Saturday, March 21, 2009

U.S. Moves to Patch Mexico Rift

The Obama administration began efforts Friday to ease an erupting trade dispute with Mexico by starting work on a new program to give Mexican truckers broader access to U.S. highways. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met with officials from the State Department and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to design a cross-border trucking program "that will meet the legitimate concerns of Congress and our [North American Free Trade Agreement] commitments," said a White House spokesman. A person familiar with the meeting said the participants "are going to work to get a proposal everyone likes before [President Barack] Obama's trip to Mexico in April." The administration's move comes after Mexico earlier this week slapped tariffs on $2.4 billion in U.S. goods ranging from grapes to toilet paper. Mexico said its action was retaliation for a provision in a budget bill Mr. Obama signed earlier this month that effectively shut down a pilot program that had allowed some Mexican truckers to transport cargo beyond a 25-mile commercial zone inside the U.S. border. Mexico says the U.S. is failing to meet its obligations to cut barriers under Nafta. Business interests ranging from Pennsylvania-based Hershey Co. to the USA Rice Federation are urging the White House to permit qualified Mexican truckers to drive on U.S. roads. Exporters affected by the tariffs say the government is causing economic damage by catering to unions that are more concerned with protecting jobs than improving safety...WSJ

Blue Dog Democrats Urge Caution on Cap and Trade, More Spending

Congress is rumored to be considering passing a cap-and-trade plan through budget reconciliation, which is a process that is only completed if there are special instructions passed in the budget resolution and requires a simple majority, rather than a 2/3rds vote to pass the Senate. Unfortunately, this action sets a very low bar for a high-cost, big-government bill such as cap-and-trade, but fortunately the Blue Dogs, a group of fifty-one fiscally conservative House Democrats, have warned that the reconciliation strategy is a bad idea. One concern surrounds cap and trade, which the Blue Dogs contend pits regions of the country that have plentiful renewable resources against regions that produce traditional energy resources, such as coal. He said Blue Dogs oppose using reconciliation for cap-and-trade to ensure fairness. House and Senate Democratic leaders and the White House this week said it remains an option. Blue Dogs also do not want a resolution that assumes cap-and-trade revenues are dedicated to any specific policy, the document said. Rather, it should encourage responsible and efficient energy production and reasonable tax policy while providing affordable energy...The Foundry

Green Package: The Stimulus Plan’s Big Winners

Analysts and the clean-tech sector itself are just coming to grips with the implications of the recently-passed stimulus package for clean energy. The short summary? Over the next two years, energy efficiency will hog the limelight, HSBC says in a new report, “represent[ing] by far the most compelling investment opportunity,” while low-carbon energy production takes a distant second. The stimulus package’s embrace of energy efficiency shows up in the scale of the money being handed out—efficiency takes about 60% of the stimulus package’s $37 billion earmarked for greenery. What’s more, the bulk of that, about 82%, will be doled out in the next two years, HSBC figures, making it more attractive in the middle of the downturn. That’s especially true for improving energy efficiency in buildings, HSBC says, which will get federal money totalling ten times the entire market capitalization of the U.S. companies operating in that segment. (Energy efficiency is really the flavor of the day: The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy just upped its estimates of the economic benefits of more stringent efficiency laws to $168 billion through 2020.)...WSJ

Natural Gas, Suddenly Abundant, Is Cheaper

The decline in crude oil prices gets all the headlines, but the first globalized natural gas glut in history is driving an even more drastic collapse in the cost of gas that cooks food, heats homes and runs factories in the United States and many other countries. Six giant plants capable of cooling and liquefying gas for export are due to come on line this year just as the economies of the Asian and European countries that import the most gas to run their industries are slowing. Energy experts and company executives say that means loads of gas from Qatar, Egypt, Nigeria and Algeria that otherwise would be going to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Spain are beginning to arrive in supertankers in the United States, even though there is a gas glut here, too...NY Times

Robot Fish to Monitor Pollution in Spanish Port

A school of mechanical, battery-powered robots in the shape of fish will be released into a Spanish port to help monitor pollution there, scientists said Friday. The 5-foot-long (1.5-meter-long) robots work by mimicking the swishing movements of a fish's tail, according to University of Essex robotics expert Huosheng Hu, whose team is manufacturing the machines. He said the robo-fish would be equipped with sensors to monitor oxygen levels in the water, detect oil slicks spilled from ships or contaminants pumped into the water from underground pipes. Information gathered from the robo-fish would be transmitted to the port's control center using a wireless Internet signal when the devices surfaced. The data gathered would be used to create a three-dimensional pollution map of the harbor's area. The fish won't need remote guidance — their sensors can help them avoid obstacles such as rocks or moving ships, said Doyle, who works for the engineering consultancy BMT Group Ltd., a member of a consortium manufacturing the machines. The fish can also swap navigational information with each other using a form of sonar. When their batteries are nearing the end of their eight-hour capacity, they can swim back to a power hub to recharge...Fox News

Friday, March 20, 2009

Senate again passes bill to expand wilderness

For the second time this year, the Senate has passed a long-delayed bill to set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness, from a California mountain range to a forest in Virginia. The 77-20 vote on Thursday sends the bill to the House, where final legislative approval could come as early as next week. The Senate first approved the measure in January, but the House rejected it last week amid a partisan dispute over gun rights. The gun issue was not raised during Senate debate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has battled Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., for months over the lands bill, said he was pleased the Senate was finally able to pass it on a bipartisan basis. Reid called the bill important to his home state, Nevada, and to the nation. Coburn held up the bill's passage last year and again this year, arguing that it was unnecessary and would block energy development on millions of acres of federal land. The bill moved forward this week after Coburn was allowed to submit six amendments for approval. Five were defeated. A sixth provision, softening a provision to impose criminal penalties for collecting some fossilized rocks on federal land, was included in the final bill. Because of a parliamentary maneuver adopted in the Senate, the House is expected to take up the bill under a rule that blocks amendments or other motions to derail it. Republicans used the threat of an amendment to allow loaded guns in national parks to defeat the wilderness bill last week...AP

Road Through Alaskan Wildlife Refuge Wins Senate Backing

A controversial road project through a prized wildlife refuge in Alaska, tucked into a sweeping bipartisan lands package, appears poised to make it into law. With Senate passage yesterday of legislation to protect more than 2 million acres of wilderness in nine states, the proposal to build a road traversing Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is a step closer to fruition after a decade-long battle. The 800 residents of King Cove -- a fishing village that abuts the refuge -- argue they need a one-lane road to connect them to the nearest all-weather airport, in Cold Bay. Environmentalists objected that the project would undermine Izembek's pristine landscape and that taxpayers have already paid to construct a terminal and supply the hovercraft that ferries residents across the bay. Although the Senate bill would put some checks on the Alaska road project -- the Interior Department would have to issue an environmental impact statement on the project and the Interior secretary could block it -- Alaskans hailed the Senate vote...Washington Post

Wolves encouraged to leave, "making elk kills a few hundred yards away from homes"

State officials are using "cracker shells" and helicopter hazing to frighten away a pack of wolves that has been making elk kills a few hundred yards away from homes in central Idaho. The 10-member Phanton Hill wolf pack arrived in the Hailey area earlier this month on its normal travels in search of food, said wildlife biologist Regan Berkley of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. "We want to make them think that humans are not someone they want to be too close to," she said. Berkley said the hazing will also include noisy "cracker shells" fired by people on the ground. The wolves aren't likely to be killed because they've not attacked domestic animals, sticking instead to their usual prey of elk, she said. The wolves have made some residents nervous. "You're conscious when you take your dog out for a walk," said Lesley Andrus...AP

Pew Courts Obama on Forests, "Time Out Mr. President"

