Monday, January 28, 2008

Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler

Mark Bittman writes in the "Week in Review", New York Times, Sunday, Jan. 29 (click the title of this post for the complete article):

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States. ...

If price spikes don’t change eating habits, perhaps the combination of deforestation, pollution, climate change, starvation, heart disease and animal cruelty will gradually encourage the simple daily act of eating more plants and fewer animals.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tell Congress NOT to extend wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC)

Click here (or the title of this post) to use an automatic form to write your members of Congress. Change the content provided in that form to the text below (or something of your own).

DO NOT Extend the renewable energy Production Tax Credit

Wind energy facilities currently benefit from having up to 75% of their capital value paid for by taxpayers through not only the 10-year Production Tax Credit, but also 5-year double-declining balance accelerated depreciation, a variety of grants and other incentives, and state and municipal tax breaks. In addition to selling electricity, they are able to sell "renewable energy credits" to further increase their profits.

These facilities are usually developed by developers funded by private investors, increasingly from other countries, who more than welcome such largesse with the public's money. In fact, they clamor for it, pretending it is necessary to their success and that their interests is purely beneficial to all.

Besides the obvious unfairness of this funding, wherever giant wind facilities are constructed, the public has complained of serious ill effects, from loss of natural views, environmental harm, and adverse effects on wildlife and even human health.

DO NOT Extend the renewable energy Production Tax Credit.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism

Billiary

[Hillary Clinton] is predicting that electing her Democratic rival, Barack Obama, will invite a terror attack because he has less experience than she has. If you wonder if you've heard that kind of argument before, you have. It has been a staple of hardball Republican politics for the past seven years: vote for the Democrats and the terrorists win.

But Clinton deftly purloined it for her own purposes, pivoting a classic Karl Rove tactic against one of her opponents ... Ever since the Clintons' near-death experience in the Iowa vote, their campaign has been playing a very Rovian game. The use of the politics of fear is just the start. In fact classic Rovian tactics are now at the heart of the Clinton campaign.

First, play to your base. Obama continues to appeal beyond core Democrats to independents and even a surprising number of disenchanted Republicans. Clinton decided, in response, to craft her appeal directly to core Democrats: public sector employees, the elderly, working women, the urban middle class. . .

Second, attack your opponent on his strong point ... Obama's biggest strength among Democrats is his early and clear opposition to the Iraq war. And so, following Rove's golden rule, Bill Clinton dismissed Obama's long opposition to the war as a "fairy tale". Because in 2004 Obama had refrained from criticising Kerry's pro-war vote, Clinton argued that Obama implicitly agreed with it. Because he had voted - like so many others - to continue funding the troops, Obama was no different than Hillary. It didn't work. But it was a classic Rove try.

Third, wedge issues. Rove's classic example was same-sex marriage; a way to pit one largely Democratic constituency - gays - against others, namely socially conservative white ethnics and blacks. Hillary Clinton's task in a Democratic primary is much trickier. But gender and race remain potent political tools for the unscrupulous. And she has used both.

Andrew Sullivan, Times, U.K.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Clarity from Greenpeace U.K.

From the Greenpeace e-bulletin, Jan. 17, 2008:
Electricity is not the same as energy. The majority of our energy demand
is for heat and transport. While nuclear power currently accounts for
about a fifth of our electricity generation, that is less than 4% of our
total energy demand.

86% of our oil and gas consumption is used for purposes other than
electricity. Most of the gas we use is for heating and hot water, or for
industrial purposes. Virtually all oil is used for transport. In this
instance, new nuclear power - which can only generate electricity - is
practically irrelevant.

There are real solutions though.

The real solutions to the energy gap and climate change are available
now. Energy efficiency, cleaner use of fossil fuels, renewables and
state of the art decentralised power stations like they have in
Scandinavia.

We can also decrease our oil dependence by improving vehicle efficiency,
public transport systems and reducing the need to travel, especially for
business by using new technology like video conferencing.
Let us hope such a clear view about nuclear power as "practically irrelevant" in fighting global warming extends to industrial wind power, which is even more so.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Friday, January 11, 2008

Exit polls in New Hampshire gave clear lead to Obama

According to Chris Matthews on Hardball, the exit polls (which the public is no longer allowed to see) Tuesday evening showed a clear win for Barack Obama in New Hampshire's Democratic primary. (See earlier post about the possibility of vote-counting fraud.)

From the streets of Cleveland, Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich has called for a recount. The mainstream media scoffs, but such a blatant discrepancy between the exit polls and the results ought to make a recount automatic in a democracy. It's precisely the situation that sparked the "orange revolution" in the Ukraine and new elections there.

Click the title of this post for much more coverage of this issue from Brad Friedman.

Were the polls really wrong about Obama in New Hampshire?

In my experience, polls are disturbingly accurate. My first thought about the early call in New Hampshire for McCain and the lack of a similar call on the Democratic side was that the early results in the latter were in clear conflict with the exit poll information. And when that happens, fraud must be considered. Ben Moseley writes:
I ... put together a spreadsheet of the Democratic results of the NH primary for each town with almost all but a few towns reporting ...

What the informal statistics show is that Hillary Clinton received a 4.5% boost [from the poll numbers] in towns using Diebold counting machines compared with towns that didn't. Cnversely, Obama ... showed a 2.5% decrease [from the poll numbers] in the Diebold towns. ... [Boost and decrease from what?]

