In a much-watched case, a Michigan agency has approved Nestlé’s plan to boost the amount of water it takes from the state. The request attracted a record number of public comments — with 80,945 against and 75 in favor.
Nestlé’s request to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to pump 576,000 gallons of water each day from the White Pine Springs well in the Great Lakes Basin was “highly controversial,” member station Michigan Radio reports. But despite deep public opposition, the agency concluded that the company’s plan met with legal standards.
Under the plan, Nestlé will be approved to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute from the well, rather than the 250 gallons per minute it had been extracting. The company first applied for the new permit in July 2016.
Water is a complicated and sore subject in many areas, but in few places more so than in Michigan, where a crisis has raged for years over high levels of lead and other dangerous heavy metals in the water in Flint. And back in 2014, Detroit resorted to shutting off water to thousands of customers as it fought bankruptcy.
With that recent history as a backdrop, Nestlé’s plan to boost the amount of water it takes from the Great Lakes State drew attention and added another dimension to a debate over whether water should be seen as a commodity, a commercial product — or a human right.
Nestlé’s well is in western Michigan, near the town of Evart…The company bottles the water for sale under its Ice Mountain label.
Disgusting, really that Nestlé gets to sell, for profit, water that is taken from the public at a rate of 400 gallons a minute. By my quick math: 400 gallons x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 365 days= approximately 210,240,000 gallons a year; roughly 1,681,920,000 Iron Mountain 16 ml bottles that are sold for $3.99 in airports, or cheaper at, for instance, Target). Even accounting for the costs of “extraction”, plastic bottles, shipping, labeling, and so on, that’s a damn nice profit margin. Almost 2 billion 16 ml bottles a year, for basically free!
Thirsty? Side view of discarded plastic water bottles
Especially because of this:
in Mecosta County, Nestlé is not required to pay anything to extract the water, besides a small permitting fee to the state and the cost of leases to a private landowner. In fact, the company received $13 million in tax breaks from the state to locate the plant in Michigan. The spokesperson for Nestlé in Michigan is Deborah Muchmore. She’s the wife of Dennis Muchmore—Governor Rick Snyder’s chief of staff, who just retired and registered to be a lobbyist.
Despite stiff competition, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is by common consensus the worst of the ideologues and mediocrities President Trump chose to populate his cabinet. Policies aside — and they’re terrible, from an environmental perspective — Mr. Pruitt’s self-aggrandizing and borderline thuggish behavior has disgraced his office and demoralized his employees. We opposed his nomination because he had spent his career as attorney general of Oklahoma suing the federal department he was being asked to lead on behalf of industries he was being asked to regulate. As it turns out, Mr. Pruitt is not just an industry lap dog but also an arrogant and vengeful bully and small-time grifter, bent on chiseling the taxpayer to suit his lifestyle and warm his ego.
Any other president would have fired him. Mr. Trump praises him.
One frequently overlooked truth about Mr. Pruitt amid these complaints is that for all his swagger he has actually accomplished very little in terms of actual policy — a wholly desirable outcome, from our standpoint. While hailed as the administration’s foremost champion of deregulation, he has yet to kill or even roll back any significant regulations that were in place when Mr. Trump came to office. (The Obama administration’s important Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants had already been blocked by the courts.) He has delayed a few rules, but even these delays have been overturned or challenged. Most of his actions are in the proposal stage, and many will not be finalized for years, if ever.
Tough competition, indeed, but Pruitt is easily in the competition for worst Cabinet member.
One more snippet from a scathing editorial:
By endless repetition, he has reinforced in the public mind the lie that Republicans have peddled for years and Mr. Trump’s minions peddle now, that environmental rules kill jobs, that limiting carbon dioxide emissions will damage the economy, that the way forward lies not in technology and renewable energy but in digging more coal and punching more holes in the ground in search of oil. And, on the human level, he has been in the forefront of the administration’s shameless effort to delude the nation’s frightened coal miners into thinking coal is coming back, when any comeback is unlikely not because of regulation but because of strong market forces favoring natural gas and renewables.
Parenthetical note. I never noticed this byline before:
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.
Was that in doubt? Confusing, isn’t all the content published by the NYT related?
Surprising nobody, the EPA and Texas governor are sweeping any discussion of toxicity under the concrete.
A toxic onslaught from the nation’s petrochemical hub was largely overshadowed by the record-shattering deluge of Hurricane Harvey as residents and first responders struggled to save lives and property.
More than a half-year after floodwaters swamped America’s fourth-largest city, the extent of this environmental assault is beginning to surface, while questions about the long-term consequences for human health remain unanswered.
County, state and federal records pieced together by The Associated Press and The Houston Chronicle reveal a far more widespread toxic impact than authorities publicly reported after the storm slammed into the Texas coast in late August and then stalled over the Houston area.
Some 500 chemical plants, 10 refineries and more than 6,670 miles of intertwined oil, gas and chemical pipelines line the nation’s largest energy corridor.
Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one chemical plant in Baytown, east of Houston on the upper shores of Galveston Bay.
Benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other known human carcinogens were among the dozens of tons of industrial toxins released into surrounding neighborhoods and waterways following Harvey’s torrential rains.
In all, reporters catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and in the air. Most were never publicized, and in the case of two of the biggest ones, the extent or potential toxicity of the releases was initially understated.
Only a handful of the industrial spills have been investigated by federal regulators, reporters found.
Fascinating story about a new line of anti-environmental attacks from the Kochs, and the ensuing counter-attack from religious people. We only have on Earth, let’s keep it habitable, and not exploit it for money for a few, leaving our planet despoiled.