As the first round of the NCAA national basketball tournament prepares to tip off today, the Pew Environment Group launched a new ad campaign that appeals to President Barack Obama's affinity for the sport by calling for a "time out" on new road building in undeveloped national forests. A bipartisan group of 25 U.S. Senators and 121 U.S. House members this week also asked the Obama administration to suspend industrial activity in the nation's remaining wild forests until they can be permanently protected. "We are asking President Obama to call a time out on new road building and development in our last wild national forests," said Jane Danowitz, the Pew Environment Group's U.S. public lands program director. "Taking this action would send an important signal that the President is committed to fair play when it comes to the way our public lands are managed." Pew's television and print ads ask for protection of the places where "jayhawks, cardinals, wildcats and wolverines play" and for a "time out" on road building in the nation's last undeveloped forests. To coincide with the tournament's first round of play today, the print ad ran in Politico and Congress Daily, while the TV ad will run on WUSA-TV (CBS) and on cable news programs in the Washington, DC, market during this afternoon's games...PR Newswire

Here's the TV ad:

Wyoming Gov. Freudenthal vetoes rangeland monitoring bill

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal has vetoed a bill that aimed to protect ranchers who use public lands for grazing by providing state funding for environmental assessments of rangelands. House Bill 213 would have provided $300,000 in grants to conservation districts, allowing them to conduct more rangeland monitoring. The monitoring helps federal agencies make decisions on renewal of public land grazing permits. Bill supporters said federal land agencies are too backlogged to keep up with necessary monitoring. But law requires the agencies to issue grazing permits anyway. The bill's backers said this has allowed environmental groups to oppose grazing leases in court over procedural points. In his veto explanation Wednesday, Freudenthal said the state budget is too tight to take on rangeland monitoring responsibilities currently overseen by federal land agencies and permit holders. "For the permittee or federal land manager to ask for help is one thing — for us to step into their shoes is quite another," Freudenthal said in a letter to Secretary of State Max Maxfield. Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said the governor's objections were "shortsighted." Magagna said the Bureau of Land Management will face about 700 permit renewal requests over the next five years that require environmental analysis. The overwhelming number of mineral permits can push grazing permits to the bottom of the pile, he said...AP

Humans must fight climate change to save polar bears, report says

The survival of polar bears depends on how well humans fight climate change, which is the biggest threat facing the giant carnivores, the five nations bordering the Arctic said today. Representatives from the U.S., Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark noted with "deep concern" that global warming was melting the Arctic ice that is home to polar bears and their main prey: seals. "Climate change has a negative impact on polar bears and their habitat and is the most important long-term threat facing polar bears," the five nations said in a joint declaration after a three-day meeting in Tromsoe, northern Norway. Without action, 60 percent of the world's polar bears could disappear by 2050, Norway's Directorate for Nature Management said separately. The meeting in Tromsoe was the first time in 28 years the Arctic nations had reviewed their 1973 Polar Bear Agreement, meant to protect the world's estimated 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears. "The parties agreed that long term conservation of polar bears depends upon successful mitigation of climate change," the statement said, and called on other forums to take "appropriate action" to mitigate it. However, the statement did not do as the meeting's host, Norway, had asked. Norwegian officials had hoped for a direct appeal for action to the U.N. climate talks in December in Copenhagen, intended to produce a global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012...AP

$750 billion "Green New Deal" - UN

Investments of $750 billion could create a "Green New Deal" to revive the world economy and protect the environment, perhaps aided by a tax on oil, the head of the U.N. environment agency said on Thursday. Achim Steiner said spending should focus on five environmental sectors including improved energy efficiency for buildings and solar or wind power to create jobs, curb poverty and fight climate change. The UNEP report said investments of one percent of global gross domestic product, or about $750 billion, could bankroll a "Global Green New Deal" inspired by the "New Deal" of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt that helped end the depression of the 1930s. He floated the possibility of taxing oil in rich nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to help a new pact become the cornerstone of a greener economy. "If, for argument's sake, you were to put a five-year levy in OECD countries of $5 a barrel, you would generate $100 billion per annum. It translates into roughly 3 cents per liter," he said. "It would be almost, if not totally, unnoticed by the consumer," he said, especially since oil prices have fallen from more than $140 a barrel at mid-2008 peaks to about $40. A barrel of oil contains 158 liters and OECD consumption is about 20 billion barrels a year, he said...Reuters

The only green they are after happens to be on our dollar bill.

The answer is always the same.

Global warming crisis? More taxing and spending.

Economic crisis? More taxing and spending.

Healthcare crisis? More taxing and spending.

They won't come right out and say, "We support higher taxes and more spending."

But give them a "crisis" and they'll immediately reach for your pocketbook.

Public Lands Service Bill to Promote Culture of Public Service

In order to help repair and restore our nation’s public lands while employing and training thousands of young Americans and promoting a culture of public service, U.S. Reps. RaĂșl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) introduced the Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2009 (H.R. 1612). This legislation would expand and reinvigorate an existing program, the Public Lands Corps, by modernizing the scope of corps projects to reflect new challenges, such as climate change, adding incentives to attract new participants, especially from underrepresented populations, and paving the way for increased funding. “Even in times of crisis, there are opportunities. The legislation Chairman Grijalva and I are introducing today takes advantage of an opportunity to provide meaningful employment and training to young people who need it, while also improving the condition of our priceless natural and cultural resources,” said Rahall, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. The Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2009 would amend the Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 to expand the authority of the Interior and Agriculture Departments (including such agencies as the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service). The bill also adds authority for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to participate in the program; with this new authority, NOAA will be able to offer Corps members a chance to work on restoring coastal and marine ecosystems along our oceans and the Great Lakes. The bill will ensure that, during their service term, participants receive adequate training for the work they have been assigned, including agency-specific standards, principles and practices. Language to ensure adequate housing, authorize participants in existing volunteer programs to contribute both as mentors and on Corps projects, expand the program for college and graduate students, and broaden preferential hire provisions is also included. The bill would rename the corps as the “Public Lands Service Corps” and remove the $12 million authorization ceiling, which would lead to increased funding for this excellent program...Imperial Valley News

Crisis = more spending.

Dams Help Bald Eagles Extend Range

Animal biologists conducting their annual midwinter count of bald eagles around lakes Mead and Mohave are reporting growing numbers of the majestic birds in the two Colorado River reservoirs. A preliminary tally of bald eagles in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area taken January 7 through January 14 found 108 adult and immature birds in the area. While the count is down slightly from the all-time high of 116 counted in 2008, it is well above the 60 identified when the count was standardized by the U.S. Park Service in 2001. Biologists strongly suspect the bald eagles wintering in the areas southeast of Las Vegas came there from the Pacific Northwest and Canada. The big lakes behind the Hoover and Davis dams contain abundant fish and waterfowl on which bald eagles prey. The rising number of bald eagles spending their winters in the area has prompted biologists to conclude the birds are no longer just stopping over at the lakes on their migratory journey to elsewhere. Instead, the lakes appear to be the eagles’ winter destination of choice...Environment & Climate News

Judge Blocks Rule Permitting Concealed Guns In U.S. Parks

A federal judge yesterday blocked a last-minute rule enacted by President George W. Bush allowing visitors to national parks to carry concealed weapons. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by gun-control advocates and environmental groups. The Justice Department had sought to block the injunction against the controversial rule. The three groups that brought the suit -- the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees -- argued that the Bush action violated several laws. In her ruling, Kollar-Kotelly agreed that the government's process had been "astoundingly flawed."...Washington Post

Of course it was "deeply flawed." You didn't expect the Bushies to get it right, did you? Come on, they only had 8 years. Give'em a break.

