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We Came, We Saw, We Concord

New Hampshire latest state to reduce mercury emissions New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch is joining the ranks of state leaders taking mercury matters into their own hands. Yesterday, Lynch signed into law a bill that …

What’s Mine Is Mine

Bolivia threatens to nationalize its mining industry Following up on last week’s nationalization of its natural-gas industry, Bolivia (that’s in South America, in case you don’t remember seventh grade) now intends to exert greater state …

Fritjof Capra: Still around

When I was in college, Fritjof Capra's Tao of Physics blew my young gourd. It and a few related books -- for some reason I always think of Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! Trilogy -- shaped my thinking in ways that persist today. I wouldn't have known then to call it ecological thinking. In those days it was more of a quasi-hippie, psychotropic, see-molecules kind of thing, but the basic principles -- interconnection, self-organizing systems -- are straightforwardly drawn from nature. It turns out much to my delight that Capra is still around, lively as ever, teaching university, and doing a couple of interviews with Transition Culture on localization, biomimesis, and eco-literacy. It's like Christmas came early! Here's a sample:

Make Salmon Happy, Make Just One Salmon Happy

Columbia River salmon finally running, but counts are low Three weeks later than normal, Columbia River salmon are finally running. Well, swimming. Whatever. The fish left the Pacific Ocean at their usual time to enter …

Leaked IPCC draft

Last month, when U.S. officials leaked a copy of the preliminary draft of the fourth IPCC report, rumor had it that it was done to blunt the impact of the final report. Rick Piltz says otherwise.

Cogeneration and power recycling

A huge source of clean power that’s been neglected

I just got done reading some extremely eye-opening stuff on cogeneration and power recycling. Wait, wait, keep reading! I promise it's more interesting than it sounds. Most of all, it's another example of a great, low-cost, low-impact way to address the energy/climate crisis that doesn't get nearly the hype it deserves (perhaps because it's not backed by an industry that can afford to buy high-profile supporters). The paper I read is from an unpublished book chapter, so I won't quote directly. And I won't get into the technical weeds, since I'm likely to botch something. Instead let me just convey some of the high-level take-home points:

Coconuts: Good for more than just tropical drinks and bras

As fuel prices soar, the smaller and more remote the land mass, the bigger the crisis. But Pacific Islanders may have found their solution: coconuts. An article in Reuters today details efforts to make biofuel out of coconut oil. It began when the Professor developed an idea for a bamboo boat motor, but the Skipper said they lost all their fuel when the Minnow ran aground. Gilligan suggested, "I have an idea. If we have phones made of coconuts, and a space shuttle made out of coconuts, and small tactical explosives made from coconuts, then why can't we have biofuel made from coconuts?" Then the Skipper hit Gilligan with his hat, which looks like a hostile act but is really a sign of affection. The new discovery may also be an industry incentive, bringing much-needed revenue to rural-island populations, whose coconut supplies until now have been used to meet the massive demand for carved souvenir monkey heads with wire-rimmed glasses.

Gore and environmentalists

Ah, just as I expected. The Gore interview is kicking up quite a bit of feedback. And much of it is some variant of the following: "If Gore cares so much about global warming, why didn't he do anything about it when he was in the White House for eight years?" So, let's talk about it. Lots and lots of hardcore enviros I know loathe Gore. They think he talked a good game on the campaign trail and then totally abandoned them when he got to power. There's lots and lots of pent-up anger toward him. Another line of thought goes like this: Two years after they got to the White House, Clinton/Gore got stuck with a Republican congress that made it a mission to block everything they tried. In this they were aided and abetted by big industries, notably Detroit. On top of that was an endless succession of trumped-up pseudo-scandals. They had to retrench and triangulate to survive. And their consultants and strategists told them that environmental issues opened them up to charges of lefty wackiness, and wouldn't have any strong public support. So they did what they could given the circumstances. To be honest, I don't have a great grasp of the history. My inclination is to think that progressives in general and enviros in particular often have politically unrealistic expectations -- an insufficient appreciation for the real constraints that politicians work under. This leads them to constantly valorize up-and-comers and then demonize the same folks once they get some power. A little realism would help. But like I said, I don't have the historical details at hand. So let's throw the floor open. What do y'all think?

The 'Exxon of Corn' taps an oil exec as CEO

Archer-Daniels Midland’s stock soars on ethanol, biodiesel hype

Earlier this year, after Archer Daniels Midland reported surging profit for the fourth quarter of 2005 -- largely driven by its ethanol unit -- I dubbed the company the Exxon of Corn. As if to prove my thesis, the grain-processing giant tapped an oil exec as its new CEO last week. And, like any respectable would-be oil company, it also reported another quarter of robust profit growth. The ascension to CEO of Patricia Woertz, most recently executive vice president at Chevron, marks the end of a four-decade run at ADM's top by the Andreas family. That venerable clan, whose chicanery runs from a key role in the Watergate scandal to a price-fixing scheme in the 1990s, built ADM into one of the U.S.'s most politically connected corporations. Congressional beneficiaries of ADM's campaign generosity likely need not fear; G. Allen Andreas, who has served as CEO since 1997 (when his uncle and predecessor was convicted of fixing the price of lysine, a corn product used in animal feed), will stay on as chairman of the board of directors. In a country run by oil execs, why shouldn't the largest food-processing firm also be run by oil execs? The move eloquently signals ADM's intention to continue its rush into the auto-fuel market. The company has made billions over the years extracting the Midwest's soil fertility and transforming it into crappy food products like high-fructose corn syrup, buoyed by government commodity policy and the sugar quota. Now it intends to do the same in service of the internal-combustion engine.

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