One County’s Global Warming Failure

Exclusive: Even communities where many citizens agree that global warming is a threat to humankind and have the money to take action find that the politics of doing something can be complicated and seemingly insurmountable, like the case of Arlington, Virginia, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The difficulty of the United States and thus the world to confront the worsening crisis of global warming is underscored by the resistance even in well-to-do communities to invest the financial and political capital in public transit and other infrastructure necessary for reducing carbon emissions.

Take, for example, Arlington County and other Virginia communities, just west of Washington D.C. You might think that this area of well-educated and politically savvy people with median household incomes over $100,000 would be at the forefront of doing whatever is necessary to get people out of their cars and into mass transit.

An Innovia light-rail train offered by Bombardier Transportation.

A light-rail train offered by Bombardier Transportation.

After all, scientists warn that a rise in temperatures by more than 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial days will wreak havoc on the earth — and we are already halfway there.

Yet, Arlington, which sits between the District and other close-in communities such as Fairfax County and Falls Church city, is turning its back on proposals for light rail that could reduce traffic congestion and help the environment. Arlington’s new ten-year transportation plan looks only to make marginal improvements in bus service inside the county.

A big part of the problem is political. Although the County Board has a Democratic majority, Tea Party Republicans found a winning issue in opposing a light-rail Streetcar for Columbia Pike, a corridor that runs through a poorer part of South Arlington, which has been historically home to a multi-racial population. The predominantly white voters in North Arlington rebelled against this investment in South Arlington, even though the state and regional agencies had agreed to pay for much of it.

Some of Arlington’s Greens also joined the opposition to the light-rail system, arguing that it would encourage gentrification.

So, in November 2014, an anti-Streetcar Republican trounced a pro-Streetcar Democrat, prompting two of the remaining Democrats on the County Board to flip their votes and kill the Streetcar, which had been in development for more than a decade. With the Columbia Pike Streetcar out of the way, two new Democrats were elected to the County Board this November.

In other words, the lesson that Arlington Democrats learned was to avoid proposing a light-rail system, at least for the more racially mixed South Arlington. The Orange/Silver Metro subway lines already serve a major corridor through North Arlington.

Though some residents of other North Arlington areas, such as along Lee Highway, have expressed interest in improved transit, it would be politically difficult for Democrats on the County Board to spend more money on the richer, whiter parts of North Arlington after the demise of South Arlington’s Streetcar.

Hence, Arlington is going small ball on transit, tweaking the county’s internal bus system and making some modest moves to improve bicycle and pedestrian routes.

Once Burned, Twice Shy

After the Streetcar defeat and knowing that a vastly more expensive subway line for Columbia Pike was out of the question I urged the County Board to consider a third option, a modern Sky Train that would run above Columbia Pike and connect to the Annandale area of Fairfax County, another underserved community with clogged roadways.

Through some of the narrow sections of Columbia Pike, I suggested using suspension bridge engineering to reduce the number of supports. Plus, if done with enough aesthetic touches, the Sky Train could become an iconic image for the mostly-down-in-the-dumps Columbia Pike, which once was the principal route between Virginia and Washington D.C. and served as a Freedom Trail for African-Americans escaping slavery during the Civil War.

The Sky Train would have two key advantages, I noted. It would be much cheaper than a subway and it would operate on a different plane than the Streetcar, thus avoiding some of the legitimate concerns about a Streetcar intermingling with car and pedestrian traffic.

There was also the possibility that a simultaneous plan could be proposed for Lee Highway in North Arlington to undercut opposition among white voters who didn’t want to invest tax dollars in the poorer, more racially mixed South Arlington. But the County Board once burned, twice shy apparently wanted to hear nothing more about light-rail systems of any kind.

So, with Arlington’s politicians still feeling pain from the Streetcar debacle, the county is looking forward to the next ten years without any game-changing transportation innovations for either its residents or the people who live to the west of Arlington. Almost surely, those roads leading into Washington will remain clogged with car traffic spewing out carbon dioxide.

