Friday, September 24, 2010
During this time of economic anxiety, the growth of companies involved in clean energy has been a small but significant bright spot in Fort Wayne and throughout Indiana.
National news outlets took note when Italian and German wind companies announced they would open manufacturing plants in Muncie, and more recently when Abound Solar declared it would be setting up shop in Tipton County.
In Fort Wayne, we are also seeing clean energy success stories. WaterFurnace International is creating jobs manufacturing environmentally friendly geothermal heating and cooling systems. And ITT Geospatial Systems is making climate and environmental monitoring sensors that help businesses and governments predict weather and climate-change patterns.
A new report released by the Apollo Alliance in mid-August shows that these success stories could become even more commonplace if the U.S. implemented strong clean-energy and climate-change policies. According to the report, a combination of the right energy policies could create up to 117,000 jobs in Indiana by 2030—that’s a big number, considering that Hoosiers are still suffering from an unemployment rate that’s higher than 10 percent.
What are the right energy policies? The report looks at the job-creation potential of a bill called the Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology Act, which would support domestic manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars and other clean-energy products. It finds that IMPACT would create up to 50,000 jobs in Indiana over 10 years.
The report also looks at the jobs impact of a renewable energy standard of 25 percent by 2025 and finds that with stronger domestic supply chains to ensure that American workers – rather than overseas ones – meet the new demand created by the standard, this policy could create up to 39,000 manufacturing jobs here by 2025.
In the area of clean automobiles and trucks – key to Indiana’s future because of our long and rich history as an auto manufacturing state – the report finds that improved vehicle efficiency standards paired with investments in domestic advanced vehicle manufacturing could create up to 19,000 manufacturing jobs in Indiana by 2020.
Finally, the report evaluates a cap on carbon emissions combined with strong energy efficiency standards, and finds that these policies would create more than 7,000 jobs in the Hoosier state by 2030.
One of the most exciting aspects of the report is that it finds that a large number of the clean-energy jobs created will be in manufacturing. This makes sense, because we have an experienced manufacturing workforce and far too many vacant manufacturing facilities that could be retooled for clean-energy production. Manufacturing jobs tend to be high-paying and include benefits.
Unfortunately, there is also bad news. The Senate wasn’t able to pass any clean energy policies during its summer session. So for Indiana workers and businesses to see the clean-energy job creation our state so desperately needs, we are going to need to push our senators to make another attempt to pass clean-energy and climate policies this fall. It won’t be easy, especially during an election season, but Indiana workers, businesses and our economy can’t wait another year or longer without strong national clean-energy and climate policies.
Andrea Alderson-Bazemore is coordinator of the Indiana Apollo Alliance, a coalition of businesses, labor unions, environmental organizations and community groups that advocates for clean energy. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.
In a recent email, they link to a series of videos providing information in retro-fitting a 100-year-old home with a goal of creating a net-zero home --
The folks at GreenovationTV and Old House Web are working on a net-zero energy renovation of a 100-year-old home. Through the process, they're posting helpful videos, including this one on insulating uninsulated spaces. This kind of information is on the money for anyone living in an existing home, especially if you're like me and you own an old house from 1958!
According to the Department of Energy, having the right insulation system is "one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to use a whole-house approach to reduce energy waste and make the most of your energy dollars."
In the above video, for example, the house has no attic insulation (other than a layer of old newspapers), no wall insulation, and insufficient basement insulation. To rectify the insulation situation, a team seals all the air leaks, adds blown cellulose to the attic and wall cavities, and applies spray foam to leaky areas in the basement.
You may be wondering how to add insulation to uninsulated walls. Here, the contractor removes a single piece of siding and fills each cavity with the cellulose. Certainly, if you're replacing old siding, it would be a good idea to add insulation at the same time.
If you're not sure how much insulation is necessary, check out this Zip Code Insulation Calculator provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Also, keep in mind that you may be entitled to various federal, state, and local incentives for adding insulation to your home.
This is the job creation initiative we need to move Americans forward, protect and create American manufacturing jobs, and create energy security.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced stand-alone renewable energy legislation. The bill's lead co-sponsors, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D. - New Mexico), Tom Udall (D. - New Mexico) and Sam Brownback (R. - Kansas), say it will require utilities to generate 15 percent of their energy from renewables by 2021. Wind, solar, ocean, geothermal, biomass, new hydropower, and landfill-generated methane would be considered renewable sources, and states would be allowed to meet more than a quarter of the requirements through energy efficiency efforts. The bill now has four Republican co-sponsors: Brownback (R-KS), John Ensign (R-NV), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Brownback says he believes the support of several more Republicans can be rounded up. Yesterday Democrats Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Jon Tester (D.-MT) signed on to support the bill, which now has 25 supporters.
A group of 21 businesses, labor unions, think tanks, and advocacy groups recently released an RES Action Statement, calling on the Senate to approve a clean energy standard immediately in order to prevent a renewables industry slowdown and stem the flow of clean energy capital and jobs from the U.S. to China. "If we wait another year," said a senior vice president for Iberdrola Renewables, "we're going to lose a lot."