At another rally focused on fossil fuels a year earlier in Richmond, religion was front and center.
In December 2016, gospel music stars descended on a local community center in Richmond’s East Highland Park neighborhood. Hundreds of residents from throughout the area had answered the call to attend a concert marketed as an opportunity for enlightenment, both spiritual and environmental.
As a sea of hands waved through the air as eyes closed in prayer, what many in the crowd didn’t know was that they were the target of a massive propaganda campaign. One of the event’s sponsors was a fossil-fuel advocacy group called Fueling U.S. Forward, an outfit supported by Koch Industries, the petrochemicals, paper, and wood product conglomerate founded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch.
The gospel program was designed to highlight the benefits of oil and natural gas production and its essential role in the American way of life. During a break in the music, a panel discussion unfolded about skyrocketing utility costs. The lobbyists and businesspeople on the panel presented a greater reliance on fossil fuels — billed as cheap, reliable energy sources — as the fix. Later, a surprise giveaway netted four lucky attendees the opportunity to have their power bills paid for them.
The event was one big bait and switch, according to environmental experts and local activists. Come for the gospel music, then listen to us praise the everlasting goodness of oil and gas. Supporting this sort of pro-oil-and-gas agenda sprinkled over the songs of praise, they say, would only worsen the pollution and coastal flooding that come with climate change, hazards that usually hit Virginia’s black residents the hardest.
“The tactic was tasteless and racist, plain and simple,” says Kendyl Crawford, the Sierra Club of Richmond’s conservation program coordinator. “It’s exploiting the ignorance many communities have about climate change.”
Rev. Wilson likens that gospel concert to the Biblical story of Judas accepting 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus. Like many African Americans in Virginia, he initially didn’t connect environmental policy with what he calls the “institutional racism” — think racial profiling, lack of economic opportunity, etc. — that can plague black communities nationwide. Now he considers “the sea level rising or the air quality in the cities” another existential threat.
So in response to the Koch Brothers’ attempt to sway their flocks, Wilson and others affiliated with black churches in Virginia have channeled their outrage into a new calling: climate advocacy. For Wilson, environmentalism has become a biblical mission.
Less than a year after Waukesha secured permission to withdraw more than 7 million gallons a day from the lake, Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group could end up winning access to a similar amount of fresh water for its new Wisconsin factory with merely a stroke of a pen from Gov. Scott Walker, the company’s chief political sponsor.
Foxconn’s bid for Lake Michigan water is the latest test of the decade-old Great Lakes Compact, an agreement among the region’s states intended to make it almost impossible to direct water outside the natural basin of the Great Lakes unless it is added to certain products, such as beer and soft drinks.
At issue with both Waukesha and Foxconn is an exemption that allows limited diversions outside the basin for “a group of largely residential customers that may also serve industrial, commercial, and other institutional operators.”
Of the 7 million gallons of water withdrawn daily for Foxconn, 4.3 million gallons would be treated and returned to the lake and the rest would be lost, mostly from evaporation in the company’s cooling system, according to the application sent to Wisconsin officials.
That amount of lost water falls below a daily limit of 5 million gallons that would trigger a review by other Great Lakes states, including those that lost out on the factory.
Ok, here’s a pretty weird story. The US started, then abandoned a top-secret military base under the ice of Greenland, called Camp Century aka Project Iceworm. The original goal was to have thousands of miles of underground tunnels and rail, and 600 nuclear missiles ready to be deployed against Moscow if they ever attempted to hack our elections. Ok, not that last part. But the tunnels, and nuclear weapons, that was real. The US didn’t even bother to ask the Danish government if it was ok with them to have nuclear weapons stored here, but in the end it didn’t matter because the ice turned out to be too unstable and the project was cancelled.
The Pentagon did what it often has done, left behind all the waste and garbage, even though much of it is toxic. Fast forward a few decades, and factor in climate change, and we have a real problem as Sarah Laskow of Wired writes:
Under the thick ice of Greenland, a scant 800 miles from the North Pole, the U.S. military built a hidden base of ice tunnels, imagined as an extensive network of railway tracks, stretching over 2,500 miles, that would keep 600 nuclear missiles buried under the ice. Construction began in 1959, under cover of a scientific research project, and soon a small installation, powered by a nuclear reactor, nested in the ice sheet.
In the midst of the Cold War, Greenland seemed like a strategic point for the U.S. to stage weapons, ready to attack the U.S.S.R. The thick ice sheet, military planners imagined, would provide permanent protection for the base. But after the first tunnels were built, the military discovered that the ice sheet was not as stable as it needed to be: It moved and shifted, destabilizing the tunnels. Within a decade, Camp Century was abandoned.
By the time the base was abandoned in 1967, it had its own library and theater, an infirmary, kitchen and mess hall, a chapel, and two power plants (one nuclear, one run on diesel). When the base closed, key parts of the nuclear power plant were removed, but most of the base’s infrastructure was left behind—the buildings, the railways, the sewage, the diesel fuel, and the low-level radioactive waste. In the 2016 paper, which Colgan worked on as well, the researchers suggested that the radiological waste was less worrisome than the more extensive chemical waste, from diesel fuel and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used to insulate fluids and paints.
Overall, the researchers estimated that 20,000 liters of chemical waste remain at the Camp Century site, along with 24 million liters of “biological waste associated with untreated sewage.” That’s just at Camp Century; the military closed down bases at three other sites in Greenland, too, and it’s unclear how much waste is left there. Over the next few decades, the researchers found, melt water from the ice sheets could mobilize these pollutants, exposing both the wildlife and humans living in Greenland.
