Why I’m standing up to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline in east Texas

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/17/daryl-hannah-transcanada-keystonexl-pipeline

Don’t buy the tale that this tar sands oil will make the US energy-independent. It’s export for profit, even as spills poison our water


guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 17 October 2012

On 4 October 2012, in rural east Texas, a 78-year-old great-grandmother, Eleanor Fairchild, was arrested for trespassing on her own property … and I was arrested standing beside her, as we held our ground in the path of earth-moving excavators constructing TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

Seems there’s showdown in Texas – but, in fact, it’s a battle being waged all over the United States. It’s being fought by ordinary citizens of all colors, economic strata and political persuasions – against the world’s wealthiest multinational corporations, misinformation and deeply embedded fears. While I’m not a fan of war terminology, in these struggles, war analogies seem to highlight both the crisis at hand and perhaps the solution we seek.

Let’s face it, we are in times of great crisis: economic crisis, overpopulation crisis, climate crisis, extinction crisis, water crisis and a humanitarian crisis on so many levels. Energy, and how we create it, is a pivotal issue for many of these crises. It has become increasingly clear that we need to move in a different direction, yet as a species, we humans are uncomfortable with, and resist, change – though we know it is the very nature of life and not only essential, but inevitable.

Scientific findings warn us that a switch to renewable energy is essential if we are to avert disastrous climate change caused by carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. But since scientific findings and the climate crisis have been so successfully politicized – and I loathe politics – I’ll leave the horrifying ramifications of the global climate crisis out of this.

No matter what political rhetoric you choose to follow, or what course we choose to take with our energy options, there are things we all can agree on. As the second World Water Forum wisely stated:

Water is everybody’s business.”

Clean, regenerative energy could provide a way past peak oil and our detrimental fossil fuel addiction – if we collectively had the will to employ renewables, and addressed the change as urgently as the US did during the second world war when we unleashed our scientific creativity and industrial ingenuity to support the war effort. But there is no escape from peak water. We simply cannot live without uncontaminated water and food.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/17/daryl-hannah-transcanada-keystonexl-pipeline

Posted in Chemical Pollution, Corporate Abuse, Ecology, Environment, Fracking, Uncategorized. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Why I’m standing up to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline in east Texas

The Risky Business of Eating in America

From Other Words:  http://www.otherwords.org/articles/the_risky_business_of_eating_in_america

By Jill Richardson
October 17, 2012

Long before human beings decoded the human genome or split the atom, they discovered that arsenic is very good at killing things. The ancient Romans prized it as a murder weapon because it could be mixed into food or drink without altering its color, taste, or smell. Plus, a tiny dose kills without fail.

What the Romans didn’t know about arsenic, and what scientists didn’t discover until the 20th century, is that a form of it — inorganic arsenic — causes cancer. And in 1999, the National Academy of Sciences found that the amount of arsenic legally allowed in U.S. drinking water posed serious cancer risks.

Since then, the U.S. government slashed the amount allowed in drinking water from 50 micrograms per liter to just 10. The potent carcinogenicity of arsenic was what Donald Rumsfeld might call an “unknown unknown” for most of human history. So was the fact that Americans can consume dangerous amounts of inorganic arsenic in one of our most common foods: rice.

Consumer Reports dropped that bombshell on the nation in September, recommending that adults limit rice consumption to just two servings per week if they wish to reduce their cancer risk from inorganic arsenic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn’t go so far as to recommend Americans limit their rice intake. But the agency did say that “consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains.” They also published their own data on arsenic in rice. It was consistent with the findings of Consumer Reports.

How did such a healthy food — often one of the first solid foods parents spoon into their babies’ mouths — suddenly become a deadly, cancer-causing agent? For one thing, rice is the only major crop grown under water. That allows it to absorb arsenic more easily than other crops. And though some arsenic will always occur naturally in soil and water, humans have added a whole lot more.

Continue reading at:  http://www.otherwords.org/articles/the_risky_business_of_eating_in_america

Posted in Corporate Abuse, Environment, Food, Medical Studies, Uncategorized. Tags: , . Comments Off on The Risky Business of Eating in America

End Polluter Welfare

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/16-1

by Bernie Sanders
Published on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 by Common Dreams

The Big Energy industries (oil, coal and gas) along with their political allies like Mitt Romney are waging war against sustainable energy and the need to transform our energy system and reverse global warming. In many instances they are aided and abetted by the very powerful nuclear power industry.

One of their main lines of attack (used repeatedly by Romney in his first debate with President Obama) is that the federal government is picking energy “winners and losers.” In fact, Romney has said he will not invest in “chasing fads and picking winners and losers” among energy technologies and he will allow the free market to determine energy development.

