B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘environment’ tag

Reading Around on February 3rd through February 6th

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A few interesting links collected February 3rd through February 6th:

  • Flash Crash! – If you are reading this from a browser using Adobe’s Flash Player plug-in (i.e., if you see a blue rectangle below), it will probably crash within the next few seconds. 🙁
  • If Global Warming Is Real Then Why Is It Cold – editorial cartoonists are not scientists, in other words
  • Spirits: Long-lost Gin Buck gets most bang from ginger beer – The gin buck? Three ingredients, no matter the variation. You can try the “modern” version: gin, lemon juice and ginger ale, which gives the drink a mellow lemon-lime flavor. Or, substitute the lemon with a half-lime squeeze, rimming the glass with the pulp to make it extra tart. Either way, it’s fizzier than a gin gimlet, and sweeter that a straight gin and tonic.

    But to really do it right, you’ll want to go retro and spice it up with ginger beer, which, unlike today’s ginger ale, actually tastes of ginger. That’s how they made it in the old days: gin, authentic ginger ale (that actually tasted like ginger, so to get that flavor today, we’d use ginger beer) and lime juice, over ice cubes. The ginger and juniper flavors interact intensely.

    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08220/902258-389.stm#ixzz0eXG3Ki1I

Written by swanksalot

February 6th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Gale Norton Lurves the Environment

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In fact, the former Secretary of the Interior loves nature so much, she joined up with Royal Dutch Shell. A cynic might ask what Ms. Norton did for Shell while serving as Secretary from 2001-2006, but a realist could readily answer: anything Shell wanted. I mean, any thing. Ms. Norton apparently learned a lot by being an assistant to Regan era Interior Department under James Watt.

Ex-Interior Secretary Norton Is Hired as Counsel for Shell – WSJ.com

Royal Dutch Shell PLC said it hired former U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton to serve as a counsel for the Anglo-Dutch oil company.

The move comes amid rising scrutiny in Washington of the department’s dealings with the oil industry.

The hiring of Ms. Norton comes at a tough time for her former agency. With the Democratic takeover of Congress, leading lawmakers have signaled they will closely scrutinize the Interior Department’s policies for collecting oil-and-gas royalties from public lands.

The Minerals Management Service has come under particular criticism after agency omissions excused the oil industry from paying royalties on Gulf of Mexico leases from 1998 and 1999. A Government Accountability Office report said the omission by the MMS cost taxpayers $10 billion.

Shell, historically one of the biggest industry players in the Gulf of Mexico, was one of five oil companies that reached an agreement with the MMS Dec. 14 to pay royalties on the 1998 and 1999 leases.

She does have prior experience screwing the environment…

Before being named Interior Secretary in 2001, Norton was senior counsel at Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, P.C., a Denver-based law firm. The firm was listed with the U.S. Congress as a lobbyist for NL Industries, formerly known as National Lead Company.

also, at the occasion of her stepping down to spend more time with Jack Abramoff’s family of criminals, the Sierra Club issued this press release:

As Interior Secretary, Gale Norton was an unpopular symbol of unpopular policies. Americans do not believe their public lands should be sold to the highest bidder, and they don’t believe in privatizing their parks, forests, monuments. While the symbol of those unpopular policies may be leaving, we don’t expect those unpopular policies to change.

Unless the Bush administration reverses direction, her replacement will merely be a different fox guarding the hen house. Considering that the administration is currently lobbying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and our coasts to destructive drilling, it’s hard to imagine that the next Interior Secretary will be allowed to promote smart energy solutions that protect sensitive lands, waters and wildlife habitat.

“Having previously represented oil, mining, and timber companies in her private life, Norton consistently gave those gave those interests special treatment while pulling agencies she oversaw away from their role as stewards of the land. Her policies were opposed by ranchers, hunters, anglers and other conservationists and the faith community.

”Thankfully, significant pieces of her agenda were blocked by Congress, courts, and by public outrage. For example her attempts to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling were repeatedly rejected by Congress and the American people.

and don’t forget:

an example of a nonbribe for which the Honorable Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, will not spend one hour in jail. The Chicago Tribune reported this week that on June 3, 2003, Hastert held a fundraising event at Signatures restaurant, the deluxe Washington watering hole that Jack Abramoff appears to have run at a loss to corrupt federal officials.

At Hastert’s bash, Abramoff, who picked up the cost of the affair, also donated $20,000. One week later the Honorable Hastert sent Interior Secretary Gale Norton a letter asking her to go along with one of Abramoff’s Indian casino gambling schemes. Money changed hands, favors were done. But this is not a bribe, this is legal, this is OK. This stinks, and there is no law against it.

Robert Kennedy Jr. writes:

In October 2001 Interior Secretary Gale Norton, responding to a Senate committee inquiry on the effects of oil drilling on caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, falsely claimed that the caribou would not be affected, because they calve outside the area targeted for drilling. She later explained that she somehow substituted “outside” for “inside.” She also substituted findings from a study financed by an oil company for some of the ones that the Fish and Wildlife Service had prepared for her.

In another case, according to the Wall Street Journal, Norton and White House political adviser Karl Rove pressed for changes that would allow diversion of substantial amounts of water from the Klamath River to benefit local supporters and agribusiness contributors. Some 34,000 endangered salmon were killed after National Marine Fisheries scientists altered their findings on the amount of water the salmon required. Environmentalists describe it as the largest fish kill in the history of the West.

Mike Kelly, the fisheries biologist on the Klamath who drafted the biological opinion, told me that under the current plan coho salmon are probably headed for extinction. According to Kelly, “The morale is very low among scientists here. We are under pressure to get the right results. This Administration is putting the species at risk for political gain. And not just in the Klamath.”