Scientists Rush to Erupting Pacific Undersea Volcano

Scientists sailed Thursday to inspect an undersea volcano that has been erupting for days near Tonga — shooting smoke, steam and ash thousands of feet (meters) into the sky above the South Pacific ocean. Authorities said Thursday the eruption does not pose any danger to islanders at this stage, and there have been no reports of fish or other animals being affected. Spectacular columns are spewing out of the sea about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the southwest coast off the main island of Tongatapu — an area where up to 36 undersea volcanoes are clustered, geologists said...AP

Mexico Bites Back

Responding to Congress' scrapping of a North American Free Trade Agreement obligation to let Mexican trucks enter the U.S., Mexico's government retaliated with $2.4 billion in tariffs on 89 U.S. goods that had gone to Mexico duty-free since 1994. The Mexicans made no bones about why they were doing it: If the U.S. won't honor the treaty it signed in 1993, then they won't either. Retaliation isn't something to cheer, but who didn't see it coming? The U.S. had promised to let Mexican trucks on the road by 2000, and still only had a pilot program as of 2003. When the U.S. Omnibus bill got rid of even that program, under which Mexican trucks passed all inspections and even outperformed U.S. trucks on safety, the result was a treaty not worth the paper it was printed on. With retaliation, the Mexicans were saying that if the U.S. intended to pick and choose what parts of the treaty it would follow, then they'd do the same. The Mexicans knew this was coming, too. They were ready. As a Mexican official told the Oregonian newspaper on Wednesday, Mexico targeted goods produced in districts represented by Congress' worst trade protectionists for tariffs. "The intention is to let the constituents know that it's important that the United States respects and abides by its international obligations," the anonymous Mexican official explained. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose district is near California's vast table-grape producers, got the highest tariff hikes, as much as 45%...IBD

Mexico Tariffs Spare Ford, Tyson, Rile Potato Growers

Mexico spared Ford Motor Co. and Tyson Foods Co. from $2.4 billion in tariffs on U.S. imports that take effect today, deciding instead to target growers of potatoes, cherries and pears. Fruits and vegetables are the most common items on the list of 90 products hit with tariffs as Mexico retaliated against a U.S. decision to block Mexican trucks from traveling north of a commercial zone along the border. The choice may reflect a calculated move by the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon to exert pressure on U.S. lawmakers to back off on the trucking decision, said Ed Gresser, a fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington and a former official at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. “The agricultural constituencies are powerful and they go to Congress and say, ‘What are you doing to me?’” Gresser said in an interview. Potato growers alone could lose an annual market of $80 million, said John Keeling, chief executive of the National Potato Council in Washington. “This thing has to be fixed,” Keeling said. “It’s unconscionable that Congress let this happen.” Trade between the two countries totaled $368 billion in 2008, making Mexico the third-largest U.S. trading partner after Canada and China, according to the Commerce Department. The U.S. exported $11 billion of food and meat, and $63 billion of machinery, autos and transport equipment to Mexico last year. “I’m shocked that pork and beef are not in there,” said Timothy Keeler, a lawyer at Mayer Brown LLC in Washington and the chief of staff at the U.S. trade office until this year. Including them “would have sent political tremors,” he said...Bloomberg

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Obama climate plan could cost $2 trillion

President Obama's climate plan could cost industry close to $2 trillion, nearly three times the White House's initial estimate of the so-called "cap-and-trade" legislation, according to Senate staffers who were briefed by the White House. A top economic aide to Mr. Obama told a group of Senate staffers last month that the president's climate-change plan would surely raise more than the $646 billion over eight years the White House had estimated publicly, according to multiple a number of staffers who attended the briefing Feb. 26. The plan seeks to reduce pollution by setting a limit on carbon emissions and allowing businesses and groups to buy allowances, although exact details have not been released. At the meeting, Jason Furman, a top Obama staffer, estimated that the president's cap-and-trade program could cost up to three times as much as the administration's early estimate of $646 billion over eight years. A study of an earlier cap-and-trade bill co-sponsored by Mr. Obama when he was a senator estimated the cost could top $366 billion a year by 2015. A White House official did not confirm the large estimate, saying only that Obama aides previously had noted that the $646 billion estimate was "conservative."...Washington Times

U.N. climate chief hustles on global warming deal

Big gaps remain in a new U.N. deal on global warming meant to be agreed in December and time is running worryingly short with just 265 days left, the U.N. climate chief said on Tuesday. Yvo de Boer criticized a meeting of European Union finance ministers last week, which he said put conditions on financial help for climate action in developing countries, contrary to promises at the launch of the two-year climate talks in Bali in 2007. The talks are meant to conclude in Copenhagen in December with a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012. One battleground is between industrialized and developing countries on how to split the cost of curbing greenhouse gas emissions. "How are things looking in terms of that agreement? Worrying," he told reporters on the sidelines of a carbon trading conference in Copenhagen...Reuters

Salazar: ANWR drilling remains a question

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday he would consider tapping oil from Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by drilling outside its boundaries if it can be shown that the refuge's wildlife and environment will remain undisturbed. But Salazar emphasized that the Obama administration stands firm that the Alaska refuge, known as ANWR, "is a very special place" that must be protected and that he is not yet convinced directional drilling would meet that test. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has introduced legislation that would allow companies access to oil beneath the Arctic refuge's coastal plain through directional drilling from outside the refuge itself. Murkowski contends such drilling would leave the refuge surface land undisturbed, protecting wildlife. "The question of whether or not you can do directional drilling without impairing the ecological values of ANWR is an open question. Most of what I've seen up to this point is it would not be possible to do that," Salazar said in a conference call with reporters. The directional drilling idea is "something that can be discussed," Salazar said, because of recent advancements in technology...Anchorage Daily News

Senate deal could lead to smooth sailing for omnibus public lands bill

The Senate is likely to pass the public lands, water and natural resources omnibus bill this week after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reached an agreement with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) to allow votes on six amendments. Reid told reporters today that the agreement could mean the Senate could have the entire omnibus wrapped up as soon as tomorrow, joking that the vote was long overdue. "We're getting used to working on it, we've done it for so long," he quipped. The deal will allow for 60 minutes of debate on each of Coburn's amendments and require 60 votes for final passage. The Senate first passed the omnibus bill in January, 74-21, and a cloture vote yesterday was approved, 73-21. Two of Coburn's amendments would strike all provisions that could restrict renewable energy development on public lands and sections that Coburn deems frivolous, such as the $3.5 million to celebrate the 450th Anniversary of St. Augustine, Fla., in 2015. Noting the National Park Service's $9 billion maintenance backlog, one amendment would bar new construction until all current park sites are certified as fully operational, ensuring full access by the public, and posing no health or safety threat. Other amendments would require an annual report detailing the total size and cost of federal property, prohibit the use of eminent domain for any provision authorized in the bill, and clarify the bill to protect park visitors and scientists from criminal penalties for taking stones that may contain fossils...NY Times

Senate proceeds to placeholder bill for omnibus public lands legislation

The Senate yesterday approved the first step of a Democratic plan designed to get the omnibus public lands, water and natural resources bill to the White House. By a 73-21 vote, the Senate approved a cloture motion allowing it to proceed to a placeholder bill for S. 22 (pdf), the collection of more than 160 lands and water bills it first passed in January. Senate leaders now plan to strip the contents of H.R. 146 (pdf), a proposal to protect Revolutionary War battlefields, and replace it with the omnibus lands bill in an attempt to make it palatable to the House. A cloture motion to cut off debate is likely before moving to final passage later this week. The plan demonstrates the lengths lawmakers are going to in order to avoid another lengthy delay in the Senate or a potentially difficult vote on GOP amendments in the House. Because H.R. 146 has already passed the House, the House Rules Committee could approve a closed rule that would block a motion to recommit, the House parliamentarian said last week. That would eliminate the GOP's best procedural chance to stymie the bill. House Democrats could also choose to bring up the bill under suspension again, if they believe they can reach the two-thirds threshold...NY Times

Obama Tries to Draw Up an Inclusive Energy Plan

After gasoline prices rose above $4 a gallon last summer, Republican cries of “drill, baby, drill” forced candidate Barack Obama into a rare retreat. Under pressure, he said he would support some expansion of offshore oil drilling, while still emphasizing conservation and renewable energy. Now, as the Obama administration outlines its energy plans, it is caught between oil companies, who are reminding the president of his campaign pledge, and environmental groups, who are demanding a reinstatement of the drilling ban that Congress lifted in September. The renewed fight over offshore drilling comes amid efforts by the White House to map out an ambitious new energy policy for the country. For the first time since the Carter administration, an American president is putting energy at the center of his domestic agenda. Mr. Obama must decide what strategies are most likely to achieve his goals of diversifying the nation’s fuel supplies, developing alternative energy sources, reducing oil consumption, and curbing carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Part of that equation is what role the administration sees for domestic supplies...NY Times

Alaska begins shooting wolves from helicopters

The state has started shooting wolves from helicopters in Alaska's eastern interior hoping to turn around an unsuccessful aerial predator control program there. The project has raised concerns among officials at nearby Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, where predator control is prohibited. Department of Fish and Game workers shot and killed about 30 wolves from a helicopter Saturday in the Fortymile area east of Tok. The focus area is the Fortymile Caribou Herd's calving grounds adjacent to the national preserve. Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms said the goal is to kill another 70 wolves before breakup. That number doesn't count wolves killed by permitted private pilot-gunner teams in fixed-wing aircraft or wolves taken by trappers and hunters. The total goal for the area is 200 wolves, which would leave about 100 wolves. The state estimates between 290 and 328 wolves live in the region. Preserve superintendent Greg Dudgeon said the National Park Service was notified only on Thursday about the weekend shooting. The park service asked for a no-kill buffer zone around the preserve. Dudgeon said the state refused on the grounds that the Fortymile Caribou Herd's calving grounds rim the preserve boundary. He also requested that the state review the park service's wolf population estimates, which are lower than the state's. The state refused, saying its population estimate is based on state surveys as recent as last fall...Juneau Empire

It's nice to see a state ignoring the feds, instead of the other way around.

