months, our coalition partner Ohio Citizen Action has mailed 2,037 personal letters to Jim Rogers, Duke Energy CEO, urging him to close the Beckjord power plant, including cute but deadly serious drawings by children.

“Duke’s customers have sent the company a clear message that they want it to move away from its reliance on dirty coal plants,”said Rachael Belz, Coal Program Organizer at Ohio Citizen Action.

I agree.  Instead of taking a proactive approach and closing Beckjord immediately, Duke Energy is waiting until the absolute last minute before they have to comply with the new EPA rules. By delaying closure of the Beckjord coal-fired power plant, Duke Energy is making a clear statement that their profits are more important than the health of the citizens of Cincinnati.

Greenpeace will continue to keep the pressure on Duke Energy about Beckjord as well as the nearby Miami Fort Station, located about 16 miles west of Cincinnati. The Miami Fort coal plant shares many of the same characteristics as the Beckjord Station in that it is old, polluting, and will soon become prohibitively expensive to run.

Cincinnatians deserve clean air and they deserve it now.

Original Link:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A letter for my dedicated readers :)

     Hello again, dear readers. I am back from my short "hiatus" and I hope you'll realize that I have been out of the blog-o-sphere recently for good reason.

     First of all, you may or may not know that, among other things, I have been spending tireless hours as of late working towards getting a position as Sustainability Director in the UC Undergraduate Student Government, as well as finishing the school year successfully, and on top of that moving to Alaska to be an organizer for the Alaskans for Energy Freedom Campaign- specifically to do grass-roots organizing with the mat-valley coalition. More about all of that very soon.

     I'd like to take a minute to chat a little bit about a recent personal change in attitude towards clean energy and sustainability that I've experienced. I really think that it has been a maturation in my perspective in the change that is actually necessary for the real and significant improvement in the area of human-related carbon footprint reduction.

     Full disclosure: when I started this blog, I had hoped to be part of creating a sort-of "cultural sea-change" which leads to reduction of energy consumption in our broadly-sprawled sub-urban communities which, frankly, are energy pits (see the January blogs). I felt that I could write a blog that would reach my immediate friends and family in a way that would encourage a few people in my smaller circles to be part of the larger movement. Well, not only do I not blame any of you for keeping your heat turned on in February (trust me, it wasn't much fun without it), but a total cultural shift is unrealistic without the support from a media that is more-or-less supported by funds from big oil and big coal; not to mention television is a market driven by consumerism itself.

     The fallacy of that thought process is that there is just one solution to the climate crisis. Carbon pollution from coal-fired electric plants could in fact be eliminated if we all cut our energy bills in half. Realistically, that will never happen.

     What is realistic is to say that it will be a combination of many small efforts to remove the one big problem. Yes- we need to reduce energy usage. The information I've seen shows that basic energy usage reductions are the low hanging fruit so-to-speak, and could drop our climate impact as much as 30-40%. That number is in a perfect world. We all know it's not a perfect world.

      Our efforts to reduce consumption need to be strong, but what we also need is for the energy suppliers to meet us half way. A top-down approach of renewable energy sources that are done responsibly in conjunction with a reasonable cultural shift is where the real answer exists.

      This realization is what motivates me to do more than just the expected things, such as: recycle, eat local, ride a bike, or buy organic, among many other "traditionally" sustainable things. I have taken to lobbying against irresponsible energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas and supporting actual renewable energy sources. Maybe my readers don't have the time to do these things but I think that we all can agree that it helps to support public transit, green candidates, campaign finance reform- as well as voting with your dollar by buying and shopping companies that use sustainable practices. These are the simple things that will drive our government and industry to meet you in the middle, and will drive the decision makers to meet us in the middle for the change we all really need to live reasonably in the near future.

      Thanks for your patience and continued support. I'll be writing about my work here in Alaska and at UC very soon. As usual, I appreciate your feedback and comments. Feel free to send me your blog requests about how you can do more, or if you have questions about specific issues. Much love, Brian


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"UC LEAP members bring home progress"

Readers, for those of you who don't know, I recently attended Powershift 2011 in Washington D.C along with over thirty fellow UC students, and several thousands of others from across the country. I have wanted to blog about it for sometime, but didn't want to sell it short. Just read this article by UC's Leaders for Environmental Awareness and Protection (or LEAP) vice-President elect Amanda Morgan. Obviously, Powershift had a profound impact on a lot of our students like Amanda.

