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PostPosted: November 4th, 2010, 10:22 am 
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Since we're likely to have gridlock on any significant legislation in US (and comprehensive climate legislation is now dead), activist type dems are now recommending Obama gets tough with regulatory powers, enforcement, and other executive functions (including EPA). I think it's mostly wishful thinking (because he's a moderate on most things, and an incrementalist … and would face significant political obstacles in doing so). Regarding spending challenges (which are necessary to keep pace on everything from global competitiveness, high living standards, economic growth, opening up overseas markets, infrastructure, and education), The Fed has come up with it's own solution yesterday. Printing out $600 billion (with a "B") in cash and buying back Treasury bonds to fend off deflationary trends and as a stimulus to economy (which initially boosts revenues in Wall Street banks). This has the effect of lowering interest rates, pushing investment bubbles (namely investment into stocks), and lowering the value of the US dollar (ultimately, hurting Canadian exports). And what about the environment and our long term energy challenges? I would definitely love to have a chance to spend this money in a targeted way on issues that matter to everyday people, i.e., jobs, and their long term economic security (since it's going to get spent regardless) … but not when our own representatives (and voters) can't agree on a single thing. We live in interesting times.


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PostPosted: November 4th, 2010, 11:00 am 
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idylwyld wrote:
Whitewaternot wrote:
With 1,000 new coal-fired generating plants having been built or being built now around the world don't you think stop-action on climate change happend a long time ago?
Not at all … green tech is finding a very productive and lucrative home in China, India, Brazil, Germany, everywhere else there are booming economies, robust universities, and smart engineers looking to make the next big discovery (and with lots of government support). China per/capita emissions are very small and they're looking to transition off the worst of their polluting practices over time. They have to, or it's their doom, and they risk a popular uprising (and government leaders talk openly about this). There's no single nation in the world that I can see that loves coal as much as we do here in the US (certainly if the midterm election results are any indication).

BTW ... Obama was asked specifically to comment on EPA issue we have been discussing above in his response to election result. I urge you to watch it.


The only reason our planet has any oxygen left in the atmosphere and any ice in the glaciers is because the masses of populations in China, India, Africa and other once third world countries lived in poverty and could not afford the western developed world's lifestyle. Our planet will soon have a couple billion more autos running around, hundreds of millions of mansions similar to the 'common' four bathroom home being built in North America all of which need to be heated and lit, tens of millions of miles more of paved four-lane/six lane highways, tens of millions of additional outboard/inboard outboard motorboats zooming around the waters, tens of thousands of private and corporate jets as well as passenger jetliners .. and you say a few thousand windmills and solar panels are going to make a difference? (None of the smily face icons are appropriate.)

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PostPosted: November 4th, 2010, 11:28 am 
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You're exactly right. We can buy time with clean tech (it's mostly a jobs and economic competitiveness issue for me, not a one sized fits all solution for our environmental woes), but we need to be spending huge amounts on R&D and the next new breakthrough. And also changing everyday attitudes about consumption (which can be done). I'm not sure we'll ever be able to keep up with the juggernaut of the booming economies of the world. Does this mean we should stop trying, and attempt to burn our way to prosperity? The private sector doesn't have the capacity to make some of these massive shifts (and their short term quarterly outlook often recommends against it).


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PostPosted: November 6th, 2010, 4:10 pm 
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The situation gets pretty bad when even paddlers deny serious pollution problems just because they want to present a favourable image of their area, perhaps to generate tourism revenue. Problem is, people who tour the area from afar return home and tell their friends not to trust anything about that area .. or that country. Far better to fix the problems because that will generate tourism dollars.

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PostPosted: November 7th, 2010, 10:05 am 
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Idylwyld,

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I'm not sure we'll ever be able to keep up with the juggernaut of the booming economies of the world.


The juggernaut that you refer to may be the world being shaped more by plutocracy than actual governments, where corporate influence, especially with far-reaching multinationals, has huge power to influence governments and the middle class... it's really all about money in the economy.

