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Posted on on May 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

 From:      alternet at

Are We Ready for a New Policy on Cuba?
Posted by Steve Benen, The Carpetbagger Report at 11:19 AM on May 20, 2008.

In a speech in Miami, John McCain is preparing to attack Sen. Obama for suggesting a new approach toward Cuba “For a couple of generations, every major presidential candidate, from both parties, has taken the same position on U.S. policy towards Cuba: keep the status quo. The embargo needs to stay in place in order to ‘keep the pressure’ on Castro. Any thawing in relations would be a victory for a brutal thug, and would enrage a powerful voting bloc (Cuban Americans) in a key electoral state (Florida) – this is also the McCain position.
With that in mind, no candidate has been willing to talk openly about a change. I distinctly remember in 2004 when Wesley Clark said in a debate he wanted a dramatic shake-up in the existing policy. “When you isolate a country, you strengthen the dictators in it,” Clark said. The next day, Clark’s campaign backpedaled, after aides heard from supporters in Miami.

This year, Chris Dodd and Barack Obama went out on a limb and said the status quo isn’t good enough, and had the audacity to point that the current policy doesn’t actually work. They no doubt expected Republicans to try to exploit this, but made the case anyway.

Dodd stepped aside in January, but Obama is poised to be the first Democratic candidate in a half-century to offer a real change when it comes to Cuba. Today, John McCain intends to smack him on it pretty hard in a speech in Miami.

In an indication that John McCain sees foreign policy as the best route to take on Barack Obama — and that he will take it frequently — McCain is set to roll out another tough attack, with a speech today to the Cuban community in Miami. At the rate things are going, the McCain camp will be hitting Obama on some new foreign policy point every day.

“Just a few years ago, Senator Obama had a very clear view on Cuba,” McCain will say, according to prepared excerpts, then quoting Obama saying that normalization of relations would improve conditions for the Cuban people.

“Now Senator Obama has shifted positions and says he only favors easing the embargo, not lifting it. He also wants to sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro. These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba’s dictators — there is no need to undertake fundamental reforms, they can simply wait for a unilateral change in US policy.”

It’s obviously an off-shoot of the debate over Iran — McCain believes the silent treatment is an effective foreign policy in relation to rivals and enemies; Obama believes the opposite.

Indeed, McCain is apparently prepared to argue that Bush’s policy towards Cuba hasn’t been far enough to the right.

Bloomberg reported today:

Commemorating Cuban Independence Day, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee seeks to distance himself from President George W. Bush’s Cuba policy by taking a tougher stance while also criticizing Barack Obama’s approach as too accommodating.

The Arizona senator said the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba must remain in place until basic elements of democratic society are established.

As for Obama’s willingness to change U.S. policy and consider diplomacy with Cuba, McCain will say open discussions “would send the worst possible signal to Cuba’s dictators.”

The conventional wisdom suggests McCain’s criticism will be well received in South Florida, and Obama will face a serious push-back on this. But I’m not at all sure the conventional wisdom is right on this. Michael Tomasky noted yesterday:

[Obama] has signalled that he’d dramatically alter the US’s hard-line Cuba policy. He’s not alone in thinking it’s outdated. Brent Scowcroft, a Republican foreign-policy high priest who worked for George Bush Sr, said last week that the American embargo “makes no sense” any more.

This freaks some people out. And in electoral terms, it makes them think that Obama has thrown away Florida, home of a large, conservative Cuban-American community. But Florida’s Latino population is no longer majority-Cuban. And just this month, the news broke that more Latinos in Florida are Democrats than Republicans — a major historical shift. Could it be that Obama is on to something?

Maybe so. In fact, Obama’s willingness to break with a failed status quo may turn out to be a political winner after all.

It doesn’t get a lot of attention, but there’s a big distinction between Cuban exiles who fled to the United States and their children’s generation. The younger Cuban-Americans are far less conservative, and far more open to a policy change. Obama assumes, probably correctly, that the older generation isn’t going to vote for a Democrat anyway, so why not shake up the dynamic by reaching out with a common-sense policy that has the added benefit of appealing to younger Cuban-American voters?

Miami Democrats like Elena Freyre, a Cuban-American art gallery owner in Little Havana, say they’ve been trying to tell Democratic candidates to stop parroting the hard-line position. “Obama’s people were the first who ever said to me on the phone, ‘Wait, let me get a pen and write that down,'” says Freyre. “He’s the first to have the cojones to say Bush’s policy is wrong, and I think it’s going to wake up a lot of moderate Cuban-American voters.”

McCain assumes the rules haven’t changed in decades. We’ll see soon enough if he’s right.


Obama Ratchets-Up His Attacks on Big Media.
Posted by Matt Stoller, Open Left   on May 20, 2008.

In Oregon, Sen. Obama discussed creating greater diversity in media to better serve the public.

On Friday, I wrote about how Obama is subtly sending out signals that he is going to reform media by emphasizing a more diverse ownership structure. Currently, radio station ownership is mostly held by white men. Latinos own 2.9% of all radio stations and African-Americans own 3.4% of them. TV is even worse. According to Free Press, “people of color own just 3.15 percent of commercial television stations in the United States… while women own just 5.87 percent of television stations.”

Pledging a more diverse ownership structure is a serious challenge to the current media environment. Today, Obama pledged to use antitrust tools to work on media consolidation.

“I will assure that we will have an antitrust division that is serious about pursuing cases,” the Illinois senator told an audience of mostly senior citizens in Oregon.
“There are going to be areas, in the media for example where we’re seeing more and more consolidation, that I think (it) is legitimate to ask…is the consumer being served?”
I wrote about this in November, 2007, when Obama came out with his media and tech proposals. He’s got a strong open source, almost libertarian attitude, as evidenced by his technocratic advisors and slightly more conservative stances on economic stimulus and health care. While cautious instincts are part of his DNA, when it comes to media, they serve the public extremely well. Unlike health care and the green economy, elites in technology are extremely powerful and progressive, so they counterbalance the more corrupt and conservative telecom and cable interests. The Obama camp is close with Silicon Valley, which is both libertarian in general matters and progressive when it comes to technology; venture capitalists were some of Obama’s first Presidential backers, and you can get a really good sense of who he is by reading this blog post endorsing Obama by Marc Andreesen, the founder of Netscape (and a Mitt Romney donor). Google itself is willing to get into the fray, pushing back against Joe Lieberman’s demands to censor Youtube.

Obama’s media policies are quite progressive, and you can see the outlines of what it will take to keep the Obama camp going in a progressive direction. The combination of activists, elites, businesses, nonprofits, and labor has been quite successful in the media reform movement. Replicating that in health care, the green economy, and international trade will produce similar fruitful results.

It’s going to be really interesting to see how Obama’s administration takes on the media, and frankly, if I were a network executive, I’d be worried. The White House and Brian Williams may find the Pentagon Pundit scandal to be nothing more than what happens on liberal blogs, but Obama is wondering if their business model is really “serving the consumer,” and what the Justice Department might have to say about that.


Will Bob Barr and Ron Paul Out-Flank McCain on the Right?
Posted by Howie Klein, Down With Tyranny! at 8:32 AM on May 20, 2008.

Fractures within the Republican base threaten McCain’s election prospects.

With   Dick Morris publicly urging McCain to shed his far right extremism and move to the center if he’s going to have any chance at all to win a few states outside of the Old Confederacy plus Utah, Wyoming and Idaho, a very different kind of reality is closing in on McCain who, says Dick Morris, “has been dealt a terrible hand: a tanking economy, an unpopular war, a Republican incumbent whose approval ratings are at their all-time low and a gloomy national mood, with 82 percent of Americans saying in a Washington Post-ABC News poll last week that the country is on the wrong track.” He offers the hapless Republican nominee a roadmap, a roadmap dependent of Jeremiah Wright– “the honorary chairman of McCain’s get-out-the-vote efforts”– even though every voter in red, red, red Mississippi first congressional district was inundated with Jeremiah Wright and still voted against Bush and the GOP.

The growing fear of Obama, who remains something of an unknown, will drag every last white Republican male off the golf course to vote for McCain, and he will need no further laying-on of hands from either evangelical Christians or fiscal conservatives.
So McCain doesn’t have to spend a lot of time wooing his base. What he does need to do is reduce the size of the synapse over which independents and fearful Democrats need to pass in order to back his candidacy. If the synapse is wide, they will stay with Obama. But if they perceive McCain as an acceptable alternative, there is every chance that they will cross over to back him in November.
But even as Dick Morris/Fox News shill admits that McBush’s endless war in Iraq agenda could kill the deal, another dynamic has arisen that negates whatever toe sucking meditations popped into Morris’   little right-wing brain: Bob Barr.

Micah Sifry, a lot smarter and far more with it than Morris was even when he was relevant, thinks if McCain doesn’t watch his right flank, he’s a dead duck. He warns that if McCain follows the Dick Morris strategy Barr will siphon off enough votes to insure a McCain loss, “not because Barr is such a compelling candidate, but because he could become the vehicle for the many disaffected Republicans gathered under Paul’s flag.”

More than a million votes have been cast for Paul, about 5 percent of the total cast in Republican primaries so far.
Paul’s activists are swarming local Republican party committees and conventions, quietly capturing or lining up delegates in states such as Alaska, Missouri, Minnesota, Florida, Texas and Washington.

And on the Web, the Paul movement — which, astonishingly, generated enough grassroots support to make him the top Republican presidential money-raiser in the fourth quarter of 2007 — is still going strong. His Web site is getting about 50,000 unique visitors per week, compared to 90,000 for McCain, according to data marketing company (The two Democratic candidates’ combined traffic is about six times higher.) On Google, people are searching for the term “Ron Paul” almost as often as “John McCain.” And Paul’s new book, “The Revolution: A Manifesto,” which has been topping Amazon’s sales chart for weeks, hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list today.

Clearly, one sizable chunk of the Republican base — small-government types who also oppose the Iraq war — hasn’t reconciled itself to voting for McCain. In Minneapolis, at the Republican National Convention, Paul may have a couple dozen delegates and enough street presence to spoil McCain’s show. These days, all it takes is one person with a Web-enabled mobile phone to put live video on the Internet, and Paul’s fans have already shown how good they are at using the Web to spread messages and keep their movement going. So even if the Republicans manage to keep Paul himself off the stage at the convention, his voice will still be heard. If Barr manages to capture the attention of Paul’s base, it could spell real danger for McCain.

McCain will be forced to name an extremist wingnut– either Buy Bull-thumpin’ Mike Huckabee or someone genuinely insane like Jim DeMint (R-SC) or Richard Burr (R-NC) of Tom Coburn (R-OK)– as a running mate. And since many Americans expect to see the first sitting president since the assassinated JFK to die in office if McCain gets elected, the running mate decision will take on unusual significance. What pleases the nutty base is likely to scare mainstream Americans.


Posted on on April 28th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

April 28, 2008

In the U. S.: AMEX: HTM and in Canada: TSX: GTH

Boise, Idaho – April 28, 2008 (AMEX: HTM, TSX: GTH) U.S. Geothermal Inc. (the “Company”) announced today that it has completed the previously announced underwritten private placement of 4,260,000 units of the Company (each, a “Unit”), each Unit comprising one common share of the Company (each, “Common Share”) and one half of one Common Share purchase warrant (each whole Common Share purchase warrant, a “Warrant”), at a price of CDN $2.35 per Unit. Each Warrant will entitle the holder thereof to acquire one additional Common Share of the Company prior to April 29, 2010 for US$3.00 per Common Share. In addition, the Underwriters exercised their option to purchase an additional 2,122,500 Units at the issue price of the offering, resulting in the issuance of a total of 6,382,500 Units for aggregate gross proceeds of CDN $14,998,875.

The Underwriters have been paid a cash fee of CDN $899,932.50, representing 6% of the aggregate gross proceeds from the offering, and have been issued broker warrants to purchase up to 191,475 Common Shares of the Company at US $2.34 prior to April 29, 2010.

The Company has agreed to file a resale registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission as soon as practicable and to use commercially reasonable efforts to cause it to become effective no later than five months following closing and to remain effective for two years. In the event the registration statement is not effective within 5 months following closing, the purchasers are entitled to receive an additional 0.10 of a Common Share for each Unit purchased.

The securities are subject to a four-month hold period under applicable Canadian securities laws and TSX requirements.

The proceeds of the offering are intended to be used for the completion of the acquisition of the previously announced Empire geothermal assets, for ongoing development and exploration activities at the Company’s Raft River and Neal Hot Springs projects, and for general working capital purposes.

About U.S. Geothermal Inc.

U.S. Geothermal is a renewable energy development company that is currently operating a geothermal power project at Raft River, Idaho and conducting exploration activities at Neal Hot Springs, Oregon.

Please visit our Website at:


Saf Dhillon – Investor Relations
U.S. Geothermal Inc.
Tel: 866-687-7059
Fax: 604-688-9895
 saf at

Melinda Keckler – Media Relations
Scott Peyron & Associates, Inc.
Tel: 208-388-3800
Fax: 208-388-8898
 mkeckler at

The information provided in this news release contains forward-looking statements within the definition of the Safe Harbor provisions of the US Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and under applicable Canadian legislation, including statements regarding the anticipated use of proceeds and closing of the Empire geothermal project acquisition. These statements are based on U.S. Geothermal Inc.’s current expectations and beliefs and are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that can cause actual results to differ materially from those described in forward looking statements. Forward-looking statements are based on management’s expectations, beliefs and opinions on the date the statements are made. U.S. Geothermal Inc. assumes no obligation to update forward-looking statements if management’s expectations, beliefs, or opinions, or other factors, should change.

The TSX and American Stock Exchanges do not accept responsibility for the adequacy of this release.

U.S. Geothermal Website.


Posted on on April 5th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Pollan: Nutrition ‘Science’ Has Hijacked Our Meals — and Our Health.
By Terrence McNally, AlterNet. Posted April 3, 2008.

Much of what lines supermarket aisles is not food. It’s merely foodlike, and it’s making us sick.

Why would anyone need to write a book called In Defense of Food? If we can afford it and can get our hands on it, we eat food several times a day. Or do we?

According to Michael Pollan, most of what Americans consume isn’t food. He calls it “edible foodlike substances.” He also says that the way we consume it is not really eating. It’s something we do pretty unconsciously as we work or drive or watch TV.

We all know about the U.S. epidemic of obesity and diabetes over the past 25 years, on top of the steady rise of chronic diseases over the past hundred. Paradoxically, this happens just as Americans and the food industry are ever more aware of nutrition. What’s going on here?