As a microcosm of the challenges that many other communities around the globe will face, the Arlington experience shows how an unlikely coalition of forces from the Tea Party opposing any government spending to Greens objecting to gentrification that often follows improved mass transit can combine to frustrate the goal of reducing carbon emissions.

This one county’s capitulation to such political challenges doesn’t speak well to the sense of urgency that is needed to combat global warming. Despite the looming calamity, Arlington, a community that has the money and supposedly the political desire to fight climate change, finds it too hard to do so.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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12 comments for “One County’s Global Warming Failure

  1. Sara F. Anderson
    December 31, 2015 at 14:52

    Robert Parry mis-represents the basis of opposition to the street car along Columbia Pike in
    Arlington. The original board member was and is) a Democrat, Libby Garvey, who pointed out
    when she ran for the Board in 2012 that it did not connect well with other transit in Arlington and Fairfax Counties.
    Furthermore, the design of the streetcar operating system would have made congestion along
    the route greater. We have only to look across the river to the H Street corridor streetcar which
    has caused many problems in its trial runs, and has yet–after more than a year, to carry one passenger.
    Arlington continues to lead in environmentally responsible policies in building, waste disposal and transportation.

  2. Paul Klinkman
    December 30, 2015 at 22:22

    Mr Parry,

    I’m an inventor. I have about 100 separate innovations that fit together for an automated above-grade transit system. If built, it would be on the order of two factors of ten more economical than Bombardier corporation’s Sky Train, about as fast or faster door to door, and it can handle a huge number of passengers per hour.

    Part of our government’s problem is that it says “not invented here” all the time.

  3. Evangelista
    December 30, 2015 at 21:54

    Bob,

    My financial advisor advised a solution that may be just the ticket to pull Arlington out of the carbon-hole it has been pushed, or fallen into: Buy Double-Value Syrian Oil Carbon-Credits!

    Here is the explanation: First, you undoubtedly already know about the Carbon-Credits Market System, which is the point and purpose of all the publicity and propaganda about “Global Warming” (In fact, global warming has been in existence ever since the ‘globe’, blanet Earth, coalesced in a spining blob of molten star-center fusion-combustion waste. The globe has cooled over time, meaning here geologic-time, which is measured in millions and billions of years, due to ‘atmospheric cooling’, a process through which the heat of the globe is extracted into the cold of space, through the sometimes and somewhat insulating planetary gaseous atmosphere. As the crust mantlling the globe has thickened and so more effectively insullated, the escape of global warmth has slowed and become what we may recognize in human-time a relative constant. The rate of heating produced by our globe’s warming has been constant within a degree or two for the whole geologic-time fraction we humans have existed. It does not do much more today than ever, which is mostly providing near constant temperatures in caves and melting the bottoms of glaciers to form the film of water they slide on. So what the Carbon-Credit Market marketers are hyping is variation in the balance of atmospheric cooling, not global warming. Atmospheric cooling is effected by solar-flaring and solar-cycling, which increase the amounts of radiant-heat our globe’s surface receives, and atmosphere, too, to some extent, and transfers to the surface and surrounding environment in which we humans, with our partner life-forms, both oxygen-consuming, like ourselves, and carbon-consuming, like plant-life things. Climate, which is politically science-ized by the hypers, is an end product, like dead and sick mice in an experimental-lab environment. We can ignore climate, except to enjoy, or deplore, its variety, or to track back and define its geological and meteorological inducing and manipulating components, which is what climatilogists and meteorologists do. None of that has to do with the carbon content of our planet’s atmosphere, since that atmosphere is a product of balance between oxygen-users’ oxygen converting, to carbon dioxide, and carbon users’ carbon dioxide conversion back to oxygen. The globe adjusts those, increaing the growth in the group any degree of imbalance favors. hence, today, we see algae-blooms, which are rapid indicators of carbon-rich atmosphere, and that use the carbon and produce more oxygen. Of vourse we humans do use oxygen, and the more of us humans the more oxygen, and we make machines that use oxygen to convert carbon-fuels into btus, which are heat, which produce work. We also burn down and clear-cut forests, which are populations of carbon-users, and burn even more of those, and cut and clear other plant-life, too, which we perceive ‘unsightly’. We do those things when we are irresponsible. When we are ‘responsible’ we make “renewable fuels” by feeding plant-matter to oxygen-user yeasts, which produce alcohol and carbon dioxide bubbles. We add the alcohol to our fossil-fuels, to pretend to be responsible, because the hypsters have told us that is ‘responsible’. In fact, ten percent alcohol in our fossil fuel, because it lowers the volumetric efficiency of the fossil fuel by about twenty percent, causes us to use about twenty percent more fuel for the same work. This is what the hypsters want, because for being ‘responsible we burn eleven gallons, or liters, of fossil fuel, and one gallon, or liter, of carbon-creating, and heat using, alcohol instead of the only ten gallons, or liters, we would have used of pure high volumetric efficiency fossil fuel.) Meanwhile, while we are dong that, and so are creating even more carbon, using even more oxygen, we are helping solar radiation to heat our planetary atmosphere, because carbon dioxide rich air absorbs more of our sun’s heating. It is this that provides the hypsters opportunity to create a carbon-credit-market.

