Monday, February 27, 2017

Write Your Elected Official And They Will Write Back?

We live in a democratic society.  According to the book titled "Harper Dictionary of Modern Thought," the meaning of the word democracy is as follows:

(1) A word originating in the classical Greek city states, and meaning the rule of the demos, the citizen body: the right of all to decide what are matters of general concern.  The size of modern nation states has meant that (apart from those which include provision for a referendum in their constitutions) democracy is no longer direct but indirect, i.e., through the election  of representatives; hence the term  representative democracy.   
The CRITERIA of democracy are therefore: 
(a) whether such elections are free: i.e., whether they are held frequently and periodically, whether candidates and parties are free to campaign in opposition to the government of the day, and whether the voter is protected again intimidation by the secrecy of the ballot; 
(b) whether such elections provide an effective choice: i.e. whether the choice of the electors is not limited to a single party, and whether a majority vote against the government in power leads to a change of government. 
(c) whether the elected body of representatives  -- variously known as parliament, congress, national assembly -- has the right of legislation, the right to vote taxes and control the budget (deciding such matters by majority vote), and the right publicly to question, discuss, criticize, and oppose government measures without being subject to threats of interference of arrest.

The citizen body rules the indirectly through a 'representative democracy' which is based on elected officials.  Right about now you are probably wondering where am I going with this line of thought.  In the last post, I discussed the restriction on the federal agencies to a 'media freeze out' which limits the results of tax-payer funded research from being presented on the agencies respective websites.

I want to inform the public that there is still respect for writing your elected representative of either house of Congress if you feel an injustice is being voted upon.  Some people with whom I discuss this matter with reply to me: "Mike, what is the use.  They never read the letter or reply ... anyway??"  In the paragraphs below, I show two examples of that line of thought being proven wrong.

Why Write Politicians?

There are many reasons why you should write to your elected official.  The most important is to express your opinion on a matter.  If an elected official does not hear from any constituents, the manner in which they will cast their vote will be based on their own morals and values.  Presumably, you have already vetted the elected official before electing them.  If you agree 100% with their views, then you might not feel the need to write them.  Secondly, elected officials are glad to hear from their constituents -- think of your letter like a 'report card'.  Everyone enjoys receiving praise.

What if the letter is not about praise, but concern about an important stance on an issue?

That is important too.  As I previously stated in a blog on the President restricting the public learning about tax-payer funded research, you have a right to reach out to your elected representative and object to such restrictions.  If your money is spent on scientific advances, you should be able to access the scientific results which might be of importance to you.

At this point, you might be wondering how to write such a letter of concern.  There are different views on this aspect.  On one hand, the more personal a letter is the more effective the letter is.  That is a commonly held view.  Whereas, the other side tends to enjoy sending out a 'mass e-mail or letter' signed by a bunch of constituents.

The second view is the most common.  Attaching your name to a letter written by an organization is very easy to do.  I show a couple of letters as examples below regarding critical issues facing our current Trump Administration.

Letter #1 League of Conservation Voters: on Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry

Dear Senator:
On behalf of our millions of members, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) works to turn environmental values into national, state, and local priorities.  Each year, LCV publishes the National Environmental Scorecard, which details the voting records of members of Congress on environmental legislation.  The Scorecard is distributed to LCV members, concerned voters nationwide, and the media. 
We urge you to oppose the nomination of Governor Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy.  Perry has continually denied the science of climate change and is unqualified to serve as Secretary of Energy. In fact, it is inconceivable that he is being asked to run the very agency he once irresponsibly said should be abolished.  
The Department of Energy’s mission is “to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.” With climate change threatening the environment, economy and public health, our nation needs a Secretary of Energy who recognizes the urgency to act and believes in the underlying science.
As Governor of Texas, Perry appointed climate science denier Bryan Shaw as Chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which has been shown to have censored mentions of climate change from at least one official report. Perry unsuccessfully sought to fast-track permit applications for new coal power plants and repeatedly sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over Clean Air Act enforcement and proposed limits on carbon pollution.
Perry’s record of putting fossil fuel industry interests ahead of public health and environmental protections disqualifies him for the critical position of Secretary of Energy. We urge you to oppose his nomination and will consider including this vote in the 2017 Scorecard. If you need more information, please call my office at (202) 785-8683 and ask to speak with a member of our Government Relations team.
Gene Karpinski

Letter#2 League of Conservation Voters: regarding nomination for the Director of the Office of Management and Budget - Mick Mulvaney.

Dear Senator:
On behalf of our millions of members, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) works to turn environmental values into national, state, and local priorities.  Each year, LCV publishes the National Environmental Scorecard, which details the voting records of members of Congress on environmental legislation.  The Scorecard is distributed to LCV members, concerned voters nationwide, and the media. 
We urge you to oppose the nomination of Mick Mulvaney for Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney denies the scientific consensus on climate change and has repeatedly voted against environmental safeguards, earning an appalling 7% lifetime score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard.  He repeated his denial about climate science in his confirmation hearing and stated that he did not see the relevance between climate science and the position of OMB director.  Mulvaney has also rejected the scientific consensus on other issues such as the link between the Zika virus and birth defects.
In addition to his extremely poor environmental record, Mulvaney has radical views about the role of government. As a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, Mulvaney has questioned the need for government funded scientific research and supported gutting government initiatives that aim to reduce carbon pollution and ensure adequate clean air standards. As Director of OMB, Mulvaney would have the power to dramatically weaken environmental and public health safeguards at a time when it could not be more critical that we have an OMB director who values science and will stand up for them. What’s more, Mulvaney declared that shutting down the government in 2013 was “good policy,” which harmed the environment in myriad ways, including closing our national parks and wildlife refuges and halting the enforcement of rules to protect the public’s drinking water and air. 
Mulvaney’s hostility toward science, public health and the environment and his extreme anti-government views are disqualifying for a position with significant authority over our system of public protections and the federal budget. We urge you to oppose his nomination, and we will strongly consider including this confirmation vote in the 2017 Scorecard.  If you need more information, please call my office at (202) 785-8683 and ask to speak with a member of our government relations team.
Gene Karpinski

The letters above are just one example of letters that can be sent on your behalf to politicians.  More can be found at a wide range of organizations from the Sierra Club to Environmental Working Group.  I would encourage you to check out the websites and get involved in starting a dialogue with your elected representative.  Otherwise, you might read about a decision and wonder to yourself:  Where did he/she get the idea that his/her constituents would want them to vote a certain way.

These are just two examples.  The interesting aspect of corresponding with the politicians is to receive letters stating their views/positions and future direction.  This information might help you make your decision for the upcoming election (in this case is 2018).

Do They Ever Respond?

Below are a collection of responses I have received in just two weeks from Senator Diane Feinstein in response to my letters sent.

Letter #1 Response Letter: in regards to Climate Change:

Dear Mike:
Thank you for writing to share your concerns and sense of urgency regarding climate change. I share your support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
I am deeply concerned about the negative environmental and public health effects of power plant emissions – which include climate change, acid rain, smog, haze, respiratory and heart diseases, cancer, and other health-related problems.  I strongly support the Obama Administration’s efforts to reduce harmful pollution from power plants, which constitutes nearly 40% of our nation’s energy-related emissions. 
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, published in its final form on August 3, 2015, requires a reduction in carbon emissions from the electricity sector to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.  States will have the flexibility to develop their own plans for achieving emissions goals tailored to the unique situation of each region. Although the Clean Power Plan is focused primarily on addressing climate change, its pollution reductions will also prevent an estimated 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 300,000 missed work or school days. For additional information about the final rule, I encourage you to visit
We must act to reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and shift our economy toward renewable energy and energy efficient technologies. I authored the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act (Public Law 110-140) to help facilitate this transition and strengthen fuel economy standards by increasing gas mileage by 10 miles per gallon over 10 years, culminating in a 54.5 mile per gallon standard by 2025.  I have also pushed to eliminate federal subsidies for large oil companies while championing improved incentives for wind, geothermal, solar, and other forms of domestic renewable energy production, which have helped to double the nation’s renewable energy production over the past four years.
Despite Congressional efforts to undermine the Clean Power Plan by passing a resolution of disapproval (S.J. Res. 24), the President has vetoed the resolution, which lacks sufficient support in Congress to sustain a veto override. 
Please know that I will continue to work with my colleagues to address climate change and fight to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate and reduce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.  
Again, thank you for your letter.  Should you have any further questions or comments, please contact my Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-3841 or visit my website at  Best regards.
Sincerely yours,
  Dianne Feinstein
         United States Senator

