'/> Uncommon Hours: July 2009
Blogging on culture, politics, and the environment since 2008.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Forged Letters, Mexican Drug Cartels, and Waterboarding

By Heather Moyer

Sierra Club RAW
Uncooked truth, beyond belief

Issue #291: July 31, 2009

The opponents of clean energy and climate legislation are getting desperate, to say the least.

These last two days have been very telling. The big news right now comes from some shameful lobbyists possibly at the behest of the energy and coal industries. The Daily Progress newspaper in Charlottesville, Virginia, reported today that lobbying firm Bonner and Associates sent forged letters from the NAACP-Charlottesville chapter and a local Hispanic community group to Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA 5th) asking him to oppose the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). Both groups actually support ACES.

Could an industry that's spent $77.8 million on lobbying so far in 2009 now be forging letters? Well, having looked at copies of the letters, the text sure does look straight out of the coal industry talking points, citing that Virginia "gets 56% of its energy from coal."

Fortunately, Rep. Ed Markey, Chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, is launching an investigation to get to the bottom of this, so hopefully we’ll know who was really behind these dirty tricks soon.

How low can these folks get?

The rest of this week's desperation comes from Thursday's Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the national security implications of global warming.

One of the witnesses for the hearing was David B. Rivkin. If his name isn't familiar to you, let's take a walk through his past.

Rivkin is a lawyer from the dredges of Reagan's and both Bush Administrations (senior and junior), having served in various Department of Energy and Department of Justice roles. He was quite a defender of a do-nothing environmental policy, "Wait for more research before taking any bold steps".

Oh, and he's a hypocrite, having said last December that he opposed waterboarding, but then later saying the opposite in a Wall Street Journal OpEd.

Add to Rivkin's string of terrible ideas his testimony at yesterday’s hearing, where trotted out the tired old position (pdf) of, "India and China aren't doing it, so why should we?" while also claiming that any action we take on global warming could, in fact, make us more vulnerable in terms of national security.

So we get a waterboarding supporter testifying, and then we have committee member Senator John Barasso (R-WY) use his newest excuse to oppose legislation: It will lead to black market carbon credit trading where Mexican drug cartels and other bad guys will use it to fund terrorism.

Hear him say it -- the video is highlighted on none other than climate denier Sen. James Inhofe’s website.

We can just picture shady people meeting in dark clubs to arrange black market deals. "Hey man, got an elephant tusk and two carbon credits?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

China Ups Renewable Energy Target

From Energy Business Daily:

As the United States Congress fights over the prices, benefits, and especially, definitions of its own national renewable energy standard, coal-giant China announced a plan to get 15 percent of its energy capacity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2020. Maybe sent as a signal to the United States and the remaining world that China is taking seriously the threat of climate variation, the news of China’s new renewable energy targets should also be taken with a grain of salt: the nation is also expected to release a revised power supply capacity target that is as much as fifty percent higher than goals pursued in 2007.

According to reports, Chinese officials plan on releasing a revised power supply capacity target for 2020 — a target that might increase to as much as 1,500 gigawatts.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Revealed: The Secret Evidence of Global Warming Bush Tried to Hide

From the UK Guardian:

"Graphic images that reveal the devastating impact of global warming in the Arctic have been released by the US military. The photographs, taken by spy satellites over the past decade, confirm that in recent years vast areas in high latitudes have lost their ice cover in summer months.

"The pictures, kept secret by Washington during the presidency of George W Bush, were declassified by the White House last week. President Barack Obama is currently trying to galvanize Congress and the American public to take action to halt catastrophic climate change caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jimmy Carter's energy speech matters now more than ever

Revisit Carter's Energy Speech

By Kevin Mattson

Published on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 by The Albany Times-Union

Thirty years ago, on July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter went on national television to give a jolting speech. Billed as an address about the "energy crisis" -- the recent cutoff of Iranian fuel that generated long and angry gas lines at home -- it wound up lashing out at the American way of life. Carter decried Americans' "self-indulgence and consumption" as well as their "fragmentation and self-interest." This was a "crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will," he asserted.

