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Paying Flip Service

California puts John Muir on its official quarter California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and state first lady Maria Shriver yesterday introduced the new California quarter, bearing the likeness of venerable conservationist John Muir and the once-almost-extinct California condor he did so much to preserve. "Muir lit the torch of conservation in our state," said the governor, whose environmental record, while not perfect, shines in comparison to many of his fellow party members in Washington, D.C., where the torch of conservation is, shall we say, sputtering. Muir, a Scottish transplant, traveled over and wrote extensively about the Western U.S., laying the …

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The Shallow End of the Secretarial Pool

Senate confirms Bodman to head Energy Department Sam Bodman's nomination to serve as energy secretary sailed through the Senate yesterday, despite his having little to no experience working on energy issues. Now he can get to work pushing Bush's big energy bill through Congress, fighting for the opening of the proposed nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., and pressing for oil and gas drilling within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A public fight over the refuge may flare up (again) as soon as next week, as the House Resources Committee is scheduled to vote on Feb. 9 on whether to …

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Crichton Mad

A review of the distorted plot and politics in Michael Crichton’s State of Fear

Michael Crichton,author of State of Fear. Photo: HarperCollins Publishers. Michael Crichton's State of Fear is an attempt to meld serious politico-scientific critique with a modern techno-thriller. It's an ambitious undertaking, but to paraphrase Thomas Edison, success is 1 percent ambition and 99 percent not writing an awful book. Crichton's novel, alas, is unilluminating as a critique and unsatisfying as a thriller. In many books of this ilk, authors work up a certain level of suspense by following several characters' storylines at once, cutting back and forth at each cliffhanging juncture. In State of Fear, however, the reader is shackled throughout …

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Yucca, Who Needs Ya?

Nuclear advocates take back the whole "Yucca is a necessity" thing Nuclear advocates have long insisted that the planned nuclear-waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain is necessary before new nuclear reactors can be built, because on-site storage of waste is just too dangerous. But with Yucca's prospects (at least in the short term) looking dim, and the prospects for new reactors looking bright under the "nuclear is renewable" Bush administration, the industry's in a bit of a bind. Industry reps are starting to suggest that hey, maybe on-site or aboveground storage isn't so bad after all. The nuclear-power industry is …

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Here a Whitman, There a Whitman, Everywhere a Whitman-Whitman

Christie Whitman does the rounds criticizing Republican radicalism Ex-EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman's new book It's My Party Too is out now, and she is having her moment of media ubiquity, bashing what she calls the increasing extremism of the Republican Party. In interviews and appearances on such commie-pinko outlets as NPR's "Fresh Air" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Whitman is revealing some of the details behind her decision to bail on her thankless job in 2003. The final straw, she says, was when it became clear that the White House was going to get behind weakened rules …

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Pretty Pleas

At Davos, Blair pushes U.S. for climate-change action Addressing the annual World Economic Forum powwow in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair had what observers called unusually sharp words for the Bush administration, saying the U.S. should join the global battle against climate change if it seeks global cooperation in its battle against terrorism. "If America wants the rest of the world to be part of the agenda it has set," said Blair, "it must be part of their agenda too." Blair intends to focus his 2005 presidency of the G8 group of industrialized nations on climate change …

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Bush team pushes Clear Skies, but disagreement over CO2 could stymie the bill

Barely a week into the president's second term, the emboldened Bush team -- even whilst juggling plans for a Social Security overhaul and major new expenditures on the Iraq venture -- has signaled that it's bound and determined to pass its Clear Skies Act, the first major amendment to the Clean Air Act since 1990. The administration has kicked off a lobbying blitz in cahoots with GOP leaders in Congress and key industry players to help push the legislation through the Senate in the next few weeks. Clear skies? The bill was reintroduced in the Senate on Monday by James …

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They met on the Prius showroom floor …

Environmentalists were there to lighten their ecological footprint. Neocons were there to lighten the fat Saudi pocketbook, full of petro dollars that fund terrorism. According to Robert Bryce, writing in Slate, the strange bedfellows have come together to advocate measures that would increase car fuel efficiency, lessen foreign oil dependence, and pump up renewables. While Bryce pitches the "sleeping with the enemy" angle, the key point is there are multiple, compelling reasons to aggressively pursue (and for the government to subsidize) energy efficiency, renewables and alternatives to fossil fuels, and reduced dependence on overseas oil. Greens have often worked this …

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Give Peas a Chance

War-torn countries fight to protect genetic variability of crops Scientists and agricultural breeding specialists have developed a system to recover and restore rare but valuable crop varieties that might otherwise be lost forever to the ravages of war and heedless development. Called "smart aid," the strategy involves searching out important genetic varieties -- such as those able to withstand flood or extreme drought -- and revitalizing those stocks to help replenish damaged farmland. "Restoring agriculture is usually the first step in creating economic growth and laying the foundations for durable peace," says Ian Johnson, head of the Consultative Group on …

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The Clear Skies’ the Limit

Lawmakers defend states' rights, introduce Clear Skies competition Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) and George Pataki (R-N.Y.), in a letter to a Senate committee that's convening today to deliberate the Bush administration's Clear Skies bill, emphasized the importance of protecting state environmental enforcement powers. Both California and New York have put in place environmental regulations stricter than federal standards, which some enviros say may be weakened if Clear Skies is approved. Meanwhile, a bipartisan ... no, make that tri-partisan trio of senators -- Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) -- yesterday introduced a competing, more-strict clean-air bill. …

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