Letter #2 Response letter: regarding our nation's dependence on fossil fuels:

Dear Mike:
Thank you for writing to express your concern about our nation's dependence on fossil fuels and share your support for expanding the use of renewable energy. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
I agree that in order to prevent potentially catastrophic climate change, protect our environment, and increase our energy independence, the United States must take swift action to invest in the infrastructure and workforce necessary to make a permanent shift toward renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.  
I believe that the carbon content of our fuel supply must be decreased by substituting fossil fuels with lower carbon fuels – such as biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, hydrogen, and electricity – and I have consistently supported efforts to promote such fuels and increase the share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources.  
For many years, I have worked to revise the tax code to incentivize renewable energy production.  On numerous occasions, I have voted to extend and expand federal tax incentives for the production of wind, geothermal, and other forms of renewable electricity.  Extending business and residential solar investment tax credits as well as the clean energy production tax credit is critical to the economic viability of renewable energy projects.  I strongly support the renewable electricity production tax credit (Internal Revenue Code Section 45), the solar energy investment tax credit (Internal Revenue Code Section 48), and other efforts to increase the production of renewable energy in the United States.  
Please know that I share your support for expanding the use of renewable energy.  I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind as I continue working with my colleagues in the Senate to advocate for clean energy.
Again, thank you for writing.  If you have any further questions or comments, please contact my office in Washington, D.C., at (202) 224-3841 or visit my website at  Best regards.
Sincerely yours,
  Dianne Feinstein
         United States Senator

Letter #3 Response letter: on Water Quality

Dear Mike:
Thank you for writing to me about the drinking water and public health crisis in Flint, Michigan.  I appreciate hearing from you on this important issue, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
I am extremely concerned about the crisis affecting Flint residents, especially young children exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water.  Former President Obama declared a national emergency and mobilized federal assistance for Flint in January 2016 at the request of the governor of Michigan.  Presidents can only declare a national emergency to deploy federal resources upon the request of a state’s governor, as required by law.  All Americans have the right to expect safe, reliable drinking water, and the sad truth is that the lead-contamination crises affecting Flint and other communities like Sebring, Ohio, were preventable.
In December 2016, Congress enacted two new laws that collectively provide critical federal funding to help fix Flint’s water infrastructure and provide important public health funding for children exposed to lead.  The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act (Public Law 114-322) and the law funding the federal government until late April 2017 (Public Law 114-254) provide approximately $170 million in aid for Flint.
In addition, the WIIN Act authorizes significant federal funding for projects that modernize water infrastructure nationwide, including upgrading water utility systems and protecting natural sources of drinking water.  Critically, this new law reasserts the federal government’s role in safeguarding American communities from dangerous drinking water contaminants like lead and copper, especially in instances where local and state governments simply fail to act.  You may be interested to know that this new law finally mandates public notification when tests reveal elevated levels of toxic contaminants, like lead, in drinking water.
I was proud to work with my Democratic colleagues, including Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow (D) and Gary Peters (D), to secure important provisions in the new law that:
1) Redouble “remediation” efforts to remove sources of lead contamination;
2)Strengthen Safe Drinking Water Act (Public Law 93-523) regulations; and,
3)Give the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to enforce mandatory testing and reporting requirements, especially for possible lead and copper contamination in drinking water and pipes.
Please know that I continue working to protect our nation’s drinking water supplies and modernize California’s water infrastructure.  I hope that this information is helpful.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.  I hope you will continue to keep me informed on issues of importance to you.  If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-3841 or visit my website at  Best regards.
Sincerely yours,
  Dianne Feinstein
         United States Senator

Letter #4 Response letter: Political Nominees

Dear Mike:
Thank you for sharing your concerns about presidential nominees for federal departments and agencies.  Your correspondence informs my work in the Senate, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.
Many Californians have expressed their concerns to me about the individuals President Trump has selected to lead federal agencies responsible for enforcing critical laws that protect the environment and public health.  Like you, I believe that the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other foundational environmental laws must be duly enforced.  I also agree that the federal government should hold those who pollute our land, air, and water accountable for the costs associated with that pollution, not American taxpayers.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I work each year to secure funding for core federal regulatory programs that safeguard American communities, consumers, and the environment from toxic pollutants.  I therefore believe that federal regulators must be led by well-qualified appointees with a demonstrated commitment to public service.
The U.S. Constitution requires presidential nominees to secure the “advice and consent of the Senate” during a fair but thorough vetting process.  Non-Supreme Court presidential nominees only require a simple majority to be confirmed by the Senate.  As the senior United States Senator for California, I promise to scrutinize rigorously any nominee put before the Senate by President Trump.  In my view, those who serve the public—especially in senior roles within the federal government—should be held to the highest possible standards for personal ethics and competency.
Furthermore, federal agencies and environmental regulations should be guided by the best available science.  I hope that President Trump will nominate individuals who understand the importance of science-based analysis in decision-making and will lead federal agencies with integrity in the best interests of the country.  President Trump should avoid nominating individuals with clear personal conflicts of interest or those beholden to special interests.  The American people deserve no less.
President Trump nominated state Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R-OK) to serve as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In his capacity as the elected Attorney General for Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt has sued the federal government repeatedly in attempts to block EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other critical environmental laws.  Mr. Pruitt has also expressed skepticism toward the overwhelming scientific consensus on man-made climate change.  In my view, accepting the science demonstrating man-made climate change is essential for any nominee who aspires to lead a federal environmental agency.
President Trump also nominated Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT) to serve as Secretary of the Interior.  As you may know, the U.S. Department of the Interior has jurisdiction over many federal land management agencies, including those responsible for making permitting decisions for oil, natural gas, and mining leases on federally owned public land.  Our public lands are a sacred trust that must be protected.  As such, I believe strongly that any permitting or leasing decision affecting federally managed lands must serve the best interests of the American people.
Please know that I have made note of your concerns about President Trump’s nominees to lead important environmental regulatory and federal land management agencies.  During my time in the Senate, I have worked tirelessly to uphold protections that safeguard American communities from toxic pollutants and minimize environmental degradation.  I have also worked to preserve California’s pristine natural areas and iconic wildlife for future generations to enjoy.  Rest assured that I will keep the issues you raised in mind as the Senate considers President Trump’s nominees.
Again, thank you for taking the time to write.  I hope you will continue to keep me informed on issues of importance to you.  If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-3841 or visit my website at  Best regards.
Sincerely yours,
  Dianne Feinstein
         United States Senator

Pretty simple right?

As I mentioned, getting the word to your local representatives is extremely important and matters.  Opening up a line of communication with your elected representatives helps guide them along.  Having a large amount of feedback allows the elected representative to say "confidently" that their position is reflective of the community's needs, values, and morals.


After reading the above letters, I hope that you will start a line of communication with your elected representatives.  The process of establishing your voice in a democracy is vital to democracy surviving.  We are not a nation of stagnant citizens.  We should be a nation of active participants in the democratic process.  I encourage you to reach out to your representative today.  Either through the groups hyperlinked above or on your own.

Until next time, have a wonderful day.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why Is International Climate Action Important To Your Higher Education Institution?