The possibility of election fraud is important to consider because of the predictions heading into NH primaries. All the polls were showing Obama with at least a 7 point lead over Clinton, with a few showing a double-digit lead, which is no surprise considering Obama's win in Iowa over Clinton, who placed third in the caucuses.

Update I: Some more statistics from the data show that Obama in non-Diebold towns garnered 38.7% of the vote to Clinton's 36.2%. The results in Diebold towns show the exact opposite: Clinton with 40.7% of the vote and Obama with 36.2%. Not only are the positions swapped but the informal statistics have the second place candidate holding 36.2% in both cases, which may or may not be purely coincidence. ...

Update II: Another thing to notice is that the Diebold machines returned a 7-point difference (+4.5 for Clinton, -2.5 for Obama) which is exactly what the polls had been predicting [except in favor of Obama].
Complete data are available at www.checkthevotes.com. An analysis showing that the Diebold difference could in fact simply be an urban/rural difference is available at drunkardslamppost.wordpress.com (although that does not answer why the vote differed so from the polls.

And anyone who notes that it's Republican operatives that control the Diebold machines need only remember that it is very much in the interest of the Republicans to have Clinton as the Democratic nominee. She is not only quite defeatable as a divisive candidate with a ton of baggage, she is also pretty much Republican anyway.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Windbearings, by Jennifer Delony

According to one Cohocton, N.Y., innkeeper, "there has been contention" between residents in support of and opposed to [Italy-based] UPC Wind's Cohocton Wind project. She is quick to note, however, that she is not for or against the wind farm, and she recognizes that we need renewable energy and progress happens [as Deng Xiaoping proclaims from billboards throughout China, "Development is the only rationale"]. This reasoned [i.e, following the industry's self-serving reasoning] resident of Cohocton adds that members of Cohocton's construction crew are staying at her inn, and they are "very nice." [Why wouldn't they be -- the problem is what they're constructing. Apparently, the industry believes its own slurs against nonpermanent residents.]

In New York state, this innkeeper's generosity of spirit toward progress [since it means a surge in her business] is not thoroughly pervasive. Wind power projects in New York have well-funded opposition, says Carol Murphy, executive director of the [very well funded, with 65 industry members annually paying up to $25,000 each] Alliance for Clean Energy New York [ACENY]. Ultimately, though, Murphy believes that these groups have not gained traction at the local government level [although they are up against the industry's generosity with bribes and a full-time PR machine, many communities have faced the industry down] and many of their members are not permanent New York residents [how dare they have an opinion or concern for the place!].

"It's people who are second-home owners and who, in some cases, may live there parttime, and they are retired," explains Murphy. "They tend to be a lot more affluent and don't want to look at a wind turbine on their pristine upstate New York property." [This complaint is of course a clear admission that wind turbines are indeed a blight. And it is an attempt to change the subject from the many complaints -- not just the view, but also noise and flicker, water pollution, lights at night, impacts on wildlife, the unreliability and thus minuscule benefit of wind, and more -- to dismissing all opponents because a few of them are "outsiders", which is not only cowardly and dishonest but absurd since the wind companies themselves are the true outside exploiters of the local community.]

Despite the opposition, Murphy remains confident. For every opposition group, she says, there is a group in support of wind power [though most are shams created by the developers]. She adds that one of New York's "premier" wind power support groups, Friends of Renewable Energy in Fenner [actually based in Jordanville, and created by developer Community Energy (which is owned by Scottish Energy which is owned by Iberdrola of Spain)], N.Y., is so proud of the region's wind power that the group is developing new strategies for reaching out to the public. The 30 MW Fenner wind project, which has been fully operational since 2001, is one of the oldest utility-scale wind power facilities in New York.

"The group is raising money for a renewable energy education center, not just about wind farms, but also about other forms of renewable energy because Fenner has become a tourist destination," says Murphy. [Actually, it appears that Murphy's group, the very well funded ACENY, is behind the "Fenner Renewable Energy Education Center" (FREEC), working through their PR agency, Trieste Associates.] "And when other town supervisors, planning boards and citizens want to find out what the impacts of wind might be on their communities, they go and talk to the folks at Fenner." [The importance of highlighting the Fenner facility instead of the many other sites that have more recently gone up is that its 20 1.5-MW Enron machines are fewer and much smaller than those currently being proposed and built, which are 400 feet or more in height, with rotor diameters up to 100 yards.]

With a spring commissioning planned for Cohocton Wind, it is hard not to acknowledge the benefits the project is bringing to the community - from the innkeeper's lodging profits to millions of dollars in payments to the town. Some residents, however, consider the process of listing the project's benefits a distraction from other impacts they perceive as untenable [if there were benefits besides these crumbs from a massive transfer of public money to private companies, there would be something to debate; as it is, these "benefits" are just bribes and do not represent long-term or reliable economic development; there are many ways, in fact, that such payments adversely affect the economic security of communities (e.g., state payments may be correspondingly reduced), and the burden of the giant machines, transmission corridors, heavy-duty roads, and substations -- especially when the tax benefits expire, some in 5 years, others in 10, and the company no longer feels so generous -- may be greater than the crumbs from the company can cover; in addition, the damage to farm fields can be devastating, but leasing landowners are bound by their contracts to keep quiet -- see "What Have I Done?" for the story of one regretful farmer]. Next month, NAW will examine the role that open and transparent communication with stakeholders will have in helping wind power developers understand and accommodate public perception as they continue record-making progress in 2008.

--North American Windpower, January 2008

[Thanks to a concerned wind industry associate for sharing this editorial with us.]

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights