March 31, 2009

More confessions: Wind is not an energy source

In a report prepared for NC WARN and released today, economist John Blackburn and attorney John Runkle state ("North Carolina’s Energy Future", footnotes to Tables 1-6):
Renewables are treated as a demand reduction rather than as capacity addition.
The authors' intention is to show that with modest efficiency improvements and expansion of renewables (primarily wind), Duke Energy and Progress Energy do not need to build any new coal or nuclear plants and can even retire existing ones.

Their calculations appear to ignore, however, that average wind generation values hide its highly variable and intermittent character. Utilities have to plan for the worst-case scenario, and with wind, that's about one-third of the time, when generation from wind is virtually nil.

It would actually be better for these authors' goals to leave the wind out. Because if wind is added, the utility has to add capacity to provide for the times when the wind is not producing (i.e., not reducing demand).

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

March 30, 2009

Pickens: "I don't want to replace natural gas with wind"

From "Confessions of energy legends: wind power technically, economically inefficient -- can't really replace natural gas in electricity sector" by Tom Stacy, reporting on a "town meeting" in Ohio:
When asked what electricity generation fuel they envisioned for load balancing once the NG has been diverted to the transportation sector (a pillar of the Pickens Plan), Boone responded: "I don't want to replace natural gas with wind ... I would say that you use natural gas for power generation and a transportation fuel ... natural gas will last for 20 to 65 years. Then you're going to have to get on the battery." Not a positive word for wind.

The follow-up comment from AEP's [American Electric Power] Michael Morris was even more damning for the fading fame of the towering turbine: "Today wind is electrically inefficient and economically inefficient but it won't always be. We'll crack that equation -- Thank you."
Important confessions by two of the biggest promoters of wind energy: The Pickens Plan will not free up any natural gas for transportation; and wind is not ready to play a part in our energy supply.

Wind is a stalking horse -- for what? For Pickens, it's obvious: expanded consumption of natural gas. For AEP, it's probably to expand and upgrade transmission. (And with all that new very expensive transmission in place, most of the time being embarrassingly underutilized by wind, they'll just have to build a new nuclear or coal plant on it to make it pay.)

A final note -- even with efficient and economically and environmentally feasible storage, wind remains a diffuse resource. The fact remains that it requires huge machines over huge areas to collect a significant amount of it. Even if it were to work some day far in the future, it would remain an economic and environmental fiasco.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

March 25, 2009

Vermont wind companies inflate emissions displacement by hundreds

First Wind/UPC:
"The Sheffield wind farm [40 MW] is projected to produce 115,000,000 kilowatt hours of electric energy annually [33% c.f.]. ... Based on data recently published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (U.S. EPA) Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database (E-GRID), traditional Upstate New York generation sources producing an equivalent annual amount of electric energy would emit Greenhouse Gases (GHG) consisting of nearly 52,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 50 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx)."

Kingdom Community Wind Farm (Ira):
"A wind farm the size being evaluated [42 MW] holds the potential to meet the annual electrical needs of approximately 15,000 average Vermont households ... On average, the American Wind Energy Association has estimated that each megawatt of wind capacity displaces 1,800 tons of CO2 per year given the current mix of generation fuels, indicating that on average a 42 megawatt KCW facility would displace over 75,000 tons of CO2 per year."

It is notable that neither of these companies uses emissions figures from Vermont in describing the effect on emissions of their proposed Vermont wind energy facilities. Leaving aside for now the optimistic projection of production (the existing Searsburg facility has an output of only 21% of its capacity, not 33%), how much emissions are released by the generation of 115,000 MWh of electricity in Vermont?

According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. Dept. of Energy, in its State Electricity Profiles 2006, Vermont releases 3 pounds of CO2 per MWh generated, 0.2 pound NOx, and no SO2.

So 115,000 MWh of electricity generated in Vermont releases 172.5 tons of CO2, 11.5 tons of NOx, and no SO2.

That's a lot less potential displacement than 52,000 or 75,000 tons of CO2. These companies are exaggerating the theoretic effect by 300 to 400 times!

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

March 24, 2009

Greenpeace needs nuclear

As quoted in a March 17 Guardian (U.K.) story, Nathan Argent, head of Greenpeace's energy solutions unit: "We've always said that nuclear power will undermine renewable energy and will damage the UK's efforts to tackle climate change."

This shows how Greenpeace themselves have undermined their anti-nuclear stand by also taking up climate change as issue number 1.

Do they want green energy or carbon-free energy? Right now, you can't have both, because we use far too much energy to rely on diffuse, intermittent, highly variable, and nondispatchable renewables such as wind (whose green credentials, furthermore, are highly questionable).

While we work to develop good new sources and to clean up the way we use existing sources, the best we can do is simply cut down on our use.

But perhaps Greenpeace knows exactly what it is doing in calling for more energy construction. They live by membership donations, driven by facing down a few select environmental crimes. A push for new nuclear power plants is exactly what they need to keep the member dollars pouring in.

And that's what they'll get by forcing the government to choose between renewables and nuclear.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

Social taboo to question leaders

Allegra Stratton writes in today's Guardian (U.K.):
Opposition to wind farms should become as socially unacceptable as failing to wear a seatbelt, Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, has said. Speaking at a screening in London of the climate change documentary The Age of Stupid, Miliband said the government needed to be stronger in facing down local opposition to wind farms. He said: “The government needs to be saying, ‘It is socially unacceptable to be against wind turbines in your area — like not wearing your seatbelt or driving past a zebra crossing’.”
We have always been at war against climate change.

The government's faith in the wind industry's sales brochures is bad enough. If they listened to people who have actually examined wind energy's record, they would not be in the hole they have dug for themselves. But like any sociopath, they blame the very people who are trying to save them, who, perhaps foolishly, have thought that an injection of reality into the debate is in the interest of all but in time have learned that the issue of wind power has and wants nothing to do with reality but only wishful thinking.

It is government's habit to let itself be bought and to persuade itself that it is serving the public good. And when the public doesn't buy it, it claims to be serving a "higher" good, such as spreading democracy (by squelching it at home!), otherwise saving the planet, or simply preventing something "even worse". Thus the government places itself amongst the angels and those who question it in the slimepits of hell. And democracy is dead. By the government's own definition, it is above dispute and no longer open to discussion with those who would tear down all that the government deems good and worthy, that is, the furthering of the interests of those who bought it.

Or, more simply, here's another idiot unable to defend his position with rational argument so instead using his political power to force it on people instead of letting democracy work. Who is harmed? The people (and the landscape and wildlife). Who benefits? One specific industry.

And the argument that it is necessary to save the planet from climate change? Please. Wind turbines require a huge industrial base, destroy huge swaths of countryside and mountaintops, and require continuous thermal-powered backup. They add to the problem!

Well, that's politics. A politics that has lost not just its bearing but its legitimacy.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, Vermont, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

March 23, 2009

Zero emissions?!

On March 11, Elliot Burg, Vermont Assistant Attorney General, announced a call for accurate emissions advertising. This was made in reponse to a request by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group to examine "zero emissions" claims by Entergy, the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which is up for relicensing.

The attorney general's office concluded that "while greenhouse gas emissions from the nuclear generation of electricity are negligible, such emissions do occur when uranium is mined, processed and transported".

Entergy agreed to revise the wording of its ads.

We agree with the attorney general that "All participants in the public debate on climate change policy should ensure that factual statements about carbon emissions clearly and truthfully specify what the emissions claims refer to".

Therefore, we submit two examples of misleading claims similar to Entergy's.

From the "Environmental Benefits" section of the Sheffield Wind (First Wind/UPC) web site:
The Sheffield wind farm is projected to produce 115,000,000 kilowatt hours of electric energy annually ... without air or water pollution and with no greenhouse gases, a leading cause of global warming. Wind power doesn’t pollute: Wind farms create zero air or water pollution.
From "Environmental Benefits" section of the Vermont Community Wind Farm (Per White-Hansen and Joan Warshaw) web site:
Creating power without greenhouse emissions: Power produced from Wind is clean and does not tax the environment with fossil fuel emissions from other energy sources such as coal and oil. Wind Power = Zero Emissions. [This formula is repeated farther down the page.]
Not only their manufacture and construction (each turbine includes roughly 200 tons of steel and petroleum-derived composites, shipped from around the world; it must be anchored in several hundred yards of concrete and rebar; clearing the site and constructing heavy-duty roads and new transmission lines also contribute carbon emissions), continuing maintenance (including regular changes of the 200 gallons of oil in each turbine) and repair (blade and gearbox failures are frequent) and eventual decommissioning cause the release of greenhouse gases.