In a recent post, I displayed a letter from over 230 university president heads -- scientists -- who wrote President Trump a letter urging him to support climate action.  The letter was sent to him before he assumed the office of the presidency.  Signing a letter is an act of support for the concerted effort to urge the President to take action on climate change instead of resisting the scientific results.  In order for an institution (or president of an institution) to sign onto a letter like that generated by the scientists, the institutional goals need to be aligned with those stated in the letter. Otherwise, you are just signing a letter to support, but really the situation is analogous to having a foot 'half in the water half out of the water.'

Having an endorsement of a university is a serious deal.  There are laws and restrictions which typically will serve as an obstacle to endorsing an issue.  Since Governor Brown has made renewable energy and climate action serious goals for the state of California, each institution is aligned in endorsing initiatives which further those goals as did his predecessor.  In a recent post, I highlighted a video of Governor Schwarznegger who discussed air pollution and on a broader scale improving the environment and the economy of California simultaneously.

In light of the letter received by the President, I thought that hearing personal answers to a question posed by the organization 'Second Nature' would be interesting to read.  The question is the same as in the title of the blog post:

Why is strong federal and international Climate Action important to your Higher Education Institution?

Below are the answers which were provided by scientists who chose to answer the above question.

Elizabeth Kiss, President, Agnes Scott College

“Our mission at Agnes Scott is to prepare students to think deeply, live honorably, and engage the challenges of their time.  Our willingness to come together as a national and global community and take strong action in the face of the challenge of climate change will determine what kind of world these students inherit from us — and how history will judge our generation.” – 

James Mullen, President, Allegheny College

“Allegheny has a deep and longstanding commitment to addressing the realities of climate change. That commitment is fundamental to our campus ethic and is reflected in both our curricular and co-curricular programs. Both during their time on our campus and in the years after their graduation, it is our hope that our students will bring their own deeply felt commitment to addressing climate change to their responsibilities as citizens of the world.” – 

Thomas Manley, President, Antioch College (OH)

“Leadership on challenging problems means taking action and inspiring action by others. Sometimes leadership literally means going first. The President and the Government of the United States must lead.” – 

Melinda Treadwell, Provost, Antioch University New England

“Our institutional commitment to sustainability and social justice commands that we acknowledge that there is no more significant risk to our society than the expanding impacts of climate change.  We will continue to act and we call upon our country’s leaders to do the same.” – 

Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University

“As a New American University with a charter that includes assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves, Arizona State University believes leadership action on climate change at all levels of society is essential. We have an opportunity to avoid the growing negative impacts of inaction and, instead, practice leadership that will lead to a prosperous and secure future.” – 

Glen LeRoy, President, Boston Architectural College

“As part of our greater institutional mission, we at the Boston Architectural College are proponents of the practices, processes, and materials with which to create a truly sustainable built environment, ranging from green building design to sustainable community planning to policy and advocacy. Now more than ever, the BAC stands firm on its values and commitment to the examination of energy, water, air quality, materials and resources, preservation, construction management, land use, and research methods for the sake of ethical and responsible environmental stewardship.” – 

Timothy White, Chancellor, California State University System

“Effective leadership and federal/state policy must be based in research and education regarding climate and the environment, energy systems,  along with human/social factors and behaviors.” – 

Jane Conoley, President, California State University-Long Beach

“We are located near the Pacific Coast in southern California. This is a vulnerable area across many dimensions of concern, for example, rising sea levels, ocean pollution, estuary preservation, sustainable commercial fishing, and air pollution. Hundreds of our students and faculty are involved in science related to the preservation of our planet.” – 

Dianne Harrison, President, California State University-Northridge

“As a higher education institution that serves the community and the Southern California region, California State University, Northridge has a responsibility to be a leader and educator on issues like climate action to help our students and communities ensure a healthy and sustainable world for everyone and the generations that follow us.” – 

Robert Nelsen, President, California State University-Sacramento

“Institutions of higher education are places where scientific advancements are made and solutions to global problems are realized. Climate change is one of the greatest issues facing our planet, and universities across the nation are prepared to find solutions. Federal support is imperative to this cause.” – 

Brian Murphy, President, De Anza College

“The development of an alternative economy that employs our students and protects our environment from the effects of climate change have to be among the highest goals of the nation.” – 

James Brenneman, President, Goshen College

“Among the highest callings we have as educators in preparing leaders of tomorrow is to help students under our care learn how to better protect and preserve this planet for all future generations. We expect no less from our chosen political leaders, as well.” – 

Jim Minkler, President, Grays Harbor College

“Although we are not able to control very many of the aspects of climate change, through united effort we may be able to mitigate the most damaging effects on humanity.  Education teaches us the importance of taking responsibility for our actions, and it is through collective action that the greatest feats can be accomplished.  It is only when leadership on the federal and international level work together for the collective good that we will have any chance of faring well through the challenges wrought upon us by climate change.” – 

Kimberly Benston, President, Haverford College

“As a responsible member of our local, national, and global communities, and as an institution dedicated to educating the next generations of scientifically informed and ethically attuned citizens, Haverford College is profoundly committed to effective climate action at all levels of civic engagement.” – 

Alison Byerly, President, Lafayette College

“As higher education leaders who are responsible for educating the next generation of citizens and leaders, we recognize that climate change will be the defining challenge of their lifetimes, and we owe it to our students and their future to do all we can to promote unified action to combat this global threat.” – 

 Linda Lujan, President, Lamar Community College

“Rural America has been hard-hit by weather-related events in this century. Our country’s reliance on the farming and ranching industries makes it critically important to ensure we continue to research and act on ways to mitigate that impact and adapt to the effects of global warming. Regardless of your beliefs about the cause, the effects are being felt strongly in rural areas. We are preparing the next generation to lead and strengthen rural America. They need your support. Thank you.” –

Debra Derr, President, Mt. Hood Community College

“‘Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”   -Ancient Indian Proverb. Higher Education is about the future vitality of our nation and our world.  We educate for the future – we have a responsibility to teach why we must “treat the earth well” and be models for our communities.” – 

Patricia Gentile, President, North Shore Community College

“NSCC has been committed to sustainability for more than a decade and has committed to reduce our carbon footprint, created a cross college green team, invested in a zero net energy building, and includes a sustainable future in our Values statement.” – 

Thomas Krise, President, Pacific Lutheran University

“Pacific Lutheran University is committed to the values of Diversity, Justice, and Sustainability.  Our mission statement underscores our commitment to care for the Earth: “We seek to educate students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership, and care–for other people, for their communities, and for the Earth.”‘ – 

David Oxtoby, President, Pomona College

“Global climate change is one of the signature issues of the 21st Century, and Pomona College seeks to educate its students to play a leading role in science and policy to make progress in the future.” – 

Wim Wiewel, President, Portland State University

“Without action on Climate Change, anything else we do will be severely compromised.  Carbon reduction and resilience efforts are our #1 priority.” – 

Carlee Drummer, President, Quinebaug Valley Community College

“Colleges and universities in the United States have a vested interest in being exemplary stewards of the environment, but institutions cannot wage the battle alone. Strong federal and international Climate Action is essential.” – 

Michael McDonough, President, Raritan Valley Community College

“Institutions with a long-term vision like ours have been fighting climate change for years. We have found that reducing energy usage and avoiding climate risk makes financial sense while also addressing our obligations to future generations. Furthermore, the US military recognizes climate change as a national security issue. It is time for our federal government to provide policy support for climate action.” – 

Donald Farish, President, Roger Williams University

“Any action that our country takes that moves us away from greater reliance on renewable energy sources, and back to greater use of carbon-based energy, is incompatible with sustainability, a core principle of our campus.” – 

Susan Hencking, President, Shimer College

“Scientists concur that climate change is a real and significant threat. To move against environmental concerns is inhumane and irresponsible. To ignore science is unacceptable.” – 

Kathleen McCartney, President, Smith College

“By educating the next generation of women leaders about climate change we help ensure a better Smith and a better world.” – 

Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor, State University of New York (SUNY)

“Climate change cannot be reversed by a single institution nor a single country. A collective intervention in the multitude of factors that impact climate change is necessary for success. The State University of New York, together with all of higher education must be a driving force in continued examination of climate change and development of opportunities to assure cleaner more secure planet for future generations.” – 