The notion that a left-leaning government can create change to counter the negative effects of corporate exploitation and the needs of the consumer class may be mostly a delusion created by popular media... the notion that there even are left-leaning governments existing today may itself be delusional. There is a Republican right wing party and a Democratic right wing party... they both exist to serve the interests of capitalist corporate powers behind the scenes.

Both parties are funded by corporate donations and exist to serve the interests of corporate agendas, since today without the sales and earnings that come from corporate growth, there is no juggernaut economy to pass the money on to the never-ending needs of the consumer class.

The lunatic fringe Tea Party, although claiming to be independent in it's focus on creating governmental change is probably the most influenced by the huge corporate powers that shape where the consumer class wants to go.

Even China, in a non-democratic political setting, where Mao once denounced the Capitalist running dogs attempting to infiltrate the nation, now makes public statements that wealth and becoming rich is an admirable goal... plutocracy sinks in.

Another sign that things are not going well on the environmental front here in Canada was the resignation of the federal environment minister Jim Prentice last Thursday, who announced a career change to one of the big banks (CIBC a well-financed plutocracy if there ever was one).

His reasons were that he had gone as far as he could go and it was best to quit at a high water mark. Not good if that means the environment ministry is due for a decline of some sort, and that may be part of a much bigger trend taking place throughout the world.

Political analysts likened Prentice's attempts to get anything done in that ministry as "trying to sell veggieburgers at McDonalds" with hints of the frustration and the minister's efforts being nothing more than a token gesture aimed at the greens.

And more international condemnation of the federal failures in reducing carbon emissions (which may carry on now with the increased Republican presence in Washington, and the intentionally coupled Canadian-American climate initiatives now going nowhere, so the resignation may not have been entirely coincidental with the increased Republican presence in Washington occurring the same day).

Sorry for the rant, and the speculation.

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PostPosted: November 8th, 2010, 4:57 pm 
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Lots of news continues to come in on these issues, and consequences of midterm elections. Perhaps most surprising, resignation of top policy official on carbon emissions regulation at EPA, Lisa Heinzerling. The story highlights rifts/factions in EPA between those who want to aggressively use rule making authority to regulate carbon emissions, and those who seek a political resolution and legislative input from Congress (cabinet head Lisa Jackson is in later camp). Regardless, efforts to regulate through EPA have been dramatically scaled back since landmark ruling of Supreme Court on issue in 2007 (see more conciliatory tone between Congress and EPA).

Also on the horizon, a looming mining decision (here and here) facing White House on uranium claims in Grand Canyon National Park region (to approve full scale mining, partial mining, or extend moratorium another twenty years). 10,000 proposals for exploration were submitted last year, the Grand Canyon area is said to have America's largest concentrations of high grade ore. The central issue is whether exploration and mining could contaminate ground water supplies … the Colorado River supplies drinking water to 30 million people. The legacy of contamination on the Navajo reservation looms large in the minds of local residents, environmental groups, and State and Federal agencies.

frozentripper wrote:
The notion that a left-leaning government can create change to counter the negative effects of corporate exploitation and the needs of the consumer class may be mostly a delusion created by popular media... the notion that there even are left-leaning governments existing today may itself be delusional. There is a Republican right wing party and a Democratic right wing party... they both exist to serve the interests of capitalist corporate powers behind the scenes.
And FT … I really like your analysis (you're sounding like a liberal). I think the plutocracy (or simply the richest 1%, who continue to do very well through economic downturn) is a major force in politics and global affairs behind the scenes (outsourcing local jobs and industries to Asia and elsewhere, lobbying for tax breaks, minimal regulation, devolution of jurisdiction to States, smaller Federal government, all the rest). It doesn't take much to see their fingerprints all over the Tea Party (namely in the persona of Dick Armey, who orchestrated Republican takeover of House in 1990s, but also Jim DeMint, Rove and company, many other long standing stalwarts of the right, Rupert Murdoch and the Fox News media machine). But I disagree with you very strongly that both political parties are two sides of the same coin, and are feeding out of the same corporate trough. I think it's firmly the plutocracy that hopes you see it this way … in order to tone down excitement in the electorate, boost apathy, and drive down citizen organizing efforts (especially among voters who don't support their legislative agenda, namely democrats).