Roger Kennedy, former director of the National Park Service, told me that the alteration and deletion of scientific information is now standard procedure at Interior. “It’s hard to decide what is more demoralizing about the Administration’s politicization of the scientific process,” he said, “its disdain for professional scientists working for our government or its willingness to deceive the American public.”

I could go on, but you get the general idea. Too bad the modern Republican party doesn’t believe in conservative values anymore, you know, like conservation of our planet.

OK, one more tidbit, from Eyal Press:

At the heart of the controversy lies a drilling method known as coal-bed methane extraction, a technique pioneered in the late 1980s that enables companies to suck natural gas out of the coal seams that lie buried beneath the San Juan Basin and other formations. Beginning under the Clinton Administration, the federal government pushed to expand production of this comparatively clean-burning fossil fuel, although Clinton also protected millions of acres of public land from drilling. The Bush Administration, by contrast, has called for removing all “restrictions and impediments” on domestic development, code language for opening dozens of pristine natural habitats to unfettered leasing.

…But the Blancetts, like many Western ranchers, are not taking the Bush Administration’s policies lying down. Earlier this year, after the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a Resource Management Plan authorizing the creation of nearly 10,000 new oil and gas wells on public land in the San Juan Basin–where an estimated 19,000 producing wells already exist–Tweeti filed suit against Gale Norton and the Interior Department, accusing the government of failing to balance resource extraction with conservation, recreation and other uses of federal land. Among the other plaintiffs in the suit are the Natural Resources Defense Council, several Navajo Indian chapters–who say they were never consulted about the drilling plans–and the San Juan Citizens Alliance, a watchdog group based in nearby Durango, Colorado.

None of the plaintiffs claim that extracting coal-bed methane gas, which is used to heat millions of American homes each year, is an inappropriate use of public land. But under federal law, they note, the BLM is supposed to balance this objective with the interests of other users (hunters, ranchers) and insure that drilling is done in a way that does not wreak havoc on a precious public resource of value to all. “The federal lands that we have in the West are all of our heritage, all of our legacy,” says Tweeti Blancett, a feisty woman who has turned this issue into a personal crusade, and who is convinced the entire Rocky Mountain West will soon look like her ranch if landowners don’t fight back. “What’s happened here will happen throughout the American West if we don’t get the public to understand the issues.”

Coming from, say, a member of the Sierra Club, such a statement might not be terribly surprising–and would likely be ignored by Republicans, who long ago conceded the vote of avid environmentalists to Democrats. But Tweeti is no card-carrying Green. Four years ago, she not only voted for George W. Bush but served as the co-chair of his campaign in San Juan County, an area of New Mexico that is heavily Republican and crucial to the President’s hopes of winning this hotly contested swing state in November.

These days, she says, members of the Bush Administration don’t even return her calls. “What I didn’t factor in is the dollar sign, the billions,” she concludes. “They were not going to listen to me over the largest industry on the face of the earth and the billions of dollars they generate.”

Written by Seth Anderson

December 28th, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Marketers Still Prefer a Garbage Trail

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Despite opting out of nearly every catalog I could think of1, we still receive mounds and mounds of paper trash from various retailers. Garbage cans full every week, most of which gets2 recycled, at least in our household. A shame, because so much energy is wasted attempting to stimulate sales of crap we don’t even need or want.

Rings of fire

Jeffrey Ball writes:

[The paper and catalog industry] is the third-largest energy user within the U.S. manufacturing sector, trailing the energy and chemicals industries, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. Making paper accounted for 2.4% of U.S. energy use in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Little data exist on how much energy is used specifically to make catalogs. A 1999 report by the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group that sought to highlight catalogs’ impact, said they consumed more energy in one year than one million homes.

[Click to continue reading Marketers Still Prefer a Paper Trail – WSJ.com]

The damn things are not even very effective at stimulating sales:

only 1.3% of those catalogs generated a sale, the survey found. The average U.S. catalog retailer reported mailing about 21 million catalogs in 2007, sending out a new edition every 26 days

and for no good reason, the catalog paper is not even recycled paper, by and large, meaning virgin lumber is sacrificed for 98.7% of the virgin lumber to end up in a trash can, unopened, unread, unwanted.

The paper typically used in catalogs contains about 10% recycled content, according to industry consultant RISI. That is far less than paper in general, which typically contains about 30% recycled content. For newspapers, a bigger paper user than catalogs, the amount of recycled content is roughly 40%.

Bent Towards Golden Shade Light

Pretty sad statistics.

Catalog Choice wants to update the mindset of catalog retailers, but the industry is reluctant to change long-established practices:

Chuck Teller, executive director of Catalog Choice, is working on an idea that could wean catalog retailers away from paper-based marketing without hurting their businesses. His “iCatalog” aims to adapt the accessibility of a paper catalog to the digital realm. Using an online widget that consumers can install on a personal Web page or social-networking site, Catalog Choice continually updates and customizes retailers’ product selections.

Still, so far there are widgets available for only a few dozen titles. The National Directory of Catalogs, meanwhile, lists 12,524 catalogs, the vast majority of which include a paper version. That directory runs to 1,266 pages.

Occasion All Our Own

Footnotes:
  1. using Catalog Choice, as blogged about here []
  2. allegedly []

Written by Seth Anderson

October 16th, 2009 at 8:50 am

Apple Resigns From Chamber Over Climate Lies

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Am surprised that Apple, Inc. was even part of this neo-conservative organization, but kudos for publicly leaving eventually. Exelon set a good example I guess.