Pollan claims that in the Western diet, good old food has been replaced by nutrients, mom’s good advice by nutritional experts, common sense by confusion, and for most, a relatively good diet by a bad and dangerous one. The book in which he makes all these claims and advises us simply to “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” has topped the New York Times bestseller list.

Michael Pollan’s previous books include The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, named one of the ten best books of 2006 by the New York Times and the Washington Post, and The Botany of Desire. Pollan is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and a Knight Professor of Journalism at U.C. Berkeley.


Terrence McNally: How did you grow to focus on plants and then food?

Michael Pollan: Well all my work really begins in the garden. I was a very passionate gardener beginning at age 8, although I fell away from it for a few years. In the 1980s I was living in New York and took up gardening at a weekend house in northwestern Connecticut. I got very absorbed in the garden as a place to look at our relationship to nature.

Like a lot of Americans, my understanding of nature and our relationship to it was shaped by Emerson and Thoreau and Melville and Whitman. When I actually started to garden, I realized all those ideas about the romance of nature were distinctly unhelpful. Thoreau’s love of wilderness and worship of the wild really doesn’t equip you when the pests come and destroy your crops, when the woodchuck attacks your broccoli.

I got into trouble following their philosophy. I didn’t have a fence, for example. I thought a fence was too alienating from the natural world. I got into a war with a woodchuck — just like Bill Murray in Caddyshack — until I was defoliating my property and pouring gasoline down a woodchuck burrow. I was like William Westmoreland in Vietnam, willing to destroy the village to save it.

I realized then that the garden was a very interesting place to examine our relationship to the natural world. Traditionally, when Americans want to think about nature, we picture the wilderness, we go camping, we go to Yosemite. But nature is happening in our homes, in our gardens, in our lawns, and on our plates.

TMN: At that point you were writing about other things?

MP: I was an editor at Harper’s Magazine, and I began writing a series of essays about what was happening to me in my garden, my woodchuck war, my dad’s battle with the neighbors over his front lawn. These kinds of issues became my first book, Second Nature.

I started looking at our relationship to plants and animals, and at drugs, since a lot of drugs are plants that change our consciousness.

TMN: And that shows up in The Botany of Desire?

MP: Yes. When I was working on Botany of Desire, I visited industrial farms in Idaho to see how industrial agriculture works, and I was shocked. I was absolutely floored by these vast monocultures, the amount of pesticides that are used, the fact that the farmers are afraid to go into their fields for five days after they spray for fungus, because they know how neurotoxic this stuff is.

TMN: Stuff which will later end up on our plates?

MP: In fact, they would often have a little patch of organic potatoes by the house for themselves, because they could not eat the food coming out of their farms.

I suggest they are more irresponsible than they are. Over time the potatoes leech out the worst chemicals, so you can’t just dig industrial potatoes and eat them right away, or you’ll get too heavy a load of residues.

I also visited organic farms and realized that there were alternatives. People were having great success growing organic on a fairly large scale in Idaho with a completely different mind-set. Not monoculture being the key fact. Heavy rotations, poly-cropping.

When I realized that eating is our most profound engagement with the natural world, I got very excited to take a hard look at the food chain that we’re a part of.

What happens on our plates dictates the composition of species in the world, which ones we favor, which ones we don’t — the reason there are plenty of cows and not too many wolves left. It’s the way we’ve shaped the landscape in terms of deforesting it for our fields. What we choose to grow and not grow has a huge bearing on our health and our happiness.

TMN: You point out a paradox. As people talk more about nutrition, food becomes less healthy.

MP: It’s not a coincidence. We’ve stuffed our brains with biochemistry. Ordinary people in the street are talking about antioxidants, cholesterol, fiber, polyphenols, phytochemicals, all this has become the language of food, while the food is disappearing. If you read packages in stores, it’s all about nutrients.

This is an ideology: nutritionism — an ism, not a science. The ideology has four premises.

The first is that nutrients are what matters, not food. See that you’re getting enough of the good ones and avoiding the bad ones.

Second, like any other ism, it divides the world into good and evil.

TMN: There’s always a good nutrient and a bad one, and when one is up the other is down.

MP: I remember my mother dutifully giving us all margarine instead of butter. She would say, “Some day they’re going to figure out that butter is actually better for you than margarine,” and we thought she was nuts. In fact, it turned out that margarine was lethal and butter is fine.

TMN: She was still feeding it to you suspecting that would happen…?

MP: The authority of mothers was essentially destroyed by the food industry. The $32 billion a year in marketing muscle out there has undercut culture’s role in determining what we eat, and culture is a fancy word for your mom.

TMN: Just to emphasize that number, that’s not the food industry, that’s the food marketing industry.

MP: That’s advertising, studying us, packaging, figuring out how to get us to eat more.

TMN: Food industry folks say, “We don’t think we should regulate this sort of thing because Americans believe in individualism and free choice, but we’re all for public education.” So maybe we’ll throw $100 million of education up against that $32 billion of marketing.

MP: $100 million is one snack food’s annual budget. The entire USDA/FDA effort to educate people about food equals one chip. [laughs] There’s no contest. They control the information about food.

Third premise: the whole point of eating is to advance or ruin your health, and that’s what food is about.

Americans accept that idea, but it’s actually quite strange. If you go to other countries, you remember very quickly that people have eaten for a great many reasons other than health. They eat for pleasure, they eat for community and communion, they eat to express their identity. And these are all equally legitimate reasons to eat.

The fourth premise is, of course, that the nutrient is the key unit in food.

Nutrients are invisible. No one’s ever seen, tasted or smelled a nutrient. So you need experts to guide you in your food choices. You need scientists. You need journalists. It’s like a religion. If what matters is invisible and inaccessible to you directly, you need a priesthood. And now we have a food priesthood.

And we have the health claims on the packages. We have the nutritionists that we listen to on radio and television. And we have lost any confidence in our mothers or in ourselves, in our instincts to determine what is good food. It’s understandable that we would not trust our instincts, because so many of the foods now lie to us with artificial flavors and sweeteners and fats.

In this book — by taking apart the science — I’m trying to show you that we can’t rely on food scientists to feed us. Their advice hasn’t been that good. Not out of any evil intent, but to put it charitably, nutrition is a very young science. They’ve only been at it for about 170 years. They may get better.

The whole history of nutrition science is one missed nutrient after another. They would design a baby formula with macronutrients. Somehow the babies didn’t thrive. Or you’d send men on long sea voyages with plenty of carbohydrate, protein and fat — and they still got sick.

So then we discovered we need vitamins, but baby formula still wasn’t successful. What was missing? Well, it turns out omega 3 fatty acids were missing.

That’s the whole history: Every decade or two discovering another level of absolutely critical nutrients that we’ve previously overlooked.

TMN: Science does get better at pulling things apart and finding the single nutrients, not necessarily better at actually delivering something that’s good for us.

You’ve got just three basic recommendations: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

But you also lay out corollaries from those to navigate our way through those big three. One of them is: “Avoid anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize.” Our mothers and grandmothers have been around as things have gotten cloudy. How did that begin? What led to this crazy upside down reality?

MP: I think it’s built into the nature of the food industry and the economics of selling food. It’s very hard to make money selling normal unprocessed foods. Ask any farmer who’s growing broccoli or oats; it’s a very hard way to make money.

The more you process the food, the more profitable it is. If I go to the supermarket, I can buy a pound of organic oats for 79 cents. Now that’s a lot of oats, and nobody’s making much money. But if you turn it into Cheerios, suddenly you have a brand. You’ve got your little doughnut shape, you’ve got an ad campaign, and suddenly you’re charging four bucks for a few ounces of oats.

Then you come up with a Honey Nut Cheerio Cereal Bar with a layer of artificial milk in the middle. Now you’ve got a convenience food that’s very much your own, because you’ve got this special formula to make your fake milk. And kids can eat them in the car or on the way to school. Now you’re charging $10 or $20 for a few penny’s worth of oats. That’s the gist of the food industry. That’s the economic imperative.

TMN: So, as usual, follow the money.

I was in Battlecreek, Michigan, a couple of years ago — the home of Kellogg’s. Some local women told me cereal sales were way down. I asked why, and they said, “Because you can’t eat them in the car.” Thus your cereal bars.

MP: Exactly right. And now we have cereal straws.

The problem is that the more you process food, the less nutritious it is. So the economic imperative takes you in one direction, while the biological imperative is saying, “Leave it alone.” There’s nothing better for you for breakfast than plain oats. Cook them yourself.

To counter that, you need to make a health claim for your processed product. So you fortify it. You throw in whatever the hot nutrient of the moment is.

TMN: When you process it, you remove some of the value and nutrients. That’s why you have to —

MP: — add them back in.

TMN: You purify, you process, you refine. Then you add things back in and make claims for what you’ve added back in.

MP: As if you’ve done a big favor.

TMN: If the stuff that our great grandmother was putting on the table gives us what we need and tastes good, why have we fallen for this?

MP: A lot of reasons: marketing and convenience. We want to be liberated from the drudgery of cooking, or at least we’ve been convinced that we do.

TMN: And even the drudgery of eating.

MP: That’s right. I mean as Wendell Berry said back in the ’70s, if the food industry could profitably digest your food for you, they would. They would reach down your throat and mush it up for you. They want the meal in a pill. That’s the ultimate dream of the food industry. They have to show value added, and the value they’ve added most successfully is convenience. Liberating women from the kitchen, cooking for us, chewing for us.

TMN: I often say that this civilization is going to die by convenience.

How did you come up with your three rules, and what’s underneath them?

MP: I tried to boil everything down as much as I could, and realized I could say this whole thing in seven words. I give it away on the cover.

Eat food seems obvious, but how do you distinguish the food from the edible foodlike substances that are masquerading as food? So I spend 14 pages defining food in this book, which is something that really shouldn’t need to be done.

TMN: If you’d told someone 100 years ago —

MP: — I’m going to write a bestseller telling people how to eat real food — it’s a crazy idea to contemplate.

I have a bunch of rules to help you find the actual food. One is, “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” That’s kind of an algorithm. Carry her with you in your imagination as you’re rolling down the aisles of the supermarket. Would she know what to do with portable yogurt tubes? Would she recognize the ingredients in it? And the answer is no, she wouldn’t. That’s not really food. Yogurt is a very simple, wonderful food. It’s milk in a bacterial culture. So what are those other 15 ingredients doing there?

Another rule: “Shop the perimeter of the supermarket.” That’s where you’ll find the foods that have been least fiddled with: fresh produce, meat, fish, dairy products. What’s really going to get you in trouble with added fat, sugar and salt, is the stuff with the long shelf life.

You’ll be even better off if you leave the supermarket entirely and do your shopping in a farmer’s market. That’s food your great grandmother would recognize. There might be some exotic vegetables, but basically she knows what that stuff is, and she knows what to do with it.

TMN: Okay — “Not too much.”

MP: The amount we’re eating is a big part of our problem, especially because we’re so sedentary. It’s not enough to tell people to eat less. I try to find other cultures and cultural rules that would govern appetite. The Japanese in Okinawa, and this is true of the Chinese too, have a cultural rule that you eat until you’re four-fifths full. How do you know when you’re 80 percent full? Well, if you just stop before you’re completely full, that would be huge progress.

TMN: About eight years ago, I noticed I weighed about a dozen pounds more than I ever had. My metabolism must have changed with age. I decided to simply be more conscious about when I wasn’t hungry anymore, and in a little over a year I lost 25 pounds. I’ve regained some so that I’m back where I want to be.

MP: Americans are particularly driven by visual cues in their eating. Psychologists have compared us to the French. Ask an American, when do you stop eating? And they’ll say, when the plate or the bag is empty. If you ask a European, they’ll say when I feel full.

We also eat too fast. It takes the stomach about 20 minutes to notify the brain that it’s had enough. But, if you finish your meal in ten minutes, that will never happen. Slowing down is a very important part of eating better.

TMN: So not too much and not too fast.

MP: The slower you eat, the less you will eat — even if you’re spending a lot of time. The French get more food experience on fewer calories. Spending time with food, enjoying food, savoring food, thinking about it, anticipating it.

What do you really want? Do you want calories, or do you want food experience? I think most of us would say we want food experience. The two things aren’t necessarily correlated — except in the mind of the American consumer, who’s been taught that food is about quantity rather than quality.

TMN: “Mostly plants.”

MP: Especially leaves. Scientists may disagree on what’s so good about plants, but they do agree that they’re probably really good for you. Also, by eating a plant-based diet, you’ll be consuming far fewer calories, since plant foods — except seeds — are typically less “energy dense” than other things you might eat.

TMN: I want to finish with a big question. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the privilege to interview Lester Brown, founder of WorldWatch, about his book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, a big-picture look at energy and environment. And Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mohammed Yunus, about creating a world without poverty through social business. And Laura Flanders, about the power of the grass roots in the presidential campaign.

All of these share something: They look at systems and relationships, at bottom-up and local rather than top-down and mass market. It makes me hopeful that all this stuff is percolating, and it seems that it’s about a worldview. Rather than food, I could be having this conversation with someone about the American healthcare system where we focus on symptoms, we look for magic bullets, we suffer with side effects …

MP: That’s a great example. The food issue and the healthcare issue are seen as separate. Of course, they’re not. When I was a boy in 1960, we spent 18 percent of our national income on food — twice as much as we do today — and only 5 percent on healthcare. Today it’s flipped. We spend 16 or 17 percent of our income on healthcare and only 9 percent on food. The less money we’ve been willing to spend for food, the more we’ve settled for processed, highly refined, cheap, fast food, the more our healthcare problems have escalated.

TMN: That statistic is even more amazing considering the fact that we eat out much more than we used to.

MP: Half our food dollars.

TMN: You point out that we’ve learned to increase yields, to make energy and calories cheaper.

MP: We’re using the original solar technology, photosynthesis, making food from sunlight, but we’ve mistakenly focused on fossil fuel. We’re taking 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food energy. It doesn’t have to be that way.

No question about it, there’s value in seeing things as systems — seeing food as a system and your body as a system and these two things interacting. And learning to think ecologically, asking where did the energy come from that’s feeding me? Of course, thinking ecologically is not strictly about the environment — it’s about the whole system in which we live.

Interviewer Terrence McNally hosts Free Forum on KPFK 90.7FM, Los Angeles (streaming at…


And From The Environment Pages: “Food Bills Getting You Down? Try Dumpster Diving.”
By Nicole McClelland, AlterNet. Posted April 1, 2008.

If you’re disgusted with our culture of waste, wasting resources, wasting money, then swallow your pride and start sifting through supermarket trash.