The Cheeto-in-Chief’s shoot from the hip governing style has struck again, this time screwing his big time buddies, the US coal industry. I giggled.
On Monday, at the urging of the U.S. timber industry, Trump imposed tariffs of up to 24 percent on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. The issue of Canadian lumber imports has been vexed for years, but this latest hardball from Trump—especially at a time when he is threatening to pull the United States out of NAFTA—hit a nerve with Canada. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to stand up for Canada’s lumber industry, warning, “You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it.”
For many years, a high volume of U.S. thermal coal has been shipped through BC on its way to Asia. It’s not good for the environment, but friends and trading partners cooperate. So we haven’t pressed the issue with the federal government that regulates the port.
Clearly, the United States is taking a different approach. So, I am writing you today to ban the shipment of thermal coal from BC ports.
Clark goes on to note the success of the Beyond Coal movement in shutting down coal terminals on the U.S. Pacific Coast:
As you may know, over the past five years, every proposed coal export facility on the West Coast of the United States has been rejected or withdrawn, typically as a result of ecological or environmental concerns. . . . Oregon, Washington, and California have all made significant commitments to eliminate the use of coal as a source of electricity for their citizens. In fact, in August 2016, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed Bill 1279 that banned the provision of any state transportation funding for new coal export terminals.
Due to the lack of U.S. terminals, Clark says, U.S. exports through Canada have been increasing. Last year, she says, 6.2 million tons of U.S. thermal coal moved through the Port of Vancouver, and the number was expected to increase in the future.
a little background about the lumber dispute which led to the imposition of tariffs: doesn’t seem like it is that clear of a “win”.
The average American’s stake in all of this — or the average Canadian’s, for that matter — is considerably less clear than the Trump administration’s rhetoric would imply.
As a lumber producer, Canada enjoys a basic advantage over the United States: a timber inventory that’s 13 times greater, per capita, according to Daowei Zhang, a professor of forest economics and policy at Auburn University who has made a career of his own studying this never-ending kerfuffle. Canada’s resource endowment, plus exchange rates and many other economic factors, helps explain the rise of Canadian softwood-lumber imports from a mere 7 percent of the U.S. market during the Korean War to 30 percent or so in recent years.
U.S. producers emphasize the fact that Canada’s forests are government-owned, whereas most U.S. timber stands are on private land. Provincial agencies set the price loggers must pay — delightfully known as the “stumpage fee” — for cutting down pines and other conifers, a.k.a., “soft” wood. U.S. producers say that this results in below-market stumpage fees for Canadian loggers — or, as the U.S. industry contends, a subsidy.
A 2105 Congressional Research Service report called evidence on this point “widespread, but inconclusive.” The U.S. side has not fared well in international arbitration. Even so, Canada has agreed to a series of temporary market-sharing agreements, the most recent of which expired in the waning days of the Obama administration, thus freeing the Trump team to take its new position, whether in earnest or as posturing ahead of a NAFTA renegotiation remains to be seen.
The best thing for the public, in both countries, would be to use market mechanisms to allocate timber resources to the maximum extent feasible, then allow free cross-border trade in lumber as in (almost) everything else. May the most efficient producer win!
Certainly, limiting imports of Canadian lumber, whether through tariffs or by negotiated agreement, will make U.S. housing more expensive, since Canada supplied roughly 31 percent of the U.S. market for softwood lumber in 2016 and softwood lumber accounts for about 7 percent of the construction cost of a home, according to the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
The NAHB, another D.C. lobby that the softwood-lumber dispute periodically activates, estimates that the jobs that Trump’s latest move saves in American saw mills would be offset elsewhere, resulting in a net loss of 8,241 U.S. jobs, $498.3 million in wages and salaries, and $350.2 million in taxes and other government revenue.
No doubt the housing lobby is a dubious proxy for the public, given its own dependence on government market manipulation and subsidies. Yet, in this case, the NAHB study illustrates a valid point: The Trump administration is not proposing to protect America from Canada; it’s proposing to protect certain American special interests from certain Canadian special interests.
So Trump purses his lip, imposes a tariff on Canadian lumber to show how “tough” he is against those meanie Canadians, and ends up screwing his coal producing buddies. Doh! Coal is a dirty, dying business, and shouldn’t be propped up in any circumstance.
Oh, and since I had to look it up: thermal coal is coal used for power generation, as opposed to metallurgical coal used mostly for steel production.
Coal mining, lumber, whale oil extraction: none of these industries are going to be resurrected to save the working classes of the United States, those eras are over, and are not returning. No amount of new regulation or removal of existing regulation is ever going to bring those jobs back.
To see where things get more tangled, head into the damp woods of the Cascade Range in central Oregon, and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, where a long economic decline began in the late 1980s as international trade shifted timber markets to places like Canada, and automated mills eliminated tens of thousands of jobs. Those computer-run mills are not going away even if more logs start arriving.
“We really don’t have a clear and easy path to go back to the good old days when natural resource extraction was driving our economy,” said Sean Stevens, the executive director of Oregon Wild, a conservation group. “It is not as easy as just logging more,” he said.
But the hopes, and the fears, about how that system might now change are boundless.
“My big hope is that people would be able to go back to work in San Juan County and these rural areas,” said Phil Lyman, a county commissioner in southern Utah, where antigovernment feelings run as deep as the slot canyons. “You just feel like everything has been stifled with regulations.”
