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Why plowing up Conservation Reserve Program land won’t solve the food crisis

Uh oh. The New York Times reports that "thousands of farmers are taking their fields out of the government's biggest conservation program, which pays them not to cultivate." Rather then let the ground lie fallow, they're planting it with corn, soy, and wheat -- the price of each of which stands near or above all-time highs. "Last fall, they took back as many acres as are in Rhode Island and Delaware combined," The Times reports. And there's serious pressure to bring more out: But a broad coalition of baking, poultry, snack food, ethanol, and livestock groups say bigger harvests are …

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Maryland House committee kills climate bill

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Kari Manlove, fellows assistant at the Center for American Progress. ----- After reporting last week on the climate policy progression carving its way through the Maryland Senate, the same measures were defeated in a Maryland House committee this week. Supposedly, the bill was killed by pressure from industry and labor lobbyists, ironically accompanied by steelworkers draped with "Save Our Jobs" t-shirts. First of all, the United Steelworkers of America Union endorses the Apollo Alliance -- a coalition of labor, business, and environmental groups that collaborate to advocate a clean economy revolution. Additionally, just …

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Global food riots edition

A couple of months ago, I raised the question, can industrial agriculture feed the world? I was being intentionally provocative. For decades, policymakers have treated low-input, diversified agriculture -- "organic" in the sense described by the great British agriculture scholar Sir Albert Howard -- as a kind of hippy indulgence. Sure, it's nice to grow food without poison, but you can't feed the world that way. To feed the globe's teeming masses, you need loads of mined and fossil-fuel synthesized fertilizers, pesticides by the tons, patent-protected genetically modified seeds, heroic irrigation projects, gargantuan, petroleum-fueled "combine" machines, etc. But as I …

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The Dream Reborn: diverse speakers and audience with a common vision

Jennifer Oladipo is a writer from Louisville, Ky., whose recent Orion article "Global Warming is Colorblind" was just reprinted in Utne Reader. She was in Memphis last weekend to see firsthand what the green jobs movement is about. (To read more Grist coverage of the Dream Reborn conference, see Pat Walters' dispatches from day one and day two.) ----- The hopeful skeptic in me was the part most drawn to The Dream Reborn conference hosted by Green For All last weekend in Memphis. So once I arrived, I stuck to what I deemed the practical path, sessions with titles like …

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India’s 4,000 MW coal plant is a bad answer to electricity woes

A few more thoughts on the 4,000 MW coal plant in India recently approved for international aid financing, which David and Joe have noted. I think this deserves attention because it's at the center of the biggest climate question out there: how to meet tens of thousands of megawatt hours of unmet and projected power demand in India and China without huge coal plants like this Tata Mundra "Ultra-Mega" plant. It's not simple. But following the logic for this project involves going down a "There Is No Alternative" rabbit hole. To people in India facing daily brown-outs or a lack …

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Examining the IPCC’s ‘portfolio of technologies’

In 2007, the IPCC wrote [PDF] in its Working Group III summary (page 16): The range of stabilization levels assessed can be achieved by deployment of a portfolio of technologies that are currently available and those that are expected to be commercialised in coming decades. This assumes that appropriate and effective incentives are in place for development, acquisition, deployment and diffusion of technologies, and for addressing related barriers (high agreement, much evidence). This range of levels includes reaching atmospheric concentrations of 445 to 490 ppm CO2-equivalent, or 400 to 450 ppm of CO2. The first sentence does beg the question, …

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Enterprise Rent-a-Car opens six ‘green’ branches in Atlanta

The largest car rental company in the United States, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, announced it's opening six "green" branches in Atlanta, Ga., where 60 percent of the available rental vehicles will be hybrids or other fuel-efficient cars. The agency said the increase in efficient vehicles is due to consumer demand. Enterprise currently has a fleet of about 4,000 hybrids out of a total 1.1 million vehicles nationwide. Rival rental agencies have also touted their own hybrid fleets. Avis said that it currently has about 2,500 hybrids, while Hertz said it aims to offer some 3,500 hybrid vehicles sometime this summer.

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GOOD magazine’s profile on the black green activist

What Grist readers might have predicted over a year ago, when David interviewed Van Jones, is quickly becoming reality. In October, Thomas Friedman, in a gushing editorial, called Jones a "rare bird" who "exudes enough energy to light a few buildings on his own." Now he's appeared on the Colbert Report where, despite the always-awkward position of Stephen's interviewees, he managed to land "green jobs" in the mental dictionary of millions of young viewers. I had the privilege of speaking to Jones last month as he cabbed it from Capitol Hill back to the airport. The profile appears in this …

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The hog giant CAFOizes Poland and Romania to gain access to Western Europe

Farmers in Iowa and North Carolina -- the two states that together house nearly half of U.S. hog production [PDF] -- won't be surprised by this report, from the International Herald Tribune: The American bacon producer, Smithfield Farms, now operates a dozen vast industrial pig farms in Poland. Importing cheap soy feed from South America, which the company feeds intensively to its tens of thousands of pigs, it has caused the price of pork to drop dramatically in the past couple of years. Since E.U. membership, the prices [paid to farmers for] pork and milk have dropped 30 percent. As …

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BP-powered no more

Remember that new environmental blog at The New Republic that was "powered by BP"? Apparently it is no longer thus powered. As gratifying as it is, in a schadenfreudey sort of way, to see that other small media operations can be as dysfunctional as, er, some small media operations I'm familiar with. I'm glad this got settled quickly -- I really do think it will be a blog worth reading. (This post brought to you by Wal-Mart.)