Romney is right about one thing. The government does pick winners and losers in the energy sector. What Romney has not told the American people, however, is that the big winners of federal support are the already immensely profitable fossil fuel and nuclear industries, not sustainable energy.

As a member of both the Senate Energy and Environment committees, I am working to stop the handouts to the fossil fuel industry. I have introduced legislation called the End Polluter Welfare Act. Rep. Keith Ellison filed the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Our measure calls for the elimination for all subsidies to the oil, gas and coal industries. Using the best available estimates from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation and other budget experts, we found more than $113 billion in federal subsidies will go to fossil fuel corporations over the next 10 years alone. These subsidies benefit some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, including the five largest oil corporations, which made a combined profit of $1 trillion over the last decade. Unlike sustainable energy incentives, many of these fossil fuel subsidies are written permanently into the tax code by industry lobbyists, which means they never expire.

Let me give you just a few examples of outrageously strong federal support for Big Energy companies:

  • BP, after committing one of the worst environmental disasters in the modern history of America, was able to take a large tax deduction on the money it spent cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Coal companies are able to sign single-bid sweetheart leases to mine on federal lands without paying fair value in royalties to the taxpayers of this country.
  • In 2009, Exxon-Mobil, one of the most profitable corporations in this country, paid no federal income taxes, and in fact received a rebate from the IRS. Many other large and very profitable oil companies also have managed to avoid paying federal income taxes in certain years.

But it is not just fossil fuel companies. The nuclear industry also benefits from massive corporate welfare. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service reports that the nuclear industry has received over $95 billion (in 2011 dollars) in federal research and development support in the last 65 years. Nuclear corporations currently have access to billions in federal loan guarantees to build new plants and enrich uranium. They also have federal tax incentives for mining uranium, producing nuclear electricity and even decommissioning a plant.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/16-1

Posted in Chemical Pollution, Corporate Abuse, Economic Issues, Environment. Comments Off on End Polluter Welfare

Pinkwashing Fracking? How the Komen Board Is Cashing in on Shale Gas

From Truth Out:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/12094-pinkwashing-fracking-how-the-komen-board-is-cashing-in-on-shale-gas

By Steve Horn
Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Wizard of Oz was spot on when he saidto “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” That’s good life advice if you fall into the “Ignorance is bliss” camp. For a journalist though, it’s doing the exact opposite that’s a sin qua non for the job.

Kevin Begos of the Associated Press took the Wizard’s advice to heart in his July 22 story titled, “Experts: Some fracking critics use bad science.”

Citing “Gasland” director Josh Fox’s viral video “The Sky is Pink” as an example, Begos wrote, “Opponents of fracking say breast cancer rates have spiked exactly where intensive drilling is taking place — and nowhere else in the state…But researchers haven’t seen a spike in breast cancer rates in the area.”

As his main source of expertise on the breast cancer issue, Begos turned to Chandini Portteus, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation’s Vice President of Research, Evaluation, and Scientific Programs. Of the connection between fracking and breast cancer she stated, “what we do know is a little bit, and what we don’t know is a lot.”

Sara Jerving of the Center for Media and Democracy came to diametrically different conclusions in her April 2012 probe for PR Watch, writing,

Benzene, which the U.S. EPA has classified as a Group A, human carcinogen, is released in the fracking process through air pollution and in the water contaminated by the drilling process. The Institute of Medicine released a report in December 2011 that links breast cancer to exposure to benzene.

Up to thirty-seven percent of chemicals in fracking fluids have been identified as endocrine-disruptors — chemicals that have potential adverse developmental and reproductive effects. According to the U.S. EPA, exposure to these types of chemicals has also been implicated in breast cancer.

Continue reading at:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/12094-pinkwashing-fracking-how-the-komen-board-is-cashing-in-on-shale-gas

Posted in Environment, Fracking. Comments Off on Pinkwashing Fracking? How the Komen Board Is Cashing in on Shale Gas

Extreme Weather: Preview or Feature, No One Wants to See the Full Climate Change Show

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/08-4

by Susan Casey-Lefkowitz
Published on Sunday, July 8, 2012 by The Switchboard / NRDC Blog

With 2012 being another year of violent storms, wildfires, floods and extreme heat, we can argue whether this is a preview or the main feature, but no one wants to see the full climate change show. Some still debate whether a specific extreme weather event is due to climate change, but what is clear is that these kinds of events are our future if we don’t change direction.