Go Sarah!

WMD: Weapon of Mosquito Destruction.

A quarter-century ago, American rocket scientists proposed the "Star Wars" defense system to knock Soviet missiles from the skies with laser beams. Some of the same scientists are now aiming their lasers at another airborne threat: the mosquito. In a lab in this Seattle suburb, researchers in long white coats recently stood watching a small glass box of bugs. Every few seconds, a contraption 100 feet away shot a beam that hit the buzzing mosquitoes, one by one, with a spot of red light. The insects survived this particular test, which used a non-lethal laser. But if these researchers have their way, the Cold War missile-defense strategy will be reborn as a WMD: Weapon of Mosquito Destruction. "We'd be delighted if we destabilize the human-mosquito balance of power," says Jordin Kare, an astrophysicist who once worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the birthplace of some of the deadliest weapons known to man. More recently he worked on the mosquito laser, built from parts bought on eBay. The scientists' actual target is malaria, which is caused by a parasite transmitted when certain mosquitoes bite people. Ended in the U.S. decades ago, malaria remains a major global public-health threat, killing about 1 million people annually...Fox News

I wonder what you could do if you took one of these up in a helicopter.

Jurors Recommend Death Penalty for Oyler

Raymond Lee Oyler, who was convicted of killing five firefighters who died battling the massive Esperanza wildfire that he ignited, will be put to death if a judge accepts the jury's recommendation. Jurors deliberated about a day before returning their recommendation, which is expected to be formalized by a judge at a future hearing. Oyler, 38, was convicted March 6 of five counts of first-degree murder for setting the Oct. 26, 2006, Esperanza wildfire, which swept over a U.S. Forest Service firefighting team as it tried to defend a home on a remote hilltop...MSNBC

Proposed lead ban in parks causes stir

The American Sportfishing Association, an Alexandria-based trade group, isn't happy with an arbitrary decision by the National Park Service that would ban the use of lead components in fishing tackle in all national parks by 2010. The ban also would include lead component ammunition used by hunters. An official with the trade group said it was surprised and dismayed by the announcement. "Their intention to eliminate the use of lead in fishing tackle in national parks was made without prior consultation of the sportfishing industry or the millions of recreational anglers who fish within the national park system," ASA vice president Gordon Robertson said. Robertson is particularly upset with the move because in a Jan. 21 executive memo by President Barack Obama to federal agency and department heads, the president made it clear that he wants the federal government to be "transparent, participatory and collaborative" and that "executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information." Naturally, all 60 million American sport anglers would appreciate it if government employees were to heed the president's order. For example, a lead ban would include fishermen's slip sinkers, heads of spinnerbaits and jigs, lead-based eyes on certain fly fishing poppers and streamers, any lead sinkers used by bait dunkers and tackle items. What bothers the sportfishing group and various shooting organizations is the quiet way the park service went about the lead ban...Washington Times

Ship the Mississipi to Colorado?

Before you say it, Gary Hausler already knows you think he's crazy. He's been laughed at, brushed off, shut out and talked to as if he had just busted loose from the looney bin by more people than he can remember over his idea for solving Colorado's looming water supply shortage. His plan: Build a two-story-tall, 1,200-mile-long pipeline from the Mississippi River to Colorado's Front Range to slake the state's thirst. Call it the Really, Really, Really Big Straw. "It's completely different than anyone's ever talked about before," Hausler, a rancher and former mining engineer from Gunnison, said. "It's traditional in Colorado when you need water on the eastern slope, you go to the Western Slope." Hausler is pushing this pipeline idea on his own, traveling to water roundtables, river districts and other members of the state's water establishment to make presentations on his idea. He gave a presentation to a state legislative committee and to staffers at Denver Water on Wednesday...Denver Post

Oil shale water rights acquisitions could threaten agriculture

A study by an environmental group says energy companies have acquired hundreds of water rights for oil shale development and that exercising those water rights could transform western Colorado by drying up agricultural lands. Western Resource Advocates, based in Boulder, said in the report it released Wednesday that companies own water rights allowing for more than 1.8 million acre feet of storage and more than 11,000 cubic feet per second of diversions in the Colorado and White river basins. Karin P. Sheldon, the group’s executive director, said energy companies essentially have cornered the market on Western Slope water rights. Exercising these rights for large-scale commercial oil shale development would jeopardize many agricultural uses involving junior water rights and water now leased from energy companies, and harm the ability of Western Slope and Front Range communities to meet future water needs, the group said. It found that ExxonMobil owns the most rights, with 49 conditional claims and ownership in 48 irrigation ditches. Shell holds 31 conditional rights, has ownership in five irrigation ditches and is in the process of securing rights on the Yampa River. Several other companies have water rights holdings. Among them, Chevron has 28 conditional rights and ownership in 24 irrigation ditches, and its Unocal subsidiary possesses absolute rights to another 48 wells and springs and owns 13 ditches...Grand Junction Sentinel

Valero Energy, the Oil Refiner, Wins an Auction for 7 Ethanol Plants

Valero Energy, the country’s largest independent refiner, said on Wednesday that it would buy seven ethanol plants from VeraSun Energy for $477 million, giving the biofuel industry a lift at a time when it is suffering from excess production capacity and falling gasoline consumption. VeraSun, the nation’s second-largest ethanol producer after Archer Daniels Midland, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last fall. Valero’s purchase signals important new support for a flagging industry from an unexpected quarter. In recent years, refiners have opposed Congressional mandates for refineries to blend increasing amounts of ethanol in gasoline, arguing that it made neither economic nor environmental sense. The Valero purchase of an ethanol plant is the first by a traditional refiner, pumping cash into the industry at a time of tight credit and removing a potent political opponent, at least in part. Bill Day, a spokesman for Valero, said the purchase “represents a cost savings and a recognition on Valero’s part that ethanol is going to be part of the fuel mix going forward.”...NY Times

Bat Hitches Ride to Space on Shuttle Discovery

A small bat that was spotted blasting off with the space shuttle Sunday and clinging to the back side of Discovery's external fuel tank apparently held on throughout the launch. NASA hoped the bat would fly away before the spacecraft's Sunday evening liftoff, but photos from the launch now show the bat holding on for dear life throughout the fiery ride...Fox News

I guess he took off like a bat out a hell.

NASA went on to say his prospects were "dim."

They better be glad he wasn't endangered. I mean, talk about harassment!