Today, we should listen to his words again, especially as debates about climate change legislation turn tough and confrontational in the Senate.

Carter, who thought of himself as a moral leader and not just a politician, believed Americans couldn't solve the energy crisis if they didn't move beyond their own self-interest and embrace a common good. He called on Americans to unify themselves around a sense of shared purpose, as they did during a war. "Every act of energy conservation is more than just common sense -- I tell you it is an act of patriotism."

Since then, Carter's speech has been widely condemned for laying the blame for his own failures on the backs of ordinary citizens. Far from it. For a speech that sounded as if it castigated the American way of life, it won Carter huge amounts of support. Immediately after the speech, Carter's poll numbers shot up, something that rarely happened during his presidency. He got more letters than he ever had before, almost all of them positive. Citizens pledged they would ride a bike to work or cut down on unnecessary trips. The counterintuitive happened: The president criticized his fellow citizens but gained their support.

What better time than now to revisit Carter's speech? The Senate is just about to debate a climate change bill that barely squeaked through the House in late June. Many conservative politicians have complained the bill would wind up taxing citizens for the sake of decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels. President Barack Obama's retort has been that the bill would cost less than a postage stamp a day for the average American.

Now's the time for political leaders who support climate change legislation to return to the language Jimmy Carter used and that Obama himself used during his inaugural address. There, Obama warned about economic and environmental crises and then diagnosed "a sapping of confidence across our land." He went on to say: "The challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time."

The language rang with a challenge and with realism and toughness. Obama sounded like a leader who expected something from the American people more than the cost of a postage stamp.

Carter's speech teaches us that this sort of rhetoric can actually work to build political will. Americans are not afraid to hear the tough truths about the problems of unlimited consumerism. They have reservations about how, in Carter's words, "human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns." Good leadership requires tough talk like this; it requires and can succeed if it is honest and realistic.

Unfortunately for us, we understand Carter's speech as one about "malaise," a word that doesn't appear in the speech. Many historians argue that the president was looking for a way to blame citizens for his own problems. But Carter shared the blame in the speech, admitting to his own faults. "I realize that more than ever as president I need your help," he explained, with a sense of humility.

Remembering Jimmy Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" speech (its actual title) today reminds us of important lessons: Tough rhetoric can actually mobilize citizens to action, and leaders can demand and expect sacrifice from citizens.

Most important of all, though, it reminds us that to solve our energy crisis, we need to examine our way of life and confront a culture of consumerism and self-interest. That Carter spoke honestly and found praise for doing so should give Obama grounds for taking Americans into his confidence and arousing them to follow him on moral grounds. Jimmy Carter tried that. His successors can do so, too.

© 1996-2009, Capital Newspapers

Kevin Mattson teaches at Ohio University. He is the author of "'What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?' Jimmy Carter, America's 'Malaise,' and the Speech that Should Have Changed the Country." He is also a writer for the History News Service.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III distinguishes himself as Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee

Sessions left little doubt about his priorities in yesterday's confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor, when he questioned Sotomayor about the New Haven firefighters case:

"You voted not to reconsider the prior case. You voted to stay with the decision of the circuit. And in fact, your vote was the key vote. Had you voted with Judge [Jose] Cabranes, himself of Puerto Rican ancestry, had you voted with him, you could've changed that case." [italics mine]

Sessions, himself a failed federal district court nominee, now serves on the same committee that once turned him down.

According to CQ.com:

"Sessions was serving as chief prosecutor for the Southern District of Alabama and making a name for himself through his prosecution of drug dealers when President Reagan nominated him to be a federal judge. But according to sworn statements by Justice Department lawyers, Sessions called the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union 'communist-inspired' and said they tried to 'force civil rights down the throats of people.'

