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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

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Bush Authorizes New Drilling In Montana

The Bush “administration” has approved increased drilling in Montana. The decision would allow 18,000 natural gas wells to be drilled on more than 1.5 million acres of federal land in the Powder River Basin in southeastern Montana over the next two decades.  Yes, the drilling boom in the West remains stuck in high gear.  Despite a dramatic increase in the number of wells for oil and gas in the past 8 years, prices haven’t decreased for consumers.  During the same time period, oil and gas corporations’ profits have increased quarter after quarter, year after year.  The drilling is solely benefiting corporations while Western residents deal with increases in crime and pollution.  Moreover, the heightened pace of industry is taking a toll on local infrastructure – roads, water, sewage and the like.  Has the fossil fuel industry paid for the increased wear-and-tear of public infrastructure?  No.  They’ve been handed corporate welfare in giveaways by the Bush “administration”.

The biggest drawback to the potential increase in drilling is water concerns:

The Powder River Basin holds a type of natural gas known as coal-bed methane, which companies can extract only after pumping vast quantities of water from underground aquifers that trap the gas. That’s the same water ranchers in the arid region depend on to irrigate fields and fill stock ponds.

That means the corporations padding the pockets of Republican politicians are going to compete for the same resources as the voters those Republicans depend on.  The word is the fossil fuel corporations won’t keep drilling if environmental concerns arise.  This might be likelier under an Obama administration than a Bush “administration”, but I say wait until the concerns arise to see how it’s handled.  We’ve been reassured that drilling has such incredible technologies that the environment is basically left untouched for years by pro-Bushies.  The environment always suffers, the fossil fuel industry always profits and nothing is cleaned up by the corporations doing the damage – it always falls to taxpayers who didn’t get a profit from the drilling.  That kind of socialism is alright for Republicans – privatize the profit, socialize the loss.

This kind of plan is incredibly short-sighted.  As climate change makes its influence felt in the Western U.S., steady precipitation is forecasted to decrease.  While that’s going on, burning more natural gas will generate even more greenhouse gases whose effect won’t be felt for decades.  Mitigating those effects will become increasingly expensive, by the way.  So the climate in the Western U.S. will be forced toward increasingly arid conditions while additional drilling continues, which will require millions of gallons of water from ranchers and other Western interests.  All while drilling corporations privatize the profits and socialize their losses.

On the other hand, we could install wind farms and new transmission lines, which wouldn’t release nearly the GHGs drilling does during manufacture and assembly and wouldn’t compete for water like drilling will.  Americans would get clean energy and the climate and wildlife wouldn’t be as impacted.  I can’t wait until Jan. 20th and our energy nightmare is addressed more honestly.


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Colorado Politics: CU Chair; Environment vs. Jobs; Ozone Pollution; Oil & Gas Poll

It’s interesting that this piece of news didn’t garner much discussion: The University of Colorado is looking to hire an endowed chair in conservative thought and policy.  This is the result of something the Cons have perfected: play the refs and get the bonus.

CU is currently developing a $9 million program which will bring nationally recognized conservative scholars to teach on the Boulder campus. The program will allow CU to create an endowment for a visiting chair in conservative thought.

What exactly is the push for this crazy idea?  It all arises from the Republican penchant for self-victimization.  The whole world is out to get every singe Con-servative, according to them.  The push is coming from entities like the American Enterprise Institute and the Independence Institute who have conducted “studies” demonstrating how crazy liberal every public college in America is.  What doesn’t get related by the corporate media is AEI and II are funded exclusively by conservatives.  Their “studies” are slanted from the start to show what they want them to show.  Because they’re so well funded and organized, they can push things like hiring a “chair of con-servative thought”.  How then, you might ask, could a place like CU in “ultra-liberal” Boulder even consider such a thing?  This is what happens when a partisan like Bruce Benson is hired as University President.  I haven’t read any stories about how CU is suddenly swimming in cash due to Benson’s superior fundraising abilities.  But CU is suddenly getting a chair in conservative thought.  Gee, I wonder how that happened.  Can you imagine the screams from the Cons if CU were to hire a chair in progressive thought?

More topics below.


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In The News 10/24/08

A campaign volunteer for John McCain in Pittsburgh, PA made up a story about being robbed at an ATM, then being assaulted by the robber once the 6’4″ black man figured out she was driving with a McCain sticker on her car.  The story was ludicrous when it first came out, but that certainly didn’t stop propaganda outlets like Fox from running with the story as hard as they could.  Ashley Todd made up this disgusting story.  She filed a false police report after inflicting the wounds on herself.  Seriously, what has happened to the Republican party?

