Garbage Trucks in NYC Might Go Green!

by Elisabeth Powell

Widener University Environmental Politics Student

New York City is one of the most crowded cities in America. With a high density of people there is a lot of trash and with a lot of trash there are a lot of garbage trucks. People of New York are beginning to get concerned about asthma and other health effects of these aging trucks. This increased concern made it to former Mayor Bloomberg who began to take steps to modernize the city’s fleet of diesel powered vehicles.  He signed a law to control the emissions of these garbage haulers. At least 90 percent of the vehicles must meet the emission standards by 2017. But there are also private haulers that dispose of the city’s commercial garbage and recyclables, so there is legislation trying to expand the law to control the emissions of these large trucks. If the trucks are “retrofitted” with new engines or old trucks are retired and new ones are used, particulate matter emissions would reduce by 796 tons, nitrogen oxides would reduce by 12,054 tons. The cost of the proposal is between 484- 571.4 million dollars but if the trucks are simply retrofitted with new engines, it would be greatly less. It is a good idea but the cost of garbage disposal is going to cost more for the companies, and these companies are already in economic distress from hurricane Sandy. Pollution and greenhouse gases can be decreased but it will cost the people willing to change.

Obama and Zichal are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together

by Shana Kessler

Widener University Environmental Politics and Policy Student

From Washington DC (that makes it local, right? Come on, all the cool stories were taken, and with the Federal Government in shutdown it has to count!): President Obama and his chief climate advisor Heather Zichal have called it quits, folks. Try as they might, the White House could not convince Zichal to stick around, and they are never ever ever getting back together. Zichal was the White House official to do much of the President’s heavy lifting n climate policy over the last five years, which doesn’t particularly amount to much but that has no real reflection on her. Zichal was instrumental in developing Obama’s climate plan in 2013, and the new federal standards for fuel efficiency in cars. Zichal’s job mixed outreach with environmentalists, industry and lawmakers in Washington. She helped implement policies and oversaw the administration’s response to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Yet the headiness of the role did not come with authority, profile or resources such important work necessitates and deserves. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy said Zichal was extremely influential, and Al Gore even mentioned that it was left to one person to do the work without the authority it back it up.

Is this a nasty break up based on false promises of authority and/or policy? Or is this just the common trend of political figures heading into the private sector? Who’s to blame, Obama or Zichal? One thing is for sure: Obama should be judged by whether he keeps his promises reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

California Bill Raises Community College Tuition

by Jessica Dembeck

Widener University American Government Student

Finally, it sounds like at least one state has the accessibility for all students that universities across the nation claim to have, and now legislators have debuted a pilot program, which in essence takes away that accessibility from students. Paul Fain comments on this controversial bill that was recently passed in California in his article entitled “Two-Tiered Tuition is Back ”. According to Fain’s article, six eligible colleges will now be able to charge students the going rate for nonresident students, “which are more than three times the $46 per-credit rate that local students pay.”

That hike in tuition is supposed to channel a third of the revenue from these classes back as a resource for financial aid for low income students. Well, that sounds great in theory, but the bill itself does not offer much supervision for this trial. The California community college system seemed to have it all together prior to the passing of this bill. Compare the tuition of the Community College of Philadelphia  with those of California community colleges, and Philadelphians are looking at a technology fee that is more than half of what Californians were paying for a single credit hour.

Why are legislators in California trying to fix what wasn’t broken? On the California community colleges website , they have a bunch of statistics, but three of them stood out the most. 1) For every $1 California invests in students who graduate from college, it will receive a net return on investment of $4.50. 2) Californians with a college degree will earn $1,340,000 more than their peers with only a high school diploma. Students who earn a degree or certificate from a California community college nearly double their earnings within three years. 3)Funding for California Community Colleges has been cut by $1.5 billion since 2007-08. With all of that said, why wouldn’t the government invest in the community colleges of California instead of making the students pay three times as much?


Who’s afraid of the big bad solar panel?

by Shana Kessler

Widener University

Who’s afraid of the big bad solar panel? Apparently firefighters in Delanco, New Jersey (among other locations, but for the sake of this blog we’ll stick to this hot spot); they are not educated on how to handle fires in buildings equipped with solar panels. The result of this fear is the destruction of a Dietz & Watson warehouse that firefighters let burn for 29 hours. The warehouse was topped with 700 solar panels, that did not in any way, shape or form contribute or cause the fire in question, but due to their inadequate skills in handling solar paneled buildings they simply let the warehouse burn.

Well, that’s neither fair nor true to say exactly. They did work to keep the fire from spreading, and they did get people out. They simply did not put the fire out because they did not know how to dig a hole in the wide section of roof that was available to them. What can be done about this problem, then, as more and more structures are equipped with solar paneling? The solar industry knows of the issue, and agrees that the only thing they can do is educate first responders, especially firefighters, on solar panels. Many of their fears are based on mere speculation with no actual evidence to support, and therefore with the proper tools, legislation, and education they can learn to navigate the rooftops of solar-powered buildings without the irrational fear of electrocution.


Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in NY

by Morgan Wieziolowski

Widener University Political Science Major

New York State has decided to support a new initiative by the RGGI or Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to cap major power plants on their environmentally damaging gas emissions. The proposed changes in the initiative would cut these gas emissions by 2.5 percent per year, cutting overall gas emissions that damage the planet’s climate by 20 percent within ten years.  This is not a new topic for New York or any state. The state of NY was one of the first ten states that supported the RGGI when the gas emission cap was first adopted. The RGGI is hoping that other states in the region will push for use of green energy and carbon pollution reduction. The Northeast has a growing concern for the devastating affects the pollution causes to the global climate. This topic is fresh in everyone’s minds due to the recent devastation caused by Super Storm Sandy, and the State and local governments are not letting the environment sit on the back burner this time around.

RGGI is also supposed to boost the State’s economy. Within the first two years of participation in the RGGI there is the possibility of created 16,000 jobs and increasing economic output significantly. Investing in stronger, more effective RGGI would be very beneficial for the State of New York, not only for the environment, climate, and power sources but also for the job stimulation, creation of new technologies and economic prosperity. Governor Cuomo has “committed” to strengthen the cap and ultimately push for a better economic policy. I think this is a great example of public policy in play with environmental issues. The state is already participating in the cap and prevention strategies but they definitely can be strengthened. Governor Cuomo stated he wants to do this, but has not actually laid out a plan of clear action to ensure these changes. I guess we will have to wait and see, but for the most part I like the RGGI and what it’s trying to do for the carbon pollution problems.

An Opinion Primer on Syria

by J. Wesley Leckrone

Associate Professor of Political Science

Widener University

As Congress prepares to deliberate on President Obama’s request for limited military strikes in Syria the following might help clarify the various positions on the issue.

First – if you’re not too sure about the whole Syria situation check out Max Fishers’ “9 Questions About Syria You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask” from the Washington Post.

Nickolas Kristof of the New York Times argues for military action from a human rights perspective in “Pulling the Curtain Back on Syria”.

Thomas Friedman, in Same War, Different Country (New York Times), argues that the problem is a lack of pluralism in the Middle East and that nothing we can do will help solve the problem in Syria.

Finally, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal gives a conservative opinion opposing military strikes in “Why America is Saying No.

Finally “Shift in Congress Undercuts Support for Syria Strike” from the Wall Street Journal shows how more libertarian Republicans and less conservative Democrats in Congress have changed the body’s perspective on military action.

Fiscal Cliff, Debt Ceiling, Balanced Budget, Oh My!

by Erica Szpynda

Widener University Economics Major

It is the beginning of the month and your bills are starting to pile on the table.  You have every intention to pay them, but your money is tight.  If you end of not paying a few of those bills, what happens?

Well, the utilities have been used and the goods and services, bought on credit, have been received.  This is the same as what the government was up against, until Wednesday. The House decided to temporally raise the debt ceiling to cover the bills the United States has accumulated.

Everyone in Congress knew that if the US defaulted, for the first time in history, it could bring detrimental hits to their credit rating and have the possibility of sending the world into a depression.  Bringing a sigh of relief, Republicans backed down on their demand that they would only raise the debt ceiling if spending cuts were taken in the same amount.

Nevertheless, in less than four short months, Congress will still have to decide on spending cuts and rising taxes. This is the true debate that is splitting the nation, not just elected officials.  We have moved past the fiscal cliff raising taxes across the board and Americans will have less money in their pockets.  It is agreed that spending cuts need to happen at some level, but do we raise taxes again?

We just need to remember two simple formulas:

1.       Revenues = Spending (Balanced Budget)

2.       GDP = Investment +Consumption + Net Exports + GOVERNMENT SPENDING

With these in mind, remember we are still recovering from a recession and how much should we decrease an important variable?