Robot, living in the future
Republicans in Congress have proposed bills weakening federal laws that protect wilderness, water quality, endangered species or that allow presidents to unilaterally name new national monuments. Some conservatives hope Mr. Trump will support their efforts to hand federal land over to states, which could sell it off or speed up drilling approvals.
Uranium mines around the Grand Canyon. Oil drilling rigs studding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New coal and timber leases in the national forests. States divvying up millions of acres of federal land to dispose of as they wish.
To environmental groups, it would be a nightmare. To miners, loggers, ranchers and conservative politicians in resource-dependent areas, it would be about time. Either way, Donald J. Trump’s election presages huge potential change on America’s 640 million acres of federal public lands, from the deep seas east of Maine to the volcanic coasts of Hawaii.
A common theme that’s being tossed around is that Trump’s election was the white working class’ chance way to say “F**k you!” to the political elites who forgot about them, sucked up their factory jobs and left them out to dry. I take issue with this for a number of reasons.
The first and most obvious reason is this: How do you buck a system ruled by elites by electing a billionaire who was born rich, employed the Mexicans he blamed for taking jobs away and could never possibly understand someone else’s struggle? Next, I don’t fully understand the term “hard-working whites.” I come from the blackest community in one of the blackest cities, and I don’t know how not to have 10 jobs. Everybody I know has 10 jobs, even the infants. Black people, Asians and Mexicans alike work their asses off, so why is the “hard-working white” class even a voting bloc?
What’s sad is that these angry, hard-working white people don’t understand that they saw more economic gains under President Obama than they did under George W. Bush. Unemployment went down across the board except among African-Americans — the rate actually doubled for us — so those folks should be praising Obama, not championing Trump or subscribing to all this alt-right B.S.
Then there’s the myth of returning factory jobs. It’s not a real thing! And trust me, I used to subscribe to the same ideas, all caught up in the nostalgia of the old dudes from my neighborhood. My friend Al’s grandpa used to park his Cadillac on Ashland Avenue, hop out and roll up on us nine-year-olds like, “Finish high school, get a job at Bethlehem Steel and your future is set!” He’d spin his Kangol around backwards, pull out a fistful of dollars, give us each a couple and continue, “I made so much money at the steel factory, my lady ain’t worked a day in her life! I bought a house that I paid off and that shiny car right there! Yes sir, life is good!”
Those jobs were long gone by the time we came of age, at Bethlehem Steel and almost every place like it across the country. They weren’t taken by Mexicans or sent overseas — industries changed, new products were made and robots were invented that could do the job of 10 men and work all night without complaining. Those beautiful factory positions for uneducated hard-working whites (or anybody else) aren’t coming back, and I don’t care what Trump says. What’s even weirder is that we have created a generation of people complaining about jobs that they have never had and will not see in their lifetime — and again, for what?
SURBITON, England — The honeybees buzzing inside the hives in this community garden outside of London appear blissfully oblivious of the follies of man. But the political drama that has engulfed their human keepers since Britain voted to leave the European Union could ensnare them as well.
Few have bothered to consider what the country’s historic decision to end its four-decade alliance with the continent will mean for the humble arthropod. Gaining far more attention have been the passionate debates over the merits of immigration and the limits of globalization that fueled the nation’s desire to quit the E.U.
But unraveling any marriage is a complicated affair, and the fate of Apis mellifera highlights how entangled Britain has become with the 27 countries beyond the English Channel. At stake are the future of European regulations of pesticides that could threaten the 250,000 hives on this island nation; medicines that can be used to treat honeybee ailments; and funding for inspectors responsible for ensuring the health of Britain’s bees.
The honeybee falls under the jurisdiction of the European Food Safety Authority. The E.U. produces more than 200,000 tons of honey for human consumption each year, but officials’ interest is not merely culinary. Bees are a critical pollinator of Europe’s farm crops, and their indirect impact on agriculture is estimated to be 22 billion euros, dwarfing the sales of honey. Beekeepers hope that means their interests would not be ignored in any future discussions.
Beekeepers are divided over what Britain’s departure from the E.U. will mean for their hives. Generating the most buzz is a temporary ban on pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, used by farmers. Environmentalists and bee enthusiasts had lobbied for the moratorium after noticing that bees exposed to the chemical appeared to act drunk — becoming disoriented and getting lost.
Now the question is whether Britain will keep the ban or roll it back.
“Environmental issues cross political boundaries. In order to tackle them, you have to work together,” said Norman Carreck, science director at the International Bee Research Association. “If the U.K. leaves, everything is open to negotiation.”
To those who supported remaining in the E.U., the moratorium is exactly the type of regulatory minutiae that the alliance is supposed to alleviate. A centralized bureaucracy helps Britain compete in an increasingly interconnected world. Rather than negotiate with 28 agencies over pesticide use across Europe, beekeepers need only deal with one. A unified bloc also gives Britain greater leverage in negotiations with other world leaders. Collectively, the E.U. is the largest economy in the world — bigger than the United States. Alone, the United Kingdom is a distant fifth.
Founded in 2008, in Chicago, IL, LANDLOCK® Natural Paving, Inc has set out to solve the world’s infrastructure needs, both in road building and dust suppression. Our reach is global, and we’re proud to be the industry leader in our field.
Unpaved and poorly paved roads have been identified as infrastructure barriers to profitable development: by individual nations, businesses, city planners and supranational organizations (the World Bank and the United Nations) alike.