When you look at the legislative accomplishments of the Democrats over the last two years, it's hard not to see the right wing turn in the midterms (namely, the focus on less regulation, smaller government, cuts in spending) as anything but the status quo fighting back against legislative checks and policies that HAVE BEEN redistributive and targeted to middle class interests. Health care legislation (ObamaCare) stakes out huge claims on reining in excesses and regulating private insurance companies (perhaps the largest vested profit center in US economy second only to the defense industry). The same with banking reform (particularly efforts of Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, and White House) as a serious impediment to "business as usual" on Wall Street … and a necessary one in my mind given recent history. Energy reform and climate legislation was intended as a third pillar of reform and "change" from business as usual interests, looking at sustained long term economic growth and new opportunities for small businesses (rather than continued short term windfalls for the biggest and most well connected … Westinghouse, Halliburton, Exxon, Anadarko, Chesepeake, and so on). When asked why she thought Republicans have been so strident in opposing democratic legislative efforts … I think Pelosi gave the best response: "because we have been effective." Effective in what, you ask … reining in unfettered corporate interests at the top (and the perils of "creative destruction" that can be so damaging to so many in the middle class when you have naked capitalism run amuck).

Question: Could you please describe for me how you think democratic efforts to impose limits on unrestricted capital in health care, banking, and energy are anything but a direct challenge to "business as usual" interests, Republican outlooks, and the historical view of regulatory efforts imposed after Great Depression and WWII that many feel is responsible for the rise of the middle class, the longest period of sustained economic growth in our nation's history, and calm markets organized around sensible growth and not destructive boom and bust cycles? We live in drastically different times now compared to 50 years ago, with globalization as the single greatest challenge to our historical prominence, and there's a real debate to be had on what should be our new economic footing (and the role of government) moving forward. I think China, India, Brazil, and the EU all point in the direction of the leverage and scale that can be obtained with greater centralized authority and decision making. Here in the more backwards looking, centrist, and conservative West we seem to think unleashing the private sector to unregulated competition and getting the government out of the way is the best approach. I have my doubts! Watching debates unfold after midterms, all I can say with certainty is that it doesn't bode well for the environment!!


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PostPosted: November 9th, 2010, 1:01 pm 
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Question: Could you please describe for me how you think democratic efforts to impose limits on unrestricted capital in health care, banking, and energy are anything but a direct challenge to "business as usual" interests, Republican outlooks, and the historical view of regulatory efforts imposed after Great Depression and WWII that many feel is responsible for the rise of the middle class, the longest period of sustained economic growth in our nation's history, and calm markets organized around sensible growth and not destructive boom and bust cycles?


Well... most of the Sunday morning rant I pounded out earlier on was speculation, with no real grounding in news reports. The only sure thing was that the environment minister resigned, and that stinks, together with the Republican victories in Congress coinciding with the timing of the press release.

Are Democratic efforts a challenge to business as usual... to some extent they must be... as an example, the Republican candidates during that election almost all rejected climate warming and any countermeasures needed. But chinks in the Dem's armour seem to be showing now, and together with rifle shots in the ads, they may cave to growing anti-GW sentiment.

That sort of thing makes it hard to ignore the possibility that plutocracies of some kind are influencing public opinon and politicians (maybe even in an invisible, subliminal way like some conspiracy theories suggest, who knows), since votes need popular support. It's arguable that plutocracies whatever they actually are, own society (remember Bill Clinton's remark - it's the economy, stupid), and so pols on both sides must serve.

Reagan and Bush may have been the worst perpetrators, but the damage began and continued with Carter and Clinton, who began the policies that gave financial institutions their power (a big part of the overarching plutocracy for sure) and whose corruption eventually resulted in the disaster of the 2008 credit crisis, and the subsequent joblessness and housing foreclosures.

On the environmental front and some examples of corruption from both parties, Clinton exempted Arkansas poultry factory farms from water pollution regulations to allow rivers to be used as factory farm sewers to maximize profits there, while the Bushes OTOH favored big oil and petrodollars.

On both sides there were likely a corrupt set of pols, unable to respond effectively to decay and collapse, and powerless to resist more powerful corporate influence... together with the ongoing destruction of entire ecosystems when considering globalization.