In fact, this Wednesday, Ravi Viswanathan of the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associated testified in Congress that the US has lost its leadership to China, Japan, and Germany in clean energy manufacturing and deployment, and is challenged and threatened by emerging economies such as India, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines. "These nations have outpaced the US in recruiting, incenting, and developing domestic manufacturing of solar, wind, and battery technology, Viswanathan said. "As one example, the US's market share for solar manufacturing has fallen from 45 percent in the mid 1990's to roughly 5 percent today."
American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode called the proposed renewable energy standard "modest," but said the RES is the "single most important thing we can do to grow jobs here in the United States and keep 85,000 American wind energy workers on the job. This bill sends a signal to manufacturers that the time is right to invest in and grow their operations here in America."
Passing a renewable energy standard has become a rallying point for a broad spectrum of U.S. labor, business, and environmental interests. According to a recent RES Alliance For Jobs study, an RES of 25 percent would generate 274, 000 new American jobs. Although many states already have renewable or alternative energy standards higher than 15 percent (see map of states), the legislation will be particularly important for states like Indiana and several Southeastern states that have no policies to generate demand for renewable energy.
The Apollo Alliance views the passage of a national RES as an important first step in ensuring that the U.S. remains a competitor in the race to lead the global clean energy economy while creating good American jobs.
Senators looking for inspiration in drumming up support for a federal standard need look no further than California, where regulators moved to strengthen the state's existing RES yesterday. The Golden State, which now has the strongest RES in the nation, will require utilities to generate 33 percent of their electricity through renewables by 2020. The change marks a 13 percent increase over the state's previous standard. "This standard is going to further diversify and secure our energy supply while also growing California's leading green technology market, which will lead to cost savings for consumers," said Mary D. Nichols of the California Air resources Board, which voted unanimously in support of the new regulation.
Infamous Koch Brothers Join Big Oil's Effort to Derail California's Landmark Global Warming Law By Supporting Prop 23
Many Americans had never heard of the Koch brothers before the New Yorker published an expose in late August about their funding of the Tea Party movement. According to New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer, the billionaire Koch brothers-whose company, Koch Industries of Wichita, Kansas, owns oil refineries and oil pipelines, and produces such products as Dixie cups and and Lycra-are stalwart funders and supporters of libertarian causes, especially the cause of eliminating environmental regulations.
Now the Koch brothers have joined the effort by Texas oil giants Valero and Tesoro to stop the implementation of California's landmark climate and clean energy bill, AB 32. They have contributed $1 million to Proposition 23, a ballot measure that would stop AB 32 from going into effect. Prop 23's main funders are Valero and Tesoro.
If these oil interests succeed in derailing AB 32, it will be a blow not only to California but to the entire country. AB 32 is a model clean energy and climate law that will reduce California greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It includes such measures as a renewable energy standard; strict building and appliance energy efficiency standards; GHG emissions standards for passenger vehicles; a low-carbon fuel standard; a plan for high-speed rail between Northern and Southern California; a cap and trade program, in collaboration with other Western U.S. states and Canadian provinces; and many other measures in areas including land use, industrial energy efficiency, agriculture, forests, recycling and waste, and water. Click here to learn more about AB 32.
Luckily, many businesses, labor unions, environmental groups and community organizations are lining up against Prop 23, including energy companies like PG&E and Sempra. Additionally, this week, Republican candidate for governor of California, Meg Whitman, has announced that she will oppose Prop 23, although she still says she would suspend AB 32 for one year if elected. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown opposes Prop 23 and supports full implementation of AB 32.
The California Apollo Alliance strongly backs AB 32 and has released a California Apollo Program (http://apolloalliance.org/programs/caap/) that calls for reinforcing and expanding the state's commitment to clean energy at a time when AB 32 is under attack, and clean energy job growth is one of the few bright spots in California's struggling economy.
"We can't afford to quit on California's best opportunity to create jobs and ensure a more prosperous decade-expansion of California's clean energy economy," said Lisa Hoyos, California coordinator of the Apollo Alliance.
Click here to find out more about the campaign to stop Prop 23 and here to learn about the California Apollo Program.
In other news …
*Check out our op-ed in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Andrea Alderson-Bazemore, Apollo's Indiana coordinator, penned an op-ed about clean energy job creation that was published this week in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. She wrote, "For Indiana workers and businesses to see the clean-energy job creation our state so desperately needs, we are going to need to push our senators to make another attempt to pass clean-energy and climate policies this fall. It won't be easy, especially during an election season, but Indiana workers, businesses and our economy can't wait another year or longer without strong national clean-energy and climate policies." Click here to read the op-ed
*Join the Apollo Alliance team as a Senior Policy Associate! The Apollo Alliance is seeking a skilled, experienced, policy and research expert with a background and interest in energy policy and economic development to work closely with the Policy Director and senior staff in a fast-paced environment. This position is an excellent opportunity for a highly talented and experienced professional who is committed to clean energy and social equity issues and wants to work in a high-caliber, results-oriented non-profit policy organization. For more information, check out the job announcement. ().
