Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Morning News Roundup (14 November)

Climate Crisis
  • A new Rand Corp. study showing the falling costs of ethanol, wind power and other forms of renewable energy predicts such sources could furnish as much as 25% of the U.S.'s conventional energy by 2025 at little or no additional expense.
    Renewable fuels now produce only 6% of the nation's energy, and about half of that comes from hydroelectric dams. The study assumes renewable-energy costs will keep dropping at the rate of recent years. It says raising the use of renewables to 25% of all U.S. energy consumed would reduce U.S. reliance on oil by about 20% or the equivalent of the imports from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The study says the expected growth of energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, thought to be artificially warming the atmosphere, would be cut by two-thirds over the next 19 years. [Wall Street Journal (free article)]

  • Countries that refuse to join international efforts to cut greenhouse emissions – such as the US and China – should face a European carbon tax on their imports, Dominique de Villepin, the French prime minister, proposed on Monday.
    Mr de Villepin’s plan is intended to put pressure on China, Brazil and India at this week’s climate change talks in Nairobi, where countries are meeting to discuss a post-Kyoto framework. Emerging economies, whose carbon emissions are rising rapidly with the growth of manufacturing exports, are under pressure to commit to cuts in greenhouse gases once the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012. [Financial Times]

  • John Dingell, a Representative from Michigan, will, come January, be the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. His district is home to all three of America's top car manufacturers, and, for some reason, he's not in favor of increasing mileage standards. Some members of Congress have been walking the Treehugger line, saying that efficiency of American vehicles could easily double in every class. The benefits for the environment would be incalculable, they say, and the burden on industry would be negligible. But with Detroit's Representative charing the House Energy Committee, those changes are extremely unlikely. [Treehugger]

    The Energy Department has agreed to boost energy efficiency requirements for nearly two dozen household appliances and equipment from dishwashers to fluorescent lamps as part of a court settlement after years of inaction. The new standards will be phased in over the next five years.
    Critics of the Bush administration's energy efficiency efforts said some of the standards have been long overdue. The lawsuit charged that the Energy Department was 13 years late in meeting a number of the requirements, although Congress required that appliance standards be updated. [Newsday]

  • How about a few tons of carbon dioxide in your stocking this Christmas?

    It's just what some environmentally conscious people might be dreaming of: a gift certificate for 10 tons of carbon-based gas and the promise that someone else won't puff the globe-warming stuff into the atmosphere.

    They're called "carbon offsets," based on the idea that individual consumers can make up for the amount of greenhouse gas they produce in everyday life by paying someone else to cut back. And they might be the next big thing in eco-friendly marketing, especially with concern about climate change going mainstream. [Seattle Times]

  • James Inhofe, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, is spending his last days in power attacking a children’s book on climate change. The book, published by the United Nations in March, is “based on the theme of climate change and on what children can do to mitigate effects of climate change.” Inhofe’s staff breathlessly notes, “The book features colorful drawings and large text to appeal to young children.” [ThinkProgress]

BushCo's Wars
  • Gunmen wearing Iraqi police commando uniforms kidnapped up to 150 staff and visitors in a lightning raid on a government research institute in downtown Baghdad on Tuesday, the largest mass abduction since the start of the U.S. occupation. Iraq's higher education minister immediately ordered all universities closed until security improvements are made, saying he was "not ready to see more professors get killed." [WaPo]

  • US General John Abizaid met Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, pressing him for a practical plan on deploying the new Iraqi army against the guerrilla movement, and cautioning him to disband the Mahdi Army militia and give proof of progress on that score. Al-Maliki has said repeatedly that he disagrees with the Americans that the Mahdi Army is the main problem in Iraq, and wants to focus on fighting the Sunni Arab guerrillas. (Al-Maliki has a point. I'd say that the Sunni Arab fighters are responsible for the vast majority of attacks in Iraq). [Juan Cole's Informed Comment]

  • To the ever-lenthening list of violent ways in which Iraqi citizens are losing their lives, add "legitimate", government-sponsored executions. Dozens of Iraqis convicted of murder and kidnapping have been hung in the past year, and "two or three more batches of 14 or 15 each" are slated for the noose in coming months, Time magazine reports. Those are just the ones the government acknowledges; according to an aide to the Prime Minister, there have been several sets of off-the-record hangings as well. [MoJo Blog]

Domestic Potpourri
  • Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), a close White House ally and a Cuban American, has agreed to become the next general chairman of the Republican National Committee. [...] The selection of Martinez was a setback for Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who last week lost a Senate race and who has expressed interest in the job. [WaPo]

  • Could it be that this incident played a part in the decision?
    The six Trailways motorcoaches draped in Ehrlich and Steele campaign banners rumbled down Interstate 95 just before dawn on Election Day.

    On board, 300 mostly poor African Americans from Philadelphia ate doughnuts, sipped coffee and prepared to spend the day at the Maryland polls. After an early morning greeting from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s wife, Kendel, they would fan out in white vans across Prince George's County and inner-city Baltimore, armed with thousands of fliers that appeared to be designed to trick black Democrats into voting for the two Republican candidates.

    The glossy fliers bore photos of black Democratic leaders on the front. Under the headline "Democratic Sample Ballot" were boxes checked in red for Ehrlich and Senate candidate Michael S. Steele, who were not identified as Republicans. Their names were followed by a long list of local Democratic candidates.

    The sad thing is this isn't the first time Ehrlich tried this; read the rest of the WaPo story.

  • Martinez already has, in his two-year career as a senator, a veritable list of political missteps. It was, after all, his office that produced the infamous Terri Schiavo talking-points memo that misspelled Schiavo's name before giving a series of debating points and calling legislation on the brain-dead and vegetative Schiavo's right to die "a great political issue." (Astute readers will remember that one didn't turn out so well, as the Schiavo issue backfired for the Republicans amid public opinion opposing their stand on the debate.) [Salon's War Room]

  • Check out S.R. Sidarth's piece in the WaPo, I Am Macaca:
    On that day in Breaks Interstate Park, located on the Kentucky border, Allen acknowledged my presence for the first time in one of his stump speeches. I was singled out at a GOP picnic, identified as "macaca or whatever his name is" -- despite the fact that Allen knew my name, as we had been traveling the same route for five days -- and then "welcome[d] to America and the real world of Virginia."
    The larger question that this experience brings up is: How far has society progressed on the issues of race and openness? By 2050, according to most projections, the United States will be a minority-majority nation. But the fact that Allen believed I was an immigrant, when in fact I am a native Virginian, underlines the problems our society still faces.

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