Peter Dykstra: A Congressman goes into a bar ...
The Tune Inn bar in Washington, DC. (Credit: Bill Walsh/flickr)

Peter Dykstra: A Congressman goes into a bar ...

Two news items this week illustrate the sometimes-maddening struggle for environmental progress.


On Tuesday, the U. S. Energy Information Administration reported that domestic coal consumption has dropped to its lowest level since 1979.

Huzzah! That'll take a bite out of the world's carbon crimes.

Or not.

On Wednesday, Stanford's Global Carbon Project reported that worldwide carbon emissions will rise in 2018 for the second consecutive year. This increases the likelihood that the strict limits of global temperature rise called for by climate experts will be farther out of reach.

Sliming a distinguished member of Congress—and an equally distinguished DC dive bar

Beset on all sides by more than a dozen potential ethics violations, at least one of which is reportedly a criminal violation, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Eagle Scout Emeritus, has struck back.

With the Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives next month, Congressman Raul Grijalva will likely Chair the House Natural Resources Committee. He has promised to make Zinke's life unpleasant, and called for his resignation in a USA Today op-ed.

Zinke would have none of it. He took to Twitter, criticizing not just Grijalva's drinking habits, but his drinking habitat.

The Interior Secretary, whose expertise in habitats would normally be respected, took a swipe at the Tune Inn, a Capitol Hill dive bar located a few blocks from the Capitol and Grijalva's office in the Longworth Building.

My, what a political tin ear. The Tune Inn is a revered, dusty dump of a place where hunting trophies festoon the walls and Patsy Cline rules the jukebox.

Its bipartisan barflies down PBR's and legendary double cheeseburgers.

Don't ask me how I know all this, but there were times during my 12 years in Washington when the Tune Inn was the only place that made the slightest bit of sense in the whole city. I look fondly on my time there, but I'm never going back. I mean, to live. If I'm visiting, I'll definitely stop at the Tune Inn.

A final word about George H.W. Bush 

Former President George H.W. Bush at Joint Base Andrews. (Credit: US Navy)

Much has been said about the passing of George H. W. Bush, so I'll be brief. He fit the now-obsolete definition of a Republican environmentalist.

We're 22 months into the Trump presidency, and Bloomberg News recently compared Trump's enthusiasm for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to that of every other recent President. From inauguration to the midterm elections, Trump's team proposed only 15 species for ESA protection. But the Reagan Administration proposed adding only 12 over the same time period. President George H.W. Bush proposed 70; his son, 22. Among the Democrats, only Bill Clinton proposed more than Papa Bush, 166. Jimmy Carter had 61, and Barack Obama 56.

Bush also attended the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. He signed what some environmentalists considered a watered-down climate agreement. But that's a far cry from today's denial-driven Republicans.

And one more non-environmental word about Bush 41. I'm in a wheelchair. Bush championed and signed the American with Disabilities Act. It's a law I benefit from every day. Thanks.

And other curiosities from the past week

EV makers are investing in solid state batteries

Automakers from BMW to Ford to GM to Honda have all expressed interest in solid state batteries, which could lead to more practical EVs.
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

global plastics pollution treaty
Bo Eide/Flickr

U.S. seeks allies as split emerges over global plastics pollution treaty

The United States is seeking to form a coalition of countries to drive negotiations on a global plastic pollution treaty, weeks after a similar group involving several other G7 nations was launched, according to a document seen by Reuters.

Can reducing plastic production ease the energy crisis?

Plastic production relies on oil and gas, yet reducing output has not been put forward as a response to the energy crisis. Until now. A new report says this is the moment for bold action.
Africa wants its climate money
COP26/Flickr

Africa wants its climate money. Will rich countries pay?

This year’s U.N. climate conference, set to be held in Egypt, is being seen by negotiators and climate advocates in Africa as an opportunity to push the continent’s needs up to the top of the agenda.

Indigenous Brazilians fight via ballot
John Englart/Flickr

With rights at risk, Indigenous Brazilians get on the ballot to fight back

A record 186 Indigenous candidates are running in Brazil’s general elections in October, up 40% from the 2018 elections.

Bill Tanata/Flickr

What is a wetland worth?

As the Supreme Court considers the fate of American wetlands, Annie Proulx’s Fen, Bog, and Swamp offers an elegiac love letter to overlooked ecosystems.
successful coral breeding
Via Tsuji/Flickr

A moonshot for coral breeding was successful

But the coral are trapped in tanks, still waiting to be released on the reefs.
From our Newsroom
Failure of the universities: The culture gap is now near lethal

Universities are failing us

Our educational systems are failing to prepare people for existential environmental threats

Shell's new petrochemical complex in southwestern Pennsylvania

The Titans of Plastic

Pennsylvania becomes the newest sacrifice zone for America’s plastic addiction.

Ruth Greenspan Bell: Wealth and the climate dilemma

Ruth Greenspan Bell: Wealth and the climate dilemma

Developing countries that increase their fossil fuel production are at a crossroads: securing their own long-term well-being or earning revenue to finance programs to support immediate economic growth.

Solving the climate crisis will help both ‘sacrifice zones’ and ‘cute’ puffins

Solving the climate crisis will help both ‘sacrifice zones’ and ‘cute’ puffins

Curbing pollution for families in Chicago calms the climatic conditions that drive fish away from puffins half a continent away.

puffin tern recovery climate change

Good news: A good year for puffins and terns, despite climate change

A visit to a remote Maine island finds puffins and terns rebounding despite climate change

Optimism in the climate change fight

Optimism in the climate change fight

So much is happening so quickly. With the climate bill now law, here's what you need to know.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.