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To those who are blasé about expanding the RFS

Once in place, the RFS will be nigh impossible to eliminate

Several posts during the past week, and countless ones elsewhere, have asked people to support the Energy Bill making its way through Congress. Some people have no problem with one of its major provisions, which calls for substantially expanding the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) -- the regulation that requires minimum amounts of ethanol, biodiesel, or other biofuels to be incorporated into the volume of transport fuels used each year. Indeed, some would even welcome the prospect. Many others do not like the idea, but seem to feel that it is a price worth paying in order to preserve solar investment …

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How I shucked my oyster ambivalence and learned to love the noble bivalve

I've lived in Boston for years, but for some reason, I had never visited nearby Portland, Maine -- until last week, that is. I chose a dramatic occasion for my Portland debut: an Oyster Tasting Night put on by Slow Food Portland. Aw, shucks. Photo: pingpongdeath My previous opinion about the celebrated bivalve was decidedly lukewarm. My lack of oyster enthusiasm once even forced me to consider the specter of parental disownment. Having avoided oysters for years, I ate my first one when I was in Denver in my early 20s. I called my Baltimore-born, oyster-obsessed dad afterward to boast …

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Wild salmon and coral both in trouble, say studies

Infestations of sea lice (ew) in salmon farms off the west coast of Canada are threatening local wild salmon populations -- to the extent that the wild fish could be extinct within four years, says a new study published in Science. While the researchers focused on fish populations off the coast of British Columbia, they believe their findings could be applicable anywhere there's a high density of fish farms where wild salmon also run. But the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans remains unconvinced: "They are asking us to believe 80 percent mortality is from one source," says Brian Riddell …

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Meat Wagon: A roundup of outrages from the meat industry

Cruelty to hogs, and wretched meatpacking conditions

As the Senate debates the farm bill, which contains an entire title that would limit the power of the industrial-meat giants, you might think the industry would be on its best behavior, trying to act mellow while its lobbyists sort things out on the Hill. And yet the industry is currently churning out outrages as if they were sausage: hence "Meat wagon," a new regular feature. Here we go: • The animal-rights group PETA has gotten hold of a video showing systematic cruelty to hogs in a CAFO owned by Smithfield Foods, the world's biggest hog producer and processor. Here's …

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On corn, meat, and the myth of Big Farma

Why we shouldn’t target farmers for our farm bill frustrations

We're very pleased to run this guest essay by Elanor Starmer, an independent activist scholar who lives in California. Elanor recently published an important paper (PDF) on the livestock industry with Tim Wise of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. As the farm bill lurches to its conclusion amid shrill rhetoric about the "farm bloc," Elanor redirects our attention to the real beneficiaries of both federal farm policy and conventional attempts to reform it: the agribusiness giants that control the food system. This essay, first in a series, originally appeared on Ethicurean. ----- In a recent Grist …

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McEducation

Why the Happy Meals-for-good-grades scheme deserves an ‘F’

McDonald's apparently isn't content with strategically locating its franchises near schools across America, operating food outlets within pediatric hospitals, and hosting "McTeacher Night" fundraisers at which teachers work shifts at the counters to raise money for their classrooms. No, that's not enough for the giant multinational "food" service company. Now McDonald's has purchased the right to put a Happy Meal coupon on each of the student's report cards in a Seminole, Fla., school district for less than the price of a small bag of fries. This is depraved. Why is it acceptable to reward our children for successful academic performance …

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Corn ethanol to the max

Bush to ethanol industry: don’t worry, you’re gonna get your fat mandate

The stock market is a glorified casino, and I'm no betting man. Plus I'm broke. But if I were flush and even a bit of a gambler, I'd be buying up shares in ethanol companies and corporations that sell inputs to corn farmers. Why? Because every U.S. politician who matters seems determined to engineer conditions that will make corn-based ethanol production triple over the next several years, reaching what most people consider its maximum of 15 billion gallons. The House and the Senate are divided over the energy bill, but both chambers have signed off on one aspect: a mandate …

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Hillary and Big Meat

HRC taps a CAFO champion as co-chair of Rural Americans for Hillary

"A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure. The reason it is so toxic is Smithfield's efficiency. The company produces 6 billion pounds of packaged pork each year. That's a remarkable achievement, a prolifigacy unimagined only two decades ago, and the only way to do it is to raise pigs in astonishing, unprecedented concentrations." -- Jeff Tietz, "Boss Hog," Rolling Stone, Dec. 14, 2006 Why …

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News flash: Don't drive your SUV to the farmers market

And other revelations from the latest big-media expose of local food

About a year ago, The Economist ran a big article purporting to show that eating locally is actually worse for the environment than typical supermarket fare. I debunked the article here. About six months later, the NYT op-ed page ran a piece making similar arguments. And I responded again. In both of these pieces, the authors discovered that in a built environment rigged to grow food in mass quantities, process it in huge factories, and haul it over vast distances, there are cases in which industrial food that travels 1500 miles uses less energy than organic fare consumed nearby. My …

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How very 19th century

More on feedlots and distillers grains

Last week, I wrote about how feeding cows waste from the ethanol process, known as distillers grains, seems to increase incidence of the deadly pathogen E. coli 0157:H7. I added that -- coincidentally or not -- a recent spike in recalls of E. coli 0157:H7-tainted hamburger meat has coincided with a surge in distillers grains use in cow rations. Over the weekend, I learned that feeding distillers grains to confined cows is hardly a new practice. Reading Nature's Perfect Food: How Milk Became America's Drink, by UC-Santa Cruz sociologist and food-studies scholar E. Melanie Dupuis, I came across this passage: …

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