In addition, wind can not operate without support from more reliable and dispatchable sources on the grid, that is, the turbines do not operate without carbon-emitting back-up, which may therefore be used more often or at lower efficiency. A program for expanding industrial wind is also a program for expanding quick-response natural gas plants (as T. Boone Pickens well understands).

Related to this, industrial-scale wind energy is often claimed to be "clean" and "green", despite not only the above facts but also the acres of clear land required around each turbine, the degradation and fragmentation of habitat (by roads and power lines as well as the turbine sites themselves), the noise, lights, and vibrations from its operation, and the direct threat to birds and bats from the massive spinning blades and new transmission lines.

If Entergy's "zero emissions" claim needs to be clarified as referring only to the actual generation of electricity, then so too do similar claims for wind (ignoring its actual effects on the grid, as described above).

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

March 20, 2009

The Age of Stupid

'Windfarm developer Piers Guy doesn't see wind energy as the magic bullet that will save the world from climate change. But he does think that, especially for a windy country like England, turbines are the "foot soldiers, the pioneers" of a more intelligent energy system based on massively reducing energy use. He believes that "out of sight, out of mind" energy production has led to us all becoming "consumerholics" and, therefore, "the more you can see the turbines the better".' (The people of the film 'The Age of Stupid' [click here])

There is so much illogic here that it is almost unassailable.

1. Wind energy will not save the world from climate change.
2. A more intelligent energy system will be based on reducing use.
3. The current system encourages excessive use because consumers don't see the blight of electricity production.
4. Filling the countryside with giant wind turbines will make consumers more conscious of electricity production.
5. Being more conscious of electricity production, consumers will use less.

There's a lot missing in the leap to the conclusion of point 5, but most importantly it implies that wind turbines are necessary to 'spread the blight', as it were, a program the justification of which relies on an assumption that seeing the blight of electricity production will cause consumers to use less energy.

This assumption, however, is not supported. If spreading the blight is the motive, consumers are hardly likely to conserve because they've been punished with a vandalized landscape. Or, if we assume that Piers Guy believes that wind turbines symbolize 'intelligent' energy and thereby would stand as inspiration for consumers, their presence would actually stand as license not to conserve -- because now the energy they use is 'smart'.

(All of this ignores the fact that it is not obscure knowledge that fossil fuel burning is an environmental scourge. By the logic here, we need to build more highways and coal plants precisely because we usually try to minimize their impacts. Thus there is a contradictory premise at the basis of this syllogism: People are ignorant of energy production, because they have worked to minimize its impacts.)

But anyhow, wind energy is not "the magic bullet that will save the world from climate change". So it's a sham, meant to destroy our landscapes (not to mention our lives and the lives of other animals) either to make us feel bad or to make us feel good -- but not actually changing anything for the better.

At best, the "consumerholic" will shift from rotgut to plonk (as sold by Messieur Guy).

The fact is, Piers Guy is a salesman who seems to have bought his own pitch and thus finds himself in a morass of twisted logic as he pretends (to himself, no less) that his interest is not simply to make money, that it is not his life alone that would be made better by energy sprawl in the form of giant wind turbines.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

The sham of "green jobs"

What's a "green job"? It's not the job that's green, since it's regular old manufacturing and construction that are as "ungreen" as ever -- but building something that is believed will ultimately help reduce human impact on the earth (without our having to give anything up).

If such jobs involve installing electricity-generating plants in, say, delicate ecosystems where even much lighter development is not allowed, they can not be called "green". Environmentalists and conservationists recognize that such construction programs do not justify destroying wildlife habitat or wrecking the landscape. That in fact, destroying the landscape in the name of saving it just doesn't wash.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, thinks it has found a powerful cudgel to use against protective regulation: "green jobs"! Like tiresome children, any expression of concern -- for wetlands and birds, bats, habitat degradation and fragmentation, noise, enjoyment of one's property, etc. -- is shouted down with NIMBY! They've even dedicated a web site to chronicle the shameful parade of citizens fighting to protect the land and their health against heedless energy development.

The insult, however, is that so many environmental groups join with the Chamber in their denunciations in service of industry instead of doing the job of defending nature.

And the insult is compounded by politicians who ignore their constituents' concerns -- particularly those whose lives are directly affected by such construction programs -- and hide behind the "green" mantle that industry has so courteously stitched together for them.