Red Monks in the Green Grass

Apple has become the latest company to resign from the United States Chamber of Commerce over climate policy.

“We strongly object to the chamber’s recent comments opposing the E.P.A.’s effort to limit greenhouse gases,” wrote Catherine A. Novelli, the vice president of worldwide government affairs at Apple, in a letter dated today and addressed to Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive of the chamber. Click here to read the letter.

“Apple supports regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and it is frustrating to find the chamber at odds with us in this effort,” Ms. Novelli continued.

Apple’s resignation was effective immediately, the letter said.

[Click to continue reading Apple Resigns From Chamber Over Climate – Green Inc. Blog – NYTimes.com]

Now, if only the Congress would follow this example, and pass meaningful climate policy legislation!

From SourceWatch:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a powerful business lobbying group in the United States, “used to be a trade association that advocated in a bipartisan manner for narrowly tailored policies to benefit its members. Since 1997 or so, it has become a fully functional part of the partisan Republican machine,” with CEO and president Thomas J. Donohue “raising its budget to $150M a year from corporate chiefs satisfied with his ability to move policy through a Republican Congress,” Matt Stoller wrote December 13, 2006, at MyDD.

The Chamber claims on its website that its mission is to “advance human progress through an economic, political and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, initiative, opportunity, and responsibility.”[2] It describes itself as “the world’s largest business federation representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.”[3]

However, the Chamber is “dominated by oil companies, pharmaceutical giants, automakers and other polluting industries,” according to James Carter, executive director of the Green Chamber of Commerce.[4]

[Click to continue reading U.S. Chamber of Commerce – SourceWatch]

Written by Seth Anderson

October 5th, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Reading Around on September 30th

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Some additional reading September 30th from 10:40 to 12:32:

  • Roger Ebert’s Journal: My Life and Times Archives – Roger Ebert is becoming more and more endearing to me1. A 21st CE man of the people… “One of my favoring pastimes, especially when I should be doing something else, is moseying around the blogs of my readers”

    I’ve never left a comment there, by the way, and probably wouldn’t – I tend to write responses to other’s posts in this space instead.

    MN King Corn.jpg

  • Total Dick-Head: The Church of Latter Day Dicks – “Why then, is the only going science-fiction author cult of personality devoted to — of all people — L Ron Hubbard?! If Scientology were pretty much exactly the same but centered around Philip K Dick, my god — I’d want in, for his secret scriptures! The lectures on cosmogony! The resonant gnostic insights that made PKD’s work so mythic!”
  • http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4509&print=1 – Specifically, the Global Cities Index ranks cities’ metro areas according to 24 metrics across five dimensions. The first is business activity: including the value of its capital markets, the number of Fortune Global 500 firms headquartered there, and the volume of the goods that pass through the city. The second dimension measures human capital, or how well the city acts as a magnet for diverse groups of people and talent. This includes the size of a city’s immigrant population, the number of international schools, and the percentage of residents with university degrees. The third dimension is information exchange—how well news and information is dispersed about and to the rest of the world. The number of international news bureaus, the amount of international news in the leading local papers, and the number of broadband subscribers round out that dimension.
  • skinless weiners.jpg
Footnotes:
  1. if that’s the right word to use []

Written by swanksalot

September 30th, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Exelon Quits Chamber of Commerce

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This might be the first time I’m writing about Exelon doing something positive for the world, namely, publicly quitting the head-in-the-sand U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of the Chamber of Commerce’s position regarding climate change. Kudos to Exelon for being citizens of the 21st Century!

Exelon CEO John Rowe announced that his company — the largest electric utility company in the United States — would not renew its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of its opposition to global warming action. In his keynote address to the annual conference of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the nation’s largest association of energy efficiency experts, Rowe said that the Chamber’s multi-million-dollar campaign against clean energy legislation is incompatible with Exelon’s commitment to climate change leadership. As Rowe said when he accepted a leadership award from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce in 2008:

Exelon has staked out an industry-leading position on the issue of climate change and, in the spirit of Daniel Burnham, we have launched our own “not so little plan” to eliminate the equivalent of our entire carbon footprint by the year 2020. I do not know if it will stir men’s souls, but I hope it will stir policymakers and others in our industry to action.

Confirming Exelon’s decision to ThinkProgress, a spokesperson explained that “Exelon is a big supporter of climate legislation.” Exelon is the third energy company to sever ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the past week, joining Pacific Gas & Electric and PNM Resources.

[Click to continue reading Wonk Room » Exelon Ditches U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Over Climate Denial ]

Of course, the G-20 is only taking tepid moves, so no energy company is going to lose much by siding with the forces of science and progress, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 29th, 2009 at 8:15 am

Politicians and Pollution

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A story that makes my blood boil: politicians dithering and being petty about enforcing environmental laws. They treat pollution like it is an earmark, or something to be bartererd. No you evil people, it isn’t – toxic death is permanent, and willfully destroying the health of your citizens should be a felony. The Illinois EPA is so corrupt and toothless, the entire organization’s staff should be fired, and new employees brought in, preferably not from the ranks of energy-related corporation employees.

Blago Jogging on May Street

Even though the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had plenty of evidence to file charges against the owner and operator of Anchor Metal Finishing, top agency officials sat on the case for more than a year. Meanwhile, carcinogenic solvents and caustic acids kept leaching from barrels packed haphazardly into a ramshackle building, two blocks away from a Schiller Park subdivision.

What appeared to be an obvious violation of state environmental laws became entangled in one of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s political feuds, delaying action for months. Dozens of other cases against polluters languished as well, largely because Blagojevich and his top aides refused to refer them to his archnemesis, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, a Tribune investigation found.

