Greg Bensiger, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Piece by piece, the mythology around ridesharing is falling apart. Uber and Lyft promised ubiquitous self-driving cars as soon as this year. They promised an end to private car ownership. They promised to reduce congestion in the largest cities. They promised consistently affordable rides. They promised to boost public transit use. They promised profitable business models. They promised a surfeit of well-paying jobs. Heck, they even promised flying cars.
Well, none of that has gone as promised (but more about that later). Now a new study is punching a hole in another of Uber and Lyft’s promised benefits: curtailing pollution. The companies have long insisted their services are a boon to the environment in part because they reduce the need for short trips, can pool riders heading in roughly the same direction and cut unnecessary miles by, for instance, eliminating the need to look for street parking.
It turns out that Uber rides do spare the air from the high amount of pollutants emitted from starting up a cold vehicle, when it is operating less efficiently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found. But that gain is wiped out by the need for drivers to circle around waiting for or fetching their next passenger, known as deadheading. Deadheading, Lyft and Uber estimated in 2019, is equal to about 40 percent of rideshare miles driven in six American cities. The researchers at Carnegie Mellon estimated that driving without a passenger leads to a roughly 20 percent overall increase in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions compared to trips made by personal vehicles.
Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/17/opinion/uber-lyft.html
Carol Benfell, SOCONEWS
A Sacramento-based environmental group is suing to stop well drilling in the Russian River watershed until Sonoma County determines if the wells will steal underground water flows from the Russian River or its tributaries.
The lawsuit brought by California Coastkeeper says the county is failing its “public trust” duty to preserve and protect the Russian River for the common good. It asks the court to order a ban on the drilling until the county adopts the appropriate regulations.
“The county has to get squared away on how to keep water flowing in the Russian River,” said Drevet Hunt, an attorney for California Coastkeeper.
The county is taking the issue seriously, said Daniel Virkstis, a county spokesperson.
“The county is taking a hard look at the issues raised in Coastkeeper’s suit and knows they are of significant concern to the community and land owners,” Virkstis said.
There are more than 40,000 rural wells in Sonoma County. About 400 were drilled in the past two years alone, with no examination of their impact on the Russian River watershed, according to county records.
“Over-pumping groundwater has had and continues to cause significant harmful effects on the flow of the Russian River and its tributaries,” said Sean Bothwell, executive director of California Coastkeeper.
“The current drought only makes this problem worse, and restricting surface diversions alone merely drives more groundwater pumping,” Bothwell said.
Read more at https://soconews.org/scn_county/lawsuit-urges-tighter-regulation-of-well-drilling/article_baf881b4-252b-11ec-9586-b79f43109cdb.html?
SONOMA ECOLOGY CENTER
It’s been a long summer of extreme drought conditions in Sonoma Valley. In what seems like a steady stream of dire news for our watershed one glimmer of good news stands out: beavers are moving back into Sonoma Creek.
The return of these charming dam builders isn’t quite breaking news – since 1993 beavers have slowly made a comeback in Sonoma Valley. But this year, in the middle of our peak dry season, their increasing presence is something for celebration. From the perspective of drought resiliency and water retention in our watershed we’re observing how beavers are a positive factor in keeping what water we do have flowing in our creek beds and reducing hydrological impacts of water rushing through the main stem of Sonoma Creek.
Their natural impulse to build dams and create ponds is a major factor in retaining refuge habitat for species that rely on water to survive. Beavers provide refuge habitat for endangered salmonids, crawdads, California roach, Sacramento suckers, frogs and the endangered California freshwater shrimp which rely on deep pools and submerged, structural habitat like fine tree roots which are often present in the structure of a beaver dam. Any animal, insect, or crustacean that requires water to live in our creek is something that benefits from the damming that the beavers do.
Read more at https://sonomaecologycenter.org/beavers-return/
Andrew Graham, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Utah state official and the leaders of two federally recognized tribal nations in March discussed shipping Rocky Mountain coal by rail along the Northern California coast and exporting it out of Humboldt Bay, according to a newly revealed document that sheds additional light on parties involved in the controversial proposal.