By Amanda Morgan
posted in the UC News Record
May 10, 2011

Brian Baer | Sacramento Bee/MCT
The former vice president encourages students to pursue greener campuses.
Leaders for Environmental Awareness and Protection teamed up with University of Cincinnati Democrats to send 30 students from a variety of academic concentrations and student organizations to the third-ever Powershift event April 18.

Powershift, the largest grassroots training event in the country, focused on climate action and transitioning to clean energy alternatives in the hopes that students will use the information to increase sustainability on campuses.

Along with 10,000 other student environmentalists from across the country, attendees from UC participated in grassroots-organizing workshops and listened to Al Gore, Lisa Jackson of the EPA.

The event, an initiative of the Energy Action Coalition, provided workshops aimed at training students to be effective leaders, run successful environmental campaigns and, ultimately, empower them to bring change to their own communities.

"Young people are leading this movement," Gore said during his speech. "You are the core of this movement."

Over the next four days, Gore's words seemed to ring true. The attendees marched on Washington, beginning outside the Chamber of Commerce and paid special attention to locations like GenOn Energy, BP and, finally, the White House.

"The techniques for organizing an event were brought full circle," said Paula Breslin, the adviser for the Environmental Studies Program and LEAP. "The enthusiasm of that April 18 march gave you a sense of empowerment that you can make a difference."

The students worked together in their plans to achieve climate justice, according to Kaitlyn Ruby, a third-year environmental studies student.

"I think we have many things to do at UC first, and I'm very excited to see what the 30 student leaders who attended Powershift do with all they learned," said Ruby, who is also co-president of LEAP. "I believe we have a lot to do on campus and in our communities. We need to start with greening our own backyards, and I think we have the tools to begin."

Some attendees have already begun working on several campaigns since their return.

UC Beyond Coal aims at being "clean" by 2016 and transitioning from coal to clean energy alternatives on campus.

"We need to push our administration to move onwards to more viable energy options that will not only clean up our air, but save UC money when the price of coal skyrockets," said Eli Williams, a second-year biology and environmental studies student, who was introduced to LEAP at Powershift. Williams is also chair of the coal campaign and LEAP co-president elect.

Other projects include a food campaign aimed at getting fresh food from local farms on campu sand establishing composting facilities on campus.

Page Kagafas, a third-year dietetics student and secretary of the UC Mountaineering Club, said she learned the importance of identifying a target and figuring out what you need to accomplish a goal.

Now, she is playing a major role in the food campaign.

"This tactic is very logical and extremely effective," Kagafas said. "At UC, we're planning to work with Aramark ... to provide students with the food services they want, especially with all the money spent on meal plans."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Clarification of Clean Coal and Tales of Corruption

     So I noticed in my blog traffic that my blog came up in someone's google search for "clean coal". I have no idea why my blog brought up this completely farce topic, but lets be clear: clean coal does NOT exist. Capturing some amount of carbon from combustion exhausts has been attempted many times, and can be only fractionally successfull at best. In many places around the country "Clean Coal" is advertised as if technology exists where carbon-pollution can be completely sequestered (ironically, by some companies that deny carbon is actually pollution) from the exhausts of coal-fired electrical plants.

     It is absolutely, and always will be, the very dirtiest of dirty energy sources, until we stop doing it. 

     Basic formula for coal combustion (not including heavy metals, acids, nitroxides, sulfoxides, arsenic, fine particulate matter, etc.) which CANNOT be altered, even if you your name is Einstein:

                                                         C + O2 -> CO2

Miami Fort Coal Plant right next to Cincinnati. The two pools to the left are coal ash impoundments; a toxic sludge of more nasty crap than you care to know exists. Go ahead follow the hyper link and read the ingredients. You can't tell from the hue of this photo that coal ash tends to have a very bright color.

It's not so hard to pick this one out. Photo source:
     CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) is a colorless gas and is very difficult to attempt to capture after combustion. Carbon Dioxide is the leading contributor to anthropogenic (man-made) climate change. See wikipedia, the IPCCC (the global union of climatologists), or how about this USA today report that 97% of scientists agree that climate change not only exists, but is in fact man-made. There actually is no current debate on this issue within the scientific community, despite regular claims by mainstrem media that scientists can't come to a consensus. Even Glen Beck agrees "global warming" exists (!) In fact it has actually been TEN YEARS since any peer-reviewed member of the scientific community has even debated whether climate change is even caused by man.

