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October 16th, 2012 Archives
U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) is a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee. He is chair of the Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee.
Original source: http://grist.org/politics/mitt-romneys-winners-and-losers/
The Big Energy industries (oil, coal and gas) along with their political allies like Mitt Romney are waging war against sustainable energy and efforts to transform our energy system and reverse global warming. In many instances, they are aided and abetted by the very powerful nuclear power industry.
One of their main lines of attack (used repeatedly by Romney in his first debate with President Obama) is that the federal government is picking energy “winners and losers.” Romney says he will not invest in “chasing fads and picking winners and losers” among energy technologies and will instead allow the free market to determine energy development.
Romney is right about one thing: The government does pick winners and losers in the energy sector. What Romney has not told the American people, however, is that the big winners of federal support are the already immensely profitable fossil fuel and nuclear industries, not sustainable energy.
As a member of both the Senate energy and environment committees, I am working to stop the handouts to the fossil fuel industry. I have introduced legislation called the End Polluter Welfare Act. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) filed the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Our measure calls for the elimination for all subsidies to the oil, gas, and coal industries. Using the best available estimates from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and other budget experts, we found that over $113 billion in federal subsidies will go to fossil fuel corporations over the next 10 years. These subsidies benefit some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, including the five largest oil corporations, which made a combined profit of $1 trillion over the last decade. Unlike sustainable energy incentives, many of these fossil fuel subsidies are written permanently into the tax code by industry lobbyists, which means they never expire.
Let me give you just a few examples of outrageously strong federal support for Big Energy companies:Share This Post
By Steven Mufson, Published: October 15
Keystone XL pipeline foes have tried petitioning the government, grabbing media attention and filing lawsuits. Now, with the southern leg of the pipeline under construction, they’re turning to civil disobedience — and actress Daryl Hannah.
On Monday, after a weekend of nonviolent civil disobedience training, supporters of the Tar Sands Blockade rallied in Winnsboro, Tex., where protesters were holding a “sit-in” 70 feet off the ground in a swath of trees. The trees stand in the middle of a corridor already cleared for the pipeline. The tree-climbing pipeline foes unfurled a banner that reads: “Rise Up and Defend Your Homes.”
Although the permit for the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline is still under consideration by the State Department, the southern leg of the pipeline has won the support of President Obama, obtained permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and turned back challenges in Texas courts.Share This Post
Kentucky Utilities and affiliated company Louisville Gas and Electric announced Monday that they expect to shut down three coal-fired electrical generation units months ahead of schedule as part of their effort to comply with new federal environmental regulations.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.energycentral.com/generationstorage/fossilandbiomass/news/en/26308091/Coal-fired-units-to-shut-down-sooner-at-KU-LG-E?utm_medium=eNL&utm_campaign=GENWEEKLY&utm_term=Original-MemberShare This Post
By Joshua Melvin
Posted: 10/16/2012 06:21:31 AM PDT
Updated: 10/16/2012 06:22:25 AM PDT
SAN BRUNO -- The same lawmaker who helped broker peace in Northern Ireland and tried the same in the Middle East has been tapped to lead talks over the fine PG&E should pay for the deadly San Bruno blast, officials announced Monday.
Former Sen. George Mitchell is to oversee the negotiations between Pacific Gas & Electric and the California Public Utilities Commission that officials hope will draw to a close the regulatory proceedings that began after the Sept. 9, 2010, explosion.
PUC President Michael Peevey said the commission is grateful for help resolving this "difficult and painful series of cases."
"We are confident Senator Mitchell can help achieve a solution that will resolve these cases sooner rather than later," Peevey wrote in a statement.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.mercurynews.com/san-mateo-county-times/ci_21779036/former-sen-george-mitchell-tapped-settle-pg-e?source=rssShare This Post
Huey D. Johnson and Douglas P. Wheeler
Published 7:02 p.m., Sunday, October 14, 2012
When it comes to environmental issues, San Francisco isn't usually a city divided. Civic leaders and residents pride themselves on their eco-friendly reputation.
