Politics

A handy comeback

Use this one to win every argument

Today’s Wicked Awesome Comeback comes from Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. Doesn’t matter whom he said it to, or why (OK, it was to Big Auto because they’re raising a stink about fuel efficiency) — it’s applicable in all kinds of situations: “I think your position is yesterday forever.”

Really short book review: Monbiot's <em>Heat</em>

Skip it

You can skip George Monbiot's book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. Slightly longer book review: Because there are far too many climate books to read, I confess I apply a litmus test. I look up "hydrogen" in the index. If the writer thinks it's a climate solution, the book can be skipped. I thought I would like this book, since I like many of the columns by the British author, including an early excerpt on the connection of the global warming deniers to big tobacco. But on page 162, he writes, "hydrogen fuel cells are beginning to look like a feasible technology for motor transport, if not on the time scale the producers predict." No. Not even close. They are looking less feasible these days. They are a post-2050 climate solution at best. And Monbiot is a man in a hurry -- he believes the only hope for mankind is "for rich nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 90 per cent by 2030." Heck, it would require three major breakthroughs -- in fuel cells, storage, and renewable hydrogen -- just for hydrogen cars to be 1% of the cars on the road by 2030 -- and they would still be a lousy way to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Ecuador to world: Help us, and we won't drill in the rainforest

Ultimatum to the rest of the world

In response to intense pressure from indigenous and environmental organizations opposed to drilling for oil in an Amazon rainforest, this May Ecuador asked the world for financial help, according to the Environmental News Service. The oil fields under Yasuni National Park are estimated to contain 900 million to 1 billion barrels of oil, about one-quarter of Ecuador's total reserves. In about a year, international oil companies will be allowed to bid for the right to drill. To avoid this fate, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is asking the international community for about $350 million a year.

Flaws in the Boucher bill

It would pre-empt state fuel efficiency laws

An energy bill is emerging from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but it has some "unacceptable" provisions, according to leading energy and environmental experts. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, has a draft bill online, along with summaries of key provisions. The bill has a variety of important provisions aimed at promoting energy efficiency in electricity and vehicles -- and some useful provisions to promote low carbon fuels. But it has at least two serious flaws. First, it helps subsidize coal to liquids, which is an irredeemably bad idea, as I have argued repeatedly (here and here). Yes, the bill would require carbon capture and storage, but even so, the process still generates high-carbon diesel fuel. Also, such storage would take up the space in underground geologic repositories that could otherwise be used for storing carbon dioxide from future coal plants, which results in carbon-free electricity -- vastly superior to high-carbon diesel fuel. Second, the bill would "prevent California and other states from taking independent action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions," as noted by Environment & Energy Daily (sub. req'd -- article reprinted below). In an email, David Hawkins, director of NRDC's Climate Center, called this provision "absolutely unacceptable." Others who question this provision can be found in today's E&E Daily:

Spitting out the Kool-Aid

Condi Rice goes out on limbs

First she rides in an electric car, now she says disagreeing with your government is not unpatriotic? Condi better watch her back.

One Step Backward, Two Steps Back

U.S. government continues to turn a blind eye to climate change Happy World Environment Day! Let’s celebrate this auspicious holiday by taking a look at the latest climate news from the U.S. government. First, a draft energy bill circulating among the House Energy and Commerce Committee contains a provision that would bar the U.S. EPA from allowing states to adopt strict vehicle emissions rules aimed at lowering greenhouse gases. Did you stay with us on that one? Basically, says Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the wording would “pre-empt the rights of states to set strong standards to save energy and reduce …

Sen. Sanders' energy legislation

On the cutting edge

The Burlington Free Press has a story on some energy legislation Sen. Bernie Sanders is about to introduce: Sanders' proposed energy grants could be used by Vermont towns and counties to update building codes to require construction of energy-efficient homes and businesses, retrofit old buildings with newer technology, experiment with alternative energy, create incentives for residents to car pool or ride the bus, and organize voluntary efforts to encourage people to save energy by turning down their thermostats or replacing traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting. The Senate also will vote on a Sanders amendment that would create a program to train workers to install solar panels, retrofit older homes and offices, and perform energy audits to educate people about how to save money. The article also contains the bizarre reasoning of the folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank, about how Sanders' legislation will destroy the economy. On Thom Hartmann's Friday (June 1st) podcast, Sanders made the following remarks:

My god

How many times will this exact … same … story get written?

Democracy, food, and the Farm Bill

Threatening local control in our food system

When the Democrats took control of Congress, a colleague of mine looked at me with a sigh of relief and said, "Isn't it great that we won't have to be playing defense against bad policy anymore?" If only that first impression were the case. In a democracy, we shouldn't have to be constantly vigilant for bad legislative ideas that could hurt the public good. Our legislators are supposed to be the filter that guards against schemes that would strip rights and take choices away from people. Unfortunately, it seems to be the same politics, with the same money trails. JMG's post yesterday touches on a topic I have been thinking a lot about, and I want to address it in more detail. On the House Agriculture Committee website, summaries of all of the parts of the legislation being offered are posted. Under the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry there is a Title I Section-by-Section analysis. Section 123 is particularly problematic: SEC. 123. EFFECT OF USDA INSPECTION AND DETERMINATION OF NON-REGULATED STATUS. * Prevents a State or locality from prohibiting an article the Secretary of Agriculture has inspected and passed, or an article the Secretary has determined to be of nonregulated status. What does this mean? Also known as "preemption language," this broad statement basically says that if the USDA says something is safe, a state or local government is not allowed to regulate it. For example, there have been a number of counties around the country that have banned genetically modified organisms from being produced within their borders. This preemption-style language, if it's passed in the Farm Bill, would void those local laws.

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