Lots of economic news again today.  First up: OPEC’s supply decision.  OPEC will cut production by 1.5 million barrels per day.  They think there’s too much supply in the system.  What they’re really saying is that $140 oil makes them more money than $70 oil.  That might sound like a “Duh” type of statement, but it should serve as a lesson to the pro-drilling crowd.  Any additional supply the U.S. might bring to market in 10 years will simply be taken off the market by OPEC.  That means we’ll pay more for gas (not less!) because OPEC wants more for its oil.  The drilling fetish folks are looking to grab some of the profit along the way.  What do we get out of it?

“Too-big-to-fail” insurance giant AIG has not just already blown through the original $85 billion loaned by the government (corporate welfare with taxpayer money), it’s nearly blown the additional $37.5 billion extension loan too.  It doesn’t stop there: AIG may ask for even more money.  Remind me again why American taxpayer dollars are bailing out firms when we’re not allowed to know where the money is really going.

Foreclosures are up 71% over last year’s level.  Nationwide, nearly 766,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice in the last quarter, as reported by RealtyTrac.  Remember, RealtyTrac isn’t keeping track of foreclosures in 900 rural counties nationally.  The numbers could have been worse.  Many states have initiated foreclosure-delay programs.  Without additional work, I expect an artificial ‘explosion’ of foreclosures in this quarter.

Meanwhile, the number of new applications for unemployment insurance rose to 478,000.  People without jobs cannot pay their mortgages.  Corporations continue to announce massive numbers of layoffs.  The economy is going to continue to get worse before it gets better.

Cry me a freaking river.  The recession is beginning to hit rich folks’ golf communities.  People that live in the communities are not that upset about the decrease in their home values.  They’re upset because they can’t golf everyday.  They’re upset because they can’t hang out in the clubhouse all day.  These are some of the same people that are upset over inheritance taxes.  They don’t provide labor to the economy, and they think they’re so much better than the rest of us that they shouldn’t have to pay for their fair share of the nation’s infrastructure that they use.  Meanwhile, middle- and lower-class families are becoming homeless and jobless.  The fact that this article was even written is sad commentary on the state of our society.

Inside Colorado, a successful sale of bonds by the state will finance 12 construction projects on college campuses across Colorado:

1. University of Northern Colorado: Butler-Hancock Renovation

2. Colorado Northwestern Community College: Academic Building, Craig Campus

3. Colorado State University at Pueblo: Academic Resources Center Remodel

4. Colorado School of Mines: Brown Hall Addition

5. CSU Fort Collins: Clark Building Revitalization

6. Auraria Higher Education Campus: Science Building

7. Western State College: Taylor Hall Renovation and Addition

8. Mesa State College: Wubben Hall Expansion and Renovation

9. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs: Renovation of Science Building

10. Morgan Community College: Nursing, Technology & Science Building

11. Front Range Community College, Larimer Campus: Science Classroom Project

12. Fort Lewis College: Berndt Hall Reconstruction

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News Items 10/13/08

The Treasury has come up with some solution details.  First: purchasing troubled mortgage-back securities.  That’s okay, I guess.  Second: buying mortgages, particularly from regional banks.  That’s a lot better.  Third: insuring mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.  That’s a good idea too.  Fourth: purchasing equity in a broad array of financial institutions.  That’s a darn good idea.  If taxpayer money is being used to take assets off company books, taxpayers should be in line for any potential future gains.  Fifth: helping delinquent borrowers stay in their homes.  That’s kind of vague, but it’s a good summary statement.  I’d really like to see some details on just how they’re planning on achieving this goal.  [Update]: These details and weekend-long meetings among the largest economic powers had a positive effect on U.S. markets today: the Dow gained 936.42 today, as an example.

67% of Coloradans would rather protect pristine national forest lands and not increase oil and gas protection in them. 70% thought that the high number of already unused leases was reason enough not to grant the industry new ones on public lands.  56% were intelligent enough to recognize that opening drilling up in the lands wouldn’t lower gas prices.  Just one more reason why “Drill, baby, drill” isn’t working out West: we live next to the areas where the drilling would actually occur and we don’t think it’s a good idea.

