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We focus on energy policy and issues relating to climate change. Anyone may comment on an item; all views solely reflect the opinion of the author. Please email us if you have comments or questions.

Judge to Bush Administration: Do It Now!

A federal judge has ordered the Bush Administration to produce two reports on climate change mandated by Congress: one, a research plan guiding federal research, and the second, a national assessment on the effects of climate change on the nation's economy, environment, and public health. The first is supposed to be updated every 3 years, and was last done in 2003. The second is supposed to be done every 4 years, but was last done in 2000 by the Clinton Administration. The environmental groups that initiated the lawsuit are calling this a huge victory.

Eating local - not a panacea (but a good start)

lambs A recent NY Times op-ed pointed out that "eating local" doesn't necessarily yield the smallest carbon footprint. The piece was based on a recent study comparing the carbon footprint of lambs raised in New Zealand to those in Great Britain. The conclusion of the peer-reviewed study was that for UK consumers, the carbon footprint of New Zealand lamb was actually four times lower than British lamb, despite the fact that the NZ lamb must be shipped halfway around the world. The reason has to do with the less favorable climate and growing conditions in GB, which requires farmers to use feed. Similar figures were found for other produce and fruit. The gist of the study is that shipping distance is only one component of the carbon footprint of food. Other factors such as the use of fertilizer, feed, water, and pesticides may be equally or more important. Labeling food with "food miles", as proposed in the European Union, may give consumers misleading information as to the carbon footprint of different foods. A better solution is to use lifecycle analysis and perhaps develop some kind of scoring system. From a practical standpoint, global food networks are not going away. We are always going to want "exotic" spices and food that can't be grown locally. Many areas are simply too arid to be completely self-sufficient. Therefore, we should continue to encourage the growth of local food markets while striving to make our transportation systems more sustainable by increasing efficiencies and using alternative fuels.  

Big Stone II ruling out from MN Administrative Law Judges

The long awaited ruling from the Minnesota courts concerning the route permitting for transmission lines running from the Twin Cities to the Big Stone II project is out. From the ruling:    

Based upon the foregoing Conclusions, the Administrative Law Judges make the following:

RECOMMENDATION IT IS HEREBY RESPECTFULLY RECOMMENDED that:

16. The Commission GRANT the Applicants’ Petition for a Certificate of Need for the construction and operation of the Transmission Project.

17. The Commission ISSUE Routing Permits for the transmission lines (a 230 kV line from the South Dakota border to the Morris Substation and a 345 kV line from the South Dakota border to the Granite Falls Substation) along the route preferred by the Applicants and authorize construction of the lines, substations, and other associated facilities described in the applications, including a new site for the Canby Substation as described in the record.

18. The Commission consider imposing one or more of the conditions suggested by the Department.

19. The Commission consider requiring the Applicants to purchase a portion of their future energy and capacity needs from the Mesaba Project pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 216B.1694, subd. 2(a)(5).

20. The Commission find that the Final Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Department is adequate.

Dated: August 15, 2007

_________________________
STEVE M. MIHALCHICK
Administrative Law Judge

_________________________
BARBARA L. NEILSON
Administrative Law Judge

   

Minnesota could be headed for higher biodiesel mandate

Minnesota is already ahead of much of the nation with its current B2 mandate and if Pawlenty and Minnesota state legislators are of like minds, that mandate would gradually increase to B20 by 2015.    See http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/article.jsp?article_id=1763  

New Global Warming Website

Just saw today that the local Sierra Club chapter (the Northstar Chapter) has rolled out their new global warming website.

More Cowbell, Not More Coal!

Kelly just emailed us to alert us to a new coal plant proposed in South Dakota for Minnesota consumers.

The proposed project is called the NextGen Energy Facility. You can see Basin Electric Power Cooperative's service area map at this link.

All of the public scoping meetings for the project's Environmental Impact Statement are scheduled to be held in South Dakota, not in the states that Basin says would be markets for the power.

Badgersett Field Day!

Short Description: 

Come learn about woody agriculture and its possibilities!

Location: 

Badgersett Farm, 18606 Deer Rd, Canton, MN 55922 (Note: This is the mailing address - e.g. Canton is the nearest town with a post office. Badgersett is NOT in downtown Canton. Check the website or the directions below) Directions from the Cities: Take Hwy 52 S, past Rochester. Just outside of Preston, you will see a John Deere dealership on the L. Take the next L (CR 12). Follow this for a few miles (it will merge with 21 for a bit; keep going), and turn R onto CR 23. Badgersett will be on your left. Look for signs.