Congress hears ag groups argue NAIS implementation

Dissent and disagreement within the agricultural community about the future of the national animal identification program came through loud and clear during Congressional hearings last week. Animal identification, lauded by some farm groups as absolutely necessary to protect the food supply and criticized by others as a flawed program that will threaten farmers’ livelihoods, was debated before a House agriculture subcommittee March 11. The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry heard testimony that battled both sides of the issue. Subcommittee chair David Scott of Georgia told those in attendance that his personal belief was that the National Animal Identification System was “necessary” and “carries with it many benefits for producers, processors, and consumers,” including measures to keep livestock protected from disease outbreaks. Scott also said the system could save the government money while maintaining food supply safety. Livestock commodity groups, including the National Pork Producers Council and IDairy, a coalition of six U.S. dairy organizations, said a national identification system would help keep American farms viable and urged Congress to support and fund the initiative. Of specific interest to both groups were federal and state disease surveillance abilities, which they admitted would work only if and when all animals and herds are identified in a central, national database...Farm & Dairy

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ATR Launches Obama Energy Tax Hike Series

Today, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) released a series of one-page documents analyzing the massive portion of the President’s budget specifically dedicated to taxing energy producers and increasing the cost for all consumers. Contained in the massive four trillion dollar budget are hundreds of billions of dollars in negative energy provisions that hurt the economy, cost American jobs, and will ultimately lead to a rise in the cost of energy. Some issue areas explored include: Cap and Trade: This $646 billion tax over 10 years will crush American competitiveness by penalizing all companies that emit carbon as a byproduct of manufacturing. Every family in America will pay this, on average, $100 billion tax every year in higher energy prices. Gulf of Mexico Taxation: Obama uses the budget to tax 25 percent of total U.S. production of oil and 15 percent of total U.S. production of natural gas from the Gulf. Prepare to pay more at the pump as the market absorbs this massive tax increase that will cost jobs in Gulf States. LIFO: Taxing LIFO reserves is a clear attempt to slap an unfair tax on energy manufacturers merely to exact a political price. The economic price will be borne by the American people, who will end up paying this “inventory tax” in the form of higher energy prices. Passive Loss: The Obama budget repeals the passive loss exception for working interests in oil and gas properties starting in 2011. This has a ten-year cost of $49 billion, and when fully phased in will increase taxes annually by $6 billion...ATR

Go here for their analysis of Gulf of Mexico Taxation.

Carbon Tax Hits All Americans

Amongst the several revenue-raising proposals in President Obama’s $3.9-trillion budget proposal is a carbon tax that will impact all American families. His budget aims to raise $646 billion through a cap-and-trade tax on energy. Last year, Peter Orszag, who was then Director of the Congressional Budget Office and is now President Obama’s Director for the Office of Management and Budget, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on a similar proposal. Speaking about a cap-and-trade proposal to cut carbon emissions by 15%, he said it would cost the average household about $1,300 a year through higher energy costs. He also noted that working class families would be hardest hit. President Obama’s current proposal aims to cut carbon emissions by more than 3 times that of last year’s proposal – 83%. John Feehery, writing in The Hill's Pundits Blog last week, noted that using Director Orszag’s analysis, this would mean that the average family will pay close to $4,000 a year, or $333 a month. The White House seems to acknowledge that the costs of this tax will impact low-income families hardest and suggests a $500-a-year subsidy. But, that doesn’t even cover two-months cost for the average family...Townhall

Bennett: I'll block deputy Interior nominee

Sen. Bob Bennett plans to block President Barack Obama's choice for deputy Interior secretary over the administration's retreat on oil and gas leases in Utah. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee expects to vote today on the nomination of David Hayes, a former energy lobbyist. But Bennett's move, under Senate rules, means Hayes will need more than a majority of votes when his nomination hits the floor. The Utah Republican said he received "inadequate responses" from Hayes to questions about why the administration shelved a lease sale of 103,000 acres of public land in Utah, some near national parks or monuments. "I am incredibly disappointed in what appears to be political posturing by the Department of the Interior," Bennett said in a statement late Tuesday. "The department has not only failed to address my concerns, but also included information in their response that is simply not true." Though it takes only a majority of senators to pass legislation or approve nominees, under Senate rules, any senator can object, forcing the body's leaders to need 60 votes for approval. Bennett specifically balked at Hayes' answer that the Bureau of Land Management had not coordinated with the National Park Service on the lease sale. "There are just too many inconsistencies in the department's story about these leases," he said, "and this nominee should not move forward until these concerns are addressed."...Salt Lake Tribune

Environmentalists, ski industry clash over summer recreation

Congress is stepping into a dispute between environmentalists and the ski industry over whether ski areas should be able to expand their summertime recreation, a move critics say could allow them to build amusement parks. Environmentalists complain that a bill introduced Monday by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, could lead ski areas to build water parks and roller coasters, which they say would clash with the typical uses allowed on U.S. Forest Service land. Udall's bill would allow ski areas to offer year-round recreation on land they lease from the Forest Service. Mountain biking, alpine slides and zip-lines that whiz people above forests and valleys are among the more common summertime activities pursued by ski resorts. Some 125 ski areas nationwide operate in part on federal land under a 1986 law that expressly permits skiing and ski-related recreation. "We would like recreation on national forest lands to be dependent on a natural setting and dependent upon an outdoor recreation experience," said Ryan Demmy Bidwell, executive director of Colorado Wild, an environmental group in Durango, Colo. "Urban-type recreation that could be provided in any context is not appropriate on public lands."...AP

It has nothing to do with "urban-type recreation."

It has everything to do with:

1. They can't stand for anyone to make a profit off of federal land,

2. They view human visitation as a threat to federal land, and will oppose anything which brings more people, and

3. They want federal lands limited to dispersed recreation only, creating a free playground for them and their buddies. All others keep out.

Hybrid car sales go from 60 to 0 at breakneck speed

The Ford and Honda hybrids due out this month are among dozens planned for the coming years as automakers try to meet new fuel-efficiency standards and please politicians overseeing the industry's multibillion-dollar bailout. Unfortunately for the automakers, hybrids are a tough sell these days. Americans have cut back on buying vehicles of all types as the economy continues its slide. But the slowdown has been particularly brutal for hybrids, which use electricity and gasoline as power sources. They were the industry's darling just last summer, but sales have collapsed as consumers refuse to pay a premium for a fuel-efficient vehicle now that the average price of a gallon of gasoline nationally has slipped below $2...LA Times

Sales of natural gas vehicles evaporate

Last summer, with gasoline prices in the ionosphere, interest in cars that ran on compressed natural gas (instead of the liquid stuff) surged. When oil prices collapsed ... not so much. Honda Civic GX Among the victims of the short-lived natural gas hype are car sales professionals like Alex Tissot, who, as general manager of Colonial Honda in Glendale, ordered up a mess of natural gas-powered Honda Civic GX sedans last summer, only to find them impossible to sell as the price of fuel dropped below the $2.50 mark. He and others are victims of a sales problem described in today's paper: Crashing demand for alternative powertrain vehicles as gas prices decline...LA Times

Green Jobs: Myth or Reality?

The debate over the impact of "green" jobs on the economy continues. The latest salvo came Monday from a group of university researchers seeking to shoot down studies showing that spending billions of dollars on stimulus for renewable energy, energy efficiency and "smart grid" will help employ millions of people. Not so fast, the researchers said – many of those jobs will simply be shifted from existing "fossil fuel-based sectors," and others shouldn't be classified as "green" at all. Instead of spending government money on backing those industries, the authors of the "Seven Myths about Green Jobs" report want the free market to guide where job growth happens...greentechmedia

This is from the abstract of the research paper:

A rapidly growing literature promises that a massive program of government mandates, subsidies, and forced technological interventions will reward the nation with an economy brimming with green jobs. Not only will these jobs improve the environment, but they will be high paying, interesting, and provide collective rights. This literature is built on mythologies about economics, forecasting, and technology.

Myth: Everyone understands what a green job is.

Reality: No standard definition of a green job exists.

Myth: Creating green jobs will boost productive employment.

Reality: Green jobs estimates include huge numbers of clerical, bureaucratic, and administrative positions that do not produce goods and services for consumption.

Myth: Green jobs forecasts are reliable.

Reality: The green jobs studies made estimates using poor economic models based on dubious assumptions.

Myth: Green jobs promote employment growth.

Reality: By promoting more jobs instead of more productivity, the green jobs described in the literature encourage low-paying jobs in less desirable conditions. Economic growth cannot be ordered by Congress or by the United Nations. Government interference - such as restricting successful technologies in favor of speculative technologies favored by special interests - will generate stagnation...

Myth: Imposing technological progress by regulation is desirable.

Reality: Some technologies preferred by the green jobs studies are not capable of efficiently reaching the scale necessary to meet today's demands and could be counterproductive to environmental quality.