It’s dark outside, as it tends to be past midnight, and unseasonably warm but raining. Though it was my idea to be parked behind Trader Joe’s, scoping out the dumpster, I didn’t really want to come; I’m kind of lazy in general, and specifically nervous right now, and it’s so much easier to just make a list and go buy groceries in a sheltered, lighted shopping facility where you are guaranteed to both find what you want and avoid police harassment.

My nerdiness is showing: Before we get out of the car, I turn to my partner in crime and ask, “What’s the plan?”

Dan looks at me. I’ve heard about dumpster diving, and read about dumpster diving, but in conversations and articles that seemed to identify it as the pursuit of anarchists and gutter punks –nothing that served as a guide for upwardly mobile middle-class squares.

A few weeks ago, though, some hippie Dan went to high school with mentioned she was going to Trader Joe’s to score for free the very same foodstuffs we paid good money for. It was just as good, just as edible and sanitarily packaged, and it didn’t cost $100 a week if it just came out of the trash, she said. We felt like suckers.

“You’re gonna get in there and grab the shit,” Dan says. He starts laughing at me, like, what do I mean what’s the plan? When I still don’t make a move, he says, “Now … break!”

We walk to the dumpster across the parking lot, but no one’s around, and no one suddenly appears and starts yelling, as I’m for some reason expecting. We’re in the kind of upscale outdoor mall complex where dumpsters are surrounded by gates, but the kind of gates that serve cosmetic rather than security purposes and give way easily when pushed. So just like that, I’m standing in front of a giant metal trash receptacle, one taller than me, with a chest-high opening in it. I quickly and incorrectly assess it, deciding that I can approach my objective from the outside and just reach in to gingerly lift the goods out.

My dreams of clean and easy die quickly; the dumpster is less than a quarter full, and I can’t get hold of anything but piles of discarded shrink-wrap. “I don’t think there’s any food in here, pal,” I say, disappointed, but maybe a bit relieved. I’m about to advocate giving up and going home when I pull out a cardboard box containing three sealed bags of perfectly comestible banana chips. “Except how there’s food right here.”

Picking up that first handful of free groceries is a bit like Christmas, exciting, enchanting. I hadn’t known what I was going to get, so I hold the goods out in front of me for inspection. And here it is, my favorite kind of present: something I want and can actually use. I feel satisfied and, absurdly, a little proud. I planted some initiative, and it is bearing fruit, sliced, deep-fried, hermetically sealed pieces of fruit. I grab the sides of the window into the dumpster and climb in.

It wasn’t an especially big throw-away day at the store, but I stand shin-deep amid the waste with a snake light wrapped around my neck, tearing open huge clear plastic garbage bags and examining their contents for salvageable eats. A sweet pepper, a dented tub of chocolate chip cookies, yes. A package of precooked sausages leaking juice out of a hole in the package, no. Half-pound hunks of somewhat moldy Monterey Jack cheese, sure. I sink my cotton-gloved hands into some items wet and unsavory-busted salsa containers, broken eggs, smashed bananas, while rain drips through the crack in the two-piece lid above my head. Liquid soaks into my socks: milk, I think, from the layer of discarded half-gallon cartons lining the bottom of the dumpster.

“This is actually a little grosser than I thought it was going to be,” I say, as, even though I earlier pictured myself standing in a giant trash bin, I never actually considered the tactile details. I work out a system, sifting thoroughly through one corner first and then tossing bags into it after I clear it for items I want, which I hand to Dan. Nobody comes by. Nobody asks us what the hell we think we’re doing. Half an hour after we parked the car, we walk back to it with seven plastic bags full of food. We go home, unload our groceries, just like we would after any other trip, and take showers, unlike we would after any other trip. We eat some garbage cookies, and go to bed.

It was a lucrative score: two bananas, one half-gallon of organic 2 percent milk, two prepared and packaged Asian-style noodle salads with ginger cilantro lime dressing, one red pepper, one orange pepper, one package prewashed salad, one package Asian stir-fry mix, one package organic mini chocolate chip cookies, one prepared and packaged chef salad, one prepared and packaged Greek salad, one prepared and packaged chicken Caesar salad, one sausage and roasted tomato pizza, one package sliced white mushrooms, six apricots, two bags cocktail tomatoes, three carrot and ranch dip snack packs, a half a pound of ginger, 1.5 pounds petite Yukon gold potatoes, 1 pound green olives, 1.5 pounds eggs, 1.5 pounds Monterey Jack cheese, 3 pounds California minneolas, 5 pounds clementines, 2 pounds rainbow carrots, three packages banana chips, one package fresh basil, 24 roma tomatoes, one package fat-free crumbled feta, one prepared and packaged fresh mozzarella and focaccia sandwich, two mixed flower bouquets, one bouquet Gerber daisies, and one dozen rainbow roses.

The next morning, Dan is already making cheese omelets and fried potatoes with our booty when I saunter out of bed. At lunch, we split the focaccia sandwich (after we scraped the mold off the mozzarella), and I invent a banana, apricot, and clementine smoothie. As I walk around our apartment, abloom with fresh flowers, I feel unusually fulfilled by the glass of dairy and pulp in my hand. It’s not like I grew the fruit. Still, I’ve come by it by slightly more industrious means than grocery shopping, and I can’t wait for the impending week of garbage dinner.

The USDA says Dan and I each eat almost 5 pounds of food every day, but more than enough food gets tossed in the United States for us to scavenge from: about 100 billion pounds annually, in fact, enough to also feed the entire great states of California and New York, more than a sixth of the entire population of the country. Retailers are responsible for some 70 percent of that waste, $30 billion worth. Even recovering just 5 percent of American food waste would feed the whole of New Zealand for a day. And if heartbreaking resource squandering isn’t a compelling enough reason to dumpster dive, there’s thriftiness. If you’re like most Americans, you spend about 13 percent of your income on eating — and environmental impact. In 2006, more than 12 percent of total municipal solid waste was food. And if you have neither hippie sensibilities, nor pocketbook constraints, nor a soul, how about good old-fashioned economic sense: putting said food into landfills costs taxpayers $50 million a year.

All things considered, the arguments for dumpster diving seem stronger than any against it. Though some cities and states have passed laws criminalizing it (it’s not a federal offense, as the Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that searching and seizing garbage isn’t prohibited), and the fact that our particular dumpster lives inside a fence means accessing it probably requires trespassing, cops don’t generally patrol my grocery store parking lot at night, and I’d be surprised if I couldn’t sweet-talk or run my way out of an incident with any officer bored enough to instigate one. There’s also the concern, voiced by many of my friends, that food from a dumpster could be bad for you. Indeed, Dan has to drink half a glass of the milk and exhibit no signs of disaster for 20 minutes before I’m convinced it’s safe. And all week, for about an hour after I eat, a small portion of my consciousness inadvertently waits for regrets. But we’ve got bright bouquets and a huge vat of homemade salsa and a mushroom, tomato, and cheese quiche and crazy smoothies and stir-fried vegetables over noodles, and it was all made possible, free of charge, by trash picking. I have only one concern at the end of the first week of eating garbage, and it’s that I didn’t take as much as I should have.

When we return the next week, we’re like cool, regular shoppers, except that we’re freezing — 150 miles north of us, the sky is dumping a foot of snow on Cleveland. Still, we’re not just grabbing madly, enthusiastic but directionless rookies. We have a running conversation about what I’ve picked up and how we can use it before we take it or I chuck it behind me. I’m neither hurried nor worried, and we score fruits and vegetables and already-mashed potatoes and a potted purple orchid and waffles and chai spice cookies and frozen chicken masala, among other things. We’re thoughtful and thorough, and it’s 45 minutes before I start to climb back out, tired and accomplished. Not that it’s all glamorous. When Dan says, “Watch out for rats,” I yell at him for freaking me out, but I am most certainly immersed in the habitat of disease-prone rodents. When I do jump out, it’s right onto the ground, right onto my ass when my feet slide out from under me because the pavement is covered in ice. Like last time, we can’t find a parking space in our complex when we get back to our apartment because we live in a busy downtown district and it’s club-going time on a Friday night. We run the garbage groceries, which for some reason are coated in the smell of trash this time, a block to our building and then up four flights of fire escape to our door. My fingers are that obnoxious biting pain that just precedes numbness, since I buried them in several unidentified stinky wet stuffs, and the wind is cutting across them now as they grip the plastic bags. Everything needs to be washed — the cellophane on the cheese, the box of waffles — to get the reek off, and we crack open a box of baking soda and put it in the back of the fridge, hoping it’ll help restore appetizingness to our food. It’s 2 a.m. by the time we’ve put everything away, mopped the kitchen floor, rolled my malodorous tomato-and-roasted-red-pepper-soup-splattered clothes into a ball before reluctantly throwing them in with the rest of our laundry, and cleaned ourselves up. I soaked in the bathtub for half an hour to get the cold — which seeped in during the 40 minutes we had to kill wandering around the shopping center while waiting for the employees to finally leave, the time I spent wallowing in trash, and the additional carry back to the apartment — out of my system. Lying there, my wrist throbbing from having used it to break my fall on the ice, I felt exhausted and dirty and not a little discouraged.

My socioeconomic surroundings are showing: When my father calls and asks me what I was doing last night and I say, “Dumpster diving,” he says, “For what?” And when I say, “For food,” there’s nothing but silence. Then, as if he hasn’t heard me: “What?” My best friend came over a few days earlier and complained that she was hungry. “Do you have any delicious food?” she asked, then reconsidered. “That you haven’t gotten out of the garbage?” And yeah, some of the food in our fridge has to be picked free of mold before it can be eaten, and the Jack cheese has a stink that (a) makes me uncomfortable and (b) doesn’t want to come off my hands. (Ultimately, we decide to re-toss it.) Yeah, we could have been arrested. Yeah, we could get food poisoning, or rabies. But when we roll out of bed late the morning after our second dive, the apartment smells fine, and we fix a breakfast of trash waffles and bananas before sitting down to make a list of groceries we still need. We consider our loot. We can make havarti, rice, and broccoli casserole. Spinach quesadillas with cheddar, mushrooms, and sauteed sweet peppers, with homemade salsa. Mashed sweet potatoes or sweet potato chowder. Warm green bean and tomato salad. Stir fry. Banana smoothies. We’ve recovered an entire apple pie. We figure our meal plan four different ways, and have so much food left over that we freeze some. When we finish the list of groceries we have to buy for two people for a whole week, it contains exactly five items.

Before we started dumpster diving, Dan pointed out that it would probably change our eating habits. I like to make enchiladas, for example, but it’s unlikely that beans, rice, cheese, tomatoes, onions, and tortillas are all going to happen into the dumpster at the same time. I wouldn’t normally eat carrots and ranch dip for breakfast, or salad for dessert, but the organizing principle of our diet has changed from “What do I want to eat?” to “What do I have? What can I make with it?” — a much more traditional (and at the same time ultramodern, as eating local has come back into fashion) type of interaction with food. Once, when we were working on an organic farm in the South Pacific, the owner told us that if we were true ecologists, we would during the feijoa season eat only feijoas, the little green fruits that his orchard was showering us with. Like then, I won’t now make such extreme compromises — I refuse, for example, to live without milk or olive oil, so we spend $20 at the grocery store that week.

Still. We could be spending $0 on food by harvesting waste, and even with my unwillingness to make stir fry instead of cereal for breakfast, in just two trips we saved hundreds of dollars. We ate things we never would have, got creative with our menus, kept 60 pounds of edible “garbage” out of a landfill.

Dumpster diving is another one of those things that I should do for both money and the environment’s sake, like buying only used clothes or not taking long, hot showers. It’s kind of like going to the gym: You never want to, but after you have, you feel like you’ve really achieved something. The next week, though, the snow comes south and hard. Then soon after that, I get a new job and move, and the dumpsters in my neighborhood are inside garages I can’t get into, and I work a lot of overtime, and I have a litany of other excuses for not salvaging groceries anymore (as I do for not taking short, cold showers). It’s another way that I’m part of the culture of waste, wasting resources, wasting money.

Standing at the sink one day in my trash-eating time, I had a moment of characteristic grace in which I somehow tossed the quiche I was holding down the garbage disposal. I cursed, then threw down my dish towel, and then my shoulders. Dan, sensing a tantrum, rushed into the kitchen from the other room. “It’s OK, pal,” he said. “It was from the garbage anyway.” True. But I couldn’t believe I’d done it, just like I can’t believe restaurants and grocery stores around the country so recklessly and wildly dump whole analogous quiches down the metaphorical drain every second. Like I feel a little ridiculous shopping at Trader Joe’s when I know that for every four tomatoes I once took out of the dumpster, I left four dozen.

That one time, there were more than 100 pounds of discarded bananas in the parking lot, that I could entirely subsistent on trash without even making a dent in it, that for every bag of salad that made it from the garbage to my fridge, there were five more that someone else could’ve eaten. For the grocers and restaurateurs, throwing the food in dumpsters is, however exorbitantly wasteful, a matter of convenience. As leaving it there is for me. “I don’t know,” one of my friends says when I try to talk her into just getting her food out of the garbage. “That’s a really good idea. But it sounds like a lot of work.”…


Posted on on February 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Oil Exec Admits to Bribing GOP Lawmaker.…

Dan Joling of The Associated Press writes, “In the latest sign of corruption problems for Republicans, a corporate executive testified Friday that his employees worked for months to remodel the Alaska home of Sen. Ted Stevens. Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator, is under scrutiny in a corruption investigation that also is targeting Alaska state officials.”

Exec: Workers Helped on Senator’s Home
By Dan Joling
The Associated Press

Saturday 15 September 2007

Anchorage, Alaska – In the latest sign of corruption problems for Republicans, a corporate executive testified Friday that his employees worked for months to remodel the Alaska home of Sen. Ted Stevens.

Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator, is under scrutiny in a corruption investigation that also is targeting Alaska state officials.

Bill Allen, former chief executive of oil services company VECO, testified that he spent more than $400,000 to bribe state legislators and for work at Stevens’ house in the ski resort town of Girdwood. He said VECO also paid at least two contractors, a plumber and a carpenter, for work on the house. The project in 2000 more than doubled the size of the four-bedroom structure.

Under questioning at the trial of former state House Speaker Pete Kott, Allen said: “I don’t think there was a lot of materials” bought for the Stevens remodeling, but “there was some labor.”

VECO’s business is providing engineering and construction services for oil companies; it does not do home construction. The key question is whether Stevens paid for the renovations or received a gift from Allen and VECO. The senator insists he paid from his own funds.