Virginia Horvath, President, State University of New York at Fredonia

“We are doing all we can to educate students about responsible use of resources, to engage with community partners in looking at energy and pollutants, and to ensure that our campus buildings and operations are environmentally friendly. We want to prepare students to be engaged consumers and citizens, and I join colleagues in requesting strong state, federal, and international Climate Action policies and practices.” – 

Quentin Wheeler, President, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

“Climate action is prudent insurance against the uncertainties of continued warming on global environmental change and its implications for human health and well-being as well as the integrity of ecosystems and diversity of life.” – 

George Bridges, President, The Evergreen State College

“As the president of The Evergreen State College, I am pleased to join colleagues from around the nation in signing the Letter from Higher Education Leaders on Climate Action to president-elect Trump and members of Congress. Environmental stewardship and study are interwoven with Evergreen’s commitments to advancing knowledge and pursuing social justice. Together these commitments comprise a core theme for our work, a key tenet of our strategic plan, and an integral element of our educational mission. Evergreen embeds considerations of environmental stewardship and social justice into its curriculum and its operations. We seek to increase awareness of environmental problems, the consequences of individual and collective action, and specifically, the impact of climate change on the world’s most vulnerable populations. Our study and practice of environmental stewardship are deeply linked to our commitment to addressing global concerns about the health and welfare of all communities. Evergreen also assumes that understanding and solving environmental challenges such as climate change or food security requires firm grounding in research in the natural and life sciences. Equally important is understanding the role that social, political and economic forces play in causing these challenges and remedying them fully and effectively. Advancing knowledge about the challenges is critical. As a college committed to interdisciplinary thinking and pedagogy, our academic programs, equity and inclusion efforts, climate action planning, clean energy and sustainable infrastructure initiatives align well with this important call to action for our elected officials. In signing the Letter, I am pleased to join the call on behalf of the entire Evergreen community.” – 

Gene Block, Chancellor, University of California, Los Angeles

“As a University we have a deep commitment to research innovative solutions for tomorrow, to serve the greater public good, and to educate the leaders of future generations. Strong federal and international climate action is critical to this mission.” – 

J. Bruce Harreld, President, University of Iowa

“This is the most important issue facing the next generation. The science is clear.  Now is the time to act … while we still can.” – 

Lendley Black, Chancellor, University of Minnesota-Duluth

“Researchers at UMD are leaders in studying the response of Great Lakes to climate change.  Impacts to the Great Lakes will affect not only human and biological communities, but also industry, shipping, tourism, and other economic interests.” – 

Jacqueline Johnson, Chancellor, University of Minnesota-Morris

“University of Minnesota, Morris was a charter signatory of the ACUPCC climate commitment, and we have continued the commitment to reduce our carbon footprint and operate in an environmentally responsible way to this day. The commitment is important to many of our constituents, including our students, who elect to attend this institution in part because they are able to live in a community that models a different way of living for the future.  We are powered by the wind and the sun and heated and cooled using local biomass resources, thus benefiting not only the region and the environment, but also our campus bottom line.” – 

Rodney Smith, President, University of The Bahamas

“Any and every action taken by the United States will have an affect on the neighboring country of The Bahamas.” – 

Mark Pagano, Chancellor, University of Washington, Tacoma

“As an Urban Serving University, UW Tacoma is committed to serving the South Puget Sound for the common good of our citizens. This certainly includes providing for responsible and thoughtful actions with respect to sustainability as well as providing leadership in areas related to preserving the health of our environment for the future.” – 

Robert Caret, Chancellor, University System of Maryland

“Our future is at risk. We all need to do our part to curtail the dramatic and damaging changes our ecosystem is experiencing.” – 

Scott Miller, President, Virginia Wesleyan College

“As educators, we have a fundamental responsibility to examine environmental issues on an informed and teachable basis. We owe that to our students, giving them the tools they will need to make informed judgments about environmental stewardship. This goes hand in hand with our urgent need to monitor federal policy impacting the environment, especially as we await the new administration in Washington.” – 

Michael Roth, President, Wesleyan University

“Global climate change poses enormous challenges, and we at Wesleyan University are doing what we can to help shape a sustainable society.  Yes, we have built a strong program in Environmental Studies. Yes, the research, teaching and practices of our College of the Environment helps our graduates better contribute to a positive and sustainable future.  Yes, we are trying to practice what we teach by becoming a more sustainable campus.  But all these efforts are themselves sustained by the expectation that this national and global challenge will be met on a national and global scale.  The expectation of strong federal and international Climate Action gives us hope for the future; it energizes our efforts; it gives us confidence that our actions will be meaningful beyond the university.” – 

John Dunn, President, Western Michigan University

“Our basic commitment to all of humanity requires that we do all we can to better understand and protect the environment  for future generations.” – 

Lee Rasch, President, Western Technical College

“Western has received national recognition for our efforts to promote sustainability and our community supports these efforts. As higher education leaders, we believe it is the right thing to do.” – 

Sabah Randhawa, President, Western Washington University

“College and university campuses are critical in helping us to understand the impacts of climate change and how to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Given the systemic impact of climate change, it is prudent that our future business owners, teachers, scientists, and other leaders understand the challenges they will face and are prepared to overcome them. Students come to Western Washington University wanting to make difference in the lives of others and living out our motto, “Active minds changing lives”. We need to provide them the best chance for success in the monumental task in front of them; working to insure prosperity, social equity and environmental integrity for all through the next century. International and domestic attention to climate issues will help to open doors for our young leaders in the pursuit of United States innovation and leadership on the global stage in a time of critical need and opportunity.” – 

Dennis Hanno, President, Wheaton College (MA)

“Wheaton College, like other colleges and universities, is focused on preparing students to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Climate issues are not going to go away and our elected officials need to lead the way in helping us to prepare our students to address the critical challenges related to climate change.” – 

Until next time, have a great day!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Scientists Write President Trump Regarding Climate Action

Over the last few decades, battles have emerged all over the world regarding the ever changing climate in the world.  Regardless of your personal opinion, science states that change (in climate) is on the horizon.  Although, the models which scientists use are continually optimized to better handle changing conditions along with future predictions.  This optimization process is takes a considerable amount of time (a.k. a. science research).  Which is why the United States joining the Paris Climate Agreement last year was critical to the future.

The Paris Climate Agreement is important for many reasons.  Setting a target is important.  This has become increasingly important seeing that our new Congress just passed a law which allows Coal plants to be exempt from damaging streams when blowing up the top of a mountain for mining purposes.  The debris that is launched into the air and streams will have unintended and unknown consequences which remain to be explored.    The transition toward clean energy is extremely important.  Clean energy is not clean coal energy -- do not be fooled.

I find myself baffled by the actions of our elected representatives.  I understand that during his campaign for the office of the presidency, President Trump stated his views on climate change which ran counter to the prevailing view held by thousands of scientists.  In a recent blog post, those views along with other important scientific issues were ambiguously answered.

Now, with President Trump's new choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency -- Scott Pruitt -- the current state of affairs regarding climate change seems to have returned to the 'wild west'.  This is a dangerous state.  Especially, when you consider even a Republican Senator (Susan Collins) voting against nominee Scott Pruitt for reasons that are centered around climate change.  In a recent blog post, I displayed her letter of opposition which is beautifully laid out and simple to digest.

Additionally, ignoring the opposition toward believing that climate change is real, scientists have banded together and sent President Trump a letter just before he assumed office.  The letter is stated below.  After the letter, you can read the 236 signatures of heads of universities which provide a tremendous amount of research on renewable energy and climate change.  These scientists are 'heavy hitters' of science and research surrounding the future of our planet.  To ignore the advice is astounding.  But based on the actions over the 30 days with this administration, I thought that a reminder might be in order.  A reminder of how the current administration along with congress seems to be headed in one direction, while scientists are headed in another.