The United States alone has over 1.5 million miles of unpaved roadways, leading to transportation inefficiency, destructive airborne pollution and unsafe transportation.
Asphalt, as a primary paving solution, has increasingly proven expensive and environmentally irresponsible because of its reliance on crude oil, poor durability, need for maintenance and pollution.
To respond to this need for a reliable, cost-effective and durable paving solution, LANDLOCK® has emerged as a respected, reliable international distributor of a patented paving technology that is among the most cost-effective, durable, strong, sustainable and easy to build. Most of all, it is superior to asphalt: less expensive, more durable, easier to install and more sustainable.
Environmentally, asphalt incurs a high cost because of the toxic footprint of the fuel-inefficient trucks that must drive back and forth to the plant; and because of the petroleum in asphalt that leaches into the groundwater and, when hot, pollutes the air, proving toxic for the workers laying the asphalt. Finally, the added cost of maintenance comes into play when inevitable erosion and potholes arise with time and changing climate patterns, necessitating frequent repeats to the whole expensive process.
I think we can all agree that the TSA should be abolished, sooner than later:
The TSA is hard to evaluate largely because it’s attempting to solve a non-problem. Despite some very notable cases, airplane hijackings and bombings are quite rare. There aren’t that many attempts, and there are even fewer successes. That makes it hard to judge if the TSA is working properly — if no one tries to do a liquid-based attack, then we don’t know if the 3-ounce liquid rule prevents such attacks.
So Homeland Security officials looking to evaluate the agency had a clever idea: They pretended to be terrorists, and tried to smuggle guns and bombs onto planes 70 different times. And 67 of those times, the Red Team succeeded. Their weapons and bombs were not confiscated, despite the TSA’s lengthy screening process. That’s a success rate of more than 95 percent.
It’s easy to make too much of high failure rates like that. As security expert Bruce Schneier likes to note, such screenings don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be good enough to make terrorists change their plans: “No terrorist is going to base his plot on getting a gun through airport security if there’s a decent chance of getting caught, because the consequences of getting caught are too great.”
But even Schneier says 95 percent was embarrassingly high, and probably not “good enough” for those purposes. If you’re a prospective terrorist looking at that stat, you might think smuggling a gun onto a plane is worth a shot.
Schneier isn’t a TSA defender by any means. He likes to note that there’s basically zero evidence the agency has prevented any attacks. The TSA claims it won’t provide examples of such cases due to national security, but given its history of bragging about lesser successes, that’s a little tough to believe. For instance, the agency bragged plenty about catching Kevin Brown, an Army vet who tried to check pipe bomb-making materials. Brown wasn’t going to blow up the plane — the unfinished materials were in his checked luggage — but if the TSA publicized that, why wouldn’t it publicize catching someone who was trying to blow up the plane?
People like Peter Thiel would be better served if they left the United States and started their own country somewhere else, leaving the rest of us normals alone:
Peter Thiel, foremost among Silicon Valley’s loopy libertarians and the first outside investor in Facebook, has written an essay declaring that the country went to hell as soon as women won the right to vote.
Thiel is the former CEO of PayPal who now runs the $2 billion hedge fund Clarium Capital and a venture-capital firm called the Founders Fund. His best-returning investment to date, though, has been Facebook. His $500,000 investment is now worth north of $100 million even by the most conservative valuations of the social network.
On the side, though, his pet passion is libertarianism and the fantasy that everything would be better in the world if government just quit nagging everybody. But, now he’s given up hope on achieving his vision through political means because, as he writes in Cato Unbound, a website run by the Cato Institute, all those voting females have wrecked things
I’d be very leery of doing business with Mr. Thiel, he seems like he could fly off the handle very easily, and hold a grudge about it for years. But you might never hear about it, because the media that covers Silicon Valley is more like a PR machine than journalistic:
I would like to think that I would know more about whether this sort of thing is typical of Thiel’s behavior because there would be enough evidence of it one way or the other in tech press. But I don’t think there would be. A lot of self-censoring happens in the tech industry because people fear blowback — and in a way that I haven’t experienced in finance or publishing. Entrepreneurs genuinely worry that capital markets won’t be accessible to them if they express any kind of criticism, or talk about the bad things that happen in the industry. (I am not of that opinion, obviously, but as the former CTO of a big tech co told me a couple of weeks ago with a bit of an eyeroll, “you’re not normal anyway, Spiers.”)
Another factor: I think Thiel aside, tech press is largely fawning toward successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and mostly unintentionally. Journalists who haven’t worked in tech themselves are sometimes genuinely and sincerely enamored with the promise of what they’re looking at and are so dazzled that they fail to ask the questions they should. Some of them are lazy and it’s always easier as a journalist to write the glowing lightweight story, where no one’s going to press you to nail down the facts and you won’t get any blowback from sources or subjects. Ultimately, this has created a sense of entitlement in the industry where denizens of Silicon Valley expect the media to actively support them and any negative portrayals are met with real anger and resentment, even when they’re 100% accurate. And it’s never the media’s job to support the industry — that’s PR. It’s the media’s job to cover it, the good and the bad. But if you’re not used to being covered, and that would describe 99% of the tech industry, the scrutiny can be uncomfortable.
Does Donald Trump have a long history with the mob? David Jay Johnston thinks Trump might:
6. Trump Tower is not a steel girder high rise, but 58 stories of concrete.
Why did you use concrete instead of traditional steel girders?