Green jobs (everything I support) good! NIMBY (everything you support) bad!

Age of Stupid, indeed.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, human rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

March 19, 2009

Wind turbine noise and wildlife

"Impacts of turbine noise on wildlife are essentially unknown. Mechanical noise from turbines is minimal, dissipates rapidly with increasing distance from the source, and is unlikely to impact wildlife behavior. Aerodynamic noise, which varies with the ratio of blade tip speed to wind speed, can be transmitted over considerable distances; sound waves from multiple turbines can combine to amplify the sound in the area of intersection (so noise is greater at a distance from the turbines than along the turbine string itself); and sound waves can bounce off neighboring mountains in unpredictable ways, increasing noise levels in unpredictable locations. The potential for interference with predator-prey relationships and vocal communication of birds during courtship and breeding indicate a need for additional investigation at existing wind energy facilities before this project moves forward."

--Audubon Society of New Hampshire, Feb. 27, 2009, letter to Site Evaluation Committee concerning proposed wind turbines in northern N.H.

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

March 17, 2009

Thoughts on the Death of Rachel Corrie

David Bromwich, at Huffington Post, March 16, 2009:

Today is the sixth anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie. On March 16, 2003, in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, she was run over by an armor-plated Caterpillar bulldozer, a machine sold by the U.S. to Israel, the armor put in place for the purpose of knocking down homes without damage to the machine. Rachel Corrie was 23 years old, from Olympia; a sane, articulate, and dedicated American who had studied with care the methods of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. At the time that she was run over, and then backed over again, she was wearing a luminous orange jacket and holding a megaphone. There is a photograph of her talking to the soldier of the Israel Defense Forces, in the cabin of his bulldozer, not long before he did it. None of the eyewitnesses believed that the killing was accidental. Perhaps the soldier was tired of the peace workers; it was that kind of day. Perhaps, in some part of himself, he guessed that he was living at the beginning of a period of impunity.

The Israeli government never produced the investigation it promised into the death of Rachel Corrie (as her parents indicate in a statement published today). The inquiry urged by her congressional representative, Adam Smith, brought no result from the American state department under Condoleezza Rice. Her story was lost for a while in the grand narrative of the American launching of the war against Iraq -- thoroughly lost, and for a reason. The rules of engagement America employed in Iraq were taught to our soldiers, as Dexter Filkins revealed, by officers of the IDF; the U.S. owed a debt to Israel for knowledge of the methods of destruction; and we were using the same Caterpillar machines against Iraqi homes. An inquiry into the killing of Rachel Corrie was hardly likely to occur, given the burden of that debt and that association.

Less than a month later, on April 5, 2003, the American peace worker Brian Avery was shot in the face and seriously disfigured by IDF soldiers in Jenin. The group he was with were wearing red reflector vests with the word "doctor" written in English and Arabic. As Avery later described it, they "weren't two blocks from our apartment when an Israeli convoy of two vehicles, a tank and an armored personnel carrier, drove up the street from the direction that we were walking from. And so as we heard them coming closer, we stepped off to the side of the road to let them pass by....We stood to the side of the road, we put our hands out to show we didn't have any weapons and weren't, you know, threatening them in any way....And once they drove within about 30 meters of where we were standing, they opened fire with their machine guns and continued shooting for a very long time, probably shooting about, you know, 30 rounds of ammunition, which is quite a lot when you see them in action. And I was struck in the face with one of the bullets."

Three days ago another American peace worker, Tristan Anderson, who was protesting the new security fence in the West Bank town of Ni'lin, was shot by another Israeli soldier. It now appears that Tristan Anderson will live; if so, it will be the life that follows having a portion of his right frontal lobe cut out, and a major trauma to the bone surrounding his right eye. The hole in his face was blasted by a tear-gas canister that struck him face-on. The canister was fired into the crowd by an IDF soldier from an emplacement high above. There had been sporadic rock-throwing earlier, but at the time of the incident, as more than one witness attests, the crowd was doing nothing; the canister could not have been fired in self-defense. But whether by reckless whim or premeditation, it came from a soldier in the knowledge that it does not greatly matter now if you kill a Palestinian or the occasional European or American who was working to defend the Palestinians. IDF soldiers who commit arbitrary acts of violence enjoy a presumption of innocence that approaches official immunity granted by the state. Where all of the violence performed by the state is justified by self-defense, everything is permitted.