Here's the kicker:

"Sessions reportedly said of the Ku Klux Klan that he 'used to think they’re OK' until he learned that some Klan members were 'pot smokers.'"

The question isn't whether Sotomayor is qualified to become a Supreme Court Justice but what Jeff Sessions is doing in a Senate chamber in any capacity at all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Planet's Future: Climate Change 'Will Cause Civilization to Collapse'

Authoritative new study sets out a grim vision of shortages and violence – but amid all the gloom, there is some hope too

By Jonathan Owen

An effort on the scale of the Apollo mission that sent men to the Moon is needed if humanity is to have a fighting chance of surviving the ravages of climate change. The stakes are high, as, without sustainable growth, "billions of people will be condemned to poverty and much of civilisation will collapse."

This is the stark warning from the biggest single report to look at the future of the planet – obtained by The Independent on Sunday ahead of its official publication next month. Backed by a diverse range of leading organisations such as Unesco, the World Bank, the US Army and the Rockefeller Foundation, the 2009 State of the Future report runs to 6,700 pages and draws on contributions from 2,700 experts around the globe. Its findings are described by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, as providing "invaluable insights into the future for the United Nations, its member states, and civil society."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Greenpeace climbers have just hung a banner on Mt. Rushmore!

Three Greenpeace climbers have hung a banner on the face of Mount Rushmore issuing a challenge to President Obama:

"America honors leaders, not politicians: Stop Global Warming.”

Watch it live at the Greenpeace streaming video: www.greenpeace.org/rushmore

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Colorado utility’s token wind farm needs coal-fired energy from Kansas to make it look good

There’s no shortage of irony in Colorado’s Tri-State Generation and Transmission portraying itself as a friend of the environment as it unveiled plans at a Denver press conference for a new 50 MW wind farm in eastern Colorado.

But Tri-State neglected to mention that it plans to purchase 600 MW from the coal-fired plant that Sunflower Electric intends to build in southwestern Kansas, mostly for the purpose of selling energy to Colorado.

As one out-of-town observer recently commented, when I described the nettled politics of energy in this region, “Kansas is Colorado’s coal bitch.”

Read more:

“Utility unveils its plans for big wind project,” The Durango Herald, Jul. 7, 2009
“How a bill became a deal: Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson's 'compromise' with Sunflower Electric,” Uncommon Hours, June 25, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Not so fast, Sunflower!

EPA: Sunflower must start coal plant permitting process over

From KC Star Primebuzz:

TOPEKA The utility behind a controversial coal plant project in Western Kansas must reapply for a new state permit, the Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.

The decision means another lengthy delay for Sunflower Electric Power Corp.’s efforts to build an 895-megawatt coal-fired generator near Holcomb, Kan.

The state’s top regulator initially rejected the project in 2007, citing its carbon emissions.

Lawmakers supportive of the plant tried for two years to overrule the regulator before Gov. Mark Parkinson inked a deal this spring to allow a smaller project to move forward.

Sunflower expected the decision and plans to submit its new application this fall, according to company spokeswoman Cindy Hertel.

“We’ll continue to move forward,” she said.

The EPA determined that too much about the project had changed to allow Sunflower to move ahead based on its initial permit application to the state, according to David Bryan, a spokesman for EPA Region 7.

Sunflower applied for a state permit in 2006. Since then the project has been revised significantly, going from three generating units and 2100 total megawatts to one 895-megawatt generator.

“We believe the proposal by Sunflower is a new project,” Bryan said. “That means we expect a public comment period, a technical analysis, all the things that need to be done.”

The initial review of the project lasted 19 months. A second permitting process means another round of public hearings and staff evaluations of the project’s technical details.

Submitted by David Klepper on July 1, 2009 - 4:43pm.

(For more background on this deal see my article, "How a bill became a deal: Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson's 'compromise' with Sunflower Electric.")