7. Trump Tower was built by S&A Concrete, whose owners were “Fat” Tony Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family, and Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, head of the Gambinos, another well-known crime family.
If you did not know of their ownership, what does that tell voters about your management skills?
8. You later used S&A Concrete on other Manhattan buildings bearing your name.
9. In demolishing the Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower, you had no labor troubles, even though only about 15 unionists worked at the site alongside 150 Polish men, most of whom entered the country illegally, lacked hard hats, and slept on the site.
How did you manage to avoid labor troubles, like picketing and strikes, and job safety inspections while using mostly non-union labor at a union worksite — without hard hats for the Polish workers?
10. A federal judge later found you conspired to cheat both the Polish workers, who were paid less than $5 an hour cash with no benefits, and the union health and welfare fund. You testified that you did not notice the Polish workers, whom the judge noted were easy to spot because they were the only ones on the work site without hard hats.
What should voters make of your failure or inability to notice 150 men demolishing a multi-story building without hard hats?
11. You sent your top lieutenant, lawyer Harvey I. Freeman, to negotiate with Ken Shapiro, the “investment banker” for Nicky Scarfo, the especially vicious killer who was Atlantic City’s mob boss, according to federal prosecutors and the New Jersey State Commission on Investigation.
Since you emphasize your negotiating skills, why didn’t you negotiate yourself?
12. You later paid a Scarfo associate twice the value of a lot, officials determined.
Since you boast that you always negotiate the best prices, why did you pay double the value of this real estate?
The governments of the world are dragging their feet, so good for these citizen activists.
Global warming is already disrupting the planet’s weather. Now it is having an impact on the courts, as well, as adults and children around the world try to enlist the judiciary in their efforts to blunt climate change.
In the United States, an environmental law nonprofit is suing the federal government on behalf of 21 young plaintiffs. Individuals in Pakistan and New Zealand have sued to force their governments to take stronger action to fight climate change. A farmer in Peru has sued a giant German energy utility over its part in causing global warming.
And while the arguments can be unconventional and surprising, some of the suits are making progress.
Last month, a federal magistrate judge in Oregon startled many legal experts by allowing the lawsuit filed on behalf of 21 teenagers and children to go forward, despite motions from the Obama administration and fossil fuel companies to dismiss it; the suit would force the government to take more aggressive action against climate change. The ruling by the magistrate judge, Thomas M. Coffin, now goes to Federal District Court to be accepted or rejected.
Technology used to reduce energy use – seems like a good idea. Why isn’t this technique being used everywhere?
American hotels have long resisted key cards or other energy-saving systems. Energy was cheap, and hoteliers feared that guests, who routinely left their rooms with the lights and air-conditioner on, would see any check on their energy use as an inconvenience.
Hotel guests “have a feeling that they paid for the space and they can use it freely, and there’s a natural tendency not to be too conscious of their energy use,” said Brian Carberry, a director of product management for Leviton Manufacturing Company, of Melville, N.Y., which makes key card switches and other energy-saving devices for hotels.
But the aversion of hoteliers in the United States is slowly shifting as Americans have become more energy conscious and more states and municipalities have adopted rigorous building codes for energy use.
In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, 29 percent of hotels surveyed by the American Hotel and Lodging Association had a sensor system in guest rooms to control the temperature, compared with less than 20 percent in 2004; and more than 75 percent had switched to LED lighting, up from less than 20 percent. Other energy-saving measures had also been more widely adopted.
Energy costs typically represent 4 to 6 percent of a hotel’s overall operating expenses, with the largest share for heating and air-conditioning.
Many major hotels in the United States have digitally controlled thermostats to monitor the temperature in guest rooms, said Pat Maher, a retired Marriott executive who is a consultant to hotels on energy management.
And a growing number, he said, have installed sophisticated systems that sense when a room is occupied. When a hotel guest enters a room, the device allows the temperature to be manually controlled within a certain range — from 60 to 80 degrees, for example — and then sets it back into an energy-saving mode when the room is vacant again.
Mr. Maher said such a system could save a hotel 20 percent or more in energy costs. And many utility companies, he noted, now offer rebates to hotels that have installed digital thermostats and other energy management devices.
I fail to see the downside to this idea, other than the hotel’s investment in the new technology, but even that seems like it would be recouped sooner than later. Would you really care if the lights were off when you entered your hotel room? And the air-conditioning wasn’t cranked to 63ºF? I wouldn’t.
Anyway, this is the part of Hillary Clinton’s mind that irks me and many others who want to be able to vote for her in the general election. Rather than tell West Virginians the truth that coal is the energy source of the past, not the future, Ms. Clinton apologized for speaking the truth in front of a different audience.
Voters in Appalachian coal country will not soon forget that Democrat Hillary Clinton told an Ohio audience in March that she would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
“It was a devastating thing for her to say,” said Betty Dolan, whose diner in this mountain hamlet offers daily testament to the ravages that mining’s demise has visited upon families whose livelihood depends on coal.
Mine closures, bankruptcies and layoffs are staples of lunchtime conversation for those who have not fled town in search of work. Like many fellow Democrats in the region, Dolan, 73, favors Republican Donald Trump for president, however rude he might seem to the proprietor of a no-frills restaurant known for its graham cracker pie.
“I’m going to go for the person who wants coal,” she said.
front-running Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton in West Virginia, where a pledge the former U.S. secretary of state made two months ago to kill coal miners’ jobs in favor of renewable energy continues to haunt her.…She had added that she doesn’t intend to abandon workers “who did the best they could to produce the energy we relied on” and apologized directly last week to an out-of-work foreman who confronted her in Williamson, West Virginia, but the general sentiment hasn’t played well in coal country.