You can keep track of the quickening pace of state and federal action on clean energy policy on our Apollo Blog and Daily Digest.
And how about joining us on Twitter?
Take care and talk to you again next week.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
This spectacular photo by Luca Galuzzi highlights a incredible landscape that is breathtaking and a national treasure.
USA 10654 Bryce Canyon Luca Galuzzi 2007.jpg
This file was a candidate in Picture of the Year 2007.
So, it was dismaying to receive this from NRDC:
Stop the proposed Alton strip mine
Every year, thousands of visitors to Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah experience the park's unforgettable rock formations, panoramic views, pristine air and clear night skies. But now that Utah regulators have approved a proposed strip mine near the park, that unique visitor experience could soon become a thing of the past. The Alton Development Company has plans to strip coal from 600 acres of private lands adjacent to Bryce Canyon, producing two million tons of coal annually, and is hoping to eventually expand the project to thousands of acres of surrounding federal land in southern Utah. Local residents, conservation groups and tourists are concerned about the potential air and noise pollution from the mine, especially in such close proximity to the national park. Several environmental groups including NRDC have appealed the state's approval of the mine's permit. A decision on the appeal by the Utah Board of Oil, Mining and Gas is expected soon. In the meantime, urge Utah Governor Gary Herbert to drop his support for the mine.
Tell Governor Herbert to reject the Alton strip mine.
Do we have to allow Big Dirty Energy to destroy everything?
In response to an email sent to Congressman Barney Frank, the response below was received.
The Congressman has always been responsive and supportive of important environmental issues and is to be applauded!
Thank you for contacting me in opposition to dumping industrial and mining waste into American waterways. I agree with you and have cosponsored legislation, the Clean Water Protection Act (H.R. 2179), to prohibit this practice and curtail mountaintop removal mining. In contrast to the regrettable actions of Bush administration officials with regards to this issue, I have been pleased with steps that the current EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, has taken to decrease water pollution caused by the mining industry. I have cosigned a letter to Administrator Jackson commending her initiatives, and I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress towards passage of the Clean Water Protection Act moving forward. I have enclosed the text of the letter for your review.
Thank you again for contacting me.
The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Jackson,
We write in support of the actions that the Environmental Protection Agency has taken recently to protect the public and the environment from the devastating effects of surface coal mining in Appalachia. Although we continue to support Congressional action to pass the Clean Water Protection Act as the ultimate protection against mountaintop removal and valley fills, the interim administration actions that the EPA has taken under your leadership represent significant progress for communities struggling in the shadow of mining and for the environment.
As you know, surface mining in the steep slopes of Appalachia has disrupted the biological integrity of an area about the size of Delaware, buried approximately 2,000 miles of streams with mining waste, and contaminated downstream areas with toxic and bioaccumulative selenium. Protections required by federal laws, such as the Clean Water Act, were not enforced, and key rules, such as the Clean Water Act's definition of fill material, were changed for the benefit of the coal mining industry.
The guidance your agency issued on April 1 for improving EPA review of surface mining operations under the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Environmental Justice Executive Order marks a long-needed assertion of EPA oversight based on recent, peer-reviewed research. When scientific research shows that surface mining routinely violates downstream water quality standards, it is critical for EPA to ensure that states and mining companies are aware of the pollution levels that cause harm, that discharge permits incorporate adequate safeguards, and that the permits are enforced.
We are also pleased that EPA's guidance commits to ensure that potential impacts on low-income Appalachian communities are considered in permit decision-making processes. This action will breathe life into the long-overlooked Executive Order 12898, which requires federal agencies to make environmental justice part of their mission.
In addition to this policy guidance, we applaud EPA's proposed veto of the Clean Water Act permit for Spruce No. 1 Mine in West Virginia. One of the largest surface mines in Appalachia, it would bury more than seven miles of headwater streams, directly impact 2,278 acres of forestland, and degrade water quality in streams adjacent to the mine. This proposed veto, an extremely rare action in the history of the Clean Water Act, demonstrates the EPA's seriousness in curtailing mountaintop removal.
The ultimate success of the new guidance depends upon effective implementation by EPA and its regional offices. Mining companies and some state agencies may reject this guidance, but we strongly urge the EPA to carry it out aggressively. In addition Congress must act to pass laws, such as the Clean Water Protection Act, which makes these protections more permanent. Nothing less will protect Appalachia from the devastation of mountaintop removal mining.
We appreciate the strong leadership you have shown in basing EPA's new policies soundly on the latest science and taking action needed to implement the nation's environmental and public health laws.
FRANK PALLONE, BARNEY FRANK
Instead of sensible solutions, like "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," the Trash Vultures proclaim a New Alchemy that promises what goes in will be rendered miraculously harmless.
But, not to fret. One is coming to a neighborhood near you!
Currently proposed - Somerset, Taunton, Attleboro and others.
Ah...the plot thickens when one considers that Nantucket recycles 91% of their trash, but not so others.