It was less than a year ago that Republicans lost control of Congress, in part because Democrats made corruption a major campaign issue. Stevens is one of several senators with ethics problems, complicating an already challenging political landscape for Republicans in 2008.

Stevens spokesman Aaron Saunders declined to comment on the testimony, but referred reporters to a previous statement from the senator.

“I continue to believe this investigation should proceed to its conclusion without any appearance that I have attempted to influence its outcome,” that statement said. “I will continue my policy of not commenting on this investigation until it has concluded.”

In July, Stevens told reporters: “I will tell you we paid every bill that was given to us with our own money,” referring to himself and his wife. “She works and I work. That was our own money.”

In the Senate since 1968, Stevens gained prominence as a powerful and feared chairman of the Appropriations Committee while his party held the majority. He also was Senate President Pro Tem, which put him third in line for the presidency after the vice president and the House speaker.

Stevens is known for directing millions of federal dollars to Alaska, never apologizing for the pork-barrel politics that some feel has gone too far.

Even a politically wounded Stevens would mount a strong bid for re-election next year, GOP insiders say. Democrats, hoping for an upset, are urging Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich to challenge him.

The Alaska testimony comes on the heels of the revelation that Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after an undercover sting in an airport men’s room. Earlier, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., acknowledged that his phone number appeared in records of a Washington area business that prosecutors have said was a front for prostitution. The Senate Ethics Committee is looking into allegations that Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., tried to influence a federal prosecutor in an election probe of Democrats.

Of those, only Vitter’s seat is not up for re-election next year.

Allen – a longtime Stevens friend and political supporter – in May pleaded guilty to extortion, conspiracy and bribery of legislators.

The workers at Stevens’ home were VECO employees, probably one to four at a time, Allen said. He said the work on the home lasted for “probably a couple of months.” Later, he testified it might have been as much as six months.

Allen said he also gave Stevens some used furniture, and Allen visited the site every month or two. “Most of the time I was gone with VECO business,” Allen said.

The remodeling job at Stevens’ home was fraught with problems from the start. He estimated it would cost about $85,000 and told city building officials he would be his own contractor.

The plan was to raise Stevens’ single-level home and, beneath it, construct a new first floor with two bedrooms, a game room and sauna. Complete with a wraparound porch, the completed project would be twice the size of the original, modest house in the town of Girdwood, about 40 miles south of Anchorage. Building records don’t indicate how things went wrong, but somehow the framing was botched and help was called in to fix it.

Allen also said the plea agreement he signed admitted payments to Stevens’ son Ben, whom Allen had hired as a consultant in after he left college in 1995. The consulting work continued after Ben Stevens was appointed to the Alaska state Senate in 2002.

“It was $4,000 per month,” Allen said.

VECO is one of the state’s largest oil field services company, with more than 4,000 employees. The company operates around the world but more than half of its work is in Alaska, supporting the oil industry with service and maintenance contracts, according to Allen.

Rick Smith, a former VECO government affairs vice president, followed Allen on the stand Friday. Smith in May pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and one of bribery. He testified that the bribery charge applied to Kott, Ben Stevens and three other state lawmakers: former Republican Reps. Vic Kohring of Wasilla and Bruce Weyhrauch of Juneau and current state Sen. John Cowdery.

It was the first time Cowdery’s name has been made public as part of an investigation. Smith revealed no details of his involvement with the Anchorage senator. Like Ben Stevens, Cowdery has not been charged.


Posted on on January 7th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


January 7, 2008

In the U. S.: OTCBB: UGTH and in Canada: TSX: GTH



BOISE, Idaho – January 7, 2008 (OTCBB: UGTH, TSX: GTH)         U.S. Geothermal Inc. (“U.S. Geothermal”), a renewable energy company focused on the production of electricity from geothermal energy, announced that Idaho Power Company has provided notice that the company’s Unit One geothermal power plant at Raft River, Idaho reached commercial power generation as of January 3, 2008, 00:00:01 (H:M:S) Mountain Standard Time.

Power is being purchased by Idaho Power Company under the terms of a 10-megawatt Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (“PURPA”) contract.   Full energy prices are now being paid under the terms of the agreement.

About U.S. Geothermal:

U.S. Geothermal is a renewable energy development company that is operating a geothermal power project at Raft River, Idaho and developing Neal Hot Springs in eastern Oregon.   U.S. Geothermal holds, through ownership or lease, geothermal rights of lands that comprise the Raft River Neal Hot Springs projects.

Please visit our Website at:


Saf Dhillon – Investor Relations
U.S. Geothermal Inc.
Tel:   866-687-7059
Fax:   604-688-9895
 saf at

Scott Peyron
Scott Peyron & Associates, Inc.
Tel:   208-388-3800
Fax:   208-388-8898
 speyron at

The information provided in this news release may contain forward-looking statements within the definition of the Safe Harbor provisions of the US Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements regarding potential energy resources and projects, development possibilities for Raft River and Neal Hot Springs.   These statements are based on U.S. Geothermal Inc.’s current expectations and beliefs and are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that can cause actual results to differ materially from those described.   Readers are cautioned to review the risk factors identified by the company in its filings with Canadian and US securities agencies. Forward-looking statements are based on management’s expectations, beliefs and opinions on the date the statements are made.   U.S. Geothermal Inc. assumes no obligation to update forward-looking statements if management’s expectations, beliefs, or opinions, or other factors, should change.

The TSX and OTC Bulletin Board Exchanges do not accept responsibility for the adequacy of this release.


Posted on on October 31st, 2007

Are rising obesity rates linked to U.S. farm aid?

By Rob Hotakainen,   McClatchy Newspapers

Washington DC, Monday, October 29, 2007


If you’re feeling fat these days, blame Congress.
That’s just what the nation’s doctors are doing, saying that federal lawmakers are responsible for the fact that a salad costs so much more than a Big Mac.

Hoping to produce thinner waistlines, many doctors — including the American Medical Association — want Congress to stop subsidizing the production of foods that are high in fat and cholesterol and spend more to promote fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains that are not.

Farm Belt lawmakers are on the defensive.

“I agree that obesity and health are serious issues in America today,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “However, blaming the cause on the crops that we grow in Kansas and/or the U.S. farm program is overlooking the personal responsibility we all have in our daily lives and diets.”

The debate is intensifying as the Senate prepares to vote on a new farm bill. On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved a bill that would give a record $2 billion for specialty crops, which include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops. That’s at least four times as much as what Congress provided in 2002, when it approved the last farm bill.

The 2007 farm bill will determine which food industries get the most help from U.S. taxpayers over the next five years.

“The real scandal in Washington is the farm bill,” said Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. “Senators take millions from corporations that produce bacon, burgers and other fatty foods. Then Congress buys up these unhealthy products and dumps them on our school lunch program. Companies get rich, and kids get fat.”

Fruit and vegetable growers, who have long felt ignored on Capitol Hill, are confident they’ll cash in this year. They want to persuade Congress to broaden subsidies beyond traditional farm crops such as corn, wheat, rice and cotton.

“Our markets are highly volatile, yet we have never relied on traditional farm programs to sustain our industry,” said Doug Krahmer, co-owner of Blue Horizon Farms in St. Paul, Ore., which grows blueberries, grass seed, hazelnuts, clover, wheat, flower seeds and flowers. Testifying at a recent congressional field hearing, Krahmer said he supports a future farm policy that will not only support American agriculture but also “will support and encourage the health and well-being of all Americans.”

Krahmer noted that on any given day 45 percent of children eat no fruit at all, while 20 percent eat less than one serving of vegetables. All U.S. children would benefit if Congress offered subsidies to lower the prices that consumers pay for fruits and vegetables, he said.

With the nation’s obesity rates rising dramatically in recent years, doctors are jumping into the debate with increased fervor.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, agribusiness political action committees have given more than $5 million over the past four election cycles to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. And from 1995 to 2004, nearly three-quarters of farm bill agricultural subsidies for food — or more than $51 billion — went to producers of sugar, oil, meat, dairy, alcohol and feed crops used for cattle and other farm animals. The group said that in 2005 alone, Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest meat producer, received $46.6 million in USDA commodity contracts. Less than half of 1 percent subsidized fruit and vegetable production, according to the physicians.

Physicians are alarmed, saying the high-fat, high-cholesterol foods subsidized by the farm bill then find their way into the national school lunch program, contributing to obesity.

Members of Congress have been hearing a similar message from many different quarters this year.

In September, Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, noted that since 1985, the actual price of fruits and vegetables has increased 40 percent, while the price of sugar and fats has declined by 14 percent. He said that “underserved communities cannot be denied access to the same healthy and affordable food that is available to more affluent Americans.”

As the Senate prepares to vote on the farm bill, the physicians committee has been running a television advertisement that seeks to link agribusiness and Congress.

Called “Dirty Little Secret,” the ad is a spoof of the legal troubles surrounding Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig, who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after an airport bathroom sex sting. In the ad, a well-dressed man in a bathroom stall taps his foot to signal his willingness to receive political contributions from the pork industry.

Childhood obesity and the adult diseases associated with it have reached “epidemic proportions,” Barnard said, noting government projections that children born in 2000 now have a one in three lifetime risk of developing diabetes. U.S. farm subsidies ensure that high-fat foods, such as corn syrup and corn oil, are cheap and widely available, while fruits, vegetables and healthier grains are not, he added.

All of the lobbying appears to be paying off.

“We decided that specialty crops needed to be a priority,” Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns told the United Fresh Produce Association last month, before he resigned. He told the group that the recently passed House of Representatives farm bill includes $365 million in aid to expand block grants to states for specialty crops. To pay for it, Johanns suggested eliminating subsidies for farmers who earn more than $200,000 per year.

Overall, the House’s farm bill, approved in late July, would offer an estimated $1.7 billion for specialty crop programs. House Democrats say their farm bill would spend $400 million more for a fresh fruit and vegetable program for the school-lunch program.

It would expand a program that gives vouchers to low-income elderly people who are eligible for food stamps to buy fresh produce at roadside stands. And it would create a demonstration project to evaluate ways to address obesity among low-income groups.


Below are the total contributions made by agribusiness political action committees to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee in the four donation cycles from 2000 to 2006. Please note: These figures do not include campaign contributions from individuals.

Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., $805,359 Ben Nelson, D-Neb., $451,200 Richard Lugar, R-Ind., $418,542 Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., $393,024 Thad Cochran, R-Miss., $390,639 Norm Coleman, R-Minn., $389,366 Max Baucus, D-Mont., $328,058 Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, $322,526 Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, $321,533 Kent Conrad, D-N.D., $320,672 Pat Roberts, R-Kan., $319,034 Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., $267,865 John Thune, R-S.D., $215,650 Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, $193,903 Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., $181,365 Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., $171,746 Ken Salazar, D-Colo., $31,773 Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, $30,250 Amy Klobuchar , D-Minn., $21,800 Bob Casey, D-Pa., $21,000 Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., $0* Total: $5,595,305 Note: Leahy does not accept PAC contributions. However, he does accept other kinds of contributions from agricultural interests.

Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Center for Responsive Politics

———————— loved this article because it shows that even the Medical profession says now that carbohydrates are much better employed when burned as substitutes to oil then when used as feed to humans and other animals. See, what was said above does not even touch the health problems resulting from burning of fossil fuels – there you have further large expenditures that could have been avoided if people would eat more vegetables and fruit, and animals would be grass fed. Thecereals then could be used to make sustitutes for the fossil fuels and the farmers’ income would still be preserved by having a market for their produce without having to support them because of declining markets caused by the potential of over-production.

All of the above could be sorted out by an honest economist whith a good computer, who gets the full information from energy, farm and health sectors, insurance business, social security and whatever else might have an impact on the integral overview of the economy.


Posted on on October 29th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

From “Peak Universe” by James Howard Kunstler, published October 22, 2007.

ASPO is “The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas,” and the big Peak Oil conference of the year took place in Houston last week – but before we get to the substance of that, a few words about where we were. It is hard to imagine a more horrifying urban construct than this anti-city in the malarial swamps just off the Gulf of Mexico. And it is hard to conceive of a more desolate and depressing urban district, even of such an anti-city, than the utter wasteland around Houston’s convention center.

Luckily, we didn’t have to enter the convention center itself across the street — a baleful megastructure the size of three aircraft carriers, adorned with massive air-conditioning ducts to counter Houston’s gym-sock-like climate. And when I say “street” you understand we are talking about four or six-laners, with no curbside parking, which is the norm for this town. The effect is that every street behaves like an extension of the freeway at the expense of pedestrians – but pedestrians have been eliminated anyway because in ninety percent of Houston’s so-called downtown of glass towers there are no shops or restaurants at the ground-floor level, only blank walls, air-conditioning vents, parking ramps, and landscaping fantasias. We were informed that in parts of downtown there existed a network of air-conditioned underground corridors with shopping, but that everything in it closed at 7 p.m. when the last office workers straggled home. Anyway, none of it extended as far as the convention center. The rest of the district was devoted to surface parking.

It has often been stated that Houston’s ghastly development pattern comes from having no official zoning laws. But all it really proves is that you can achieve the same miserable results of typical American boneheaded zoning with no zoning – as long as you don’t give a shit how people feel in their daily environments.

The convention center itself, though, demonstrated something beyond even that degree of thoughtlessness. Its pharaonic hugeness was a metaphor for the fatal grandiosity at the heart of contemporary life in American today, the utter disregard for a scale of human activity consistent with what the planet has to offer within its ecological limits – and of course the oil issue was at the center of that story.

Oh, one final thing about Houston life per se. Judging by the local items in the daily newspaper, the so-called city enjoys a level of mayhem that makes Baghdad look like a Sussex garden party. Sample headlines: “10 Charged in Burglary Spree,” “Pit Bull Shot Dead After Pony Attack,” “Jury Gives Man Life in Carjacking Death,” “Two Killed in Home Invasion.” One particularly insane story told of a man who shot and stabbed a visiting friend who “dissed” his dog. We didn’t see any of that action around the convention center’s Hilton Americas, where the ASPO conference actually took place, but the news didn’t exactly make you want to venture out beyond the lobby. Anyway, you couldn’t buy a stick of gum within a mile walk of the place, and the thought of traipsing past all those surface parking lots in 90-degree heat was like an invitation to reenact the Bataan Death March.