The city's outdated water system, however, has long been a black mark on its green image. Now, Proposition F on San Francisco's November ballot would create a task force to plan reforms that would make that system more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Though water experts have praised the measure, Mayor Ed Lee called it "insane."
Battles over water are a perennial feature of life in the Western United States, but San Francisco hasn't been embroiled in one since 1913, when the city persuaded Congress to permit it to build a reservoir in Yosemite National Park by damming the Tuolumne River.
The dam flooded Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley, a once spectacular glacially carved canyon, robbing America of one of its most precious natural assets.
As the reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear today, natural resource managers must consider not only how we can develop more sustainable practices and systems, but also how we can restore the damaged habitat we have inherited.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/S-F-Prop-F-Yes-to-study-Hetch-Hetchy-3948220.phpShare This Post
Published 9:00 p.m., Sunday, October 14, 2012
The century-old battle over the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir moves to the San Francisco ballot next month with a measure that could determine the future of the system that has provided the city's water since 1934.
Proposition F would require the city to put together a plan to destroy the city-owned O'Shaughnessy Dam and drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir so that the valley, part of Yosemite National Park, can be restored to its original wild state.
The city also would spend up to $8 million to find ways to replace the reservoir's water storage capacity, prepare new renewable energy sources to replace the lost hydroelectric power and upgrade the city's water conservation efforts.
Environmental groups backing Prop. F argue that it only requires the city to put together a plan. A separate ballot measure in 2016 would be needed to authorize demolition of the dam, a project that could cost as much as $10 billion.
"This is the first incremental step," said Mike Marshall, executive director of Restore Hetch Hetchy. "If the people lead, the politicians will follow. This is a values conversation that belongs to the people, not the politicians."
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Prop-F-seeks-plan-to-drain-Hetch-Hetchy-3948386.phpShare This Post
Published Monday, Oct. 15, 2012
They have fought for years over water management in California's sensitive Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Now these longtime foes have managed to agree on a variety of short-term projects to help the estuary.
The Coalition to Support Near Term Delta Projects has met quietly for the past six months. With help from the Center for Collaborative Policy at Sacramento State University, the group managed to agree on 43 projects supported by all participants, from water titans like the Westlands Water District to local levee maintenance agencies in the Delta itself.
"It's pretty remarkable," said Tom Zuckerman, an attorney for the Central Delta Water Agency, which serves a number of major property owners in the Delta. "I know some of these projects will get done. It's just a question of how far the existing funding goes."
Zuckerman and other key participants presented the coalition's project list today at a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Delta Stewardship and Sustainability.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/10/15/4913776/agreement-on-delta-projects-emerges.htmlShare This Post
Published Monday, Oct. 15, 2012
At the Sutter National Wildlife Refuge near Yuba City, wetlands that should be teeming with mallards, canvasbacks, geese and pelicans are instead parched and barren.
The refuge, established in 1945, is normally able to flood its 21 wetland tracts by early October. They provide food and shelter for millions of birds that migrate across the globe, using California's Central Valley as a vital stop along the Pacific Flyway.
In addition to their ecological importance, the Sacramento Valley's public wildlife refuges attract more than 200,000 visitors per year, including hunters, anglers and bird lovers. They are one of the only options for outdoor lovers who can't afford a pricey duck club membership or an exotic bird-watching safari.
This year, 80 percent of the Sutter refuge remains dry. That means about 2,000 acres of potential habitat is nearly empty of bird life. Ponds normally busy with squawking ducks and geese are dried to a crisp in the October sun.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/10/15/4911796/tenuous-water-supply-shrinks-this.htmlShare This Post
Updated 11:31 a.m., Sunday, October 14, 2012
(10-14) 11:29 PDT -- The nation's drought and high corn prices are devastating California's $8 billion dairy industry to the point where farmers can't afford to feed their cows - and their professional trade organization has been regularly referring despondent dairymen to suicide hotlines.
