Monday, October 19, 2009

Politics Disrupt Change

In Canada two film makers partially backed by the Conservative Fraser Institute exploited a low income family in Indiana. The film makers want the environmental war to be more of an cultural war between the rich elites and the poor working class families of “middle America” like the family in Indiana. Nothing could be further from the truth as we shall see during the next couple of decades. But we must change our coal and oil based economy over to a more environmentally and job friendly economy.

The film makers tactics are similar to those used by the anti-Obama health care plan zealots. “Anything but the facts”, should be these group’s motto. Since the facts don’t support their position these groups are going to rely on fear and anger to divide our nation. Most liberal groups and Obama himself, as demonstrated in his speech to both houses of Congress, unfortunately cannot either rely on facts or arguments against the distortion of the truth. The representative who yelled “You Lie” became a superstar of the fanatic right.

If we really want change we will just have to do it by ourselves without the strong backing of the US Government. The Senators and Representatives won’t give the citizens of this country the appropriate legislation that will rip our country out of the hands of the current energy giants and health care companies. These legislators get paid by the very companies that refuse to change for the betterment of our society. During his last campaign Senator Max Baucas received more than a million dollars in campaign contributions from heath care companies. How can he write fair and appropriate legislation for the upcoming health care plan.

The cap and trade bill is the most important legislation introduced so far that could change the course of our country’s self destructive path. But to imagine it will pass strong and intact is a fantasy. The same Senators who receive campaign contributions from health care companies also get money from the current coal and oil companies that control our energy production. These legislators only care about their jobs which they can maintain by campaign contributions are not loyal to their actual employers: Us!

For the next couple of decades it will be up us to make the right decisions that create real change for our environment and our economy. We cannot wait for the legislators to cut the oil and coal umbilical cord. They are too afraid to venture out into the real world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What else don't we know?

Too many layers of information hiding too many secrets does not benefit us but we still pay for it and seem powerless to change it.

A Bush era email sent by the EPA 2 years ago was just released to the public. For two years only a select group of people were allowed to read it. Did the information contained in this email contain information that could threaten our national security. I don’t think so.

The 2007 EPA document was prepared as part of the Bush administration's response to the Supreme Court's April 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. The office of Vice President Dick Cheney, the Office of Management and Budget, the Transportation Department, Exxon Mobil Corp. and others in the oil industry didn’t like what it said so it was buried. It concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles were endangering public welfare and needed to be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Luckily that information has been know for decades. And we also knew that during the last administration President Bush and Vice President Cheney would do whatever they could to stop any efforts made towards combating global warming so hiding this information didn’t change the course of history.

What if there are other pieces of information we don’t know about that are floating in cyberspace or hidden in some filing cabinet from the last administration or from any other administration that could possibly effect the course our country heads in the future. We have paid for all of this and it directly or indirectly affects our lives so lets see it. What’s with the closed door meeting and the classified documents. Were the Senators in the meetings on health care also discussing national security issues? Or were they discussing which industry or special interest group should benefit the most from treating the sick and injured.

Unfortunately we will never know what actually happened in those meetings even though we paid for the “debates” and the final bill will greatly effect all of our lives. Instead of the networks broadcasting the endless stream of idiotic and demeaning shows filled with slickly produced commercials selling worthless products every evening they could provide some shows with crucially important information that could possibly change our lives for the better.

Entertainment is a needed and soothing relief from the daily grind but is it just another layer of information keeping us from the important truths that will enormously effect our lives now and in the future. How about a sitcom staring Senator X and industry representative Y telling the truth? Now that would be funny and entertaining.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Apple Leaves US Chamber of Commerce

Apple is the fourth major US corporation who has recently left due to differences regarding policies over climate change.  Pacific Gas and Electricity, PNM Resources and Exelon have all left because they agree with Apple.  

Apple "supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the chamber at odds with us in this effort," said Apple vice president Catherine Novelli, on Tuesday.

In response a spokesman for the Chamber said, "The US Chamber of Commerce continues to support strong federal legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change."

And he continues,  "While we'll continue to represent the broad majority of our membership on this goal, we recognize that there are some companies who stand to gain more than others with the current options on the table," said chamber spokesman Eric Wohlschlegel.  

The most meaningful word in that first quote is “international”.  What Mr. Wohlschlegel is really saying is that Apple’s products are manufactured overseas where greenhouse regulations are weak and thus overhead expenses are lower.  So the US should still be able to pollute as much as it wants to in order to be competitive.  An extremely anemic and amoral argument at best.  