It was a sublime coincidence of fate and history that throughout the ASPO conference, the price of a barrel of oil surged up through the high eighty-dollars range and briefly touched $90-a-barrel on Friday (just as the stock market was tanking by 360-odd points). It was also interesting that as all this action was unfolding, MSNBC was running an interview with Senator Larry Craig (R. Idaho), lately accused of soliciting sex from a policeman in an airport toilet. Apparently what the nation really wants to know about is the Senator’s self-described “wide stance” in bathroom technique. Perhaps when Craig is finally forced from his senate seat, he can get a job as a “personal toilet coach,” and become the pioneer in a whole new realm of self-improvement science, teaching others how to assume the manly “wide stance” and become more effective leaders.

So, while the price of oil ratcheted up hour by hour, the ASPO conference members heard from an impressive range of experts who have been leading the public conversation on the Peak Oil story – with no help from the mainstream media or the political sector. Among them were Robert Hirsch, co-author of the now-famous 2005 Hirsch Report, commissioned by the US Department of Energy, which, much to the consternation of its sponsor, first told the nation in no uncertain terms that it was heading for a catastrophic set of disruptions in “normal” American life if we heedlessly continued energy business-as-usual. Hirsch went a little further now, two years on, than he had in his famous report, predicting a future of “oil export withholding,” panicked markets, and allocation disturbances that would make the 1973 OPEC embargo look like a golden age.

Matt Simmons, the leading investment banker to the oil industry, who has worked tirelessly to lift public awareness of Peak Oil, also raised the specter of shortages, telling the audience that market allocation problems in the near future would almost certainly induce “hoarding behavior” among the public that would cripple the economy, lead to enforced rationing, and shock the nation. Simmons compared the current public mood over energy issues to a “fog of war.” He also repeated his oft-stated opinion that the drilling rigs and other equipment used around the world to pump oil out of the ground are so uniformly old and decrepit that they pose a problem every bit as dire as peak oil itself. In the meantime, he said, to offset climbing prices, the developed nations have lately dipped so deeply into their accumulated stocks of crude and “refined product” that some countries may breach what is called their “minimum operating levels.” Offstage, he told me, “We’re too preoccupied trying to figure out the exact date of the peak. Meanwhile, we’ll drain the gasoline pool and it will be gone forever.”

The other most significant contribution came from Texas geologist Jeffrey Brown who presented a full-blown version of his theory that world export rates from the countries with oil to sell are liable to decline so much more sharply than their actual production decline rates that the world would be thrust into an oil export crisis within the next five years – and that this export crisis would turn out to be the defining condition of the Peak Oil story.

For coverage of the particulars, visit, the nation’s best energy discussion website.

Charles A. Hall,  chall at provided additional information:

Charlie’s two (or three) sentence review –     “Perhaps the majority of the 550 people there were investors: many presentations were about how to profit from (or avoid loss on) the implications of peak oil (and much less about how SOCIETY might best invest, an issue I, Charles A. Hall, think critical).”

“The second day had a large number of presentations giving me and my students the sense that peak oil is real, it is here or near, Saudi Arabia is not the solution but a large part of the problem,   there is no real substitute beyond natural gas, itself having similar but not as acute problems.”   “Enhanced oil recovery looks better than most new searches (but what of energy cost???),   the implications of peak oil (and reduced EROI) on our economy and politics will be huge.”
“The best presentation   was that   Vince Mathews .. impact of growth by China on prices of raw materials. Extraordinary and frightening slides.   How can we build e.g. solar alternatives if all the copper, Gallium, Uranium … the whole damn periodic table is getting eaten up by the growth of China???   I assume that you all have watched oil reach $90 a barrel during the meeting, fall and then increase today to $95….”

Chris Nelder’s lengthy but excellent review is found at:   …. my notes from the ASPO conference were featured yesterday on TOD and the ASPO-USA web site…I’ve gotten lots of good feedback on them…feel free to pass them around to anyone who might be interested, as they do give a fairly fine-grained snapshot of the conference.…


Posted on on July 26th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

Forest Service Teams with Nonprofit Foundation to Combat Global Warming By Working on US Forests.

Based on a July 25, 2007 article by Matthew Daly, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Forest Service is teaming with a nonprofit foundation to allow consumers to participate in a voluntary program to “offset” their carbon dioxide emissions that will allow individuals or groups to make charitable contributions to be used to plant trees and do other work to improve national forests in the US.

The Forest Service estimates that the nation’s 155 national forests offset about 10 percent of carbon emissions in the United States. Forest Service scientists believe that figure can be raised to as much as 25 percent by doing such things as planting more trees in urban areas or reforesting old cropland.

Under the new program, known as the Carbon Capital Fund, consumers can “offset” their carbon emissions by investing in projects on national forests to plant trees and improve water quality, increase wildlife habitat and help restore public lands damaged by natural disasters such as wildfires.
Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell hailed the program, the first of its kind for the federal government. It will allow Americans to learn more about their carbon footprint while helping trees be planted on national forests, she said.
“People have an opportunity to contribute to the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests, not only by countering climate change, but also by replanting forests for the benefit of future generations,” Kimbell said.

The forest foundation said the new program would include independent verification of projects that have a “specific and measurable” reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. For every $6 donated, one metric ton of CO2 emissions can be offset, the foundation said.

The Forest Service has identified several reforestation projects to kick off the new program, including one in the Custer National Forest in Montana and South Dakota and another in the Payette National Forest in Idaho.


The problem with the above is that it forgets that Global Warming is a global problem. It is for the US government, not the US public, to worry about US assets. That is what a government is for.

When it comes to the understanding of the gobal dimension of the problem, that is what the public can do – replace the lack of good governance in other countries with its philantropy. Again, when other countries get denuded of their forests because we buy the wood from them, it is the lack of environmental governance in those countries, caused by our greed, that has to find help from those of us who understand the reality of the global problem.

The program in front of us will enlarge on the US bureaucracy, will make us feel good, but will have done nothing in what concerns the global problem. Go for it – but tell Washington that this is not even a footpath for change. Definitely not the road that needs to be taken.


Posted on on May 31st, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (


Office of the Press Secretary
(Edison, New Jersey)

For Immediate Release                                                             May 30, 2007

President George W. Bush today announced his intention to nominate five individuals and designate two individuals to serve in his Administration:

The President intends to nominate James L. Caswell, of Idaho, to be Director of the Bureau of Land Management at the Department of the Interior.   Mr. Caswell currently serves as Administrator of the Office of Species Conservation for the State of Idaho.   Prior to this, he served as Forest Supervisor of Clearwater National Forest.   Earlier in his career, he served as Acting Deputy Regional Forester for the Northern Region of the United States Forest Service.   Mr. Caswell received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University.

The President intends to nominate William J. Garvelink, of Michigan, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.   Mr. Garvelink, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at the United States Agency for International Development.   Prior to this, he served as Mission Director for Eritrea at the United States Agency for International Development.   Earlier in his career, he served as Deputy Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the United States Agency for International Development.   Mr. Garvelink received his bachelor’s degree from Calvin College and his master’s degree from the University of Minnesota.

The President intends to nominate J. Christian Kennedy, of Indiana, to be accorded the Rank of Ambassador during his tenure as Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues.   Mr. Kennedy, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, currently serves as Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues.   Prior to this, he served as Senior Advisor of the Career Development Program in the Bureau of Human Resources at the Department of State.   Earlier in his career, he served as Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs in Mexico City.   Mr. Kennedy received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago.

The President intends to nominate Roderick W. Moore, of Rhode Island, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Montenegro.   Mr. Moore, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, currently serves as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Serbia.   Prior to this, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Bulgaria.   Earlier in his career, he served as a State Department Fellow and taught at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.   Mr. Moore received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Brown University.

The President intends to nominate Ronald Jay Tenpas, of Maryland, to be Assistant Attorney General (Environment and Natural Resources Division) at the Department of Justice, and to designate him Acting.   Mr. Tenpas currently serves as Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice.  
Prior to this, he served as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.   Earlier in his career, he served as Branch Chief and Deputy Criminal Chief and Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office of the District of Maryland.   Mr. Tenpas received his bachelor’s degrees from Michigan State University and Oxford University and his JD from the University of Virginia.


Posted on on March 25th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

This Sunday, C-SPAN showed the testimony Of Al Gore, at the Global Climate Change hearings of the US Senate Environment Committee chaired by Senator Boxer of California.

The Former Vice President was introduced as Chairman of the Governing Council of The Alliance for Climate Protection. On the economics, Mr. Gore insisted that we must internalize the externalities in the energy area.   If that is done, and a price is set on carbon emissions, this will decide the future of coal. As soon as the figures for the price of carbon emission is known, this will lead to serious study of carbon capture and sequestration. As of now – the technology is known only for a specific site in Norway, and some ideas for Iceland, but quite clearly, the burning of pulverized coal in existing technology does not lend itself to carbon capture. As such also the coal firing will have to be under new technologies. To the Senators with interest in coal Gore said that he is not against coal and awaits the developments that will occur after the question of the cost of carbon emissions was settled. On one question regarding CO2 emissions – will they be dealt with in a coal fired plant on the input or the output, he promised to provide later further information for the record.

Gore said that cap & trade plus a carbon tax – both methods will be needed in order to internalize the costs and in order to allow the finding of solutions. Gore spoke of the Electronet idea. The future belongs to electricity from renewables – sun, wind – dispersed and connected. From the security point of view this is also an advantage as there are no major targets that could be hit and create a national catastrophe. He spoke of energy efficiency and such items as public transportation. Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland was very interested in the latter.

Acknowledging that nuclear accounts for 21% in the US, 70% in France, 50% in Japan, Gore told Senators from Tennessee and Idaho that he thinks nuclear will be a small part of the solution. He made it clear that besides the proliferation problem, even if those problems, and the problems of dealing with radioactive waste were solved, there still remains a problem of economics. Senator Craig of Idaho contended that the last climate Change Convention “that meant anything” was the one in Buenos Aires (1998) – that probably because it was still looking at nuclear as a main part of the solution. Gore thinks now that nuclear will be only a small contributor to the solution.

Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island went even further with security questions. He wanted to know (a) about the oil dependence on foreign sources, and (b) the potential of dislocation of people because of climate change. Senator Baucus reminded us of the part Jim Hansen played in opening the Senate’s eyes to the dangers of global warming/climate change. Most Senators took the positions we expected them to take – with Senator Imhoff all in the negative column and Senators, Lieberman, Clinton, Boxer pushing for progress. At the end they gave Mr. Gore the first bound copy of a volume of the original hearings with Jim Hanson and Al Gore said that it was Jim who provided him with much of the information for his book and the documentary.

After those hearings in the Senate, C-SPAN moved to the hearings on the House side – the Committee on Science and Technology chaired by Bart Gordon, Democrat from Tennessee. C-SPAN chose to show only the testimony of Bjorn Lomborg who was called the “POINT MAN” of the Republicans.

These were pitiful hearings. Except for the Democrat Chairman there was only one other Democrat present – at some point there was none. Present was also the former majority leader Denis Hastert. Whe no Democrats were in the room one of the Republicans spoke of the Democrats as the Minority and addressed Hastert as Majority Leader. The Republicans were quite a mix. The majority came there to bring out, via questions to Bjorn, their own prejudices against Al Gore. Al what they wanted to hear was that he was wrong, had he showed wrong data, exaggerated … and Bjorn obliged. To show that Bjorn is not one of them, I guess this in order to enhance his credibility, and theirs, there were two US Republican Congressmen that asked the big Dane about his politics. He obliged telling them that he was left of center – this would make him in the US “I assume a Socialist or worse.” He was in his youth a member of Greenpeace – “not like those standing on ships.” He left Greenpeace “for mundane reasons because he was a student and needed money.” (Hm! what did he mean by this?)   Bjorn Lomborg, Professor and Chair of what he calls the Copenhagen Consensus, sat there in his black T-shirt and his hair mop that seemed like a strange two shades of blond. He kept reminding his audience that four Nobel Prize winners agree with him.

Lomborg complained that if there were to be 2,000 more death to be attributed to heat waves, there will be also 20,000 less death from cold spells. The Hurricane of 1926 in Miami cost more lives then Kathrina, and had it happened now with the present buildings, it would have cost twice as much as Kathrina. Bjorn seems to feel that these are winning arguments in his effort to show that we are not objective when we talk only of the losses from global warming, but do not consider also the potential winning potential. (I was wondering if he will also mention that the melting of the Arctic ice opens up for Canada and Denmark the potential of finding oil in the Arctic.) Whatever he said, the Republicans in the room, except Roscoe Bartlett from Maryland, licked their lips. Roscoe, is the man who is involved with the Peak Oil idea. He questioned Bjorn about the Hirsch Report (a former Exxon man who wrote that we are running out of finding oil). Bjorn knows nothing of this report, but knows the Stern Report – and Stern does not think we are running out of oil – Stern thinks only we should use less oil. Roscoe said something cute to Bjorn; “God cannot square a circle if you do not believe in God.” It is not true that there is enough oil and unless you anticipate Peak Oil for 20 years, you have economic consequences. Bjorn talks of economic priorities – His main argument is that: “do we want to be remembered as the generation that did a lot for little money or a little for a lot of money.” His idea is to use the little money to help fight AIDS/HIV, TB, water for the needy… rather then worry about the planet. I know from having read his stuff, and listened to him before, including at the UN, that biodiversity in general, or polar bears as such, have not been given an economic value by Bjorn Lomborg and his creed.   A second Democrat came in – Jay Inslee of Washington State – he had hard time listening to the rubbish, and at some point told him: “we are American’s and we can deal with AIDS/HIV, clean water, TB, and climate change at the same time in parallel.” I cringed when in his tense comment he also said we are not Denmark. As we did not like the remark, we understood why he said this – as it happened, Bjorn himself and his Republican hosts, spoke as if he did indeed represent here Denmark and I hope this was not the case! Inslee told him also that we have a moral obligation to keep the “Creators Garden.” Inslee introduced the information that the President of the Marshall islands told him that the entire nation will have to move at 1 ft. rise of the sea level; so will Shishmer in Alaska – they will have to move to Tin Creek that is 13 miles away. Bjorn contends that the Stern report mentioned for Greenland only a 28 inch sea rise – so here he entered into very cautious statements based on the smallest figures, while most argue for higher figures.

Bjorn showed some graphs contending that Gore’s solution that calls for actions to be taken now, only postpones “warming” by 4.5 years; Bjorn suggests instead to do now nothing but only institute a research fund equal to 0.05% of GDP in order to develop slowly a scientific response to climate change. The longer it will take to develop this response, the better solutions we shall get – NU NU!
Bjorn’s example is the windmill industry in Denmark, because they started very early they did not get the best technology, and ended up having to take down some windmills and replace them with better technology. Chair Bart Gordon, the only Democrat at the time in the room, reminded him that in Denmark it was written that his opinions are like the opinions of those that say the Jews did not suffer under the Nazis.