What drives these Americans to risk their lives against Israeli soldiers on behalf of a subject people half the world away? The answer is a passion for justice, and a commitment to civil rights. Why should any of this be of interest to Americans? For a general reason and a particular one. The general: this is a passion and a commitment that we Americans at our best have been supposed to share; it is the largest single reason we have received the admiration of other people around the world. The particular reason is as obvious but more immediate. Barack Obama, our first black president, and a man who has identified himself as a beneficiary and successor of the tradition of Martin Luther King, has promised $30 billion of military aid to Israel over the next ten years -- with no conditions, no budget-items specified, no limitations spoken of. Barack Obama is known to be a moderate politician, and so we may deduce that the moderate plan, with Israel, is to keep increasing the leviathan-bulk of the American subsidy and not to ask questions.

We ought to know a good deal about a country to which we give such large continuous donations. ... the Israel we think we know is the Israel of books written sixty and forty years ago, and of movies made from those books.

It is a different Israel one comes to know in a recent book, Lords of the Land, by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar.

The authors of Lords of the Land are both Israelis, a scrupulous historian and a respected journalist, and the book, scarcely noticed in the U.S., was the center of a controversy when it first appeared in Israel in 2005. It deals with the settlements, or colonies, in the West Bank. One discovers in Lords of the Land that the IDF, which assists in the illegal administration of those occupied lands, has in fact changed enormously in recent years. Its new moral complexion, witnessed with astonishment by the world in the recent assault on Gaza, is a consequence of the presence of settlers in the army and of political allies of the settlers in the army's high command. The restraint for which the IDF was once admired has dissipated under a regime in which orthodox rabbis, hungry for the re-possession of a land they believe was theirs from eternity, are able to override officers and to tell individual soldiers by no means to miss a chance to kill anyone who blocks the way to an expanded Israel.

So enthralled are some minds in the grip of this religious state discipline that they refer to the 1967 borders of Israel -- the boundaries to which a secular government must largely return if there is to be a two-state settlement -- as the "Auschwitz borders." This mad slogan has been taken up by American admirers of the settlements, keen to be known as victims even when they serve as executioners. Stripped of the savage hyperbole, the sense of that statement is merely that these people want to hold onto the Israeli colonies on the West Bank at all costs. They are defending the confiscation of Palestinian lands and the gradual expulsion and transfer of the Palestinian people.

No person fearful of being a victim can be rewarded with special rights or special powers. If we -- Americans, Israelis, everyone -- want to deserve our freedom, we must agree to live in a moral world where people are responsible for themselves. And just as we cannot be punished for the things that our parents did, so the crimes we commit can never be justified by the things our parents suffered.

This is a moment to study the life and death of Rachel Corrie. She left letters of great interest which show her to have been a kind of young American that many of us have known and admired. Thoughtless protectors of the status quo will say that this is Israel's cause after all; that we have no right to ask questions, as Rachel Corrie did; that Israel, like the U.S., is a democracy under siege. This will not do. The U.S. and Israel are not helpless "survivor" countries, trying to work off the trauma of recent victimhood. We are vastly powerful modern states, both of which dominate our regions, and one of which could dream of dominating the world in the year 2000. Both have recently engaged, under the eyes of the world, in exorbitant, brutal, and unjustifiable wars that have tarnished our fame. In both countries, there is no sign of the militarism ending.

Yet in both countries -- though the U.S. lacks a newspaper even close to being as serious and candid as Haaretz -- there is a citizenry capable of being educated and roused to punctual action in its own long-term interest. The truth about this has never altered. The commandment governing the long-term good of a country is the same as that for an individual -- in the dry and accurate words of Thomas Hobbes, "Seek peace." And in memory of Rachel Corrie, let us say also: the addiction to war and indefinite expansion is no longer an Israeli problem. How did we ever dare to suppose that it was? When Americans are shot by a gun or mauled by a bulldozer, it is as much an American problem as when James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were beaten, shot, and burned, and their bodies left in a swamp, in Neshoba County, Mississippi, on June 21, 1964.

human rights

March 13, 2009

Tons of fiber-reinforced plastics ... lack of storage

"A largely ignored issue is how to deal responsibly with the environmental hazards presented by old rotor blades disposed of at the end of their operational lifecycle. ‘The 100,000 wind turbines operational at the end of 2007 contain about 660,000 tonnes of fibre-reinforced plastics, that at some time in the future will end up as a huge chemical waste pile. By 2017 the number of operational turbines worldwide will perhaps have grown to 400,000 units, which corresponds to about 6.6 million tonnes of fibre-reinforced plastics waste. The recycling of steel and non-ferrous metals is a relatively well-known straight-forward process, but this essential know-how is far more limited for fibre-reinforced future plastics waste’, Molly [DEWI (German wind energy institute) managing director Jens Peter Molly] concluded. ...