The US Chamber of Commerce as a representative of the US should become the world’s role model for corporations in combating global warming. It is our responsibility to lead other nations to uphold strict environmental standards, the US needs to take a long terms approach to this issue. 

It is not entirely true for The US Chamber to say our uncompetitiveness and therefore job loss would occur if the US followed stricter environmental rules.  In the far east where most electronics are manufactured the cost of living is much less than it is here in the US and therefore the wages are much lower.  Whether this is appropriate and whether companies like Apple take advantage of this situation has nothing to due with environmental laws and therefore   for this discussion is misleading. 

Discussing health care relative to the cost of manufacturing would be much more appropriate. Specifically the automotive industry in this country demise was in a large part due to the US’s major competitors based in countries where their heath care is for the most part “socialized”.  Just the mention of socialized health care would cause the US Chamber and its members to scream in utter agony.

Not facing the real truths behind US corporations lack of competitiveness in the world market will only prolong the inevitable, we will lose millions of jobs but not because we follow strict environmental standards.  Our inability to face facts and release old false ideals that for years have been upheld by our falsely supported economic system and ridiculously enormous military industrial complex will actually be our demise.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ganges River Dolphin

The Ganges River Dolphin may not end up becoming extinct like its cousin the Yangtze River Dolphin.  Maybe humanity has learned a valuable lesson, time will tell.  The Yangtze River dolphin became extinct in 2007 due to agricultural and industrial poisons being dumped into the river. This dolphin earned the distinction of becoming the first aquatic mammal in 50 years to disappear from our planet, let hope the Ganges Dolphin is not the second. 

The Ganges dolphin, a cousin to the more well know saltwater bottle nose species, has a long thin snout, tubby belly and oversized fins. It is almost blind but has excellent sonar and can leap out of the water if in a joyful mood, something not seen lately.   

According to Conservationists at the World Wildlife Fund about 2,000 dolphins have been killed in India due to untreated sewage dumped into the river and being drown in fishing nets.  Near where the dolphins swim the Ganges contains 60,000 fecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters which is 120 times greater than the safe bathing limit and astronomically beyond the safe drinking water limit.  The dolphins have not volunteered for the job and are really not being paid much attention to as the canary in the coal mine. This would partially explain why 1,000 children die each day of diarrhea sickness in India. 

In one town on the river a change has been made with wonderful results.  The river is now cleaner next to Raja Karna.  Instead of poisonous chemical fertilizers the farmers are using home made organic compost. They also built a small but successful sewage treatment plant. So due to these simple and easy changes the population of the Ganges River dolphin has more than doubled from 20 to 55.  A miracle, no, just simple common sense and a willingness to take a small step and think out of the box.  

If the rest of the citizens in towns along the Ganges River could emulate the behavior of the farmers in Raja Karna then possibly a unique and as like all organic matter on this planet including humans, irreplaceable species could live for many more generations. No more extinctions.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Real Cost of Going Green

The next extremely important step towards significantly reducing global warming and its effects will soon take place on the floor of the US Senate.  They will debate and then vote on the cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act.  The House passed the bill late spring and now the senators, some of who still think that global warming is a hoax, will engage in a very contentious debate. 

Unfortunately we had to witness and listen to this summer’s health care embarrassing circus like “debate” performed on the Senate Floor, in town hall meetings and blasted on talk radio.  The President’s speech to both houses of Congress finally cooled off some of the nonfactual hate filled possibly racist rhetoric spewed continually in all possible venues.  For the debate on “greening of America” the confused will switch their fear laden protests of governmental takeover and death panels to horrific job loss and economic collapse.

Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck will lead the hysteria despite having lost their war supporting the monopolistic medically ignorant grossly unfair health insurance companies. (Unfortunately I have first hand knowledge of this since my daughter is autistic; would be easier to get paid care if she had  self induced heart problems due to poor eating habits than her externally caused or genetically based neurological disorder.)  

The real facts:  We have a “energy efficiency gap”, the amount of our consumption of fossil fuels does not increase our standard of living.  Some of us see the earth as a giant smorgasbord,  leaving half our uneaten food, energy, on our plate and then throwing it in the landfill.  We need to conserve more which automatically saves us more money.  The Congressional Budget office said this bill will only cost the average family $160 per year in 2020, $.44 per day.  Limbaugh and Beck keep citing a study that put the cost at $1767 per year.  But no amount of searching on the internet can produce that study but it doesn’t exist.  There is not going to be any world and/or US economic collapse, the facts just don’t support that catastrophic kind of thinking. 