The internal memo from a Utah port agency, first published last week by the Salt Lake Tribune, indicates coal industry players in Montana and Utah were at least initially involved in the proposal.
Amid widespread public outrage over the prospect of coal trains chugging through Northern California cities and towns and alongside rivers that are key water sources for the region, both the Utah agency and the Humboldt Bay-based Wiyot Tribe have since distanced themselves from the proposal.
And local opposition to the project appears increasingly difficult for coal advocates to surmount. This week, officials with the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, which regulates port facilities in the bay, said that body’s elected board was likely to pass its own resolution opposing coal shipments.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/memo-shows-involvement-of-utah-agency-and-2-tribes-in-north-coast-coal-expo/?
Bill Swindell, PRESS DEMOCRAT
But the oversight comes as academic research is showing that less water is better for the grape crop, which was valued at $357 million in 2020 in Sonoma County. It can even improve grape quality. A UC Davis study released earlier this month found that grape growers in our region can use less water on vines without affecting crop yields or quality.
As local farmers well know, Mother Nature can be cruel in administering her gifts.
That was the case on the night of Sept. 11 when the crew over at Emeritus Vineyards in Sebastopol felt raindrops as they picked the pinot noir grapes to go into the winery’s premium wine.
While any rain is appreciated during an exceptional regional drought, the precipitation came an inopportune time for the winery that would wrap up its harvest just a week later, said Riggs Lokka, assistant vineyard manager.
“All of the sudden at 1:15 in the morning, it just dumped,” Lokka recalled.
The episode underscored the conditions vineyard managers are operating under: their industry is facing a prolonged era of water scarcity in which growers don’t want to put one more drop of water on their vines than needed.
Local agriculture’s water usage has come under increasing scrutiny. Three of Sonoma County’s 14 groundwater basins are subject to increased monitoring and regulation. Those areas are mandated to be sustainable within 20 years, which means to have no significant drop in water tables on a year-over-year basis. In addition, state regulators so far this year have ordered more than 1,800 water right holders in the Russian River watershed to stop water diversions unless they obtain waivers.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/business/new-study-confirms-less-water-usage-in-vineyard-can-result-in-better-grapes/
Tara Duggan, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
During fifth period at Petaluma’s Casa Grande High School last week, students scooped tiny, wriggling fish out of a tank.
They weren’t dealing with classroom pets. Instead, the 17-year-olds were taking care of some the state’s last remaining coho salmon at a fish hatchery right on the school’s campus. Last month, wildlife officials moved around 4,000 endangered coho to the school’s cool, indoor tanks after conditions at a hatchery in nearby Lake Sonoma became unhealthy because of the drought. The high school will receive an additional 650 endangered coho trucked in from Santa Cruz in the coming weeks.
Casa Grande students usually raise steelhead trout native to the local watershed, donated by other hatcheries as a learning experience. But this unprecedented drought year is the first time the school has ever rescued a federally endangered species with nowhere else to go.
“We have this opportunity to save coho salmon, to see that we can do it, if people put their minds to it,” said Cathryn Carlson, 17, president of a nonprofit called United Anglers of Casa Grande, which runs the hatchery. Carlson, who goes by Kate, had just put on boots and waders before hopping into one tank’s chest-deep water to scrub its windows.
In some ways, the timing couldn’t be better for students starved for in-person instruction after being away from the classroom for almost 17 months.
Read more at https://www.sfchronicle.com/california/article/Bay-Area-high-school-rescues-4-000-endangered-16486539.php#photo-21508817
Tosin Thompson, NATURE
Children worldwide worry about the future and feel let down by governments, a huge study on attitudes towards climate change has found.
Climate change is causing distress, anger and other negative emotions in children and young people worldwide, a survey of thousands of 16- to 25-year-olds has found. This ‘eco-anxiety’ has a negative impact on respondents’ daily lives, say the researchers who conducted the survey, and is partly caused by the feeling that governments aren’t doing enough to avoid a climate catastrophe.
“This study provides arguments for anyone who has any connection to youth mental health — climate change is a real dimension into their mental-health problems,” says Sarah Ray, who studies climate anxiety at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California.