"Increasing renewable energy systems, while sharing an electric power generation and supply infrastructure, raises the need to develop sufficient energy storage capacity. This is essential to balance fluctuating power feed-in from these inherently variable power sources. Among several options being researched in Northern Germany is adiabatic (no heat exchange) compressed air energy storage in underground salt formations, and especially in naturally formed caverns. These structures, which have an average size of 500,000m3, offer a storage capacity between 2.02–2.73 kWh/m3. Total capacity for adiabatic energy storage in Northern Germany is estimated at 800–2500 GWh. The energy storage efficiency depends on the technology applied and is estimated in the range of 50%–70%. However, there are competing uses for these caverns – underground CO2 capture and the long-term storage of nuclear waste."

--Renewable Energy World, March 12, 2009

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines

March 12, 2009

Climate benefits of changing diet

Elke Stehfest (1), Lex Bouwman (1,2), Detlef P. van Vuuren (1), Michel G. J. den Elzen (1), Bas Eickhout (1), and Pavel Kabat (2)

(1) Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Global Sustainability and Climate, Bilthoven
(2) Earth System Science and Climate Change Group, Wageningen University Research Centre, The Netherlands

Climatic Change 2009;95(1-2):83-102

Abstract: Climate change mitigation policies tend to focus on the energy sector, while the livestock sector receives surprisingly little attention, despite the fact that it accounts for 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions and for 80% of total anthropogenic land use. From a dietary perspective, new insights in the adverse health effects of beef and pork have lead to a revision of meat consumption recommendations. Here, we explored the potential impact of dietary changes on achieving ambitious climate stabilization levels. By using an integrated assessment model, we found a global food transition to less meat, or even a complete switch to plant-based protein food to have a dramatic effect on land use. Up to 2,700 Mha of pasture and 100 Mha of cropland could be abandoned, resulting in a large carbon uptake from regrowing vegetation. Additionally, methane and nitrous oxide emission would be reduced substantially. A global transition to a low meat-diet as recommended for health reasons would reduce the mitigation costs to achieve a 450 ppm CO2-eq. stabilisation target by about 50% in 2050 compared to the reference case. Dietary changes could therefore not only create substantial benefits for human health and global land use, but can also play an important role in future climate change mitigation policies.

[Click here to download PDF]

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism

Richard Silverstein on the hounding out of Chas Freeman

"Seems to me we've just completed eight years of an administration that ran from the truth tellers as fast as their feet would carry them. Similarly, the lobby wants no truth tellers when it comes to devising US policy toward Israel. It wants sycophants, yes-men, pols who know how to line up in a straight line. We can see how well this policy worked for George Bush. And it won't work for an administration that wants to act as a more honest broker, rather than a cheerleader or enabler of one side's bad habits."

(Ironically, many Jews were automatically suspect during the blacklist days of the 1940s and '50s, and now they are the ones threatening careers to silence honest analysis and dissent. Similarly, it is disturbing indeed that Israel seems to have taken the lesson of the Warsaw Ghetto not as "never again" but as "Now it's our turn".)

human rights

March 11, 2009

Chas Freeman on his hounding out from the NIC

... The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.

There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States.

The outrageous agitation that followed the leak of my pending appointment will be seen by many to raise serious questions about whether the Obama administration will be able to make its own decisions about the Middle East and related issues. I regret that my willingness to serve the new administration has ended by casting doubt on its ability to consider, let alone decide what policies might best serve the interests of the United States rather than those of a Lobby intent on enforcing the will and interests of a foreign government. ...

Click the title of this post for the complete letter to Foreign Policy.

March 4, 2009

If you let big wind through the door, you can't stop anything else

Obama overrides Bush rule on Endangered Species Act, by Jim Tankersley. Los Angeles Times, March 4, 2009:
President Obama on Tuesday overrode the Bush administration on a key step in applying the Endangered Species Act, restoring a requirement that federal agencies consult with experts before launching construction projects that could affect the well-being of threatened species.

