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Articles by Jon Rynn

Jon Rynn is the author of Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The Power to Rebuild the Middle Class, from Praeger Press. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science and lives with his wonderful wife and amazing two boys, car-less, in New York City.

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  • Enemies of the human race

    Last week, I put up a post explaining that BP will be increasing their dumping of toxic waste into the Great Lakes.

    Congress overwhelmingly approved a resolution condemning BP's dumping -- a resolution sponsored by Rahm Emanuel, a powerful Democratic Congressman.

    Now, thanks to some fine investigative reporting by the Chicago Tribune, we find out that BP has been dumping mercury as well, and will continue to do so:

    Federal records analyzed by the Tribune show BP puts 2 pounds of mercury into the lake every year from its sprawling plant 3 miles southeast of Chicago in Whiting, Ind. That amount is small compared with the mercury that falls into the water from air pollution, but mercury builds up in the environment and is so toxic that even tiny drops can threaten fish and people.

    A little-noticed exemption in BP's controversial new state water permit gives the oil company until 2012 to meet strict federal limits on mercury discharges.

  • Walkable town centers are hip

    In "Center points: Urban lifestyle gains foothold in growing list of suburbs," a Chicago Tribune journalist describes the beginnings of a new phenomenon that could have a bigger impact than better CAFE standards, carbon taxes, or cap-and-trade of emissions, in my humble opinion: walkable town centers.

    If people could actually walk from their residence to a store, train station, or even work, perhaps the constant rise in miles driven in automobiles would start to come down:

    At opposite ends of the generational spectrum, Baby Boomers and buyers in their 20s are getting credit for supporting the emergence of suburban centers where people live close to restaurants, stores, theaters and even boutique hotels and spas. The key is to find housing that is an integral part of a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.

  • It’s easy being not green

    Lake Michigan
    Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Michigan.

    In an effort to keep expanding the flow of oil, companies such as BP have been trying to extract oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, which is like trying to drink coffee after you've dumped it into sand. The process is so energy-intensive that there is talk of putting the world's largest nuclear power plant on top of the tar sands in order to heat them up enough to use them, and lakes of toxic water have been created there.

    And where will that goop go to get processed? BP has decided that it would like to process much of it on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, at its huge refinery, and they have been given a waiver by Indiana and the U.S. EPA to expand their pollution dumping, according to the Chicago Tribune:

    The massive BP oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., is planning to dump significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan, running counter to years of efforts to clean up the Great Lakes.

    Indiana regulators exempted BP from state environmental laws to clear the way for a $3.8 billion expansion that will allow the company to refine heavier Canadian crude oil. They justified the move in part by noting the project will create 80 new jobs.

    Under BP's new state water permit, the refinery -- already one of the largest polluters along the Great Lakes -- can release 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge into Lake Michigan each day. Ammonia promotes algae blooms that can kill fish, while sludge is full of concentrated heavy metals.

  • Unsustainability in the water

    Poor African countries have been selling their fishing rights to richer countries for years, and now they can neither catch enough fish for their populations nor protect their fisheries from collapsing. In today's Wall Street Journal (behind a subscriber wall), the grim state of affairs is laid out:

    Wealthy countries subsidize their commercial fishermen to the tune of about $30 billion a year. Their goal is to keep their fishermen on the water. China, for example, provides $2 billion a year in fuel subsidies; the European Union and its member nations provide more than $7 billion of subsidies a year. Such policies boost the number of working boats, increase the global catch, and drive down fish prices. That makes it more difficult for fishermen in poor nations like Mauritania, who get no subsidies, to compete.

    The end result: African waters are losing fish stock rapidly, with ramifications both to the economies of Africa's coastal nations and to the world's ocean ecology. Over the past three decades, the amount of fish in West African waters has declined by up to 50 percent, according to Daniel Pauly, a researcher at the University of British Columbia.