Links posted here: Talking Trash Tuesday, Sept. 21 and MassDEP provide more information than you'd never want to know.
2008 is the latest calendar year for which recycling figures are available and provides some promising and some dismal figures:
East Longmeadow 65%
Fall River 12%
New Bedford 18%
This provides some local insight: Growing Rats Nest
During the DEP Hearing, many of the speakers protested the failure of Beacon Hill to pass an expanded bottle bill.
It seems that lobbyists for the beverage industry have kept the bill bottled up in committee [pardon the pun].
Not one person in the room opposed an expansion of the bottle deposit and quite the contrary, protested the waste and rubbish caused by the failure of Beacon Hill to do what's right for consumers and taxpayers.
If we can't get this sensible legislation passed, maybe it's time for new leadership that stops genuflecting before lobbyists.
I'll post additional information as time allows, but would note that listening to such informed and knowledgeable residents of this wonderful area was inspiring.
Not only did they understand the issues, they knew about the loopholes that require correction.
Just as we witnessed the "Casino Vultures" circling Beacon Hill, so too are the "Trash Vultures." [Hint: you can tell them by the suits they wear.]
Below is inspiring testimony offered at the hearing:
My name is marty driggs. I'm a Community Mobilization Leader with the New Bedford POWER project - People Organizing for Wealth and Ecological Restoration. We are local New Bedford residents who are dedicated to helping our fellow community members restore the equity, economy, and ecology of our area and our Nation.
Let me start by saying, combustion of any kind is a foolish band-aid of a non-solution. We have no way to capture the carbon dioxide that will inevitably be dumped into our common atmosphere. What about greenhouse gases?! We are in a state of climate emergency! Carbon dioxide levels are higher than they've been in the past 900,000 years! Leading NASA scientist, James Hansen told us in a peer-reviewed journal in January 2008 that [in order to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted we must maintain atmospheric carbon dioxide below 350 ppm.] We are currently at 392 ppm. So clearly, any proposed solution that includes combustion is not only a false solution, but a big problem.
Further, the introduction of plasma gassification into the mix of proposed solutions for our waste problems provides a cracked door for Dirty old King Coal to insert his dirty foot. Plasma gassification of trash is just one step away from coal plasma gassification, bringing with it the dirty Death Cycle of coal; mountaintop removal coal mining and other forms of strip mining which are sacrificing communities and ecosystems across Southern Appalachia and many areas of the global South.
Now, if I may expand our level of perception just a bit: As a world, as a species, we've found ourselves in quite a sticky situation. Our habits, and most significantly, our economic model, has systematically destabilized and dismantled the very life support systems of our planet which allow us to live here in the first place.
I would like to offer my vision, or rather my prediction for the future: If, in 10 years, there is even a global economy to speak of, we will have eliminated the very idea of waste. Like Julia Butterfly Hill says, "There is no away." Further, the concept of "waste" is purely a human construct. In Nature, there is no such thing as waste. "Waste" is simply a resource out of place (and I'm not talking about a resource for combustion).
If we are going to rely on market forces, that is, if capitalism has any hope of evolving from a life-destroying construct to one which honors and enriches our lives, then we have to talk about extending producer responsibilities. The DEP master plan makes mention of "extended producer responsibilities" but lacks any teeth and is clearly not a priority. If we are going to have the kind of systemic change we need in order to avoid GLOBAL SUICIDE, we must make this a legislative priority. We must internalize the true cost of products (including recycling). We have to create market incentives to eliminate the production of toxins and make products more easily recyclable.
Massachusetts has the opportunity to lead the way in this effort, and we should cooperate with other states to codify the law to create cradle-to-cradle production and UPcycling streams. We have the opportunity to transform this economy from one dependent upon ever increasing amounts of energy, dependent upon high consumption and throughput, and implicitly, high waste, to one which is life-honoring and sustainable. Finally, we have the timely opportunity to create good, green jobs for the people of the commonwealth.
In conclusion, we need a more holistic perspective if we're going to solve this problem. We must address the root causes of our global conundrum. As Einstein put it, "the solution will not be created by the same frame of mind which created the problem in the first place."
To bring it back to tangible demands. We need stronger legislative provisions, with sharper teeth, and less loopholes, which serve the people and NOT the corporate interests and their predatory agendas. We must create an economy that is not only waste-free, but free of the very idea of "waste."
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
It has been widely acknowledged by many scientists that we have delayed too long addressing attempts to reduce our carbon production and the best we can expect is to reduce or delay the worst effects.
The Brothers Koch and AB 32
Published: September 20, 2010
Four years ago, bipartisan majorities in the California Legislature approved a landmark clean energy bill that many hoped would serve as a template for a national effort to reduce dependence on foreign oil and mitigate the threat of climate change.
Now a well-financed coalition of right-wing ideologues, out-of-state oil and gas companies and climate-change skeptics is seeking to effectively kill that law with an initiative on the November state ballot. The money men include Charles and David Koch, the Kansas oil and gas billionaires who have played a prominent role in financing the Tea Party movement.