Sponsor: 

Badgersett Research Corporation and the Rutter family

Cost: 

Free

Full Description: 

Go to the Field Day webpage for full details: schedule, tour information, items for sale, etc. We've changed the tour format this year -- there will be introductory and advanced tours offered in both the morning and afternoon, so lots of good information.  Hope to see you there!

ElectroCity - Game your way to Green

New Zealand company, Genesis Energy wanted to educate the public about how difficult it is to manage the electricity demands of a growing population without destroying the environmental health of the community, so they created Electrocity, a web-based Sim City style game that puts you in charge of a small but growing city on the coast. You get to decide to build mines or wind turbines, keep your city small, or let it grow. I thought you gamers might like it.

16 Buck Wind Turbine

Here's a great story about a kid in Malawi who built a wind turbine to provide electricity for his house and village on only an initial investment of $16.

Windustry's Wind Energy Center at the Minnesota State Fair!

Short Description: 

Join Windustry at the EcoExperience at the Minnesota State Fair to educate the public on wind energy issues.

Location: 

Minnesota State Fair

Sponsor: 

Windustry

Cost: 

Free State Fair Admission!

Full Description: 

 Windustry invites you to participate as a volunteer for our Wind Energy Center in the Minnesota State Fair’s exhibit, the EcoExperience. When:Windustry is recruiting volunteers to staff the exhibit for four-hour time slots (9am-1pm, 1pm-5pm, 5pm-9pm) from August 23rd – September 3rd.  Please check your calendar and let Windustry know your name, email, phone number and t-shirt size by Friday, August 10th, 2007.  We will contact you to confirm your specific or assigned volunteer time depending upon the times/dates you're available. Volunteer Benefits:Each volunteer will receive:

  • 1 free admittance ticket to the State Fair Grounds for the day you volunteer
  • A Wind Energy Center t-shirt
  • Invaluable knowledge and experience with wind energy and a chance to meet and interact with great people all while having fun at the fair!

 How: Volunteers will help answer visitor’s questions, point out interesting facts and figures on our signs, and assist them with our interactive displays. Volunteers do not need to be experts in wind energy, as we hope our educational signs and materials will answer most of the Fair-goer’s questions.  We do ask, however, that volunteers participate in one of two orientation sessions held before the fair to better grasp the information displayed at the exhibit or find an alternate time to review the information with Windustry staff members.  The morning and evening orientation sessions will be held the week before the Fair at a location to be determined based on the interest we receive. About the EcoExperience:The EcoExperience, formerly the “Wonders of Technology” in the Progress Center Building, will feature a sustainable house with a functioning rain garden, a live stage, organic food, and cutting edge renewable technologies. Windustry will again have an impressive 123 foot turbine blade in front of the building and a “Wind Energy Center” inside.  About Windustry’s Wind Energy Center:The Wind Energy Center will feature a turbine tower section that visitors will be able to enter to get a feel of the scale of wind power today, as well as some small wind turbines, a weather computer model displaying wind patterns over Minnesota, a Myths and Facts game, and more. Almost all aspects of the exhibit are interactive and Fair-friendly. We need your help to make this exhibit a success in educating an ever-widening audience about the benefits and opportunities of wind energy in Minnesota. So if you want a free ticket to the Fair, a fashionable Windustry t-shirt and a chance to promote wind energy, this opportunity is for you.  See you at the Fair! 

German Wind Energy Commercial

Check out this German commercial for wind energy. It's hilarious.

Gas too expensive...and it's someone elses fault

An unsurprising survey was released today that shows that most American's think that gasoline is too expensive. On top of that, they think that it is because of price gouging by the oil companies. As has been commented in the past, the open market trading of oil and gasoline with a number of different players makes the presence of a conspiracy to control prices (otherwise known as a cartel) difficult to manage. The difficulty of OPEC to keep group profits up by keeping renegades from reaping the benefits of lower prices illustrates this well. Ben Stein (yes, of Ferris Bueller fame but now of Yahoo), comments that

“Oil is a world commodity like tin or copper or rubber or coffee,” Stein says in a recent Yahoo Finance article. “The price is set by traders anticipating supply and demand."