The bitter dispute still reverberates through state government today, eight months after Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges and then impeached and removed from office. Nearly 19 months after it was discovered, the Schiller Park site still hasn’t been cleaned up, and several other older cases are moving through an enforcement system that Gov. Pat Quinn and Madigan only recently have begun to repair.

Blagojevich and Madigan started out on amicable terms after they were elected in 2002. But EPA referrals of civil and criminal violations to the attorney general began to drop sharply in 2005, and fell to a record low of 114 in 2007, according to state records.

The agency hasn’t sent a criminal case to the attorney general in two years, records show.

[Click to continue reading Illinois pollution enforcement hampered by politics — chicagotribune.com]

Up Yours Illinois!

and this is just horrible:

Federal regulators also cited Midwest Generation, the owner of six coal-fired power plants that records show are some of the biggest contributors to dirty air in the Chicago area. Madigan’s staff documented thousands of pollution violations at the plants, but the state EPA repeatedly refused to take action against the company, which was represented for years by one of Blagojevich’s top campaign aides.

Business lobbyists persuaded lawmakers in 2002 to require a less-confrontational approach that doesn’t involve the attorney general’s office unless there is an imminent threat to the environment; lawsuits still can be filled if an agreement can’t be brokered.

Although the state EPA declined to cite Midwest Generation — the agency agreed with the company that frequent bursts of soot from its coal plants weren’t harmful — Scott noted the Blagojevich administration negotiated a deal that will force the aging generators to clean up or shut down by the end of the next decade. Environmental groups are seeking to impose tighter deadlines.

Withered and Died

The EPA agreed with the polluter that frequent bursts of soot from its coal plants weren’t harmful? Un-fucking-believable. The EPA should be forced to move their offices to be located adjacent to pollution sites like the Midwest Generation plants, or adjacent to the Crestwood polluted well.

Read the whole article if you can stomach it.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 23rd, 2009 at 10:39 am

Coal Plants in Chicago

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Kudos to the citizen groups for “taking to the streets“. It is really a travesty that in a world-class, allegedly green city like Chicago, these polluters are allowed to operate their stacks with impunity. Outrageous, indeed.

Withered and Died

Frustrated by inaction at every level of government, several environmental watchdog organizations announced plans today to sue the owner of Chicago’s two coal-fired power plants for alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

The coal plants are among the biggest sources of dangerous air emissions in the region, but authorities have moved only haltingly to compel them to clean up.

Just a week ago several environmental groups chided Chicago officials for failing to get tough with the plants, which studies have blamed for scores of ER visits and premature deaths every year. Today the groups essentially took aim at the state and federal governments, which they contend should do more to force plant owner Midwest Generation to slash its emissions of dangerous soot.

The organizations sent a letter to the company and government regulators declaring their intention to sue within two months. They charge that in its own reports to the state Midwest Generation has repeatedly admitted it produced a higher concentration of soot than allowed. Soot, otherwise known as particulate matter, has been linked to heart disease, asthma, cancer, and other ailments.

“How do they get away with that?” asked Faith Bugel, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Beats me. That’s why we’re outraged.”

[Click to continue reading The latest salvo in the fight to clean up Chicago’s air | The Blog | Chicago Reader]

Satanic Gift

If you ask me, this lame excuse by Midwest Generation is not sufficient. All coal plants should be shut down if they can’t control their exceedances.

Midwest Generation spokesman Charley Parnell says the environmental groups are blowing things out of proportion. “We have acknowledged that there have been exceedances from our operations, as there are with every coal-fired power plant in the country,” he said. “The [government] agencies have always allowed for those exceedances because it’s impossible to run a coal plant without them.”

Written by Seth Anderson

July 29th, 2009 at 11:38 am

EPA Fiddles while Neurotoxin In Our Food

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Lovely

Keep away from children

One of the most comprehensive analyses yet of human exposure to PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, shows that the chemical — long used in everything from computers to sleeping bags — enters humans through their diets, not just their household.

“The more you eat, the more PBDEs you have in your serum,” said Alicia Fraser, an environmental health researcher at Boston University’s School of Public Health who headed the new study, published this month in Environmental Health Perspectives.

PBDEs are chemical cousins of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which are known to cause birth defects and neurological impairments. PCBs were banned throughout the world by the mid-1970s, when PBDEs were gaining popularity as flame retardants. PBDEs were soon found in most plastic-containing household products.

By the late 1990s, trace amounts of PBDEs had been found in people all over the world, with the highest exposures measured in the United States. Researchers became nervous: Low doses caused neurological damage in laboratory animals, and the highest human PBDE levels were found in breast milk.

Whether PBDEs posed an immediate threat to humans was uncertain. Direct testing is unethical, and population-wide epidemiological studies are difficult to run. But there’s enough reason for concern that the European Union banned two of the three most common PBDE formulations in 2004.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which in January admitted that it lacked the ability to establish basic standards of chemical safety, has not followed suit, but three states — California, Washington and Maine — have banned PBDEs since 2007. Many manufacturers have either stopped or plan on stopping their use.

“They are persistent in the environment. They don’t get broken down. Therefore, it takes a really long time for the contamination to leave our environment and our bodies,” said Fraser. “Even though we don’t know the health effects at this point, most people would want policies that would stop us from being exposed to them.”

[Click to continue reading Potential Neurotoxin Could Be in Our Food | Wired Science | Wired.com]

I’m sure the plastic council has a different answer as to the toxicity of PBDEs, but they have zero credibility. If the EPA wasn’t such a corporate tool, they would have been actively removing PBDEs from our environment decades ago.