The 2006 law, known as AB 32, is aimed at reducing California’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 percent at midcentury. To reach these targets, state agencies are drawing up regulations that would affect businesses and consumers across the board — requiring even cleaner cars, more energy-efficient buildings and appliances, and power plants that use alternative energy sources like wind instead of older fossil fuels.
The prospect that these rules could reduce gasoline consumption strikes terror into some energy companies. A large chunk of the $8.2 million raised in support of the ballot proposition has come from just two Texas-based oil and gas companies, Valero and Tesoro, which have extensive operations in California. The Koch brothers have contributed about $1 million, partly because they worry about damage to the bottom line at Koch Industries, and also because they believe that climate change is a left-wing hoax.
They have argued that the law will lead to higher energy costs and job losses, arguments that resonate with many voters in a state with a 12.4 percent unemployment rate. But this overlooks the enormous increase in investments in clean energy technologies — and the jobs associated with them — since the law was passed.
It's curious to note that states with legalized SLOTS seem to have unemployment higher than Massachusetts and deficits that are larger than Massachusetts, something that appears to be more than coincidence.
Overturning AB 32 would be another setback in the effort to fight climate change. The United States Senate has already scuttled President Obama’s goal of putting a price on carbon. The Environmental Protection Agency, while important, can only do so much. This leaves state and regional efforts as crucially important drivers — and if California pulls back, other states like New York that are trying to reduce emissions may do so as well.
The Kochs and their allies are disastrously wrong about the science, which shows that man-made emissions are largely responsible for global warming, and wrong about the economics. AB 32’s many friends — led by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California — have therefore mounted a spirited counterattack in defense of the law.
Another respected Republican, George Shultz — a cabinet member in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations — has signed on as a co-chairman of this effort. Mr. Shultz credits AB 32 for an unprecedented “outburst” of technological creativity and investment.
Who wins if this law is repudiated? The Koch brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who are already moving briskly ahead in the clean technology race. And the losers? The people of California, surely. But the biggest loser will be the planet.
From Alan Khazei --
I apologize in advance for this mass email, but I wanted to thank you for your incredible support of my book launch. Thanks to so many of you, my book, Big Citizenship has made the "Boston Globe Best Sellers List"! I was skimming through the IDEAS section of the Globe yesterday and couldn't believe it when I saw Big Citizenship listed. After spending so much time on the book, it is still a little surreal for me to walk into bookstores and see it and realize that people are buying it and reading it.
I also want to thank everyone who has helped to make the launch of the book in just the past three weeks get off to such a great start. Here are just a few of the highlights.
*Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Barry Stein graciously hosted my very first book event on Martha's Vineyard with help from Phyllis Segal and others. PlumTV video'd the party and Bunch of Grapes sold the books.
*Brookline Booksmith hosted a book event and had C-Span there filming.
*Arianna Huffington and I did a joint book event at Suffolk Law School.
*City Year hosted an event with Boston's non-profit leaders that was a huge success.
*David and Katherine Bradley and Steve and Jean Case hosted a terrific book event in DC. They even had an orange drink called, "The Big Citizen".
*John Podesta at the Center for American Progress hosted a lunch discussion with me to talk about Big Citizenship. Click here to see the video of the discussion.
*This upcoming week I will be at Brandeis, with Kennedy School Alumni and then the Big Citizenship book tour heads to NYC and the West Coast for a series of events.
Check out the website at www.bigcitizenship.us to find out more about future events and press the book has gotten.
Again, thank you so much for all of your support. I am deeply grateful.
P.S. Don't forget you can tell someone they are a Big Citizen by sending them an e-card. Go to http://www.bigcitizenship.us/ to send.
It is wonderful to see the stories of so many terrific people who are making a difference.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Not so the U.S.!
Wealthy Dirty Energy Folks have funded campaigns, spread misinformation and opposed change.
Koch, among others, has opposed Cape Wind.
The articles below provide interesting insight:
How billionaires bagged the tea party
The Brothers Koch: Rich, Political And Playing To Win
The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.
Alexander criticized Democrats' for proposing billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy -- but he failed to note that nuclear power is already
the most heavily subsidized industry in the energy sector.
In 2005, Congress handed the
nuclear power industry $13 billion in federal aid,
and two years later went on to approve
an additional $20.5 billion in loan guarantees,
making U.S. taxpayers the cosigners on loans for new nuclear projects --
half of which are expected to end in defaults.
Taxpayers and ratepayers have also forked over
$11 billion for the Yucca Mountain high-level waste disposal dump,
which the Obama administration recently scrapped over concerns about long-term safety.
In October 2007, Moody’s Investor Services piled on with a report projecting that new reactors would cost $5,000 to $6,000 per kilowatt to build, or up to $12 billion per unit.
...Moody’s, ... now predicts
new nuclear power plants will cost $7,500 per kilowatt to build.
That’s more than double the capital costs for solar power and three and a half times the cost for wind.
So, in other words, Charlie Baker is just another Reactionary Republican who supports Big Dirty Business. Screw the taxpayers and ratepayers. Pity!