Republican Texas was well represented by Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, and Ralph Hall, Oklahoma by Sulivan, Illinois by John Shimkus, South Carolina by Bob Inglis, Arizona by John Shedegg, Missouri by Todd Akin. All there to say no to Al Gore.

The one figure in the room that really wanted to learn something was Mary Bono from Palm Springs California. She says that with the price of energy people in her district will not be able to afford cooling. People will die because of the heat – but really she came to the wrong place that afternoon – I wonder if ever there was a worse source of information in the House. To Mary Bono one can only point out that her people can die from heat, according to Bjorn Lomborg, because somewhere else more people will not die from cold.


Posted on on March 14th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

LOS ANGELES (Reuters), March 13, 2007 – The Bush administration wants to eliminate federal support for geothermal power just as many U.S. states are looking to cut greenhouse gas emissions and raise renewable power output.

The move has angered scientists who say there is enough hot water underground to meet all U.S. electricity needs without greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Department of Energy has not requested funds for geothermal research in our fiscal-year 2008 budget,” said Christina Kielich, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy. “Geothermal is a mature technology. Our focus is on breakthrough energy research and development.”

The administration of George W. Bush has made renewable energy a priority as it seeks to wean the United States off foreign oil, but it emphasizes use of biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel for vehicles and nuclear research for electricity.

“In spite of its enormous potential, the geothermal option for the United States has been largely ignored,” a recent study led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said.

Last year, the DOE requested no funding for geothermal for the 2007 fiscal year, after funding averaged about $26 million over the previous six years, but Congress restored $5 million. This year, the DOE’s $24.3 billion budget request includes a 38 percent federal spending increase for nuclear power, but nothing for geothermal.

Advocates say they hope Congress can restore at least $25 million in funding to keep geothermal research on track.

“It’s too early to pick our resources. We need them all,” said Karl Gawell, executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association.

New geothermal power projects by 2050 could provide 100,000 megawatts of electricity — enough to power about 80 million U.S. homes, or as much as U.S. nuclear power plants make today, the MIT study said.

But U.S. geothermal development will need $300 million to $400 million over 15 years to make this type of power competitive versus other forms of power generation, the study said.

The big hurdle for geothermal power is finding out where the hot water is and developing better ways to drill for it. Geothermal power plants use steam or water from underground to turn turbines to create electricity.

Recreational hot springs across the United States are examples of where geothermal is easy to access. To be a viable power generator, hot water a mile or more underground has to be developed, said Gawell of the Geothermal Energy Association.

Leland “Roy” Mink, who until last October was geothermal program director at the DOE, said he thinks the White House’s waning interest in geothermal is a mistake. He said he left the DOE when he saw the Department was cutting funding.

“It’s far from a mature technology,” said Mink, who is now working on a geothermal project in Idaho. “There’s a lot to do. For starters, we need to develop drill bits that last longer. It’s a hostile environment down there.”

While its industry is largely undeveloped, the United States is still the largest producer of geothermal electricity in the world. U.S. geothermal power generation in 2005 was 0.36 percent of national power generation and geothermal capacity is rated at 2,828 megawatts, with almost all in California, according to the Geothermal Energy Association.

——————- comment:   While geothermal heat can produce electricity – the Administration insists on spending funds for furthering the goals of the nuclear industry. this is similar to the Administration funding for studies to derive ethanol   by degradation of cellulose, while not looking at the production of ethanol from sugars and starches.

It is over 30 years that universities get funding for cellulose studies with very little results to show – while plants like sugar beets or cassava, sugar and starch containing plants, are not being investigated. corn is the exception – this plant does have large political and economic lobbies in the US. One could say that it is not the potential of early results that drives US Administration investment policy in a war on reliance on fossil fuels, or a professed war on imports of oil from countries of origin of terrorism – one could say that there might be in play other sets of interests. To these folks, nuclear power seems a sexy topic even if it gets connected to even less appealing uses for fissionable materials.

Geothermal energy is aplenty in the Great African Rift region. It could help in many present conflict areas in Africa – this should be a further US interest in developing the technology – is there anyone in Washington who reads this and who has the power to pick up this added argument?  


Posted on on February 28th, 2007

Environmental and Energy Study Institute

Briefing Notice

Geothermal Energy:
Latest Developments for this “Hot” Contributor to U.S. Energy Production
Thursday, March 1, 2007

9:30 – 11:00 a.m.

2203 Rayburn House Office Building

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invite you to learn about the latest developments in geothermal energy and what this could mean for the country’s energy future. This second annual briefing will feature representatives from the private, government, and nonprofit sectors who have traveled from around the country to share their expertise. The event will highlight cutting edge reports and technological innovations that have made – and continue to make – geothermal a renewable success story. Growing rapidly, capacity is estimated to double in the United States over the next five years, with hundreds of thousands more megawatts of potential to be tapped. Will today’s advances be looked upon as the starting point for the future’s sustainable energy economy? Will federal policies support or hinder achieving the potential of this reliable, renewable resource? Be a part of this critical discussion:

  • Hear from the Chair of the panel responsible for the new MIT study looking at the broad potential for geothermal energy through Enhanced Geothermal Systems.
  • Learn about new small, distributed geothermal power technology being used in Alaska that could spread geothermal electricity to dozens of states with no previous development.
  • Find out about the latest geothermal energy developments in the United States and other new reports about its potential.
  • Consider how federal and state policies could help utilize this vast, untapped renewable energy source.

Featured speakers include:

  • Bernie Karl, Owner and Renewable Energy Advocate, Chena Hot Springs Resort, Alaska
  • Paul Thomsen, Manager of Public Policy, Ormat
  • Karl Gawell, Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), Washington D.C.
  • Jeff Tester, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Massachusetts, and Chair of MIT assessment report: “The Future of Geothermal Energy”
  • Roy Mink, U.S. Geothermal, Idaho and former DOE Geothermal Program Director

Geothermal power projects are under development in a record number of states across the West and in Gulf states, and businesses and the media are talking about this “hot” prospect. Several new reports that will be discussed at this briefing underscore its tremendous potential:

  • GEA released a report in February that finds extensive undeveloped geothermal resources in 14 Western states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. An Executive Summary (12 pages) and Full Report (140 pages) are both available at…. (An Assessment of Geothermal Resource Development Needs in the Western United States, by Daniel Fleischmann)
  • Initiated by Dr. Roy Mink, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory published a Technical Report in November defining the “enormous potential of geothermal resources.” This document looks at what the full range of geothermal energy technologies could contribute by 2015, 2025 and 2050. Geothermal—The Energy Under Our Feet is available at 

    ” title=”

  • ” target=”_blank”>…

Also, Chena Hot Springs and UTC Power, a United Technologies Company, were co-recipients of the renewable Project of the Year Award from Power Engineering Magazine in 2006. To learn more about how this community is realizing its vision to become self-sufficient and sustainable in terms of energy, food, heating and fuel use visit:

This briefing is open to the public and media. No reservations are required. Please feel free to forward this notice. For more information, contact Alyssa Kagel ( research at, 202-454-5261, or Fred Beck ( fbeck at , 202-662-1892.

About Environmental and Energy Study Institute
EESI is a national nonprofit that works to advance a cleaner, more secure and sustainable energy path. EESI was established in 1984 by a bipartisan group of Congressional environmental and energy leaders to meet the critical need for rigorous, informed debate, independent analysis and innovative policy development related to energy and environmental issues.

Environmental and Energy Study Institute
Fredric Beck
Senior Policy Associate
email:  fbeck at
phone: 202-662-1892


Posted on on February 17th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (…

FOCUS THE NATION is a Global Warming/Climate Change Traveling Advocacy Activity Organized by Professor Goodstein of Oregon.


Focus the Nation is coordinating teams of faculty and students at over a thousand colleges, universities and K-12 schools in the United States, to collaboratively engage in a nationwide, interdisciplinary discussion about “Global Warming Solutions for America”.
Focus the Nation is based in educational institutions, but also is engaging Americans in their churches, mosques, synagogues, businesses and civic organizations. The intent is to focus the growing concern in the country about global warming, and to create a serious, sustained and truly national discussion about clean energy solutions, linking students and citizens directly with our political leaders.

During the spring, summer, and fall of 2007, Focus the Nation teams will be creating campus dialogue, sponsoring talks and debates, integrating discussion of climate solutions into curricula, and drawing in faculty from across the curriculum. From Oregon to Ohio, and Alabama to New Hampshire, professors will focus on global warming solutions in their classes, and travel with their students to interdisciplinary discussion sessions and forums. Because Focus the Nation will engage thousands of organizers, and tens of thousands of educators, millions of students will have the opportunity to be involved.

Focus the Nation will culminate January 31, 2008, in the form of national symposia held simultaneously at over a thousand campuses, places of worship, businesses, and other venues across the country. On that day, each Focus the Nation team will invite local, state and federal political leaders and candidates for office to come to campus and participate in a non-partisan, round-table discussion of global warming solutions. US Senators and members of congress, state representatives, mayors and city councilors, all will be receiving dozens of invitations to speak about global warming, from over a thousand institutions nation-wide. Every campus will also vote on their top five national priorities for global warming action, producing a campus-endorsed policy agenda for the 2008 elections.

(click here for audio/video about Focus the Nation)

Focus the Nation is growing rapidly. The key to our success is the fact that, across the country, tens of thousands of educators, students and citizens are eager for a way to engage with global warming solutions, and quickly understand what Focus the Nation can become. The project culminates in a national teach-in in schools, places of worship and businesses, but Focus the Nation is more than that. The growth potential is vast: this is the opportunity to catalyze the country, and indeed, “Focus the Nation” around a non-partisan, reasoned, campus-lead discussion of this critical 21st century issue.

Why Now?

Over the next decade, critical policy decisions will be made with irreversible consequences for the future. Dr. James Hansen, the top US government climate scientist, believes that if we do not stabilize greenhouse gas emissions soon, we may set in motion a process leading to collapse of the West Antarctic and Greenland Ice sheets, events that would raise global sea levels by over 40 feet, inundating many of the world’s major cities (see sidebar). This of course is just one of the myriad potential consequences of human-induced warming, with regional and global impacts ranging from hurricanes of greater intensity and duration, global water shortages, altered patterns of rainfall, drought and flood, massive forest die-back, and large-scale species extinction.

Students today face many important social, economic, and security issues. Global warming however, is unique, in that if we are to reduce the risk of large-scale, irreversible, world-wide damages, then ambitious—and potentially costly—policy solutions must be undertaken within a very compressed time frame. Failure to act soon increases the likelihood of a swing in global temperatures of Ice Age magnitude within our children’s lifetimes, only in the opposite direction. We owe our young people a day of national, focused, non-partisan discussion of the decisions to be made in the next ten years, decisions that will profoundly affect their future, and indeed the future of all human generations to follow.

The second motivation for this project is to explore a new model of collaborative, interdisciplinary education, on a national scale. Focus the Nation will require campus-based teams of faculty and students to draw on campus expertise across the broad range of disciplines: religious studies, psychology, business, art, geology, law, economics, biology, communications, public health, theater, engineering, sociology, computer science, political science, literature, chemistry, philosophy, communications, music. Focus the Nation provides an exciting model opportunity to create, for one day, a true national community of scholarship bridging traditional disciplinary boundaries.

This is an opportunity for educators to take a leadership role, and catalyze a process which indeed will “Focus the Nation”. For the last 150 years we have been engaged in an unprecedented natural experiment, drastically altering the basic nature of the planet’s climate control system. Focus the Nation is engaging the country with the question: How far can we let that experiment go?

How to Get Involved

To be a part of Focus the Nation, simply sign up to participate. By signing up, you are committing to help organize an educational event about global warming solutions at your institution on (or around) January 31st, 2008. At this point, you do not need to know exact details for the event— by signing up, you are simply signaling your desire to help build Focus the Nation in your community. As colleges, universities, high schools, middle schools, faith organizations, businesses, and civic groups come together, we can launch a discussion far-reaching enough to change the future.

Once you sign up, you will receive bi-weekly updates from Focus the Nation that will suggest many ways to build your event. To hold global warming to the low end, we have only a few short years to act. To ensure action, we have only one year to Focus the Nation. Please sign up today.

The Focus the Nation Resolution

Once you have a launched a Focus the Nation organizing team at your institution, build support for a truly deep conversation by obtaining the endorsement of the following resolutions by your President, Head of School, CEO, Boards of Directors, Student government, Faculty Senate, or Organization. (See who has already endorsed!)

For Educational Institutions – Focus the Nation Resolution

For Other Institutions – Letter of Endorsement

2007 coming events:
April 2007
Friday & Saturday, April 6th & 7th
National Focus the Nation Conference
Starts at 5:00 pm (Friday)
Ends at 7:00 pm (Saturday)
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Keynote, Dr. David Orr

This interactive conference will run from 5 pm on Friday, until 7 pm on Saturday. Participants will share the strategies they are implementing and work together to develop plans to build Focus the Nation on campuses, in faith communities, at civic organizations and in businesses.

There is no charge to attend the workshop. To register, please visit National Focus the Nation Conference. To learn more, and to find out about housing options, contact the conference coordinator: Amy Miller or John Kanlund; 702-774-7019; E-mail:  ftn at

March 2007
Sunday, March 18th
10:30 am — 12:00 pm
Temple Neva Shalom
Portland, OR

Tuesday, March 20th
University of California Berkley
Time and Place, TBA

Wednesday, March, 22nd
University of Idaho
Time and Place, TBA

February 2007
Tuesday, February 6th
Oregon CAMPUS Compact
12:00 — 1:00 pm
The presentation is free and open to the public
Lynn-Benton Community College
6500 Pacific Blvd. SW
Albany, Oregon 97321

Thursday, February 8th
7:00 pm — 8:30 pm
University of Portland
BC Auditorium

Friday, February 16th
12:00 — 1:00 pm
World Affairs Council
SW 6th and Harrison
Portland, OR

Saturday, February 17th
9:30 am — 5:00 pm
Great Lakes Colleges Association
Courtyard Marriotte
3205 Boardwalk
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Monday, February 19th
12:00 — 1:00 pm
Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise
Room 1024 Dana
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Wednesday, February 21th
Rocky Mountain Sustainability Conference
University of Colorado
Time and Place, TBA

Monday, February 26th
4:30 pm — 8:30 pm
New Jersey Focus Summit
Kean Hall 127
Kean University, Union, NJ
9 campuses will be on live video. Anyone with internet access anywhere can pick it by live streaming.