Data Dump

The real long term solution would be to adopt similar practices to the European model: prove that a chemical is harmless before it is allowed to be used. In the US, there have to be lawsuits and deaths1 before the EPA will even begin to study if a chemical is harmful. Years of litigation follow, yadda yadda. A system that totally and unequivocally favors chemical manufacturers in other words.

REACH requires all chemicals sold or used in Europe to be registered with the European Chemicals Agency. Manufacturers or distributors must supply the agency with the chemicals’ properties, materials safety data sheets (MSDSes), risk management guidelines, and safety measures for downstream users. Many hazardous chemicals (over 1,500 of them) will require permission from the European Commission to use; some chemicals will not be allowed at all. Consumers can also request (could be WWF, Greenpeace, or just person) chemical safety and environmental impact data from manufacturers. Perhaps most importantly, the government is not burdened with proving any chemicals are harmful, it falls to industry to test the toxicity of their chemicals, and the EU need only do monitoring and compliance-checking when they believe a company has submitted incomplete or bogus information. REACH covers all chemicals, both substances and mixtures, existing and new (new chemicals are less than 1% of market). It includes intentionally released chemicals (like inkjet ink) and non-intentionally released ones (like dye in jeans); anything that will have more than one metric ton per year produced or imported into Europe. It includes not only the chemicals a company makes, but all the chemicals contained in a product the company sells. It also includes chemicals used in manufacturing that don’t end up in products, if the manufacturing happens in Europe. Unfortunately the amount of time for questions was very limited, so I didn’t get to ask what they define as a “chemical”; I presume it’s any substance that isn’t elemental and requires processing to get out of the natural world.

[Click to continue reading Worldchanging: Bright Green: What Does REACH Mean For Products?]

The US EPA is just a sick joke. A joke that damages all of us.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to assess toxic chemicals is as broken as the nation’s financial markets and needs a total overhaul, a congressional audit has found.

The Government Accountability Office has released a report saying the EPA lacks even basic information to say whether chemicals pose substantial health risks to the public. It says actions are needed to streamline and increase the transparency of the EPA’s registry of chemicals. And it calls for measures to enhance the agency’s ability to obtain health and safety information from the chemical industry.

Earlier in 2008, the Journal Sentinel revealed that the EPA’s Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program, which relies on companies to provide information about the dangers of the chemicals they produce, is all but dead. And it disclosed that the agency’s program to screen chemicals that damage the endocrine system had failed to screen a single chemical more than 10 years after the program was launched.

[Click to continue reading EPA a failure on chemicals, audit finds – JSOnline]

No wonder so many EPA officials get jobs in the chemical industry after their EPA tenure is over.

Richard Wiles, executive director of Environmental Working Group:

“The EPA joins the hall of shame of failed government programs,” Wiles said.

The EPA is at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement and needs a broad-based transformation, the auditors found.

“The EPA lacks adequate scientific information on the toxicity of many chemicals that may be found in the environment – as well as on tens of thousands of chemicals used commercially in the United States,” the GAO report said. “EPA’s inadequate progress in assessing toxic chemicals significantly limits the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission of protecting human health and the environment.”

I haven’t been able to locate the GAO report yet, but did find this:

Since 1976, the EPA issued regulations to control only five existing chemicals determined to present an unreasonable risk. Its 1989 regulation phasing out most uses of asbestos was vacated by a federal appeals court in 1991 because it was not based on “substantial evidence.”

In contrast, the EU and a number of other countries banned asbestos, a known human carcinogen that can cause lung cancer and other diseases. The GAO previously recommended that Congress amend the TSCA to reduce the evidentiary burden the EPA

[Click to continue reading GAO: EPA Needs Stronger Authority to Improve Effectiveness of Toxic Substances Control Act]

Five substances in over 30 years? Yeesh, that’s pretty lame.

Footnotes:
  1. or at least lots of negative publicity []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 19th, 2009 at 9:20 am

Posted in environment

Tagged with , , ,

Clear-cutting Tongass National Forest is a crime

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Quite disappointed that the Obama administration gave the green-light to Orion North. If Bush was president, I’d understand, but expected better from Obama. When a forest is gone, it doesn’t come back.

Tongass National Forest Alaska
[Tongass National Forest Alaska]

The U.S. Forest Service agreed Monday to sell timber to a Ketchikan mill in a roadless area of the Tongass National Forest after the Obama administration’s approved the sale.

Orion North timber sale is the first such awarded since Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced in May he would personally review all timber sales in roadless areas of national forests in the next year.

He’s doing that while the Obama administration takes some time to review the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which banned road-building on about 58 million acres of national forest land nationwide but has been challenged since it was issued.

Pacific Log and Lumber, the Ketchikan mill, won the contract to clear-cut 4.4 million board-feet of timber – a relatively small sale – with the option of cutting another 2.4 million board-feet if it’s economical. The Ketchikan-area sale is on Revillagigedo Island in an area that borders Misty Fjords National Monument.

“Just building the road will cost four times as much revenue as the Forest Service is going to get from the timber sale,” said [Tom] Waldo of Earthjustice.

[Click to continue reading Ketchikan mill is awarded Orion North timber – Juneau Empire]

Rain Forest Path - Alaska
[Rain Forest Path, Tongass National Forest]

I’ve briefly been inside the Tongass National Forest, and it is a beautiful, almost magical place. The logging industry should grow their own damn trees on land they own, and stop mooching off of National Forests.

Federal Building 1936
[Federal Building, Ketchikan]

Tongass National Forest Alaska
[Tongass National Forest]

The logging industry depends upon corporate welfare for their profits, and it isn’t viable anymore. Either they need to change their business model, or go bankrupt, and let more forward-thinking companies take their place.