Now, I have to call out a few people causing the public misinformation torrent

     The deniers are out there, though, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Since mainstream media such as fox news is heavily funded by big oil and climate change denying corporations, the real opinions of the scientists don't generally make it on TV. Oh, and by the way, apparently by saying the words "climate change denial" makes you against free speech.

     I guess I'll go ahead and give this guy a mention who says... "Well... wait... the scientists aren't actually telling you that CO2 is actually PLANT FOOD! Clean coal say watt". In 2007, according to the EIA, U.S. coal plants produced 2,419,747,200 metric TONS (1 ton = 2000 pounds) of Carbon Dioxide. ALL of the forests in the US combined fix about 750,000,000 metric tons of Carbon Dioxide per year, which is less than our coal output alone and only about 10% of our total CO2 output. OK, so that was an especially easy one to start off with.

     Then, there's Steven Milloy. His money trail is cake. Founder of "" (not a peer-reviewed scientific website) and fox news commentator, is the most vocal proponent that scientists are apparantly staging a big hoax. His flamboyant tirades don't really bode well with audiences, but his website can mislead some people. He is pretty clever- he stated his argument as if it were fact, supported by charts and all (even a "greenhouse calculator"). But again, you can put charts and data of anything up; if (a) it doesn't have a source or show methods and (b) it is not peer reviewed- it could literally say anything you want. Not to mention climate denial is a convenient point of view if you're getting paid by exxon mobil (NY Times). If you follow the link there (and Exxon Mobil hasn't had it taken down), it takes you almost literally to the point in Milloy's career where he figured out he could get paid millions by oil corporations by simply denying climate science. At that time "" and "The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition" were the same thing. Milloy, employed by TASSC in '98 was showing $100K on his tax return, thanks (cha-ching) to Chevron and Exxon funding. The program sought ''individuals who do not have a long history of visibility and/or participation in the climate change debate", or in this case, just someone like Milloy looking to get paid. You can have fun following his long story from there, it's quite interesting. (Props to desmog blog for calling this guy out too) The Daily Show interviews Steven Milloy is great entertainment. Here's footage of him promoting his book "Green Hell".

     Milloy and the Heritage Foundation are pretty obvious. You can clearly see what drives the man; he even claims that second hand smoke is a myth, while taking money from Phillip Morris to say so. Other deniers aren't quite so transparent in their funding trails.

     The Heartland Institute, and their "global warming hysteria" blog suddenly stopped publishing their campaign contribution information in 2007. Are you surprised that Exxon Mobil and friends were frequents on the list before then? It gets a little harder to pin down their resident blogging green-basher Peter C Glover, who was a big-time prosecuting attorney for years, who now gets paid to write articles that offer essentially nothing more than conjecture and speculation. He calls environmentalists the "green bigots", and particularly defends hydraulic fracking. He repeatedly has attacked 2011 Academy Awards Best Documentary winning Gasland. I guess flammable tapwater is normal where he's from. Or, he just gets paid enough to advocate it (If I had his kind of money I would bet that BP is greasing this guy). I'm not against his freedom of speech, but I think it needs to be clear who pays him and what he is being paid to support.

Peter C Glover's photo from Canada Free Press

"Its a sentiment I have always shared given the level of stupidity shown regularly by student mass movements. Remember, these are individuals who have not yet contributed anything to society - and that the Taliban is one of the world's leading student movements." - Steven Glover, "Student Protests Reflect Their Ignorance" (2010). Just a bunch of dumb educated terrorist-like people right?


  Top 3 oil and gas issue lobby contributors (2006 to 2009):
     1. Exxon Mobil ($87.8 Million)
     2. Chevron ($50 Million)
     3. Koch Industries ($37.9 Million)

     Koch Industries tops the Political Action Contribution (PAC) list by directly paying senators and representatives almost 6 million since '06. All of these numbers are public, and is a great way to keep tabs on money pollution. Campaign finance reform, anyone? This issue is a problem largely attributable to supreme court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which gives corporations unlimited funding privedges in political campaigns. knows about these guys

Greenpeace obviously knows about them, too


     These guys, unfortunately, are only the beginning. In 2010, the US Chamber of Commerce, who spent $132 million in lobbying (more than the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th largest lobbying groups combined), gave 94% of that money particularly to climate-denying politicians. The chamber, who claims to represent 3,000,000 american businesses, only actually has 200,000 members. 55% of its funding comes from only 16 "anonymous" corporate donors. This is a lot more concerning than a few guys getting greased to write blogs, this is literally climate denial having its way with our government. More at

For anyone who wants to know: I write this blog 100% on my own time and am completely, 100% unfunded by anyone for my writing. I work two part-time jobs, and take out student loans to pay for my tuition, AND still pay taxes. I refuse, even, to have ads on my site, as I maintain that I (unlike many authors mentioned above) write sincerely according to the truth as I find it based on my education and experience. I stand behind the very science that has brought us tremendous technological and medical advances, and its position on climate change; absent of large contributions from inappropriate sources.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pick Up America... Transforming Communities (and picking up their trash too!)