The survey — the largest of its kind — asked 10,000 young people in 10 countries how they felt about climate change and government responses to it.
The results, released in a preprint on 14 September1, found that most respondents were concerned about climate change, with nearly 60% saying they felt ‘very worried’ or ‘extremely worried’. Many associated negative emotions with climate change — the most commonly chosen were ‘sad’, ‘afraid’, ‘anxious’, ‘angry’ and ‘powerless’ (see ‘Climate anxiety’). Overall, 45% of participants said their feelings about climate change impacted their daily lives.
Read more at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02582-8#ref-CR1
Dan Bacher, THE DAILY KOS
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, today resigned from the Stakeholder Engagement Committee (SCE), for the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority (DCDCA).
“When our good faith efforts produce no results and are met with resistance, Restore the Delta will shift and move into a new direction to ensure that the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary is protected and restored for future generations,” she said.
“We have, therefore, resigned from the Stakeholder Engagement Committee, for the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority. We simply could not move the Department of Water Resources to work on true problem solving for the estuary. Read our letter to learn more,” she concluded.
Here is the full letter:
Continue reading “Restore the Delta resigns from Delta Conveyance Design & Construction Authority SEC”
Rollie Atkinson, SOCONEWS
The long-term picture for reliable water flows in the Russian River, above Healdsburg to Mendocino County, will remain uncertain for at least two more years, if not longer. The hold up stems from ongoing studies and multi-agency negotiations over the future of the Scott Dam on the Eel River and the century-old Potter Valley Project (PVP) that diverts Eel River water into the Russian River and Lake Mendocino.
On Sept. 2, the five-member Two-Basin Partnership asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a one-year abeyance to continue evaluations of a proposed takeover of the PVP from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) which has announced it will not renew its FERC permit after 2022. The Two-Basin Partnership is seeking removal of the Scott Dam but continued Eel River diversions into the East Fork of the Russian River. The proposal would add 288 river miles of access to salmon and steelhead while assuring an annual diversion of 62,500 acre/feet of water.
The partnership is citing a shortage of funds to operate the PVP and said last week “we have made substantial efforts but have not yet secured public and philanthropic funds for that work.” In May, PG&E declined to fund the project and by statute the utility is barred from seeking a new license.
Read more at https://soconews.org/scn_county/upper-russian-river-flow-decisions-being-delayed/article_a91725c4-1bbf-11ec-8e56-e7467a39b2f4.html?
Bill McKibben, THE CRUCIAL YEARS
Last Wednesday, a team at Oxford University released a fascinating paper that I haven’t seen covered anywhere. Stirringly titled “Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition,” it makes the following argument: “compared to continuing with a fossil-fuel-based system, a rapid green energy transition will likely result in overall net savings of many trillions of dollars–even without accounting for climate damages or co-benefits of climate policy.”
So far in the global warming era, we’ve caught precious few breaks. Certainly not from physics: the temperature has increased at the alarming pace that scientists predicted thirty years ago, and the effects of that warming have increased even faster than expected. (“Faster Than Expected” is probably the right title for a history of climate change so far; if you’re a connoisseur of disaster, there is already a blog by that name). The Arctic is melting decades ahead of schedule, and the sea rising on an accelerated schedule, and the forest fires of the science fiction future are burning this autumn. And we haven’t caught any breaks from our politics either: it’s moved with the lumbering defensiveness one would expect from a system ruled by inertia and vested interest. And so it is easy, and completely plausible, to despair: we are on the bleeding edge of existential destruction.
But one trend is, finally, breaking in the right direction, and perhaps decisively. The price of renewable energy is now falling nearly as fast as heat and rainfall records, and in the process perhaps offering us one possible way out. The public debate hasn’t caught up to the new reality—Bill Gates, in his recent bestseller on energy and climate, laments the “green premium” that must be paid for clean energy. But he (and virtually every other mainstream energy observer) is already wrong—and they’re all about to be spectacularly wrong, if the latest evidence turns out to be right.
Read more at https://billmckibben.substack.com/p/were-finally-catching-a-break-in?