“That was really a devastating comment,” said Robert DiClerico, a professor emeritus of political science at West Virginia University. He said he believes Clinton’s remark more than any other factor has boosted Sanders.
Solar Panels – Chicago Center for Green Technology
Mining coal is not even that big of a part of the Appalachian economy! 5% or something close to that per Wikipedia – $3.5 billion / $63.34 billion = approximately 5.5%
[West Virginia] has a projected nominal GDP of $63.34 billion in 2009 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis report of November 2010…Coal is one of the state’s primary economic resources, first discovered in the state in 1742. The industry employs 30,000 West Virginians directly, resulting in $2 billion in wages and a $3.5 billion economic impact
In other words, coal is not that big of a slice of West Virginia’s current economy, more important for intangible reasons, like “optics”, and “tradition”, and “tradition” and other empty words. Ms. Clinton shouldn’t worry about putting coal miners out of business, she ought to suggest re-education programs to train coal extraction employees to work in solar and wind and other alternative energy fields instead! They get to keep being productive members of the 21st Century, and we make advances towards ameliorating global climate change.
Instead, she said this:
The exchange during a visit to a health center in Williamson, West Virginia, highlighted the challenge Democrats will face in November winning over working-class voters in states where that have lost jobs in manufacturing and mining.
“I don’t mind anybody being upset or angry” about the struggles of the industry, its workers and their families, Clinton said. “That’s a perfect right for people to feel that way. I do feel a little bit sad and sorry that I gave folks the reason and the excuse to be so upset with me because that is not what I intended at all.”
“I don’t know how to explain it other than what I said was totally out of context from what I meant because I have been talking about helping coal country for a very long time,” she responded at the start of several minutes of back-and-forth with Copley. “I understand the anger and I understand the fear and I understand the disappointment that is being expressed.”
and also, most maddening, Hillary Clinton’s pandering is not even necessary – West Virginia is not going to suddenly vote for a Democrat in the general election! They are a reliable Republican state!
David Myers, an out-of-work miner, echoed the profanity Trump has repeatedly used on Twitter to repudiate global warming. Like Trump, Myers and others in coal country say misguided plans to stop it are costing jobs.
“A man of my caliber should be able to get a job in a blink of an eye, but there’s no jobs to be had,” said Myers, 49, who wore miner coveralls to Trump’s rally.
Trump has dismissed global warming as a “canard,” “hoax” and “total con job,” citing cold weather snaps as evidence.
On the day of Obama’s 2012 reelection, Trump tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” In September, he told CNN, “I don’t believe in climate change.”
update: both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton already have retraining proposals, fwiw:
“We just don’t want to be forgotten,” said Betty Dolin, who co-owns a restaurant in Danville, about 20 miles southwest of Charleston, where customers tucked into hearty meals like meatloaf and country fried steak with gravy.
She pointed out the empty tables that would once have been filled. “We can’t have coal? Bring us something else,” she said. “And I don’t mean job training. A lot of these men are too old to train for another job.”
Presidential primaries tend to bring attention to local issues as candidates move from state to state, and as the candidates have come to West Virginia to campaign, coal has been no exception.
“These communities need help,” Mr. Sanders said last week at a food bank in McDowell County. “It is not the coal miners’ fault in terms of what’s happening in this world.”
In some ways, Mr. Sanders is not a natural candidate to be courting the votes of coal miners: He is outspoken on climate change and advocates moving away from fossil fuels. But his message of economic fairness has been embraced by white, working-class voters.
Shocking, I know, but Exxon Mobil and Chevron, et al, don’t want to alter their profit streams, asking to be able to continue sending bomb trains throughout the country. The reason? Updating the safety equipment would cost money. What a compelling argument, worthy of a 6th grade debate team.
The American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s main trade group, petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block key provisions of the rules, which were unveiled this month by Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary. The petition was filed on Monday.
The trade group, which represents companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, has long argued that forcing oil producers and shippers to use newer tank cars and replace older models would impose high costs on the industry and lead to a shortfall in tank car capacity.
The petition seeks to block a requirement that older tank cars be retrofitted with new safety features designed to prevent them from spilling oil or rupturing in a derailment. It also challenges a requirement that tank cars be equipped with new electronic braking systems or face operational restrictions.
If Exxon Mobil were forced to spend $100,000,000 updating the bomb cars, ((a number I just pulled out of the air, and probably a lot more than they would actually pay)) would it be a large enough number to reduce their annual profits measurably? In 2014 alone, ExxonMobil reported revenue of $394,105,000,000. Chevron’s reported revenue for 2014 was $211,970, 000,000 by the way. I would hazard a guess their accountants are top notch, and most of the costs of updating bomb trains would be written off as operating expense, right? The oil industry has been making immense, unimaginable profits for decades, or more.
In other words, protesting that updating the rail cars so that they don’t blow up communities and cause fires that last for weeks because updating the rail cars would cost too much is a lame argument. Cries pleading poverty from corporations as wealthy as Chevron is laughable.
Love Is Letting Go
Not that the Transportation Department and Barack Obama will listen to me, but my negotiation points would include the tax subsidies the oil and gas industry currently enjoy: fix the bomb trains and you get to keep half of your tax subsidies.
The oil industry’s lobbyists like to argue that its array of tax write-offs (which allow companies to deduct everything from drilling costs to the declining value of their wells) aren’t any different than other deductions for less publicly reviled companies. Cutting them will discourage new exploration and put jobs at risk, they claim.