In this Article, we survey the green jobs literature, analyze its assumptions, and show how the special interest groups promoting the idea of green jobs have embedded dubious assumptions and techniques within their analyses. Before undertaking efforts to restructure and possibly impoverish our society, careful analysis and informed public debate about these assumptions and prescriptions are necessary.

Drunk On Subsidies - Green Beer

You have probably heard of green buildings, green cars and, perhaps, even green phones. But were you aware that green beer is flowing from the taps of some U.S. breweries, and not the kind for St. Patrick's Day tomorrow? Among the leaders of the movement is Lucky Labrador Brewing Company in Portland, Ore., which for the past year has been saving big bucks by using solar energy to heat water used in the brewing process. Lucky Labrador's first green beer, "Solar Flare Ale," was an instant sensation when it was introduced in February 2008, according to brewery co-owner Gary Geist. Sales spiked in the month following the beer's debut, Geist says. But, he notes that going solar is more about long-term benefits than about temporary sales spurts. He says the entire system, which includes 16 solar panels on the brewery roof, cost about $70,000 up front but that it ended up costing only about $6,000, thanks to a $21,000 (30 percent) federal tax credit, a $35,000 (50 percent) state tax credit, and an $8,000 incentive from the Energy Trust of Oregon (a nonprofit that assists businesses taking steps to reduce their gas and electrical energy consumption)...Scientific American

Why can't green products compete on a level playing field? I mean, if beer can't compete, what the hell can?

Numbers of wolves increase again

Federal officials say a record 1,645 gray wolves counted in the Northern Rockies this winter shows the predators' population remains strong but is no longer expanding as rapidly as in past years. Since their reintroduction to the region in the mid-1990s, wolf numbers had previously grown on average by 24 percent annually in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. This year's figure is up only 8 percent, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Ed Bangs. Bangs said the slowdown - combined with increasing numbers of livestock killed by the animals - signals that wolves have filled most prime habitat in the three states. "The population is getting to about as many as you're going to have," he said. "There's a big, healthy population in the Northern Rocky Mountains," he said. "At some point, the suitable habitat will be filled with wolves and the population just won't grow any more." The government's annual winter wolf count found 497 of the predators in Montana, 302 in Wyoming and 846 in Idaho. Livestock kills by wolves spiked more than 40 percent, with 601 cattle, sheep, llamas, dogs and other domestic animals killed. In response government wildlife agents and ranchers killed 264 wolves last year, or about one of every six wolves in the entire population. That included 21 entire packs...Billings Gazette

EPA Sued for Letting Air Pollution Cross State Lines

An environmental group is accusing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of not safeguarding public health in the West by failing to limit the transmission of air pollution across state lines. The federal agency requires states to have plans aimed at addressing the interstate transport of ozone pollution and fine particles, but WildEarth Guardians said New Mexico and several other states do not have plans. Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians' climate and energy program director, said his group will sue the agency if it fails to enforce the interstate transport requirements of the Clean Air Act. WildEarth Guardians' concerns stem from a 2005 EPA finding that all 50 states had to adopt clean air plans to protect downwind states from ozone pollution and particles such as those found in smoke and haze. EPA gave states a deadline of 2007, but Nichols said California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Oregon are still without plans...Fox News

EPA re-evaluates 'green club' for companies

The Environmental Protection Agency is closing a program that drew complaints from environmentalists for cutting back on company inspections and regulations as a reward for voluntary controls on pollution. The National Environmental Performance Track Program, established in 2000 but administered mainly during the Bush presidency, enrolled hundreds of corporations in its "green club" if they agreed to undertake initiatives to save energy and reduce pollution. However, investigations of the program questioned its effectiveness. The agency said in a statement Monday that it would evaluate and refine the program's concepts "in order to develop a stronger system to protect human health and the environment." In a report issued in 2007, the EPA's inspector general found that underperforming facilities in Performance Track reduced its integrity and value. The program itself lacked clear plans that connected activities with goals and did not show whether it achieved anticipated results, the report said...AP

Sage grouse concern halts well permits

Permits for some 82 coalbed methane wells are being sent back to the Bureau of Land Management's Buffalo Field Office because of alleged inadequate and inconsistent regard for sage grouse. The Interior Board of Land Appeals decision could have broader implications for the industry in the Powder River Ba-sin, given that ranchers and various environmental groups have filed similar appeals to the board. "It said the BLM was not consistent in analyzing sage grouse impacts," said Jill Morrison, organizer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council. Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said he couldn't comment on the ruling but said the data that Wyoming has generated would suggest that the sage grouse is not endangered in the state. "I think the main thing to do is wait for the (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife (Service) to make a decision," Hinchey said, refer-ring to the agency's ongoing review of whether to list the sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species...Billings Gazette

Conservationists launch effort to restore prairies

Four conservation groups are teaming up to try to restore some of the country's original grasslands and preserve the wildlife that depends on it. The groups announced the partnership Tuesday. Members say only 10 percent of North America's 585 million acres of original native grasslands remain, putting wildlife that live there at peril. The goal is to improve 60 million acres of habitat. Terry Riley, of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said the project's focus will be on grouse because those birds are a bellwether of the prairie's condition. "We have found that prairie grouse are one of the most sensitive (species) to change," said Riley of Albuquerque, N.M., formerly a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Other groups in the new Prairie Grouse Partners are the Mule Deer Foundation, Pheasants Forever and the North American Grouse Partnership. With help from U.S. Department of Agriculture data, the groups identified all the counties with prairie and assessed the condition of the grasslands. The area stretches from the plains in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, east as far as Ohio and south to the Gulf of Mexico...AP

Ranching enters the satellite era

The Wandering Shepherd ear tag, developed by Edmonton's iFind Systems, will provide the traceability demanded by Alberta beef customers around the world since the BSE crisis, founder Neil Helfrich says. The tag automatically delivers GPS co-ordinates and other information to the satellite, which forwards it to rancher and government databases. It also allows agencies to trace the origin of disease-infected livestock within minutes, and even animals they have been in contact with. The Wandering Shepherd, the first ear tag to use satellite technology, will be paired with the world's first fourth-generation (4G) satellite network provided by Virginia-based partner TerreStar Networks. The satellite is set to launch later this year, and if all goes well the Wandering Shepherd should be up and running by early 2010, Helfrich says. "We believe our system is more effective than any tracking system out there. Other products currently available are bulky and require the battery be replaced after a period of time. While current Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) ear tags depend on the livestock owner reporting the information, the Wandering Shepherd is completely automatic once it's activated, Helfrich says...Edmonton Journal

How long before this or something similar becomes a condition of your grazing permit?

Anti-logger school book replaced in Grants Pass

Parents objected to a spread in the book that showed loggers chopping down trees and various bits of litter on the ground. The text on page 6 read: "These people do not take care of the forest. They cut down huge trees. They drop trash on the ground." That was followed by a tearjerker page 7: "The trees are gone. The birds cannot find homes. The animals cannot find food." After news broke that the book had been pulled from classrooms, the publisher sent the district 108 new copies with a different take on loggers: "These people take care of huge forests. They put out fires. They cut down sick trees. Then new trees can be planted. Animals will still have homes. They will still find food." The illustrations, too, have changed. Rather than a trash-littered forest floor, the new edition shows a firefighter and a tree planter, and in a tree there's a bear. A top official for Pearson-Scott Foresman, the publishing house, sent a letter along with the books. "The publication of this edition was an egregious error on our part, and I will not attempt to offer an explanation," wrote Paul McFall, senior vice president...AP

Mexico & New Mexico: Wildlife Exchange

An international wildlife exchange program taking place between New Mexico and Mexico had the first leg completed recently, when 125 pronghorn antelope were moved to the state of Coahuila in Mexico. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish employees used a helicopter to herd the antelope into a fenced trapping area, where they were examined by veterinarians and had ear tags attached before being shipped. An additional 27 animals were relocated to Santa Ana Pueblo lands near Bernalillo, N.M., to help repopulate the species there. The antelope were taken from cooperating private ranches in northeastern New Mexico, reducing the existing population by about 10%. Four animals are known to have died during the process. This is the third transplant of pronghorn to captive breeding facilities in Mexico, with the hope that the animals will reproduce enough so that they can be released to multiple locations in the country...LA Times