American taxpayers have not only watched as the Tongass has been picked apart by road building and logging, they’ve paid for the privilege. The tab extends beyond $750 million over 20 years. In a single year alone, the Forest Service spent $36 million on the Tongass timber program and got back in revenues only $1 million. Subsidies for logging roads account for nearly half of timber program costs annually.

[Click to continue reading The Wilderness Society]

$36,000,000 on hand-outs, receiving $1,000,000 back. Not good, not good at all.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 18th, 2009 at 10:31 am

Palin knows more about energy policy than anyone else in America

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Sarah Palin knows more about energy policy than anyone else in America, or so claimed John McCain. Hmm, surprisingly1 Ms. Pal-Around Palin seems to have lost most of her knowledge since last fall.

Standard Oil Co of Ind

Sarah Palin, the soon-to-be-ex-governor of Alaska, has an opinion piece (a screed, really) in Tuesday’s Washington Post in which she shrilly blasts away at “President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan,” calling it “an enormous threat” to the U.S. economy.

Palin’s thesis comes loaded with plenty of rhetoric and zero facts. It offers nothing more than assertions about the emissions reduction part of the bill, ignores the energy investment and green jobs provisions, blames “Washington bureaucrats” for hampering oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (not Congress, where elected lawmakers have repeatedly expressed the American public’s desire to keep ANWR off limits), and fails to even take note of the underlying issue—catastrophic climate change.

Couldn’t Palin’s ghostwriters have cribbed from any of the well-researched, highly technical criticisms produced by just about every conservative think tank in the land?

[Click to continue reading Palin eschews facts and economics in blasting cap-and-trade bill | Grist]

Laughable, really.

385 parts per million - Polapan Blue

Joseph Romm adds:

Amazingly, the Post has published an op-ed on climate change legislation by the governor of the state that is currently the most battered by climate change, without any discussion of climate change or its impacts on that state. Heck, even Alaska GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski pointed out in a May 2006 speech on climate change that the tremendous recent warming had opened the door to the “voracious spruce bark beetle,” which devastated over three million acres in Alaska, “providing dry fuel for outbreaks of enormous wild fires.”

In one of the most unintentionally humorous pieces of crap the Post has ever subjected on the public, Palin states:

Unfortunately, many in the national media would rather focus on the personality-driven political gossip of the day than on the gravity of these challenges. So, at risk of disappointing the chattering class, let me make clear what is foremost on my mind and where my focus will be:

I am deeply concerned about President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan, and I believe it is an enormous threat to our economy. It would undermine our recovery over the short term and would inflict permanent damage.

Seriously.

[Silver lining note: In a perverse way, perhaps we should be grateful to the Post. Probably the best thing that could happen to climate legislation is if Palin becomes the lead spokesperson attacking it.]

Let’s set aside the rather obvious fact that the bill that doesn’t even start imposing a cap until 2012, so it’s absurd to assert it will “undermine our recovery over the short term.” The reverse case is, in fact, stronger — see Nobelist Krugman attacks “junk economics”: Climate action “now might actually help the economy recover from its current slump” by giving “businesses a reason to invest in new equipment and facilities.

Moreover, even in 2012, the total value of the allowances will be under $50 billion (in a $15 trillion economy) and all that money is going to be returned to the economy, so again, like all economic models show, the bill will have no significant negative impact.

No, what’s so laughable about this piece is that Palin wouldn’t even be considered by the Post as a suitable candidate for an op-ed on the climate bill if it weren’t for the national media’s focus on personality-driven politics.

[Click to continue reading Quitter-in-chief Sarah Palin attacks climate action and clean energy in falsehood-filled piece | Grist]

I echo the thought: the best thing for climate change legislation is probably having Sarah “Quitter” Palin as its lead opponent. More fact checking at Media Matters if you want a laugh (at Ms. Sarah Barracuda Palin’s expense). And at The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Brad DeLong’s blog, John at Eschaton, and probably elsewhere.

For the record, I don’t know enough about the proposed Cap and Trade legislation to say whether it is something I support or not, but I do know that Sarah Palin is probably even more clueless.

Footnotes:
  1. not really []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 15th, 2009 at 8:10 am

Chicago and Carbon Credits

with one comment

Michael Hawthorne catches Da Mare with his green exposed; despite Daley’s incessant marketing Chicago as an environmental innovator, the city still has a long, long way to go.

Green Exchange

Mayor Richard Daley promised long ago that his administration would start fighting global warming by buying 20 percent of its electricity from wind farms and other sources of green energy.

But more than two years after the deadline he set, the city continues to get nearly all of its power from coal, natural gas and nuclear plant

As a result, taxpayers paid the full bill for the city’s normal electricity usage, then the city paid again—more than half a million dollars in all—for credits with questionable environmental benefits. Buying carbon credits fights global warming only if they help finance new sources of renewable energy, such as new wind turbines, energy experts said. Yet 87 percent of the credits Chicago has purchased sent money to a wood-burning power plant that has been operating for nearly two decades.

“This is very misleading to the public,” said Joseph Romm, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who has sharply criticized the carbon offset market. “A city with the clout of Chicago should be able to do this right.”

[click to continue reading Chicago’s ‘green’ promise fades — chicagotribune.com]

Solar Panels - Chicago Center for Green Technology

Is pretending to be green worse than not even trying?