    Manufacturers, and electricity producers and others who provide what we depend on that utilizes heat and heating, must use fossil fuels. They may be deemed to be ‘carbon-users’ and assigned to ‘owe’ back oxygen their carbon use has ‘burned’. Logically, to have them pay back they should have to plant bushes or trees, but, instead, the hypsters want them to have to buy Carbon-Credits on Carbon-Credit-Markets, where the hypsters can broker. The sellers of Carbon-Credits are those who do not use carbon, or, to call spades spades, the bankers and traders who have taken control of ‘Carbon-Credit-Sources’, or simply assume controls of them, or have ‘created’ them (like synthetic CDOs, Collateralized Debt Obligations, that were ‘manufactured’ by copying paperwork again and again– In fact, we can recycle the same acronyms by calling the manufacturers’ carbon-sue debts “Carbon Depletion Obligations” and the carbon-credits they need “Carbon Depletion Swaps” to put the market back into CDO and CDS land).

    But what makes Syrian Oil Carbon Credits double-value? First, Syria is not using its oil carbons, they are leaving Syria, being stolen, so Syria has carbon-credit for every barrel gone from its domain.

    And where is the oil going? Nowhere! The thieves remove it to Turkey, and the Turkish middlemen load it on ships and ship it away… But that is it! The oil goes nowhere! It just disappears. There are no receivers, no fencers, no buyers or dealers. Even the UN or Interpol recognize the oil simply dissappears, is gone, Pouf! they don’t even look for it. And so, Carbon-Credit number Two!

    Let Arlington use whatever it wants of carbon, buy Syrian Carbon-Credits and offset two-to one!

  4. hseneker
    December 30, 2015 at 01:47

    Climate will do what climate will do. Meanwhile, policy needs to be based on hard fact.

    There are some crucial, verifiable facts – with citations – about human-generated carbon dioxide and its effect on global warming people need to know at

    hseneker.blogspot.com

    The discussion is too long to post here but is a quick and easy read. I recommend following the links in the citations; some of them are very educational.

  5. Al Tinfoil
    December 29, 2015 at 22:52

    Some brutal bits of reality for the writer:
    1. The well-educated and wealthy know that Global Warming is a hoax used to: (a) distract the masses from issues that would threaten the power and influence of the Powers That Be if the public got motivated to deal with those issues; and (b) enable the PTB to enrich themselves further at public expense through “Green” initiatives, carbon taxes, and carbon-credit trading schemes;
    2. The wealthy do not want to ride public transit with the common herd. A Google search for outbursts and fights on public transit turns up far too much evidence of threatening behavior on buses, trains, and subways. The wealthy will stick to their SUVs and large sedans with airbags and privacy – their cocoons of apparent safety;
    3. Public transit enables the public to invade the neighborhoods of the rich. Hence it is unwelcome.