Baker blasts Cape Wind, pushes pension reform
By George Brennan
September 18, 2010
HYANNIS — Gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker said yesterday he would do everything in his power to block Cape Wind if he is elected.
In a meeting with the Times editorial board, the Swampscott Republican became animated talking about the cost of the wind turbine project planned for Nantucket Sound.
More Times coverage of the proposed Cape wind farmSee more political coverageCape Wind is "unaffordable, inappropriate and the wrong way to go," Baker said. "I don't think the project is a good idea, and I will use whatever means I have to continue my opposition to it."
Gov. Deval Patrick has been a strong supporter of Cape Wind.
A proposal by National Grid to purchase some of the electricity generated by the wind power project is before the state Department of Public Utilities. Under the deal, Cape Wind would sell half the power from the 130-turbine project to National Grid for 18.7 cents per kilowatt-hour in the first year of the 15-year contract, with a 3.5-percent annual escalation rate.
When spread over all of the utility's customers, the additional cost for the average residential customer in the first year would be about $1.50 per month, according to National Grid's calculations. The DPU could make a decision on the deal sometime in November.
"If the Patrick administration had spent half the time on Hydro Quebec and working with the other New England governors as he did on Cape Wind, we'd be in a better place," Baker said.
A spokesman for Cape Wind called Baker's comments "irresponsible."
"Charlie Baker's stated preference is to buy far away wind power that creates no jobs here, that doesn't stimulate the local economy, and that to fully build out would require billions of dollars of electric transmission, which doesn't make it cheaper," Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said.
Baker also criticized the cost to dismantle the wind turbines if the project went defunct. He referenced the hulking, rusting obsolete structures in Mel Gibson's "Mad Max" movies as an image he could envision in the Sound.
The Boston Herald has reported that it would cost $66 million to dismantle the turbines.
Did the same article balk that Entergy lacks adequate funds for decommissioning?
Cape Wind will set aside money for decommissioning, Rodgers said. "For years, project opponents have irresponsibly complained that there is no decommissioning plan," he said. "Cape Wind will be required to pay the money."
After the official Times editorial board meeting with Baker ended, he again brought the discussion back to Cape Wind, saying he's not sure the DPU will finish its review of the project before the election in November.
But even if it does, there are enough lawsuits in place to give him a chance to block the project, he said.
At one point, Baker pointed his finger like a gun at his temple in response to a question about green energy and whether that's where new job growth can come from in the Bay State.
Instead, he said, Cape Wind will only serve to further hurt small business owners who will see their electric rates rise. "Let's do what we can to help the small businesses that are here to see if we can help them expand," he said.
In his hour-plus interview with the editorial board, Baker also touched on the need for state pension reform. The former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO said he would require state employees with less than 10 years service to cover the cost of their retirements, cap pensions at $90,000 and stop the practice of state employees moving from one union to another to beef up their pension checks.
"People feel like there are two sets of rules, one for regular people and one for people on Beacon Hill or in government," Baker said.
He also pledged support for Republican Jeffrey Perry in the 10th Congressional District race, despite illegal strip searches conducted by an officer under Perry's command when he was a Wareham police sergeant.
"I support the ticket," he said. "The voters here in this district are going to make the call on who the next congressman will be."
Other issues touched on during the hour-plus session included taxes, ways to improve the state's health care system by giving individuals more options, making the costs of health care more transparent to patients, and reforming the distribution of state education aid.
"I've taken a no new taxes pledge, and I mean it," he said.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Global Horizons Indicted for Human Trafficking
Largest Case in US History
by Pratap Chatterjee
September 15th, 2010
In what federal officials described as the largest human-trafficking case ever brought by the government, Mordechai Orian, president and chief operating officer of Global Horizons, was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for "engaging in a conspiracy to commit forced labor and document servitude."
The alleged victims of the Los Angeles-based labor recruiter are some 400 Thai citizens who were brought to work on farms in the U.S. between May 2004 through September 2005. They were hired under H-2A visas which allow farm workers into the country for seasonal work.
In late 2006, after CorpWatch published an article and a cartoon about the recruitment and abuse of Thai farm workers, Orian sued the non-profit. Orian stated that our reporter, Kari Lydersen was "part of (a) campaign against the H-2A program and [was trying] to protect illegal immigrant and the legal groups who stand to profit from the representation of illegal aliens." CorpWatch refused to retract the article or the cartoon but the two parties came to an out-of-court settlement in April 2007 to correct a few disputed facts in the story. No money was paid by either side.
Orian, himself an immigrant from Israel, was formally charged on September 1st along with five others -- Pranee Tubchumpol, Shane Germann and Sam Wongsesanit of Global Horizons Manpower Inc. as well as Thai labor recruiters Ratawan Chunharutai and Podjanee Sinchai. Federal agents raided Orian's Malibu home at dawn the next day only to discover that he was in Texas.
On September 2nd, Orian "deceived and evaded federal FBI agents for approximately 24 hours by providing sporadic, misleading, and conflicting information concerning his location, willingness to surrender in Dallas, and failing to report," government lawyers stated in documents filed with the federal court. They further charged that Orian "flew to Hawaii on another flight to avoid contact with federal agents at the airport."