Without further ado, here is the letter which was sent to the President just before he assumed office.  The original letter is provided at '':

Dear President-elect Trump and Members of the United States Congress, 
We, the undersigned leaders of higher education institutions throughout the United States, recognize our academic and ethical responsibilities to current and future generations to take aggressive climate action; to reduce our sector’s carbon pollution, to support interdisciplinary climate education, and to continue research that expands our understanding of rapidly changing earth systems. We are committed to developing and deploying innovative climate solutions that provide a prosperous future for all Americans. 
We join our colleagues in the business and investment communities in supporting the science-based targets outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. In fact, many of our institutions have voluntarily set even more aggressive carbon reduction goals to lead our sector forward and to demonstrate what is possible for others. 
Therefore, we ask that you support the following: 
1. Participation in the Paris Agreement, with the resulting national carbon reduction and clean energy targets, to protect the health of our current communities and our future generations. 
2. Research in our academic institutions and in federal agencies to ensure that our national climate, energy, and security policies are based on leading scientific and technical knowledge. 
3. Investments in the low carbon economy as part of a resilient infrastructure to ensure the country can adapt to changing climate hazards. These investments will also help grow American jobs and businesses. 
The upcoming transition of federal leadership presents a unique opportunity to address head-on the challenges of climate change by accelerating the new energy economy and creating strong, resilient communities. This is particularly important for those in our communities most vulnerable to climate change. Your support for these three areas is a critical investment in the future of the millions of students we serve. We will continue to prepare graduates for the workforce as well as lead in world-class research and innovation in order to secure a healthier and more prosperous future for all. 
We stand ready to assist your incoming Administration and congressional representatives to embrace this opportunity for the nation to meet these unprecedented global challenges. 

1) Raymond Crossman, President, Adler University

2) Elizabeth Kiss, President, Agnes Scott College

3) Don Bantz, President, Alaska Pacific University

4) James Mullen, President, Allegheny College

5) Karan Powell, President, American Public University System

6) Sara Wenger Shenk, President, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

7) Thomas Manley, President, Antioch College (OH)

8) William Groves, Interim Chancellor, Antioch University

9) Melinda Treadwell, Provost, Antioch University New England

10) Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University

11) Paul Pribbenow, President, Augsburg College

12) Leon Botstein, President, Bard College

13) Debora Spar, President, Barnard College

14) Laura Coleman, President, Bay de Noc Community College

15) Jill Wakefield, Interim President, Bellevue College

16) Mariko Silver, President, Bennington College

17) Terrence Leas, President, Big Bend Community College

18) Glen LeRoy, President, Boston Architectural College

19) Mickey Burnim, President, Bowie State University

20) Christina Paxson, President, Brown University

21) John Bravman, President, Bucknell University

22) Pam Eddinger, President, Bunker Hill Community College

23) Christopher Kimball, President, California Lutheran University

24) Timothy White, Chancellor, California State University System

25) Horace Mitchell, President, California State University-Bakersfield

26) Gayle Hutchinson, President, California State University-Chico

27) Jane Conoley, President, California State University-Long Beach

29) Eduardo Ochoa, President, California State University-Monterey Bay

30) Dianne Harrison, President, California State University-Northridge

31) Robert Nelsen, President, California State University-Sacramento

32) Gregory Smith, President, Central Community College

33) James Gaudino, President, Central Washington University

34) Robert Mohrbacher, President, Centralia College

35) Donald Laackman, President, Champlain College

36) William Guerriero, Interim President, Chandler-Gilbert Community College

37) David Finegold, President, Chatham University

38) David Angel, President, Clark University

39) Anthony Collins, President, Clarkson University

40) Ronald Berkman, President, Cleveland State University

41) David McInally, President, Coe College

42) Susan Stuebner, President, Colby-Sawyer College

43) Brian Casey, President, Colgate University

44) David Coon, President/Superintendent, College of Marin

45) Diana Morris, President, College of Menominee Nation

46) Darron Collins, President, College of the Atlantic

47) Richard Cummins, President, Columbia Basin College

48) Joyce Judy, President, Community College of Vermont

49) Brian Murphy, President, De Anza College

50) Jean Goodnow, President, Delta College

51) Neil Weissman, Acting President, Dickinson College

52) Earl Martin, President, Drake University

53) MaryAnn Baenninger, President, Drew University

54) Elsa Nunez, President, Eastern Connecticut State University

55) Lee Snyder, President, Eastern Mennonite University

56) Jean Hernandez, President, Edmonds Community College

57) Leo Lambert, President, Elon University

58) Lee Pelton, President, Emerson College

59) Jake Schrum, President, Emory & Henry College

60) Joyce Brown, President, Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY)

61) James Anderson, Chancellor, Fayetteville State University

62) Anne Prisco, President, Felician University

63) Frank Sims, Interim President, Fisk University

64) Wilson G. Bradshaw, President, Florida Gulf Coast University

65) Thuy Nguyen, President, Foothill College

66) Judy Miner, Chancellor, Foothill-De Anza Community College District System

67) Dene Thomas, President, Fort Lewis College

68) Javier Cevallos, President, Framingham State University

69) Daniel Porterfield, President, Franklin & Marshall College

70) Ronald Nowaczyk, President, Frostburg State University

71) Elizabeth Davis, President, Furman University

72) Roberta Cordano, President, Gallaudet University

73) Joseph Marbach, President, Georgian Court University

74) Thayne McCulloh, President, Gonzaga University

75) James Brenneman, President, Goshen College

76) José A. Bowen, President, Goucher College

77) Elaine Maimon, President, Governors State University

78) Jim Minkler, President, Grays Harbor College

79) Robert Allen, President, Green Mountain College

80) Maria Klawe, President, Harvey Mudd College

81) Kimberly Benston, President, Haverford College

82) William Maki, President, Hibbing Community College

83) Mark Gearan, President, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

84) Lisa Rossbacher, President, Humboldt State University

85) Larry Dietz, President, Illinois State University

86) William Lowe, Chancellor, Indiana University Northwest

87) James Di Liberto, President, Island Drafting and Technical Institute

88) Jorge Gonzalez, President, Kalamazoo College

89) Marilyn Schlack, President, Kalamazoo Valley Community College

90) Alison Byerly, President, Lafayette College

91) Thomas Pleger, President, Lake Superior State University

92) Linda Lujan, President, Lamar Community College

93) Mary Spilde, President, Lane Community College

94) Lewis Thayne, President, Lebanon Valley College

95) Thomas Hellie, President, Linfield College

96) Jo Ann Rooney, President, Loyola University Chicago

97) Brian Linnane, President, Loyola University Maryland

98) Kenneth Garren, President, Lynchburg College

99) Brian Rosenberg, President, Macalester College

100) Sasan Poureetezadi, Interim President, Mesa Community College

101) John Anderson, President, Millersville University of Pennsylvania

102) Elizabeth Hillman, President, Mills College

103) Vicki Martin, President, Milwaukee Area Technical College

104) Sharon Pierce, President, Minneapolis Community and Technical College

105) Sylvia Jenkins, President, Moraine Valley Community College

106) Debra Derr, President, Mt. Hood Community College

107) Charles Lief, President, Naropa University

108) Sue Henderson, President, New Jersey City University

109) Andrew Hamilton, President, New York University

110) Harold Martin, Sr., Chancellor, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

111) Johnson Akinleye, Acting Chancellor, North Carolina Central University

112) Warren Brown, President, North Seattle College

113) Patricia Gentile, President, North Shore Community College

114) Michael Miller, President, Northland College

115) John Jasinski, President, Northwest Missouri State University

116) Joianne Smith, President, Oakton Community College

117) Marvin Krislov, President, Oberlin College

118) Jonathan Veitch, President, Occidental College

119) Roderick McDavis, President, Ohio University

120) Edward Ray, President, Oregon State University

121) Thomas Krise, President, Pacific Lutheran University

122) Paul Dale, President, Paradise Valley Community College

123) Cathy Dove, President, Paul Smith’s College

124) Melvin Oliver, President, Pitzer College

125) David Oxtoby, President, Pomona College

126) Mark Mitsui, President, Portland Community College

127) Wim Wiewel, President, Portland State University

128) John Flicker, President, Prescott College

129) Carlee Drummer, President, Quinebaug Valley Community College

130) Bradley Bateman, President, Randolph College

131) Michael McDonough, President, Raritan Valley Community College

132) William Destler, President, Rochester Institute of Technology

133) Donald Farish, President, Roger Williams University

134) Nancy Cantor, Chancellor, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey Newark Campus

