Nicolette Hahn Niman's op-ed in today's New York Times about the use of manure for electricity reminds me once again that the difference between sustainability and not is often a matter of scale. Niman contrasts the use of manure on traditional farms, where it plays an important role in maintaining soil health, with the manure-disposal problem faced by large livestock operations. Increasingly, manure from these large operations is being used to produce electricity through various processes, something I like to call "poo-powered power plants" (P4). Niman rightly points out the downsides to using manure on this scale for electricity production. But as with many things, you can't say that capturing methane from manure is always bad. It all depends on the size. For example, this January I helped build a biodigestor on a small farm in Costa Rica as part of a class on Renewable Energy in the Developing World organized by Solar Energy International. (For pictures see the bottom of this page.) Once it is fully operational, the manure from Don Sedro's pigs will provide methane for cooking -- replacing the cylinders of propane that cost him $60 per month -- and a liquid that will fertilize his small garden. Is that the sweet smell of sustainability (or just the pigs)?
Mason City, Iowa allows windmills in residential areas, and other good wind news from the Midwest -- read about it here.
The moment we've all been waiting for has arrived. The Roberts Court, with freshly added Justice Alito, will hear two cases this week on the Clean Water Act. The two new justices will have their first chance to grapple with the Constitution's Commerce Clause, upon which much federal environmental law rests, from the highest bench in the land.
Oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico didn't get much attention during the 2005 hurricane season. Thankfully none were so catastrophic as to overtake any of the catastrophes unfolding on land during Katrina and Rita. But as the folks at SKYTRUTH document, there were still plenty of spills. And according to the Minerals Management Service (the part of the Department of the Interior responsible for overseeing production in federal waters), Katrina and Rita were the greatest natural disasters to oil and gas development in the history of the Gulf. Furthermore, the impact hasn't stopped. Due to the oil infrastructure wreckage, three boats have been damaged, including one that led to a massive spill back in November.
Just released: The Center for American Progress' attempt to hold President Bush accountable for his "America is addicted to oil" line. And for those of you thinking about rewriting Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" lyrics, Attytood beat you to it. I of course would have changed the back-up band to sheiks, but funny nonetheless.
The only thing I have to add to Dave's great post is that you really should call your senator. That will have the biggest impact between now and Wednesday. You can find your senators' numbers here. Or if you are finished with the holiday cards and shopping, call them all!
Peak Oil will get its first-ever Congressional hearing tomorrow in the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It kicks off at 9:30 am EST and you can watch it live! Witnesses for those truly interested after the jump.
Newsweek has a short article on Josh Connole, a southern Californian, who was wrongfully arrested by the FBI in connection with the torching of a SUV dealership in 2003. One piece of FBI detective work on Connole and the members of the commune where he lived should concern environmentalists: Agents placed the commune under surveillance and developed a political profile of the residents, discovering the owner of the house and his father "have posted statements on websites opposing the use of fossil fuels," one doc reads. Unfortunately, the FBI's concern about ecoterrorism is not new.
At a press conference this afternoon, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton came up with another creative reason to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling: The oil companies need some place to invest their record profits! (Or so I'm inferring from this E&ENews PM headline "ANWR: Oil industry needs places to invest profits, Norton says." I can't get the full story because I have no subscription.) Why not spend the rest of Friday afternoon thinking of better ways for the oil companies to spend their profits? Leave your bright ideas in comments or send them to Sec. Norton.