Tom Steyer dives into Virginia governor race

Tom Steyer has been making plenty of news as a philanthropist and environmental activist, but lately the billionaire has made it clear he is going to do his best to alter the political landscape by supporting politicians that share his concerns for global warming and sustainability.

He has been very vocal against the Keystone pipeline, and now he’s getting involved in the 2013 race for governor in Virginia.

Tom Steyer, the environmentalist billionaire who has mounted a national campaign opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, has directed his political operation to spend heavily in the Virginia governor’s race in support of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, POLITICO has learned.

Steyer, a California-based financier, instructed advisers on Friday to launch television ads starting this week. The paid-media blitz from his group, NextGen Climate Action, will be the opening salvo in what’s expected to be a much larger effort aimed at mobilizing and turning out climate-oriented voters in a key off-year gubernatorial race.

The enterprise will be a test both of Steyer’s individual influence in electoral politics, and of the impact of heavily-funded advocacy politics within the Democratic Party. The bet, for Steyer, is that making climate issues a prominent part of the Virginia election will nudge the center of national politics in a greener direction, shaping the political landscape for 2014 and 2016 and giving environmental interests a stronger hand to play in Washington policy debates.

McAuliffe has a good record on environmental issues, but the real motivation has to be his GOP opponent Ken Cuccinelli, who Steyer called an “environmental nightmare.” Cuccinelli seems to have backward views on everything, as he’s even tried to support Virginia’s old laws against adultery. So it’s no surprise that he’s against any real efforts to stem global warming, and he basically engaged in a which hunt against University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann according to McAuliffe and many commentators. Let’s hope Steyer is successful here.

Rain barrels and rain gardens

If you’re looking for a way to become more green with your lifestyle, think about using rain barrels and a rain garden. Here’s an article of how they are being used in Cleveland.

Karen McKay, who lives at the end of Klusner Avenue in Parma, across the street from West Creek Reservation, recently had a rain garden and two rain barrels installed on her property.

That would be unremarkable under most circumstances. After all, lots of environment-minded gardeners are hooking up rain barrels, which are cisterns that collect and store rainwater that would otherwise run off of roofs and into storm drains and streams. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a substantial amount of the pollution in streams, rivers and lakes — including fertilizers, pesticides and yard clippings — is carried there by runoff from yards and gardens.

Rain gardens are often referred to as “a beautiful solution to pollution.” Typically filled with native plants that require less water, a rain garden is a shallow depression planted at the base of a downspout, driveway or sump pump to capture rainwater runoff and stop it from reaching the sewer system or waterways.

You can also check out the video above on how to make your own rain barrel.

Solar powered plane completes cross-country flight


Solar Powered Plane Sets Off on US Coast to Coast Trip by tvnportal

A solar powered plane has completed an historic flight across the United States, landing at JFK airport in New York. Events and milestones like this are critical for alternative fuel development, as people can see real progress.

It will be fascinating to see how solar technology can be incorporated into aviation to possibly save jet fuel, or at the very least power many internal and backup power needs.

Battle over environmental rules

There’s political stalemate in Washington between Democrats and Republicans on what to do about global warming. But now the issue of global warming and environmental regulations is also splitting some Democrats, as many on the left are being critical of the Obama administration for slow-walking new rules relating to things like appliances.

Issues regarding the export of natural gas

The fracking boom has led to low prices and high supplies of natural gas in the United States, which makes consumers and manufacturers who use natural gas very happy. But prices overseas are much higher, so there are 19 applications to sell liquefied natural gas overseas, and many are watching to see what the Obama administration will decide.

In Europe and Asia, where natural gas sells for $10 to $16 per million British thermal units—three to four times the U.S. price—demand is high. Imports from the U.S. could also give European countries greater power to bargain on prices with Russia’s Gazprom (OGZD), now a dominant supplier of natural gas. All that’s missing are the U.S. facilities to liquefy gas for export.

There’s a ton of money to be made for gas producers, and the natural gas could replace coal, which is growing as an export to Europe. Since natural gas is cleaner, many argue that allowing exports would be good for the environment.

But there is opposition from domestic manufacturers who don’t want to see natural gas prices go up. The article linked above points out that “Paul Cicio, president of the Washington-based trade group Industrial Energy Consumers of America, has called for delaying approvals for some new export terminals to avoid a domestic price shock.”

Stay tuned . . .

Will we see natural gas cars?

With natural gas being so cheap, there’s a push from producers to showcase how compressed natural gas can be used in cars. The issues involve things like trunk space since the fuel requires much more space, and also fueling stations. Trucking companies are setting up fueling stations for well-defined routes, but for someone who wants to buy a car we’re a very long way off.

With all the options surrounding alternative fuel vehicles, it seems like these are a long shot in the short term.

Whether to buy an electric car

With tax credits and lower prices from manufacturers, particularly lease deals, we’re starting to see an increase in sales for electric cars. Automakers have a huge incentive to sell these vehicles in order to comply with regulatory mandates.

Push for a carbon emissions tax

A carbon emissions tax is a huge long-shot in today’s political climate, but that’s not deterring former congressman Bob Inglis.

Will lower birth rates help the environment?

girl in nightclub

Girls just want to have fun. Or at least they don’t want to have as many babies as before. This is true in places like the United States, where a Western lifestyle has changed behavior, but also in other parts of the world where women are becoming more empowered and making the decision to have fewer children. Thus, the population around the world is aging.

Americans just don’t make babies like they used to. The U.S. birthrate is the lowest in nearly a century, according to a study released last year by the Pew Research Center. It’s half the level of the Baby Boom years after World War II. American women, on average, are likely to have fewer than two children during their lifetime, which means not enough babies are being born to maintain the current population size. Even among new arrivals, the trend is declining: The birthrate among Mexican immigrants to the U.S. has plummeted 23 percent since 2007.

This reproductive recession is not unique to America; it’s a global phenomenon. Women just about everywhere are having fewer kids and having them later in life. The world is about to get a lot older very fast.

This will present some challenges for economic growth, but the article explains that efficiencies could save us there.

More importantly, population explosion is one of the biggest challenges we have for the environment, so this trend could actually be a very good thing.

Debate over Keystone Pipeline

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There are all sorts of opinions on the Keystone Pipeline. Many environmentalists are very much opposed, while many people concerned with weaning ourselves off of Mid East oil are in favor of it, even with all the new oil American is producing through fracking. The Arkansas oil spill complicates the issue of course.

Here’s T. Boone Pickens discussing natural gas, oil and the pipeline.