Experts in the industry estimate that by year's end California, the largest dairy state in the nation, will have lost more than 100 dairies to bankruptcies, foreclosures and sales. Milk cows are being slaughtered at the fastest rate in more than 25 years because farmers need to save on corn costs. According to the Western United Dairymen, a California trade group, three dairy farmers have committed suicide since 2009, despairing over losing their family's dairies.
"I've never seen it as dire as it is now," said Frank Mendonsa, a Tulare dairyman who serves on the Western United Dairymen board. "Pride is just eating these guys up. People are calling me and asking me what to do. It becomes like a counseling session to stop people from hurting themselves. But it's not just losing our jobs that is driving the desperation. We're losing our houses, in some cases the same houses that our grandparents lived in, and we're losing our entire identities."
The problems started in 2009, when milk prices bottomed out and grain prices soared, partly due to the government's ethanol mandate. Congress is requiring that gasoline producers blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol, made from corn, into the nation's gas supply by 2015. Dairy farmers were forced to borrow against their land and cows to make their bills.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Calif-expected-to-lose-100-dairy-farms-3946897.phpShare This Post
Published 6:09 p.m., Sunday, October 14, 2012
On a 300-mile stretch of railroad in the plains of eastern Alberta, a test train chugs across the landscape burning a fuel that once made sense only to environmentalists.
It runs on natural gas. And today, that makes sense to business leaders whose top priority is cutting costs.
Over the past two weeks, train industry executives and others have been talking more about natural gas, as meetings in Houston and the Chicago area highlighted bubbling interest in a fuel that could slash one of railways' top costs.
Representatives from major railroad companies and related manufacturers met in private at a Houston hotel conference room last month to talk about how to push forward what could be the next great shift in train technology - a cataclysmic transition similar to the move decades ago from coal to diesel power.
Although rail companies have been coy in public about the potential of natural gas for locomotives, citing nascent technology and few real-world examples of gas-powered trains, they are exploring the option aggressively.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Natural-gas-eyed-as-fuel-for-trains-3948140.phpShare This Post
By JIM MOTAVALLI October 11, 2012
ALTHOUGH sales of electric cars have remained slow since they came to the American mass market in late 2010, early buyers tend to be true believers and quite likely to give their new vehicles the benefit of the doubt. For many, the honeymoon period is still on, even if for some the romance is definitely over — or transferred to another electric car.
Jackie Eskin, a computer consultant in Fairfield, Conn., who works from home, loves her Nissan Leaf battery electric, which she has been driving for six months and 2,000 miles. “I’m extremely happy,” she said. “It’s wonderful, and I love it.”
Before Ms. Eskin bought her car, she kept track of how many miles she drove each day and found it was rarely more than 15. That convinced her that she could live with the car’s 73-mile Environmental Protection Agency range rating. “I haven’t really experienced range anxiety,” she said. Her major issue with the Leaf? It doesn’t have a sunroof.
Paul Beerkens, a Chicago-based programmer for a hedge fund, also owned a Leaf, but traded it in after only six weeks. He told a reporter for PlugInCars.com (to which this writer also contributes) that dying batteries almost left him stranded during a snowstorm with his children in the car, so he bought a plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/12/automobiles/early-converts-to-electric-cars-remain-committed-with-caveats.html?src=recgShare This Post
By JIM MOTAVALLI October 11, 2012
THANKS to tough new federal fuel-efficiency rules, automakers must meet a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. More efficient engines and electric powertrains can’t carry the whole load, so carmakers and the federal government are pouring resources into “lightweighting” auto platforms to meet the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards.
The Energy Department says that reducing a car’s weight by only 10 percent can improve fuel economy by 6 to 8 percent. Three technologies that show promise in lightening vehicles are high-strength steel, carbon fiber composites and aluminum. All of them are supported by $8 million in development awards that the department has doled out to the likes of General Motors, Ford and Caterpillar, as well as to two federal laboratories.