Today Orian is sitting in a Honolulu jail awaiting Judge Leslie Kobayashi's decision on a government request to deny Orian's release on $1 million bail secured on his exclusive West Moonshadows Drive home in Malibu. Susan Cushman, assistant U.S. Attorney for Hawaii, has filed documents stating that Orian is a flight risk, noting that he had used 26 different aliases and four different Social Security numbers in the past. "The Pretrial Services' report found the defendant posed a risk of danger to the community because of the nature of the offense and similar allegations in Israel and Canada," wrote Cushman.
Multiple Court Cases
Cushman's request to keep Orian locked up until trial also described numerous violations of the law, according to a filing delivered to the Honolulu court on September 9.
The documents show that in 2000, Orian attempted to enter the U.S. from Mexico even though his visa had been revoked "based on false representations the Defendant made about his employment in Israel and the United States."
Cushman provided the court with a copy of a 2003 report, "Migrant Workers in Israel -- A Contemporary Form of Slavery," published the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and the International Federation for Human Rights. It states that Orian took $3,000 from each of 19 Chinese workers for the "privilege" of working in Israel for two years.
"By the end of February Mr. Orian owed each of the workers between 2-3 months wages," the report concluded. "Instead of paying the workers, he sent ten armed guards to surprise the workers in their sleep, beat them and drive them to the airport, where they were forcibly deported."
In another document filed by Cushman, U.S. Department of Labor Judge William Dorsey concluded on November 30, 2006, that Global Horizons Manpower, Inc. had "willfully and fraudulently represented it had contracts with Taft Farms" [in Bakersfield, California] to obtain visas for more than 200 workers between August 1, 2003 and April 30, 2004 under the H-2A program. The non-immigrant visas, granted to more than 50,000 temporary farm laborers in 2007, are a mainstay -- along with undocumented labor -- of the U.S. agricultural system.
Dorsey found that the company had neither a contract nor jobs for the 200 workers. Unable to find them paid employment, Global Horizons fired the workers "for poor performance, when in fact, they were terminated for lack of work," Dorsey wrote in his final decision. He ordered that Orian be barred for three years from bringing guest workers into the U.S.
On September 7, 2007, Philipda Modrakee, a U.S. Department of Labor investigator, filed a report on 156 Global Horizons workers employed at the Maui Pineapple Farm in Hawaii. Modrakee estimated that Global Horizons owed $459,256 in fines for failure to pay wages at the minimum rate and on time, for illegally deducting money from the workers' pay checks for housing, and for failing to provide them with transportation to their work sites.
Immigration attorney Melissa Vincenty of Honolulu, who is representing 80 clients with claims against Global Horizon, told the Maui News last week that the company had confiscated the workers' passports and visas. "It is called document servitude," Vincenty told the newspaper, noting that passports are required for travel between the islands that make up the state of Hawaii.
Orian bought a twin-engine aircraft for inter-island transport of the Thai workers, thereby avoiding the necessity of presenting identification/passport to government officials, according to the documents filed before the court. Cushman noted that the airplane was recently seized as evidence.
Orian has drawn legal scrutiny in other states and nations. On July 2, 2008, Judge James Hutton in the Eastern District Court, ordered Orian to appear before his court in Spokane, Washington to explain why Global Horizons had failed to pay multiple court fines running into thousands of dollars. At the hearing Orian testified that the company was insolvent, although the court found that seven employees, including Orian, were still being paid salaries.
On July 29, 2009, immigration judge Christine Bither ordered Orian, who is an Israeli citizen, deported from the U.S. for falsely claiming five times to be a U.S. citizen when signing documents to hire farm workers under the H-2A visa program. Finally, Cushman provided the court with a March 26, 2010 ruling by Judge John Madden IV in Denver, Colorado, ordering Global Horizons to pay a Nepali man named Rajan Gurung $108,257 to settle a dispute over the hiring of 24 workers from Nepal. In 2008, Gurung said he paid Global Horizons Canada $72,000 to arrange work visas for the 24 people in Canada, but that the company was unable to produce any evidence that it had actually applied for the visas.
Instead, Orian appeared before the court and claimed that he had not applied for the visas because all the workers had the same last name, Gurung, which indicated a potential violation of Canadian immigration law that does not allow family members to be employed in temporary jobs. (Gurung is one of the most common family names in Nepal.) Madden found Orian's claim to be without merit and ordered him to repay Gurung with interest as well as pay his court costs.
Responding to the Government
It was against this history of questionable dealings that Orian's attorney Mark Werksman, asked for his client to be released on bail. Werksman's September 10 filing presented a series of arguments and documents to prove that his client was not a flight risk.
For example, Werksman says that the 2009 deportation order was being appealed and that his client, "a busy business owner" had inadvertently checked boxes claiming to be a citizen. Werksman also noted that since Orian was "vigorously" contesting the deportation order, he was not a flight risk. Rather, he had a "desperate yearning to remain in the United States."