Google has come out with a 21st century energy plan (ClimateProgess’ take) and it’s darn good.  Here is their top-level summary of goals:

Our proposal will allow us to reduce from the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) current baseline for energy use:

  • Fossil fuel-based electricity generation by 88%
  • Vehicle oil consumption by 38%
  • Dependence on imported oil (currently 10 million barrels per day) by 33%
  • Electricity-sector CO2 emissions by 95%
  • Personal vehicle sector CO2 emissions by 38%
  • US CO2 emissions overall by 48% (40% from today’s CO2 emission level)

The cost of Google’s plan?  $4.4 Trillion!  Ah, but the savings of Google’s plan?  $5.4 Trillion!!  I’ve heard estimates of the cost of business-as-usual, but I forget what they are.  I’ll follow up on this in the future.

A Siegel also provides a take on Google’s plan.

The effects of climate change in Colorado are being assessed.  Among them: change in river flows through mid-century. Climates are expected to migrate upward in elevation.  Supplies of water will decrease.  Demand is likely to increase.  Guess what will happen to costs.  Or we could actually do something about our climate change forcings.  See the Google plan above.  It’s a step in the correct direction.

Help send 35,000 invitations to Sen. Barack Obama and John McCain to attend the December U.N. Climate Meetings.

The hysteria over Amendment 41 continues among wonky circles. It shouldn’t, as info from the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission came out last week. Scholarships, insurance policies and dinners are allowed, just like A41 supporters have maintained.  A41 banned gifts from lobbyists and anything over $50 in value from non-lobbyists.  The Colorado Supreme Court has refused to look at A41’s constitutionality until the law was applied or enforced.  I think the intent behind A41 was apparent to voters.  I don’t think the Commission will whittle away the intent, as opponents claim.

Arctic sea ice volume likely set an all-time minimum this year.  While the areal extent reached the second lowest value on record, the volume of the remaining ice was less this year than last.  It’s not hard to figure out why this is.  A record low areal extent last year meant the ice that formed last winter was new and thinner than ice that formed over decades or longer.  That ice melted easily this summer.  The small area of thicker ice?  It melted more this year because of the warmer ocean waters underneath it.  As those waters get warmer year after year, the ice above it has less long-term viability.  The NSIDC should continue to verify the final volume value for 2008.

Republicans have maintained their stranglehold on local and state politics with their GOPAC program – it trains folks how to push fringe policies to the public.  That’s how they’ve gotten so many extremists in positions of power.  Want to counter it?  Throw a little something toward Progressive Majority.

What does it mean to be fiscally conservative?  CONServatives certainly don’t know the answer.

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News Pieces 9/27/08

In a move toward improving the transparency of bills in Congress, has put the original Bush Bailout plan and Senator Chris Dodd’s plan dealing with the same issue up for public view.  The public can also comment on the legislation.

Oh, in case you’re wondering – despite having billions of dollars worth of bad assets and paying executives millions of dollars every year, the financial institutions looking for a $700 billion handout is still paying for lobbyists.  In the millions this year alone.  While families are losing their houses.  That’s immoral.

The Republican County Clerk in El Paso is illegally trying to prevent students at Colorado College from voting this November.  Why would that be?  Could it be that young voters are breaking 65-32 for Obama over McCain?  Every vote Bob Balink prevents for Obama and other Democrats is one step closer toward his party’s success.  There are 10 days left to register to vote for this year’s election.  How many voters will be unable to vote because of this Republican’s immoral efforts?

While the summer season has drawn to a close for the Arctic, thankfully ending the horrible rate of melt this year, the Antarctic’s winter is also ending.  This winter wasn’t as good to the sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere as last winter was.  The maximum extent was 15 million sq. km, over 1 million sq. km. less than the area last year.  It appears Aug. 2008 wasn’t a good year for ice worldwide as the Southern Hemisphere actually lost over 500,000 sq. km. of ice in a two-week time period.  August also saw the fastest rate of melt of ice in the Northern Hemisphere.  After attaining a +2 million sq. km. anomaly last year, the Southern Hemisphere is lucky to be right at the 1970-2000 mean, and appears to be heading negative as the melt accelerates.

The shuttle mission to Hubble has been delayed by 4 days, from Oct. 10th to the 14th.  Most of the delay was caused by Hurricane Ike’s landfall and damage to the Houston, TX area.  Atlantis is scheduled to make the trip to Hubble.  Endeavour is waiting on a nearby launch pad in the event that Atlantis experiences damage significant enough to prevent a return to Earth.  Endeavour is scheduled to make another construction flight to the International Space Station later this year if the rescue mission is unneeded.

A potential lunar colony site has been mapped in 3-D using camera data that wasn’t meant for 3-D.  I think Mars exploration and colonies should come first, but recognize the long-term importance of the Moon as well.