Environmentalists said reinstating the requirement blocks the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Forest Service and others from “nibbling away” at crucial wildlife habitat. Business and industry groups, on the other hand, warned that Obama’s action could hamper road-building and other projects that would help jump-start the economy.

Bush’s rule change, finalized in December, allowed federal agencies to determine on their own if projects would jeopardize endangered species, instead of consulting with expert biologists, as had been required for the last three decades. ... Obama made such consultation mandatory. ...

Industry lobbyists said Obama’s decision to mandate the consultations would add “red tape” to infrastructure projects funded by the economic stimulus bill. “This directive throws the brakes on projects,” said William L. Kovacs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs.

Even clean energy plans, such as wind farms, could be slowed down, said Michael D. Olsen, a former Bush Interior official who now lobbies for energy interests at Bracewell and Giuliani. “It’s not just projects that folks would term non-green,” he said. “It’s the green projects too.”
A few things should be noted. First, "red tape" in this case is what the civilized call "laws". Second, if a project threatens endangered species, it is not "green".

Third, it is not surprising that groups like the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) praise this return to the rule of law. At the same time, however, they join industry lobbyists such as Bracewell & Giuliani in promoting industrial wind energy development in rural and wild places. NRDC and EDF completely ignore adverse impacts in their praise for big wind. EDF even does PR work for individual companies. Only the Sierra Club recognizes that "wind projects tend to be large industrial developments with inevitable adverse impacts". Many of its local chapters actively oppose giant wind projects. Yet they also unquestionably accept the industry pitch that "Wind power is a reliable, clean, renewable resource that can help reduce our dependence on polluting fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and nuclear power for electricity". The wind is anything but reliable (for providing real-time power in response to the needs of the electric grid), you can hardly call 400+-ft-high generators clean -- along with their associated clearing, foundations, roads, substations, and transmission lines -- and, due to wind's high variability, intermittency, and unpredictability, it has not been shown to reduce the use of other sources.

Regarding industrial wind energy, environmental groups need to reassess what side they're on. As they welcome Obama's restoration of protection for endangered species, they should restore their own perspective: They should stop acting as agents for an industry whose green credentials have turned out to be a sham and return to fighting to protect the natural world. Industry has its defenders. Nature needs its defenders to get back on track.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights

March 3, 2009

Wind energy executive gets elected to state legislature, pushes laws to benefit wind energy

The Feb. 26 St. Paul (Minn.) Legal Ledger included a profile of freshman state representative Andrew Falk:
In 2005 he started his own wind-power company, Knight Energy, and has been a frequent presence at the Capitol in recent years lobbying for legislation supporting eco-friendly power sources. In part because of Falk’s advocacy work, his rural district has become something of an epicenter for the development of renewable energy sources, with wind farms and turbines dotting the west-central Minnesota prairie landscape. ... The freshman legislator from Murdock now expects to expand this work through his post as vice chair of the Energy Finance and Policy Division.
There was no mention in the piece that Falk divested his stake in Knight Energy before becoming a lawmaker. As far as I could determine, Falk is still invested in Knight Energy.

The usual ethics problem for legislators is their becoming lobbyists for industries soon after steering laws to their benefit. Here we have a lobbyist becoming a legislator and promising to work for laws benefiting his company. Sheesh!

wind power, wind energy, anarchism, ecoanarchism

March 2, 2009

Denmark: more per-capita carbon emissions than U.S.

According to Ralph Sylvestersen, Special Adviser for maritime regulation and international affairs at the Danish Maritime Authority and committees at the U.N.'s International Labor Organization and International Maritime Organization, and principal ship surveyor, Greenland, Denmark easily surpasses the United States in per-capita carbon emissions. Click the title of this post for his original piece.

Denmark boasts a high level of growth but steady energy consumption. Sylvestersen notes that while shipping is included in the gross domestic product, its energy consumption isn't included in national figures. Denmark owns 10% of the world's shipping fleet, including the high-speed container ships of the Maersk Line and others. In 2006, the shipping industry used more than twice as much energy as the entire country's domestic consumption.

Recalculating with figures from the Danish International Shipping Industry, Danish per-capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 32.5 tons/year. That compares to 19.5 tons/year in the United States.