    • David Smith
      December 30, 2015 at 16:39

      Great comment, Al. The masses are totally distracted by the Global Warming Hoax to the point they don’t even notice they are being crushed by Carbon Taxes. They only stop talking about Global Warming when they attack each other on the subway, buses, and trains.

  6. December 29, 2015 at 21:58

    Most of the greenhouse gases emissions in Arlington are from buildings, not transit. This article completely misses that point. Also, the land use policies of the Board have caused much lower greenhouse gases by locating housing on transit.

    Arlington is leading the region and the Country on sustainability related issues by focusing on GHG emissions and I’m rather proud to live in a community that values that. It must be a sad world to see the world through your lenses Mr. Parry.

    https://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2015/08/Arlingtons-Community-Energy-Plan.pdf

  7. Gregory Kruse
    December 29, 2015 at 19:40

    You can never do something for the poor unless you do twice as much for the rich. This why there is a cap on Social Security taxes, and why the benefits are paid out to everyone who contributed, no matter how rich they are.

  8. Steve Slater
    December 29, 2015 at 17:25

    I live in Maui, Hawaii where there is almost constant, massive, burning of sugar cane fields. Burning is not necessary, but it saves harvest costs. The extremely wealthy Alexander & Baldwin corporation already gets massive tax breaks and controls (steals) 80% of the water. But all they have to do is threaten to cut 800 jobs and they get away with anything. There are many extremely wealthy people here but no political stamina. How do we expect poor communities to care about anything but the short-term. Hypocracy begins at home.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    December 29, 2015 at 17:02

    The Tea Party would do well to protest all the money the U.S. spends on war. These ill informed patriots would rather rally against America’s human needs. America is a country without goals. Compassion towards the American commons is something never talked about, unless it is spoken about in unfriendly terms concerning the American welfare state. We have become a country of ‘Me’.

    Once we all had a goal of going to the moon. Monday morning people talked about the various acts they saw on the Ed Sullivan show. We all rooted for Dr Richard Kimble as he encountered his brush with the law on every episode of ‘the Fugitive’. Our radio stations played the top 40, which included every genre of music you could think of. Although flying on an airplane wasn’t affordable for everyone, it was still a time to get dressed up and be treated like someone special. If it hadn’t been for those awful assassinations and the Vietnam war, why life would have been pretty close to perfect. Today we all live in our own little space, and decry how it is every man for himself, and this is considered the norm. People vote against there own interest, because their candidate is right, and not some commie leftist. All this because they don’t want to pay more in taxes. Well then maybe tell the politicians to cut the defense spending.

    • Peter Loeb
      December 30, 2015 at 05:43

      WHAT POLITICAL PARTY/FACTION?

      This is an excellent article with somehow skewered conclusions.

      In fact the political party and its particular baggage is of no
      significance. In this case it is the Tea Party faction. In another
      case it may be a Democratic Party group. This is more a
      question of “not in my back yard-ism”, thanh of of income or
      class or educational background,

      It is common knowledge that it is Democrats as well as Republicans
      who fight for the defense contractors which just incidentally
      are located in every state. (See W. lR. Greider, FORTRESS AMERICA).

      On this issue I recommend Lawrence Davidson’s analysis of
      COP21 in :A Shaky Promise on Global Warming” which
      appears in this issue of CONSORTIUM

      —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  10. richard braverman
    December 29, 2015 at 15:01

    Bob, What about a private elevated rail line, funded by a one hundred year loan at minimal interest rate, if an entity like the bank of North Dakota exists in Virginia. The private investor would have to accept (limited) controlled pricing to prevent the current sticker shock associated with the Washington Metro System and would have the right to sell the system at the end of a fixed period.

Comments are closed.