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Billion dollar idea

From Science: Could a $1 billion prize help end the U.S. addiction to foreign oil? Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) thinks it might. Last week, he urged the National Science Foundation (NSF) to raise such a prodigious amount from private sources and then give it to scientists offering ideas on how to make the United States energy independent. But why limit the contest to scientists, and what exactly is a "scientist" anyway? It seems to me that we are not short on ideas. We are short on commercially viable ideas, and commercial viability cannot be proven in a lab. If cost were not the overriding variable, we could simply pay double the market price for our oil. Producers around the world would be knocking our doors down to sell their oil to us. That particular idea sure would not win a prize, because cost (commercial viability) is what this is all about. We are not hostage to foreign oil per se; we are hostage to liquid fuel costs, regardless of where that liquid fuel comes from. Also keep in mind that we have not hit peak energy sources, we have just hit peak liquid fuel sources. I hope someone dreams up something better than biofuels, and here is why:

‘Eco-terrorism': Careful with that website, Eugene

Here's a story that should help every environmental and animal-rights activist sleep a little easier. Kevin Kjonaas was just convicted. What was his crime? Setting up a website -- a website with details on companies that support animal testing, and some raucous message boards where some dumb things were said.

Wind will save the ruralites

Wind is the fastest-growing source of electricity in the world. One of the coolest things about it, from my perspective, is the possibility that wind turbines could serve as a lifeline for the rural residents and family farmers America claims to love but in actual fact arranges policy as though deliberately to destroy. I expect we'll be seeing more stories like this one in the NYT. This new wind farm, called Maple Ridge, is already the largest alternative-energy project east of the Mississippi, and a second phase, which will include 75 more windmills, is scheduled to be built this year, starting in the spring. Mr. Burke, 58, has pinned the security of his fifth-generation dairy farm on the seven turbines that he allowed to be built on his 600 acres last fall. Each one will generate an annual lease payment of $5,000 to $10,000, based in part on the electricity generated, that will allow the Burkes to stay on their land after they retire. "For me, this project is an excellent exit strategy," Mr. Burke said. "Having the towers will allow us, when the time comes, to sell the cows, lease the land and keep the farm."

Norton’s successor

Says The Christian Science Monitor: Business and property-rights groups are pressuring the White House to name a replacement who will act as vigorously on their behalf as Norton did. "Anything less ... may generate opposition to the nomination from the president's own supporters," says Chuck Cushman, executive director of the American Land Rights Association. Says The Denver Post: President Bush will abide by tradition and name a Westerner to replace Interior Secretary Gale Norton, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said. And the White House will look for a successor whose views mirror those of the pro-development Norton, Card said.

The latest in bad news

The 2006 hurricane season in the U.S. is going to be awful, another drought is heading for Europe, and Exxon still owes money to the communities around Prince William Sound. Happy Monday!

Decoupling Katrina and climate change

Based on his (and his colleagues') research, here's what Roger Pielke Jr. thinks: 1. Anthropogenic climate change is real. 2. Greenhouse gas reductions make good policy sense. 3. But there is no evidence that energy policies focused on climate change can be an effective tool of disaster mitigation. 4. There is currently no evidence that allows us to attribute to human-caused climate change any part of the decades-long trend of a rising toll of disasters, a record which is dominated by floods and storms. 5. More people are beginning to conduct research in this area and perhaps future research results will tell a different story, but 1-4 above are what can be said today and supported by scientific research. 6. Given the state of the literature, this should not be a controversial conclusion. 7. There are better justifications for GHG reductions than disasters, and there are far better options available to policy makers than energy policies to make a material difference in future impacts of climate and weather extremes. The reception he's gotten for this line of thinking from climate scientists has been, shall we say, less than enthusiastic.

The Bus Stops Here

Francisca Porchas, clean-bus campaigner, answers Grist’s questions

The city of Los Angeles has 10 million people, 8 million cars, and a heck of a lot of pollution -- pollution that disproportionately affects low-income communities of color. Francisca Porchas, an organizer with the Clean Air, Clean Lungs, Clean Buses Campaign, is working to change that. As InterActivist this week, Porchas chats about the city's car culture, her trip to New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, why she hearts the people of Tuvalu, and more. Send her a question of your own by noon PST on Wednesday; we'll publish her answers to selected questions on Friday. new in InterActivist: The Bus Stops Here

Francisca Porchas, clean-bus campaigner, answers questions

Francisca Porchas. What work do you do? I am a lead organizer with the Labor/Community Strategy Center and the Bus Riders Union‘s Clean Air, Clean Lungs, Clean Buses Campaign, based in Los Angeles. How does it relate to the environment? The Strategy Center has engaged in environmental-justice and civil-rights campaigns for the last 17 years, combining grassroots organizing and policy work with a strategy that challenges market-driven social policy. The Strategy Center includes the Wilmington Labor/Community Watchdog that fights corporate polluters in the Los Angeles port area and the Bus Riders Union that takes on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan …

Silly Rabbit, Toxics Aren’t for Kids!

Parents strive to protect kids from everyday chemical hazards There may be no more powerful force for social change in the world than worried parents. And they’re turning their attention to lead in lunchboxes, bisphenol A in plastic, and other eco-nasties in their children’s daily lives, switching to greener-seeming products — like cloth totes and wax-paper wrappers for school lunches — and sharing information. Breeders’ buying power can transform the market: green goods retailer Seventh Generation has seen double-digit growth in sales for the past five years, which the company attributes in part to new parents. Making healthy choices for …

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