Tuesday, February 27th
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
GSB, Room 3.130
University of Texas
Austin, TX

Wednesday, February 28th
Rice University
7:30 pm
McMurtry Auditorium, Duncan Hall
A reception will follow.
2006 Organizing Conference Schedule
Saturday, September 30th
NE Regional Organizing Conference
10:00 am — 5:00 pm
Middlebury College
Department of Environmental Studies


From Professor Eban Goodstein –   From:  egoodstein at

Dear Friends of Focus the Nation:

Here is what wasn’t in the recent IPCC report: “I think that a business as usual scenario will guarantee future disintegration of West Antarctica and parts of Greenland.”

“Guarantee” That was Dr. James Hansen, the government’s top climate scientist, commenting on the report.… And if both of those ice sheets go, global sea levels will rise by 40 feet. Focus the Nation is our opportunity to sidestep “business and usual”, and lay the foundation for the clean energy future that can stabilize the climate.

The IPCC has clearly shifted the debate to solutions, and it is now up to all of us to educate, discuss, and engage, building towards the national Focus the Nation teach-in on January 31st, 2008. To share ideas, Focus is launching a bi-monthly, national phone conversation. The first call will feature an update from the Focus team at Portland State University, who are really off and running—including getting their President on board with the President’s Climate Commitment.



Posted on on January 29th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

Biofuels turning economy on ear.

Thanks to high oil prices and energy security concerns, biofuels have been upsetting the economic order around the world.

Demand for corn-based ethanol in the United States is blamed for a sharp increase in tortilla prices that has millions of Mexico’s poor spending three times as much as they did a year ago for a dietary staple.
Ethanol made from corn or even plant fibers could preserve Texas farmlands.

World trade rules have outlawed federal cotton subsidies and, thanks to a complaint filed by Canada and Brazil, may do the same to payments for corn.

Biofuel advocates say cotton growers could turn to switch grass as a feedstock for what’s called cellulosic ethanol.

Corn farmers, meanwhile, are less dependent on subsidies as prices rise. Corn subsidies are expected to fall to an estimated $2.1 billion in 2007 from more than $8 billion a year.

Peru’s governments have tried for years to turn farmers away from coca plants grown for cocaine. Sugar cane turned into ethanol and exported to the United States may now provide an economic alternative.
Dallas-based (and privately owned) Maple Cos. has launched a $120 million venture in Peru to grow 25,000 acres of sugar cane, distill it into ethanol and ship it to U.S. markets. If Congress approves a free-trade agreement with Peru negotiated last year, Peru’s ethanol would come into the country tariff-free.

Brazil, the world leader in ethanol production, has freed itself from oil imports and has announced investments to double ethanol capacity as it nears agreement with Japan to blend Brazilian ethanol into Japanese gasoline.

The rush to biofuels is all about fuel economics and politics. With crude oil soaring to nearly $78 a barrel last year, the price of alternatives to gasoline soared as well. And with energy forecasts pointing to increased reliance on oil from the highly volatile Middle East, governments are squirting starter capital into the biofuels’ carburetor.

The federal incentive for ethanol is a tax break of 51 cents a gallon. Last year, more than 5.3 billion gallons were produced. An additional 600 million gallons were imported, most of it from Brazil.
President Bush is urging Congress and the nation’s biofuels industry to accelerate the use of ethanol to curb gasoline consumption by 20 percent by 2017.

Ethanol already consumes one-fifth of the nation’s corn crop, and that’s caused hardly a dent – less than one day’s worth of oil imports.

A big difference won’t come about until refiners start turning corn stalks, wheat straw, wood chips and grasses into ethanol, which is really nothing more than grain alcohol.

“Turning corn into alcohol’s not much for technology. Bootleggers have been making corn whisky since the country was founded,” said Joe Bouton, a senior vice president with the agriculture-focused Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla.

“You can’t get to the president’s targets with just corn,” Dr. Bouton said. “That’s why you want to use a cellulosic process, to distill the more complex sugars in stems, corn stover, wheat straw, really any kind of plant product.”

Iogen Corp., a private company based in Ottawa, Canada, has a cellulosic ethanol demonstration facility, and is planning a commercial plant in Idaho.

Despite all of these economic movements, biofuels won’t stay hot if oil prices continue to fall.
Iowa State University researchers have charted the economics of ethanol against corn and oil prices. In July, when oil was at $78 a barrel, you could have made money in ethanol even without the federal tax break.

Today, you’ll be under water, with or without that federal help. Crude oil is down to $54 a barrel.
The Iowa State numbers show ethanol producers need corn cheaper than $3.70 a bushel, even with the tax break, to make money at those oil prices.

The March price for corn on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was $4 a bushel Monday.
Dr. Bouton’s not worried.

“Barnyard economics – we send overseas $350 billion a year to pay for oil,” he said, “so why not capture some of that in the rural economy?”


Posted on on January 5th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (

On NOW – the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) channel, David Broncacio spoke about Idaho, the most Republican State in the Union, a State that still is 100% represented in Washington by Republicans, or as they are called here the Red Party, and that is 95% on public land, with only 5% privately owned land – this State is the third fastest growing state in the nation, and its capital Boise, is the third fastest growing urban area in the nation. The problem is that the public land is classified as wilderness, and is intended to be kept out of any development, this while tourism is growing immensely. The TV program that David Brocacio showed tonight was thus about: “CAN THE RED STATE STAY GREEN?”

The answer was that a Republican Congressman, after six years, was able to hammer out legislation with the help of the Idaho Conservation League, and some of his conservative lawmakers, in order to co-design a compromise that he will bring before Congress for approval. The idea is to allow a very limited expansion of the land in use for development, while at the same time also restricting roads that came into existence in the past.

Some of the locals seem to love so much the wilderness that they are ready to let themselves and the tourists they bring in – to love the wilderness to death. Now, with 180,000 registered noisy ATVs, dirt-bikes, and snowmobiles, the noise has already spread all over because of these Off-roads vehicles. The Greens oppose these vehicles and some of the Idaho people hate the Greens. To be an environmentalist makes it hard to sit at the negotiation table, so those attempting to reach a compromise in order to save what can be saved from this slow encroachment on the wilderness, call themselves now conservationists. Will it work? Will Congressman Mike Simpson be able to get his bill through? Will the compromise save the environment in Idaho and in other places? The progress of this bill will be watched because it could become an example for other areas also.


Having watched NOW, I remembered an article that Bill Moyers wrote, He is the man who established the NOW program on PBS. He made a presentation before a meeting that was   organized by “THE NATION.” An article based on his speech is being released on The Nation Magazine. A digest follows here, even though it does not deal directly with the environment. Its topic is rather the Red – Blue interaction as it looks at the time of the Blue (Democrats) taking over the reins of Congress. It is this interaction that will be responsible for what will happen now on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.

From Bill Moyers’ “For America’s Sake,” to be reported in the January 22, 2007, issue of The Nation.

The following is an adaptation of an adaptation of remarks made by Bill Moyers to a December 12 gathering in New York sponsored by The Nation, at the Brennan Center for Justice and the New Democracy Project.

The long night of the junta is over, Democrats are ebullient as they prepare to take charge of the multitrillion-dollar influence racket that we used to call the US Congress. Let them rejoice while they can, as long as they remember that while they ran some good campaigns, they have arrived at this moment mainly because George W. Bush lost a war most people have come to believe should never have been fought in the first place. Let them remember, too, in this interim of sweet anticipation, that although they are reveling in the ruins of a Republican reign brought down by stupendous scandals, their own closet is stocked with skeletons from an era when they were routed from office following Abscam bribes, and savings and loan swindles, that plucked the pockets and purses of hard-working, tax-paying Americans.

As they rejoice, Democrats would be wise to be mindful of Shakespeare’s counsel, “‘Tis more by fortune … than by merit.” For they were delivered from the wilderness not by their own goodness and purity but by the grace of K Street corruption, DeLay Inc.’s duplicity, the pitiless exploitation of Terri Schiavo, the disgrace of Mark Foley and a shameful partisan cover-up, the shamelessness of Jack Abramoff and a partisan conspiracy, and neocon arrogance and amorality. The Democrats couldn’t have been more favored by a god if they had believed in one!

But whatever one might say about the election, the real story is one that our political and media elites are loath to acknowledge or address. Moyers is not speaking of the lengthy list of priorities that progressives and liberals of every stripe are eager to put on the table now that Democrats hold the cards in Congress. Just the other day a message popped up on my computer from a progressive advocate whose work I greatly admire. Committed to movement-building from the ground up, he has results to show for his labors. His request was simple: “With changes in Congress and at our state capitol, we want your input on what top issues our lawmakers should tackle. Click here to submit your top priority.”

Moyers clicked. Sure enough, up came a list of thirty-four issues-an impressive list that began with “African-American” and ran alphabetically through “energy” and “higher education” to “guns,” “transportation,” “women’s issues” and “workers’ rights.” It wasn’t a list to be dismissed, by any means, for it came from an unrequited thirst for action after a long season of malignant opposition to every item on the agenda. I understand the mindset. Here’s a fellow who values allies and appreciates what it takes to build coalitions; who knows that although our interests as citizens vary, each one is an artery to the heart that pumps life through the body politic, and each is important to the health of democracy. This is an activist who knows political success is the sum of many parts. . . .

Everywhere you turn you’ll find people who believe they have been written out of the story. Everywhere you turn there’s a sense of insecurity grounded in a gnawing fear that freedom in America has come to mean the freedom of the rich to get richer even as millions of Americans are dumped from the Dream. So let me say what I think up front: The leaders and thinkers and activists who honestly tell that story and speak passionately of the moral and religious values it puts in play will be the first political generation since the New Deal to win power back for the people. . . .

Corporations are shredding the social compact, pensions are disappearing, median incomes are flattening and healthcare costs are soaring. In many ways, the average household is generally worse off today than it was thirty years ago, and the public sector that was a support system and safety net for millions of Americans across three generations is in tatters. For a time, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by more work and more personal debt. Both political parties craftily refashioned those major renovations of the average household as the new standard, shielding employers from responsibility for anything Wall Street didn’t care about. Now, however, the more acute major risks workers have been forced to bear as employers reduce their health and retirement costs-on orders from Wall Street-have made it clear that our fortunes are being reversed. Polls show that a majority of US workers now believe their children will be worse off than they are. In one recent survey, only 14 percent of workers said that they have obtained the American Dream.

It is hard to believe that less than four decades ago a key architect of the antipoverty program, Robert Lampman, could argue that the “recent history of Western nations reveals an increasingly widespread adoption of the idea that substantial equality of social and economic conditions among individuals is a good thing.” Economists call that postwar era “the Great Compression.” Poverty and inequality had declined dramatically for the first time in our history. Here, as Paul Krugman recently recounted, is how Time’s report on the national outlook in 1953 summed it up: “Even in the smallest towns and most isolated areas, the U.S. is wearing a very prosperous, middle-class suit of clothes, and an attitude of relaxation and confidence. People are not growing wealthy, but more of them than ever before are getting along.” African-Americans were still written out of the story, but that was changing, too, as heroic resistance emerged across the South to awaken our national conscience. Within a decade, thanks to the civil rights movement and President Johnson, the racial cast of federal policy-including some New Deal programs-was aggressively repudiated, and shared prosperity began to breach the color line.

But the Democrats never re-armed, and they kept pinning all their hopes on economic growth, which by its very nature is valueless and cannot alone provide answers to social and moral questions that arise in the face of resurgent crisis. . . . Well-organized conservative forces, firing on all ideological pistons, rushed to fill this void with a story corporate America wanted us to hear. Inspired by bumper-sticker abstractions of Milton Friedman’s ideas, propelled by cascades of cash from corporate chieftains like Coors and Koch and “Neutron” Jack Welch, fortified by the pious prescriptions of fundamentalist political preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the conservative armies marched on Washington. And they succeeded brilliantly.

When Ronald Reagan addressed the Republican National Convention in 1980, he a told a simple story, one that had great impact. “The major issue of this campaign is the direct political, personal and moral responsibility of Democratic Party leadership-in the White House and in Congress-for this unprecedented calamity which has befallen us.” He declared, “I will not stand by and watch this great country destroy itself.” It was a speech of bold contrasts, of good private interest versus bad government, of course. More important, it personified these two forces in a larger narrative of freedom, reaching back across the Great Depression, the Civil War and the American Revolution, all the way back to the Mayflower Compact. It so dazzled and demoralized Democrats they could not muster a response to the moral abandonment and social costs that came with the Reagan revolution. . . .

Reagan’s story of freedom superficially alludes to the Founding Fathers, but its substance comes from the Gilded Age, devised by apologists for the robber barons. It is posed abstractly as the freedom of the individual from government control – a Jeffersonian ideal at the root of our Bill of Rights, to be sure. But what it meant in politics a century later, and still means today, is the freedom to accumulate wealth without social or democratic responsibilities and the license to buy the political system right out from under everyone else, so that democracy no longer has the ability to hold capitalism accountable for the good of the whole. And that is not how freedom was understood when our country was founded. At the heart of our experience as a nation is the proposition that each one of us has a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As flawed in its reach as it was brilliant in its inspiration for times to come, that proposition carries an inherent imperative: “inasmuch as the members of a liberal society have a right to basic requirements of human development such as education and a minimum standard of security, they have obligations to each other, mutually and through their government, to ensure that conditions exist enabling every person to have the opportunity for success in life.” . . . .

But government, John Schwarz reminds us, “is not simply the way we express ourselves collectively but also often the only way we preserve our freedom from private power and its incursions.” . . . .   Freedom, he says, is “considerably more than a private value.” It is essentially a social idea, which explains why the worship of the free market “fails as a compelling idea in terms of the moral reasoning of freedom itself.” Let’s get back to basics, is Schwarz’s message. Let’s recapture our story.

  Norton Garfinkle picks up on both Schwarz and Starr in The American Dream vs. the Gospel of Wealth, as he describes how America became the first nation on earth to offer an economic vision of opportunity for even the humblest beginner to advance, and then moved, in fits and starts-but always irrepressibly – to the invocation of positive government as the means to further that vision through politics.   Abraham Lincoln, understood this and called on the federal government to save the Union. He turned to large government expenditures for internal improvements-canals, bridges and railroads. He supported a strong national bank to stabilize the currency. He provided the first major federal funding for education, with the creation of land grant colleges…. Our greatest President kept his eye on the sparrow. He believed government should be not just “of the people” and “by the people” but “for the people.”

