October 2009


Earlier this month, President Barack Obama ordered our Government to lead by example on climate change matters, to cut consumption of fuel and improve water use efficiency. I think this is a first, however, those of you who know otherwise are welcome to comment and give examples. But I think this is a much needed push on the part of our President in bringing conservation back into the mindset of America. We call ourselves conservatives and then we consume and trash like drunken sailors. It’s time to walk the walk.

In his demand, he wanted federal departments to cut their fuel consumption by 30% and to improve their water use efficiency by 26%. This appears to be an immediate goal with a 90 day limit for the development of an overall plan for long term targets. In fact, he requires all federal agencies to set firm 2020 targets to cut their greenhouse gas emissions within that 90 day window. As much as you hear the pigs squealing, this is very liberal and tolerant and allows them to squirm off with their usual wheeling and dealing and I am not sure it will make a whit of difference. It seems all that many Americans care about is who is sleeping with whom but damn if they care if the baby goes out with the bathwater. I apologize but a lot of people piss me off. Barack Obama pisses me off. The time has long passed for people to wake up and smell the coffee and still they keep dreaming. Who out there smells it? The world is on fire, fools.

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The big news on the climate front is the bill released by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) last month. It is disappointing to many environmentalists and activists but they are now saying it may be as ambitious as we can hope for given the fossil fuel industry’s stranglehold on Congress. I am really not happy with it because it just won’t make a significant impact on our increasingly unstable climate. I consider that a disaster.

I guess this bill is a bit better, though, than the 1427 pages of garbage that Waxman and Markey pushed through the House in June. This is known as the American Clean Air and Security Act and both Waxman and Markey are Democrats. It was a complex bill that was hard to read and understand but it essentially had the fingerprints of agribusiness and oil industry lobbyists all over it. This bill by Kerry and Box is a leaner, cleaner bill with a few less fingerprints but it still doesn’t get past environmentalists and climate scientists who actually care.

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In Florida, 12 waste-to-energy facilities from Miami to Panama City process nearly 20,000 tons of municipal solid waste each day while continuously producing over 500 megawatts of clean, renewable power. This amount of waste is enough to fill a football stadium, imagine that! The Tampa Bay area is home to four waste-to-energy facilities, located in the City of Tampa and in the counties of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco. Without these facilities, local governments would be faced with the daunting task of siting large landfills near rapidly growing residential communities. The issue of this development is another problem to be addressed in a different forum but there is no doubt that this landfill to energy idea is a good one.

I first heard about this idea several years ago when a small county northwest of where I reside started pumping landfill gas through pipes and converting it to energy. In fact, I later heard a follow up that claimed the entire city was running on this power alone. Amazing. Not only is this greenie meanie but it’s cheap, too. These waste-to-energy projects eliminate 90% of the waste that might have ended up in a landfill. But it isn’t nearly enough, as you can imagine, because landfills throughout the state are reaching capacity faster than anticipated. It is becoming increasingly difficult to expand landfills or open new ones as residential development encroaches on once-remote landfill sites. People are already living in homes where they can smell garbage 24/7 in various lower income areas around the state. Florida’s current population of over 17 million is expected to reach almost 23 million by the year 2020, bringing even more challenges to managing municipal solid waste.

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I can recall the economists, bureaucrats and investors rejoicing loudly and proudly when the Commerce Department announced that U.S. exports were rising overall, as much as $28.8 billion higher than the year before. But what the department made less noise about and even failed to mention in many instances, was the rising tide of imports, which were up as much or more, around $26.4 billion between the year 2007 and 2008.

I also read an article explaining that the nation’s seaports, airports, railways and highways were still faced with moving an additional $40 billion worth of stuff in and out across our borders, on top of the $330 billion worth of stuff that’s already going in and out each month. These figures omit the increases in the import cost that comes from rising oil prices, which is a huge factor.

But imports of consumer and industrial goods continue to dominate over exports in our trade balance. This is what is called a “trade deficit”. We make and export far less than we import and consume and this has had a huge impact on our economy and current inability to pull ourselves out of the recession. And the need for imports just keeps rising as our capacity to manufacture those items keeps disappearing. The hauling, sorting and delivering of all these foreign-made goods has evolved into a fast-growing, high-tech, high-profit industry. On that end, those that profit from this business are hard pressed to slow it down or correct the imbalance and this is also a huge part of our current picture.

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