Wednesday, December 31, 2008

From Solar Panels to Sarah Palins: The Top 10 Green Politics Stories of 2008

Written by Timothy B. Hurst

Campaign politics dominated the headlines in 2008, making it a banner year for the armchair pundit and the politically uninitiated alike. 2008 was also a year that issues like energy use, climate change and carbon footprints came to the forefront of popular culture and political reality. And that’s where we came in.

votesBuzz up!In the tradition of more credible media outlets, we’ve compiled our most popular stories of the year into an easily digestible top 10 list. As it is based purely on pageviews, we realize that our list of the top ten environmental politics stories of the year is by no means scientific - and we’re okay with that.

10. U.S. Could Get Ten Million Solar Roofs in Ten Years
In July, Andrew Williams reported on a piece of legislation introduced into Congress called The 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2008 which would have offered rebates for up to half the cost of installing solar photovoltaic systems, and run for ten years. The bill didn’t make it too far on its own, but some of the same renewable energy development mechanisms are still being considered as part of an economic stimulus plan. This story did well at StumbleUpon.*

9. Senator Ensign Attacks Solar Energy Industry
Nevada’s Republican senator John Ensign launched an offensive against solar energy lobbyists, ahead of a crucial vote on extending the renewable energy tax credits. In a post that drew a lot of attention at digg, Andrew Williams wrote:

“Breaking ranks with the the state’s increasingly important solar industry, Ensign said that efforts by the Solar Energy Industry Association to force his hand on tax breaks had in fact had the opposite effect of ‘personally alienating’ him and other senators.”

8. Palin Changes Position on Global Warming - Then Denies It

The emergence of Sarah Palin from a place of relative obscurity to the center stage of American politics provided us with more than enough fodder just learning who she was. A cursory count of our coverage at RG&B turned up more than fifty posts between August and December about Palin. Palin’s position on global warming was one of many green themes picked up by observers. After first denying human-caused warming, she later said the causes of global warming didn’t matter. Tim Hurst described it:

“This is not a nuanced-shift in the technical specifics of some obscure policy. This is a drastic change in a major policy question that is apparent to even the most casual political observer.”

7. Palin Ignored Chance to Promote US Energy Independence
This post by Alex Felsinger delved into the energy cred of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and explored the difference between the theory of energy independence and the application of it. This post got heavy traffic thanks to both Yahoo! buzz and StumbleUpon. Felsinger wrote:

“An agreement was reached in January this year, and never once did Palin suggest that the natural gas should instead be used in the lower 48 states. Instead, 100 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas will be exported from Alaska’s Cook Inlet to Japan and other Asian countries, where the fuel sells for double what it does in America.”

6. Schwarzenegger Gets on the Obama ‘Tire Inflation’ Bandwagon
Although we had several posts about what is arguably the biggest story in politics this year—Barack Obama—the only post in our top 10 with Obama’s name in the title was tangentially related to the president-elect. In the wake of Republicans mocking Obama’s suggestion that proper tire inflation was the cornerstone of his energy policy, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger helped launch a new website essentially endorsing Obama’s claims. Written by Timothy Hurst, this one got a bunch of traffic from digg.


5. Imagining a $700 Billion Bailout for the Environment

Stemming from the fall of mortgage-backed securities, spiking oil prices, and a host of other variables, the economic crisis came to a head in September and October when the federal government began looking at corporate bailouts of unprecedented proportions. In a piece that did particularly well at StumbleUpon, Jennifer Lance considered what investments of this size could do for the environment:

“What if the US government had responded to the twenty years of dire warnings by James Hansen in the same manner as the current economic crisis? Such an aggressive response may have stopped climate change and saved our economy through green jobs and technology.”

4. New York City to Get LED Street Lighting
This is the story responsible for a major re-arrangement in this year’s best of. Just last week, Jerry James stone reported on big news out of New York City that city officials would be testing energy efficient LED street lights. If successful, all of the city’s 300,000 street lamps could potentially be replaced with the LED models. This post did well at digg, reddit, and StumbleUpon.

3. Did McCain’s Colorado River Gaffe Cost Him in the West?


While campaigning in Colorado, Sen. John McCain told the Pueblo Chieftan that, as president, he would consider renegotiating the Colorado River Compact: a virtual no-no in headwater states like Colorado where Democrats and Republicans alike think downstream states already get more than their fair share of water. In a post that did well at digg, Timothy Hurst wrote:

“John McCain has again said something to cause his fellow western-state Republicans to wince at his political inexpedience and apparent naivete for the issue at hand. And even though the Senator has now recanted and begun damage control, Democrats are hoping that this one will cost him. Some even argue that the gaffe was so severe, he may have just lost Colorado.”

2. European Union Bans the Incandescent Light Bulb
EU energy ministers meeting in Luxembourg gave final approval to an EU-wide ban on incandescent light bulbs that would begin in 2010. The new light bulb scheme will initially apply to bulbs of 75 watts and higher. The phasing out of the traditional bulbs set to begin on March 1, 2009, is part of a larger EU strategy to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This story got a good bit of attention at reddit and digg.

1. How 1900’s Environmental Predictions Fared
Admittedly, the most viewed post in 2008 at Red, Green, & Blue is not about environmental politics, per se, and it didn’t really happen in 2008, but using our simple metric of popularity, it was the ‘biggest.’

In 1900, John Elfreth Watkins put together a collection of predictions in the Ladies Home Journal about the future of the U.S. and the world by the end of the 20th century. Timothy Hurst cherry-picked 14 enviro-related predictions and looked at what actually happened one hundred years later. Some of the predictions are uncannily accurate, yet others were more than a little wide of the mark. This post had good traffic from digg and reddit, and especially Yahoo! buzz.

*We’ve included links to some of the social media networks where individual posts have performed well. For brevity’s sake we kept the number of those links to one or two per post. That notwithstanding, we are exceedingly grateful to ALL of you for the support you have shown on ALL of the social media and web 2.0 spaces in 2008. We would be nowhere without your help.
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