Bill would let landowners lease rights to chopper assaults on feral hogs

Lawmakers seemed open Tuesday to launching an aerial assault against the feral hog menace in Texas, but it's just not as easy as shooting a pig in a poke. Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, has written the pork-chopper bill, which would allow landowners to lease their property to hunters using helicopters to thin the estimated 2 million feral hogs causing havoc in virtually every county. Currently, landowners can only rent helicopters and do their own shooting, but this would let them sell the rights and recoup some of their losses, said Miller, speaking before the House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee. But lawmakers had concerns that this could turn into a slippery sty and left the bill pending. Would feral pigs become a game animal, where hunters would have to dispose of the carcasses, abide by a season and other hunting rules, lawmakers wondered? And let's just say chasing a pig at 100 mph doesn't make it easy to stop at a property boundary...Dallas Morning News

NM legislature passes feral hog bill

The Legislature Tuesday morning passed a bill prohibiting “importing, transporting, breeding, or selling a live feral hog or operating a commercial feral hog hunting enterprise.” A feral hog is defined, basically, as one that is wild. Captive-bred hogs very quickly go feral. They can grow quite large and become dangerous. The bill imposes misdemeanor sanctions for violations, including a fine of $1,000, imprisonment for less than a year or both. How many feral hogs are in New Mexico? The general consensus was that not too many are here now, but that it could become a serious problem. Some outfitters lead hunts for feral hogs...NM Independent

Source: More feds to combat border violence

The Obama administration plans to send reinforcements to the Southwest border to help contain the rampant violence of the Mexican drug cartel wars. Thirty-seven agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are being deployed to the region. An official familiar with the plan said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is considering reassignment of at least 90 officers to the border. The official requested anonymity because the plan has not yet been announced. The deployments are part of President Barack Obama's first moves to boost federal security sources on the U.S. side of the border. The additional immigration agents would double the size of an ongoing ICE task force that has been working with other federal agencies to fight the criminal organizations contributing to the border violence. The ATF agents will be added to anti-gunrunning teams in McAllen, Texas, El Centro, Calif., and Las Cruces, N.M., as well as to U.S. consulates in Juarez and Tijuana. Some of the reinforcement costs will be covered with economic recovery money recently approved by Congress...AP

PETA's action creates havoc at elementary school

The first call came shortly after 11 a.m. one day last week. Protesters were on their way to the Fulton Elementary School in Hempstead. That call, and a second one a short time later, came from reporters who had received news releases from the animal rights advocacy group PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The news sent the school district scrambling to the Internet for information. And later, after seeing the news release, they found out more. "There was my school's name, my school's address and my school's exact dismissal time," Regina Armstrong-Robinson, the school's principal, said yesterday, "and I'm asking myself who are these people and why are they coming here?" PETA's intention was to let children know that circuses are cruel to animals. No doubt, the protest was timed to coincide with the coming of the Ringling Bros. Circus, which is slated to open this week at Nassau Coliseum in the neighboring community of Uniondale. Some parents and children stopped to take buttons or an activity book protesters handed out, which, on one page, asks kids to color an elephant wearing "circus chains." "The material is disturbing and inappropriate for small children, who are visual learners," said Rodney Gilmore, the district's interim assistant superintendent. "Kids love the idea of a circus. This would be upsetting to them."...Newsday

Man finds 41 bull snakes under Colo. home

Jeff Stafford's buddy owes him a few beers — and 41 brews would still be a bargain for the colony of bull snakes Stafford found slithering in the crawl space of friend's townhome in Westminster Sunday. The 25-year-old banker had stopped by his friend's place near Federal Boulevard and West 112th Avenue to say "hi." He was wearing flip flops. His friend, who asked to remain anonymous, was tending to a leaky pipe beneath the home, while Stafford chatted with his friend's wife. "Thirty seconds later I heard what sounded like the yelp of a small, frightened child," Stafford said Monday. His friend had spotted a snake in the muddy crawl space. "Dude, you've got to go get it," Stafford recalled him saying Monday. With a flashlight and a stick of firewood, Stafford climbed into the crawl space and onto the blue tarp that covered the muddy surface. The tarp moved beneath him; the floor writhed in bull snakes — 41 of them by the time Stafford got through stuffing them into a trash bag...Denver Post

European Farmers Protest Proposals to Tax Cow Flatulence

Proposals to tax the flatulence of cows and other livestock have been denounced by farming groups in the Irish Republic and Denmark. A cow tax of $18 per animal has been mooted in Ireland, while Denmark is discussing a levy as high as $110 per cow to offset the potential penalties each country faces from European Union legislation aimed at combating global warming. The proposed levies are opposed vigorously by farming groups. The Irish Farmers' Association said that the cattle industry would move to South America to avoid EU taxes. The cow tax proposals would raise funds to buy allowances from other member states or to invest in technology that might reduce emissions. Denmark is believed to be further advanced with housing for pigs that captures and stores methane emitted from the animals. The gas can be used as a fuel for power generation. A spokesman for the European Commission said that a cow tax was not its preferred option. “We would rather have solutions that reduce emissions by capturing methane from manure and new animal feeds that reduce methane.”...London Times

EU offers US bigger beef quota in hormone row

The European Commission is offering to double the preferential quota for beef imports from the United States as part of a deal to end a long-standing dispute over beef trade, EU sources familiar with the plan said. Last week, Washington said it would hold off on applying new retaliatory duties to EU products while it negotiates with Brussels on a solution to the trans-Atlantic row, sparked by an EU ban on U.S. imports of hormone-treated meat in 1988. But the sources told Reuters the plan by the EU executive -- which oversees trade and food safety policy for the 27-nation bloc -- did not include lifting the embargo which Brussels says is based on scientific advice and is not protectionist. "The proposal is aimed at giving a bigger incentive to U.S. beef farmers to export normal-treated beef in return for the U.S. ending its sanctions," one EU source with knowledge of the proposal said. "The ban on hormone-treated beef stays. The Commission was quite clear on that," another EU source said, adding the proposal was discussed at a regular closed-door meeting of EU trade officials on Friday...Reuters

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

8 Dems oppose quick debate on global warming bill

Eight Senate Democrats are opposing speedy action on President Barack Obama's bill to combat global warming, complicating prospects for the legislation and creating problems for their party's leaders. The eight Democrats disapprove of using the annual budget debate to pass Obama's "cap and trade" bill to fight greenhouse gas emissions, a measure that divides lawmakers, environmentalists and businesses. The lawmakers' opposition makes it more difficult for Democratic leaders to move the bill without a threat of a Republican filibuster. The budget debate is the only way to circumvent Senate rules that allow a unified GOP to stop a bill through filibusters. "Enactment of a cap-and-trade regime is likely to influence nearly every feature of the U.S. economy," wrote the Democratic senators, mostly moderates. They were joined by 25 Republicans. "Legislation so far-reaching should be fully vetted and given appropriate time for debate."...AP

Scientists Claim Earth Is Undergoing Natural Climate Shift

The bitter cold and record snowfalls from two wicked winters are causing people to ask if the global climate is truly changing. The climate is known to be variable and, in recent years, more scientific thought and research has been focused on the global temperature and how humanity might be influencing it. However, a new study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee could turn the climate change world upside down. Scientists at the university used a math application known as synchronized chaos and applied it to climate data taken over the past 100 years. "Imagine that you have four synchronized swimmers and they are not holding hands and they do their program and everything is fine; now, if they begin to hold hands and hold hands tightly, most likely a slight error will destroy the synchronization. Well, we applied the same analogy to climate," researcher Dr. Anastasios Tsonis said. Scientists said that the air and ocean systems of the earth are now showing signs of synchronizing with each other. Eventually, the systems begin to couple and the synchronous state is destroyed, leading to a climate shift. "In climate, when this happens, the climate state changes. You go from a cooling regime to a warming regime or a warming regime to a cooling regime. This way we were able to explain all the fluctuations in the global temperature trend in the past century," Tsonis said. "The research team has found the warming trend of the past 30 years has stopped and in fact global temperatures have leveled off since 2001." The most recent climate shift probably occurred at about the year 2000...ABC

