Politics

Knock, Knock. Hu’s There.

Oil issue looms as Chinese prez visits White House Buying oil from unsavory regimes, thus ensuring their grip on power. Attempting to lock up oil supplies to increase geopolitical influence. Growing heedlessly and unsustainably, polluting the air and water. These are the kinds of behaviors the world can no longer tolerate from … China. Wait, whaaa? Seriously: During Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the White House today, President Bush was expected to lecture him about oil. You see, the U.S. doesn’t appreciate China’s “mercantilist” policy of buying oil from places like Sudan, Burma, and, most significantly, Iran, with no …

EPA plan would give political officials more say over air-quality standards

Who should decide what level of air pollution is safe — scientists or political appointees? Plume and doom. Photo: iStockphoto. A counterintuitive answer came from top officials at the U.S. EPA last week. Bill Wehrum and George Gray, EPA’s highest-ranking air and science officials, respectively, issued recommendations that some enviros and agency staffers fear could curtail the involvement of scientists and boost the role of political figures in the process of setting national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for six major pollutants. These standards must be updated every five years under the Clean Air Act, and for nearly three decades …

What's at stake in the 2007 Farm Bill

On the art and brutal economics of small-scale farming

Since moving to the North Carolina mountains in 2004 to launch a farm project, I've learned some sobering lessons about idyllic rural life. To wit, small-scale organic farming is an art form -- and as with most artistic endeavors, the hours are long and the pay is crap. How did I wind up penniless and exhausted, sporting a beat-up pair of Carhartts? You'd think I had set up shop as an abstract painter in some squalid, ruinously priced Williamsburg, Brooklyn, garret. (There's much to love about the farming life, too: for example, the volunteer broccoli raab that's sprouting up everywhere in one part of the garden, a triumph of unintentional permaculture. Saute it with a little olive oil, garlic, crushed chile, and vinegar, and you remember why you came to the farm in the first place.) The USDA's Economic Research Service recently released two reports on the state of farm economics. The information contained therein can help greens as they formulate an agenda for the 2007 Farm Bill (which may be even more important than defending biofuel and hybrids from critics.)

Governor, May I Take One Baby Step?

Schwarzenegger calls for slow and steady climate action In line with his recent climate-action plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent by 2020, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) called yesterday for power plants, refineries, and factories to begin … reporting their emissions. Ah, well: baby steps. In a speech, Schwarzenegger advocated a “sensible and deliberate” approach to greenhouse-gas reduction, stopping short of endorsing immediate carbon caps. “We don’t want to go after business and make business leave the state,” he said. “We want to give them time.” The California EPA is currently conducting a study of cap-and-trade systems, …

Rage against the (hybrid) machine

Some California drivers are getting all steamed up that they have to share the carpool lanes with single-occupant hybrids, like the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic, under a new state program. Some of the complaints, of course, should be taken with a grain of salt. Said one fumer in an online discussion group: "These [drivers] barely go 65 mph and allow no one to pass them on the right... Talk about road rage!" Uh, dude, that's not road rage -- that's whining.

A Low Blow

Congressional committee OKs amendment to kill Cape Wind project The Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound may have blown its final … may have been blown … in a gust of … oh, never mind. We’re out of wind puns, and the proposed offshore wind farm is out of steam: If a recent, sneaky effort in Congress succeeds, the project will die once and for all. A congressional conference committee attached an amendment to the Coast Guard budget bill that would give the governor of Massachusetts — Mitt Romney (R), a longtime Cape Wind foe — authority to block the …

Fuel Me Once …

Enviros sue Bush admin over lax fuel-economy rules for light trucks In a new lawsuit, the Center for Biological Diversity has charged the Bush administration with violating the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which requires the feds to regularly update fuel-economy standards to the “maximum feasible level.” With currently available technologies, light trucks could readily achieve 38 miles per gallon by 2015, says CBD, as opposed to the just-updated federal standard of about 24 mpg by 2011. The suit also claims the government failed to account for the air pollution and global-warming impacts of the new standards — instead …

Biggest energy companies in U.S. call for caps on carbon emissions

Tuesday saw a tectonic shift in the climate-change debate during an all-day Senate conference on global-warming policy. A group of high-powered energy and utility executives for the first time issued this directive to Washington: Bring on the carbon caps! The Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard statements from leaders representing eight big energy companies, including General Electric, Shell, and the two largest owners of utilities in the U.S., Exelon and Duke Energy. Six of the eight said they would either welcome or accept mandatory caps on their greenhouse-gas emissions. Wal-Mart too spoke in favor of carbon caps. The two outliers …

Hungry for Justice

Police arrest peaceful Indian anti-dam activist for hunger striking Demonstrations against dams in India’s Narmada Valley yesterday brought the heavy hand of police, who roughed up protestors and arrested India’s most famous environmentalist eight days into a hunger strike on charges of — get this — attempting suicide. Medha Patkar’s fast started when officials began raising the height of the biggest Narmada dam last month. After refusing government exhortations to end her hunger strike, Patkar was forcibly taken to a state hospital, where she’s said to be under heavy guard and receiving a saline drip. For 21 years, Patkar, founder …

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