When the economic argument proves fruitless the talk will most likely regress to the loss of personal freedom fears heard during the health care debate. I read a comment where one person thought he would be forced to drive a Prius and live in a tiny New York Style apartment, live like the Europeans.  Aside from the fact that if everyone who owns a car did drive one that maintained at least 45 mpg the environmental crisis level would be much lower no one is going to loose their choices of how they want to live.  The environmental costs will just directly be translated into the appropriate and fair economic costs.  Massive fossil fuel producers won’t continue to avoid paying for the environmental damage and for related health care costs due to pollution and pass it on to the consumer.  We will actually obtain more personal freedom from spending our money to better our lives and not the lives of the Board of Directors of XYZ oil company.

If the Waxman-Markey Act does not pass or if the Senate dilutes the final law we will all lose.  No one can hide from air and water pollution or the effects of global warming no matter how high their fence is or how far from the city you live.  We will all suffer. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Subsidies for Oil & Other Fossil Fuels

President Obama and all of the G20 nations including Russia, India and China agreed to phase out subsidies for oil and other fossil fuel producers. By 2020 the world’s largest and most profitable companies will no longer receive tax payer dollars to help them stay in the black. 11 more years of almost $300 billion per year split among them will no longer be available. $3.3 trillion is all they will get and not a cent more. The American Petroleum Institute is not happy about this and frankly either am I. "The Obama administration and Congress now face many difficult choices if they choose to comply with the G20 commitment to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies," the API said. Yes, the US and the other G20 countries have very difficult choices to make. They will now have to figure out how to spent $300 billion per year in possibly more appropriate places instead of giving it to super profitable companies. Companies who now easily keep us addicted to their environmentally damaging products because of the low prices available due to the subsidies. This situation is analogous to the tobacco companies complaining about cancer warnings they must put on their products. These industries can’t just make money, they need to have their cake and force everyone else to make it for them. “Eliminating such subsidies by 2020 would reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming by 10 percent by 2050,” leaders said, citing data from the International Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. As I mentioned above I am also not happy about this, but obviously not for the same reasons. 10% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is not enough. Somehow these vultures need to be forced to pay all of us back and do it without further economic and environmental damage. During the summer of 2008 when gas prices approached $5 per gallon the CEO of one of the largest Oil and Gas Companies said, “No one is being forced to buy our product”. He forgot to add that when we do purchase his product that we are being forced to pay them double, once at the pump and again when we pay our taxes. After decades of past administrations and congress giving in to these thieves President Obama and the current G20 finally have the fortitude to say no more even though subsidies should have never begun. So I say to the American Petroleum Industry and it’s fellow band of immoral greedy inscrutable miscreants complaining about the phasing out of subsidies, “this is only the beginning of your end”.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Senate Allows EPA to Buy Polluted Town

We, the US taxpayers, have just bought Treece, KS in the southeast corner of Cherokee County.  It cost around 3 million dollars.  Around 100 people still live there so each of them will get around $30,000.  If each person in the US actually had to pay their fair share right now it would cost each of us about 1 cent.  Since there wouldn’t be enough room for all 300 million of us to live there and since the town is too polluted for anyone to live in we don’t actually have to move.  Lucky us.  

No so lucky for them. Most of them have lead poisoning.  Lots of people in that part of Kansas probably also have lead poisoning.  The vast majority of the lead and zinc mines closed over 30 years ago but the mess they left is still there. In 1983 the area was declared a superfund site.  

115 square miles containing enormous piles of what looks like gravel, except its not.  Its called Chat, mountainous piles of dirt filled with lead, zinc and cadmium particles.  These heavy metals become air born and land in school yards and backyards where kids play.  Kids get the toxic metals on their clothing and hands and it works it way into their bodies: lead poisoning.  

To date about $90 million has been spent to clean up the mess left by the mining companies.  The mining companies that haven’t disappeared and/or closed down and/or are hiding were forced to pay for about 10% of the cost.  It will take another 15 years and $70 million to finish the clean up.  So in total it will take almost 40 years and approximately $160 million dollars to make Cherokee County “safe’ to live in again.  Who would actually want to live there?  No me and I am guessing, but probably not you. 

Please join me in raising our glasses of NON-plastic bottled water in a hopeful toast that our current plan for reducing the causes of and the effects of global warming does not mimic the previous plan used to clean up superfund sites. Because if it does we can kiss our planet goodbye.