Drivers worried about running into older, heavier sport utility vehicles on the road might be reassured that these new materials are exceptionally stiff and strong, and will have to pass muster, including crash tests, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.Share This Post
The Toyota Prius Plug-in doesn't have quite the sales numbers as the headline-grabbing Chevy Volt. But Toyota's entry into the electric hybrid market with the Prius Plug-in has been a quiet initial success for the automaker.
By Schuyler Velasco, Correspondent / October 9, 2012
The Chevy Volt, General Motors’ foray into the electric hybrid market, has been the subject of heated debate in recent weeks, from its robust sales figures and customer satisfaction to quibbles over profit loss and the feasibility of the electric car market in general.
Since its launch last year, the Prius Plug-in has sold 7, 734, units in the United States, according to data from Automakers and Automotive News. That’s considerably less than the Volt, which moved 16,348 units this year. But it’s more than the Nissan Leaf, the purely electric model that came in third place (5,212 sold this year). The Prius Plug-in was the second-fastest selling car in March 2012, and the third-fastest in April. It even outpaced sales of the Volt during the month of April. The car gets the gasoline equivalent of 95 miles per gallon and has a starting price in the US of about $32,000.
It’s a good start, especially for a vehicle in a category that comprises a mere sliver of the automotive market (some perspective: The Ford F-Series pickup truck, the top-selling car in August 2012, moved 58,201 units that month). What’s more, the Prius Plug-In is only available in 15 “launch” states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. The car will be available in remaining states sometime in 2013.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2012/1009/Toyota-Prius-Plug-in-the-little-electric-hybrid-that-could-videoShare This Post
By BRIAN X. CHEN October 10, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO — Zipping around on a motorcycle can be fun, but being in a downpour or an accident on one is not. Driving a car is safer and more comfortable, but traffic and parking can be annoying.
What if you got rid of the bad parts of both?
You might end up with something like the C-1, an electric motorcycle that looks as if it came out of the movie “Tron.” For protection, the bike is encased in a metal shell, and it is controlled like a car, with a steering wheel and foot pedals. Two big gyroscopes under the floor are designed to keep it from tipping over, even when a car hits it from the side. The C-1’s top speed is 120 miles an hour, and it can travel 200 miles on a full charge.
A small start-up called Lit Motors is developing the C-1 in a three-story warehouse here. Its 33-year-old chief executive, Daniel Kim, was tinkering with a biodiesel sport utility vehicle eight years ago when a 500-pound chassis nearly crushed him. The experience got him thinking about cutting out the bulk.
“Most people drive alone,” Mr. Kim said in an interview. “Why not cut the car in half? I was really into bicycles at that time and I thought, Why can’t we have the efficiency of a bicycle and motorcycle but all the amenities of a car?”Share This Post
By DEXTER FORD October 11, 2012
JUST when we’ve accepted that we won’t be blasting to Starbucks on jetpacks any time soon, another icon of techno-fantasy has raised its emission-free, pennies-per-mile head: electric motorcycles.
Despite a barrage of ambitious prototypes, like the metal-and-glass-enclosed Lit Motors C-1, promoted in YouTube test-ride videos and breathless news releases, electric motorcycles seem to be around the corner but out of reach.
If blog buzz and “Buy Now” Web site buttons translated into units sold, we’d be talking about a major growth industry here. But even with ice caps melting and gasoline around $4 a gallon, the number of electric motorcycles sold is barely detectable.
The appeal of an electric motorcycle is obvious. It would deliver its power silently and instantly, without the need for oil, fire, smoke, noise, clutch or gearbox. Each fill-up would cost just a dollar. It might even talk to your iPhone, though it’s hard to imagine what kind of a useful conversation the two might have. An electric bike might someday be the next big thing, in a “what would Steve Jobs have ridden” sort of way.
But, as many would-be electric motorcycle makers have discovered, making a salable and profitable electric bike is much harder than it looks.
To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/12/automobiles/electric-motorcycle-sales-are-low-despite-hype.html?ref=energy-environmentShare This Post