The liberal half of America may be too apathetic and passive to do much against that, while the Republicans and especially the Tea Party, favor it, with deluded notions for an easy economic quick fix. The corporate plutocracy, meanwhile, continues to exploit humans and the natural world as commodities, resources to be used until exhaustion or collapse.

When a collapse occurs, the plutocracy will have the financial means to move to a better place, greener pastures... the less fortunate won't have that ability and will need to live with what the pols' corruption has left them with.

(OK, I admit this is mostly more speculation again... I suppose time will tell, with the trends in place today).

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PostPosted: November 9th, 2010, 2:41 pm 
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frozentripper wrote:
The corporate plutocracy, meanwhile, continues to exploit humans and the natural world as commodities, resources to be used until exhaustion or collapse.

Yes … I agree with this, we depersonalize the environment for the purposes of extraction, and have little accountability for what gets left behind (and the lasting effects on future generations). I don't know why we can't have a basic ethics in our popular culture on the environment, a kind of hippocratic oath to do limited harm and assist the recovery of the patient for the benefit of future generations. It makes sense on nearly every quantitative and qualitative measure I can find:

EPA report on anniversary of Clean Air Act touts important economic and environmental benefits:

From 1970 to 1990, prevention of:

· 205,000 premature deaths

· 672,000 cases of chronic bronchitis

· 21,000 cases of heart disease

· 843,000 asthma attacks

· 18 million child respiratory illnesses

Positive economic impacts too: total economic benefits 40 times the cost of regulation, increasing worker productivity, reducing lost work days, new markets for automobiles and cleaner vehicles, non-road engines in construction and agriculture, reduction in health care costs, more.

Clinton definitely made concessions in effort to reach bipartisan agreement with republican controlled congress (and Obama has continued trend ... viz offshore oil and boost to nuclear in run-up to climate bill). I don't fault democrats for speaking out against cap and trade from coal producing states such as Kentucky and West Virginia, they are just doing their job standing up for constituent interests and concerns. This stuff ain't easy!

We're going to hear lots more about the plutocracy and tax policy in the coming weeks (as debates rage on Bush era tax cuts). But the record and facts are pretty clear. Growing income disparity is a major concern between economists on both left and the right (David Stockman, the budget director for Reagan and architect of trickle down economics, now supports new taxes on the top 2%). And research clearly shows that income gains were the broadest and quickest under democratic presidents. Add to this huge environmental gains from democrats, and it appears it is well within our reach to have our cake (as Marie Antoinette famously said), and eat it too.

Not sure if you followed the election day interviews with Rand Paul, but he spoke directly to the plutocrats funding his campaign: "There are no rich. There are no middle class. There are no poor … We all either work for rich people or we sell stuff to rich people. So just punishing rich people is as bad for the economy as punishing anyone." I don't know about you, but life, work, and politics are far more complicated and interesting to me than simply earning and consuming my way to greater tax breaks.

New speculation on using Montreal Protocol to advance climate action and energy reforms (rather than courts and EPA). 700 scientists at American Geophysical Union promise to enter the fray. Isn’t it fun having a real opposition (even if we never really debate the issues). And Prop 23, an oil sponsored big business and anti-climate action initiative, was resoundly defeated in California, so the ground game is still a hard fought battle.


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PostPosted: November 10th, 2010, 9:58 pm 
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ScottT wrote:
This was far from a clear mandate: there were plenty of gray areas in the EPA's interpretation of the legislation and there are still plenty of unanswered questions.
As usual, there will be years spent in the courts working through all of this.
On EPA … It looks like the new carbon emissions guidelines (released today) focus on efficiency and biomass (and not retrofits for carbon capture and sequestration, which industry groups feared would skyrocket costs and halt upgrades and new construction). Some claim measures may actually reduce costs for big utilities and customers (over long run), and also generate "new income opportunities for American Farmers and forestry companies" (boosting markets for wood waste, switchgrass and other agricultural products). Texas remains the lone holdout (and a weak one at that) with court cases against the rules. More to come, I am sure.