Written by Seth Anderson

March 21st, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Reading Around on February 27th through February 28th

without comments

A few interesting links collected February 27th through February 28th:

  • Debunking the Clean Coal Myth : EcoLocalizer – “There is no such thing as “clean coal” in the U.S. today. Coal is responsible for 32% of CO2 emissions in this country and 83% of the CO2 emissions from producing our electricity. In theory, we could retrofit this nation’s coal plants to capture their pollution and store it. Here is my question: If every single coal plant needs to be revamped to be truly “clean,” why not just invest that time and money in truly clean, renewables?” [Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Seth Anderson]
  • April Winchell » Barack Obama is tired of your motherfucking shit – Ray, a fellow classmate of Obama’s, was also bi-racial, and also trying to define himself. But what set him apart was his colorful manner of self-expression. Ray cursed like a motherfucker.

    This would all be snickerworthy enough, but it turns out that Obama actually read the audiobook version of Dreams From My Father.

    And that means he read Ray’s quotes.

    And that means you’re about to hear the President of United States using language that would finish Cheney off once and for all.

  • Chicago Reader Blogs: Chicagoland Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all: The Chicago Journalism Town Hall – “In other words: journalism isn’t dying. (Journalists are dying, of course, but even I don’t blame the Huffington Post for that.) The institutions are dying. That’s it. We’ve isolated the problem!

    Journalists (I will irresponsibly use this as a synonym for “people who work in broadcast or print,” even though we’re all kind of journalists, which I will get to later) blame the bloggers (ditto, for people who work online). Bloggers blame the journalists. Everyone blames the economy, and management. Was it Ben Goldberger in the Blog with the Aggregator? Or was it Eric Zorn in the Newspaper with the Inverted Pyramid, or Sam Zell in the Boardroom with the ESOP?”

  • John Bolton at CPAC: The Benefits of Nuking Chicago | Mother Jones – “Former UN Ambassador John Bolton believes the security of the United States is at dire risk under the Obama administration. And before a gathering of conservatives in Washington on Thursday morning, he suggested, as something of a joke, that President Barack Obama might learn a needed lesson if Chicago were destroyed by a nuclear bomb.”

    Asshole!

  • BULLS: Sam Smith: He was always Stormin’ – “Chicago understood Norm because it is known as the Second City. It is in the flyover region. Norm couldn’t crack the big time and run with the big boys, not among the playing elite and not afterward. But he never accepted being less than them and always was sticking his foot in the door to remind them he wasn’t going away.

    Norm was like us. Never really appreciated despite working so hard at it and giving everything he had every time. Norm broadcast harder than some guys played the game, and he let them know it. Someone was speaking up for us, and we loved Norm for that. And he loved us because he understood, if not accepted, rejection.”

  • SLAM ONLINE | » First Person: Norm Van Lier – “It was my dad who helped me let go of my anger. Before he died in 1988, we watched “The Godfather” together. Afterward my dad asked me, “Why do you think the Bulls owe you anything?”

    I told him about this and that, slights and slams, stuff that had grown into huge obstacles in my mind.

    “Did they pay you on time?” Yes, sir. “Were their checks good?” Yes, sir.

    “Well, then they don’t owe you a thing. So get up, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and go to work.”

    I swear, from that moment on, my attitude was completely different. I’ve not looked back since.”

  • The Sports Guy: Bill Simmons Welcome to the No Benjamins Association – ESPN Page 2 – Ru-oh.
    “For once, the league’s problems have nothing to do with talent, drugs, racial issues or how the sport is being played. With the country embroiled in its worst economic crisis in 80 years, the NBA is quietly bracing for its own little D-Day … only outsiders don’t fully realize or care. Clearly, we wouldn’t put this budding debacle on par with the Gulf War, the collapse of American car companies, the real estate quagmire, the implosion of Wall Street, the decline of the American dollar, the shaky footing of previously untouchable media institutions (newspapers, magazines, TV networks, movie studios and publishing companies), or even Vegas and the porn industry caving financially. “
  • Media Matters – Media Matters: In support of shunning – Will has made false claims about the Voting Rights Act and the New Deal. He made a claim about China drilling off the coast of Florida that was so wrong, even then-Vice President Cheney — who cited Will in repeating the claim — acknowledged it wasn’t true. When even Dick Cheney thinks you’ve gone too far in spouting pro-drilling falsehoods, you have a problem. But neither Will nor the Post corrected the error.

    Last year, Will claimed in his Newsweek column and on ABC that Social Security taxes are levied based on household income. Not true. He claimed that McCain won more votes from independents during the primaries than Obama did. Wrong. He claimed most minimum-wage earners are students or part-time employees. False. Will has even lied about Hillary Clinton’s Yankees fandom.

    Basically, George Will routinely makes false claims large and small, holds politicians to disparate standards, and engages in ethically dubious conduct on behalf of his preferred candidates.

  • The George Will Affair : CJR – Undeterred, on Tuesday, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth, and Media Matters for America sent a joint letter to the Post reiterating the call for some form of correction or clarification. It cited three key problems with Will’s column: that he misused data on global sea ice levels from the Arctic Climate Research Center; that he misrepresented the World Meteorological Organization’s position on global warming and climate trends; and that he “rehashed the discredited myth that in the 1970s, there was broad scientific consensus that the Earth faced an imminent global cooling threat.”

    “George Will is entitled to his own opinions, but he is not entitled to his own facts,” the letter concluded. “We respectfully ask that you immediately make your readers aware of the glaring misinformation in Will’s column.” But the Post’s position remains the same.