     For some reason last year, Pick Up America decided to make their way through Ohio and Cincinnati, rather than to continue along what probably would have been a more deliberate route through Kentucky, on their (yes) coast-to-coast trash pickup. The first trash pick up to attempt this insane goal started with two visionaries named Jeff Chen and Davey Rogner.

     Their vision is a lot of things. It is, of course, that we become zero waste. But if being wasteful is just a symptom- then consumerism, distracting media, and irresponsible corporations might be the actual diseases. In their vision, we are communities that stand together and don't let these entities confuse and distort our moral fibers. The entities of mass media and corporations might exist, then, only to encourage social responsibility and ecological stewardship.

     Whatever the cause, the effects of this group are unmeasurable. You could look up the ridiculous amounts of trash they have picked up on their website (oh my gawd, Cincinnati, way to embarass the crap out me by the way... the trash here is reeee-diculous!). What you can't measure is the particular ways that they've impacted everyone they meet along their adventure.

10/10/10 'nati work party, on the day that I met Pick Up America. That's me holding the 5.
     My personal experience with this group has transformed my life. When I met them at the 10/10/10 'nati work party, I was just beginning my work as a climate activist. I asked them to present at UC, and within a week student interest in my student group LEAP spiked. A few weeks after that, Danny Berchenko (far left in the pic) spoke to our group. Two months later, a group that once had as many members as it did officers (about 5) had confirmed over thirty students to go to Power Shift, the largest student environmental conference and organizational leadership training in the nation. Today, these students are organized in groups to fight climate action from several angles: Move UC Beyond Coal, get sustainable food on campus, and more. Maybe it's easy to look back on certain events and get nostalgic and have "butterfly effect" conversations, but lets make no mistake: there wouldn't be over 30 climate activists (that I know of) on UC's campus if it wasn't from the community building impact that people like Danny and PUA have had by bringing together people across this city that have common goals. Below is a great video about that day (did you know Michael Jackson is helping our city have fresh local organic produce?):

     Another example I have, though a little small, illustrates the power this group has. Pick Up America had teamed up with the Mill Creek Watershed Council to do a pickup along the watershed here in Cincy which is home to over 500,000 people. They invited me to join. I spent a day picking up plastics, cans, tires, buckets, a tent, even a chassis along the Mill Creek. That day, I met Wes Duren, a horticulturalist whose company Marvin's Organics is the largest composter in the tri-state. Later, I connected them with a student group at UC, Students for Ecological Design (SED) and he has been very helpful in helping design a system for UC to take on composting on a large scale. According to my friends in this group, this relationship has been very productive (thanks, Wes!). It's hard to imagine how far this could go, and if it weren't for PUA this very important working relationship probably wouldn't yet exist. Here's a great video about that day (and please excuse my poop talk in it)

      These are only two events of many that they had while in Cincinnati. There were countless concerts, an amazing Earth Day All Day Music Fest, and of course the trash pick ups. One of the coolest events they did (while I was in DC attending Power Shift) literally demonstrated the power of community. An "art from the sky event" at Cincinnati Earth Day at Sawyer Point. It was rainy and really cold, but people still came. Here's the amazing shot:    

     So, cheers to you, Pick Up America. You not only have catalyzed a community of environmentalists in Cincinnati, but you have invigorated my personal motivation to "pick it up". I absolutely hate having to say goodbye to each of you, but I am really excited for all of America west of Cincinnati along your route. They have no idea how epic things are about to be in their towns.

>>>If you would like to contribute to this incredible organization, you can visit their website at, buy gear or make donations. If you are looking for summer work or interested in a "trash-ternship", I guarantee that it is an experience which could change your life. You can contact them through the website.