135) James Dlugos, President, Saint Joseph’s College of Maine

136) Patricia Meservey, President, Salem State University

137) Kathryn Jeffery, Superintendent/President, Santa Monica College

138) Elissa Tenny, President, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

139) Jan Gehler, President, Scottsdale Community College

140) Sheila Edwards Lange, President, Seattle Central College

141) Shouan Pan, Chancellor, Seattle Colleges

142) Susan Hencking, President, Shimer College

143) Cheryl Roberts, President, Shoreline Community College

144) Edward Coughlin, President, Siena College

145) Tom Keegan, President, Skagit Valley College

146) Philip Glotzbach, President, Skidmore College

147) Kathleen McCartney, President, Smith College

148) Gary Oertli, President, South Seattle College

149) Joe Bertolino, President, Southern Connecticut State University

150) Mary-Beth Cooper, President, Springfield College

151) Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor, State University of New York (SUNY)

152) James Stellar, Interim President, State University of New York at Albany

153) Harvey Stenger, President, State University of New York at Binghamton

154) Satish Tripathi, President, State University of New York at Buffalo

155) Virginia Horvath, President, State University of New York at Fredonia

156) Donald Christian, President, State University of New York at New Paltz

157) Samuel Stanley, President, State University of New York at Stony Brook

158) Heidi Macpherson, President, State University of New York College at Brockport

159) Katherine Conway-Turner, President, State University of New York College at Buffalo

160) Erik Bitterbaum, President, State University of New York College at Cortland

161) Denise Battles, President, State University of New York College at Geneseo

162) Nancy Kleniewski, President, State University of New York College at Oneonta

163) Deborah Stanley, President, State University of New York College at Oswego

164) John Ettling, President, State University of New York College at Plattsburgh

165) Kristin Esterberg, President, State University of New York College at Potsdam

166)Quentin Wheeler, President, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

167) Merodie Hancock, President, State University of New York Empire State College

168) Harvey Kesselman, President, Stockton University

169) Cliff Wood, President, SUNY Rockland Community College

170) Valerie Smith, President, Swarthmore College

171) Barbara Gitenstein, President, The College of New Jersey

172) George Bridges, President, The Evergreen State College

173) Steven Knapp, President, The George Washington University

174) Kim Schatzel, President, Towson University

175) Karin Hilgersom, President, Truckee Meadows Community College

176) Anthony Monaco, President, Tufts University

177) Stephen Ainlay, President, Union College

178) Melik Khoury, President, Unity College

179) Ann Hart, President, University of Arizona

180) Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor, University of California, Berkeley

181) Ralph Hexter, Acting Chancellor, University of California, Davis

182) Howard Gillman, Chancellor, University of California, Irvine

183) Gene Block, Chancellor, University of California, Los Angeles

184) Dorothy Leland, Chancellor, University of California, Merced

185) Kim Wilcox, Chancellor, University of California, Riverside

186) Pradeep Khosla, Chancellor, University of California, San Diego

187) Sam Hawgood, Chancellor, University of California, San Francisco

188) Henry Yang, Chancellor, University of California, Santa Barbara

189) George Blumenthal, Chancellor, University of California, Santa Cruz

190) Charles Ambrose, President, University of Central Missouri

191) Susan Herbst, President, University of Connecticut

192) Eric Spina, President, University of Dayton

193) Helen Cox, Chancellor, University of Hawai’i Kaua’i Community College

194) David Lassner, President, University of Hawai’i System

195) Michael Amiridis, Chancellor, University of Illinois at Chicago

196) Robert Jones, Chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

197) Timothy Killeen, President, University of Illinois System

198) Bruce Harreld, President, University of Iowa

199) Kathryn Foster, President, University of Maine at Farmington

200) Freeman Hrabowski III, President, University of Maryland Baltimore County

201) Donald Boesch, President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

202) Kumble Subbaswamy, Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Amherst

203) Fred Wood, Chancellor, University of Minnesota-Crookston

204) Lendley Black, Chancellor, University of Minnesota-Duluth

205) Jacqueline Johnson, Chancellor, University of Minnesota-Morris

206) Danielle Ripich, President, University of New England

207) Mark Huddleston, President, University of New Hampshire

208) Philip Dubois, Chancellor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

209) Jim Wohlpart, Interim President, University of Northern Iowa

210) Isiaah Crawford, President, University of Puget Sound

211) Ralph Kuncl, President, University of Redlands

212) David Dooley, President, University of Rhode Island

213) Sophia Wisniewska, President, University of South Florida St. Petersburg

214) Rodney Smith, President, University of The Bahamas

215) Mark Pagano, Chancellor, University of Washington, Tacoma

216) James Schmidt, Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

217) Dean Van Galen, Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

218) Bernie Patterson, Chancellor, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

219) Robert Caret, Chancellor, University System of Maryland

220) Marc Mihaly, President and Dean, Vermont Law School

221) Peter Donohue, President, Villanova University

222) Scott Miller, President, Virginia Wesleyan College

223) Rose Bellanca, President, Washtenaw Community College

224) Jonathan Gibralter, President, Wells College

225) Jim Richardson, President, Wenatchee Valley College

226) Michael Roth, President, Wesleyan University

227) John Dunn, President, Western Michigan University

228) Lee Rasch, President, Western Technical College

229) Sabah Randhawa, President, Western Washington University

230) Ramon Torrechila, President, Westfield State University

231) Kathi Hiyane-Brown, President, Whatcom Community College

232)Dennis Hanno, President, Wheaton College (MA)

233) David Chard, President, Wheelock College

234) Kathleen Murray, President, Whitman College

235) Stephen Thorsett, President, Willamette University

236) Adam Falk, President, Williams College

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Does The United States Really Sell Oil To Fund Science Research?

Over the past two decades, the United States have been accused for the conflicts in the Middle East being motivated primarily for the potential oil that is sitting under Iraq.  In a post I wrote last year, I calculated that Iraq has enough oil to fuel the world for 4 years!!!  The amount underground was reported to be around 140 billion barrels of oil.  If the motivation is true, then one would think that every precious drop of oil should be held to tightly.

Recently, the Department of Energy announced plans to sell oil in order to fund science research.  As a scientist, the thought sounds great upon first read -- any additional money diverted toward elevating science research is needed.  After thinking about the implications, the thought sounds alright, but rather flawed with the recent trend in spending on renewable energy.  In the following paragraphs, I show the additional money being spent in comparison to the current budget for the science program discussed in the news announcement.  Further, the money is needed, but the money should come from other sources too -- more money.

Oil For Research Money?

Yes, you read the paragraphs above correctly.  The Department of Energy recently announced the following regarding selling oil to fund scientific research:

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy announced today that DOE will commence a sale of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in late February, 2017.

Under Section 5010 of the 21st Century Cures Act (Public Law 114-255), signed on December 13, 2016, the Secretary of Energy is directed to drawdown and sell 25 million barrels of SPR crude oil over three consecutive years, commencing with 10 million barrels this fiscal year. The entire 10 million barrels will be sour crude drawn from three sites—Bryan Mound and Big Hill in Texas, and West Hackberry in Louisiana. Revenues from the sale will be deposited in the general fund of the U.S. Treasury to carry out the National Institutes of Health innovation projects as designated in the 21st Century Cures Act.