The 26 alleged aliases (such as O'Ryan and Moty) were "insignificant misspellings or typographical errors," Werksman said,
"The government appears to be asking the court to detain Mr. Orian because it thinks he is a bad employer and a chronic lawbreaker and deserves to be punished," wrote Werksman. "There is no evidence of this outside of the government's cherry-picked examples of adverse administrative rulings." And the government's immigration and labor bureaucracies are bound to have "disagreements, legal snafus and paperwork hassles."
Orian never intended to deceive the FBI, but simply took a lower-priced flight to Hawaii Werksman says. "What Mr. Orian did not know, is that the FBI intended to make a high-profile arrest at the airport," he charges in the court documents.
This claim is backed up by Kara Lujan, a public relations executive who represents musicians including soul artist Kelly Price and the rhythm & blues band "Heads of State" who told CorpWatch that she negotiated Orian's "surrender with the FBI agent Tom Simon."
"He is not a flight risk, he is not a danger to society," Lujan told Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. "He pleaded not guilty on Friday, denying the charges. He never threatened Thai workers, never took their passports, and there is no evidence of that."
Werksman also submitted documents from Orian's friends. Lisa Machenberg, who lists herself as a certified hypotherapist, says that her son went to the same pre-school as Orian's son Dillon, and that she believes that Orian is a "fair and good man."
Thai Workers Stand Up
But while Cushman and Werksman were filing competing documents in Honolulu, some of Orian's former employees were playing out a parallel drama in Los Angeles.
There, on September 8, in front of the Wat Thai Buddhist temple some 25 Thai farm workers lined up wearing sunglasses, baseball caps, and traditional Thai scarves to disguise themselves for fear of retaliation, they said. One-by-one they told media assembled at a press conference organized by the Thai Community Development Center about their treatment at the hands of Global Horizons.
One 42-year-old man told reporters that recruiters promised him a fulltime job for $1,000 a month -- ten times more than he made as a rice farmer. The recruiters told that him that Global Horizons could find him work picking apples in Washington and pineapples in Hawaii. Lee, a pseudonym, arrived in Seattle on July 4, 2004 to discover that he would have to pay $18,000 to the recruiters.
"I thought I would find freedom and jobs here," Lee said at the news conference. "I thought the United States was a civilized nation, the highest in the world. I never imagined this kind of thing could happen here."
Like the Thai workers that CorpWatch reported on in our 2006 article who were housed in trailers and crowded motel rooms, Lee says he was housed in a wooden shack. Lee says he was also threatened with violence and deportation if he tried to escape or to speak to any outsiders. In September 2005, Lee says he escaped one night by running through pineapple fields.
Lee's story was confirmed by Chanchanit Martorell, Executive Director of the Thai Community Development Center. Martorell and her staff say they have interviewed more than 200 farmworkers and filed civil charges against Global Horizons. She noted that some of the farm workers were so badly treated that they had to survive on eating leaves from plants or fish they caught in a nearby river.
Damrong Kraikruan, the consul general of Thailand in Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times newspaper that Thailand had revoked Global Horizons' license to work there in 2005, and convicted one of the firm's Thai associates of operating a job procurement business without a license.
Jorge Guzman, of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also appeared at the Thai Community Development Center news conference to praise the organization for raising awareness about the problem. "Awareness is crucial to making this shameful practice a thing of the past," Guzman said, urging the public to report any suspicions about human trafficking.
The FBI says it is taking the Global Horizons case very seriously. "In the old days, they used to keep slaves in their place with whips and chains," FBI Special Agent Tom Simon told the Beverly Hills Courier. "Today, it is done with economic threats and intimidation."
* This article was produced in partnership with Inter Press Service News Agency. Pratap Chatterjee may be reached at “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Thursday, September 16, 2010
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is holding one more public hearing on their proposed Solid Waste Master Plan. 
It's no coincidence that we are still sending more than half our waste to landfills and incinerators. The Big Waste industry lobbyists are trying hard to uphold the status quo: burning and burying more than half the waste we generate in Massachusetts every year.
But now we have the opportunity to call for our state to reduce, reuse and recycle.
Next Tuesday, Sept. 21, DEP is holding a public hearing in Lakeville, for the sole purpose of letting the public speak about the 10-year Master Plan -- the blueprint for dealing with waste in Massachusetts.
Please come to DEP's public hearing in Lakeville and tell them you want the Master Plan to prioritize reduce/reuse/recycle, with a goal of zero waste.
As you may know, every year in Massachusetts, millions of tons of garbage are burned in incinerators or buried in landfills -- polluting our air and water, and wasting resources. We can do so much better.
The DEP has released the draft plan for 2010-2020. We know that the DEP needs to get much more ambitious about reduce/reuse/recycle, and now is our opportunity to raise our voices above the powerful special interests standing in the way.
Click below to find out more details about the hearing and RSVP if you can attend.
Janet S. Domenitz
MASSPIRG Executive Director
P.S. Thanks for your support. Please feel free to share this e-mail with your friends and family.
 You can read a draft of DEP's Solid Waste Master Plan here.