 Still, the article is wholly apologetic of an industry that is pulling in incredible profits while the country is feeling the pinch from increased energy prices. The profits are used for little more than lining the pockets of a few majority owners and for increasing the company's ability to continue to make huge profits (including lobbying against legislation aimed at easing our appetite for their products).

“The problem is that if we keep punishing the companies that in good faith give us the energy we need to power our lives at market prices…eventually, they’ll go away,” Stein continues. “Or they won’t have the ability to do their jobs as well because of all the restrictions we’ve put on them.”

In closing, the press release places a call to look at those who are really to blame for the high prices because the poor oil companies have no role,

"...someone had better redirect the American public’s anger toward the deserving parties..."

What is surely an effort by those very oil companies to deflect blame neglects to name any better causes for the high prices. While they likely intend to blame politicians for not giving them the freedom to do what they want with little restriction from those pesky environmental regulations and lease agreements they have unintentionally hit on a root source of blame...us, the consumer. In a market system, the demand is the other side of the price equation...the more there is the higher the price. Rather than waste the precious resource we should use it judiciously. Increased auto efficiency is a part of the picture but only a part. We also need to have dramatic increases in R&D and role-out of technologies and lifestyle changes in order to greatly reduce our consumption of liquid transportation fuels.  Hmmmm......maybe they are right....it isn't the oil companies' fault but ours for not going far enough to stop buying so much from them.  

Problems in La-la land

Nationally there has been a lot of talk about how California is the standard bearer for global warming and clean energy policy. It appears that when the actual work starts the results are not so rosy. The LA Times reported today the resignation of Catherine Witherspoon, Executive Director of the California Air Resources Board, who left saying that the Schwarzenegger administration "has lost its way on air quality." This comes on the heals of the firing of Richard Sawyer, the board chairman, by Schwarzenegger for aggressively pursuing global warming gas emission reductions.In an interview, Witherspoon said,  

"...there had been a pattern of interference by the governor's top staff in favor of industry lobbyists seeking to weaken or stall air pollution regulations, including the state's landmark global warming law...They were ordering us to find ways to reduce costs and satisfy lobbyists"

She also called out state Democrats for being more focused on playing partisan politics than on making the tough decisions about exactly what industries need to do what. Schwarzenegger has advocated for a statewide cap-and-trade system while Democrats have called for mandatory limits. Witherspoon says, "both approaches were needed."Gov. Schwarzenegger's staff counters that,

"What's important for the administration is to make sure the right leadership is put in place at [the air resources board] and that this state is able to aggressively meet its AB 32 commitment and clean its air," said Adam Mendelsohn, the governor's deputy chief of communications, who dismissed Witherspoon's charges as the comments of a disgruntled employee.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, author of the landmark AB32, is calling for hearings into the loss of members of the team working on implementing California's global warming legislation, saying that

"I don't want this issue to impact our fight on global warming," he said. "The spotlight is on California, and I don't want people in other states to say, 'Oh, look at California. AB 32 is falling apart, so we're not going to do anything either.' "

Witherspoon's 27 year career on the CARB ends with the parting shot,

"I'm happy to be going out with a roar and not a whimper. My objective is to make sure people understand what is going on so it can be straightened out."

China Now Leads in Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP) announced this week that according to preliminary estimates for 2006 China topped the list of CO2 emitting countries, surpassing the USA by an estimated 8%. To evaluate the implications of these rising emissions in China and other countries in the context of the climate policy issue, other aspects must be taken into account, such as economic development, per capita emissions, historical contribution to the current global warming and the fact that China manufactures many goods for export.http://www.mnp.nl/en/service/pressreleases/2007/20070622ChineseCO2emissionsinperspective.html

Be the EU Leader!!

For those who are concerned that policies will not allow us to meet climate change goals, please check out the game, Climate Challenge, hosted by the BBC.  It's a fun lil flash game that allows you, the leader of the European Union, to choose the policies to bring you from 2000 to 2100 and meet climate change goals.  Your policy options include national, trade, industry, local, and household.  You have an ear to public approval, and  you are told how much each policy will cost, in terms of euros, electricity, food, water, and carbon dioxide emissions.  It's up to YOU to stop climate change.  Power to the people.

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