George Will Before The Internet

without comments


“Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky” (Noam Chomsky, Peter Mitchell)

Jonathan Schwarz cites a telling tidbit about George Will, Noam Chomsky and Newsweek in the days before blogs were around as an open-source fact checking organization:

CHOMSKY: [A] few years ago George Will wrote a column in Newsweek called “Mideast Truth and Falsehood,” about how peace activists are lying about the Middle East, everything they say is a lie. And in the article, there was one statement that had a vague relation to fact: he said that Sadat had refused to deal with Israel until 1977. So I wrote them a letter, the kind of letter you write to Newsweek—you know, four lines—in which I said, “Will has one statement of fact, it’s false; Sadat made a peace offer in 1971, and Israel and the United States turned it down.”

Well, a couple days later I got a call from a research editor who checks facts for the Newsweek “Letters” column. She said: “We’re kind of interested in your letter, where did you get those facts?” So I told her, “Well, they’re published in Newsweek, on February 8, 1971″—which is true, because it was a big proposal, it just happened to go down the memory hole in the United States because it was the wrong story. So she looked it up and called me back, and said, “Yeah, you’re right, we found it there; okay, we’ll run your letter.” An hour later she called again and said, “Gee, I’m sorry, but we can’t run the letter.” I said, “What’s the problem?” She said, “Well, the editor mentioned it to Will and he’s having a tantrum; they decided they can’t run it.” Well, okay.

[From A Tiny Revolution: So Much Nicer To Be George Will Before The Internet]

George Will needs to retire about 30 years ago. He’s currently being ridiculed for writing a laughably ignorant article about the “Myth of Global Warming”, or some such.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 18th, 2009 at 8:37 am

Reading Around on February 15th

with one comment

Some additional reading February 15th from 09:57 to 21:10:

  • Having It Both Ways: Republicans Take Credit for ‘Pork’ – In Stimulus Bill They Opposed | Crooks and Liars – Rep. John Mica was gushing after the House of Representatives voted Friday to pass the big stimulus plan.

    “I applaud President Obama’s recognition that high-speed rail should be part of America’s future,” the Florida Republican beamed in a press release.

    Yet Mica had just joined every other GOP House member in voting against the $787.2 billion economic recovery plan.

  • Facebook’s New Terms Of Service: “We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.” – Facebook’s terms of service (TOS) used to say that when you closed an account on their network, any rights they claimed to the original content you uploaded would expire. Not anymore.

    Now, anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later. Want to close your account? Good for you, but Facebook still has the right to do whatever it wants with your old content. They can even sublicense it if they want.

  • Grasping Reality with Both Hands: Michael Isikoff: Yoo Disbarment Proceedings Now Visible on the Horizon – Torture Report Could Be Trouble For Bush Lawyers: An internal Justice Department report on the conduct of senior lawyers who approved waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics is causing anxiety among former Bush administration officials. H. Marshall Jarrett, chief of the department’s ethics watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), confirmed last year he was investigating whether the legal advice in crucial interrogation memos “was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys.” According to two knowledgeable sources who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive matters, a draft of the report was submitted in the final weeks of the Bush administration. It sharply criticized the legal work of two former top officials—Jay Bybee and John Yoo—as well as that of Steven Bradbury, who was chief of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the time the report was submitted, the sources said.
  • Gutless Wonders: Specter Admits GOP’s Political Calculus On Stimulus Bill | Crooks and Liars – DCCC head Chris Van Hollen puts it into perspective (if only the media would actually frame it this way):

    “Americans will hold House Republicans accountable for just saying no to saving and creating three to four million jobs and the largest tax cut in American history.

    “House Republicans are fast becoming party of No-bama. Americans will hold Republicans accountable for being the party of no – no to President Obama’s economic recovery, no to children’s health care, and no to equal pay for women doing equal work.”

  • Talking Points Memo | The Big Disconnect – But there’s a very big problem with this strategy above and beyond the absurdity of the argument. “Congress” may be really unpopular. And the Democrats now control Congress. But politics is a zero sum game. At the end of the day, in almost every case, you’ve got to pick a Republican or a Democrat when you vote. And if you look at the numbers, congressional Democrats are pretty popular. And congressional Republicans are extremely unpopular. If you look at the number, the Dems are at about 50% or higher in most recent polls, while the GOP is down in the 30s.

    The city remains wired for the GOP. Not that it’s done them a great deal of good of late. But it remains a key part of understanding every part of what is happening today.

  • Google Jumps Into Organizing Smart Meter Energy Data « Earth2Tech – “Just as Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt hinted over the past few months, Google is moving from managing the world’s information to managing your personal energy data. On Monday night Google tells us it is developing an online tool called “PowerMeter” that will allow users to monitor their home energy consumption. For now Google is testing the web-based software with Google employees, but the search engine giant is looking to partner with utilities and smart energy device makers and will eventually roll out the tool to consumers.”
  • Energy Information – “Google PowerMeter, now in prototype, will receive information from utility smart meters and energy management devices and provide anyone who signs up access to her home electricity consumption right on her iGoogle homepage. The graph below shows how someone could use this information to figure out how much energy is used by different household activites.”

    Oooh, I want one of these so-called smartmeters

  • MyDD :: The Beltway Games Don’t Really Matter – “Perhaps more than ever, there is a real divide between what the chattering class inside the Beltway is saying and what the people of this country are saying. We saw the beginnings of this during the campaign, when despite the fact that John McCain was deemed to be winning the news cycles — indeed, his campaign seemed to care more about winning “Hardball” than it did about reaching 270 electoral votes — Barack Obama nevertheless continued to lead in the polls, both nationwide and in the key states. Now we’re seeing it again, as the establishment media focuses on the less meaningful back and forth while at the same time overlooking the larger picture being grasped by the public — that is that President Obama is succeeding, in terms of both moving forward his policy agenda and bringing two-thirds of the country along with him in his effort.”

Written by swanksalot

February 16th, 2009 at 12:00 am