The great leaders of our tradition-Jefferson, Lincoln and the two Roosevelts – understood the power of our story. In our time it was FDR, who exposed the false freedom of the aristocratic narrative. He made the simple but obvious point that where once political royalists stalked the land, now economic royalists owned everything standing. Mindful of Plutarch’s warning that “an imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics,” Roosevelt famously told America, in 1936, that “the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.” He gathered together the remnants of the great reform movements of the Progressive Age-including those of his late-blooming cousin, Teddy-into a singular political cause that would be ratified again and again by people who categorically rejected the laissez-faire anarchy that had produced destructive, unfettered and ungovernable power. Now came collective bargaining and workplace rules, cash assistance for poor children, Social Security, the GI Bill, home mortgage subsidies, progressive taxation-democratic instruments that checked economic tyranny and helped secure America’s great middle class. And these were only the beginning. The Marshall Plan, the civil rights revolution, reaching the moon, a huge leap in life expectancy-every one of these great outward achievements of the last century grew from shared goals and collaboration in the public interest.

So it is that contrary to what we have heard rhetorically for a generation now, the individualist, greed-driven, free-market ideology is at odds with our history and with what most Americans really care about. More and more people agree that growing inequality is bad for the country, that corporations have too much power, that money in politics is corrupting democracy and that working families and poor communities need and deserve help when the market system fails to generate shared prosperity. Indeed, the American public is committed to a set of values that almost perfectly contradicts the conservative agenda that has dominated politics for a generation now. . . . but the top 1 percent of households now have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. Yes, people need more information than they get from the media conglomerates with their obsession for nonsense, violence and pap. And we need, as we keep hearing, “new ideas.” But we are at an extraordinary moment. The conservative movement stands intellectually and morally bankrupt while Democrats talk about a “new direction” without convincing us they know the difference between a weather vane and a compass. The right story will set our course for a generation to come.

Here in the first decade of the twenty-first century the story that becomes America’s dominant narrative will shape our collective imagination and hence our politics. . . . We must confront the most fundamental progressive failure of the current era: the failure to embrace a moral vision of America based on the transcendent faith that human beings are more than the sum of their material appetites, our country is more than an economic machine, and freedom is not license but responsibility-the gift we have received and the legacy we must bequeath.

Our moral, political, and religious, duty is to make sure that this nation, which was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that we are all created equal, is in good hands on our watch.

One story would return America to the days of radical laissez-faire, when there was no social contract and the strong took what they could and the weak were left to forage. The other story joins the memory of struggles that have been waged with the possibility of victories yet to be won, including healthcare for every American and a living wage for every worker. . . . .   our story has been a long time unfolding. It reminds us that the freedoms and rights we treasure were not sent from heaven and did not grow on trees. They were, as John Powers has written, “born of centuries of struggle by untold millions who fought and bled and died to assure that the government can’t just walk into our bedrooms and read our mail, to protect ordinary people from being overrun by massive corporations, to win a safety net against the often-cruel workings of the market, to guarantee that businessmen couldn’t compel workers to work more than forty hours a week without extra compensation, to make us free to criticize our government without having our patriotism impugned, and to make sure that our leaders are answerable to the people when they choose to send our soldiers into war.” The eight-hour day, the minimum wage, the conservation of natural resources, free trade unions, old-age pensions, clean air and water, safe food-all these began with citizens and won the endorsement of the political class only after long struggles and bitter attacks. Democracy works when people claim it as their own.

It is only rarely remembered that the definition of democracy immortalized by Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address had been inspired by Theodore Parker, the abolitionist prophet. Driven from his pulpit, Parker said, “I will go about and preach and lecture in the city and glen, by the roadside and field-side, and wherever men and women may be found.” He became the Hound of Freedom and helped to change America through the power of the word. We have a story of equal power. It is that the promise of America leaves no one out. Go now, and tell it on the mountains. From the rooftops, tell it. From your laptops, tell it. From the street corners and from Starbucks, from delis and from diners, tell it. From the workplace and the bookstore, tell it. On campus and at the mall, tell it. Tell it at the synagogue, sanctuary and mosque. Tell it where you can, when you can and while you can-to every candidate for office, to every talk-show host and pundit, to corporate executives and schoolchildren. Tell it-for America’s sake.


Posted on on October 4th, 2006
by Pincas Jawetz (

Laura Zuckerman of Reuters reports October 4, 2006, from Salmon, Idaho: “Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and a consortium of energy and technology companies announced the Montana will be home to one of the nation’s first coal-to-liquids energy plants.”

The US$1 billion Bull Mountain Coal-to-Liquids Plant is slated to begin producing 22,000 barrels per day of diesel fuel and 300 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 240,000 homes – in six years. Schweitzer and the companies behind the plant, including chief developers Arch Minerals, part of Arch Coal and DKRW Advanced Fuels LLC, say the production of diesel fuel and electricity at the Bull Mountain site will not release the greenhouse gases – including carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide – usually associated with coal-generated electricity. That means the fuel and power produced near the Bull Mountain Mine north of Billings in south central Montana will meet the tighter environmental standards recently imposed by California on imported electricity.
“This is California-friendly energy,” Schweitzer said Monday. “California is the 900-pound gorilla in terms of electrons and fuels and we are the 900-pound gorilla in terms of delivering those products. “They like it without carbon dioxide, we’ll deliver it without carbon dioxide. They like it without mercury, we’ll deliver it without mercury. They like it without sulfur – gotcha covered.”
News of the plant comes at a time when oil is over US$60 a barrel, making low-emission coal conversion economically feasible, say energy experts.
About two-thirds of crude run through US refineries is imported. While the United States has limited oil and gas reserves, it has enough coal to last more than 200 years; that compares to just 10 years of natural gas reserves, said Ralph Barbaro, chief analyst with the consulting firm Energy Ventures Analysis in Arlington, Virginia.
In the two-step process at the Montana plant, coal will be converted to synthetic gas, or syngas, through technology provided by General Electric. Then the syngas will be converted to liquids.

Barbaro said the uncertain world oil market and the fuel’s high price has help intensify interest in coals-to-liquids development. “It’s an answer to our energy crisis,” he said. “We’re relying on foreign sources for most of our oil. This would be a reliable and clean domestic energy source. The plant in Montana is a sign of the energy times and a function of market price,” he said (but this is quite misleading – PJ of

While a handful of states, including Wyoming and Illinois, are poised to develop similar facilities, Montana has the lead in coordinating environmental permitting and financing coal-to-liquids, industry experts said.
The Bull Mountain plant will inject waste carbon dioxide – a byproduct of gasifying rather than burning coal – into the ground instead of releasing the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. The stored carbon dioxide will be piped to Montana’s oilfields, where producers use it to enhance the recovery of oil. (That might be so, but the plant will produce also diesel fuel out of fossil carbon, that will burn like any other diesel fuel in motorvehicles or generators, and spew fossil carbon CO2 into the athmosphere – if this is no Green House Gas – then what is?)

The article also says: “Some of the nation’s leading environmental groups applauded Montana’s ambitious alternative energy plan when it comes to electricity, but expressed concern about the production of diesel from coal, or liquid fuel.” The explanation we gave above is exactly the reason for this! The article continues the quote: “We don’t support making liquid fuels out of coal even if the carbon dioxide is sequestered because in many ways it’s just as dirty as the current process of producing gasoline,” said David Hawkins, director of the climate center for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If we’re going to build a plant such as the one in Montana, let’s just focus on clean electricity.” and he is totally right!

This is a case of Real World Incomplete News. The process may have the economics, but it does not have the answer for California. So Montana – it is not California here we come! That is the Real News.

We looked into this process at the Hudson Institute 30 years ago. We recommended the creation of the Synfuels Corporation as it is possible to create this way indigenous supplies of fuel, which may be an answer to the need to bring in crude or products from shaky countries, but this was in pre-Global Warming days – that is when we worried only about supplies and not about the CO2 in the atmosphere.


Posted on on October 4th, 2006
by Pincas Jawetz (

Laura Zuckerman of Reuters reports October 4, 2006, from Salmon, Idaho:   “Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and a consortium of energy and technology companies   announced the Montana will be home to one of the nation’s first coal-to-liquids energy plants.”

The US$1 billion Bull Mountain Coal-to-Liquids Plant is slated to begin producing 22,000 barrels per day of diesel fuel and 300 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 240,000 homes – in six years. Schweitzer and the companies behind the plant, including chief developers Arch Minerals, part of Arch Coal and DKRW Advanced Fuels LLC, say the production of diesel fuel and electricity at the Bull Mountain site will not release the greenhouse gases – including carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide – usually associated with coal-generated electricity.That means the fuel and power produced near the Bull Mountain Mine north of Billings in south central Montana will meet the tighter environmental standards recently imposed by California on imported electricity.
“This is California-friendly energy,” Schweitzer said Monday. “California is the 900-pound gorilla in terms of electrons and fuels and we are the 900-pound gorilla in terms of delivering those products. “They like it without carbon dioxide, we’ll deliver it without carbon dioxide. They like it without mercury, we’ll deliver it without mercury. They like it without sulfur – gotcha covered.”
News of the plant comes at a time when oil is over US$60 a barrel, making low-emission coal conversion economically feasible, say energy experts.
About two-thirds of crude run through US refineries is imported. While the United States has limited oil and gas reserves, it has enough coal to last more than 200 years; that compares to just 10 years of natural gas reserves, said Ralph Barbaro, chief analyst with the consulting firm Energy Ventures Analysis in Arlington, Virginia.
In the two-step process at the Montana plant, coal will be converted to synthetic gas, or syngas, through technology provided by General Electric. Then the syngas will be converted to liquids.
Barbaro said the uncertain world oil market and the fuel’s high price has helped intensify interest in coals-to-liquids development. “It’s an answer to our energy crisis,” he said. “We’re relying on foreign sources for most of our oil. This would be a reliable and clean domestic energy source. The plant in Montana is a sign of the energy times and a function of market price.”
While a handful of states, including Wyoming and Illinois, are poised to develop similar facilities, Montana has the lead in coordinating environmental permitting and financing coal-to-liquids, industry experts said.
The Bull Mountain plant will inject waste carbon dioxide – a byproduct of gasifying rather than burning coal – into the ground instead of releasing the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. The stored carbon dioxide will be piped to Montana’s oilfields, where producers use it to enhance the recovery of oil.
Some of the nation’s leading environmental groups applauded Montana’s ambitious alternative energy plan when it comes to electricity but expressed concern about the production of diesel from coal, or liquid fuel. “We don’t support making liquid fuels out of coal even if the carbon dioxide is sequestered because in many ways it’s just as dirty as the current process of producing gasoline,” said David Hawkins, director of the climate center for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If we’re going to build a plant such as the one in Montana, let’s just focus on clean electricity.” finds the Montana statements quite misleading when they claim that their technology answers the California clean air regulations. As said by the environmentalists, had they simply produced electricity only, and achieved a credible reinjection of the CO2 into the oil wells for enhanced oil recovery, they could have made claim to have a nominally cleaner production of electricity from coal, while having also contributed to the production of some more oil. But to claim that their diesel fuel made from coal is anything but transfer of fossil carbon from the ground to the atmosphere, is tantamount to saying that we are all idiots. The burning of this diesel, like the burning of diesel made from petroleum, amounts to injection into the atmosphere of CO2 – thus creating a Green House Gas – and that is exactly what California rules try to avoid. THIS DID NOT CREATE A GREEN FUEL. Making synfuels from coal provides for an indigenous source of fuel – so this is thus advantageous when talking about fuel security, but do not overstate by claiming also that this does also something for environmental security! At the Huson Institute, thirty years ago, we sifted through old German technologies from the days of WWII, and we looked at the SASOL project in South Africa, then Mr. Herman Kahn recommended to the Administrations of those days, starting with President Ford, to create the Synfuels Corporation – and that was the first and last energy policy the US ever had. I know those things because I worked for Mr. Kahn, and I was involved in the research in patching together the information about tested technologies. We did this at the time to find the cost of producing these synfuels in order to cap the price of oil – as some were predicting that already then, without talking alternatives, the oil companies and OPEC will have us over the barrel and charge us $100 for a barrel of crude. So, it was then not even about supplies, but about price. Now we could say it is about supplies and the need to avoid feeding our enemies as we understand that the oil money has paid to make terrorism possible – but that is all – forget “California here comes Montana” – it just ain’t so.


Posted on on October 16th, 2005
by Pincas Jawetz (

New York City, October 16, 2005

The news from Washington are that Governors Bill Richardson, Democrat
of New
Mexico, former US Secretary of Energy and former US Ambassador to the
UN, and
Governor Jeb Bush, Republican of Florida and brother of President
George W.
Bush, have decided to ditch their Lincoln Navigator S.U.V. and the Ford
Expedition S.U.V., respectively, in favor of a Ford Escape hybrid
vehicle. The Ford
Expedition used to guzzle gas and deliver only six to eight
These Governors decided that you cannot talk to the folks about
without making at least some symbolic sacrifice. So out went those
rugged S.U.V.
vehicles, and in came the best US made vehicle their position helped
find. Will their example persuade Detroit to make a bigger effort
needed in order
to see a real stream of these vehicles hit the market?

Governors Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois and Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho
to give a different example. They switched to a Chevrolet Suburban
fueled by
E85. Governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Tom Vilsack of Iowa, will
stay with
S.U.V.s but will use E85 for fuel. The E85 is a mixture of 85% ethanol,
locally produced biofuel, and only 15% gasoline. This mixture that uses
the biofuel
may not be the best use of the locally produced biofuel. In effect a
more efficient use of ethanol is to spread it out over a much larger
amount of
gasoline – not use it as fuel but as octane boosting additive to the
The idea was already championed 25 years ago by Senator Frank Church of
who wanted to mandate by law the introduction of 1% ethanol, in all of
the US,
the first year and up to 10% after 10 years. This way the given amount
ethanol displaces the maximum amount of petroleum product and has
rather a larger
impact via the desired goal of decreasing imports of oil – the folks
home may
be less impressed at first blush, but the fact that they do not
understand the
difference is a direct result of the fact that the information about
the use
of ethanol was suppressed for years by the oil industry and even by a
Department of Energy influenced by the oil industry, and others who do
the leg work
for the oil interests.

Using E85 in S.U.V.s makes even less sense, because guzzling E85 has
very little redeeming value when one tries to spell out the word
That at least is something even the uninformed folks should be able to
out. What is Detroit supposed to learn from these recent attempts by
Governors? Is there indeed a substitute for a White House that should
lead by
suggesting needed enhanced miles-per-gallon standards – asking for
legislation or
regulation and provide the needed enforcement of these much more