Gas shortages are occurring across the southern U.S. A couple of factors are causing this situation.  Hurricanes Gustav and Ike shut down drilling and refining infrastructure as well as power delivery systems across the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana and Texas.  More disturbing is the following:

In its most recent Weekly Oil Data Review, Barclays Capital pointed out that the U.S. gasoline inventory has reached its lowest level since August 1967, when demand was a little more than half its current level of 9.3 million barrels a day. At 178.7 million barrels, inventories are 21.6 million barrels below their five-year average.

Replacing those inventories isn’t easy either.  “Once the refineries get back up and running, they’ll drain the already low crude oil inventories.”  Not discussed in the article is the impact of fuel corporations sitting on millions of acres of leased land without drilling.  Not discussed in the article is the impact of not building additional refining capacity in the last 30 years, making the drilling issue completely irrelevant.  It’s that lack of refining capacity (which are only operating at 67% of capacity right now) that has put a large region of the country in danger of running out of gasoline.  If that situation gets worse, food won’t be able to be supplied.  Then the anger over Bush’s Wall St. Bailout will seem minor in comparison.

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News Items 9/9/08: Iraq Troop Levels, Colorado Drilling Rules; GI Bill; Palin’s Scam

George Bush decided not to change the number of troops holding down our occupation of Iraq for the remainder of his time in office. Like the courageous visionary he is, he’s leaving the decision to the next President.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff recommended the elimination of the proposed 90-days drilling restriction in some wildlife areas. Imagine if instead of spending millions on lobbying, fuel corporations spent that money on developing new technologies. Imagine if their actions were responsible and moral.

Why won’t John McCain sign the GI Bill? Must be that mavericky thing the corporate media crows so much about.

Sarah Palin billed taxpayers to stay in her own home. $16,951 by herself; $43,490 for her husband (the secessionist) and daughters. Fiscal conservatism in action.

Sarah Palin’s Alaska is a welfare state. In 2005 (the most recent figures), according to the Tax Foundation, Alaska ranked 18th in federal taxes paid per resident ($5,434) but first in federal spending received per resident ($13,950). Where does all that money come from to spend on each resident? The rest of the country’s taxpayers. Leeches! The last paragraph sums up the situation very nicely (emphasis in bold is mine):

Why is a windfall-profits tax good for Alaska but not for the U.S.? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? People in Alaska are better than people in the rest of the U.S. They’re more American. Although there are small towns and farms and high school hockey teams in the lower 48, there are fewer down here, per capita, than in Alaska. And there are many more journalists and pollsters and city dwellers [and community organizers] and other undesirables who might benefit if every American had the same right to leech off the government as do the good citizens of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

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Colorado Shafted By Gas and Oil Corporations: Roan Plateau

Gas and oil corporations have been pushing to open the pristine Roan Plateau up to drilling for years. Recently, they used arguments that Colorado would reap a financial windfall at an auction for drilling sites. They have been spewing figures like $2 billion in total sales, meaning Colorado could receive $1 billion dollars (the federal government gets the rest).

The sites were placed on auction yesterday. How many billions did they end up selling for? $0.114. You read that correctly: the total dollar value of all the sites sold to oil and gas corporations was a mere $114 million. That’s 1/20th the number those corporations were using to ensure the auction took place. The Roan Plateau will have thousands of drill pads developed on its top, changing it for the rest of my lifetime as well as that of future generations. That’s not all. Not only did Colorado get shafted out of $1,886,000,000 of funds corporations played off as guaranteed, the state will end up losing twice because of the actual guaranteed decrease in tourism on the Plateau. Tourism generates $7.3 billion per year for Colorado. That means the state got gipped by the auction once, but any gains realized by the energy corporations by oil and gas prices (which will likely be higher in the future, of course) will act as a double hit to the state in the form of fewer tourism dollars filling the state’s coffers.

What’s particularly disgusting in this case is that the same industry lobbying group that pushed the $2 billion number so hard immediately blamed Democrats for the short-change.  Gov. Ritter has said since his time in office that the number was a ploy to get the land sold.  Simply put, it worked.  Two spokesmen even had the audacity to compare the Roan sale to a previous sale that netted a much larger average bid price without mentioning one critical difference: the Roan is public land while the previous sale was private land.  Isn’t it interesting how the government got fleeced by corporations while private land sold for 20 times as much per acre?

Oil and gas lobbyists don’t even blink an eye at this level of immorality.  They don’t have Colorado citizens’ best interests in mind.  They work to drive up profits while disregarding every other facet of their industry.