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PostPosted: December 7th, 2010, 10:53 am 
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idylwyld wrote:
Get ready to hear lots more about ANWR.

And so it begins ... we aren't even a day into a new Congress (it's still months away), and the first call from Republicans for drilling in ANWR. I really hoped that there was something new under the sun, just a slightly new sense of mission and commitment to jobs, private entrepreneurship, markets that worked better for energy (improved our national security), and a clean energy future, rather than stoking long dead political fires, kicking the carbon issue down the road, and returning to the same old status quo approaches that change nothing. I don't take this as a serious approach to any of our energy challenges, but short term windfalls for some of the largest companies in the world (a hands down winner).

We have a discussion in another thread about the apparent high costs of clean energy development. Could somebody tell me how developing oil at a premium in ANWR (with little to no impact on global supply or rising oil prices) makes any sense? EIA analysis:

- "ANWR oil production is not projected to have a large impact on world oil prices"
- ANWR oil production reduces our imports (and reduces trade imbalances), but our dependency and demand on oil only increases for the period.
- ANWR will extend the lifetime operation of TAPS (Trans-Alaska oil pipeline system) and will likely lead to further development of small fields (especially after 2030 when production drops off and new fields will be needed to run a system that would be uneconomical without it). So oil development in ANWR changes little, and only leads to more oil development?


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PostPosted: December 8th, 2010, 6:14 am 
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Here's another opinion on the released BACT guidance:
http://www.lawandenvironment.com/tags/tailoring-rule/

Most states have said they will be ready, although it's now less than a month away and updated regulations haven't been released.
This legislation has been forced through faster than any other I can recall, I wonder why.

Scott


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PostPosted: December 8th, 2010, 8:13 am 
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ScottT wrote:
Most states have said they will be ready, although it's now less than a month away and updated regulations haven't been released.

The EPA has issued white papers on BACT (or best available control technology) compliance for many of the largest industries it seeks to regulate first: electric generating units, large boilers, pulp and paper, cement, iron and steel industry, refineries and nitric acid plants.

They also have set up a Clearing House on BACT technologies that industry can use for evaluating options, with full discussion of the central criteria most important to EPA compliance: technical feasibility, cost and other economic considerations, environmental and energy considerations. This database is relatively new and is still expanding.

You may be right that this will be a burdensome process for industry and there will be inconsistencies in the EPA approach. I suppose the only thing we can do is wait and see how it all turns out. But industry already does BACT reviews for SO2, NOx, and CO … and so the process is not unfamiliar to them. If the EPA is clear about its guidance, and applies it's rules in a regular and consistent way, I don't see a problem. All they are asking (as far as I can see) is for industry to justify it's current practices with existing documentation about feasibility, cost and economic considerations, and environmental impacts. If it comes up in this analysis that there are better, more feasible, and more cost effective approaches … I'm not sure it's all that unreasonable to expect EPA to come in and force industry to do what it already should be doing in the first place and also save itself some money (which will happen in some cases).


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PostPosted: December 8th, 2010, 8:43 am 
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Idylwyld,

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And so it begins ... we aren't even a day into a new Congress (it's still months away), and the first call from Republicans for drilling in ANWR. I really hoped that there was something new under the sun, just a slightly new sense of mission and commitment to jobs, private entrepreneurship, markets that worked better for energy (improved our national security), and a clean energy future


The ANWR oil wouldn't be needed if diesel trucks were converted to natural gas, nation-wide. California, with it's historic smog problems is doing it, both to reduxce urban air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

The Alaskan drill-baby-drillers along with the multinational oil barons won't see it that way since their income depends on more oil wells. And trucker's unions are resisting any government-enforced switch to NG.

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PostPosted: December 8th, 2010, 9:03 am 
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frozentripper wrote:
The ANWR oil wouldn't be needed if diesel trucks were converted to natural gas, nation-wide. California, with it's historic smog problems is doing it, both to reduxce urban air pollutants and greenhouse gases.
Sure … I could agree to this (if you were also willing to boost public spending on rail and water transport … as the most efficient forms of shipping freight). Do we have a deal? We might also have to discuss tax and environmental loopholes for natural gas drilling industry (but I think we can find agreement on this)?

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