>>>Photos and video courtesy of Jeff Chen and Pick Up America

>>>One last personal thanks to Jeff Chen, Davey Rogner, Mark Chavez, Lily Berman, Johnna Jackson, and Greg Katski. Each and every one of you are incredible and inspirational individuals. I am lucky to have had the time and opportunity to learn from you and grow not only as an organizer, but as an individual. Many many thanks, and many more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Larry Gibson: The Keeper of the Mountains

     Ohio Citizen Action is a group of people out there doing it. They are literally bringing the environmental justice issues to doors of the people who are being affected. Lately, they've spent a lot of time on the Rumpke landfill expansion. This summer, they turn to the nastiest of all dirty energies: coal from mountain top removal. (Looking for a green job in Ohio this summer?)

     I had a great weekend in Chicago a few weeks ago with leaders from across the midwest who were getting trained to be coaches and facilitators at Power Shift 2011. Among them was Nathan Rutz, a very well spoken and kind person from OCA. I had met him just a few weeks before on a night out with Danny Berchenko (who else, right?). Near the end of the conference, Nathan mentioned that OCA was going to see Kayford Mountain, the legendary MTR site where Larry Gibson, Keeper of the Mountains, lived. Seeing Kayford seemed like a "right of passage" for every person who organizes to stop coal. I hesitated and I squirmed, because I know it's not pretty.

     Bright and early the next Saturday, I met OCA at their Cincinnati office. I had a collection of writings and speeches compiled into Sierra Club's book "Coal Country" (thanks Lyndsay Moseley) which is a companion book to the movie with the same title. Along the ride, I read clips from Larry Gibson, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ashley Judd; just to name a few. There is no doubt that the coal business is destroying lives, reducing jobs, and wrecking appalachia to the extent that it may someday soon be virtually uninhabitable. This book couldn't prepare me for what I was about to see.

Organizers from Ohio Citizens Action stand with Larry Gibson (center) with the Kayford Mountain MTR site in the background

A scene of mass destruction. This used to be a mountain top.

    No pictures, books, or even this NatGeo article against MTR can prepare you for what this experience is really like. Larry has a hell of a story to tell, too. He's given thousands of tours of Kayford, and the coal companies have noticed. In fact, they've started piling up the fill near Larry's viewpoint so that it is harder for visitors to see the mass destruction. The problem is, the destruction is too big to hide.

    Much worse than piling up gravel next to his viewpoint, Larry has had to deal with mafia-like attacks at his own home. Besides blowing up the mountains all around him at all hours of the night, making his water undrinkable, digging up his family's cemetary, and making the local air virtually unbreathable with nitroxides and fine particulate matter (you can literally see the haze from it); Larry has had his life threatened, his own dog shot, another hung from his own porch, his cabin burned, gotten beat up- all in all over 120 acts of  violence. This is truly a man making a stand.

A very positive Larry and me. Just before this picture, I had told them that I was starting a campaign to get coal off of my campus. He told me to "keep it positive". In a speech Larry once said "You gotta tell people something positive, but you can't make it easy and tell them that nothing's gonna happen to them because there's always the potential." 
      Once, the coal companies had tried to buy Larry's land. An excerpt from Coal Country:

"The land'll never be for sale. You can have my right arm, but you'll never get the land."

So he said, "Well, you know, you're the island, and we are the ocean. You set in the middle of 187,000 acres of coal company land. You're the only thing we don't own between here and the Virginia border." I had my family members—seven of us —there for that meeting and it just didn't make no sense.

That man said, "We don't give a damn about the people up the holler. We don't care about anybody, anything. All we want is the coal and that's it."
     We made one more stop after Kayford. Coal slurry impoundments are the most foul and toxic waste sites you'll ever see. There are about 7,000 of them, all of which are millions and millions of gallons. One in particular has gotten a lot of attention because it is literally next to Marsh Fork Elementary School.

Photo courtesy of
     When you're looking at this from a van from that tiny road winding through the above pic and its raining buckets, it's even bigger and more terrifying.

     Thanks to OCA for the unforgettable experience. This will be a source of strength in fighting coal that I will always draw from.

     Junior Walk, from Coal River Mountain Watch, was at Kayford Mountain that day, too. He recently spoke at Power Shift about MTR and how it is destroying his community. Blair Mountain, iconic and historic site of the Coal Miners Union's struggle against the unfair practices of the coal companies during the Battle of Blair Mountain, is slated for MTR. Join Larry, Junior, and the people of Appalachia opposed to MTR during the week of June 5-11 for the March on Blair Mountain, and help them make history.