Yet, some of the breaks are anachronisms that date back almost to the days of John D. Rockefeller. And in a world of permanently high crude prices, there’s very little rationale for subsidizing the bottom lines of companies like ExxonMobil and BP.
Make no mistake, either: Those profits are perfectly healthy. Between drilling and refining, Exxon’s U.S. operations alone earned $7.5 billion after taxes in 2012. California-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation, one of the so-called “independent” oil companies and the top oil driller in Texas, raked in $7.1 billion via its oil and gas division.
From Apple, Inc.’s 2015 Proxy Statement is this proposal from conservative think tank, The National Center for Public Policy Research. We’re quoting the proposal, and Apple’s response to it (which boils down to a long-winded no, are you crazy?, for many reasons). This think tank exists mostly for the task of “dispelling the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis”, and to publicly scold corporations that drop support for ALEC, so you can imagine why they are pressuring Apple. For the lolz, of course. And to support their corporate masters…
On page 62 of the Proxy Statement:
Proposal No. 5 – Shareholder Proposal The Company has been advised that The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court, N.E., Suite 200, Washington, D.C 20002 (the “NCPPR”), which has indicated it is a beneficial owner of at least $2,000 in market value of the Company’s common stock, intends to submit the following proposal at the Annual Meeting: Risk Report
and the proposal:
WHEREAS, The Securities and Exchange Commission has recognized that climate change regulations, policy and legislation pose a business risk to companies. One risk is that federal, state and/or local government policies, adopted in whole or in part due to climate change concerns, that subsidize renewable energy and upon which company business plans rely may be repealed or altered. These changes in policy may be significant, and may come with little advance notice to the company.
RESOLVED: Shareholders request that the Board of Directors authorize the preparation of a report, to be issued by December 2015, at a reasonable cost and excluding proprietary information, disclosing the risk to the company posed by possible changes in federal, state or local government policies in the United States relating to climate change and/or renewable energy.
Apple Inc. has made renewable energy a priority. The Wall Street Journal reported on September 17, 2013, “Apple Inc. now gets 16% of its electricity from solar panels and fuel cells that run on biogas.” One state in which Apple has significant renewable energy investments is North Carolina, which may soon repeal its law providing advantages for renewable energy production, following a report by two think-tanks concluding that this law will cost state consumers $1.845 billion between 2008 and 2021. Subsidies and policies favorable to renewable energy also are being challenged in other states and also at the federal level, where renewal of the approximately $12 billion wind production tax credit (PTC) is challenged annually and in the past has only been renewed at the very last minute, following closed-door negotiations by lawmakers. The PTC’s future is impossible to predict.
The Company’s Statement in Opposition to Proposal No. 5 The Board recommends a vote AGAINST Proposal No. 5. This proposal would result in the production of a narrowly focused report that would yield an incomplete and therefore inaccurate analysis of the Company’s exposure to risks associated with changes in government policies with respect to climate change and renewable energy. In effect, the proponent is asking the Company to spend valuable time and limited resources analyzing hypothetical changes in U.S. federal, state or local governmental policies. The Company has already presented an analysis of the risks and opportunities associated with climate change on its website at www.apple.com/environment/climate- change and in its public filings with the SEC, as well as in a shareholder-requested and industry- recognized reporting tool, the CDP questionnaire.
The additional report would therefore provide little to no additional value. As explained on its website, the Company believes climate change caused by emissions from burning fossil fuels is a real problem, and has committed to reducing the Company’s carbon footprint.
The Company also provides detailed information on its renewable energy and sustainability efforts in its annual Environmental Responsibility Report, available online at www.apple.com/environment/reports. In 2014, the Company also provided detailed responses to the CDP questionnaire. Those responses, requested by shareholders, outline the Company’s views on the risks and opportunities of dealing with climate change. The report requested by the proponent would focus on one domestic aspect of climate change potential risk.
This approach distorts the global realities of climate change risk for the Company and its shareholders. The Company continually evaluates its reliance on both traditional and alternative energy sources and regularly makes decisions to mitigate the Company’s exposure to potential price increases, supply shortages and changes to federal, state and local government policies related to the environment. The Company’s public filings and reports already provide substantial disclosure regarding the Company’s approach to renewable energy and sustainability.
For example, with respect to regulatory risks, the Annual Report included a risk factor entitled “The Company is subject to laws and regulations worldwide, changes to which could increase the Company’s costs and individually or in the aggregate adversely affect the Company’s business.” This risk factor specifically addresses potential changes in laws and regulations, which could “make the Company’s products and services less attractive to the Company’s customers, delay the introduction of new products in one or more regions, or cause the Company to change or limit its business practices.”
The report requested by the proposal would not, in substance, provide any more meaningful detail than the Company’s existing disclosures nor would it justify the use of significant resources associated with preparing such a report. The Company believes that the fulsome disclosure already publicly available in the Company’s public filings and on the Company’s website are more than adequate to address the underlying issues outlined in the proposal. The Company also believes that producing the report requested by the proposal would not be an efficient use of Company resources nor an effective way to protect shareholder value.
Let’s hope this proposal fails. I voted against it1
I once bought 11 shares of Apple with some extra money I made, I only regret I didn’t purchase more, especially as these shares have risen dramatically in value, and then split seven-for-one in 2013. If I had bought more Apple shares when they were $85 instead of paying health insurance, for instance, maybe I could have some money in the bank… [↩]