Endangered Wolves Decision Symbolizes Green Costs of Democrats' Western Support

In Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's decision to stick with a controversial Bush administration policy, and take wolves off the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho and other Rocky Mountain states, some of Audacity's supporters won, and others lost. The overarching theme of this particular tale is the Democratic Party's avowed intent and considerable efforts to be competitive in the West. It earned the Democrats a passel of Electoral College votes last fall, cheering liberals across the land. But it comes with some costs, as environmentalists discovered with the wolf decision. Though pretty green by regional standards, Western Democrats like Salazar are not extremists. They know how to weigh the competing interests of energy firms, ski resorts, environmental groups, animal lovers, ranchers and the outdoors industry. You can't cheer, as a lefty blogger, when Democrats are competitive in the northern Rockies, without acknowledging there will be trade-offs in environmental policy. And so the enviro groups and wildlife folks got stiffed by Salazar's decision to stick with the recommendations of the Interior Department scientists, and consign the fate of the (choose one: a) cute, b) livestock killing) wolves to state officials...US News & World Report

The Fall and Rise of the Right Whale

Actually, it’s one of so many good signs that researchers are beginning to hope that for the first time in centuries things are looking up for the right whale. They say the species offers proof that simple conservation steps can have a big impact, even for species driven to the edge of oblivion. North Atlantic right whales, which can grow up to 55 feet long and weigh up to 70 tons, were the “right” whales for 18th- and 19th-century whalers because they are rich in oil and baleen, move slowly, keep close to shore and float when they die. They were long ago hunted to extinction in European waters, and by 1900 perhaps only 100 or so remained in their North American range, from feeding grounds off Maritime Canada and New England to winter calving grounds off the Southeastern coast. Since then, the species’ numbers have crept up, but very slowly. NOAA estimates that there are about 325, though scientists in and out of the agency suspect there may be more, perhaps as many as 400. It has been illegal to hunt the right whale since 1935, when the League of Nations put them under protection. Even so, researchers despaired of ever seeing a healthy right whale population here as long as ship strikes still maimed and killed them and fishing gear strangled them...NY Times

As Oil and Gas Prices Plunge, Drilling Frenzy Ends

The great American drilling boom is over. The number of oil and gas rigs deployed to tap new energy supplies across the country has plunged to less than 1,200 from 2,400 last summer, and energy executives say the drop is accelerating further. Lower prices are bringing to an end an ambitious effort to squeeze more oil from aging fields and to tap new sources of natural gas. For the last four years, companies here drilled below airports, golf courses, churches and playgrounds in a frantic search for energy. They scoured the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Gulf of Mexico and Appalachia. But the economic downturn has cut into demand. Global oil prices and American natural gas prices have plummeted two-thirds since last summer. Not even an unseasonably cold winter drove down unusually high inventories of natural gas. The drop has been good news for American consumers, with gasoline now selling for $1.92 a gallon, on average, down from a high of $4.11 in July. But the result for companies is that it is becoming unprofitable to drill...NY Times

One of Those Earmarks That Bug People

Big bugs with bulging goggle eyes swarmed the remote Utah ranching outpost of Grouse Creek like a biblical plague. Each of the past four summers, the hungry critters known as Mormon crickets have marched by the tens of thousands over grassy hillsides, past juniper trees, across dirt roads and through ranch houses. The noisy insects have devoured crops, frightened children and threatened families' livelihoods in the tranquil high desert. "It's almost like an Alfred Hitchcock movie," said Brent Tanner, who helps run a large cattle ranch in Grouse Creek that has been in his family since the 1870s. "You just see swarms of these large crickets that move in and can be devastating to crops, and certainly are very irritating. They'll just crawl right into your house, get up on your walls. It's enough to drive a person totally insane." And this summer, scientists say, it's a sure bet Mormon crickets will be back. So to the 80-odd folks who live in Grouse Creek, the $1 million congressional earmark secured by their state's junior senator to kill the insects is hardly wasteful pork, as it has been demonized. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and television comedian Jon Stewart may lampoon it as an egregious example of government spending, but to Grouse Creek, the earmark is salvation. "Everything that's green is just gone," said Tanner's older brother, Jay, who described what happens after Mormon crickets hatch on federal land, migrate onto his family's Della Ranches and eat up acres of grass, alfalfa and cattle feed. "When the crickets come and devastate the area, then I'm done. There's really nothing I can do. It's just like coming in and stealing money out of my wallet."...Washington Post

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Economy could hurt U.S. forests, United Nations says

A prolonged economic downturn could prompt more private woodland owners in their United States to sell their lots, threatening forests with development, the United Nations said today in its latest "State of the World's Forests" report. From 1994 to 2007, U.S. forest ownership by integrated forest companies -- involved in both production and processing -- declined from about 48 million acres to 10 million acres, the report says. Much of the ownership has been picked up by real estate investment trusts and other institutional investors. The change in ownership could undermine long-term investments in forest management and research, the report said, and accelerate commercial development of private forest lands. A prolonged down economy would further lower the value of wood, the report said, increasing the incentive to convert forests to other uses. But the supply of available forest land for purchase is also shrinking, the report said, providing a potential brake on the trend...The Oregonian

So a "prolonged down economy" lowers the value of a natural resource. I'm sure glad we have UN to teach us such things.

Senate agrees to lift ban on Indian development

The U.S. Senate has voted to lift a decades-old ban on development on about 700,000 acres in Arizona's Black Mesa region that both the Navajo and Hopi tribes claimed as their own. The Senate unanimously approved a bill by Arizona senators John McCain and Jon Kyl on Thursday night to lift a ban on development in the "Bennett Freeze" area. The ban had prevented about 8,000 Navajos who live there from putting in electric lines, repairing leaky roofs and running water lines to their homes unless the improvements were approved by the neighboring Hopi Tribe. Action by the House is still required, but no opposition is expected. The ban was imposed in 1966 by former U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Robert Bennett as a way to settle the land dispute between the tribes. It was lifted in late 2006 after the tribes reached an agreement and a federal judge signed off on it. But tribal members remained fearful that the freeze could be reinstated if the law that authorized it wasn't repealed...Santa Fe New Mexican

Plum Creek sawmill begins shutdown

Plum Creek Timber Co. has begun shutting down the last major sawmill in the Tobacco Valley, a swath of northwestern Montana that was dotted with mills during much of the 20th century. The Seattle-based company said the sawmill at Fortine, about 20 miles from the Montana-British Columbia border, was cutting its final log on Thursday, planing will end later this month and the mill will be disassembled in April, ending 72 jobs and 53 years of operation. Fortine is in Lincoln County, where the January unemployment rate - the latest available - was 15.6 percent, compared to a state rate of 6.7 percent. Plum Creek said earlier this winter that the poor housing market and the related decline in demand for wood products required trimming operations at several plants in Montana...Billings Gazette

Arizona dairies in peril

A global fall in the demand for milk has dropped wholesale prices so low that Arizona dairy farmers have begun slaughtering cows to stay in business. The lower demand, last year's high grain prices, increased production from other countries and last year's scandal in China involving milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine are all causing Arizona dairymen to lose about $100 per cow per month, experts say. Arizona's dairy slump has rippled to other areas of agriculture, such as beef and hay producers. "We have a lot of dairies in the 2,000- to 3,000-cow range. So, they are losing $200,000 to $300,000 a month. The big question is how long will prices stay down like that," said Gary Dyer, president and chief executive officer of Farm Credit Services Southwest, a Tempe agricultural-cooperative lender that does half its business with dairy farms and hay producers. Farmers estimate it costs about $180 each month to feed a dairy cow. They are recouping less than half that amount in dairy-product sales. The combination of high costs and low prices has forced farmers to thin their herds to survive. The damage to the dairy industry, in turn, hurts farmers like Rogers who grow corn, alfalfa hay and cotton seed as cattle feed. Hay is Arizona's largest crop and hay prices have dropped from about $225 a ton a year ago to about $130, Dyer said. The dairy-cow reduction also hurts beef ranchers, who fear their selling prices will drop because of all the extra dairy cows on the market...Arizona Republic