The timing of the bill means that the Obama administration was interested in paying for Vice President Biden's "Moonshot" Cancer cures by using oil money to fund the "Century Cures Act".  After reading this, I could not help but wonder exactly how much money does that 25 million barrels of oil translate into for research at the National Institutes of Health.

How does one go about determining the amount of money that will be devoted toward science from the Sale?

First, the price of oil per needs to be known.  If I type into G The answer is an image below: Price of oil per barrel? The following image appears:

The image above indicates that the price per barrel of oil as of February 20,2017 is $53.69 !! In order to determine the total profit from selling off 25 million barrels of oil, a calculation is in order as shown below:

The result indicates that if 25 million barrels of oil were sold over the next 3 years, a total profit of $1.3 billion dollars would be made and devoted to science.

How much help toward science would that dollar amount be?

In the next section, the answer is reported relative to the total budget of the NIH.

National Institutes of Health Budget

According to the website supported by the National Institutes for Health, the following budget and distribution are reported for the year 2016: $32.3 billion dollars.  If the total dollar amount (just over a billion dollars) is divided by the NIH annual budget, the percentage increase will be the result as shown below:

If 25 million barrels of oil were to be sold over the next three years, the budget would receive a 4.15% increase.  The NIH is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.  Below is a pie chart of the fiscal year budget for 2017 of the Department of Health and Human Services:

The pie chart above shows the breakdown of the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The total NIH budget fits within the 8% area titled "Discretionary Spending".  What fascinates and concerns me at the same time is that the total NIH budget ($32.5 billion) represents just 2.8% of the total budget for the Department of Health and Human Services.  Yet, on the website for the Department of Health and Human Services under "NIH Budget Overview" the following mission is stated for the NIH:

The mission of the National Institutes of Health is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.

After reading the above statement listed on the website and comparing the mission of the NIH to the dedicated dollar amount awarded in the budget the following must be true of US Medicine:

The United States has a medical system that is "reactionary" rather than "proactive" in treating medical illnesses!!

The reason why I can safely state the obvious is by reading the numbers.  Clearly, the US is spending 86% of the HHS budget of $1,145,000,000,000 which is $984.7 billion dollars on maintaining and treating incurred illnesses, there is a problem.

Imagine if the amount awarded to the NIH was doubled, how would the percentages in the pie chart change for Medicare and Medicaid?


While I support 100% a 4.15% increase over 3 years to the NIH budget, a lot more money could be devoted to the investigation of illnesses and treatments.  I cannot help but wonder the following:

Why are we a 'reactive' society?  

Why not a 'proactive' society?   

The government should be investing a tremendous amount of money into medical research in order to get results.  Clearly, the government is not spending money in a prioritized way.

If anything, why is the money from oil not going to the Department of Energy to develop more sustainable energy generation?

The questions are difficult ones to entertain for the public (us).  In a recent post, I discussed the reducing the amount of transparency in Federal Agencies.  The amount of money spent on science research is small compared to the amount of money spent on taking care of diseases which treatments could be found.  Research needs to go forward.  Raising the NIH budget by $536 million by selling off oil is questionable and not worth bragging about.  Scientists are happy to see the increase.  The energy industry loses $536 million by the shift in money.

Until next time, have a great day!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

How Much Dirt Would It Take To Fill The Rose Bowl Stadium?

A couple of days ago, I was writing a blog post with calculations regarding the overflow of the Oroville Dam up near Sacramento (California, USA).  While watching the coverage of the ongoing disaster of draining the dam of enough water to prevent a further overflow, I came across this article from the news website "NBC" titled "What About LA County's 14 Dams?" discussing the aging infrastructure in California.  Specifically, the author was discussing the local dams here in Southern California.  One major issue is the 'run-off' of sediment which collects in the bottom of the dam and can result in 'clogging' of the control valves which let water through.  Here is an excerpt which caught my eye regarding the volume of sediment:

Spencer said some 2.4 million cubic yards of dirt needs to be removed from Devil's Gate - it's all remnants of storms following the Station Fire in 2009. That is reportedly enough sediment to fill the Rose Bowl three times over.

If you are a consistent reader of this blog, then the paragraph should jump out at your eyes.  The statistic reported definitely needs to be verified.  You are probably wondering the following question:

How does a person go about verifying such a statistic?  

In the following paragraphs, I will walk you through the steps -- enjoy!

In order to start the dimensional analysis of verifying the statistic above, the values for the metric need to be known -- specifically, the volume of the Rose Bowl Stadium.  I wrote a post last year in which I used the Rose Bowl Stadium as a metric to understand the daily leak at the Aliso Canyon Gas Facility.  In that post, I noted that the volume was difficult to determine since I was unable to find a suitable value for the 'height' of the Rose Bowl Stadium wall.  Additionally, an article in the LA Times from 1994 gives similar dimensions.

Instead, I decided to ask the internet website "" for the answer and received a value of 20,000,000-cubic feet.  In a recent search, I found an old document with the two dimensions of an ellipse -- North to South = 880 feet, East to West = 695 feet, Circumference = 2,430 feet.  Here is a picture of the Rose Bowl Stadium below:

If the value of 20,000,000 cubic feet is taken as a reference to use as a metric of the volume of the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA (USA), then the answer to the beginning of the post is simple.  To fill the Rose Bowl, the amount of dirt required would be 20,000,000 cubic feet of dirt.  The total volume of dirt that can be held in the Rose Bowl Stadium is written in scientific notation below:

As I mentioned above, the disaster that has occurred in Northern California at the largest water reservoir, the Oroville Dam, has caused the public works sector to start looking at other possible breaches in other dams located in California -- of which there are on the order of 1500 dams -- Wow!

In the news story above, the author highlighted in the excerpt chosen that the Devil's Gate dam (in Pasadena, California) had a large amount of sediment (dirt) built up in near the exit.  The enormous amount was reported to be 2.4 million cubic yards of dirt.  Written in scientific notation, the amount of sediment sitting in Devil's Gate dam is shown below:

This sediment build up can potentially cause a back flood by building up too much water (by not letting the water through the dam).  That could be a major problem.  According to the article above, the amount of sediment build up is equivalent to filling the Rose Bowl Stadium over 3 times.  The question I posed above was the following:

How does a person go about verifying such a statistic? 

In order to start the verification of the reported statistic above, a conversion factor is needed.  Upon inspection of the two values above, you can see that the total volume of the Rose Bowl Stadium is expressed in units of 'cubic feet'.  Whereas, the total volume of build up sediment is reported in units of 'cubic yards'.  In order to do a direct comparison of the two values, the units need to be the same.

To start with, I asked 'Google' for the conversion factor from 'cubic yards' to 'cubic feet' as shown below:

With the conversion factor now in hand, a conversion of units is possible from 'cubic yards' to 'cubic feet' as shown below:

Now with the volume of dirt expressed in units of 'cubic feet,' a direct comparison of values can be done to verify the reported claim in the article above:

The result of the comparison of the two values (reported sediment build up) and the volume of the Rose Bowl Stadium has been accomplished.  Further, the statistic reported in the article above is true.  The amount of dirt sitting on the bottom of the Devil's Gate dam is equivalent to filling up the Rose Bowl Stadium more than 3 times.


After I verified the report above, I started to wonder how long it would take construction crews to remove that large amount of dirt.  That is no small feat.  Where does the dirt go? How much time will pass before the sediment is built up again?  Furthermore, if the Devil's Gate dam is just one of 1500 dams in California, how much dirt needs to be removed from the other dams?  How much infrastructure repair is required of all of these dams?  

These are unanswered questions that will become a large problem if not attended to in the future.  The Oroville dam is a terrible disaster that has displaced over 200,000 people so far.  More damage is expected with the next rain storm this week.   More money will need to be diverted to infrastructure repair if future disasters like Oroville are to be avoided.

Until next time, have a great day!

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Republican Senator Votes "NO" For EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt For The Environment?