Last week, my family and millions of others lost electricity for days during a period of 100+ degree temperatures. The past week’s extreme heat was coupled with power outages and damage to homes along a 700 mile swath of destruction from a band of “super derecho” violent thunderstorms that cut trees in half. People in the D.C. region are now seriously debating spending tens of billions of dollars on putting power lines underground. That is one of many un-anticipated costs of climate change.

We are very exposed as a country. The violent storms and extreme heat show how exposed we are, as do the many instances of coastal flooding, flashfloods, droughts and wildfires. We like having big trees in our yards. We like living on the shorelines, in the deserts and on the mountains. But how much longer can we live in places where we are prone to floods, fires, and extreme heat? And where will it be safe if we allow climate change to continue?

We can pretend that ice doesn’t melt when it is hot. The North Carolina legislature tried this with a bill to force sea level rise forecasts to be based on past patterns instead of on forward-looking projections using climate change data. They met with disbelief that any leader could think that ignoring a problem would make it go away. With the US Geological Survey determining that the mid-Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts is a ‘hot-spot’ with sea levels already having risen 3-4 times faster than the global average over the last two decades, coastal communities are having serious conversations about what this means for their future.

Modern society is based on trust. For example, airlines have to be safe or people won’t fly. Banks and the financial system need to be safe or people won’t invest. Our energy choices also need to be trustworthy.  I can’t think of anything worse that taking away people’s trust when it comes to their safety in their homes and daily lives. Yet we are on a business as usual path that depends on fossil fuels and does not do enough to curb climate change pollution.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/08-4

Posted in Environment, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Extreme Weather: Preview or Feature, No One Wants to See the Full Climate Change Show

Unrelenting Heat Wave Bakes All in Its Reach

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/us/temperatures-soar-as-heat-wave-continues.html

By and
Published: July 7, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An unrelenting and record-setting heat wave peaked this weekend, beating a broad swath of states into sweaty submission, with above-normal triple-digit temperatures stretching from St. Louis to Washington.

The searing heat withered crops in the fields, buckled roadways and caused at least two train derailments. At least 36 weather-related deaths have been reported since the temperatures first shot up 10 days ago.

“I’m avoiding the outside world,” Monica Fuhrman, 21, of Centreville, Va., said Saturday morning in Washington as she walked through Dupont Circle on her way to an indoor conference at Howard University. “I can’t handle heat like this. It’s too miserable.”

More than 200 record highs were broken on Friday throughout the Midwest and along the East Coast. And more records fell on Saturday. In Washington, the high was 105, which was a record for the day and 1 degree shy of the hottest temperature ever recorded there.

In St. Louis, the thermometer hit triple digits before 11 a.m., extending the city’s record streak of 100-degree days to 10 in a row.

The St. Louis medical examiner confirmed three heat-related deaths and said it was investigating six more. In Chicago, the authorities said the heat had claimed at least six lives as of Friday night. In Virginia, officials reported 10 heat-related deaths, and 10 people died in Maryland, health officials said.

Many of the deaths have been elderly people found in stuffy homes without air-conditioning.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/us/temperatures-soar-as-heat-wave-continues.html

Posted in Environment, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Unrelenting Heat Wave Bakes All in Its Reach

Global Protests Against Draconian Education Cuts, Tuition Hikes

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/168049/global-protests-against-draconian-education-cuts-tuition-hikes

Allison Kilkenny
on May 24, 2012

Austerity protests have become part of the new global landscape, a reality underscored by a wave of recent protests in Philadelphia and Quebec.

More than 1,000 people rallied Wednesday to protest the Philadelphia District’s plans to “transform schools,” a pleasant euphemism generally meaning school closures and mass layoffs. The Philly district plans to possibly lay off 2,700 blue-collar workers, including every member of SEIU B2BJ Local 1201, the city school union representing bus assistants, cleaners, mechanics and other workers.

Philly.com reports that all these workers have received pink slips and could be let go by the end of the year.

Eleven men and three women were arrested during Wednesday’s protest, including B2BJ president George Ricchezza, union health and welfare administrator Dennis Biondo and retired teachers Lisa Haver and Ronald Whitehorne, among others. They were later released and are to be arraigned in June.

The individuals were arrested for “clogging traffic,” according to a local CBS affiliate.

Earlier in the month, the school system announced that it expects to close forty public schools next year and sixty-four by 2017, shocking figures that received little national attention, prompting Black Agenda Report’s Bruce A. Dixon to publish an article titled, “Why Isn’t Closing 40 Philadelphia Public Schools National News?

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/168049/global-protests-against-draconian-education-cuts-tuition-hikes

Posted in Class War, Education, Environment, Equal Treatment, Globalization, Hard Times. Comments Off on Global Protests Against Draconian Education Cuts, Tuition Hikes