The republican party typically is the first party to back big business by lowering regulations to make business run more smoothly.  Any obstacle in the form of an 'environmental regulation' is thought of as a pain in the rear end.  Climate change is still under debate to most members of the republican party contrary to the 97% of Scientists who confirm that climate change is real.

With this information in hand, why would any republican senator deny President Trump his nominee for the position to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?

To understand the answer to the question, first the mission of the EPA should be known. Second, the letter of reasoning should be made known by the Senator.  These are shown below.

EPA Mission

The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is stated on the website '' as the following:

The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.
EPA's purpose is to ensure that:
- all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work;
- national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information;
- federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively;
- environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy;
- all parts of society -- communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments -- have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks;
- environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive; and
- the United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment.

Upon inspection of the stated mission, the EPA has a big job to do in order to keep our environment clean and healthy for the citizens of the world.  I say world since the air we breath as Americans is eventually cycled to other countries like China, India, and Russia.  Therefore, in keeping our environment clean here in the United States, our country is setting an example for the rest of the world.

The mission is broken down into bullet points above.  How the EPA accomplishes the goals is through Priorities -- which are stated below:

To accomplish this mission, we:
1) Develop and enforce regulations:
When Congress writes an environmental law, we implement it by writing regulations. Often, we set national standards that states and tribes enforce through their own regulations. If they fail to meet the national standards, we can help them. We also enforce our regulations, and help companies understand the requirements. 
2) Give grants:
Nearly half of our budget goes into grants to state environmental programs, non-profits, educational institutions, and others. They use the money for a wide variety of projects, from scientific studies that help us make decisions to community cleanups. Overall, grants help us achieve our overall mission: protect human health and the environment.
3) Study environmental issues:
At laboratories located throughout the nation, we identify and try to solve environmental problems. To learn even more, we share information with other countries, private sector organizations, academic institutions, and other agencies.
4) Sponsor partnerships:
We don't protect the environment on our own, we work with businesses, non-profit organizations, and state and local governments through dozens of partnerships. A few examples include conserving water and energy, minimizing greenhouse gases, re-using solid waste, and getting a handle on pesticide risks. In return, we share information and publicly recognize our partners.
5) Teach people about the environment:
Protecting the environment is everyone's responsibility, and starts with understanding the issues. The basics include reducing how much energy and materials you use, reusing what you can and recycling the rest. There's a lot more about that to learn!
6) Publish information:
Through written materials and this website, EPA informs the public about our activities. 
What we don't do
Sometimes problems seem like something we would handle, but may actually be the responsibility of other federal, tribal, state or local agencies. It may be most appropriate for you to contact your city, county, or state environmental or health agency rather than EPA.
For example:
The Endangered Species Act is primarily managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management addresses the problem of nuclear waste.
Read more about environmental concerns we don't handle, and suggestions for who might be able to help

The priorities above cover a wide range of avenues by which to build a better world.  In a perfect world, the government would be able to carry out all of the priorities listed above with minimal effort. Especially, since the each of us (the public) would do our part in caring for the environment.  In reality, the EPA like other agencies is under funded and needs more resources to regulate and educate -- as I like to state the problem.

Further, the education that is offered by the EPA is wonderful but not taken up by the public - due to lack of awareness.  More time needs to be spent educating the public about the role of their tax-dollars in funding research and making those results available to the public for viewing and future decision-making advice.

In a post I wrote back in January when President Trump silenced the EPA to 'media freeze outs' which was extended to other government agencies -- was a direct restriction of the public's ability to view science research.  The downstream effect of a 'media freeze out' while the Trump administration takes down published research is irreparable in some instances.  We (the public) should openly speak out against such restriction of data and results which is payed for by our money.

One might raise objection and say that the lack of openly voicing concern is due to the politicians in public office -- who speak for them.  That is their job?  Right?  Well, everybody needs a little push from their constituents to realize that sometimes the popular route is not the best route to take in voting for a nominee to run these critical agencies.  Below is an example of a letter of rejection by Senator Susan Collins of Maine (republican) on the recent Trump nominee Scott Pruit.

Senator's Objection

Below is the letter of Senator Susan Collins of Maine as sent to Congress:

“After careful consideration, I have decided to oppose the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, the nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I have met at length with Mr. Pruitt, who is an accomplished attorney with considerable knowledge about environmental laws. We discussed many important environmental issues about which I care deeply—from EPA’s enforcement of landmark environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, to climate change and the Clean Power Plan, to protections from harmful pollutants such as lead and mercury. I also have reviewed testimony from his confirmation hearing.
“In keeping with my past practice, regardless of which party is in the White House, I will vote for cloture on his nomination so that every Senator can have a clear, up or down vote on this important nomination of a member of the President’s Cabinet. But I will vote no on Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation.
“The fact is, Mr. Pruitt and I have fundamentally different views of the role and mission of the EPA. That does not mean that I agree with every regulatory action that EPA has taken. At times, the Agency has been difficult to work with and unresponsive to bipartisan congressional concerns. But the EPA plays a vital role in implementing and enforcing landmark laws that protect not only our environment but also public health.
“Specifically, I have significant concerns that Mr. Pruitt has actively opposed and sued EPA on numerous issues that are of great importance to the state of Maine, including mercury controls for coal-fired power plants and efforts to reduce cross-state air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. His actions leave me with considerable doubts about whether his vision for the EPA is consistent with the Agency's critical mission to protect human health and the environment.
“The state of Maine, located at the end of our nation’s “air pollution tailpipe,” is on the receiving end of pollution generated by coal-fired power plants in other states. Reducing harmful air pollutants is critical for public health, particularly for Maine which has among the highest rates of asthma in the country. Controls for mercury, one of the most persistent and dangerous pollutants, are especially important for children and pregnant women. Moreover, there is no doubt that the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change pose a significant threat to our state’s economy and our natural resources, from our working forests, fishing, and agricultural industries, to tourism and recreation.
“The opposition to the nominee expressed by Friends of Acadia is grounded in concerns about the importance of emissions reductions for lessening the impacts of climate change that affect this gem of a national park. The changes we are already seeing in the aquatic life in Casco Bay and the Gulf of Maine, for example, are cause for alarm. The incidence of Lyme disease in northern Maine and high asthma rates throughout the State are also linked to environmental changes that threaten the health and well-being of too many Maine people.
“These are among the reasons why I have voted to uphold the EPA rule governing mercury and air toxics standards from coal-fired power plants and the cross-state air pollution rule, as well as the Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from existing and new fossil fuel-fired power plants.
“I reject the false choice of pitting the environment against the economy because for much of the state of Maine, the economy and the environment are inextricably linked. A strong commitment to protecting the health of our nation’s environment is critical for protecting Maine’s natural beauty, the state’s economy, and the health of those of us fortunate enough to call Maine home.
“Due to my concerns about Mr. Pruitt's commitment to the mission of the EPA, I will cast my vote in opposition to his confirmation.”

Sounds reasonable right?

Senator Susan Collins is expressing concern which is well-grounded in thought based on Scott Pruitt's history of suing the EPA.  Suing the EPA for a less regulated environment in which coal plants operate is literally turning the clock in reverse in protecting the environment.


In closing, polluting the environment at the cost of business is a no-win situation down the line.  Recently, I found a video by the former Governor of California -- Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who clearly outlines the risks and benefits (nearly none) of air pollution.  I featured the video in a post earlier this week - here.  In less that 2 minutes, he outlines how running one of the largest economies is possible by promoting renewable energy without hurting the economy.  With nearly 7 million people dying annually due to asthma and other illnesses related to air pollution, taking measures toward a sustainable environment is possible without hurting the economy.  Take a look at the pictures near the end of the blog post and tell me we do not have a problem generated by our actions.  A problem which will get progressively worse if no solutions are entertained soon.

Instead of eliminating the EPA, we should be devoting more money and resources toward making our nation a better place to live.   Actions taken by Politicians like Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) bring hope that there are authorities in power to move and make decisions that have a positive outcome on the health of our citizens and environment down the line.

Until next time, have a great day!